Tag: alex carey

Green washing & the psychology of denial

By Daniel Margrain

null

In 1978, the Australian social scientist, Alex Carey, pointed out that the twentieth century has been characterized by three developments of great political importance: “the growth of democracy; the growth of corporate power; and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy.”

In order to defend their interests against the forces of democracy, the giant polluting corporations that dominate much of the domestic and global economies recognize the need to manipulate the public through media propaganda by manufacturing their consent. This is largely achieved through coordinated mass campaigns that combine sophisticated public relations techniques which ensure business interests take precedence over environmental and social justice issues.

Following on from my previous article, in which I alluded that to deny the science linking carbon emissions to global warming is akin to denying the links between smoking and lung cancer and HIV and Aids, I want in this piece to focus on some of the techniques multinational corporations use that manage to convince some of us that these kinds of links are bogus.

The 97 per cent consensus among climate scientists that warming is real and man-made, is one of the most effective tools for persuading the public about the need to take action to prevent it. This is why, from the denier industry perspective, the corresponding need to counter it with false propaganda is imperative. As I explained, one of the denier strategies is to cynically exploit the space that exists between public perception and scientific fact, sometimes referred to as the “consensus gap.”

Fomenting uncertainty & cherry-picking

One of the ways in which corporate deniers set out to achieve this, is to deceive the public through media campaigns and lobbying strategies. The standard line organisations take is to foment uncertainty in relation to the science. This involves the claim that the science is contradictory, the scientists are split, environmentalists are charlatans, liars or lunatics and that if governments took action to prevent global warming, they would be endangering the global economy for no good reason.

The website Exxonsecrets.org, using data found in the company’s official documents, lists 124 organisations who have taken this approach. They have either taken money from Exxon or have worked closely with those that have.

Some of the other tactics deniers adopt is the cherry-picking of evidence, their citing of fake experts, the misrepresentation of the findings of others and the deflection of arguments away from the relevant topic. The mass media also play a part in the deception by constantly amplifying the views of the tiny minority of climate scientists who argue that man-made global warming is not happening, whilst ignoring and marginalizing the vast majority of experts who say it is.

As one writer put it:

“[They] proffer what they demurely call ‘disturbing questions’, though they disdain all answers but their own. They seize on coincidences and force them into sequences they deem to be logical and significant. Like mad Inquisitors, they pounce on imagined clues in documents and photos, torturing the data ­- as the old joke goes about economists — till the data confess. Their treatment of eyewitness testimony and forensic evidence is whimsical. Apparent anomalies that seem to nourish their theories are brandished excitedly; testimony that undermines their theories…is contemptuously brushed aside.”

Green washing

One of the more systematic approaches is the adoption by the corporations of an indoctrination technique known as green washing. The green washing of products and lifestyles is a public relations strategy used to divert public attention away from unethical environmental practices, thus seeking to legitimize decisions that would otherwise expose corporations to intense public scrutiny. Almost two decades ago, the Transnational Resource and Action Centre, for instance, highlighted how carbon polluting corporations pay lip service to eliminating fossil fuels by using renewable energy investments to give themselves a “clean and green” image.

The following insightful commentary involving an exchange between an elderly customer and a young cashier at a shop in the UK posted to the Neil Young Times by an anonymous writer, highlights with clarity the extent to which the green washing phenomena has been successful in deceiving a young generation of environmental activists and “socially and environmentally aware” individuals:

“Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the older woman that she should bring her own shopping bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment. The woman apologized and explained, “We didn’t have this green thing back in my earlier days.”

The cashier responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations.”

The old woman replied: “You’re right — our generation didn’t have the green thing in its day. Back then, we returned milk bottles, pop bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull. But we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.”

“We walked up stairs, because we didn’t have an escalator in every shop and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks. But she was right. We didn’t have the green thing in our day.”

“Back then, we washed the baby’s nappies because we didn’t have the throw-away kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 220 volts — wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. But that young lady is right. We didn’t have the green thing back in our day.”

“Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house — not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the county of Yorkshire . In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the post, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.”

“Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn petrol just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity. But she’s right. We didn’t have the green thing back then.”

“We drank water from a fountain or a tap when we were thirsty instead of demanding a plastic bottle flown in from another country. We accepted that a lot of food was seasonal and didn’t expect that to be bucked by flying it thousands of air miles around the world. We actually cooked food that didn’t come out of a packet, tin or plastic wrap and we could even wash our own vegetables and chop our own salad. But we didn’t have the green thing back then.”

“Back then, people took the tram or a bus, and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their mothers into a 24-hour taxi service. We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint.”

“But isn’t it sad that the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn’t have the green thing back then?”

The fact that human actions have resulted in a planet that is warmer than it has ever been in the last 100 years and that the public appear to be indifferent to the likely catastrophic consequences, would seem to suggest, that the displacement strategies of the corporations described above are succeeding.

David Bellamy

They have been ably assisted in this endeavor over the last decade not least as a result of the publicity to the denialist cause that was generated by the world renowned ecologist, David Bellamy. In April, 2005, Bellamy claimed in a letter to New Scientist that “555 of all the 625 glaciers under observation have been growing since 1980.”

Environmentalist, George Monbiot checked Bellamy’s claim with the World Glacier Monitoring Service who responded with four words: “This is complete bullshit.” A few hours later, they sent Monbiot an email:

“Despite his scientific reputation, he [Bellamy] makes all the mistakes that are possible. He had cited data that was simply false, he had failed to provide references, he had completely misunderstood the scientific context and neglected current scientific literature. The latest studies show unequivocally that most of the world’s glaciers are retreating.”

Monbiot then challenged Bellamy in a TV studio debate. During the extraordinary exchange, Monbiot revealed that Bellamy had reproduced falsified and fabricated data and accused the Botanist of committing scientific fraud.

Cognitive psychology

The kinds of corporate denialism, deception and green washing outlined raise some interesting related psychological issues. It seems highly probable that most people, if asked, would admit to being concerned about global warming and would accept that increasing the rate at which carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere changes the climate.

