Politics, Police, Power.
In the world of British media and political power, questions always present, but not often addressed – like the unspoken disappointments and tense resentments in a bad marriage – are erupting with all the dignity of flung crockery bursting out of windows and paint-stripper poured over a spouse’s car as they flee to the home of their latest bad choice.
Can the severing of the bond – the divorce of two so symbiotically-linked playas, media and political power – be looming?
Don’t you believe it.
Not for one instant.
Managing – massaging – public opinion has always been central to the obtaining and holding of power – even back in the day when your spin only had to be a convincing enough shaman dance to persuade the rest of your tribe that going to club-in the heads of your rivals would please the gods and bring better hunting, or convincing your vassals through some faux-piety that running their swords through the yeomen of the neighbouring county was pleasing, even to God.
What chance, then, of shaping and mobilising that crucial commodity of public opinion in an age in which persuasion is your only tool, and political-correctness-gone-mad prevents your lieutenants from using the historical method for recruiting the men of a village, the simple expedient of burning down a couple of houses with the warning that this will be done to all of them (by the ‘enemy’, naturally) unless all stout fellows help you kill the neighbouring robber-baron so that you, instead, can gather the tithes from his peasants? Why, with God’s help and victory, back in those days, you may even not have to raise quite so much tribute from your vassals.
But no – in an age when it takes some kind of Churchillian effort at inspiration to make people set aside the pizza box and the four-pack of Stella to get off the couch long enough to register to vote, those who would wield power need – absolutely need – every scrap of publicity, persuasion, threats, lies, omissions, distortions, propaganda, funfair-barking, beguiling hucksterism and grifter hackery to be found, swarming around, out there – in the market-place of influence.
Politicians of all stripes, who are now fleeing the contagion of Rupert Murdoch and News Corp, are running, whimpering and tearful into the arms of the Guardian, the Telegraph, the BBC and Channel 4 News – seeking, there, a respectable relationship to replace the indentured whoredom into which they sold themselves – stripping, laying back – and thinking of the million votes that would be theirs once Mr. Murdoch – urges satisfied – clicked his fingers and delivered to them the approval of an audience conditioned into thinking there is something important – and newsworthy – in celebrities snorting coke, vicars shagging their congregations, and the waxing habits of lesbian soap-stars – edifyingly revealed through up-skirt camera shots.
Publicity, image, spin – call it “news”, if you will – is power.
Political party ‘A’, could be the biggest accretion of villains since FIFA – and political party ‘B’ could be decent, brave and competent. But if political party ‘A’ are in that mutually beneficial power-relationship with the media – then it is political party ‘A’ that you will vote for – along with most other people – and which will be elected. And if you protest ‘no’, you ‘have more discernment than that’ – then you do indeed posses the IQ of a Sun reader.
Political party ‘A’ will be depicted to you, and everyone else – week in and week out – as a marvellous, far-sighted organisation – comprised of paragons of virtue – and guaranteed to make the value of your home and your wages increase. By way of contrast, political party ‘B’ will be exhibited as a divided, chaotic, incompetent, “dangerous” shambles, which will wreck the economy if let anywhere near the reins of power. And, of course, should party ‘B’ look like getting close to winning an election, then the ‘dirt’ – kept in reserve as a kind of media-baron’s insurance policy – will be shovelled on a few prominent members; affairs here and there, the odd unsavoury acquaintance, a bit of election expenses fiddling, cheating at golf, that kind of thing.
The fact that senior figures in party ‘A’ have been taking massive bribes into BVI trust-funds from arms manufacturers, investing in the sale of crystal-meth in Utah, and paying rent-boys to tie them up and defecate on them – will not damage your opinion of party ‘A’ – because you will never get to know of such habits and practices.
At least, that is, for as long as party ‘A’ carries on remembering what is good for it – and the policies of government continue to suite the purposes of the media Bosses – and their advertisers. For should party ‘A’ get above its station, and start thinking that it is the real foundation of power in the country – its leaders will be made an offer they can’t refuse. One which will see their poll ratings sleeping with the fishes – quicker than you can say “back to basics”.
But the manoeuvres of the media need not be quite so outré, at least, not on a day-to-day basis. There is a whole armory of weapons to choose from – ranging from the minor and subtle – such as only giving three paragraphs on page 15 to the launch of your major policy initiative – all the way up to those photos of your party Chairman sniffing coke from the buttocks of a Bangkok lady-boy.
