Archive for August, 2013

Permanent Propaganda: the roots of war against trade unions

12 Aug


You're free to believe what we tell you...

“It would not be impossible to prove with sufficient repetition and a psychological understanding of the people concerned that a square is in fact a circle. They are mere words, and words can be molded until they clothe ideas and disguise.”   Josef Goebbels

Watching Labour’s collective listlessness this summer I’m struck (again) by the huge part the media plays in shaping and setting the parameters for public opinion.

And yet, try as you might you won’t read about this anywhere - other than the blogsphere and the Morning Star – because the media doesn’t draw attention to itself. Obvious, isn’t it?

Further afield, Rupert Murdoch (the owner of 34% of the UK media via the Sun, The Times and Sunday Times) has switched political attention from his laughably partisan American baby, Fox News, to matters in Australia, the land of his birth.

An Aussie comrade sent me a Murdoch article, in typical style portraying Prime Minster Kevin Rudd as a Nazi officer.

This followed up a subtle headline in another of Murdoch’s Australian newspapers, the Daily Telegraph, entitled ‘Kick this mob out’.

This, remember, from the bloke who sat in front of the Leveson Enquiry portraying  himself as a contrite, humbled, confused and disengaged old man who lets his employees decide what his newspapers print.

Aye, right.

As well as showing the scope of his reach, greed is still global, Murdoch proves again that the super-rich get rich and stay rich by spending time and money shoring their position up.

And what better way to do this than promoting their political sock puppets at every opportunity whilst attacking anything redistributive or threatening to the status quo?

So, with the lens throuigh which the public views everything distorted by a right wing distopian view, thanks are due to Huddersfield University and Professor Brian Walker, for their research evaluating how trade unions are portrayed in the media.

They created two databases, from last year and 1993, composed of 750,000 words from news reports gathered from broadsheet, tabloid and regional newspaper articles that mention the words “TUC” or “union(s)”.

Their team then forensically considered articles, looking for patterns and “collocates” or words that were associated.

In both databases, 2012 and 1993, the word ‘union’ was very strongly collocated with words like ‘anger’, ‘fury’, ‘threat’, ‘threaten’, ‘battle’ and ‘attack’.

Not exactly neutral or objective language, I’m sure you’ll agree.  

There was also a trend across the both datasets for the press to talk about union “bosses,” “chiefs” and “barons,” particularly in stories that reported accusations of union employees receiving high salaries.

The 2012 data shows this tendency increasing, with the words “chief” and “chiefs” increasingly associated with “union.”

Which leads to the $64,000 question:

How do terms relating to conflict and war, or terms with entirely negative, mediaeval, undemocratic connotations become the common parlance for the democratic, voluntary, accountable and transparent organisations of working people?

Coincidence? Bad luck? Merited?

I’m suggesting, in case you missed it, that Huddersfield University’s empirical data provides a rare glimpse into the activity of the 1% who own and control.

In summary, they’re engaged in relentless effort to marginalise, denigrate and ultimately destroy independent free trade unions.

And not only in the UK but across the globe.

Actively and continuously influencing how you think.

And a key part of that attempt to influence is through a media which reflects their closed, anti-democratic mentality and the agenda of profit, the things that matter to them.

A media which always, but always, describes any collective attempt by union members to exert influence at work or in the wider society as dangerous and subversive.

Worth thinking about the next time you read something written about the country’s largest voluntary organisations…..

Malcolm Tucker’s Tardis: how society is going back in time

05 Aug


Really? This is the best humanity can do?

The month of August is traditionally known as the political silly season, when Parliament has gone on one of those extended summer holidays – you know, the ones three weeks longer than the ones they’re always complaining that teachers take? The Westminster chatterati will, at this time, seize on almost any story hoping to artificially respirate it and stick it on stage to distract us momentarily from our wage slavery and the opiate of Coronation Street, Big Brother or Downton Abbey.

 This last few weeks has seen a confluence of events which all point in the direction of a society which is going backwards faster than you can say ‘Malcolm Tucker’s Tardis’.  

 These events should shame and enrage anyone with a conscience and a pulse: I’m talking here of Home Office staff randomly stopping black and Asian people in London tube stations and asking them to produce ID papers, the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD) exposing the million Britons (at least) working on zero hours contracts and the quiet introduction of four figure charges for working people who’ve faced unfair treatment and discrimination at work.

 You have to pinch yourself to remember the UK is the fifth richest nation on earth and that we are supposed to be a part of a world evolving, learning, developing and growing.

 Science, the growth of knowledge, the spread of capitalist democracy and information technology was all supposed to tear down barriers, bring us all closer together, help us realise our full potential as human beings and deliver the sort of society our antecedents could only dream of.

 Instead we’ve got black people illegally harassed in their own city, modern-day wage slavery and blatant attempts to deny working people access to justice and protection.

 Tempting as it is to lay these at the door of the Tory-led Coalition – and they do bear significant blame for much of the naked racism and antipathy towards the vulnerable and the poor – these ‘events’ are manifestations of a broken promise. The lie exposed every day, yet one we are expected to buy back into every day: the utterly baseless, evidence-free concept that a world based around profit can ever deliver health, wealth, peace and security for all, or even most, of this planet’s inhabitants.

The laughable fallacy that modern capitalism isn’t as rapacious, callous and destructive as it was in Victorian times.        

 It wasn’t meant to be like this folks.

 With humanity’s boundless ingenuity, limitless creativity and endless thirst for improvement, is this really the best we can do?


Stephen Smith: writer

Rants, rambles and other assorted thoughts

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