Stop “Playing Politics”?

I think many of us will agree that many of Britain’s cohort of journalists are, to a man and woman, sycophants, who are more interested in their careers and their social standing than reporting the news accurately and faithfully. The same cohort, many of whom hide behind paywalls, have used the Covid-19 crisis as an excuse to continue smearing Jeremy Corbyn, but stopping short of blaming him for the virus, while others, like the Telegraph’s Camilla Tominey, see it as an opportunity to accuse people on the amorphous Left of “playing politics” with the crisis. All bullies are cowards and Fleet Street’s bullies are no exception. They hide behind paywalls and are protected by the rich proprietors, who pay them lots of money to write the same articles over and over again. Who holds these small-minded hacks to account? Only we can. IPSO certainly won’t.

Meghan Markle news Camilla Tominey said Meghans speech was ...
Camilla Tominey: just another paywall bully

Tominey’s paywalled article is no different to the tweets that I’ve seen from Tory MPs and their hangers-on.

Tominey complains:

London mayor Sadiq Khan was the first to start fighting dirty, seeking to deflect attention from crowded Tube trains under his watch

Tominey’s point is weak for it fails to accept that Tube train drivers have also had to take time off work sick, while the numbers of trains have been reduced by Transport for London (TfL). I’m not Sadiq Khan’s biggest fan (his tendency to hobnob with property developers is particularly sickening), but didn’t TfL merely act on the government’s advice? I believe it did. Never let the truth get in the way of a good smear, eh Cammie?

What Tominey and her fellow hacks continue to ignore is the government’s sluggish response to the Covid-19 pandemic and its insistence that its “herd immunity” was the best line of attack. Tominey ignores the evident social Darwinism that underpinned it. Why? Because it doesn’t conform to the finger-pointing narratives constructed by the government in its attempt to deflect from its piss-poor performance and its casual disregard for human life.

According to Dan Hodges (a man who is wrong about nearly everything), the world outside Twitter is pleased with the government’s handling of the epidemic.

Of course, Dan doesn’t believe he needs to support his claim with evidence. Him being a Daily Mail hack is qualification enough.

Tominey, Hodges and the rest of them refuse to ask the right questions about the government’s handling of the crisis. Instead, they demand complete and total obeisance from the public, because, in their view, offering constructive criticism is tantamount to treason, and they will even brandish World War 2 and Churchill as amulets to ward off criticism. In this tweet, Iain Martin uses the war to make a feeble jab.

Former S*n editor and tabloid thug, Stig Abell, tweeted this in response to a BBC interview with Jeremy Corbyn.

What Abell knows about economics could barely cover one side of a postage stamp; he’s been inured in the Thatcherite economic model, which has been presented to us as holy writ, and the mantra of TINA continues to dominate socio-economic discourse in the public domain, and is manifested in the hack’s question: “but can we afford it?/how will we pay for it?”.

Even when the facts are laid bare before him, Abell, like the rest of his colleagues, refuse to accept the truth or ask questions that are critical of the government or the economic model to which he and they cleave so tightly. For to do so, is tantamount to questioning the existence of God. Instead, these high priests of laissez-faire economics, who masquerade as objective interpreters of current affairs, believe that the current model of capitalism has an adequate response to the crisis, when, in fact, the opposite has been demonstrated.

Tory MPs have lost no time in using the “playing politics” line either. A couple of days ago, Nadine Dorries, who supposedly tested positive for Covid-19, and who went into self-isolation and made an “Ernest Saunders” style recovery a week later, used the opportunity to accuse Emily Thornberry of “political point scoring”. Ironic, when you think that’s exactly what Dorries has done with this tweet.

You can’t bet any money you like that if the situation was reversed, and a Labour government was handling the crisis badly, the Tories would criticize the response and rightly so. But Tories like Dorries believe they’re above criticism, and have adopted the haughty and condescending attitudes of absolute monarchs rather than public servants. Someone needs to remind them that they’re elected officials, who rely on our votes to put them where they are. As for Fleet Street, most of its denizens will remain steadfastly loyal to the current government and will continue to tell us up is down and black is white. The tragedy is that too many people continue to swallow their nonsense uncritically.

