Posts Tagged ‘The Godfather’

Money Laundering: Will Jeremy Hunt End Up at the Bottom of the Black Sea like Iron Bella?

April 22, 2018

Much mirth was had on Friday night’s edition of Have I Got News For You when host Lee Mack inadvertently accused Jeremy Hunt of money laundering. The current minister in charge of privatising the NHS has bought a whole load of houses in Southampton to the tune of £50 million, but not declared it in the register of members’ interests. This breaks parliamentary rules, as Mike reported on his blog. Mack went a bit further, and frightened the Beeb’s lawyers and producers by inadvertently claiming that Hunt had been accused of money laundering. He hasn’t, as the producers and the lawyers told him through the microphone in his ear and by autocue. He then got frightened over whether it would be the programme or himself that could get sued for libel.

Hislop, however, was perfectly willing to repeat the accusation. He said that the legislation that Hunt had violated had been brought in specifically to deal with money laundering, and so that was what Hunt was doing. ‘Trust me on this. I never lose’. That last must have been said ironically, as Hislop and Private Eye have lost libel cases so often that it was a case for major celebration over a decade ago when he actually won one. Mack hurriedly repeated the statement that Hunt had not been charged with that offence, while Hislop said ‘But that’s what he’s been doing.’ Ah, the fun of watching arguments on panel games, and a host terrified of m’learned friends coming down on him.

But this also raises an interesting point. Amongst their various donors, the Tories have been taking money from Russian oligarchs. These men were very highly placed managers and apparatchiks under the old Soviet system. Hence they were able to buy up their particular industries and state enterprises, often at knockdown prices, when it was all privatised by Yeltsin. And there’s a conflict of interest here. When Putin came to power, he allowed them to retain their ownership on one condition: absolute loyalty to him. It’s been described by Russian dissidents and academics as ‘industrial feudalism’. Alexandra Politovskaya, the murdered Russian democracy activist said that as long as this system continues, there is no freedom, no democracy, just the strong man in the Kremlin.

Exactly true. So although the Tories want some kind of confrontation with Putin, including war, a sizable portion of their rich donors don’t.

But there’s also the possibility of personal danger to Hunt himself. Russia is a very corrupt society, and the Communist era was certainly no exception. The Russian journalist Arkady Vaksberg described just how corrupt Russian officialdom was in his book The Soviet Mafia. Vaksberg was a Jewish Bulgarian, who worked for TASS, the official Soviet news agency. Several times he risked censure and arrest for uncovering massive corruption within the Communist party. And it went all the way to the top, right to Brezhnev himself and his son-in-law. Vaksberg describes talking to exhausted, demoralised Soviet generals, who had spent days trying to arrange emergency transport for food into areas hit by famine. They then found out that all their efforts had been wasted. There was no famine. It all had been a scam by the local party chiefs and apparatchiks to misdirect funds and goods, and enrich themselves.

And money laundering was one of the many tricks the corrupt Communist chiefs were into. In one of the these scams, the embezzled money was laundered through the Soviet hotel chains on the Black Sea coast, run by a powerful Georgian lady nicknamed ‘Iron Bella’. Again, millions of roubles were involved. After this was busted wide open, and those responsible were sacked and led off to the gulags, Iron Bella mysteriously disappeared.

But everybody knew where she went. As they said in the Godfather, she sleeps with the fishes. The joke at the time went, ‘Nobody knows what happened to all those roubles, but everyone knows Iron Bella’s at the bottom of the Black Sea’. Quite.

If Hunt has been doing a bit of money laundering, an offence for which he has not been charged, and it comes from Russian oligarchs, then it might be advisable for him to avoid any coastal holidays for the time being.

Advertisements

Simon Pegg and SF and Comic Book Infantilism

May 23, 2015

I was on holiday last week, which was why I haven’t put anything up for a few days. Never mind – I’m back now, and ready to pour more scorn, criticism and bile on the Tory government and the establishment sycophants and global corporate exploiters that support it.

But before I do, I’d like to tackle one issue that’s been bothering me, ever since I read about it in the papers and Radio Times last week. Simon Pegg got in the news for claiming that contemporary culture was being infantilised through Science Fiction, comic books, and the movies that were based on them.

