The real reasons the media didn’t cover Saturday’s anti-cuts march


Anti austerity marchjMany have accused the BBC of ‘bias’ for failing to cover an anti-austerity march. So are they right?

Many have accused the BBC of ‘bias’ for failing to cover Saturday’s anti-austerity march which took place in Central London.

So are they right? Well yes and no. Media bias is one factor, but there are also other less encouraging reasons which explain the media’s relative disinterest. Here are four:

Protests (on their own) rarely achieve anything

Protest has its place but on its own it rarely achieves a great deal. Paradoxically it tends to work better in those places in the world where it is forbidden: the heavy handedness of the authorities can often result in protests swelling to millions of people. In authoritarian states protest is also a revolutionary act. In liberal democratic Britain it isn’t.

That’s not to say that protest is pointless; but it would be naive to overestimate its possible impact. Much like the newspaper sellers who hang around these events, those who cling to the idea that peaceful marches in Central London can make a huge impact haven’t adapted to a changed world: online activism is far more effective at reaching a large audience than marching through the Capital. It’s also less tainted by any association with the strange people who sometimes hang around the fringes of protests, such as these people.

This specific argument has been lost

For better or worse, the anti-austerity argument was lost back in 2010. Since late 2013 a majority of people have also told pollsters that austerity is actually good for the economy: 42 per cent now say cuts are good for the economy while 37 per cent say they are bad.

One needn’t confer respectability on an idea simply because it is popular, but it does perhaps help to explain why the media failed to give Saturday’s protest the level of coverage the organisers believe it deserved. There is no longer a mainstream anti-austerity narrative. The Tories and the Lib Dems are making cuts, Labour are going to make cuts and no one who isn’t is going to get anywhere near power anytime soon. As far as the media is concerned the debate is over.

There comes a point when sound and fury aren’t enough

People want to know what the protesters would do instead, and they feel they aren’t getting it. ‘No cuts’, declared the banners on Saturday. But no cuts invariably mean tax increases. ‘Tax the rich,’ I can hear you say. Fine, lots of us would like the rich to pay a higher proportion of their income in taxation; but why pretend this is a panacea?

Peter Mandelson famously said that Labour was “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich”, and left-wing critics of previous Labour governments have picked up on this quote as an example of Labour servility to the well off. What critics forget is that, in a globalised economy, it’s actually quite hard to tax the rich ‘until the pips squeak’, to use former Labour chancellor Denis Healey’s phraseology, firstly because the rich would probably leave the country, taking their businesses, tax revenue and jobs with them. You may profess not to care about such things, but whether you like it or not you still need money to pay for services and the like.

As the Laffer Curve demonstrates, increasing tax rates beyond a certain point is counter-productive for raising further tax revenue. The big challenge for the left in the 21st century will be figuring out how to tax the rich progressively transnationally, because a nation state-based approach is no longer enough.

There is some media bias at work

But this is less because of a deliberate decision to exclude anti-austerity protests, and more because of the class backgrounds of many journalists. British journalism already favours the rich, powerful and glamorous over the poor, weak and unfashionable, journalist and author Peter Oborne wrote a few years back, and having little invested in the services this government is cutting means that many journalists slip effortlessly into narratives of the cuts being “inevitable” and austerity coming as a consequence of “runaway government spending”.

This problem is being exacerbated as journalism becomes the preserve of the upper-middle classes due to unpaid internships and the collapse of many local newspapers.

So yes, there is bias, but not in the way many think.

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  • Leon Wolfeson

    He’s talking about his plan to kill the workers, the assets.

    Of course he then calls – as he seems to be actively working for – a coup to end democracy in the UK.

  • Leon Wolfeson

    The people you’re whining about, in the public sector, are mostly low-paid and have been hardest hit by the cuts.

    Keep talking about how we need to have more soldiers – so you can control the masses when they’re hungry.

  • Leon Wolfeson

    The Greens are NOT anti-austerity, though, they’re massively for it in some cases such as energy.

  • Leon Wolfeson

    I call it the Laughter Curve for a reason.

  • Leon Wolfeson

    “Needed”. No, that’s your line – that the poor must be cut.

  • Leon Wolfeson

    Yes yes, those nasty anti-English workers, they need to be murdered! Those nurses, those teachers…evil, evil.

    Yea, thanks for the BNP propaganda.

  • Paul Taylor

    Fantastic. So gaining power justifies everything. Including squeezing the poor until their pips squeak because it’s easier than squeezing the rich’s pips. What better illustration could there be that the Blairite left is morally bankrupt and a spent political force? But who’s going to vote for a party that spouts this sort of tosh and lacks the imagination to devise solutions to the public’s aspirations for social justice? The opportunity is to their left, and it’s forever being wasted.

