Same news event, two very different ways of covering it!
The way the Sun and the Mirror covered yesterday’s news about Dominic Cummings’ trip to Durham during Lockdown when he and his wife had Coronavirus symptoms demonstrates the clear biases of the two newspapers.
These are great examples of media bias for the media topic within A-level sociology .
The Right Wing Sun
Donald Cummings has strongly neoliberal views and was very pro-brexit (hence why he’s been working with Boris), as is The Sun.
So what how does the Sun ‘set the agenda’: It goes with another headline and gives us a small headline on Cummings – and notice the quote – from Cummings, and a defiant sub title from The Sun.
The Left Wing Mirror
The Mirror, in stark contrast to The Sun devotes the whole page the Cummings story, and note the main text – ‘No Regrets’, ‘No Apology’ – implying that’s what we were expecting, given that he’s clearly broken the law, as we’re reminded top right.
Note that The Sun doesn’t even mention this – it’s just Cummings ‘doing what is right’ – already taking us away from what he did.
And there’s similar examples of bias in the full storys on pages 4-5 of both newspapers
The Sun reminds us that Cummings ‘did not break the law’ and then focuses on just copying word for word what Cummings said, reiterating and thus justifying his point of view.
Starts off with a quote from an expert and the article here is more on other people’s comments and the negative affects (masses of people on the beach)
So, same event, two very different versions which clearly show how biased the media is, and how they clearly use agenda setting to try and sway the public’s opinion.
Several large Corporations have created adverts tapping into our new ‘Coronavirus’ norms.
There seems to be a pretty formulaic structure involving images of key workers with thankful messages, images of people in their homes communicating via Zoom or some other video conferencing app, and finally a reference (the point of the ad) to how the Corporation is ‘here to help’.
Just a couple of examples….
Tesco – Food Love Stories
No surprise that Britain’s largest Supermarket Chain has got in there with a very aggressive ad campaign showing how (Tesco’s) Food brings people together either in times of crises – real colonisation of the lifeworld going on here – ‘new intimate’ moments brought to your courtesy of Tesco.
And of course the # to try and get the super-mugs to advertise for free for them.
Virgin Media – Stay Home Stay Safe, Stay Connected
What these ads are doing is attempting to ‘colonise our lifeworlds’ – they are either taking footage of ordinary people connecting online in these social distancing times, or using actors to create such footage (I don’t know which) and then ’embedding’ themselves right in the middle of these interactions.
And then they are further suggesting that what binds us all together in our isolation are these Corporations – they are ‘here for us all’ here to ‘help us all through’ as if they’re some kind of benevelant parental figure.
This is false consciousnesses and the creation of false needs on steroids – trying to convince us that these Corporations are here for the social good?
Let’s remember that behind the scenes these Corporations are interested in one thing only, and that is profit. In fact I imagine both of the above Corporations are going to do very nicely out of Coronavirus – especially Tesco.
Virgin as a whole may suffer because of its transport holdings, but I imagine Virgin Media will see a boost.
What’s really going on here are these Corporations embedding, or at least attempting to embed, themselves into our psyches, so that we become more committed to them in the future as we get through Coronavirus and come out the other side.
I’ve been adding a copy of The Sun newspaper to my basket every time I do my lock down shop, primarily because it at around 50 pence it’s pretty cheap!
The Sun is also Britain’s most widely circulated newspaper, so it’s worth doing a bit of casual content analysis on it during these unusual coronavirus times – this is the paper most people are reading, after all!
One of the main themes I’ve noticed is moralising through shaming, and today’s paper (Friday 8th May) is a great example of this…..
On the front page we have the paper moralising against ‘Just Giving’ taking a £300K fee from Captain Tom’s fundraising efforts.
On pages 5-6 we have public shaming of businesses and shops for ‘flouting’ lock down rules on a sunny day yesterday
Later on pages 8-9 we have a detailed map of England footballer Kyle Walker’s lock down violations as he visits his sister, mother and father and friend for a cycle ride.
