Friday, 31 October 2008

Crisis visions: hedge fund seers and lefty misanthropes

We've had the credit crunch punch, the recession confession and now the post-lesson depression.

Ah well, at least we can be thankful for the collective efforts of all those financial analysts, market-makers and political economists rushed onto our screens to explain and brainstorm solutions to the crisis.

even gave a hour to hedge fund billionaire Hugh Hendry, whose apparent Don't Bank on the Bailout remit was to tell us how deregulatingly irresponsible the banks and City-watchers have been and just how crazy it was to believe the boom could go on indefinitely. The government also gets it in the neck from Hendry for bailing out the banks, a state interference too far, he warns.

How endearing it was to hear how Hendry and a small band of marginalised others had predicted the collapse.
A sage missive, indeed, from this market seer.

The key 'hook' to the film comes where Hendry tells us he's no ordinary guy. While everyone was on the up-escalator, he was busy betting on the downward version - making plentiful short-selling millions for his hedge fund in the process.

We should, of course reserve some plebeian gratitude for the bold Hugh. Sure, he's up-front about his own rake-it-in pursuits. But at least he's telling us where capitalism got it all 'neglectfully wrong' - a neglect which, apparently, doesn't seem to include our Hugh's own greedy, destructive dealings.

Irony, it seems, is as stone dead as Milton Friedman.

From ex-chancellors and finance ministers to city analysts, Newsnight and other comfy media chairs have been filled by 'serious' examiners of the crisis. While old monetarists like Norman Lamont are given privileged studio room, critical left analysts of capitalism and high finance are largely disregarded as political misanthropes, carefully excluded from view.

Ann Pettifor, for example, has been forecasting this crisis and talking about the implications for some considerable time now. There's also a wealth of such analysis hosted by Amy Goodman at Democracy Now. Little or none of this cuttingly-informed opinion ever makes into mainstream media discussion.

There's a select understanding of what constitutes a 'critical' voice here. We do get the occasional 'balance', as in Naomi Klein's recent Newsnight appearance discussing whether capitalism 'works' - note the agenda-setting theme.
Yet, it remains an intellectual tokenism in the selection and dissemination of left voices (often slotted quietly into Newsnight's 'end-of-week, wind-down' Friday edition).

Newsnight also rececently paraded Francis 'End of History' Fukuyama via satellite link, getting his apparent high opinion on the crisis and how to counter the recession. Alas, Gavin Esler didn't seem to think the
paradox of Fukuyama's past discourse on capitalism's 'historic triumph' worth mentioning - nor his long-standing association with the US neocons.

What's 'left', 'green' and read all over?

This is typical BBC invitation. From prime-time news to Question Time,
only 'left-leaning' guests the BBC feel comfortable with get the nod.

It's a selective approval evident in the kind of groups and spokespersons consulted on a range of issues.

One recent example involved BBC online reporter Mark Kinver seeking-out the
"left-leaning" Green Alliance for comment on Gordon Brown's 'new' climate body.

As highlighted in a recent Media Lens Alert, Kinver stated that:
"Green groups have welcomed the creation of a new energy and climate department in Gordon Brown's government reshuffle."
He considered Green Alliance, headed by Stephen Hale, to be an "independent organisation" typifying green approval of the measure. Yet, a cursory look at GA reveals its expansive connections with big business and government figures. As noted by Media Lens:
"The BBC was here taking us deep into Orwell territory. Hale was a special adviser to Margaret Beckett when she was Secretary of State for the Environment. The most recently available accounts indicate that Green Alliance has received funding from a range of sources which include government departments: the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and the Department for International Development. Funding and support for Green Alliance have also come from centres of green activism like BP, Glaxo, Lever Brothers, Shell, the BBC, Royal Bank of Scotland, Tarmac and the privatised utilities."
Asked by Media Lens "Why can't the BBC do better than this", Kinver claimed that he had:
"balanced the left-leaning Green Alliance's views with the comments from the free-market think-tank, Policy Exchange"
I sent this to Mark Kinver in response:
Dear Mark,

I was very interested to read your reply comments to the Media Lens Editors with regard to their current Alert. It's yet another valuable insight on how BBC and other correspondents see and misrepresent the climate change issue and broader world of 'left-right' divisions.

