Defending the oligarchy: UK media and the manufacturing of a Tory victory.

Nobody should be surprised that the majority of the media were complicit in their manufacturing of a narrative that contributed to the defeat of Jeremy Corbyn during the recent election in December 2019. Nor should we expect any easing back of these tactics if a Labour leader is elected who is deemed unsuitable to the establishment oligarchs. Jeremy Corbyn at one point was seen as serious threat to the ruling elite in the UK, advocating wholesale changes to the way the rich and powerful operate. This included higher tax rates for the rich, a clampdown on tax evaders and avoiders, plus plans for the nationalisation of certain industries and services. Corbyn without doubt was considered a problem and had to go.

In the UK, the print media is primarily owned by billionaires and these individuals help to maintain the sanctity of the establishment. Predictably coming down hard on anyone who threatens this hierarchy. The names of some of the people who help to preserve the status quo are;

  • Lord Rothermere – The Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday and The Metro.
  • Rupert Murdoch – The Sun, The Sun on Sunday, The Times and The Times on Sunday.
  • Alexander and Evgeny Lebedev – The Independent, The Independent on Sunday and The Evening Standard.
  • Richard Desmond – The Daily Star, The Star on Sunday, The Daily Express and The Express on Sunday.
  • David and Frederick Barclay – The Telegraph and The Spectator.

What appears obvious during the last two elections of 2017 and 2019 is, the majority of the print media were deeply critical of Corbyn and his proposed policies. This sustained criticism also occurred from supposed friends of Labour, such as the Guardian. However, most of this vitriol appeared in right wing rags, who persistently produced pages of propaganda and outright lies to concoct a powerful anti-Corbyn narrative. This rhetoric lasted four years, but notably increased in intensity over the 2017 election and stepping up a further gear over the 2019 campaign. It is proposed that the hostility towards Labour and in particular Jeremy Corbyn doubled from the 2017 to the 2019 election.

Corbyn bias 2

Positive/negative items published in the print media five weeks prior to the 2019 election. For clarity Labour is in red, Conservatives are in Blue.

The final week in the run up to the election saw the onslaught against Labour become steadily more vicious, in contrast coverage towards the Tories became friendlier over the same period. Among the highest circulating newspapers namely the, Sun, Telegraph and the Daily Mail the gloves were off, as these outlets effectively became the propaganda wing of the Conservative Party. In a study by Loughborough University it was clearly noted that more space was given to Johnson’s pre election proposals than Corbyn’s in the week before the election. With of course, most of the media coverage focusing on Brexit.

To get a taste of the savagery towards Corbyn, here’s a list of some of the most ridiculous claims levelled at Jeremy Corbyn over this 4 year period, all of which were completely unfounded. Of course, in this world the truth is irrelevant only the result matters. The original propaganda pieces are linked to subject matter.

  1. Corbyn met a Czech communist spy during the cold war.
  2. Corbyn is a Marxist extremist intent on bankrupting Britain.
  3. Corbyn is a terrorist sympathiser.
  4. Corbyn thinks the death of Osama Bin Laden was a tragedy.
  5. Corbyn wants Britain to abolish its Army (see below)
  6. Corbyn is an IRA supporter.

Sun lies

This coordinated campaign worked exceptionally well. To confirm this success, all that would be required is to engage with someone who is anti Corbyn, ask them why and then listen to them repeat the faux headlines from one or more of these publications. One of the most damaging themes seized upon by the print media across the entire spectrum of the mainstream media, was that Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party were anti-Semitic. The primary problem with this smear was, many of these baseless accusations came from the identarian left paper, The Guardian. In the link you’ll find 105 articles from the Guardian that they ran against Corbyn on the subject of anti-Semitism up to 2019.

This narrative was broadly constructed on two fronts. The first stemmed from the Labour Party’s refusal to accept a definition of anti-Semitism proposed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. Secondly there was a perception from anti-Corbyn Labour members that the party was too slow to condemn and punish anti-Semitic acts, while suggesting there was a general increase in anti-Semitism within Labour.

In response to the first issue, in 2016 the Labour party accepted in full the definition of anti-Semitism as proposed. What Labour adopted was the text in the box, but not all the examples that followed. This approach was supported by leading high court lawyers who suggested that, accepting the entire ‘package’, which regularly conflates the criticism of anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism, could have a profound effect on any criticism of Israel and on free speech in general

“Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

Accusations of anti-Semitism levelled at the Labour Party coincided with a Corbyn led shift to the left and an increase in scrutiny of Israel. In truth, Labour has exceptionally low levels of anti-Semitism. Out of the 228 MP’s as of 2016, one had been suspected and suspended for anti-Semitism, equating to 0.4% of all Labour MP’s. Among the 7000 councillors 0.07% had been suspended and of the 388,000 members (2016), 0.012% were suspended. A 2017 survey found that the Labour Party were unsurprisingly less likely to hold anti-Semitic views than both the Conservative Party and UKIP.

I think it’s fair to surmise that suggestions of an anti-Semitic tidal wave within the Labour Party were purely a political creation devised by Corbyn’s detractors. It has been pointed out that the media coverage regarding this subject lacked both context and perspective, often relying on a handful of Corbyn’s critics to paint a particular picture. This was accomplished without declaring their political motivations or any balance seeking initiatives from the media. One such agent was Margaret Hodge, who accused Corbyn of being a fascist, while Ms Hodge has a history of appropriating fascist language for political gain. There is no doubt that this was all part of the continued attempt to discredit Corbyn.

Moving away from the print media, the BBC also played a significant role in protecting the establishment from a left wing shift. The BBC used a multitude of methods to present the Conservatives in a far better light than what was deserved during the lead up to the election. So lets looks into these purposeful decisions by the BBC to maintain the establishment. Firstly, on Remembrance Day 2019, the BBC replaced a clip of Boris Johnson’s chaotic laying of a wreath (upside down), with a smarter more polished performance going back to 2016. This was shown on the BBC’s Breakfast programme the next morning.

A further cover up occurred during the leaders Question Time programme. This occurred when the BBC edited audience laughter following a question, asking Johnson if he believed it was “important that he told the truth”, instead using audio that contained only applause. Throughout the election build up, it had been noted that Laura Kuenssberg the BBC political editor had become increasingly more reliant on obtaining private briefings from Boris Johnson’s Chief Political Strategist Dominic Cummings. In addition to this, when the Prime Minister was caught in front of the press at a hospital while being quizzed by an anxious father over his sick daughter, Kuenssberg came to the rescue, rapidly discrediting the father, tweeting that he was a Labour activist.

kuenssberg

Kuenssberg continued to distribute lies even in the final few day before the election. Following Boris Johnson’s awkward incident at a hospital in Leeds, whereby, he refused to look at a photo of sick child on a makeshift bed of coats and pocketed the phone off the reporter. Alas, Kuenssberg again was on hand to distract the public. She was quick to circulate falsely, that an advisor to Health Secretary Matt Hancock had been punched by a Labour supporter. While two days later on the 11th, she sent a tweet suggesting that postal votes appeared to be favouring the Tories, even though counting the votes at opening and commenting on them is forbidden. However, the BBC covered this up by removing any evidence of Kuenssberg’s statements.

Of course the bias within the BBC is much more than Laura Kuenssberg. Andrew Neil’s twitter feed was constantly spewing out retweets from the Sun and the Spectator, the latter being a right wing publication of which he is on the board. So why does the BBC seem to naturally protect the Conservative Party? One theory is that there is a revolving door between the BBC and the Tories. It is well known that senior political journalists at the BBC have regularly gone on to work for Tory government’s and visa versa .

So lets looks at some of these characters, starting with Nick Robinson. Mr Robinson is an ex political editor at the BBC, who now presents the Today programme and is a former president of the Oxford University’s Conservative Association. James Harding who was director of news until 2018 is the former editor of The Times, while the TV political presenter Andrew Neil briefly worked for the Tories, but made his name within the Murdoch empire. Robbie Gibb a former editor on Neil’s Daily Politics show went on to work for Theresa May in 2017 and he is the brother of Tory Minister Nick Gibb. Meanwhile, former Conservative Ministers Chris Grayling and Michael Gove are also ex BBC employees.

Of course, Labour politicians have also gone back and forth between the BBC and politics, but rarely do people from the political left occupy senior editorial positions. These places are generally reserved for white, upper-middle class Oxbridge types, who end up becoming decision makers at the BBC. If nothing else, this revolving door must raise serious questions regarding the BBC’s ability to hold the government to account or to even to understand anything outside of the world of formal politics, hence their continual confusion around Corbyn’s popularity.

This article of course wouldn’t be complete without looking at the effects of social media. It is widely thought that rather than a coordinated strategy on social media, the Tories won the battle on the internet primarily due to older Tory voters willing to engage in political activism by posting blatant lies. To exemplify this we must return to the Leeds Royal Infirmary incident, where many right wing keyboard warriors chose to smear the family of the sick boy on the floor by suggesting it was staged. This shameless attack was then shared by other like minded individuals, who desperately wanted this to be true in order to justify their own ideology.

The Tory social media strategy was simple, pick a few lines about Labour, regardless of their validity and repeat it continuously on every platform available. Their second tactic was to make up a Labour policy, add a random price tag and then concoct a tax policy that they proclaimed will be used to pay for it and then post it to as many people as possible. Of course, none of this required any truth just a wild imagination, simple repetition, a lack of moral integrity and a rudimentary grasp of a laptop was all that was required.

It is pretty easy to surmise that the truth or morals are not a top priority for the Tories, But this was particularly evident when prior to the recent election it was reported that 88% of all Conservative Party Facebook ads were misleading or simply a lie. This compares to the Labour Party, whereby, zero ads paid for by Labour were considered misleading.

Out of 6,749 paid for by the Tories during a four day period over 5,000 claimed that they would build 40 new hospitals. This was considered bogus, as there had been no costings performed for 40 hospitals. Furthermore, the Tories had only allocated funding for upgrades on 6 hospitals by 2025 and upgrades on a further 38 hospitals between 2025-2030. At no point had there been any mention of constructing 40 new hospitals within this information.

40newhospitals

A second big lie which was found in 500 paid ads, consisted of the Tories pledging to create 50,000 new nursing jobs, however, 18,500 of these included in the total were existing nurses. A final example of this misinformation campaign was the misleading and inaccurate claims regarding Jeremy Corbyn’s tax plans, which featured in 4,000 ads circulated at the beginning of December. Incidentally, all of these above ‘porkies’ were discovered by First Draft, a non profit organisation created to debunk fakes news.

What is undeniable throughout the lead up to the last election is the establishment be it print media, TV or social media, made a concerted effort to undermine the result of the election. This ranged from a four year campaign to discredit Jeremy Corbyn in the traditional print media, to a covering up of Boris Johnson’s many inadequacies by the BBC, all the way through to right wing wannabee activists making up lies as they go. Evidently, this combination of activities proved to have a devastating effect on Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party and the eventual result.

The whole campaign has been propaganda masterclass by the Tories. Much of this is straight out Edward Bernays’s and Walter Lippman’s playbook as described by Noam Chomsky in his 1988 book Manufacturing Consent. But, as it stated on the 90’s TV show the X Files, “the truth is out there”, only now we will have to work much harder to uncover it.

 

 

Brexit: The saviour of capitalism.

An election is looming in the UK, on the 12th of December the nation will vote for a new leader of this beleaguered country. If you follow the polls, you may be thinking things are looking bleak for Labour, as many polls have the Conservatives in a sizeable lead. Of course, they could be way off, as they were in 2017, when Labour made significant headway. What amazes me is not that the Conservatives are reportedly doing better than Labour, but the question must be; how are they even close? Massive inequality, an NHS that’s steadily being sold off, poor public services, inconsistent education, increase usage of food banks, a growing homeless population and inertia when it comes to climate change, just to name a few issues. This should be a perfect time for a change Prime Minister of which Corbyn is well suited. So what’s happened? The answer is Brexit.

I’m not sure at the time if David Cameron, the Conservative Party or the right wing in general realised how much political capital would be gained by the charade that has become of leaving the EU. Before we go any further, I will just reaffirm my position on Brexit and it’s a simple one. It will be neoliberalism if the UK stay in Europe and it will be neoliberalism if you’re eating Corn Flakes having voted for the Conservative Party on the morning of the 13th of December. Nothing will change, well not for the better anyway. Everything will continue to get worse, only at a quicker pace because a majority of people will have voted for entitled, public school educated, upper class psychopaths, with a mandate to do as they wish.

