Flaggate: National Divisions and The Capitalist Press

By Paddy O’ Brien, Edinburgh IMT

For over 100 years we have had mass media in the UK, feeding the working class propaganda and telling them which of the established political parties to vote for. You would have hoped in a so called “democratic” and “free” society that over this period, the style of journalism would have evolved into a fair and unbiased view to inform people of the social injustices in society. But as we all know, the press has continued to report on insignificant news stories that do nothing but incite national division between the working classes. If you want an example to this journalism, look no further than the headlines of Britain’s longest running newspaper (I use the term loosely), The Daily Mail.

The latest in a long list of fairy tales and fables is the now infamous “flag gate”. The Daily Mail accused Nicola Sturgeon of ordering the Union Flag to be taken down from national government buildings on royal events. This empty story made the front page of 3 National newspapers inciting the British nationalists of the Scottish Conservative Party to come out in arms about this decision. Ruth Davidson went on to tweet, “The SNP government should be more concerned with raising standards, not lowering flags. Dismal stuff.” Unfortunately for the Tory leader there was no truth in the headline and the Daily Mail grudgingly issued an apology to the First Minister and confirmed that no change had been made by The SNP government on the policy of flags, which was last changed in 2010, when Alex Salmond was First Minister.

The papers should be reporting on the real issues we face today. We have 1 in 5 children who are still living in poverty in Scotland, and over 2000 food banks in operation in the UK. The working class deserve better. Instead of telling the open truth about the problems of society and their causes (capitalism), these papers invent stories with the sole purpose of manufacturing prejudices and creating divisions between the working class over something as insignificant as what flag is flown on the Queen’s birthday.

The owner of the Daily Mail is Jonathan Harmsworth, 4th Viscount Rothermere, who is worth a reported £720 million of inherited wealth. How can we expect the truth about the failings of capitalism, when these very people are part of the 1% who benefit most from the systematic flaws of capitalism?

We call for

  • The National Union of Journalists along with unions such as Unite, who organise media and print workers, to launch a campaign to recruit all workers in the industry and hold papers like the Daily Mail accountable. Workers in the industry should refuse to write and publish untruthful headlines that incite division between the working classes.
  • A publicly owned media run under democratic workers’ control to ensure truthful and honest reporting of the issues that really matter to society.


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