Category Archives: Free Press Myth

The Crazy Upside Down World Of Helen Lewis

Helen Lewis is the deputy editor of the notionally left-wing journal The New Statesman.  Her views on Jeremy Corbyn are well known and she’s a regular on the BBC’s Sunday Politics.  Today, while Harriet Harman, Labour’s former interim leader appeared on the Andrew Marr Show, she issued this Tweet to her followers.

Come again? Harriet Harman did what?  Lewis has got this arse about face. Harman has stood up for the establishment, not “stood up against it” as she claims.  Indeed, she even ordered Labour MPs to vote for the government’s damaging Welfare Bill.  Weeks later, Harman changed her mind and told Southwark News that she’d “oppose it” – that’s after she ordered Labour MPs to vote for it.  And she’s thought of as leadership material?

In the last few weeks, the media has paraded a series of Orwellian neologisms like “post truth politics” before us.  Can we therefore regard Lewis’s Tweet as “post-reality”?  Let’s remember that Lewis herself comes from a privileged background and is, for all intents and purposes, like Harman, a member of the establishment.  So it’s unlikely that she possesses the ability to identify anti-establishmentarianism and is more likely to characterize it as something else.

Later on, and perhaps spurred on by the appearance of Harman,  Lewis went a little further and began banging the drum for Corbyn to quit.

So what was the reason for this?  Corbyn has ordered a three-line whip on the vote for Article 50, which triggers the Brexit process.  What hacks like Lewis and her colleagues in the anti-Corbyn media fail to understand (frankly odd for a political journalist) is that Article 50 is merely a Parliamentary mechanism.  The actual debate on the precise nature of Brexit takes place later.  Instead, the mass media has been misleading the public with the notion that Article 50 is the final stage in the process, thus they rely on the general public’s ignorance of Parliamentary procedures.  This is the same ignorance that was exploited during the referendum campaign itself.  It’s yet the latest stage in an ongoing attempt to remove Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party, and the likes of Lewis won’t rest until they see someone picked by them in the role.  That, friends, is not only contempt for the democratic process that elected Corbyn, but it is also contempt for ordinary party members.

Fake news?  You’ll get loads of it from Lewis and her fellow hacks.

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Filed under Free Press Myth, Journalism, Media, propaganda, Yellow journalism

He Killed His Own People!

The Cat has always been bemused by the claim that so-and-so “has killed his own people”. This line of argument is usually deployed in advance of an invasion, air campaign or the implementation of a ‘no fly zone’. When one unpacks this argument, it is always found wanting and reveals the hypocrisy at the heart of the establishment’s rationale for military adventurism.  Sometimes the phrase “he’s another Hitler” will be added for dramatic effect.

In the run up to Gulf War I, we were told Saddam Hussein had “killed his own people”.  When Gulf War II rolled around, he also become “another Hitler”.  By his “own people”, the warmongers and the news media were referring specifically to the Kurds.  But Saddam Hussein didn’t see the Kurds as “his own people” and he wasn’t alone in this: it is a view that had been consistent in Baghdad throughout the history of Iraq, since it became nominally independent from Britain in 1932.

The Kurds (led by the powerful and corrupt Barzani clan) had constantly been in conflict with Baghdad since independence and had been waging a guerilla war in Northern Iraq for decades.  A full blown war between the Iraqi Kurds and the Iraqi government took place in 1961.  But this isn’t to say that Kurds didn’t participate in Iraqi politics or in government.  They did.  General Bakr Sidqi, for example, was the head of Iraq’s army.  He led the forces that participated in the Simele Massacre of 1933, which saw thousands of Assyrians slaughtered as they fled towards the Syrian border. Sidqi, King Ghazi and the Prime Minister Rashid Ali al-Gaylani, didn’t see the Assyrians as “their people” either.  Al-Gaylani would return as Prime Minister in a coup in 1941 and enter into a short-lived pact with Nazi Germany until he was overthrown by the British in the same year.

Western news media – especially British and American news media – have repeated ad infinitum the claim that Bashar al-Assad has “killed his own people” to rally public support for official military intervention and the eventual toppling of the Syrian president.  That Assad has killed his own people isn’t in doubt, but his forces have also killed people that the West ironically sees as its allies. Fighters from the al-Nusra Front, for example.

Britain and the United States have historically offered much support to national leaders that have “killed their own people”. Many of these leaders were military strongmen that were entertained by British and American governments because of their impeccable anti-communist credentials.  Below is a partial list.

