Posts Tagged ‘Sarkozy’

Vanessa Beeley: Britain Doesn’t Have Any Good Intentions in the Middle East

December 15, 2017

In this clip from RT, Going Underground’s host Afshin Rattansi speaks to Vanessa Beeley, a British journalist, who has covered the war in Syria. He asks her about Theresa May’s condemnation of the blockade against Yemen, which is resulting in a terrible famine that is starving about half of the population or so. Surely this shows that Britain has good intentions in the Middle East.

In reply, Beeley states very clearly that she cannot agree that Britain has any good intentions in the Middle East. Britain tried to undermine the UN Resolution 2216, which condemned the blockade. Britain’s military industrial complex has profited immensely from arms sales to Saudi Barbaria, and British specialists were in the command and control centre in Riyadh helping select targets. She openly describes May’s gesture as ‘faux humanitarianism’.

I think this is part of a rather longer interview, which I intend to put up, in which she talks about how the British and western media is deliberately presenting a false image of the corruption in the NGOs operating in Syria. One of them, the Adam Smith something-or-other, was the subject of a Panorama documentary. This revealed that massive sums of money were being taken out of the organisation by Islamist terrorist groups, through the use of payments to fictional people on the payroll, and even people, who’d died.

Beeley described this as ‘a controlled explosion’. The media and political establishment couldn’t keep it secret, and so did a limited expose of what was going on in order to divert attention from corruption and atrocities committed elsewhere. Like in the White Helmets, who are lauded as non-partisan heroes, but in fact are as partisan as everyone else. They have saved people, who aren’t members of their organisation, but this is just occasional, if they happen to be there. They don’t put themselves out of the way to do it, as is claimed on mainstream TV. Moreover, a number of their members put up posts and Tweets praising the Islamists. So definitely not the whiter-than-the-driven-snow heroes we’ve all been told. Beely made the case in that longer video that this cover up is because the White Helmets are becoming a global brand. They’re branching out in South America, Brazil and the Hispanic nations.

As for the Adam Smith whatever, I’ve had suspicions of any organisation that puts up his name ever since the Adam Smith Institute emerged under the Thatcher. These were manic privatisers, who wanted the health service sold off and the welfare state destroyed. This Adam Smith organisation isn’t connected with them, but still, I’m suspicious. It looks far too much like another wretched free enterprise group come to implement western privatisation under the guise of humanitarianism. In which case, you can expect the same results free enterprise has had on Iraq, Libya, Algeria and the rest of the Arab world. And indeed the world as a whole. I think the government of Algeria, or one of the Arab states in the Maghreb had been pursuing a socialist economy, before the recession of the 70s/80. They then followed the trend and started privatising industry. This made matters even worse, poverty grew, and people started looking to the Islamists for aid. The American-mandated free enterprise policy in Iraq after the invasion resulted in 60 per cent unemployment. This is in a poor country. Ordinary Iraqis were actually better off materially under Saddam Hussein. Hussein was a monster, without question. But they had access to free healthcare, free education, and relatively secular society in which women enjoyed a high status. They could go out to work, and felt safe going home at night.

The invasion destroyed all that. Instead you had sectarian violence, which did not exist in Baghdad previously, or if it did, it was at a much lower level than under the western occupation. You had General MacChrystal running death squads against the Sunnis. Valuable state assets were privatised and sold to American multinationals, and tariff barriers torn down so that the world and especially the Chinese dumped all the stuff they couldn’t sell on the country, driving native Iraqi firms out of business.

You can find the same wretch story in Libya. Gaddafi was a monster, but as I’ve pointed out ad nauseam he did some good things for his country. They were the most prosperous country in Africa. Gaddafi gave his people free education and healthcare. Women had high status. He was not racist, and supported Black Africans from further south. He saw himself as an African leader, and did was he thought was best for the continent. This involved using the Islamists to knock off his rivals, both in Africa and the Arab world. But they were never allowed to recruit or attack his own country.

Now there are something like two parliaments in the country, the free education and healthcare is gone, and the Islamists are running riot. The women connected with his party have been raped, and Black Africans are savagely persecuted by the Islamists. Slavery has returned, with these barbarians selling them at auctions. And this is partly motivated by hatred of Blacks for benefiting from Gaddafi’s rule.

