Tag: laura kuenssberg

Theresa May’s dictatorship wouldn’t be possible without the complicity of the corporate mass media

By Daniel Margrain

Image result for pics of kim jong-theresa may

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 attack Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn. The establishment are well aware that Corbyn can’t be bought off on their terms. The Labour leader’s sincerity, integrity and incorruptibility, represents a potential threat to these privileges and the gravy train that sustains them.

It’s the possibility that Corbyn will break the iron-clad neoliberal consensus that underscores what has arguably been some of the most vitriolic and biased reportage ever witnessed against any British political figure.

Media hate-fest

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 of the leadership election, “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 level of the media attacks against Corbyn continued after he secured ‘the largest mandate ever won by a party leader’. The focus of these attacks included what colour poppy he 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 New 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 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.

Academic studies prove that when it comes to criticising Corbyn’s political opponents, a completely different set of media standards are applied:

  • 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.

The graphic below indicates the extent to which the powerful frame the media agenda:

Image may contain: 14 people, people smiling

Popularity

The evidence of bias outlined by the academic research and the concentration of power above, is proof-positive that the media propaganda against Corbyn is systematic and entrenched. Nevertheless, this is having no negative impact on the Labour leaders popularity among members and supporters. On the contrary, it seems to be having the reverse affect.

The Labour party gained 60,000 members in one week following the attempted coup against Corbyn. Membership is currently higher than it’s previous peak of 405,000 last seen under Tony Blair’s leadership. In his constituency of Islington North, Corbyn inherited a majority of 4,456, which is now 21,194. He’s one of the few Labour MPs whose vote increased between 2005 and 2010, when he added 5,685 to his majority.

Furthermore, LondonBristol and Greater Manchester now have Labour mayors, rolling back years of Tory dominance, while Labour’s majorities in by-elections have generally increased. It must also be remembered that pre-coup, Labour led the Tories in three polls in a row over 41 days. The long-term decline in Labour’s fortunes that preceded Corbyn can hardly be blamed on the Labour leader.

Nevertheless, that hasn’t prevented many opportunistic and self-serving careerists within the party from doing so. Corbyn’s alleged weakness at the dispatch box is presented as evidence of ‘ineffectual opposition’ despite the fact that under his leadership the Tories have been forced into some thirty policy u-turns. In terms of some of the core domestic policy issues, Corbyn has the support of the majority of the British public.

Snap election

Following Theresa May’s surprise decision to call a snap election for June 8, 2017, the media bias against Corbyn appears to have been stepped up yet another notch, particularly by, but not limited to, the gutter Murdoch press.

During the build-up to the General Election, the BBC for example, no longer even pretend to be impartial, as the Tweets below illustrate:

 

 

The latter, more than any other BBC correspondent, seems to have a particular dislike of Corbyn that borders on the outright contemptuous. This is best summed up by Media Lens who critiqued Kuenssberg’s “subtle insidious use of language” in a hit-piece that “betrays an inherent bias against Corbyn and his policies”:

“…rather than scramble to cover up his past views for fear they would be unpopular.”

The media analysts continue:

“Just putting those words in her piece – ‘scramble’, ‘cover up’, ‘unpopular’ – immediately inserts those words in the reader’s mind along with ‘Corbyn’; it encourages the reader to associate those words with the Labour leader. Consciously or not (likely the latter), she is deploying a well-known propaganda technique.

Moreover, when has Kuenssberg ever pressed May over the PM’s voting record on Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen? There is no need for May to ‘scramble’ to ‘cover up’ her past views because the ‘mainstream’ media rarely, if ever, seriously challenge her about being consistently wrong about her foreign policy choices; not least, decisions to go to war.”

In response to the Media Lens quote above, reader Matthew Alford, remarked on an “equally grotesque” example of BBC bias he witnessed on the BBC 10 O’clock News the previous evening: “This certainly did not look like a manifesto that had been scribbled on the back of a fag packet”. So why not just say “This was a professionally presented manifesto? Is it remotely conceivable that they would have said: ‘Theresa May’s manifesto was definitely not done on the back of a beer mat’?”, exclaimed Alford.

