Thursday, December 10, 2015

Music to the Ears of Entitlement

“We have allowed our party to be hijacked by people joining by text for three quid” - Unknown Labour MP (quoted by Guardian columnist Andrew Rawnsley)

As any career journalist will tell you, the first paragraph of your article must have a killer hook in these days of fickle, easily bored readerships. Tim Ross, senior political correspondent at The Daily Telegraph doesn't disappoint:

Jeremy Corbyn’s close associates are secretly planning to purge the shadow cabinet of moderate MPs who disagree with his radical, anti-war policies, as he seeks to impose his will on the Labour Party.

It's a masterpiece:

Secret: Sly/underhand/undemocratic.

Purge: Echoes of Stalin.

Moderate MPs: Supporters of a war that - by any even slightly honest and accurate examination of the actual situation in Syria - is insane.

Disagree: Implies Corbyn is acting in a dictatorial manner in choosing his cabinet when leaders of all political parties routinely do so.

Radical anti-war policies: Standing against yet more mass slaughter (and taking into account other recent catastrophic interventions) that serves only to send stocks in arms manufacturers higher is 'radical' in this enlightened era.

Impose his will: Just in case you missed it a few words earlier: Corbyn acts like a dictator - Stalin, subtly foreshadowed by our intrepid keeper of the sacred trust of the fourth estate, is the man Mr. Ross has in mind for us.

One should not expect anything different from this particular newspaper, but inversion of the concepts of 'moderate' and 'radical' lies at the heart of corporate media propaganda. In order to protect and sustain the crony capitalist system that is condemning billions to inescapable poverty and dozens of nations to war and chaos while enriching a tiny, privileged class all as the environment is ravaged, the single key issue that must be hammered relentlessly home is that the system as it stands, while not perfect, is nonetheless the only option we have; the only viable way of allocating the resources of the planet. Any alternative vision, no matter how well conceived or by whom, is unanimously condemned as naive, idiotic, clueless and even as a dire threat to national or global security. As for the brave soul proposing such an alternative, he or she can look forward to being smeared in every way imaginable until they are no longer a threat.

An integral part of this obscenely skewed version of reality is the concept of 'leadership', the unquestioned and unquestionable idea that some among us are endowed with certain intangible qualities of character that can lead us through the dark and into the light. By an astounding coincidence, in Western democracies, these people who are portrayed as born to lead must also toe the establishment line.

In the US this means unqualified support for foreign policy: the continuation of the operation of hundreds of bases in foreign nations; unconditional backing of Israel no matter how murderous and insane the actions of its government may be; the continuation of the drone campaign that has killed thousands of completely innocent people including kids, toddlers and babies; and support of the status quo with regard to blanket surveillance as well as the electoral system and campaign donations.

In the UK it is broadly the same: support for foreign adventures and Israel along with the US as well as the UK's electoral system that ensures only establishment-friendly political parties and their filtered representatives have any chance of power. [It is worth noting here that the reason Jeremy Corbyn has been subjected to the most comprehensive media smear campaign in history is because he has slipped through the cracks and must be stopped at all costs, as the quotation at the beginning of this article demonstrates.] It also means support of the British royal family.

From a Guardian report:

Britain is “deeply elitist” according to a report by the government’s Social Mobility and Child Poverty commission, with people educated at public school and Oxbridge creating a “closed shop at the top”.

Andrew Sparrow writes today: The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission said its study of the social background of those “running Britain” was the most detailed of its kind ever undertaken and showed that elitism was so embedded in Britain “that it could be called ‘social engineering’”.

The report shows that in many of the UK’s top professions there is a hugely disproportionate proportion of privately educated people compared to the general profile of the UK population.

Just 7% of the UK public attended private school, which compares to 71% of senior judges, 62% of senior armed forces officers, 55% of Whitehall permanent secretaries and 50% of members of the House of Lords.


