Tag Archives: propaganda

The Class Disgust Of The Blairites

The Blairites only tolerate the working class, but only just. Like Victorian children, they should be seen and not heard. In the past, the working class performed an important function by supplying Labour with votes in the 1997, 2000 and 2005 General Elections. But over the course of 20 years, Labour has been losing working class support in its so-called heartlands. The Blairites’ answer to this is to claim that the party was “too left-wing” and must attract Tory voters to win elections. It’s nonsense. In the entire 13 years they were in power, Nu Labour refused to repeal the most pernicious of Thatcher’s legislation – especially the anti-trade union laws, which directly affect workers.

It’s no secret that the Blairites through their think-tank, Progress, are more interested in chasing billionaires and their money than appealing to working class voters; the same voters the party was founded to represent. If they do speak of the working class, it’s to claim that they’re ignorant, illiterate and racist, while they use them as a justification to out-UKIP UKIP by mimicking their immigration policies. As far as the Blairites are concerned, the working class is more interested in keeping foreigners out than decent homes, jobs, healthcare and educational opportunities.

Now to the point of this blog. I was alerted to this article on the Progress website by this Tweet on their official Twitter account. It speculates on who among Jeremy Corbyn’s close allies will ‘seize the crown’ – so to speak.

It not only repeats the by now familiar line that Corbyn and his supporters are “hard left” and “Trotskyists”, it also adopts a sneering tone towards prominent working class members of Corbyn’s shadow cabinet.

The article’s author, Paul Richards (who’s he?) opens with this paragraph:

One thing you can guarantee, like rain on a bank holiday, is splits on the hard-left. The old Monty Python joke is funny because it is true. For the all the calls for workers’ unity, disunity is the stock-in-trade. The Trotskyist parties are all fragments of one another. The vanity parties such as Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour party, George Galloway’s Respect or Ken Loach’s Left Unity are all the products of splits, which have themselves split.

This, from a party-within-a-party that is so far to the right that it’s perfectly aligned with the socially liberal fractions of the Tory Party and the Lib Dems, who were themselves formed from a merger of the Labour splitters, the SDP and the Liberal Party. This from a faction that’s done more to undermine the party leadership than any left-wingers have done in Labour’s history.  Just to correct Richards, Left Unity wasn’t the product of a split; it was created in response to the lack of a left-wing alternative as well as Labour’s inertia under Ed Miliband. As for “vanity”, Nu Labour could be seen as Blair’s vanity project. He hijacked the party for his own ends and used it as a platform for personal greed once he left Parliament. The party lost thousands of members and 5 million voters but there’s not a peep from the Blairites or Progress about this. Instead, they live in a bubble, isolated from reality with only their delusions and nostaglia for company.

Here Richards  indulges himself in a little intellectual masturbation.

You might think the widening schisms amongst Corbynites are linked to his dismal personal ratings as the most unpopular leader ever, net loss of council seats, inability to appoint a functioning frontbench or the growing Tory lead in the opinion polls.

For Richards and his ilk, the polls are sacrosanct. Yet, as many of us already know, the Blairites brief their pals in the Murdoch press, a negative story is written by someone like Blair’s former speechwriter, Philip Collins, which is then followed by a poll to confirm their biases. Oddly enough, the bookies disagree with the pollsters. How did that happen?

Here, Richards demonstrates a glaring lack of self-awareness:

Remember those posh kids who discover socialism and sell papers outside Tesco? Think Rik Mayall as Rick in the Young Ones. Richard Burgon is that kid. Educated in the leafy suburbs of Harrogate, followed by St John’s College Cambridge, where he studied English Literature, he went on to become a solicitor. Burgon adopted a leftwing persona as a teen, and has never grown out of it.

The not-so-subtle discourse here is that left-wing politics is for teenagers. Grown ups apparently adopt more ‘sensible’ positions: like sneering at working class people and demanding the government step in to crush the guards’  strike on Southern Rail.

The Blairite disdain for protest, which is derided as a student pastime, is itself a notion that swerves around the fact that people of all ages protest. Moreover, protest is a legitimate form of political expression. The Blairites and the Tories seem to believe that the public’s engagement with politics should begin and end at the ballot box.  It’s as if to say “You’ve voted, what more do you want”? Protest for them should be either crushed or ignored – so much for the will of the people, eh? Remember the millions that marched against the Iraq War? That’s how much Blairites regard protests. Making war against weaker nations on the basis of non-existent evidence is supposedly more ‘adult’ than protest.

