28 August 2003
Blair, Campbell, Goebbels and the Word
As the state is increasingly exposed as fraudulent, so the media has created a barrier that absorbs direct attack by deflecting criticism into the ‘nooks and crannies’ of the management of the state machine. How it does this is revealed by the nature of the relationship between the state and the media and the use of language, where the grammar and syntax becomes critical to the process of persuasion.
Much has been made of how the Hutton ‘inquiry’ has ‘exposed’ the workings of the government, which I suppose on one level is true, at least in the Machiavellian meaning of the word exposed.
On the other hand, dissembling, buck-passing and sleight of hand not only on the part of the politicians and the civil servants, but critically on the part of the press, reveals a sophisticated smokescreen that masks the real issues. Issues that the media has reduced (diminished) to a couple of words: trust (of the government) and exaggeration (of the alleged threat).
Trust: belief, confidence, faith, reliance, dependence, assurance, certainty, stock, security
Trust: confide in, believe in, depend upon, rely on, esteem, presume
Trust:responsibility, duty, obligation, liability, commitment, charge, guardianship
Today’s edition of the Independent (28/08/03) is a textbook example of how issues can be made to disappear David Blaine style:
“What was the Prime Minister hoping to achieve with his dossier on Iraq’s weapons capability? How closely did he follow its compilation? How closely did he follow the dispute with [the] BBC and how much of what subsequently transpired, including the the suicide of Dr David Kelly, occurred as a consequence of his orders?”
Given the dossier’s publicly stated centrality to the propaganda war waged by Blair’s government in order to convince an extremely skeptical public, one would have thought that the Independent would have at least tried to answer its own question. Instead, the issue of what Blair hoped to achieve with the dossier is left hanging, indeed it’s not mentioned again in the editorial except in reference to Hoon. Instead it offers us the following,
“Especially, we have learnt that everyone and no one was accountable for the events before Dr Kelly’s death. Which is why it is no one other than the Prime Minister and nothing less than his way of governing that are on trial today.”
The editorial goes on to say:
“”Downing Street”, we have learned, intimated its approval or its disapproval by almost imperceptible means…. Was there anyone in command, responsible, or was there a vacuum at the centre of power?””
So as far as the Independent is concerned, the issue of lies and propaganda simply doesn’t exist. Instead we are being led to believe that nobody was in control, it’s all down to ‘management’ or lack thereof and Blair’s “way” of governing?
By way of a consolation prize we are offered defence secretary Hoon’s head on a platter instead. But even here, the Independent performs another sleight of hand with the truth by offering us the following incredible reasoning:
“If Mr Hoon’s answers are to be taken at face value, he had almost nothing to do with the Iraq weapons dossier. He took part in almost none of the close conclaves…on the dispute with the BBC. He was not apprised of statements or advice issued in his ministry’s name, nor did he know of Dr Kelly’s reputation as a weapons expert…. If this is true, perhaps we should be asking what exactly the Defence Secretary was paid to do.”
So, as with Blair’s ‘action at a distance’, we are being led to believe that once more, it’s all down to ‘management’ or lack thereof. Our ‘lack of trust’ if it is to be excercised should be confined to how the government manages the affairs of state. It’s all down to Hoon not doing his job!
What this line of reasoning surely reveals is the complicity of the media in ‘not rocking the boat’ of state. That when push comes to shove, the ruling political class and its employees, the press, close ranks.
The Independent’s editorial abounds in the very things that it implies (but never actually states); that the government is doing, namely dissembling and evasion.
Exaggeration: overstatement, colouring, caricature, fancy, embellishment, aggrandizement, fantasy, embroidering, boasting
The existence or otherwise of WMDs is and has been the driving rationale behind literally everything the government has done. Either they exist or they don’t.
Instead, the reasons for the invasion are reduced (diminished) not to whether or not the UK had the right (or the law or even justice) on its side, but whether or not it exaggerated the reasons.
The Independent doesn’t even mention this at all. Instead we get this:
“The Prime Minister was “aware” of Dr Kelly’s name. How much responsibility does “awareness” imply” These questions probe not just the style, but the essence of Mr Blair’s government, and they need to be answered.”
Aware: apprised, informed, advised, notified, familiar with, enlightened, appraised, apprehensive, conscious of
Essence: basic nature, nature, essential quality, core, gist, pith, sum and substance, spirit, basis
Of course, the Independent doesn’t even attempt to answer this question. What we get instead is:
“The very fact that he [Blair] was shocked into calling this inquiry, however, and the fact that he immediately agreed to give evidence in person, signify a greater failure.”
And the nature of this “greater failure”? We are not told. Instead, as yet another consolation prize, we are handed Alistair Campbell’s faux pas:
“It was grim, grim for me and grim for TB [Tony Blair], and there was this huge thing about trust”.