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Taking a broader perspective…

From alternative media to alternative vote….

Councillor Rupert Read has been a Green Party City Councillor in Norwich since 2004, to find out more about Rupert visit his blog and twitter. This post was reproduced with the authors kind permission from One World Column.

I missed the major Norwich #Yes2AV organising meeting this week – because I was at the @OneWorldColumn party, which unfortunately was taking place at the same time…

To make up for missing the meeting, I am devoting my column this month to the reasons why I think it is so important, for democracy in this country, for the AV referendum, when it happens, to be won. This issue is very pertinent at the moment because, worryingly, the bill to provide for the referendum is still moving at only a snail’s pace through the Lords, due to ongoing and constitutionally-dubious delaying tactics by AV’s opponents. As the person who scooped the entire establishment media to bring the news to the nation of when the Coalition was scheduling the AV referendum for I have, naturally, been following this story more closely than many. I hope it will end happily. For our political system badly needs this referendum to be won.

Why?

Well, check out this poster. I think that this nicely sums up some of the central reasons for voting Yes in the referendum, and why it matters:

Now let’s consider some common arguments against AV, and see how well they stand up. People sometimes say, for instance, that AV maximises the votes of extremist candidates. This might well be technically true, in the sense that people are no longer discouraged from voting for the candidate of their choice, under AV, because AV eliminates the ‘wasted vote’ argument that is the bane of small parties under FPTP. However, relative to AV, it is FPTPthat maximises the seats that are gained by extremist parties. This is demonstrable for example in relation to Council elections in this country: there are many seats that the BNP have won under the present system that they would without doubt have lost under AV: for the second and third and fourth preferences of voters voting for mainstream/non-fascist parties would in very many cases have transferred against the BNP. In seats where it is not obvious who to vote for in order to stop the BNP, FPTP is the system of choice for the BNP. Which may well partly explain why the BNP, somewhat understandably, is calling the AV referendum a conspiracy against the BNP…

People sometimes claim that it is wrong that under AV votes transfer at full strength. Should a 5th preference really count as much as a 1st or 2nd preference? The answer to this is that if you allow some second preference votes to count for more than others, than you reintroduce into voters’ calculations, from the start, standard ‘tactical voting’ considerations – the very considerations that have increasingly deformed Britain’s democracy as we have moved away from being a political duopoly. AV cuts through all that, and abolishes tactical voting in its classical form. AV means that one does not have to shy away from voting for the candidate(s) who one supports, in simple order of descending preference.

Once one understands the reality of how the two systems work, then the choice between FPTP and AV is really a no-brainer: unless either one wishes for some unaccountable reason to keep mass tactical voting alive for the sake of it, or supports fascist parties such as the BNP….

But people say that AV won’t much change our political culture, because it wouldn’t much change our election results. But: this is to make the rash assumption that those who voted (say) LibDem at the recent General Election actually do have LibDem as their 1st preference, that those who voted Labour actually do have Labour as their 1st preference, etc. . In fact, this assumption is much worse than rash – it is manifestly false. It is falsified by the existence of large-scale tactical voting, under FPTP.

 

The big question about the effect of AV on election results is how the abolition of tactical-voting and of ‘wasted vote’ arguments (an abolition that AV very largely, thankfully, effects) and the drastic reduction in safe seats that it will simultaneously bring about will affect the first-preference votes of the LibDems and of smaller Parties. In some seats (notably, Labour-Conservative marginals), the LibDems are at present perceived not to have a chance; their first-preferences will go up under AV, in those seats. But this is unlikely to help them much at all in the short term – because, in such seats, they are in most cases far enough behind that they will still be eliminated before either the Conservatives or Labour. In many seats (including obviously most of the seats they actually hold), the LibDems currently benefit a great deal from tactical voting: in these seats, their first preferences will slump, under AV. It may well be that in some cases those first preferences (which will turn into 2nd or 3rd preferences, under AV) will slump so much that the LibDems will be eliminated before the 2 ‘main’ Parties – or indeed before smaller Parties, whose first preferences will in many cases leap up, once tactical voting and ‘wasted vote’ arguments have been eliminated by AV.

This is a reason for believing that the LibDems may, ironically, suffer in 2015 from AV, rather than benefitting from it. So, if you are one of those people who is worried about voting for AV because you don’t want to do the LibDems a favour, then I would suggest to you that you need worry no longer…

In the longer term, a great advantage of AV is that it enables smaller Parties (which the LibDems may well be again, after the next General Election!) that are not thoroughly disliked by a majority to build up their votes. This is how the Green vote has grown in Australia, for instance, to the point where the Greens have won seats in the Upper House (elected by PR) through being able to build up their first-preference votes (through AV) in the Lower House. And the Aussie Greens have now won their first seat in the Lower House, through second-preference-transfers under AV…

Thus AV, unlike FPTP, makes it comparatively easy for democracies to outgrow ossified Party structures – such as arguably we have in Britain, today.

To sum up: Because it puts an end to tactical voting and the ‘wasted vote’ argument, AV changes the expressed first preferences of voters. For example, the rise of the Greens inAustralia has been predicated on growing numbers of Aussies voting Green even if and where the Greens have little chance of winning; voters can affords to do this, because their second preferences etc will still count.

If the AV referendum goes through, expect substantial changes to British politics – including an accelerated rise for the Green Party. It is interesting to reflect on what might have happened in Norwich South in the 2010 General Election, had the Election been run under AV. The LibDems narrowly won, as a result of mass tactical voting for them, to get rid of Charles Clarke. Under AV, as the election may well be in 2015, would they still have won? Or might we have seen a Green MP, in Norwich?…

It will be good for democracy for small non-extremist Parties which are hurt by FPTP to grow, as AV facilitates. It will be good to end the nonsense of mass tactical voting. It will be good to create a momentum of successful political reform, which could lead on from AV to democratisation (at last) of the House of Lords, to…

And it will be good to give one in the eye to the BNP, the TaxPayers’ Alliance, and the other awful people who are ‘leading’ the #No2AV campaign…

For all these reasons and more, when the time comes, I’m voting Yes. I hope you will, too…

 

Filed under: Electoral Reform, Green Party, Liberal Democrats, Media,

The Curse of Bono

Adrian Cruden is a senior manager in the charity sector and also a former parliamentary candidate. He blogs at Viridis Lumen and this post is cross-posted from there with his kind permission.

Every time I clap, a child dies in Africa,’ Bono intoned. ‘So stop clapping,’ yelled a voice. (Sunday Telegraph, 19 November 2006).

Ever since Live Aid back in the 1980s during the Ethiopian famine, there has been more and more involvement by celebrities in charity campaigns and non-party political campaigning, especially around third world issues and the green movement. Although it rises and falls in the “cool” ratings, the environment remains a favourite for many of these characters.

Yet their relationship with those genuinely engaged long-term in their campaigns of choice is often, to say the least, uncomfortable and often counter-productive.

Bob Geldof, washed up on the far shores of has-been pop stardom, was an undoubted power in conceiving and driving Band Aid forward to what was a generally successful programme (though not without some qualification – but it is too easy to snipe sometimes). Band Aid and Live Aid saved lives and at least temporarily raised awareness of the issues around Third World poverty. That was the good side. The down side was that it presented an easy solution.

“Never mind the address, just send the f***ing money!” Saint Bob urged BBC viewers at one stage of Live Aid. And many did, including myself. And that was both the success and the problem. It was nice and easy. A simple solution to a huge problem.

So when famine again raised its head in the Horn of Africa, some people talked about “where did the money go?”. As appeal followed appeal for famines there and elsewhere, some talked of the phenomenon of “compassion fatigue”. Helping your fellow humans has its limits, it seems, especially if it means thinking about more than tossing a few quid in a bucket at a pop concert.

In the last few years, Saint Bob has been far eclipsed by Bono, or Bono H. Christ, as some know him. Bono, lead singer with Irish rock group U2, is often to be seen lecturing audiences about how appalling the world is, how they all have to change, and then jets off in his plane to the next harangue, sorry, concert.

