MEDIA silence on the 50,000 who marched against government-imposed austerity at the weekend tells us all we need to know about Britain’s “free” press.
Only one weekend newspaper — the Morning Star — led on the People’s Assembly demo. The Guardian consented to run a report on the march online, though it was not mentioned at all in the group’s Sunday title the Observer.
Other papers ignored it completely — as, initially, did the BBC, before a flood of complaints forced it to post a grudging acknowledgement on its Facebook page.
Broadcasting pundits and well-heeled newspaper columnists were quick to cry foul at the idea of state regulation of their sector after the revelation of mass illegal snooping at the now defunct News of the World and other Rupert Murdoch titles, citing the vital importance of an independent and diverse media which could hold the powerful to account.
Who could disagree with that? But Britain’s major newspapers, owned by a handful of mostly foreign-based billionaires, are not diverse and do not hold the powerful to account.
Most of the biggest titles — Sun, Mail, Telegraph, Times — are open cheerleaders for the Tory Party, which is hardly surprising since it is the party which best represents the class interests of their owners.
To this end evidence-free hate-mongering about immigrants and “benefit cheats” and hysterical attacks on workers who dare to flex their collective muscles through their trade unions are all the rage.
But tens of thousands of people marching through the centre of Britain’s capital demanding an alternative to the ruling class war on working people? That’s not news, apparently.
Indeed, the publicly funded BBC claimed that it was unable to provide “extensive” coverage of the march because of other more important stories on the day — which included significantly smaller crowds gathering to watch the solstice sun come up that morning.
The excuse does not explain why a BBC News tweet about the march was subsequently deleted, suggesting deliberate censorship rather than a simple case of odd priorities.
Even newspapers which are not consistently Tory act to perpetuate the poisonous narrative of the ruling class, whether this takes the form of the Independent’s cheerleading for marketising our public services or the Guardian’s support for the fascist-backed coup in Ukraine and the bloody war that country’s new leaders are waging against their opponents in the east. Other examples could be added ad nauseam.
The fact is that Britain’s rulers do not need to regulate or censor the press, because they own it.
As Lenin once said: “In capitalist usage, freedom of the press means freedom of the rich to bribe the press, freedom to use their wealth to shape and fabricate so-called public opinion.”
Only one daily newspaper is owned by ordinary working people — our own Morning Star, owned and accountable to its readers through the People’s Press Printing Society co-operative.
So it’s no surprise that only one newspaper backs the People’s Assembly, just as only we have supported and campaigned for the victims of blacklisting, backed trade unions fighting to defend their members’ pay and pensions and stood firm for peace and socialism and against imperialist war.
Saturday’s magnificent march was only the beginning of a summer of strikes and demonstrations, a summer in which the labour movement will seize the initiative and take the fight to the Tories.
The mass media’s response was to pretend it didn’t happen. This weekend’s events show more clearly than ever how important it is that working people have their own voice.
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