As Pegg himself admitted, this is deeply ironic comic from him. He’s made his name as an SF and comic book nerd. In Spaced, the comedy he co-wrote, he played a struggling comic book artist/writer, who worked behind the counter at his local SF and comic shop. As well as the zombie rom-com, Shaun of the Dead, he also wrote Paul, his homage to science fiction geekdom, in which he and Nick Frost play a pair of SF geeks, who stumble upon the real alien that the US government has kept secret ever since the Roswell crash. The interview in the Radio Times, in which he made the comments, begins with a discussion of his role as Scotty and one of the writers on the new Star Trek movie.

Pegg made his comments about the infantilising effects of comics and SF when talking about how he was trying to smarten up and not be a ‘slobby husband’ for his wife, Maureen. As part of which, he had stopped drinking, turned to living a healthier life style, and stopped dressing as a teenager. The Radio Times then went to state how this new, adult perspective had changed his view of Science Fiction and comics. It said

This new grown-up perspective chimes with Pegg’s views on the culture in which he made his name and plies his trade. As Mark Gatiss said in Radio Times last month, “The geeks have indeed inherited the Earth.” On the other hand, this empowers the fanboy who wrote an autobiography called Nerd Do Well.

But on the other… “Before Star Wars, the films that were box-office hits were The Godfather, Taxi Driver, Bonnie and Clyde and The French Connection – gritty, amoral art movies. Then suddenly the onus switched over to spectacle and everything changed.

Now, I don’t know if that is a good thing. Obviously I’m very much a self-confessed fan of science-fiction and genre cinema. But part of me looks at society as it is now and just thinks we’ve been infantilised by our own taste. Now we’re essentially all consuming very childish things comic books, superheroes … Adults are watching this stuff, and taking it seriously!

It is a kind of dumbing down in a way, “he continues. “Because it’s taking our focus away from real-world issues. Films used to be about challenging, emotional journeys or moral questions that might make you walk away and re-evaluate how you felt about … whatever. Now we’re walking out of the cinema really not thinking about anything, other than the fact that the Hulk just had a fight with a robot.”

Now Pegg hasn’t said anything that a multitude of other, SF writers haven’t said before. Ray Bradbury, the author of The Martian Chronicles, famously said that the ‘Golden Age’ of Science Fiction was thirteen. Brian Aldiss, who amongst his various works wrote the short story, Supertoys Last All Summer Long, on which the Kubrick/ Spielberg film A.I. was based, was highly unimpressed by Star Wars. In his history of Science Fiction, The Trillion Year Spree, he made the sneering observation of its massive fan popularity that ‘a thousand throats thirsting for escapism must be slaked (if not cut)’. Many SF authors moved away from writing SF over their careers, such as Christopher Priest. Priest denies that he was ever an SF writer, but does not despise the genre or its fans. He’s said that he still has affection for the genre. Michael Moorcock, the editor of the SF magazine, New Worlds, leader of the SF ‘New Wave’, and author of the cult Elric novels, in the edition of the 1979 series on SF writers, Time Out of Mind, also stated that Science Fiction was essentially an immature form of literature. Moorcock then considered that the reason why so many SF writers had stopped and gone on to other forms of literature was simply that they’d grown up.

The great Polish writer, Stanislaus Lem, made pretty much the same point from his own personal experience in his book on Science Fiction, Microworlds. Lem’s an extremely highbrow Polish writer, who amongst his various works wrote Solaris, which was later filmed by the Russian director, Andrei Tarkovsky. Lem has been very strongly influenced by the South American ‘magic realist’ writer, Borges, and was deeply impressed by Philip K. Dick. In Microworlds, he talks about the ‘transformation of trash’, in which the shop-worn props of Science Fiction – robots, aliens, mutants and spaceships – were transformed into a new kind of serious literature by Dick. He hoped, through his own writing and literary criticism, to make a similar contribution and raise the literary standards of the genre so that it could take its place as serious literature. He abandoned this, and the genre itself, as impossible.

Moorcock also began his career keen to raise the literary standard of Science Fiction. He was keen to import the experimental styles explored by William S. Burroughs and other, contemporary, literary writers. Again, in Time Out Of Mind, he talks about how he find his attempts to do so rejected and condemned by the SF old guard, particularly Frederick Pohl.