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Covid-19: The Conspiracy Theory Files

It was inevitable that various conspiracy theories would emerge during the Covid-19 pandemic, and it’s no surprise that many, if not the majority, of these conspiracy theories come from the far-right and Right libertarians. For self-styled libertarians like Spiked’s Brendan O’Neill, who also takes the Murdoch shilling, the crisis is really all about liberal-left spoilsports wanting to curtail his right to infect others in confined spaces.

The pandemic has provided O’Neill with the opportunity to attack his favourite targets: the Greens, left-wingers, anti-racists, socialists, you name them, O’Neill hates them. He’s like one of those pub bores you meet supping in the local Wetherspoons, talking about how the country is “going to hell in a handcart”.

The first paragraph of O’Neill’s article starts predictably, but messily.

People’s refusal to panic has been a great source of frustration for the establishment in recent years. ‘The planet is burning’, they lie, in relation to climate change, and yet we do not weep or wail or even pay very much attention. ‘I want you to panic’, instructs the newest mouthpiece of green apocalypticism, Greta Thunberg, and yet most of us refuse to do so. A No Deal Brexit would unleash economic mayhem, racist pogroms and even a pandemic of super-gonorrhoea, they squealed, incessantly, like millenarian preachers balking at the imminent arrival of the lightning bolt of final judgement, and yet we didn’t flinch. We went to work. We went home. We still supported Brexit.

How any of this is related to the pandemic is a mystery, but O’Neill persists:

Our skittish elites have been so baffled, infuriated in fact, by our calm response to their hysterical warnings that they have invented pathologies to explain our unacceptable behaviour. The therapeutic language of ‘denialism’ is used to explain the masses’ refusal to fret over climate change. Environmentalists write articles on ‘the psychology of climate-change denial’, on ‘the self-deception and mass denial’ coursing through this society that refuses to flatter or engage with the hysteria of the eco-elites. Likewise, the refusal of voters to succumb to the dire, hollow warnings of the ferociously anti-Brexit wing of the establishment was interpreted by self-styled experts as a psychological disorder. ‘[This is] people taking action for essentially psychological reasons, irrespective of the economic cost’, said one professor.

Ah, so this is about the mysterious ‘elites’? Find me an O’Neill article without the word ‘elite’ and I’ll show you a caring Conservative. O’Neill is in complete denial; his brain (if he has one) is in total lockdown. He refuses to accept the fact that Covid-19 is a communicable disease and is highly contagious. The fact that people of all ages have died is of no matter to him. For O’Neill, people ignoring medical advice and mingling in public spaces like parks and the beaches is seen as an act of defiance against the shadowy ‘elites’ who want to you to eat your vegetables.

Of course, the replies beneath Spiked’s article are just as barking, if not worse.

This one looks like a bot.

What analysis? What insight? There’s more. This one talks about “The Cabal”. Cue eerie theremin music.

You should see the rest of his timeline. It’s a catalogue of conspiracy theories and the usual mush about horrible Greens wanting to spoil his freedom. Here’s my reply to one of Matt’s tweets on his timeline. You’ll notice that he hangs on Donald Trump’s every word.

This is one is incomprehensible.

This one uses the opportunity to spout racist and xenophobic nonsense.

O’Neill and his followers are ignorant of science and disdainful of expert advice from clinical practitioners. They think their ignorance trumps years of study, and clinical work, and all that matters is their ‘freedom’. I don’t like wishing illness or death on anyone, but in the case of O’Neill and his deadbeat acolytes, I’m happy to make exceptions. Perhaps a dose of Covid-19 will teach all of them a valuable lesson. Then again, maybe it won’t.

There’s a massive threat to public health, much of it is caused by Covid-19, but some of it will be caused by ignoramuses and anti-intellectual schmucks like O’Neill taking to social media and telling people that there’s nothing to worry about.