Once elected in 2015 (following a helpful phonecall from uncle Colin to Ed Miliband ahead of the selection process, denying Leeds a second all-women shortlist), the T-shirt wearing, placard waving student protestor has become a T-shirt wearing, placard waving MP. Feel the Burgon

Richards’s claim that Burgon only became an MP because of his uncle ignores the fact that, in 2015, the so-called ‘red princes’  Euan Blair and Will Straw were being lined up for safe seats.  Only Neil Kinnock’s son, Stephen, was successful in getting  selected and won a nice safe seat. No nepotism there. As you were.

Of Angela Rayner, Richards writes:

Rayner was a direct beneficiary of the Tony Blair-led Labour government, especially sure start, and understands more than most why we need a Labour government. Her thirst for power is political not personal. Oh, and she likes Star Wars.

The subtext of this paragraph is that because Rayner apparently benefited from Sure Start, she should get down on her knees and kiss Blair’s purple buskins. The Star Wars quip is throwaway.

Rebecca Long-Bailey comes in for this sideways sneer.

Her frontbench career was unimpaired by a series of uncertain early performances on television, notably being duffed up by Andrew Neil over Brexit. She learned economics on the job, as shadow chief secretary to the treasury, with the same diligence that earned her her sociology degree from Manchester Polytechnic.

First, Manchester Polytechnic hasn’t existed since 1992 when it became Manchester Metropolitan University. Second, Sociology is a real subject that deals with the politics of everyday life. Richards seems to think that only those educated at Oxbridge and in possession of PPE (Politics, Philosophy and Economics) degrees should be in the shadow cabinet. But Miliband’s shadow cabinet was full of PPE types: Ed Balls, Yvette Cooper and Miliband himself were all Oxford PPE graduates, who had also served as special advisers and researchers. The lack of imagination among them was palpable and the absence of meaningful policies was glaring. Miliband’s Labour was a Cowardly Lion of a party: too afraid to challenge the Tories’ empty claims that “Labour crashed the economy” and “bankrupted the nation”, and too feeble to raise a fist in anger. Instead, it adopted what Miliband called “constructive opposition”.

According to Richards, Clive Lewis has

… a rich back story. Not rich as in wealthy, like Corbyn, but rich as in fascinating. He grew up on a council estate as the son of a single father. As a student unionist he stood against the Labour candidate for National Union of Students president in 1996.

The claim that Corbyn is fabulously wealthy is repeated here. Indeed, the section on Lewis is used as cover to attack Corbyn and repeat the same lies printed in the Tory press. The only word Richards left out when writing about Lewis was ‘exotic’.

Richards saves all his bile for John McDonnell, who is described in the caricature as “The Trotfather”. It’s juvenile stuff from an allegedly adult Blairite.

Even in a roomful of Corbynistas, McDonnell is the most leftwing person in the room. He was sacked by Ken Livingstone as deputy of the Greater London Council in 1985 for wanting London to copy the glorious resistance of Militant-led Liverpool; even Livingstone thought it a bit extreme. In 2003 he praised the ‘bravery’ of the IRA. He then apologised ‘if he had caused offence’.

Notice how Richards recycles the old “McDonnell appeases the IRA” smear. What’s perhaps worse is his repetition of the mainstream media claim that Militant was evil and hellbent on destroying Liverpool. The idea behind this is that the Militant-run council should have submitted fully to the will of Thatcher and her henchmen. Militant improved the lives of thousands of Scousers. It built much-needed homes and fought against a government that was intent on the city’s destruction. The Cat doubts Richards is old enough to remember the 1980s, such is the juvenile tone of this article and its cavalier approach to history.

Labour right-wingers are granted immunity when it comes to smearing members of their own party. They are permitted to indulge in their class disgust. Yet Labour left-wingers are suspended on trumped up charges of anti-Semitism and CLPs are suspended on the basis of lies and baseless allegations of intimidation. Will Iain McNicol take action against Progress? Don’t hold your breath. Not even the mainstream media has reported this story.

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Filed under Government & politics, Ideologies, Labour, Media, propaganda

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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Filed under Free Press Myth, Journalism, Media, propaganda, Society & culture

The Wintour Of Discontent

In recent years, The Guardian, once presumed to be the paper of choice for Britain’s left, has shown itself to be just as antagonistic to the Labour Party and now, Jeremy Corbyn, as its right-wing counterparts on Fleet Street. Leading The Graun’s anti-Corbyn charge is the paper’s political editor, Patrick Wintour, who has been knocking out daily hatchet pieces since Corbyn announced his candidacy this summer. Wintour’s attacks on Corbyn have been relentless and often based on little more than a fingernail scraping of a story around which he constructs a massive edifice of guff, tittle-tattle and drivel.

