The rhetoric of chattering classes disguises anti-worker bias in limited news

August 30, 2011

When the ruling class feels strong and the political leadership of the labour movement is corrupt to the core, a political paralysis descends on the parliamentary wing of the working class intelligentsia.
The constant chattering about the so-called “chattering classes” deafens us to the hardline surge now underway in Australian public life.

One of the worst offenders is the new enfante terrible in the Murdoch stable – imported stable bully-boy Brendan O’Neill. He is a serial offender when it comes to to trash-mouthing the so-called chattering classes. In harness with the dreadful Bolter, O’Neill is gung-ho for intellectual-bashing, public sector trashing, culture wars scorched-earth pollicy-wielding plonker.

O’Neill is even described as an “ex-Trotskyist” on The Australian’s website. Fuck-that-for-a-fucking-joke. The Murdoch mandarins love to dress up their tame spouters as ex-lefities. It plays to their prejudice and their perceived audience. It also silences any idea that the op-ed pages are not Foxified – that is “fair and balanced”.

The Australian's new "ex-left" attack dog

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Academic, Media & Religious Freedom ~ Not ~ in Fiji

August 28, 2011

by Dr Mark Hayes

Update, September 4, 2011 ~ This Post started out as something else, but, over the last week of August, 2011, it morphed into a major, running, UpDate on developments in Fiji, several currents of which seemed to coalesce with very worrying speed and intensity. Most of it was written over August 27 – 31, with some tweaking and a few extra links added, until September 4.

I also know this Post has been read in Fiji, as well as more widely.

I won’t update this Post again, but will link to it as relevant in any future Posts on the general topic of Fiji, of which there will be more when events there suggest it and I decide I have something useful to contribute.

Of course, the Comments section remains active and I welcome any comments, which will not be censored (aside from normal, journalistic, editing as to clarity, legals, and taste).

Original Post continues -

I started to compile a more comprehensive wrap on recent developments in Fiji – more attacks on unions, the media, the Methodist Church – but then things started moving so fast on several fronts that I gave up, and will get to the bits and pieces, with much more context, in due course.

Scroll down for material on More Fantasy and Nastiness in Fiji, traversing the latest round on the Fiji regime throttling the Methodist Church, more on how media freedom is also throttled in Fiji, how the University of the South Pacific throttles academic freedom, continuing raids on the Fiji National Provident Fund, and insights into Fiji’s justice system under the military dictatorship.

Why Civil Resistance Works

A long anticipated and exceptionally valuable study, Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict, by American scholars, Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan, has landed on my desk. This is formidable and very thorough scholarship of the very first order which assembles and analyses a vast amount of historical and contemporary data to show, about as conclusively as this kind of research can do, that nonviolent direct action is much more effective at removing dictators, supporting democracies, and challenging domination than armed resistance or terrorism. That’s a huge claim, to be sure, and their work deserves a very close read, which I’m doing now.

You can get a feel for the book from this article, published in Foreign Affairs by Erica Chenoweth on August 24, 2011, and this earlier article, by Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan, “Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict.” International Security 33, no. 1 (Summer 2008): 7-44 (172 k PDF).

As well, I’ve been watching an excellent documentary on the impacts of global warming on Kiribati, The Hungry Tide, which has added to my collection of material on this crucial issue, has been doing the rounds of Australia’s film festivals recently, and brought back acute memories of my trips to Tuvalu where I’ve seen, and reported upon, the same kinds of effects.

More recently, Australia Network Television’s Pacific correspondent, Sean Dorney, has been to Kiribati to report on frustrations experienced from global warming’s front lines as they try to access mitigation funding and assistance pledged after the Copenhagen conference. His reports, including one on Radio National’s Correspondent’s Report for August 20, 2011, have been outstanding.

Sean Dorney’s Australia Network Television News Kiribati story ~ August 8, 2011

But, Memo to the always terrifying ABC Standing Committee on Spoken English (SCOSE) – Please come for Correspondent’s Report presenter, Elizabeth Jackson, for two broadcasting sins. Firstly, she mispronounced the name of the place ~ Kiri-bas ~ and not Kiri-bati. Secondly, she did so twice, in the introduction to the story, and again in the backannounce, clearly demonstrating she didn’t listen to the story she was presenting, in which the reporter pronounced the name correctly. Back in my days at the ABC, we’d be flogged in the car park for such gross violations of SCOSE directives!

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British judges are Laura Norder’s sock puppets

August 20, 2011

How utterly absurdist, outrageous and unreasonable to jail two young men for ‘inciting’ a riot through Facebook.

