It’s all the fault of the mainstream media.

You don’t need to listen for too long into any interview by either Jeremy Corbyn or John McDonnell before you will hear some form of media criticism.

It’s either direct or indirect.  The latter comes in the form of ‘if only we could get our message through’, or something like that.

Corbyn’s support group, Momentum, more or less frame it as ‘the people versus the media’, and if only the media would get out of the way, Jeremy would be cruising to victory on June 8.

So, the mainstream media are being tough on Jeremy.  True?

Looks like it, based on this research.

Corbyn and his team think they have the answer: go round the mainstream media, freeze them out, head for social media instead.  Reports suggest Corbyn is encouraged by what he describes as a ‘wave of shares’ of sympathetic messages.  This must be the true voice of the people.

The supportive messages are coming, in the most part, from three social media outlets.

The Canary.  Founded at the same time as Corbyn became Labour leader, the Canary claims 3.5m hits per month, although there are just 33,000 followers on Twitter.  It’s paid for by advertising.  It persistently takes a hard left line in all its posts.

It responded to Labour’s dismal local election performance with a story headed ‘Forget the local elections – Corbyn can still be Prime Minister’  The argument being that all will be well once the Greens stand aside and give Labour a clear run at the Conservatives.  A deal which has so far been struck in just four constituencies.

Another Angry Voice.  A solo blog, funded by donations, and claiming ‘tens of thousands’ of readers.  It has 15,000 Twitter followers.

Skwawkbox.  Another blog site, this time with 10,000 Twitter followers, funded by donations.  It too took an interesting line on the local election results: ‘Council losses caused by right-wing die-hards’. 

All three blogs are now hyper active, and all regularly condemn the mainstream media and claim to be speaking the authentic voice of the people.

The ‘wave of shares’ Mr Corbyn draws comfort from turns out to be a bit of a trickle, at least on Twitter, with 1000 being the best scored by recent tweets.

Corbyn seems to be pinning a lot of hope on a digital strategy, as the only way to circumvent the antagonistic mainstream media.  He’s not the first Labour leader to seek this route.  Labour spent heavily on its digital strategy in the 2015 campaign and was excited by the 12 million hits it scored across Facebook in the final week of the campaign.

Much good it did.

The main parties will again spend significant money on digital campaigning.  But there is cautionary evidence in Panelbase’s survey , carried out after the 2015 election.  When asked where they got information from during the campaign, 62% of voters said the television, with only 17% citing social media. ‘Mainstream media’ scored 25%.

When asked what source influenced them in their voting decision, Facebook scored 7% and Twitter 4%.

In one fundamental respect, social media is probably no different from mainstream media – the readership is self-selecting.  Right wing voters read papers with a right wing stance.  They also read right wing blogs.  And so it is on the left too.

The alt-left social media insults voters by asserting that they are blinded from seeing the truth by the editorial stances of the newspapers a minority of them read.

The left wing blogs that Corbyn is pinning his hopes on are simply echo chambers. They are the cyber space equivalent of crowds of protesters huddling together for warmth.

Yes there is a mainstream media onslaught.  But there’s a voter one right behind it.


Main image: John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn, 2016 Labour Party Conference, by Rwendland licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0