All the claims that these military interventions are for humanitarian reasons are a lie. They’re so western industry can get its grubby, blood-stained mitts on these countries’ precious industries and natural resources. Oh yes, and they’re to help the Saudis spread their own, viciously intolerant version of Islam, and Israel to destroy possible Arab rivals and threats in the region. Plus the fact that the American military-industrial complex loathes Arab nationalism, secularism and socialism with a passion as the next worst thing to Communism. And our European leaders, Cameron, Blair, Sarko and now Theresa May have been enthusiastic accomplices, even the ringleaders, of these assaults on independent, sovereign states.

For the sake of global peace, we need to kick May out and put Corbyn in. His work for disarmament and peace was recognised last week when the International Peace Bureau in Geneva awarded him the Sean McBride Peace Prize, along with Noam Chomsky and the All-Okinawa Committee against Henoko New Bridge. But this received almost zero coverage in the lamestream media.

General Smedley Butler was right was right: War is a racket. Or to put it another way, was is business, and under neoliberalism, business is good.

I’m sick of it. Brits of all faiths and none, of all races and varieties thereof are sick of it. Americans are sick of it. But it means big bucks to the arms manufacturers and the military-industrial complex. And so Obama, who now describes himself as a ‘moderate Republican’, increased the wars in the Middle East to seven. Trump, following the demands of AIPAC and the Christian Zionist lobby, wants to start a war with Iran, if Killary and the Democrats don’t push him into a military confrontation with Putin and the Chinese first.

The people fighting and dying in these wars are working and lower-middle class young men and women. Service people of immense courage and professionalism, whose lives should not be squandered for such squalid profiteering. Old-school Conservatives in the American armed forces despised the neocons around George Dubya as Chickenhawks. They were more than happy to send American forces into countries that had never directly threatened the US. But when it came to fighting themselves, they lacked the courage they expected in others. Bush and the others had all scarpered abroad during the Vietnam War. Generalissimo Trumpo had three exemption from national service during the Vietnam War. He claimed that he had growth in one of his feet that made walking difficult. Still didn’t stop him playing college basketball though.

During the Middle Ages, kings led their armies from the front. In ancient Germanic society, that was the prime function of kings. The Romans noted there were two types of kings in the barbarian tribes that later overran them. There were hereditary religious leaders, who acted as judges. And then there were elected kings, who took charge of the tribe’s armies. They were often elected only for a single campaign. And the Roman Empire itself basically arose through the seizure of supreme power by military dictators, like Julius Caesar and then Augustus. I think the last British general, who physically led his army into battle was in the 19th century.

Would our leaders be so keen on sending good, brave men and women to their deaths and mutilation, if they had to stand there and personally lead them into battle. Shouting like Henry IV, ‘Once more unto the breach, dear friends!’ If they personally had to put on the heavy, cumbersome battle armour, or wear hot and unpleasant chem suits in case of a gas attack. If they themselves had to feel some of the squaddies’ natural fear of suffering a hit, of seeing their friends and comrades die, or lose limbs and other organs. If they personally saw the civilian casualties, the ordinary men, women and children driven out of their homes, or killed as ‘collateral damage’. Dying and suffering from wounds, famine, disease. If they had to face the horrors that have scarred decent, strong women and men, leaving them mental wrecks. Sights no civilised person, whether in Britain, Damascus, Cairo, New York or wherever, should ever see.

No, of course they wouldn’t. They’d run screaming to their offices to get their spin doctors to find some bullsh*t excuse why they were too valuable to fight, er, things need doing back home, terribly sorry and so forth.

Saint Augustine said in his City of God that kingdoms without justice are giant robberies. It was true when he wrote in the 5th century AD, and it’s true now. Whatever the gloss put on it by the corporatists and the religious right.

Advertisements

Blissex on the Bombing of Libya and British War Crimes in Iraq

December 3, 2017

On Friday I put up a piece questioning whether we were also involved in running death squads in Iraq, like the Americans had under General McChrystal. Blissex, one of the many great commenters on this blog, added the following information. He writes

