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I wrote and submitted the following piece weeks ago, on the 14th of March. The Huffington Post – who I’ve written for on and off over the last 8 years – refused to publish it. When I emailed them (twice) to ask why, I received no reply. The contempt and indifference they have for their writers is staggering. Writers, without whom their “for the exposure” profit extraction model, could not exist. Unfortunately, this is a rant for another time.
The period immediately after Skripal exposed (once again) the flimsy quality of our democracy, the limits of our “free and open society” and the cowardice of our brave and intrepid “free press.” A range of media, ranging from the increasingly discredited BBC, to the eternally discredited Daily Mail, have demonstrated a tour de force in the wilful promulgation of State propaganda.
Scepticism has not been permitted. Credulity to the all-powerful British executive was expected and willingly adopted by the media, on both right and ‘left’ of the political establishment. Those who cautioned to show the mildest degree of restraint before we bellicosely cast accusatory aspersions at Russia were called “Russian stooges” and “Kremlin apologists.”
But hey, thank goodness we don’t live in an oppressive country like Russia, where the state dictates the truth and the media are forced to comply….. Although, in the UK, media seemingly choose to comply. Not only did they comply, but seemed to proactively publicly police and admonish those who dared to deviate from it. Surely this is far more disturbing?
Yet today’s revelations (Tuesday the 3rd of April) have highlighted that the medias servility to the May Government’s account at the inception of the crisis – as many of us cautioned – was unfounded. In doing so, they gifted her a Falklands moment, based upon a dubious evidential rationale.
Porton Down have stated categorically that they could not directly attribute the so-called nerve agent to Russia:
This is in direct contradiction to what the paragon of truth, Boris Johnson, originally asserted on behalf of the government.
And so, in light of the above, now seems a good time to return to my original article with the full benefit of hindsight. I hope it reveals, once again, that scepticism of the state when it makes such bold claims with significant repercussions for our national security should be the medias default setting, not the exception. They have again fallen foul of the “Shock Doctrine”: fallen into suspended animation, and grovellingly turned to an agenda laden state for truth when they should have been finding it for themselves. This sceptical failure is all the more incredible considering the government in question are buried in a steaming heap of scandal and failure they’d be happy to escape from.
Our brave media have proven to be the real stooges of state power.
Note: the following was written on the 18th of March and was not published by the Huffington Post
Salisbury May Yet Be Corbyn’s Finest Hour
Russia may yet be proven responsible for Salisbury, but the vociferous defence of the government’s allegations, despite a lack of evidence, has demonstrated what historian Mark Curtis describes as, “a remarkable obedience to authority”, both by the media commentariat and the political establishment.
Scepticism should be obligatory in the post-Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan era, yet once again it is conspicuous in its absence. Despite a context of recent foreign policy disasters, the government still has the audacity to demand unwavering fealty to its conclusions. Further, it is insisted that we place a religious faith in the accounts of intelligence agencies; agencies historically tainted by their routine use of deception to facilitate desired foreign policy objectives.
Predictably the media have formed an unthinking mob of Dad’s Army, war-ready, jingoists. Against this tied of vocal reactionaries – front and back – stands, once again, Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn, “the traitor”, but who inconveniently for his critics, is a Foreign Policy Nostradamus, whose bloody predictions have been vindicated time and again. Instead the media prefer the judgements of the same New Labour cheerleaders of the aforementioned blood baths, the so-called “moderates” and “centrists” who Owen Jones aptly describes as:
“…splashed across the media as statesman, as sensible hard-nosed individuals who understand reality…..”.
The media just don’t get it.
Almost a year has passed since Corbyn slapped the Westminster nexus round the face with a big wet fish, yet the Salisbury saga again highlights a fundamental inability by media to understand the seismic shift Corbynism represents – namely the public’s preferred dove foreign policy – and shows again how out of the sync the media are with this reality.
Like so many others, I came of age during the Iraq war. As a clueless 15 year old, I recall shouting support at the TV as death rained down on Baghdad. I later discovered that the BBC had carried ten pro-war voices for every one anti, so perhaps my youthful jingoistic exuberance was inevitable. The subsequent revelations of systematic lying by government, intelligence, military, media, the mass deaths, the wasted resources, and the terrorism it subsequently unleashed, has embedded in me, and many of the public, a deep distrust of state power (a principle you might expect Conservatives to sympathise with….).
Of course, every subsequent foreign policy event we are assured is nobler. “Yes, Iraq was terrible Josh, but Libya is different” I was assured by liberal friends at Warwick University. We then proceeded to destroy the country, created a staging ground for ISIS, and unleashed a refugee crisis that helped dismember the EU.
Those of us who stood firm during such times were maligned as ‘cranks’, ‘apologists’ ‘naïve’ etc…just as we were when we stood by Corbyn prior to the election, isolated against a barrage of conventional wisdom. The alienation many of us were wrongly made to feel during this period has created a strong affinity for Corbyn’s unapologetic principled stance and within us an uncompromising defiance of state narratives even in the face of an onslaught of mockery.
Corbyn’s reluctance to embark on foreign adventures and his deep scepticism of elite agendas should surely be the norm in any functioning democracy.
As such, contrary to the beliefs of blowhards like Chuka Umunna, Liz Kendall, and the falsely labelled “centrist” John Woodcock brigade, Corbyn’s cautious approach to Russia is far more aligned with public opinion, conservative even. My advice to such war mongering “centrists” is to tread carefully: such figures in the Labour Party are again highlighting their fundamental incompatibility with the new Corbyn era, and their residual allegiance to the Neo-Imperial Foreign Policy of New Labour. Their latest insurrection against Corbyn’s leadership on Russia may yet prove another significant milestone in their further alienation from the party membership – in short, they have no future.
So Salisbury is yet another revealing and disturbing moment in British political life. Our idealised fantasy of an open democracy, a free press, plurality of opinion, the celebration of scepticism and dissent, has once again come crashing down after colliding with energetic demands for mass conformity by those in power. It reveals that on matters of foreign policy, the hive mind amongst elites still prevails. Deference to executive authority seems to be sacrosanct and etched in stone during such times, yet it is exactly during these fluid periods of uncertainty, when so much is at stake, that irreverence and scepticism are essential . As Laura Kuenssberg revealing stated on the BBC 10 O’Clock News:
“It’s tradition that the two parties stick together when it comes to foreign policy”
She was referring of course to the government and the opposition, but she could have just as easily meant government and the media.
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