When, however, people are asked at elections what issues they are most concerned about, climate change barely features. So there appears to be a disconnect, on the one hand, between how people feel about climate change, and on the other, the extent to which it is at the forefront of their minds.

Environmentalist George Marshall attempts to make sense of this apparent dichotomy:

“It’s clear that we form our opinions on the basis of the science, but also that the process is more complex than that. In order to understand people’s needs in terms of the science of climate change, we also need to draw on the science of cognitive psychology, the science of sociology or social anthropology. We have to recognize that in terms of the former, there are different processes of the brain for processing information and that there are parallel processes. One deals with information and data – the rational side – and the other is what psychologists refer to as ‘affective reasoning’ which dominates our decision-making driven by cues, signals and above all, bias.”

Marshall continues:

“The process of attention and dis-attention is extremely important to how we operate. Increasingly, the research is suggesting that the process of dis-attention is more important to our functioning than attention. So it’s our ability to not pay attention to things that’s fundamental to the way we operate.”

It’s this latter process that’s particularly important in terms of how climate change is often perceived in terms of social signals. People have a tendency to conform to the views of their peer groups and it’s this kind of social pressure that can lead to confirmation bias. Also, it’s these kinds of false perceptions that lead people to accept that whilst climate change is acknowledged as a problem, it’s nevertheless perceived as a future problem rather than a problem in the present.

Thinking Fast and Slow

This is what psychologist Daniel Kahneman describes in his book Thinking Fast and Slow, as “a perfect combination of biases.” Not only are we biased against the future because we are short-sighted but, according to Kahneman, we are also cost-averse against a backdrop in which solutions to climate change involve huge financial costs. He also says that climate change invokes uncertainty.

However, as Marshall infers, as real as the perfect combination of biases outlined by Kahneman are to people, they only reflect a perception. They are not an illustration of reality. The truth is climate change is happening in the present and was happening in the past. Moreover, as Marshall argues, the cost issue is debatable, and with every scientific institution agreeing about man-made climate change, it’s certainties are unquestionable.

What appears to emerge from Kahneman’s analysis is that attempts to tackle climate change have been deliberately set up to fail. We make excuses not to confront it because it’s perceived to be a problem that exists somewhere in the future, is open to interpretations of biases and is regarded as having a multitude of potential interpretive causes.

Ultimately, climate change won’t be tackled because we have never recognized in any serious way, the need for it to be tackled. We live in a bubble of self-delusion in which the perceived short-term imperatives of the market have been prioritized above the need for the existence of a sustainable planet to ensure our long-term future.

The penetration of the market into all our lives and forms of thinking, is indicative of a self-obsessed culture guided by narrow short-term economic interests which will almost certainly lead to catastrophic social and environmental costs.

I rely on the generosity of my readers. I don’t make any money from my work and I’m not funded. If you’ve enjoyed reading this or another posting, please consider making a donation, no matter how small. You can help continue my research and write independently..… Thanks!


Donate Button with Credit Cards

Manufacturing Consent & the Myth of the Unelectable Left

By Daniel Margrain

Unelectable Left

 

In 1978, the Australian social scientist, Alex Carey, pointed out that the twentieth century has been characterized by three developments of great political importance: “the growth of democracy; the growth of corporate power; and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy.”

In order to defend their interests against the forces of democracy, the corporations that now dominate much of the domestic and global economies recognize the need to manipulate the public through media propaganda by manufacturing their consent. This is largely achieved through coordinated mass campaigns that combine sophisticated public relations techniques.

The result is the media underplay, or even ignore, the economic and ideological motivations that drive the social policy decisions and strategies of governments’. Sharon Beder outlines the reasoning behind the coordinated political, corporate and media attacks on democracy:

“The purpose of this propaganda onslaught has been to persuade a majority of people that it is in their interests to eschew their own power as workers and citizens, and forego their democratic right to restrain and regulate business activity. As a result the political agenda is now largely confined to policies aimed at furthering business interests.”

This is the context in which the UK political and media establishment continue to both attack Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and demean the membership of the party who had the temerity to vote for him, securing one of the biggest electoral mandates of any Labour leader in British political history.

It’s the possibility that Corbyn will break the iron-clad neoliberal consensus that scares the establishment the most. As Mike Sivier has shown, the significant role the media have played in undermining Corbyn’s leadership, as well as their failure to explicitly acknowledge the establishment coup against him, can be traced back until at least April, 2016.

Media hate-fest

Arguably, the plot to oust Corbyn began after a hardcore group of right-wing MPs all refused to serve under him. The corporate media also played their part in what has arguably been the most vitriolic and biased reportage ever witnessed against any British political figure in history. What Media Lens accurately described as a “panic-driven hysterical hate-fest right across the corporate media spectrum,” began during Corbyn’s campaign to become leader.

As the media analysts noted at the time, “the full extent of media bias against Jeremy Corbyn can be gauged simply by comparing the tone and intensity of attacks on him as compared to those directed at the other three candidates: Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall.”

The intensity of the media attacks on Corbyn increased after he secured ‘the largest mandate ever won by a party leader’. The focus of these attacks included what colour poppy Corbyn would wear, his refusal to sing the national anthem or whether he would wear a tie or do up his top button. All of this was granted national news headlines and incessant coverage. Not to be outdone, in October 2015, the BBCs political editor Laura Kuenssberg featured in an almost comically biased, at times openly scornful, attack on Corbyn’s reasonable stance on nuclear weapons. The BBC then broadcast five senior Blairite Labour figures all opposing Corbyn without any opportunity for an alternative viewpoint.

Kuenssberg followed up this hatchet-job three months later when she helped to orchestrate the live resignation of Labour shadow foreign minister Stephen Doughty on the BBC2 Daily Politics show as a pre-requisite to accusing Corbyn’s team of ‘unpleasant operations’ and ‘lies’. Then came the April 12, 2016 Telegraph article – a non-story about Corbyn’s state-funded salary and pension.