As Media Lens have shown, it doesn't take much click-of-the-mouse investigation to identify Green Alliance's corporate backers and government connections. Hardly “left-leaning”.

When Stephen Hale proclaimed: "Hallelujah. A department of energy and climate change, and not before time...”, shouldn't it have occurred to you that there might be a more expedient motive behind this new 'cabinet inclusion' ?

Your mitigating thoughts about the “Whitehall village” and ”balancing” of comments from Green Alliance and Policy Exchange further exemplifies the kind of safe, narrow spectrum of political life made available by the BBC to the general public.

This 'neutral' presentation of the 'green debate' and selective reference to 'left' groupings is standard fare across BBC news and current affairs. Consider that the average reader of such a piece might automatically assume the “left-leaning” bona fides of Green Alliance. Consider, likewise, how that might cast the government as being very receptive to serious green-left views. Whereas, we know that the government's proclaimed 80 percent 'carbon-reduction policy' remains massively compromised by its ongoing promotion of carbon-intensive industries such as airport and road expansion. That's the real reason why a malleable outfit like Green Alliance is 'on-board'.

It's distinctly worrying that a journalist of your seniority can't apparently see the base politics behind such collaborations. I mean this in a kindly-critical vein. As noted many times at the Media Lens board, journalistic understandings are largely shaped and encouraged by the kind of institutional values and practices they see around them – all maintained and fashioned in protection of the political elite and big business. Thus, the “Whitehall village” and its corporate lobbies do, indeed, become the epicentre and source of media-filtered politics.

One way of pushing for real climate-addressing policies and other social change is to encourage reporters out of that cosy habitat – a process which requires them to look much more closely at the world of co-optive politics, as well as the rich resource of 'alternative' information on such matters so often dismissed or ignored by media editors and journalists.

I'd be pleased to get your thoughts.

Kind regards,
John Hilley
Mark promptly replied:
Dear John

Thanks for your email. It is good to know that there are sites/organisations like Media Lens that critique the narratives and dynamics of news stories.

The purpose of the story I wrote was to let people know that Gordon Brown had formed a new department that brought the climate and energy portfolios under one roof, plus initial reaction from those involved in the relevant policy areas. We had this story on our site within an hour of the government confirming the news. It was a quick on-the-day story, not a considered commentary on the implications - this was tackled by our Environment Analyst Roger Harrabin later in the day.

With that in mind, I am happy with the story I wrote.


Few regrets there, then. Still, while now-familiar with this kind of 'rolling news' explanation, one hopes that something registers in the minds of mainstream reporters about what prevails beyond their own hallowed media rooms.

Perhaps it'll prompt parameter-policing editors and copy journalists to sneak a look at sites like ZNet some time. They might even get a little shock education on those professing to understand the crisis.

Meanwhile, for your intellectual delectation, here's Ann Pettifor with a real left-green analysis, and Naomi Klein with her latest forensic essay on the Bush clique's last raid on the Treasury.

Beyond the triple crisis: a new green deal

The Bailout: Bush's Final Pillage

Enjoy the illumination.


Thursday, 30 October 2008

Nurturing the children - Israeli style

A picture, as they say, is worth a thousand words. And, in this case, quite a number of critical questions.

This disturbing image raises an immediate one about the inculcation of hatred and violence into young minds: just what kind of psychological damage is being inflicted on such children?

Nurturing a fascination with guns is deplorable in itself. Combining it with parental messages that Palestinians are the dark reason for holding those arms is a more alarming abrogation.

Which begs this related question: what state 'educational' purpose is being served here?

Ehud Olmert and other Israeli high officials seem ready to condemn settler attacks on Palestinian villages. Yet, the legitimation of such violence is rooted in the Zionist pedagogy that nothing will stand in Israel's way. And that requires successive generations, settlers and non-settlers, being taught and raised to believe in the 'god-given' right to use guns against Palestinians. From school defence drills to conscription, this, after all, is a society weaned on militarism and irrational fear.