This election has rather predictably been labelled a Brexit election, but this is merely a sideshow. There is much more going on in the UK that requires urgent action. Sadly Brexit has divided people like no other issue, blinding many to much more pressing matters that Brexit simply cannot and will not resolve. The UK is split on geographical lines, education, class, race, political party, climate change and of course the ‘B’ word. The political right know that when people are divided, apathetic, politically demoralised and voter turnout is low, they win and usually handsomely.

When people are united by the need for change, with a trust that this can be achieved through the democratic process and a general agreement of what it should look like, the population tends to move to the left. Much of the populist left does not possess much money or power, but when it works it is driven by the people, in vast numbers. Hence the beauty of Brexit. It adds yet another fissure to society, keeping people divided, bitter, angry, emotional and desperate. These factors lead to some working class people who have gained nothing from the system to vote for the very party who will maintain the status quo.

161223_homeless_uk

The ruling elite are feeding off the anxiety and desolation of the working class, who have seen whole areas decimated and relieved of any trace of industry or prosperity. Huge swathes of this group show all the signs of ‘Stockholm Syndrome‘. This is a condition that is often displayed by abused people, prisoners of war and cult members. This occurs when people feel intense fear of physical harm and believe their captor is in total control. It is chiefly thought to be a survival response, which includes sympathy and support for their captor’s plight and can even display manifestations of negative feelings towards people who are trying to help (in this case Labour and Jeremy Corbyn).

A large proportion of this magic trick is performed by the ruling elite, providing disgruntled citizens a common enemy, while proposing a solution to end their pain. Primarily, but not exclusively regarding Brexit this particular ‘patsy’ is immigration. The powers that be, along with a complicit mainstream media have created immigration as a major issue. It has been suggested that immigrants are stealing jobs or reducing wages within the UK.

All this despite academic research suggesting that this is a false narrative, but the myth persists, as any dissenting voice is simply discarded as propaganda, both from the left and the right dependent on which side of the Brexit fence you sit on. Many people will vehemently declare they are not racist and I’m sure they are generally sincere with these admissions. However, the process of immigration involves of course people from varying countries and cultures and without any compelling evidence to support the immigration theory, lets just say, it doesn’t look good.

NHS workers.jpg

Many people who move to the UK are there because the nation requires their skills, particularly in the NHS. Regarding EU immigrants, a paper by the London School of Economics suggests that they are generally more educated, younger and less likely to claim benefits than people born in the UK. Approximately 44% of this population have some form of higher education as opposed to 23% of those born in the UK. With regards to taking jobs, immigrants also consume goods and services, therefore, potentially creating more employment opportunities. Evidence has shown that in areas with the most amount EU immigration the situation has not resulted in major job losses or a reduction in pay for UK born workers. Most major economic repercussions resulted from the rich playing roulette with other peoples’ money, pre and post 2008.

So on the face of it, the immigration scapegoat holds little water, but we shouldn’t let a good yarn obscure the facts, because after all the ruling elite have a solution for all this. This of course is Brexit, on waking up post election, plus Brexit shortly after, the UK will be free to make their own decisions and to screw up the country as they see fit. They will be free to continue with the privatisation of the NHS, free to penalise the poor and free to allow corporate CEO’s, ex Prime Minsters, celebrities and other undesirables to hide their money in British Overseas Territories via trusts. All this freedom must be intoxicating for some people, but not necessarily for anyone you or I know. The idea that Brexit will cure all our ills is a fantasy, but it continues to fragment the people and for that the Conservatives must be eternally grateful.

Utilitarian Socialism: a need for pragmatic politics.

Once upon a time the left was known for fighting for causes outside of their own self interest. It generally didn’t matter the location of the battle or who the injustice was enacted upon, the left always appeared keen to do their bit. This morality continued for decades and still continues amongst pockets of people. Enter 2018, where the ‘pretend left’ have expanded their politics no further than their melanin levels and genitals. In reality, the left is a confusing wide range of groups all claiming to having some theoretical link to an egalitarian ideology. These tribes span from the Democrats in the US, a distinctly corporate led party, tenuously claiming to be for the people. Through to Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party who continues the fight to keep Labour for the people and away from Blairite neoliberals. Of course we also have specific Socialist, Communist and Marxist groups among others to round it off.

What is worrying is not the array of groups per se, although, some of them are about as left as Reagan or Thatcher, no the problem is; what are the foremost issues for the left today and why. For some, primarily on the right of the political aisle, identity politics is considered the issue and the hallmark of someone with left leaning views. This is also conveniently utilised by right wing media, such as Fox News to repeatedly discredit the left and it must be said, with good effect. Yet for many lefties, myself included, this political arena is deeply flawed, divisive and exclusionary. It is contradictory in as much as it argues vehemently against stereotyping certain groups, yet identarians will consider certain groups, for example ‘all white males’ to be privileged. Which in itself is a huge generalisation, completely disregarding; socioeconomic, educational and environmental factors while drawing these deeply suspect conclusions.

Many on the left still consider class and socioeconomic factors created by capitalism as their main focus. In effect, it is a structural problem, starting with governments and corporations who engage in some kind of reciprocal power sharing pact. Particularly following the crash of the Berlin Wall, capitalism has been sold to the masses as the only viable game in town. Further to this, anything outside of this narrative is considered not only to be crazy, but a danger to society. The current abuse and anti-Semitic allegations aimed at discrediting Jeremy Corbyn is a recent example of identity politics being used as a weapon to protect the corporatist status quo. We are now all systematically conditioned to be producers and consumers, with most people not even being able to envision a world outside of endless malls, Starbucks and Amazon.

The magicians wielding their power; Zuckerberg, Bezos, Gates, Musk, Buffett, Murdoch, the Koch’s and co work with the world’s most powerful politicians to ensure the earth runs exactly to their specifications. To highlight this, the US in 2015 spent $2 billion on lobbying the government. Many of the biggest corporations have upwards of 100 lobbyist working to secure their interests. What has been proven in varying studies is that any issues that poorer people care about, are less lightly to be reflected in positive policy change, whereas the opposite is true of rich people. To summarise we have government of the rich, by the rich, for the rich.

Business Leaders Gather For B20 Summit In Sydney
Rupert Murdoch, propagandist in chief

It is indicated that although using money to influence policy is clearly helpful, one of the key factors is socialisation. People in government typically have much more in common with CEO’s, bankers, top lawyers rather than working class people. Consider the amount of MP’s who attended Eton, proportional to the general population. There have been 19 Prime Ministers who have darkened the doors of Eton including David Cameron, other recent notable MP’s being Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Zac Goldsmith. Further establishment luminaries from Eton include; Alex Wilmot-Sitwell former CEO of USB investment bank, Martin Taylor former CEO of Barclays Bank, Charles Moore former Editor with the Daily Telegraph and Nathanial Rothschild financier.

These people tend to operate in very similar circles, therefore, it’s not entirely surprising that they are more inclined to look after one another as opposed to someone from a council estate in Middlesbrough (UK). It’s worth noting that only 7% of children in the UK attend private schools and just a fraction of these are lucky or rich enough to go to Eton. Despite this, 71% of senior judges, 62% of armed forces officers, 44% of the Sunday Times ‘Rich List’, 43% of newspaper columnist and 33% of MP’s attended private schools.

A similar trend is apparent when investigating Oxbridge. Although only 1% of the population attend Oxbridge, former graduates make up 75% of Judges, 59% of the cabinet and 47% of newspaper columnists. The US has a similar theme; George W Bush, John Kerry, George H W Bush, Steve Mnuchin (US Treasury Secretary) and Robert Kagan (influential neoconservative writer) all attended the secret ‘Skull and Bones Society’ at Yale University. This concentration of wealth and power among a few very well connected people is of no surprise and has been continuing for decades.

So what’s my point? Put simply, unsurprisingly I propose our most pressing dilemma is a concentration of wealth. We have a class system that seeks to retain power by coercing government and manipulating people into thinking that this current system is the optimal way to run society. In contrast to this, there is a section of society who tenuously claim to be on the left, who are convinced that the biggest issues we face revolve around gender, sex and race, not economic inequality. These groups are at best fickle, they often fragment and are repeatedly ‘naval gazing’ while claiming to be oppressed or at least more oppressed than other competing groups. This search for victimhood is commonly performed in the name of self interest. Feminists may claim women are oppressed, but what if these weekend activists are white or straight, remember there is always someone out there more oppressed than you.

This approach helps nobody, certainly not the “greatest number” as required by utilitarian’s. For identarians, recipients of oppression are settled upon by gender and race, even if the perceived oppression is by group association only. Whilst the working class single parent, who is struggling to pay rent and feed the kids, doesn’t get a look in, as they fail to check the required boxes for any compassion. This divides society, by producing a group pecking order of victims and of therefore, perceived importance. This has the effect of dissuading people from fighting for these particular causes. For example, only 7% of Brits identify as feminists and yet two thirds agree with gender equality.

I suspect the initial goal of these activists was well intentioned, fighting to gain recognition for marginalised groups. In recent years, however, identity politics has shifted away from inclusion to exclusion. For example; you can’t talk about abortion because you’re a man, regardless of any possible expertise you may possess. Outgroups are voiceless, and if they still want to support an in-group, they are given the title of ally, but must remain mute. Luckily (cue sarcasm), identarians are concerned with hot topics such as; cultural appropriation, mansplaining and manspreading.

While identarians are in the midst of these deep deliberations, people all over the world are being severely oppressed and many killed. In Yale the identarian mafia in one of America’s most privileged universities were apoplectic with rage a couple of years back, over Halloween costumes and the advice of what one should wear. Resident Professor and acclaimed academic Nikolas Christakis among many communications suggested, “if you are offended by a costume look away or talk to them about it”. What ensued was nothing short of the actions of a cult.

Watching episodes such as this over something that is frankly trivial, it isn’t surprising that groups such as these do not gain much widespread support. It also serves to discourage people engaging with the left, as you hear simplistic comments such as ‘loony lefty’. What we should be striving for, are issues that binds us together not what blinds us from our biggest problems. This is why I suggest looking towards a utilitarian way of conducting our politics, more pragmatism and less emotion. This may well help us deal with our many issues.

Jeremy Bentham, the 18th century British philosopher offered the “greatest happiness” principle suggesting “it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right or wrong”. So with this in mind, we could compare how many potential people identarians would help with their ideology, as a net value. Then one could compare this with how many people would benefit if we made a concerted, cohesive decision to tackle the system of neoliberalism (unbridled capitalism) and the people who gain mercilessly from the efforts of others. I’m relatively sure that under this ‘utilitarian type thought experiment’ the latter would win a unanimous decision.

One glaring problem with identarians is that they are commonly unconcerned with economic difficulties, as many of them don’t have any to think about. Identity politics has fast become a middle class pursuit that allows participants to appear virtuous while not rocking the economic boat from which they have benefitted. Social justice activists often argue that a utilitarian philosophy neglects minority groups, but in this case economic inequality affects all groups, regardless of; religion, race and gender. Are some people worse off than others? Of course. But why make things better for a few, when we can challenge a system that currently causes misery for many? Further to this, we need to explore why neoliberalism and the economic inequality it causes is indeed our biggest problem.

Some background, in 2017 Oxfam stated that 8 men had more wealth than the poorest half of society, that’s 3.8 billion people. On top of this, more than 3 billion people currently live on less than $2.50 a day. All the while Jeff Bezos who pays wages too low to live on, makes (not earns) $230,000 (US) per minute. He has amassed a fortune worth approximately $150 billion. He’s achieved this by selling us shit we don’t need, while destroying many small businesses along the way. If at this point if you fail to see an issue with this, you are part of the problem and have succumbed to neoliberalism, hook, line and sinker.

I’m sure billionaires and their sycophants will vehemently counter that these people work exceptionally hard for their wealth. This may be true, but doesn’t a janitor (cleaner), a nurse or a builder not work hard? To put this in perspective, Jeff Bezos using $ per minute rate accrues $13,800,000 (US) per hour, whereby a janitor in the US earns on average $10 per hour. With this ‘proportional work’ theory in mind it would mean Jeff Bezos works 138,000 times harder than a janitor. Now, even taking into account that Bezos has arguably more responsibility, I would offer that it is not to the tune of 138,000 times more.

