Posts Tagged ‘Aaron Bastani’

‘Three Right Wing Dinosaurs’: Dutch Economist Rutger Bregman Attacks Poor Journalism of Beeb’s ‘This Week’

March 25, 2019

Ho Ho! More criticism of the Beeb’s late night politics show, This Week, hosted by Andrew ‘Brillo Pad’ Neil, former editor of the Economist and the Sunset Times. Neil has already found his career cut short as BBC bosses consider axing one of his politics shows after Owen Jones raised the issue of the increasingly extreme Right-wing slant of his magazine, the Spectator. This was during a debate on one of his shows about the role the media plays in boosting the rise of the Fascist Right. Neil is chairman of the board of the company that publishes the arch-Tory Spectator, one of whose contributors is the noxious Greek playboy, Taki Theodoracopulos, otherwise known to readers of Private Eye as ‘Taki Takealotofcokeupthenos’ because of his conviction for cocaine possession some time ago. Taki’s columns are often racist, with a real streak of anti-Semitism. And in once recent issue of the Speccie, he praised the Greek neo-Nazi Golden Dawn as just patriotic young people, who are bit rough about the edges. Which is a lie. The Golden Dawn are outright Nazi thugs, who beat up illegal immigrants. One of their leading members was arrested for murdering a left-wing activist. An clearly agitated Neil told Jones that he wasn’t responsible for the magazine’s content, but Jones carried on and pointed out that he was responsible for the appointment of the editor, Fraser Nelson. Neil tried changing the subject and talking over him, but Jones carried on, even when an exasperated Neil asked him if he was trying to get him sacked. The announcement that the Beeb was cancelling one of his shows came a week or so later, and may not be unconnected, despite the Beeb’s statement about it coming with professions of effusive pride in Brillo and his journalistic performance.

Brillo’s professionalism as a journalist, and that of his co-presenters, was cast into severe doubt a few days ago by the Dutch author, Rutger Bregman. Bregman’s best known for a viral video telling the super-rich at Davos to pay their taxes. Bregman’s written a book on how Utopia may be attainable, Utopia for Realists, and was invited on to Brillo’s show to discuss it with Michael Portillo and Alan Johnson, who were presumably the three dinosaurs Bregman described in a devastating Twitter account of his experience on the show. Bregman was colossally unimpressed by Neil and co’s complete lack of interest in his book. He stated they hadn’t read it, and didn’t even have a copy. Before they went on air, he was asked if he could say something about the EU. He refused on the grounds that it wasn’t his area of expertise. So he was asked to say something about the terrorist outrage in Utrecht. He refused to comment on that either, for the same reason. So the produce returned to asking him to comment on Brexit again, and got the same reply as before. He was then asked to make a two-minute video summarising his ideas. This, badly edited, was then played on the programme. He then found the three right-wing dinosaurs, two of whom were from the Stone Age, ganging up on him. They blatantly made up facts, telling him that inequality hadn’t grown and that the economy had never been better, changed the subject every ten seconds and hardly let you finish a sentence before it’s over. Bregman said

This was the worst experience I’ve had with UK media, but after quite a few interviews in different countries, I think I can say that, on average, British journalists are the least curious of all. So often, being ‘critical’ is just a pose.

He contrasted this with an interview he gave to Trevor Noah in the US. He also said that the good news was that there were new media in the UK filling the gap. The sharpest questions he had that week came from Aaron Bastani of Novara Media.

This criticism clearly stung Brillo, who tweeted back about how discriminatory towards old people it was to call them dinosaurs, and compared it with talking about Black or gay people in the same context. He was just asking legitimate questions, and as for being a dinosaur, he accused Bregman of reviving policies from Eisenhower in the 1950s and Milton Friedman in the 1960s.

Zelo Street pointed out that ‘dinosaur’ referred to a state of mind, and that his disparagement of Milton Friedman seemed also dismissive of his former idol, Maggie Thatcher, who was also a fan of Friedman at one point. As for policies from the 1950s, this was America under Eisenhower, which suggested that Ike was a Keynsian or an secret economist.