Jordan Blackshaw, 20, and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan, 22, were given stiff jail terms in northwestern England on Tuesday for using social networking sites to “organize and orchestrate” disorder during the recent UK unrest.  [More in The Guardian]

The judges have meted swift ‘justice’ to these unfortunate saps; supposedly this is in line with British public opinion. It certainly reflects the tub-thumping Colonel Blimp rhetoric of David Cameron and his Tory rump.

It’s doubtful that John Cleese and the Monty Python crew could produce a more biting satire than this real life episode. Well, they probably could, remember “Upper Class Twit of the Year”?

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Consumerism by other means: #UKriots, burning Babylon and #neoliberalism

August 14, 2011

Guest post by Dr Wayne Hope

Identifying the “causes” of major civil disturbances is always difficult, there are so many to choose from. Even the mundane vagaries of the weather have to be taken into account. Nearly all urban riots of recent vintage happen in the summer, hot sultry evenings are ideal, and it  seems that rain has, of late, dampened the spirits of enthusiastic rioters in the Midlands and northern cities.

In fact one might plausibly argue that without the typically dreadful English weather, riots would be more serious and happen more often. The underlying and proximate cause of urban rioting have been festering quite nicely in Old Blightly and I for one am not the least bit surprised over recent developments .

If we start with Tottenham, police racism, police brutality and a police culture disconnected from local communities is a perfect Molotov cocktail to set things going. Such was evident in the Afro-American race riots of the 1960s and the Parisian riots of 2005.

There are many other examples; a spark to set off the cocktail is all that is needed.

Now, it also true as the Tory press and politicians have tirelessly pointed out that thugs and “yobbos” have joined in the action. These outgrowths of Cameron`s “broken society” belong to postcode gangs who have formed alliances of convenience to loot, take on the police and cause mayhem.

This has echoes of the “Babylon’s burning” era of the late 70s and early 80s, since then 20 years of neo liberalism have embittered a new generation of  white and non white gangs. No suprises there. Out of this general milieu there were also, without doubt, disturbed individuals who gained immediate pleasure from burning out cars, smashing plate glass windows and torching buildings.

And then we had the pilferers, “illegal shoppers” who just wanted to grab stuff because, well, it was cheap and armfuls of trainers and iPads are are tidy little earner, covertly on Facebook or down  at the markets. This was the spirit of self reliance and entrepeneuralism that politicians from Margeret Thatcher to Tony Blair have been trying to promote. To put it another way this was consumerism by other means.

As far as I could see the illegal shoppers and their accomplices covered quite a wide demographic, some were black dispossessed youth, others were  low to middle income people of both genders who were relieving the frustration of not being able to afford the relentlessly advertised fashion items and electronic goods. Still others ,of more comfortable means enjoyed the thrill of it all. I agree somewhat with the conservatives on this matter, there has indeed been a breakdown in social ethics in British society.

However, I must point out in the strongest possible terms that ethical breakdown is endemic at ALL levels of society from the bonus swilling tax avoider and financial speculator propped up by powerless taxpayers to the political classes of in the Commons and Whitehall lining their pockets with the baubles of office; to the media elites who hire professional privacy invaders to hack the communications of anybody they choose in order peddle defamatory lies and half truths for a tidy profit.

With these shining examples of cynical self interest  why not join in?

It’s bloody obvious innit, everybody’s out for what they can get. And then there is the nihilism ,the purposelessness of bored youth. I saw them during my last visit to London, in Camden Town, hundreds of them just hanging about after 1am, waiting for nothing to happen. So then, what has been the establishment’s response?

I think we saw it in a newsphoto from Clapham of a young blonde woman standing among a group of angry gentrified Clapham residents,they were out to clean up the mess with their brooms, the young woman wore a teeshirt which said “rioters are scum”.

So here we have the preconditions for the next riot, “them and us”, class war, batten up the hatches and let’s continue with our strategy of systematic social exclusion and seclusion of the better off.  More police, more security guards more electronic surveillance and lots of finger pointing. Cameron`s “broken society” thesis is not far off the mark.


#londonriots Looking for answers in the wrong places

August 10, 2011

If you want to know what’s really behind the rioting of the last few days in London and half a dozen other UK cities, all you need to do is understand the social dislocations, anger and cynicism that tell the real story of the numbers:

Unemployment statistics in Britain are sadly vague, but a reasonable estimate of youth unemployment just in Hackney is 33 percent.

The figure is from Michael Goldfarb an NPR correspondent who lives in the Hackney area. He goes on:

What happens after the rioting subsides is difficult to predict. Entry level jobs are in short supply these days, and as the government’s austerity measures begin to bite here, it’s not likely to get better any time soon.

