Posts Tagged ‘Times’

Vox Political on Jeremy Corbyn Turning Down Media Hustings

August 20, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political yesterday also put up a very good article about a piece in the Huffington Post. This article claimed that leaked emails from Corbyn’s office showed how paranoid the Labour leader was, because his campaign manager, John Lansman, had attacked the Mirror, Guardian, New Statesman and Channel 4 as hostile outlets, who could not be trusted. The three papers and TV channel had offered to hold hustings debates between Owen Smith and Corbyn. Mike makes the point in his article that Corbyn and Lansman aren’t actually paranoid about turning them down. All of these organisations have been hostile to Corbyn, including the Huffington Post itself. They aren’t impartial and can’t be trusted as moderators. He also shows how the press distorts any pro-Corbyn message by pointing to the way Billy Bragg was treated by the Times, Mail, Express and Metro.

See Mike’s article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/08/18/corbyn-is-right-to-turn-down-hustings-events-due-to-concerns-about-bias/

Rather than undermining Corbyn, this may have the opposite effect of further isolating and undermining the press. James Curran and Jean Seaton in their Power Without Responsibility: The Press and Broadcasting in Britain (London: Routledge 1987) point out that large corporate conglomerates purchased many of the newspaper chains in order to influence public policy in their favour. But the press is in serious decline. It’s threatened by the rise of social media and bloggers. People are getting their news from other sources, and the reaction of the established old media is defensive. I’ve commented before about how journalists and news people, including those in the Beeb, have huffed at the supposed threat to journalistic standards by the rise of independent media, and warned that this is a dire threat to society as it will break up the social consensus provided by the major news outlets. Which is a frank admission that they’re very worried about the decline in their power and ability to influence public thinking towards what they see as the correct view. Obama was credited as winning the election that thrust him into the White House eight years ago largely through support on the internet. This was put forward on British television by the American comedian Reginald D. Hunter at the time. Mike’s also blogged about a piece on the Skwawkbox blog, pointing out how well Corbyn has done by cutting the Tories’ lead from 16 points to five when the entire press is against him, arguing that the Fourth Estate has shot itself in the foot. See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/08/18/as-corbyns-labour-closes-to-five-points-has-the-establishment-shot-itself-in-the-foot-the-skwawkbox-blog/ and follow the link to the original article.

Corbyn is therefore a major threat to the media’s corporate power. They depend for much of their income on advertising. One of the radical Labour papers that folded in the 1950s/60s did so because, as a working class paper, it couldn’t attract the advertising it needed to keep itself afloat. At the time it had 1.25 million readers, which was five times more than the Times. The section in Curran and Seaton on this issue in the above book. The circulation of the Times and Torygraph is rapidly plummeting to the million level, if it hasn’t done so already. The Torygraph has shed reader at a colossal rate, not least because of the shameless way it distorts content to please the advertisers. If Corbyn gets re-elected as leader of the Labour party, as it’s almost certain he will, this would demonstrate the increasing inability of the press to influence politics. And if, as I sincerely hope, he becomes Prime Minister, then that’s it. It’ll show just how impotent the press and broadcasting corporations have become. And they will suffer for it. Advertisers will probably want reductions in the fees charged because their proven inability to influence the population as they claim. They will also find themselves treated much less seriously as sources of news and information by the rest of the population, which will really damage their sense of importance.

In short, the press has far more to lose from being ignored by Corbyn than he has. And as this carries on, their desperation will become very evident.

