Category Archives: Yellow journalism

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

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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Filed under Free Press Myth, Ideologies, Internet, Media, propaganda, Yellow journalism

Britain’s Right And Their Opposition To Protest

The British Right (the Tories and Kippers) will tell anyone who will listen that they’re democrats. One form of democracy which they don’t approve of is the protest. Since the general election, there have been a number of anti-austerity protests up and down the country. The Tories seem to believe that because they won 24.3% of the vote, that should be the end of the matter. People should just put up with austerity. The Tories have never been known to brook opposition. If anything, they despise it. That’s why Thatcher abolished the Greater London Council and the metropolitan county councils.

Yesterday’s anti-austerity protest on the day of the State Opening of Parliament is a case in point. UKIP’s sole MP, Douglas Carswell was caught up in the protests and like all good right-wingers, he lapsed into melodrama. He told The Guardian,

“It got extremely, extremely nasty. Their intentions were pretty murderous and I needed a lot of police officers to prevent them from attacking me,”

He had a bottle of water thrown over him. Wow. It’s not as though someone threw a bottle of warm piss over him. This has the feel of “Mummy, those beastly protesters gave me dirty looks! Make them stop!”. Carswell continues,

“I was stunned. I think MPs should be able to go about their business. It was incredibly intimidating. It was like a lynch mob on the streets of London. I thought this was a country where we had democracy and discussed the issues. “It just got incredibly ugly. It was an attempted lynching. I am in a state of shock. I do not want to have to worry about going about my business.”

The phrase “lynch mob” (which was also picked up by the Daily Mail) is typically hyperbolic, but that’s what Tories, Kippers and their supporters are like. I mean, why use reasoned arguments, when you can use melodrama and mendacity instead? Carswell told The [Notionally] Independent,

“If this is the way the extreme left behave now, I do not think it bodes well for the future.”

Carswell’s characterization of the protesters as “extreme left” chimes with the recent paranoid warnings of government ministers, because in the eyes of Tories and Kippers, anyone who protests against cuts is on the “extreme left”. If you look at the comments thread below The Guardian article, you will see a large number of right-wing keyboard warriors all spouting the same nonsense. “Why aren’t they working” and “soap-dodgers” being the most clichéd refrains, thus showing us the Right’s glaring lack of originality when it comes to hurling insults at their enemies.

The political right never protests because it doesn’t have to, and even when it’s not in power, it’s still pulling the strings from behind the scenes. Even during the Nu Labour years, Britain’s political right stayed indoors and let their lackeys in the ‘free press’ get on with the job of printing lies. Not one of them protested (unless you count The Countryside Alliance protest in 2002 in which a few hundred thousand braying toffs and their hangers-on demonstrated against the Hunting Act). This tells us something about Britain’s political right and those who support them: they are deferential, spineless whingers and they’ll touch their forelocks to anyone in authority. Their idea of resistance is to make the occasional joke about students and those horrible “loony lefties”. It’s so terribly English. Yah?

Finally, The Cat would like to remind readers that Carswell is a fan of Ayn Rand, who once characterized the poor and dispossessed as “moochers”. Protesters were also regarded in a similarly disparaging light. That’s the kind of world Dougie inhabits and it’s a frightening one.

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Filed under Conservative Party, Government & politics, Media, Yellow journalism

Let’s Talk About: Legitimacy (of the parliamentary kind)

The Tories and their allies in the press seem to believe that the party with the most seats in the event of a hung parliament should have the automatic right to form a government. They also claim that should Labour get fewer seats than the Tories and if they form a minority government with the support of smaller parties, then this government would be illegitimate. This has been comprehensively debunked time and time again. Yet the Tories and Nick Clegg continue to lie about this, relying on widespread ignorance of how parliament and governments function.

There is a historical precedent that has never once been mentioned during this election campaign by those commentators whose job it is to ‘explain’ the political system to the voters. The General Election of 6 December 1923, which Stanley Baldwin had called over tariff reform (which meant very little to many working class voters), produced a situation similar to the one commentators claim will happen this Friday. Baldwin hoped that he could cement his authority after succeeding Andrew Bonar Law as party leader and Prime Minister, and he was eager to make his mark.