Now it’s fair to say that much Science Fiction is escapist fantasy, as is much literature generally. Nevertheless, much Science Fiction literature and cinema has tried to tackle serious issues. SF at times has been the ‘literature of warning’, exploring the terrible consequences that could arise if a particular political, social or technological course is pursued now. It’s also been used to critique and criticise existing society. This was particularly true of SF in the former Soviet Union, where writers like the Strugatsky brothers wrote in the ‘Aesopian mode’, to present Science Fictional fables to say obliquely observations about the true state of Soviet society, that could not be said openly.

It’s possible to draw up a list of Science Fiction novels, films and short stories, that have made serious points about human existence and the state of society. Most fans of the genre undoubtedly have their own favourites, or can think of others, that also do this. This is just happens to be the list I’ve drawn up at the moment.

1. War of the Worlds.

H.G. Wells’ novel of the devastation of Earth by Martian invaders had its origins in a discussion between Wells and his brother about the destruction of indigenous, primitive societies, by European colonialism. Wells wondered what it would be like, if a similarly technologically superior invader came and did the same to Great Britain, the leading imperialist power of the late 19th century.

The book remains relevant to contemporary society even today, more than a century after its publication. Stanislas Lem has praised the book for its depiction of the nature of total war, and what it feels like to be the victim of an invader determined to wipe you out utterly. Lem lived through the Nazi invasion and occupation of his home country. Apart from their aim of exterminating the Jews in the Holocaust, the Nazis also saw Poles, along with Russians, Ukrainians and the other Slavic peoples as ‘subhuman’, who were to be worked to death as slave labour. Their treatment of the Poles was similarly brutal. Lem felt that Wells’ novel of alien invasion gave a far better depiction of what the Nazi occupation was actually like, than many purely factual accounts of this dark period in his country’s history, to the point where he got annoyed with them and discarded them.

2. Brave New World.

Aldous Huxley’s classic dystopian novel of the dehumanising effects of biotechnology, in which humans are artificially gestated in hatcheries. In this technocratic, hedonistic society, real culture has withered away and society itself grown static because of the concentration on the purely sensual.

3. Rossum’s Universal Robots.

Karel Capek’s stage play introduced the word ‘robot’ into the English language. It was one of the very first to explore the possibility that humans could one day be overthrown by their mechanical creations. The robots in the play aren’t mechanical so much as artificially created humans, very much like the Replicants in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. Capek was writing at the time working class, radical Socialist and Communist revolutions had broken out in central and eastern Europe, and the play can also be read as a parable about their threat to the bourgeois European order.

If anything, the book has become even more relevant today, as scientists and social activists have become increasingly alarmed at the threat that robots might shortly do exactly as described in the book. Kevin Warwick, the Reader in Cybernetics at Reading University and former cyborg, begins his pop-science book on robots, March of the Machines, with a chilling depiction of the world of 2050. In this world, the machines have very definitely taken over. The mass of humanity have been exterminated, with those few remaining either living wild, if lucky, or enslaved as domesticated animals by their mechanical masters.

Some international agencies share this alarm. There is a pressure group actively campaigning against the construction of killer robots. A few years ago the international authorities were so alarmed that they actively forbade the use of such robots on the battlefield after one country made the suggestion that such machines should be used today, based on existing technology.

4. Silent Running

After working on 2001, Doug Trumbull wanted to produce a less coldly-intellectual, more emotional SF film than Stanley Kubrick’s epic. This was film is one of the first with a ‘green’ message, about humanity’s destruction of the environment. It’s about one astronaut’s quest to save the last green spaces from Earth, now preserved on spaceships, from destruction. He disobeys the command to scupper his ship and return to Earth, and takes them to safety in the rings of Saturn.

Other films exploring similar themses include Zero Population Growth and Soylent Green. In Zero Population Growth, the world is massively overpopulated to the point where most animal and plant species, including domestic pets, have become extinct. The government therefore mandates a total cessation of reproduction for a generation. The film tells the story of a couple’s attempts to preserve the life of their child after the wife finds out she’s pregnant. The husband and father is played by Oliver Reed, who was a brilliant actor as well as notorious drunk.

Soylent Green, starring Charlton Heston, and based on Harry Harrison’s book, Make Room! Make Room!, was the first SF book to explore the possible consequences of the global population explosion and mass starvation.