  1. Nursultan Nazarbayev (current president of Kazakhstan)
  2. Islam Karimov (Uzbekistan, 1989 – 2016). His successor, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, is just as if not more violently repressive.
  3. Suharto (Indonesia, 1967 – 1998)
  4. Mobutu Sese Seko (Zaire, 1965 – 1997)
  5. General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte (Chile, 1973 – 1989)
  6. Generalissimo Francisco Franco Bahamonde (Spain, 1936 – 1975)
  7. The Greek Colonels (1967 – 1974)
  8. Air Chief Marshal Hosni Mubarak (Egypt, 1981 – 2011)
  9. Colonel Anwar Sadat (Egypt, 1970 – 1981)
  10. General Zia al-Haq (Pakistan, 1978 – 1988)
  11. Generalissimo Rafael Trujillo (Dominican Republic, 1942-1952)
  12. Jose Efrain Rios Montt (Guatemala, 1982 – 1983)
  13. Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (Iran, 1941 – 1979)

The conflict in Syria, like that in Iraq has been subject to the most deceitful, one-sided coverage with the siege and aerial bombardment of Aleppo becoming the focus of some pretty blatant propaganda. In short, we’re getting a raw deal from our news providers. Patrick Cockburn in today’s Independent writes:

The dominance of propaganda over news in coverage of the war in Syria has many negative consequences. It is a genuine civil war and the exclusive focus of on the atrocities committed by the Syrian armed forces on an unarmed civilian population gives a skewed picture of what is happening. These atrocities are often true and the UN says that 82 civilians may have been summarily executed in east Aleppo last month. But, bad though this is, it is a gross exaggeration to compare what has happened in Aleppo to genocide in Rwanda in 1994 or the massacre in Srebrenica the following year.

In the same paper Robert Fisk writes:

But it’s time to tell the other truth: that many of the “rebels” whom we in the West have been supporting – and which our preposterous Prime Minister Theresa May indirectly blessed when she grovelled to the Gulf head-choppers last week – are among the cruellest and most ruthless of fighters in the Middle East. And while we have been tut-tutting at the frightfulness of Isis during the siege of Mosul (an event all too similar to Aleppo, although you wouldn’t think so from reading our narrative of the story), we have been willfully ignoring the behaviour of the rebels of Aleppo.

Our leaders, though they may claim otherwise, have also “killed their own people” and we don’t need to cast our minds back that far.  The brutal regime of cuts to social security by the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition (2010-15) drove people to commit suicide, and although these people died by their own hand, it was the government’s policies that were ultimately responsible for their deaths.   Why?  Because this is a feature of what Pierre Bourdieu and Loic Wacquant called “symbolic violence”, which gets the victim to carry out acts of violence against themselves, thus obviating the need for actual physical violence from the state.  It’s a pretty clever trick.  No?

Governments are more than happy to kill their own people, even in so-called ‘democracies’. It isn’t confined solely to certain Middle Eastern countries.

Reference

Bourdieu, P., & Wacquant, L.J.D. (2003). Symbolic violence. na. Available at: http://cges.umn.edu/docs/Bourdieu_and_Wacquant.Symbolic_Violence.pdf  Accessed 29/2/16

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Filed under Free Press Myth, Ideologies, Iraq, Journalism, Media, Middle East, propaganda, Syria, Yellow journalism

Fake News?

I was somewhat amused to read that Tom Watson, Labour’s Deputy Leader, was going to “investigate” fake news sites. I was even more amused when I discovered that he’d appointed Michael Dugher, a man who has already penned articles for The S*n to lead the, er, inquiry.

Like many other Twitter users, I asked Watson if his investigation was going to look at the production of fake news stories in The S*n, The Daily Mail and the Daily Express. I have yet to receive a reply.

So what is ‘fake news’? Doesn’t the British press publish fake news stories on a daily basis? Apparently the first focus of this ‘investigation’ is The Canary, a site whose business model is essentially based on clickbait-style headlines. Many of The Canary’s articles tend to be drawn from other stories that are arranged to produce a particular narrative (a lot of bloggers do it). It’s mostly comment.

It is also claimed that The Canary carries links to conspiracy theories but after a quick look around the site, I have failed to find any. However, it would be fair to say that The Canary is rather pro-Corbyn. Perhaps this is what Watson hates the most about the site. But being pro-Corbyn doesn’t mean The Canary is guilty of producing ‘fake news’ stories. Yet, this question of informational fakeness begs the question regarding the conspiracy sites run by Alex Jones. These include Prison Planet and Infowars. What about them? Aren’t they guilty of producing ‘fake news’? Watson and Dugher may find it harder to pursue Jones because he lives in the United States. The Canary is based in Britain.

So what about the fake news produced by official news outlets? The BBC has also produced fake news stories. Take the Battle of Orgreave, the BBC stitched together footage to give viewers the impression that the militarised police were being charged by a violent mob of miners. The reverse was true.

British newspapers routinely make up news stories and some are more guilty of this than others. This infamous front page appeared in The Sunday Sport in 1988.

 

The Daily Express is best known for its front page health scare stories and its slavish devotion to the Cult of Diana. It also supports UKIP and frequently prints hate stories about “loony lefties” and “luvvies”. This June, it published its Top 10 of ‘barmy’ EU decisions. They were either fake or sensible decisions.

One of the most persistent myths served up as a truth is the ‘straight banana’ story produced by Boris Johnson, a man who regards the £200, 000 for each article he writes as “chicken feed”.

