Media Lens Alert: Some Matter More – When 47 Victims Are Worth 43 Words

MEDIA LENS: Correcting for the distorted vision of the corporate media

July 22, 2008

Bad Form

In his classic work, Obedience to Authority, psychologist Stanley Milgram observed:

“There is always some element of bad form in objecting to the destructive course of events, or indeed, in making it a topic of conversation. Thus, in Nazi Germany, even among those most closely identified with the ‘final solution’, it was considered an act of discourtesy to talk about the killings.” (Milgram, Obedience to Authority, Pinter & Martin, 1974, p.204)

The same “bad form” is very much discouraged in our own society. One would hardly guess from media reporting that Britain and America are responsible for killing anyone in Iraq and Afghanistan, where violence is typically blamed on “insurgents” and “sectarian conflict”. International “coalition” forces are depicted as peacekeepers using minimum violence as a last resort.

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Deep in the capitalist doo-doo By William Bowles

18 July 2008

“The current market jitters are centred on disturbances in the world’s credit markets. Worries about the viability of sub-prime mortgage lending have spread around the financial system, and the central banks have been forced to pump in billions of dollars to oil the wheels of lending.” Financial crises: Lessons from history‘, Analysis By Steve Schifferes Economics reporter, BBC News[1]

Thus runs the opening para from the BBC’s missive (written in September 2007) on the ‘credit crisis’. The piece purports to explain a series of economic meltdowns going back to the 1860s, but explanations of why these periodic collapses occur there are none. One has to read very carefully between the lines to gain some inkling of what links the crises together: in a word, speculation, but the word gets mentioned only once in the entire piece, in relation to the Crash of ’29.

“After a huge speculative rise in the late 1920s, based partly on the rise of new industries such as radio broadcasting and carmaking, shares fell by 13% on Thursday, 24 October.” (ibid)

“Speculative rise” ? “Partly” ? What’s the other part? Conveniently, we are not told.

Contrast this with the huge investment in Internet companies toward the end of the 1990s, which too was caused by speculation in what investors then thought was a license to print money (note the parallel with the 1920s, one that is not made by the BBC nor it must be noted, with the latest and most severe of crises):

“During the late 1990s, stock markets became beguiled by the rise of internet companies such as Amazon and AOL, which seemed to be ushering in a new era for the economy.

“But in March 2000, the [Internet] bubble burst, and the technology-weighted Nasdaq index fell by 78% by October 2002.” (ibid)

78%, that is to say, over three-quarters of the value of hi-tech stocks was wiped out almost literally overnight. “Beguiled” ? What kind of an explanation is this? The key sentence in the BBC’s “˜explanation’ is:

“But the Federal Reserve, the US central bank, cut interest rates throughout 2001, gradually lowering rates from 6.25% to 1% to stimulate economic growth.” (ibid)

But making money cheaper by lowering the interest rate only fuels inflation. ‘Growth’ may well occur but it was achieved by increasing the credit debt and devaluing the money supply which sooner or later would bite the hand that fed it.

In fact, aside from the ’29 Crash, the piece, which uses six examples scrupulously avoids any mention of the central role not only of gambling (or speculation) but of the crucial role of government in propping up a bankrupt capitalist system. Instead, state intervention in the market is described as the “central banks” that is to say, ‘socialism’ for the capitalist class.

Speculation played an enormous role in the latest crisis but was not the underlying cause, rather it is a symptom of the system brought about by the falling rates of profit which could only be solved (in the short term) by the complete deregulation of the financial sector, a process initiated in the 1970s which enabled retail banks to operate like commercial investment companies (using ordinary depositors money rather than investors).

Deregulation opened the floodgates of speculation that started with the Savings & Loans companies which were the first to go belly-up back in the 1980s. Billions were stolen and a vast bailout by central government followed. (See ‘Bush Family Connections: Silverado Savings & Loan Scandal‘ and ‘Bush Family Connections: The Family That Preys Together‘)

Words like “jitters” “worries” , and “central banks” pepper the piece, innocuous descriptions of fundamental contradictions that underly the latest “disturbance” . Thus the BBC would have us believe that the fundamental problem is caused essentially by what the marketeers call ‘sentiment’, that is to say, individuals who fear losing money. But come on folks, is this any way to run an economy, on the subjective feelings of a bunch of parasites?