The rate is also disproportionately high in other influential roles: 44% of people on the Sunday Times Rich List, 43% of newspaper columnists and 26% of BBC executives were all educated privately.

Just one in 100 members of the UK public was educated at Oxbridge, however graduates from those two universities make up 75% of senior judges, 59% of cabinet posts, 57% of permanent secretaries, 50% of diplomatics, 47% of newspaper columnists, 44% of public body chairs and 33% of BBC executives.


There is a massive disparity in representation of the public at large. The enormous influence over politics and the public discourse as depicted in the media is one born of a demographic that has no experience or understanding of poverty and many of the ills that result from it. The utterly false and self-flattering idea that hard work always leads to success [and the converse] holds sway among them, their own enormous headstart that came from being born into a wealthy family or benefiting from the advantages that come from being privately educated notwithstanding:

From another article:

The report says: "Our examination of who gets the top jobs in Britain today found elitism so stark that it could be called 'social engineering'."

It adds that the "sheer scale of the dominance of certain backgrounds" raises questions about whether getting a top job is about ability or knowing the right people.

[Commission Chair] Mr Milburn said: "Where institutions rely on too narrow a range of people from too narrow a range of backgrounds with too narrow a range of experiences they risk behaving in ways and focusing on issues that are of salience only to a minority but not the majority in society.

"Our research shows it is entirely possible for politicians to rely on advisors to advise, civil servants to devise policy solutions and journalists to report on their actions having all studied the same courses at the same universities, having read the same books, heard the same lectures and even being taught by the same tutors.

"This risks narrowing the conduct of public life to a small few, who are very familiar with each other but far less familiar with the day-to-day challenges facing ordinary people in the country."


All of which brings us to the much-lauded closing speech in the House of Commons by Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn. The reactions from within the media class were almost unanimously gushing.

A selection:

"Quite extraordinary scenes: some Tory MPs even giving Hilary Benn a standing ovation" - Deputy Political Editor of BBC News, James Landale.

"For those of us who thought Hilary Benn had failed to inherit his father's rhetorical gifts, it's time to reconsider" - The Guardian columnist (and 2014 Orwell Prize winner) Jonathan Freedland.

"I think that is the finest speech I've ever heard in the Commons, and delivered under such pressure" - The Spectator political editor James Forsyth.

"Long after most have forgotten the detail of the House of Commons debate...many will remember the words of Hilary Benn." - The Times

[Sources: Media Lens Twitter timeline]

But what did Benn actually say?

Now I share the concerns that have been expressed this evening about potential civilian casualties. However, unlike Daesh, none of us today act with the intent to harm civilians. Rather we act to protect civilians from Daesh, who target innocent people.

See how the civilian deaths that are certain to occur (and already have occurred) are so deftly brushed off. We apparently protect civilians by bombing the places where they live, but that's OK because Daesh target innocent people; unlike us, who will in fact be targeting people who will certainly be completely innocent. Could Kafka have done better?

With the delicate consciences of the UK's elected representatives expertly salved, Benn moved to close the deal:

Now Mr Speaker, I hope the House will bear with me if I direct my closing remarks to my Labour friends and colleagues on this side of the House. As a party, we have always been defined by our internationalism. We believe we have a responsibility one to another. We never have and we never should walk by on the other side of the road. And we are here faced by fascists. Not just their calculated brutality, but their belief that they are superior to every single one of us here tonight, and all of the people that we represent. They hold us in contempt. They hold our values in contempt. They hold our belief in tolerance and decency in contempt. They hold our democracy, the means by which we will make our decision tonight, in contempt. And what we know about fascists is that they need to be defeated. And it is why, as we have heard tonight, socialists and trade unionists and others joined the International Brigade in the 1930s to fight against Franco. It’s why this entire House stood up against Hitler and Mussolini. It is why our party has always stood up against the denial of human rights and for justice. And my view, Mr Speaker, is that we must now confront this evil. It is now time for us to do our bit in Syria. And that is why I ask my colleagues to vote for this motion tonight.

