Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Politics, journalism and the trough

The ongoing revelations and disgust over allowance abuse is part of the valid indictment of MPs, ministers and their cossetted lifestyles. But is it remotely proportional to the serious crimes and human abuse committed by our political leaders?

Stephen Fry talks of the"tedious bourgeois obsession" behind journalists exposing politicians' financial irregularities rather than the much more alarming issue of their roles in prosecuting wars in which people actually die. It's a moot point amid this legitimate shaming of the parliamentary class.

Many might fairly argue that, alongside Fred Goodwin and his fellow heisters, it's all symptomatic of the greed and grab culture. Which would be true. But, paradoxically, the public clamour to see Blears et al named and punished only further elevates monetary/expense abuse above war criminality.

Of course, we can deal with both - it's right to shine a harsh light on the elite claiming funds to have their moats cleared and their chandeliers hung while poor families in Shettleston struggle on meagre benefits. But isn't it disturbing that so much media attention and public outrage can be summoned over petty pilfering while people suffer and die through Western inflicted war without the merest media mention or public interest?

Fry also reminds his interviewer that there's no more "venal and disgusting" group than journalists when it comes to expense and allowance abuses. Again, this may be true. But, it's a pair of adjectives that he might have better reserved for their collective unwillingness to highlight politicians' war dissembling and the media's own complicit part in those crimes.

Parliament is in 'crisis disrepute' over expense abuse while that same parliament and its echo media endorse wars, occupations and mass murder all over the world. The Torygraph prints daily abuse lists and rails at losses to the public purse but has nothing to say on the staggering war economy and its corporate/political beneficiaries. Brown may fall over this 'scandal' rather than the fact that he bankrolled the slaughter in Iraq.

It's a depressing, yet convenient, irony that outrage over, rightly revealed, allowance abuse should serve to protect the system. It's all part of the reinforcing mechanisms of liberal capitalist democracy wherein 'penitent' politicians, sanctimonious media and an indignant public engage in these 'concerns about the system' and how to 'improve' it. A rather British form of thought control.

It's not just parliament and the trough that should concern us, it's the actual capitalist/warmongering pigshed and its 'remedial' message helping to keep us fed and fixated on parochial abuse while the true human corruption of war, occupation and genocide goes on quietly elsewhere.


1 comment:

Ian M said...

Thanks for this John. I've started going straight to a default position of suspicion and/or cynicism whenever I start to hear vaguely compassionate, humane-sounding points of view on the news (or in the media in general) with any regularity.

It seems that these only come through when they happen to coincide with state interests (cf. Afghan women, Iraqis under Saddam, Tibetan protesters, Burmese Buddhists the second time round...etc) and on those occasions they 'protest too much', methinks, to compensate for their silence in other areas.

Like Chomsky says, room for fierce debate within dramatically limited parameters. It just feels so good to give the politicians what-for, with the major media on our side for a change, that's it's hard to pass up the opportunity!