But Baldwin’s plan to increase his party’s already large majority backfired. Ramsay MacDonald’s Labour Party came second with 191 seats. Herbert Asquith’s Liberals came third with 158 seats (the Liberals were split). Baldwin’s Tories came first with 251 seats . When added together, the combined anti-Tory seats outweighed the Conservatives’ numbers. However, things were not straightforward:  Baldwin claimed legitimacy and appeared before the Commons, but was defeated on 21 January by a no confidence motion tabled by former Labour leader, J.R. Clynes. George V had no choice but to appoint MacDonald as Prime Minister. Labour then formed a minority government with the support of the Liberals on 22 January, 1924. There was no question of Labour’s legitimacy to form a government on that occasion, because everyone knew  how the game was played. Today, the Tories and their media chums continue claim that should Labour come second, they will lack legitimacy. The front page of today’s edition of the Murdoch-owned Times has printed a variation on the lie.the_times front page

However, the role of the Liberals in 1924 should not be read as the facilitation of a Labour government but as part of a plan to secure more power for themselves, should the government fall. Indeed, the Daily Mail begged Asquith to form a coalition with the Tories to keep Labour out. Asquith hoped that the voters would see Labour as incompetent. What the voters actually saw were squabbling, power hungry politicians knifing each other in the back. Even so, MacDonald’s government was weak and unstable and suffered its first defeat in March. By October, it would be voted out of office thanks to the Zioniev Letter.

The Liberals paid for their treachery and they were reduced to 40 seats. Asquith lost his seat, was kicked upstairs and died four years later. Even though Baldwin secured a massive majority, he would again lose out  to Labour in the so-called ‘Flapper Election’ of 1929, which resulted in another hung parliament. MacDonald relied on the support of Lloyd George’s 58 Liberal MPs. But this government wouldn’t last long and in 1931 another election was called. Again, this produced a hung parliament and the notorious National Government was eventually formed with Baldwin pulling the strings.

In February 1974, Edward Heath’s Tories came second and Labour came first. Heath remained in Downing Street as  the caretaker Prime Minister and attempted to form a coalition with Jeremy Thorpe’s Liberals. But Thorpe rejected the Tories’ coalition proposals on the basis that Proportional Representation wasn’t offered as part of the deal. Harold Wilson was invited to form a minority government with the support of the smaller parties. Again, there was no question of legitimacy.  This government lasted until October, when Wilson called another election and won a wafer-thin majority. By 1976, Wilson was gone and replaced by’ Sunny’ Jim Callaghan, whose majority began to evaporate due to by-election losses and defections. Callaghan was forced to enter into a pact with the Liberals (the Lib-Lab pact) in 1977. This lasted until the end of 1978 and the rest, as they say, is history.

What these elections reveal to us are the flaws inherent in the First Past The Post voting system. Whichever party forms the government after tomorrow’s election, we must take to the streets to demand electoral and constitutional reform.  There must be no let up.

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Filed under 20th century, General Election 2015, History, History & Memory, Let's Talk About, Media, Tory press, Yellow journalism

Memogate: Another Example Of Our Failed Democracy

We were warned that this election campaign was going to be one of the dirtiest fought for a generation. The Tories, having failed to win an election outright for 22 years, were always going to resort to gutter politics and dirty tricks to try and steal the election. It’s in their DNA. They began  their campaign in 2013 when they recruited Lynton Crosby . Crosby’s appointment as Tory election strategist happened on the back of his successful smear campaign that saw Bozza elected as London Mayor in 2012. Yet Crosby’s record on the national stage has been poor. He failed to get Michael Howard elected in 2005 with his crypto-racist “Are you thinking what we’re thinking” slogan. It’s funny how people forget that.

Tim Wigmore writing in the New Statesman last August observed:

The 2005 election showed the limits of importing successful electioneering from Australian to Britain. Australia’s use of the Alternative Vote forces every voter into a straight choice, between the (conservative) Liberal Party and the Australian Labour party. Crucially, voting is also compulsory in Australia, which lends itself to negative campaigning: offering a compelling reason why the electorate should not plump for the alternative is enough.

Britain’s electoral dynamics are very different. We live in a multi-party world; even if the Tories are successful in attacking Labour’s electoral weaknesses on welfare and immigration, voters may plump for Ukip or the Lib Dems instead. 35 per cent of the electorate did not vote for anyone in 2010: they need a positive reason to bother. Relentless negativity is less effective as a campaigning technique when voters can choose whether or not to vote.

In the last 24 hours and, coincidentally, after the leader’s debates on Thursday, which saw Nicola Sturgeon win what was, effectively a beauty contest; it was as sure as ‘eggs is eggs’ that CCHQ would try and make mischief (did you see Gove on Question Time?). Late last night, the Torygraph ran a story in which it was alleged that Sturgeon told a French ambassador that she would prefer to have Cameron in office than Miliband. The alleged discussion was allegedly contained in a Foreign and Commonwealth Office memo, which magically found its way to the Tory-supporting Telegraph. Sure, it did. Anyone with half a brain in their head would know that for Sturgeon to make such a claim it would surely be political suicide. The Tories and their friends in the media know this. Craig Murray claims that this story bears the hallmarks of an MI5 smear campaign. The Cat is inclined to agree with him.

