Thursday, October 20, 2016

Are the Daily Mail deliberately ridiculing their own readers?

The Daily Mail has been stirring up outrage and hatred about the fact that some of the tiny number of teenage refugees accepted into Britain look older than they are.

The idea of inciting hatred against refugees who look older than they are is bad enough in its own right, but to run a front page story inciting outrage about teenagers who look older than they are alongside a story that celebrates a 15 year old girl for looking older than she is and drools over her "sophistication" and "jaw dropping bone structure" is extraordinary stuff.

There seem to be two possible options here.

Either the Daily Mail editorial staff are so stupid that they were incapable of spotting the cognitive dissonance inducing juxtaposition of their hate campaign against old-looking teenage migrants next to a piece that drools all over a 15 year old girl for looking grown-up and sophisticated.

Or the Daily Mail editorial team are deliberately taking the piss out of their readership by juxtaposing the two things so they can have a good laugh about how Daily Mail readers are so damned stupid that they're completely immune to cognitive dissonance.

Show them pictures of foreign teenage boys who look older than their age and they'll seethe with xenophobic hatred, but  show them a pretty teenage girl who looks older than she is right next to the hate campaign and they'll get so hard over her that they'll fail to even spot the hypocrisy.

Either the Daily Mail staff are too thick to spot their own hypocrisy, or more likely they're deliberately taking the piss out of their readers by demonstrating that they can publish pretty much anything, no matter how tasteless or hypocritical, and their readers will continue to lap it up.

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Did RBS Group shut down RT's bank accounts to send a message?

In October 2016 NatWest (which is a subsidiary of the majority taxpayer owned RBS Group) took the extraordinary decision to shut down the bank accounts of the Russian broadcaster RT.

In the week before the RBS Group's NatWest subsidiary took the decision to obstruct the operation of RT by scrapping their bank accounts, one of the banking group's biggest scandals was back in the news. Leaked documents showed that the bank had been systematically destroying and asset stripping thousands of British businesses for their own profit. The leaks revealed that the bank was so brazen about its GRG asset-stripping operation that they even referred to it as
 the "dash for cash" and offered cash bonuses to bank staff for identifying businesses that were ripe for asset-stripping.

Back in 2014 when the asset-stripping activities of the RBS Global Restructuring Group first came to prominence RT hosted some extraordinary criticism of the bank. In one episode of the Keiser Report the host accused the bank of being "financial terrorists" and then conducted a scathing 15 minute interview with Neil Mitchell who has been fighting for justice ever since the GRG destroyed and asset-stripped his business.

In the wake of the scandal RBS managed to deflect most of the criticism and avoided criminal investigations into their conduct by repeatedly assuring parliament, the financial regulators and the public that the Global Restructuring Group was "not a profit centre" and that they'd just been trying to help the 12,000 UK businesses that went through the process.

After the Global Restructuring Group leak in October 2016 the Keiser Report went into attack mode again pointing out that the leaked documents totally contradicted the assurances given 27 times in parliament by RBS executives that GRG was "not a profit centre". Within a week of RT running this criticism, the RBS subsidiary NatWest decided to shut down all of RT's bank accounts.

It seems extraordinarily unlikely that RBS Group decided to scrap RT's bank accounts for financial reasons. The idea that Russia would ever allow their most influential international broadcaster to get into severe financial difficulties is ludicrous. So if the decision wasn't made for economic reasons, it seems likely it was made for political reasons.
When the news broke speculation abounded that the decision was part of a government strategy of toughening relations with Putin's Russia, but the UK Treasury (which owns a 73% stake in RBS Group) quickly denied responsibility for the decision to obstruct the operation of RT, which, if true, means the decision was entirely in the hands of RBS Group executives.

