The woke elitism behind the left’s media-bashing

Corbynistas are convinced that the little people have been brainwashed by billionaires.

Brendan O'Neill

Brendan O'Neill


There’s a piece of graffiti that sums up the woke left’s view of ordinary people. It says: ‘When the British working class stop reading right-wing news, we will see progressive change.’ There it is. In black and white. Scrawled on a wall somewhere but frequently shared on social media by supposed progressives. One sentence that captures why so many modern left-wingers, and in particular the Corbynistas, are so obsessed with the press – because they think it has hypnotised the fickle masses and polluted the plebs’ brains with horrible right-wing ideas. Make no mistake: when the left rages against the media, it is really raging against the masses.

Media-bashing has resurfaced with a vengeance over the past couple of weeks. It isn’t hard to see why. The polls don’t look good for Labour. Some are predicting a wipeout, especially in Labour’s traditional working-class strongholds. And as has been the case for a good 30 years now, when political events don’t go the left’s way – or rather, when the dim public lets the left down – the knives come out for the media.

Corbynista commentators are railing against the ‘billionaire media’. ‘Billionaires control the media, and it’s undermining democracy’, say the middle-class left-wingers of Novara Media. How? Because these billionaires are ‘tell[ing] you what to think’. You, the gullible, ill-educated throng, that is; not us, the well-educated, PhD-owning media leftists at Novara who can see through the lies peddled by evil billionaires.

There has also been the mad fuss over the BBC’s editing of a clip from its Leaders’ Question Time that had the consequence of removing the audience laughter in response to Boris Johnson’s comment that trust is important in politics. This caused inexplicable meltdown among Momentum types. They accused the Beeb of behaving like Boris’s own Pravda. The Lib Dems reported the BBC to Ofcom (anything to distract from Jo Swinson’s career-endingly awful performance on the same show, eh?).

Paul Mason is talking about the BBC’s erasure of a couple of seconds of laughter as if it were the worst act of propaganda of modern times. The BBC has buckled under the pressure and admitted it made a ‘mistake’ – even as it explained, very convincingly to anyone who knows anything about the media, that the clip was only ‘shortened for timing reasons’ so that it could be included in a news bulletin.

And on it goes. Corbynistas never tire of moaning about the tabloid press in particular, which they think is pumping backward and racist ideas directly into the masses’ brains. Such leftish media-phobia has been around for a few years now. It really took off in the 1980s, when Labour kept losing to Thatcher. Rather than assess what Labour was doing wrong, and why it was losing so many of its working-class voters, left observers preferred to blame the Sun, in particular, for corrupting the little people’s minds. The people who were really being insulted here were not the Sun’s owners, editors and writers (if anything, they were being complimented for their powers of persuasion); no, it was the Sun’s readers, who were infantilised, robbed entirely of their agency, reduced to mere vessels that can be filled with propaganda by Murdoch and his employees.

So it was that Polly Toynbee denounced the ‘malign influence’ that Murdoch has over voters. During the Leveson era, Labour’s Tom Watson spun this line even further, insisting that Murdoch ‘orchestrate[s] public life from the shadows’. This is the language of the conspiracy theorist.

Among more radical leftists, like Noam Chomsky, elitist media-bashing has, if anything, been even more intense. Chomsky says the mass media has reduced people’s ‘capacity to think’; it trains us in the ways of ‘irrational jingoism’. The end result is a public gripped by ‘irrational attitudes of submission to authority and group cohesion behind leadership’. This elitist idea now finds expression in the Corbynista camp, all of whom have of course devoured Chomsky’s ideas about the ‘manufacture of consent’ – not realising, or perhaps not caring, that many of these ideas emanate from the anti-democratic theories of the early 20th-century American elitist Walter Lippmann.

