Word of the day: (the) MSM

MSM sounds like an unfortunate disease that someone might suffer from – a cancer that’s spreading and eating away at your insides, for instance. Maybe that similarity is deliberate, because what we are talking about here is the mainstream media, and many of those who use the acronym (the) MSM believe that it’s also something that’s infectecting the body politic in the UK (and maybe beyond). That’s because these people see the MSM as deeply biased and having a hidden agenda, which is often associated with supporting or propping up the elite. MSM has flourished as a hashtag on social media, partly because different groups in society have radically different views about who the elite actually are. On the one hand, some see the MSM as representing a liberal metropolitan elite who are basically forcing acceptance of socially liberal attitudes, particularly gay lifestyles, transgender rights, free immigration and support for minorities, legalised drug use, non-religious (secular) attitudes, and so on. People complaining about this MSM bias will talk about political correctness gone mad and how you can’t say anything anymore. On the other hand, you have the MSM representing wealth and finance, promoting a neo-liberal hyper-individualised view of society, where we’re all in competition with each other. People here will complain about fat cats and bosses screwing workers over. In either case, the MSM is seen as prioritising stories that support their agenda and avoiding stories that challenge it and undermine the elite.

Here are some patterns and collocations that I’ve seen in various tweets:

The MSM has been complicit in ….

The MSM is submissive in not challenging …

Shame on all MSM!

MSM not reporting this!

The MSM never talk about …!

MSM covering X, but ignoring Y..

Nothing but lies from the MSM; the #MSM can’t deny facts forever.

MSM bias is evident in what is covered, but more telling in what isn’t covered.

X is imploding / falling apart / getting away with murder, but not a word from the MSM.

More fake news from MSM

In the UK, MSM may often be replaced in these kinds of tweets with the BBC. As the national broadcaster, the BBC is supposed to be impartial, yet it is often described as both being riddled with lefties and also totally biased to the right. Could both viewpoints be true?

Well, it would be fair to say that in terms of its fictional output and arts coverage, the BBC can be seen to be fairly liberal and you might say even on the left. Diverse groups are represented, storylines in soaps focus on social issues, comedy tends towards the left of centre. When it comes to news programming, and in particular economics and politics, there is a tendency towards right of centre. Studies have shown that ‘expert’ commentators come more from business than from unions, and promote traditional free-market solutions rather than alternative models. Political news often takes the agenda from the legacy newspaper media, which is privately owned and is almost exclusively centre and centre-right. So for example, the BBC’s flagship morning news programme – Radio 4’s Today – will have a review of the papers. These headlines are often picked up on and form the focus of interviews. The interviews become leading headlines on the news bulletin, etc. In recent times, there has also been criticism that the news agenda is set by statements from ‘anonymous sources from within number 10’, which are then repeated uncritically.

Work in groups. Discuss these questions.

• What is the MSM in your country?
• Who funds / owns the mainstream media where you live?
• Do you think it is biased? If so, towards who or based on what agenda?
• What stories do you think have been covered too widely? And what stories do you feel have largely been ignored?
• What media do you watch/read?

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2 Responses

  1. PatG says:

    Amazing and timely post guys. Great work. These posts keep my classes going. Students love them and teachers can certainly learn a lot about lexical chunks/patterns from your posts.

    Keep up the great work guys. Unfortunately my school is in thrall to bloody TBL ( I can’t stand it as a methodology) . These posts are a great corrective to that so thanks.

    Wishing you guys a very happy holiday and a healthy New Year.

    • Hugh Dellar says:

      Thanks Pat. Glad you find these useful.
      We enjoy writing them!

      I’m not opposed to TBK, just never understood why you can’t also predict (and pre-teach) some language in advance. As we discuss in the intro to TEACHING LEXICALLY, expecting a teacher to provide the bulk of the input post-hoc is both incredibly demanding and – perhaps ironically – very teacher-centred! That said, the idea of performing sensible tasks a few times, with bursts of feedback in between, is very much something we do ourselves, so there is SOME common ground!


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