SPINWATCH WRITES THE LEFT’S ALIBI: ‘BLAME THE MEDIA’S, NOT US’

As we saw SpinWatch’s David Miller, along with his Glasgow Media Group collaborator Greg Philo, shifted the blame for negative attitudes to trade unionists onto the media, when in truth it was the Labour leadership that made them stick.

Miller and Philo were trying to defend their thesis that the media’s influence was decisive from other media researchers, Martin Barker and Julian Petley.

Of course it is true that the media had some influence, but only as the carrier of the message, not as its author. The BBC and ITV news, along with most of the press carried stories that were biased to the right – but that only mirrored the real power relations in the country.

Working people have no great faith in the media. What convinced them was that their own leaders, in the Labour Party and the trade union bureaucracy backed up those moderate messages. It was not only trade union militants who were stabbed in the back by Miller and Philo’s friends in the Labour Party.

According to Miller and Philo there were clear examples of the media influencing public opinion:

Northern Ireland

Labour Party leaders sabotaged working class solidarity with Ireland's freedom fighters

‘Public beliefs had clearly been influenced by false accounts that had been given in the media’ (Philo, Message Received, 282). Miller’s book Don’t Mention the War says the media ‘have a strong influence on public perceptions … and allow the powerful to legitimate their actions’ (1994, 283).

Few would argue that the British media were not biased against Irish nationalists. But their sway was small compared to the propaganda machine of the British Labour Party and the trade union leaders.

Throughout the war Labour Party leaders blamed Irish republicans for the Britain’s own military occupation. They cast nationalists as terrorists. Trade Union leaders like John Monks cracked down on any dissenters who dared to challenge their official line that the occupation would bring ‘Peace, Jobs and Progress’ to the six counties – like the Thameside Trades Council.

Even SpinWatch’s own contributors, like Jonathan Matthews, attack those who stood up for Irish Republicans as apologists for terrorism (in Miller and Dinan, eds, Thinker, Faker, Spinner, Spy, 2007 p 129).

Immigration

...but opposed by SpinWatch's allies

Philo blamed the media, too, for persuading people that migrants were responsible for the ‘scarcity of resources in health and education’ (Message Received, p 282).

No doubt the media did put those ideas across. But it was the Labour Party’s own spokesmen that persuaded people: ‘I am not a racist but … this tiny island of ours is … bulging with more than a million unemployed, there’s shortages of housing … I am opposed to the floodgates being opened’ (Bob Mellish, MP, Daily Express, 19 May 1976).

In 2007 Labour leader Gordon Brown said ‘British Jobs for British workers’ and was backed by left union leaders Derek Simpson and Bob Crow.

Even SpinWatch’s own contributors, like Simon Ross of the Optimum Population Trust, blame too much immigration for the ‘scarcity of resources in health and education’ – and attack those who fight for open borders (0r here).

 

Hostile attitudes to immigrants and Irish freedom fighters did not in the end come from media. However biased, the media only reflected the bias in society.

The elite argued hard for their point of view on race and Ireland.  The Labour Party leaders and the trade union bureaucracy, though, gave ground over and over again. Worse, they promoted the elite’s ‘British first’ outlook in the working class movement.

It was the Labour Party leaders that won working class support for the British occupation in northern Ireland. It was the Labour Party leaders that blamed immigrants for taking jobs and services.

David Miller and Greg Philo’s work on media bias was one long alibi for the failures of the left. Instead of facing up to the left’s evasions and compromises, they shifted the blame onto a hostile media.

Instead of fighting the influence of the Labour Party and the trade union bureaucracy, Miller and Philo wasted people’s energies logging news reports.

Worse still, they promoted a feeble vision of the masses as slaves to the media and PR spin – a vision that demoralises militants with conspiracy theories and a sense of helplessness before the all powerful mechanisms of mind control.

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

THE GLASGOW MEDIA GROUP’S FATAL FLAW: MAKING EXCUSES FOR LABOUR

scenes from David Miller’s formative years

The row between the Glasgow University Media Group and the editors of Ill Effects, Martin Barker and Julian Petley (see here), highlighted a fatal flaw in the group’s work.

Under Greg Philo, and later his protégé David Miller (who went on to found SpinWatch), the Glasgow University Media Group highlighted media bias. Television news they thought ‘has a profound effect’ on ‘people’s thoughts or actions’, and ‘controls the crucial information with which we make up our minds about the world’ (Glasgow University Media Group, Really Bad News, 1982, p 1).

