In part four of this series we touched on the subject of capitalism where I argued that despite the widely held perception of it being the root cause of society’s ills, it is in fact corporatism that defines the landscape in which we live.
For the fifth and final installment our focus will predominately be on two subjects – Reactionism and Centralised Communication – and how they are relevant today when measured against The Communist Manifesto.
Let’s begin by looking at reactionism.
Throughout this series we have looked in detail at how Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels advocated a cosmopolitan revolution in order to overthrow the rule of the 19th century bourgeoisie class and create a “dictatorship of the proletariat“. From their perspective, such a revolution could only succeed by accepting the advancement of Modern Industry that was created under the bourgeoisie. Far from opposing it, or reverting back to previous methods of production, a Communist world would, in theory, embrace the present conditions but make it palatable for the proletariat by changing the dynamic of governance in their favour.
Within the pages of The Communist Manifesto and its earlier incarnations, the authors argued that to go against the tide of industrial progress and pine for years past would be reactionary in nature and go completely against the concept of a revolutionary movement. In essence, if the world that communism inherited was one of interdependence and an emerging global economy, then that world should not be challenged but absorbed by the proletariat. Retreating to conditions that preceded the growth of globalisation would not be tolerated, and would be in direct conflict of the communist vision for a ‘new social order’.
One imagines that Marx and Engels would look upon 2017 with disdain. Both the result of the UK’s Brexit referendum on EU membership and the election of Donald Trump to the White House are considered manifestations of reactionism by the left of the political paradigm. The one aspect that these two results have in common is that the term ‘reactionary‘ is perceived as a staple of conservatism. Brexit and Trump are judged as being exclusively a representation of right wing politics. Measured against original Communist theory, both define a regressive move towards countries that no longer wish to remain interdependent with one another.
The formula is simple. Whilst the left seek to embrace concerns like immigration, and in turn voice support for globalisation (beliefs that are incidentally self-characterised as ‘progressive‘), the right seek to limit immigration and put the welfare of their own country ahead of fellow nations, convictions which in turn the left pigeon hole as nationalist, ‘populist‘ and embodying all the hallmarks of protectionism. This formula is ultimately a tool for instilling division within society.
A desire for the UK to leave a bloc of 28 nations is considered reactionary because it fails to build from the present conditions. The chief argument from those wishing to remain in the European Union has been that instead of vacating it, efforts should be undertaken to ‘reform it from within‘. This follows a basic Communist principle espoused by Marx and Engels – a change in dynamic rather than a reversion to individual nation states that genuinely put the considerations of their citizens above that of a collective continent.
Likewise, in the United States, the election of Donald Trump as president after eight years of rule by the country’s first ever African – American leader embodies in the minds of the left the very definition of reactionism. As with Brexit, Trump has been characterised as a product of fascism, racism and xenophobia, with the commonality being that both are perceived to the right of the political system.
Before we present some contradictions to these ideas, let’s look at how the term ‘reactionary‘ came into being and how it has developed over time.
According to dictionary.com, the origin of reactionary is French and stems from around 1830 to 1840. The origins of the French equivalent – ‘réactionnaire‘ – can be traced back to the French Revolution, which began in 1789 and culminated in 1799. Resulting from this revolution was the abolition of the French Monarchy and the supposed establishment of a secular, democratic republic. The term ‘conservateur‘ also originated after the French Revolution in 1818. Both this word and ‘réactionnaire’ apparently served to identify members of parliament in favour of a monarchy and so opposed to a revolution.
Interestingly, the French usage of the word reactionary denotes, according to Wikipedia,
A movement towards the reversal of an existing tendency or state and a return to a previous condition of affairs.
As well as reactionary, the British language coined two new political words after the revolution – ‘Conservative’ and ‘Right‘. Both of which are today construed as epitomising anti-revolutionary sentiment. And when you look at some of the antonyms of reactionary, such as ‘Radical‘ and ‘Progressive‘, the dividing line between two opposing ideologies is made clear. Thus you have what becomes a breeding ground for conflict.
Take the term ‘Liberalism‘ for example. Here you have a concept that began with what is now referred to in some quarters as ‘Classical Liberalism‘. Born out of the 19th century, the values it is said to embody include freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion and a free market capitalist system, all housed under ‘the rule of law‘. The emphasis was largely placed on the individual’s liberty with minimal State oversight.
