Tag Archives: Edward Bernays

Stella Creasy, An Indie Band And A Lazy Hack

I don’t often mention Stella Creasy, because I usually have no reason to do so. I’m aware, however, that she used to work in public relations, an industry that tells lies for money – and she’s lost none of the talents she employed in her previous occupation. Creasy has recently been the focus of the Twitter furore for attending a gig with Tory MP, Thérèse Coffey. Her complaint? She’s the victim of “sinister bullying”. By implication, she means the so-called “hard left” are the bullies in question.

Earlier today, I took a swipe at Creasy, whom I call ‘Greasy’ for fairly obvious reasons.

It is most revealing that many current MPs on both sides of the House of Commons have either worked for the PR industry or as lobbyists before entering Parliament. Worryingly, the fields of politics and PR have overlapped to such an extent that it is scarcely possible to separate the two. Perhaps this was always inevitable.

Edward Bernays is considered by many to be the ‘father’ of the PR industry, and this quote illuminates the close relationship between political power and the mass media.

“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. …We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. …In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons…who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.”

So there it is. Manipulation and mass deception are crucial functions of the PR industry, on which their paymasters in the political parties rely so heavily to achieve power for no other purpose than power itself. Therefore, the idealized notion of the “smoothly functioning society” that Bernays articulates is completely undermined by the objectives of PR companies and political leaders. Yet, it is also easy to see that the “small number of persons”; the political leaders, of whom he talks, do not, as he claims, necessarily “understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses”, for if they did, they would not need to herd them with dog-whistle racism and the production of empty signs in lieu of actual ideas. Such impulses are cynical in the extreme, and narcissistic political careerists, who have worked as PR consultants or lobbyists, know how to manipulate situations. But they don’t act alone: they have contacts within the official media to help them disseminate their lies, half-truths and smears.

Over the course of the last week, I have seen many complaints on my Twitter timeline about Creasy attending a gig of the band Shed Seven with Tory MP, Thérèse Coffey (more about her later) and Michael Dugher, former Labour MP, ex-corporate lobbyist and now Chief Executive of UK Music . The Skwawkbox asked her (Creasy) a perfectly straightforward question about her choice of gig companions. Creasy, being formerly associated with PR, took the opportunity to spin this into a somewhat spiteful tale of ‘hard left bullying’ and ‘misogyny’. Her tale of woe was then picked up by Chris York of the Huffington Post, who chose to side with Creasy and produced a piece of one-sided copy designed to appeal to the confirmation biases of the Labour Right and the Tories. York also used his piece to launch an unwise attack on Skwawkbox.

Skwawkbox Accused Of ‘Deeply Sinister Bullying’ Of Stella Creasy Over Shed Seven Gig

‘What a sad bastard Steve from ‘Skwawkbox’ is.’

“Deeply sinister bullying”? How about hyperbole and guff? Now York may claim that he doesn’t write the headlines, but the opening paragraph tells the same story.

A popular pro-Corbyn blog has been accused of the “deeply sinister bullying” of a female Labour MP after it criticised her for attending a gig with a Conservative counterpart.

Stella Creasy watched indie band Shed Seven at Brixton Academy earlier this month alongside Tory MP, Therese Coffey, and former-Labour MP turned music rep, Michael Dugher, who tweeted his excitement at the prospect.

Aw, isn’t that nice? However, Dugher, as I pointed out, is not a “music rep” but a Chief Executive.  A “rep” or representative is a person who acts on another’s behalf. It’s a totally different kind of job in terms of remuneration and responsibilities. But further down, he says:

Dugher is the Chief Executive of lobbying group UK Music.

Make up your mind, Chris.

York’s piece includes Twitter links to voices sympathetic to Creasy, none of which I will post here.

He then ends his article with the suggestion that Creasy has a majority of decent-thinking folk on her side.

But a small group of vocal Labour supporters and one Labour MP pounced on the story as evidence of something else.

York took exception to my tweet about him and HuffPo “working for the Tories, whether they want to admit it or not”.

Ouch! So I quoted him back.

