Got a flagging career that’s in need of a turbo boost?
From the leader of the UK’s Labour Party to the most-hated of far-right provocateurs in America, it seems there’s a failsafe route to success.
These days, there’s no quicker way to fame, fortune and public notoriety than for the MSM to declare war on you.
Not only are the days when tabloid front pages and prime-time news slots were kingmakers gone, now the public is increasingly doing the precise opposite to what the media tells it.
The enemies of the press are becoming the people’s champions – and it works on all sides of the political spectrum.
In the US Presidential race, the liberal press’s naked loathing for Donald Trump only made him stronger. Setting troll phasers to Darth Vader, he singlehandedly took down the media’s Death Star in his spare time via Twitter.
Something similar had already happened in the UK to the Brexit King, Nigel Farage. Trillions of whiny Left-wing hit pieces pinged off his Teflon-coated tweed.
In the run-up to this month’s British General Election, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was a dead duck. Loathed even by his own party and trailing badly in every opinion poll, he was first thrown a lifeline by Conservative prime minister Theresa May via her chaotic party manifesto.
— Sky News (@SkyNews) June 7, 2017
But it was the MSM’s open warfare on him that edged him closer to 10 Downing Street than anyone ever realized possible. Like Trump and Farage, the more the press attacked him, the more his people rallied.
Come General Election day, when The Sun and Daily Mail pilloried him on page one, Corbyn’s fans rushed to buy copies of the newspapers – before binning or even setting fire to them, posting their defiance on social media to gain brownie points.
This morning I reignited the British spirit with the newsagents entire stock of Suns and Daily Mails. pic.twitter.com/5SPP1D8BTP
— John Niven (@NivenJ1) June 8, 2017
Hapless UK shadow home secretary Diane Abbott – who during the campaign had labelled Brexiteers racist and was utterly clueless when the media grilled on her own manifesto costings – also soared to a record election margin.
Humbled to receive an increased majority of over 35,000 in Hackney North & Stoke Newington.
A vote for hope and a better Britain.#GE2017
— Diane Abbott (@HackneyAbbott) June 9, 2017
At the polar opposite end of the spectrum, we have self-professed “Britain’s most-hated man” Tommy Robinson, the hugely divisive critic of Islam and former leader of the far-right English Defence League.
If British politicians had had the guts to tackle radical Islam, Robinson might have disappeared into obscurity. But soaring terror attacks on UK soil meant support for him was noisily growing.
With Farage having stepped back – for now – from frontline British politics, the liberals made Robinson their new bogeyman. And with utter predictability, this only bolstered him.
Earlier this week, Robinson was interviewed on breakfast TV by Piers Morgan, another hugely popular, yet hugely divisive public figure.
'Show some damn respect…'
— Good Morning Britain (@GMB) June 20, 2017
Morgan, a skilled interviewer who knows how to rile, shouted down Robinson as he waved a copy of the Koran, saying, “You’re sounding like a bigoted lunatic. You’re stirring up hatred. You’re being a complete disgrace.”
But Morgan’s highly-personal and virtue-signalling attack – shoot the messenger, ignore the message – gave Robinson’s career a squirt of nitrous oxide.
Within hours of his TV appearance, Robinson had Tweeted that his book, Enemy Of The State, was the number one bestseller in all books on Amazon.
The support I'm receiving is unreal, after 10 yrs of being beaten battered, in-prisoned, & slandered people are finally hearing my voice
— Tommy Robinson 🇬🇧 (@TRobinsonNewEra) June 20, 2017
— Tommy Robinson 🇬🇧 (@TRobinsonNewEra) June 20, 2017
In a ratings win-win, Morgan also tweeted that his show enjoyed its biggest market share of the morning.
BREAKING: Yesterday's @GMB was watched by biggest TV audience share in the show's history.
Thanks for watching! 👊👍
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) June 21, 2017
Everybody had flocked to see the bonfire.
For students of moral censorship, it was The Sex Pistols all over again. For further evidence, witness exiled alt-right firebrand Milo Yiannopolous whose book, Dangerous, recently topped Amazon pre-orders.
— Martin Daubney (@MartinDaubney) June 6, 2017
Yesterday, this squabbling continued, as the Daily Mail published a full-page leader article slamming its treatment by liberal columnist and Corbyn stooge Owen Jones.
Special ire was reserved for a cartoon by Martin Rowson, who had drawn “read The Sun & the Daily Mail” onto the side of the van used to kill Muslim man Makram Ali near London’s Finsbury Park mosque days earlier.
Latest Graun toon here https://t.co/X8xlPprlZx
— Martin Rowson (@MartinRowson) June 19, 2017
For this, naturally both Jones and Rowson enjoyed a surge in popularity, as being on the Mail’s blacklist is now seen as a badge of honor, not a badge of shame.
If the old media wanted Corbyn or right-wing “hate preachers” to disappear, they could simply ignore them. But they can’t.
Swelled by social and new media these bogeymen are too big simply to go away. So why not feature them – so long as you make it clear you hate them?
Pariahs are good box office. Witness the occasion when the Independent newspaper vowed “never again” to mention the controversialist Katie Hopkins.
Within a week, Hopkins’ hot takes returned to their “most viewed” sidebar, as pragmatic moneymen realised: “Our punters need their daily fix of hate, so we might as well make a few quid out of her”.
What we can learn from all of this is that the MSM’s age-old tactic of endlessly bombarding bogeymen with hate pieces is a busted flush. Bullying backfires.
Yet those who say the big MSM brands are a spent force are only seeing half the picture. They still set the agenda – for now – but the public reaction is increasingly to do or think the precise opposite of what they endorse.
For the media magnates, this represents an existential problem. Do they junk their newspaper brands and start afresh on the internet? Or do they carry on, while secretly buying shares in the likes of Jeremy Corbyn and Tommy Robinson?
Whatever the answers, the revolution will be televised. And Piers Morgan will probably be the anchor.