Posts Tagged ‘Leprosy’

Beeb’s John Sweeney Attack Parliamentary Lobby System as Source of Fake News

November 14, 2019

Very interesting article in next week’s Radio Times for 16th-22nd November 2019. John Sweeney, a former journo with the Corporation’s Panorama, has written a piece attacking the parliamentary lobby system, ‘Time to name your sources’, on page 9. The subtitle states very clearly why he objects to it ‘Why are political reporters feeding us fake news?’

The article runs

As the country gears up for a general election, TV viewers and newspaper readers are being lied to from within a secretive system that reduces political journalists and Westminster correspondents to underbutlers, protects power and poisons our democracy. It’s called the lobby and its two most powerful players are a career psychopath (Conservative) and a neo-Stalinist (Labour).

The lobby was created after an Irish terrorist bomb in 1885 caused MPs to lock out the journalists who used to mingle freely inside Westminster. Reporters complained and a permitted few were allowed back, so long as they followed rule number one: when a source says a story is on lobby terms, you don’t identify that source.¬†

The lobby’s most elegant defender, Andrew Marr, wrote in his book, My Trade: A Short History of British Journalism, “Sophisticated social animals are necessarily hypocrites… who really wants to know less?”

But Marr wrote that before King Brexit turned everything it touched to Novichok. So where do those political stories based on anonymous oft-quoted “sources close to…” come from?

The PMS (the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman) is a many-headed beast, but one set of jaws is snapped by James Slack, who, as Nick Cohen pointed out in the The Spectator, in a previous life wrote the words underneath the infamous 2016 Daily Mail headline “Enemies of the People”, attacking three judges. Another set of jaws are those of Rob Oxley, Boris Johnson’s press secretary, but the sharpest teeth belong to “career psychopath” Dominic Cummings. David¬† called him that five years ago. It was an understatement.

Cummings, Slack and Oxley jointly and separately use reporters in the lobby system to tell unattributable whoppers while the system as a whole is given coverage by BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Sky and the papers. Veteran political reporter Peter Oborne nailed a series of lies about Brexit on “lobby terms” recently. Perhaps the most poisonous was the “lobby terms” claim, reported in the Mail on Sunday in October, that Remainers Dominic Grieve, Oliver Letwin and Hilary Benn were being investigated by the government because of their involvement with foreign powers. The story was a lie. The BBC, etc, didn’t tell that lie. But they prop up the system in which the lie could be told.

That system also encourages acquiescence among political hacks. If you don’t toe the line and ask awkward questions instead you are excluded from the regular drip-feed of anonymous briefings. It was reported that Boris Johnson when Foreign Secretary was considered a security risk by MI6 because of his dodgy private life. But has the lobby asked if Boris will launch an inquiry into himself? Nyet.

Another potential security risk is Jeremy Corbyn’s spin commissar, Seumas Milne. He oversees Labaour’s lobby operation but the system shields his shenanigans behind the arras. In 2014 Milne appeared on a panel at a summit in Sochi alongside Vladimir Putin. Milne, a former Guardian journalist, has in the past bigged up both Stalin and East Germany. Creepy.

Has the lobby asked Putin’s pal Milne if he is a security risk? Again, nyet.

In these toxic times, the lobby has become a lie factory. We need to scrappy “lobby terms”. If power speaks with a forked tongue, we need to know whose tongue it is that’s lying.

