Journos have never loved their rivals -- but the lines are getting more entrenched

Maybe tribalism is to be expected as the endgame approaches, newspapers die off and the new landscap

Media tribalism has always existed, but now it's more obvious than ever. The BBC's director general suspects there's a whiff of anti-BBC tribalism about the whooping and finger-pointing over the non-existent Frozen Planet non-fakery silliness that spread right throughout the media from the tabloids to the proper newspapers.

As I wrote the other day, the BBC were accused by the Telegraph (among others, kicked off by the Mirror) of misleading viewers about a scene involving polar bear cubs. The BBC responded as robustly as you might expect to what was at best kite-flying on a slow news day, and at worst nasty barrel-scraping.

Is Mark Thompson right? Is there more than a suspicion of anti-Beeb targeting in the stirring up of the Frozen Planet row? I don't think journos have ever really loved their rivals, but the lines are getting more and more entrenched, as more and more journos head down the stairs for the last time with a bin-bag of stuff and a tear in their eye.

Add to that the roaring and finger-pointing at Saint Nick Davies by the likes of Kelvin "The Truth" Mackenzie (I write his name so often I've become tired of it, and will henceforth only refer to him in these columns as "The Truth") and a picture begins to emerge, perhaps. You get the sense that it's tapping into the kind of 'us against them' tribalism that's always been lingering under the surface. "It's all very well telling us how to be journos, Davies," snarl the unlucky ones who ended up ctrl+C and ctrl+V-ing press releases for a living, or writing witless celebrity bullshit about Z-list no-marks on reality TV shows. "But now you've fucked up, and you're not so good yourself."

It might not be the case, as it had been suspected sometime ago, that the News of the World or people in its employ deleted voicemails on Milly Dowler's mobile phone, giving the family false hope, but the phone was still hacked. Davies's error wasn't a vendetta or agenda-driven piece of fact-twisting to suit his narrative, either; it was just an honest error based on the facts as they were known at the time, acknowledged as such and immediately corrected. You know, like some of the other newspapers are supposed to do, but don't, unless the PCC gives them a slap on the thigh with a lump of wet celery, or unless the complainant is rich enough to take the legal option.

You can kick it around and pretend that if only the public knew that the Screws didn't delete voicemails, the outrage wouldn't have been so great, but that's just not the case. A dead girl's phone was hacked. 7/7 victims had phones hacked. That's the top and bottom of why people were revolted: because they had every damn right to be. And still do.

I think the problem is that the silver-topped journos you see getting so worked up about this sort of thing (take a bow, Jules Stenson) managed to live most of their lives without a great deal of scrutiny from the public, or their fellow professionals. Now they're centre stage, and they're woefully unprepared for the experience, trying to fight their way out by shouting and pointing at Nick Davies, saying "Please sir, the swotty kid did something wrong, as well! Punish him too!"

Maybe this kind of tribalism is only to be expected as the endgame approaches, newspapers die off and the new landscape gets drawn. For now, these media tribes are like Titanic passengers fighting each other to the death for a space on a bit of wood. They're going to succumb to the freezing waters themselves, eventually, but they want just that little bit longer before they do.

 

Patrolling the murkier waters of the mainstream media
Ukip's Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall. Photo: Getty
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Is the general election 2017 the end of Ukip?

Ukip led the way to Brexit, but now the party is on less than 10 per cent in the polls. 

Ukip could be finished. Ukip has only ever had two MPs, but it held an outside influence on politics: without it, we’d probably never have had the EU referendum. But Brexit has turned Ukip into a single-issue party without an issue. Ukip’s sole remaining MP, Douglas Carswell, left the party in March 2017, and told Sky News’ Adam Boulton that there was “no point” to the party anymore. 

Not everyone in Ukip has given up, though: Nigel Farage told Peston on Sunday that Ukip “will survive”, and current leader Paul Nuttall will be contesting a seat this year. But Ukip is standing in fewer constituencies than last time thanks to a shortage of both money and people. Who benefits if Ukip is finished? It’s likely to be the Tories. 

Is Ukip finished? 

What are Ukip's poll ratings?

Ukip’s poll ratings peaked in June 2016 at 16 per cent. Since the leave campaign’s success, that has steadily declined so that Ukip is going into the 2017 general election on 4 per cent, according to the latest polls. If the polls can be trusted, that’s a serious collapse.

Can Ukip get anymore MPs?

In the 2015 general election Ukip contested nearly every seat and got 13 per cent of the vote, making it the third biggest party (although is only returned one MP). Now Ukip is reportedly struggling to find candidates and could stand in as few as 100 seats. Ukip leader Paul Nuttall will stand in Boston and Skegness, but both ex-leader Nigel Farage and donor Arron Banks have ruled themselves out of running this time.

How many members does Ukip have?

Ukip’s membership declined from 45,994 at the 2015 general election to 39,000 in 2016. That’s a worrying sign for any political party, which relies on grassroots memberships to put in the campaigning legwork.

What does Ukip's decline mean for Labour and the Conservatives? 

The rise of Ukip took votes from both the Conservatives and Labour, with a nationalist message that appealed to disaffected voters from both right and left. But the decline of Ukip only seems to be helping the Conservatives. Stephen Bush has written about how in Wales voting Ukip seems to have been a gateway drug for traditional Labour voters who are now backing the mainstream right; so the voters Ukip took from the Conservatives are reverting to the Conservatives, and the ones they took from Labour are transferring to the Conservatives too.

Ukip might be finished as an electoral force, but its influence on the rest of British politics will be felt for many years yet. 

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