Image from an article on SNP/Labour pact from the Telegraph, April 2015.
Giles: “It’s the end of the world”
Xander and Willow: “Again?” – ‘Doomed’, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
You got to love the Daily Mail, seriously. It is this complete fiction wrapped up in the idea of a newspaper. As old and greasy as the rotten fish wrapped up in it. And yet, there are 1.6 million people buying that thing. I’d rather have a deep fried mars bar quite frankly, it’s probably healthier and is less stereotyped. It is seriously not good for your health.
But, having an interest in propaganda, the Daily Mail is fascinating because its gross exaggeration and neglect for any facts is just an exaggeration of mainstream journalism these days. Look at their latest offering on Corbyn: ‘the thousand days that destroyed Britain.’ A dystopian future, with pictures of London set ablaze. A bankrupt economy, references to madness, and even Communist China. The apocalypse is coming and Corbyn is its nuclear warhead (though to be fair, for the Daily Mail nuclear weapons are as dangerous as a kid’s teddy bear).
It does make me wonder how many apocalypses are possible these days. We had the same apocalyptic vision during the referendum and a repeat of that during the general election. Where is Buffy when you need her? The Daily Mail is right, though. The world is going to shit, but not in the way they tell us.
The Daily Mail’s dystopian fantasy sums up the nature of political propaganda these days: it’s just more exaggerated. Those of us who looked even cursorily at the media during the referendum saw that. The supermarkets will close down, prices will rise, the economy will collapse, oil will destroy you, yir pensions! Salmond and the SNP were, and still are, vilified as dictators.
None of this information was based in fact and Prof. John Robertson notes the distinct lack of objective ‘evidence’ in much of the media. It is the issemination of fictional stories disguised as truth. The YES campaign didn’t lose the referendum because it lost the arguments. It lost the propaganda war. Indeed, when faced with the facts people moved to voting YES. But facts are not relevant. Propaganda is.
A very common form of propaganda is the repetition of positive or negative images of people, countries or political parties. Imagery is powerful. It evokes the senses, creates a strong emotional attachment to a the subject and helps consolidate strong feeling about a certain issue.
This strategy allows objects to be branded in the same way advertising brands. Why do people start smoking? They know it gives them cancer. But James Dean with that cigarette in his mouth is soooo very cool. It is iconic. By producing short and fast moving images of things enter into the audience’s mind almost without us thinking about it. And it stays there.
Branding in propaganda is equally effective. I am mindful of a media researcher who studied the referendum. He began by thinking that Salmond was ‘arrogant’, he explained, but his research showed that his impression was not founded in anything solid. His impression was subconsciously guided by the repeated media branding of Salmond. Branding avoids facts and information. It gives us an impression and a feeling about a product that has no basis in fact.
Political propaganda works in a similar way to advertising then. It is not a factual report of events or people, but an image that initiates a feeling that seeps into our consciousness and stays there. And if you repeat it often enough, it becomes truth. Like advertising it works in short, pithy bits of information such as headlines, pictures and bill posters. Exploring in detail is discouraged because the subconscious intake of the image is the aim, not learning about the topic.
Repeated images facilitate this branding. This is seen in how people on benefits or immigrants are viewed these days. Notions of ‘laziness’, ‘scrounging’ or ‘parasites’ pervade the media until the image sticks. The meme that does the regular rounds on social media is a case in point. Illegal immigrants and foreigners get more benefits than pensioners. The FACT that illegal immigrants get no benefits because they are illegal is not relevant. The image of them scrounging is key.
We also saw this with the SNP and Scotland during the general election. Sturgeon’s popularity with the English electorate was met with a barrage of images of Scotland and the SNP as one of aggression, terrorism, dictatorships and as a Neanderthal invasive force. We Scots knew there was no truth in these, but the constant imagery of this became more and more embedded within an English audience. Truth has no bearing, the image is all that matters.
‘SNP bad!’ is a constant mantra repeated across the media and the imagery of dictatorships is a popular theme that surrounds Scotland and the SNP. The Daily Mail, the Telegraph and even the Guardian presented the SNP with images of Putin’s Russia and only recently BBC’s Nick Robinson gave the same imagery to YES campaigners.
The Mugabe imagery of the SNP is also strong. This is persistent references to the Mugabe style ‘land grab’ that stretches across the government and media through Cameron’s step father as well as the Telegraph, the Daily Mail, the Commentator and the BBC to name but a few. Dictatorship imagery is very popular with Scottish Labour revelling in this by their persistent reference to Scotland now being a one party state.
For those who are taking an interest in Corbyn will be experiencing a de ja vu of this imagery. How is the media branding him? Well, it’s a repeat of the imagery used against YES, the SNP and Scotland over the last year. Like the SNP, images of famous dictators and terrorists are surrounding Jeremy Corbyn.
He is linked with holocaust denier Paul Risen and Read Selah: an attempt to associate him as anti-Semite and racist. The Telegraph presented an image of Corbyn with Gerry Adams, with the clear IRA associations.
The repetition of imagery is actually somewhat embarrassing. As with the SNP, Corbyn is persistently imagined with Putin and Mugabe. International Business Times, the Telegraph and the BBC all took mileage from his interview with RT and propounded images of Corbyn in bed with the Russians.
They even brought the good old Mugabe reference that showed so little imagination that it was almost a cut and paste job: delete Salmond/ Sturgeon/ SNP and paste Corbyn. The Telegraph and the Daily Mail like this image a lot. Ruthless dictators and invasive forces surround Corbyn the way they surround the SNP.
I think the more dramatic and negative the imagery and the more repeated that imagery becomes, the more the state feels threatened. You can tell how scared the state is by the viciousness of the propaganda. We saw this with Corbyn. When he wasn’t taken seriously there was a jokey fly squatting type propaganda that flicked him away as they tried to deal with more important issues. Now he is a serious contender, the hyperbole is almost fantastical. It was the same during the referendum and the General Election.
Propaganda is seductive though. Imagery is easy to understand and because it taps into our senses and emotions, we can get caught up in the image so very completely. There is a reason poets use it so intensely.
But propaganda is deeply manipulative and its very function here is to retain established power: the neo liberal economic structure. I keep lamenting the loss of evidence based politics and journalism. It has little place in the modern state. My rule of thumb now is to assume articles are fiction unless I can prove otherwise. I fail in that a lot.
For the Daily Mail article see:
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