Not only have Bono and his mates in the band gone offshore to avoid paying their taxes, his “save the planet” concerts come at a high price to poor old Mother Earth – last year’s tour produced enough carbon to have sent the boys all the way to Mars (unfortunately on a return-journey!). One reviewer did suggest all this damage was worth the “spiritual uplift” to be had a U2 gathering, perhaps adding to Bono’s evidently messianic worldview, but maybe of little comfort to unbelievers.

The curse of celebrities’ adoption of just causes goes beyond the hypocrisy and fakery of their narcissistic self-promotion. With many political leaders, Blair being the most obvious, slipping away from ideological politics into the numb consensus of market capitalism, some celebs have been granted wisdom and influence far beyond their abilities or right.

Back in 2005, the “Make Poverty History” campaign launched a major effort to achieve debt relief for the poorest states in the Third World ahead of the Gleneagles G8 summit of international leaders. Their demands were for radical write-offs of debts which had long paid massive amounts of interest to western financial institutions and seriously impaired development and life chances for hundreds of millions of people. It was a much bolder, deep-seated change than anything the by then knighted “Sir” Bob Geldof had ever called for but he duly rushed out of retirement to hijack the campaign with the “Live 8” concerts (Live 8/Live Aid, geddit?). Although few had bought any of his music in decades, the saintly knight then had to sing at the concert (totally spontaneously, of course) and then with Oxfam, Make Poverty History and other development campaigners (and Bono, of course), he called on the G8 leaders to take real action to cancel debt.

The summit agreed some action – adopting barely half the recommendations of Tony Blair’s Commission for Africa – and most in the development movement were sorely disappointed. That didn’t stop Sir Bob from rushing in front of the cameras to rather chillingly echo the words of someone else in relation to exaggerated achievements: “A great justice has been done. On aid, 10 out of 10; on debt, eight out of 10 … mission accomplished, frankly.”

And of course in the world of our celebrity-obsessed right-wing media, it was his easy message that was taken up. The concerns of the development movement were largely ignored, even though now, five years on, it is the case that even the partial decisions of the G8 have gone by substantially unimplemented. The campaigners recognised their mistake in letting him get involved, but too late.

More recently, Bono has been criticised for hobnobbing with President Medvedev, who proclaimed himself a fan of U2, ignoring the suppression of several human rights activists with whose cause he had initially linked his concert tour of Russia. And Sir Bob meantime has been charging up to $100,000 per speech on world suffering – it’s a hard topic, but it seems he is ready to rise to it.

Now this weekend, in the UK, the 10:10 climate change campaign has been hit by charges of eco-facism following the disastrous decision to release a video written by Richard Curtis (of Blackadder and Four Funerals fame) which shows schoolchildren being exploded into a graphically bloody mess for the crime of not being committed to reducing their carbon emissions. 10:10 have now withdrawn the green movement’s first ever video nasty, but not before the right wing media have been able to seize on what is being portrayed as proof of an inherently anti-human strain among environmentalists. It is quite an achievement that he has in a ten minute film been able to leave the movement charged with Nazism, sadism and pure bad taste. And it is another clear example of the curse of celebrity involvement in causes which the celebs often know little about and, one suspects, may even care less.

Curtis’ video is not just unpleasant. It also shows his ignorance of what the green movement is ultimately about. We are NOT concerned about “saving the planet”. The planet is resilient and will endure whatever we throw at it. What the green cause is about is saving our species, saving humanity, from extinguishing its ability to survive by polluting our planet or exhausting the resources we need to survive and thrive on the Earth. None of that involves the intolerance and violence displayed in his pathetic little effort, which we are now told was an attempt to inject humour and passion into the debate.

With friends like these, who needs enemies? The message to the environmental movement, the development campaigns and indeed anyone on the Left should be to treat these self-regarding dilettantes with real caution. It might seem glamorous to have them around, it might garner some well-needed publicity, but not all publicity is good.

Whilst there are sincere, and effective celebrities who can help, all too often these people adopt development and green campaigns as “worthy causes” for their own promotion, depoliticising them and misleading the public into believing in simple, unchallenging answers to complex issues requiring radical solutions. The threats we face of resource scarcity and planetary crisis are too great to let them indulge themselves any longer. Paris Hilton is promising yet more charitable redemption when she completes her latest criminal sentence. Thanks, but no thanks.