This is bad for two reasons. The first and most obvious reason is that the decision to shut down the bank accounts of a broadcaster that has been highly critical of their banking group sends a chilling message to the rest of the media: "If you dare to criticise the big banks we can make life very very difficult for you". Even if RBS Group tries to claim* that the decision to scrap RTs banking facilities has nothing to do with RT's strong criticism of the RBS Group and their GRG asset-stripping operation, the message to the rest of the media is still loud and clear.

The second reason this is bad is that the UK Treasury is claiming that it didn't have any say over a decision taken by a bank that is still 73% owned by the taxpayer, despite the obvious political and diplomatic ramifications. The fact that RBS Group could make a decision like this without any form of consultation with the government, despite the fact they're 73% owned by the taxpayer, is yet more proof that the nationalisation of RBS was a catastrophic mistake. Not only did a taxpayer owned bank apparently go around asset-stripping some 12,000 British businesses to boost their own profits, they've now taken to making decisions with major political and diplomatic ramifications without the slightest effort to consult the government.

Maybe the RBS decision to provoke Russia into taking tit-for-tat action against British broadcasters suits maniacs like the Tory MP Andrew Mitchell who wants to trigger World War III by shooting down Russian jets over Syria. But anyone with any sense should know that enraging the Russian bear is a daft idea at the beat of times, but when you've just spent the last six years savagely cutting your conventional military capabilities and you're in the midst of an enormous self-inflicted diplomatic and economic crisis, it's staggeringly idiotic.

The British taxpayer has lost £billions on the RBS "investment", and what is worse is that all of that money was poured into the bank with no strings attached, meaning the very same executives who wrecked the bank in the first place were completely free to carry on inflicting even more carnage on the UK economy and the rest of the world by asset-stripping thousands of British businesses, rigging the Libor rate, rigging currency markets, financing the manufacture of cluster bombs, sanction-busting, misselling complex financial products to members of the publicmoney laundering, committing fraud against their own customers, tax-dodging and now provoking a major diplomatic incident by shutting down the banking facilities of a critical media organisation without even bothering to check with the government first.

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.


* = Who on earth would be gullible enough to believe the claims of RBS executives after they repeatedly lied to parliament about the GRG not being a profit centre?

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Sorry about the clickbait

I recently logged onto Another Angry Voice from a browser without any Ad Blocker extensions and was horrified to find my site blathered in appalling Taboola sponsored clickbait links.

This clickbait rubbish was added to my site automatically (and without my consent) by the external Disqus system I use to host the site's comments threads. I've looked into it and they'd apparently been adding these appalling Taboola sponsored clickbait links to Another Angry Voice since some time in mid September 2016.

I have adjusted the Disqus settings to get rid of the clickbait now, but I am very disappointed that they have damaged my reputation by adding sponsored clickbait adverts to my site without my explicit consent.

I adopted the "Pay as You Feel" subscription model for my site for a number of specific reasons*, so finding out that my site has been blathered in sponsored clickbait for several weeks is very annoying indeed. It made me look like a fool and a hypocrite to have article footers explaining my "Pay as You Feel" principles beneath each article, only to be immediately followed by a load of vacuous sponsored clickbait links.

When I looked into it, it turns out that I've apparently earned $14.40 for all of the clicks on these links, not that Disqus ever established any way to actually pay me this money. If just one person decided to cancel their £1 per month Another Angry Voice subscription because of these clickbait links, then all of that "profit" will have been cancelled out within a year or so.

I'd guess that more than one person cancelled their subscriptions because of it. I've seen a spate of recent cancellations, and I fully understand if people cancelled their subscriptions because of the clickbait. I'd certainly consider cancelling my subscription to a website if they suddenly started displaying utterly vacuous sponsored clickbait rubbish at me.

If I can actually be bothered to figure out how to actually claim this $14.40 then I'll give it to charity. I don't want their crappy Taboola clickbait money.

I apologise to anyone who found the sponsored clickbait links on my site annoying or thought that I was being a hypocrite. I assure you these links were added without my consent, that I removed them as soon as I could, and that if Disqus ever inject crappy clickbait links onto my site again I'll replace them with another comments system.