According to the BBC, the following are the ‘lessons’ to be learned from past financial crises:

  • Globalisation has increased the frequency and spread of financial crises, but not necessarily their severity

  • Early intervention by central banks is more effective in limiting their spread than later moves

  • It is difficult to tell at the time whether a financial crisis will have broader economic consequences

  • Regulators often cannot keep up with the pace of financial innovation that may trigger a crisis. (ibid)

It’s not only a brilliant piece of double-speak but it also tells us nothing about the underlying causes of periodic crises. Take the first ‘lesson’:

“Globalisation has increased the frequency and spread of financial crises, but not necessarily their severity”.

Oh really? The million-plus people who have lost their homes in the US or the food riots in over forty-seven countries and the rising unemployment are not severe enough for the BBC?

“About 8.5 million Americans actively seeking work are unemployed, an increase of about 21.4 percent over one year ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The unemployment rate of 5.5 percent is up from 4.6 percent a year ago. More important, about 1.5 million of the 8.5 million unemployed have been unemployed at least six months, a 37 percent increase over the past year, according to the BLS. Not included in the numbers are the “1.6 million people who are ‘marginally attached’ to the workforce, who had looked for work in the previous 12 months, but not in the last month,” according to Andre Damon of Global Research. Damon also reports that the BLS data does not include about 420,000 ‘discouraged workers’, who had given up looking for work because they think that there is no work available.”  ‘US: It’s Still the Economy, Stupid‘, By Walter Brasch

‘Early intervention’?
What, like Northern Wreck or Fanny Mae and Freddy Mack in the US? The sheer irrationality of the BBC piece is revealed when it tells us that a “It is difficult to tell at the time whether a financial crisis will have broader economic consequences” . A crisis by its very definition is something that is far-reaching in its effects but obviously the BBC has a different definition of the word.

And just in case we still don’t get it, the final ‘reason’ that, “Regulators often cannot keep up with the pace of financial innovation that may trigger a crisis” is pure dissembling. After all, in theory the entire point of ‘deregulation’ was to get government off the backs of the financial sector and let the ‘market’ do its thing.

“Innovation” is BBC-speak for deregulation which led to speculation, thus avoiding the fact that the financial sector has been “˜deregulated’ for almost thirty years, during which period there have been four major financial crises each with disastrous consequences for millions of people, so to say that the regulators can’t keep pace with innovation is simply a lie of grand proportions (see Silverado above).

What emerges is the fact that the BBC’s ‘analysis’ is nothing more than a clever coverup that masks the fundamental contradiction of an economic system that operates to make a tiny handful of people disgustingly wealthy by stealing from working people. It ignores the fact that such periodic crises are intrinsic to capitalism and the result of nothing more than the pursuit of private profit regardless of the consequences.

Note

1. Also of interest is why this article, which is getting on for a year old, is listed as an important link to its piece ‘Banking rally boosts US markets‘, dated 16 July, 2008, especially so given the current reality which bears no resemblance to the “˜analysis’ (any more than it did when it was written) but then the BBC hedges its bets by telling us that “It is difficult to tell at the time whether a financial crisis will have broader economic consequences” , a finer piece of double-speak is difficult to find.

The BBC only gets away with this kind of rubbish by completely ignoring any analysis that proposes an alternative cause for the periodic crises of capital, over-production/under-consumption, falling rates of profit, competition, loss of markets and so forth.

High Culture — Low Values By William Bowles

11 July 2008

I was raised in a working class family. My father was a full-time trade union official for the Musicians Union and my mother, before she became a full-time ‘housewife’, had been a chorus girl working in pantomime and a member of the Tiller Girls (the Brit version of The Rockettes) and during WWII she worked in a factory making bomb sights at Fry’s Diecasting where she campaigned on behalf of the female workers for equal pay (in the face of opposition from the male-run union). Not exactly typical of working class life but definitely of it.