Today, Wintour tells his readers:

Corbyn adviser ‘backed non-Labour candidates at least three times’

This headline relates to the ongoing hoo-ha over Corbyn’s appointment of Andrew Fisher as one of his advisers. Apparently, Fisher tweeted support for his local Class War candidate during the General Election rather than Emily Benn, the less-than-left-wing Labour candidate for Croydon South. So what?

Now I don’t know if Fisher was a member of the Labour Party when he sent these tweets, but was he not entitled to register his disgust with a party that was trapped in the misguided belief that emulating the Tories was the best way forward? I certainly did.

Fisher also called for Tony Blair to be tried for war crimes. Good. So do I. The real issue that Fleet Street’s hacks have with the appointment of Fisher and Seumas Milne is that they’re not Blairites or right-wing hacks. They are avowedly left-wing. I mean, was Corbyn supposed to hire Kelvin Mackenzie as his press secretary? Get real.

I spotted this inaccuracy in Wintour’s article.

In 2008, Fisher was reported as attending a Left Unity meeting as a member of the LRC, where he was reported as saying “a growing number of members believed that Labour was now dead”.

Left Unity didn’t exist in 2008 and only became a political party a little under two years ago. How do I know this? I’m a founding member.

Next time, Patrick, check your facts before going off half-cocked..

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Filed under Journalism, Media, The Guardian

No Compassion For Refugees Please, We’re British

“Charity begins at home” at least this is what Britain’s “no refugees here” types have been saying on comments threads on The Guardian and Independent websites. Ironically (or perhaps not), these are the very same people who would not only claim that “people are receiving to much in social security payments”, they would also tell you that the existence of foodbanks proves there is a “food shortage” in this country. Logic? It was never there in the first place.

Many people like to think of The Guardian and The Independent as liberal newspapers with socially liberal readerships. In the case of The Indy, this notion was blown out of the water by the paper’s support for the Tories at the last election and in the case of The Graun, there has been a steady rightward drift in its editorial orientation for years. Sadly, however, the change in direction for these papers has also attracted legions of right-wing racists and keyboard warriors, all of whom have been drawn to the stories of what is now being called the “Refugee Crisis” (formerly the “Migrant Crisis”), a crisis that was entirely created by the actions of the so-called West.

Yet the idea that there is a cause behind the Refugee Crisis is barely mentioned by the tabloid hacks and their pals in Parliament. Instead, in the mind of the knuckledragger, these people are coming here variously for “economic reasons” or the “presence of McDonalds and KFC”, or some such nonsense, and not because they are fleeing the conflicts and tyrannies that the West has created and sustained for decades. Causality, as far as these people are concerned, is a hospital drama on BBC1.

Readers, I have been disgusted by the lack of compassion shown by these keyboard warriors and slackwits but I have been even more disgusted by The Indy’s and The Graun’s tolerance of the vile hatred that’s being openly expressed on its comments threads. If I want to read that kind of shite, I can always go to St*rmfr*nt. Dig?

I always remember reading about this country’s hostile reaction towards the thousands of Jewish refugees who were fleeing the Nazis in the 1930s. This article by Anne Karpf from 2002 – in The Guardian – recalls that those years.

The parallels between past and present are striking. Just as the majority of Jewish refugees were admitted less for compassionate reasons than to meet the shortage of domestic servants, so today’s refugees tend to do the low-paid catering and cleaning jobs spurned by the native British. And just as in spring 1940, when German Jews were interned on the Isle of Man, British newspapers blurred the distinctions between refugee, alien and enemy, so today, according to Alasdair Mackenzie, coordinator of Asylum Aid, “There’s general confusion in many newspapers between an asylum seeker and someone from abroad – everyone gets tarred with the same brush.”

Hostility towards the refugees was stirred up by the virulently anti-immigration rag The Daily (Hate) Mail. Many people internalised its xenophobic and anti-Semitic messages and demanded the government refuse to land any refugees. Déjà Vu? Malheureusement, oui.

The comment below appeared on this Guardian article by the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas. Her name, alone, is enough the get hordes of slavering knuckledraggers thumping their chests and declaring themselves the defenders of “common sense”.

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Britons would probably be far more receptive to the idea of allowing many more refugees into Britain had the country not experience almost two decades of mass immigration in which over five million people had entered Britain.

Here, we have a comment in which the views expressed are little different to those expressed by UKIP’ Nigel Farage (or that Nuttall wanker) on a weekly basis. Although it avoids offensive language and isn’t obvious in its racism, its premise is based on the notion that there has been an “invasion”. Yet, this commenter offers no proof for the numbers they’re using; they are seemingly axiomatic.