5. Solaris

Based on Lem’s novel of the same name, Tarkovsky’s novel explores the problem of communicating with a genuinely alien intelligence, and what this would say in turn about human nature. The story follows the attempt of an astronaut to find out just what is happening aboard a space station orbiting the eponymous world. The planet itself is one vast organism, which creates replicas drawn from the human explorers’ own minds to try and work out what they are. One of these replicas takes the form of the hero’s ex-lover, with whom he begins a second, doomed romance.

Among its comments on space and humanity’s place in the universe are the lines ‘There are only a few billion of us. A mere handful. We don’t need spaceships. What man needs is man.’

The film was remade about a decade or so ago by Steven Soderbergh. His version is shorter, but apart from adding a sex scene and making Snow, the physicist, a Black woman rather than White man, there really isn’t much difference between the two, to the point where in some places they’re shot for shot the same. I prefer Tarkovsky’s original version, but you may feel differently.

6. Stalker

This is another movie by Tarkovsky, based on the novel by the Strugatsky brothers. The stalker of the title is an outlaw, who makes his money taking people into, and retrieving objects from, a mysterious, forbidden zone. In the book, the normal laws of nature do not apply within the zone, and its hinted that it is due to the crash of an extraterrestrial spacecraft. In Tarkovsky’s version, the zone is result of some kind of disaster. Tarkovsky’s film explores the nature of guilty and responsibility as the various characters attempt to venture further into the zone. The highly polluted, dangerous environment has a destructive effect on the biology of those entering into it. The Stalker himself has a disabled daughter, Monkey. Some hope for humanity is indicated by the fact that, although she cannot walk, Monkey nevertheless has developed psychokinesis.

Although this is another classic of Soviet, and indeed SF cinema generally, I think it’s seriously flawed. Tarkovsky cut out most of the special effects sequences from the books on which Stalker and Solaris were based, in order to concentrate on the human characters. As a result, the film suffers from a lack of genuine, shown menace, and instead is verbose and actually rather boring. Also, the central character in the book is far nastier. In the final scene in the novel, he wilfully sacrifices his accomplice to one of the Zone’s traps, so that he can retrieve the central, alien object coveted by everyone venturing into the zone – a golden ball that grants wishes. This is a film, which in my view does need to be remade by a director like Ridley Scott.

7. Blade Runner.

Apart from its sheer immense style, and the beauty of some of the scenes, this is another film that attempts to explore human nature through the mirror of its artificial, bio-mechanical opposite. Although it’s told from Deckard’s perspective, in many ways he’s actually the villain. The Replicants he hunts are bio-engineered slaves, who have escaped their bondage and come to Earth in the hope of extending their extremely short, artificial lifespans. They can’t, but in the process grow and develop in psychological depth and as moral beings. To the point where they are morally superior to their human creators. The penultimate scene where Batty saves Deckard from falling shows that he has passed the Voight-Comp test, which judges a subject’s a humanity according to their empathy and desire to save a trapped, struggling animal. It also has one of the most quoted poems in SF cinema – I have seen things you people wouldn’t believe, ships on fire off the shores of Orion…’

8. They Live.

This alien invasion drama is also a sharp satire on modern, global capitalism. A homeless construction worker discovers that the world is secretly dominated and exploited by skeletal aliens, who are at the heart of global capitalism. While it’s a low-budget action piece, Carpenter has said in interviews that he intended to give it an extra element by using it to criticise contemporary politics and economics. In the film, humanity’s exploitation by the interplanetary corporate business elite and their human shills and partners is responsibility for mass poverty, unemployment and homelessness – all to boost profits. If you cut out the aliens, this is pretty much what the bankers and global corporate elite have done and are still doing today. And it’s got the classic line, ‘I’ve come to do two things: kick ass and chew gum. And I’m all out of gum.’

9. V For Vendetta

This is another film, which has been denounced by the author of the work on which it’s based, in this case the SF strip of the same name by Alan Moore, which first appeared in the British anthology comic, Warrior before being published by DC in their Vertigo imprint. The strip was very much a product of its time – Thatcher’s Britain, and the new Cold War with the former Soviet Union. The strip envisaged the emergence of a Fascist Britain following a nuclear war between the US and the Eastern bloc. Moore has said in interviews that the strip attempted to explore the moral ambiguities of violence, whether it can be justified against innocents as part of a wider campaign against an unjust system. He also wanted to make the point that many of the supporters of the Fascist regime could be considered otherwise good people, just as many otherwise decent Germans supported the horrific Nazi regime.