Okay, Sweeney’s correct to call out the lobby system. I’m irritated myself by stories that begin ‘sources close to the Prime Minister’ or ‘Ministers are considering’, as quite often this means that the source is sounding out a policy. And that policy is quite often something monstrous. I remember a story in the Sunday Express back in the early 1980s, when AIDS first appeared and everyone really was afraid it would decimate the global population like a new Black Death. It was so strongly associated with gays that a Beeb science documentary on it had the title ‘AIDS: The Gay Plague’. In this climate of fear, the Sunday Depress announced that ‘ministers’ – who were never named – were considering a radical solution to the problem. This was the construction of an ‘AIDS island’ following the Swedes’ example, where AIDS victims could be isolated and treated. It harkens back to the location of lazarettos – leper hospitals – on islands. But it was also frightening coming as it did from a government that had very far right tendencies and a reputation for aggressive homophobia. Maggie had just tried to introduce her law banning the positive teaching of homosexuality in schools. To many people, this seemed like the beginning of a campaign against homosexuals and the left which would end up with internment camps. The nightmare Fascist Britain of Alan Moore’s and Dave Lloyd’s V for Vendetta, running in the comic Warrior, seemed all too possible.

Others have also challenged the very close relationship between the press and the political class. When David Cameron was PM, it was pointed out that many leading journos, including editorial staff at the Guardian, I believe, also lived in Cameron’s village of Chipping Norton. Over on the other side of the Pond, some of the left-wing news shows on the Net, like The Young Turks, Sam Seder’s Majority Report and the David Pakman Show, have also commented on the way the press is content to parrot stories and claims by right-wing politicians, because they’re afraid that if they start challenging them, those politicians will simply stop talking to them and they’ll lose their stories. The result has been a decline in journalistic standards, as papers no longer attempt to hold politicos to account, but simply repeat their lines and lies. I’ve no doubt that this also partly accounts for the utter complicity of the press in repeating the claims and assumptions of the neoliberal right over here.

But this also doesn’t exonerate the Beeb. Despite the protestations of its political editor, the Beeb does platform right-wing figures over the left. Mike put up a graphic from Tory Fibs a few days ago, which showed very clearly how massively biased the Beeb was in its inclusion of figures and spokesmen for the right on its news shows and panels. Its newsroom is stacked full of Conservatives, like Nick Robinson, and Fiona Bruce and her producers on Question Time scarcely hide their right-wing bias. And the Beeb is still under investigation for the massive bias in its Panorama documentary on anti-Semitism in the Labour party.

The lobby system is a major part of the problem, but not the whole. The whole journalistic system and its cosy relationship with right-wing politicians is rotten, and needs to be overturned. And the Beeb is very much part of it.

Vox Political: Cameron Planning Internment Camp for British Radicals

February 17, 2016

This is a really scary piece Mike’s reblogged from the Canary. Apparently, Cameron and Gove are planning to isolate Muslim extremists in special secure unit to stop Muslim radicalisation in prison. This has been compared to Guantanamo Bay in America. Mike instead in his comments asks the extremely pertinent question of whether it’s actually instead something like a Nazi concentration camp, especially with the government’s establishment of secret courts. See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/02/17/cameron-wants-to-lock-radicals-in-a-single-place-like-a-nazi-concentration-camp/

Mike and so many, many others, like the Angry Yorkshireman, have blogged about the serious dangers these iniquitous courts pose to British justice and liberty. Under this system of, for want of a better term, special justice, the established standards of legal process may waived in the interests of ‘national security’. You may not see the evidence against you, nor know who your accuser is. Indeed, you may not be told what offence you have been charged. It tramples all over Magna Carta, and is exactly like something straight out of Kafka’s novels, The Trial and The Castle.

The motivation here appears to be the very rapid spread of Islam through the prison system through what looks like a very aggressive strategy of dawah, Islamic evangelisation. However alarmed some might feel about the spread of Islam in prisons, this proposal is should be more alarming. Firstly, there is difference between Islam and Islamism, and conversion to Islam does not necessarily lead to converts being set on an automatic path to extremism, at the end of which is ISIS or al-Qaeda. Indeed, the piece Mike’s reproduced from the Canary article states that the idea behind this special prison seems to be that Islamism is like an infectious disease, which isn’t the case.

