Don’t Look Now, But The Zeitgeist Is Shifting. By Andrew E. Hall
JARRING autonomics … medullas assaulted in multi-various ways, mostly made to prime the pumps of pompous plutocrats
History Channeled into colourised versions of Hitlers and Himmlers and Görings / and gore / as if seeing it in black and white wasn’t bad enough
As if monochrome mania isn’t quite capable of hitting a home run in our sensorial sitting places …
… where news is a muse for stockmarketeers: voyeurs of slips and slides, rises and falls, of raids / hostile and otherwise / on homes, on histories
Hagiographers stylin’ Jobs and Buffett / Lindsay Lohan, for chrissake / buffeting the little ones, cajoling always:
This is real
This is REAL
And you are not
… it speaks to your agoraphobic solitude
Turn it on
It’s good for you they reckon …
… if not, why do programmers dote on disasters and diabologies?
Fear keeps you here / militates meretriciously in movement of mind and body / in private places you are wont to visit / in your timidity / in your lack of tolerance / in your totalitarian tripping of the switches that terminate lives, dreams, desires
Frissions of static concocted to line silk purses: the mirrored sows’ ears of sojourns never undertaken because we, too, are static
We are too static … while statisticians reveal us in all our vainglory
In all our laziness …
That said, how’re you guys doing?
If you were in New York would you be occupying Wall Street or having a Tea Party?
In Los Angeles, London, Cairo, Damascus, Bahrain, Sydney and Melbourne where people have set up camps in prominent places – sometimes harassed by paramilitaries, sometimes killed by them – the cry of “we’re mad as hell and we’re not taking it any more” has gone up. Are you a bit cross too?
“Socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor” … has been laid at the door of bureaucracies and banks and brokerages. At the feet of dictators and democracies alike. Because when the big boys get into trouble they get bailed-out, while middle and lower layers are left to the tender mercies of the market.
What does it all mean?
Whatever it is, a social upheaval is happening around the world, ably assisted by on-line social networks and other mod comms. Perhaps as a pushback against more traditional media formats, people are taking the information environment into their own hands and using it to organise. To protest. To portray the plutocracies as detrimental to even-handed sociopolitical management. To call to account the people who prop up corrupt and corrupting corporations and at the same time let the “little people” bleed all over themselves.
There have, of course, been abuses perpetrated by protestors as evidenced by the riots in London and other parts of England in 2011, which left many a small business devastated and destitute.
Have we reached a socio-cultural Rubicon?
Has the “top end of town” finally gone too far in its rapacious self-interest?
Or are the protesters missing something about the trickle-down effect of extreme wealth – a rhetorical question because there isn’t a scrap of evidence to suggest that this Thatcherite/Reaganite concoction actually exists. Have they not quite understood that power structures are necessary hierarchies – yes, they’re not silly; they merely question governments’ tolerance of abuses of corporate power. And lack of compassion for “lesser” mortals.
Owners of the means of media production appear to be pushing back against an increasingly skeptical public – fear-mongering on a grand scale in an effort to keep people in their place/s. Governments too.
A case-in-point is that during November 2011 the US government “revealed” – by way of the media – a new war plan for the containment and conquest of … China. As if they haven’t got enough on their plates with Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s always good to have an(other) enemy though – someone to kick when the chips are down domestically.
The reporting of this new “Cold War” approach to Chinese expansionism … wait a minute … say again! Please, I’m not hearing right. Surely I’m not reading right. Please tell me I’m losing my faculties!
“The plan calls for preparing the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps to defeat China’s ‘anti-access, area denial weapons,’ including anti-satellite weapons, cyber-weapons, submarines, stealth aircraft and long-range missiles that can hit aircraft carriers at sea.
“Military officials from the three services told reporters during a background briefing that the concept is not directed at a single country. But they did not answer when asked what country other than China has developed advanced anti-access arms.
“A senior Obama administration official was more blunt, saying the new concept is a significant milestone signaling a new Cold War-style approach to China,” The Washington Times reported.
Barack Obama, what are you thinking?
The Chinese have been paying your debts for ages, and now you want to add to the X-trillion-dollar deficit by getting them to pay for your Pentagon to come up with a plan about how to shoot the shit out of them?
Dude, I used to think you were cool …
Is your only saving grace, now, that the political forces arrayed against you domestically are completely bonkers?
In keeping with the conservative owners of The Washington Times (founded in 1982 by the Unifying Church of Sun Myung Moon), the Murdoch media empire propagandises plights of peoples as if they were merely so much grist to his imperial mill – so that all that is left is a black and white bellyache about notions of left and right, wrong and right.
“… and when his gorgon-headed scandal sheets present their daily bytes … to give the righteous news believers drugs to keep them white …” says singer/songwriter Roy Harper (although not about Murdoch in particular, or loony-tune Moon).
Rupert Murdoch’s own mother, Dame Elizabeth, describes her son thus: “To understand Rupert, to truly know him is to realise that he’s just a businessman. And there’s no morality in business.”
Thanks Liz, you might have warned us!
Neo-con cons and their loyal lobbyists connive to capture powerful partisans who leave behind mutilated middle classes (the socio-economic engines so critical to maintaining sustainable consumption and economic growth).