Fascinatingly, one of the things that makes the influence of modern media so powerful, is just how infrequently the hacks have to resort to lies. Although the thing that, occasionally,
attracts a lot of attention – amongst the many tactics of the press, such as prominence – terms – omissions – pitching
– framing –
straightforward lies are the rarest and least of it.
One of the most relevant truisms of media and PR, is that old reference to the “oxygen of publicity”.
Fewer more effective ways exist of artificially shaping and rigging political dialogue, than simply giving no publicity at all, to people, arguments – evidence
– that might cause the very ground to shift beneath the feet of the two “opposing” factions you have trained so well – as they go through their charade of “disagreement”, as obediently
as performing dogs. When you have put so much time and effort into framing the issues in such a way that both political parties support the under-regulation of your business empire, and support policies that allow you to dodge hundreds of millions of dollars in corporate tax each year, one of the last things you want is a third party gaining prominence; one that points out the intellectual and ethical bankruptcy of the two dominant “opposing” parties and the reality of the stagnant consensus that exists between them.
For decades – centuries even – thus has been the power of those who get to control what people know – don’t know – and what they think. The opinion management industry has always been with us. It has always been the power-behind-the-throne. But – we live in interesting times. Suddenly – the traditional – often very great – mercantile transactional value between the errant sleaze-bag and the news-man – of withholding, or publishing ‘the dirt’ – has dropped faster than the credit-rating of Greece. That whole – ancient – trade in the commodity of what the public do – or do not – get to know, has been rendered redundant by the internet.
Just like every kind of threat to society the Daily Mail ever warned you about – citizens’ media has arrived – led by its Orchish vanguard, bloggers; surely the horsemen of the apocalypse – who will abolish the pound, give you cancer, hand over the Crown to Brussels and – quake in fear – bring down house-prices.
Now, of course there is an awful lot of crap out there, in the blogosphere, to be sure. Some of it deeply unpleasant and, not infrequently, barking mad. But can we have so little faith in the average reader, as to reckon them incapable of distinguishing between the reasonable, civilised and evidence-based – and on the other hand, tortuous meta-conspiracies involving shape-shifting space-alien lizards in league with Zionists who organised the world banking collapse in order to accelerate the Bilderberg group becoming the one world government – which, once achieved, would see Rupert Murdoch abandoning his disguise of the last eighty years, and resuming his natural appearance of a five-eyed crocodilian carpet-bagger from the region of Alpha Centauri?
Actually, thinking of the vast readership the News of the World had, I begin to wish I hadn’t posed that rhetorical question. Just as people get the government they deserve – so do people get the media they deserve. Let’s face it – the Jersey Evening Post remains in business – a journal openly and strenuously in support of the criminal concealment of child-abuse – so there can’t be much hope for society moving beyond its interest in nymphomaniac PAs and under-sexed gorillas any time soon.
One can’t help but wonder at what might be the substance behind the many dark hints of “worse to come” in the phone-hacking scandal?
What could be worse than giving a terrified family the impression their missing child was still alive, by deleting their frantic phone messages from her voicemail?
I confess my imagination does not go that far.
However – I can speculate as to what the London media world and the Westminster village might mean when they say “worse” to come.
What I suspect, is that it has been routine for certain media operations to access – by one illegal means or another – the private communications between members of the public and their elected representatives. We already know that certain cabinet ministers had their commutations hacked by News International. Let me suggest that if such things were possible – listening in to the messages of actual cabinet ministers – something – or some agency (bribed policemen perhaps) – a great deal more sophisticated than a mere guess at a factory-set pin of 0000 must have been involved.
The Independent newspaper has already described this scandal as “Britain’s Watergate”. It would indeed be that – worse – if News International has been routinely accessing – bugging – the private communications amongst and between members of a cabinet, their civil service advisers – and between MPs and their constituents. After all, as massive as it was, Watergate was one small band of crooks, albeit working for an incumbent President, burgling the offices of a rival political party. How much worse – a transnational corporation effectively illegally accessing and stealing the private data of an entire incumbent administration? The private communications between actual members of the legislature and their constituents?
My speculation could be wrong, of course, but if correct – or something similar – it would explain why Rebekah Brooks has not yet resigned or been sacked. Whatever her malodorous conduct, it would be unwise to conclude that she is anything other than a very clever and ruthless ‘operator’. It is entirely implausible that she did not know what was the origin of the stories the News of the World ran when she was in charge. Who, but a complete fool, could imagine the editor – with whom the buck stops – being handed dynamite and extraordinary stories – and not asking for the verification trail?