Few images of this incriminating sort ever make it to the mainstream news screen. Yet, it takes little imagination to see how such a picture would be disseminated if it was Arab/Muslim children handling guns.

The media is awash with condemnations of Palestinian youngsters in martyrdom pose. "They raise their children as terrorists", so the chorus goes. It's a facile distortion, ignoring not only the pain and loss felt by Palestinian parents intent on living in peace with their families, but the enduring question of why there's this recourse to armed resistance in the first place.

Thus, the core problem still returns us to the violence of Zionism, the raison d'ĂȘtre of the Israeli state. Not even a two-state solution will address that fundamental issue. Nor will it check the siege mentality and military psychosis being fostered in the minds of Israeli children.

Even beyond proto-concessions and altered lines on maps, any encouragement to real long-term peace and justice will have to negotiate these more psychologically-rooted questions.


Monday, 20 October 2008

Israeli murder squads and other "hooliganism"

From West Bank pogroms to assassination programs, systematic campaigns are being waged by settlers and 'off-duty' soldiers to eliminate Palestinians. Yet, little detail or close analysis seems forthcoming from a stick-to-the-copy media.

In a recent pogrom, West Bank settlers from Yitzhar were filmed firing on Palestinians in the nearby village of Asira al Qabaliya. No serious police or state action against these settlers - thought to have strong ties to the banned Jewish National Front, Kach movement and other 'extremist' groups - seems imminent. In similar vein, settler raids on olive harvesters and murder squad activity is increasing, but the deep-rooted extent of these purges are receiving only nominal nods from the mainstream Western media.

The BBC's online coverage of the settler attack on Asira al Qabaliya offered dutiful quotes on outgoing Israeli PM Ehud Olmert's vocal denunciations of the "pogrom", but carefully refrained from calling the settlers “militants” and “terrorists” - labels, it seems, exclusively reserved for Palestinians.

When, one wonders, might the BBC guideline-setters start using such language to describe settler and other such paramilitary activity?

Perhaps they and other media hierarchies worry that such an inclusion might only highlight the inconvenient truth that there's no fundamental difference between this murderous Jewish 'underground' and the government's/IDF's own ethnic cleansing and conspiracy to extinguish its opponents.

With escalating terror attacks now extending to 'fellow Jews', Israel is having to 'confront' this awkward spectre of 'unregulated' terrorism. As reported by Jonathan Cook, this includes 'worrying statements' even from senior Israeli army figures on the rise of settler lawlessness.

Yet, if the irony of the military's own brutal lawlessness seems lost on these 'concerned' commanders, a more subtle treatment of the problem is evident within the liberal Israeli media, where it gets filtered as a 'worrying issue for Israeli democracy'.

For example, in this Jerusalem Post piece, US and Israeli Jewish groups are taken-to-task for not acknowledging settler “hooliganism”:

“The growing violence by haredi zealots and vigilante settlers against fellow Jews as well as Arabs threatens to explode in Israel but gets scant attention here. Yet it could be a greater threat to Israeli democracy than the Islamist zealots. Olmert has warned that this "evil wind of extremism, of hatred, of malice... threatens Israeli democracy." And it is being ignored by the American Jewish establishment.”

It seems a noble commentary. Yet, such condemnations are really an exercise in isolating the 'bad settler hooligans', while protecting the 'good state' version; a respectable delineation which helps maintain the 'integrity' of 'Israeli democracy', the Occupation and Tel Aviv's 'peace agenda'.

In short, it's a reading which proclaims the protection of Palestinians from 'deviant zealots', while turning a blind-eye to the much darker villainy of Israeli politicians and their military assassins.

As detailed by Cook, the BBC and other Western media largely take their cues from this kind of 'self-examining' Israeli media picture:

"In fact, more than 95 per cent of the reports filed by Britain's distinguished correspondents in Jerusalem originate in stories they have seen published either by the world's two main news agencies, Reuters and Associated Press, or in the local Israeli media."