On the natural history channels it’s all sharks and nazis; hillbillies and hobgoblins; riots and rampages … guns and more guns. Hollywood is obsessed with violence as a rational solution to just about any grievance.
More moderate – one might suggest, objective, small-“l” liberal – news organisations struggle against the tide to provide some form of accuracy and balance while fending off take-overs and tradeoffs. There are still some “good guys” out there who take their membership of the Fourth Estate seriously, responsibly. But they’re a dying breed.
The term Fourth Estate is attributed to British parliamentarian, Edmund Burke, who in an address to his fellows in the latter half of the 18th century said:
“There are three Estates in Parliament, but in the reporters gallery?yonder, there sits a fourth Estate more important, far, than they all.”
The three estates he referred to were the Lords Temporal, the Lords Spiritual and the Commons. The Lords Temporal and the Lords Spiritual combined being The House of?Lords – the upper house of parliament, – while the Commons is the British lower house.
Across the Atlantic at roughly the same time the third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, said:
“No government ought to be without censors and where the press is free, no one ever will.”
I wonder what he might think if he was alive today in the wake of the ongoing saga surrounding the illegal activities of Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World tabloid (outlined in the previous issue of The Yak).
And in a moment of prescience, in a letter to George Washington, he also said:
“I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around [the banks] will deprive the people of all property until their children wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered. The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs.”
The issues surrounding good governance (versus capitulation to captains of industry), corporate excess, media complicity, and the events exemplified by the Occupy movement are inextricably intertwined.
Where is the “free” press (see also the other commercial media) when one man who heads what has been called – by the founder of Crikey.com, Stephen Mayne – “the most powerful family in the world” owns so much of it?
Carl Bernstein – who made his reputation when he and Bob Woodward revealed the Watergate cover-up, which led to the downfall of Richard Nixon – recently wrote:
“The hacking scandal currently shaking Rupert Murdoch’s empire will surprise only those who have willfully blinded themselves to that empire’s pernicious influence on journalism in the English-speaking world. Too many of us have winked in amusement at the salaciousness without considering the larger corruption of journalism and politics promulgated by Murdoch Culture on both sides of the Atlantic.
“All of this surrounding a man and a media empire with no serious rivals for political influence in Britain—especially, but not exclusively, among the conservative Tories who currently run the country …
“Murdoch associates, present and former—and his biographers—have said that one of his greatest long-term ambitions has been to replicate that political and cultural power in the United States …
“… (T)hen came the unfair and imbalanced politicized “news” of the Fox News Channel—showing (again) Murdoch’s genius at building an empire on the basis of an ever-descending lowest journalistic denominator. It, too, rests on a foundation that has little or nothing to do with the best traditions and values of real reporting and responsible journalism: the best obtainable version of the truth. In place of this journalistic ideal, the enduring Murdoch ethic substitutes gossip, sensationalism, and manufactured controversy.”
It’s no wonder that droves of people eschew the mainstream media in favour of on-line informational environments. In the past we might have been able to argue that there is an inherent danger in this because these spaces lack the filters – the checks and balances – that have existed in the traditions and values referred to by Bernstein, for over a century. But ethics in journalism have been swept aside to accommodate the profit motive and shareholder value-adding. No different, really, to the banking and (other) business sectors.
So how do we, the people, get a handle on what’s really going on in the world we all share?
Again, I turn to the ongoing “seismic” (Bernstein’s reference) events surrounding the News of the World criminal investigations and parliamentary inquiries – because it is a poignant metaphor for what motivates the Occupy movement/s. And the Murdochs can no longer hide behind their influence peddling. In a sense the British parliamentarians (and those who are considering convening similar bodies in the US and Australia) involved in the inquiries have (unwittingly) allied themselves with those who are demanding answers from global corporations and the governments that have spent untold amounts of taxpayer money to bail them out – in lieu of their CEOs’, CFOs’, COOs’, (and their lawyers’), at best, “misguided” decision-making.
Heir apparent to the Murdoch empire, James, last November appeared for the second time before a British parliamentary inquiry where he faced tough questioning about his knowledge about illegal activities (that have not been denied, but profusely apologised for) in the company he heads, News International.
Labour MP, Tom Watson, put it this way to James Murdoch:
Watson: Are you familiar with the term Mafia?
Murdoch: Yes Mr. Watson.
Watson: Have you heard the term “omerta” [the Mafia code of silence]?
Murdoch: I’m not an aficionado about such matters.
Watson: Would you agree with me that this is an accurate description of News International?
Murdoch: Frankly that’s offensive and not true.
Watson: You must be the first Mafia boss in history who didn’t know he was running a criminal enterprise.
But millions upon millions consume his father’s products.
Here’s an interesting – and fairly depressing – exercise for you to carry out in your spare time (if you’re an average worker with a family to look after you probably don’t have enough, so you’re excused):
Do a straw poll of everyone you meet and determine how many of them watch Fox versus how many prefer, say, America’s PBS or Britain’s BBC … it’s an insightful and accurate guide to their characters (or how easily their characters can be manipulated). Second only to the ultimate character guide: how a person parks his or her car …
Enter Julian Assange who has been tagged “the most dangerous man in the world” because he has a knack with computers and uses them to find and publish information that various governments and corporations would rather not see in the public space.