Images like these were highlighted to show 'picket line violence' - but the pictures were not the reason people believed it

When called to account by Barker and Petley, the Glasgow Group replied that they knew the media had a decisive effect from their studies of audience responses to news reports of picket line violence in the 1984-5 miners’ strike, claiming ‘54 per cent believed that picketing was mostly violent and overwhelmingly cited the media, especially television, as the source of their beliefs’ (Philo and Miller, ‘the effective media’ in Message Received, 1999, p 29).

It was the Labour Party leadership that betrayed the miners, not a conspiracy by the media

Not for the first time, Philo and Miller had wholly failed to understand what was in front of their noses. The simple truth was that however much the media went on about picket line violence, it was the Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock who gave the charges credibility. Instead of standing up for the miners, Kinnock begged Margaret Thatcher:

Will the Prime Minister understand once and for all that I condemn, and always have condemned, violence in pursuit of industrial disputes, even when it occurs among people who feel impotent in the face of the destruction of their jobs, their industry and their communities? Parliament, March 13th 1984.

At the Labour Party conference in September 1984 Kinnock used the issue of picket line violence to try to damage miners’ supporters:

violence, I do not have to tell this Congress … disgusts union opinion and divides union attitudes … and is alien to the temperament and intelligence of the British trade Union movement

Viewers who got the message from the media that picket line violence believed it because it was confirmed by the leader of Britain’s Labour Party, the party that the trade unions supported. Newscasters like Sue Lawley or David Icke did not have to persuade viewers about picket line violence, they could just report what Labour’s leaders were saying.

Union leader, the late Alan Sapper - a supporter of the Glasgow University Group

Not just over the miners’ strike, but throughout their history, the Glasgow group blamed the media for the failures of the Labour Party, especially its left wing, and of the trade union leaders. There was a simple reason for that. The Glasgow Media group was largely supported by the Labour Party and the trade union leaders. The group had the support of the ACTT leader Alan Sapper, Jimmy Milne at the Scottish TUC and Labour Party apparatchiks like Austin Mitchell, Michael Meacher, Michael Foot and Brian Sedgemore, as well as the left wingers Tony Benn, Eric Heffer and radical leftists like Jock Young and Mike Gonzales.

Having supporters was no bad thing in itself, but the problem was that these were the very people whose programme for defending working class interests failed so spectacularly in the 1980s.

Over and over again the Glasgow Media group was on hand to explain just why it was that trade unionists were blamed for the rise in inflation, or why the Labour Left wing’s democratisation of the party ran into trouble, how the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament lost the argument over cruise missiles, or why the miners lost the 1984-5 strike.

In every case, the Glasgow media group produced reports that put the blame on the media, showing bias in the news coverage of these issues. But in every case the news coverage was a secondary matter. The real reason that the left lost the argument was that its programme was not a good enough answer, and the Labour Party in particular undermined the fightback.

'There was I waiting at the church' - Labour leader Jim Callaghan asking the TUC to stand by him

It was not the news, but Labour Chancellor Denis Healey and leader Jim Callaghan that told the trade unions that their pay claims caused inflation. The Left’s campaign to ‘democratise’ the Labour Party ran into trouble because everyone could see it was a diversion from the real attack on working class living standards. The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament spent so much time trying to convince the public that it was really patriotic at heart, that there was little left of its case against militarism.

The 1980s were a long process of defeats for the left, throughout which they never once stopped to ask what it was that they were getting wrong. The Glasgow Media Group kept on supply the alibi, and the alibi was that it was not the left that had failed, but the media, that, by mind control, had the masses in its grip.

It was an attitude that SpinWatch’s David Miller stuck to, making more and more ridiculous excuses for the left’s failures, by reference to secret conspiracies. So it was that in 2008 William Dinan and David Miller tried to explain the Labour Party’s rightward drift as the work of a sinister conspiracy:

Tony Blair's rise was not a U.S. intelligence plot, but Labour's own craven plea to be let into the establishment club

To neuter the Labour Party was arguably a world historical task undertaken not simply by business, but also in alliance with government and intelligence agencies in the U.S. and U.K. (A Century of Spin, p 128)

There was no need for a conspiracy to neuter the Labour Party. The whole argument is a deus ex machina. The Labour Party was the force that neutered the working class movement. Throughout its history Labour was the party that reined in militancy in favour of moderate reforms. 

