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.
Following Trump’s victory in the US Presidential elections the Guardian has been full of articles by concerned columnists about what a disaster this is. Dark days of racism and misogyny lie ahead. He won because he was a misogynist. As a result of ‘scheming’, ‘ignorance’, ‘a ruthless network of super-rich ideologues’. And so on.
The overwhelming impression is that these people – liberal Guardian columnists – don’t accept democracy. When it produces a result contrary to their ideologies – it is explained away on any other basis than the one it happened on – an election in which people went out and made their choices. Guardian liberals justify their foreign wars on the basis of ‘democracy’. They justify their privileged position in Western society on the basis of ‘democracy’. They are the class that guards democracy and ensures that – while private wealth is fine, the poor are ‘looked after’ (a profitable business in itself) and ‘fairness’ – usually deviant sexuality and strangely concocted families – prevails. But when democracy returns a non-liberal they are really flummoxed.
The violent riots in the US against Trump’s election are described by the Guardian as ‘action’ carried out by ‘activists’.  A choice of words which is close to condoning violence.
As with the success of the Brexit (and let’s face it anti-immigrant) campaign in the UK liberals seem only able to pass judgement on their opponents. Their opponents are ‘bigots’, ‘racists’, ‘a basket of deplorables’, neanderthals. They deplore their backwardness and diagnose them with various conditions. But they don’t engage them with substantive arguments. And so, they lose elections.
All this gives the lie to the claims of liberals to be the champions of democracy. If you only accept democracy when it produces a liberal result that isn’t really democracy. The interesting question is how far this could go. If the West continues to see a rise in non-liberal parties attaining to positions of actual power through democratic means the liberals will be faced with a choice. Either they will have to accept democracy; something they will find hard to do. Or, perhaps they will find a reason to dispense with it. And there will be a Franco type solution. (Franco led a coup in Spain in 1936 against an elected leftist government and established a 36 year rule of a fascist state. The US accepted Franco’s undemocratic government because it saw in it a bulwark against the Soviet Union). 
It remains to be seen if the liberal world order is really being challenged by the rise of populist and nationalist movements, or if this is just a surface change. A lot depends on whether Donald Trump actually implements the policies he has talked about during his campaign. If there is a real directional change in the offing what will be the reaction of the liberals?
1. Guardian. Nov 2016. Report on anti-Trump ‘action’ in the US
2. WikiPedia article on Franco.
This is how David Cameron has described the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn.