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.


1 comment:

John Hilley said...

A useful whiteboard guide to Collateralised Debt Obligations (CDOs):