  • Stephen Gash

    LOL! I’m English not British. I loath the BNP and have stood against them in several elections.

  • Leon Wolfeson

    So you stand for another far right party, hating the BNP as competition?
    Same old, same old.

    Thanks for your hate for your country, too. Seems odd to me, but hey!

  • Stephen Gash

    Same old same old from you. You are bereft of any argument regarding the subject of this article.

  • John Mitchell

    I don’t fully understand. Are you meaning the Greens are in favour of cutting energy and are therefore pro austerity in that sense?

  • Leon Wolfeson

    Yes.

  • Leon Wolfeson

    Yes, I’m discussing why far right wingers like you come here to pump out propaganda. Why does this irk you so?

  • Stephen Gash

    No, you misrespresented my argument so as to discuss your misrepresentation, to get away from the topic being discussed, which is so typical of self-styled left wingers. Label-sticking is what you do best.

  • John Mitchell

    I see. Thanks for your response.

  • Cole

    Though it took till 1997 to get rid of the Tories…

  • http://petermartin2001.wordpress.com Peter Martin

    Yes I certainly James Bloodworth needs to read up on some real economics. He’s not the only neo-liberal in the Labour Party of course! Statements like ” But no cuts invariably mean tax increases” is conceding the argument without a fight.

    Stephanie Kelton, Bill Mitchell, Warren Mosler, Steve Keen, provide the economic rationale for saying that “no-cuts” doesn’t mean tax increases.

    Tax increases, except on the very rich, are in fact counterproductive and only send the economy into a downward spiral as has happened in the Eurozone. The last Labour government had it right by reducing VAT to 15%. The problem in the UK economy is lack of demand. It is even worse in the Eurozone. Reflating the economy creates more jobs and therefore more tax revenue. There is plenty of spare capacity to ensure that this can be done safely without causing inflation.

  • Disgruntled Knome

    You are not the first to comment as such, you will not be the last. Occasionally (and its as rare as a flying pig) this organisation produces something worth while to read.

    But the latter of it is ornate self opinionated heavily biased and equally prejudices drivel.

    It can call itself “left” only because it stands just left of the extreme right authoritarian. In terms of real left wing politics? Its a laughing stock among anyone with a basic understanding of the term.

  • Disgruntled Knome

    I thought I would do a bit of research into it myself just now.

    On the basic premiss of high tax resulting in less revenue, it clearly has never studied the many Scandinavian countries that have largely not even realised there was a banking crisis or recession going on. Have some of the best state support in the world, among many other redeeming qualities and high ratings for quality of life. And no governmental debt in some cases.

    Even many EU countries have considerably higher tax rates than the UK, and they collect on it without problem.

    These instances though, will never be studied by the current UK Governments and the agenda which all the main parties share in.

  • Disgruntled Knome

    HERE HERE!

  • Disgruntled Knome

    The Austerity argument has been won on bluster, lies and careful propaganda. Just because they have won, does not mean they are automatically right. Class example of this parliament is the UK government deciding to stop collecting various points of data that would incriminate them.

    Its hard to prove them wrong, if they don’t collect the data to show it. And with the BBC its incredibly easy to put down any private studies, of which there are many by charities and universities alike.

  • Disgruntled Knome

    Indeed, one of the things that annoys the hell out of me is PFI,,, and outsourcing to private companies (when assets are not given away for free to them and hired back).

    I am also very aware of the likes of Ingeus,,,, As well as the infamous ATOS.

    Private ventures should be kept out of providing public services except where absolutely necessary, that way money can be tracked as can quality of service. Where IDS does not conveniently delete any data collected from his “reforms”.

    Honestly, the waste of that man on the spite of his ego he should be put in stocks and allow disabled people to throw rotten food at him outside Westminster Parliament.
    And any other time, Capital Punishment I detest the idea of.

  • Disgruntled Knome

    Dont say that to a die hard Labour voter,,, the grief I get when I point out everything they are doing wrong and all the policies being nothing but a token gesture and like a sticky plaster over a severed leg!

  • Disgruntled Knome

    Yeah, unfortunately if you look back, and how parliamentary seats are distributed, you find that the majority of the seats are based in London and immediate surrounding counties.

    As it stands there are 73 seats in London alone, nearly all Tory Voters, not counting outer reaches and 59 seats for the whole of Scotland. And then we have things like population to land and ownership that scew the scale further.

    Example is Glasgow North West (1MP) has just about 200,000 people (about 85% can vote), where as Kensington and Chelsea have a combined population of about 159,000 and 2 MP’s (Kensington, and Chelsea).

    So even if all those eligible to vote did, the people would still not be getting accurate representation.

    All that, is in huge part to blame.

    Once the Parliament of the time managed to peeve off people on its own doorstep, it lost.

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