This kind of sustained bias against Corbyn is, as to be expected, the result of an increasingly concentrated foreign ownership of the UK media who favour the Tories at the General Election, not least because of May’s hard Brexit strategy. This the mass media frequently depict as being indicative of the PMs ‘strength and stable’ leadership. Conversely, their antagonistic tone and depiction of Corbyn as weak and calamitous, is the opposite of the truth.

In a rare moment of honesty, The Guardian’s Roy Greenslade wrote:

“Mainstream media as a whole took its gloves off and Corbyn’s electoral hopes have been doomed from day one. He was “a great leap backwards”, said the Mail. Beware this “absurd Marxist”, said the Express, while the Daily Telegraph referred to his “divisive ideology” and “atavistic hostility to wealth and success”. And the Sun? It just called him “bonkers”. There was scepticism too from the liberal left. The Independent thought he would not persuade middle England to accept his policies.

Neither the Daily Mirror nor the Guardian greeted him with open arms. Support for Corbyn on social media made no impact. Meanwhile, the overall anti-Corbyn agenda, repeated week upon week, month after month, was one that broadcasters were unable to overlook, despite their belief in balance and adherence to impartiality. News bulletin reports reflected the headlines. Current affairs programmes picked up on the themes. That’s how media narratives are constructed.”

Strategies

The election campaign strategies of the two leaders couldn’t be more different. While May’s robotic and lacklustre performance overseen by Lynton Crosby’s single issue Brexit strategy is being engineered to avoid public and media scrutiny, Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign has been marked by a willingness to engage with the public. While Corbyn has been open, transparent and accountable, May has been robotic, secretive and aloof.

While May comes across as cold, calculating and lacking in human empathy, Corbyn comes across as being totally at ease with the public, smiling and relaxed in their company. Corbyn has openly espoused his philosophy and numerous policy initiatives, many of them significant. May, by contrast, appears to have no policies to discuss and comes across as somebody who is instinctively autocratic and awkward.

Whereas Corbyn’s campaigning has been marked by spontaneity and his willingness to reply to previously unseen questions in public meetings and press conferences, May’s series of stage-managed PR stunts are exemplified by an eagerness to rely on focus groups and a carefully selected media who provide her with questions pre-vetted and selected in advance by the Tory Party.

The attempts by the Tories to restrict the media from asking May any probing questions, was highlighted by Channel 4 News journalist, Michael Crick, after he admitted to apparently being shocked that “reporters collaborate with May’s press team by agreeing to reveal their questions to them in advance.”

In contrast to Crick’s realism, the BBCs Eleanor Garnier is clearly of the opinion that she is not subject to this kind of overt media censorship. Garnier tweeted: “I didn’t discuss question or topic of question with May’s team. If I was ever asked to give my question there is no way I would. Ever.”

Whatever is being taught on journalism courses these days, the work of Chomsky and Herman is clearly not on the syllabus. My advice to Garnier is to spend 30 minutes watching the formers demolition of Andrew Marr before taking on her next journalistic assignment. That Garnier, as a BBC journalist, fails to recognise that access is determined by the lack of difficult or challenging questions indicative of how the media works, is frankly staggering.

What is equally staggering, is the fact that lack of access and the closing of journalistic ranks with the governments complicity, is not seen as an outrageous attack on civil liberties, democratic accountability and press freedom.

Dictatorship

In Britain in 2017, we are faced with a situation in which the public are being denied information to enable them to be able to make an informed choice ahead of the General Election. This is totally outrageous. As Craig Murray puts it:

“The idea that the head of the government both gets to choose what they have asked, and gets advance warning of every question so they can look sharp with their answer, is totally antithetical to every notion of democratic accountability. If we had anything approaching a genuine free media, there would be absolute outrage. All genuine media organisations would react by boycotting such events and simply refusing to cover them at all.”

It should be remembered that Theresa May was not elected as PM. She is silent about what her policies are, refuses to engage with the public and be open with journalists, and finally, is denying the opportunity of a face-to-face TV debate with the leader of Her Majesty’s official opposition.