Filed under: Media, , , , , ,

The launch of SilenceBreakers: new organisational structures, GDP and progressive alternatives…

By Jane Watkinson. This blog was cross-posted from Jane’s blog, Jane’s Political Ramblings.

There are several discourses that have been employed during the years of periodic and inevitable capitalist boom and busts; one being the ‘need’ for growth. Brought in during the WW2, GDP (Gross Domestic Product) has become a key benchmark for capitalism’s ‘success’, oh, and the ‘failures’. What GDP privileges is the continuous expansion of growth, ever-increasing economic activity, whilst not distinguishing between economic production which undermines well-being socially and environmentally. Also, localised production such as through voluntary work and organisational structures such as cooperatives that aren’t governed towards growth, are either discounted or undermined.

Crucially, as GDP goes up, so does the degradation to our environment. This is clearly illustrated by the following quote:

Superfund clean-up of toxic sites is slated to cost hundreds of billions of dollars over the next thirty years, which gets added to the GDP. Since the GDP first added the economic activity that generated that waste, it creates the illusion that pollution is a double benefit for the economy.

As Chomsky passionately described, forms of organisations based on cooperation instead of competition are the most liberating and free up more time for creativity. The New Economic Foundation have been fundamental to discussing the importance of new forms of organisations and new measures of activity. This ties to the increasingly attractive economic doctrine of Zero Growth – where social, environmental and economic factors are based on sustainability and people’s livelihoods. No longer would we dictate policies on the basis that we could grow more than our European counterparts, for example. However bad this recession has been, these crashes are just a part of the capitalist structure, we need a fundamental new approach towards the economy.

This is where new organisational structures come in. As I have already mentioned, cooperatives and workers councils are attractive and productive new ways to do business. Also, there is the need for new ways to measure economic activity – such as the Genuine Progress Indicator, where pros and cons of economic activity are weighed properly in relation to social and environmental considerations. Whilst GDP has been steadily growing, GPI since 1970 has decreased by around 45%. Well- being is comprehensively analysed via the GPI – consider the inclusion of leisure time, for example. When that increases, the well-being increase – this relates quite clearly to Chomsky’s views around creativity.

It is important to note that the GPI is not the only alternative to GDP put forward. Consider the New Economic Foundation’s Happy Planet Index.

Creativity is essential for people to express themselves, and creativity is central to an organisation that is set to launch – SilenceBreakers. SilenceBreakers is launching its new website today; this is a company I have written about before as a member of its board. Specifically important in the context of this blog, is that the company will be engaging in a new approach to accounting – that of social auditing. As explained in my previous blog:

Through social accounting, the social, environmental and economic effects are measured and thus the companies practices are aligned to progressive goals. It is an advancement from the current focus upon solely economic targets of companies.

For more on social accounting, go back to my previous blog.

Social auditing relates to new ways of measuring economic activity such as GPI, as it accounts for the social and environment consequences as well as the economic ones. Instead of seeing economic gain as an end in itself, it measures the social and environmental consequences as a key aspect of the company’s success; if the goals of the company are damaging the social and environmental aims, then the goals and practices are changed. This is a practice that more and more companies are taking on.

As well as using a new approach to accounting, the company is based on the fundamental aim of providing a voice to those who are often ignored by mainstream policies and private investment. Its main premise is to recycle computers to provide workshops and technological assistance and skills for disadvantaged communities – so they can blog, vlog etc – providing them with space and a valuable outlook of self-expression.

The current system is too often driven by the desire for more, without consideration of what specifically constitutes more. The current government’s economic masochism is a clear example of this, as they drive to cut public resources more and more – in a desperate attempt to have a relatively good comparable GDP, for example. Included in this economic binge is a reduction of important social services such as the Future Jobs Fund and many other youth services (Sheffield has been particularly hit) and also environmental services, such as the Sustainable Development Commission. SilenceBreakers will be providing services within Sheffield, which can hopefully help some of those who are to be disproportionately hit by these cuts.