Not to be outdone, eleven months later (March 5, 2017), the same rag continued with the smears by suggesting Corbyn had paid insufficient tax on his declared annual earnings – a claim subsequently debunked within hours on social media. Meanwhile, the news that Tory Chancellor, Philip Hammond, refused point-blank to publish his own tax returns after being prompted to do so by Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, did not receive anything like the same kind of media scrutiny.

The implication of this ‘fake news’ story, was that Corbyn had misled the public. However, similar media outrage was not leveled at PM Theresa May after it was revealed (March 7, 2017) that she had lied to parliament after having falsely claimed that Surrey Council had not engaged in a ‘sweat heart’ deal with the Conservative government. It appears that when it comes to Corbyn, a completely different set of media standards are applied. Indeed, this is supported by the evidence. Academic studies confirm the media’s anti-Corbyn bias.

  • A major content analysis from Cardiff University revealed that the BBC is pro-business and Conservative-leaning in its coverage.
  • The London School of Economics and Political Science found strong media bias against Corbyn, claiming the press had turned into an “attack dog” against the opposition leader.
  • The UK’s public service broadcaster gave double the airtime to Corbyn’s critics than to his allies at the start of the 2016 Labour coup, according to content analysis from the Media Reform Coalition.

letter from numerous academics and media activists, including Greg Philo of the Glasgow Media Group, Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman, published in the Guardian, ironically, noted:

“The leadership of Jeremy Corbyn has been subject to the most savage campaign of falsehood and misrepresentation in some of our most popular media outlets. He has, at different times, been derided, ignored, vilified and condemned.”

Portland Communications & the antisemitism row

Arguably, one of the most serious impacts that have emerged from this sustained media campaign of biased vilification, have been the attempts by the right-wing Friends of Israel group within the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) to topple Corbyn using the specter of antisemitism as a weapon with which to achieve it. Among the most comprehensive analyses of the McCarthy-style witch-hunts undertaken so far has been by journalist Asa Winstanley.

In an excellent piece published by the Electronic Intifada (April 28, 2016), Winstanley outlined the links between right-wing, anti-Corbyn and pro-Israel forces within the Labour party. He meticulously showed how this lobby manufactured an ‘antisemitism crisis’, pinpointing the individuals involved, the tactics and dirty tricks used and the connections to powerful individuals whose ties lead to pro-Israel groups both in London and Israel.

One of the most prominent attacks on Corbyn centred on a contrived ‘antisemitism’ accusation made by Labour MP, Ruth Smeeth who Wikileaks have revealed is a ‘strictly protected’ US informant. Smeeth staged a highly publicised walk-out during Corbyn’s launch of a review into the Labour party’s ‘anti-semitism crisis’ on June 30, 2016 which, as Jonathan Cook pointed out, was in fact, “a crisis entirely confected by a toxic mix of the right, Israel supporters and the media.”

A few days earlier another manufactured and staged anti-Corbyn story made the headlines. This time it centred around a Corbyn ‘heckler’ at Gay Pride, who in fact, as Craig Murray observed turned out to have been Tom Mauchline who works for the public relations firm, Portland Communications, whose ‘strategic counsel’ is Alastair Campbell, Blair’s former media chief who helped to sell the illegal invasion-occupation of Iraq.

Eagle’s hard landing

In addition to all of this, Corbyn’s pro-Remain position with respect to the EU referendum provided his critics with the ammunition they needed in their attempts to undermine him further. Chief among these critics is Angela Eagle, one of the many Oxford educated New Labour plotters who resigned her post in order to position herself as a potential replacement for Corbyn and who claimed to be dissatisfied with Corbyn’s performance during the EU referendum campaign. However, as the graphic below indicates, Corbyn did much better than Eagle in defending their respective Remain positions:

According to a YouGov poll in the run up to the second election, Eagle commanded just 6 per cent support from Labour members and eventually dropped out of the race to be replaced by challenger, Owen Smith.

The Owen Smith debacle

In a debate on the September 8, 2016 edition of BBC’s Question Time leading up to the election, a studio audience member accused Smith of “being in the wrong party”. Smith’s voting record in parliament appeared to support this thesis.

Having pitched himself as a ‘soft-left’ anti-austerity alternative to Corbyn, the former public relations professional had previously given interviews supporting PFI and, as chief lobbyist for the U.S multinational Pfizer, he actively pushed for the privatization of NHS services. Commenting on a Pfizer funded ‘focus group’ study as part of a press release, Smith referenced and promoted the notion that the precondition for greater availability of healthcare services was the ability of the public to be able to pay for them.

Smith also supported Blair’s city academies and assiduously courted the arms industry of which his support of Trident was a reflection. Arguably, most important of all, is that Smith effectively lined up with the Tories, alongside another 183 Labour MPs in July, 2015 by refusing to vote against the Conservative governments regressive and reactionary policy of welfare cuts to some of the most vulnerable people in society.

In the end, Labour Party members saw through the Smith brand, realized he was, as Craig Murray put it, “another New Labour unprincipled and immoral careerist”, and voted accordingly.

The cementing of Corbyn’s mandate

Consequently, Corbyn increased his proportion of the vote and hence his mandate. This was despite a war of attrition by the PLP that involved a McCarthyite purging of Corbyn supporters – a disdain for the grass roots membership which has a long history within the hierarchy of the party.

The grass-roots popularity for Corbyn must be seen against a backdrop in which the Labour party gained 60,000 members in one week following the attempted coup against him. Membership of the party is currently higher than it’s last peak of 405,000 members last seen under Tony Blair’s leadership.

As Corbyn’s vindication by the memberships overwhelming support of him shows, the ‘race to the bottom’ strategy of his opponents serves nobody other than the narrow careerist motivations of an out of touch elite who have their snouts embedded in the trough and don’t want to give up their privileges without a fight. A sincere and incorruptible politician like Corbyn represents a potential threat to these privileges and the gravy train that sustains them.