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.


* = The reason I prefer the "Pay as You Feel" funding model is that I feel it's important to show that it's possible to run a successful blog without resorting to blathering it in targeted adverts (ads that show you exactly the kind of products or services you were looking for on the Internet a few days ago) and clickbait links. Additionally, if someone like me who promotes heterodox economics uses an orthodox ads and clickbait model for funding his website, what hope is there that anything can actually change?

Friday, October 14, 2016

David Cameron's speaking gig with Bain Capital

Back in 2013 David Cameron's Tory party oversaw the sale of our NHS blood plasma supply unit to a vampire capitalist group called Bain Capital (which was founded by the 2012 Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney).

Fast-forward three years and Bain Capital have already handed David Cameron a lucrative speaking gig at one of their events just weeks after he quit politics after his Brexit gamble went so spectacularly wrong. Thanks to the extraordinarily lax rules covering financial rewards to former politicians it's not clear how much Cameron is going to be paid for his speaking gig, but given that that the former foreign secretary William Hague is expecting to make some £4 million per year on the speaking circuit at £50,000 - £100,000 per appearance, Cameron's speaking fees are unlikely to be less than six figures.

It's no wonder Cameron was so keen to abandon politics when there are such rich pickings to be had from the companies his government handed favours to during his time as Prime Minister.

Some other potential speaking gigs for David Cameron include:

Wonga: The revolving door between David Cameron's government and this appalling legal loan shark company has been well documented. Cameron's sack-at-will legislation (drawn up by the Wonga investor Adrian Beecroft) must have been a real boon to the company as desperate sacked workers turned to them for their rip-off 5,000%+ APR loans. Surely Beecroft and his boys at Wonga could return the favour by handing Cameron a few lucrative public speaking gigs?
Circle Health: This private operator of various NHS facilities across England was one of the major beneficiaries of Cameron's 2012 NHS privatisation by stealth bill. Circle (owned by numerous major Tory party donors) was responsible for the absolute debacle at Hinchingbrook hospital, yet they're still running other NHS facilities across the country. The least they could do for Cameron is stuff him a few hundred grand for all of the NHS services they've snapped up under his watch.
Landsdowne Partners: This hedge fund made a £36 million profit when Cameron's government sold off the Royal Mail at way below its true market value. Given their enormous profits surely they can shove a bit Cameron's way?
G4S and Serco: In 2013 these global outsourcing were caught defrauding the taxpayer out of £180 million by submitting false invoices for the electronic tagging of non-existent prisoners. Cameron's government promised to punish them by temporarily banning both companies from bidding for contracts, but secretly handed them £350 million worth of contracts when they were supposedly banned. Even worse than that, the Tories carried on paying these companies for electronic tagging services way into 2015, two years after they were caught defrauding the taxpayer. Surely these companies can find a few hundred grand apiece to stuff into Cameron's back pocket?
Caudrilla: The fortunes of Cuadrilla and other fracking companies received a massive boost when Cameron's government decided to halve the rate of corporation tax for fracking companies. The fracking boom and bust in the US is proof that fracking is only financially viable if energy prices remain high, so the champagne corks must have been popping at Cuadrilla headquarters when Cameron and Osborne signed the UK taxpayer up to an absolutely ludicrous deal with the French and Chinese states to pay them double the market rate for electricity from Hinkley Point C for an astonishing 35 year period. No doubt Cuadrilla and other fracking companies will feel a moral obligation to repay Cameron for the vast tax cut he handed them and his decision to ensure their financial viability by signing the UK taxpayer up to pay massively inflated energy prices for generations to come?
Virgin Group: Richard Branson's Virgin Group have been major beneficiaries of numerous Tory privatisation schemes. From heavily subsidised rail contracts to huge slices of NHS infrastructure Branson's business did extremely well at raking in taxpayers' cash during David Cameron's time in office. The least "beardie" could do is repay Cameron with a few six figure public speaking gigs?
Times have moved on since former Prime Ministers quietly stepped out of the limelight having achieved the pinnacle of public life. These days becoming Prime Minister or an important government minister is just a stepping stone in the process of becoming filthy rich.