Two years ago, The Daily Express published a fake news story that claimed that “half of all British Muslims supported ISIS”. The story was later pulled from its website. In 2011, its sister paper, The Sunday Express claimed that the EU wanted to “merge the UK and France”.  This prompted Roy Greenslade to write in his Guardian column that “nothing could be done” about these stories. Why not? Aren’t these papers equally as guilty of misinforming the public as the supposedly fake news sites?

Like the Daily Express, The Daily Mail is a tireless publisher of hate stories and has spent the best part of its history stirring up hatred of minorities. Last year, it printed a story that claimed Ralph Miliband “hated” Britain. There was no evidence to support this claim and even in the face of criticism from many quarters, it was unrepentant and even went so far as to repeat its spurious claims.

It would also appear that some people are unable to tell the difference between satire and fake news.  The Daily Mash, Newsthump, The Onion, Waterford Whispers and other sites produce satirical stories that resemble news stories. There is a point to this:  to satirize the so-called ‘free press’ one needs to adopt its motifs and ridicule them. Will Watson and Dugher pursue them too?

Media Studies is often derided by its critics as an “easy subject” that permits students to “ponce about with video cameras”. The real reason its detractors in the press and the political world hate the subject so much is because it provides students with the tools to analyse and critique the media. The last thing these two groups of powerful people wants is a media savvy public that calls out bullshit when they see it.

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The Matrix, The Media And Postmodern Politics

I often use the film,  The Matrix (Wachowski Bros., 1999), as a way to introduce students to postmodernist ideas and how they dominate contemporary political thinking, and also to illustrate the hyper-reality that permeates the social space. The Wachowskis, who directed The Matrix claimed to have been inspired in part by Jean Baudrillard’s book Simulacra and Simulation (2008).  Baudrillard, for his part, scoffed at their claims.

Baudrillard himself was influenced by the Situationist International and, in particular, Guy Debord’s seminal Society of the Spectacle (2005) and we can see trace elements of his work in the book’s first chapter ‘The Precession of Simulacra’. This is Baudrillard’s starting point on a bewildering journey of that takes in counterfeits, illusions,  superficiality and the collapse of meaning. As Debord (2005) himself said:

The spectacle grasped in its totality is both the result and the project of the existing mode of production. It is not a supplement to the real world, an additional decoration. It is the heart of the unrealism of the real society. In all its specific forms, as information or propaganda, as advertisement or direct entertainment consumption, the spectacle is the present model of socially dominant life. It is the omnipresent affirmation of the choice already made in production and its corollary consumption. The spectacle’s form and content are identically the total justification of the existing system’s conditions and goals. The spectacle is also the permanent presence of this justification, since it occupies the main part of the time lived outside of modern production.

For those who are unfamiliar with it, The Matrix is about a computer-generated world that resembles a computer game in which the rules can be bent, subverted or ignored. In gaming parlance, these are ‘cheats’ that can be unlocked through a combination of gaming knowledge and shrewd game play. Such things as ‘invulnerability’ and ‘extra body armour’ aren’t available to those going about their everyday lives. Instead, we can only challenge the falsehoods and deceptions by using critical thinking and gaining as much insight as we possibly can through reading critical theory.

However, many of those who inhabit the hyper-real space of The Matrix are so distracted by what they see, they are either incapable of seeing through it or choose not to question it. They are, as Morpheus tells Neo “so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system that they will fight to protect it”.  The postmodern problem with politics can be illustrated in the way in which Westminster’s establishment politicians will speak only in slogans and soundbites but it can also be seen in the way they have constructed an alternative universe from tropes, myths, lies and fragments of memories. Many people will accept these things as faits accomplis and will refuse to question the alternate reality that’s been constructed by postmodern politicians with the collusion of a supine media.

An example of this alternate universe can be seen in the recent Labour leadership election, in which the media believed it had more of a say than the members themselves. In one corner, we had Jeremy Corbyn, the incumbent leader. In the other corner, was Owen Smith and behind him were ranged most of the Parliamentary Labour Party, the media and those supporters who subscribed to the secondhand, moth-eaten TINA philosophy of New Labour. Their notion of being on the political left went no further than supporting a woman’s right to choose and equal marriage. Beyond that, their views intersected with the socially liberal sections of the Conservative Party. They were, for all intents and purposes, counterfeit Labour MPs. Beneath the slogans and PR gimmicks lay the dark heart of nothingness.

And so it is with those who can see no other kind of Labour Party but a right-wing one that offers nothing but watered down Tory policies.  Even those who claim to be on the Left fail to see how far to the right the PLP has shifted over the course of 30 years.  Their approach to their members and the electorate-at-large is both contemptuous and patronising. This shift was is best illustrated in the figure of Rachel Reeves, who casually announced last year that Labour “wasn’t the party of benefit claimants”. In this statement, she inadvertently revealed what many of us knew already: that the Labour Party under successive right-wing leaders has been more interested in cultivating relationships with people with 6, 7 and 8 figure incomes than the poorest in society – the ones who have pinned their hopes on Labour to ameliorate their dire circumstances. But aren’t benefit claimants, many of whom are in work, voters too? Not in Reeves’s alternate universe.

