Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Video Fallacy and Soapbox Toss

I find this video problematic on a number of levels. The first is the rather selfish discomfort that, by commenting on it, I'm commenting on comments on media that is itself comment. Once one gets three-times removed from any actual *thing* or *content* or *fact*, one really is blowing hot air. So I'm painfully aware of what insubstantial effluvia this is.

That said, LET'S DO IT TO IT!!!!

1) The guests are introduced by their stances in relation to the Labour party leadership election, which is what the segment is about. They are given their credentials in on-screen pop-ups.

If the first guy is introduced only as the leader of the Socialist Party that would not tell you that he wants to join the Labour Party, or that he was in the Labour Party in the 1980s when the Militant thing happened. The same goes for the lady: if she's introduced as only "a new member of Labour's NEC" that does not tell you she supports JC.

Essentially, it would be confusing to the viewer to introduce them in any other way.

2) (1.00) i) the 'broken' graphic is fair enough, seeing as the party is certainly not unified currently. It's a completely fair summation of the situation where differing factions are competing to run the party. And, besides, it's a bloody graphic. ii) "JC's Labour" Well, this chap didn't want to join when it was Tony Blair's Labour, or Gordon Brown's, or Ed MIliband's. Maybe there's something about JC that he likes. Maybe JC likes things he likes. It is completely fair.

3) (1.20) "Violent revolution": this is the presenter interpreting what is meant by "revolution" - revolutions are real things, usually violent, the interpretation is shrill, but still what many might read in the word "revolution", especially coming from the leader of the Socialist Party. He is given the chance to rebuff it. He rebuffs it. All fair.

4) (1.55) "Trot". It's a tough word, designed to challenge the guest. He seems to deal with it well. Being challenged is not unfair treatment. (I could just reduce this entire thing to that statement: "Being challenged is not unfair treatment"). Equating "Trot" with "Paki" is offensive and absurd. The guy who made this video has clearly never been subject to racial abuse. There is a vast difference between a disparaging term for an ideology and racist language.

5) (3.00) Webbe requested not to be involved in the preceding discussion or any back-and-forth with the other two guests. I don't know why that is: no-one does. It is perfectly fair of C4 to be upfront about that, even if it does reinforce the point that the Labour party is in trouble. Because: the Labour Party IS engaged in a bitter argument with itself: it is fair to say so.

6) (3.15) "The Soapbox Shot". Said no-one. Ever. It's not a term in use in television production. The author of the video has just pulled that one out of his arse. I have it from someone who worked on live TV for 15 years who has never heard of "the Soapbox Shot". I've googled it: no results. It's just bollocks.

7) (3.45) Phrasing a question as a statement is common both in television interviews and in the course of my job, collecting statistics for the ONS. Webbe has the point that she is there to rebut put to her in the strongest possible terms. That is, again, completely fair. If you forget the fiction about the 'soapbox shot', it is altogether less sinister.

8) (4.20) Webbe was not called a trot - that is an outright lie. Webbe herself did not want to take part in the earlier part of the discussion, so C4 are certainly not to blame for her only being brought in at this point. And, yes, she had to listen to someone she disagrees with: that's called "politics". She did seem nervous. "Politics", as they say, "ain't beanbag".

9) (5.30) I don't know which polls the author was looking at, but I didn't see any with Labour ahead. They have been consistently lagging behind the Tories in most polls since the GE. And saying "well, it might all change after the leadership election" is not a point the presenter needs to make. It's the point that Webbe needs to make. Again: Being challenged is not unfair treatment.

10) (6.10) The point being made by the Owen Smith campaign and by others within the Labour Party is that JC is too far left. The presenter is trying to get Webbe to address this criticism in relation to pandering to the far left. Being challenged is not unfair treatment. Saying "Trotskyist" is not insulting or off topic: the guy across from Webbe is a self-confessed Trotskyist and Jeremy Corbyn introduced an early day motion recently to "Rehabilitate Leon Trotsky". I'm not saying that's wrong - I think he probably should be officially rehabilitated, as all thought on how the world could be made a fairer place should be encouraged. But, in doing this, he's clearly showing some ankle, as it were, to TUSC and Socialist Worker, etc.

11) (6.25) Webbe, as the presenter points out, is not answering the question. To be fair to Webbe, she's not a TV regular and is clearly struggling, so to call her evasive or anything like that would be unfair. She eventually addresses it by saying that there is a small proportion of far left people who have re-joined the Labour Party under JC. Now: what's so wrong about that? I happen to think that's a good thing - for the Labour Party, at least.

In conclusion: I need a shower.

This shrill nonsense dressed up as media analysis is exactly the sort of partisan twock that convinces people to switch off from politics and the real world altogether. The underlying idea is that C4, along with the BBC, Sky, ITN and every other news outlet, is purposefully targeting JC in a massive conspiracy to deny the country his policies. It uses fake terminology ("The soapbox shot") and sciency-sounding terms ("neuro-linguistic") to convince you of a concerted effort over the course of an interview to attack and belittle Jeremy Corbyn supporters.

This ignores the treatment EVERY OTHER POLITICIAN GETS ON TV.

Do you remember when Jon Snow served Tony Blair delicious crumpets on the 6 o'clock news after the invasion of Iraq? No? What about when Jim Naughtie tossed gentle soft balls at Ed Miliband before the 2015 GE? Nope: didn't happen. Do you remember the time Jeremy Paxman lay down and let David Cameron pee in his mouth? No: nor do I.

Jeremy Corbyn is inspiring many people to join the Labour Party and take notice of politics for the first time. He is an inspirational figure for many and someone who widens the appeal of politics to the young and to the disaffected within society. Thus these people are experiencing political dialogue, either for the first time, or from a new perspective: instead of rooting for the interviewer to tear the evil politician to pieces, they want the politician to shine their light of truth on national TV. Well that's not how it works around here: here the media challenges politicians in the strongest possible terms, which is fun when it's not someone you like or believe in, but hard to watch when it is.