After serving as Prime Minister John Major cashed in by hooking up with corporations like the Carlyle Group arms company, but Tony Blair really blazed the trail for David Cameron with his corporate consultancies with the likes of JP Morgan, his lucrative speaking gigs and his work as adviser to all kinds of brutal dictatorial regimes.

After shafting the British public with his failed Brexit gamble Cameron literally couldn't wait to get stuck into what was clearly always the endgame; making himself filthy rich gorging on corporate speaking fees and lucrative consultancy positions.

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.


Donald Tusk didn't "attack Britain" he injected a bit of realism into the debate

On Thursday 13th October 2016 the EU Council President Donald Tusk made a speech in which he dismissed the idea that the UK could wriggle out of free movement of labour whilst keeping access to the single market as "pure fantasy" and stated that the only realistic alternative to "hard Brexit" is "no Brexit".

At no point in his speech did Donald Tusk attack Britain or criticise the British people. He simply stated the obvious case that the EU wouldn't be giving a super-special deal to the UK. In fact he actually said that the UK quitting the EU would be "a loss for all of us".

This didn't stop the hard-right pro-Brexit press (like the Daily Mail) from characterising Tusk's comments as an "attack on Britain".

The idea that by spelling out the truth of the situation and exposing the dangerous lies peddled by the likes of Boris Johnson, Tusk is somehow guilty of attacking Britain is indicative of the pathetic victim mentality of so many Brexiters.

It was astonishing that so many people bought so easily into the bullshit, bluster and outright lies of Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and Michael Gove during the referendum campaign. It amazed me how easily millions of people simply accepted the way the Brexit campaign pinned the blame on the EU for the toxic social and economic consequences of the UK electorate voting in one neoliberal government after another since 1979.

None of that mattered to millions of people. The Brexit campaign had their simple narrative that the poor, weak, pathetic British were being bullied and abused by the powerful, dictatorial EU, and it was time to "take back control". Millions of people bought into this pathetic victim complex and decided to vote in favour of unplanned Tory Brexit chaos.It's unbelievable that people haven't learned that we're dealing with a fundamentally dishonest bunch of Tory charlatans from the way that they immediately dropped their "£350 million to the NHS" lies after the EU referendum.

Now the Brexiteers are describing a guy who is trying to inject a bit of truth and realism into the debate as an attacker simply because his comments contradict the fantasy land nonsense still being spouted by the likes of Boris Johnson.On the very same day that Tusk tried to inject a bit of reality into the debate Boris Johnson was still peddling his fantastical nonsense by telling the foreign affairs select committee that "we are going to get a deal which is of huge value and possibly of greater value".

The idea that the UK is going to get a better deal from the EU than it had before is spectacularly unrealistic from a pragmatic perspective, and that's before we even account for the fact that Theresa May has put useless Tory buffoons like Liam Fox and Boris Johnson in charge of developing our negotiation strategy!

Just look at it from the EU perspective. If they give a wonderful special deal to the UK where the Tories get to cherry-pick all of the things they like about EU membership whilst throwing out all of the things they don't like, which results in an EU settlement that is of "greater value" than full membership, they'd clearly cause the inevitable destruction of the EU by incentivising all the other states to quit in the hope of securing an even better deal than they had before. Protecting their own interests by telling the Tories that they can't "have their cake and eat it" isn't attacking Britain, it's spelling out the reality of the situation.

What Tusk said wasn't an attack on Britain at all. In fact he was doing us a favour by trying to expose Boris Johnson's spectacularly over-optimistic prediction of what the Brexit deal is going to look like as the abjectly unrealistic nonsense that it is.