Admittedly this veers towards the extreme end of the scale regarding differences, but what is patently obvious is this is a ludicrous way to organise society. There have been a plethora of studies concluding that people at the top have often enjoyed excellent education, consistent support (parental or otherwise), are often middle to upper middle class and have a safe environment in which to live and learn in. However, one of the most important factors on top of all this is luck.

In several studies conducted in this area, they concluded that the most successful are also the luckiest. In an effort to tie this together, take Bill Gates; he came from a upper class background, had access to computers when only 0.01% of his generation had this privilege. Furthermore his mother had social connections with the Chairman of IBM. Is it just me or is that some sort of luck. The lesson is, don’t be fooled by people who tell you they attained their perceived success through their own hard work because nobody succeeds (whatever that means) entirely alone.

So, from a utilitarian perspective I think I should outline why economic inequality is one of our biggest issues. Sticking with our ‘greatest happiness’ principle, economic inequality has huge negative affects on the economic stability, social mobility, education, crime, health and social cohesion. It’s important to mention that it’s not just absolute poverty that causes these detrimental effects, but primarily economic inequality. So lets elaborate on this. Economically unequal countries have stronger links to economic instability, financial crisis, debt and inflation.

One such reasons for this is what’s called rent seeking. This is when people at the top of the income spectrum use their position to increase their personal gains beyond the amount needed to sustain their employment. Which as mentioned earlier is used to influence political debate. Secondly social mobility, it is well established that countries with high economic inequality have lower levels of social mobility. Furthermore, children of highly paid people are more likely to be highly paid themselves, while children of poorly paid people are likely to be lower earners. It is proposed that the principle mechanism regarding social mobility is education. Research has found a correlation between low maths and reading scores with the inequality between countries. In other words, countries who are more equal, attain better maths and reading scores than their unequal counterparts.

social mobility

There are well established links between economic inequality and both property and violent crime. Rates of crime are higher in countries that are more unequal, even when accounting for other determinants of crime, such as low employment and low income. It is suggested that economic inequality influences the way we think, act and relate to each other. Health also suffers in an unequal society; life expectancy, infant mortality, mental illness and obesity are all improved in more equal societies. The most plausible explanation for the disparity in outcome is ‘status anxiety’. It is thought that this occurs as inequality places society in a socio-economic hierarchy that fosters status competition, leading to stress, poor health and other negative outcomes. Rounding this off we have social cohesion.

Income inequality alters the way we interact and engage with society. This manifests in a decline in altruism, lower social and civic participation and reduced levels of voter turnout. One underpinning issue surrounding these problems is lower levels of trust in more unequal societies. It is thought that economic disparities increases the social distance between you and other members of the population, reinforcing the belief that they are different to you. This can lead to a lack of trust, reduced future relationships and a more fragile society.

A weakening of societal bonds and trust is fertile ground for violent crime. These mechanisms can also have an affect on how people view themselves and others. A study in the US found that people who lived in less equal states of the US were less likely to be compassionate, agreeable, cooperative, altruistic or trusting. This just about concludes my case as to why we need to reduce economic inequality. It’s my belief that this one aspect affects millions of people in a variety of ways, whilst reducing society’s potential, and therefore, the quality of life for most people.

So what’s the answer? That’s quite simple, power. Nothing can change without power, regardless where you may be in the world. To achieve power for the people you need a concern that appeals to the majority of people. For the left this will inevitably involve winning back the disenfranchised working class. The very same group who the majority of centre left parties around the world gave up on in exchange for middle class voters in the 90’s early 2000’s. Many of whom received an earful of liberal platitudes, from people such as Tony Blair and Bill Clinton, while losing their jobs and self-respect.

White men are now told by middle class academics and politicians that they are the gold medal winners of the title of “most privileged”. While many struggle to find work that pays enough to feed their family and pay the bills. At the same time the very same band of identarians now ponder on such important issues of the day such as bathrooms for our varying gendered or non-gendered citizens. When you place these types of issues side by side, it really isn’t surprising why the working class walked away from Labour and the Democrats.

Organising a political agenda by race, sex, gender and religion is not going to provide much work or bring people together, however hard you try. On the flip side, most people along the way suffer from the fallout of economic inequality. Not only this, but the people who perpetuate this system are often behind other large global threats, such as wars and climate change. I will conclude by stating utilitarian thinking is not easy and can be counterintuitive. Moral psychologist and philosopher Joshua Greene offers that utilitarian morality requires you to override your emotional instincts.

In essence, this may require “giving up on your convictions to do what’s best generally”. Greene states we can do this as we have 2 systems of thinking; one of automatic processes, intuitions and emotions, the other of deep thinking, logic and rationality. I could guess that most people would agree that where politics is concerned many people resort to an emotional inspired way of thinking, and often nothing gets resolved. I propose that we have to move away from our particular, safe, moral tribes and like Bentham, reason what is actually the best result for the most amount of people.

 

 

 

 

Climate change: The denial is strong in this one.

Climate change is the most important issue we face as a species. This is not an article on the validity of the science, as this is settled. Having said that, I am aware that science evolves with further evidence, but right now there is a consensus. Below is the now famous pie chart courtesy of James Powell, who searched 13,950 peer reviewed articles and identified which of these rejected the theory that humans have caused global warming. He outlined that to be classified as a rejection the article must state explicitly that global warming was false, or to provide an alternative reason regarding observed climate change. As illustrated only 0.17% of scientists reviewed refuted the theory that climate change was caused by humans. This line of enquiry continued with the work of Naomi Oreskes who conducted a similar study between 1993 and 2003, using 928 abstracts, finding no opposition to anthropogenic climate change.                                                                                                                                                                                                                               stacks_image_733 Just on the off chance we have climate change deniers in our midst, who are statistically challenged, here is a lovely colourful piccie presenting 4 easy to digest facts, by NASA no less. You could even print it out and stick it on your fridge.                                                         26_ipcc_2_538px Good. Now we have the preliminaries out the way, we can get on to the real point of this piece. Climate change denial is as persistent as ever before. It is heavily funded by the fossil fuel industry, while being ideologically driven by politicians and professional mouthpieces who stand to gain from their advocacy. This campaign has been purposefully designed not necessarily to change people’s opinion, but to muddy the waters and to introduce an element of doubt. The epicentre of climate change denial is undoubtedly the US. Each year millions of dollars are spent lobbying the government and constructing huge nationwide misinformation campaigns. After all, the main protagonists stand to lose substantially if they are defeated in this battle of (mis)information. Therefore, it is of no surprise that roughly only  50% of American adults believe global warming is due to human activity. One of the most startling observations is that the nation’s who produce the highest levels per capita of carbon dioxide, are among the least concerned about the negative effects of climate change. This group is headed by not surprisingly; the US, closely followed by Australia, then Canada and Russia. Many of the nations who worry the most are some of the world’s most minimal polluters; Burkino Faso, Uganda and Peru to name a few. It also cannot be stressed enough that the people who are most at risk from the symptoms of climate change reside in some of the poorest nations on earth. Notably, the UK lies somewhere in the middle regarding polluters, however, they are also one of the least perturbed nations in world in relation to climate change. What is glaringly obvious is many of the most apathetic countries in the world regarding this catastrophe are English speaking. This includes the US, Australia, Canada and the UK, whilst in a further study it was discovered that only 53% of New Zealanders believed that humans are causing climate change. This result is frustratingly similar to the US figure of 50%, begging the question; what is it with English speaking countries, that make the inhabitants so susceptible to climate change denial propaganda?                                              derrick doom Let’s start in the belly of the beast, the fossil fuel corporations. A body called the Economic Intelligence Unit estimated that even if the temperature is held at a 2 °C increase, investors are still set to lose $4.2tn US. If the rise is by 5 °C, which is where we are currently heading, this could push losses to $7tn US. As you may have gathered this is not an unsubstantial amount of cash, even for this industry. Furthermore, the fossil fuel world has known about the effects of their product for decades. It is reported that Exxon Mobile produced climate change papers from 1977-2014 and approximately 80% of their research agreed with the scientific community, stating climate change was caused by humans. This information always firmly remained within the corporation boundaries, in contrast to this public statements aimed at a wider audience conveyed doubt about the validity of climate change. Exxon Mobile were not alone, Shell also released information regarding the probable catastrophic risks back in 1991. This was made into a half-hour film created for public viewing, in addition an earlier written report from 1986 also highlighted potential problems. The data presented on the 1991 film regarding potential sea level rises and temperatures were exceptionally accurate. Shell, however, ignored this and continued to invest billions in tar sand operations knowing that this was incompatible with their own stats from 1998. Although Shell was acutely aware of the impacts of fossil fuel extraction, they proceeded to lobby extensively against climate action. It’s patently clear that Shell among others are happy to secure a profit at the expense of the planet and of course the people who inhabit it. But to ensure this continues the industry requires an extensive propaganda and lobbying system that has their tentacles at all levels of power.

So lets investigate who the runners and riders are in the world of lobbying against climate action. If we are looking for the funders of think tanks and lobbying groups, it would be foolish to proceed any further without introducing the Koch brothers. For those who are unaware, Charles and David Koch control Koch Industries, which is the second largest privately owned company in the US. This business was started by their father Fred, who developed a new cracking method for the refinement of heavy crude oil into gasoline. The Koch’s are involved in asphalt, fertilisers, petroleum, plastic and natural gas production to name a few environmentally unfriendly endeavours. Their annual revenue was upwards of $100bn in 2015 and they stand to gain the most from the Keystone XL pipeline. With substantial skin in the game, the pair are massive political funders with $100,393,292 going to 84 climate denying groups since 1997. They have been successful by using lobbying groups to block, delay or subvert any bill that has been pro environment, including the ‘greenhouse gas emissions legislation’, proposed by Clinton and Bush Jr. This all fits into place when you consider Koch Industries are the 14th worst air polluter in the US. In 2011 Koch Industries was Inducted to the Corporate Hall of Shame, this was achieved by spending $50 million on funding for climate change denial, while also influencing the Supreme Court’s decision allowing unlimited corporate dollars to flood in to federal elections. The Koch boys joined five other notable corporate scumbags in to the hall; ExxonMobile, Monsanto, Blackwater, Halliburton and Chevron, wow they must have been so proud. The Koch’s have also over the years funded Governors and bribed companies all over the globe. Unsurprisingly the jewel in their crown for misinformation is the contribution they’ve made obfuscating and confusing the general public around climate change. Here’s how.

So who are these organisations that the Koch’s lavishly fund? One of the main recipients of this cash is the Cato Institute, this is a Libertarian think tank based in Washington DC. Initially Cato’s interests were focused on public advocacy, media exposure and societal influence. The Cato Institute state that they are “promoting American public policy based on individual liberty, limited government, free markets and peaceful international relations”. In contrast Greenpeace describes the Cato Institute as a “Koch Industries climate denial front group”. Between the years 1997 to 2015 the Cato Institute received just short of $9m (US) from the Koch’s. One of their senior fellow’s happens to be Patrick Michaels, who publishes the purposely ambiguously titled ‘World Climate Report’. This is an ongoing journal of climate science denial. Michaels’s work over the years has been funded by several body’s with polluter interests such as; the Western Fuels Association. The Cato Institute’s primary objective appears not necessarily to outright deny climate change but to baffle the public into a state of apathy and inertia. Here’s the Cato Institute official statement;

“Global warming is indeed real, and human activity has been a contributor since 1975. But global warming is also a very complicated and difficult issue that can provoke very unwise policy in response to political pressure. Although there are many different legislative proposals for substantial reductions in carbon dioxide emissions, there is no operational or tested suite of technologies that can accomplish the goals of such legislation. Fortunately, and contrary to much of the rhetoric surrounding climate change, there is ample time to develop such technologies, which will require substantial capital investment by individuals.”