With new outlooks towards the economic situation, the progressives amongst us are making useful inroads into the ‘need’ for cuts argument. Included within the alternative is the importance of companies such as SilenceBreakers to lead the way with promoting new organisational structures. Whilst Chomsky may have misunderstood the importance of central coordination, he is right when it comes to the importance of more workers based cooperatives and cooperative organisational structures, also his work on the importance of creativity is particularly illuminating. And as many progressive economists and theorists are telling us, there is a need for a new approach to economic activity – where sustainability of resources are considered as paramount and people’s ability to become creative is promoted.

For this, new structures, new organisational arrangements and a new way of accounting and measuring economic activity is required. For this, SilenceBreakers is an important example of what the progressives amongst us need to promote if we are to change the very structures that seek to undermine our basis of living.

Click here to see the SilenceBreakers website.

Sources:

http://dieoff.org/page11.htm

Further Reading:

http://www.pembina.org/pub/58

http://www.yesmagazine.org/new-economy/maryland-launches-genuine-progress-indicator

Filed under: Media, , , , , ,

Dark Arts, Murdoch And The Right Wing…

By Jay Baker

Jay is a British media activist who has almost ten years of experience as a professional documentarian, writer, youth worker, social justice campaigner, and social entrepreneur.

Let’s get this straight: I’m no major fan of Piers Morgan. He’s taken part in some godawful “fast food media” ventures from America’s/Britain’s Got Talent to his own ropey talk show, and yet has somehow managed to be repaid for these by taking Larry King’s hallowed position on CNN. But for a long time he was a press pariah because he was editor of (pro-Labour) The Mirror when the tabloid newspaper published photographs purporting to show British soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners. It was the one terrible lie that discredited and undermined the towering amount of genuine evidence of mistreatment of Iraqis during the illegal occupation of Iraq, with the armed forces still less likely to boycott The Mirror than Liverpudlians were The Sun after the Hillsborough disaster – no one died in this incident. Still, it took Piers Morgan a long time to shake the stain of the scandal, and there was certainly no way he would be aligned with by any political figures.

But here’s the media double-standards for you. When the (pro-Conservative) News of the World was first implicated in hacking into cellular phones for scoops, editor Andy Coulson resigned – largely as a fall guy to prevent NOTW owner and media mogul Rupert Murdoch being brought before the U.K.’s Press Complaints Commission at a time when the Federal Communications Commission in the U.S. were looking increasingly likely to deregulate the industry and allow him greater control (I’ve previously discussed FCC chairman Michael Powell – Colin’s son – claiming that the “angel of the public interest” was absent from the debate). Coulson’s consequence was being appointed communications director of the Conservative Party just in time for Murdoch to put the full force of his empire’s propaganda machine behind the Tories once more before the general election.

The phone-hacking issue has arisen again, and given that other NOTW people were jailed, a few others are pretty peeved, with Sean Hoare telling the New York Times Sunday supplement that Andy Coulson had actually encouraged him to practice the “dark arts” of journalism where the individual has to face responsibility of repercussions, but if they provide the goods, the editor will endorse it, regardless of ethics. Meanwhile, as political figures subjected to the phone hacks seem to be turning it into a money-making opportunity by settling out of court, firebrand George Galloway yet again proves a thorn in the sides of the elite and their status quo, telling his lawyers to accept no such deal, and to instead sue the newspaper (as he sued the Daily Telegraph for claiming he was against the Iraq invasion only because he was on Saddam Hussein’s payroll).

But what this really raises, once more, is the question of collusion between the powers and the press. Galloway refusing to do a deal is just the start – this blows open the fact that right-wing politicians are working with propagandists; they’re scratching each other’s backs and greasing each other’s palms.

We have to encourage a culture where the public will no longer tolerate a newspaper having a vested interest in a political party and providing propaganda for them. The fact that Andy Coulson saved Rupert Murdoch, who promoted the Tories, who hired Andy Coulson, is farcical. It’s also disgusting and sad that we have seemingly come to accept it when figures from Gordon Brown to Barack Obama feel obliged to “woo” Murdoch and court favour with his editors, despite constant claims that their printed words do not effectively persuade voters. Murdoch will, of course, continue to select editors that report with his slant while largely neglecting to report on him unfavourably…and they will promote the parties that empower his empire (as Margaret Thatcher did in the 80s, deregulating the industry for him).