Sadly an awful lot of people still seem to believe in Johnson's fantasy that the UK will be able to simultaneously scrap the free movement of labour and secure a trade deal that is as good as, or even better than what we had before. People still want to believe that the UK is suddenly going to turn into the land of milk and honey for all (apart from those pesky foreigners of course) as soon as Brexit is completed.

I guess some people will never learn. They want to believe comforting fairy stories, and it doesn't matter how many times the guy telling them has been caught out lying before, they'll continue believing him because he's saying what they want to hear. Meanwhile they'll react furiously and insult anyone who tries to inject a bit of truth and realism into the debate because they will always prefer comforting lies to uncomfortable truths.

These people are in for a rude awakening, but judging by the way things are now, they're sure to cast around for someone else to blame (Donald Tusk, the EU, remain voters, Jeremy Corbyn ...) rather than accept that they were duped into voting for a shambolic unplanned Tory Brexit that could only ever have ended up with ordinary people bearing the brunt of it while the Tories work tirelessly shield the corporations, bankers and inherited wealth land monopolists (who bankroll the Tory party) from the worst of the fallout.

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The utterly warped Daily Express definition of democracy

On Wednesday October 12th 2016 the extremely right-wing Daily Express ran an editorial calling for anti-Brexit politicians to be locked up in the Tower of London. This isn't just some bonkers editorial buried away at the back of the paper either, David Maddox's ramblings were given front page billing.

Anyone with a few brain cells to rub together should be able to spot the flaw in Maddox's bizarre call for people who oppose his ideology to be locked up in prison to "reflect on the true meaning of democracy".

If the Daily Express definition of "true democracy" involves imprisonment without trial for anyone who disagrees with them, then they clearly don't have the first clue what "democracy" actually means.

It doesn't matter whether 37% of the electorate voted in a particular way or 97%, locking people up for their political opinions isn't what democratic states do, it's the behaviour of the likes of Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia
CIA backed Latin American military dictatorships, Francoist Spain, and corrupt Islamist theocracies like Saudi Arabia (you know? The brutal anti-democratic regimes that the Tory party keep sucking up to).

The entire point of democracy is that dissent from the majority opinion is allowed. If dissent is silenced, imprisoned or eliminated by the powerful then the political system clearly isn't democratic at all, it's authoritarian and tyrannical. Anyone calling for their political opponents to be silenced for the "crime" of holding the wrong political opinions is clearly and undeniably an anti-democrat.

As I've said before, this whole "shut up, you lost, get over it" ranting from Brexiters (as if the whole thing was some kind of football match that finished months ago rather than a complex ongoing process) is anti-democratic and utterly hypocritical. It's anti-democratic because the whole point of democracy is that it must allow variance in opinion, and it's utterly hypocritical because the whole anti-EU movement was based on four decades of constant whining and blatantly ignoring the democratic outcome of the (very much more comprehensive) 1975 European Communities membership referendum.

Aside from the fact that the whole concept of democracy relies on tolerance of dissenting opinion, there's also the fact that many MPs represent constituencies that voted strongly in favour of Remain. If MPs from constituencies in London, Scotland, Northern Ireland and various urban centres in England continue arguing against Brexit then they're actually representing the views of their constituents, not undermining democracy. Only an anti-democrat could possibly suggest imprisonment without trial for MPs who refuse to ignore the will of their own constituencies.

Another flaw with this whole "democracy" argument from right-wing Brexiters is the way in which Theresa May and the three Brexiteers have expressed their intention to completely bypass parliament in order to impose their own savagely right-wing version of Brexit. It would be fair enough to argue that Brexit is about democracy if it were being conducted in a democratic manner with proper parliamentary scrutiny, but when it's being imposed without a parliamentary vote by an unelected Prime Minister, then the whole "democracy" argument from the right-wing press is rendered utterly farcical.

