Picture of a judge's wigThe Judge RANTS!Picture of a judge's wig

Date: 16/11/20

"It's The Puppet Show!"

The way in which the departures from the service of Downing Street's resident killer clown of two advisers - Lee Cain and Dominic Cummings - has been reported by Official Media™ is not merely annoying (indicating how widespread has been the infiltration of the utterly superficial 'Gosh, Wow!' tone of showbiz reportage into far more serious matters), but troubling for what it indicates about the underlying attitudes and assumptions of those whose job it is - at least in their own telling of it - to inform the citizen-subject-consumers of Outer Gammonia what its (for certain values of 'its', of course) rulers are up to, ostensibly in their name.

For the events of the last week have been presented in the breathless, vacuous style of the gossip columnist, or of that poor creature in every 'news' outlet who is detailed off to summarise the latest twists in what passes for 'plot' in the soap operas which have for years provided the calcium-deficient backbone of the television schedules. So it is that we are treated to serious, indeed solemn, descriptions of how beastly Dom had been to Allegra, and how Carrie had manoeuvred her boyfriend into kicking Lee out of the house. Where do Carrie and Boris go from here? What will Allegra's right-wing boot-boy husband do to Dom? Who is that man lurking in the shadows with the semi-synthetic Scottish accent, and what is he telling the leader of that Australian crime syndicate? Will the Relief Of Barnard Castle be short-lived?

Confused? You will be after the next episode - indeed, after every subsequent instalment - of Dopes.

For the purposes of mere entertainment, such an approach might be valid, if grating. For the purposes of information, however, it falls at the first hurdle. After all (as someone pointed out), nothing at all has actually changed: the vicious, smirking Patel is still at the Home Office illegally deporting citizens to countries thay haven't lived in since they were infants; the shambling Hancock is still waffling his way through a pandemic which has had a far more lethal effect on his country than on any other in Europe; the billionaire Chancellor Sunak is still threatening to leave millions penniless in a few weeks' time; Rees-Mogg still looks like a Lord Snooty Novelty Pencil Case; and the heretofore mentioned Killer Clown is waiting - like Lord Derby - to bear the impression of the next arse to sit on him.

There are serious issues to be covered. So why aren't they being treated as such? Indeed, why are they scarcely being treated at all?

Part of this is down to the immature nature of those who term themselves 'political journalists' nowadays, as I have already suggested: the tendency in the direction of outright Glendaslaggery in their tone and style; the willingness to be used as conduits for what those in power want to get out (and as equally complaisant gatekeepers for what they emphatically don't want us to know); the way they delight in being the channels for infighting and personal vendettas within parties; and, most damningly of all, how they all too often seek to make (or even be) The Story, rather than dispassionately report what is actually there.

It is, of couse, a given that they will also mindlessly reflect to greater or lesser degree the ideological biases of their editors and/or proprietors, and to a degree which would have raised eyebrows in previous generations, when it was not particularly unusual for political editors or columnists to hold underlying views somewhat at variance from that of the people paying them (something which is now only really seen in the Guardian's giving of regular space to Simon Jenkins to pass himself off as the Last Surviving Concerned One-Nation Conservative).

But that only accounts for what used in more primitive times be called the 'print media'. What we have now is the same phenomenon showing itself overtly in the broadcast sphere as well, despite the supposed legal requirement for 'balance' or 'impartiality'. Whether it is Kuenssberg helping to engineer the timing of the resignation announcement of a obscure shadow minister in order to create maximum embarrassment to the Leader Of The Opposition just before Prime Minister's Not-Answering-The-Fucking-Question Time, or Peston installing himself as Boris Johnson's suppository during the last elections to the Imperial Parliament, the inability - or even unwillingness - of the modern class of political hack to put their own personal views to one side and provide analysis of what is actually happening has done, is doing, will continue to do, great damage to democracy.

For democracy can only function when the public - yer actual voters - are properly informed. If that state of informedness is not there, if there is no real means by which they can determine what is really happening and why, then they will be ready prey for the raptors of disinformation which constantly circle them like vultures waiting for an already half-eaten carcass to be left abandoned by the original predators.