Yet Reeves recently topped that by channelling of Powellite language to make the claim that continued immigration would ultimately lead to violence on our streets. In this, her rhetoric is little different to that coming from the mouths of UKIP politicians. Instead of challenging the right-wing populism of UKIP, politicians like Reeves pander to it. Moreover, Reeves and her fellow right-wing Labour MPs can only view the working class – the very people her party was created to represent – through the lens of a Punch caricature. For her and her fellow travellers the working class are universally ignorant and xenophobic. In this, she and they are little different to the Tories, but tell them that and they’ll get offended.

Instead, Labour has abandoned people like these to the clutches of the UKIP and the rest of the far-right rabble. Indeed, the current upsurge in racist attacks is partly the fault of the Blairite-Brownite-Milibandian Labour Party that was more concerned chasing Tory votes by announcing it was “getting tough” on immigration during the 2015 General Election than facing racism head on. Instead, we have Labour politicians telling us that they “got it wrong” on immigration and speaking in such a way as to reinforce the beliefs of the xenophobes and racists, all of whom have  been emboldened by Brexit. The mass media joins the chorus by claiming “immigration is the single biggest issue in the minds of voters”. Yet for many people, the housing crisis, the continuing privatization of the NHS and wage stagnation are much bigger issues.

Let’s return to the Labour leadership contest and, in particular, the claim that Corbyn’s supporters were “thugs” and “bullies”. This was constructed almost entirely from the notion that popular movements are, by themselves, dangerous and this led to the propagation of ahistorical narratives that were based on little more than loosely connected fragments of memories of the 1980s and 1930s. Thus frequent and rather slippery comparisons were made between Momentum, The Militant Tendency and the Nazi Party. None of these comparisons were in any way valid and yet the press accepted these claims as truths. Take this article in The Daily Mail written by Michael Foster, a Nu Labour donor and former failed candidate.  He opens by telling readers:

Saturday of last week in my home town of Camborne, the Corbyn Circus rolled into town. A crowd of 2,000 disciples came from all over Cornwall to cheer and clap and worship. One after another, Momentum speakers praised ‘Jeremy’ and spoke of the hope he gave them, the socialism he would bring to Britain.

I’ve emboldened the keywords in this extract because they set the tone for the rest of the article, which claims the Corbyn and his supporters in Momentum are cultists and as dangerous as the Sturmabteilung or Brownshirts. This ignores the fact that Tony Blair has attracted a near cult-like devotion among his followers, who sing his praises and ignore his many failings.

In this extract, Foster makes a lazy connection between his Jewishness, Blairism and anti-Semitism.

If you are like me, a Jewish donor to Labour, you are smeared as a Blairite conspirator, plotting to falsely use the accusation of anti-Semitism to damage the Left.

He segues this into the brick that was allegedly thrown through Angela Eagle’s constituency office window (sic).

It matters not whether you are Angela Eagle with a brick through a window, Stella Creasy with a mob outside her constituency office, or Labour general secretary Iain McNicol with a letter threatening court action unless he secured victory for Corbyn at an NEC vote.

Again, my bold. The brick incident was one of the biggest anti-Corbyn stories in the press during the leadership election, and was used to construct the narrative that Momentum were in fact Nazis in disguise, rather than people who wanted to see a move away from the managerialist politics of Nu Labour and the perpetuation of austerity economics. This was alternated with the claim that Momentum was a throwback to the 1980s and Militant, who have been wrongly maligned by the media as a some cancerous force that ate the right-wing Kinnock-led Labour Party from within. Historical materialism was cast aside to produce this ridiculous narrative, which was repeated ad infinitum and ad nauseum on television and in the press.  The simple facts that Kinnock refused to support the miners’ strike and told people to pay the much-hated Poll Tax were simply ignored.  So much for facts or anything like them. So much for history.

Perhaps the worst part of  Foster’s article is the fact that he chose to write it for The Daily Mail, a paper with a long history of anti-Semitism and unqualified support for Hitler. As for the brick through the window, it landed in a communal stairwell. Moreover, it couldn’t be proven that the brick had been thrown by a Corbyn supporter. Yet the mass media, the Tories, Liberal Democrats, UKIP and the Labour Right repeated the narrative uncritically as though it was an open and shut case of Nazi-style political thuggery.

The penultimate paragraph in the Foster article makes this historically ignorant claim:

Britain is not a land of extreme politics. From the Reform Acts of 1832, 1868 and 1884 and even the Attlee Government of 1945, Britain’s people have always rejected extremism.

None of the things he mentions were a rejection of “extremism”. The Reform Act of 1832, for example, extended the franchise to all men and abolished the rotten and pocket boroughs. How he manages to squeeze the Attlee Government into this is beyond me.  The Tories saw many of the Attlee’s reforms as extreme, especially the creation of the National Health Service, which they bitterly opposed.

Manufactured stunts such as the on-air resignation of obscure Labour right-winger, Stephen Doughty or the political theatrics of John Mann ambushing Ken Livingstone outside The Daily Politics studio, contributed to a tapestry of lies that the Labour Party was crawling with anti-Semites. The fact that a Tory parliamentary candidate had been suspended from his party this year for anti-Semitic remarks was never mentioned, or that various members of UKIP have frequently uttered racist, sexist and anti-Semitic comments were conveniently swept under the carpet to promote a narrative of Labour being the country’s most anti-Semitic political party.