Again, it's a consensual Western/Israeli reportage which is willing to note and condemn settler “extremism”, yet carefully avoids equating it with the violent policies and practices of the Israeli state and its army of Occupation.

Like the state's coy concerned inaction over the settler pogroms and murder squads, the media response has been a similar dependable copy of safe, inactive criticism.


Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Blair's Palestine mission: the psychology of deceit

Zenpolitics with another little meditation on elite deceit.

In my train of thought, some reflections on what constitutes an habitual liar. Or, more particularly, what separates, if anything, the self-delusional politician from the standard knavery of high political office.

Tony Blair is a name strikingly synonymous with both forms of the pathology. Not a reading likely to be offered by a polite media, ever-finessed in dutiful courtship of respected states(wo)men. But one patently obvious to any rational witness of calculating, self-deceiving individuals.

Blair's conduct suggests not just congenital duplicity but a psychology of mutual evasion with his 'examiners'. A high official lies. He denies he lies. A media confronted with stark evidence of his lies is sometimes 'compelled' to note those lies. Yet, the lies are somehow filtered and passed-off as 'aberrations', 'mistakes' or the 'cut-and-thrust' of political life. Even where those lies involve the mass murder of human beings, as in the million-plus lost faces in Iraq, the crime remains 'unsubstantiated'; a 'controversy'; a 'debate' to be left for posterity.

Besides these high crimes of conspiracy to slaughter in Iraq and Afghanistan, Blair's 'domestic' deceits might, in a more transparent system, have prompted indictments of the political and criminal kind. Instead, these have become just another set of 'dark marks'. It's as though the lies are 'written-off' as 'just more political scandal' or the 'character traits' of a 'bold politician'.

In more spiritual mode, some might wish to consider the 'sins' of this newly-found Catholic - and, perhaps, those who have taken him into their church. In its rush to embrace Blair, we find a clerical hierarchy as seemingly willing as his media devotees to expunge a warmonger's actions. The embrace may, of course, involve some invite to 'soul cleansing'. That's a personal communication, with priest or/and oneself. Yet, confession and forgiveness cannot precede understanding and justice. Indeed, the extent of Blair's 'religious venality' is in itself an abstraction serving to mystify such matters. Suffice to say, none of his 'sinful repentance', if any, has resulted in admission of his secular crimes.

Besides Blair's war crimes, we find multiple examples of his behavioural deceits, from newly-disclosed lying over the Ecclestone affair, to his blocking of the Serious Fraud Office investigation into BAE-Saudi corruption. As documented:
"The decision made by the Director of the SFO, Robert Wardle, on 14th December 2006 to drop the investigation appears to have been based on Blair's personal minute [to the Attorney General Lord Goldsmith] and meetings with the UK Ambassador to Saudi Arabia."
Yet, whether 'high' or 'low' crimes, a compliant silence prevails. While the BBC, Guardian and other liberal outlets are prepared to report Blair's 'mischief', the mutual protections and shared assumptions remain a non-issue for this 'self-examining' and 'questioning' media.

That same pretence of honourable joint intentions is currently evident across the Israeli media, as in this gushing Jerusalem Post exchange between Blair and David Horovitz:

"Why do you think Britain is so hostile to Israel? Why do you think the British people find it so hard to internalize the true essence of Islamic extremism?

I don't think it's just Britain... It's in Europe [too]. In America you've got an element of it. The world over. There is this myth that values like freedom and democracy are basically Western values and that there is a different culture which we in our stupidity don't understand, where these things don't matter. My absolutely fundamental belief is that this is complete and total bulldust and that there has never been a case of people choosing not to be free. The idea that your average person anywhere in the world would not prefer to live in a free and democratic society is just ridiculous."