From the classical variant came ‘Social Liberalism‘. Whilst espousing the importance for individual liberty, it believes this can only be achieved through social justice and so fits the model of collectivism. International cooperation – or the interdependence between nations – is seen as key to social progress. And far from playing a minimal role, the State should preside over all vital platforms such as health care and education under the guise of it being best for the community. It is an interwoven mix of individual liberty and social justice, out of which builds a collectivist philosophy. The ideas of social liberalism are today considered ‘centrist‘ or ‘left of centre.’ But as with classical liberalism, its goals fall squarely under ‘the rule of law‘.
‘The Rule of Law‘ is the one constant that binds liberal and conservative mandates together.
How does this relate to Brexit and Donald Trump? As referred to earlier, contradictions exist regarding either movement.
Media and political commentators, in both the mainstream and independent arena, were designated from the outset to present these elections exclusively through the lens of left / right politics. A ‘progressive‘ of the left would likely vote to remain in the EU and revile Donald Trump. A ‘conservative‘ of the right would likely vote to leave the EU and support the rise of Donald Trump. This was and continues to be a simplified yet wide-reaching perception played out through the media.
The first contradiction comes in the form of the UK Communist Party. It may surprise some readers to learn that they in fact campaigned to leave the European Union. On the morning of June 24th 2016, the party rejoiced by declaring that the leave result was “A VICTORY FOR POPULAR SOVEREIGNTY – a defeat for the EU-IMF-NATO axis”.
To quote them further,
The referendum result represents a huge and potentially disorientating blow to the ruling capitalist class in Britain, its hired politicians and its imperialist allies in the EU, the USA, IMF and NATO.
The people have spoken and popular sovereignty now demands that the Westminster Parliament accepts and implements their decision. The left must now redouble its efforts to turn this referendum result into a defeat for the whole EU-IMF-NATO axis.
Leaving aside the misguided assertion of a ‘ruling capitalist class‘, the position of the UK Communists offers an intriguing paradox. Relative to The Communist Manifesto, the party’s stance must surely be judged as reactionary and rallying against a perceived tide of societal progress. Muddying the neat and dichotomous thinking of left vs right further was the creation of an anti EU group called ‘Lexit‘. This organisation was ignored by those advocating to remain, but here we can bring to light exactly who supported it’s inception.
The new alliance formed from rail union RMT, Trade Unionists Against the EU, the Communist Party of Britain, the Indian Workers Association (GB), the Bangladeshi Workers Council of Britain, Scottish Left Leave, Counterfire and the Socialist Workers Party.
The ‘Lexit‘ case for leaving the EU was also presented in an hour long documentary which can be viewed below:
Building on the left’s argument for leaving the EU further was ‘Lexit‘ Chairman Robert Griffiths, who said around the time of the referendum:
It’s high time that the interests of working people, their public services and their common aspirations regardless of race, religion and nationality were heard.
The reality is that from Ireland and Portugal to Cyprus and Greece, the EU has been spearheading the drive for ruthless austerity and wholesale privatisation, dividing people and creating the conditions in which racist and fascist groups can thrive.
Alex Gordon, the convenor of ‘Lexit‘, spelled out exactly why he and the Lexit group were campaigning to vacate the EU:
The representatives of Goldman Sachs and all the global banks based in the City of London; the IMF Director-General Mme. Lagarde; President Obama and the leaders of world’s main imperialist powers from Europe and Canada; the general secretary of NATO and the governor of the Bank of England have all united to demand, cajole and threaten voters in Britain that a vote to LEAVE the EU will bring war, economic recession and a life of endless misery, which is ironic because these are precisely the outcomes that their own policies promote.
And shamefully, in Britain (exactly as in France during your referendum on the European Constitution in 2005) socialist and trade union leaders by a great majority have joined this campaign of deceit, telling trade unionists and workers that our best interests lie in voting to REMAIN in the EU.
We can deduce from this that ‘Lexit‘ and the UK Communist Party were, to an extent, able to see beyond traditional party lines and look upon the subject of the EU in terms of how it affects the populace on an individual level.
