Dead Men Left

Friday, October 07, 2005

Tories and the media

Tories again. Sorry. Having complained, quite bitterly, about the anoinment by media of Gordon Brown as Blair's One True Successor, it would certainly seem that the Tories are being subjected to the same treatment. Despite what appears to be a formally more democratic procedure, the press have collectively - by what mysterious guiding reason, I do not know - decided to trash at least one of the candidates, and actively promote another.

Now, on the one hand, I don't give a monkeys: the Tories will pick someone I don't like, regardless. On the other, it is a little disquieting. The media has always played a role in tweaking, poking and shoving liberal-democratic processes, of course, but the common assumption used to be that large political parties were able to maintain some sort of autonomy from it. That's a basic, liberal, pluralistic understanding of the kind of society we live in: each large participatory institution in its own separate sphere, each doing its own thing, all of them weakly-regulated in their interactions with each other by a system of laws and largely non-interventionist state.

There has been a definite shift, in recent years, away from that model. The media as such now represents itself as the regulatory body: it decides the terrain of political contest, it sets the conditions for victory. Only events quite outside its own control have seriously disrupted the game - I'm thinking, in particular, of the anti-war movement, which crept up unawares on the media in general.