Brillo then roped in a few others to support him, but Zelo Street remained unimpressed, concluding:

Kicking off like that and justifying his behaviour by Retweeting sympathetic voices from the right – David Jack and Iain Martin, for instance – is not going to help either the BBC, or those wanting the Corporation to somehow accommodate Brillo, rather than just bin his late night show. And it won’t help The Great Man himself.
The age of Andrew Neil at the BBC was for a time, but not for all time.
http://zelo-street.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2019-03-23T09:29:00Z&max-results=20
Mike in his article concluded with the observation that Ofcom might find it informative to watch the show. He said
This Writer sincerely hopes that Ofcom, which is currently investigating whether the BBC is honouring its obligation to be impartial in its news reporting, has been paying attention. If not, I would encourage Mr Bregman to get in touch with that organisation.
See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/03/23/is-ofcom-reading-euro-economist-bregmans-twitter-takedown-of-this-week-is-a-revelation/
I’m not surprised that Brillo and his fellow presenters or guests and the production team behaved like that. Media monitoring organisations have said for years that the Beeb has a pronounced pro-Tory bias, which has become increasingly explicit. Question Time has become particularly notorious for Fiona Bruce’s biased treatment of Diane Abbott, by the fact that the audience for the show have been repeatedly packed by Tories and Kippers. From Bregman’s account of his experience, it seems very clear that neither Brillo nor any of the others were remotely interested in the book, only in talking about Brexit, the EU or terrorism, issues which they felt they knew about. And they clearly didn’t know anything and didn’t want to know anything about Bregman’s ideas. Shows like This Week often book more guests than they can use in case someone drops out. John Spencer, a UFO researcher, described a similar experience he had back in the 1990s in one of his books. Looking at Bregman’s description, it’s possible that the person Brillo really wanted on his show was unavailable, so they brought on Bregman instead. Or it may be that they felt they needed to tackle his book, but idleness and right-wing complacency made them utterly uninterested in reading it and seriously discussing his ideas.
Either way, not only does This Week seem biased, it also looks extremely shallow in expecting him to present his ideas in two minutes, and actually dishonest in making up facts to assert against him. If you believe the Beeb, Neil is a master broadcaster with a keen grasp of the facts and able to get to grips at the real heart of the issues he is discussing. This would suggest otherwise.

Aaron Bastani on the ‘Independents’ as the Old, Blairite Austerity Politics

February 25, 2019

In this 20 minute long video from Novara Media, presenter Aaron Bastani utterly demolishes the new ‘Independent’ grouping of MPs. He shows that rather than being any kind of new politics, they are simply the old, Blairite and Tory politics neoliberal politics. They are radically out of tune with what people really want, especially millennials, who have left much worse off than the preceding generation by the same politics the Blairites and Tories were pushing. And they’re being promoted by the media because they represent the old style of politics the media like: austerity with a smiley face.

Labour MPs All Going Before They’re Pushed

Bastani begins the video by describing how the departure of the seven Labour MPs – Gavin Shuker, Chris Leslie, Chuka Umunna, Ann Coffee, Luciana Berger, Mike Gapes, Angela Smith, who left to form the Independents – wasn’t actually a surprise. They were all loud critics of Corbyn, and almost all of them had been subject to motions of ‘no confidence’ or were facing deselection. They were then joined the next day by Joan Ryan, another critic of Corbyn, who had also lost a ‘no confidence’ motion. They were then joined the day after that by Anna Soubry, Heidi Allen and Sarah Wollaston from the Tories, who complained about the old, ‘broken’ politics of Labour versus Tories.

Independents Not Democratic, and Not a Political Party

The Independents, however, aren’t a political party as such. Which means that they don’t get the Short Money given to opposition parties. This could add up to hundreds of thousands of pounds. They also don’t have to conform to the same standards as proper political parties, although they claim that they will try to do so as best they can.  They also don’t have a membership. You can give them your name and contact details, and make a donation, but there is no mechanism for creating a mass organisation where the membership can determine policy. It’s a private organisation more than a political party. But what concerns Bastani the most is that they don’t want to hold bye-elections, because this would ‘crush democracy’. It’s doublespeak, and the truth is that they don’t want bye-elections because they’d lose.