Why was someone like Tony Blair so desperate as to attempt to get labour MP Tom Watson reined-in when he was first going at the phone-hacking allegations?
Could it be that one of the real reasons – perhaps even THE real reason – why the first Met Police investigation was pulled prematurely and failed to get to the truth, is that Blair and his inner-circle were briefed as to the full scale of the crimes once that early investigation was underway, perhaps even by Brooks, and Murdoch himself – and that glimpse over the precipice – no-doubt made all the more terrifying by the inevitable ‘aces’ held by Murdoch – made the authorities run screaming from the scene of the crime, just wishing it all away?
No matter how irredeemable things have become, still Murdoch stands by Brooks – surprising, no, given that he has not hitherto been noted as the sentimental type, especially when it comes to his business interests? Brooks, of course, will have done nothing whilst in the pay of Murdoch, without making certain there was an “audit-trail” of authorisation – or, at least, knowledge – back to him or his son. After all, a girl’s got have an “insurance policy”. If Brooks goes down, she takes the Murdochs with her. So, naturally, they’re all in it together.
And if any man was to have accumulated enough “insurance policies” of his own – enough to enable him to defy the government and law and parliamentary democracy of an entire nation, that man is Rupert. Just imagine – what dirt he must have upon hundreds of important people – members of parliament, civil servants, police officers – and members of the judiciary, note? Such material is, no-doubt, spectacular. But it would fade into insignificance – compared to evidence that the previous British government knew of his hacking of members of parliament – and thousands of constituents, members of the public – and of the cabinet – and of Whitehall – but yet had the dogs called-off – because they were frightened of him – and what he knew about them.
Such a situation would represent nothing less than the breakdown of democracy and the rule of law.
Let me put it this way: given what we know – that which is already in the public domain – there is a prima facie case for the charging and prosecution of Rebekah Brooks, James Murdoch and Rupert Murdoch. Should they not be charged – and the retribution be confined to some scapegoats like Andy Coulson and Les Hinton – it will be difficult to come to any conclusion other than that Murdoch did, indeed, achieve utter power over the British establishment and the institutions of state.
Would the British establishment – civil servants, politicians, police officers, judges – ever let things get so “out of hand” as to have Rebekah Brooks and Rupert Murdoch on trial? Perhaps they already have – but just aren’t aware of the implacable momentum yet.
But on the other hand, no matter how great the mutual hatred may sometimes be, history shows us that those in power quickly forget their differences, and close-ranks, when the threat they face is to the entire paradigm within which they operate. As they all stand to lose from this crises – we can be quite sure that all of the institutions involved – politicians, police, prosecutors, judges, media – will be doing all they can to find a way of damage-limiting the situation in a manifestation of the very culture that is now laid bare.
Some commentators suggest these events represent some epochal shift in the nature of the relationship between media power and politicians. Well, if that view is right, then we have indeed advanced beyond all lesson of human history. I’ll believe it when I see it.
Just as Murdoch has so cynically tried to use this crises as an opportunity – appearing remorseful and shutting the News of the World, but in the long-term, saving himself a considerable sum of money by expanding The Sun in to a seven-day operation to regain the market – so have politicians of all persuasions sought to make a virtue out of the necessary and unavoidable responses they must make; none of which – you can be quite sure – will leave them with any less of a direct access to the power of the media. Assuming Murdoch’s empire survives, politicians and their spin-doctors will be queuing-up to kiss the ring of the ‘new’, ‘improved’, ‘caring’, ‘sensitive’ re-branded News Corp oligarch – just as soon as the sacrificial heads on spikes have rotted away – and the public have re-discovered their taste for self-asphyxiating rock-stars and the varying ‘breast-jobs’ of social avatars. And, why – if the death-star does not survive – then the willing lips of the politicos will be slavering for the ring of whatever suzerain next replaces the old emperor.
Only the most despicable of shameless hypocrites and political shysters would use the wretched and disgusting spectacle of the deleting of desperate family messages left on the mobile phone of a murdered child, for no better purpose than the re-cementing and re-branding of an already dangerously exclusive relationship with corrupt, overly-powerful media interests, in which each party mutually re-enforces the position of the other.