Things are more complicated yet simpler than that, for example an UK military commander objected:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/chilcot-inquiry-black-ops-in-iraq-caused-split-between-us-and-uk-7130996.htmlhttp://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/chilcot-inquiry-black-ops-in-iraq-caused-split-between-us-and-uk-7130996.html
“Some senior British officers were unhappy at what was going on and the involvement of the UK’s SAS and the SBS. “Why are we helping to run Latin American-style death squads?” One British commander, himself ex-SAS, demanded to know. The SAS were, on at least two occasions, barred from carrying out such missions in the British-run south of the country.
Questions were asked about how information was being obtained from suspects in Balad. There was an unofficial inquiry into the treatment of prisoners at the base, although no evidence was found to implicate Maj Gen McChrystal. …
But the reverberations from special forces operations in Iraq continued. Six years later Maj Gen McChrystal, by now a four star general and commander of international forces in Afghanistan, had received a complaint from the UK’s director of special forces (DSF) for speaking about operations carried out with the SAS and SBS in Iraq and Afghanistan. Meanwhile an SAS lieutenant colonel, who had served with distinction under Maj Gen McChrystal in Iraq, was told to stay away from the Regiment’s headquarters in Hereford.”

Also on the wider picture:

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2017/09/28/brexits-irish-question/http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2017/09/28/brexits-irish-question/
“Now, the empire is gone and the UK is slipping out of England’s control. Britain’s pretensions to be a global military power petered out in the sands of Iraq and Afghanistan: the British army was effectively defeated in both Basra and Helmand and had to be rescued by its American allies.”

Andrew Marr, “History of modern Britain”:

“Britain’s dilemma from 1945 until today has been easy to state, impossible to resolve. How do you maintain independence and dignity when you are a junior partner, locked into defence systems, intelligence gathering and treaties with the world’s great military giant? … At other times her dependence has been embarrassing, in big ways such as the Suez fiasco; and small ways, such as the American refusal to share intelligence assessments in Iraq, even when the raw intelligence was gathered originally by British agents and passed on.”

He also stated that while Obama and Killary were behind the bombing of Libya, the real people pushing for war were Sarkozy in France and David Cameron in Britain.

«Killary was Obama’s Secretary of State when he sent the bombers in to level Libya and aid the Islamist rebels in overthrowing Colonel Gaddafi.»

Oh she and Obama were/are warmongers, but the insanity is that the libyan stupidity was strongly initiated by N Sarkozy, with D Cameron’s support, and B Obama tried to talk him out of it, even if eventually went along.

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/04/the-obama-doctrine/471525/#8https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/04/the-obama-doctrine/471525/#8
“When I go back and I ask myself what went wrong,” Obama said, “there’s room for criticism, because I had more faith in the Europeans, given Libya’s proximity, being invested in the follow-up,” he said.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/apr/12/barack-obama-says-libya-was-worst-mistake-of-his-presidencyhttps://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/apr/12/barack-obama-says-libya-was-worst-mistake-of-his-presidency
In March, Obama made a searing critique of the British prime minister, David Cameron, and the former French leader, Nicolas Sarkozy, for their roles in the bombing campaign they led in Libya.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/2016/03/17/david-cameron-did-make-a-mess-of-libya–thats-why-obamas-comment/http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/2016/03/17/david-cameron-did-make-a-mess-of-libya–thats-why-obamas-comment/
I remember quite clearly the deep reservations senior American officers and officials had at the time about the enthusiasm displayed by Mr Cameron and French President Sarkozy for overthrowing Libyan dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
While the Americans had no great affection for Gaddafi, they just could not see why, after all the controversy surrounding the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the European leaders wanted to start another conflict. “We just don’t get it,” a senior US general told me at the time. “Gaddafi just does not pose a threat to us.”

So elements of the SAS and British special forces were involved in assassinations in Iraq for the Americans, but they were not popular and important sections of the British administration were against their use. As for Cameron and Sarkozy, I wonder if hankering after British and French imperial greatness was also a factor in them demanding Gaddafi’s overthrow. The French are supposed to be recolonizing all over Africa, and it’s also possible that Sarkozy may still harbour resentment towards African and Arab independence movements because of the horrors of the Algerian independence movement. As for David Cameron, the British aristocracy and upper classes, as George Orwell pointed out, are bred for war and get a real thrill out of it. It wouldn’t surprise me if Cameron, and Boris as well, want to be seen as great war leaders, like Winston Churchill. Both Britain and France have been savagely hit by Islamist terrorism, and so I think that a desire to launch a fresh attack on the Middle East to teach Muslims a lesson was also a major factor. Gaddafi’s regime was accused of the Lockerbie bombing, although Private Eye has maintained that the real culprit was probably Syria, but we needed their support for the Gulf War against Saddam Hussein under George Bush snr. Gaddafi did sponsor terrorism, but they were used against other Arab and African leaders, and he kept them on a very short leash domestically.