Angela Smith’s Racism

He then goes on to describe how the seven founding ex-Labour members claim that they were driven out of the party by its racism, only for Angela Smith to say within hours the most racist thing he’s ever heard a politician say on television. To show how badly their launch went, Bastani produces some viewing figures. On the Monday the video of their launch had 75,000 views on Twitter. The video of Angela Smith’s apology got 700,000 views. But the video of Smith making her racist comments got even more – 1.5 million views. And while the Mirror and the Guardian wanted to splash on a video by Tom Watson, which got 500 shares on Facebook, Novara’s video of their own Ash Sarkar showing the corruption at the heart of the group – she challenged smith on her chairmanship of a parliamentary group supporting water privatisation, funded largely by the water companies – got 200,000 views. Chris Leslie then appeared later on the Beeb to sort this out. Where once again he talked about their love of democracy. A love so strong, that they don’t want to hold bye-elections, thus disenfranchising the hundreds of thousands of people, who voted for these 11 MPs. They claimed to be anti-racist, but set a new record by being racist ‘pretty much by lunchtime’.

People More Politically Engaged, Not Less

But their fundamental principle is that people don’t want Labour or Tory, but what Labour used to be 15 years ago. But at the 2017 election, 82 per cent of the population voted for either of the two main parties – Tories or Labour. That was the highest percentage the parties had since 1979. In 2010 only 65 per cent of the public voted Labour or Tory. The idea that people are turning away from the two main parties when there is a clear choice, socialism or neoliberalism, isn’t true. And the claim that people are disengaged from politics doesn’t stand up either. Voter turn-out was higher in the 2017 election, just as it was higher during the Scottish reference in 2014, and the Brexit referendum in 2016. Which was the biggest democratic exercise in British history. More people voted in that than in any previous general election or referendum. And Labour now has more than 500,000 members – more than it has had in a generation. The same is true for the SNP. More people are members of political parties now than at any point in Bastani’s lifetime. And if people genuinely do want centrist politics, how is it that the Lib Dems, who got only 8 per cent of the vote in 2015, got even less in 2017? This was despite the ‘media Einsteins’ telling us all that they would do well against the two main parties in a Brexit election. It’s almost as if, says Bastani, that the media don’t know what they’re talking about when they claim to know what the public wants.

Labour Policies Massively Popular

And then there are the policy issues. Labour’s policies are very popular. They’re right at the top of the list of why people voted Labour. But they don’t want to imitate these popular policies. Chris Leslie in an interview with New Scientist said he didn’t want a top tax rate of 50 per cent. That’s not a Corbynite policy, it’s one of Gordon Brown’s. He was also against stopping tuition fees and rejects the renationalisation of the railways, both extremely popular policies. These aren’t just popular with Labour voters, but also with Tories and Lib Dems. And polls conducted by IPPR And Sky News did polls at the end of last year which showed clear majorities of the British public wanting the Bank of England to keep house prices down and a minimal presence, at least, of workers on company boards. People don’t want centrist policies. They’re moving left, as shown on poll after poll.

Millennials Left-Wing because of Neoliberalism

And there’s a clear generational difference. At the last Labour split in 1981 when the SDP was formed, there was a clear movement to the right and post-war socialist policies had become unpopular. And yet when this split happened, the Economist carried an article decrying the popularity of socialism amongst millennials both in America and Britain. This meant ‘Generation Z’ young people, who want the government to address climate change as a fundamental part of 21st century politics. And these millennials despised the Tories, as shown by footage of an anti-Tory march. These are going to be the voters of the 2020s. And they’re not going to be bought off. They’re not left-wing because of something the read in a book, or because they want to be countercultural. They’re left-wing because their living standards and expectations are lower than their parents, they have a less expansive welfare state, they’re going to have higher levels of debt and earn less, and they will have to deal with systemic crises like demographic aging and climate change. They rightly feel that they’re screwed over. And the idea that these same people are going to agree with Chris Leslie’s idea of politics is probably the stupidest thing you’ll hear this year. And this is only February.

The Failure of Centrist Parties in France, America, Italy, Spain and Canada

But since 2015 centrist politicians have been hammered in election like Hillary Clinton in 2016. Emmanuel Macron in France was hailed as the saviour of French centrism, despite only taking 24 per cent of the vote in the first round. Now he’s the most unpopular president in French history after months of protests by the gilets jaunes, which have been met with tear gas attacks by the gendarmes, which have left people losing their eyes and their lives. Then there’s Matteo Renzi of the Partito Democratico, the Democratic Party, the Italian sister party to Britain’s Labour. In 2014 they took 42 per cent of the vote. But he was out within two years, having lost a referendum by 20 points. And in the last election the party lost half of their senators, leaving Italy governed by the Five Star Movement and the far-right Liga. Then there’s the example of the PSOE’s Pedro Sanchez. The PSOE is the Spanish equivalent of the Labour party. He’s also suffered mass protests and this week Spain called new general elections, which his party are certain to lose. Centrism is not popular in Europe or America, so the Independents have to turn to Canada’s Justin Trudeau. But Trudeau is now less popular in his country than Donald Trump in the US. Not that the media pushing ‘centrism’ will tell you this.

