The media this week has provided a very good example of how we have “managed consent” in the UK.
The media – across the spectrum – has had article after article about Boris Johnson having broken the lockdown laws which his government had just made by having parties in Downing Street. It is a dramatic and salacious story. Of course it matters that the Prime Minister of the country is not a cynical liar who makes laws for the people and breaks them himself. But, ultimately, this is a story about one man. He can go and be replaced with another (or a woman). It will make no difference to policy.
Continue reading “The media and democracy”
The political class constantly lecture us about how we have ‘democracy’.
Democracy is used to justify foreign wars. (Entirely selectively since many of our allies are hardly ‘democratic’). It is used to sell the current political-economic system to the population. (Yes; you may be relatively poor but you are free). It is used as a stick to bash e.g. Russia who is presented as not ‘democratic’. Etc.
The only occasion for the practice of democracy in a bourgeois parliamentary democracy is at the ballot box every few years and the occasional referendum. And; look what happens. The campaign by the Tory party in favour of a No vote in the Scottish independence referendum was characterised by fear and scaremongering. The campaign for a ‘Remain’ vote in the EU referendum was run on the same basis. (For example the taxpayer funded leaflet produced by the government in favour of ‘Remain’ linked leaving the EU to being threatened by an Iranian nuclear missile; a claim precisely on a par with the mocked up “45 minute” claim that was used to justify the Iraq war). These campaigns are precisely not democratic political campaigns. They don’t present arguments and appeal to reason. They are produced by people who work in the advertising industry, or who have similar skills, and are aimed at manipulating people through the mass media. They use fear and shame. They often aim to do no more than make it hard for people to make the other choice. (The Tory party attack ad. on Corbyn’s history of not condemning IRA bombings is of this ilk ). The political class are not ‘doing democracy’. Theresa May said she did not attend the main national televised debate in the election which she called because she doesn’t believe in “squabbling”. The likely reason is that a strategist has determined that her appearance would give wind to the sails of the Labour opposition by making it appear like a genuine race. Her non-appearance is tactical and manipulative. Parliamentary democracy is a limited form of democracy. And these people cannot live with even that. They are mocking it.
Why then should anyone accept the rationale for the foreign invasions? Or the justification for a society of wild economic inequality?
The whole thing is a sham.
1. In fact it turns out that the Tory attack ad which offered quotes suggesting that Jeremy Corbyn had declined to condemn IRA bombings was cooked up. Corbyn’s words were highly edited to the extent that he was completely misrepresented. As this Guardian article (which links to the original interview) shows.
So; the government has sent a leaflet ‘arguing’ the case for staying in the EU, to every household in Britain.
The striking point is not that the leaflet was paid for by the tax-payers to promote one side in the referendum debate. Nor is it that despite promising ‘facts’ the ‘arguments’ are entirely on one side of the question. (For example; the quite strong argument is made that Britain would lose access to the single market without clearly admitting that by the same token Britain would be free to set its own tariffs on imports; this latter point is conceded only in a roundabout way; Britain would have to ‘renegotiate new arrangements with over 50 countries around the world’. This isn’t ‘facts’ it is sophistry).
What is striking (in the main) about this leaflet is that it does not present arguments at all. It has been carefully crafted to createÂ anxiety. The chief message, drummed home though repetition, is that leaving is ‘uncertain’, a ‘risk’. It may ‘damage’ living standards. There are ‘no guarantees’ if Britain does leave. There will be an ‘economic shock’. There will be ‘years of uncertainty’ and ‘a decade or more of uncertainty’. Then there is the claim that leaving the EU would increase the risk of ‘criminals and terrorists’ entering the UK. (In reality it is unlikely that police co-operation would cease if Britain were to leave the EU). And, finally, in case you aren’t feeling anxious enough there is a spurious reference to the Iran nuclear deal – with the implication that had Britain not been in the EU we would have been nuked by Iran. Well; not quite. But the vague hint is there. Enough to generateÂ anxiety.
And so. This is what ‘democracy’ has come to. Not rational arguments being discussed by free men and women. But a government-sponsored leaflet which uses the persuasion techniques of advertisers combined with the fear techniques of credit-control agencies.
The leaflet may even backfire. Most people reading this will realize that they are being talked down to – by people who simply see themselves as different from the people they ‘represent’.
And finally; no modern communications product would be complete without a mixed race photograph, and we are not disappointed here. This tinkering with race reflects a kind of immature attitude.
This is an article by Neil Clarke on Russia Today.
There are some quite populist tones in Neil Clarke’s work. It may be worth questioning whether popular democracy really is viable. Russia has ‘democracy’ but coupled with an authoritarian centre. Perhaps this is a better model?
That said, in this piece, Neil Clarke makes the key point: Western liberal ‘democracy’ does not mean democracy. It means Western liberal values. You can choose… but there is only one right choice.
Western ‘democracy’ is a mask for racist and imperialist attitudes.
Neil Clarke’s article.