He later replied:

You”ll notice that he chose to reply to my additional response rather than the quoted tweet. But “no bearing on the thrust of the article”? Au contraire, I’ve nailed it in the article you’re currently reading. So allow me to repeat and rephrase the point I made in my tweet: this article was produced to appeal to the confirmation biases of the Tories and Labour’s self-styled ‘moderates’, and therefore feeds into the continuing anti-Corbyn and, more specifically, anti-Left narrative that dominates the official media’s political reportage. York therefore is, by proxy, working on behalf of the Tories and the Labour Right.

Creasy has some previous form when it comes to manufacturing stories of bullying.  In December 2015, Creasy complained that she was being “intimidated by the hard left”. Creasy was later forced to row back on her claims.

Back to Creasy, Coffey,  Dugher and their pre-Xmas outing. The Cat has no problem with MPs going to see their favourite band, and it’s likely the ticket was complimentary having been provided by Dugher as one of the perks of his job. What the Cat has a problem with are hypocritical Labour MPs that fail to defend their fellow MPs from being monstered by the right-wing press and the Tory Party for refusing to fraternize with their opposite number. So it comes as no surprise that Creasy has refused to defend Laura Pidcock, who famously refuses to ‘hang out’ with Tories. Frankly, I don’t blame her. I wouldn’t either. Indeed, there is no compulsion for Labour MPs to socialize with Tories, even though the right-wing press and les certains in the Labour party deliberately conflate socialization with cross-party work in order to smear Pidcock for her forthright attacks against the socio-economic orthodoxy.

As for Thérèse Coffey, she’s not only a Tory, she’s also a member of the Free Enterprise Group, which was featured on this blog in November. So it’s no surprise that she’s consistently voted to reduce benefits, thereby forcing many people into financial hardship. Coffey’s ignominious voting record can be seen here.

Creasy, for her part, said of David Cameron in 2009, “You can judge Cameron by the company he keeps… and the nature of his party is resolutely right-wing”.  Thus, it is only fair that Creasy be judged by the company she keeps.

The first rule of journalism is to check your sources and then check them again. Just because someone is an MP, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they’re a reliable source of information. In his article, Chris York has failed in his duty to his readers. By leaving out key details and through his use of language, he gave readers the impression that Creasy was being bullied for simply having a good night out with friends… friends who vote against measures intended to ameliorate the dire circumstances of many of the constituents that Creasy represents. York’s article could either be written off as a classic case of journalistic laziness or active bias, maybe both. I’ll let you decide.

Further reading/viewing

Baudrillard, J. (1994). Simulacra and simulation. University of Michigan press.

Bourdieu, P. (1991). Language and symbolic power. Harvard University Press.

Curtis, A. (2002) The Century of the Self. Broadcast 17/3/2002. BBC2

Herman, E. S., & Chomsky, N. (2010). Manufacturing consent: The political economy of the mass media. Random House.

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Hard-working families…

If there is one phrase that sums up this government’s belief in the power of the sign over all else, it’s “Hard-working families”.  To this phrase are added the clauses “who want to get on in life…”, “who pay their taxes” and “who want to do the right thing”.  Sometimes they appear altogether, sometimes one or two of them are coupled to the phrase, often it’s just “hard-working families” on its own. Whatever the case, it’s quite possibly the dullest PR campaign on the planet.

This wasn’t the first government to employ the words “Hard-working families”. Oh no. That Marxist-Leninist (sarcasm), Gordon Brown, also used the same line in 2005.  It was dull then and it’s dull now.

A BBC article from 2005 says:

It is rapidly becoming the most over-used phrase of the 2005 election.

No policy announcement, whether on crime, immigration, the economy, health or education, is complete without it.

But who exactly are “Britain’s hard-working families”? And why are politicians so obsessed with them?

But tellingly,

“It has always been a Tory message,” says Times columnist and former Conservative MP Matthew Parris.

Ah, so it’s “always been a Tory message”? That says a lot about Nu Labour.

What exactly does this phrase “hard-working families” mean? Well, if one takes it literally, the connotations are rather disturbing. A family is a social unit that includes children and adults. Are you with me so far? Good.  That means that, presumably, a hard-working family will include working children too? There are laws on the statute book that limit the hours that children can work but is the current government seriously suggesting that all kids be made to work? Well, not quite but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone like Philip Davies or Priti Patel made the crass suggestion that children under the age of 13 be employed to de-fluff the tunnels of the London Underground, for example. Such is the Tories’ fetish for all things 19th century that I sometimes think they’d gladly welcome the return of typhoid and cholera epidemics for a little icing on the cake.