All of these events are newsworthy based on their news values, but The Sun goes beyond objective reporting and adds a shaming element through the use of language: ‘Walker the Plank’ as a title, for example.
And it’s not just The Sun being Paternal… apparently Dominic Raab has said that if people take advantage of the lockdown gradually being relaxed, they’ll restrict the rules again, as if we’re all like a bunch of school children?!?
Today is Captain Tom’s 100th Birthday, an event broadcast live to the nation by BBC Breakfast between 8.00 a.m. to 8.30 a.m.
Captain Tom really is the perfect media hero for our times, and the construction of ‘our national hero’ was levelled up this morning as it turns out Captain Tom seems to be a huge fan of many of the symbols which signify classic conservative ideas about ‘Britishness’.
Honestly, it was all there, crammed into a 30 minute slot on BBC breakfast this morning….
The Armed Forces and the Fly By…
We know him as Captain Tom, but he’s now been given the honorary title of ‘Colonel’, so take your pick (he doesn’t mind). He got a special fly by this morning, and really seemed to love it!
You can check out the fly-by and most of the rest of the BBC ”Tom show’ below…
The historical Link to World War II
There aren’t many WWII veterans alive, but Captain Tom is one of them, and WWII – that’s deep in the conservative idea of the nation!
I guess this link is even more popular because of the fake similarities with ‘fighting’ Coronavirus.
His love of the Royal Family
Captain Tom thanked the Royal Family (who he thinks are wonderful) for their letters of support.
This ‘deferral to authority’ goes along with being in the armed forces I guess. Very much part of Conservative Britishness.
The countryside village in which he lives
Ironically the only thing not British about the village is the name – Marston Moretaine, maybe that’s the result of a French twinning project?
But everything else about it seems quintissentially British – it’s bang in the middle of Oxford and Cambridge, so proper ‘home counties’, lovely fields and a church.
It’s basically a cross between ‘Midsommer Murders’ but without the murders, the Vicar of Dibley and Last of the Summer Wine, with the poor people hidden from site.
His Love of Cricket
Tom is a lifelong cricket fan, and he was today presented with an honorary membership of the England Cricket Club, and gifted a hat by Michael Vaughn, once captain of England.
Is there a sport that says ‘conservative England’ more than cricket?
You’ll Never Walk Alone
A number one in 1963, and Liverpool Football Club’s Anthem – you don’t get much more British than early 1960s pop music and one of our longstanding Premier League clubs!
Honestly, they seem to come across as perfect. His grandson’s got that ‘healthy rugby build’ about him, and his granddaughter just seems so perfectly sweet. Framed with Captain Tom’s daughter (presumably their mother) you get the impression of the perfect British nuclear family, albeit stretch out by one generation.
And let’s not forget the NHS
It was Captain Tom’s efforts to raise money for NHS that propelled him to media stardom, and the NHS is part of our ‘national identity’ too, especially recently!
What are we celebrating exactly?
This morning was a ‘pause for celebration’, and fair enough in some respects, but what are we celebrating?
I personally think I witnessed something extremely hyperreal on BBC Breakfast today. The media seems to have used Captain Tom’s 100th birthday as a chance to reinforce conservative ideals about Britishness, ideals that don’t really exist outside of the upper middle class echelons of society.
Maybe this is because Captain Tom (he went to a grammar school in the 1920s!) and media professionals are both of the upper middle class, that this kind of celebration of traditional British identity comes so naturally to them.
I also thought Captain Tom’s efforts were about raising money for the NHS and helping to tackle Coronavirus, but this seems to have just got lost somewhere along the way?
Lockdown media has been full of celebrities speaking to us from wherever they may be isolated, and one might think that because we’ve all got ‘lockdown’ in common, that we might somehow feel closer to the celebrities who are also going through the same challenges as the rest of us ordinary folk… as if they are celebs, just like us!