The Centrist Real Policy: More Austerity

The unpopularity of centrist politics is due to the fact that they still haven’t solved the problems of global capitalism created by the 2008 crash. They believed that financialisation would create the economic growth that would support public services. But financialisation hasn’t created growth since 2008. And as they can’t create prosperity and tackle income inequality, all they’ve have to give us is austerity ‘with a nice smiley face’.

Labour Splitters against Iraq Inquiry, For Welfare Cuts

And not only do the eight former Labour MPs have Brexit in common, they also voted against an independent inquiry into Iraq. A million people have been affected by the war, along with those, who suffered under ISIS, and Iranian influence has expanded across the Middle East. The idea that Iraq is irrelevant is not only absurd, it is a disgrace. People have died, and it has made an already volatile region even more so. And Britain is directly responsible. The former Labour MPs also abstained on the vote of welfare reform before Corbyn came to power. They do not stand for a moral foreign policy, or for a more just social system at home.

Their politics are a mixture of careerism and opportunism, and their opposition to Brexit actually makes a new deal more likely. They are driven by fundamental democratic principles, but won’t stand for a bye-election. No members, no policies, no party democracy, no vision. Bastani states that this isn’t the future of politics, it’s the past, and the worst aspects at that. He looks forward to sensible people joining them, because they’re going to be found out sooner or later. And if we want to establish the primacy of socialist ideas, he says, then bring it on.

Tories Fund ‘Fake News’ Think Tank to Smear Corbyn

December 10, 2018

Mike this morning also put up a very importance piece about how Tweezer’s party has also been seeking to undermine British democracy by providing 2.25 million pounds to a think tank, the Institute of Statecraft, to spread smears against Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour party, and individual Labour politicos.

The Institute is based in an old mill in Fife, and runs a programme, the Integrity Initiative, to counter Russian propaganda. This is supposed to be done through a collection of friendly journos and ‘influencers’ throughout Europe, who will go online and attack Russian propaganda on the Net. Instead, it appears that the think tank has been using the money given it by the Foreign Office to smear Corbyn as an instrument of Moscow on Twitter. One Tweet included an extract from a newspaper article denouncing Corbyn as a ‘useful idiot’, a phrase Lenin used to describe sympathetic individuals in the West, who could be manipulated by the Bolsheviks. The Tweet then said

His open visceral anti-Westernism helped the Kremlin cause, as surely as if he had been secretly peddling Westminster tittle-tattle for money.

Another Tweet ran

It’s time for the Corbyn left to confront its Putin problem.’ A further message refers to an ‘alleged British Corbyn supporter’ who ‘wants to vote for Putin.

Emily Thornberry, Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary, stated it was outrageous and said that one of the cardinal rules of British politics was that government funds should not be used for party purposes. She made the point that the smears weren’t outside the government’s control, as it said in its funding agreement with the company that the money would be used in party to expand the Integrity Initiative as well as Twitter and social media accounts. She concluded

So the Government must now answer the following questions: Why did the Foreign Office allow public money to be spent on attempting to discredit Her Majesty’s Opposition? Did they know this was happening? If not, why not? And if they did, how on earth can they justify it?

According to RT, the revelations follow the leak of classified documents to the Sunday Mail.

Chris Williamson commented

What the hell is going on? I tabled a parliamentary question recently and discovered the Foreign Office has given 2 million of public money to a shady organization that’s indulging in black propaganda against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party.

Another Labour MP, Jon Trickett, said

If it is true that there is a deep state, taxpayer funded operation against our party it is totally unacceptable and explanation and an enquiry must be conducted immediately.

RT reported that the Foreign Office has now launched an investigation stating that any involvement in domestic politics would be condemned. Alan Duncan, the minister of state for Europe and the Americas, said

I don’t know the facts, but if there is any kind of organization for which we are paying, which is involved in domestic politics in that way, I would totally condemn it.

