Listen to the Silence…

Whatever your politics – surely most of us can agree that the results of the last US presidential election and the EU referendum delivered something to savour. No longer would be traipse to the polls feeling the outcome was a foregone conclusion. The element of surprise had returned. This was the super-confident prediction in the respected New York Times ON ELECTION DAY ITSELF.

Election Day graphic from the New York Times

Not one major poll put Donald Trump ahead. Like it or not – what this (and many other) polls and predictions failed to take into account was the silent majority. The media in general blithely went along with what turned out to be little more than assumptions and it’s not a failing limited to US journalists only. We in the UK were of course just as culpable…see below.

Article from the Independent.

The truth is that the media in both the US and UK didn’t do enough or try hard enough to hear the voice of the SILENT MAJORITY. Even as a television reporter with many years experience with the BBC and Sky News I too had been taken in by the narrative of complacency and it forced me to question the sometimes arms-length and surface scratching approach of the mainstream media. It was, and still is common, for example, for political specialists to hop on a train or plane and journey North from their London offices for a day in an effort to “take the temperature” in some (usually marginal) constituency. At least most of them have finally recognised that it is transparently condescending to quote the taxi driver who drove them from the train station/airport to the shopping precinct/working men’s club upon which they would base their report. Their headline was right of course but I was grimly amused by the “revelation” in an article from the Huffington Post that concluded that “northerners have as varied and vibrant views on Brexit as the rest of Britain.”

Article from Huffington Post.

Much of my journalistic career has been based in the North of England and yet I too swallowed the overwhelming narrative of the media in the days leading up to the last US presidential election and the EU referendum. I assumed that was was being forecast by pollsters, pundits and the Press was accurate…and that what was being reported reflected “the mood of the nation.” Social media reflected an even more distorted image of the mood (but that’s another blog entirely!)

Despite the lessons of 2016 the US and UK media seem to be gearing up for a Biden victory. They may well be right this time. But I hope they are at least properly considering two important words: Silent. Majority.

Mike McCarthy

northern star media