Channel Four’s ‘Stef Show’ is the most obvious example I can think of that spins this narrative – not only is ‘Stef’ presenting the show from home, not only is she herself a pretty ‘ordinary’ presenter (one of very few non middle class presenters on T.V.), the show intersperses video feeds of ‘ordinary families’ with celebs.
However, rather than feeling solidarity with these celebs, I think the glimpses we are getting into their homes serves as a reminder of the class divide.
Many of them have been broadcasting from huge open plan kitchen-diners, often in the South East of the country. It’s as if lockdown has become an opportunity for them to show off their wonderful homes.
A prime example of this is Gloria Hunniford, speaking here: her pristine, ornamented house signifying that upper middle class identity….
And when Griff Reese Jones was interviewed, he was sitting underneath a picture of his great great uncle (or something like that) who was a past mayor of Cardiff. That was after us seeing some footage of him collecting eggs from his chickens from his large garden in the countryside.
This got me to wondering…. what proportion of celebrities have chickens? Probably at least thrice the national average.
However, there are counter-cases
I was particularly impressed when Jack Monroe, whose been given a slot on ‘Daily Kitchen Live‘ told Matt whatever his name is (the main presenter) that arborio rice isn’t a necessity, while he was making a recipe with it because ‘that’s what he had lying at the back of his cupboard.
Jack Monroe really did come across as ‘like us’, I mean who else has Arborio Rice kicking about at the back of the cupboard?
The mainstream media’s coverage coronavirus is utterly disgraceful – the narrow agenda being firmly focused on using official statistics uncritically to provide an exaggerated picture of the covid-19 death rate, for failing to engage in any critical debate about how we’re going to come out of this mess, preferring to distract us by a perpetual stream of presenter and ‘public-hero’ celebreities ‘sharing’ their ‘isolation’ coping strategies, and thus normalising individualised solutions to public problems. At the same time the commercial channels are more than happy to allow companies specializing in domestic services to ramp up their advertising at us.
It follows that unless you are going to do systematic content analysis of the mainstream media’s coverage of coronavirus to document the extent of this extremely narrow agenda, you should switch off the Television (actually physically unplug it until at least June would be my advice), avoid newspaper and radio at all costs, and be extremely selective about which web sites you visit.
If, however, you would like some more objective, fact based and critical sources to help keep up with pandemic developments, I can recommend the following:
Alternative news sources on Coronavirus
The Conversation offers some insightful articles exploring some of the less focused on consequences of covid-19, such as how it highlights the class divide, and many articles take a deeper look at issues such as ‘where do pandemics come from’?
The Corbett Report – hosted by James Corbett, an awared winning independent journalist. A good alternative news source focusing on global geopolitics and how ‘covid-19’ may be part of a longer term globalist agenda to establish a world government
The Last American Vagabond – Lots of interesting critical commentary on Covi-19 – focusing on evidence that it was here well before the China breakout and a focus on the really important issues of how governments around the world are using the pandemic to impose social control and remove human rights.
@Vforvapid over at Hive.blog is producing some interesting, well referenced material on how large Corporations are benefitting from the Covid-19 bail-out – check out this post as an example: America reaps egregious sums. Also check the rest of his feed for more.
You might have heard about the The David Icke Covid-19 Interview which was live streamed and then censored on (i.e. disappeared from) YTube. That link will take you to the same video on ThreeSpeak – an anti censorship, pro free speach video platform. Unlike YTube they allow people to post videos with contentious content (but not anything which is racist/ incites violence etc.).
Lockdown coping strategies have suddenly become a major theme in the mainstream media. Both ITV and Channel Four have rushed out new daily lunchtime shows which focus solely on how to cope with lockdown.
The Steph Show on Channel 4 is the most overt example of this. Presented by Steph McGovern the show aims to ‘provide us with information to help us navigate these unique times’.