That this is not merely a 'concern' but something to be genuinely alarmed about can be evidenced by the events of the last six or so years alone: the result of the referendum in Scotland in 2014; the result of That Fucking Stupid Referendum in 2016; the election of Donald J. Fart-Euphemism later that same year; and the result of at least two of the last three general elections. All may be attributed in large measure to the promulgation, amplification and dissemination of versions of events which were, to varying degrees, at odds with observable reality. So it was that the people of Scotland were told that rejecting independence would lead to a new era of respectful treatment from Westminster; that the people of the whole of Ukania were informed that liberating themselves from the mild yoke of international co-operation would bring about huge new opportunities for them (foreign travel not included); that the peoples of the Untried Stoats of Amnesia were assured that electing someone who was outside the usual circles of political corruption would conclude in a draining of the Washington swamp; and that the future Good Governance® of the Untied Condom could only be guaranteed by trusting it to the same people who had fucked it over in the first place.

But why is this being done?

The very short answer is, "Because it works". Manifestly so.

The next-shortest answer is because it - like celebrity gossip, professional sports and other liens on the limited time and energy we have in life - provides a successful and powerful distraction from what is really being done (ostensibly for us, but far more frequently to us) by those set in power over us. By either providing an alternative narrative which needs only to be slightly plausible, or by drowning out any attempt to delineate the real causes of events in a sea of consumer-orientated static, those with political, commercial and media power can manipulate the thoughts (and, more frequently and effectively, the emotions) of those they rule to a sufficient degree to make that alternative universe where black is white, up is down, war is peace, and Labour is a credible opposition party seem real enough to enough people in order to shake them all down for votes, money or clicks, and to provide a disincentive for people to worry themselves over what the power centres of our wretchedly-abused planet are actually up to.

As I said, it works. Remember the Unaoil Scandal of 2016? No? I wonder why that could be? That a story about the deeply-corrupt behaviour of ruling élites in 'friendly' states could be so easily buried when big-splash coverage of something similar involving official enemies (including the Icelandic prime minister!) was deemed warranted tells us a lot about the process and the intent behind it.

Which is why the celebritisation of politics here in Greater England is being used to obscure the increasingly-clear fact that this state not only encourages malfeasance up to and including outright grand larceny by means of that Grand Fenwick of commerce the 'City', but is also a major actor in utter corruption in its own right.

The most obvious examples around us at the moment are the awarding of contracts in and around provisions regarding the pandemic to companies which frequently have little experience in providing the products or services sought; or have little experience of anything, having started trading only within the last twelvemonth; or (in the case of both of these categories) are owned or led by relatives of government MPs or even ministers, or by friends of same, or by donors to the party funds.

That these contracts can be put in place - almost invariably without advertisement or formal tendering - is down to the huge powers granted to government ministers by the enabling legislation which went through parliament all but on the nod at the start of the 'panic' phase of policy development back in the early Spring (as the official 'opposition' bent in its customary supine capitulation to its own assessment of public perception - as in, "Oh shit! What will the Daily Mail say?" - or indulged in more of their principled and courageous abstentions).

That such powers were likely to be abused was inevitable, given the nature of the people granted them. That they have been abused, and abused six ways from the origin (as I think one of 'Doc' Smith's Lensmen put it), is clear beyond any possibility of doubt.

But despite such obvious criminality, and the cheerful admission - more, in fact, of a boast - on the part of government that they are breaking the law in refusing to release information to the public on how the public's money is being dished out (which is why it has been left to individuals and small groups of citizen-subject-consumers to have to resort to the courts - while they still can, because Plans Are Afoot to neuter their authority as well - to get the government to obey the law), the level of media coverage has been - like the Unaoil case - minimal in comparison to the story's significance, and it is this which demonstrates how debased and corrupt political journalism here has become. I cannot help but wonder what the reaction of some of the great political journalists of the previous eras - Alan Watkins, Hugo Young, John Cole, to name but three - would have been to this story. It wouldn't have needed an out-and-out shit-stirrer like the still-greatly-missed 'controversial' (*) journalist Paul Foot to dig away; those gentlemen's eyes would have lit up like Blackpool in autumn and they would have gone after every lead they could find, not stopping until the Guilty Men had been Named.