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Obeisance Is So 12th Century

Britain is swinging between two extremes. On the one hand, there’s a silly Blitz spirit being invoked in response to the coronavirus pandemic, while on the other, there are demands that cringing deference be paid to a cruel and incompetent government, which has wasted several weeks instead of preparing for the pandemic.

First, the definition of the word ‘obeisance’.

noun

a movement of the body expressing deep respect or deferential courtesy, as before a superior; a bow, curtsy, or other similar gesture.deference or homage:The nobles gave obeisance to the new king.

Last week, I read an interesting article by The Guardian’s Nesrine Malik, who wrote:

There is an odd piousness that infects the public and the media during times of national crisis. Overnight, our leaders are imbued with qualities they previously did not possess; in Boris Johnson’s case, with qualities he is notorious for not possessing. His pandemic management plan, one released with little supporting scientific evidence, is not to be questioned. It is to be followed and, if you like, praised. For those particularly susceptible to fetishising those in power in troubled times, it is to be hailed as not only clever, but a sort of counterintuitive genius. In Britain this is how we like our heroes – boffiny underdog types who retreat to their self-built labs at the bottom of the garden, and emerge with a panacea.

In these conditions, a leader is laundered of historical recklessness and proven incompetence. Any minor adjustments in behaviour become major corrections. There was a point towards the end of the government’s post-Cobra press conference when it became clear to me that Johnson was struggling to get through it all with a straight face, without making a quip. He ummed and aahed, fighting his compulsion by making vague noises. He almost pulled it off, but fell at the very last stretch, saying that the aim of the plan was to flatten the peak of the infection, to “squash that sombrero”. He then left with a hurried afterthought of a message to the stricken: “We will get through this.”

She continues:

Johnson and his team’s hagiography is already being written merely for coming up with a plan, not because it works, but because in times of crisis our exceptionalism becomes embodied in our leadership. We are keeping the country open as the rest of the world does the opposite because we have cracked it.

Things have moved on since that article was written and, last night, it was announced that pubs, bars and restaurants would close. This, however, prompted complaints from the usual quarters about freedoms being lost, some of which have been couched in World War 2 Blitz rhetoric, while others, like this one from Brendan O’Neill was simply idiotic.

Britain without its pubs is not Britain. It just isn’t. It becomes something else. Something worse. Something less free, less convivial, less human.

Yes, we all know that Covid-19 is a serious disease and we all agree that huge amounts of government resources should be devoted to tackling it and treating those infected by it.

Below this, O’Neill reaches for Orwell in a feeble attempt to justify the continued opening of pubs

But to halt everyday life, even pub life, in response to it? We didn’t do that during the far worse 1918 flu epidemic. Or during the Second World War. Or when the IRA was bombing actual pubs. We carried on. The pub continued. It had to. It’s the space where people meet and debate and fall in love and read their newspaper. As George Orwell said, forget the booze — though that is essential — what a pub really embodies is ‘atmosphere’.

O’Neill simply isn’t much good at thinking, and for all his complaints about ‘freedom’, there isn’t a single word about how public places like pubs, cafes and other places where people gather, are sites of possible infections. Like all anti-intellectuals, O’Neill believes that if you can’t see the threat, then it doesn’t exist. We should simply channel our inner Blitz spirit and carry on selfishly drinking while infecting those around us. O’Neill’s plea could go something like those stupid ‘Keep Calm’ posters which now emblazons tea towels and t-shirts.

Keep Calm

And

Carry On

Infecting Others

Former UKIP MEP and anti-intellectual, Godfrey Bloom also invoked World War 2 nostalgia with this ill-considered tweet.

Bloom was actually born 4 years after the end of the war and, in any case, this is a false equivalence. A virus is not the same as the Luftwaffe’s bombs and is arguably far deadlier because of its relative visibility and its ability to replicate itself inside cells. Perhaps what O’Neill and Bloom are really trying to tell us is that they’re piss heads.