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German Journo Udo Ulfkotte on Europe’s ‘Bought Journalists’

August 2, 2016

In my last piece, I discussed an article in Counterpunch by Thomas Harrington about the corruption of the British, French, German, Spanish and Italian press, even serious, progressive left-wing newspapers, to reflect American foreign policy interests, neoliberal economics and aggressive American militarism, even at the expense of the interests of their own citizens. Harrington’s article follows a book published in Germany by Udo Ulfkotte, a journalist with the Franfurter Allgemeine, one of the country’s foremost papers, roughly equivalent to the Times or the Torygraph. Entitled Gekaufte Journalisten (‘Bought Journalists’) the book describes how German and other European newspapermen have been bought by the American secret state, to publish pro-American, anti-Russian articles. Despite being a bestseller on that side of the North Sea, an English translation is still awaiting publication. Harrington’s article links to an interview with Ulfkotte on RT on YouTube.

In it, Ulfkotte describes how he too was bribed and corrupted by the CIA and the Bundesnachrichtsdienst – the German secret service – to write pro-American propaganda pieces. He describes how he has become an honorary citizen of Oklahoma in the US, amongst other rewards for his services, and goes on to describe how very many journalists from across Europe, particularly Britain, have been similarly corrupted. Those that have been corrupted the least are the French. He states that no-one will come up to you saying that they’re from the CIA, but ultimately, these are the people journalists like himself served. They get taken on in a system of ‘plausible deniability’. If they becoming too embarrassing, the agencies deny that they ever had anything to do with them. Ulfkotte’s states that after writing anti-Russian articles for the secret services, he is sick and tired of doing so and especially fearful because of the push to war with Russia.

He describes his country as so much under American control that it is ‘an American colony’ and a ‘banana republic’. Most Germans, for example, are against nuclear power, but still the Americans have sited their nuclear missiles in the Bundesrepublik. One of the instances of journalistic corruption he describes is obviously particularly shocking to a German very much aware of the horrors perpetrated by the Nazis. He describes being sent to Zubaidat in Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War in 1988. There he saw how the Iranian soldiers had been gassed used mustard gas made in Germany. Ulfkotte states how horrifying this was, to see German poison gas used again four decades after the Nazis. But when tried to write an article about it, it was spiked.

He also describes how he was asked to write a piece by the BND, the German intelligence service, describing how Colonel Ghadafy was also building poison gas plants in Libya. He himself had no knowledge of this, and all the information about it was supplied by the German intelligence agency.

He also describes some of the consequences if you refuse to join the ranks of the corrupted. He discusses the case of a German civilian helicopter pilot. This chap was a member of the ‘Yellow Angels’, a group that assists with traffic accidents. The spooks approached him about joining them as one of their spies under the cover of the organisation. He refused. He was then sacked from his job as a pilot because he was ‘untrustworthy’. The judge presiding over the case concurred with the assessment, and so the gentleman lost his job. Ulfkotte himself states that he’s not afraid what the intelligence services will throw at him. He’s already had three heart attacks, and has no children.

Here’s the video:

I’ve no doubt that what Ulfkotte says is true. As I said in my last post, Lobster has published a number of piece over the years on the way the British press, and particular journalists, have served as an outlet for propaganda cooked up by the CIA and the British Secret State. Leading journalists, such as an editor of the Times, were also recruited by the British-American Project for the Successor Generation, a Reaganite programme to train up-and-coming British politicians, like Tony Blair, to support the Atlantic alliance. Which is why you definitely won’t read much about BAP in the papers. Private Eye has also published pieces about BAP, and the way journalists with connections to the British intelligence services have tried to intimidate other journos into revealing their sources or working for them on issues relating to domestic terrorism.

What Ulfkotte describes is just the German part of a nasty web of intrigue that has been spread all over the continent. I’m not surprise that the French are the least corrupted. Under De Gaulle France pursued a solidly independent line, retaining its own, genuinely independent nuclear deterrent – ours is effectively signed over to American control – and establishing cordial relations with the eastern bloc. De Gaul blocked our application to join the Common Market – as the EU then was – in the 1960s because he feared that we were a Trojan horse for American interests.