Tellingly, however, Cato’s advice to congress was to pass no legislation restricting emissions of carbon dioxide. The Cato Institute are one of many think tank’s the Koch’s finance. Next, the conspicuously named American’s for Prosperity is another climate change refuting organisation funded and founded by the Koch’s. Between 2005-2015 the foundation received $6.2m from the dynamic duo. American’s for Prosperity are committed to distorting climate science which they describe as an “encroachment of the government”. The AFP  is also a Libertarian group advocating for smaller government and free markets. They have been known to bolster it’s perceived supporters by using varying ‘events’. One such incident was the “$1.84 gas” where consumers who received gasoline discounts, were asked to provide their names and email addresses on a petition form. These events often proclaim to be raising awareness of “failed energy policies and high gasoline prices”, but participants are never informed about AFP’s connection to the oil industry or to the Koch’s. To get an idea of the kind idiocy involved with these groups, Peggy Venable AFP state director for Texas stated “carbon dioxide is not a pollutant, on the contrary it makes crops and forests grow faster. We exhale carbon dioxide”. The AFP doesn’t often engage in the science of climate change and there’s probably a good reason for that. They are more inclined to employ confusion, such as, claiming the Environmental Protection Agency and the legislation being considered by Congress as based on “global warming alarmism”. These tactics are designed to cause chaos without offering any specific details. They are also inclined to infer suggestions that any strategies to fight climate change would be massively costly without having much impact against the background of natural variation. All this is proclaimed without a shred of evidence.  There are many other methods the AFP use to foster scepticism among the general populous, based around potential costs of reducing emissions. Conveniently omitted in their reports are the catastrophic potential costs of climate change itself. The AFP also like to encourage apathy by suggesting other big nations will do nothing about the issue. Although it is true other countries have been slow in acting, the US especially under Trump are definitely out on their own regarding denial.

The Heartland Institute, provide different tactics but the same ultimate goal, that is to increase the population of climate sceptics while causing bewilderment among the masses. Over the years The Heartland Institute having been generously funded by ExxonMobile and the Koch’s. They claim erroneously to stand up for “sound science”, while spreading propaganda about climate science and even attacking scientists involved with research. Heartland President Joseph Bast, once claimed “the most prominent advocates of global warming aren’t scientists. They are murderers, tyrants, and madmen”. Predictability this was blurted out without any evidence or rationale, just hyperbole and bluster. To round off this review of anti-climate change think tanks, if that isn’t an oxymoron we have the Heritage Foundation. The Heritage Foundation seems to specialise in stirring the pot. A report from the Heritage Foundation stated “the only consensus over the threat of climate change that seems to exist these days is that there is no consensus”. Climate change contrarians have conveniently been announced as the ‘the worlds best scientists” by the foundation. While the Koch’s and ExxonMobil have graciously added over $5m to their coffers since 1997. Apart from a selection of ‘think tanks’ there are a range of politicians, contrarian scientists and talking heads who are often in the pockets of the fossil fuel industry. These useful idiots and science mercenaries are crucial for the delivery of the gospel of climate science denial.

Up first S. Fred Singer, a climate change denying, scientist for hire, once a cold war physicist and environmental scientist, from the University of Virginia. Singer left academia in 1990 to set up the Science and Environmental Policy Project. This ‘think tank’ had such noble goals such as debunking the science of; ozone depletion, climate change, tobacco and other health threats. Amazingly Singer has received funding from such moral luminaries as Philip Morris (tobacco), Monsanto (seed and pesticide evil empire) and Texaco (fossil fuels). One of his pieces of work, if that’s what you want to call it, was entitled, “Climate Change Reconsidered”. This ‘Orwellian’ inspired piece suggested that a warmer world would be safer and healthier for humans and wildlife alike. This narrative astoundingly wasn’t a view shared by much of the science community as it was dismissed out of hand and labelled as fabricated nonsense. The next charlatan is Steve Milloy a proclaimed environmental science expert by Fox News, he spectacularly fails to possess any scientific credentials whatsoever. Milloy has suggested that ailments linked to tobacco products, pesticides in environmental ailments and fossil fuels in climate change as “junk science”. Of course like Singer, Milloy has received payments from prominent agrichemical, fossil fuel and tobacco corporations to whistle their tune to all who will listen, such as Fox News. This leads me neatly to my final example of talking heads for hire and propaganda merchants, notably Rupert Murdoch. Of course Murdoch would have to make an entrance wherever there was any anti-truth rhetoric abound. Fox News has willingly offered itself up as the conduit for anti-science misinformation. This corporation is a strange, dark parallel universe where no rational, thinking human exists, especially with regards to science. The laws of physics are abandoned for a narrative aimed at supporting the super-rich and corporations at all costs. The greenhouse effect is considered a myth, while climate change is no more than a hoax concocted by the government in conjunction with those ‘crazy’ scientists.

So what are the rules of engagement for these deniers? How have they managed to get a large portion of the western world so confused about climate change? Firstly they managed to re-frame the problem and we all fell for it. They succeeded in convincing the vast majority of people to cease calling the problem “global warming” and to adopt a more cuddly term namely “climate change”, for which most of us (including me) are guilty of using. In an article a few years back published in the Guardian, the piece suggested that there are 5 stages to climate change denial. These are designed to perplex the general public by re-framing the issues, thereby, coercing them to re-evaluate their stance, despite the clear scientific evidence in support of climate change

  1. If in doubt, deny everything.

Denial is often a natural reaction in times of difficulty, in this case it is performed for example, by disputing the accuracy of records, such as surface temperature data. This approach has been reinforced over the years by decidedly dodgy research. In 1990 Christy and Spencer’s study displayed lower atmospheric temperatures using satellite instruments. On first glance their work appeared to show that the atmosphere was not warming. On further investigation it was discovered that this research contained several biases that added an artificial cooling trend. Once this was corrected it was noted that lower atmospheric levels were rising at the same rate as surface levels. Another falsity from deniers is that global warming ceased 15 years ago. The author David Rose amateurishly focused on atmospheric temperature which only accounts for 2% of warming from the planet. This disregards 98% of global warming, 90% of which is absorbed by the oceans thus raising their temperature. When we take all this information into account climate change indeed seems to be accelerating, as most scientific models predict.

2.  It’s not us, honest.

This tack was promoted by John Christy and Roy Spencer, who on the back of their research, disputed the accuracy of global climate models. Spencer bullishly concluded; “we deny that most [current climate change] is human-caused, and that it is a threat to future generations that must be addressed by the global community”. Their study compared 73 climate models to satellite temperature measurements, this showed that the models predicted more warming than had been observed. The issue regarding this study was what they chose to compare, which was the temperature of the middle troposphere in the tropics (TMT). The problem with this is satellite measurements of the TMT are uncertain and results from varying scientific groups have been erratic. Another issue is the stratosphere the layer above the troposphere is cooling, which is expected due to an increase in the greenhouse effect. It is known that the stratosphere cooling bleeds into the troposphere leading to a cool bias and affecting data. It is not certain whether the disparity between the models and the TMT data can be linked to poor models or errors in measurements. Either way this was a deeply flawed study and certainly doesn’t substantiated the suggestion that humans have no role in climate change.

2b.  Consensus Denial.

It appears de rigueur from deniers to attack the consensus of human made climate change. Primarily, a paper written by Cook et al. (2013), found just over 4000 papers equating to 97.1% endorsing human caused global warming. Andrew de Montford from Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper The Australian, illegally obtained private discussion material from the Skeptical Science forum and then quoted them out of context, to suggest the study was a public relations exercise. Presenting stolen information out of context runs the risk of purposefully misinterpreting the facts. I think it’s worth highlighting that despite his BSc in Chemistry from St Andrew’s, de Montford could not be described as a scientist, particularly not regarding climate science. Despite his obvious lack of expertise or credentials de Montford has successfully accrued plenty of appearances on mainstream media talking about climate change.

3.  Deny it’s a problem.

The denial of a problem is usually supported by cherry picked data. Bjorn Lomberg has talked about how droughts have not worsened in the US, according to the IPCC, while failing to mention that they predict droughts will intensify over the century. He also suggested that increased CO2 fertilisation will increase wheat crop yields. This may be true when other factors are held constant, such as in a greenhouse, however, when more CO2 is added to the climate this leads to climate change. The outcome of which is more extreme weather, resulting in a rising amount of; heatwaves, bush fires and floods. Those conditions are clearly not conducive to plant growth.

Matt Ridley is a businessman and chairman of a failed bank (Northern Rock), he is a climate science contrarian, libertarian and very rich toff who publishes in mainstream media outlets. He has cunningly employed fake optimism in an effort to cloud the minds of the curious. Promoting ideas such as, the planet has become ‘greener‘ over the last few decades. He uses these nuggets of information to somehow explain climate change away. In contrast to this faux rosy outlook, it is suggested that this ‘planet is greener’ trend will not continue if we keep relying on fossil fuel. Ridley uses what appears to be a typical tactic, find something that is vaguely positive and project it out without scientific backing to support a particular narrative.

4.  Deny we can solve it.

It is often stated that renewable energy is too expensive, when in reality it is actually cheaper than coal. That’s before you even consider the climate damage costs through carbon emissions. In fact solar energy is also cheaper than coal when you factor in the real costs.

5.  It’s all over, there’s nothing we can do.

Some contrarians have arrived at this stage, suggesting that it’s too late to do anything about our predicament. This stance is a self-fulfilling prophecy, if we wait any longer there will be catastrophic climate change.

global warming pic

This brings us to the inner sanctum of the climate change conundrum, the US government headed by Captain Tantastic himself Donald Trump. By positioning themselves outside of the Paris Climate Accord, the US is officially a rogue state, a position that no other nation has adopted. This should come as no surprise as the US continue to isolate themselves on the world stage under the stewardship of Trump. What Trump truly believes regarding climate change like many issues is difficult to ascertain. As usual his aides are exceptionally evasive on this matter, what we do know about the Trump presidency is, all things are subject to change within a matter of seconds. If we look at Trump’s actions, for example, dropping climate change from a list of global threats on the National Security Strategy, does seem to indicate that he is in alignment with climate change deniers. The US isn’t the only country to be in denial, one of Theresa May’s first acts on becoming the Prime Minister of the UK was to dismantle the Department of Energy and Climate Change. May’s insistence to push fracking through at a time when we should moving away from fossil fuel isn’t exactly encouraging either. It is also estimated that between 2017-2020 renewable energy investment in the UK will be reduced by 95%. Deniers generally in the US often state that climate change is a government conspiracy. If indeed climate change is a conspiracy, wouldn’t we expect governments to be pretending to do something to alleviate climate change? Instead most are still happy to work with fossil fuel companies in Canada, USA, UK and Australia.

why-global-warming-is-a-hoax-is-a-completely-idiotic-idea_50291621382d7_w1500

Another point is, if the global elites are fabricating climate change as suggested, what exactly do they gain by all of this. The reality is the manifestations of climate change will reshape life dramatically for the inhabitants of this planet, undoubtedly for the worse. Sea levels will rise and acidification will increase, this will not only affect the species, but what people can eat. Freshwater will be more in demand and there will be an increase in desertification. In many places crops will not be able to grow. Degraded air, water and a build up of insects is likely to increase the likelihood of diseases. Nation’s security will be under strain as people will fight over scarce resources, while climate change refugees will also increase the burden on governments. None of this sounds particularly pleasant, so why would the governments make this up? If this is a hoax firstly deniers need to prove this, as all we seem to hear from outlets such Breitbart or Fox News is a belief narrative without any accompanying facts. Secondly why? Most government’s in the west are intrinsically tied to corporations and are largely neoliberal, therefore, I’m not sure continuing to lie about a climate change hoax is going to help consumer confidence, it make no sense. It seems more likely to me that many western government’s are stagnating regarding climate change action so huge corporations can continue to suck the planet dry in the name of profit and at the expense of the one planet we have. In effect you have climate changes deniers who are paid by varying ‘think tanks’ to spout the ‘gospel of denial’. They are supported by followers, often people who are angry at the status quo, have no idea how science works or just hate what the other side believes in. These are the useful idiots who make enough noise to re-empower the paid corporate denial mercenaries to continue preaching the sermon. This confusion about climate change disempowers movements who are fighting against climate change inaction and thus allows governments to continue supporting the fossil fuel industry.

climate change deniers

In summary, this is by far my longest blog, one that has taken an inordinate amount of time to complete, it is also probably the most important one for me to date. I think it’s exceptionally pertinent due to what is at stake, namely our planet. I felt I needed to delve into the reasons for the changing views on climate change particularly in the west. We have witnessed a marked shift from a position of agreement regarding anthropogenic climate change, to a state of confusion, scepticism and even denial. This journey, not surprisingly, led me to money, power and a vested interest. What is evident is this is a carefully organised, lavishly funded disinformation campaign in aid of incredibly wealthy fossil fuel companies and exceptionally rich individuals. The goal is to continue making vast sums of money at the expense of the planet’s environment for example via fracking and eventually the people will suffer, starting with the poorest. This crusade in my opinion is driven by greedy psychopaths with regards to the CEO’s and world leaders, but more importantly is guided by an ideology, that of neoliberalism. Neoliberalism particularly at this end stage is not conducive to supporting life on this planet. Ultimately we need radical societal change; economically, philosophically, psychologically and morally. We should endeavour to create a community that veers away from destructive self interest, towards one that promotes sustainability, not just for the planet, but for the good of our species.