It’s a superhero movie, which does nevertheless accurately show the realities of life in a Fascist dictatorship – the mass internment of political prisoners, arbitrary censorship, and experimentation on those considered subhuman or ‘dysgenic’ – in the language of eugenics – by the authorities. It lacks the contemporary relevance of the original strip, as Margaret Thatcher and the Tories did have strong links to the far right. Thatcher was an admirer of Pinochet, for example. The strip explored many of the issues thrown up by contemporary stories of corruption in the political, social and religious establishment, like paedophile clergy. Despite Moore’s rejection of the movie, it’s still a piece of genre, comic book cinema that does try to make an extremely serious point about Fascism and intolerance by placing it in modern, 21st century Britain.

10. Children of Men

Based on the book by P.D. James, and starring Clive Owen and Thandie Newton, this is another dystopian yarn. This time it takes a completely different view of the future and its perils from Soylent Green and Z.P.G. In this future, humanity has been afflicted with mass sterility. No children have been born for 18 years. Owen plays a policeman, charged with protecting an immigrant woman – Newton – who carries the only child to be conceived for over a decade. As a consequence of the sterility, society in volatile and unstable. Only Britain has a relatively stable system thanks to the establishment of a Fascist-style dictatorship.

Although fiction, James’ book nevertheless explores a genuine social issue. Globally, populations are falling, to the extent that some demographers have predicted a population crash sometime in the middle of this century. In Britain and much of Europe, they’re below population replacement level. This is particularly acute in Japan, and is one of the causes of that country’s massive investment in the development of robot workers. Much of the fall in birth rates is due simply to people limiting the number of children they have in order raise their quality of life. There is, however, the additional problem in that the sperm counts of western men is falling, to the point that during this century a significant number will be considered medically sterile. Children of Men is another dystopian work that is chillingly plausible.

It’s possible to go on, and add further works of serious SF cinema, such as Terry Gilliam’s Brazil and The Zero Theorem and Gattaca, with its depiction of a stratified society ruled by the genetically enhanced. Now I have to say that I agree with Pegg that an awful lot of SF films since Star Wars has been escapist fantasy, and can see his point about some of it having an infantilising effect. This is by no means true of all of it, as I’ve attempted to show.

Even films like Star Wars that are pure, or mostly spectacle can be worth serious discussion and consideration, if they’re done well. For all its escapism, Star Wars was astonishing because it showed a detailed, convincingly realised series of alien worlds, machines and space craft. Moreover, the second movie – The Empire Strikes Back – did present Luke Skywalker with a genuine moral dilemma. His friends Han Solo, Leia, Chewbacca and the droids have been captured and are being tortured by Vader and the imperials. Skywalker is faced with the choice of trying to help them, and in so doing losing his soul, or preserving his moral integrity by letting them suffer and die. His confrontation with Vader present him further with another, particularly acute moral dilemma. Vader reveals himself to be his father, and so if he kills him, he commits parricide, a particularly abhorrent crime. This also has literary antecedents. In one of the medieval Romances, the hero is faced with the revelation that the leader of the foreign army devastating his lord’s realm is his father, and so he is confronted with the terrible dilemma of having to kill him.

Now I don’t think that the potential of Science Fiction to explore mature issues and genuinely relevant problems has been fully explored in the cinema. One of the solutions to the problem is for fans of genre cinema to try and support the more intelligent SF movies that are released, such as Moon, which came out a few years ago. This would show producers and directors that there’s a ready audience for genuine, thought-provoking, intelligent SF as well as the gung-ho, action escapism.

Outfoxed: Documentary on Corrupt Journalism in Fox News

April 6, 2015

This is another documentary I found on Youtube. It’s about the massively biased reporting and complete lack of any kind of journalistic integrity on Fox News, the American news channel owned by Rupert Murdoch. Amongst the speakers are journalists, free press activists, politicians and ordinary people, who were interviewed by Murdoch’s hacks. The documentary sets the tone in the very first minutes by comparing Fox news and its management to a scene in the Godfather. Murdoch and his cronies are the gangsters of television journalism.

Among the programme’s revelations is the fact that the executives at Fox News sent memos to their staff every morning laying out what the stories they wanted covered that day, and how they wanted it presented and slanted. The journalists themselves were spied on and punished, if they did not follow the party line. Murdoch himself when he was negotiating to take over the channel, assured the federal authorities that he would bring ‘diversity’ to news broadcasting.