What about those family members who are too old or infirm to carry on working? For this Tory-led government, being old is no excuse and as we already know, you can now work until your drop. Happy with that?

Even those people who are seriously, in some cases, terminally ill, have also been forced into work or onto workfare, only to die a short time later. For those who really cannot work, their benefits are stopped. Then they die. But then death is probably no excuse for not working either.

Linda Wooton was lying in a hospital bed when she was informed that her benefits had been stopped. She died 9 days later.

Let’s be clear, the Tories and Nu Labour aren’t that interested in families, if they were, then they wouldn’t be doing so much to destroy them.  On the one hand Westminster politicians complain about the break-up of the family and on the other, they conspire in its demise. Can’t these people make their minds up?

I was watching The Sunday Politics on BBC1 a few weeks ago when I cauth Andrew Neil  interviewing Michael Green Grant Shapps. During the course of this 5 minute interview, Shapps used the words “hard-working families” about 12 times.  How’s that for dull?  Repeating this sentence ad nauseum/ad tedium convinces no one but the politicians themselves. In short, their catchphrases are as clapped out as their ideas…er, what ideas?

The father of public relations, Edward Bernays, would have approved of the repetitive use of this tired old phrase. Goebbels would have too.  Sorry, did I just break Godwin’s Law there? I hope not.

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Nightmare on King Street (Part 14)

Yesterday, as I was looking at my Twitter timeline, I saw this tweet from H&F Council’s propaganda department,

H&F propaganda1

So I followed the link to this article on the Council’s website. I will quote the first two paragraphs,

A judge has thrown out a legal challenge that threatened £1billion worth of community benefits to North Fulham and Earls Court, describing it as ‘absurd’.

West Kensington Estate resident Harold Greatwood, applied to court to launch a judicial review of Hammersmith & Fulham (H&F) Council’s decision to enter into a Conditional Land Sale Agreement with EC Properties to include the West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates in the wider regeneration of Earls Court.

Gloating? You ain’t seen nothing yet!

Finding that the challenge to the Council’s consultation was “not reasonably arguable”, Mr Justice Mitting said: “The analysis of the consultation responses put to cabinet on 23 April 2012 and 3 September 2012 was balanced and fair. The suggestion that the results of the consultation were hidden is unwarranted”. He went on to say that “The time for the consultation – nine weeks – was adequate” and that “The suggestion that because the defendant did not address the consultation documents to tenants by name or to the ‘tenant’, the process was flawed, is absurd.”

Justice? Justice only exists for those who can afford to pay for it. As for justice being “blind”, that’s another myth. Judges are ideological too. I suspect the Council has a dedicated legal team whose job is to deal with this and other property and land deals.

I saw another tweet on H&F Council’s Twitter timeline.

H&F tweet

This isn’t riding roughshod over the majority of the tenant’s wishes, it’s getting into a steamroller, putting a brick onto the accelerator pedal and running over the tenants again and again. I clicked on the link.

There’s a quote from Council Leader, Nicholas Botterill.

Cllr Nicholas Botterill, Leader of H&F Council, said: “We believe that the residents living on the estates have negotiated the best deal of any regeneration scheme in the country. They will only have to move when their new home is ready to be occupied. That new home will be the same area as they are already living in. People will be compensated and we will keep support groups and neighbours together.

Whoa! Hang on! Botterill says, “The residents living on the estates have negotiated the best deal of any regeneration scheme in the country”. Which “residents” are these? Not the residents who oppose this development and he can only mean the astroturf group of residents that was set up by the Council to give the impression of a consensus for the redevelopment project. It’s an old PR con trick that Edward Bernays would have admired.

Here’s some more,

“Residents, their current and future children will be living in an even better, safer neighbourhood environment with access to new leisure and community facilities. Most of all local people will benefit from the thousands of new job opportunities that will be created”.

“Local people”, says Botterill. Most of those “local people” will be forced out of their homes to make way for the affluent and those who will take, at face value, the words of the developer and the vendors who will sell shoebox properties that have a luxury price tag on them.

At the end of the article, which was quite possibly written by the Council’s propaganda minister, Harry Phibbs, it asks,

What happens next?

