Sunday, August 19, 2007

Brainwashing the Right

Here's a little riddle.

I believe that Rupert Murdoch, an Australian with US citizenship, has far too much influence over politics in this country and that he uses his media outlets to push his political agenda at every opportunity.

It is accepted by all but the most confused individuals that the output of News Corp is habitually politically biased. It is also undeniable that British politicians feel they must court him in order to ensure that he doesn't set his attack dogs on them and that he has had considerable influence over the policies of New Labour. Lance Price famously described him as the 24th member of Blair's cabinet and he has access to the Prime Minister the likes of which ordinary members of the public could only dream of.

This is not good.

Whenever I try to draw attention to this, there will always be someone who broadly shares Murdoch's political views ready to tell me I'm a patronising git. "That's so typical of a condescending bruschetta munching Guardianista. You assume that the great unwashed are stupid mindless drones being helplessly brainwashed by this bias. People are smarter that that, you know. You leftists just can't come to terms with the fact that people can think for themselves..."

That sort of thing.

Here's the riddle.

Murdoch's newspapers, and others who would benefit from the removal of a reasonably neutral news service, constantly harp on about the damaging affects of the alleged bias of the BBC.

So, can the media shape public opinion or not?

And can I have my cake and eat it a the same time?

(I've left all the rest of the stuff about alleged BBC bias out because I really just want to focus on this one question. You probably won't be surprised to learn that I do already know that the license fee is compulsory for anyone who receives or records television programmes in this country.)


Tim Worstall said...

Cue someone who writes for the Murdoch press to defend him....

Seriously though, there has been research into whether the media shapes opinions or reflects previously held ones. In competetive ons (like newspapers) it appears that they reflect, not create.

CuriousHamster said...

I agree that the media can't create new opinions from scratch and must reflect the views of their readers to an extent but I'm not convinced that unscrupulous media barons can't manipulate and shape existing opinions.

I'd argue that the British newspaper market isn't just a pure opinions market. If it was, I'd agree with you but for a rag like the Sun, the political output is just a small part of its sales pitch. It can chase sales in other ways; boobs, good sports coverage, cheap holiday offers, aggressive pricing and so on are used to good effect.

They then editorialise news reports, including in the stories they choose to cover, to promote or ridicule opinions (and sometimes individual politicians). Andrew Neil called it the "drip drip effect" if I remember rightly.

Changing tack slightly, if it is/was true that competitive media merely reflects public opinion, then surely that'd also affect the BBC. Although it's publicly funded, it still has competitors. If it's output was as slanted and out of touch as some people maintain, it'd lose viewers to its competitors just like any other broadcaster. As I understand it, that's not happening.

Eric said...

Thanks for raising this very important issue. Murdoch is at the heart of our problems, I believe. You may be interested in these links:

Jherad said...

Tabloids are paper demagogues. They shape, distort and amplify public prejudices/fears, and utilise shockingly transparent ploys (lovely lisa, pg.3, thinks hanging ain't good enough for em. You do want to shag her, right?) to reinforce opinions in the lowest common denominators.

Yes, generally people are stupid, and/or malleable. The tabloids like to shout about how we lefties believe people are impressionable idiots, whilst taking advantage of the fact that, sometimes, they actually are. Combine football, boobs, astrology and agony aunts with a story on how terrorism is increasing, Muslims are terrorists, immigrants are Muslims, and immigration is killing our country, and you're on to a winner.

The broadsheets can not afford to be quite so crass, but nevertheless push the same agendas.

Osama Saeed said...

Murdoch clearly isn't into media for the money. If it isn't for shaping opinions, someone's got to explain his interest in it.

As for the BBC, their daily news agenda is shaped by the morning's newspapers - Times, Sun, Express, Telegraph, Mail - go figure what slant their output will have.

PS belatedly, good to see you back Garry.

CuriousHamster said...

Thanks Osama. Good to be back.