As for the quotes Blissex provides about Britain trying to reclaim its imperial role by riding on America’s coat-tails after the Second World War – I completely agree. And the Special Relationship has always worked to America’s advantage, and very much against ours.

Donald Trump Attacks Media Hosts and Company Directors in Meeting

November 23, 2016

This more evidence of the authoritarian, Fascistic nature of Trump’s planned regime. In this piece from Secular Talk, Kyle Kulinski talks about how Donald Trump called a private meeting yesterday, attended by 30 to 40 media executives and TV hosts, in which he attacked them, giving them a dressing down. Amongst other criticisms and remarks, he told the head of CNN that he hated his network. Kulinski states that he also believes that the media deserved this lambasting, as they have done a horrible job of reporting the news. However, this is extremely dangerous, as he is treating the media as if he owned it. The system instead is intended to be structured so that the media can hold the government to account. Trump clearly intends to stop this, and Kulinski predicts that the media will buckle. All the supposedly ‘principled’ Republicans, who swore they’d never support Trump, will fall into line, as will the Democrats, once Trump starts tweeting angrily at 3.00 A.M. in the morning, and Democratic senators start finding themselves flooded with calls from angry Trump supporters. Kulinski states that he’s not necessarily opposed to that tactic, as he’d play rough if he was present to get his legislation through. But this is dangerous as it will affect how the media report the news. They will, he predicts, soft-pedal on criticising Trump, even if it is only subconsciously.

Kulinski is absolutely right to compare this meeting with the treatment of the press in authoritarian and totalitarian regimes, like Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini’s Italy or the former Soviet Union. But it’s also becoming increasingly common in western democracies. Berlusconi and Sarkozy, the premiers of Italy and France, both exercised highly authoritarian control over the state media, sacking executives, news anchors and performers who dared to criticise them. A similar control has been attempted in Britain through successive governments interfering in the running of the BBC, for instance, and threatening either to privatise it or cut the licence fee in order to gain its general compliance. And then there’s the way Maggie Thatcher bullied the media. Thames Television lost its broadcasting licence because of the documentary, Death on the Rock, which showed the shooting of an IRA terror squad was a planned assassination. The terrorists had been tracked all the way through Spain into Gibraltar, and could have been picked up at any time without bloodshed. The documentary outraged Thatcher so much that she effectively destroyed the company, which was replaced by Carlton. She also had the Beeb pull an edition of Panorama, entitled ‘Maggie’s Militant Tendency’, which argued that the Tories had been infiltrated by members of the Fascist Right.

Despite his protestations to the country, Trump is very much a Fascist with a very thin skin and a desire to control and suppress contrary viewpoints. This has to be fought. As Kulinski points out, a free press and media is one of the cornerstones of democracy. But if Trump successfully bullies the establishment media, more people will turn to alternative sources of information, like the various alternative news shows on YouTube, such as Kulinski’s own Secular Talk, The Young Turks, Sam Seder’s Majority Report, the Jimmy Dore Show and so on. Mind you, YouTube have also threatened to demonetarise those shows, which they consider too radical.

This might throw America back into the same conditions as the former Soviet Union, where dissenting opinion was ruthlessly suppressed. In which case, the only recourse will be to copy the Russians there as well and start setting up the samizdat underground presses to bypass official censorship. I don’t think the situation will ever become that bad, at least, not in the foreseeable future. But it is a danger, and the threat of some state political interference in the allegedly free media is very real.

Vox Political on John Whittingdale’s Attack on the Beeb’s Independence

May 12, 2016

John Whittingdale, the Tory perv and walking security risk currently in charge of spearheading the government’s campaign to privatise the Beeb, has finally released his White Paper on the subject. Among his proposals are recommendations that the BBC Trust should be dissolved and replace with a unitary board. This would have members directly appointed by the government, though he tries to reassure critics that most of the board would still be appointed by the Beeb itself. He also wants a new mission statement to be launched by the Corporation, expressing its goals “to act in the public interest, serving all audiences with impartial, high-quality, and distinctive media content and services that inform, educate and entertain.” He also wants it to be “required to give greater focus to under-served audiences, in particular those from black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds, and those in the nations and regions”.