  • Hammersmith & Fulham Council will make an application to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government  for consent for the transfer of the estates to EC Properties. This is likely to be considered in March.
  • When the Section 106 agreement with the developer is firmed up, the Planning Authority will refer the planning application to the Mayor of London, while the Secretary of State also has the discretion to call it in.

The Secretary of State, the immensely rotund Eric Pickles, is already on board and so is Emperor Bozza. It looks like a done deal… or is it? The Council, in its arrogance, believes that it can do no wrong. We’ll see.

The former Council Leader, Stephen Greenhalgh, is facing a criminal investigation over the alleged “VIP list” where tenants who signed up to support the redevelopment were promised preferential treatment. If this investigation goes ahead, I expect other councillors and council officials to face charges. For all the Council’s gloating, the VIP list could come back to bite them. The Council and Greenhalgh deny any wrongdoing.

Funnily enough, when I click on any link on the pages I’ve linked to, I get the following message,

http://www.lbhf.gov.uk is unavailable or may not exist.

Amusing. No?

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The engineering of happiness

The word “happiness” is notoriously difficult to define. The Oxford English Dictionary defines “happy”  as:

1 feeling or showing pleasure; pleased

Or

2 giving or causing pleasure

Or

3 if you wish somebody a Happy Birthday, Happy New Year, etc. you mean that you hope they have a pleasant celebration

Or

4 satisfied that something is good or right; not anxious

Or

5 happy to do something (formal) willing or pleased to do something

Or

6 lucky; successful

Or

7 (formal) (of words, ideas or behaviour) suitable and appropriate for a particular situation

Other words that are synonymous with happy are “glad”, “pleased”, “delighted”, “proud”, “thrilled” and “relieved”.  Happiness is a vague word that means many things to many people. It is a word that relies on context; without which, it means little or nothing at all.

This government’s interest in our happiness is nothing new. The last government had similar ideas. It even published “happiness indices”. We were often told that the Iraqi people were “happier” that Saddam Hussein had been toppled because of factors x, y and z. But the criteria that was used to measure happiness ignored a great many things like the ruined infrastructure and the lack of a properly functioning government. The current government’s interest in our ‘happiness’ has some very Bernaysian overtones to it, not least because David Cameron is a former PR man. When he became leader of the Conservative Party, he rebranded the party and even gave it a new logo.

Tory logo

The logo is simple enough to deconstruct and even an ‘A’ level media studies student can see what they were trying to do with this logo. By choosing this logo the Tories unconsciously tell us that for all the green rhetoric, they are still blue underneath; the green foliage is merely superficial. The fact that it also appears to be hand-designed tells us that they want to come over as friendly, a bit informal and a bit arty.

Edward Bernays, the founding father of the PR industry and nephew of the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, was determined to pacify the masses with distractions because he believed that people could be engineered en masse to behave in the way politicians wanted them to.  This is a mild version of technocracy, which regards human as machines.

In the last 15 years or so, I’ve noticed how the media has become fond of telling us how the human body is a “wonderful machine”. The problematic with this idea of the body-as-a-machine is that it does not consider the fact that the body is actually an organism. This position ignores the vagaries of human beings, their dreams, their hopes, their lives and treat humans as mechanical devices that input/output data. Machines are not sentient and they cannot learn things; they must be given commands in order to perform a single given task. Humans can rebel, be crotchety, smile, frown, get sick, answer back and think for themselves. Machines can do none of these things, yet many politicians and others will persist with this notion that we are machines or, conversely, irrational beings that act in our own interests. When the Luddites smashed mechanical looms in the early 19th century, they did so because they feared that machines would take the jobs of humans. What they never could have dreamt in all their wildest imaginations was how politicians and others would come to regard the human being, not as a person, but as a machine.

The Tory-led government, like the New Labour government before it, is determined to socially engineer the country to behave in ways that are in line with its vision of a nation that is er, happy?  But what is happiness and can it be manufactured or even conscripted to serve ideology? It’s a shaky foundation on which to build a political edifice and the result could be catastrophic.  Happiness is subjective and is often occurs in a moment. No one is 100% happy all of the time. It simply isn’t possible. A good mood may last a day but it only takes one thing to upset that mood. Perhaps mood enhancement or alteration is what the government is aiming for? No, that would be sci-fi… too Philip K. Dick a la Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

The media has also jumped on the bandwagon, as if to suggest that they are working with the government, to get the message out. The BBC has been one of the worst offenders. In 2006, in a moment of sheer prescience, they even put together a happiness test. The BBC tells us

Psychologists say it is possible to measure your happiness.

