The morning after the Opposition Leaders’ debate, and Nigel Farage is busy attacking the BBC for its “liberal bias,” arguing that it packed the audience with lefties, solely to jeer at his Dad’s Army-era world-view. And true to type, this will initiate yet another debate about the BBC’s perceived lack of objectivity. Never mind the fact that the right wing has such stranglehold on the majority of our news media that ITV is considering adding “News for Hard-Working Families” to the opening titles of its six o’clock bulletin.
But look – see how easy it is to lose sight of the real story? Instead of leading the coverage with Farage’s complaint, journalists should be doing their job. Perhaps they could argue that even the most UKIP-favourable polls have the ‘people’s army’ topping out at around 12%. That means 88% of any random sampling of people is likely to be anywhere from ambivalent to violently opposed to Farage and his chaotic rabble of unreconstructed racists, sexists and homophobes. No wonder then, that the trout-faced lunatic encountered some vocal opposition from the crowd last night. He must get that wherever he goes, except that in most cases he can’t blame the BBC for the boos. He probably thinks that it’s Kirsty Wark leaving flaming bags of feces on his doorstep.
Sadly, today’s politicians are masters of obfuscation rather than diplomacy. So instead of addressing difficult truths with well-articulated rebuttals, they simply change the subject. In the popular US drama Scandal, ‘political fixer’ Olivia Pope regularly advises her troubled clients to “Change the narrative.” It’s a simple enough tactic, made even easier when our complacent news media are willing to chase the stick every time it’s thrown. And it’s getting worse.
In the five years since the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats entered into their unholy union, we’ve seen unprecedented attacks on vast swathes of the population. Zero-hour contracts replacing reliable employment, job seekers forced into unpaid placements in massive organisations, and a whole class of people mischaracterised as scroungers, cheats and layabouts.
Now, with a new election looming, and the opportunity to kick the coalition out on their pin-striped arse tantalisingly close, attention has finally switched to the people in power, rather than the ones silently pouring their drinks, parking their cars and cleaning their kitchens. Unfortunately, the news media still seems unwilling to unpack the real issues at the heart of the debate. Instead, they keep amplifying the government’s talking points.
Yesterday, you may have noticed that all the right-wing tabloids were falling over themselves to level accusations of hypocrisy and double standards at the Labour Party. It seems that the Tories’ out-of-touch Bullingdon Club ethos is rendered moot; if it can be proved that prominent Labour figures occasionally shop at Waitrose or drop the kids off at school in an A-Class.
So instead of coming up with a tangible rejoinder to accusations of wealth inequality under our current government (and a Conservative Party manifesto that determined to make matters worse), they're pointing their fingers at the opposition and simply attempting to smear Labour with the same ivory-handled brush.
"Look," they cry, "Ed Miliband has a nanny, and house that's big enough for two kitchens. Such rank hypocrisy for a party that claims to be for the working man [and woman]." As a consequence, the public do as they’re told, concluding that, where politicians are concerned, they’re all as bad as each other.
In fact, this notion of the ‘Champagne socialist' is an asinine non-argument. It’s rhetoric that’s long been favoured in the U.S., where Republicans have spent decades attempting to portray the Democrats as the party of snooty elitists, in order to encourage working class people to vote against their own best interests. Now, our own news media is employing similar tactics, and no-one has the balls to take these venal, disingenuous toadies to task, for repeating the same old fallacies.
Here’s the shocker - being in a position of wealth does not preclude the desire to see a more fair and equitable society. Or, for that matter, the determination and drive to make it happen. Likewise, having money, and empathising with those who do not, are not mutually exclusive concepts. This is something that our current government (and their complicit friends in the press) struggle to comprehend.
I've always argued that, when it comes to determining the suitability of our public servants, intellect and IQ are far less relevant than emotional intelligence. Whether it's blithe comments made by politicians about how easy it is to live on the minimum wage, to the on-going campaign of misinformation about the benefits system and its dependents, inequality is always exacerbated by an unwillingness or inability to imagine yourself in someone else's shoes.
That's why we should refuse to sit silently by, as people who want to make the world a little fairer, a little more equal, and a little more liveable for the majority, are lambasted for having the audacity to enjoy the trappings of a successful life themselves. The fact is, a life of comfort and convenience is something to which we all aspire. There's certainly no shame in that. It's just that some of us are a little more willing to try and afford other people the same opportunity.