16 May 2009

The Ultimate Contraptions and Contrivances of Spin

There is a nonsense with regard to the MPs' expenses scandal which has started to take hold.

It is an obvious spin, an obvious attempt to deflect attention away from the main story and has the usual Mandelsonian paw-marks all over it. We are supposed to have our eyes diverted to the awful spectacle that journalists and reporters also fiddle their expenses. In fact, their sins are far more egregious than those of poor, overworked politicians, who only keep claiming mortgage allowancews for houses they have already paid for because the poor dears are so overworked and anyway, they are so incompetent and inept with sums, they could not possible be expected to manage their own household accounts.

Except for the fact that newspapers are commercial operations and if they either choose or fall into a lackadaisical accountancy regine, that is their problem. Their shareholders may eventually pull them up over it if they lose too much money this way, but the shareholders can choose not to invest their money in the enterprise and can pull it out when they wish.

MPs have been stealing money from taxpayers who have no say-so in whether their taxes are collected - unless they are rich enough to avoid paying any or all of it, of course.

The attempt here is to make us all, by extension, feel that what MPs are doing is nothing more than when we inadvertently put a company pen in our pocket on the way home or use the company telephone to call for an ambulance when we have just shredded our leg on a piece of unsafe company equipment.

We are supposed to think: "There but for the grace of God go I" except that we never will because we do not have moral shaped holes in our brain and we are not thieving bastard scum like politicians.

Anyway, things are changing before our eyes. There is something in the air.

Love is in the air 
Everywhere I look around 
Love is in the air 
Every sight and every sound 

No, no, no. It's not that at all. It's something more like this:

And I try, oh my God do I try
I try all the time
In this institution
And I pray, oh my God do I pray
I pray every single day
For a revolution

No, there is not quite revolution in the air, but there is an accumulating public anger which may become fury and rage.

Jon Snow on Channel Four News a few days ago basically shouted down Liam Byrne with something like this: "You have already said that three times now and I do not want to hear it again. I want an answer to the question I have put."

The fastidious politeness we are used to seeing when politicians are interviewed will start to go out of the window. Once you cease to trust people, you very soon start treating them with contempt. The veneer of public deference will soon give way to very open humiliation.

On the same programme, Krishnan Guru-Murthy interviewed, among others, Chris "Corby Statesman" Huhne in front of a small public audience. The politician tried to shout down and browbeat a member of the public who dared to question how abstemious and frugal he was with public funds. Immediately, another member of the audience kept saying through a sneering grin: "You don't get it, do you? You just don't get it!"

No, politicians do not get it, but they will.

This is what Al Franken says in his book Lies And The Lying Liars Who Tell Them:

In her book A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous Fourteenth Century, Barbara Tuchman writes about a peasant revolt in 1358 that began in the village of St. Leu and spread throughout the Oise Valley. At one estate, the serfs sacked the manor house, killed the knight and roasted him on a spit in front of his wife and kids. Then, after ten or twelve peasants violated the lady, with the children still watching, they forced her to eat the roasted flesh of her husband and then killed her.

That is class warfare.

Arguing over the optimal marginal tax rate for the top one percent is not.

The problem for the commentariat like us is that if the poor do rise up, we may look like just the same rich pickings.

"No, look, it's all on credit - here are the receipts - I'm poor just like you!" may not save our skins.

Perhaps we should resign our chatterati status before we have it thrust down our throats.

The common people may not speak in such lovely sonorous tones and drop their erudtion with such careless insouciance, but they may be the ones who pull these robber barons from power.

Like a dog lying in a corner,
they'll bite you and never warn you.
Look out.
They'll tear your insides out.

'Cause Everybody hates a tourist,
especially one who thinks
it's all such a laugh.
Yeah, and the chip stains' grease
will come out in the bath.
You will never understand
how it feels to live your life
with no meaning or control
and with nowhere left to go.
You're amazed that they exist
and they burn so bright,
while you can only wonder why.


  1. That was fun! Good post...

  2. Well, Atomboy, I think you have it slightly the wrong way around.

    What we should be asking is why are the Barclay Bros et al whipping up such a storm over this? I'm not suggesting for one moment, by the way, that this is swept under the carpet or treated with velvet gloves. But once fairly anti-democratic media outlets start feigning moral outrage, alarm bells should really be ringing.