There is a case for saying that those on the left who support the Labour Party – especially with Jeremy Corbyn at the helm – were advocating to remain in the EU based partly on their revulsion for figures such as Nigel Farage, the UK Independence Party and the far right image in general. The overriding consensus was that ‘we are better off together‘. But in pledging to remain, these same people had no option but to align to the sentiment being spoken by the then Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne. Two figureheads that the left openly despise.
This position is further contradicted by the historical actions of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who throughout his years as a parliamentary back bencher spoke out against the European Union and its level of control over workers. Here is a quote from him back in 1993 whilst speaking in The House of Commons:
The whole basis of the Maastricht treaty is the establishment of a European central bank which is staffed by bankers, independent of national Governments and national economic policies, and whose sole policy is the maintenance of price stability. That will undermine any social objective that any Labour Government in the United Kingdom—or any other Government—would wish to carry out … The imposition of a bankers’ Europe on the people of this continent will endanger the cause of socialism in the United Kingdom and in any other country.
In light of this I would ask that at what point during the EU referendum campaign did the people caught within this web of contradiction consider the individual, and how they and fellow members of the population were faring under the EU umbrella? It appears their solidarity was reserved exclusively for the union – the globalised, collectivist model – rather than the individual welfare of the workers within. This too is a position that would have been consistent with that of Marx and Engels were they alive today. In their communistic vision, collectivism prospered over individualism. The good of one had to be for the good of all.
A second contradiction presents itself that encompasses both Brexit and Donald Trump, and brings into focus the subject of trade agreements. For many years individuals of a left persuasion have campaigned against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).
TTIP and CETA are trade deals which reside at the centre of the EU project. Whilst many correctly interpreted such initiatives as a vehicle to consolidate corporate hegemony, a clear inconsistency becomes apparent when you discover that some of those championing the cause of remaining in the European Union were also actively voicing discontent at the prospect of TTIP, TPP and CETA.
In the UK, The Morning Star newspaper have been speaking out against these trade deals for many years. Here is an extract from an editorial back in April 2016:
As with TTIP, EU directives call for further liberalisation of — corporate access to — every part of our societies, to achieve the “four freedoms” most desired by business — the free movement of capital, goods, services and labour.
We must organise to take back control of our society, putting people before profit, putting real democracy at the heart of our country.
On becoming President of the United States, one of Donald Trump’s first actions was to withdraw America from the Trans Pacific Partnership. TPP was as much condemned as its European counterparts, and yet Trump did not receive acclaim for taking the US out of the deal. It should not be forgotten that it was Barack Obama, a champion for ‘progressives’, who as President promoted TPP as a necessity for the future of world trade. One can only surmise that the left maintained a subdued stance on Trump’s abandonment of TPP so as not to be in public agreement with any of his actions. Instead, figures such as Owen Jones at The Guardian have espoused that ‘people power‘ alone won the day, and that Trump’s role was a formality for what was already doomed to fail.
The question arising from this is why would someone protesting against a set of EU led trade agreements – deals which are judged as anti democratic and solely for the preservation of corporate elites – vote to remain in the EU? Why commit to a union that through these trade deals shows itself not to be in support of the individual worker, but rather an increased stranglehold on the existing corporate model of control?
Over the past twelve months we have witnessed from the left a convoluted narrative and an inability to form a coherent and consistent set of principles. The only aspect that does remain constant is the perception of counter opinions to their own as embodying both racial and xenophobic overtones. A blanket hatred of ‘far right‘ politics – a term that the media persist in cultivating – has served to camouflage the left’s own shortcomings and create an echo chamber of self-verification.
Whatever your own viewpoint, there is clearly a contradiction of principle when you advocate one cause of action – a rejection of trade agreements – but end up reinforcing that which you were originally opposed to by voting to remain in the EU.
From a broader perspective, it was Marx and Engels who sought to define communism under the banner of democracy and freedom for the proletarian. But here too is a glaring contradiction in that it was the collective that took precedent over the individual, as was the case with the EU referendum. The authors championed an all encompassing ideology, one where rebels would be destroyed to protect the ‘new social order‘. Unquestioning subservience was a necessary requirement to the success of a communist state. Just as unquestioning subservience was a main tenet of Nazism. Fascism is not characterised by a political preference of right or left. It is characterised by actions, not words of aggrandisement to rally the masses. Communism is underpinned by the same collectivist model that were the foundations of Nazism. Both embody a form of fascism in their own right.