This explains why the careerists inside the New Labour bubble would prefer a Tory government over a Corbyn government and thus are happy to continue with the ‘divided party at war with one another’ narrative. This was what the challenge to Corbyn’s authority within the right-wing of the party is really all about. It’s not that Corbyn hasn’t a realistic chance of winning the next General Election, rather, it’s more a case that the establishment will do everything in their power to ensure that he doesn’t.

Battle lines drawn

In that sense, the political battle lines have been drawn, not between the Tories, the corporate mass media and the right-wing ‘opposition’, but between these factions and the rest of us. The resignation of the right-winger, Tristram Hunt, who was essentially parachuted into his Stoke-On-Trent constituency, represents a tacit acknowledgement by the Blairites that the New Labour faction within the party is on the ropes and that Corbyn is in the ascendancy. This notion was articulated by Ken Livingston, who in response to the resignation echoed the views of the grass roots when he depicted Hunt as being part of:

“a small elite that is very much London based that dominated the Labour party under the Blair-Brown years and were in awe of the bankers and forgot the needs of ordinary working class and middle class families, that era is gone.”

The popularity of Corbyn among grass roots members did not deter the right-wing of the party prior to the General Election from making the assertion  that Corbyn was an electoral liability for Labour and that he was unelectable.

However, the massive swing to Labour proved them wrong, In addition, his impressive record at elections more generally, should have been a warning to them. In his constituency of Islington North, Corbyn inherited a majority of 4,456, which increased to 21,194. He added a further 10,430 at the General election. He’s one of the few Labour MPs whose vote increased between 2005 and 2010, when he added 5,685 to his majority.

It must also be remembered that pre-coup, Labour led the Tories in three polls in a row over 41 days. Furthermore, London, Bristol and Greater Manchester now have Labour mayors, rolling back years of Tory dominance, while Labour’s majorities in by-elections have generally increased. It’s true that the by-election in Copeland was a major disappointment but this was largely offset by the fact that Labour took the Stoke on-Trent seat on the same day.

It is also worth noting that Labour won three local government by-elections – two off the Tories and one off the SNP. In last May’s local elections, the party overtook the Tories in the share of the vote, coming from seven points behind at the last but one election.

Meanwhile, the party haemorrhaged 4.9 million votes between 1997 and 2010 under the ‘triangulated’ leadership of Tony Blair. The man who took the country to war in Iraq under a false prospectus, and who lobbies on behalf of some of the world’s most brutal and corrupt dictators, claimed in a moment of Orwellian doublespeak that Corbyn is a disaster for the party.

Myth-making

This narrative is consistent with the notion that the left are un-electable more generally. Such a narrative is a myth. As Craig Murray posited, the idea that you have to be right-wing to win elections is belied by the fact that the SNP under Nicola Sturgeon won the people of Scotland over on a left-wing ticket. Secondly, as he rightly says, there is no point being elected just so you can carry out the same policies as your opponents. Third, the British public’s ‘enthusiasm’ for somebody like Blair in 1997 was not based on policies known as Blairite. As Murray astutely points out:

“The 1997 Labour Manifesto  was not right-wing. It did not mention Academy schools, Private Finance Initiative, Tuition Fees, NHS privatisation, financial sector deregulation or any of the right wing policies Blair was to usher in. Labour actually presented quite a left wing image, and figures like Robin Cook and Clare Short were prominent in the campaign. There was certainly no mention of military invasions. It was only once Labour were in power that Blair shaped his cabinet and his policies on an ineluctably right wing course and Mandelson started to become dominant. As people discovered that New Labour were “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich”, to quote Mandelson, their popular support plummeted. “The great communicator” Blair for 90% of his Prime Ministership was no more popular than David Cameron is now. 79% of the electorate did not vote for him by his third election.”

Murray continued:

“Michael Foot consistently led Margaret Thatcher in opinion polls – by a wide margin – until the Falklands War. He was defeated in a victory election by the most appalling and intensive wave of popular war jingoism and militarism, the nostalgia of a fast declining power for its imperial past, an emotional outburst of popular relief that Britain could still notch up a military victory over foreigners in its colonies. It was the most unedifying political climate imaginable. The tabloid demonization of Foot as the antithesis of the military and imperial theme was the first real exhibition of the power of Rupert Murdoch. Few serious commentators at the time doubted that Thatcher might have been defeated were it not for the Falklands War – which in part explains her lack of interest in a peaceful solution. Michael Foot’s position in the demonology ignores these facts. The facts about Blair and about Foot are very different from the media mythology.”

The reality, as one commentator on twitter put it, is that in corporate media and political establishment parlance, “un-electable” is media-political code for ‘likely to be highly electable but ‘will not serve elite interests.’”

Snap election

No sooner had PM Theresa May announced in April her decision to go to the country in a snap election predicated on a single issue Brexit strategy, Corbyn, was quickly out of the blocks in his attempts to wrong-foot her. The Labour leaders first General Election campaign speech and Q&A in which he outlined a broad set of policies to tackle growing inequality and reverse years of Tory austerity, was a tour de force.

Corbyn was able to capitalize on May’s unpopular campaign on bread and butter issues such as grammar schools and the dementia tax. Where I disagree with Corbyn is in relation to his position on Brexit which I regard as economically illiterate. I outlined my thinking here.

However, given that a poll (July 16, 2017) commissioned by Blair suggests that 56 per cent of the public agree with the statement, “Brexit must mean Brexit”, it would appear that Corbyn looks set to pull off a tactical masterstroke. By refusing to adopt the Remain position of the Liberal Democrats, means that Corbyn is likely to be best placed to capitalize on May’s calamitous hard Brexit outcome.

Other issues that the Tories won’t be able to hide away from, is the chaos in the NHS and social care sector, the scandal of zero hours contracts, in-work poverty, lack of affordable housing and welfare cuts among others.