A war with Russia is definitely not in the interests of anyone in Europe. I can remember being shocked when I was growing up in the 1980s at the suggestions then by American generals that there could be a ‘limited’ nuclear war in Europe, and apparently this appallingly stupid notion has been revived under Shrillary. Such a conflict would leave the continent, including Britain, a burnt, radioactive cinder, if it didn’t lead to the total destruction of all life on Earth as the conflict escalated. And the anti-welfare policies peddled by these papers have resulted in hardship and misery across the Continent and promoted the rise of Fascist parties and organisations as peoples have turned against each other to fight for what’s left.

Poverty Journalism and the Media Patronisation of the Poor

March 9, 2014

Thackeray Snob Cover

W.M. Thacheray’s The Book of Snobs (Alan Sutton 1989)

I’ve just reblogged Jaynelinney’s article criticising the media’s use of the poor as a kind of zoo, who can be patronised on camera by visits from ostensibly well-meaning celebrities and TV producers, expressing concerns about their plight. Her piece was inspired by the article, to which she links, in ‘Independent Voices’ in the Indie, about how the middle classes have been regularly traipsing into slums and working class poverty to see how the ‘other half’ live for almost 200 years now. That article mentions, amongst others, Henry Mayhew, the author of London Labour and the London Poor, and George Orwell’s classic, The Road to Wigan Pier, as well as more recent works by Polly Toynbee. Orwell comes in for something of a bashing as he undertook his journey to the heart of industrial darkness as a journo in search of a subject, not as a social campaigner. The book that followed annoyed a member of the National Unemployed Union so much, that he wrote his own book, tracing the journey in reverse, so that he travelled from the depressed areas to the leafy suburbs of Epsom. For the writer of the Independent article, what we need are fewer middle class writers patronising the working class, and more working class writers casting acerbic, jaundiced prose and writing at the Middle and Upper classes and their lives of wealth and luxury.

Thackeray and Snobs, Ancient and Modern

This would, actually, be an interesting experiment, and could produce something really radical. In the hands of a good writer, it could produce something like Thackeray’s The Book of Snobs, but with added social bite. Thackeray was, of course, solidly middle class, and certainly didn’t deny it. The book is subtitled ‘By One of Themselves’. It was originally published by Punch, when it was still slightly subversive, more like Private Eye today than the eminently respectable, establishment organ it later became. Each chapter describes a particular class of snob, who were defined as ‘someone who meanly admires mean things’. Reading it I was struck by how modern it still sounds, despite having first seen print in 1846-7. For example, Thackeray’s chapter on ‘University Snobs’ has this to say about the ‘Philosophical Snob’.

The Philosophical Snob of the 1840s and Their Modern University Descendants

Then there were Philosophical Snobs, who used to ape statesmen at the spouting-clubs, and who believed as a fact that Government always had an eye on the University for the selection of orators for the House of Commons. There were audacious young free-thinkers, who adored nobody or nothing, except perhaps Robespierre and the Koran, and panted for the day when the pale name of priest should shrink and dwindle away before the indignation of an enlightened world.

If you think of the earnest young people, who discovered radical politics at university, or who joined the Student Union and the various political associations with a view to starting a career in politics, or simply read Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Uni before joining the staff of an MP on graduation as a researcher, then Thackeray’s description above actually isn’t that different from what goes on today. Robespierre, of course, was the leader of the dreaded Committee for Public Safety, responsible for killing hundreds of thousands during the French Revolution in the name of republicanism, democracy and Deism, so you can easily see a parallel there between the snobs earnestly reading his works, and some of the radicals in the 1960s, who joined the various Communist parties and loudly hailed Mao’s Little Red Book. As for the free-thinkers, who used to toast the day when the last king would be strangled in the bowels of the last priest, that reminds me of the various atheist and secularist societies that sprang up on campuses a few years ago, all talking earnestly about the threat of religion to science and quoting Richard Dawkins and Lewis Wolpert.

the Upper Classes at Uni, and the Perils of their Lower Class Imitators

But it is the poor university students who try to copy their far wealthier social superiors, about whom Thackeray is most scathing. He states:

But the worst of all University Snobs are those unfortunates who go to rack and ruin from their desire to ape their betters. Smith becomes acquainted with great people at college, and is ashamed of his father the tradesman. Jones has fine acquaintances, and lives after their fashion like a gay free-hearted fellow as he is, and ruins his father, and robs his sister’s portion, and cripples his younger brother’s outset in life, for the pleasure of entertaining my lord, and riding by the side of Sir John And though it may be very good fun for Robinson to fuddle himself at home as he does at College, and to be brought home by the policeman he has just been trying to knock down-think what fun for the poor old soul his mother!-the half-pay captain’s widow, who has been pinching herself all her life long, in order that that jolly young fellow might have a university education.

Unfortunately, little also seems to have changed here in the last nearly 170 year since Thackeray wrote that. I did some voluntary work a few weeks ago for M Shed here in Bristol. Many of the other volunteers were also university students and graduates, who were hoping to find a career in museum work. Discussing the country’s problems, one older lady stated very forcefully that the problem was that none of the country’s leaders now came from the working class. Just about everyone agreed with her on this point. One of the university students made the point very many have also made, about politicians coming directly from Oxford, where they studied PPE, and haven’t done a proper day’s work in their lives. The girl told us that one of her friends, who was ‘a little bit posh’, had gone to Oxford and been shocked at how dominated it was by the aristocracy. And have I heard of students, who have managed to irritate their fellows by copying the manners of Oxford upper crust.

Domination of Society by the Upper Classes, regardless of Merit

As for the chapter ‘What Snobs Admire’, where Thackeray describes the life and career of a fictional snob, Lord Buckram, who goes and gets flogged at Eton, studies at Oxford, and then marries well on graduation to a rich heiress, before taking his place among the gilded youth. Thackeray could be describing modern snobbery in all its pomp today, especially, but not exclusively, amongst the cabinet:

Suppose he is a young nobleman of a literary turn, and that he published poems ever so foolish and feeble; the Snobs would purchase thousands of his volumes: the publishers (who refused my Passion-Flowers, and my grand Epic at any price) would give him his own. Suppose he is a nobleman of a jovial turn, and has a fancy for wrenching off knockers, frequenting gin-shops, and half murdering policemen: the public will sympathize good-naturedly with his amusements, and say he is a hearty, honest fellow. Suppose he is fond of play and the turf, and has a fancy to be a blackleg, and occasionally condescends to pluck a pigeon at cards; the public will pardon him, and many honest people will court him, as they would court a housebreaker if he happened to be a Lord. Suppose he is an idiot; yet, by the glorious constitution, he is good enough to govern us. Suppose he is an honest, high-minded gentleman; so much the better for himself. But he may be an ass, and yet respected; or a ruffian, and yet be exceeding popular; or a rogue, and yet excuses will be found for him. Snow sill still worship him. Male snobs will do him honour, and females look kindly on him, however hideous he may be.

Snobbishness Revived, and Britain Going Back to 19th century

This just about describes the social privileges and the expectations of immediate public deference of the entire Tory front bench. All this was, of course, supposed to have been done away in the ‘white heat’ of the ’60s, when, along with the development of new technology, and new classlessness was supposed to have swept through the nation. Well, that may have been the case then, but things have since gone backwards. There are now fewer Labour MPs, who come from a working class background, than there were before the ’60s. Hugh Massingberd, in one of his essays in the Times in the 1980s, celebrated the revival of the fortunes of the aristocracy and the country house under Maggie Thatcher as ‘a new social restoration’. The Libertarians have emerged from out of the Union of Conservative Students to preach Von Hayek and Von Mises’ revival of classical economics, with all its faults, with the exception that in general the 19th century economists approved of trade unions. Well, the new classlessness of the 1960s has thoroughly died down, and the Coalition is leading us forward into the 19th century.