In my latest book, I attempted to demonstrate the true influence of Murdoch’s wide and far-reaching, all-pervasive media empire and those like it despite the fact there is little to no empirical research on it, because most academics repeatedly dismiss the suggestion that media influences people’s political persuasion. That is now a growing discussion, and the demand for more research is increasing; my own claims that the dark arts are threatening to overwhelm the angels of public interest are part of that demand, not an obstinate stubborn self-proclaimed “axiom.” Let’s have the debate. Let’s investigate – as media people ought to. These are questions that need answering, and perhaps ironically journalism itself – still a very class-exclusive profession – is failing us.

Filed under: Media, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Political lies, media manipulation and the ‘shock doctrine’…

By Jay Baker

Jay is a British media activist who has almost ten years of experience as a professional documentarian, writer, youth worker, social justice campaigner, and social entrepreneur.

It’s true that lies are often perpetuated. In fact, if they’re repeated enough, these lies can be regarded as truths, and rarely even questioned at all.

An example of this is the great lie perpetuated on the people of Britain concerning the economy.

In the build-up to the general election this year, New Labour finally realized that their right-wing re-positioning and re-branding was – as expected by many – its greatest weakness. Without its heart, “the people’s party” created by the labour workforce to represent the working class mass majority now had no alternative argument to counter the Conservatives, due in part to its commitment to its doomed brand.

As a result, shocking Tory claims – on immigration, on taxes, and most of all, on the economy – went largely unchallenged. And by the time the Liberal Democrats had “sold out” (as many of its own supporters would say) in forming a coalition with the Tories, the only challenges of facts and logic in the public eye were from the likes of Caroline Lucas or Salma Yaqoob on forums such as BBC’s Question Time; lone voices in a fog of misconceptions.

So: what is the truth? First, we have to look at the lies, key lies that are perpetuated by the mainstream media:

  • Lie #1: The latest economic crisis was a freak act of nature we had to endure, a “Credit Crunch,” like a breakfast cereal we must swallow before going about our day, business as usual.
  • Lie #2: If the Credit Crunch was anyone’s fault, it was the fault of New Labour for failing to regulate the banks properly.
  • Lie #3: The only way to cope with the recession is to cut government spending and sell off public services to private interests, even if this means higher unemployment.

These are all essentially preconceived notions perpetuated by the press. Linguistics professor and political activist Noam Chomsky talks about this often: whether it be using slogans like “Support our troops” or asking the question “Can we win in Iraq?” those in positions of power and influence must use propaganda to create presuppositions and stifle or restrict and marginalize debate.

For example, Chomsky explains, a mantra such as “Support our troops” is vacuous, because it doesn’t mean anything more than asking if we, say, support the people of Iowa; there’s no counter to it – asking if we support the war policy would draw a plethora of offence, but to ask if we support the brave men and women of the armed forces offers no such room for argument. Likewise, Chomsky also suggests that asking “Can we win in Iraq?” completely ignores the greater question of whether we have any right to be there in the first place. And so, a “questioning” media indeed questions, but the questions it asks are chosen carefully to frame the debate inside a certain context, giving an illusion of media investigative journalism and “fair and balanced” coverage while propelling the debate in a particular direction.

Another example I’d offer is when firebrand politician George Galloway, love him or loathe him, showed intestinal fortitude by appearing on US airwaves via “fair and balanced” (yet pro-Republican) Fox News to talk about Afghanistan, and was repeatedly asked the question, “Is Afghanistan better without the Taliban in charge?” – meaning that Galloway the Great Orator, on a rare occasion, was defeated by having to reply conceding Afghanistan was indeed better without the Taliban, ending the interview again within that carefully conceived framework. No discussion was to be had on the fact that US taxpayers’ money went on creating the Taliban in the first place, or that the reasons for ousting them was for the next phase of what is often described as US imperialism. Fox News was faux news – merely maintaining the status quo.

This is exactly what the media has also done with the economy.