 

 

 

 

 

Identity politics; divisive, dangerous and narcissistic.

Outside of climate change economic inequality is the biggest problem we face in the west. It’s tentacles are far reaching and it cares little about what sex or race you are. If you are poor, then you are poor and the effects are devastating. If we on the left do not have economic inequality on the forefront of our minds then we have failed. At which point we will have drifted towards other less desirable parts of the political spectrum. With all this in mind, since the 90’s the left have occupied a corner of politics known as identity politics, spearheaded by the likes of Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and now Justin Trudeau.

None of these leaders in question have ever particularly identified with the left, however, they speak the “language of the liberal” as the renowned journalist Chris Hedges would say. Following the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989, capitalism was declared the economic ideological winner and all political flavours jumped on board. In both the US and the UK, banking regulations were relaxed or dismantled with even more fervour, such as the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999.  Meanwhile, so called left(ish) parties abandoned the ‘working class‘ and conveniently jumped on the social justice bandwagon.

The governments of US, the UK and NZ in the 90’s all continued a largely neoliberal doctrine from an economic perspective. Ushered in was relentless privatisation, low taxes for the rich, weakened unions, while encouraging consumerism and individualism. These ‘third way‘ exponents such as Blair supported social justice; feminism, anti-racism and gay rights, all of course on the condition they didn’t interfere with unbridled capitalism. Democracy gave way, as we were transformed into consumers and producers, with more emphasis on the former.

Many people in the middle classes were offered a lifestyle that was hugely attractive, coupled with a seemingly socially liberal society, this proved to be a heady cocktail for many. Behind the warm, fluffy policies of social justice, economic inequality continued to widen in most western countries, albeit at a reduced rate. In contrast, the working class located in traditional industrial areas and smaller more isolated enclaves of the UK did not witness the benefits of this centrist ideology. Globalisation and consumerism were here to stay, but for the impoverished communities of the north or the midlands to name a couple, this provided no solace.

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Derelict factory in Birmingham.

In the early 2000’s migrants particularly from Eastern Europe arrived, many to forgotten areas of the UK. People within these communities started to feel threatened at a very basic level, particularly for their livelihoods. It’s not surprising that a large proportion of citizens from these affected areas switched their political allegiance to UKIP and Nigel Farage. After all, they were offered an end to globalisation and a much tighter immigration stance. This political narrative although deeply flawed, offered a glimmer of hope for people who had gained nothing from New Labour, and even less from Tory directed austerity.

Looking back, it doesn’t require too much of an imagination to draw parallels between the plight of the post-industrial areas in the UK, and the ‘rust belt’ states such as Ohio. It would be flippant even ignorant to suggest that millions of people on both sides of the Atlantic are inherently racist. In each of these countries, it is the people who reside in these industrial areas who have endured misery for decades under neoliberalism. They have witnessed their jobs disappear, houses foreclosed and whole businesses shipped overseas. It should have come as no shock to anyone that both communities opted for change, real or imagined. Not surprisingly, hope can be exceptionally seductive when you sense you have nothing left to lose.

Consequently, the US went on to vote for Donald Trump, while the disenfranchised in the UK opted for Brexit. This was a deafening protest vote that many on the right of the Labour Party and the corporate Democrats still refuse to acknowledge New Labour, the Democrats and even to a certain extent Helen Clark’s Labour (NZ) used social justice, which was associated with political correctness and later identity politics as a convenient distraction. They had no intention of reforming the economic status quo and risk alienating their newly acquired middle class voters. Incidentally this present view of social justice was not always the accepted orthodoxy. Back in the 70’s the left supported universal human rights and inclusion. Although, they still championed minorities and disadvantaged groups. This predominant orthodoxy, edged towards group blindness.

The twist is, modern day identity politics has now shifted 180º from inclusion to exclusion. This has seen varying groups withdraw into their own ideological corners and become ever more entrenched. The way that these factions function it is clear that much of their behaviour and communication borrows heavily from postmodernism. Objective information, facts and reason, take a backseat to emotion and subjective experiences. This renders the whole movement of identity politics as inherently anti-science and exclusionary. In summary, it is accepted that the quality of information being conveyed is of less value than the perception of a person who belongs to a particular group. This is regardless of the group member’s experience or knowledge on a particular matter. By virtue of being a member solely due to a particular skin colour or their arrangement of genitals for example, allows them the title of expert.

The logical conclusion for identity politics as it becomes ever more powerful, is to divide and play for higher stakes at the ‘oppression Olympics’. At this juncture, a battle for the most oppressed and least privileged group ensues, often pitting former allies against one another. Take for example the acronym LGBTQ, this has ranged from the rather easier to remember LGB to LGBTQQIAAP, as groups compete over which order the representative letter should go. In all honesty this last attempt at a suitable acronym reminds me of a railway station in North Wales, as it doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue.

But I digress. With astounding regularity identity politics has a knack of miring itself in continual bouts of outrage. The permanently offended can fuel their ire in imaginative ways, such as; voicing their collective outrage because somebody wore a sombrero on a night out while drinking tequila. Guess what? He wasn’t even Mexican. How dare he!!! Forgive me, but while considering the major issues we face today this feels a tad trivial, to say the least. Having said this, dismissing identity politics out of hand would be foolish.

After all, this genre of politics has been routinely weaponised in order to destroy peoples careers, such as the #metoo kangaroo court. It also has this uncanny knack of turning something relatively innocuous into a full blown catastrophe by appealing to the sensitivities of a particular group. None of the accusations or bouts of fury have to be substantiated, the lie just needs to be told enough times and be supported by the right people, often opposing politicians, celebrities and the press. Both Bernie Sanders in the US and Jeremy Corbyn in the UK have been on the receiving end of concerted attacks by their opponents.

The most recent assault on Corbyn was the assertion that his Labour Party and thereby himself by association are anti-Semitic. This allegation of course was devoid of anything resembling facts. In truth, Labour has no more anti-Semitism than what is found within the general population and significantly less than the right wing parties. However, in the true spirit of postmodernism, we shouldn’t allow facts to get in the way of a good ‘witch burning’. It’s worth noting that this recent political extravaganza was impeccably timed as the whole saga unfolded just before the local elections. This ruse was no more than a vain attempt to weaken Mr Corbyn’s popularity and consequently his grip on the leadership.

Herein lies the problem, nobody in their right mind is suggesting that people should be treated poorly due to race, gender and sexual identity. Sadly, the reality is identity politics in it’s current form is used more as a political landmine, rather than a movement for everyone to rally behind. It fragments vast swathes of the population, as many feel excluded, silenced and often blamed by the so called ‘oppressed’ for something that may have happened centuries ago, such as colonialism. Or suggesting that men who are not prepared to acknowledge their ‘toxic masculinity‘ hate women. It does nothing to address our major issues such as; climate change or economic inequality.

In contrast it seems to do no more than designate the burden of the world’s ills on to other supposedly less oppressed groups. In many cases the word privileged appears to be laid at the feet of white men. This rings hollow when you consider that most people at the poorer end of society in the UK happen to be white. Therefore, a bloke living in a flat on Falinge Estate in Rochdale, UK with no prospects of work and isn’t likely to feel enormously privileged. Often identity politics manifests as no more than one big, smug, virtue signalling festival. All this, so the pious can appear windswept and interesting posting on Instagram or Twitter while at some supposedly ‘world changing’ rally.

It’s important to acknowledge, that the carnage caused across the western world due to the ideology of neoliberalism, a system that benefits the few, doesn’t discriminate against race, gender, age, religion or sexual orientation. The people who comprise of the ruling elite do not base their decisions on identity, we are all simply commodities to be bought and sold. Therefore, if a more efficient or cost effective way is identified which does not include you, too bad. Appealing as a member or an ally of an oppressed group will not save you in the long run, only changes to the economic system and the wider society can offer hope.

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Falinge Estate, Rochdale.

Identity politics increasingly reveals itself as a sport for the middle class. Where relatively privileged, well educated, often younger people pontificate on the trials and tribulations of mansplaining or cultural appropriation. Meanwhile the amount of homeless people increases at an alarming rate and child poverty continues to be a major issue. Equally upsetting, all over the western world, particularly in my home country of New Zealand, young men are killing themselves with staggering regularity. Tellingly, however, with all this in mind, the two groups that identarians never support are the working class and men.

Identity politics is viewed from a narrow perspective of the world, often through the eyes of a particular group that the activist happens to belongs to. There is no holistic outlook on issues or a wider perspective, as all that is surveyed is performed through the filter of race, gender and sexuality. Identity politics truly is politics for the narcissist as the participants are wholly unaware of anything that resides externally to their ‘bubble of woe’. It is a puritanical belief system that requires it’s adherents to devote to it 100%, in the quest for that social justice nirvana, victimhood. If any infidels stray away from the SJW path they are often discredited, possibly silenced or worse still no-platformed in the case of potential university guest speakers. Freedom of speech is routinely under siege on campuses, any utterances that are construed as remotely challenging are often referred to as ‘violence’ and promptly reported to the education authorities.

The entire cult is built on fables such as ‘toxic masculinity’, ‘manspreading’ or ‘white privilege’. This isn’t a movement that has any serious designs on changing things for the betterment of all. I am not convinced that these social justice ‘superheroes’ would want to tackle all racism. Nor would they be interested in opposing the entire spectrum of domestic abuse or even all sexual abuse issues, including prison atrocities. The illiberal left are only sympathetic to chosen groups, which is why woman in Muslim countries are rarely supported by western feminists, despite facing serious oppression. In a frantic effort to be unique each group cloaks itself in its own language, hierarchy and special rules that change on an hourly basis. Below is a visual representation from Jonathan Haidt regarding hate speech and free speech, an area identarians are always desperate to control.

free hate speech

I’m sure by writing on this topic some will suggest I’m racist, sexist and homophobic, while cashing in on my white privilege. Of course this is to be expected as I do not subscribe or follow the rules of the cult. My problem is with the vehicle that is used by many to fight for their groups, what it does to society and the divisions it causes. It is a belief system akin to a religion, that screams for diversity, but silences diversity of thought. The whole strategy of the illiberal left is to discredit dissenters and shut down debate.Primarily because they have nothing to offer in terms of a cognisant argument. When prominent anti-racist activist Munroe Bergdorf bizarrely claimed that ‘you can be homeless and still have white privilege’, it exemplifies a departure from reality.

The fact that identity politics on the left has overshadowed the fight for economic equality is a monumental travesty. As very well documented economic inequality is associated with increased crime, poor health outcomes, less social mobility, failing education and the destruction of social cohesion. Working to level the economic playing field would start to galvanise society as it’s within many people’s interest to do so. In contrast, identity politics serves to disenfranchise and alienate certain sections of the population who do not subscribe to their beliefs. The merits of intersectionality are not on the forefront of people’s minds when they’re struggling to pay the rent, while out of work in an area that is economically depressed, rundown and dangerous.

What most of us can agree on, is the amount of people that benefit from this system of economic control is tiny, while the numbers that suffer from it are enormous. With this in mind, it makes perfect sense to utilise an issue that generates a large amount of interest, where the benefits would transcend gender, race and sexuality rather than embark on a journey of group victimhood. I will finish by strongly suggesting identity politics has no place on the left, more importantly it could very well destroy any opposition to neoliberalism.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At what point did the left stop using facts and the pursuit of truth? We need to do better than this.

Sometimes I get despondent with the left. It frustrates me that many on the ‘social justice activists’ side of the left have discarded with the tried and tested method of using facts in exchange for lazy stereotypes or sloppy ad hominems. This was highlighted again today through an ill thought out idea found on a Kiwi lefty website page. This ‘article’ for want of a better term was entitled “who is the white dude of the year“, underneath this headline was a selection of neoliberal politicians and media figures, who hadn’t exactly covered themselves in glory over the last year from a leftist perspective.