This is akin to a dictatorship. If the UK media were to report on a similar scenario in North Korea they would be describing the government their as authoritarian or similar. What is happening in Britain, under the guise of a free media, is that basic democratic norms are being trampled on by the government and there media accomplices, and hardly anybody in the British establishment is blinking an eyelid.

 

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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.

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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.

Democracy & the media.

By Daniel Margrain

Representative democracy is bad for parliamentary democracy because it implies the shifting of power from the elite towards the masses. People power has the potential to tear down the ivory towers of privilege that the rich construct for themselves which is why the establishment is fearful of such an eventuality. The extent to which a political system that functions to support the lifestyles and privileges of the elite ensconced within these towers is determined by the level of passivity and apathy of those on the outside.

Due to the UK’s appalling electoral system, a right wing government in the UK exercise absolute power with just 24.4 percent of those eligible to vote. The attitudes of many of the 38% who did not vote at all in the last general election towards the entire political class, was a combination of indifference, passivity and apoplexy.

Many others who were politically active and mobilized were nevertheless resigned to the fact that the deeply corrupt and flawed ‘winner takes all’ system does not give them a political voice within parliament. The end result of the combination of all these factors, is a system that’s corrupt and rotten to the core.

Although the government’s legality cannot be called into question, it’s legitimacy most certainly can. A government’s legitimacy rests on the popular consent of the governed. It’s clear that the Tories austerity measures that consist of deepening and widespread cuts will do far more harm to far more than the 24.4 per cent of the population that supported the government during the last election. To that extent, there are valid questions to be asked about what right the conservative government has to rule.

With Jeremy Corbyn’s popularity showing few signs of subsiding, we seem to be returning to the feelings of optimism and confidence of the kind witnessed during the 30 year post-war settlement period. Public mobilizations that question and demand more from the system, initiate a crisis in democracy for our unrepresentative leaders, establishment figures and their corporate mainstream echo chambers’ who don’t know quite how to react to the potential threat to their own distorted vision of democracy. This vision can accurately be defined as being reminiscent of the feudal system. As Noam Chomsky put it:

On the one hand, we have the King and Princes (the government). On the other, the commoners. The commoners may petition and the nobility must respond to maintain order… Real participation of “society” in government is nowhere discussed, nor can there be any question of democratic control of the basic economic institutions that determine the character of social life while dominating the state as well, by virtue of their overwhelming power.

Chomsky was actually referring to a 1975 Trilateral Commission report about the nature of American democracy by author Samuel Huntington, but he might as well of been discussing the UK political system of governance in 2015. Political ‘outsiders’ like Jeremy Corbyn and the newly appointed, Ken Livingstone, are regarded as a threat to the narrow careerist interests of not only the Blairite political elite within the Parliamentary Labout Party, but also the metropolitan London media elite of ‘insiders’ who sing to the Blairite-Tory tune.

As Medialens have suggested, this is reflected in an obvious media bias that favours the Red-Tory consensus outlook which can be gauged simply by comparing the tone and intensity of media attacks on both Corbyn and Livingstone against the more conciliatory and friendly approaches of those who don’t rock the metaphorical boat. Of all the preposterous apocalyptic media attacks and McCarthy-style guilt by association smears on Corbyn thus far, the piece titled Will a Corbyn victory be the end of Labour? by Rachel Sylvester in The Times on September 1, written during the build up to the Labour Party leadership election, surely takes the award for the most idiotic. Sylvester comments:

“Just as the Vikings and the Mayans brought about their own extinction by destroying the environment on which their cultures depended, so the Labour party is threatening its survival by abandoning electoral victory as a definition of success. If Labour chooses Jeremy Corbyn – a man who will never be elected prime minister – as leader next week, its end could be as brutal and sudden as those other once great tribes.”

One question arises from Sylvester’s piece. How can an attack by the mainstream media on an authentic voice of Labour values possibly be regarded as the ultimate threat to Labour values?