Here’s RT’s report on the scandal.

Mike in his article about the think tank and its smears also quotes Duncan, who said that

The Institute for Statecraft is an independent, Scottish, charitable body whose work seeks to improve governance and enhance national security. They launched the Integrity Initiative in 2015 to defend democracy against disinformation.

In financial year 2017/18, the FCO funded the Institute for Statecraft’s Integrity Initiative £296,500. This financial year, the FCO is funding a further £1,961,000. Both have been funded through grant agreements.

Mike comments that the statement that Institute for Statecraft was defending democracy was simply untrue, as they should not be posting disinformation on social media. And nobody else should be doing so either.

He also reminded us that less than a year ago, Gollum, I mean, Tweezer, had announced that she was launching a rapid reaction force based in the cabinet office to rebut fake news. Mike had said then that

This is not an attempt to ensure a ‘fact-based public debate’. It is a bid to hijack the news and turn it into Tory propaganda.

He adds in his article that he was right. It’s just that the government has outsourced its propaganda.

Mike’s article also gives the responses of a number of Labour supporters and MPs condemning the Institute’s smears. One of them, Aaron Bastani, states that if the Institute has a list of journos and influencers smearing the leader of the opposition, then it has to be made public immediately. And Dan Carden MP remarked on how, with the exception of the Scottish Daily Record and the Sunday Mail, this was being ignored by the mainstream media. He stated that these were strange times, but we still expected democracy to be defended.

Mike replies

Yes, we should expect democracy to be defended.

Just not by right-wingers like those running the BBC and most of the print news media – or by our democratically-elected government.

Yet this is the government that wants to push us all through Brexit, in the name of democracy.

It doesn’t stack up. We need an election to get the Tories out of office, and then a police investigation to find out who authorised the Foreign Office to fund this offence.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/12/10/to-blazes-with-brexit-its-being-handled-by-a-government-that-used-public-money-to-undermine-the-opposition/

I wondered if the reason the lamestream media have so far ignored the story is because so many of those newspapers and organisations might have been involved in it. Several journos have been named as the conduits for government propaganda in the press. One of these was Andrew Neil, when he was the editor of the Sunday Times.

Actually, the Tories and the British secret state have a long history of smearing the Labour party and its leaders as agents of the Russians. Back in the 1920s there was the notorious Zinoviev Letter, forged by MI5, which purported to come from the head of the Comintern in the Soviet Union, Zinoviev, instructing the Labour party to get ready to stage a revolution and turn the country into a Communist satellite state.

Then in the 1970s the CIA and MI5 smeared Harold Wilson as a Russian spy. This has been extensively discussed by the conspiracy/parapolitics magazine, Lobster. One of those, who believed this tripe was Maggie Thatcher.

Robin Ramsay, in his recent additions to the ‘News from the Bridge’ section of Lobster, has also posted up a piece ‘IRD Reborn’, commenting on a report by Iain Cobain in the Groaniad that the British government has the army’s 77th Brigade conducting ‘information operations’. There’s also the Research, Information and Communications Unit (RICU) in the Home Office. According to Cobaine, the department, founded in 2007

says privately that it aims to “effect attitudinal and behavioural change” through methods including the dissemination of messages on social media, leafleting homes and feeding stories to newspapers, was modelled on a secretive anti-communist body called the Information Research Department (IRD), set up in Britain in 1948.’

Apparently, RICU was set up by Gordon Brown, who read Frances Stonor Saunders’ Who Paid the Piper: The CIA and the Cultural Cold War, and instead of taking the book and its revelations as a condemnation, actually thought it would be a good idea.

Ramsay comments

I think it may be safe to say that Brown knew nothing about the IRD’s activities, especially their role in the British state’s disinformation operations – a.k.a. the ‘Lisburn lie machine’ – in Northern Ireland in the 1970s. This pioneered the business of putting out so much disinformation – fake news – that no-one knows what to believe.

The rest of that section discusses whether or not anyone really believes the kind of fake news spouted by people like Alex Jones and InfoWars. Ramsay concludes that it’s probably very few.