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

WHEN MEDIA STUDIES PROFS FALL OUT

 Scenes from David Miller’s formative years

In 1997 Media Studies lecturers Martin Barker and Julian Petley published Ill Effects: the media/violence debate. A brilliant collection of essays by leaders in the field, the book demolished the argument that television and videos were to blame for a rise in violence. This was the argument that had been made by psychologist Elizabeth Newson and had been used to make the case for the censorship of so-called ‘video nasties’.

In Ill Effects Barker and Petley showed that ‘media violence’ was a moral panic – hysteria whipped up by the press wildly exaggerating the problem and making a fantastic connection between real world violence and its fictional portrayal. Though the video Child’s Play 3 had been blamed for making Jon Venables and Robert Thompson kill toddler Jamie Bulger, Barker and Petley pointed out that they had never even seen it. Ill Effects was widely read by broadcasters programme-makers and journalists, and was an instant hit on media studies courses – all except one.

Barker had a record of fighting censorship - which Philo and Miller never understood

For SpinWatch’s David Miller, then second-in-command at the Glasgow University Media Group under Greg Philo, Ill Effects was a direct challenge to everything they believed in. If television was not to blame for violence, and the idea that the media had a powerful grip on us was daft, what was left of the GUMG’s project?

After all, the core proposition of the GUMG was that television ‘has a profound effect’, was the main force to ‘shape people’s thoughts or actions’, ‘very largely decides what people will think with’ and ‘controls the crucial information with which we make up our minds about the world’ (Glasgow University Media Group, Really Bad News, 1982, p 1).

The whole GUMG project rested on the idea that it was media bias that had undermined the trade unions, the Labour Party, its left wing and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. If, as Barker and Petley claimed, media had no such decisive effect, the GUMG project was in ruins.

Worse still, Barker and Petley had at first, asked Philo and Miller to write a chapter for Ill Effects. The piece they put together was an ill-made rant, insisting that ‘the media are powerful channels for the development of new ideas and potential behaviour’, and claiming – bizarrely, since we were at the time in the middle of a media storm over ‘video nasties’ – that ‘questions of television and violence have been ignored, played down and regarded with weary disdain’. Barker and Petley decided that Philo and Miller’s efforts were not good enough and dropped it from the collection (it was eventually published in the GUMG’s own collection ominously titled Message Received, 1999).

Outrageously, the Glasgow Media Profs called up a friendly journalist on the ObserverNick Cohen (0r here), no less – and tried to sink the Ill Effects book before it was published, claiming ‘we’ve been censored’ (Observer, 2 June 1996). Now any GCSE media student would know the difference between editing and censorship, but Philo and Miller were in a hissy fit. They could not see the difference between the real censorship laws that were put into the 1994 Criminal Justice Act and the hurt to their pride in having their essay dropped.

Greg Philo, shown to be a moralistic fuddy-duddy

Barker and Petley made sure that in the second – much anticipated – edition of Ill Effects they dealt with Philo and Miller’s arguments. In a new introduction they wrote that  ‘unfortunately some among the Glasgow Group have not proceeded into the realm of fiction with the requisite caution’:

In a desperately weak report Greg Philo investigated the responses of ten 12 year-old children to Pulp Fiction. … [claiming] that the film “invites a vicarious pleasure in the actions of the central characters who are gangsters. In their world, killing and torture can be enjoyed, the total power which they exercise is “cool” and can even be a “laugh” at the expense of the victims.

But Barker and Petley showed that even in the children’s own words, they knew perfectly well the difference between fiction and reality.

In Philo’s monocular vision, however, it is “an extraordinary testament to the power of the film” and demonstrates “how images, style, and excitement generated by the film could overwhelm other possible responses to cruelty and killing”. Once again the search for some simple account of the “power of the media” has interrupted any chance of any sustained analysis of these children’s responses to the world of Pulp Fiction, which they clearly recognised as fiction, and its relations to the real world in which they lived.  (Ill Effects, 2nd Edition, p 25-6, citing Philo, ed., Message Received, 1999, p 37, 49)

The second edition of Ill Effects also carried another essay, by Sara Bragg which heaped on the charges against Philo. She said Philo’s ‘paternalistic concern’ over the corruption of a girl ‘with a cherubic face and golden curls’ reflects ‘adults’ desires to control young people’s sexuality’, defending the ‘family against the influence of the public media’ (Ill Effects, 2nd Edition, p 97).

