There have now been three academic reports documenting the systematic distortion of Jeremy Corbyn’s message - not only in right wing papers such as the Telegraph, Mail and Sun - but also in the Guardian and at the BBC. The BBC is the most worrying because people trust the BBC more than any newspaper and the BBC is acting in contravention of its own editorial guidelines. The reports are linked here, here and here.
The reports do not highlight opposition to Corbyn (which newspapers are free to exhibit if they choose, but not the BBC) but something very different - the deliberate distortion of Corbyn’s views. This is done in a wide variety of ways including only quoting Corbyn’s opponents, quoting Corbyn out of context, repeating baseless smears and ignoring Corbyn’s side of a story altogether.
It is hardly surprising that people who rely on the newspapers or the BBC for their views on Corbyn tend to strongly oppose him.
Meanwhile there are millions of people who do support Corbyn and it is likely that they do not trust the so-called mainstream media and inform themselves either direct or through social media.
All who care about democracy in the UK should care about media distortion of Corbyn. Our society’s response to the three reports is a test of the strength of our democratic culture.
Democracy is not an either/or state. Instead countries can be placed on a sliding scale between “no democracy” and “perfect democracy”. One important element to make up a properly functioning democracy is that there is a media which gives voters the necessary information so that they can make an informed choice. This is clearly not happening in the case of Corbyn.
Corbyn is not a fringe politician. He is leader of the opposition. Under his leadership millions of people cast votes for his party, which received more votes than any other party in the local elections in May.
Corbyn is not an extremist politician. His central economic policy of anti-austerity has been adopted by his current opponent Owen Smith and may well soon be adopted by the Tories. Indeed, many of his policies have been adopted by Smith who is described as the choice of the “moderates”.
Everyone knows the saying attributed to Voltaire: - “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it.” Anyone who cares about democracy should care that Corbyn’s views are distorted whether or not they support Corbyn.