Blair's indulgence of Horovitz's 'British hostility to Israel' line is indicative of the mutually-sustaining exchange noted. It's also evident in Blair's unchallenged take on the West's missionary efforts to 'modernise' political and economic minds in the region:

"We end up thinking that we are trying to foist some alien culture on these people that have just a different way of life, and that if we'd only stop provoking them with this "freedom" - and I don't just mean political freedom, I mean economic freedom, and I-Pods and TV and all the rest - if we'd only stop putting all that stuff before them, and provoking them in that way, then they'd behave reasonably towards us. Whereas I'm afraid it is absolutely 180 degrees the other way round. This is a group of people who are reacting against the modernization of the world and who are trying to prevent their own culture getting access to that modernization because they know perfectly well what the result will be, which is that the people will embrace it."

In a further contortion of the sabre-rattling going on over Iran, Blair alerts us to yet more 'extremist mendacity':

"And so what the extremists are doing, and what Iran is obviously trying to do, is frame the argument as Islam versus the West. That's why they try to use this issue, here, to say, "Actually the Israelis don't want to give the Palestinians a state. And that's because [the Palestinians] are Muslims, and America and Europe are backing the Israelis." This argument gets traction because it is not being challenged head-on. It is nonsense..."

Horovitz, of course, has little inclination to see or challenge "head-on", the black irony of this deceitful polemic. Instead, he allows Blair free space to pursue his self-delusional convictions, concluding with this facile dismissal of the anti-war brigade:

"You know, just before I left [the UK to come here], there was this guy who stopped me as I was going out of a hospital and said, "Why have you killed all those people in Iraq and Afghanistan?" And I said, "We're not killing people. We're trying to stop them being killed. And what is so oppressive to someone in Iraq or Afghanistan when you say we're getting rid of this terrible regime that is utterly brutal and dictatorial, and we're going to give you a United Nations-backed process for democracy where you elect your own government and what's more we're going to put you billions of dollars of support? What kind of oppression is that?" The fact that this person, who was a reasonably intelligent person, could say such a thing was bad enough. But what really struck me was that when I went back at him really hard, I could tell, although he was still obviously not convinced or anything, but I could tell it was the first time anyone had ever challenged that completely ridiculous view."

What Blair describes as a "completely ridiculous view" is, of course, the vast majority of anti-war sentiment across the globe. Which, again, begs some urgent questions on self-denial of universal truths and why journalists are so unwilling to 'help Blair' 'open-up' to such delusions. None of this should be seen as a conspiracy. Rather, it's the default position of the political elite and a compliant media serving to smooth-over their joint complicities.

Cometh the man of peace - and corporate values

In similar vein, the Quartet's 'peace envoy' to Palestine is being feted as some kind of hopeful harbinger; the 'man of experience' bringing 'worldly knowledge' and 'political resolve' to this 'self-inflicted problem.'

Blair was in Nablus recently (during our stay there) meeting the Mayor, other Palestinian Authority officials and select business figures, notably the Arab billionaire Munib Al-Masri. On Blair's agenda: the urgent removal of selected checkpoints, a call not motivated, despite his smooth claims, by humanitarian concerns, nor in denunciation of Israel's Occupation, but in an effort to ease restrictions on private investment around the West Bank.

It's all part of the Blairite cultivation of West Bank business elites; a comprador capitalism to complement the West's co-optive appeals to Fatah. The selective un-freezing of Western funds in the West Bank serves this dual purpose of Western-supported investment while isolating the 'bad version' of Palestinian 'development' proposed by the 'radical militants' in Gaza.

It's a buy-off agenda rather evident these days around downtown Ramallah. Walking around, one can see a certain 'uplift' in the few smarter-than-usual stores and houses. As discovered in my conversations with locals and internationals, there's an effort to display an air of 'normality' and 'prosperity' here in the Fatah heartland. Some West Bankers are even feeling a little 'less generous' towards those in Gaza, as West Bank salaries start to get paid again on time.

And yet, as most Palestinians still clearly see, the incentives from Blairite investment messiahs can't disguise the real economic and human oppression all around them. One need only visit Balata and the other broken refugee camps. Nor will Western/Israeli patronage of the West Bank break the more enduring ties of solidarity with Gaza. As many Palestinians understand, it's a politics of division, just another aspect of Israeli/Western containment.