Whether you think that quitting the EU is a good thing or a bad thing this concept of silencing/imprisoning/disappearing people who dare to oppose what Theresa May and the Tories are up to should be utterly terrifying. This attitude that dissent must be ruthlessly crushed is the absolute antithesis of democracy. It's pure unadulterated authoritarianism.

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

I'm back

Regular Another Angry Voice readers will have noticed that I've been quiet for the last few weeks.

I decided to have a break from writing about politics for a number of reasons. Some of them I can go into in detail, others I can't.

  • The four months before my break were by far the most productive period ever since I started AAV. In June, July, August and September I wrote 154 articles, which is the equivalent of more than one article per day, every day, including weekends (I didn't take a weekend off all summer). I was beginning to get burnout so I thought the quality of my work would improve after a bit of a break.

  • The political situation in the UK is profoundly dispiriting. The re-election of Jeremy Corbyn was followed up by a load of bile and backroom maneuvering from the Anyone But Corbyn wreckers, and even public appeals from the likes of Peter Mandelson for a snap General Election so that the right-wing of the Labour Party could celebrate a Tory election victory as the excuse they need to try to get rid of Jeremy Corbyn again. 

  • It's not good for the spirit to keep on writing about such appalling situations when there's so little to be done to change them. The Blairites are obviously going to continue obstructing Corbyn's leadership at every turn, and in the process they're going to continue allowing Theresa May and the three Brexiteers to get away with making a complete pig's ear of Brexit by ensuring the main opposition party is utterly divided.
  • For the last few weeks I was having some difficult personal circumstances. I can't go into any detail on this because it's important that I respect the privacy of other people in my personal life. The warning signs were there that I was drifting into depression and I knew that writing about the profoundly dispiriting UK political scene was not likely to help to improve my mood. I took the decision to stop writing about politics for a while and focus on doing the things that would actually help me avoid sliding into a major depressive episode. After a lot of walking, reading, playing snooker, listening to music and time spent with friends and family I feel loads better and I'm raring to go again.

  • I didn't stop writing entirely, I just took a break from posting to AAV. I've written a number of other things, several of which are likely to be published at some point in the future. Some of them on here.
Anyhow. Now that I'm back to doing Another Angry Voice I was wondering if anyone has any suggestions for topics they would like me to turn my attention to over the next few weeks ...

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.


Thursday, September 22, 2016

Are the New Labour clique deliberately trying to create a self-fulfilling prophecy?

David Miliband (the New Labour stalwart who ran away from British politics when his brother beat him to the Labour Party leadership in 2010) is the latest New Labour figure to throw the "unelectable" trope at Jeremy Corbyn.

Attacking and diminishing the leader of their own party was bad enough when the divisive Labour leadership coup was going on. But now that it's clear that the coup plot, the vote-rigging and the purges were almost certainly in vain, and that Corbyn is going to win again you have to wonder what the motivation is to keep on like this.

The first suspicion is that it is just petulant foot-stamping. They right-wing of the party didn't get their own way, so now they've venting their toddler-like fury without even thinking about the consequences of what they're saying.

By continuing to repeatedly badmouth Jeremy Corbyn they're making it seem that they're unaware of the concept of a "self-fulfilling prophecy".

Of course Corbyn is going to have a tough time with the entire mainstream press demonstrably fighting a propaganda war against him. Of course he's going to have a tough time trying to reunite the party and undo some of the extraordinary damage this inept and shockingly timed coup-plot inflicted; and of course it's going to take a lot of hard work to undo the shockingly widespread public misconceptions that Tory austerity is actually good for the economy, and that Theresa May is a competent politician.

But that job is going to be made all the more difficult if a bunch of bitter sore-losers in his own party insist on repeatedly carping from the sidelines.

The other option of course is that these people know perfectly well what a "self-fulfilling prophecy" is, and that they're deliberately trying to create one. After all, their idol Tony Blair has openly stated that he'd rather see the Tories win the next General Election than a Labour Party that has returned to its democratic socialist roots. It's perfectly possible that Tony Blair's acolytes are simply doing his bidding with their persistent efforts to sabotage the Labour Party.