Apart from the World War 2 nostalgia, there’s a hardcore of Tory politicians and their media hangers on, who have been complaining that there isn’t enough deference being shown to Boris Johnson and his hapless ministers. We’re supposed to shut up, stop complaining and pay homage to our glorious leaders. Here’s Dan Hodges complaining about shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, who rightly criticized Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s economic measures as not going far enough.

He was joined by Mrs Gove, who enjoys a few bottles of wine of an evening and then takes to Twitter to embarrass herself. This tweet ploughs roughly the same furrow as Hodges’ tweet. No surprise there, they both write for the same appalling newspaper, the Daily Mail.

Someone called Ash Hirani thought he’d emulate his Tory heroes with this tweet


Some Labour politicians are just as bad. Here’s a tweet from the Leader of Crawley Council.

Poor Wee Lamb is completely oblivious to the fact that Sunak’s measures don’t cover the self-employed and casual workers, and the government wasted several weeks pursuing its Social Darwinian ‘herd immunity’ notion. Perhaps this is the kind of opposition politicians that the likes of Hodges et al on Fleet Street want: unquestioning, uncritical and offering only token opposition. He would do well to read up on the history of the party of which he purports to be a member.

As Nesrine Malik observes, now is not the time for deference. I would add the criticality is vital to ensure that we not only get through this public health emergency, but ensure that workers of all kinds are financially protected, and that the government is properly held to account. Such things have escaped the attention of our selfish idiotic commentators. who would much rather wallow in World War 2 nostalgia, suck up to authority and whine about not being able to knock back oceans of booze under the slippery rubric of ‘freedom’.

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Wait. What? “Herd Immunity”?

Britain is ruled, since those in the current and previous Tory governments over the last ten years believe they rule, rather than govern, by a combination of idiots and monsters. They eschew learning and expertise for bunkum and blind faith. This was perfectly illustrated this morning when Robert Peston posted the following on Twitter:

Peston even repeats the government’s claims in a hastily written piece for The Spectator, a magazine known for its employment of racists, Nazi sympathizers and eugenicists. Peston writes:

The key phrase we all need to understand is ‘herd immunity’ – which is what happens to a group of people or animals when they develop sufficient antibodies to be resistant to a disease.

This claim is made without any support from peer-reviewed sources, and appears to have simply been accepted as fact from the mouth of a “Downing Street source”. Peston continues in much the same vein throughout the article.

The strategy of the British government in minimising the impact of Covid-19 is to allow the virus to pass through the entire population so that we acquire herd immunity, but at a much delayed speed so that those who suffer the most acute symptoms are able to receive the medical support they need, and such that the health service is not overwhelmed and crushed by the sheer number of cases it has to treat at any one time.

That this government should regard its citizens in such cod zoological terms should surprise no one. Eugenics, along with anti-intellectualism, is at the heart of government. Learning. erudition and expertise are held in disdain, while blind faith and pseudo-science are given pride of place. Indeed, Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister’s Chief Political Adviser, is himself a eugenicist, and recently advertised for “misfits and weirdos” to come and work in Downing Street. One such applicant was Andrew Sabisky, a eugenicist with similar beliefs, who claimed that black people have lower IQs than white people. Cummings was later forced to release Sabisky, a fellow eugencist from his employ.

In a blog posted in 2014, Cummings wrote:

“It is already the case that farmers use genomes to make predictions about cows’ properties and behaviour … It is already the case that rich people could use in vitro fertilisation to select the egg which they think will be most advantageous, because they can sequence genomes of multiple eggs and examine each one to look for problems then pick the one they prefer. Once we identify a substantial number of IQ genes, there is no obvious reason why rich people will not select the egg that has the highest prediction for IQ.

“This clearly raises many big questions. If the poor cannot do the same, then the rich could quickly embed advantages and society could become not only more unequal but also based on biological classes. One response is that if this sort of thing does become possible, then a national health system should fund everybody to do this. (I.e. it would not mandate such a process but it would give everybody a choice of whether to make use of it.) Once the knowledge exists, it is hard to see what will stop some people making use of it and offering services to – at least – the super-rich.”