The show consists mainly ‘heroes and heart warmers’ – visits to people who have been raising money for our key workers, interviews with celebrities, typically in their enormous, plush houses, and tips to keep the kids entertained during lockdown.
NB – please don’t miss how PERFECT the choice of Steph McGovern is as a presenter for this particular type of show at this particular time – she’s got a well-documented history of having had to overcome prejudice in the media as a working class woman, but she’s just cracked on anyway and made a success of her career despite adversity – cracking on, staying chirpy, bravely facing up to adversity… just what we need to ‘cope’ with coronavirus! And that working-class Northern accent, how very approachable….
Over on BBC 1 at the same time we have ‘Daily Kitchen Live’ – which as the title suggests is more focussed on recipes which can help you make the most of what you’ve got in the cupboard or with what food is available.
This programme features a ‘war chest’ of crucial spices such as chilli powder, cumin etc. and guest features Jack Monroe, famous for her budget cooking.
Both programmes are littered with references to ‘staying safe’ and ‘staying at home’, and feature very little focus on the public space outside of people’s own living rooms.
The ideology of ‘coping strategies’
Personally I see this mainstream lunchtime focus on ‘coping’ as ideological – it distracts us away from the shameful misreporting of the actual number of people dying of Coronavirus (rather than merely ‘with’ it), the overzealous use of emergency lockdown measures, and the normalisation of medicalised control strategies for the mass population.
All of the ‘coping strategies’ – e.g. the recipes and the tips for keeping your kids entertained are (obviously?) individualised – they come from individuals and are suggestions to individuals, and it necessarily has to be this way because of the lockdown.
This fits our society very well, which has been on a trend towards privatised solutions to social problems for at least two generations, but it normalises this. Suddenly, staying in, and ‘coping’ are normal, while we leave the ‘difficult health problems’ to the experts (read global pharmaceutical industry).
Putting a ‘chirpy face’ on these privatised control strategies and ‘sharing our private lives together’ makes this all bearable.
Meanwhile completely absent from these shows is any discussion of how little we know of Covid-19, whether these lockdown measures are necessary, how we’re going to come out of this, basically anything even vaguely critical is off the agenda.
Then there’s the whole discourse of ‘coping’ – Ulrich Beck pointed out in Risk Society that since at least the 1980s politics has been about promising that things won’t get any worse, rather than making promises about making progress.
The idea of staying in ‘to stop the virus spreading and making the effects worse’ fit this discourse perfectly – in fact too perfectly, which is why I think we should be investigating whether this virus was engineered and released deliberately.
Meanwhile one thing which isn’t off the agenda on C4 is the adverts – and what do we see featured….. life insurance, pizza, DIY and broadband deals – all the consumer essentials for life on lockdown.
So these shows are basically telling you to forget about asking critical questions about Covid-19, be happy making the best of the lockdown because ‘coping’ rather than ‘striving for a better society’ are as good as you can get, and spend more money on your home entertainment to make the whole situation more bearable.
You might have seen me sending out a few Tweets about ‘Hive’ recently, this is just a quick post about what Hive is all about. If yer bored in Lockdown, you might want to check it out!
I’ve been on Hive for almost three years now, since August 2017, and I’ve come to regard it as my social media home.
I use WordPress to blog about sociology, and I use Twitter, Facebook and YouTube for various professional and social reasons, but I put nearly all of my personal and more critical/ political material exclusively on Hive, because it’s the social media ecosystem which is most closely allied with my personal values.
What makes Hive different to social media as usual is that it’s a blockchain based ecosystem – which means that it’s decentralized – it’s run on several servers which are connected together, but each maintained by independent individuals in different countries all over the world, rather than it being run on one centralized server, controlled by one central Corporation.
The Hive ecosystem consists of multiple platforms and applications – the main platform I use is Peakd.com, a blogging platform, which allows you to post blogs and comment and vote (‘like’) other people’s content; but I also use 3Speak occasionally which is Hive’s equivalent of YouTube, except there is no de-platforming.