Mike here points out what a mass of contradictions the Paper is, as well as its highly patronising tone to the great British public. Mike says

John Whittingdale must think we’re all too stupid to see the contradiction in terms he has written into his White Paper on the BBC.

He reckons the BBC needs a new mission statement: “”To act in the public interest, serving all audiences with impartial, high-quality, and distinctive media content and services that inform, educate and entertain.”

But he also wants to dissolve the BBC Trust, replacing it with a new unitary board including some members appointed by the government – so that’s impartiality out of the window before his new version of the Beeb even gets going.

Some might say the BBC is already biased towards the Tories – we only have to look at the protests against arch-Tory Laura Kuenssberg in her role as political editor at BBC News – but this would instill that bias at an institutional level.

Mike also points out that Whittingdale’s demands for it to give greater service to Blacks and ethnic minorities risk turning the Beeb into a service aimed primarily at catering for minority communities. In Mike’s view, this is better left to the commercial companies.

Mike’s article is at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/05/12/an-impartial-bbc-not-if-tories-get-to-choose-who-runs-it/ Go and read it for more information.

Mike is absolutely right that even having some of the new unitary board appointed by the government would result in a loss of the Beeb’s independence. This has happened on the continent. Sarkozy in France used the government’s control over funding for the state broadcaster to get genuine well-respected French news anchors sacked for daring to criticise him. Berlusconi in Italy used the government’s control of the state broadcaster to pull a late night satirical programme, Rayot, from Ray, the name of the channel, off the air because it dared to spoof him. The writer, Sabina Guzzanti, who used to play Berlo himself in her sketches, later made a film about the affair, Viva Zapatero!
This takes its title from the name of the Spanish president, who ended his government’s power to appoint the head of the state broadcaster, thus making it independent of government control.

Now Whittingdale is trying to do the opposite, and thus join Sarkozy and Berlusconi in trying to make television and the media generally the mouthpiece for their official propaganda.

As for the Beeb catering more to BAME audiences, the Corporation has tried to do that through radio stations set up specifically to serve different ethnic minorities. One of these was the Asian Network, for which the Beeb has been running trailers a couple of weeks ago. I think there’s also another radio station for Blacks. I seem to recall there also being adverts for this station being run about 12 years ago. It was also specifically part of the remit of Channel 4, when that station was set up as a public service broadcaster. And Channel 4 did broadcast much material aimed at Black and Asian audiences. Apart from the Indian films on ‘All-India Goldies’, they also broadcast a history of the world, which was designed to put European history in its place as the history of just part of our planet, and give equal space to events elsewhere around the globe. There was a history of Africa, presented by Basil Davidson. Davidson’s White, but he’s an Afrocentric historian, who believes that the major cultural developments supposedly pioneered by ancient Greece and Rome were actually taken from Black African civilisations. It’s the same view as Martin Bernal in his immensely influential book, Black Athena. A couple of years later, the BBC also produced a series on African history, presented by a Black Muslim historian, Dr Ali Mazrui.

Between them the Beeb and Channel 4 have also nurtured much Black and Asian talent, like Lenny Henry, the Asian comedy show, Goodness Gracious Me, which first appeared on radio as The Secret Asians, Felix Dexter, Stephen K. Amos, who now has a weekly show about his own life growing up late night on Radio 4. Saturday tea-time on Channel 4 there was also a comedy programme set in a Black London barber shop, which was on just before the awesome Max Headroom. Many of the performers in these shows managed to make the crossover into more mainstream programming. Mira Syal has appeared in many different programmes over the years, including a soap with the Bog-Eyed Brummie Git, Jasper Carrot. Nina Wadia was in Chambers, a comedy set in a firm of lawyers, with one of the Long Johns. And Sanjeev Bhaskar has also gone to a variety of other shows, not least the Kumars at No. 42, which has spawned various versions across the world. The American version is called The Ortegas, and is about an Hispanic family. And Lenny Henry really needs no introduction.

I’m not saying the Beeb’s record in this is perfect. There is still much controversy about the lack of performers and directors from ethnic minorities in television. For example, a year or so ago a number of celebrities gave their support to a campaign for greater representation for Black and Asians on television. Those joining the campaign included Benedict Cumberbatch and Daniel Craig. I am merely trying to point out that the Beeb has made some effort in this direction.