The model for this special prison seems to be Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo Bay. This was extensively criticised because of the illegality of the vast majority of the incarcerations their. The majority of those imprisoned would simply not have been convicted in ordinary courts of law because of the lack of evidence against them. With the addition of the Patriot Act, which provided for the arrest of anybody George Dubya and his cronies thought wasn’t sufficiently patriotic as a potential terrorist, the system’s critics saw Gitmo very much as the thin end of a totalitarian, Nazi wedge. Conservatives, like the right-wing Canadian cable/web TV host, Michael Koren and the British/Irish journalist Mark Steyn, resident in New Hampshire, have tried to justify Gitmo by arguing that normal standards of justice cannot apply in war. The conditions of battle are just too confused, they argue, for the same standards of reasonable proof to apply when assessing whether or not a suspect is guilty. The men and women interned at Gitmo are nevertheless extremely dangerous, and present a real threat to the public security if they are released. Hence their incarceration of what may be inadequate or flimsy legal grounds is justified. Despite this argument, the majority of those imprisoned at Gitmo have been released, and those still remaining seem to be there out of sheer bloody-mindedness by the authorities rather than any convincing legal reason.

I’m also worried about this, because it points to a long tradition of authoritarianism in the Tory Right. I’ve got a feeling Lobster ran pieces in the 1980s about Tory plans for internment camps in Northern Ireland, to be used against the IRA, modelled on the system of concentration camps the French had used in their campaigns against the indigenous peoples fighting for their freedom in what used to be Indo-China, out of which came the Vietnam War. These were dropped because whatever the threat of paramilitary violence in Ulster, it was felt that the British people would not tolerate other White Brits being rounded up and herded into concentration camps like Black Kenyans during the Mao Mao rebellion.

And the Tory need to incarcerate political and social ‘deviants’ raised its hideous physiognomy again when AIDS appeared in the 1980s. At the time there was a real fear that AIDS was so infectious and deadly, that it would wipe out the world’s population exactly as the population of Europe and Muslim North Africa had been decimated by the Black Death in the 14th century. In five years, that disease killed perhaps somewhere between a third and quarter of the European population, and a similar proportion North Africans in what is now the countries of Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Algeria. Radical measures were being mooted to combat the disease. And this included the isolation of its victims. I can remember being chilled by an article in the Sunday Express that announced that the Swedes were considering building an ‘AIDS Island’ to isolate and treat the victims of the disease. British ministers were looking into the possibility of doing the same. Gay sex between men had only been legal since 1969, and much of society was extremely prejudiced against homosexuals, particularly the Tory party and the police. James Anderton, the extremely right-wing head of Manchester police force, stated that he believed that AIDS was God’s punishment for gays, and described homosexuality as a cesspool, or something similarly offensive. Margaret Thatcher passed legislation intended to ban the teaching that homosexuality was at all normal or acceptable in schools. In this environment, even at the time I wondered if this was an attempt to construct a secure medical facility, like the leper hospitals that were deliberately built on islands to isolate the victims of that terrible disease. Or if instead it was a prison camp to lock up gays, just as the Nazis had done during the Third Reich. Homosexuals were then sent to the concentration camps, and identified by pink triangles placed on their prison pyjamas. This part of the persecution of gays by the Nazis was portrayed in the harrowing play, Bent, starring one of the great gay British thesps. I’ve got a feeling it was Sir Ian Mackellan in the title role, but I could be mistaken.

This strikes me as being pretty much the same squalid, authoritarian instincts rising to the Tory surface yet again. If, indeed, it ever really went away. And the danger here is that once the Tories do it to once section of the community and get away with it, they’ll do it to all of us. Muslim radicals will be the first. Then it could be others suspected of terrorism, like radical nationalists – Irish Republican splinter groups, say. And then it’ll be extended to illegal asylum-seekers, trade unionists, Socialists, Anarchists and Communists. Same as it always has been. Just like Trump in America similarly threatens to introduce real Fascism if he wins the election. This has got to be very carefully watched indeed, if not banned altogether before it even begins.

And if they are considering a round-up of Islamist radicals and other suspects, when should we expect them to stage their own fake attack on parliament to justify it all, like the Reichstag fire?