The current issue of Lobster, 76, is at: https://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/issue76.php
To see the piece, download the ‘View from the Bridge’ by clicking on it, and then scroll down the piece until you get to the right section. There’s also an awful lot of other very important pieces in that section, including government data-gathering on private citizens and implantable bio chips to keep track of us.

Vox Political: Guardian Journos Outraged at Speaking Invitation to Editor of The Canary

September 28, 2018

Mike over at Vox Political today also put up another story about an attempt to silence a very able and outspoken woman of colour. This time it’s Kerry-Anne Mendoza, the editor-in-chief of the Canary. She’s another friend of Mike’s blog, and mentioned it and other leading members of the new left media when she appeared on Newsnight in 2016.

Mendoza has been invited to give this year’s Claudia Jones Memorial Lecture. These talks are organized by the National Union of Journalists Black Members’ Council in honour of the pioneering Black lady journalist. It has zilch to do with the Guardian-Observer branch of the NUJ, but for some weird reason they’re outraged that Mendoza’s been given this honour. They sent an email out to their members, asking them to send in complaints to the NUJ’s equalities people and were threatening to hold a vote.

The Guardian journos’ audacity as White, university-educated people complaining and threatening to vote to stop one of the very few BAME editors from giving a talk to commemorate a black journalist as part of Black History Month provoked an immediate backlash. Mendoza herself said

I’m a proud member of the National Union of Journalists and honoured to be invited to give the Claudia Jones Memorial Lecture this year.

It’s a sign of the entitlement of our establishment journalists that they would behave so poorly in response.

I think we’ve reached peak Guardian. A group of mostly white, middle class journalists trying to stop one of Britain’s only working class, BAME editors in chief from giving a speech for Black History Month.

And the Groan’s hacks also shot themselves in the foot with the timing of their outburst. It came just when a national boycott was being organized against the Guardian under the hashtag,#BoycottTheGuardian for the hours between 7 and 9 pm, September 27, 2018. This shot the hashtag campaign up to No.1.

And the peeps on Twitter also weren’t silent themselves about the Guardian and its presumption. Tom Pride, Aaron Bastani, Craig Murray, Alex Tiffin, Nadeem Ahmed, Jimmy Lacey and the MP, Chris Williamson, also sent Tweets wondering what the Guardian thought it was doing, alienating its left-wing readers when nobody on the right reads it. They deplored its political coverage, and said that while Britain needs a left-wing paper, it seems increasingly irrelevant. They also pointed out that it was Neoconservative and had done its level best to damage Corbyn and the Labour party, especially by running stories linking them to anti-Semitism.

Mike makes the point that the tweets attacking the rag’s attacks on the Labour party would have received far less attention if the hacks had kept their mouths shuts and their mitts away from the keyboard. He goes on to say that it’s not clear what will happen next. He concludes

It is possible that the Establishment will try to hush up the fact that there has been a huge protest against what can be seen as a clear example of racism by mostly white, middle-class university-graduate journalists.

If that happens, we’ll just have to run another campaign – bigger, louder, and impossible to ignore. Repression always incites rebellion.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/09/28/journalists-outrage-at-canary-editors-speech-invitation-leads-to-boycott-the-guardian-campaign/

Despite its reputation, the Groaniad isn’t a far left rag. In at least seven elections since the 1970s, the newspaper has urged its readers to vote Liberal/Liberal-SDP Alliance/Lib-Dem. The last time they did so was in 2010, and the result was the disgusting coalition between the Lib-Dems and the Tories. And they do seem to have a very strong Neocon bias. There have been articles in Lobster pointing out that the newspaper has a very long history of supporting Zionism and Israel at the expense of the Palestinians. And I have a very strong suspicion that they, or some of their journalists, were also busy writing articles defending and promoting Blair’s wars in the Middle East. From a left-wing point of view, of course.

They’re also massive hypocrites when it comes to the use of unpaid, intern labour. They got into Private Eye several times a few years ago because they published articles attacking the use of unpaid interns by big companies, while at the same time they were the newspaper that most extensively exploited such unpaid aspiring journalists.

Quite why they should take it upon themselves to decry Mendoza’s invitation to give this year’s Claudia Jone’s lecture is a mystery to me. I have no idea why they think it is any business of theirs, but there seems to be more than an attitude of entitlement, as if they feel that as one of the country’s leading left-wing papers, they somehow have some kind of right to decide who gets to speak on issues like this. It seems very strongly to me that they feel threatened not just by Mendoza herself, but also by what she represents. The Guardian, like the rest of the national papers, is losing readers and money. Private Eye has reported in its ‘Street of Shame’ column several times that the Guardian Media Group is at least tens of millions in debt. I think the real figure may even be over a hundred million.