David Cameron’s Tory government was run along the lines of a slick public relations outfit.  One example of this can be seen in Jeremy Hunt’s insistence on wearing an NHS lapel badge in spite of his continuing evisceration of the health service.

The claim being made by this sartorial choice is “I believe in the NHS”. This contradicts the position he took on the NHS before he became Health Secretary.

So-called ‘health tourism’ and its companion ‘benefits tourism’ are repeated constantly by the Conservatives and UKIP alike to support the narrative that the country is “full up” and people come here to claim our “generous benefits”. Such narratives are constructed to further bolster the Tory, UKIP and Labour Right claim that “we” need to limit immigration. Yet without EU immigrants, the NHS would most likely collapse.

The splits in the Conservative Party over Brexit are routinely covered up while splits in the Labour Party are highlighted. As I write this, Tory MP, Claire Perry, is in the Daily Politics studio denying the splits in her party and instead shifts the focus onto the Labour Party. She isn’t challenged by Jo Coburn, who simply nods in agreement.

In the weeks leading up to the EU referendum, television news programmes continually broadcast vox pops interviews, many of which repeated internalised national myths and politicians’ soundbites. Some of the most common claims were “We stood alone during the Battle of Britain we can do it again” and “We can stand on our own two feet because I believe in the inventiveness of the British people”. Neither of these statements are based on facts or truths.  The first claim is based partly on myths and mostly on lies: during the Battle of Britain, airmen from Poland, The United States, Canada and the Caribbean came to this country to fight the Nazis. Such historical facts have been wiped from the memories of many British people and replaced by myths imparted to them by the tabloid press. The second claim is based on nothing more that wishful thinking and wild-eyed romanticism.  Yet these myths persist in the public domain because the media refuses to challenge them.  I was watching BBC News yesterday, when they conducted vox pops interviews in Berlin on the subject of Angela Merkel’s announcement that she would stand as her party’s (CSU/CDU) candidate for Chancellor in the forthcoming elections. Each person offered a view that was well-informed and which contained some degree of analysis. In this country, vox pops interviews will often contain no analysis and a great deal of ill-informed opinion.

Opinion has been substituted for hard news and informed analysis. Once respected news programmes like Newsnight have become little more than an outlet for state, and by extension, Tory propaganda.  According to a poll conducted by Ipsos-MORI, Labour had closed the gap with the Tories by nine percentage points. This was a cue for Newsnight to run this bizarre and somewhat short interview with Yair Lapid, the chairman of Israel’s Yesh Atid party.

What’s so odd about this interview is the fact that it wasn’t actually mentioned at the top of the programme.

Last night’s edition of Newsnight claimed that “most Labour voters want to see Blair return to lead the party”. This contradicts a poll conducted by YouGov in early October, which claims that the party would haemorrhage support to The Greens and even the Liberal Democrats.

Truth? Facts? Reality? Who needs them? Keep drinking the Kool-Aid.

References

Baudrillard, J. (2008). Simulacra and Simulation. University of Michigan Press

Debord, G. (2005). Society of the Spectacle, Detroit: Black and Red.

The Matrix (Wachowski Bros., 1999)

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Corbyn And The Media (Part 1)

Ever since Jeremy Corbyn announced he was standing as a candidate in last year’s leadership election, the smear stories have been relentless and increasingly shrill in their tone.  This week has seen the absurd ‘List’, which was leaked to The Times and the ratcheting up of a dodgy story about Ian Lavery pocketing loads of union money.  All of this happened, coincidentally, on the back of a good showing in the polls for the Labour Party.

Yet, some of these anti-Corbyn stories are downright hilarious, and others are just plain sloppy. A few days ago, I came across this article in The Independent in which someone called Caitlin Doherty, who says she’s a student, claims to have left the Labour Party because of “Jeremy Corbyn”. Well, that’s what the headline says and who am I to argue? Sod it, I’m going to argue. I’m going to argue that this article is little more than clickbait. Howzat?

I’m a student Labour supporter – but I just quit the party over Jeremy Corbyn

Last summer Young Labour blanketed itself in a sense of euphoria. Yes, our party may have lost the election; our optimism, encouraged by pollsters and the unexpected popularity of the Milifandom, may have been initially destroyed. But it wasn’t the end; it was just the start of a new beginning.

There was a new guy on the Labour scene: a guy who looked oddly like your granddad, wore tweed suits and rode a pushbike through Islington. Jeremy Corbyn was set to change the face of the tired and irrelevant Labour Party, and that hot bed of lefties – the student population of Britain – was understandably excited.

So far, so clichéd.

That euphoria, however, is slowly bringing about the end of the Labour party. According to figures released this week, the tidal wave of support that pushed Corbyn to the opposition front bench is coming to an end. For the first time since the general election of May 2015, more people are leaving the Labour Party than joining. And I am among them.