This was the knife in the GUMG’s heart. They thought of themselves as radicals, challenging the status quo. But Barker, Petley and Sara Bragg exposed them as moral conservatives, old fuddy-duddies shaking a fist at the filth on the television, like Mary Whitehouse or Alf Garnett.

In the world of Media Studies, it was a fatal blow. Their reputation would never recover. The years that followed the GUMG thrashed around, but was effectively finished as a force in the discipline. Soon it would be time for Miller, hurt and confused, to move on.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Conspiracy? You don’t know the half of it…

In their book A Century of Spin William Dinan and David Miller of SpinWatch warn of the ‘insidious’ and ‘mysterious’ power of the PR worlds. Under the heading ‘The Real Rulers of the World’ they list the powers behind the scenes:

  • Bohemian Grove – ‘a social club for members of the ruling class’
  • The Montpelerin Society its influence has ‘been extremely significant’
  • ‘Rancheros Vistadores’ – don’t ask…
  • The Bilderberg Group ‘one of the most secret elite policy planning assemblies’

The unknown ruler of the world, Peter Sutherland

And in an even greater scoop, Dinan and Miller name the secret ruler of the world ‘truly one of the global elite’ and the most connected of all … Peter Sutherland!

Who? You know, the former Irish attorney general. Apparently his power base comes from his Chairmanship of Goldman Sachs International, and BP

The SpinWatchers do caution against irresponsible speculation, though:

wild and and sometimes conspiratorial stories about these organisations and their links abound, particularly on the internet. This or that groups is the essential element of the ‘Zionist World Government’ or the ‘Knights Templar’ or the World Jewish Conspiracy [see their page on SpinWatch here].

According to the SpinWatchers ‘such stories’ are a problem because ‘they cut short proper analysis of power structures and how they operate’:

There is no single conspiracy running the world. On the contrary, the people who do run the world are engaged in many harmful activities against democracy… (A Century of Spin, 81-2)

In other words, you don’t know the half of it – there is not one conspiracy running the world, there are hundreds.

Still, one question lingers over SpinWatch’s account.

According to documents newly released under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act a secret ‘private sector donors’ meeting was held on 21 March 1983 to discuss undermining the left in Europe. Present were U.S. President Ronald Reagan, Rupert Murdoch, George Gallup, U.S. Information Agency’s Charles Wick and Sir James Maxwell Goldsmith.

Twenty years later, the James Maxwell Goldsmith foundation gave grants to SpinWatch, to its co-founder Andy Rowell, and Goldsmith’s son Zac worked with key SpinWatch staffers Claire Robinson and Jonathan Matthews. Was this part of a twenty year conspiracy to disorient the left, and redirect it into pointless campaigns against the MMR vaccine and water fluoridisation?

SpinWatch demands to be told.

And to this day SpinWatch editor David Miller has refused to deny that he was in the room on that day, a youthful intern, alongside his mentor Professor Greg Philo.

Remember, the truth is out there, somewhere.

Ronald Reagan entertaining guests including Charles Wick - was a youthful David Miller in the room?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

David Miller’s campaign against ‘video nasties’

Nasty, maybe, but this video never hurt anyone

Under the last Tory administrations led by Margaret Thatcher and then John Major, from 1979 to 1997, there was a fierce, moral backlash against the ‘permissive era’. In the name of ‘Law and Order’ many repressive measures were put in place – including censorship of videos.

In 1994, a report by Psychology Professor Elizabeth Newson argued that so-called media violence was turning young people into killers. The papers leapt on the story, blaming the ‘video nasty’ Child’s Play 3 for inspiring the killers of James Bulger.

Media teachers across the country tried to make the case against censorship, making the obvious point that no video ever killed anyone, and that ‘media violence’ was a made up moral panic to scare people into passing new censorship laws.

One media studies course broke ranks, though, and backed Newson’s report and the government campaign against video nasties: the Glasgow University Media Group, with Greg Philo and SpinWatch’s head David Miller making the case.

Philo attacked his peers, accusing them of sucking up to broadcasting profiteers, hell bent on pumping filth into our living rooms:

‘liberals in cultural studies have allied themselves with the media corporations and the likes of Melvin Bragg and Michael Winner’, he said.

(Eh? what? We can only guess that, for whatever reason, Melvin Bragg and Michael Winner are big hate figures north of the border, or perhaps just in Philo-Millerland)

‘They seem to be saying that the fear about TV violence has been generated by the newspapers’ (Observer, 2 June 1996)

Most radicals understood the threat of the moral reaction - but not Miller and Philo

Of course, the newspapers did create the panic about TV violence. There was, as was clear from a closer reading of Newson’s report, no evidence of any link between seeing violence on the screen and acting it out. Miller and Philo admitted that they had no evidence, but then went on, inexplicably, to tell the Observer that researchers cannot stick any longer to ‘vague assertions that there is no evidence’.

