Greenman's Occasional Organ

Ecosocialist. Syndicalist. Critical Techno-Progressive.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

The more things change.......

The treatment in the mainstream British media of the announcement regarding the contracts for building wings for the US Imperium's new refuelling aircraft (to enable their continued global reach and "full spectrum dominance") is a timely reminder of the supine and craven attitude of the establishment media. This in a week in which the "Prince Harry's Big Afghanistan Adventure" has been an excuse for blatant sycophancy and forelock tugging (regardless of Harry's obvious contempt for the media and his refreshingly unconstrained - even what people of his class might in the past have called "vulgar" - way of expressing himself in public); in a week in which this Royal story has been used to "rally the nation" around the increasingly desperate imperial project, in which Britain is allotted the role of faithful (albeit resented and condescended to) poodle.

So, to the howls of US nationalists and "labor representatives" who think their aircraft should be 100% domestically built, 20% is to be built in Europe and up pop the New Labour-lapdog bureaucrats of Unite to uncritically applaud this example of (not quite) "British Jobs For British Workers" in the carefully chosen BNP-voter-wooing-words of the Prime Minister at the Labour Conference. Of course it is excellent manipulative politics from the US side, whatever their domestic "labor representatives" may say - cement a level of support for the US imperial project through "guaranteeing" thousands of British jobs. This reveals of course, that US labor can be ignored to woo British Labour (in both senses of the word)to support of the larger goals of the US ruling class. A grand chess game with workers as pawns.

The craven media discourse and quiescent political establishment is of course not a new thing. Here are the wise words of E.P. Thompson writing in 1960, published 20 years later in Writing By Candlelight:

As the arteries of parliamentary life have hardened, the arteries of communiccation have hardened in sympathy. One process has reinforced the other. A bewildering variety of opinions must somehow be compressed into one or other pack, under an authorized party brand-image. Constitutional procedures become confused with the expedients of voluntary institutions. The breach of party or trade union discipline becomes confused with a breach of law - and may indeed entail effective loss of political rights. Outraged morality and outraged orthodoxy adopt the same tone of reproof to the 'proscribed' organization, the 'unofficial' striker, 'extra marital' relations, and actual illegality.

In such a climate, the possibility of propagating an alternative ("unauthorized") diagnosis of our social problems becomes more remote. And it is made doubly remote by the conformity of those media which - in classic liberal theory - should have been the first to resist the insolent encroachments of party and Parliament upon the political rights of the citizen. It is true that a world of discrete political discourse continues, in which all questions are open and the ailments of mass society are itemized. But it is a world of small circulation journals, student societies, enterprising publishers, 'intellectuals'.
BBC and ITV, quality and popular press - these inhabit the world of 'responsible', practical politics. Of course - for it is a world which they have created.

It is not only the number of 'responsible' views which are determined by the media. They also determine, to great degree, the questions which it is possible to have views about, and the form in which these questions arise. An issue which arises outside the media - let us say the clause four controversy in the Labour Party - is taken up, shaped and altered out of recognition when it is admitted to their vast distorting hall. Some voices are magnified, others silenced; some issues seized upon, others dismissed; the view of Mr Gaitskell or Mr Crosland may be reported in extenso ; other views may be personalized, caricatured, or dramatized, not as arguments, but simply as a Row.

p4-5 Writing by Candlelight, "The Segregation of Dissent", Merlin Press, London, 1980.

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