Caitlin links to this misleading article by Andrew Grice in the same paper (sic) that was published the day before, which makes the bold claim that party membership is “falling”. Predictably, Grice offers no sources for his claim.

The majority of these Labour “deserters” are thought, like me, to be the students that drove him to success: the idealists who were swept up in the hashtags and headlines became quickly bored and have moved on elsewhere, it is said. This sweeping assumption does Labour students a great disservice.

“The majority”? Some numbers would be nice or maybe a link? No chance. “Hashtags and headlines”… don’t you just love alliterations? They’re almost as good as tropes and there’s loads of them in this article.

Students aren’t leaving Labour because it isn’t trendy anymore. Students are leaving Labour because they are fed up. Fed up with the ecstatic reception Corbyn still receives – particularly in UK universities where Labour Societies have become increasingly elite and exclusive to ardent Corbynites, with no room for questioning Our Great Leader – despite very little demonstration of any opposition to the increasingly strident Conservative Government.

Was being a member of the Labour Party ever “trendy”? Notice how she slips in the word “Corbynites” and “Our Great Leader”, the latter of which I often see being used on comments threads beneath pro and anti-Corbyn articles.

Caitlin’s previous effort for The Indy was this article on how to survive ‘A’ Levels.

I traced her to the Huffington Post, which tells us:

Caitlin is a second year English Literature student at the University of East Anglia, the Global Editor of UEA’s ‘Concrete and a writer for several other local and national publications. A passionate writer, committed politics follower, and occasional book reader she can often be found getting very angry about something.

She’s written three articles for them.

However, with a little digging, I discovered that Caitlin also writes for the University of East Anglia’s student rag.  Last September, she wrote this article in which she says:

In a so-called “unity statement” on his campaign website he argues that: “There is no place for personal animosity, negative campaigning, and saying or doing anything now that will damage our ability to work together as one party”. and he urges supporters to add their signatures to this statement of intent. Campaign proclamations aside, whoever finds themselves elected leader in a few weeks’ time will likely have Jeremy Corbyn to thank for an increasingly disunited and fractured Labour Party.

I don’t think she joined Labour because of Corbyn.

I reckon our Caitlin would make a great Progress intern or a Murdoch hack. How about you?

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The Labour Leadership Contest: Who’s Voting? The Party Members Or The Tory Media?

Whose leadership contest is this? The Labour Party’s or the right-wing media? First, the Blairites tell us who they want as leader of the Labour Party (as if we didn’t know already), then the Tory-controlled press pipes up to tell us who should be leader. I always thought the members decided by secret ballot who becomes the next Labour leader. It seems the media gets in on the act too. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard the word ‘modernizer’ prefacing a candidate’s name. For example, James Landale, the BBC’s Old Etonian and contemporary of David Cameron, will claim that “Yvette Cooper is a modernizer” and Chuka Umunna “is known as a modernizer”. It seems to me that the word ‘modernizer’ is a euphemistic way of claiming “this is a candidate who has the approval of Britain’s Tory-dominated media” but which also suggests “they won’t be beholden to the unions”.

The BBC said of Chuka Umunna.

He’s always been seen as smart and ambitious, metropolitan and a moderniser – he appeared alongside Lord Mandelson on Andrew Marr’s sofa on Sunday.

Appearing alongside the undead Mandelson was seen by the BBC as both an anointment of Umunna and a vindication of Blairism. Fuck off.

The British press has been hysterical in its coverage of the leadership election. Take this thinly-disguised hatchet job in the Daily Mail. Or this one that stokes the fires of “Red Len” paranoia.

The hardline Socialist boss of Unite – Labour’s chief paymaster and sponsor of more than 60 per cent of its MPs – has a visceral hatred of Blairite ‘modernisers’, who seek to reconnect the party with aspirational middle England following its humiliation in the general election.

And he’s doing everything in his power to drive them out.

Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy – a prominent Blairite – is the latest casualty.

He resigned on Saturday over what he described as the ‘poisonous’ war being waged by Mr McCluskey and his supporters against the modernisers.

It’s almost like reading a Daily Mail article from the 1920s. “The hardline Socialist boss of Unite” it screams hysterically. Notice how the word socialism is emphasized using an upper case ‘S’. Oh, scary. I’d better look under my bed to see if Grigory Zinoviev’s corpse is lying underneath. If you manage to get to the end of the article, there are a few paragraphs about Cameron’s former ‘adviser’, Steve Hilton too.

With the Labour party in deep disarray, Mr Cameron has a chance to lead one of the most reforming – and longstanding – Governments of recent times.

As the Situationist graffiti once said, ” Reform, my ass”. Hilton’s only telling us what we already know. Fuck off.

A day later, a slightly cheerier Mail article breezily declares that “Unions will not get to choose Labour leader”.

Modernisers in the Labour party want to avoid what happened when Ed Miliband beat his brother David for the job with the support of the unions.

It left the Tories able to claim the unions picked the leader, chose the policies and bankrolled the Labour party.