He didn’t. In fact, he did anything but. He was always a supporter of the Republican party, and fervently admired Reagan. As a result, Fox News acted as an arm of the Repugs, broadcasting press releases from the Bush’s administration almost unedited and without any kind of factual analysis.

This could get awkward for the journalists themselves, as they were expected to present the actions of Murdoch’s political heroes as those of heroic grandeur, even when nothing impressive or remotely grand was happening. One journalist talks about the problems he had doing this for Dubya, on days when Dubya wasn’t acting heroically. Another journo talks about the grief he was given by the studio executives for not giving a sufficiently grand and impressive image of the celebrations of Reagan’s birthday. There were a couple of schools there at the Ronald Reagan Memorial Library to valorise the old brute, but nothing much was actually going on. The hack did his best, trying to present the crowds there as far larger and the celebrations more impressive than they actually were. But you can’t make up what isn’t there, and the hack’s attempts to do so were judged inadequate and insufficient by Murdoch’s minions.

The speakers on the documentary go on to describe the subtle bias in the selection of guests or opposing speakers on the News. When covering political conferences or gathering, Fox News made sure they showed the big, well-known Republican politicians. When it came to the Democrats, they gave airtime only to the unknown, obscure figures in the party. The Channel also made sure that Republicans were on there commenting on the news fives times more than Democrats.

Those Democrats that were invited on were very carefully selected. One of the former Fox journalists describes them as ‘Faux Democrats’. They had a liberal façade, but were actually Conservatives. They were chosen because they didn’t really disagree with the Conservative line the network was taking. They even extended this bias down to the personal appearance of two of Fox’s anchors, Hannity and Colmes. Sean Hannity, the Conservative, was big, good-looking bloke. His liberal partner on the programme, Colmes, was described as ‘weaselly’. It’s harsh and ad hominem, but the comment’s a fair one in a society and industry where celebrities and politicians are carefully chosen and judged on their physical attractiveness.

And then there’s Bill O’Reilly. O’Reilly is one of their main anchors, with a highly confrontational manner and an absolute disregard for anything like objective truth. He’s been caught out recently lying about his early career in journalism, when he claimed to have covered the Falklands War, Northern Ireland and El Salvador from the combat zones. In reality, he wasn’t anywhere near the fighting. The man lies so often that he’s collected the nickname, Bill O’Liely. There’s even a video around of Fred Phelps, the pastor of the notorious Westboro Baptist Church, denouncing O’ Reilly as a liar. How much of a skunk do you have to be, when even a monomaniac, pathological bigot like Phelps looks down on you?

O’Reilly is shown trying to rebut his reputation for telling his guests to shut up. This happened only once, a few years ago, he tells the audience at a news convention. Wrong! And the documentary gleefully shows O’Liely exploding over and over again, telling everyone to shut up.

They also interview a young man, Jonathan Glick, who managed to hold his own while being interviewed by the old bully. This so infuriated O’Reilly that Glick had to be rushed out of the building before O’Reilly turned violent. And for months afterwards, O’Reilly returned to the interview to lie and twist what Glick had actually said.

Glick’s father was one of the victims of the 9/11 Twin Towers attack. Glick himself was one of those, who signed a letter against the invasion of Afghanistan. When questions about this by O’Reilly, by Glick states calmly that the people of Afghanistan didn’t carry out the attack. It was a group of mujahideen, who had been funded and equipped by the US.

This is absolutely true, but not something that O’Reilly wanted to here. He started shouting at Glick to shut up, and tried to invoke Glick’s father and respect for the other victims of the atrocity. Glick calmly stated that he loves and respects his father, and is following his father’s views, and criticises O’Reilly for invoking the victims’ memory in support of his own views. This was all too much for O’Reilly, who angrily ended the interview.

Glick was told to get out of O’Reilly’s sight for his own safety by a couple of producers. He then went up to the green room, and was then urged to leave the building by another couple of staff, who were afraid that if he stayed around, O’Reilly would be hit with a legal writ.