Ultimately, the implication the public don’t necessarily favour Corbyn’s politics is wrong. His position on the NHS and the re-nationalization of the railways, for example, are universally popular. Rather, it’s more the case that the elite political-media establishment know Corbyn is incorruptible and therefore feel they are unable to win him over on their own terms. Consequently, they realize that the longer Corbyn remains at the helm the more likely it will be that those sympathetic to him and his policies will be elected into positions of power.

The fact that the media barons are constantly drumming it into the public’s heads that Corbyn is useless and should resign, is a testament to his unflinching endurance to see through the mandate entrusted upon him by the rank and file. If both the right-wing Tory media and his political opponents were so convinced that he had no chance of winning the election, why did they keep insisting that he resign?

Moreover, the criticism often leveled at Corbyn that he provides weak opposition at the dispatch box during PMQs, is belied by the fact that under his leadership the Tories have been forced into some thirty policy u-turns.

Cracks

Cracks had started to appear in the Tory armory way before the General Election. Left-Foot Forward noted, both the PMs press secretary, and her director of communications and long-term adviser, departed company with her. In addition, “May’s two closest advisers have a long history of intra-government feuds – both were forced to leave May’s home office team after rifts with other members of David Cameron’s cabinet – and the trend seems to be continuing in Number 10.”

According to Politico:

“The string of departures from Number 10 has been linked to May’s highly controlled leadership style. Government officials frequently report that power over government messaging and media strategy is heavily concentrated in the hands of ‘the chiefs’… and that more junior members of staff have limited freedom to operate.”

May’s authoritarianism has arguably been the motivating factor which has led to what the Canary reported (April 24, 2017) as the resignation of a third senior adviser from Downing Street within a week. The PMs control freakery was underlined by what Ash Sarkar, described as “a moment of short-term political opportunism which actually has potential catastrophic affects in terms of a concentration of power in the executive.”

It’s May’s totalitarian instincts that are symbiotic of the rightward drift in politics over the last four decades, that has culminated in some of the most severe attacks on our civil liberties within living memory.

In November 20, 2016, Craig Murray, published a blog piece that is apposite for the current situation. In it, he illustrates an example of the PMs total contempt for democracy legitimized by what he accurately terms as “an over-mighty executive government backed by corporate wealth which controls a corporate media.”

Murray continued:

“Her [May’s] default position is to retreat into secrecy and blatant abuse of power. That is precisely what we are seeing over Brexit, where there is no plan and much to hide. May’s natural instinct is to brook no opposition, debate or discussion of her actions, but to proceed on the basis of executive fiat, with as little information as possible given to parliament, devolved authorities and – Heaven forbid – the public.”

Both Murray and Sarkar’s assertions were illustrative of May’s refusal to take part in a televised public debate in the run-up to the election, her banning of both the public and journalists from Tory events and the insistence that her MPs sign a three lock pledge.

May’s autocratic style and her reluctance to allow proper democratic scrutiny, points to a lack of intellectual acumen and the paucity of her campaign policies underpinned by the repetitive mantra, “strong and stable” – amusingly parodied by Mike Sivier (April 27, 2017).

The paucity of May’s campaign was even noted by some establishment commentators. Columnist Fraser Nelson, for example, revealed in the Telegraph (April 21, 2017), that May’s election manifesto was extremely light in both content and detail which a single hard Brexit strategy implied.

An illustration of the PMs lack of intellectual acumen and autocratic style, was perhaps most pertinently highlighted by constituent, Louise Trethowanwho related a fifteen minute encounter she had with May at her constituency office in Maidenhead.

Trethowan said:

“For me, it was an excellent opportunity to put all my fears – and the concerns of the 48 per cent – to the woman who will lead us towards the Brexit cliff edge. I expected… her to present some strong arguments that would counter my own.”

But what she witnessed was a rude, aggressive and finger-pointing individual who was unable to hold an argument.

Trethowan added:

She [the PM] seemed petulant, defensive, tired and rattled… If the Prime Minister is so easily angered how on earth is she going to be the best negotiator for Brexit? I fear she will lose her temper and start jabbing her finger at people.”

The reliance on a constituency of right-wing extremists to argue the Tories’ case for returning an unstable individual to Downing Street based on a ‘blank cheque’ hard Brexit, while ignoring the key bread and butter issues, proved to have been a risky one that ultimately failed.

Of course, the billionaire-owning mass media support the Tories with near unanimity. But the front page of the Daily Mail (April 19, 2017) which ran with the headline “Crush The Saboteurs” (see below), almost certainly alienated 48 per cent of the population who voted Remain. Therefore, given the shifting attitudes towards Brexit, the right-wing media’s depiction of over 16 million people as “the enemy” probably backfired on the Tories.

Behind in the polls

It’s true that when May announced the election, Corbyn was well behind in the polls but, as Craig Murray pointed out at the time, this is misleading. The downside for Corbyn, according to YouGov, is that Labour looked set to lose out to the Tories for the vote of the oldest and least educated demographic – many of whom are traditional working class voters. It seemed at the time Labour’s longer-term prospects would have been hindered by the fact that society is ageing.

But on the other hand, YouGov found that Labour was leading the voting intention polls with under-40s. The problem for Labour, historically, has been that it’s this group who have been the least likely to go out and vote. I stated at the time that “If Corbyn can mobilize this former hitherto relatively passive demographic group into voting, then the polls could be significantly closer than many pundits are suggesting.” And so it came to pass. It is also worth keeping in mind that the last Tory PM to have called an early election on a single issue while ahead in the polls was Edward Heath – and he lost.

It was music to this writers ears that Corbyn began his campaign emphasizing Labour’s policy plans in a lucid and persuasive way. The two-pronged strategy of focusing on May’s shortcomings over Brexit on the one hand, and Corbyn’s emphasis on outlining policies to reduce inequality and create a fairer society on the other, was inspired.

The announcement by Corbyn’s team on April 26, 2017, that the Labour leader would not take part in a live televised TV debate, only for him to change his mind, was another tactical master stroke. The decision wrong-footed May who was the first to announce she would not participate. She was then perceived as ducking out of the challenge to face Corbyn.