Personally, I would award the “dangerous” epithet to another (former) Australian whose surname begins with “M”. But that’s just me.
At the time of writing Assange is awaiting extradition from the UK to Sweden to face sexual assault charges, but the website (along with a bunch of mirror sites) he founded, Wikileaks, continues to offer up information that would otherwise be “classified” by the government/s and corporations that manufacture it.
Wikileaks’ April 2010 release of a video shot through the gun sight of a US Apache attack helicopter while it strafes and kills Iraqi civilians and a Reuters news crew – to the delight of the chopper’s crew – was a spectacularly sick example of what authorities would prefer us not to know.
Of course States must have their secrets, as much as corporations, likewise, must keep certain information confidential – it’s about maintaining competitive advantage (and avoiding embarrassment when things go pear-shaped). There are freedom of information clauses written into most democracies’ legislative structures but the process of extracting information from governments about things they’d prefer to keep to themselves through FOI requests can be protracted and cumbersome. Corporate hierarchies are, generally, impervious to FOI requests.
The Reuters organisation, for instance, has been trying, without success, to gain access to the gunship footage from the US government through FOI since it appeared on Wikileaks. Presumably because if the footage remains in the realm of information gained from “unauthorised” sources, there remains a certain degree of “deniability” – as opposed to being granted legal access to the same information which could be used in a law suit against the government in question.
Not surprisingly, numerous conservatives in the US have dubbed Julian Assange a terrorist and have even called for his death …
“We should treat Mr. Assange the same way as other high-value terrorist targets: Kill him,” conservative columnist Jeffrey T. Kuhner wrote in The Washington Times.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology emeritus professor, and long-time political activist, Noam Chomsky has expressed support for Assange and called the conservative depiction of him “outlandish”.
“ … one of the major reasons for government secrecy is to protect the government from its own population,” Chomsky said in an interview with the Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman.
Australian ethics professor at Princeton University, Peter Singer, (who has also expressed support for Assange’s methods) has said greater transparency has some bad consequences but that:
“… a climate of openness makes it more likely that governments and corporations will act more ethically.
“In a world in which terrorists have committed atrocities and threaten to commit more, to seek complete government transparency is utopian …
“Sometimes it is possible to do good only in secret. Yet on the whole, a more transparent community is likely to be a better one – and the same applies to a more transparent world.”
And regarding the warrant for Assange’s arrest in Sweden, he has attracted a, perhaps, surprising supporter in the form of longtime feminist activist, Naomi Wolf, who mocked Interpol’s desire to arrest and charge him, satirically ‘thanking’ the organization for “engaging in global manhunts to arrest and prosecute men who behave like narcissistic jerks to women they are dating”.
“Thank you again, Interpol,” she wrote at the Huffington Post, “I know you will now prioritise the global manhunt for 1.3 million guys I have heard similar complaints about personally in the US alone — there is an entire fraternity at the University of Texas you need to arrest immediately.”
All this ballyhoo would be rendered redundant if the media in general, and working journalists, in particular, had stuck to the time-honoured traditions of (legal) truth-seeking; if they had remained faithful to the ethical guidelines upon which their profession was founded. If their collective conscience had rejected the subversion of their craft by big business and its bosses.
I know, I know, pie in the sky wishful thinking. And, at the end of the day, why should you believe anything I have to say on these issues. I freely admit my biases – if you haven’t picked up on them already. I’ll leave notions of objectivity for another day – it’s tricky.
Feel free to occupy my garden – I’ll make some coffee …
So, are the people in the Occupy movement merely a bunch of anarchists who protest for the sake of protesting or are they making a valid point in the only way they see that point can be made – given the paucity of our “legitimate” informational environment?
Is the Tea Party a valid organization that should be replicated outside the USA? Or is it a sclerotic group of tax avoiders that has been accused of being subverted by “the evangelical thought police”?
I tend to the latter myself on that one because their social agenda is notably lacking in … well, anything.
Are the two movements simply the idealistic opposites of one another – one tokenly “left-wing” and the other undoubtedly the darlings of the right? So the media can present them both in the same grab or column, in some feeble attempt at “balance”?
Why are such comparisons drawn in the first place?
Thanks for asking … it’s because we have an enduring desire to put (other) people in pigeonholes. It makes it far easier to write them off if what they represent doesn’t happen to accord with our own beliefs.
Will the Occupy movement, in and of itself, produce a more just and socially equitable world?
The jury is still out in respect of the Middle Eastern occupations.
But I fear not.
As Montreal’s The Gazette reported recently:
“Don’t look now, but the zeitgeist is shifting. Maybe it was the Occupy camp that elected a border collie as its leader, or the death of a 23-year-old woman in Vancouver of a drug overdose, or reports of an alleged sexual assault in Philadelphia, but the occupation has been steadily losing its cool.
A month after tent cities sprang up throughout the Western world as sympathetic satellites of the Occupy Wall Street movement, authorities are impatient and calling the cops …”