By contrast, people are increasingly turning to the internet for their news and information. Mendoza’s invitation to speak shows just how influential the Canary has become, and, by implication, the new left media of which it, and Vox Political, are a part. The Guardian, like the lamestream media generally, is losing its audience and its influence. The previous editor, Alan Rusbridger, used to speak regularly at political gatherings and events. It seems that the people at the Groan felt that it should have been someone from their paper, or who at least worked in print and shared the lamestream media’s bias. And it really couldn’t tolerate that the Black Members’ Council had chosen someone different. Someone from outside. Hence the tantrum about Mendoza being invited to speak.

I’ve only heard her on the radio and TV, but she came across very strongly as an excellent speaker with a keen, critical intelligence, able to dismantle and rebut the arguments and lies of the right. I have absolutely no doubt that she is an excellent choice of speaker, and wish her all the best.

Evening Standard Set to Sell Editorial Independence to Big Business

June 4, 2018

This is a very sobering video from Novara Media, which shows precisely how degraded the mainstream media is becoming, and implicitly, why independent news outlets like Novara and the other news sites and shows I repost here are so necessary.

Aaron Bastani reports and comments on an article put up by Open Democracy last Wednesday that the Evening Standard is due to sell its editorial independence to big business tomorrow, 5th July 2018. This move, led by editor George Osborne, who not at all coincidentally used to be Dave Cameron’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, will see the paper sell positive coverage to firms like Google and Uber for £3 million. Bastani states that this is important, as it breaks down the divide between journalism and paid-for advertising content. But, he continues, it’s nothing new.

He then talks about how the Evening Standard is owned by a collection of shady Russian oligarchs, and reflects their business interests. He goes on to describe how the media is increasingly dominated by Tory politicians. The first person to interview Donald Trump when he became president was Michael Gove in the Times. Danny Finkelstein is a Tory lord, and the Standard’s Associate Editor. Robbie Gibb, who is the brother of a Tory MP, and was Theresa May’s head of communications, edited the Beeb’s Daily and Sunday Politics. Boris Johnson has a column at the Torygraph, even though he’s Foreign Secretary.

Bastani concludes that the revolving door between politics, industry and the media has vanished, and those hitherto separate areas have become fused. He makes the point that while quality journalism is a public good, if it’s left to Osborne, Johnson, Gove and Lebedev we will have ‘a profoundly broken society’.

Bastani’s right, but this is just the latest development in a process that has been going on for a very long time. Editorial independence in many papers declined in the 1980s, when newspapers like the Observer were bought up by magnates with interests in multiple industries. Tiny Rowland, who owned the Observer, owned mining concerns in Zimbabwe, and so spiked stories that paper wanted to run exposing human rights abuses there. I also remember how, in the 1990s, Private Eye also ran articles every so often revealing how the Observer had published yet another glowing article about a country or corporation, without revealing that it was a puff piece paid for by the nation or company featured.

It’s also been the case that politicians very often have had their own columns in the papers, or written the odd article about a particular issue. Sometimes this happened after they left office. For example, David Blunkett was given a column in the Sun by Rupert Murdoch. As for Robbie Gibb at the Beeb, Mike’s put up a number of articles about the way the news department at the Beeb is dominated by members of the Tory party, including Nick Robinson and Laura Kuenssberg. And it seems every couple of months someone else leaves the Beeb to work for the Tories. But the Corporation still keeps on pompously denying that it’s biased, despite its vicious attacks on Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party.

But Bastani’s piece does show how far this process has gone, and is set to go, with the Evening Standard providing puff pieces for global corporations as news, while being packed, like the rest of the right-wing media, with Tory MPs. It’s almost a case of life imitating art. Or rather satire. Remember a few years ago, when people started satirising the corporate media with comments like ‘And now for our corporate approved content’, and slogans like ‘Remember: Corporate loves you.’ It now looks almost like Osborne saw the satire, but thought it was a good idea.

Until the mainstream media reforms itself, it has shown that it absolutely cannot be trusted. And people are far better off taking their news from the alternative media instead.