Friday, 12 August 2011

Liverpool fans to demonstrate for boycott of the Sun

Prior to this Sunday's match against Sunderland, Liverpool supporters backed by the Hillsborough Justice Campaign will be holding a demonstration in support of a continued boycott of the Sun. This serves as a timely reminder of the real and lasting damage media sensationalism can cause.

Fans will be distributing leaflets explaining the boycott around the Anfield area, but the hope in this demonstration is to spread awareness beyond those who are already very unlikely to buy the paper. Fans are encouraged to collect posters from the shop opposite the Kop and display them in the ground prior to kick off. There is also the possibility of escalating this campaign by displaying a mosaic at the subsequent Bolton match.

Of late, it was the Sun's sister paper - the News of the World - which came under intense scrutiny, for the phone hacking scandal. However with that paper's closure, and the sacking of a significant number of people, much of the furore has since died down. But it would be a mistake to presume guilt lay entirely with this one newspaper, or even stopped at News International. As Adam Ford pointed out a while back, "every newspaper is subject to exactly the same pressures, in a dwindling but highly competitive market. Murdoch merely acted to introduce a lowest common denominator, a barrel-scraping standard against which all other papers must measure themselves."

Nor is this a recent phenomenon, as the involvement of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign tells us. Scousers have no love for "the Scum" because of its horrendous reporting of that disaster, in which 96 people died as a result of a human crush, whereby it falsely accused fans of stealing from and urinating on the dead. The boycott has severely impacted sales of the rag in Liverpool, and is reasoned by some as the reason for continual price cuts and promotions in an attempt to boost sales.

That most famous incident of the media clamouring to profit from human misery should remind us today why we shouldn't take the apologies of people like Rupert Murdoch seriously. To the corporate media we are nothing more than a product - they are not selling coverage of events to us, but us as an audience to advertisers. That is why the loss of most of the Liverpool market never stopped the Sun having the highest circulation in print media, but the withdrawal of almost all advertising from News of the World in the hacking furore signalled the end of it.

That being the case, it is little wonder that Murdoch et al are able to treat the lives and sensitivities of ordinary people with such disdain. When we are nothing but a product to be exploited for commercial gain, it is not only natural but inevitable that vested interests act as a "cultural Chernobyl" in order to profit from us.

Nor is it only that, given the immense influence that the media has over political debate and direction in the country. Noam Chomsky was on-the-mark when he used the term "manufacturing consent," and even beyond the more obvious cases of media hysteria drummed up by the tabloids we can see the venal influence of those who offer us "news" in framing and guiding debate to reflect the narrow spectrum of opinion held by the ruling class.

In the face of that, it is important that we continue to challenge the corporate monopoly on information. Those who for the past 22 years have been shouting down the world's largest media baron with nothing but truth on their side are at the forefront of that, and more power to them for it.

If you are able to help with the distribution of leaflets, or would like to collect a poster for display inside the ground, please gather at the Hillsborough Justice Campaign shop between 11am and Noon.