Contempt! All a great orator needs to do, it appears, is keep repeating an emotive noun that feeds into the false notions of an ignorant, fearful and confused populace. This was George Bush all over again telling us that they hate us for our freedoms, an ignorant and simplistic assertion. Writer Sheldon Richman explains:

Let’s give these members of the American elite their due: one has to work hard to make a mystery of anti-American (and anti-Western) terrorism emanating from the Middle East. It takes prodigious effort to maintain an air of innocence about San Bernardino and Paris, because no one who claims to be informed can plead ignorance of the long history of U.S. and Western imperialism in the Muslim world. This includes the CIA’s subversion of Iranian democracy in 1953, the U.S. government’s systematic support of compliant autocratic and corrupt Arab monarchies and dictatorships, its empowering of Iraqi Shi’ite Muslims, and its unconditional backing of Israel’s brutal anti-Palestinian policies. (The savage 2014 war on Gaza killed many noncombatants.)

In the 10 years before the 9/11 attacks the administrations of George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton bombed Iraq while maintaining an embargo, most especially on equipment for the water and sanitation infrastructure the U.S. Air Force had destroyed during the Gulf War. Half a million children died. This was also when U.S. officials promised, then reneged on the promise, to remove U.S. forces from the Islamic holy sites in Saudi Arabia.

From the air Americans routinely kill noncombatants in Syria and Iraq, most recently this week, when “at least 36 civilians, including 20 children, in a village in eastern Syria” were reportedly killed, according to McClatchyDC. Do Americans notice? Of course not. That’s why San Bernardino and Paris can be made to appear so mysterious.

Things like this happen all the time. The U.S. attack on the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, was especially egregious against this background of war crimes.


The UK's establishment media love Hilary Benn and despise Jeremy Corbyn. They love the rhetoric and reserve no patience for the detailed facts and expert analysis (as urged by Corbyn) a situation as complex as this requires. We simply have to do something because they have contempt for our values. These are the words of a real leader - decisive, strong, born...entitled...to rule and it is music to their ears because that is how they also think. Democracy is all well and good until it gets in the way of the people who know by their very nature what is best for all of us. The wise caution exhibited by Corbyn and other opponents is easily depicted as 'weak' and 'doing nothing in the face of an implacable enemy'. Benn is their vision of a real leader because he keeps it simple and speaks like one of them, facts and caution be damned. Benn is one of us: welcome to our exclusive club.

The adulation poured over Benn has nothing to do with love or concern for the nation and its security: indeed, it is entirely cynical. The media need a viable replacement for Corbyn if they succeed in bringing him down and what better preparation than to build someone up as Churchillian, someone who can return the Labour Party to 'grown-up' politics and put the naive children like Corbyn back in their playpen where they can't do any damage? In other words, to ensure that the fake duopoly that ensures the rich remain in control whoever wins the election is restored.

Supporters of the airstrikes on Syria are deeply ignorant - wilfully or otherwise - of the facts on the ground. They may or may not be aware of the vast geopolitical/commercial interests in the region, interests that will be opened to plunder with Assad out and a Washington-friendly administration installed. Lack of awareness may be forgivable for the average person on the street, but it most certainly is not for those tasked with making such momentous decisions or reporting on them, officials and watchdogs entrusted by the public to ensure that decisions made in their name are done so with honest, objective and exhaustive consideration of all the information available. With Syria, this has demonstrably not occurred, with politicians and the bulk of the media keen instead to focus on the tub-thumping, substance-free oratory of a warmonger.

The politicians and journalists who sold this war have the blood of innocents on their hands, as they did with Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and dozens of other 'interventions' throughout history. They remain unrepentant and serve in effect as shills for the deeply corrupt arms industry: armed and dangerous.

[Note: For more on Benn's speech, read the latest Media Lens analysis].

Written by Simon Wood

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