And another instance of Blair's own deceit and self-deceptions. Or, as the BBC prefer to portray it: 'the all-seeing, well-meaning Mr Blair seeking a solution to this intractable conflict.'

A neat example of the 'safe exchange' can be gleaned in BBC reporter Tim Franks's recent interview with Blair in Jenin. The questions raised by Franks take in the standard 'concerns': ongoing checkpoints, settlements and whether Livni will make for a more peace-advocating leader. Nothing of substance about the illegality of Israel's occupation, the West's backing of it, and certainly no questioning of Blair's own chameleon 'envoy' role. Likewise, Blair is permitted to spin comfortably on "political, security and economic" "improvements" in Jenin, without any retort from Franks on Israel's economic appropriations across the Occupied Territories, such as water supplies.

In another media-ignored story of economic theft, Mark Turner highlights the true nature of Blair's business-led agenda in Gaza, revealing how its offshore gas reserves are being privatised and stolen. As Turner notes, it was Blair who pressured British Gas (BG) to develop their investment plans to Israel's advantage:
"BG won a majority stake in the concession to develop the Gaza Marine Field and originally targeted Egypt for the sale of the natural gas. But pressure from then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair led the company to redirect its efforts toward Israel and develop plans for an underwater pipeline that would transport the gas to an Israeli refinery at Ashkelon. That deal could have eventually provided Israel with approximately 10 percent of its annual energy requirement, and would have generated approximately $1 billion for the PIF. The Hamas election victory in 2006 put all that in jeopardy."
As ICAHD activist Jeff Halper also reminded us during his talk in Glasgow (18 September 2008), the Occupation isn't a drain on Israel's economy. It is the economy: it's what sustains its elite arms corporations, now massively engaged in arms exports, surveillance and military/police training. Israel, notes Halper, is also now a leading player in the development and application of military nanotechnology. And, where better to test all these inhuman gizmos than the 5 million Palestinians locked inside the experimental prison laboratories of Gaza and the West Bank.

When the Break the Siege boats entered Gaza recently, they carried 9000 hearing aids. A strange request, one might think, from the Palestinians. Until we learn, from Halper, of Israel's constant sonic boom flyovers, a collective punishment inflicting deafness and multiple other traumas on the population.

Halper is also a vital Jewish voice reminding us that Tony Blair's role is "to finesse the bantustans" and "sweeten the deal" between Israel and Abbas, the latter, Halper believes, having no serious mandate to sign-off on any sell-out deal. Palestinians simply won't accept it. And this rightful refusal, he concludes on an optimistic note, is being strengthened by increasing international support for the Palestinians.

A support, that is, based on common perceptions of international rights and justice rather than the contrived politics and economic crumbs being sold through the 'Blair mission'.

We should, of course, 'admire' Blair's efforts to fit-in this West Bank 'assignment' between his many boardroom jobs. Or perhaps it all helps keep him in busy denial mode, safely detached from reality, or lost in his own delusional version of it.

Perhaps one day, in lieu of his appearance before an international criminal court, we'll get a proper public interrogation of Blair. Something beyond the 'info-tainment' of the Paxman variety. Ideally, it'll be conducted by John Pilger, who has expressed a singular desire to get Blair in front of a television camera. As Pilger notes:
"Blair is somebody I don't believe has ever been interviewed properly. I've approached the people you are meant to approach and the silence is ear-splitting. No surprise there."


Monday, 13 October 2008

Tom Hurndall

I've just watched The Shooting of Tom Hurndall (Channel 4, 13 October 2008), a fine indictment of the Israeli Army and its wanton slaying of an honourable young man of conscience. And I shed tears, moved not just over the loss of Tom, but for the thousands of innocent Palestinians whose lives, whose voice, whose tragedy will likely never be shown, or dramatised or recognised. I'm sure Tom Hurndall would have wanted that message of compassionate consideration for those silenced others to be expressed in his name.

Perhaps this poignant little film will encourage further thought on the quiet and collective suffering people experience when power exercises its stark oppression.

In thoughtful memory of Tom and all those who lay down their lives for peace and justice.