Sylvester’s smear was just the beginning of a widespread barrage of abuse that has come the way of the ‘outsiders’ since Corbyn’s historic election victory. The Telegraph’s November 18 edition went as far as to use the fascist language of Goebbels when referring to Corbyn’s long-standing ally. “Ken Livingstone is a hate-filled cockroach” was the headline. The latest smear from the Guardian, adding to their already long list, was their description of Corbyn as “like a good Marxist” who “is securing his revolution from within.”

Nick Cohen preposterously claimed that “Jeremy Corbyn is one of the most dishonest politicians you will see in your lifetime”, while the BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg’s transparently biased interview with the labour leader was little more than a scornful attack on his stance on nuclear weapons. Her incredulous responses to his reasonable points, belies the BBC’s claim that it is impartial. Analysis by Medialens show how “mainstream media performance alternates between two distinct modes of reporting”. They point out that:

“the first, ‘fig leaf’, mode presents a view of the world that is overwhelmingly biased in favour of the powerful interests that control, own and support the media, and of which it is a part. Within this bias, room is made for powerful nods and gestures in the direction of honesty and balance.”

An example of this mode was Kuenssberg’s token gesture during the Corbyn interview in which she used the phrase “some voters may think…” which was clearly intended to give the impression of balance as a means of offsetting her aggressive line of questioning in response to Corbyn’s reasonable commitment to the spreading of international law that preceded it. The impression given is that we live in a free and open society where genuine dissent is tolerated.

Medialens continue:

“The second, ‘full propaganda’, mode involves straight forward, no holds barred bias. This is seen in time of war, on royal occasions, on the anniversary of great military victories, and at times when leaders pass away.

On these occasions, balance and impartiality are deemed unnecessary, disrespectful, unpatriotic, irresponsible, even treacherous…Mode 2 reporting, then, sets an essentially totalitarian standard against which public and journalists alike judge media performance…The most powerful weapons in support of mode 2 performance are patriotism and shame…”

Andrew Neil’s impassioned eulogy during the opening sequence of the BBCs flagship political discussion programme, This Week broadcast on November 19 is an example of the second, “full propaganda” mode. Neil’s linking of the nuclear power state to a succession of great French thinkers was his way of showing support for Hollande’s foray into bombing its former colony. Neil’s “inaccurate nonsense in the form of nice memorable words strung together with angry sad words” was critiqued in a brilliant piece of polemical writing by Frankie Boyle.

What both Boyle’s article and the Medialen’s analysis highlight, is that parliamentary democracy in the absence of a democratic media creates the illusion of popular consent while enhancing the power of the state and the privileged interests protected by it.

The battle for media control is akin to the analogy of the fight for territorial domination between two wolves. One is an evil wolf: anger, envy, sorrow, greed, self-pity, guilt, resentment, lies, false pride, superiority and ego. The other is the good wolf: joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”

The one that wins is the one that is fed. Democracy is that way. The wolf that wins is the one we feed. And media provides the fodder.

The Paris postmortem.

By Daniel Margrain

President Hollande’s declaration yesterday (November 16) that France is on a war footing is an almost seamless continuation of his rhetorical flourishes that followed the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January. This time, though, they have intensified and are clearly intended to give a signal to Syria’s President Assad that he can expect more bombs to be dropped on his country.

Something similar happened after 9-11 when President Bush announced to the American public, and hence the world, that the price to be paid for the deaths of over 3,000 people on American soil would be the spilling of the blood of Islamist terrorists, which of course, turned out to be a euphemism for the deaths of a million Iraqi civilians. Although the countries’ and time-frames are different, the magnitude of the grandstanding rhetoric and the upcoming violent retributive responses are not.

Hollande said that the terrorist attacks were “orchestrated from abroad”. But so too have been the attacks on Syria by NATO over the last four and a half years. The dropping of Western imperialist bombs under the umbrella of a war based on the responsibility to protect doctrine, is far more deadly and destructive than the collateral damage caused by a handful of psychopathic killers and sadists under the epithet, “terrorism”. The intended aim of the latter was to cause a lasting sense of disorientation and fear among the masses while the purpose of the former is the destabilization of a country as the precursor to the eventual domination of an entire region by a Western elite.