Cummings, like the rest of the government, has neither a degree in medicine, biology or any other science. He isn’t a clinician, a virologist, an epidemiologist or even a veterinary surgeon and yet, people take him seriously. In fact, he studied Ancient and Modern History at Oxford under Norman Stone. Make of that what you will.

Only the other day, BBC2’s Newsnight invited well-known clinician, Nigel Farage, into the studio to discuss the coronavirus pandemic. Nigel Farage? Really? Where does the media’s idiocy end?

There will be many people in Britain who won’t question the government’s inaction or its eugenicist ‘solutions’, and will believe wholeheartedly that ministers and advisers are to be trusted simply because they are there, wear expensive suits and speak in perfect English. Hence, the alleged popularity of bigots like the languid Jacob Rees Mogg, who retweets neo-Nazis and dines with Nazi sympathizers. It isn’t beyond the realms of possibility than Rees Mogg is also a supporter of eugenics.

In Britain, anti-intellectualism rides tall in the saddle, and is protected and encouraged by the likes of Robert Peston, who, rather than do the job of a journalist, acts as an unofficial Information Minister to this cruel and incompetent regime. We can do better than this.

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The Tories’ Exploitation Of Voter Apathy

How many times have you heard some people say, when referring to political parties, that “they’re all the same” or “there’s no difference”. There may have been some truth to these beliefs once upon a time, but things have changed, and while Blair’s Nu Labour project bore little resemblance to the Labour Party, which was often referred to as “Old Labour”, and more resembled the Tories, there is real difference between the parties. Of course, that isn’t the way that either the Conservative Party or large sections of the media want you to see things.

In the last two General Elections, the Tories cynically played the “they’re all as bad as each other” card to win seats. Sadly, too many people still fall for these PR shenanigans. In 2015, the Cameron-led party won a majority and two years later, the May-led party lost almost all of that majority. In each case, they used the same slogans and tried to exploit the electorate by resorting to the “they’re all just as bad, so vote for us” strategy. In this election, like dogs returning to their vomit, they have gone back to the previous elections and dusted off the same tired messages: “coalition of chaos”, a “Labour/Corbyn-SNP/Sturgeon alliance” and so on.

However, rather than offer a semblance of balance, the media has been all too willing to amplify these messages. For example, last Friday’s terrorist incident at London Bridge has seen the BBC, particularly, claim that “both parties” have “politicized” the tragedy , this is despite being urged not to do so by the father of one of the victims. Only one party has been exploiting the incident for political gain and that’s the Conservative Party.

Today, Neil O’Brien, the Tory candidate for Harborough, Oadby & Wigston and former head of Policy Exchange tweeted this:

Of course, he isn’t the only one, but he’s the only one that I replied to today.

The rationale behind the Tories’ efforts to undermine trust in politics stems from their desire to rule at all costs. They may talk about ‘effective oppositions’ but it’s all hot air. If anything, they’d prefer a token opposition like the one that existed in Francoist Spain if they had to face one at all. Tories, contrary to what they say, despise democracy and would prefer it if people didn’t vote. Please disappoint them by not voting Tory on 12 December, people’s lives are depending on it.

Don’t fall for the Tories’ cynical PR. Vote them out.

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BBC: We Made A ‘Mistake’

If there’s one thing The Cat hates it’s being thought of as stupid. The French have a great saying: tu me prends pour de la merde, meaning ‘you take me for shit’?

Taking us for shit is precisely what the BBC has been doing for a long time. In the space of a mere couple of weeks, the Corporation has doctored video footage of Boris Johnson laying a wreath at the Cenotaph and only a couple of days ago, it edited out the laughter at his response to an audience member’s question on the issue of trust. Instead of admitting it deliberately edited out the laughter and stitched applause into the soundtrack, the Corporation has insisted it was a “mistake”. It’s as if those in positions of authority at the BBC believe everyone outside their world is stupid.

