Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Hopeful new politics and resisting the corporate media

The Tories are back. Five more grinding years for the poorest and most vulnerable. It's a despairing landscape for a lot of people. Yet, here in Scotland there's a remarkable absence of despondency.

Unlike so many past doleful mornings after voting Labour and getting Tory, people in Scotland have acted this time to avoid the great two-party stitch-up. This time, unlike for so many south of the border, people in Scotland have both mandate and hope. Our votes have counted for something. Not just because they shifted en masse to the SNP, and certainly not as any positive endorsement of Westminster, but because they've been registered as a statement of collective resolve and as part of a people movement.

As with September 18, the establishment got its way in seeing Cameron win. Once more, the media and big corporate money made sure of its preferred result. Project Fear 2 was rolled out, the screenplay this time shifting from the panic of Scottish separation to the terror of Scottish invasion.

Yet, while Fear 1, with its late addition of 'the Vow', just managed to save the day for Establishment Productions, Fear 2, the sequel, has spectacularly bombed. Not even 'Hulk Brown' could deliver the vital box office numbers this time round.

With Miliband's departure, the Blairites have lost no time in moving to reassert control. Dutifully amplified by the Guardian -  as Media Lens observe: 'the Guardian's love affair with Tony Blair just goes on and on' - Blair has seized the moment, pleading for a decisive return to the politics of 'ambition' - in essence, middle-class, Thatcherite individualism.

Lord Mandelson has joined him in pitching the case for a renewal of New Labour and championing of the 'aspirational classes', again not too subtle code for all things Blairite.   

Labour darling Alan Johnson has also rushed to the cause, urging respectful recognition of Blair's successes in a bid to bring the party back to electoral viability. Again, it's the Guardian giving ready platform to his appeal:
"The issue of aspiration in people’s lives; we can no longer relate to them as a party of aspiration. And that was one of the big successes that won us three elections." Johnson criticised Labour’s strategy of talking down its 13 years in government under Blair and then Gordon Brown, and suggested the party should embrace those years. Asked whether Labour still had a problem with Blairites and Brownites arguing over the direction of the party, he said: "You might well be right. I mean it’s an incredible thing now that I was part of a successful government that did really good things, but you’d think that Tony Blair had lost us three elections, not won us three elections, it’s almost de rigeur now not to mention his name."
Remember, this is the same Alan Johnson that Owen Jones almost implored to return in a late effort to rescue Labour. One wonders whether Jones still sees him as part of his 'team effort' in 'radical' renewal. 

Meanwhile, surveying the crisis landscape for Scottish Labour, Neil Findlay has called for a formal break with UK Labour, allowing the party in Scotland freedom to engage the new political mood, including its opposition to Trident.

It's a desperately belated exercise in damage limitation. Would Findlay and his circle be making this same call had Labour been elected? Where was all their vocal and moral opposition to Trident during the election?

And, incredibly, amid the wreckage, Jim Murphy still carries on as leader, like some catastrophe-blind zombie, oblivious to the carnage.

But Murphy's sci-fi behaviour is only one symptom of the malaise. Labourism's death throes and ditching of the old cabal is reflective of a new vibrancy in Scotland desiring not just a change of party but a whole new progressive politics. It's also, whatever the SNP are prudently saying, a substantive new statement for a second referendum on independence.
And now, after Better Together's love-bombing of Scotland, the turn to hostile recrimination: it was Scotland that lost it for Labour, apparently, letting the Tories back in. Aside from the arrogance of entitlement and arithmetical fallacy - even all Scottish seats going to Labour wouldn't have given it a UK majority - it's another establishment-fed narrative moving to demonise the SNP and Yes movement as some back-door 'Jacobin threat', not just to the Union but to 'democracy' itself.

We shouldn't understate just how effectively that message was fed and implied across the media, from the Murdoch tabloids shrieking their ugly anti-SNP headlines to the Guardian's dutiful embracing of Miliband and careful negation of what Scotland was really feeling about Labour.           