The leaders of the great imperial powers whose whirlwind of destruction throughout the middle east has resulted in the debris blowing back into the symbolic and literal foundations of Parisian culture have, in so doing, struck at the heart of enlightened modernity and bohemian excess. A city whose decadent charms could be best discovered by walking it’s streets in the manner of the flaneur is rapidly becoming a pastime that is out of step with these increasingly coarse times.

What the impact of creeping globalization has managed to do to the cultural landscape of the city is to diminish its collective sense of unity and resistance to the vagaries of market forces that typify many other cities. The political consequences that will almost certainly arise from the terrorism witnessed on the streets of Paris will be a further crackdown on civil liberties, growing suspicion of the “other”, a rising tide of chauvinist nationalism, and the implementation of a strategy of divide and rule.

The panic and fear witnessed on the streets of the city shown on the mainstream news channels in the aftermath of the attacks will, I suspect, be an illustration of what is to come in the future. The fear will likely be whipped up by the French mainstream media and leading politician’s who, as the investigative journalist Gearoid O’Colmain has pointed out, will almost certainly focus their campaigns on undermining attempts by dissidents who publicly question the established order.

For all of the fighting talk by Hollande of how the war will be taken to the terrorists and how they cannot hope to succeed with their strategy of violence, is not borne out by the resulting panic that ensued. The uncomfortable truth is the terrorists are winning. We now live in an era of eternal war fought on the absurd premise that a corresponding everlasting peace is just around the corner. This circular illogicality is underpinned by numerous ongoing conflicts which are being fought on unlimited battlefronts on a global scale.

This scenario isn’t lost on the elite 1 per cent who regard the end game as the emergence of a “peace” predicated on continued injustice and the creation of a wilderness starved of hope and aspiration for the remaining 99 per cent. The combination of an Hobbesian world and the kind of future of the science fiction of Huxley and Orwell  is in truth a mark of the present that somehow we have let happen as though having stepped blindfolded and hypnotized into the pages of the novels of their creators’.

The people of the world are caught in the middle in this disaster while the elite look down on the chaos and carnage from their ivory towers and from the luxurious comfort of their gated communities. The connections between the environmental degradation of our planet which is crumbling around us, and the limits of a system predicated on the unsustainable concept of unlimited economic growth and warfare are clear.

The propaganda that the leading politicians and their mouthpieces in the mainstream media present to the public is the notion that state violence is the default position to counter the terrorism of which the chaos and carnage described is implicit. The BBCs political editor Laura Kuenssberg, for example, constantly gives the impression of being baffled about peace over violence.

In a high-profile piece on the BBC’s flagship News at Ten programme on September 30, Kuenssberg featured in an almost comically biased, at times openly scornful, attack on Jeremy Corbyn’s stance on nuclear weapons.  The overall narrative is that violence is the answer to violence which is presented as normal while diplomacy and peace is regarded as radical and “off message”.

Rarely do the media point out the truth that violence against an ideology can never in practice be a winning strategy or that neoliberal socioeconomic fundamentalism is as extreme as its politically-inspired violent offshoot. One of the causes that has laid waste to alienation and radicalism in Paris is the kind of socioeconomic discord that the racially segregated Muslim ghettos at its periphery and its sterile hollowed out core reflect.

What underpins this socioeconomic discord is the history of French imperialism and colonialism. The root cause of the despair and terrorist depravity that the world witnessed last Friday is not located in the bazaars of Damascus or the cafes of Algiers but in the boardrooms and plush offices of metropolitan cities like London, Paris and Washington.

 

Jeremy Corbyn, nuclear weapons and the mainstream media

By Daniel Margrain

From my personal experience, discussing political matters with many of our friends on the other side of the Atlantic, often takes somewhat of a surreal bent. To quote Shaw’s famous phrase, “England and America are two countries separated by a common language.”  I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking this.

A few weeks ago, I heard a contribution from a right-wing American political commentator called Charlie Wolf on LBC bemoaning the fact that the U.N are probing into (justifiable) allegations of human rights abuses by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) against British citizens. “How dare this external organisation poke their noses into the workings of a long standing democracy like Britain”, he exclaimed (or words to that effect). “The democratically elected Tory government are entitled to cut benefits to the most vulnerable people in society because they have a mandate to do so”, he continued.