Polls narrowed

As the election neared, the public began to frame their views on Corbyn, less on what the media wanted them to believe through their propagandizing of him, and more on what they saw and heard in public speeches and debates. They liked what they heard. The bread and butter issues resonated across the board, but particularly with the young who saw in Corbyn somebody who at last was prepared to put issues like tuition fees, education, inequality, social justice and affordable housing at the top of the agenda.

The media’s depiction of him as a bumbling idiot and terrorist sympathizer didn’t square with the reality. Thus the closer the election got, the narrower the polls became. When the election was called in April, the Tories lead over Labour was 24 points. A week before the election, the lead had been cut to just three.

Having galvanized the young and encapsulated the wider public mood with an inspired insurgency campaign, it was clear in the early hours of June 9, 2017, that Corbyn against all the odds, had prevented a Tory majority. May’s ‘one trick pony’ hard Brexit strategy had failed and the electorate in huge numbers had been persuaded by the Labour leaders message of compassion, justice and humanity.

Given the level of media vilification, hostility and bias against Corbyn from the moment he became Labour leader, the election result was nothing less than astonishing. Corbyn ‘increased Labour’s share of the vote by more than any other of the party’s election leaders since 1945′ with ‘the biggest swing since shortly after the Second World War. He won a larger share of the vote than Tony Blair in 2005.

The corporate media commentariat – most of whom were fanatical, during the election campaign in promoting May and had predicted a Tory landslide – had been caught with their tails between their legs. When a tweeter suggested that Corbyn’s result was “brilliant”, New Statesman editor Jason Cowley replied: “Yes, I agree.” Just three days earlier, Cowley had written under the ominous title:

“The Labour reckoning – Corbyn has fought a spirited campaign but is he leading the party to worst defeat since 1935?”

In March, Cowley opined:

“The stench of decay and failure coming from the Labour Party is now overwhelming – Speak to any Conservative MP and they will say that there is no opposition. Period.”

Corbyn’s success means that the power of the mainstream media to dictate public opinion has been broken. But the shifting political landscape is not reflected in the unrepresentative nature of TV political punditry which continues as it did before the election. The call by Naomi Klein to have fixed terms for pundits just like presidents and prime ministers, is long overdue.

The likes of Polly Toynbee, Toby Young, Andrew Neil, Julia Hartley Brewer et al have not displayed any sense of humility, self-awareness or embarrassment since the election, which illustrates their sense of self-entitlement and the programme-makers disregard for public opinion.

But it isn’t just the commentariate and TV producers within the elite media bubble who are out of touch and aloof. The Labour party establishment who endorse the elite narrative and who were filmed predicting Corbyn’s demise and felt he was unsuitable to lead the party into the election, ought to (but won’t) be hanging their head in shame.

None of the Blairites will be missed as the party enters a new post-New Labour era. Corbyn should take advantage of his popularity and he may now feel emboldened enough to encourage their deselection. Blairites are only motivated by money and power and they will go away once the money dries up.

If you’ve enjoyed reading this or another posting, please consider making a donation, no matter how small. I don’t make any money from my work, and I’m not funded. You can help continue my research and write independently outside the control of corporate-owned and power-serving media structures.… Thanks!


Donate Button with Credit Cards

Anti-Corbyn plots & the myth of the un-electable left

By Daniel Margrain

 

Corbyn speaking at the Tolpuddle Martyrs’ Festival and Rally in 2015

 

In 1978, the Australian social scientist, Alex Carey, pointed out that the twentieth century has been characterized by three developments of great political importance: “the growth of democracy; the growth of corporate power; and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy.” The corporations that now dominate much of the domestic and global economies recognize the need to manipulate the public through media propaganda by manufacturing their consent in order to defend their interests against the forces of democracy. This is largely achieved as a result of coordinated mass campaigns that combine sophisticated public relations techniques.

The result is the media underplay, or even ignore, the economic and ideological motivations that drive the social policy decisions and strategies of governments’. Sharon Beder outlines the reasoning behind the coordinated political, corporate and media attacks on democracy:

“The purpose of this propaganda onslaught has been to persuade a majority of people that it is in their interests to eschew their own power as workers and citizens, and forego their democratic right to restrain and regulate business activity. As a result the political agenda is now largely confined to policies aimed at furthering business interests.”

This is the context in which the UK political and media establishment are attacking Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and demeaning the membership who had the temerity to vote for him, securing the biggest electoral mandate of any Labour leader in British political history. It’s the possibility that Corbyn will break the iron-clad neoliberal consensus that scares the establishment the most. As Mike Sivier has shown, the significant role the media have played in undermining Corbyn’s leadership, as well as their failure to explicitly acknowledge the establishment coup against him, can be traced back until at least April.

But arguably, the plot to oust Corbyn began the moment he became leader after a hardcore group that included shadow chancellor Chris Leslie, shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt, shadow communities secretary Emma Reynolds and shadow defence secretary Vernon Coaker, all refused to serve under him. Others included shadow transport secretary Michael Dugher, shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Shabana Mahmood, shadow international development secretary Mary Creagh and shadow Cabinet Office minister Lucy Powell.

The corporate media also played their part in what has arguably been the most vitriolic and biased reportage ever witnessed against any British political figure in history. What Media Lens accurately described as a “panic-driven hysterical hate-fest right across the corporate media spectrum,” actually began during Corbyn’s campaign to become leader. As the media analysts noted at the time, “the full extent of media bias against Jeremy Corbyn can be gauged simply by comparing the tone and intensity of attacks on him as compared to those directed at the other three candidates: Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall.”

The intensity of the media attacks on Corbyn increased after the election despite the fact that he secured ‘the largest mandate ever won by a party leader’. The focus of these attacks included what colour poppy Corbyn would wear, his refusal to sing the national anthem or whether he would wear a tie or do up his top button. All of this was granted national news headlines and incessant coverage. Not to be outdone, in October last year, the BBCs political editor Laura Kuenssberg featured in an almost comically biased, at times openly scornful, attack on Corbyn’s reasonable stance on nuclear weapons. The BBC then broadcast five senior Blairite Labour figures all opposing Corbyn without any opportunity for an alternative viewpoint.