Thursday, 9 October 2008

Media Lens & Cook: the actuality of media control

Media Lens have just published Part 2 of Intellectual cleansing, a brilliant Alert featuring Jonathan Cook's personalised account of how media censorship and control actually works in daily practice. It's a fine collaboration between ML and Cook, deserving wide exposure.

In detailing his own experiences moving 'up' through the local and national press, Cook provides a set of highly educational insights on the many unstated processes of personnel selection, editorial filtering and the kind of imbued "values" expected of aspirant journalists, all serving to keep the liberal press a safe repository of business-friendly ideas and interests.

It should be required reading for all 'professional journalists', media students and those in search of explanations they suspect are not forthcoming from the Guardian, BBC and other 'vanguard' media outlets.

Cook is also to be commended in this piece for his vital revelations on press bias, editorial censorship and elite lobbying over the Palestine-Israel conflict. Again, it's invaluable material for anyone trying to understand why the Palestinian case has been marginalised for so long.


Saturday, 4 October 2008

Bailing-out the rich - media version

It's a heist, grand larceny, the biggest bank robbery in history, as Bush's capitalist cronies spirit whatever public lucre they can out the back door of the Treasury before vacating the Oval Office - executive boardroom for warmongers, liars and thieves.

You'd never think such things were happening, according to Fox, the BBC and other dutiful media. It's a necessary "bailout" to "stabilise" the markets and address the "credit crunch", the business heads, like the BBC's Robert Peston, tell us. All now depends, we're assured, on the 'responsibility' of our political managers to get the markets 'back on track'. Yes, they ooze, there's been 'mismanagement' and 'over-confidence', but now's the time for 'corrective' action - and public support for it.

How easily those kind of trite labels enter and inhabit media discourse. In truth, it's not a 'credit crunch'. Or a 'rescue plan'. Or a 'stabilisation package'. It's an avarice crunch. It's the apotheosis of corporate greed, with the captains of high-finance masquerading as unwitting victims of a 'still virtuous free market'. It's neoliberalism at its most naked and exposed, yet still revealing its phallic confidence in hustling the Federal Reserve and its Congress pimps for even more funds to pursue its licentious acts. It's also an exercise in mass fearmongering as the market hedonists now ratchet-up the panic, spelling-out the 'dire consequences' of non-support. It's an epic con. Oh, how they must be laughing all the way to and from the bank.

Just like the rush to war in Iraq, millions of outraged citizens across the planet can see what's going on. How, they ask, could the very people responsible for feeding an impossible housing boom, the derivative speculations which spiralled it and the casino trading-floors that indulged it, now be entrusted with 'solving' the calamity?

Such opinions are, of course, but cents in the gutter against the know-better admonitions of the Wall Street barons. 'Help Wall Street in order to save Main Street', the latest schmooze goes. "We're rescued", cheered one colour-suited New York trader as the news came through of the 'revised' Congressional payout plan.

Michael Moore has this more sobering alert for those still unaware: The Rich Are Staging a Coup. Others describe The Last Hold Up taking place, as plotted between Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's office and Capitol Hill. And, of course, the expected cave-in of Democrats to the 'bailout plan' tells us all we need to know about Obama's corporate loyalties and those other 'constituent-listening' Congress clones who gave their obedient nods to Wall Street.

Yet, as Monbiot reminds us, the massive giveaway to the private playboys is but one aspect of a much wider, more deeply-hidden, corporate welfare system:

"The sums demanded by Bush and Paulson might be unprecedented, but there is nothing new about the principle: corporate welfare is a consistent feature of advanced capitalism. Only one thing has changed: Congress has been forced to confront its contradictions. One of the best studies of corporate welfare in the United States is published by my old enemies at the Cato Institute. Its report, by Stephen Slivinski, estimates that in 2006 the federal government spent $92bn subsidising business(4). Much of it went to major corporations like Boeing, IBM and General Electric. "

Back from visiting Bush, Gordon Brown's support for the 'stability package' reaffirms his commitment to corporate welfarism here in the UK. Aided by his market-guarding lieutenant Alistair Darling, nothing, it seems, can shake New Labour from the dogma of unbridled deregulation, more financial self-policing and support for the rich. Even the Guardian, that bastion of 'critical' thought, is backing the bailout and the PM's support for it - a position, one suspects, sweetened by the Guardian's own donor connections to Brown (See "Spivs and speculator news.")

