In equal parts the worst and most well-tread meme on the Left right now is the ‘I blame the media and the public for believing the media’ meme. The only thing holding Labour back is the public’s false consciousness, a phenomena created by Rupert Murdoch. The most recent piece to tread this ground is this one. It reads:
With the help of their friends in the media, Tory lies quickly embed themselves in the public consciousness, rather like a splinter that is never removed, and as a result, the public have brought into the myth that left wing equals electoral defeat.
This meme covers some truths. Tory lies do embed themselves in a national narrative, made easy by a supportive press. Voters as a whole are not particularly informed in economics (though, let’s be honest, neither are we, really. Though we’d like to think we are). A lot of public perceptions over welfare and spending are very, very wrong. And misinformation by way of Tory myths is very much A Thing. The over-arching painfully-bad theme since 2010 has been that Labour caused the crash.
But if you’re blaming voters for the malignancy and potency of this myth, you’re doing it wrong. You’re doing it so god damn wrong.
Heck, you should’t even be blaming the Tories, they’re just doing politics as it is and as it always has been: writing narratives. Their narratives are effective because they appeal to passers-by. They are billboards on a motorway. ‘Maxed out the credit card’, ‘cleaning Labour’s mess’, ‘living within our means’. They are infuriating to the obsessive. Hilarious even. Twitter laughed at the repetitiveness of Osborne on BBC News. But they are memorable lines to everyone else. Everyone who counts. And thus everyone you dismiss as the ‘sheeple’, for God’s sake.
Unlike you, most of the public don’t pay attention to politics, at least not all the time. Especially people who, you know, work. The working class. Labour’s vote. They’re too busy commuting on ACTUAL MOTORWAYS.
We all, it is likely, (and by all, I mean anyone reading this bloody blog) have read the Huffington Post piece that sporadically makes the rounds on Twitter. You know the one, asking when the Tories are going to apologise for the Labour profligacy lies. But the public, likely by-and-large have not. Political and economic education is delivered by mainstream voices off the internet: political parties. Let’s just say that again. Parties have a responsibility to see the message they think is right resonate with the public. It is an education of sorts. And if a party fails to get its message across during rush hour, it, not the public, has failed.
And boy, did Labour fail. And does it continue to fail. It fails to embed itself and counter embedded Tory narratives with its own, despite the most basic of open goals. Some home truths: Osborne has borrowed more than any Labour government. Osborne has missed almost all of his targets. Osborne has doubled the debt.
And no-one knows. No-one bloody knows! These lads are incompetent and educated well beyond their intelligence. And we let them off the hook. Ed Balls -Ed bloody Balls- was made to look incompetent by George friggin’ Osborne. Ed Balls the most qualified economist in Westminster for quite some bloody time. And we let that happen. How? And even after 2015, we might as well take History off the bloody curriculum because we’ve refused to learn from it. I’ve talked about gesture politics being distracting, but it just keeps getting bloody worse. Osborne misses deficit targets yet again as borrowing soars, and the Tories retain a commanding lead for economic competence. And now, overwhelmingly, national security.
And the Tories perform this magic trick -that is, completely disguising that Osborne is the same Osborne that inspired the national meme of Omnishambles- with narrative. That article talks about Tory lies embedding themselves in public consciousness. It’s right! So why aren’t we doing it? Why are we not performing our own magic tricks? Nay, we don’t even need to, if you listen to the Left, it being so confident in its truths. And sometimes we’re right to be. Austerity has failed, it has no economic credibility to it. We have a panel with Stiglitz and Picketty just….chilling on it. Osborne continues to show the pain and iniquity of deficit fetishism, and in fact his complete failure to even fulfill said fetishism. And we’re still losing. Because economic truths mean nothing unless you’re willing to sell them. And Osborne sells untruths spectacularly.
But what about the press? It is true that Labour gets a walloping from the rags of Fleet Street. It’s true that caricatures are made and established there, and ingrained in national psyche. But only a weak party with no discipline will fall prey. Where are our spokesmen on tv, doing that repetitive shit that Osborne does? The ‘long term economic plan’?
Any competent politiker would counter it with the Tories’ own game. Sum up their actual incompetence up in a go-to phrase. Something that cuts through both the press and Lynton Crosby’s motorway-side billboards. Something like “All pain, no gain.”, something about the failures of Osborne to reduce the deficit but leave the North of England at the mercy of Mother Nature. Or, you know, something better than that. Just pick a goddamn motto, and stop being ostentatious and morally righteous to play the game just because you don’t like it. It’s going to exist whether you like it or not. And it will continue to, for so long as politics is a motorway.
Back to that mundane metaphor, most ordinary people see politics only as billboards. You being pretentious about that won’t change a thing. Politics will always be a billboard. So stop blaming the drivers, start blaming yourselves, and start constructing the damn billboards.
I can’t believe a 20 year old student even has to write this shit.