In discussing reactionism, particularly in relation to Brexit, it is clear that there is no set right / left divide on wishing to remain or leave the EU. People on either side of this false paradigm voted in differing ways. The public perception of Brexit, and Donald Trump for that matter, is of a dichotomous divide, one which is black and white and embodies the right on one side and the left on the other. The thesis in this scenario is reactionary, far right nationalism. The antithesis is progressive, liberal minded internationalists. As conflict dutifully ensues, it will inevitably progress to a synthesis between the two.
This same Hegelian model traces back to the 19th century. When a thesis of feudalism was in combat with an antithesis of the bourgeoisie, it was Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels who proposed the synthesis of communism. If we gauge the conflicts of Brexit and Donald Trump within the same model, it suggests that neither they or its opposition will ultimately be the victor. Instead, a synthesis will be born. One that will absorb the conflict and create new social conditions in its wake. Arguably to the detriment of both camps.
Let’s now look at the subject of centralised communication.
Tenet number six of The Communist Manifesto reads as follows:
Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State
For the purposes of this article, we will be focusing only on communication.
We already know that Marx and Engels’ ultimate desire was for a communist revolution to spread across the world and for communism to become a global and dominant political ideology. Therefore, the command for a centralised communication network is befitting of their wish for total obedience to a communist rule of law. To prevent any threat of a rebellion, communication channels would have to be strictly regimented and under the control of the State. From this a set narrative would likely materialise, one that is accepted by the new regime. Any countering narrative would be constituted as resisting the ‘new social order‘, which perhaps tallies with tenet four of the manifesto – “Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.”
169 years later, how does the authors’ goal for centralised communication measure up?
Today there are six major multi national media conglomerates that monopolise the market. These six are Comcast, News Corp, Disney, Viacom, Time Warner and CBS. Let’s briefly look at each in turn:
- Comcast are currently the largest media organisation by revenue, which in 2016 came in at over $80 billion. It owns many different subsidiaries including NBC, MSNBC, CNBC, the USA Network, NBCSN, E!, The Weather Channel and the film production studio Universal Pictures. Comcast is also the second largest pay TV company after AT&T.
Following what is a renowned corporate eventuality, the company agreed back in February 2014 to merge with Time Warner Cable in an equity swap deal worth $45.2 billion.
- News Corp are owned by Rupert Murdoch and is the world’s 4th largest media mogul in terms of revenue. Under their control are a mix of both print and televised media, which include News UK, Fox, Sky News, The Sun newspaper, The Times newspaper, The Sunday Times, the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal.
Also part of the Murdoch catalogue is Sky plc. 21st Century Fox (Murdoch owned) possess a 39.14 % controlling stake in the company, and boast over 20 million subscribers.
In 2013, Murdoch’s assets were split between 21st Century Fox and News Corp. This was apparently after shareholders raised concerns about recent negative publicity stemming from The News of the World phone hacking scandal. The split was also promoted as a way to “unlock even greater long-term shareholder value“.
From this came two clearly defined divisions of Murdoch’s empire. 21st Century Fox would cover televised media, whilst News Corp would focus on print media.
- Viacom are the world’s sixth largest broadcasting and cable company when it comes to revenue. Some of their subsidiaries include Paramount Pictures, Paramount Television, Nickelodeon, MTV, Comedy Central, Spike and Channel 5.
- CBS Corporation are a commercial broadcasting, publishing and television production company. The majority of its operations reside in the United States. They own outright the entire Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) and also CBS records, CNET, Showtime and The Movie Channel. Revenue as of 2015 stood at $13 billion.
- Time Warner is at present the third largest media conglomerate in the world, with its latest revenue figures coming in at over $28 billion. The company have among their portfolio CNN, HBO, TNT, Warner Bros. Entertainment, Warner Bros. Television Group and The Cartoon Network.