However, those of us who know how digital editing platforms work understand how footage can be manipulated to tell any story you like. Media Studies and Media Production students know this and it is perhaps for this reason that politicians especially dismiss these subjects “useless”. Their claims barely conceal their anti-intellectualism and authoritarian tendencies. These people hate the idea of an educated working class and fear a politically conscious electorate.

The Corporation’s attitude in this and other matters is high-handed and arrogant, and this air of condescension and smug superiority comes from the social and cultural capital of its executives and editors, who are mainly drawn from the social institutions of Britain’s bourgeoisie. That’s the Oxbridge and public/independent schools to you and me.

There may be some decent people at the state broadcaster, but they’re rather thin on the ground these days. There is a culture of bullying at the BBC and many are too scared to step out of line, while others are only to eager to promote the government’s narrative during this General Election campaign.

Ironically, three years ago, the BBC announced that it would “help students to identify false news”. Given their penchant for misleading the viewing public through their use of creative editing, perhaps they could use themselves as an example of how to really generate false news.

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Propaganda, Lies And The BBC

I don’t think anyone can convincingly argue that the current general election is a fair fight. The Tories and their friends in the establishment media will never concede when they’re in the wrong nor will they admit to doctoring photographs or editing video footage to flatter their hero, Boris Johnson, nor will they admit that the words they’ve chosen to use in each political, news or current affair programme have been carefully selected to implant messages in voters’ minds.

The BBC’s so-called Question Time leaders’ debate on Thursday was such an occasion. Few people, apart from those with agendas or whose senses have been so badly compromised that they fail to see what’s in front of them, can say that Boris Johnson performed well, nor can any of those people claim that Jo Swinson did well. Yet, former Blairite SpAd, propagandist and wannabe comedian, Matt Forde tweeted.

He must have been watching a different leaders’ ‘debate’ because I found Swinson to be superficial, lacking in detail and all too quick to fall back on the ‘Jeremy Corbyn is an anti-Semite’ slur to get her out of trouble. Swinson may be quick to use anti-Semitism as a political weapon but when it comes to Hostile Environment and Windrush, she’s nowhere to be seen. Indeed, a hierarchy of racism and suffering has been constructed over the course of the last 5 years, in which non-Jewish minorities come a long way down in the taxonomy of ‘races’, and politicians like Swinson promote and perpetuate it through their words and deeds.

In the aftermath of that ‘debate’, only one poll surfaced, which laughingly claimed that the Conservatives were 17 points ahead of Labour.

Yesterday, Murdoch hack, Tim Shipman tweeted his seat projection based on that fake poll.

But that isn’t the worst of it. In the BBC News bulletins that followed the ‘debate’, newsreaders and reporters kept telling us how each leader faced questions of trust. Be in no doubt, this is the BBC’s way of telling you that, if you don’t trust any of the leaders, then you may as well vote Tory (because they’re the natural party of government). This is the same cynical “they’re all as bad as each other” approach that was used by David Cameron in 2015 and Theresa May in 2017. Only this time, it’s the BBC, the state broadcaster, who are using it.

Even when the BBC are caught editing video footage, they continue to lie about it. Take this tweet from Peter Oborne, who’d noticed what thousands of other viewers had noticed about the editing out of laughter when Johnson gave his reply to the question of trust.

Instead of putting their hands up and admitting to the doctoring of video footage, they doubled down and added a lie instead.

Tory Fibs tweeted the doctored footage:

Steve Brookstein added.

Ironically, the BBC’s technology editor, Rory Cellan-Jones wrote this piece for the BBC website in October in which he says:

New research shows an alarming surge in the creation of so-called deepfake videos, with the number online almost doubling in the last nine months. There is also evidence that production of these videos is becoming a lucrative business.

And while much of the concern about deepfakes has centred on their use for political purposes, the evidence is that pornography accounts for the overwhelming majority of the clips.

As Orgreave and ‘Wreathgate’ show us, the BBC isn’t above producing deepfake videos of its own.

The BBC has a fact-checking service that it’s named ‘Reality Check’. It may want to reconsider that name in the near future.

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