Isn’t it time for editors to grow up and think about the free media they recklessly give out?
I did not want to write this blog.
Well, I wanted to write a blog, but not this one. Not one that actually proves the issue I’m arguing we need to solve. And I definitely did not want to write a blog which featured the UKIP leader Nigel Framingridge so heavily that to make my point, I will have to spell his name as he wishes, which I do not enjoy. Let’s call Nigel Farage (pronounced Faridge if you want to pronounce it the properly British and nationalistically poised way as I’m sure he would secretly want you to and wouldn’t find insulting [he would find it insulting]) Silly Nige for the rest of this blog if I have to mention him again.
I wanted some exciting politics to talk about. There’s 98 days until election day and this week has been a slow news week with vague promises and if I don’t blog today about something I will definitely fall behind on my one/two-blogs-per-week aim for the year, so for the first time, I’m going spend kilobytes of data splattering words about everyone’s favourite new wacky next door people party, the UKIPs.
Now, we all know the alleged narrative so far. In 2010, maths meant that the Lib Dems had to form a fifth of the government. Fine. Oh no, they had to vote for Tory policies and therefore became evil and the media could not fathom the idea that this was boring, so they spent several years demonising the Lib Dems. Inevitably, the ‘Nick Clegg is failing as an outsider politician’ (which he wasn’t in the first place) story bored people soon, so the media decided to give the Far-Right a fair crack at the politics game, because there’s no such thing as media bias. So much like when the media spent 2008 speculating a possible economic crash (arguably causing a loss of confidence in the markets…), the markets loss confidence and crashed, the media spent 2013 speculating the possibly of a fourth party, like UKIP, rising, and just to check, they invited UKIP represenatives onto national television every time someone who associated this wacky new ‘people’s army’ said something racist/idiotic/backwards/silly. Lo and behold, a year later, the BBC launched a new service called BBC Nigel and every time someone from UKIP said something questionable, Nigel was permitted BBC space to appear on and remind people that voting for outsiders might not be the end of the world and would truly show David Cameron that he is simply not being racist enough like the old days of the Tories and the UKIPs and their disease (let’s face it ‘The UKIPS’ does sound like a disease) spread and having won a couple of hundred councillors (a third of whom have since been suspended or fired since 2014’s local elections) and are therefore the new party in charge.
My surprisingly simplistic point is that the media decided to let UKIP rise because its profitable for them in terms of selling TV space / commercial space / newspapers and increasing TV ratings. Their prediction of UKIP’s rise occurred because they permitted all the tools UKIP needed to them almost for free. It will surprise no-one if/when (when) the Daily Express officially endorses UKIP instead of the Tories come May 7th. Let’s face it, any newspaper that doesn’t have a headline saying ‘we think they might win some seats this year’ will be seen as backwards or failing on some level in case UKIP win some seats.
Why is this vague topic topical this week? It isn’t really except that on Sunday morning, Nigel Grimage (sorry, Silly Nige), appeared on Andrew Marr. Marr did not exactly ask the most pressing of questions. Not much new territory policy / substance wise, as Nigel had two much bigger issues to talk about.
Firstly, a UKIP MEP defected from UKIP to the Tories, which was actually tremendous news for the ukips (its quite satisfying seeing that abbreviation de-capitalised isn’t it?). Amshir Bashir has been accused of associations with nationalists and ultimately, him defecting the Conservatives creates more issues for the conservatives, as the only question that the ukips have to answer is why he’s left them, whereas the Tories have to answer if they accept this gentleman with a murky background. Of course, I might be falling into a trap saying these things, but ultimately, it detracts from the debate about policy and makes politics petty and personal again, which the ukips are not bothered about.
Secondly, UKIP’s general policy director or general secretary (The Times calls him one title and The Mirror calls him another), Matthew Richardson was caught saying that it a good thing that the ukips exist to stand up for bigots, and another comment of his about the NHS being a waste of money was dug up.
Andrew Marr could have asked Farage to lay out specific proposals on so many issues seeing as the broadcasters have randomly and unaccountably declared the ukips to be a ‘major party.’ Marr could have challenged his position on several things or challenged his entire philosophy of negative campaigning or his whole belief that Nige is anything but a part what Peter Oborne defines as the political class.
Sadly, it does not help to see so many of UKIP’s critics writing about this. Although I have objection to being part of the process, I am ultimately an unknown amateur blogger occasionally getting my views about things on the internet to facilitate my other writing ambitions. I don’t think it does too much harm for me to be part of the free media circus.
I hate to criticise my beloved University of East Anglia Students’ Union, but they made a tremendous mistake in postponing the local UKIP parliamentary candidate (luckily, I do not remember his name, and do not plan to add another search entry value to him by researching it), who was booked last minute and somewhat sporadically to speak at UEA the other week. The result was a wave of stories about a postponed event but permitted the ukips to represented as a unit all over the media having a go at anyone but them. Whichever side of that overall debate you fell on, whether banning them or postponing over administrative issues or free speech issues was the thing to do, you had to spend more time discussing the ukips rather than the complex systems of interference destroying potential reform and improvement in our society.
If any of the media illuminate that I spent pixels discussing are engaged with my points here, please take this next bit seriously. Stop giving free media to political parties. ‘Nigel Farage made a speech about this aspect of our lives’ is a news story and maybe worth discussing. ‘A random UKIP person said this’ does not validate getting the people’s armies elites on our screens to elaborately detract our society’s most important debates.
Stop it. Schools and universities teach critical thinking, and most journalists and editors have been to university (in fact, find me one that did not attend a university!). If you have the capabilities of critical thinking, why not prove it and point out to us when the ukips have tricked us into debating something pointless or a comment by a random chancer instead of giving them the free media that they do not deserve.
I am not saying we should ignore events of the world, but a truly democratic and free market or free media market would result in the people choosing what the main story is. Did a single major media outlet cover the fact that #CameronMustGo was trending for three weeks straight on twitter. The media elites and political class decided that trending topics mattered, not me, and this topic came from grassroots with minimal promotion by the elites of the Labour party, so this should have been a story.
I hope the editors who decide the agenda for the year are very careful and think beyond ratings and newspaper sales this year. So far, not so good.