Highlighting these people who each have made some questionable decisions over 2017 is fine, but to criticise them based on the colour of their skin? Really? Is this because in SJW land white men are the last group who can be roundly criticised without any push back? In which case what separates us from the alt-right who target black and Muslim people, apart from our perceived moral superiority? There is no doubt many of the world’s richest people are white, older, males, but attacking a distinct demographic rather than the individual greed or economic system that supports them is self-defeating.

Primarily in my country of birth in the North of England the majority of the poor are white. I can guarantee you there are not too many people in the council estates of Manchester who feel particularly privileged right now. By supporting this sort of postmodern groupthink and entering into the oppression Olympics is alienating the very people that the left used to stand for. By rejecting the fight against class warfare and massive economic inequality, while adopting identity politics is precisely why the left has declined in numbers. Not only this, but the parties responsible for this exodus are still either, continuing down this political road or are squabbling within the party membership to gain an ideological control of the party.

Following a more in depth look at this article, it is clear that there is a distinct lack of text, no facts, just a gallery of offenders. So instead of embarking on the slippery slope of intersectionalism, what could we have said about these people in a more constructive manner? Take former Finance Minister Stephen Joyce for example, this was the man who claimed leading up to the NZ election that there was a fiscal gap of $11.7bn regarding Labour’s proposed alternative budget plan. The claim was indeed discovered to be a total lie which has now been confirmed by economic experts, despite Joyce doggedly sticking to his story.

To be fair to Mr Joyce he is impeccably qualified to be Finance Minister with a BSc in zoology after not making the cut for vet school. Following his triumphant graduation in zoology he embarked on and spectacularly failed the majority of his economics papers he took during the 80’s, scoring 3 passes out of 9. This of course makes him uniquely qualified to run as he did under National New Zealand’s finances or maybe not. Obviously in the eyes of the right he is a successful businessman and a millionaire following the sale of a radio station he jointly set-up, therefore, giving him all the legitimacy he needs.

In truth Joyce is no more than a career right wing ideologue who will create a story to fit his tired agenda of unrestrained capitalism which he indeed benefits from. Despite the fact he is woefully under qualified to comment on the likes of macroeconomics, his narcissism and bloody mindedness has steered him to some other interesting career highpoints. Most notably while defending the Transpacific Pacific Partnership Agreement (another corporate landgrab), he was physically assaulted resulting in the infamous ‘Dildogate’. Sit back and enjoy John Oliver as he takes you through this highpoint of New Zealand politics.

Next up is Don Brash, a man who was the Governor of the Reserve Bank from 1988 to 2002, this spanned the calamitous years of enforced neoliberalism by both Labour and National. He sits at the far end of his chosen doctrine, an ex-leader of the National Party and a member of the extreme neoliberal ACT Party. Don Brash has found it remarkably easy to seek out controversy over the years. This usually surfaces as thinly veiled racism or a harking back to better times that never were.

The Orewa Speech  was presented on the 27th January 2004, as leader of the National Party this was the first incident to attract the public glare. The message focused on his perceived worry about separatism within NZ and his views that Māori somehow received an unfair advantbrashage. This conclusion was reached despite the fact Māori did and still trail woefully in positive outcomes for health, education, income and mortality rates. This mentality was and is totally predictable as Brash is a fully paid member of the ‘dog eat dog’ society who disregard any sociological or environmental impact on the individual. He would rather believe that everything in life is a result of individual choices, therefore, justifying his relative success. Conveniently forgetting of course that he grew up in a comfortable environment, attending university at under and post graduate levels (without student fees), before going on to work for the World Bank in Washington all before the age of 26.

Mr Brash will never admit that this pathway for a multitude of reasons is just not available for many people. Nor does he subscribe to the notion that all of us need some help at different times of our lives in a variety of ways. On the contrary according to Don everything in life relates to personal responsibility, omitting the fact he had an excellent education, a stable environment and many influential mentors to help him through his own life. So, what was Don’s latest escapade, that elevated him on to this hit list? Well his most recent outburst centred around his frustration of having to listen to a few sentences of Te Reo (Māori) on Radio New Zealand. Oh the pain! I’m sure it must have been terrible for Don’s delicate ears.

Ironically, New Zealand’s two official languages are Te Reo and Sign, with English being a de facto language due to popularity of use. Ambiguously, Brash has long used the slogan “one people” and offers that we should be united by our Britishness, which incidentally entirely disregards Māori culture and any other culture that doesn’t see themselves as British. Brash’s many race related tantrums can be encapsulated in this statement while talking about a traditional Māori welcoming called a Powhiri, he stated; “I mean, I think there is a place for Maori culture but why is it that we always use a semi-naked male, sometimes quite pale-skinned Maori, leaping around in, you know, mock battle”? It is clear that Don Brash has no interest in the idea of “one people” at all, what he does want is for Māori to know there place in the pecking order. It is apparent that this type of attitude would be more at home in a ‘make New Zealand great again rally’, unfortunately he is not alone with his thoroughly outdated and ill thought-out views.

The point I’m trying to make is this, I could continue to critique this cast of characters in the original ‘left wing’ piece with little effort. All it takes is a modicum of laptop based research, enabling you to challenge them on a political, ideological, moral, historical and even a personal level without resorting to identity politics or privilege theory. Both of which are inherently anti-reason or truth and are designed to stifle debate rather than encourage it. These methods are purely used to silence dissenting views, alongside other tactics such as banning opposing speakers from universities.

What are we scared of? Are we so devoid of debating skills that we have an inability to critique what is being said and then counter these opposing views issue by issue? By resorting to disparaging remarks based on skin colour is no better than a juvenile insult in a schoolyard or the kind of bile that occurs within the Alt-Right. This does nothing to address the issues at hand, while discrediting our ability to embark on robust dialogue, thus reducing the left to the moral cellar. We will never win back the trust of the working class, while we alienate whole swathes of the population by using terms such as ‘white privilege’.

We need to revert back to judging what is actually being conveyed, not the group the sender belongs to. We have to discard postmodernist rubbish where the perception of the receiver no matter how ridiculous is considered more valid than the content from the sender. Until this happens, intersectionalism, postmodernism and other tools of the Alt-Left will continue to tear us apart, all the while neoliberalism will ceaselessly strive to decimate the planet.

 

From Brexit to feminism: Why are complex issues distilled to a binary decision?

Everyday we are posed with challenging dilemmas such as; do you agree with trident, as a man are you a feminist, do you support Brexit, amongst many others. Admittedly some decisions are easier to make than others, but often we are given two choices to a multi-faceted issue. Quite regularly there is a consensus of opinion that drives debate. The problem that arises is if you are not fully on board with the sway of public opinion, then you are cast to the margins, as there appears no room for nuanced debate anymore. Many of these opinions are formed by strong social justice bodies, government departments and corporate lobbyist.

The major issues are not the topics per se, but the fact that the answers are required in absolute terms (yes/no), when morality rarely works in such a way. As individuals our complex thoughts and feelings, which have been developed over time from our genetics, environment, education, personal experiences, family background and so forth are clumsily distilled into a binary decision. More often than not this an over simplification, it generally doesn’t work to the benefit of society and is deeply dissatisfying.

As a lefty there will be aspects of a socialists worldview that resonate with me more than others. In my opinion, to critically think your way through each issue as it arises is healthy, as opposed to taking the entire medicine given with no questions asked. Sadly, in a world that has become increasingly polarised, nuance has been replaced by blind belief. That’s not to say I’m a centrist, nothing of the sort, but within my left (more than) leaning ideas there are an array of complex and sometimes contradictory thoughts, that with compelling evidence may be subject to change. If we stop asking questions regarding our own ideas, then who are we to challenge people with differing views. We could quite easily find ourselves on the road to following a religious type system rather than something that is anchored in research and moral rigour. If after an internal inquiry, our political ideas are incongruent with our core moral beliefs then I suggest we are in trouble.

So lets look at an extremely emotive and controversial topic for a variety of reasons and that is feminism. There are some subjects that I think I possibly shouldn’t write about on this blog, however, I am equally happy to be provoked and to provoke. Firstly I will begin by suggesting feminism is used by politicians as a political football, in as much as they support the rights of women as they are the people who support them. For example lets take Hillary Clinton…………as far away as humanly possible hopefully. In all seriousness, Hillary has used feminism and feminists to the nth degree. She has been more than happy for her wealthy backers and showbiz celebrities to project her as this beacon of feminism, all the while supporting military campaigns in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and Syria.

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Incidentally, these are countries where many women and children have been murdered and obliterated by years of bombing by the US. Which begs the question; how down with the sisters is she really? Another disturbingly memorable moment occurred in New York during her failed Presidential bid, when fellow war-hawk and ex Secretary of State Madeleine Albright threatened a rally crowd yelling “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other”. Which is interesting as I don’t remember her helping out Serbian women whilst they were being bombed back to another millennia. I guess like I alluded to earlier, life isn’t straight forward. Maybe you can be a feminist whilst condoning mass murder of thousand of civilians in Kosovo, many of whom were women. Although that distinctly sounds like Orwellian doublethink to me.

Quite possibly the question some might want answering is; am I a feminist? I would have to answer with a wry smile on my face and declare that it’s not that simple. However, do I believe women and men should get paid equally for the same job requiring the same experience and skills, without question. To complicate matters, do I believe there is systemic wage gap as suggested by Obama, Trudeau and any other relatively liberal leaders? Well yes and no, evidence suggest it exists but not at 79 cents a dollar as Obama hinted, it’s more like 1.6%. The reason being most studies crudely take the mean pay of women and divide it by the mean pay of men. This crude arithmetic does little to explore a true gender pay gap. For example if a male police sergeant with 15 years experience gets paid more than his female colleague of equal experience, that is obviously an issue and needs to be corrected.  Most of the studies unfortunately do not compare ‘apples with apples’ and instead fall back on the use of means or medians for their methodology.

At this point in people’s minds, I may be considered by some who are reading this as a misogynist for not buying into the gender wage gap theory, but as I did concede earlier life can be particularly challenging. Obviously I wouldn’t suggest such a controversial opinion without a chance for you to read the data. The study I refer to has been described by some in NZ as American in an attempt to delegitimise it, however, the study utilised data from 33 different countries. To add a further layer of complexity to this debate in an attempt to dispel binary thinking, it is without doubt that there is a problem with gender and employment in as much as there is a dearth of women at the top end of the employment chain. Men dominate in high paid roles and boardroom position, which is why the crude version of the ‘gender pay gap’ looks more like a chasm.

The term gender pay gap is actually a misnomer, the main problem is getting women into the upper echelons of the employment chain, for those who wish to do so. It’s the politicians who like to peddle catchy slpay gap crapogans such as ’79 cents on the dollar’ for women to rally around and often get angry at men who question it. When in reality there is a difficulty getting to the top, where you will find the very politicians and corporate leaders trumpeting ‘the gender pay gap’. The good news is there is an excellent reason for companies to increase the amount of women employed at the top end, that is, corporations and organisations alike gain substantially. Greater gender diversity is associated with an innovative work culture and from a bottom line perspective, woman in the boardroom is linked to a 15% profit increase. Reading further down the previously mentioned article it also suggests how to recruit, develop, promote, reward and retain women in the workplace. I hope I’ve started to demonstrate that life is much more than ‘either or’. We don’t have to accept the entire stack of an ideology if we don’t agree with what is being presented, we can pick and choose, particularly if there is compelling evidence on the contrary.

Unfortunately it would appear that in the 21st century if you are not in the club 100% then without question you are banished from the village and cast as one of life’s Dr Evil’s. This ensures that no dissenting voice or indeed debate is heard in the confines of the tribe. This cultivates a cosy echo chamber of which can be found within all political parties, social justice groups, religious groups and race orientated organisations. Sadly the echo chamber insulates you from uncomfortable opinions, opposing theories, straight forward general enquiry and even truth. Within this bubble the belief system strengthens and positions harden, as they are rarely allowed to be challenged from the out group. One such environment that is a regular feature in liberal colleges and used by the likes of feminists are ‘safe spaces’.

Contrary to being a helpful environment, it’s suggested that these safe spaces shut women away from public life and back to the metaphorical kitchen. Suggesting women are incapable of looking after themselves or their emotions, which is frankly ludicrous. This whole problem of an ideological retreat is disturbing, in so far as; how do we know what we are opposing if we are not prepared to listen to any challenging points of view. On many occasions we have already decided what our opponents are espousing before we’ve really heard them. To listen doesn’t mean you have to agree, at times it can strengthen your current position in a healthy way, by analysing your views through discussion. In fact recently it appears if we don’t hear what we expect, quite often we create a ‘strawman’ to justify our attack, this style of engagement is a regular occurrence on social media.