Indeed, the very idea of a media 'spectrum' is in itself conveniently misleading. It's more appropriate to see all its organic parts as serving establishment functions. The so-called left-liberal-centre idealise political authority, give safe vent to its 'problems' and 'mistakes' (just think of Polly Toynbee's output) and set the very limits of radical thought, while the right-far-right give voice to hateful division and popular conservatism. All help, in key distinctive ways, to preserve the legitimacy of the system, whatever party is in office, whatever version suits the corporate establishment at any given time. 

As noted in the latest penetrating Media Lens alert:  
Some readers might object that the BBC, Guardian and the Independent are not right-wing at all, but centre or even left-liberal. But, as we have shown in numerous books and media alerts, these media organisations are embedded in powerful networks of big business, finance and establishment elites. Naturally, these are the one per cent - or even narrower - interests that corporate media largely serve and support. Such media do not even deserve to be called 'centre', if the term is to retain any meaning.
The imperative task is preservation of the system, under the masquerade of 'party choice' and 'electoral participation'. Yet, as ML conclude, the outcome of this election, like so many others, was determined principally by a much more overseeing corporate 'party' and its relentlessly-serving media.

Until we recognise and act upon that dismal truth, the same political occupation will prevail, the same cosy labels like 'centre ground' rationalised and peddled, as in this unctuous gush from the Guardian on its hopes for the 'new modern', 'blue collar Conservatism': 
To stack up, blue collar Conservatism has to be more than a collection of populist policies. Its declared ambition is to provide the underpinning for Mr Cameron's notion of the good life. The distinction between it and Labour's election offer is in the emphasis on success as a matter entirely of personal effort....For now, though, with their new mandate, this is the agenda the Tories are in a position to deliver. Labour must take note.
Another squirming Guardian post-election editorial urged Cameron now to 'put country before party'. 

And on Labour's defeat, the Guardian could only wallow on about Labour's need for a 'new facility to deploy moral arguments' and 'again learn to tell stories, in a voice – and perhaps an accent – that speaks to the individual ear, and the country as a whole.'   

As Media Lens comment:
Labour and 'moral arguments'? The mind boggles at the lack of insight that sees those words committed to posterity after all that Labour has done; not least the immoral arguments and deceits that launched the illegal invasion of Iraq. Attempting to brush the 'supreme international crime' under the carpet with the weasel words 'the uneasy inheritance of the New Labour years' is appalling. One wonders whether any senior Guardian staff have sufficient self-awareness, and the remnant shreds of dignity, to be squirming uneasily after the paper's earlier declared support for Ed Miliband.
In Scotland, the political sea change is inspiring more free-thinking media, as in Bella Caledonia's latest efforts to extend its project. But such outlets would benefit even more from close scrutiny and engagement of serious non-corporate, independent journalists like Jonathan Cook, Nafeez Ahmed and Media Lens.

As for related street mobilisation, Scotland is now the kernel of dissent, the movement that all serious radicals  - Owen Jones, take note - should be getting behind.  

As Tariq Ali argues, it's 'farewell to the United Kingdom', and a new realisation of how progressive forces can now move forward:
The tasks facing radicals ands socialists in Scotland and England are very different. In Scotland the young people who dominated Radical Independence Campaign (RIC) played an exemplary role in the referendum and the recent elections. Broad-minded, non-sectarian, realizing what was at stake and focusing all their energies to defeat the common foe. The results have vindicated their approach. They now need to assemble the forces that want a radical Scotland to represent them in the Scottish parliament that will be elected in 2016. This means a constructive left opposition that carries on the tradition of RIC but this time in Parliament preparing the ground for a Scotland that is both independent and different. 
Ali's decisive conclusion on the Miliband disaster: 
As for the Labour Party, I think we should let it bleed. Here the Scottish route offers hope.
Indeed. New movement politics driven by new movement media is the only useful, radical direction to follow.

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