It was reported in February 2017 that Time Warner shareholders have approved a merger with telecommunications giant AT&T. CEO of Time Warner, Jeff Bewkes, said that “the adoption of the merger agreement by our shareholders keeps us on track, pending regulatory consents or reviews, to close the transaction before year-end 2017.”
This follows the pattern of corporates merging with ‘rival‘ corporates to further erode competition. All that stands in the way of the $85.4 billion deal is State approval from Donald Trump’s administration.
Incidentally, AT&T is presently the second largest provider of mobile telephone services in the US, and in 2016 reported revenue at $163 billion.
- Finally there is The Walt Disney Company, the world’s second largest media and entertainment conglomerate after Comcast. Revenue in 2016 reached $55.6 billion. Disney’s assets include Walt Disney Studios, Pixar, Marvel Entertainment, Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm, Disney-ABC Television Group, 80% of ESPN Inc and 50% of A+E Networks.
If you were to combine all six corporations assets, the list would comprise multiple hundreds of companies. Without recognising that these organisations exist within a narrow purview of control, one might assume that there is an abundance of competition in the media industry. This is simply not the case as the facts do not bare it out.
Outside of cable and print media, we have seen an exponential rise of online platforms. Here a familiar pattern emerges in terms of ownership:
- YouTube began in 2005 but by 2006 had been bought by Google. Google themselves are a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc, a company that came into existence in 2015 after Google announced plans to reorganise its portfolio. YouTube is said to have over one billion active users per month.
- Facebook launched in 2004 and are now a public limited company on the US stock market. They reported $27 billion revenue in 2016, and have approaching nearly two billion users worldwide. Their sphere of influence extends beyond just the social media site. The corporation’s subsidiaries include Instagram, who they purchased in 2012, and WhatsApp who they acquired in 2014. Facebook’s plan was to use these two for “global and mobile dominance”.
In March 2015, Facebook tried to buy-out Snapchat for $3 billion. However, Snapchat owner Evan Spiegel turned down the offer. Two years later, Snap Inc were officially listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and raised approaching $30 billion in market capitalisation on the very first day of trading. How long before this illusion of ‘free market capitalism‘ is the subject of a merger with a ‘competitor‘? The precedent for such was established long ago.
Whether its televised or print media, social networking or video sharing, all are a product of corporatism which by default seeks to monopolise the market place. That much is certain.
What is far less certain – particularly in relation to coverage we absorb from the mainstream media through its corporate stronghold – is the legitimacy of an organic left / right divide. The nature of how content is presented to us on a daily basis, and most importantly, by whom, is where I believe the story lies.
A resounding element of worldwide contemporary culture remains as twenty four hour rolling news coverage from the likes of the BBC and Sky News. When a breaking news story is screened on the television, often the broadcasters responsible for disseminating information rely on the ‘wires‘, two of which are Reuters and the Associated Press. However, we are going to look at another organisation that exists to feed both televised and print media.
In 1868 (post manifesto), an organisation known as the Press Association (PA) was conceived out of London. It’s original intention was as a gathering service for local newspapers. As times have changed, so has the PA. According to their own website,
Much of the content people read, see or hear continues to originate from PA. We enable brands – including national and regional newspapers, magazines, broadcasters, digital owners, businesses and public sector organisations – to tell their own stories by providing products and services which span our newswire, images, video, hosted live blogs, social media content, page production services, TV listings and more.
Already a contradiction begins to reveal itself here whereby the Press Association provide the content, but the news outlets ‘tell their own stories’. By the company’s own definition, they wield considerable power and influence over the information we ingest from mainstream media. They continue:
Our agenda-setting newswire feeds are used by EVERY major national and regional media organisation. We have reporters across the country filing the best in local news, specialists in topics such as health, education, the royal family and transport, plus staff at Westminster and the law courts.
Here is where things get more revealing. The Press Association are owned by 26 separate shareholders. One of those is News UK, whose CEO is the former editor of The News of the World Rebekah Brooks. As we know, News UK are a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, a corporation which encompasses Sky News and The Sun and Times newspapers.
Another shareholder is Daily Mail and General Holdings (DMG Media), who are regarded in the mainstream as being News UK’s main competitor.
Trinity Mirror also part own PA. They carry The Daily Mirror, The Sunday Mirror, The People and the Daily Record, as well as up to 80 regional newspapers including the Liverpool Echo. Trinity Mirror are the UK’s largest national and regional news publisher.