From the working-class vote for the Tory Party to the victory of Brexit in 2016, the response from the left has been the same every time: the people were hoodwinked, brainwashed even, by nasty redtops or the mind-enslaving algorithms of Facebook. This fury with the media both lets the left off the hook for its own intellectual and political failings and also pushes further one of the most poisonous ideas of our time – that ordinary people aren’t cut out for serious political decision-making; that they lack the mental and moral capacity to think independently; that they can be easily directed to vote against their own interests. This is a deeply anti-democratic and paternalistic argument, and it is now undoubtedly one of the reasons so many voters are turning away from the left. After all, why would you vote for people who think you are a moron who is just one Mail editorial away from turning into a violent xenophobe?

‘When the British working class stop reading right-wing news, we will see progressive change.’ By pushing ideas like this, the left is getting its excuses in early. It is already writing the narrative for when – if – Corbyn’s Labour doesn’t do well. It won’t be Corbyn’s fault. It won’t be Labour’s fault. It won’t be the fault of a Momentum movement that has devoted itself to overturning the vote for Brexit and keeping us in the EU. No, it will be your fault – you stupid, gullible, un-woke consumers of the problematic media. This is the left’s message going into the final weeks of the election. And then they wonder why so many are saying: ‘Oh shag it, I’m voting Tory.’

Brendan O’Neill is editor of spiked and host of the spiked podcast, The Brendan O’Neill Show. Subscribe to the podcast here. And find Brendan on Instagram: @burntoakboy

Picture by: Getty

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Gerard Barry

29th November 2019 at 9:26 am

Brendan makes some good points here. But I also think it would be disingenuous to suggest that tabloid media – just like their broadsheet “betters” – don’t give the public a skewed image of things. The Daily Mail for instance has always made a point of highlighting welfare use/abuse by immigrants, but doesn’t focus that much on the majority of immigrants in the UK who work damn hard for their money. If some people are naturally inclined to be bigoted anyway, they’ll lap this kind of information up without considering the contribution made by working and tax-paying immigrants. Some of the broadsheet media of course (most notably The Guardian!) are guilty of the exact opposite: they extol the virtues of multiculturalism and “diversity” without ever considering the minuses.

Brian Jordan

27th November 2019 at 3:41 pm

Yes, these billionaires are awful. Just look at Soros…

a watson

27th November 2019 at 7:59 am

Why is the Labour party so prejudiced against working class men? Particularly in London?

Robert Johnson

26th November 2019 at 12:50 pm

Chomsky’s unnuanced promulgation of the bombshell idea of outright false consciousness / downright morally compromised persons / zombie like ideological dupes (basically referring to everybody who doesn’t agree with him) certainly appears to have helped create simple light v’s darkness narratives that pervade discourse today. Being ‘woke’ a la Chomskian moral certitude, never allowed much wiggle room for back and forth debate (though he seemed sound on freedom of speech and challenged narratives that undoubtedly needed challenging), and sadly (even though he is still undoubtedly worth listening to) the ever embattled dissident act of his…the ever self sacrificing man willing to speak truth to power (like some kind of secular Christ-like figure) sometimes rings a bit hollow, or maybe smacks of outright Pied Piperism…ultimately a call towards something he called libertarian socialism – which is what he wants. Typically post brexit and trump Chomsky was full of the ‘this has echoes of pre world war 2’ stuff.

terence patrick hewett

26th November 2019 at 1:00 am

El Beeb have been editing out stuff from people whom they do not agree for decades – they edited the late Cardinal Basil Hume twice in one week to produce a pronouncement in exact opposite to what he said: Basil, being a gent ignored it all. This was blatant but they, the Beeboid, have got much better at it decades on.

Stephen J

25th November 2019 at 7:42 pm

Mostly agree Brendan, but surely that last sentence, should read ‘Oh shag it, I’m voting Brexit Party.’?

