Friday, 15 July 2011

The Nasty Media

First came the confession of the Nasty Party (source: T. May, 2002), then the outcry over the Nasty Bankers, and now the exposure of the Nasty Media.

Connecting all these strands is the political agenda for the Nasty Society. Simply put, an elite wants to make sure it can accumulate wealth and power by whatever means, and remove any effective constraint by a democratic state. So it gives ‘donations’ and demands to politicians (usually those in their own ‘rich people first’ party but also anyone sufficiently craven); it exploits financial systems to make vast sums of money at other people’s expense; and it distorts public perception of what is really going on with the support of media manipulators.

Amidst all the shock and anger over the MEANS used by Murdock’s media operatives, attention should be directed at the ENDS that the Nasty Media seek to serve. They want people to think that the public realm is inherently inferior to unbridled corporate interests because individuals could then be alienated from those who are their true allies, while the injustice in society is routinely overlooked.

Instead of allowing the toxic ethos of the Murdoch press to seep into British broadcasting, the standards for impartiality and public responsibility of British broadcasting should be established for the British press and global media more widely. We cannot attain a fair society when the only effective protection of our dignity as equal citizens is systemically vilified.

Public funding, public servants, public provisions are the real enemies of the Nasty Media. Stories about the private lives of celebrities and intrusions into grieving families are just sensationalist sideshows to distract the public from what they should be concerned about, namely, the Nasty elite shifting more and more power away from those dedicated to safeguarding the good of all, and handing it to those who only care about making a profit for themselves.

Take a look at the press coverage. We are short of public funds, so let’s cut public services even more. Equality before the law? The rich can always lawyer up and hire private security services. Tough luck on the rest. Why don’t we raise taxes to cover the shortage? No, cut taxes and deplete public funds even more, it would benefit those with millions saved in tax avoided, and only harm the undeserving poor.

But surely those who pay themselves 100 times or more than most hardworking employees could afford to pay more taxes? No, that’s the politics of envy. These top corporate executives are greatly valued (by the Nasty Society) and should get an incomparably better deal than the rest. Who should be squeezed? Go for the public servants, most of them don’t earn much but get a moderately better pension (than those without the fairer terms offered by the public sector), so let’s stir up envy and hatred of their ‘gold-plated’ pensions. Shouldn’t the terms of their employment reflect how much they are valued? Yes, and the Nasty Party does not value them.

So under-funded, overworked public workers would not be able to sustain the vital services for our country. Good, more stories on failing public services. That’d lend support to the need for ‘reform’ (i.e., passing the potentially profitable bits to private businesses which will wash their hands of the rest). What about the many dreadful failings of the private sector, and the risk of letting profiteers take over even more of our public services? Leave that to the likes of the Guardian and the BBC. Who’ll pay attention to them when they haven’t got headlines about philandering celebrities or inside stories about families hit by tragedies? Who indeed.

Friday, 1 July 2011

The Big Con

Just as everyday con merchants trick people into handing over their valuables for nothing, the Big Con in politics deceives people into thinking they would be better off without the power they derive from a strong, democratic state.

Centuries of misery have shown that businesses and voluntary organisations are not capable between them of guaranteeing people even the most basic means to cope with the iniquities of life or the fluctuations of arbitrary fortune. But the Big Con maintains that smaller the state, the better society would be. It does this by relentlessly promoting the myth of an ‘all powerful yet wasteful’ state that needs to be drastically cut down.

The reality should be made plain for all to see. The Con Party is cutting the state, not as a short-term measure to cope with the deficit created by the lack of strong government regulation of the banking sector, but as a way to cripple public services permanently. And while the burden of the cuts fall much more heavily on those with less resource, the wealthy few are getting extra help from the not so invisible hand of the Tories. Corporate profits are taxed less. Bankers’ bonuses are no longer taxed at all. The rich who already command many ways to evade taxes are rewarded with staffing cuts in HM Revenue and Customs so there is even less capacity to investigate them.

As public services for all are cut, support for the corporate elite to make profit for the few is increased at every turn. The BBC’s budget is cut by 20% but Murdock’s phone-hacking media empire is given the go-ahead to expand. The Competition Commission, which might stand in the way of such market distortions, is to be abolished, along with many other state bodies which have up to now defended public interests against attempted encroachment by commercial exploitation. Thus, the Food Standards Agency, which has been at the forefront of raising industry standards in tackling unsafe and unhealthy food, is being dismantled in favour of an advisory body dominated by representatives of big corporations with a vested interest in the food business; and the Gambling Commission, which has an independent regulatory role in keeping crime out of gambling, ensuring that it is conducted fairly and openly, and protecting children and vulnerable people from being harmed or exploited, is to be closed down.

Public provision for everything from education, health to legal aid and care for the vulnerable are cut, undermined and fragmented so that private firms can pick off contracts that make them a handsome profit, while more and more people who cannot afford to pay fall through the widening cracks.

Remember what happened to hygiene in hospitals after they were forced to contract out their cleaning services to private companies. Remember what is unraveling as a consequence of the expansion of for-profit organisations in running care services without public accountability. Remember a small state serving only the wealthy elite is the ultimate pay-off for the Big Con – and the consequences for society would be absolutely dire. To stop the Con from succeeding, we must expose it.

(The full version of my dissection of the ‘Big Con’ is published in the PPR Journal March-May 2011, Volume 18, Issue 1; it can be accessed via: