The UK’s decision to leave the EU is a historic moment and its impact will be felt for decades to come. It was therefore of paramount importance that the public was in possession of the facts they needed to make a well informed decision before entering the voting booth. The problem is, the facts were not reported.
Looking back over the countless articles which appeared in the media in the run up to the referendum, it’s clear that the vast majority fit into one of two categories – frivolous or scaremongering.
The frivolous articles did a great job of obscuring the facts at every juncture. For example when Green Party Natalie Bennett stood up in front of the UK media and passionately gave her case for remaining in the EU, the press decided to focus on her decision to leave the conference on her bicycle instead of the provided car. Hardly the sort of hard hitting facts needed to make the UK’s biggest democratic decision in a generation.
The truth is that the public wanted to hear reasoned arguments from those in the know, but this was drowned out by in-party squabbling, scaremongering and newspaper owners’ vested interests.
The scaremongering articles are the most shameful. On both sides of the debate we’ve heard outrageously different facts and figures on the economy, worker’s rights and, of course, immigration. To an extent this is understandable as we only have predictions of what is undeniably an uncertain future. The real problem comes when we are knowingly fed lies. From nonsense stories about the EU banning “bendy bananas” to truly poisonous claims of how our EU membership is allowing Islamic terrorists to flood into the UK. These undoubtedly nonsense articles will surely have influenced peoples’ opinions whilst drowning out any honest conversation.
This isn’t paranoia, or some conspiracy theory – it’s a fact. Rupert Murdoch, who owns News International with a 36% share of all UK newspaper sold, was reported saying “When I go into Downing Street they do what I say; when I go to Brussels they take no notice”. This is a man with a deeply vested interest in leaving the EU and he’s not going to let facts and genuinely informative news reporting get in the way. He controls the UK government, so the more power they have, the more he has.
Of course the British press can’t be held solely responsible for the lack of honest debate; MPs themselves also muddied the water. The prominent MP and Brexit supporter Michael Gove recently said “People in this country have had enough of experts”. Excuse me Michael!? Are you suggesting that the public no longer want to hear the views of experts and are crying out to hear the opinions of the completely ill-informed? The truth is that the public wanted to hear reasoned arguments from those in the know, but this was drowned out by in-party squabbling, scaremongering and newspaper owners’ vested interests.
I personally disagree with our decision to leave the EU, but I respect that we live in a democracy and therefore the referendum result has to be accepted. My concern is that this decision was not really made by the British people but rather by a handful of self-interested media tycoons.
Also on Soap: In Episode 10 of the Version 3.0 podcast Green Party leader Natalie Bennett joined the conversation to discuss her views on Brexit, the failing mainstream media and why the UK government is undemocratic: