Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Blair, market reality and the media - keeping a little sanity

There are days when one's mental faculties feel like a boat lost in the fog. I usually put it down to the standard combination of stresses, sleep loss and the distinct possibility that maybe I'm just a bit thick. I often get told by my loving ones that “you may have academic bits of paper and all that stuff, but you've no common sense.” Or other kindly words to that effect.

It's all taken in good spirit. In fact, I quite like that indulgent feeling of being blankly amiss, quietly out of synch with the 'real' world. Sometimes I even have the contented feeling that it's a pretty common-sensical, well-adjusted place to be. But, hey, who am I to judge me.

Anyway – circumventing all the philosophical tennis that comes with this question - what's actually 'real'?

Often, it's pretty difficult to see the obvious, the woods for the trees, that big elephant in the room. The gas of propaganda has a pretty effective density. And when we do manage to peer through the ideological forest or catch sight of the big trunk in the corner, how really sure are we that others, many others, can see what we're seeing?

Which, again, may prompt cautionary reflection on one's own 'certain' perceptions. Even if I was 'utterly sure' I'd chatted with those fairies behind the cherry tree or had martian day visitors land on my back lawn, would I risk inviting ready ridicule, the added assault on my already suspect perspicacity, by declaring such?

Fair enough. So, when do we feel self-assured enough to say that the obvious is obvious, or, at least, that it should be obvious to those 'obviously' in the know? When should the cry of “the emperor has no clothes” be boldly stated in the hope, even the expectation, that those around the emperor, or ex-emperor, will jump-up out of their soporific complacency and say, “you know, you're right, why haven't we seen this all along?”

Part of the reason they won't, of course, is to do with things like closure, power, secrecy, protection of their own, subconscious denial, that kind of standard thing the establishment do so routinely well.

And yet, sometimes a truth is so glaringly, indisputably evident that maybe even the chum-club might just have to consider sacrificing the ex/emperor.

Might we be coming to that point with Tony Blair?

Media-friendly criminologists are being solicited just now for their 'expert' profiles of gunmen on the run. Thus:

"Scots-born criminologist David Wilson, of Birmingham University, who is also a former prison governor, believes Moat was a “narcissist, concerned with his image ... and quite paranoid... He’s quite caught up in his own sense of self and the way he wants to editorialise what has happened. He wanted to present himself as the victim and avoid taking responsibility for the victims he has created.”"

Impressive stuff. It's always comforting to have such ready 'authority' on what's actually criminal. Yet, might the same profile, these very same words, be applied to our ex-PM? The possibility seems quite unthinkable.

Mr Blair floats around the globe as though the invasion and murder of Iraq never took place. Well, he's a respected financial adviser, peace envoy and humanitarian award collector, don't you know?

Dutifully, most of his political peers and the almost entire panoply of what we readily 'see' as a 'free and enquiring media' accept and indulge this 'truth', treating him and his fellow offenders as though Iraq was all just a bad dream.

The late, great Harold Pinter had much the same thought about US/Western crimes:

"It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn't happening."

And even though Blair's wicked doings did happen, there are still ways of making it seem that they didn't. From cosy chat show appearances like Parkinson to Mark Urban's recent coy interview with Blair in the West Bank, nothing remotely contentious is raised about his role in the genocide of Iraq, no mention is made of his suitability for office, no murmur is raised about his disturbed state of mind.

It's all part of the quiet, polite denial of Blair's culpability, the avoidance of that awkward reality, permitting such people to maintain their place in, or re-enter, 'normal' society.

It reminds me of the Dallas (soap) script-writers who figured out how they could 'return' the star-cast 'Bobby' from the grave. They simply had him walk out of the shower, with his beloved 'Pammy' waking sleepily to announce that his death had all been a bad nightmare. Some of the public were a little furious, but they just got on with the 'new reality'.

It would be stretching it a little to devise a similar plot twist for Blair emerging from the shower pleading for a UN resolution, with the legally-learned Cherie waking to the comforting realisation that it was just Bush's doings all along. But, who knows?

And there's still the latest smoking gun evidence to consider, namely the words of then Attorney General Lord Goldsmith in a note to Tony Blair (30 January 2003), now so inconveniently in the public domain:

"I remain of the view that the correct legal interpretation of resolution of 1441 is that it does not authorise the use of military force without a further determination by the Security Council"

That authorisation, as we know, never came. The war was, therefore, illegal. Blair and his spinners can't re-write the script. What to do?

The media can't just magic-away the AG's words. So, instead, they demote their significance. The BBC give the cold facts. But there's no mention of the million-plus lives that have been lost as a consequence of these facts. What should have been a breaking news revelation, prompting extended coverage and demands for Blair's arraignment, was simply mentioned and forgotten.

Such news gets treated as some kind of passing aside to an already past issue. It's not, to the media's mind, particularly outstanding, not key, and, crucially, it doesn't involve any of 'our' official enemies.

Millions of us figured out the truth of Blair's criminal subterfuge even before Shock and Awe - and well before the drip-drip revelations of the war's illegality "took the shine off Shock and Awe", as Newsnight's Kirsty Wark so 'impartially' put it.

Showing Blair's criminality, and the media bias that's helped him and his gang evade the dock - the clues are in the above kind of BBC one-liners - isn't that difficult. The difficulty is in getting others to accept the 'insane' proposition that a respectable media has, somehow, gone along with the gigantic lie of Blair's moral propriety and innocence.

It's all in the (unstated) job description, of course. Thus, as the latest Media Lens Alert illustrates, the BBC's daily working denials, obfuscations and refusal to countenance public objections to their loaded output goes on and on like an eternal cycle of Kafkaesque deceit.