Murray writes:

Ever since Treasury Permanent Secretary Nicholas MacPherson stated that civil service impartiality rules do not apply in the case of Scottish independence, I have been warning the SNP that we are going to be the target of active subversion by the UK and US security services. We are seen as a danger to the British state and thus a legitimate target. I spelled this out in my talk to the Edinburgh SNP Club on 6 March, of which more below.

The story, as Murray reminds us, appears to have echoes of the Zionviev Letter. Indeed, I tweeted a reminder to this effect this morning. It was because of this forged letter, printed in the Tory-supporting Daily Mail, that the first Labour government fell and failed to win the snap election on 29 October, 1924. This defeat and Ramsay MacDonald’s subsequent betrayal in 1931 has been etched on the memories of old Labour Party members, most of whom are no longer with us. Nu Labourites apparently have no memories of anything that happened before the Blair era.

Crosby’s crappy strategy is to create chaos and discord on the Left in an attempt to create an image of an effective and in-control David Cameron…a man whom, ironically, presided over a chaotic administration. One example of the coalition government’s ineptitude was the so-called ‘Omnishambles’. Another is Cameron’s lack of judgement, typified as it is by the hiring of men like Andy Coulson and Patrick Rock.

The ‘Memogate’ story appears to have had the desired effect among many Labourites, who have taken to social media in their droves to repeat their predictable “I told you so” message. None of them seems wise or, indeed, bright enough, to remember their history. If the Tories win this election, it will be because they used smears and scaremongering to do so; but it will also be because Labour were foolish and gullible enough to fall for it all.

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Filed under 20th century, Free Press Myth, General Election 2015, History, Journalism, Media, propaganda, Yellow journalism

Life on Hannan World (Part 16)

Russell Brand: he must be doing something right if Hannan hates him.

I realise there has been little activity on my blog for a number of weeks. This is because I have been very busy with other things. I won’t go into detail but these things have taken a great deal of my time and demanded my utmost attnetion. It’s also likely that my blog output will be patchy over the coming weeks, though I expect to do some blogging closer to the General Election.

I’ve resisted the temptation to comment on Russell Brand because he has been covered from all different angles by all manner of people. Brand’s associations with Laurence Easeman have been the subject of considerable discussion since last October, when his book launch was cancelled after Easeman’s anti-Semitism and fascism were revealed. Under the circumstances, Brand did the right thing by cancelling the launch. At least Brand turns his back on fash and racists. Daniel ‘Anglosphere’ Hannan, on the other hand, airbrushes the latter.

Brand’s appearance on the national political stage has got tongues wagging on the Left and as for the Right? Well, they aren’t taking this at all well. Why? Because they’re in the firing line and they know it. I found this blog from Hannan that attempts to paint Brand as a wannabe dictator.

Russell Brand describes himself as a “comedian and campaigner”. While we might wonder at the first epithet, we can’t argue with the second. The man has built up a huge following among the angry teenage Lefties who dominate Twitter. His theme is that all politics is corrupt, all MPs are plutocrats’ stooges, and all rich people – except him, naturally – are part of a racket.

Bitchy and bitter. “Twitter” Hannan opines, is dominated by “angry teenage Lefties”. Really? That’s news to me. I’ve found many lefties on Twitter but equally, I’ve encountered plenty of vile right-wingers whose idea of free speech begins and ends at insult. They’re also rather fond of the kind of racist and sexist language that wouldn’t sound out of place coming from John Tyndall (deceased) or the bully boys (and girl) of Britain First.

Think about that for a moment. Russell Brand’s quarrel isn’t with the people who have more courage than him; it’s with parliamentary democracy itself. A chap might be making an honest living as, say, a “comedian and campaigner”; but the very fact of bothering to ask his countrymen for their votes would turn him into a shyster.

I love the way The Lyin’ King opens this paragraph with the word “Think”. Thinking isn’t something that either he or his brethren do very well. They react and they presume. Hannan, a Conservative MEP for the South-east, spends his time attacking the European Union, while taking his not-too-insubstantial salary from it. His position on the EU doesn’t differ that much from the Kippers. He is a very part of the corrupt system that Brand stands against.

OK, Russell, so if you don’t like representative democracy, what’s your alternative? Anarchy? Fascism? Monarchical absolutism? An Islamic Caliphate? Because you can’t have a functioning democracy without politicians; and politicians, in every parliament, tend to group themselves officially or unofficially into parties.