Why London exploded last night

Unfortunately, I haven’t heard many commentators (liberal or conservative) talk about this. Instead we get lines like this

This type of coverage is not helpful

[anchorstooge] Many commentators say youth unemployment is behind the riots but [insert name of expert] from [insert name of rightwing thinktank] believes its just a bunch of sodding criminals who’ve been pampered too long by the nanny state

[expert, speaking in posh condesending tone that fits his double-barrel moniker] These young people come from intergenerationally dysfunctional families and they have a hand-out mentality. They don’t have to work, they just get pregnant or go on the dole. They are work-shy gangsters and by-the-way most of them are black, but we won’t mention that.

That type of commentary – criminalising the young rioters and blaming them for their existence – is underpinned superficial coverage (like in a warzone) by anxious-looking mainly white correspondents standing alongside police barricades in the early afternoon and vox-popping the gawking public.

It is stenographic churnalism of the worst order. It’s not good, but it’s understandable. The black, brown and poor white communities of the UK and elsewhere get almost no coverage of their daily lives. They live in estates surrounded by poverty, only able to secure low-wage jobs (if they can get work) and they live hand-to-mouth, day-to-day.

But then I found this little gem, recorded straight from the TV, but it’s brilliant.

I was pretty gobsmacked that Piers Morgan tweeted that the rioters should be treated like terrorists and shot, but it isn’t really that surprising. I guess it is his gall, under fire for phone hacking, and trying to rehabilitate his dusty image.

Then Darcus Howe pops up and gives the clearest and most eloquent defence of young people in the UK today. It is shocking when he mentions that Mark Duggan’s head was blown off by the police bullets. That’s yet to be tested, but the BBC anchordrone is clearly rattled and she should be.

Howe has a grand dignity and he let’s her know well and truly.

Fantastic remedy to the wall of BS.

Howe is right, it’s time to start listening to these young voices, but more importantly give them a future without random and constant police harrassment and give them work or education. Sure, many of these youngsters may be unemployed, but some are not. Some are also probably students who took part in other recent protests in the UK. They are not terrorists. But the Daily Star‘s front page is typical of what the British press is saying up and down the country.

The point is that the reasons behind what’s happening are complex and the broadcast media in general and TV in particular has so far not done a great job of analysing the causes. Instead it seems that large sections of the British media have fallen in behind David Cameron’s dangerous police-state rhetoric.

I’ve only heard one black voice on the radio (in Australia admittedly) making the absolutely valid point that all reporters need to consider. He said something along the lines of:

If the media is going to call this “mindless” violence, then it also has to ask the question: What makes these young people mindless?

He’s absolutely right. Part of the problem here is the news value of proximity. I don’t just mean physical proximity to the riots, but also social and cultural proximity and affinity between the reporters (mainly middle class and educated) and the ruling class. That’s why the very same correspondents who were four months ago covering riots and large protests in Cairo were telling a very different story to they one they’re telling about London.

In Egypt the media dismissed Mubarek’s ravings about rioting gangsters and focused on making the young people in Tahir square into revolutionary heroes and martyrs.

The lives of young men and women in Hackney is not that different to those of the same young people who so bravely chased off the (now) evil Mubarek regime.

The same root causes underlie both situations. The difference is that in Hackney the local political culture is completely flattened under media-driven consumer lust. The same issues and desires motivate the youth, their expression takes a different form.

Two other young black voices I heard on the radio this morning sum this up very well. Two women (17 and 18) were vox-popped. They had taken part in the night’s rampage and at 9.30 in the morning (Tuesday in London) were still in the street drinking from a bottle of wine they had looted. They’d been drinking all night and described what they’d been doing as fun.

But the telling comment they made was that the real target of their anger was “all the rich people”. That’s a pretty good gut instinct and it’s ultimately right. Unfortunately, these two women saw the local shopkeepers as representatives of these rich people. That’s a mistake, but it really only masks a deeper sentiment that does go toward explaining their anger and their sense of joy at the destruction they had helped to cause.

It was, in their view, no doubt an attack on the system that oppresses them.

That’s why the politics of this are so important.

Now the backlash will begin and it will be fuelled by racism. The Milwall fans who were supposedly defending their turf were all white and most likely target recruits for the English Defence League which recruits off the terraces (if not already members).

If the media continues to swallow and promote the spin from Downing street and the political establishment it will give the racists heart and the situation will get worse – a lot worse – before it gets any better.

The heavy police presence and aggressive pattern of arrests that will now rain down on Hackney and the other suburbs where disturbances occurred will only add fuel to the fire.


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