The Great British Public are, likewise, expected to rally behind Lloyds, HBOS, Bradford and Bingley and all these other promiscuous institutions, lauding them as some kind of sweet-but-errant High Street friends. The greed and dishonesty that allowed these banks to engage in such massive over-leveraging, extravagant gambling of savings and pension funds and buy-for-rent mortgage gluttony is somehow to be passed-off as 'market excess'. There must be a certain
shadenfreude among those building societies who rejected the de-mutualisation route - the Nationwide being one of the few to remain in a relatively solvent state.

Human bailout?

While the masters of the universe, warn, fret and now rejoice over the 'lifeboat', consider this grim statistic: 98% of children in large parts of Glasgow are now living, officially, beneath the poverty line. Where's the debate over their 'emergency bailout', their 'rescue package', the concern to 'stabilise' and 'bring certainty' to their situation?

All across the globe, people are being exploited, starved and killed in the name of 'free-markets' and the trading of money over human life. It's a measure of the stark propaganda we're fed every day that the interests of corporate speculators should even be given the same discussion room as malnourished and deprived kids, never mind the kind of political gush and media angst we're witnessing.

As Greg Philo, of the Glasgow University Media Group, astutely observes, the symptoms of such inequality may be discussed, but rarely the primary causes:

"Mainstream news has sometimes a social-democratic edge. There are complaints aired about fuel poverty and the state of inner cities. But there are precious few voices making the point that the reason why there are so many poor people is because the rich have taken the bulk of the disposable wealth. The notion that the people should own the nation’s resources is close to derided on orthodox news."

As another superb Media Lens Alert points out, what can and can't be said within the corporate-friendly liberal media is routinely determined by a very effective system of filtering and selectivity, an "intellectual cleansing", serving to "[keep] the media safe for big business." It's an unstated process of self-regulation and protectionism, ensuring that persistently 'troublesome' journos and writers - namely, those threatening to criticise and expose such corporate hegemony - are weeded-out and marginalised.

Such a process would, of course, be dismissed as fantasy by those 'professional journalists' supposedly 'covering' the current financial tumult. Yet, as detailed by Media Lens, from the BBC to the Guardian's Comment is Free site, an effective censorship prevails, limiting serious articulation of views critical of the system. It's a 'market crisis', so the safe version goes, not a crisis created by capitalism. Any suggestion of the liberal media's own corporate-supportive role in feeding and disguising the crisis is, needless to say, completely off-limits.

And so, we're 'protected' by this 'responsible media' narrative. While certain 'abuses', 'excesses', 'mistakes', 'miscalculations' and even 'greedy behaviour' can be seen, the system itself, we're assured, is 'firm and true'. We all have a 'common interest' in 'seeing the market through' this 'rough patch', we're told. Thus, the liberal media 'rage' in the name of 'popular capitalism', let's root-out the trading-floor' spivs'. Let's 'scrutinise' the 'unacceptable market practices'. Let's denounce the 'short-selling' that's 'mainly' responsible for the crisis. But let's not think too harshly about the actual system of corporate capitalism. Let's just stay with its 'shortcomings', rather than how it assaults every aspect of daily life. Let's not stray into difficult, 'off-topic' questions, like the media's own part in the great deceit. Let's not ask why the well-being of banks, chief executives and rampant profiteers come before - a long way before - the well-being of multiply-deprived children.

If the BBC and their co-apologists were really acting in the 'public interest', the latest billions being bagged by the corporate gangs would be the subject of forensic investigation. Perhaps we'd even see a special edition of Crimewatch, re-enacting the heist, mug-shotting the boardroom villains and exposing their political and media accomplices. "Any witnesses to this daylight robbery, please come forward."

Alas, not very likely.