If you post content to Hive and people vote for (‘like’) it, you are rewarded in cryptocurrency – the HIVE token and you can use your HIVE in various ways within the Hive ecosystem, or cash it out and spend it (although you’ll need access to a cryptocurrency exchange to do this!).
I’ve posted a lot of content on Hive over the past three years and earned around 15 000 HIVE for my efforts, which is currently worth several thousand dollars (although the price does fluctuate, which is something to watch out for!
I’ve met some fantastically intelligent, interesting and diverse people on HIVE. Because of it’s decentralist principles, this social media platform tends to attract a lot of radical free thinkers such as anarchists and people living alternative, ecological and nomadic lifestyles. It also attracts a lot of ‘geeks’ – coders, data analysts, scientists, and creatives – artists and musicians.
I interact with dozens of people in the course of a typical week on Hive, and have met many of them IRL at the various social meet ups that are organised through the ecosystem.
Hive is naturally censorship resistant – once you post content to the Blockchain, it stays there, so unlike with Facebook there is no deplatforming – this invariably means there is a lot of differences of opinion on Hive, but that just come with free-speech.
Communities and ‘Smart Tokens’
There are several different communities centered around different interests on Hive – everything from Running to Beer and from Art to Coding.
Many of these communities have their own ‘secondary tokens’ and you can get rewarded in both Hive and these other tokens by being active within them.
There are lots of Applications built on Hive – Peakd.com is the most well used and probably the easiest to start off with, but I’ve included a few others below:
@3speak is the video platform, where you can upload videos, just like YouTube except you won’t get deplatformed – this is a pro free-speech application.
@actifit – through which you can get rewarded for being active, such as taking steps.
@splinterlands (*) – is a fantasy card playing game in which you ‘battle’ with other players. When you buy into Splinterlands, your cards are your assets, and you can sell them on to other players, unlike with ‘skins’ in regular games, for example.
I’m not really a gamer TBH, but by I’ve made about $500 over the last year or so just by investing in cards and playing this game for 15-20 minutes after dinner most evenings!
As a Hive user you can vote for the people you want to run the servers (called ‘witnesses’). The top 20 (by stake weighted votes) have the power to determine the way the ecosystem changes (or not), but 17 out of those 20 need to come to a consensus about any changes that are going to be made. Literally anyone can set up a server and vie for one of these top 20 positions.
Find out More about Hive and Sign up to Hive
To get a Hive account and get started on Hive , click here.
NB there are numerous ways of signing up for an account, but they’re all giving you access to the same thing.
To find out more about Hive, you might like to click around the hive.io website.
Getting started on Hive
It can be difficult to find your feet on Hive at first – if you have any questions you can either leave a comment below, contact me on Twitter (@realsociology), or on Hive (of course!)
(*) technically Splinterlands is on the Steem blockchain, from which Hive was created, but it’s only a matter of time until it moves over!
NB – Hive used to be called Steem, but Steem got taken over in February 2020 by a crazy Chinese Billionnaire called Justin Sun. He centralised that chain, so the ‘real witnesses’ forked Steem and created Hive, which is just like Steem, but without Justin Sun – because his massive Steem stake was not airdropped to Hive.
Alastair Stewart recently resigned his position as a news reader for ITV, following accusations that he’d made a racist comment towards someone on Twitter.
Stuart was having a twitter conversation with Martin Shapland about the relationship between the taxpayer and the crown, and in a reply to Shapland he used a Shakespear Quote:
“But man, proud man, Dress’d in a little brief authority, Most ignorant of what he’s most assur’d— His glassy essence—like an angry ape.
Shapland, who is black, picked up on the ‘ape’ part of the quote and accused Stuart of being racist, and trying to disguise a racial slur within a quote.