On the other hand, this commenter doesn’t disguise his hatred. This is what passes for wit.

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So it turns out now that the guy who recklessly ended up drowning his wife and children had turned down asylum.

Oh.

Sickening.

The government’s response to the crisis has been characteristically Tory: blame “people smugglers” and keep repeating the word “criminals”. It’s as if the refugees themselves have become secondary to the need to punish “those responsible for the trafficking”. In April, in response to refugees drowning in the Mediterranean Sea, Michael ‘Polly’ Portillo, the son of a Spanish republican refugee who fled Franco’s dictatorship, said they should be “sent back where they came from” – and should be “dumped on a Libyan beach”. And you thought he’d been rehabilitated? No way, he’s the same as he ever was.

This nation has been governed by bullies for centuries and people have internalised the bullying to such an extent that they, themselves, have become bullies. This is evident from the lack of compassion shown to refugees. The idea that “charity begins at home” is noble one but one which is now being used dishonestly to bolster the fash’s absurd claim that this country is “full up”.

A few days ago, Cameron appeared on television to give an account of his sluggish response to the crisis. He told the reporter with a straight face that the solution is to “bring peace in Middle East”. But that’s after he’s bombed it back to the Stone Age first.

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Filed under Africa, Eritrea, immigration, Journalism, Libya, Media, Middle East, News/Current Affairs, propaganda, racism, Society & culture, Sudan, Syria, World

Smears and Scare Tactics: That’s the Tory Campaign

I bet you feel like a right mug

I wrote this blog during the General Election and didn’t get around to finishing it. The Tories didn’t run a good election campaign. if there were prizes handed out for the best campaign, the Tories would have lost. There, I said it. There was nothing substantive: just the usual half-arsed crap that they tend to write on a hooker’s backside during one of their cocaine binges. Flog off this or that asset (even if it doesn’t belong to the state), and keep beating up the poor and the weak. The public want more of that shit! Yeah! *Sniffs* *Twitches*

Labour’s campaign wasn’t great either. There was the embarrassing immigration mug and the cringe-inducing pink ladies’ (sic) battle bus. But it wasn’t as bad as the Conservative Party’s campaign, which was a dismally negative affair, full of lies, smears and good old fashioned scaremongering. Labour had some mildly social democratic policies like some form of rent control, but the party seemed to suffer from an inferiority complex. This was evident in the way they failed to counter the Tories’ constant lie that they “crashed the economy” and “bankrupted” country.

David Cameron was just as gutless and like all good bullies, he got his friends to do his dirty work. He refused to debate Ed Miliband in a head-to-head interview and it’s no secret that the former was shit scared at the prospect of being found out as a phony and wriggled his way out. The SNP ran a good campaign and their leader Nicola Sturgeon put the three unionists in the shade during the Leaders Debates. Such was Sturgeon’s popularity that many English voters wanted to vote for her as Prime Minister… not realizing, of course, that we don’t have a presidential system. As for the Lib Dems, we never really heard from them much until the final week. UKIP spouted the usual rubbish about immigrants and the Greens ran the kind of campaign that Labour should have been running. That’s pretty much it.

Although it is unfinished, the blog below gives a snapshot of the third week of the election. It’s mainly about the Gruesome Twosome: Michael Gove and Sarah Vine.

Scaremongering. That’s what this election is all about. Forget the policies. Just be afraid. Be afraid of the big bad SNP and Labour walking together through the aye lobby. The Tories and their preferred coalition partners, UKIP, have resorted to scare tactics to win over voters.  The former uses the spectre of communism, while the latter relies on the fear of the Other. The Tories are past masters of the scare tactic and they have access to the best practitioners of political skulduggery. Indeed, they employ people whose job it is to smear their opponents and plant the seeds of fear in people’s minds. The Conservative Research Department (CRD), for example, is well known for its smear tactics, espionage and dirty tricks.

When Michael Gove was moved to the whip’s office in the last cabinet reshuffle, he was apparently given the extra role of chief propagandist. Since the election was announced, Gove has popped up in television and radio studios to smear the Labour Party. He paints nightmarish images of a Labour minority government supported by the SNP that are worthy of Hieronymus Bosch. Gove and wife, Sarah Vine, are a sort of husband and wife smear team. He spreads poison on the airwaves, she spreads poison in the print media and online. Vine recently claimed, with unintentional hilarity, that Britain would become a “communist dictatorship under Labour and the SNP“. But she went further and insulted northerners and Scots too. Her husband’s a Scot, but he’s one of those Scots who’s mair Sassenach than Scottish. Great way to win over voters in the, er, ‘Northern Power House’ too, eh Sarah? How about sticking to what you’re good at? Like accusing the Director of Public Prosecution, Alison Saunders, of being “politically correct”.

