The big news story yesterday (August 18) was Owen Smith’s announcement that he would seek peace talks with Daesh (sometimes called IS) if elected leader of the Labour Party – despite the fact that this organisation is clearly interested only in killing westerners.
But the news agenda was dominated entirely by a silly bit of fluff involving Jeremy Corbyn’s inability to recognise television favourites Ant and Dec.
Mr Smith’s claim that he could get the Arabic (it would be insulting to that religion to call them Muslim) terrorists around the negotiating table crossed a significant line.
Where previously he was simply denying the reality that most Labour electors knew Jeremy Corbyn must remain as leader and more were accepting it every day, now he has ventured into the realms of lunacy. His claim to have been involved in the Northern Ireland peace process at a time when he was a BBC producer, not a politician, didn’t help either.
But the prevalence of the Ant and Dec story confirms that the British mass media crossed that lunacy line right alongside him.
“As if Labour’s core support in its northern heartlands wasn’t precarious enough, its leader has just insulted the two most famous and best loved Geordies ever to walk this merry earth,” wrote (for example) ‘Media Mole’ in The New Statesman, under the headline ‘Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t know who Ant and Dec are and it’s the worst thing he’s ever done’.
“In the most chilling moment of his career to date, Jeremy Corbyn shrugged his shoulders when presented with a photograph – so full of innocent cheer, yet to be dashed – of the perpetually chirpy duo of TV presenters, Ant and Dec.
“The irony is that Ant and Dec have openly spoken about supporting Labour in the past.”
Somehow it seems unlikely that any such support is likely to be shaken by Mr Corbyn’s lack of recognition for them. Quite the opposite, possibly, as they might appreciate a politician who takes his work seriously.
The story was all over the news yesterday. But where was that other sure-fire talking point – Owen Smith’s rash (and perhaps suicidal) claim that he could get Daesh around a negotiating table?
Well, it was there – but it got seriously garbled.
“Owen Smith, the Labour leadership challenger, sparked controversy on Wednesday by suggesting a British government would have to negotiate with Isis to end the conflict in the Middle East,” wrote Heather Stewart, political editor of The Guardian.
“By contrast, the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who has sometimes been accused of being too willing to associate himself with extremist groups, said Isis should not be allowed to take part in talks. ‘No, they are not going to be round the table, no.’ Later a spokesman for Corbyn criticised Smith’s remarks as ‘hasty and ill-considered’.”
Meanwhile, on Twitter: “Both Corbyn and Smith want talks with Isis. A group that only wants us dead. You can’t negotiate with terrorists.”
Fortunately (for them) that did not come from any of the major news outlets. But if one person can make the mistake, how many more have?
In fairness, many Twitter comments were right on the button.
For example: “Having a meeting with Isis or not knowing Ant and Dec – What do you think gets the headlines? Yep not knowing the millionaires.”
Here’s one on how the media interpreted the two stories: “Negotiating with ISIS = “gaffe” Not knowing who Ant and Dec are = “disrespectful” ok ”
Then there’s this: “Someone please explain to me why Corbyn not knowing Ant and Dec is a national news headline?”
But the favourite has to be this: “So let me get this straight. We’re… sending Ant and Dec to negotiate with Isis?”
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