The Guardian Media Group too are a shareholder. This group is owned by Scott Trust Limited, who in January 2016 reported the company’s funds as being down by £98 million from the 2015 level of £838 million. A year ago The Guardian reported that newspaper print advertising in the UK had fallen 11% to £1.2 billion. This is perhaps one of the reasons why the paper are actively trying to convince readers to become ‘Guardian Supporters’ at a cost of £5 a month.
And let’s not leave out The Telegraph, whom also count amongst the Press Association’s shareholders.
The list does not stop there. Johnston Press are as well a shareholder of PA, an organisation that owns the I newspaper and around 100 regional newspapers in the UK. MNA Media also take a slice of ownership. They are Britain’s largest self-proclaimed independent regional news company, publishing the UK’s best selling local paper The Express and Star which emanates from Wolverhampton. Then there is DC Thomson based in Dundee, Scotland. They own amongst others The Dundee Courier, The Evening Telegraph, The Sunday Post, The Beano and The Dandy.
What we are looking at here is a corporation that provide content to all major media outlets in the UK. These outlets (on paper) appear to occupy opposite sides of the political spectrum e.g. News UK and Trinity Mirror, yet both are shareholders in the one company that supply them with information for their viewer / readership. You can hardly call this open competition between competitors when they all receive stories from a single source which they are all financially invested in.
This begins to explain why mainstream media have regimented narratives across multiple platforms. The only tangible difference is not necessarily the content of the story, but more the ideological bent in which the newspaper / television channel decides to publish it through. Hence the continuation of a false paradigm of left vs right. The Press Association’s role also helps to explain the lack of investigative journalism on display in Britain’s daily newspapers and televised media. Instead of journalists going out to unearth stories that would serve to educate society on issues such as political and economic corruption, they wait for stories to come to them and simply regurgitate what the Press Association and other wire agencies determine as the news.
The result is that mainstream broadcasters expect you and I to accept their version of events unquestioningly, as undeniable truth. In the minds of readers and journalists alike, the heritage and prestige of the Press Association and their ilk validates them as a trustworthy source. This is how narratives such as Russian hacking have been allowed to fester unchallenged. When the likes of CNN or Fox report that US officials (notably the FBI or CIA) are confident of Russian interference in the US election process, this is spun as the Russian’s having committed the crime. Documented data and evidence need not be forthcoming. The nature of our 24 hour news cycle is based more on soundbite headlines rather than detailed, in depth analysis of the facts.
Since 2016, a growing narrative within mainstream circles has been a complete disassociation from the few remaining independent news outlets, most of which exist via the internet. The term ‘Fake News‘ has become part of the global lexicon. If a story does not originate across a recognised and established network, then the public is encouraged to treat it not just with skepticism, but to dismiss it as unsubstantiated and false. A second term that is becoming common place is ‘Alternative Facts‘, which grew wings after Donald Trump was victorious in the US Presidential election. Perspectives which challenge the mainstream’s version of events are being increasingly vilified. Not necessarily because he or she has weighed up and examined the evidence on both sides, but because corporate outlets have become the exclusively accepted standard bearers of what is truth and what is conspiracy. Sections of the public turn to them first in an effort to become informed.
Even so, it would be churlish to insinuate that corporate media never publishes the truth. You will find examples every day of facts that are not contestable. But there now exists a concerted effort to demonise information that originates outside of the mainstream structure. Harvard University has been linked to a list of alleged fake news websites put together by a lady called Melissa Zimdars, an assistant professor at Merrimack College in Massachusetts. Almost 900 sites form Zimdars’ list, including those which give oxygen to stories that the mainstream willfully ignore e.g. the origins of Islamic State and the scale of global debt obligations.
One of the ‘Tips for analyzing news sources’ that Zimdars sights is:
Watch out if known/reputable news sites are not also reporting on the story. Sometimes lack of coverage is the result of corporate media bias and other factors, but there should typically be more than one source reporting on a topic or event.