Mike also points out that TV favourites like Strictly Come Dancing and Dr Who also have a very wide appeal, including minorities. Indeed they have. What struck me about the new Dr Who when it was revived by Russell T. Davies was the increased presence of Black and Asian characters. What made the news was Davies determination to include gay characters, like Captain Jack, but Davies was also very obviously keen to make the series more representative of British society. And so Rose Tyler’s boyfriend, Mickey, last seen fighting the Cybermen in a parallel dimension, was Black. As was another of the Doctor’s companions, a lady doctor. And the various future worlds and planets to which the Doctor has travelled have also been very multicultural. Or at least, they are if their inhabitants are humanoid. There are, for example, Black Timelords, while the besieged human mission attacked by the forces of darkness in the episodes ‘The Impossible Planet’ and ‘The Satan Pit’ included Blacks and Asians.

I got the distinct idea that it’s this type of representation – more Black and Asian faces on mainstream programmes – that anti-racist campaigners are keen to promote, rather than separate broadcasting ghettoes. A few years ago Private Eye ran a few pieces noting that the BBC Asian network was having trouble recruiting talent for precisely this reason. The aspiring British Asian stars and directors of tomorrow wanted to go into mainstream broadcasting, rather than confine themselves simply to their own communities. Of course, Whittingdale would like the Beeb to become mainly a broadcaster for minority interests, as it would leave the field free for the big corporations the Tories represent to move in on the mainstream audiences the Corporation has vacated. The Eye has also satirised that attitude in this fortnight’s addition, in which it has Murdoch’s papers whining about how the BBC is terribly unfair for producing genuinely popular programmes, and thus discriminating against all the rubbish produced by Murdoch’s and the other commercial broadcasters.

38 Degrees Petition Against Government Control of BBC

March 26, 2016

The internet petitioning group, 38 Degrees has also launched a petition against government proposals to give them the ability to choose the head and senior management of the BBC. Lorna Greenwood writes

This is the biggest threat to the BBC so far. John Whittingdale, the minister who’s deciding our BBC’s future, just announced he wants the government to choose the people who run the BBC. [1] It means our most trusted broadcaster could be left in the hands of a government that wants to see it fail.

Whittingdale sneaked out his devastating plan at the weekend, to a newspaper that’s behind a paywall. [1] He knows that another scandal might put a stop to his plans to undermine the BBC for good. [2] So he’ll be hoping that 38 Degrees members aren’t paying attention.

We’ve got to act fast. If enough us sign an emergency petition demanding the BBC stays independent, 38 Degrees members will deliver it to him in person early next week. And exposing his plans in public will shine a light on his real agenda to dismantle our BBC.

Please can you add your name to the emergency petition now?

The way decisions are made in the BBC is under review. [3] But John Whittingdale’s using this as an opportunity to push his anti-BBC agenda and put his people in charge. They would have the power to decide news coverage and which BBC programmes are made. [4] It could mean the end of the BBC as we know it.

Whittingdale’s feeling the pressure right now thanks to a series of damaging revelations on his plans for the BBC – including being caught lying about reading responses to the public consultation. [5] If we turn up the heat now, Whittingdale will have no option but to back down.

If thousands of us sign this emergency petition, then deliver it to him in just a few days, we could make Whittingdale realise that he’s fighting a losing battle and leave our BBC alone. This week could become the turning point in our people-powered campaign to protect the BBC.

Can you sign the emergency petition now? It’ll take less than 2 minutes:

The petition can be signed at: https://speakout.38degrees.org.uk/campaigns/keep-the-BBC-free-from-government-control.

If this is something you also feel strongly about, then please sign the petition. I’ve also done so.

I’ve felt it was important to do so because Berlosconi in Italy and Sarkozy in France used state control of the national broadcasting companies to remove from the airwaves shows, reporters and comedians that were critical of them. In the case of Berlo, this was the satirical comedy show, Rayot, after the show’s writer did a skit satirising Italy’s most pompous and totalitarian Right-wing politico since Mussolini. She later made an arthouse movie out of the affair, Viva Zapatero, named after the Spanish president, who removed the ability of his office to nominate the head of the state broadcaster.

If Whittingdale’s proposal goes ahead, not only will it give the government further leverage to privatise the Beeb, but it also means that, like the French and Italian state broadcasters, it will be under further government pressure to act as the government’s official mouthpiece. Not that it isn’t already spouting the lies fed it by the Tories. However, the situation will become worse. This, in my view, needs to be stopped. Now.