The fact of the matter – which is rarely, if ever, addressed by the press – is that the cleverly-spun “Credit Crunch” was, in fact, caused by a range of capitalism-induced conditions from removal of workers’ rights, shipping of jobs overseas, and increasing debt dependency, to US economic conditions, to, yes, Tory deregulation of the financial sector under Margaret Thatcher that started it all. Thatcherism was only saved by the success of North Sea oil, having ideologically attacked the unions by destroying key territories, from coalmining to steelworks; removing jobs, bringing unions to their knees, and decimating entire communities, sickeningly declaring “There’s no such thing as society.” It was every man (and woman) for themselves, she suggested: sink or swim.

This kind of Social Darwinism is what the Tories love: the dangerous act of applying Darwinist theories onto sociology and politics as a whole that historically gave rise to such other right-wing ideologies as Nazism. By no means an irresponsible, sweeping generalization of categorizing all right-wingers such as Thatcher as on the same page as Hitler, this is actually a very serious threat, when politicians start using Social Darwinism as a justification – that might makes right, and it’s survival of the fittest. Alarm bells must go off, because today’s Thatcher (a friend and admirer of Chilean dictator Pinochet) could be tomorrow’s Hitler.

The Tories were the ones who embraced Social Darwinism in the 80s, and financial deregulation – letting the bankers run amok, in accordance with Milton Friedman’s now-discredited economic theories – was part of it.

Yes, the Tories criticized New Labour for failure to regulate the banks, but New Labour had no response besides an immature one: “You started it.” Might doesn’t make right, and neither do two wrongs. New Labour were unable to attack the Tories because they’d come too close to attacking themselves.

But the Tories didn’t just get away with exploiting New Labour to cover up their contribution to the crisis; they were able to capitalize on it by shifting the debate – essentially aided and abetted by New Labour – towards the realms of necessary and unavoidable cuts. The fact that investment creates jobs and benefits the economy, while a deficit can be reduced through fairer taxation, was completely ignored. No, we weren’t supposed to have that discussion, and the corporate media did their job as enforcers.

While reeling from a recession, worried about their jobs, the Tories were able to apply what Naomi Klein calls the Shock Doctrine in her book of the same name: while a people are in shock, it’s possible for the Friedmanesque “Market Bolsheviks” to push through sweeping, radical reforms and policies that benefit elite interests. Eventually, the shock wears off, Klein suggests, but it’s often only after the damage has already been done.

This is what is happening to Britain today. The Tories – after criticizing New Labour for failing the NHS or universities, in addition to pointing the finger over financial deregulation – are now passing policies that reflect their ideology, and able to do it in the name of crisis (what Klein calls “disaster capitalism” exemplified by the profits made in post-Gorbachev Russia, in post-invasion Iraq, and even in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina).

The Tories have come to power at the perfect moment for them: just as 9/11 was America’s shock, allowing Bush to get away with illegal invasions and surveillance of his own people before the shock wore off there, David Cameron, supported by Nick Clegg, can use the economic crisis as an excuse for almost anything: from discussions on “innovative” universities (read: privatization) to “modernizing” the NHS (read: privatization), to cutting public services (again, privatization), these are the same old public school elitists with nothing in common with the working class people who suffer the most from the recession yet have their jobs under threat, and welfare cheques, too. Those with plenty in common with the coalition, of course, are Big Business. Their recent budget was, top to bottom, an ideological one, straight and simple – applied to a people still in shock.

Perhaps the most unfortunate fact, though, was that New Labour had little in common with the people either. Its election-winning machine had no heart, and only through its electoral destruction can it be resurrected, the new becoming old. Their choice of leader of the Labour Party has never been so important in all its history. The best choice could mean a landslide victory in 2015 – when the shock has worn off and the people destroy a likely already-imploded coalition.

Filed under: Conservatives, Economy, Media, , , , , , , , , , ,

Planet Moron

By Jay Baker

Jay is a British media activist who has almost ten years of experience as a professional documentarian, writer, youth worker, social justice campaigner, and social entrepreneur.

It’s quite remarkable how many stupid people can rise to power.