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MEDIA LENS ALERT: NEWS INTERNATIONAL THREATENS MEDIA LENS WITH LEGAL AND POLICE ACTION

MEDIA LENS: Correcting for the distorted vision of the corporate media

July 10, 2008

On June 28 and July 3, Media Lens received repeated threats of both legal and police action from Alastair Brett, legal manager of News International’s Times Newspapers.

Noam Chomsky described the threat, pithily, as “pretty sick.” (Email, June 28, 2008) David Miller, professor of sociology at the University of Strathclyde and founder member of Spinwatch (www.spinwatch.org), commented:

“The response from the Times is an absolutely outrageous attempt to bully and censor you. It is not – unfortunately – surprising though, as the Murdoch empire is determined to attempt to snuff out those voices which try to bear witness to the truths of our age. Those that unmask naked power will be targeted by the Murdoch empire and its hench people. Maddox is the latest in a long line and is evidently a well networked member of the political elite – being a governor of the shadowy Ditchley Foundation. It is simply laughable that sending emails to complain about her distorted coverage constitutes harassment. Frankly, the drumbeat for war with Iran, to which she adds her voice, is much more like harassment, but of a whole nation. Its consequences are already more deadly serious for the people of Iran than any amount of emails from Medialens readers.” (Email, July 8, 2008)

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Five Years On By William Bowles

7 July 2008

It’s over five years since I started publishing InI (and not coincidentally, since the illegal and disastrous invasion of Iraq) and it’s been a struggle to keep it going not only because of the cost of maintaining it but also because I’ve kept it going single-handed throughout this entire period. Not that I’m complaining but it does wear one down especially as the situation goes from plain bloody awful (March 2003) to absolutely disastrous and income from readers is virtually nil.

And without blowing my trumpet too much, InI has grown into a vast source of information for anyone interested in what’s going on in the world, so much so, that even on a ‘bad’ week, InI still gets around 120,000 visits and almost 170,000 pages read.

Keeping up an optimistic view of things gets more and more difficult for me to maintain in the face of a capitalist system determined to carry on regardless of the consequences.

But it would appear that events have finally come to a head:

“It is been proposed by a group of British geologists that the Holocene Age is over and that the new era should be named the Anthropocene Age to reflect the clear commencement of human induced geological change.” ‘The Anthropocene Age‘ [1]

According to the research, the average temperature of the Earth during the Holocene Period (about 10,000 years to the present) fluctuated by only one degree centigrade and tellingly it’s during this period of relative climate stability that we witnessed the rise of modern humanity. Good sense dictates that the two are not unconnected.

Whilst we survived on a bounteous Nature but without upsetting the four billion years in the making, homeostasis, things looked generally positive. And then about five hundred years ago, in Europe, along came capitalism and everything changed.

Looking back on the age when Marx wrote his magnum opus, Capital, it’s not difficult to see why he felt so positive about the direction that humanity almost seemed impelled to take. Science and technology, when under democratic control by an informed citizenry, is a progressive force “” when working in harmony with both man and Nature, able for the first time in human history to satisfy all our basic needs and thus free us to pursue our own, personal development.

But if anything, Marx underestimated the power of Capital to keep on reinventing itself after every catastrophe it created and it’s because it has to keep reinventing itself by revolutionizing production in ever more “˜efficient’ forms (efficient here means using less and less labour power thus greater profits) and in the process, consuming ever greater quantities of pretty much everything in the insane drive for profit.

I can only assume that Marx himself assumed that before capitalism chowed the entire planet in its inexorable drive to keep recreating itself, humanity would have taken charge of its own destiny, tossed the money lenders out and got on with the business of living rather merely consuming.

Am I wrong in assuming this? The 20th century saw immense changes, many for the better in spite of the global wars of destruction unleashed by capitalism and for the first time, the possibility of a real alternative to capitalism came along.

Alas, it didn’t survive but clearly the idea is not only alive but at least in some parts of the world, actually flourishing, but not in mine and indeed as the contradictions of capital become ever more extreme, so does the struggle to maintain a system that is obviously dangerous to both man and beast and possibly the existence of our species.