It’s a refrain that many of us have heard repeatedly but of course does not stand up to the basic of critiques. Firstly, Cameron came to power in a “landslide” with only 24.4% of all those eligible to vote. Secondly, and just as significantly (but rarely ever mentioned), is the fact that there is no process by which leading politicians’ can be recalled. Hence, they can, and often do, redact on election manifesto promises without any legal redress from those adversely affected by such decisions.

But in the case of Iain Duncan Smith, whose controversial policies are at the centre of the U.N’s probe into the workings of the DWP, it’s worse than that: He wasn’t even in the public domain prior to the election to answer questions from journalists about these policies and, therefore, be held publicly accountable for his decisions. After the election, the government then disingenuously claimed it had a mandate to introduce severe benefit cuts for the most vulnerable in society when no mandate existed. The then standing leader, and self proclaimed champion of women’s rights, Harriet Harman, abstained on the vote to challenge the said decision whose impacts negatively affect women the most. The election of Corbyn put and end to this cozy Tory-Labour consensus.

The mainstream media and the establishment and political elite cannot handle the idea that Corbyn can be both a campaigner and a leader, or that decision making can be a democratic process emanating from the bottom up. They just can’t seem to get to grips with the fact that a politician like him answers questions directly and comes across as person with principle and integrity who offers to debate and discuss policy issues with colleagues before formulating them.

But in the harsh political climate of spin and the behind the scenes buying of political influence, this kind and humane approach is likely to work against a man who the corrupt establishment cannot buy. To quote a fellow comrade, “Compromise will be Corbyn’s enemy. His detractors – the current crop of BBC and Guardian political commentators included – will focus upon any inclination towards compromise in order to split Corbyn’s support.”

His concessions to the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) that compromise the democratic wishes of the mass membership are likely to create the foundations upon which the corrupted mainstream media, whose interests the former share, will pounce. The media’s strategy is to exacerbate the wedge between the Blairite elements within the PLP hierarchy and the mass membership. Here’s an example. Two days ago, BBC journalist, Laura Kuenssberg asked Corbyn a question she would never dream of asking any other leader, namely, whether he would ever envisage a circumstance where he would press the nuclear button? He answered directly with a “No”.

The reply is consistent with Corbyn’s stated opposition to nuclear weapons which he reiterated in his speech to conference. This was portrayed in the media as if it was the craziest thing any politician had ever said and, as all readers familiar with the editorial line taken by the Daily Telegraph will know, is apparently akin to treachery. It was also deemed to be treacherous to have the temerity to wear a beard, the failure to straighten up his tie, wear a brown jacket and not sing a stupid song about an extremely rich elderly woman living off state handouts who got even richer by pillaging the resources of black people in a faraway continent.

Corbyn’s intervention came despite Labour’s official policy to support the £40 billion renewal of Trident. Labour’s position in favouring this weapon of mass destruction is based on the protection of jobs that would inevitably be lost if the renewal plans were scrapped. This is a bad argument in the same way that hypothetically supporting those who produce weapons of torture from losing their jobs is a bad argument.

Corbyn said he would try to change Labour’s official support for Trident but he would live with it if he couldn’t. The media as one, jumped on the bandwagon by declaring Corbyn to be a weak person. I was unaware that listening to what other people have to say prior to formulating policy was a sign of weakness and immaturity. The fact that he actually listens to what other people say and then makes up his mind accordingly, is clearly too much of a revolutionary concept for some, including Kuenssberg, to handle.

The intervention by Corbyn, raises the prospect of Labour voting to renew Trident nuclear weapons but having a leader who has vowed never to use them. But surely the right and moral position to adopt is to insist that all leaders’ of all countries’ should vow never to use them. This is because there are no circumstances in which Britain or any other nation state would launch a nuclear attack. Shadow Defense Secretary, the Hawk, Maria Eagle, said Corbyn’s admission that he would never authorize the use of Britain’s nuclear weapons was unhelpful because, according to her, it undermined Britain’s defenses.