The problem with the strategy of trying to deliberately create the self-fulfilling prophecy that Jeremy Corbyn is "unelectable" is that if the prophecy comes true, there are an awful lot of people in the Labour Party who will blame the saboteurs, not the leadership.

Do the Labour Party saboteurs really think that the party membership are going to blame the guy who tried to do his best despite the challenging circumstances, or the New Labour clique who have been seen to do everything in their power to undermine the Labour Party and its democratically elected leader from day one?

It's certain that should Corbyn lose the mainstream press will try to paint the narrative that centre-left politics is dead and buried, and that we are stuck with various shades of Tory crony capitalism for ever, but we already know that the mainstream press no longer have a total ideological staranglehold on the public, otherwise Corbyn would have been annihilated in the 2015 leadership election and one of the New Labour candidates would no doubt be currently trying to "oppose" the post-Brexit Tory shambles by imitating Try policies and Tory political rhetoric as closely as possible.

Instead the New Labour lot have just lost the ideological war for the future of the Labour Party for a second time. Their choice now is simple. Unite behind the leader and actually try to win, or carry on trying to undermine the party and put themselves up as the people to blame when their self-fulfilling prophecies come true.

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Facebook isn't the enemy of the mainstream press, they are their own worst enemies

The Guardian journalist Roy Greenslade has written an article entitled "Why Facebook is public enemy number one for newspapers, and journalism". It's a load of sanctimonious, hypocritical and self-pitying rubbish that casts mainstream media journalists (like Roy and his mates at the Guardian) as heroic scrutineers of the establishment, and Facebook as an evil empire that is obstructing and repressing these noble freedom fighters from doing their job of holding the powerful to account.

I don't actually mind Roy Greenslade as a journalist, he's admirably productive and I don't remember ever feeling such visceral revulsion at one of his articles before, but this particular one is appalling one-sided hogwash.

In this article Greenslade scrapes together a bunch of barely related criticisms of Facebook in order to paint himself and his kind as heroes and Facebook as the sinister threat to democratic accountability.

In isolation each of the criticisms of Facebook has some merit.

The site's appalling American prudishness over nudity is both sexist (there is simply no justification for denoting the female nipple or images of breastfeeding as offensive and not the bare male nipple) and an enabler of historical revisionism (rewriting history by repeatedly deleting perhaps the most iconic photo of the entire Vietnam war).

Facebook's reaping of its users' personal data is an obvious concern to anyone who still cares about the once fundamental, but now largely disregarded concept of the right to personal privacy.

Facebook's editorial role is also worthy of criticism. They were accused of bias in their manual selection of trending stories, then when they replaced the human team with algorithms, the bots immediately went haywire promoting all kinds of woeful gibberish to the pinnacle of the Facebook news agenda

Facebook's tax-dodging activities are well documented. But it takes a good measure of hypocrisy for a Guardian journalist to complain about it given the less than saintly tax affairs of his own stable. Using tax-dodging as a criticism when his own employer is less than squeaky clean really does hammer a great big hole in his over-simplistic "saints and sinners" narrative.

The main problem with Greenslade's "goodies and baddies" story isn't that Facebook is so good (it clearly isn't) it's that the majority of mainstream journalists are not the valiant scrutineers Greenslade paints them as. They're more often than not the repressive cognitive gatekeepers who use 
trivia, distractions, deliberate propaganda and displays of synthetic outrage in order to keep the "lower orders" well away from the ideological castles of the rich and powerful.

The Brexit vote has created a lot of uncertainty (because there was never any actual plan for what it was meant to mean), but one thing about it is absolutely certain: The public are deeply dissatisfied with the status quo. The public are crying out for a change; a shake-up; something radical and different and new.