Worse still, Philo went on to produce what one academic called a ‘desperately weak report’ that claimed to show that the film Pulp Fiction caused young boys to identify with violence because its lead, John Travolta, was cool (though the whole point of casting Travolta was that he wasn’t).

How did Philo and Miller of the Glasgow Media Group get the video nasty question so arse about tit?

The answer is that they never really objected to censorship on cultural grounds. Back in 1982 Philo thought that ‘many of these censorship arguments are conducted on an absolutely ludicrous level, such as the number of swearwords per half hour that the BBC will allow’. And ‘the apparent arbitrariness of many decisions comes from their desire to placate any group that they see as a threat’ like ‘the Viewers and Listeners Association’ (Really Bad News, p 11).

The Glasgow Media Group just did not get the point that censoring what we watch on grounds of taste or morals was just as much an attack on our rights as bias against trade unions.

It was a fatal underestimation of the vicious attack on freedom of expression and equality that the Conservative government  – claiming the support of the National Viewers and Listeners’ Association –   would go on to make. Not only were videos censored under the Criminal Justice Act, but also the rights of women to abortion were attacked, as were those of gays to equal treatment, all in the name of restoring Victorian Values.

Lord Reith - the patrician who thought that he knew best for us - and David Miller's pin-up

Philo and Miller, though, saw things differently. Their problem with the Thatcher years was that they were not Conservative enough. In a 2001 manifesto ‘Cultural Compliance’, the pair despaired at the ‘move away from the traditional concern with quality and “good taste”’ on television. Reminiscing about the elitist and patrician founder of the BBC, John Reith, Miller and Philo thought it was a bad thing that television, responding to its market, ‘erodes the original Reithian ideal that it should in some way set and lead standards’. (Miller and Philo, Market Killing, Longmans, 2001, p 11)

At least back in 1982 the Group had a more realistic idea of what Reith’s mission meant:

The BBC developed in close relationship with the state and under Reith it came to embody in its language and programme content a form of liberal capitalist ideology. In practice this was the belief that the clas system was basically sound and that as long as working class people ‘knew their place’ they were capable of improvement by gradual exposure to ‘high culture’. (Really Bad News, p 130)

‘Bring back Lord Reith!’ – it was a strange end to decades spent campaigning against ‘media bias’.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

‘MIND CONTROL’ and the SpinWatchers’ dim view of the public

Deep in the SpinWatcher’s paranoid world view is the idea that the public is being systematically deceived by mind control exercised by the PR industry. While they claim to be defending the public – the unspoken meaning is that the choices people make are not their own, but made for them by ‘organizations’ that ‘are deliberately shadowy and cultivate a mystique, rendering their critics more liable to be dismissed as conspiracy theorists’ (David Miller et al, Arguments Against G8, 2005, p 224).

The ‘shadowy’ forces make people buy things they do not want, through ‘the extreme power of marketing and branding in the West’ which ‘continue to take children prisoner at younger and younger ages’. (Ibid. 228-9, While Miller thinks that Capitalism will collapse without selling us more and more stuff we don’t need, the IMF is today pressuring countries to reduce consumer spending.)

Where do the SpinWatchers’ get their dim view of the public? It goes way back. Miller learned to think of people as automatons from the Glasgow University Media Group.

To the GUMG it seemed clear that televion was the main force to ‘shape people’s thoughts or actions’ and ‘has a profoud effect’ because it ‘has the power to tell people the order in which to think about events and issues’ and ‘it very largely decides what people will think with: television controls the crucial information with which we make up our minds about the world’ (Greg Philo et al, Really Bad News, 1982, p 1)

Paranoiacs often think that they are getting mind control messages from the television and other electrical equipment. Nowadays, we know that that is a delusion that people with a poorly anchored personality suffer from. But for Professor Miller and the SpinWatchers, the delusion that the rest of us are in the grip of the mind controllers, and only they know the truth, a delusion that they reinforce in each other, seems to carry the weight of scientific fact.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The political evolution of SpinWatch’s David Miller

David Miller – originally a biology student – was drawn into the Glasgow University Media Group around 1985. The Media Studies at that time was a kind of refuge for radicals and would-be Marxists. In an era of social reaction the radicals retreated into their seminar rooms to analyse the ‘media bias’ that they felt had robbed them of victory in the halcyon days of seventies’ activism. There was no shortage of evidence that the 6 O’Clock news was biased. But the Glasgow University Media Group’s first error was to imagine that media bias explained the failure of the left wing challenge.

