What have the British media got against The King? In the Eastleigh by-election, the Elvis Loves Pets Party was frozen out by the press, BBC, Sky etc. You could be forgiven for thinking this blackout represented a conscious effort by the capitalist media to keep rhinestone suits from the public's gaze. Still, despite only polling 72 votes Elvis fans can rest easy knowing its leaflets were seen by thousands of people. I also have it on good authority that on enthusiasm and campaign vibrancy alone the ELP were the clear winners. A marker has been put down for advance in the years ahead. Who needs the media?
In the cosmology of the contemporary far left, be it Trot, Tankie, or something else, there are two possible relationships the Party can have with the media. Revolutionaries are either subject to a blackout (indeed, complaints about media indifference are now par the course for TUSC statements). Or, they are singled out for scurrilous attacks.
Socialist Action's defence of the SWP against a "bourgeois media offensive" encapsulates the latter quite nicely. While the press have, in the past, done numbers on Communist Party members and leading figures in Militant, this was in the context of a more powerful labour movement and a revolutionary left with not insignificant industrial and political clout. Furthermore both those organisations had some weight and impacted the course of political events. But to pretend the present "onslaught" against the SWP - which, off the top of my head, has consisted of two Mail articles, one apiece in The Sun, The Indy, The Graun, New Statesman, Progress, The Swindon Advertiser; and some Seymourist poststructural gubbins on gender and domination in CIF - forms a concerted effort to disrupt the left is gruel of the most watery kind. You would have to be suffering Spartoid-levels of disengagement with reality to sincerely believe such guff which, of course, many of the lynch mob 500 do.
Underlying both positions is an ideology of relevancy. Because the far left were once attacked in the press as dangerous subversives, critical scrutiny by the papers today are still interpreted by them through the self-same filters. The idea they could be filler for more salacious reasons, or simply because there weren't enough Kate Middleton photos that day does not even occur. Similarly the absence of coverage, of any evidence that the bourgeois press are concerned with the comings and goings of the far left, is, dialectically speaking, proof positive of an anxiety about revolutionaries.
Either way, both serve to anchor the identity of far left parties as oppositional entities with very fixed ideas about what is and want isn't socialist (and who is/isn't a socialist too), and to flatter the fortitude of its adherents. Gone is the notion that Marxist analysis is a guide to action. Instead it's Marxist position-taking as revolutionary identity politics.