George W. Bush Jr was barely literate when he became U.S. President, and seemingly figured that the fact both “Al Qaeda” and “Iraq” had the letter Q in their names was enough of a connection to warrant an invasion on Saddam Hussein’s state following the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S. by predominantly Saudi Arabian plane hijackers.

We British – like much of Europe – enjoyed the opportunity to be haughty about the whole Bush Administration while big brains in sharp suits occupied our corridors of power. Yes, Bush was surrounded by names from his father’s Reaganomics era such as Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, men who adhered to Milton Friedman’s brutal Social Darwinist ideologies borne out of the Chicago School of Economics, but the very fact their hand-picked puppet, “King George II,” was so inept at public speaking was embarrassing.

However, just because London’s 10 Downing Street is now home to a highly educated, articulate young man by political standards is still no reason to be stuck-up about any cerebral superiority. Smartly dressed David Cameron, fan of Margaret Thatcher, can have more degrees than a thermometer and it still wouldn’t make him a smart man. After all, Thatcher bought into Friedman’s economic doctrine, deregulating the financial sector and creating the cracks in our whole economic foundations, profit being the supreme yardstick for their success regardless of the ground beneath them where lies people’s living conditions, and the earth as a whole. The result: the economic crisis – what happens when societies simply do not have the employment and living standards needed to cope with the rate of commercialization.

Today, David Cameron resides in 10 Downing Street and tells us that in order to deal with this consequential Credit Crunch™ – as the media have cleverly branded it as a force of nature – we have to expect cuts in services that predominantly provide for poorer people, meaning that the long-term risks on our society are even greater. But Cameron, or “Camoron,” doesn’t acknowledge that. Is he aware of it? Of course he is. But he doesn’t care.

This Conservative / Liberal Democrat coalition government are using this as an excuse to pander to their corporate pals – why do you think they’re talking about slashing spending for the arts and cutting the budgets of universities who must be “innovative” (which is code for mass privatization). Both art and education for the masses are dangerous for those elitists with vested interests; enlightened, empowered communities can rise up too easily. So the cuts are calculated on a class level. Oh yes, if you thought New Labour’s treasury was all about Brown-nosing the corporate sponsors and lying down for the lobbyists, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

The word “idiot” comes from the Greek idiotes meaning to put private interests above and beyond the public good. It’s fair to say that David deserves the nickname “Camoron,” because while Bush was an “American Idiot,” this Prime Minister is ours.

When the public sector came under fire from Cameron’s budget-slashing targets, their unions stood up to defend their jobs in areas that provide for the people. But Cameron, lover of private interests, condemned them, asking in his own inimitably smug and privileged manner, “What planet are they on?” Not his planet, thank goodness. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats stands beside him and approves of it all. This is the planet of the Cleggons; blood-suckers who actually transfer the financial burden from the rich onto the poor, something vampire Michael Howard would surely be very proud of, having come up with the Poll Tax for Thatcher’s government, leading to riots in the streets of London. Who wants to be on a planet like this?

Their planet is one of absolute denial, where we spend well over £30 billion a year on defence, and at the same time cut taxes and the budgets that make the poor poorer while promoting lifestyles of long working hours, gridlocked cars, and fast food. David’s planet – Planet Moron – is not a sustainable eco-system (eco-system in this case standing for “economic system.”)

This ConDem coalition seems – just like Brand Obama™ – a marketing dream: come time to pry themselves away from each other in 2015 and become rivals desperate to differentiate themselves, they can blame all their unpopular policies on one another. But again, there’s no sustainability on Planet Moron: this dream is doomed; destined to become a nightmare for both parties. Given the public’s response to negativity in politics in the last general election, it would seem that this scenario would not only weaken both parties, but turn off people who might have voted for either. Meanwhile, the only alternative option amongst the Big Three then becomes Labour – not New Labour, just Labour, the party of the people, of the public, with union backing. That’s their winning brand, if they utilize it.

So, Planet Moron is indeed doomed. But it’s only after destruction that we can enjoy resurrection. So, brace yourselves.

“I did not mean to say that the Conservatives are generally stupid. I meant to say that stupid people are generally Conservative. I believe that is so obviously and universally admitted a principle that I hardly think any gentleman will deny it.” – John Stuart Mills, 1866.

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