One of these forces is the British media, says Hari, who suggests that the televised leaders’ debates act as a counter to the right-wing press – in particular yesterday’s kicking of Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg by the Conservative-supporting papers – and as such the media’s distorting effect on democracy could be bypassed:
The British media is overwhelmingly owned by right-wing billionaires who order their newspapers to build up the politicians who serve their interests, and marginalise or rubbish the politicians who serve the public interest. David Yelland, the former editor of the Sun, bravely confessed this week that as soon as he took his post, he was told the Liberal Dems had to be “the invisible party, purposely edged off the paper’s pages and ignored”. Only a tiny spectrum of opinion was permitted. Everyone to the left of Tony Blair (not hard) had to be rubbished – even when their policies spoke for a majority of British people.
The TV debates, then, were a very rare moment in which a slightly more liberal-left voice could speak to the public without the distorting frame of pre-emptive abuse and distortion. The window of permissible opinion was opened a little – and people responded with a wave of enthusiasm. It could’ve been opened wider still – to the Greens, say – and found a receptive audience too.
The reaction of the right-wing press to briefly losing the ability to frame how politicians address the public has been a frenzied panic worthy of Basil Fawlty. They have “revealed” Clegg is a paedophile-cuddling, Gaddafi-licking foreigner and crook who wishes we had lost the Second World War. But now – for a change – people can test the smears against what they see and hear with their own eyes, unmediated, on TV.