It presents us with a dilemma for without overthrowing capitalism, the countries determined to make a clean break with the past are forever on the defensive, fighting for every inch in the face of overwhelming odds.

Ultimately, it comes down to us in the so-called developed world to do something about it, yet we seem in the thrall of capital even as it screws us down into the ground as the latest crisis to befall capitalism reveals.

“Stop wasting food” “” Gordon Brown

And let’s not beat around the bush, the crises, which get worse with each iteration, are wholy the fault of capitalism. And the ruling elites answer to the latest crisis reveals just how bankrupt (and desperate) they are:

“Britons must stop wasting food in an effort to help combat rising living costs, Gordon Brown has said en route to the G8 summit in Japan.

“Mr Brown said ‘necessary’ purchases were contributing to price hikes, and urged people to plan meals in advance and store food properly.” ‘Stop wasting food’, urges Brown’

Unnecessary purchases? But the entire point of capitalist production is rooted in “unnecessary” purchases of just about everything, it’s what keeps the entire system staggering along.

For example, the UK Cabinet report criticises the tactic of supermarkets offering ‘buy 2, get one free’ alleging that it contributes to the waste, yet increasing consumption is the holy grail of capitalism, it’s called ‘growth’.

By questioning the sales tactics of supermarkets, the government inadvertently exposes the sheer lunacy of capitalist production based as it is on nothing other than consumption for the sake of profit. Are Brown and his crony advisors really claiming that throwing away less food will reduce the cost of it? Is he completely insane?

Yet the BBC along with the rest of the corporate media take this kind of drivel seriously.The BBC story from which the above quote is taken reveals the complicity between the media and the state in hiding the true state of affairs from its citizens.

Buried away in one of a number of stories on the BBC Website which allegedly “˜explain’ the cause we find the following fact under the heading “˜Long era of cheap food is over’,

“But the increased interest in agriculture also has a downside, as “non-commercial traders” – speculators in normal language – have come into the agricultural commodity market.

“Apart from drought, speculation was the other factor named in the report as being responsible for the record highs and the recent volatility in markets.

“From 17% in 2005, their share of the futures market rose to 43%.”Long era of cheap food is over’

No mention of course of the role of futures trading speculators in energy, the root cause of the current “turbulence” as the BBC describes it elsewhere.

Yes, consumption will fall because people won’t be able to afford to buy the basics needed as indeed they already are (check the financial pages for the numbers on the high street, eg ‘Service sector adds to UK gloom’).

The question is, for how much longer will we allow our ruling elites to get away with what is finally the mass murder of literally millions of poor people around the planet because of capitalist policies? Perhaps when our poor start dying of starvation and hypothermia in numbers that are too large to hide away behind all the double-speak?

Addendum:

Just came across this snippet on Media Channel:

BEHIND THE FOOD CRISIS

“Guardian story titled “Secret report: biofuel caused food crisis”:

“Biofuels have forced global food prices up by 75% – far more than previously estimated – according to a confidential World Bank report obtained by the Guardian.

“The damning unpublished assessment is based on the most detailed analysis of the crisis so far, carried out by an internationally-respected economist at [the] global financial body.

“The figure emphatically contradicts the US government’s claims that plant-derived fuels contribute less than 3% to food-price rises. It will add to pressure on governments in Washington and across Europe, which have turned to plant-derived fuels to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and reduce their dependence on imported oil.”

The BBC’s Website also mentions the effect of biofuels on the cost of food but paints a somewhat different picture. Under  the title “˜Blame game’, we read:

:Yet the exact ranking of responsibility for the food price rises which have caused political unrest in 30 countries and plunged many into hunger is hotly disputed.

“No-one denies that biofuels have a role, but the figures on the sector’s inflationary pressure vary wildly from just 3% to 30%.” ‘Bioenergy: Fuelling the food crisis?’

The BBC, long the master of the subtle use of language to twist reality, inserts the seemingly innocuous phrase “hotly disputed” , but hotly disputed by who? Why the US of course.

Note

1. For an overview see Holocene