Perverted Lesbian

25th November 2019 at 6:45 pm

From now on you may address me by the following pronoun > stupid, gullible, un-woke consumers of the problematic media.
Thank you

antoni orgill

25th November 2019 at 6:15 pm

and another thing: you might want to ask Alka Singh-Cuthbert why the phrase “not enough time” is such a ‘trigger-term’ in the context of a ‘word-exchange’ about class consciousness … she’ll (possibly) remember (what you can’t). Tit.

antoni orgill

25th November 2019 at 6:11 pm

” … NOT CARING THAT THESE IDEAS ..” no, that’s correct. Many of us just don’t seem to care that certain notions of media-bias interpollation originally emanated from somebody in particular who once existed … that’s normal life, Brendan. Join us. We live normal lives in bizarre circumstances and … get on with it!

antoni orgill

25th November 2019 at 6:05 pm

“anyone who knows anything about the media …” in an article supposedly AGAINST luvvy snobbery ..? The Beeb ‘didn’t have time’ to INCLUDE mockery of BJ’s opinion? Let that sink in. Think about it again. I mean .. REALLY think about it. Step back. See the bigger picture … whatever … it’s FUCKING BULLSHIT …

K Tojo

25th November 2019 at 5:43 pm

In defence of Jo Swinson, the QT audience was heavily biased in favour of Jeremy Corbyn, feeding him one soft question after another: “Can you tell us more about your plans to unite the nation Jeremy” and questions in a similar vein.

Yes, he faced tough criticism from one audience member on anti-semitism and he was booed (a little bit) on his Brexit stance but generally his responses were greeted with applause. View it on BBC i-player if you don’t believe me.

Jo Swinson, on the other hand, faced stony silence for most of the time she was on. One audience member, a “stout-as-a-stump” northern Labour activist, berated her for having “the brass neck [good old northern expression that] to criticise Jeremy Corbyn over anti-semitism”. Jeremy, it seems, had fought against anti-semitism all his life(!). Swinson stood her ground on that one and clearly looked angered.

Also, there were rather a lot of Scots for a Sheffield audience. Either they made the trip south to support Nicola Sturgeon or they have had to come south to find work (the Scottish economy under the SNP is not in great shape).

Ven Oods

25th November 2019 at 11:16 pm

I also noted the number of Scottish accents in the audience.
There’ll be fewer, presumably, when they achieve independence and all return home.

Ven Oods

25th November 2019 at 11:33 pm

” In defence of Jo Swinson, the QT audience was heavily biased in favour of Jeremy Corbyn…”

Elsewhere, however, it’s been noted that the LibDems’ secret weapon should be shielding Swinson from public view, since she’s going down like a punctured Zeppelin.

K Tojo

26th November 2019 at 2:17 am

Well, that’s “elsewhere” for you! Prime source of the standard issue political wit and wisdom employed by our hilarious masters of satire – the British sense of humour is the envy of the world apparently. “Punctured Zeppelin”(?) I guess the humour is in the way they tell ’em.

Christopher Thompson

28th November 2019 at 6:29 am

“Going down like a punctured Zeppelin” was once used to describe how the 70’s Rock Band, headed by Jimmy Page would fare. But Led Zeppelin became a world wide success, so lets hope its not repeated in this case.

Steve Roberts

25th November 2019 at 5:37 pm

I posted this BTL Fraser Myers article today, also seems appropriate for here..
Myers may be correct that Cohen and possibly some other “liberal” types may be sincere and just wrongheaded, maybe not.
Underneath all this is an arrogance and contempt , an arrogance that is never explained by liberals and lefties as to how is it that they themselves will never be duped, fooled,convinced or influenced by any media, they are of course above and beyond that level of stupidity, they can see and have a mind of their own, they can assess information and make objective judgements on information received be it truth or lies.
And this is where the contempt kicks in, because what they really mean is that it is the rest of us unthinkers who are susceptible, gullible and easily led astray in a manner they never would be.
The answer to that is to ban particular matters that they decide is unsafe for public consumption, they being the all seeing judgemental eyes of society, our moral protectors, protecting us lessers.
And if that doesn’t work, well it may be the case that there needs to be a restriction of political power to these lessers, they really cannot be trusted can they.
Heard this anywhere before ?

William Stuttard

25th November 2019 at 5:29 pm

So your saying Brendon that people can find the time to do research into every inaccurate headline they read, and not be influenced by the powerful rhetoric of newspapers. Lol, that’s absolute B*llsh*t.

Heres the extensive list of eu myths that many people will have read over the years.