Brexit Direction Sign

It would seem as there is no direct physical threat on social media, we therefore, feel less need to negotiate with our foes, thus we often adopt polarised views. There is nothing more evident than Brexit, where our opposing views are entrenched, our detractors are vilified and finally dehumanised with nicknames such as ‘remoaner’. Personally, I haven’t got a side, because it is my view that this was a neoliberal construct to further unpick the last remaining stitches of society. However, each side proclaims that the rival faction is stupid, uneducated and easily led by the media, without them even listening to one another.

To many liberals ‘brexiteers’ are often described as racist, although I suspect it’s highly unlikely that nearly half the voting nation is racist or/and xenophobic. Unfortunately we now inhabit a world of black and white thinking rather than shades of grey, whereby every person who voted to leave will be lumped together along with UKIP and Britain First supporters in a nice neat parcel with a purple bow on it. This is regardless of any individual underlying reasons that may have contributed to their decision-making processes and this of course works on both sides of the Brexit divide. The pro-Brexit clan are as equally dismissive as the pro-Europe contingent and this behaviour pushes the two parties back into their respective corners.

So, do we have to agree with every view we encounter? Of course not, we are not obligated to shift from our initial ideas one inch. Equally we don’t have to subscribe to the full catalogue of ideas that make up, feminism, the Labour Party, socialism, libertarianism, religion, immigration, Brexit or any other stance or ideology. It doesn’t have to be a meal deal, we can look at the information presented and choose what we want to consume. Maybe watch Fox News, for Kiwis read Mike Hosking in the Herald or for Brits browse the Daily Mail at some point and rather than dismissing it, look at it with a critical eye.

Critique what you are witnessing in the moment, not what your pre-conceived ideas are telling you. You may draw the same conclusions, but at least you will have done this consciously rather than using a ready made mental script. If I look for example at ideas such as the theory of the ‘patriarchy’, I think this view is littered with flaws and is essentially highly simplistic, as it ignores any individual agency. So when I dig down and weigh the information regarding the ‘patriarchy’ I often side with the right leaning media. This for me as a lefty who reads Bakunin and the likes is incredibly annoying and perplexing. All of which confirms that indeed life is complicated, nuanced and eternally confusing. More importantly we are wonderfully unique, we are politically made of complex shapes that don’t fit in to neat little boxes and that’s a good thing.

 

How the rich and powerful fool us all: The games the ruling elite play.

So we enter another round of scandals regarding the rich and almost by design it’s been given the delightful rather fluffy name of the Paradise Papers. Don’t worry for those who are apathetic or have the attention span of an amoeba, I am relatively confident in a couple of months this will have been forgotten just like many scandals before. Overnight we will have our attention redirected back onto immigrants, Brexit, or the poor supposedly stealing the ‘wealth of a nation’, surreptitiously performed by the great conjurers of the ruling elite. Or better still, the powers that be will hope we have drifted off into a reality TV induced hypnotic state with the possible aid of Captain Vacuity himself aka Simon Cowell. The individuals who direct these propaganda initiatives are some of the very same people who are implicated in this recent ‘incredible disappearing money trick’. From the usual suspects including; Facebook, Apple and Nike to monarchs such as Queen Elizabeth II are all entwined in this mass money stashing exercise we’ve witnessed recently. bonoIrritants such as Bono who have the gall to ‘bang on’ about helping the poor and the oppressed, evidently has an alternative set of rules when it concerns his own cash. Paying tax that helps to fund hospitals, schools, infrastructure and so on is clearly OK when it is somebody else’s money, primarily us minions. However, Bono and many like him consider themselves far too special for such inconveniences as paying tax. The array of characters implicated this time consist of; monarchy, politicians, CEO’s, sports people, entertainers, lobbyists, property speculators and governments, all with one thing in common, money. I would wager they would all bellow out the same mantra like a church choir if cornered, “but it’s legal”. For many people outside the world of private jets, multiple homes, private islands and more cars than you could count, there is such a thing as morality, which many of us observe. Unfortunately this concept holds little or no currency among the reasonably small cabal that rule over many of us. For them the only question is; “can I get away with it and if so, how”? So, how do they get away with it and more specifically, why do we let them? As people we are divided globally by; language, culture, geography and politics to name a few examples. Within our respective nations we are separated further dependent on a whole raft of variables; political affiliation, religion, gender, race, age, geography, economic class and many more. Some of these factors are natural such as race and age, meaning they are unchanging, but these too can cause rifts dependent on people’s viewpoints. Other areas of dispute, however, can be completely contrived such as which football team you support. Even this still divides people across not only nations, but cities and often not in a trivial way. The point is, as a species we are split along thousands of social-cultural and political fault lines which is to the great benefit of neoliberal ruling elite. Some of these divisions are allowed to run their course with little interference from the powers that be, such as wars that don’t directly affect the nation; in fact instability to a region could be helpful, for trade or resources for instance. Other areas are directly manipulated by the government, corporations and media including social media to create a myriad of distractions or false targets of anger. It is ultimately the construction of division between sections of the community that is the primary objective. This fragmentation, or the equally damaging apathy of the people ultimately fends off any coherent opposition to the regime. So lets pick up on a couple of these distraction techniques, starting with everyone’s favourite talking point in the UK ‘Brexit’.

Brexit effectively has nothing to do with the vast majority of people. That’s not to say the effects good, bad or indifferent will not have a bearing on your life, of course they will. To put it bluntly the decision to host a referendum was not taken in the best interests of the people, whether you are pro-EU or not, it was never about you. The two sides only argument within the government was how best to produce a right-wing, neoliberal paradise, that was good for them and their corporate masters. Although, neither side particularly cared about the population, they still had to convince them to vote their way, hence the litany of lies on both sides. To you lefties out there, I do realise there was such a concept as ‘Lexit’, but you were inconsequential regarding your impact and it actually served the ‘juntas’ purpose by engineering yet another split. Even now supporters still have pet names for their opposing tribes, such as ‘remoaner’, while the pro-EU supporters will often try to attain the moral high ground, while hurling the word racist or xenophobe around. This gets to the crux of the ruling elites tactics, Brexit was a masterstroke, because it didn’t abide by any of the usual left-right paradigm. What occurred was a further fissure had been carved into the fabric of society. Although this may not have been predicted by the establishment at the time, this was certainly seized upon and used to keep us fragmented, therefore, allowing the continuation of the rule of the self-interest. Another favourite with the establishment that keeps us squabbling is immigration. This  ‘hot-potato’ was neatly included into proceedings during the referendum run-up. Remember Nigel Farage’s poster of Syrian refugees being turned away at the Croatian border?

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This was a deeply conscious attempt to frighten ill informed members of the population, while confirming the fears of the xenophobic and racist sectors of the nation. The primary objective of right-wing media (which is the majority in the UK) is to confuse and anger certain segments of society, while conflating EU or non-EU migrants with refugees and asylum seekers. They amplify certain news stories, such as Muslim sex offenders, while purposefully reducing the volume on all other sex offending. Although, when you dig a little deeper, you realise that the reality is unsurprisingly vastly more nuanced. In fact figures from Greater Manchester Police indicated that 95% of sex offenders were white, which is not to say there isn’t a problem within certain sectors of the Muslim community regarding this issue. It is just worth acknowledging, however, that the answer to many of these problems is not a binary solution. The kind of moral reporting required involves critical thinking and a modicum of ethical concern, however, this is clearly not in the interest of the elite. What we are generally left with after several rounds of hyperbole is a great big bowl of hate and vitriol. This is kept simmering by using repeated biased rhetoric from news outlets such as the Daily Mail, owned by tax dodging Lord Rothmere. This ship of hate is steered impeccably by Paul Dacre the editor of this overtly, right wing, xenophobic rag, who’s mission is to spread fear and racism as far around the globe as humanly possible. The Daily Mail will purposefully focus on aspects of migration to suit Dacre and his boss’s warped worldview. As an example the Mail have printed twice the percentage of articles about the criminality of migrants than any other newspaper. Furthermore, they’ve also publish double the amount or stories regarding economic pull factors being the motivation for migrants. The Daily Mail is exceptionally adept at cherry picking information to fit Dacre’s political position, which it would appear is a little right of Hitler. The Daily Mail continues to delight their readers (of which my Dad is one) with pithy little cartoons, all in the wonderful style of hate filled islamophobia see below for details.

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You may feel I am unduly picking on the Daily Mail and you’d be right. Primarily because it’s propaganda from the likes of the ‘Fail’, The Sun and The Daily Express that contribute to social division. I also feel it would be naïve to believe that this is not an intentional plan to frighten their readers primarily in ‘middle England’, while stoking the fires of social disunity, thus maintaining the elitist view of social order. Unfortunately xenophobia, racism and an acute lack of compassion are not far from New Zealand either, in fact it masquerades across the ‘ditch’ daily as the Australian government. Recently Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has attempted to broker a deal with Australian Premier Malcom Turnbull to take 150 asylum seekers from the ‘hell hole’ of Manus Island detention centre. So far Turnbull has declined the offer, suggesting in line with that bastion of racial equality Pauline Hanson, that NZ will be just be another route asylum seekers will take to gain entry into Australia. Since 2013 Australia has held the draconian stance that no refugees arriving by boat will set foot on Australia. Instead they have been detained on the islands of Nauru and Manus (although Manus is currently being closed down) in appalling conditions, which the Australian government has refused to take responsibility for. Poor mental health on the islands is rife, with detainees displaying PTSD, severe anxiety and depression. The regime has been cruel, unlawful and deeply punitive. Physical abuse, verbal abuse and theft by locals has been commonplace. Accounts of sexual abuse and rape of female asylum seekers have been reported to the UN. All the while neither the local police or the Australian government have been held accountable. The UN have concluded that the actions of the Australian government are cruel, inhumane and degrading, but so far no action has been taken. It is important to note that over 60% of the detainees have either been given refugee status or will be, which is not an easy criteria to meet and are, therefore, protected by international law. Despite this, one of the phrases used by both the US and Australian governments to deflect such accusations of cruelty is to describe the people seeking asylum as ‘illegal’. This in my opinion is entirely designed to illicit a desirable response from their political supporters and backers, while justifying their actions to detractors. It is agreed that migrants arriving at a country without documents may well be irregular, undocumented or unauthorised, but they are not illegal. As they have not committed a crime they cannot be deemed illegal, however, this term is deliberately used to dehumanise people and serves to bolster the feelings of fear among the host citizens. It is this fear, combined with xenophobia and racism that I have noticed in several comments sections of New Zealand news sources. What is staggering is many of the comments are identical to ones I’ve read on UK news sites regarding asylum seekers in Europe, such as; “they’re all rapists”, “they don’t look like kids”, “where are their wives” and so on. It’s the same rhetoric that is dispatched around the world by both the state and the mainstream media who effectively have the same goal, which is to remain in control. Eventually this right wing driven narrative or to put it more bluntly propaganda insidiously morphs opinion into ‘fact’. Although immigration is probably the biggest weapon the establishment use to maintain a societal fissure, another particular favourite of the ruling elite is the poor and more specifically recipients of benefits.

The old ‘it’s not us, it’s them’ trick, is the classic game the rich and powerful play to keep the riff-raff in check. As we have found all the way through, their ‘cunning plan’ is amplified and conveyed spectacularly by the very wealthy press barons, as it serves their purpose. Both my major countries of interest the UK and NZ have spent millions on ‘benefits fraud campaigns’. While programmes such as Benefits Street helps to stigmatise the poor and vulnerable.