In August last year, Judge Mary Jane Mowat, who spent 18 years on the bench in Oxford before retiring, claimed the rape conviction rate would not improve until women stopped drinking so heavily.

 ‘I’m not saying it’s right to rape a drunken women,’ she added. ‘I’m not saying that it’s allowable to take advantage of a drunken woman.’

She simply explained that a jury in a case where a woman can’t remember what she was doing ‘because she was off her head’ is less likely to convict.

She was speaking a basic truth. For her trouble she was vilified by the feministas.

Vine is no friend of feminists either, here referring to them as “feministas”. Fuck the sisterhood, eh Sarah?

Then there were the snide jibes about the Milibands’ kitchens (sic).

Not much prospect of a decent meal emanating from that mean, sterile, little box. No succulent joints of beef dripping in juices, no half-drunk bottles of red wine and mountain of fluffy white roast potatoes. It’ll be a quinoa salad with a side of shaved fennel, if you’re lucky. Let’s hope there’s a decent kebab shop around the corner

How petty.

Gove’s appearances on television have been nothing short of cringeworthy. Here he is attempting to explain his party’s manifesto commitment to extend Right to Buy to Housing Association tenants. He and his fellow ministers failed to tell the voracious Housing Association chief executives, who each draw down six-figure salaries about this, er, plan.

The plan… yes, that’s it. The Tories have a plan. So we’re told. It’s been given a name too. It’s the ‘Long Term Economic Plan’ or LTEP. Really trips off the tongue, doesn’t it? But it’s not a plan; it’s a slogan. Nothing more. Nothing less. It was coined to give the impression the Tories actually have something worth voting for. They don’t. They’re still recycling what’s left of Thatcher’s policies. Do you really want to go back to the 1980s? I know I don’t.

The Tories are hoping that many voters will internalise their scaremongering and lies. I watched a segment on Wednesday’s edition of The Daily Politics which had Giles Dilnot interview three workers in a Northamptonshire shoe factory. Two of them claimed they weren’t going to vote Labour, having voted for them in the past. Like an ‘I speak your weight’ machine (ask your grandparents), one said, bang on cue “I don’t have any faith in Miliband”, the other repeated the silly sub-Cain and Abel story, “He stabbed his brother in the back”. The former Labour voters told Dilnot they were going to vote UKIP, while the other claimed he was going to vote Tory. Gove was probably rubbing his hands with glee when he heard that. But these three workers (if indeed they were workers rather than managers) were not a representative sample of the nation’s voters and seemed to have been chosen for the purpose of claiming Labour’s fortunes were in the toilet and the Tories were now going to cruise home to victory.

Back to Gove. Yesterday, he told The Scotsman that his party was “closing the gap on Labour” and claimed that the Tories would win “three seats” in Scotland. What’s he smoking? Let me tell you something: it ain’t crack.

Here’s Gove talking up his party’s chances in Scotland last week on Newsnight. He also gets a chance to do some scaremongering. Gove repeats the “coalition of chaos” slogan while, at the same time, ignoring his own government’s chaos. The so-called “Omnishambles” budget, anyone?

There’s clearly too much of Gove on Newsnight. Gove is a dismal, unpleasant, obsequious, slimy, spiteful, repellent little creep twerp man, not content with smashing up our education system, he has been unleashed on the nation’s viewers and listeners as the Tories’ number one attack dog.

After the Leaders Debate a couple of weeks ago, Gove appeared on Question Time claiming Nicola Sturgeon would “hold the whip hand” over Ed Miliband and then repeated the lie that the last Labour government “bankrupted the country”. He wasn’t challenged by Andy Burnham. Huh? Then Gove tangled with Parker lookalike Peter Hitchens. The man in the audience who claimed Farage was “having a proper conversation” with the nation had clearly internalized the crap he’d read, seen or heard in the media. At one point he enters into a dialogue with Hitchens and claims that Farage “looked real”. I thought he looked sweaty and spoke a load of nonsense. What do I know? When pressed on a possible deal with UKIP, Gove squirmed, wriggled and fudged his reply. When the man in the orange shirt tackles Gove on his lies about the country “being close to Greece economically”, he squirms again. Then Hitchens, who’s no left-winger by any stretch of the imagination, steps in and finishes the job… and then goes on to claim the UK “encourages mass (sic) immigration”. Sigh.

So there it is: the third week of the nastiest general election since 1992, which ended much the same way as that election. Anyone would think…

This isn’t the end of the matter. There’s more to come.

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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