Viva Zapatero: The Beeb, Sarkozy, Berlusconi and Political Censorship in Television

February 24, 2016

One of the issues that comes up regularly is the question of BBC bias. In actual fact, there doesn’t seem to be much question there. BBC News is very biased against the left and in favour of the Tories. There have been studies done by media monitoring organisations in Glasgow, Edinburgh and elsewhere. Mike over at Vox Political has pointed out that the Beeb will ignore certain strikes, or grudgingly give them coverage only online. There was anger the other week when the panel on Question Time was nearly all composed of right-wingers. Nick Robinson censored and distorted one of Alex Salmond’s speeches during the Scots independence campaign to make it appear he didn’t answer a question when he did. Robinson was the former head of the Young Conservatives at Manchester University. And Laura Kuenssberg doesn’t really bother writing her own material any more. She just recycles press releases from Tory central office.

But ’twas ever thus. One of the commenters on this blog pointed out that the Beeb ran government propaganda against the strikers during the General Strike. Yet still the right jumps up and down ranting about ‘liberal’ bias at the BBC. There are liberal voices there, but they’re increasingly kept away from the main news and comment.

Kampfner in his book Freedom for Sale: How We Made Money and Lost Our Liberty describes the development elsewhere in the world of similar political bias and censorship in television. He looks at the way Sarkozy in France and Berlusconi in Italy both overtly sought to extend state control over television in order to suppress or censor unfavourable broadcasting. In the case of Sarkozy, the centre-right president passed a series of legislation in 2009 which reinforced government control over publicly owned television stations. This was aimed at phasing out commercial advertising, which would be replaced by government funding. Kampfner states that this made French television dependent on the goodwill of the central government. He also removed the responsibility for nominating the Chief Executive of France Televisions, and instead made it one of the powers of the presidency. He also ensure that the contract could be severed at any time, and the CEO dismissed. (p. 181).

It’s not hard to see parallels between this and the way the government has continually exerted pressure on the BBC. I can remember John Major’s administration threatening the Beeb with cuts in the licence fee, or refusing to raise the licence fee to extent desired by the broadcaster. The Tories have also made noises about not renewing the Corporation’s charter, and privatising it, either wholly or in part.

The most extreme example of state political control of television in Europe outside Putin’s Russia and the former Soviet bloc is probably Berlusconi in Italy. Kampfner states that Berlo not only owned the major private broadcasters, but also very strictly controlled state television. Editors and managers, who refused to toe his line were removed from their posts after the diminutive Duce had a few words with the board. Those TV shows he didn’t like, or which criticised him, were taken off the air. One of the most notorious of these was the satirical show, Raiot, shown late nights on Rai Tre, Italian TV’s third channel. This directly lampooned Berlo himself, and so not only did the vain squadristo with the dodgy hair implants have it pulled from television, his private TV station, Mediaset, sued. Sabina Guzzanti, the show’s writer, made a film about this debacle, entitled Viva Zapatero. This became a surprise hit and the Cannes Film Festival It’s title is not just a homage to the film, Viva Zapata, but also a tribute to the Spanish centre-left president, Jose Zapatero, who removed the right to nominate the head of the state television authority from presidential control.

Censorship and political bias at the Beeb long predates the modern, insistent Tory bias, but it seems to be a part of the increasing right-wing authoritarianism across Europe, a process that needs to be tackled before free speech is gradually snuffed out across the continent.

More about the Raiot affair can be read here, on the site for US Citizens for Peace and Justice: http://www.peaceandjustice.it/o25-viva-zapatero.php

I found this English language interview from 2008 with Guzzanti, where she talks a bit about the Raiot incident, and her forthcoming movie, Sympathy for the Lobster. Influenced by Jean-Luc Godard’s film about the Rolling Stones, she says that this movie is about what happens when you want to change society politically, but can’t because politics is too corrupt. She also mentions that she has two more films in production, one on satirists and censorship, and another which was to be a straightforward documentary on Italian society.

If you can speak Italian or Spanish, here’s the trailer for the film Viva Zapatero itself. It’s in Italian, with Spanish subtitles. There are piece of English. This includes a sketch she did as Berlusconi with our own Rory Bremner as Tony Bliar, and a Spitting Image-like puppet sequence where Dubya and the other leaders sing ‘We fight the world’. Oh yes, and at one point two of the characters from Pulp Fiction leap out and shoot Berlusconi.