Friday, July 23, 2004

The longest assassination attempt in history

They don’t make them like this over here – not like the 27-year-old Adrian Langan, PR executive and self-confessed "gung-ho pro-European".

Last year’s winner and first Irish recipient on the Young European of the Year award, he was credited with a leading role in winning the Nice referendum, arising from his outstanding ability to promote the "European idea".

Now, in the Irish Times (no link - subscription only), he has offered his opinions on the UK referendum, calling it a "huge gamble". Nevertheless, he feels that Blair can "still win the day".

To win, Langan argues, the "yes" side will need to meet the challenge full on and turn the referendum on the constitution into what it really is: a referendum on UK membership of the EU. In this context, UKIP, "may end up as the best thing that could happen to the ‘yes’ camp".

Their extremism about leaving the EU, he suggests, "could well be the key to convince moderates in British society (pro-Europe but unsure about the constitution) about the potential fall-out from a rejection and of the need to come out and vote for it".

But if he regards UKIP as an ally, not so the UK mass media (by which Langan means newspapers). "The proliferation of UK mass media opposed to the EU has produced two outcomes in the UK.

First, a deeply ingrained latent hostility to the EU among a wide section of the population; and, second, the masking of the reality that British society is littered with extremely powerful and significant pro-Europe voices". He continues:

The extent and scale of the media opposition in the UK to the EU is quite incredible. Coverage in such papers as the Daily Telegraph, the Sun, and the Express, and the openly anti-European xenophobia of the Daily Mail can literally amaze the reasonably well-informed reader of British newspapers.

The extent of the problem this creates for the "yes" side cannot be underestimated. The editors and owners of these papers have decided they want to either get the UK out of the EU or keep the EU weak by defeating the constitution (so that it won't trouble their interests), and they have therefore either directly interfered in editorial decisions or allowed editors to have free rein openly and actively to lie about the EU in their papers.

Many times in Ireland things are written by journalists about the EU that are inaccurate or simply wrong - but it is done for the most part because of a faulty understanding or misinterpretation. Not so in the UK. Lies are consciously written and published in both tabloid and broadsheet papers with no concern for the facts, let alone balance. The treatment of the EU in the UK media is the equivalent of the longest assassination attempt in history.
Langan’s answer to this is for the "yes" campaign "to step away from print media to make its case directly to the British people". They should "use other communication methods - huge volumes of advertising and direct mail techniques, as well as a heavy on-the-ground campaigning presence".

Interestingly, for all his youth and supposed PR experience, Langan does not mention the internet. But he might be right in one thing: "Mobilisation of resources, organisations, and people is the key, and it had better start soon if the ‘yes’ side is to have a chance".

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