Stuart resign from his 40 year career as a news anchor before he was sacked – that tweet above which broke ITV’s guidelines on the use of social media.
NB Shapland has said that he didn’t want him to resigned/ be sacked, and that an apology would have done.
But is this an example of racism?
The first thing suggesting that the tweet had no racist intent is that Stuart has used that quote with other people, which suggests that the intention is to suggest someone’s opinion is invalid because it is not properly informed with all of the facts, rather than it referring to someone’s racial background.
The second thing in Stuart’s defence is his track record: I’ve never come across a sniff of him being Racist before? Obviously all is colleagues and friends say he isn’t, but then they would… but if one was racist, you’d expect something to have ‘come out’ after 40 years in the media spotlight?
Finally, there’s the background of Shapland – some of his previous tweets suggest he’s something of a ‘race warrior’, with some of his tweets calling out white privilege.
I’ve been looking around for an example of something that appears to be racist, but on slightly closer examination . almost certainly isn’t racist, and this seems to be a good example of that!
This feels like ‘trial by social media and political correctness’
As I understand it, in the eyes of the law (certainly where hate crime is concerned) if a victim perceives there to be racial intent, then there is racial intent, so in that sense, ITV had no choice to but to let Stuart go.
However, in this case, the objective truth seems more likely to be that there was any racial intent in that tweet:
It’s probably even the case that even Shapland himself didn’t really think Stuart was being racist: rather it feels like what happened is that Shapland sent off a terse reply ‘playing the race card’ without really thinking about it as part of a social media tiff.
And in the rapid world of social media, you might be able to delete those kind of tweets, but not before someone else has screen shotted and retweeted them!
To my mind this is a very postmodern event – this kind of thing just couldn’t happen outside of social media.
I don’t think this has turned out too well for Shapland either – he’s getting a lot of actual abuse on twitter now, Stuart has been a popular part of our media landscape for generations!
Also, careful how you use Twitter, it’s not a great case for ‘debates’!
Is the UK biased against the conservatives? How do we even measure this?
More conservatives complained to the BBC about anti-Tory bias in its 2019 election coverage than Labour supporters complained about there being an anti-Labour bias. (Source).
This trend is consistent with complaints about bias received by the BBC throughout 2019 – most complaints were from conservatives, complaining about the BBC being anti-Tory or anti-Boris – especially The Today Progamme, Andrew Marr Show and Newsnight.
However, the above analysis is based on formal written complaints, which is not a valid indicator of the nature or extent of bias in the media – there may have been more complaints on Twitter and Facebook about the BBC being pro-Tory in its election coverage, but these aren’t ‘formal’ complaints and so don’t need to be dealt with by the BBC.
Hence we need to treat the above figures with caution, especially when Tory voters tend to be older, and Labour voters tend to be younger – the former are more likely to make formal written complaints, the later more likely to take to social media.
Writing in the Observer, Peter Oborne calls out the BBC for being biased towards to Tories and against Labour, so there is definitely a difference in subjective opinions over what counts as bias.
NB – sociologically speaking, all of the above should be dismissed as subjective value judgments – there is nothing factual about the nature or extent of bias in the BBC in any of this!
Is it possible to measure political bias in the BBC objectively?
For the BBC as a whole, probably not, because it’s so difficult to measure agenda setting – what’s kept out of the news, which is itself ideological.
Where the narrow news agenda is concerned I guess any attempt to objectively measure bias would need to focus on specific programmes – say Newsnight, where one could count the air time given to different guests, and the kind of interaction between the presenter and the guests too, and the amount of time given to pro-Tory and pro-Labour issues.
However, the later is tricky – although inequality is more of a Labour issue, is devoting half a Newsnight programme to it biased towards Labour? It’s still something the Tories have to deal with.
Also, how do decide whether a presenter ‘asking hard questions’ is biased against an interviewee or just doing their job?
In short, it’s difficult to measure bias on Live T.V. shows, much easier in News Papers.
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