Wednesday, 8 April 2015

A Case Study in Spin

This story about Max Levitas on Channel 4 News almost be a case study in spin

The bald facts - a home owner in a block of ex council flats has been charged for repairs and refused to pay.

Now the spin! Firstly the headline "from fighting fascists to fighting the council" while not directly equating the local council with fascists certainly gives a hint of that. The story continues in this vain, noting that Levitas was a veteran of the Battle of Cable Street, and was now rekindling this spirit to fight again, this time a demand from the council for the repair bills.

Now as the leaseholder of a former council flat, Mr Levitas presumably took advantage of the right to buy scheme brought in by none other than Margaret Thatcher, and since he has, according to the article, lived there for nearly half a century, he would almost certainly have done so at very favourable rates in the 1980s, and being in fairly central London will have profited enormously from this.

And where abouts in central London? They do actually mention it, in a follow beneath the original article. Mr Levitas lives in Tower Hamlets - perhaps the most left wing council in the country, controlled as it is by a mob of Labour and Tower Hamlets First, a local grouping founded by former Labour man Lutfur Rahman, with a colourful history to say the least. Not that the political make up of the council is especially relevant to the story, but it seems at least as relevant as the anti fascist credentials of Levitas in 1936.

Let's spin it the other way and imagine a property developer who bought "social housing" on the cheap and then got the council to repair it for them. I wonder if Channel 4 news would be quite so gushing about his "impressively sharp mind" or the "twinkle in his penetrating blue eyes."

A quick Google search shows that Max Levitas has had a colourful life. From defacing Nelson's column in 1934, through 15 years as a Communist Party Councillor, to more recently opposing the EDL's right to march in London. And not without having a dig at "the cuts" here in 2013.

So what is my point? Certainly not a character assassination, Max Levitas has had an interesting life, and he clearly has strong principles he has held for a long time. Nor is it to say that he is self serving, shirking his responsibilities or anything else - I don't know the nature of his contract with the council. Rather I suspect Max Levitas is being manipulated here for whatever drum the author Cathy Newman wants to bang.

The amazing thing is that Channel 4 News, which claims to be impartial and serious, and Cathy Newman who is a long serving and prominent member of their team, would put their name to such clearly politically motivated tripe, and that no-one would pick up on it and ask her to tone it down. And if they can do this for a minor story about a property dispute then what hope do they have of impartiality on anything that actually matters?

They may be a bit slicker and more consistent with their coverage of major stories but you can be absolutely sure they are putting their spin on every bit as much.