The coronavirus pandemic has produced predictably variable comment in the media. Media Distortion is a familiar ‘pattern of power’. Matthew Parris’s article in this week’s Spectator gives an amusing summary of different British press reactions: We’re all guilty of recruiting this virus to our cause. He “made a little list of familiar voices in our media, each with his or her own slant on a sub-microscopic little virus”.
Michael Gove has been an expert at crafting political narratives, but this week he found himself upset by them.
As an ex-journalist, Michael Gove knew how to put a slant on an argument: when he was campaigning in 2016 for Britain to leave the EU, he painted a distorted picture of Britain’s relationship with Europe – as described in this website’s analysis of his Rejection of EU Law. Yet he sounded genuinely indignant on this week’s Andrew Marr Show, when presented with a Sunday Times Assessment of the government’s performance. The Express reported that Michael Gove “has furiously hit out …accusing the claims of crafting a “particular narrative””
He also appears to be eating his words on the subject of expert advice. During EU referendum campaign he claimed that “we have had enough of experts” – but a Guardian article has now reported him as saying that “our approach is to be guided by the science”. It now seems that he can see how experts can sometimes be useful, if only to hide behind.
The British government’s performance in handling the coronavirus pandemic should be the subject of serious analysis at some point. It will be difficult, though, to paint a balanced picture when presented with so many conflicting political narratives. And it will be difficult to trust anything that Michael Gove says.
The universal theme of press coverage seems to be to attribute blame for misfortune. Does it help pain if one can dress it in righteous indignation?
I think that politicians seek someone to blame so that they can preserve their own position. I expect that if the government is criticised it will seek to blame its scientific advisers – and Michael Gove was preparing the way for that in the interview. Political narratives are always designed to benefit the narrator.
It seems that Tom Peck agrees with my assessment of Michael Gove’s character in this article: “The government can’t fight coronavirus, so it’s fighting journalists instead” at https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/coronavirus-sunday-times-report-boris-johnson-michael-gove-cobra-a9474316.html. Whilst I agree with him, I cannot but feel that this statement is depressing: “Politicians have always lied and will always lie.”