Whether you like him or not (apparently many people don't) Jeremy Corbyn stands for something new. The most essential change Corbyn is offering is that he wants to prise open the gates of power and allow ordinary people much more access to and influence over the political system and more say in the direction of the economy.

The mainstream media hate Corbyn for this as much as the Westminster establishment club.

The political elites hate Corbyn because they're terrified that he's going to take away some of their power and influence and distribute it to the "lower orders". The mainstream press are intensely and provably biased against Jeremy Corbyn because they are simply doing their jobs as cognitive gatekeepers of the establishment order, and also because they're afraid that cognitive gatekeepers would be much less necessary in the freer and more accountable political system that Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters envisage.

It's obviously wrong to paint all mainstream journalists as repressive cognitive gatekeepers because a small minority of them occasionally do a great job of holding the powerful to account. But many more of are content to do the bidding of the billionaire press barons and work tirelessly to prevent radical change by framing the spectrum of debate against it, and by presenting the public with innumerable distractions and misdirections.

The reason traditional journalism is under threat is not the power of Facebook, it's the fact that so many journalists are missing the bigger picture, or even actively working to obscure it.

People want radical change. People want an alternative to the rotten crony-capitalist status quo that has existed in the UK for the best part of four decades now. To blame Facebook because so many mainstream journalists are refusing to address this yearning for a fairer and better world is a pathetic cop-out.

The Guardian is supposedly the mainstream media bastion of the progressive liberal-left, but it's savagely biased coverage of the huge democratic socialist movement that has risen up in support of Jeremy Corbyn is abominable. How many times have they tried to portray the hundreds of thousands of people who have united behind Corbyn to demand a better, fairer system as a bunch of vile, brick-lobbing bullies and thugs? Long after the tale about the notorious brick through Angela Eagle's window was discredited as a fabrication, the Guardian carried on weaving it into their anti-Corbyn narratives. When the truth becomes irrelevant because it conflicts with the ideological agenda, then what is being presented is no longer news, it's simply propaganda.

Before social media such propaganda narratives were easy to disseminate because there was no forum for the counter argument to take place, but now these narratives can be shredded on social media within hours. Every time the mainstream press attempt to disguise inaccurate propaganda as news, the more they discredit themselves and the more demand they create for alternative news sources to expose the dishonest agendas they're pushing.

In light of all of this, a simplistic "goodies and baddies" story that casts mainstream journalists as the valiant heroes and Facebook as the sinister threat to society simply isn't good enough. The mainstream press aren't essentially good, just as Facebook isn't essentially bad.

For all of it's faults and imperfections Facebook has allowed a guy like me to reach an audience of millions without ever having appeared on the TV or even in my local newspaper. Facebook has given a public voice to the previously voiceless and it's helped the development of a vibrant alternative media that is unafraid to speak outside of the narrow mainstream spectrum of debate.

I have a feeling that this empowerment of non-conformist alternatives to the once closed shop of mainstream journalism is the underhand and unspoken objection that Greenslade and other members of the press pack have to Facebook.

In his article Greenslade even has the gall to accuse Facebook of "narrowing the news agenda" when he knows perfectly well that it's played a fundamental role in widening it and chipping away at the powerful monopolies the mainstream press barons have been allowed to build up for themselves over the decades.

Facebook is allowing ever greater numbers of people to bypass the mainstream media cognitive gatekeepers and search out independent journalists who don't have to toe the editorial line that is dictated to them by the billionaire press barons or opaque corporate owners. Perhaps that's the real unspoken reason that professional hacks like Greenslade feel so threatened by it?

The more the mainstream press continues to present dishonest propaganda as news, the greater the thirst for alternative news sources will become. Blaming Facebook for this is laughable. Facebook is simply the vector by which the alternatives are presented, the real demand for alternatives is created by the dishonesty and cravenness of mainstream journalists themselves. Facebook isn't their enemy number one, they are their own worst enemies and they don't even appear to know it.

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