Friday, July 7, 2017


It was once famously declared 'Comment is free, but facts are sacred' (C.P. Snow, the editor of the Manchester Guardian, 1872 - 1929). While this principle is still largely still observed, at least by some of the former Fleet Street titles, it should be clear by now that a combination of so called 'Fake News' (or perhaps more accurately news that feels true), vitriolic opinion (disguised as news) with punchy headlines sells rather well (even if sections of the electorate choose to ignore them).

Managed news...

ome people make much of the rise of the so called alt-right which it can be argued can be put down to a combination of a reaction against globalisation, digitalisation, global interconnectivity, nostalgia and desperation. This electorally and emotionally has seen the rise and development over the last 30+ years of what has more recently been described as post truth politics.

Now this is something not confined solely to this island archipelago, the USA and other parts of europe, it is a truly global phenomenon, and one that appears to be here to stay. It is, however, not a relatively recent development, post truth politics has been alive and kicking since at least the late 1960's (if not before) with effective emotional political narratives trumping (to coin a phrase) hard facts relatively regularly. 

New Labour (between 1997 and 2010) while being condemned as 'all spin and no substance' was largely very effective - especially with a dysfunctional Conservative opposition (especially with the support, at least for a while, of the Murdoch press). Across the Atlantic various  politicians have tweaked, exaggerated or obscured their own personal narratives and got away with it for generations long before the current US President won election with a campaign based on emotion rather that facts on 2016.

The recent referendum on EU membership was won by a campaign that played on a combination of emotional rhetoric, questionable promises / pledges and fears (basically 'Take back control', the £350 million pounds a week to be spent on the NHS and fear of immigrants (personified as Turkish accession to the EU) which managed to beat the fact heavy but emotionally dull remain campaign hindered by the fact it was built around the former PM's non personality cult.

Success in the referendum was followed by a rapid series of denials in relation to the extra funding for the NHS and any implied control of immigration to match the fears raised by the run up to and the referendum campaign. The argument (especially since TM's slow car crash of an election) remains firmly about the type of Brexit rather than leaving or staying.

Brecht is still Brecht
Putting Brexit (my spell check kept offering 'Brecht' at this point, which momentarily popped 'Brecht is still Brecht' into my head) to one side, in the UK since Thatcher and Bliar onwards we have seen effective emotionally charged political campaigns succeeding triumphing over dull less emotionally effective or even incompetent campaigns. It is also worth remembering that there is a world of difference between an active free press (the traditional fourth estate) and a well managed press.

All this should raise real concerns as the 'Welsh' media during the recent Westminster general election campaign mostly fell into line with the two party fight line - there was little if a 'Welsh perspective' in the Westminster coverage supplied by the former Fleet Street titles - so no change there then! From an editorial perspective if a newspaper is printed and produced in Gloucestershire what relevance do Welsh issues have? 

The re-emergence of two party politics - as pushed by the metropolitan centric media may in actual fact be a relatively short term feature of political life. Scotland (and the SNP) despite most of the media's best efforts has not gone away. The DUP has also firmly dropped the politics of NI into the public consciousness at least in the short term.

That said Wales, and Welsh issues, by and large do not feature beyond metropolitan tokenism - yet our issues and concerns have not also gone away - it's they just won't get any mainstream media coverage. For those of us involved in political activity this means that we will simply have to work harder, work smarter and talk to (and listen) to more people while actually putting the work in over years, rather than months or weeks prior to any elections.

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