Jerry Owen

25th November 2019 at 5:35 pm

I glanced at your link .. as a rule I never actually read them as it’s lazy posting !
I note with interest who it’s produced by ! Hilarious , I mean you couldn’t make your irony any more ironic could you ?

William Stuttard

25th November 2019 at 7:15 pm

Its a pretty good list though

Jerry Owen

26th November 2019 at 7:55 am

I wouldn’t know, I couldn’t be bothered to read such a monotonous looking link.
Try writing it in your own words.

Joseph Adam-smith

26th November 2019 at 10:08 pm

Actually, I did read the article posted (Well, most of it). Yup, I needed a lot of alcohol to get through it, mind. The points brought up are easily rebutted. Consider this, and easy one with no research required: The reply was: “This is untrue. The relevant directive * permits those Member States that have implemented a zero VAT rate on specific products before 1.1.1991 to maintain that rate from 1.1.1993 for a period of four years.” Therefore, after 01.01.1997, VAT will be imposed.

Jeremy Bonington-Jagworth

2nd December 2019 at 12:07 am

Yes the old curved bananas and cucumbers myths myth.

Supposedly propagated the Evil Boris.

Except he was a parliamentary sketch-writer type columnist rather than a trade reporter, writing satirical piss takes of the EU.

Yes, as the mythbuster admits, the curved cucumber “myth” comes from rules on classification in response to industry requests.

Or, more likely written by powerful globalist industry lobbyists to squeeze out small production competitors.

Boris’ “curved bananas” ban was an amalgam of cucumber rules and banana rules (written by the big plantation super producer lobby) which went something like (in widely separated sections) they must be sold in bunches of more than three fingers.

Or they can be sold “loose” as single or pairs of fingers.

Notice the catch:

They can scrap a container-load if they find a bunch of three fingers!

That’s the kind of non-tariff trade barrier we have to beware of (or can hit the EU with in return!)!

James Knight

25th November 2019 at 5:24 pm

They are blaming social meedjah manipulation to get their excuses in early in anticipation of their election defeat. As we know Corbyn would not in any case recognise or respect the result of a democratic election where his side loses, and he already told 17.4million people their vote counts for squat. It is exactly the playbook of Trump, the only difference is he ended up winning.

Jerry Owen

25th November 2019 at 5:15 pm

Yes, working class people are hoodwinked by the media, the same media that campaigned to stay in the EU. The working classes were so hoodwinked by the very same media that 17.4 million ignored the media and voted leave.
What a strange anomaly indeed!
As for workers reading ‘right wing’ papers ( and I would argue that ‘right wing’ media is tiny ) why not ? The thing that leftists just don’t get and never will as we can see is that working people want the same as the ‘bosses’, good income and lots of material wealth, this is what Thatcher ( rightly ) understood and encouraged. Why would you not want more money and more things?
Life would be pretty pointless without monetary and material gain wouldn’t it?

Dominic Straiton

25th November 2019 at 7:53 pm

All “young people” want is capitalist home ownership. Thats it. I dont blame them.They are right to be angry. No amount of government house building will ever keep up with immigration.( nor pandering to Chinese “investors” parking their money in London.) That is their conundrum. Personally I dont think they will choose the 900 year old answer. Maybe a spell of 5 million unemployed is the price worth paying over and over again for ignorance. This time however they have the entire cannon of human knowledge in the palm of their hands so when they fc it up again its all going to be on camera.

Dominic Straiton

25th November 2019 at 4:41 pm

News papers are in the business of selling bits of paper with printed words on it. They reflect their readers. On line “news” are clickbait that do the same thing. The intellectual, middle class ,left in this country have never understood the working class. Cognitive dissonance (they know not what they do) is a sacred cow.

Danny Rees

25th November 2019 at 4:37 pm

Brendan O’Neill writes for The Sun.

Jerry Owen

25th November 2019 at 5:04 pm

He also writes for the Spectator and he appears on TV.. so your point is ?

Ven Oods

25th November 2019 at 11:27 pm

He probably writes in Spiked from conviction, and in the Sun to pay the mortgage.

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