    I would say we do have a say (albeit flawed and weak) in who is elected. What we don't have a say in is how the media operates and to what extent it influences public opinion and policy.

    Tony Benn's five questions are worth bearing in mind:

    "What power have you got?"
    "Where did you get it from?"
    "In whose interests do you use it?"
    "To whom are you accountable?"
    "How do we get rid of you?"

    The last two are particularly uncomfortable when thinking about the ever-growing sophistication, corporatisation, and influence media empires and moguls such as the Barclay Bros and Murdoch have garnered over the years. In the case of politicians the last question is easily answerable by the way (by not voting for him/her).

    So whilst the crooked politicians need to be weeded out, let's also bear in mind whose interests an over the top reaction serves and who is driving this frenzy. Certainly not democratically-minded ones.

  3. Yes, very good post. And Distant Mirror is an excellent read.
    But I do agree with olching.
    Good old Tony Benn!

  4. Olching

    I do agree with you, but would qualify it to the extent that we no longer expect to see moral or ethical considerations trumping the profit motive as far as business is concerned, whereas governments and politicians who seek to impose constraints upon our behaviour within a moral context lose their authority when they are seen to be as slippery as the local spiv.

    Of course, the lower echelons of society are now defined as politicians, estate agents, bankers, journalists, rapists and paedophiles - although the order is not yet completely set.

    For a piece about the entanglement of politics and business, please see:


  5. Trolls will be ignored

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  6. Cracking post, like it. I remember Tony Benn saying in the early 80s "the difference in Westminster isn't between left and right, but top and bottom..."

    Not much matey ! Keep up the good work.

  7. This is for all our leaders


  8. soapboxbilly17 May, 2009 06:26

    scandal,,pitifull ,mean ,mutual scandal was never more plentifully dispersed
    ,,electioneering is a trade so despicably degrading,, so eternally incompatible with moral and mental dignity that i can scarcely believe a truly great mind capable of such a vise,, i am at least certain no mind is great while thus employed Goodwin

  9. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vL2-2y9AfYc

  10. ok tsar bomba,,having read it for a while up and down,, as is my peculiar wont ,,i think as a spontaneous and cathartic performance piece its
    well done ,,some of the condemnation is a little
    more caustic than my taste tends towards but i am a bit of an old lady like that,,(metaphorically,, i am male)

    as a part of the historical record i think it leaks a bit,,however i can not (choose not) to elaborate on its cracks and holes (imho) ,, i certainly do hope you continue to post articles

  11. Fuckin hell Atomboy. We must share all the same reading material.
    What did you think of "Everton: the school of science"?

    Incidentally, I picked up Hobsbawn's "On History" in a second hand shop the other week. I'd forgotten how good it was. Well worth a read.

    Again-nice rant...sorry polemic.

  12. No class war is happening now it is the inevitable struggle between those who make all and those who take all.

    The medoaeval revolt you mention is instructive, but you do not explain what happened to them afterwards i don't recall a republic of peasants in that era.

    The reason was that it was localised and an uncontrolled outbreak of anger. But these were peasants uneducated and illiterate.

    The working class (i.e. everyone who works to survive or depends on a pension instead of income directly from stocks or property) is educated and literate and capable of understanding the balance of forces is capabable of organising something rather more effective than a baron roast.

    They were justifiably angry but that is not enough.

    Nothing short of a global movement will shift these bastards not everywhere at once but everywhere in quite quick succession.

    But without political and economic education to create a leadership you'll just get a disorganised mess.

    Remember the other ranks in the Russian army turned on their guns on the officers in 1917.

    The ruling class look powerful but they depend on us for everything, convince enough of us of the truth that we are being lied to robbed and exploited and where are they?

    Educate! Agitate! Organise!

  13. man with no name22 May, 2009 12:29

    @ annten42

    "Educate! Agitate! Organise"

    Wise words but you/we are not likely to get political and economic eduaction in a phonebox!

  14. man with no name22 May, 2009 12:33

    @ Bitterweed

    Tony Benn didn't just "talk" about things he used to get off the phone and out of the phonebox and join the pickets on the early morning shifts - but because he was/is civilised he always brought his own flask of tea.

  15. man with no names dog22 May, 2009 13:15


    "Trolls will be ignored" - Wise words but to ignore a Droll is Folly by Golly