24 May 2005
Give him his pap.
There’s no more pap.
HAMM (to Nagg):
Do you hear that? There’s no more pap. You’ll never get any more pap.
I want me pap!
Samuel Beckett’s ‘Endgame’
On May 23, we had an entire day without the BBC’s blanket non-coverage of important events due to a strike by the three main unions over threatened redundancies. A blessing in disguise? Well maybe… And if I may strike a totally au contraire view of the BBC’s plans for the future, perhaps laying off a few thousand comfortable pen-pushing peons for the state is long overdue? After all, without the complicity of those who prostitute themselves in return for a pension, perhaps they could put their hard-won skills to better use?
No doubt I’ll get dumped on for voicing the above but what the hell. Does not a single one of them, when perusing the flood of reports they no doubt receive (but never use) have even a single twinge of conscience about the fact that their masters instruct them to lie about the massive and on-going destruction of life and limb taking place in our name? A war crime of monstrous dimensions that should have all of us throwing up and throwing up our hands in collective horror at the scale of it, let alone that their job is to hide it all from those who pay their fucking wages!
By way of contrast, for decades, the very same people assailed us with tales of woe about how various and sundry authoritarian states manipulated the news to their own advantage, ‘forcing freedom-loving’ journos into doing their bidding, until freed from the jackboot of the secret police etc, they were ‘free’ to manipulate the news for a new master. Well what goes around, comes around…
MediaLens, in yet another missive detailing the mis/non-reporting of the atrocities committed by the ‘coalition of the killing’, continues in its ever so polite manner to assail the hacks who operate on behalf of the British state. All good stuff no doubt and all power to them for doing what the bulk of British journalists should be doing but ain’t, namely taking the voice of the British state to task for its litany of lies. But then, it’s not as if the BBC is doing anything new, it’s been doing the job of pushing the state line for decades and extremely successfully until quite recently, that is.
What it does succeed in continuing to do is present a façade of objectivity, more through how it presents the news rather than the content per se. But most important of all is the fact that no matter how many missives MediaLens hurls at the managers or the number of letters sent by irate listeners/viewers, all it need do is ignore them, something it’s really quite good at doing and it has the advantage of costing the taxpayer absolutely nothing. Cursing Helen Boaden (firstname.lastname@example.org), or Mark Thompson, BBC director general (email@example.com), or Michael Grade, BBC chairman (firstname.lastname@example.org), will, in all likelihood not even warrant a ‘thank your for your comments’ response, unless of course, they were to get thousands of such letters. Well, we live in hope…
And no doubt, with all due respect to the hardworking folks who produce the MediaLens critiques, it is rather like a gnat biting an elephant. And believe me, going through all the tripe the BBC pours out 24/7 is not easy. It’s time-consuming and soul-destroying for anyone with a conscience let alone a political axe to grind, to meticulously vet the Goebellian newsspeak these hardworking journos prepare for public consumption.
By contrast, on TV Channel 4 (24/5/05), ran an exposé (’Dispatches’) of how New Labour ‘spun’ the ‘news’ (see ‘Lies, Damn Lies and Labour’) during the ‘election’ campaign, engineering fake public demos, mass-producing letters to the Editor from alleged members of the public but in reality, mostly from paid (and unpaid) hacks of the Labour machine. A refreshing change from the usual diet of house/garden/body/lifestyle/sex/ makeovers that the Brit public seem to avidly consume in lieu of a real life. (see also this week’s ‘SpinWatch’).
What then, is the responsibility of the journalists who work for the BBC for the content they manufacture? And in what way does it differ from the hacks who peddled the Kremlin line or Saddam’s for that matter? Aside from style, not much really but then, style is all when there’s little in the way of content.
No doubt the proposed ‘down-sizing’ being advocated by the British state of its propaganda machine is due in no small part to the fact that the computer and the Internet has made the job of ‘manufacturing consent’ literally a manufacturing process, obviating the necessity for so many expensive, university brainwashed pros. No doubt ‘boiler-plating’ the ‘news’ can be performed under the direction of a handful of ‘spinmeisters’ and a small army of suitably trained simians, conditioned, Pavlovian-style, to push the right buttons on a keyboard. Isn’t progress wonderful, and think how much money it saves for yet more ‘makeovers’ and fake history programmes.
Yet, I must return to the subject of the responsibility of those who prostitute themselves on behalf of a criminal state. At what point does covering up the crimes of the state become too much to bear? Is it really good enough to argue that they have mortgages to pay and expensive, private schools to send their kids to? At what point does one’s personal responsibility, never mind conscience, kick in? Are we all so fucked in the head that there’s a rationale for any action?
If, as those of us who engage with the media on a daily basis argue, the media is now the main weapon of social control, then surely we have reached a point that is a step too far? What will these self-same pros do, when they wake up one day and find that their ‘nice’ neighbourhood is under a ‘lock down’? When it’s too late to protest even if ever so mildly and ever so politely?
Whilst the state with the active collaboration of the media tells us that we must accept responsibility for our actions, what of the responsibility of those who serve up the lies? We, on the left, are at great pains to make a distinction between those who serve and those whom they serve, yet so great is the power of the media to transform reality that a handful of individuals now wield immense power, as individuals. The media’s handmaidens have become ‘celebrities’ in their own write, so much so, that making that fine, ever so fine distinction between master and servant has all but dissolved.
Mr Galloway, are you proud of having got rid of one of the very few black women in Parliament? – Jeremy Paxman, BBC ‘Newsnight’
I quoted from one of my favourite playrights and plays, Samuel Beckett’s ‘Endgame’, at the beginning of this piece, the theme of which is; who is the master and whom is the servant? Judging by the performance that Jeremy Paxman delivered on ‘Election’ night, when interrogating the unfortunate George Galloway for defeating that pimp of the imperium, Oona King, the erstwhile Condi Rice of New Labour, it seems that there really is no difference between master and servant, they are now one and the same thing. Samuel Beckett would, no doubt, be quite proud of Paxman’s ‘performance’.
It’s my job to be provocative – John Sweeney, BBC ‘news’ meister
As I was informed by another flacking hack of the BBC whilst in Blackburn recently, as he interrogated another unfortunate victim of the ‘war on terror’, a recently released prisoner of Guatanamo, and who I dared challenge for the way he attempted to set him up by asking him “why are you supporting Craig Murray, he isn’t a Muslim?”, I was informed that it was his job “to be provocative”. All pretense at news gathering or seeking after the ‘truth’ has been dumped as surplus to requirement. These pimps of the imperium are shameless in their display of power and in their sheer arrogance, seeing themselves not merely as messengers but as the message, bringing an entirely new meaning to the phrase ‘the medium is the message’.
But of course, the lure of money and celebrity status is powerful medicine, especially for people who would have been, in a previous age, nameless, faceless backroom boys and girls, beavering away on behalf of their paymasters in some cramped office on Portland Place. Now they travel the world, they have ‘access all areas’, courtesy the taxpayer. These are the new aristocracy of our times, wielding power formally the exclusive province of diplomats and overt politicians. Hence, they should be treated as media mercenaries, contract cameras, who consider themselves as not answerable to us, mere mortals. Their job is to sell us the New World Order. Of one thing we can be sure, that when the BBC ‘downsizes’, the Sweeneys and Paxmans have an assured future, their jobs are not on the line.