Ah, the damned dissembling Daily Mail, where would we be without your version of the truth? Of course, there’s no mention here of the hedge fund managers and construction companies that bankroll the Conservative Party. Unions are bad, yet JCB is good. Fuck off.

Over at the Daily Telegraph, Dan Hodges thought he knew who should be the next Labour leader, so he picked Dan Jarvis, who ruled himself out. Then Dan plumped for Chuka Umunna (with caveats), who then dropped out of the race last Friday. Poor Hodgie must be in bits. I can’t see any candidate in the race currently who’d appeal to the irredentist former Labourite, well, Blairite. Oh, hang on, there’s always Tristy. He crosses picket lines, so he’s bound to get Hodgie’s support. But then Tristy then ruled himself out of the contest and pledged his support for the Blairite, Liz Kendall while plunging the knife between Andy Burnham’s shoulder blades. Fuck’s sake.

From The [barely] Independent,

Tristram Hunt has decided not to enter the race to replace Ed Miliband as Labour leader and has thrown his support behind fellow moderniser Liz Kendall.

There’s that word “moderniser” again.

Hodges was clearly tearful when arch-Blairite, Jim Murphy sort of announced his resignation as leader of Scottish Labour. He blames Len McCluskey for Murphy’s in-out-shake-it-all-about resignation. Truth be told, rank and file Labourites were fed up with him, because Jim Murphy only cares about one thing: Jim Murphy. He can fuck off.

Hodges claims with a straight face,

For the past week it looked like the wheels were coming off the Labour Party. Right now it looks as if the whole car is about to be dragged to the junk yard and pounded into scrap.

Remember this is the man who has spent the last five years kicking the shit out of the party he claims to support. This is the man who is a friend of Lynton Crosby. If the car is “about to be dragged to the junkyard”, then it’s partly due to hacks like Hodges spending so much time and effort slagging the party off in papers like the Torygraph.  In fact, the day after the election, Dan wasted no time putting the boot into Ed Miliband.

And so Ed Miliband began to grow before our eyes. He was doing all right. Actually, you know what, he was doing quite well. Blimey, he was doing very well. OK, you’re not going to believe this, but Ed Miliband could actually be our prime minister.

When I say “our eyes” I mean the media’s eyes. The eyes of his own activists. The eyes of some his own MPs.

That reminds me, Dan. Have you actually left the Labour party yet? Isn’t it time you fucked off and joined the Tories?

In this article, Hodges borrows his title from the infamous S*n headline of May 1992. He even has a ‘quiz’ that asks the truly daft question:

Quiz: can you tell the Labour manifesto from that of the Communist Party?

I saw nothing in the Labour Party manifesto that could vaguely be described as “communist” (sic) . Clearly Hodges is playing to his rabid right-wing readership that views such things as equality and tolerance as ‘communist’. Three days ago, in the same paper, “Telegraph View” claimed:

The Labour Party is in trouble. There is a battle for its heart and soul raging – and it is unclear who will win. On one side stand union leaders and Left-wing activists, who refuse to acknowledge the mistakes of the past. On the other are modernisers with their eyes on a more moderate future. Yesterday afternoon, Jim Murphy, the leader of the Scottish Labour Party, became a casualty in this war.

What exactly is meant by “moderate future”? The one envisaged by the current extreme right-wing government that has Michael Gove as Justice Secretary? Fuck off.

Yesterday, The [Hardly] Independent claimed:

Allies of Ed Miliband accused Britain’s biggest trade union of trying to keep modernisers off the ballot paper in the Labour leadership election amid fears that it could be limited to a two-horse race between Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper.

The bitter row between senior Labour figures and Unite intensified as it was claimed that the union was putting pressure on Labour MPs not to nominate modernisers Liz Kendall, Mary Creagh and Tristram Hunt in the election to choose Mr Miliband’s successor.

The Cat doesn’t recall the British media getting so involved in the Conservative leadership contests, yet the press barons and news editors seem to believe that they have the right to decide the outcome of the Labour leadership election. Free press? In this country? Fuck off.

The insane British media caravan rumbles on. But seriously, it can fuck off.

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Filed under BBC, Free Press Myth, Government & politics, Ideologies, Labour, Labour leadership contest, Media, propaganda, Tory press

Tories And The Hypocrisy Of Anti-Statism

The Tories often claim to be anti-statists and accuse their opponents, usually the Labour Party, of being ‘statists’. This was the same claim that Thatcher made back in 1979 and throughout the 1980s. However, if you look at their record in government since that time, the claim rings hollow.

Thatcher’s anti-state rhetoric  has been assiduously revived under Cameron’s Conservatives. The state, we are told, must be shrunk for our own good and socialism and, by extension, the Labour Party are regarded as obstacles to the freedom (sic) that will apparently flow from a reduction of the size of the state. Yet the Tories claims to anti-statism are made without any apparent sense of self-reflexivity or irony. In his article “Thatcherism – A New Stage?” for Marxism Today, Prof. Stuart Hall (1980) wrote:

In the development of her anti-statist philosophy, Mrs Thatcher has successfully identified this kind of ‘statism’ with Labour — and with socialism. It was then possible to represent the resistance to and disenchantment with this form of ‘statism’ as a resistance, not only to Labour, but more fundamentally to socialism itself. In this way Thatcherism has successfully identified itself with the popular struggle against a bureaucratically centralist form of the capitalist state.