Still – I suppose things could be worse; we could be seeing politicians and journalists who had been corruptly acting in-league to actually cover-up child abuse, band-wagoning on the tragedy of Milly Dowler’s family, for nothing better than the sick motivation of undermining child-abuse investigations. That – truly would be disgusting – beyond all remedy.
Jersey Senator Ben Shenton and the Jersey Evening Post contrived, last Friday, to produce a front-page lead article that managed to bare-back on the News of the World scandal, further attack the Haute de la Garenne investigation, smear the police, repeat as though fact demonstrated falsehoods, display another example of diversionary faux-anger at the investigation in order to keep people’s attention from the fact children were raped whilst under the “protection” of the States of Jersey – and to depict contact with national media (rather than exclusively the Jersey Evening Post) as ‘bad’ and ‘unhelpful’ to the victims.
But as we’ve been confronted with the toxic relationship between UK politicians and media power – who could wish for a more timely reason to take a look at the Jersey equivalent – a too powerful media empire – and the political whores who grovel in fear and abase themselves before the wretched organ, craving the favour granted to a few ‘chosen-ones’ such as the Shenton Clan; a regular supply of positive, prominent, yet vacuous stories, in which previously Dick Shenton – and now his son Ben Shenton could display their empty demagoguery to the mutual benefit of themselves and the Jersey media Bosses.
And in grim irony, the Shentons and the Guiton Group – and the contemptible role played by both in Jersey’s child protection failures – could not be a more fitting study of political power, media corruption – and the necessity of bloggers – and the shared imperative that traditional politicians and media have in denigrating and repressing internet journalists.
In yesterday’s Observer, Henry Porter writes, “over more than three decades, no one dared question the perversion of politics by and for Rupert Murdoch.”
The following is equally true, “for over more than ten decades, no one dared question the perversion of politics by and for the Guiton Group”. That is, no one until I came along. And if there were any doubt as to the true power of the Guiton Group, just look at what happened to me. For in Jersey, it isn’t only politicians who have a toxic relationship with the newspaper monopoly; Jersey’s sole prosecution service, the Law Officers’ Department – also has a very mutually beneficial “understanding” with the media Bosses. Just as do certain elements in the police force.
For several years now, oligarchs like Shenton and the local mainstream media have striven to put in place an artificial distinction – between what they term the “accredited” media – the cosy status quo favourable to them all – and that of citizen media – which is challenging – and beginning to break the power of the traditional media.
People like Shenton and certain other Jersey politicians have done all they can to prevent independent journalists, such as bloggers, from filming scrutiny panel hearings, whilst letting the local TV station, who they are almost as in thrall to as the newspaper – film at will. Likewise, the local oligarchy politicians – and the Jersey Evening Post – never miss an opportunity to disparage political social media.
The spin – the lie – inherent in such depictions, is that the “accredited” Jersey media – basically, the corrupted power-source of the entrenched local oligarchy – are ‘reliable’, ‘honest’, ‘accurate’ and ‘fair’ – and, by way of contrast, bloggers are unreliable, nasty, dishonest – and a threat to society every bit as bad as some kind of cross between Stalin, an EU Commissioner and the German football team’s goalkeeper.
But – oh dear.
When we compare and contrast the two competing media – Jersey bloggers vs. the Jersey Evening Post – the comparison is as that between the Guardian – and the Sunday Sport.
In fact, that is unkind to the Sunday Sport; B52 bombers found crashed on the moon – and double-decker buses found at the south-pole – were altogether more responsible uses of print-media, than the conduct – when it mattered – of Jersey’s only “newspaper”.
The island’s independent web-based journalists have published article after article of informed, incisive reportage – backed-up with page after page of published, documentary evidence; clearly a disreputable enterprise supported by such obvious anarcho-commie fellow-travellers as the former Chief Constable, and the Deputy Chief Constable of the Jersey Police Force.
Perhaps there just were not enough column-inches in Friday’s JEP to include such incidental information, as the fact the two senior Police Officers have produced several affidavits concerning the true nature of law-enforcement and power in Jersey?
Maybe the editorial judgment was that the readership would have just been – so – incredibly – bored – by learning that over many years – decades, in fact – survivors of child abuse – and other victims – and whistleblowers – had gone in desperation with their stories to the Jersey Evening Post, Jersey’s only “newspaper” – only to be dismissed and ignored?