Kuenssberg followed up this hatchet-job three months later when she helped to orchestrate the live resignation of Labour shadow foreign minister Stephen Doughty on the BBC2 Daily Politics show as a pre-requisite to accusing Corbyn’s team of ‘unpleasant operations’ and ‘lies’. Then came the April 12 Telegraph article – a non-story about Corbyn’s state-funded salary and pension.

Allied to all this, have been the attempts by the Blairite Friends of Israel rump within the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) to topple Corbyn using the specter of antisemitism as a weapon with which to achieve it. Arguably, among the most comprehensive analyses of the McCarthy-style witch-hunts undertaken so far has been by Tony Greenstein (who remains at the forefront of moves to combat genuine cases of antisemitism on the fringes of the Palestine solidarity movement) in addition to the brilliant investigative work of journalist Asa Winstanley.

In an excellent piece published by the Electronic Intifada (April 28, 2016), Winstanley outlined the links between right-wing, anti-Corbyn and pro-Israel forces within the Labour party. He meticulously showed how this lobby manufactured an ‘antisemitism crisis’, pinpointing the individuals involved, the tactics and dirty tricks used and the connections to powerful individuals whose ties lead to pro-Israel groups both in London and Israel.

The latest attack on Corbyn centred on another contrived ‘antisemitism’ accusation, this time made by Labour MP, Ruth Smeeth who Wikileaks have revealed is a ‘strictly protected’ US informant. Smeeth staged a highly publicised walk-out during Corbyn’s launch of a review into the Labour party’s supposed ‘anti-semitism crisis’ last Thursday (June 30) which, as Jonathan Cook pointed out, was in fact, “a crisis entirely confected by a toxic mix of the right, Israel supporters and the media.”

A few days earlier another manufactured and staged anti-Corbyn story made the headlines. This time it centred around a Corbyn ‘heckler’ at Gay Pride, who in fact, as Craig Murray observed turned out to have been Tom Mauchline who works for the public relations firm, Portland Communications, whose ‘strategic counsel’ is Alastair Campbell, Blair’s former media chief who helped to sell the illegal invasion-occupation of Iraq.

In addition to all of this, Corbyn’s pro-Remain position with respect to the EU referendum provided his critics with the ammunition they needed in their attempts to undermine him further. Chief among these critics is Angela Eagle, one of the many Oxford educated Blairite plotters who resigned her post in order to position herself as a potential replacement for Corbyn and who claimed to be dissatisfied with Corbyn’s performance during the EU referendum campaign. However, as the graphic below would appear to indicate, Corbyn did much better than Eagle in defending their respective Remain positions:

According to a YouGov poll, Eagle commands just 6 per cent support from Labour members while a greater number than last time said they will vote for Corbyn if he were to stand again. In other words, just like last time, Corbyn would likely win more votes than all the other candidates combined. This grass-roots popularity for Corbyn must be seen against a backdrop in which the Labour party gained 60,000 members in one week following the attempted coup against him. Membership of the party currently stands at about 450,000 – a figure that is higher than it’s last peak of 405,000 members last seen under Tony Blair’s leadership.

This would almost certainly translate into Corbyn receiving more votes than his Blairite predecessor Ed Milliband did at the last General Election. With the proportion of the Labour vote increasing under Corbyn, the two main parties are neck-and-neck at 32 per cent. This undercuts the recent claims of elder statesmen like David Blunkett and Neil Kinnock that Corbyn is an electoral liability for Labour.

This narrative is consistent with the notion that the left are un-electable more generally. Such a narrative is a myth. As Craig Murray posited, the idea that you have to be right-wing to win elections is belied by the fact that the SNP under Nicola Sturgeon won the people of Scotland over on a left-wing ticket. Secondly, as he rightly says, there is no point being elected just so you can carry out the same policies as your opponents. Third, the British public’s ‘enthusiasm’ for somebody like Blair in 1997 was not based on policies known as Blairite. As Murray astutely points out:

“The 1997 Labour Manifesto  was not right-wing. It did not mention Academy schools, Private Finance Initiative, Tuition Fees, NHS privatisation, financial sector deregulation or any of the right wing policies Blair was to usher in. Labour actually presented quite a left wing image, and figures like Robin Cook and Clare Short were prominent in the campaign. There was certainly no mention of military invasions. It was only once Labour were in power that Blair shaped his cabinet and his policies on an ineluctably right wing course and Mandelson started to become dominant. As people discovered that New Labour were “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich”, to quote Mandelson, their popular support plummeted. “The great communicator” Blair for 90% of his Prime Ministership was no more popular than David Cameron is now. 79% of the electorate did not vote for him by his third election.”

Murray continues:

“Michael Foot consistently led Margaret Thatcher in opinion polls – by a wide margin – until the Falklands War. He was defeated in a victory election by the most appalling and intensive wave of popular war jingoism and militarism, the nostalgia of a fast declining power for its imperial past, an emotional outburst of popular relief that Britain could still notch up a military victory over foreigners in its colonies. It was the most unedifying political climate imaginable. The tabloid demonization of Foot as the antithesis of the military and imperial theme was the first real exhibition of the power of Rupert Murdoch. Few serious commentators at the time doubted that Thatcher might have been defeated were it not for the Falklands War – which in part explains her lack of interest in a peaceful solution. Michael Foot’s position in the demonology ignores these facts. The facts about Blair and about Foot are very different from the media mythology.”

The reality, as one commentator on twitter put it, is that in corporate media and political establishment parlance, “‘un-electable” is media-political code for ‘likely to be highly electable but ‘will not serve elite interests.'”