This is nonsense. Her claim only makes sense if one was to believe that Britain would be attacked by a country that has nuclear weapons. Only in this circumstance would it undermine Britain’s defenses. Corbyn rightly said, being in possession of nuclear weapons didn’t help America on 9-11. No country that has nuclear weapons will be stupid enough to launch a nuclear attack on another country that has nuclear weapons.

There are five declared nuclear weapons states’ in the world and three others that have nuclear weapons out of a total of 192 nations. 187 countries don’t feel the need to have a nuclear weapon to protect their security. Why should those five need it themselves? Corbyn said, “I am opposed to the use of nuclear weapons. I am opposed to the holding of nuclear weapons. I want to see a nuclear free world. I believe it is possible” 

Of course it is. It merely requires the political will to make it happen. Why in the 21st century can’t it be possible for the leaders of the nations that comprise the UN Security Council to sit around a table and say something like: “We know we are never going to use weapons that have the potential to destroy life on earth that cost hundreds of billions. How about instead, we use that money to save life on earth”?

This is not in any shape or form a radical idea but a humanistic and moral one. Corbyn said“If I could persuade the whole of the Labour Party to come around to my point of view, I would be very happy indeed. I will do my best”. But pressed on whether he would concede defeat on the issue, he noted, Well, if I can’t, we’ll live with it somehow.”

To me, this sounds like the words of a wise man. But to others in the media who are depicting Corbyn as some kind of bearded hippie freak, they represent the words of a traitor and imbecile. On twitter, Mark Steel, in typically ironic style, said the media “established that Corbyn is an extremist, because he won’t press the button to fire nuclear missiles round the world”.   added: “Why is it some are treating the bloke who says he wouldn’t nuke anyone like HE’s the crazy person”?

Meanwhile, in responding to Laura Kuenssberg’s hatchet job interview with Corbyn, Colin Campbell commented, “Shocking! Corbyn says he wouldn’t incinerate 1000s of civilians and create birth defects for generations.”

But being servile to establishment power is the role Kuenssberg and others within the mainstream media play. By creating a schism they will attempt to undermine Corbyn’s authority. His straightforwardness is of a course a great quality to have in a politician, but I do fear that his good intentions will paradoxically lead to his downfall. I hope I’m wrong.

Jeremy Corbyn’s Speech

By Daniel Margrain

I, like many other Labour supporters, spent yesterday afternoon glued to the telly in eager anticipation of the speech that was to come. I thought Corbyn looked, understandably, somewhat nervous and at times his frequent glances at the auto cue reflected a measure of uncertainty. He’s not the greatest of orator’s in say, the Galloway mold, but paradoxically, therein lies his strength. It’s the man’s humility that is arguably his strongest quality. It’s a quality that cannot be measured in the objective sense but you know it and feel it when you see it. And make no mistake, hundreds of thousands of us do see it.

But alongside that humility comes a level of integrity and steely resoluteness to get stuff done. One senses that here is a man who doesn’t suffer fools, and the media spin machine that plays to their tune, lightly. Underpinning this resolve, which is borne out of decades of principled and committed campaigning on issues that the establishment would rather whitewash away, is a man who is an idealist as much as he is a realist.

The image the media portray of him as a man out of time and place – a kind of naive and reluctant hero for the masses in the style of the Peter Sellers character in the film Being There – cannot be sustained for much longer. Indeed, I suspect that it’s a cliche that’s already run its course. Ultimately it’s his raw humanism and plain speaking that people seem to warm to the most.

I’m convinced that what people want more than ever are these kinds of politician’s. Somebody like George Galloway also has these qualities in abundance but with Corbyn you don’t get the self-centred inflated ego that comes with it. As you’ve by now realized, I’m a huge fan of the bloke and his policies as well as the new direction he intends to take the Party.