Perhaps, the JEP’s condemnation of the News of the World – and the imperatives of their local advertisers, just didn’t leave enough page-space – to mention the stacks of apocalyptic documentary evidence of child abuse cover-ups, handed to the paper, by me – and which they contrived to ignore?
Who knows, it could be that the very busy journalist – just did not have time – to include in his article – the fact that Ben Shenton was handed, by me, detailed evidence of the criminal concealment of child abuse by Jersey Health & Social Services senior civil servants when he became Minister, after me – and which he and his Assistant Minster, Jimmy Perchard then proceeded to ignore?
Possibly – the entire archiving-system of the Jersey Evening Post, crashed – thus preventing its journalists from accessing – and reporting – the stark fact that Ben Shenton’s father – former Senator Dick Shenton – was the President of the old ‘Defence Committee’ – the political body in charge of policing in Jersey – back in the day when Jersey’s police force was under overt political control – and decisions were made to not fully investigate many cases of child abuse?
It can only have been forgetfulness – surely – that prevented the paper from asking Senator Ben Shenton just how he reconciled all of the obvious – stark – familial conflicts of interest – with his continuing rabid hostility to properly investigating Jersey’s evidenced decades of child protection failure?
Only a cynic, surely – could possibly speculate as to just what “old-school” connections there may be – between Guiton Group Boss – former Senator John Averty – and dominant political demagogue, former Senator Dick Shenton?
The man who – for years and years – exercised political control over policing in Jersey.
The man who tried to say to former Deputy Police Chief Lenny Harper, “a little bit of corruption never did any harm.”
The man who would have had many – many – profoundly serious questions to answer, had the “traditional” approach to policing in Jersey been exposed and held to account, as Graham Power and Lenny Harper dutifully attempted.
So, although the Jersey Evening Post – the island’s only “newspaper”, doesn’t quite go in for the bonking vicars and kiss-n-tell roastees, familiars of Premiership football-players – it does – for all of its Daily Mailesque “respectability” wallow in a gutter of filth and ethical turpitude at least as foul as UK tabloids – at their very worst.
Put it this way – the News of the World doomed itself through an atrocious violation of the family of a murdered child. But at least it could be said of the News of the World, in mitigation, they were rigorous in their exposure of child-abusers; in that sense, they were ‘on the right side’.
By way of contrast – a shattered and wrecked survivor of child abuse, one of my constituents who telephoned me in early 2008, and recounted how, when a child, they had been stripped, save for a T-shirt, and then leered at through the glass of a small window in a basement cell of the Haute de le Garenne complex by one of their attackers who said to them, “will I do you now, or later? Nah – later” – spoke to the Jersey Evening Post a few years later – and were ignored.
That attacker remains working in a senior Health & Social Services post – where they have access to vulnerable people.
The female survivor – aged 12 at the time – was raped by him.
That concealment – is but one example of the corrupt failure of the Jersey Evening Post, its parent company, the Guiton Group – and its shareholders.
Yet – so far – they have been immune from the just consequences of such crimes; immune for over a century; immune – just like they were, for profitably peddling Nazi propaganda during the occupation in WWII.
But – when even the mightiest weapon of the most powerful Gods – the News of the World – can strike down the very titan who wielded it – shattering itself in a final blow upon its master – for just how much longer can the Guiton Group – and its boss, John Averty – and the Jersey Evening Post – and their oligarch clients – escape a similar reckoning?
All those decades – all those lies, omissions, distortions – the transactions with bent police officers – the corrupt relationship with a client group of privileged oligarchy politicians – the pork-barrel-politics of tax-payers’ money flooding to Guiton Group shareholders – the damning public-interest stories not reported – the blind-eye turned to the crimes of the powerful – certain fatal car-crash drivers not named – the de facto blackmail – the exercise of the real, political power, by a private, self-interested business, to the detriment of the broad good of the community – is it really sustainable?
Sadly, it may well be – given the historic relationship between politicians, and the media-men who decide their destiny. Unless, that is, Jersey’s bloggers can persevere, and be unto the Jersey Evening Post, what ‘The Guardian’ was to the malignancy that was the News of the World.
You may think that you – voting members of the public – determine the political destiny of this community – but you don’t. Jersey’s media Bosses have already decided the outcome of the forthcoming general election in the island.
As a commentator said on one of the national TV news programs this past week when discussing News Corp, “today’s media is little more than a legalised protection-racket.”
Though I’m not sure we could use the word ‘legalised’ any more.