Looking back at the entries on this bog that I’ve filed in the category of ‘politics’, I realise that in many of them I haven’t actually written about politicians.
Instead, I’ve spent as much time writing about another profession, one that sets a large part of the political agenda, decides what issues of the day are brought to the public’s attention and helps create the prism through which those issues are viewed by the public. In a word, journalists.
And regular readers of Blood and Porridge will know I’m not a great fan of journalists, newspapers and the mainstream media generally in the UK. I’ve found the non-stop abuse doled out to Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn over the past couple of years nauseating – the nadir coming on June 7th this year, just before the general election, when the Daily Mail devoted 13 pages to portraying Corbyn and his Labour Party associates as a bunch of foul, neo-Marxist, neo-Maoist, Jihadi-condoning, Gerry Adams-hugging, devil-worshipping, child-sacrificing, bloodsucking monsters. Nor was I impressed by the barrage of nonsense that Britain’s newspapers published in the run-up to the referendum on Scottish independence in 2014, when the Daily Express saw fit to warn Scots that independence would threaten the discovery of a cure for cancer and the Daily Record predicted that independence would trigger a 21st-century version of the Great Depression.
And of course, there was the absolute smorgasbord of bollocks that most of Britain’s newspapers served up before last year’s vote on the UK leaving the European Union. (Funnily enough, the newspapers that were shrillest in denouncing the EU and urging British people to vote to leave it were the same newspapers that two years earlier had warned Scots that an independent Scotland would suffer because it’d lose its EU membership.)
However, at times in 2017, I’ve wondered if I’ve been on the wrong side. Because this year the journalistic profession has been under sustained attack by Donald Trump, the large blobby orange lifeform that last autumn managed to get himself elected 45th president of the USA despite winning 2.9 million fewer votes than his rival Hillary Clinton. Trump’s reaction to the media reporting any facts that might appear unflattering to him or his cause is to shriek “Fake news!” at it.
For example. Those photographs suggesting that the crowd at his presidential inauguration ceremony in Washington DC was as sparse as the crowd you’d get in a pub hosting a Gary Glitter 1970s Nostalgia Night? Fake news! barks the man with a face like a giant orange arse. Those polls showing Trump’s approval ratings to be the lowest for a president since, well, approval ratings were invented? Fake news! howls the man with a mouth as big and unappealing as an H.R. Giger-designed entrance-orifice for a derelict spaceship in an Alien movie. Allegations that Vladimir Putin’s role in his election to office might have been a wee bit more proactive than one of detached, distant, neutral observer? Fake news! screams the man who, if the Buddhists are right, is destined to be reincarnated in his next life as an Australian cane toad. (That’s because cane toads are gross, poisonous and so stupid that they attempt to hump animal carcasses, including “dead salamanders, snakes, lizards, mice, anything,” which sounds perfectly attuned to Trump’s karma.)
With Trump ranting at them night and day, trying to discredit every bit of reporting critical of him by slapping a ‘fake news’ label on it, trying to neutralise every uncomplimentary fact that’s dug up about him by dismissing it as an ‘alternative’ fact, shouldn’t I be more sympathetic to journalists? Surely, set against the slobbering horror-show that is Trump, the mainstream press and its journalists are on the side of the angels?
Well, no. I don’t feel that way, at least not towards the bulk of the mainstream press in Britain. And here’s why not. Imagine how the situation would be if Donald Trump was British and not American, if he was UK prime minister instead of US president, if he was ensconced in Number 10 Downing Street rather than in the White House. Imagine how Britain’s national newspapers – most of whom are owned by five right-wing millionaires / billionaires, Rupert Murdoch, Richard Desmond, the two Barclay Brothers and Jonathan Harmsworth, or 4th Viscount Rothermere as he likes to call himself – would react to a UK government headed by Prime Minister Trump.
I’m sure the Daily Mail, Daily Express, Daily Telegraph and Sun would totally love him, because his anti-foreigner, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-tax, anti-environment, anti-universal-healthcare rhetoric would press all their xenophobic, reactionary buttons. Meanwhile, those right-wing yobs whom Fraser Nelson keeps in the kennels over at the Spectator, like Rod Liddle and James Delingpole, would no doubt be writing adoring columns about what a great, bang-on bloke he was.
The BBC would be terrified that Prime Minister Trump might abolish the licence-fee and deprive them of funding so they’d pussy-foot around him – making sure, for example, that on every five-person Question Time panel there’d be two or three Trump devotees arguing that it’s perfectly okay for Prime Minister Trump to spend all his time playing golf up at Balmedie and Turnberry, and as for that business where he tried to grab the Number 10 tea-lady by the pussy, well, that was just him doing what all red-blooded alpha-males do, right?
Obviously, left-wing publications like the Guardian and the New Statesman would strongly disagree with Prime Minister Trump in all matters. Well, in almost all matters. They would support him in his opposition to Scottish independence. Indeed, both publications would occasionally commission the likes of David Torrance or Chris Deerin to pen opinion pieces with titles along the lines of DONALD TRUMP IS WRONG ON MANY THINGS BUT ON SCOTLAND HE’S ABSOLUTELY RIGHT.