Waving a fist at the television set was a lot easier than facing up to the shortcomings in the left’s own appeal. Easier to study media bias than the weaknesses in the left’s own programme.

The University Rectors were all too happy to see their student radicals wile away their hours analysing news broadcasts in the eighties; so much better than see them making news in the seventies.

Mary Whitehouse, too, challenged what she saw as media bias

In their own way, the Glasgow University Media Group were the other side of the coin to Mary Whitehouse’s National Viewers and Listeners Association. Both read their own alienation from the mainstream as the perverse result of media bias, unwilling to admit that they had lost the argument.

In the 1980s Margaret Thatcher’s government tried to break up the social consensus that had governed British political life for most of the post-war period. It was a high-risk strategy that undermined the institutional bulwarks of social consensus. Thatcher and her ministers attacked the BBC, pillorying Director General Alasdair Milne and scorning his appeal to ‘balance’ – their could be no balance between British troops and their enemies, said the Tory attack dogs. (Mary Whitehouse – ridiculed in the seventies – was lauded by the Tories for showing up porn on the BBC.)

Like Mary Whitehouse, the Glasgow University Media Group had some success politicising broadcast media in the eighties. They seemed to be coming from a very different place, but their target was the same: impartial and balanced reporting was a myth. The Media Group’s studies of BBC coverage of the Miners’ Strike showed that camera angles, and the order in which footage was shown all added up to bias against the miners, for the government (see Greg Philo, Seeing & Believing, Routledge, 1990, Chapter Six 132-155 – though it was in fact lawyer Gareth Pierce who first drew attention to the manipulation of the order of footage of the Orgreave picket, Guardian, 12 August 1985).

A weakness in the Group’s critical stance is that they identified bias as the issue. That meant that they could only criticise the media from the stance of an existing outlying group that would make the excluded view make sense. But what, in the end were the GUMG asking? That the BBC live up to its original promise of impartiality. In the words of the first ever Director General of the BBC in 1929:

If on any controversial matter the opposing views are stated with equal emphasis or lucidity there can at least be no charge of bias (Radio Times 30 November 1923).  

Reith’s promise, set down in clause three of the 1954 Television Bill, had its limits. ‘Opposing views’ meant in effect, opposing views in parliament. Those outside the consensus, like the IRA, or Egypt’s Nasser-revolution were not reported – not unless they were supported by MPs inside.

By the 1980s, the consensus on which ‘impartiality’ rested was breaking down. The GUMG struggled to make the case for other voices to be heard, because the powers-that-be were doing their best to redefine who was in and who was out. In the end that was a political struggle, which media coverage only reflected.

Discussing news coverage of a demonstration against the Falklands war in May 1982, the GUMG said that, although Newsnight gave what they saw as a fair account: ‘…the picture on the main bulletins [was] rather different, giving lower numbers for the turn-out and stressing the “revolutionary communist” and “left-wing” participation….Only one interview [was] shown in the reports – and it [was] put to [Tony] Benn rather than to any of the other speakers at the rally (who included a bishop, a Social Democrat, and an Argentine ex-political prisoner).’ (War and Peace News, p133)

The truth was that the demo was small, because most the Labour leader Michael Foot was right behind the war. It was left to the Revolutionary Communist Party to make up the numbers. But the GUMG did not want people to see that, and they would have preferred to see churchmen interviewed than Tony Benn. What was this but an appeal to the left to moderate its language, and try to pitch its ideas more towards the centre-ground? The GUMG was adapting to the right-wing current like much of the rest of the left.

Greg Philo’s critical points about news coverage were in the end secondary to the real balance of forces in society. With the left on the backfoot, the points looked shrill. They also shored up the idea that the truth rested on whose side you were on. Fighting over the right account of things would set the record. Though later they resisted the end point, Philo, and with him David Miller, were pushing Media Studies towards relativism.

One thing that the Glasgow group clearly shared with the National Viewers and Listeners Association was the view that the media was a corrupting influence on the good folk. Their strong belief in the ill effects of media would lead to a big falling-out with the English media students led by Martin Barker and Julian Petley.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment