On 6 September 2017, the International Peace Bureau announced in a press release that Jeremy Corbyn had been awarded the Séan MacBride Peace Prize. Along with Noam Chomsky and a movement securing the closure of a Japanese airbase, the All Okinawa Council Against Henoko New Base, the Labour leader had received this award, which has been running since 1992.
But the media won’t tell you that.
When Corbyn picked up his award on Friday (8 December), his supporters heard about his win. It was reported by some alternative left-wing media outlets, such as Skwawkbox, which praised him for winning “a little of the recognition” he’s due, and added that “the ‘MSM’” “have been largely silent on it”.
Three days later, Skwawkbox returned to the subject, asking why the BBC was “still silent” on Corbyn’s win, calling the prize a “landmark award” and stating: “The BBC, in common with almost all the ‘MSM’, did not mention it. At all.” Iranian and Russian state broadcasters Press TV and RT (formerly Russia Today) ran similar pieces, asking about the “media silence” on this award.
Now Channel 4’s FactCheck has done some digging and discovered that while it’s true there’s been no mainstream interest in Corbyn’s award, the prize has hardly been covered since it was founded – only two UK newspapers have mentioned it since 1992. It is also telling that no one reported it in September, when it was actually awarded.
Also, it has nothing to do with the UN, though Corbyn collected it in Geneva – where, incidentally, he made a speech which was widely covered.
Here are some other things the mainstream media neglected to tell you about this story:
Prizes, in general, are pretty boring. If you report them straight, it just sounds like a press release – either for the prizewinner or the organisation giving the award. It’s hard to wring news out about them, unless they’re controversial or unusual. So, like, Vladimir Putin being nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, or Tony Blair winning Philanthropist of the Year, or, say, a former IRA chief-of-staff being awarded a Nobel Peace Prize…
It’s hard to take an organisation seriously when it gives an award to itself. Last year, the Séan MacBride Peace Prize was awarded to Colin Archer – secretary-general of, yes, the International Peace Bureau.
News isn’t news when it’s three months old. The press release announcing Corbyn’s win was at the beginning of September. It’s now December. No news outlets – not even the fiercely pro-Corbyn ones or foreign broadcasters that back his leadership – picked it up when it actually happened.
Corbyn didn’t attend the prize-giving, which took place on Friday 24 November in Barcelona, which is fine, he is a busy man, but a late acceptance does mean the story – if you can count it as a story – has passed. Also if it was such a huge deal, he might have attended.
- Happily, all corners of the UK media can at least agree on the greatest lesson from this tiresome bit of hack navel-gazing: the best way to get people to read something is to tell them no one is writing about it.