I’m writing this a few days after Queen Elizabeth II’s death. Her image is on the front of every UK newspaper, on many electronic billboards and she’s the subject of numerous TV and radio programmes. It’s enough to make one seek out the Wikipedia page for cultural hegemony.
On Twitter, the usual arguments are still raging. Then Twitter user Paul Gray chips in with a Tweet about economics:
“Last time they left a note saying there is nothing left in the kitty. Even after 12 years, people remember that.”
Paul is referring to an event that happened in 2010: “Ex-Treasury secretary Liam Byrne’s note to his successor: there’s no money left”.
Byrne’s note was weaponised by the Conservatives. The Conservatives pretended that the joke message was a serious statement. Not quite a lie, but they distorted the truth and told an over simplified story.
The Conservative storytelling around Byrne’s note is a case study in how right-wing political parties get people to vote against their own interests.
They tell memorable simple stories, lies, myths and half-truths. These stories are then repeated and amplified by much of the billionaire-funded media. It’s effective. Twitter’s Paul is referring to the Treasury note story 12 years after it happened.
Simple right-wing stories
Other misleading simplistic stories that the Conservatives tell are:
- Trickle-down economics
- The majority of people are fundamentally bad
- Prison should punish, not rehabilitate
- The economy is like a household budget
- Immigrants are scary
- Borders are singular, physical objects
- Deference to monarchy
- Unions are bad
- Climate change is exaggerated
- Red tape is harmful
- Inequality is good
- There is no alternative to capitalism
- Religious texts are direct transcriptions of their god’s word
- Efficiency requires deregulation
- The UK contains too many people
- There is no society, just individuals
- Poverty is due to personal failure, not structure
- The media is mostly left-wing
Why is the ‘media is left-wing’ one of the Conservative’s most important lies?
With the treasury note story, the Labour party barely attempted to challenge the simple Conservative narrative. Probably because it feared expending political capital on a cynical distraction in a hostile media environment.
The ‘media is mostly left-wing’ is one of the Conservative’s most important lies because it shuts down the space needed to debate and challenge the other Conservative lies and stories. It ensures that the hostile media environment remains hostile to non right-wing messages.