This description applies to Corbyn. The ‘un-electable left’ meme is likely to intensify the longer Corbyn manages to hang on. In these unsettling and unpredictable times, it’s the one propaganda weapon the establishment is certain to cling to as their means of attempting to prevent democracy from breaking their grip on power.

Why Tories & Blairites are an affront to democracy

By Daniel Margrain

In 1978, the Australian social scientist, Alex Carey, pointed out that the twentieth century has been characterized by three developments of great political importance: “the growth of democracy; the growth of corporate power; and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy.”

The corporations that now dominate much of the domestic and global economies recognize the need to manipulate the public through media propaganda by manufacturing their consent. This is largely achieved as a result of coordinated mass campaigns that combine sophisticated public relations techniques developed in 20th Century America with revitalized free market ideology that originated in 18th Century Europe.

The result is the media underplay, or even ignore, the economic and ideological motivations that drive the social policy decisions and strategies of governments’. According to Sharon Beder:

“The purpose of this propaganda onslaught has been to persuade a majority of people that it is in their interests to eschew their own power as workers and citizens, and forego their democratic right to restrain and regulate business activity. As a result the political agenda is now largely confined to policies aimed at furthering business interests.”

The under resourcing and under funding of large swaths of the public sector is part of the Tory strategy to run down public services as the precursor to their dismantling prior to them being sold off, precisely with the aim of furthering the business interests of those involved. In fact, as Noam Chomsky put it, the defunding process is standard practice within Western liberal democracies:

“[T]here is a standard technique of privatization, namely defund what you want to privatize. Like when Thatcher wanted to defund the railroads, first thing to do is defund them, then they don’t work and people get angry and they want a change. That’s the standard technique of privatization: defund, make sure things don’t work, people get angry, you hand it over to private capital.”

A century or so ago, the Russian Marxist Nicolai Bukharin realized that the growth of international corporations and their close association with national states were symptomatic of how both aspects hollow out the parliamentary system. It is now widely recognized that the power of private lobbying money draws power upwards into the executive and non-elected parts of the state dominated by corporations. Consequently this leads to a reduction in democratic accountability and public transparency.

Internal markets, market testing, contracting out, privatisation, encouraging private pensions and all the rest, are mechanisms that are intended to depoliticise the process of social provision, so making it easier to refuse it to those deemed not to deserve it on the one hand, and to clamp down on the workers in the welfare sector on the other.

Tied into this ethos is the move to dismantle the welfare state completely, which contrary to popular belief, was not a key priority for Thatcher following her election in 1979. It was not until her third term of office in 1987 that her advisers (notably the Sainsbury’s chief executive Sir Roy Griffiths) began to develop the ideas which were to be picked up and developed by New Labour under Tony Blair. Dressed in the language of ‘public-private partnerships’, the state under Blair was envisaged as the purchaser rather than direct provider of services.

To enable this to happen, whole entities within the public sector were outsourced, health and social care services privatized and competition and the business ethos introduced into public services in the form of managerialism and New Public Management; and the recasting of patients and clients as customers.

It would be foolish to understate the changes that more than two decades of neoliberalism have wrought on the welfare state. Areas such as residential care are now overwhelmingly located in the private sector, with one study suggesting that “the privatisation of social care services is arguably the most extensive outsourcing of a public service yet undertaken in the UK”.

The outsourcing process emanates from the policy of defunding which consequently is leading to a crisis in social care resulting, in part, to a shortage of nurses within the NHS that have reached dangerous levels in 90 per cent of UK hospitals. The aim is to expand the ethos of competition into residential social care and to ensure the domination of the market by a small number of very powerful multinational corporations (including, for example, the Royal Bank of Scotland and the Qatar Investment Fund). The primary concern of these corporations is not the welfare of the residents in the homes which they own but rather with maximizing their profits.

When they fail to do so sufficiently or where there are larger profits to be made elsewhere, then they will simply pull out, creating massive instability in the sector and undermining the continuity of care which is a key element of good quality social provision. The collapse in 2011 of Southern Cross, until then the largest provider of residential care for older people in the UK, is the most glaring example.

Under the Tory government of David Cameron, every aspect of the welfare state is under attack. The 2012 Health and Social Care Act removes the duty on the Secretary of State for Health to provide a comprehensive health service, while the requirement in the act that up to 49 percent of services can be tendered out to “any qualified provider” will rapidly lead to the privatisation of the NHS in England and Wales. Already between a quarter and a half of all community services are now run by Virgin Care.

A combination of cuts of around 30 per cent to local authority  social care budgets since 2010, increasingly restrictive eligibility criteria for services, and inadequate personal budgets, will leave millions without the support they need and increasingly dependent on the family, and in particular women family members.

And in place of what was once called social security, unprecedented cuts across all areas of benefits, especially disability benefits, the introduction of sanctions regimes which as Christmas fast approaches has, according to figures from the Russell Trust, contributed to over a million people being given emergency food and support in 2014-15.

Meanwhile, a bedroom tax affecting around 600,000 people will increase the number of children in poverty by 200,000 as well as harming their learning amid stress and hunger. It has recently been reported that a DWP study indicates that nearly half of those affected by the tax have gone without food so that they can make ends meet.

What drives the different rationales—economic, political and ideological—behind the current Tory government’s assault on the public sector, is the desire of the one per cent to shift the costs of a global economic crisis onto the 99 per cent. One important political consequence of this socioeconomic realignment in favour of those at the top of the pyramid is the shifting of the relationship between the state and multinational capital.

This has heightened the sense of popular alienation from the huge bureaucratic structures that dominate the lives of ordinary people which has magnified by the sheer scale of the institutions – state and private – that confront the mass of the population. Consequently, public confidence in big business and the civil service has declined dramatically, particularly since the 1997 election of Blair.

The appalling treatment meted out by Facebook to the family of Hollie Gazzard, is an example of how there seems to be no way to successfully complain or protest against these kinds of mammoth institutions and corporations. Changes supposed to make them more accountable to the public, in practice only make them more subject to central control. Far from increasing public trust, they often have the opposite effect.