Off the Hook? By William Bowles

29 August 2003

Well predictably the media here in the UK has, by and large, given Blah a clean bill of health, not because he didn’t lie but because he did such a good job of lying. Apparently, the more articulate you are at the business of dissembling, the more kudos you acquire. This is the ‘post-modern’ world where form takes precedent over content.

And as part of this ‘turning over a new leaf’, Alistair Campbell, chief propagandist for the Blah clique, departs. Amazingly, the Independent manages to speak out of both sides of its mouth on the issue of Campbell’s role in selling the neo-imperialist agenda of New Labour.

Exit the spinmeister” screams the headline (29/08/03) but for a more measured evaluation of Campbell’s role in selling New Labour, we need to turn once more to the ‘paper’s editorial, where under the heading “Now Mr Blair has an opportunity to get on with the real issues of Europe and public service reform” we are told the following,

“New Labour did not simply answer the political need of the moment, after the Conservatives had exhausted themselves, but it also brought a new seriousness to the business of media management. There were downsides to Mr Campbell’s contribution to this new degree of professionalism, but in opposition at least there can be no doubt as to the advantages in clarity and discipline he brought.

His contribution in government, too, was mostly positive. Despite predictable protests from constitutional conservatives, it made sense to have a stronger Downing Street that was more focused on media handling. The “politicisation” of the civil service in the Prime Minister’s office was a recognition of the reality of modern government.”

And more amazingly, the Independent manages to contradict virtually everything it’s editorialised on over the past months. Forget the “neutral” and “objective” civil service that Campbell had allegedly been trampling all over, it now tells us that the “politicisation” of the civil service is the recognition of the ‘reality’ of modern government.

And forget the ministry of propaganda, it’s now “media handling” and “media management” and just in case we don’t get the point, the editorial goes on to say that Campbell had to resign because:

“[T]he Kelly affair began with Mr Campbell.”

So, conveniently, it ends with Mr Campbell? Note that it’s no longer the issue of the lies (or even the “exaggeration”) told over the reasons for the invasion of Iraq but it’s now the “Kelly affair”. So once more, ‘true lies’ take over as the corporate press regurgitates the myth that the issue is one of the ‘struggle’ between the BBC and the propagandists over the ‘sexing up’ of the dossier.

Having cleared the decks so to speak, invading and trashing a country is now as the editorial puts it:

“turn[ing] the corner from a bad case of mid-term blues toward the next election”.

And in a final vindication of Alistair Campbell’s role in selling the war, we read that:

“But he was always much more than a spin doctor. He helped return the Labour Party to the politics of sanity. He helped to run a government whose policy achievements had been considerable, even if not as great as they were pretended.”

With ‘spin’ like this, who needs Alistair Campbell?

Over the Hill?
Afraid what the Campbell ‘affair’ might do to Labour at the next election, the new guy, David Hill, a Labour Party ‘stalwart’ of some thirty years will run the new, revamped “communications structure” where he will be able to “spin with integrity”, at least that’s how he has been described.

Inbetween working for Labour, he took up a lucrative position for Thatcher’s former propagandists, Bell Pottinger Good Relations. Any Labour supporter who thought that there was any resemblance between New Labour and the former party of working people, should surely be disabused by now. In fact, when one looks at the credentials of most of the leadership in front of or behind the scenes, we find that aside from coming from traditional Labour families, all have had the ‘red’ squeezed out of them by being put through the ringer at Oxbridge, emerging whiter than white (in more ways than one) at the other end.

This is the ‘new breed’ of professionals or so we are led to believe. The reality of course, is that this new breed, who in the ‘good old days’ all came from the upper classes, are now the product of a cynical technocratic world, where winning is all, and principle is no longer the guiding force. These are people who would sell their grandmothers for a few extra points in the popularity ratings.

Indeed, the rank opportunism is not limited to the professionals. The so-called left of the Labour Party, are not much better. Take for example a certain Glenda Jackson, erstwhile stage performer turned MP, who has this to say on the passing of Alistair Campbell:

“[Campbell] must be leaving feeling absolutely gutted because he was making his dedication to the Prime Minister clear.”

As far as most in the Labour government are concerned, as Gerald Kaufman, another so-called opponent of the war says:

“The Government will continue and the Government will continue having got this episode out of the way to prosper.”

On the surface then, it would seem that Blah has overcome the problems he confronts, the main one being that of ‘trust’. Ah, if only that were true, for whatever his domestic circumstances, the situation elsewhere ‘spins’ out of control at an alarming turn of speed.

But if we wanted any evidence of this, we have to look elsewhere than the corporate media, as the issue of the increasing destabilisation of the world simply doesn’t figure at all in the corporate press. Indeed, aside from the predictable coverage of the bomb that went off in Iraq killing over 100 people, the crisis of the Palestinian people, Liberia, Syria, Iran, North Korea et al, simply vanishes over the media horizon. So, once more, it’s ‘business as usual’.

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