The collapse of recent McCarthyite allegations against Jeremy Corbyn has laid bare the hypocrisy at the heart of criticisms often leveled against UK independent media. 

Speaking on BBC Question Time, Novara Media’s Ash Sarkar noted that the story of the Labour leader’s relations with Czech spy Jan Dymic, “was based on a single source who lacked credibility and was basically a fantasist. This really should not have made it past any quality newsroom.” 

Of course, the story made it past several newsrooms. 

Independent journalism is often criticised by the establishment sector around themes of poor journalistic standards, supposition, bias, echo chamber hyperbole and believing what suits them. All these behaviours have been firmly in place across the right wing press during this sorry saga, with even supposedly liberal elements as the BBC getting sucked in for a while. 

Many ran the story and its contrived spin-offs extensively then tried to hide behind the “this is what others are saying” ruse when the idea that Corbyn was somehow up there with Kim Philby and Anthony Blunt quickly started to look absurd. 

Even when the story was comprehensively blown out of the water, The Telegraph tried to keep running with the tone by enlisting John Dearlove to cast shallow aspersions against the opposition leader. That would be John Dearlove of “dodgy dossier” fame, as noted by Tom Pride.  Perhaps the offshored elites are emboldened by The Trump technique of lying brazenly, and seemingly unaccountably, in the hope that some impression of headlines will stick among members of a public that might be too busy or disinterested to follow up on the veracity of a story. 

Novara Media placed the week’s events in a broader context, noting the febrile far-right politics of key press outlets, and how that contributes to an atmosphere that can incubate extremism and terror. 

On the other hand, such smear attempts can backfire, as shown in an increase for support in the pro-Corbyn Momentum group of the Labour Party, detailed in this Guardian article by Nadia Khomami. 

The reaction on either side of this story, be it duped delirium or indignant outrage, speaks of an increasingly polarised entrenchment in so much contemporary political discourse. While one side calls for reforms, the other decide such calls are an attempt to “shut down” the free press (another red scare trope). 

Media Fund founder, Tom Barlow concludes: “Attacks like the Czech Spy story last week actually increase support for Corbyn because they are so farcical and patently false. The British public, of whatever political persuasion, do not appreciate attempts to so nakedly manipulate them. 

“These kinds of attacks are the visible death-throes of a particular section of the news media desperately trying to remain relevant to their billionaire owners. Owners, by the way, who are all that stand in the way of these titles completely collapsing.”

Stephen Durrant

The Media Fund

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