You could interpret this as saying that if one source were to produce a document or a book containing, for example, direct evidence of a conspiracy, it is automatically not to be trusted because the information cannot be verified from a mainstream outlet. Therefore, it does not subscribe to the mainstream’s rule of what is the acceptable form of truth. In other words, investigative journalism is being ostracised as a way to try and suppress content and impart doubt in people’s minds.
Should Zimbars’ database not prove sufficient, then Facebook will seek to guide its two billion users away from ‘suspicious‘ news sources. In March 2017 they began rolling out a new alert system to combat the rise of ‘fake news‘. This system is in partnership with its two trusted ‘fact checkers‘ – Snopes and the Associated Press. Snopes have been openly questioned for their role as a purveyor of truth by various different independent news outlets, notably Health Impact News and WND. You may not be surprised to learn that both sites feature on Melissa Zimdars list of websites to be avoided.
Also in March 2017, the UK government announced that it had taken down all its ads from YouTube after it emerged that ‘extremist’ channels could become recipients of advertising revenue. Examples of extremism are cited as holocaust denial, anti-semitism and hate preaching. There is no doubt that extreme content does exist, of which neither you or I would want to be associated with. My concern is for content that is fact checked and evidence based, but also happens to contradict what the mainstream is reporting.
In 2014 former UK Prime Minister David Cameron gave a speech at the UN about ‘extremist ideologies‘. In an extract of the speech below, Cameron clearly categorises anyone who questions the official narrative of terrorist attacks such as 9/11 and the London bombings of 2005 as an ‘extremist‘. In his own words,
We must be clear. To defeat the ideology of extremism, we need to deal with ALL forms of extremism. Not just violent extremism.
A vital element here is that many independent outlets are partly reliant on monetisation through social media and video sharing resources. If their work starts to become recognised and accepted as ‘extremism‘ – even if supported by evidence – the funding they depend on will be decimated, meaning a prolonged challenge to the corporatised mainstream model will become that much harder to sustain. Recent examples of this are the Youtube channels of UK journalist Richie Allen and the American SGT Report, who have both seen their ad revenue stream dry up since the end of March 2017.
Mainstream media has conditioned a majority of us to decry information that, 1) Challenges the accepted narrative and, 2) Does not subscribe to the traditional ideological left / right paradigm. What is most concerning is that our reactions and instincts are becoming singular in nature. Because of this, behaviour patterns in individuals are being systematically rewired. Now when an independent outlet presents evidence contrary to the mainstream’s perspective, we seek a confirmation bias to validate our own cognitive dissonance. This is popularly known as ‘debunking‘. A sense of unease is created within us when we observe information that is in contrast to what we understand to be true. From this terms like ‘google it‘ have emerged. If the first few results of a search pour scorn on an alternative narrative, and marry it with conspiracy, then we take that as ratification of our beliefs and investigate no further.
Corporate media has decided on our behalf what is truth and what is falsity, and are exercising their influence through the likes of Facebook, The Associated Press and Snopes to reinforce their narratives. The only question remaining now is how many people still possess the skill of inquisition and the wherewithal to research a subject for themselves, regardless of the origins. Worth bearing in mind is that the legitimacy of the mainstream is there to be challenged, especially as it is they who continue to perpetuate the myth that we live in a free market, capitalist society.
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wished in 1848 for the ‘Centralisation of the means of communication’. To successfully accomplish this task, news would have to be regimented within strict boundaries, with competition between outlets limited to allow for a consistent narrative across multimedia platforms. In short, communication must be under the jurisdiction of the State and ensnare as many of the populace for maximum effect. The six leading media moguls, as well as wire agencies that serve them, are all recognised corporations. And as we have looked at previously, corporations cannot form, operate or merge with one another without the express approval of the State. In part four of this series I wrote regarding Marx and Engels:
They believed that the State should be absolute, and that people should be subservient to it. But does it not stand to reason that if you empower an entity to this degree then it becomes self empowering, in that they are given licence to sign off on corporate monopolies under their own indomitable jurisdiction?
It cannot be disputed that the State has sanctioned the growth of corporate media, and therefore been complicit with its agenda to centralise power, eliminate choice and manipulate society to think and respond within the confines of the mainstream.
It is for this reason that the notion of today’s world embodying a capitalist free market, one that is brimming with unaffiliated competition, can be rendered fake news.