Over the next four months or so, O’Reilly began lying about the interview in subsequent broadcasts. He claimed that Glick was some kind of far-left Communist, and a Troofer. Glick was neither. He contacted one of the media monitoring groups, and told them he was thinking of suing O’Reilly for lying. The group’s lawyer told him that it would be difficult to get a conviction, as he’d need to prove that O’Reilly knew he was lying. And as O’Reilly was such an inveterate liar, he may well have been pathological and actually believed what he said.

Going on to political campaigns, the documentary describes how Fox uses the headlines and small, running snippets of news presented in the text at the bottom of the screen to frame the bias for the rest of the news. They were also less interested in important issues like health, education and welfare, which lacked the emotional impact that would appeal to right-wing groups. They preferred to concentrate on highly controversial, ‘hot-button’ topics, like abortion and gay rights, that would generate and provoke right-wing attention and support.

The issue of gay marriage actually proved more difficult for the Channel to manipulate than it thought. Rather than the outrageously costumed, theatrical sexuality of gay pride parades, which Fox was used to covering, most of the gay men and women, who came forward to get married were middle aged and looked severely normal. Fox couldn’t get any mileage out of presenting them as sources of outrage and a major threat to American society, so they ditched the issue and concentrated on religion instead.

When it came to individual politicians, they took every opportunity to denigrate the Democrats. When Bill Clinton was in office, they consistently attacked him, only to reverse their bias against the president when their boy, George Dubya, won. When it came to John Kerry, they concentrated on the issue of whether or not he had thrown away his medals after serving in Vietnam. If there was a downturn in the economy, it was because the markets were worried about Kerry. In fact, there were a number of issues that would have effected the markets, but the line Murdoch wanted pushed was that it was all down to Kerry, who would be a disaster for America.

Unlike the disaster for American, and global journalism, that is Rupert Murdoch.

And the network was responsible for extremely biased reporting when it came to the Bush’s election. At the time Fox made the announcement that Bush had won, the actual stats were still unclear and it was undecided. The ethical response from traditional, mainstream journalists would be to admit that. Fox didn’t. They declared Bush the winner. And within minutes, this was parroted by the other channels, who clearly hadn’t done their own, independent research.

The documentary makes it clear that this one of the most pernicious effects of Fox News: it’s corrupting the other networks, from MSNBC to CNN as they attempt to copy its style and political bias. And this is alarmingly destroying journalistic standards in America. The documentary gives the stats showing that Fox viewers actually know less about the world, and believe that their government’s actions are right, far more than other Americans. The journalists commenting on this state that for other channels, this would be a source of shame and an indication of failure.

It also has had an effect in making the number of journalists and presenters from ethnic minorities coming into television much smaller. A Black journalist in the documentary describes how this has effected not just Blacks, but also Hispanics, Native Americans and Asians. Their numbers have declined, as Fox has centralised its broadcasting, and cut down on local stations.

One of the positive things that has come out of Fox News, however, is that more people are aware of media bias. The producers warn of the dangers of television journalism being concentrated in the hands of five or so networks. They urge viewers and listeners to write and contact their local stations demanding that they report the news better and more objectively. They also report a few cases where communities have set up their own radio stations out of dissatisfaction with the bias of the existing broadcaster.

It’s a fascinating expose of Murdoch’s corrupt journalism. Several times in the show they describe Murdoch’s channel as like Soviet propaganda under Stalin. Unlike Stalin’s media, Fox News is far more pernicious. In the Soviet Union, it was clear the news was bias. In the West, the news claims to be independent, and so its bias is far more hidden. Especially on a channel that keeps boasting that about it’s ‘fair and accurate journalism’.

This is a show that’s clearly more relevant to Americans. But it’s also important over here. Murdoch would like to see the BBC sold off, so he could purchase it, or expand to fill the vacuum left by its demise. At the moment we have legislation prohibiting biased reporting. So did the Americans until the 1980s, when Reagan repealed the ‘fairness doctrine’.

A few weeks ago the Radio Times carried an article by one of its journos arguing that British broadcasters should similarly be able to abandon any pretence of objectivity, and so create the kind of vigorous material that has supposedly rejuvenated American journalism with Fox. This documentary shows the reality: a horrendously biased network, that keeps the public ignorant while celebrating the actions of the Right.

And it hasn’t rejuvenated American journalism. The average age of the Fox viewer is 68, and the network has been described as less of a broadcaster, and more of a retirement community.

Whatever Fox is, it shouldn’t be the future of journalism, either here or in America.