Custard Pies in the Commons? The Media Circus is in Town!

I was on the way home from work the other day and the local BBC Radio station was on. The presenter dedicated an entire news segment to the pie in Murdoch’s face incident, as he gave evidence on the phone hacking “scandal” (that we’ve known about for years). Watch the incident and I think you’ll agree it warrants, oh, nought seconds of coverage:

Not for the BBC – this is proper newsworthy stuff. How did someone get into the building with a pie? Do security measures need to be addressed? Let’s get a Tory MP on to discuss it. “Well I think it’s outrageous and alarming that something like this could happen! No more “public inquiries” – the public can’t be trusted to treat these pantomimes with the reverence we pretend they deserve.” (I’m paraphrasing, of course.)

The BBC and the rest of the mainstream media have no choice but to focus on these non-issues, since they’re also guilty of the far more serious betrayals of public trust NewsCorp has engaged in. Murdoch’s consistent support for illegal wars across the spectrum of his media empire isn’t worthy of mention in a system which also consistently supports such crimes against humanity. That said, when it comes to all out fascist-sounding propaganda few news outlets compare to The Sun. When it came to the issue of Saddam’s alleged weapons of mass destruction, The Sun ran such headlines as, “BRITS 45 MINUTES FROM DOOM” and “HE’S GOT ‘EM. LET’S GET HIM,” words straight out of a comic book.

Clearly, this absurdly simplistic “reporting” is effective in influencing a sizable minority (majority? Who knows?) but the slant taken by the BBC and the so-called “liberal” media is far more pernicious. We expect The Sun to be sensationalist drivel, whereas the BBC, Guardian, Independent et al pump out the same support for illegal wars with the facade of rational analysis. In this respect they are considerably more dangerous than The Sun, lending a “respectable” air to the major crimes against humanity of the state.

All of which makes it very difficult not to get infuriated when the mainstream press leaps on the News of the World “scandal” and tries to present it as an opportune moment for the media to reflect on its obligations to the public, with “commentators” like George Monbiot calling for a “Hippocratic Oath” for journalists – a bit rich coming from someone who’s writing output suggests a commitment to a “Hypocritical Oath”. True, they’ve raised some questions about media ties to the establishment in the context of Cameron’s choice of former editor of the News of the World Andy Coulson as his director of communications, but there has understandably been no reflection on their own role in the same system – in truth, the whole thing has been a complete farce in which the broader issues which should have arose have been roundly ignored.

At the same time, the media circus has provided a predictable golden opportunity for the government to push through more incredibly unpopular measures, slipping them quietly under the radar while the pies fly through the air. The mainstream media, while waxing idiotic about the “security” implications of circus antics in the Commons, barely mentioned the next round of banker bonuses, and had virtually nothing to say about further moves towards the privatization of the NHS. Meanwhile, the Israelis announce their intention to attack Iran in September, but this issue, along with the proposed plans to deploy ground troops in Libya (“Hey! It’s only a no-fly zone!” Remember?) warrant little more than a footnote. After all, the media circus is in town, and there’s nothing a circus doesn’t love more than a pie in the face.

For a few days Cameron will squirm uncomfortably while his ties to Murdoch and the NewsCorp empire come under tepid, half-hearted scrutiny, but the relationship will stay the same as it was under Blair and Thatcher; no one will raise questions about Murdoch’s ties to Saudi royalty, and consider the implications of the nature of media manipulation, given Fox News’ overtly bigoted, anti-Muslim output; and certainly – undoubtedly – no one in in the mainstream will ask probing questions to the authorities about the death of whistleblower Sean Hoare. We’re told his death was “unexplained but not suspicious,” and amazingly some people hear that oxymoronic statement and accept it. Yeah, he also told his neighbours that he thought his life was in danger, but these aren’t issues the media think are worthy of investigation. They’re non-issues, like the deaths of David Kelly and Robin Cook.

The phone hacking scandal and the “debate” and “inquiry” this has raised in the media and government is little more than a charade to make people believe that these institutions can be held accountable when they collude to deceive the public and behave like the amoral gossip mongers and propagandists they really are. And it will no doubt work: Cameron will stay in power, Murdoch has saved millions streamlining The Sun and has The Sun on Sunday in the pipeline, sold 2 million extra copies of the “final” edition of the News of the World and has a buyers lining up to buy his “beleaguered” newspaper, while the rest of the media will continue supporting the banks, the government, the endless wars… it’s all a fucking joke and they’re the only ones laughing.

If you want to hear about the issues that really matter, you have to take a step out of the mainstream.

Zak Locke

The Corbett Report

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