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The Media Whether Newsnight photoshopped Corbyn's hat or not is not the point

The point is why the ‘impartial’ BBC played along with the corporate media's anti-Corbyn bias at all, writes BEN COWLES

IN THE background to a BBC Newsnight episode last Thursday was a graphic of Jeremy Corbyn superimposed in front of the Kremlin wearing what appeared to be a Russian hat, known as an ushanka. It seemed to many that the BBC had deliberately photoshopped his hat to make him look more Leninesque.



When the Guardian’s Owen Jones challenged Newsnight presenter Evan Davis over the image on the show the following night, Davis denied it was altered.

Soon after, Skwawkbox shared a gif (a short animated photo) of the original Corbyn photograph the Beeb used next to the one which aired on the show. It quite convincingly showed the height of the Labour leader’s hat had increased.

Later, however Newsnight acting editor Jess Brammar took to Twitter denying it had been digitally altered. She said: “Our (excellent, hardworking) graphics team explained the image has had the contrast increased and been colour treated, usual treatment for screen graphics … If you look you can see it’s same hat in silhouette.”

Whether the image was deliberately altered or not isn’t really the point, but the fact that the BBC contributed to the narrative set by most of the corporate press depicting Corbyn as some sort of traitor is.

It was another example of the media acting as the attack dog of the Establishment as found in the 2016 LSE study into the journalistic representation of Corbyn in the British press.

“Corbyn was thoroughly delegitimised as a political actor from the moment he became a prominent candidate,” the study says, “and even more so after he was elected as party leader with a strong mandate. This process of delegitimation occurred in several ways: 1) through lack of or distortion of voice; 2) through ridicule, scorn and personal attacks; and 3) through association, mainly with terrorism.”

The image also fits into the corporate media’s deliberate conflation between Russian President Vladimir Putin’s kleptocratic government with the country's communist past merely because Corbyn is a socialist. The Sun’s front page last Thursday read: “Outrage at Red Jezza. Putin’s Puppet.” The Daily Mail smeared it front page with: “Corbyn the Kremlin Stooge.”

Now clearly, BBC Newsnight editors, as well as the editors of The Sun and Daily Mail, are educated enough to know that Russia hasn’t been anything like a socialist country since the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. They should also know that Putin is neither a socialist nor a communist of any sort. 

If the BBC were truly impartial it would present a plurality of views in its coverage and not merely ape the narratives and news framing set by the corporate press.  

If it were truly impartial, then there would be no valid reason why this newspaper should not be included in its newspaper reviews.

The Morning Star doesn’t promote hateful ideas or misogynist content. This paper is not one UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein warned the government to examine closely for hate speech.

Of course, there is so such thing as impartiality. The very idea is ludicrous. We’re all inculcated from birth by our education system and public institutions to accept the values and beliefs of the powerful and the BBC is one of those institutions, of course. 

In a famous interview between the BBC’s Andrew Marr and US academic dissident Noam Chomsky, Marr asks if Chomsky believes that journalists self-censor. “No,” he replies. “There’s a filtering system that starts in kindergarten that goes all the way through … and it selects for obedience and subordination.” 

“How can you say that I am self-censoring?” Marr asks to which Chomsky replies: “I’m not saying you’re self-censoring. I’m sure you believe everything you’re saying. What I’m saying is if you believed something different, you wouldn’t be sitting where you’re sitting.”

Asked about BBC impartiality, Tom Mills, the author of BBC: The Myth of a Public Service, said: “The BBC has always been formally accountable to ministers for its operations.

“Governments set the terms under which it operates, they appoint its most senior figures who in future will be directly involved in day-to-day managerial decision making and they set the level of the licence fee, which is the BBC's major source of income. So that's the context within which the BBC operates and it hardly amounts to independence in any substantive sense.”

Perhaps US journalist Chris Hedges was right in saying: “The corporate state is unnerved by the media outlets that give a voice to the critics of corporate capitalism, the security and surveillance state and imperialism …

“These dissidents, if we had a functioning public broadcast system or a commercial press free of public control, would be included in the mainstream discourse.”

The Morning Star exists in a perpetual state of financial crisis. Appearing on the BBC’s newspaper round-ups would be a great boon. Each edition of this paper is a miracle and is totally in the hands of your patronage and donations.

Yes, it will occasionally include a photoshop mock-up of Tories in silly hats, but at least it is honest about its political position. You’ll find the words “for peace and socialism” on the front page. The mainstream British media are state corporations and states/corporations are not impartial.

Barring a full-blown socialist revolution, it is very doubtful we’ll ever see the Morning Star included on the BBC newspaper coverage.

Ben Cowles is the Morning Star’s web editor. You can be “impartial” with him on Twitter via @Cowlesz. 


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