Readers' letters are ignored or passed-off with template-style dismissals. The diary of BBC News Director, Helen Boaden, so her secretary regrets, is apparently too "chocka" for replies to a few thoughtful questions from the ML Editors.

It's the system, you see, that must remain beyond questioning. (That sentence also works without the commas.) Which is why editors, journalists and others with a vested career interest in that system tend to keep shtoom about its leanings to power and its complicit tendencies in supporting illegal wars.

Which also helps explain why others, like plain old us, choose to keep quiet about such media complicity, too afraid of being branded pests, recalcitrants and unhinged individuals.

Yet, contra Ms Boaden, if seeing is believing, don't we have, as sane and moral individuals, the dutiful right to challenge such obvious warmongering insanity and the media bias which helps sustain it?

Market reality

Beyond my non-common-sensical whimsy, here's a few other things that I've pretty-safely figured out - again, despite multiple media portrayals to the contrary.

The current spending cuts are a criminal front for the greatest rip-off in modern economic history. Indeed, despite almost every presenter around echoing their inevitable requirement, there's no obvious need for any cuts.

The banking elite, aided and abetted by the political class, have raided the public purse in an audacious act of grand theft that we're encouraged by the media to call 'necessary bailouts'.

And now, assisted by Cameron, Clegg and 'Uncle' Vince Cable, ordinary people are paying the price of that heist and subsequent corporate welfarism with their own jobs and livelihoods, none more ruthlessly than within the banking sector itself.

Take this fearful woman's snapshot of life inside RBS:

"Jane says she knows who is paying the price for the financial crisis: she is.
The thirty-something mother is earning in the low teens, and says she is trying to keep her job processing ­mortgages. But it is getting harder every day.
I get up in the morning crying and go to bed crying,” she says. “You go in to work and you hope you won’t tear up. But somebody does, nearly every day.”
Jane – she doesn’t want to give her real name – is talking about her office, the home-loans base in Greenock of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS). The building is open-plan. “When 
someone cracks up, we all see it,” she explains. “You’ll hear the sobbing and see her pals huddle around her.
Sometimes you’ll come across somebody all red-eyed in the coffee lounge. I’ve seen managers like that.”
Their problem? Fear, says Jane. “We are all scared. We are all afraid of getting paid off. Maybe because of the way the building is, the fear just seems to move across the room. But they are disciplining us for everything, including clerical errors and timekeeping.”
Jane doesn’t know if she will hold on. “I’ve been doing this for a long time and I know how to do it. But I feel set up to fail. For the last six months or so there has been a big white board that shows what each of us must do.
We get deadlines for everything – like 15 minutes to write a letter, even if somebody calls you up in the middle of the job. I have seen experienced underwriters snap under the pressure, working through their lunch-breaks and staying in late to keep up.”"

The perversity of it all. Bailed-out bankers now imposing savage job losses, austere slashings and brutal working pressures on their own employees. Along with the surge in banks' home repossessions, it's another illustration of the utterly vicious hand of capitalism.

So, here's something else I've come to view as beyond reasonable doubt: the system of capitalism itself should be regarded as certifiably insane.

Capitalism creates sickness. Most often, it's not the person who is disturbed, it's the system that's disturbed the emotional well-being of person. Contrary to what the market defenders and a slavish media will tell you, corporate-driven life can be exceptionally bad for your health - physical, mental, spiritual.

Not work, in itself. Not labour. Not the ingenuity and beauty behind physical and mental endeavour. But the anguish, illness and neurosis that zero-sum, competitive market demands inflict on human beings - people denied their right to an existence that doesn't depend on profit for the few and struggle for the many.

That seems such an elementary truth that we must, again, wonder how we ever managed to fall for the Goliath-sized fiction that corporate life is the one and only benign option available.

Yet, as Pilger usefully reminds us, it's the corporate leviathan itself which revels in the insane lust for war and violence:

"The psychopathic is applauded across popular, corporate culture, from the TV death watch of a man choosing a firing squad over lethal injection to the Oscar winning Hurt Locker and a new acclaimed war documentary Restrepo."

Which leads me to this one last confident assertion: anyone who refuses to subscribe to the 'normality' of corporate life is quite safely of sane and sound mind - and, common-sense deficit apart, I feel reasonably safe in declaring my own inclusion in that company.

When in doubt, it's always useful to consult Erich Fromm and his diagnosis of capitalism:

"More than fifty years after Erich Fromm's The Sane Society was first published, it remains an important work, surprisingly contemporary in scope, with particular relevance to scholars working in social theory and media studies. Fromm's primary emphasis is on evaluating the sanity of contemporary western societies, which he suggests often deny its citizens' basic human needs of productive activity, self-actualisation, freedom, and love. He suggests that the mental health of a society cannot be assessed in an abstract manner but must focus on specific economic, social, and political factors at play in any given society and should consider whether these factors contribute to insanity or are conducive to mental stability. Ultimately The Sane Society provides a radical critique of democratic capitalism that goes below surface symptoms to get to the root causes of alienation and to suggest ways to transform contemporary societies to further the productive activities of its citizens. Fromm envisions the refashioning of democratic capitalist societies based on the tenants of communitarian socialism, which stresses the organisation of work and social relations between its citizens rather than on issues of ownership."

Blair, the bankers, our corporate elite: these are the truly criminal who walk confidently, boldly, with impunity, amongst us, taking refuge in our psychopathic system, all the while covered, feted and protected by a self-serving media that keeps us thinking we may be the unbalanced ones for trying to pronounce the obvious and seek sane alternatives to the madness of warfare and market 'reality'.

Capitalists, warmongers and their propagandists: unlike Fromm's text, still crazy after all these years.


No comments: