Abney Orgies to Racist Government
Censorship, Propaganda and Political Branding
Manufacturing Your Consent
One of the main reasons why desperately needed radical change is nowhere near happening is because in Britain people are staggeringly naive about censorship and propaganda. Too many think British media is somehow immune to the influences of State and corporate power that dominate TV and newspapers in the US, Russia, China and everywhere else. They forget that the British 'Free Press' is owned by billionaires and refuse to believe, or never knew, that the BBC has always been vetted by MI5. Our 'free media' is no more than a highly sophisticated and complex public relations machine for selling corporate propaganda and State censorship. This week saw a number of local and national examples of far-Right media bias that most people should be able to see through. Before looking at the the frightening campaign to foist a UKIP/Conservative coalition on us in 2015, there are some more trivial but nevertheless instructive games afoot in Hackney.
This week the Hackney Gazette was cornered into printing a letter of mine. Two weeks ago the Gazette ran a bizarre 'Orgies and drug deals' front page about Abney. The article was a torrid tabloid attack on Abney, drinkers, drug users and the homeless. It was based on the fabrications and fantasies of a mysterious Damian Duggan-Ryan (he uses at least 3 different names and doesn't seem to believe fiction and fact are two different things). Worse, the story was repeated in the London Evening Standard, Metro, Daily Mirror and ITV website (with more inaccurate nonsense from guess who). In response to my complaint (on behalf of Abney Park Users' Group) the Gazette was forced to agree a right of reply but they censored my letter, cutting out my reference to their previous censorship of the Hackney Tree People award (Best Community Tree Project in London 2014). I'm not surprised they declined to let me point out their censorship, but censoring complaints of censorship should give you an idea that 'Free Press' is like 'Free Market', 'Free Enterprise' or the oft advocated 'Free-dom', i.e. it's bollocks.
Q. So what? So the local press are crap, they publish tabloid nonsense and don't like good news? Local papers are so desperate for copy, if your pet wins a farting competition in your kitchen and you've got a photo you're pretty much guaranteed at least page 6 (e.g. New dog pound made page 4 this week and notice of a Friends of Regent Canal meeting made page 5!). Tree Musketeer London wide awards are news and if that news isn’t being published then that's censorship. As to the reason, that's another debate.
UKRAP, Political Branding and Filling the Power Vacuum
No one can have failed to notice how a certain political party and its jolly leader have been fêted by all media of late. You cannot escape the ubiquitous, free UKIP publicity filling thousands of column inches and prime time TV minutes. None of it the slightest bit critical, challenging or even informative (anyone actually know what UKIP's policies are? Do UKIP?). This week the 'Left wing' (!??) New Statesmen publish a 5,000 word 'interview' with the radical, hard working, Nige. Here's a flavour of the hard hitting in-depth interview:
Nigel Farage delights in the game of politics and in his role as an insurgent, a man of the people, a new kind of unlikely hero of the working class, as some of his supporters would have it. It’s cold and dry and the lunchtime crowd bustles and swirls around us. People keep approaching to shake his hand – “Keep it up, Nigel”; “You’re doing a great job, Nigel”; “Stick it to them, Nige” – and he receives them with interest and warmth. I ask if he ever grows weary of the attention. “Never. It’s huge fun,” he says, laughing loudly.
If you can read it without vomiting you'll struggle to find a single word of criticism or challenge. And that's true of almost all UKIP's corporate and State funded propaganda, be it the BBC News, The Times or so called Left wing press. It's all positive. Incidentally the Statesmen is chock full of articles critical of Labour and Milliband with a few token references to Greens.
Q. So what the hell is going on?
Well it's pretty obvious if you stop pretending you live in a democracy and start looking at the media from the critical perspective most people do in other countries. The media are the primary mechanism of control and their job is to ensure the docile masses remain docile. Now that's quite a tall order if wages are falling, prices are rising and political elites are transparently in it for themselves and their super rich friends. So the media have to keep people distracted from the real issues: i.e. massive and growing inequality, corruption, warmongering, repression, discrimination, authoritarianism, and the abject failure of the dictatorship of capital (aka Free Market economics). Instead they scream emotive garbage such as 'immigration', 'terrorism' or in the Hackney Gazette's case, drug fuelled orgies.
Q. But how does that work, is it a giant conspiracy with every journalist involved?
Well yes and no. Yes it is a kind of giant conspiracy but most of the people involved are not briefed that their job is to manufacture propaganda and censor the truth. That is what MI5 and other secret power structures do, but the vast majority of editors, journalists and contributors just permit themselves to be restricted by the dominant ideas around them. So for example, most of them are capable of realising, and in many cases even admitting, UKIP is being promoted, but for the sake of their careers, salaries and promotions, they are content to delude themselves that UKIP's popularity is actually genuine and their own actions are reflective and responsive rather than determining. Key to the whole game are constructed lies that link the propaganda back to reality, e.g. UKIP rise is a symptom of the failure of the mainstream parties. In a sense that's true, but what matters is the fact that it is UKIP that benefits, rather than the Greens or a truly radical alternative, and that is constructed by a combination of selective promotion and selective censorship (BBC constant publicity for UKIP prior to the Euro elections generated 1200 complaints, meanwhile all the Greens got was a few seconds of Caroline Lucas in a remote studio on Newsnight on polling day after polls closed).
The Electoral Commissions decision in March to re-grade UKIP as one of the four main partiesis significant. It's not the whole story, just a piece in the jigsaw. It is part of both the justification for excessive publicity and the pre-emptive defence of it. As for the New Statesmen's huge sycophantic platform for Farage, it's totally at odds with the magazines purported politics, but diluted within the blanket media propaganda, it can be disguised as simply symptomatic of his unassailable meteoric rise to popularity. Which is why a critical perspective, rather than naive passivity, is the only way to understand what's going on. What is the history of the New Statesmen and its editor? Why does it pose Left but attack Labour and celebrate Farage? The 'feign Left but promote Right' tactic is common and can be seen in the Guardian and our local Hackney Shitizen. At this point one might ask where do MI5 locate their journalistic agents? I'm not saying anyone in particular is a spook, I'm just pointing out how the whole game works. You don't have to control everyone directly, after all the whole capitalist system depends on self interest and the greed of millions. You can control thousands indirectly by the strategic and tactical moves of a handful. Specifically there's no need to infiltrate and subvert the Times or the Telegraph: the Right-wing press is on board with the Neo-Conservative, post-capitalist agenda. It's the likes of the BBC, New Statesmen and Guardian that matter. Control the voices of opposition and you've won the war. A few infiltrators influence the thousands of ambitious wannabes and those thousands control the millions via 'journalism' and advertising (nb anyone seen Sainsbury's Xmas ad - hijacking peace loving humanitarianism to stem falling profits?). If you don't think you are being manipulated, don't believe me, ask Noam Chomsky (Manufacturing Consent) or Adam Curtis (Century of the Self).
If you haven't already realised it yet, next year we're gonna have a Tory/UKIP government even though very few want a racist, far Right coalition. Note at the last election, after 10 years of the worst Labour Government ever, the electorate didn't vote for the Right. The Tories did not win the election and the current Right-wing government was constructed using new boy Nick Clegg and his novel Lib Dems, with false promises of electoral reform and reduced tuition fees. They sold us New Labour in 1997, Clegg in 2010 (Guardian says vote Lib Dem), and they'll sell us Farage in 2015. They will keep selling us crap until we decide to stop buying their brands.
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