Mainstream media’s presumption that Labour is guilty – no matter what

Mehdi Hasan. Photo: Wikipedia

JVL Introduction

Skwawkbox reports how respected journalist Mehdi Hasan endorsed the Sunday Times’s shoddy attempt to label Labour as antisemitic – but retracted when he realised what he had fallen for.

As the article points out, claims against the Labour Party and its leadership are immediately treated as self-evidently true; when shown to be false the evidence is largely ignored. The damage has already been done…


Hasan’s screeching u-turn on Times’ claims against Labour highlights appalling journalism on issue

Mehdi Hasan, normally one of the better ‘MSM’ journalists, leaped to affirm Sunday Times claims about Labour Party’s disciplinary process – then had to leap back again

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While journalistic standards in the so-called mainstream media continue to scrape barrel-bottoms, Mehdi Hasan is often an exception in providing balanced commentary and exercising critical thinking.

However, while he has challenged narratives previously, on Sunday he leaped into an assumption that an article by the Murdoch-owned Sunday Times was accurate in its claims that Labour had whitewashed or ignored vile antisemitic behaviour by members.

Late on Saturday night and in the early hours of Sunday morning, Hasan tweeted:

Of course, it didn’t appear that anyone on the left was trying to ‘defend this stuff‘ – ‘this stuff’ presumably being the vile comments quoted. Nobody was claiming the quotes in the article were not vile – they clearly were – but some Labour members were casting doubt on the veracity of the claims in the article about Labour’s disciplinary processes.

And it turned out, unsurprisingly, that they were right to do so – as the Labour Press Twitter account pointed out in an official comment:

Not only misleadingly selective use of information, but selective use that created the opposite impression of what actually happened.

But that tweet was posted at 11.56am on Sunday – yet it wasn’t until six and a half hours later that Hasan tweeted that he had heard from his own sources that the story was badly wrong:

His comment “which wouldn’t surprise me” makes his earlier leap to assume the Times’ claims were correct simply staggering – he was unsurprised to find out the story was a crock, yet had immediately set about tweeting his horror not only at the claims, but also at the left’s supposed ‘defence’ of the comments.

Hasan then started to backpedal faster. First he finally retweeted Labour’s official comment on the “wrong figures, inaccurate claims and complete falsehoods” – and then retweeted an Owen Jones observation that the Times’ story was completely untrue:

In fact, Hasan retweeted an entire thread by Jones on the topic, of which part is shown below:

Jones’ observations are absolutely correct – but they outline information that has been public knowledge for weeks, or even longer. Information that made the Sunday Times article transparently skewed even at a first reading – and even to an uninformed reader, the article’s lack of dates and the fact it only showed three emails out of the supposedly large cache of evidence should have rung warning bells for a journalist of Hasan’s experience.

They didn’t – or at least not loudly enough to prevent him validating the Murdoch rags’ claims by his uncritical, incautious tweets.

Those tweets were shared hundreds of times – while the correctives by Jones were shared only a few dozen at best, including Hasan’s retweets.

And that’s the nub of the problem. Claims against the Labour Party and its leadership are immediately treated, seemingly by the vast majority of journalists, interviewers and talking heads as self-evidently true, regardless of any lack of evidence – and sometimes in spite of evidence to the contrary.

While that evidence to the contrary is either entirely ignored or casually – or even viciously – disparaged.

And so ‘complete falsehoods’ become embedded into the public consciousness as true – especially because left or liberal journalists have added their voice to the cries condemning them as if true.

And that’s the nub of the problem. Claims against the Labour Party and its leadership are immediately treated, seemingly by the vast majority of journalists, interviewers and talking heads as self-evidently true, regardless of any lack of evidence – and sometimes in spite of evidence to the contrary.

While that evidence to the contrary is either entirely ignored or casually – or even viciously – disparaged.

In this way, the UK’s most steadfastly anti-racist mass-membership party and one of its most steadfastly anti-racist politicians, along with staff toiling to correct the failings of their predecessors against mass media misrepresentation, have become labelled as racist.

All aided and abetted, through commission, omission or appalling practice, corrected too late or never, on the part of professional journalists.

And even when they admit they screwed up – as Hasan later did, although still justifying his false assumption – it’s often too late to prevent the false impression gaining currency.

In that respect, while Medhi Hasan’s error may not be typical of him, it’s entirely typical of the way in which so-called ‘mainstream’ journalists have persistently not only failed the public but harmed those who do not deserve it.


Comments (1)

  • Dr Brian Robinson says:

    Hasan has a past chequered history. The troubling video clip is still online but I wont link to it here, because he’s long since disowned and apologised for his youthful enthusiams, but the longrunning, related, row between him and Sam Harris occasionally surfaces, as it did again only last week on Twitter. And apart from those reciprocal accusations of bigotry, there’s the letter Hasan wrote to the editor of the Daily Mail begging for a job. I don’t share the respect and admiration that many have for him as a journalist. By the way, I don’t really mind that belief of his for which he was castigated by Dawkins, for loads of people believe all sorts of extraordinary things that make them happy and probably keep them sane in a mad world — as long as the beliefs don’t make them do wicked things.

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