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The Choice to Mislead: Thoughts on the Media's Coverage of Corbyn's Bow

10/11/2015 11:49 GMT | Updated 09/11/2016 10:12 GMT

The folks at the right-wing tabloids saw the same video that I saw. They saw a small, but acceptable bow. They saw a clear show of respect from Jeremy Corbyn. As they work in politics, I'm assuming they saw Corbyn staying at the end of the ceremony to applaud veterans - while other politicians went for a slap-up meal. They also saw Corbyn attend an additional service in his constituency - while others were still enjoying that slap-up meal. And yet that evening, these folks sat in their offices and decided not to embrace the patriotism of the day, nor to focus entirely on those that died for our country, but instead decided to ruthlessly attack one individual on false grounds.

I'm thinking particularly about the folks at The Sun - that inviolable beacon of journalistic integrity - who decided to run the ingenious headline: Nod in My Name. In the main spread, they ran the title: Bow Your Head in Shame. Again, just to remind you, the folks that created these titles saw the same video we have all seen and these individuals are, I am somehow led to believe, intelligent adults. These adults, therefore, made a clear decision to mislead the public and misrepresent the events at the remembrance ceremony to gain political points. That is worrying.

They made a decision to attack Corbyn on patriotic grounds. They made a decision to attack him on grounds of disrespect. They are, of course, aware that utilising a day of remembrance to score political points is disrespectful. They are also aware that misappropriating an important patriotic event to demonise a democratically elected leader is unpatriotic. I suppose this matters little for these so-called journalists. For them, political points are more important than respect or patriotism.

The scary thing about the mob of Corbyn-slanderers is precisely their choice to deceive. They could, and this might sound crazy, tackle Corbyn on political grounds rather than banging on about the cut of his jib. They claim Corbyn's policies render him entirely unelectable and yet their criticisms rarely tackle his policies. Instead, it's his dress sense, his ludicrous facial hair, his inability to sing or the inadequate nod of his head.

The point of these deceitful ad hominem attacks is to create a narrative that perpetuates Corbyn as unelectable regardless of his policies. The right-wing press also used this tactic to demonise Ed Miliband. We all remember the criticisms of Miliband's father - on patriotic grounds, despite his service in World War Two - and who can forget the bacon-sandwich-debacle - thank God Corbyn is a vegetarian. These attacks, which relate in no way to the politics of either individual, help to create the notion that these leaders are somehow incapable of representing our country. And, unfortunately, they sometimes work.

Each member of the media has a responsibility to edify the populace about current affairs. A lot of folks in the media - right, left or neutral - are responsible in that role. They, like these tabloid journalists, have a choice. Decent journalists choose to make persuasive arguments, tell their readers the truth and edify the population about important issues. Many decent journalists criticise Corbyn on legitimate grounds, raising issues about his policies. Those journalists that thwart their responsibility decide to attack him on false grounds, obfuscating proper discourse to score political points. They choose to mislead. It is always a choice. And that is worth remembering.