This test designed by psychologist Professor Ed Diener from the University of Illinois, takes just a minute to complete.

Well, if psychologists tell us it’s possible, then surely we should believe them? No. Discovering what makes people happy isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You may want to do something to make your partner, parents or children happy. When governments or corporations strive to understand our happiness or lack of it, they do it for other reasons and those reasons have nothing to do with improving our standard of living or anything like it.

I’ve recently encountered Action for Happiness, a group that is part of the Young Foundation. The foundation was named after Michael Young, the father of the Hon Tobes. Action for Happiness tell us that

For fifty years we’ve aimed relentlessly at higher incomes. But despite being much wealthier, we’re no happier than we were five decades ago. At the same time we’ve seen an increase in wider social issues, including a worrying rise in anxiety and depression in young people. It’s time for a positive change in what we mean by progress.

A couple of things came to mind when I read this: first, it ignores wage stagnation and makes the claim that as a nation “we are wealthier”. Who is this “we”? What they base this notion on is anyone’s guess. Second, it presumes to have some intimate understanding of the word “happiness”. Third, it presumes that happiness can be generated by helping others. This is a fallacy and what those, including the government, who speak of happiness in such terms are actually trying to create is a culture of volunteerism. But this presumes that many people don’t volunteer already. Not many people have the time, after working some of the longest hours in Europe to volunteer after a hard day of work.

This Guardian article moves away from the word “happiness” and claims that the government wants to measure our wellbeing instead. Quoting the Institute of Economic Development’s study it says,

“There is a considerable body of research, both on how to measure wellbeing and on the implications that adopting this measurement could have for policy,” writes Seaford, author of the paper and head of the Centre for Wellbeing at the New Economics Foundation (Nef).

This should be seen for what it is:  an attempt at social engineering. The government’s concern for our wellbeing and our happiness indicates a disturbing lack of substance at the heart of this government’s policy-making. Instead of creating jobs and alleviating poverty it is more concerned with fleeting notions of happiness. This focus on happiness can also be viewed as a diversionary tactic to draw attention away from the massive cuts in public spending, all of which may make people less content and more vulnerable.

This Guardian article warns of the problem of attaching the concepts of happiness and wellbeing to economic growth and material wealth.

But what does all this mean for the way we measure social and personal wellbeing? We are repeatedly told that consumer spending is all-important for the economy; that without enough of it, confidence will “wilt”, retailers “slump” and the Bank of England will have to perform some sort of “difficult balancing act”, as if running some kind of miserable circus sideshow.

This is the underlying discourse contained within the happiness message coming from politicians: happiness is congruent with economic growth. It is, perhaps, another way of trying to sell us things that we don’t need.

Since it was decreed a few decades ago that capitalism would have to expand by selling people things they didn’t need, rather than have them replace things when they wore out, we have been coerced into thinking about quality of life in terms of owning and accumulating more things. And even if housing bubbles and credit card debt end up punishing those people who can afford it least, the ruling and financial classes (too often the same thing) can turn round and say “well, it was your fault, your choice, no one made you take out one (or many) loans/mortgages/overdrafts”.

Happiness? It means nothing.

Here’s The Smiths.

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Adam Curtis’s “The Century of the Self” (Part 4)

This is the final part of Adam Curtis’s award-winning documentary The Century of the Self. This episode is titled “Eight People Sipping Wine in Kettering”.  This part focusses on PR ‘guru’ Matthew Freud, the great-grandson of Sigmund and Philip Gould, who was an advisor to Tony Blair. Curtis examines the role PR played before and during Blair’s time in office. At Nowhere Towers we wonder when Curtis is going to make another documentary series. We look forward to it!

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Adam Curtis’s “The Century of the Self” (Part 3)

Here is Part 3 of Adam Curtis’s award-winning documentary The Century of the Self. This part is called “There’s a Policeman In My Head”.

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Adam Curtis’s The Century of the Self (Part 2)

Here is Part 2 of Adam Curtis’s award-winning documentary The Century of the Self. This part is called “The Engineering of Consent”. It’s in bits. Sorry.

2/1

2/2

2/3

2/4

2/5

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