As for the speech itself, I thought it was refreshing and inspiring. I thought Corbyn was at his strongest during the middle section when he attacked the Tory government for the scaremongering tactics used against him when he was accused of threatening the economic interests of the public and the security of the country. The following extract from his speech was Corbyn at his most powerful:

The Tories talk about economic and family security being at risk from us the Labour party, or perhaps even more particularly, from me. I say this to them. How dare these people talk about security for families and people in Britain.

Where’s the security for families shuttled around the private rented sector on six month tenancies – with children endlessly having to change schools?  

Where’s the security for those tenants afraid to ask a landlord to fix a dangerous structure in their own homes because they might be evicted because they’ve gone to the local authority to seek the justice they’re entitled to?

Where’s the security for the carers struggling to support older family members as Tory local government cuts destroy social care and take away the help they need?  

Where’s the security for young people starting out on careers knowing they are locked out of any prospect of ever buying their own home by soaring house prices?

Where’s the security for families driven away from their children’s schools, their community and family ties by these welfare cuts?  

Where’s the security for the hundreds of thousands taking on self-employment with uncertain income, no sick pay, no Maternity Pay, no paid leave, no pension now facing the loss of the tax credits that keep them and their families afloat?  

And there’s no security for the 2.8 million households in Britain forced into debt by stagnating wages and the Tory record of the longest fall in living standards since records began.

And that’s the nub of it. Tory economic failure. An economy that works for the few, not for the many….

…It didn’t help our national security that, at the same time I was protesting outside the Iraqi Embassy about Saddam Hussein’s brutality, Tory ministers were secretly conniving with illegal arms sales to his regime.

It didn’t help our national security when we went to war with Iraq in defiance of the United Nations and on a false prospectus.

It didn’t help our national security to endure the loss of hundreds of brave British soldiers in that war while making no proper preparation for what to do after the fall of the regime.

Nor does it help our national security to give such fawning and uncritical support to regimes like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain – who abuse their own citizens and repress democratic rights.

This is the spin Ian Dunt of politics.co.uk put on the speech:

Of all the speeches Jeremy Corbyn could have made, this was the most predictable and the most useless. There was no thematic content, no idea unifying what he was saying, no quality in delivery, no attempt to speak to the public outside the hall, no plan for the future and no sign he is prepared to work with the media to communicate his appeal more widely. It was the speech of someone who either doesn’t care or isn’t capable of speaking to anyone outside of his immediate supporters.

This was the common refrain of many within the wider media establishment spectrum. Clearly Dunt and me both witnessed two completely different speeches.

The vile Laura Kuenssberg from the BBC claimed, without evidence, that Corbyn will have difficulty getting the middle ground voter on-side, implying that his politics are somehow Marxist as opposed to essentially humanist. Kuenssberg’s assertion went unchallenged. So much for the BBCs alleged impartiality. Her tone in all her commentaries on Corbyn thus far have been condescending at best and outright dishonest at worse. But she is far from being alone on that front.

The mainstream media and the establishment elite cannot handle the idea that Corbyn can be both a campaigner and a leader, or that decision making can be a democratic process emanating from the bottom up. They just can’t seem to get to grips with the rapidly changing nature of British politics in 2015. In that regard, the people of Britain are a country mile ahead of a media that is frankly out of touch and becoming increasingly irrelevant as each day passes.

This also explains why people are turning to alternative and social media sources for their information. I think it was a positive move that Corbyn made when he tasked Watson to work on the social media aspect of his campaign which is, of course, important. But equally, we ought not forget that the majority of people in this country still consume their news through traditional methods.

I believe Corbyn can, and will, capture the centre ground because ultimately he is essentially a humanist at heart and humanism is centrist. But you would never believe that after having analysed the media who continue to portray him as “hard left” although that particular epithet is starting to wane. There is currently a campaign doing the rounds that has almost reached the 100,000 signatures required to ensure that, in the name of parity, pressure is put on the BBC to describe Cameron as “hard right.”

If Corbyn does win over the party and eventually get elected as PM, the turn of events will have an uncanny resemblance to the plot line of the brilliant television drama A Very British Coup. Unlike, Being There, such an eventuality would be akin to a situation in which life imitates art. Let ‘Corbynmania’ continue long into the nights and days ahead.