Yet the privatized systems that replaced state bureaucracies were no less ruthless and no less intrusive. Witness the Work Capability Assessments introduced by Nu Labour and expanded under the coalition. Serco and ATOS may be private companies but they act on behalf of the state.

Hall (1979) also observed “The Great Moving Right Show” that Thatcher’s Tories offered what he referred to as “authoritarian populism”. This authoritarian populism or ‘libertarian authoritarianism’ (a true contradiction if ever there was one) is present in Wednesday’s announcement from Cameron in which he claimed,

For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens ‘as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone’,”

Increased surveillance relies on an enlarged state security apparatus to function effectively, and although Tories rail against the state’s expansion when it comes to its social functions, they have no qualms with a bloated secret state. The so-called ‘snoopers charter’ is testament to this. Thus the idea that one has “nothing to fear if they have nothing to hide” is a mantra that appeals to Tory politicians and gullible voters alike. The latter constituency is kept in a constant state of fear by the near-endless production of scare stories in the right-wing media about ‘enemies within’ and without, who seek to “destroy our way of life”  – whatever that may be – while the former accepts it as an article of faith and needs little persuasion.

The expanded security state also relies on a form of nationalized morality. Hall (1979) explains:

But the language of law and order is sustained by moralisms. It is where the great syntax of “good” versus “evil”, of civilized and uncivilized standards, of the choice between anarchy and order constantly divides the world up and classifies into its appointed stations. The play on “values” and on moral issues in this area is what gives to the law and order crusade much of its grasp on popular morality and common sense conscience.

Yet despite this, it touches concretely the experiences of crime and theft, of loss of scarce property and fears of unexpected attack in working class areas and neighbourhoods; and, since it promulgates no other remedies for their underlying causes, it welds people to that “need for authority” which has been so significant for the Right in the construction of consent to its authoritarian programme

Rather than addressing the underlying causes of crime, the Tories’ solution is to treat the symptoms by smashing the perpetrators with an iron fist. Cameron’s entreaty to the British public in 2006 to “hug a hoodie” is now seen by many as an embarrassing episode of juvenile naivete. But his ‘hug the hoodie’ statement was also PR guff designed to make him look more ‘in touch’ with the youth than the Calvinistic and comparatively older Gordon Brown. He was dahn wif da kids, innit.

The Tories’ small state notion needs a fearful but atomized society that is obsessed with individual needs (me first) over community needs, while also accepting the false need for a suffocating security blanket. The ‘independent’ nuclear ‘deterrent’ is supported by Tory statists who constantly warn of the danger of this external threat or that one. ISIS/ISIL/IS/Da’esh is raised as the all-purpose bogeyman: they are everywhere and nowhere. As Plaid Cymru leader, Leanne Wood pointed out, what good are nuclear weapons against ISIS? Yet the supporters of the expanded security state dismiss this out of hand, and they do so because they stand to make money and win prestige from the uneven nuclear relationship between the United States and HMP United Kingdom.

To aid the efforts in shrinking the social functions of the state, the British people are distracted by the constant bombardment of the government’s advertising messages declaring that the ideal lifestyle is just within reach if you work your fingers to the bone to achieve it. Those who buy into this notion of ‘advancement through hard work’ (which sounds uncomfortably close to the Nazi’s ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ slogan) are encouraged to resent those on benefits because they are told that these people are ‘undeserving’, feckless and inherently lazy. Such people need to be stigmatized by an overbearing Tory government that’s hell-bent on enriching itself and its allies. The state, in this case, is supposedly entitled to poke its nose into the lives of benefit claimants and has the support of the S*n reading public, whose consent it has manufactured. All benefit claimants are leeches, all council estates are dumps and flotillas of immigrants will wash up on our shores to steal your jobs – so the stories go. The Tory-controlled media thus provides both a modern day version of the village stocks, while, at the same time, dispensing scare stories of dangerous elements in our society to keep people in line.

The aim of the Tories’ anti-statism is to return to country to the supposed ‘golden age’ of the 19th century with its yawning gaps between rich and poor; its rampant poverty, high child mortality rates and widespread ignorance. At the same time, it retains the state’s repressive functions to crush dissent and opposition – just as it did in the 19th century. And this is what people voted for? Your freedom is an illusion and even that illusion may be snatched away from you before long.

References

Debord, G. (2005). Society of the Spectacle, Detroit: Black and Red.

Foucault, M (1977). Discipline and Punish. London: Penguin

Herman, E. S. & Chomsky, N. (1994) Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, London: Vintage Books.

Hall, S. (1979). “The Great Moving Right Show” in Marxism Today, January 1979: pp 16-23

Hall, S. (1980). “Thatcherism – A New Stage”? in Marxism Today, February, 1980: pp 26-28

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Filed under Conservative Party, Free Press Myth, Government & politics, Ideologies, Media, propaganda, Tory press