More bitchiness. Let’s get something straight: anarchism is a political philosophy; anarchy is a state in which there is chaos and disorder… which is what would happen if we lived in the kind of Randian world that Dan and his buddy Carswell dream about. Most right-wingers can’t tell the difference between anarchism and anarchy and if you attempt to point out the differences, they put their fingers in their ears. Hannan squeals “you can’t have a functioning democracy without politicians”. Well, that depends on what you mean by “democracy” and it also depends on what you mean by the word “politicians”. I suspect Hannan is only thinking of professional politicians that are drawn, as they currently are, from the ranks of the bourgeoisie and the grand bourgeoisie; the scions of the aristocracy, landed gentry and the so-called captains of industry. The very same people Hannan went to school with: in other words, those who believe it is their right to govern by dint of their circumstances of birth. We also see how the political world is explained to us on television by members of the same class as the politicians themselves, who coincidentally attended the same educational institutions. Nick Robinson? James Landale? Tom Bradby?

You might think that Brand’s contention is so puerile as not to merit serious refutation. The chap is, if nothing else, brilliant at promoting his book by courting controversy. But, listen to the ululations of the studio audience when he speaks; read the ecstasy of his Twitter followers. Russell Brand may be cynically boosting his sales, but there are millions out there who take him seriously, parroting his line about parliamentary government being a scam.

Yawn. Someone’s jealous they’re not getting enough attention. Dan? Is that you? Daft question. Hannan is rather good at promoting his dismal books too (like How We Invented Freedom and Why it Matters). In fact, he’s a well-versed in the art of self-publicity to such an extent that when he farts, Fox News is on hand to cover the event. Let’s have a look at the last phrase about parliamentary government. Hannan clearly believes there is nothing wrong and that it doesn’t need to be fixed. Parliamentary politics, as they are currently constituted, is a political dead end. Neoliberalism dominates the thinking of most of Westminster’s politicians and they countenance nothing else. “The market” we are told, “is moral” and the best we’re ever likely to get. We don’t live in a democracy, we live in a tyranny – albeit an elected one. Welcome to the dystopia, leave your dreams, hopes and desires at the door.

I remember hearing the same remarks in South America during the 1990s. Democracy is a sham, all politicians are crooks, voting only encourages them, blah blah. Such disillusionment was the prelude to the populist authoritarianism than has since spread across the continent, knocking aside parliamentary rule in Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela and elsewhere. The new caudillos aren’t exactly dictators: they were more or less fairly elected. But, once in office, they set about destroying every check on their power, from opposition media to independent courts, justifying every power-grab as a way of getting even with the old elites.

There’s only one problem with Hannan’s thesis and it’s the kind of people who were running these South American countries: the oligarchs and bootlickers who were in thrall to Washington. They were displaced through a combination of popular suffrage and education; two of the things that were denied to ordinary people during the rule of the caudillos. No doubt The Lyin’ King would like to see a return to the days of Operation Condor when people knew their place and those who didn’t were crushed under the military’s jackboot. How dare you question capitalism’s evident limits and fallibilities?

Could something similar happen in Europe? Well, look at what has already happened. In 2011, Brussels imposed civilian juntas on Italy and Greece, toppling elected governments in favour of Eurocrats. What was the justification for these Euro-coups? Pretty much the same as Russell Brand’s: that democracy had failed. As the then President of the European Commission, José Manuel Durrão Barroso, had put it a few months earlier: “Governments are not always right. If governments were right, we wouldn’t have the situation we have today. Decisions taken by the most democratic decisions in the world are very often wrong”.

Hannan’s reasoning here is sloppy, confused and relies heavily on two things: his antithesis to the EU and his love of laissez-faire capitalism. If you hate the EU so much, Dan, you could always stop taking a salary from it. Just a thought, eh? The idea that you’re fighting an ‘evil’ entity from the inside just doesn’t ring true.

Let me put the question again: what is the alternative? Dislike of party politics has been the justification for every autocrat in history: Cromwell, Bonaparte, Lenin, Mussolini, Franco. And it always starts in the same way, with the arguments now being put forward by Russell Brand.

Scaremongering and histrionics. You will notice how Pinochet is absent from his list of autocrats. Presumably, he was the right kind of autocrat. Pinochet, after all, was bolstered by the Chicago Boys, a group of Friedmanite economists who privatized everything in sight and provided the template for Thatcher and Reagan’s assault on the working class. Hannan is an admirer of Thatcher and the notion that markets will provide [for the rich].  For Hannan, all that matters is the idea of growth but it’s the kind of growth that most ordinary folk can’t see in their wage packets. It’s the kind of growth that only benefits the rich and powerful, who continue to increase rents and prices. In fact, Hannan has written a panegyric to the supposed economic growth in the 1930s in another blog. I shall carve that up in due course.

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