But because this no longer happens (at least in the Official Media, corporate or State alike), then the corruption can go on festering. It's not that there has been no coverage, you understand; it's just that what there has been has been typified by an uncommonly genteel soft-pedalling. So it is that at least two of the 'serious' newspapers described a level of corruption which would have the Duvaliers, the Marcoses and the Mobutus gazing up in admiration from their various circles of hell as a 'chumocracy'. Oh, how frightfully jolly it all sounds! Just like the annual outing of Big School to Lords, what?

There is already a well-established word for such a well-established thing, and that word is 'kleptocracy'. It's from the Greek, and it translates as 'rule by thieves'. If that's i sostí léxi (as Google Translate assures me is the Greek for le mot juste), then why euphemise it further by such touch-me-not usages as 'chumocracy'?

Because it hides, it obscures, it obfuscates. It covers up the essential truth that we live in one of the most corrupt states on the planet. If you doubt this, then just read the 'serious' sections of any three random issues of Private Eye over the last year or so. There you will find evidence of the most condign (and sometimes actively lethal) corruption at all levels of governance, be it of state, of commerce or of the media.

(This is the main reason - rather than the fake concern for 'journalistic standards' which is given as justification - for the attacks on the newer online news media such as Novara and The Canary, and for the labelling of other English-language media such as RT or Al-Jazeera as suspect because they are 'state-controlled' (as if the BBC wasn't, or as if a large chunk of the output of corporate rags didn't to all intents and purposes control the State).

In 1993, Dennis Potter gave the MacTaggart Lecture at the Edinburgh International Television Festival. In his lecture (which he entitled Occupying Powers), he described the nexus between media and commercial power, describing the web of connections between media corporations and commerce, and how the inevitable consequence of being 'embedded' with corporations had led to a similarly ineluctable diminution of artistic freedom of expression. Add politics to that - and added it certainly has been, with knobs on, in the years since - then we can see the tight weave of overlapping interests between the State, corporate power and media ownership and control. So who can be surprised when the Official Media™ seek to cover up for the unprincipled behaviour of the other two legs of this tripod of transgressors? I don't know (certainly not from personal experience, I can assure you; someone might be unkind enough to enlighten me) whether it is possible to perform a circle-jerk whilst covering each other's arses, but that is what we have in this unhappy and fractious land now. A situation where commercial power effectively owns the government, where that government is endemically, pathologically corrupt, and where the media - owned by the former and the latter, and in constant, cowering, obsequious, quivering fear of both - seeks sedulously to minimise or distract from their misdeeds.

This has developed to so sufficient a degree that such criminality barely disturbs the repose of hoi polloi, readily distracted as most of them are by such deep, searching questions as, "What happened on 'Corrie' last night?", or, "Did you see <insert name of talentless tube-fodder here> on 'Strictly'?".

As a result, there is no outrage, no sense of disgust at the conduct of their rulers. The inchoate rage readily generated in them and turned against official 'others', such as refugees, the homeless and anyone slightly further along the colour spectrum from 'mild permatan' is absent. And Democracy itself may be the ultimate victim. For if it becomes the settled view of the majority of the electorate that not only are politicians 'all the same', but all politics as well - missing the key point that politics isn't just what political parties do - then the degree of dislocation and disassociation from the whole notion of there being a political process will lead to such a degree of removal from any degree of coherence around sets of considered political (used in that broad sense) positions that it will be so much easier for those who wield and wish to retain power to pick such an atomised society off small group by small group, setting one against the others as the exigencies (usually referred to as 'the national interest') require.

Whilst that tendency is allowed to grow - and, indeed, augment itself unchecked - to such a degree, then the cliff-edge gets nearer and nearer, and there will be nothing to cushion the fall, only the rocks and rubble left from the deliberate destruction of public accountability of those in power; a destruction initiated, expanded and - one fears - brought to completion by a coalition of self-regarding, self-protecting and utterly selfish elements at the very top who believe (in, one hopes, error) that they will be safe from the forces unleashed from such events.

It's getting dark out there, and it's not because of the time of year.

(* For a useful exegesis of what that word means when applied to journalists, I recommend this piece from Media Lens)