The reality is, in the UK the amount lost to benefit fraud is roughly £1.3bn per year. This sounds a lot until you realise that unclaimed benefits amounts to £16bn and overpayments due to error totalled £1.4bn. This is of course not an effort to condone benefit fraud, but a little perspective is required, certainly when we consider tax evaders and avoiders. The HMRC in the UK has conservatively estimated that £30bn has been lost to schools, hospitals and so on, due to evaders and avoiders, however, Tax Research UK estimates the sum is much nearer to £120bn. This brings us full circle to the Paradise Papers and the unique rules by which the rich live by. If the Queen can’t even be bothered to pay taxes for her own country, I think we have to conclude that society is well and truly broken. Not only is the monetary difference between rich and poor crime staggering, but the disparity of how the two crimes are viewed is equally perplexing. Approximately 720 people work in the ‘affluent’ and ‘high net worth’ units tracking down 500,000 of the UK’s wealthiest and the not unsubstantial sum of £120bn per year. While on the other side of the ‘tracks’ so to speak over 4000 staff are e20800012_1284535645001974_795256583853000263_nmployed to investigate benefit fraud, which loses roughly £1.2bn per year. This glaringly obvious contrast in the number of officers assigned to each area indicates to me that the powers that be are not remotely interested in chasing down tax criminals and that this pretence of addressing it is nothing more than ‘window dressing’. New Zealand doesn’t escape the charge of targeting the poor markedly more than the rich either. The figures show a similar story in the southern hemisphere, whilst benefit fraud swindles $30.6 million from the tax coffers, tax fraud wrestles $1.24billion from the government’s grasp. Hopefully with the recent arrival of Prime Minister Ardern, this diabolical trend of socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor will end.

The reason for the asymmetrical treatment regarding the have and have nots shouldn’t be hard to attain. One group has no power, an acute dearth of money and an absence of collective social cohesion. The other by contrast has an abundance of money in which they use to create the imbalance of power. It’s not inconsequential that many politicians also have business investments to protect, the two components effectively feed each other and are often one in the same. The poor have nothing to offer the ruling elite, while the rich have battalions of lobbyist offering ‘incentives’ if only the regime of the day tips the scales further in favour of the rich. What we have here is a story of division, our ‘glorious leaders’ utilising power, manipulating people to achieve personal gain and to climb ever further on the ladder of power. A fragmented disjointed populous is crucial for the smooth running of a plutocracy. Many people are not even aware this is occurring and they certainly don’t think it is being done on a conscious level, by government. Let me assure everyone this behaviour is completely intentional and is an exceptionally well engineered con trick. We can only defeat the scourge that is neoliberalism headed by the plutocracy if people collectivise, this however, will require a rapid mutual awakening.

Turn left, turn left, TURN LEFT!!! Hey New Zealand where have all the Socialists gone?

New Zealand has an election on the 23rd September. Currently it’s fair to say, I have nobody particularly inspiring to vote for. Economically it would appear whichever way it goes; a right coalition or a left coalition, neoliberal policies will still persist the following morning. That’s not to say there are no differences, but they are to be found in funding certain programmes or the nuances of the said programmes rather than a re-structuring of a failed economic system. So far during the run up to the election, the ‘NZ left’ have had an interesting time of it. Firstly Labour unveiled Jacinda Adhern as their new leader, which initially caused euphoria among progressives. jacindaThis was known unimaginatively by the press as ‘Jacindamania’, which has only slightly started to wane over the last few weeks, primarily because her mention of the dreaded ‘T’ word, that is taxes. Then Metiria Turei, the joint leader of the Greens fell on her sword, after admitting she lied to authorities, therefore, claiming more benefits than she was entitled to. Ms Turei in her defence stated her actions were nothing more than trying to “survive as a solo mum”. The point of this was to initiate a debate regarding the most vulnerable sections of society and the major problems regarding welfare. Instead Turei’s admission became a starting pistol for intense abuse by right wing factions, both National and ACT desperately portrayed Ms Turei as nothing more than cheat and a criminal. This would be laughable, if it wasn’t so tragic. This very National government has consistently allowed corporations to dodge tax and create an environment that provides socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor. The tactic of using the poor as an object of aggression, for having the temerity to survive, while the rich get ever richer, is seen all over the neoliberal world and is used to perfection in an effort to keep societies divided.

I came to live in New Zealand from England in 2011, having visited here on our honeymoon in 2010. The longer I spent here, the more I realised that the people are essentially egalitarian, however, this communal spirit stops with a government that is ideologically neoliberal. The differences in NZ from life in most parts of the UK are palpable and hugely welcome. Fruit from your trees gets shared out at work, fish is handed over the fence if somebody has had a good day on the water and people are generally happy to give you hand if you get stuck. Quite often your labour can be used instead of money, for something you may need. For example my last batch of fire-wood was paid for by helping my friends to chop and split wood for the day. Although to most people in the UK this may seem odd as products are bought with that stuff they call money, here it’s pretty normal to exchange goods for your labour. At first I thought maybe this was because I live in provincial New Zealand, therefore as the saying goes ‘if we all get along, we go along’. However, after living in Auckland which is bigger, more frantic and less personal it is still my opinion that even Auckland is a much friendlier place than the average English city. After a few years here I have concluded that this friendly Kiwi attitude permeates pretty much all over the country. So imagine my surprise whilst getting to grips with NZ politics, when I noticed there were no prominent left leaning parties, a problem that still persists today. This blind devotion to neoliberalism hasn’t always been the case, but it’s a doctrine that was borrowed off the US and the UK in the 80’s. The effect of this was to push all acceptable politics to the right and to marginalise the left.

Like most countries in the Anglo-American world Social Democratic parties swung wildly to the right following free-market capitalism being the adopted orthodoxy. It’s not difficult to find examples of this lurch to the right from supposed peoples parties; Bill Clinton took the Democrats to victory in 1993, likewise Tony BlairMSC_2014_Blair_Mueller_MSC2014_(cropped) swept to the top job with Labour in 1997. Both leaders were similar with their liberal rhetoric and easy charm. At the heart of their success, however, was an adherence to a market economy, which managed to sway the support of the corporations and the media. Both Clinton and Blair accomplished the task of achieving relative longevity by balancing neoliberal economic policies, while offering social justice concessions. With this heady cocktail of ideas, often known as the 3rd way, both were able to successfully lure the electorate. Clinton brought in the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 while Blair was instrumental in introducing a minimum wage in the UK. These types of policies softened the blow of deregulation of the financial sector and masked the damage that would occur in years to come. One of Bill Clinton’s most destructive actions was to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act which was initially designed to separate commercial and investment banking, this act had been in place since 1933 following the depression in the US. It’s fair to acknowledge that a lack of these types of safety mechanisms among others were a reason the global financial crisis was allowed to reach the devastating conclusion it did. Meanwhile under Blair’s watch university tuition fees were ushered in and privatisation by stealth for the health service increased. The UK and US are not alone regarding their acceptance of a neoliberal doctrine. New Zealand has it’s own tale to tell, which could very well shed some light on the original question “where’s the left”.

New Zealand had always been considered a social democratic state prior to the mid 80’s. From the 1930’s onwards the state owned many assets including Post, Railways, Inter-Island ferries, electricity generation, major public construction works, public housing, hospitals, mining and broadcasting to name a few. The government looked after their citizens and unemployment was quite often below 1%. By the early 80’s people were becoming tired of the National Prime Minister Rob Muldoon from a personal perspective. While many businesses in Auckland were becoming frustrated by a tightly controlled economy. To the surprise of many, Muldoon called a snap election in June 1984, this proved to be his undoing as his opponent David Lange was victorious by a landslide, leading the 4th Labour government. On the night of the election results and following celebrations, David Lange was saddled with the news that the previous government had accrued huge amounts of debts and NZ dollar was massively over-valued. douglasThe newly crowned Finance Minister Roger Douglas who was heavily influenced by the neoliberal ideology of Milton Friedman seized on this New Zealand financial crisis. Douglas had already written a book outlining a radical change to the NZ economy, which was considered ridiculous by most people in the political world. But what Douglas and the rest of the Troika (Richard Prebble and David Caygill) would do next, however, was classic ‘shock doctrine’ as described in Naomi Klein’s wonderful book. This ‘shock therapy’ as used in Chile, Russia, Argentina, US and UK, was to utilise a disaster such as a coup (Chile) or a financial crisis (US and UK) to usher in ideologically driven capitalism. This method, still used today, is consistently in the form of massive deregulation and the privatisation of state assets. These proposed economic changes were heavily supported by the NZ Treasury and the Business Round Table, an exceptionally right-wing think-tank. Within a short period of time New Zealand was transformed from one of the most regulated countries economically to one of the least.

The Labour government proceeded  to sell off national assets worth $2.5 billion at bargain basement prices, while slashing top tier tax from 66% to a paltry 33%. Company taxes were reduced in a similar fashion, at the same time a new regressive Good and Services Tax (similar to UK VAT) was introduced. The Labour regime limited the right to strike, as real wages declined by 10%. Furthermore unemployment climbed from 8.5% to 16.2%. To counter any excessive payments regarding high unemployment the government reduced benefits and abolished payments for under 18’s. As neoliberalism took a hold in NZ, it was common practice to reduce unemployment payments if the gap between declining average wages and the dole became too close. In classic ‘disaster capitalism’ style, Roger Douglas declared that reforms had to be done as quickly as possible, to avoid any form of resistance to them. He even tried towards the end of his tenure to introduce a flat tax, which was a bridge too far for Lange. Following Labour’s resounding defeat in 1990, the country was now in the hands of National, where there would be no let up on the neoliberal doctrine. While in the 80’s NZ had Rogernomics, the 90’s resulted in Ruthanasia. images.duckduckgo.comRuth Richardson was now the Finance Minister and was prepared to put free-market capitalism on steroids. It was their goal to privatise anything that wasn’t nailed down, including health, education, while reducing unemployment, sickness and welfare benefits. Active campaigns using adverts and TV programmes were used to demonise welfare recipients such as benefit cheats, unfortunately the same amount of effort was not expended on tax evaders/avoiders. Like their traditional opponents the National government were happy to maintain high levels of unemployment purposely to keep wages low and therefore, inflation low. Any collective in the form of unions which opposed these draconian reforms were systematically dismantled, with the Employments Contract Act. This intentionally individualised the employment relationship and pitted employee versus employee, this also had the dramatic effect of lowering wages. Although Ruth Richardson was gone by 1993, the National government continued until 1999. By then the die was cast, most people didn’t know any better than capitalism and consumption. The incoming Labour government led by Helen Clark managed to put the breaks on runaway capitalism, but by then individualism and consumerism were ingrained on a national psyche that once stood for egalitarian values.

So I guess the question is, why socialism, why go left? The answer is simple, unbridled capitalism does not have the answers to our very serious problems, both nationally and globally. If you are uncomfortable with socialism. then fine call it something else. The important thing is we need to move away from a massively individualistic society to a collective one. Jeremy Bentham stated “it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong”. Not only is that a moral statement, but a practical one when we think that we live in a finite world and what we do has direct consequences on someone or something else. To live a life as if we are in isolation is foolish and irresponsible. To emphasise this point, the worlds 8 richest people have more wealth than the poorest 50%, while 1 in 9 people will go to bed hungry. How does this make sense? Gandhi famously said;

“The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.”

So lets get to our pressing problems and why New Zealand needs to turn left. First up homelessness, a report by Yale University concluded that New Zealand has the highest homeless rates in the OECD. More than 40,000 people live on the streets or in emergency housing or substandard shelters, this equates to almost 1% of the population. While there is one person living rough or in sub-standard accommodation, in my opinion we have failed as a society. This is clearly a difficult problem to solve; there is indeed the physical aspect of having enough accommodation, psychological problems, such as people feeling disenfranchised with society and many other complex contributing factors. But the answer is not how many houses to build, or how we increase mental health provision. The answer is the government needs to find the political will to actually complete these projects regardless of any barriers that may exist. Government’s seem to find money to fund war or bank bailouts, but somehow the cupboard is bare when it comes to the most vulnerable in society. This is quite simply an ideological decision to allow certain sections of society to suffer.

New Zealand has some highest suicide rates in the world. NZ youth suicide has twice the prevalence of Australia and five times that of the UK. Although the reasons are multi-faceted, economic inequality is a huge factor with regards to mental health problems. Feelings of worthlessness and status anxiety increases, while trust decreases. The very fabric of society disintegrates, at a time when many people would benefit from a supportive network. Inequality also has a huge effect on child poverty, in 1982 child poverty was 14%, now it sits around 28%. All the while the incomes of the top 10% compared to the lower 10% have increased from 5 times to 10 times greater. The examples I have mentioned highlighting where NZ falls down have one thing in common, ‘people’. If the wealth of the rich compared to the poor widens, yet many health and social indicators show NZ is severely lacking, this indicates to me that the system has failed and the government has no inclination or desire to change course. One last thought on this; New Zealand’s richest two men (Richard Chandler and Graeme Hart) have more wealth than 30% of the poorest people. That in itself is sickening.

On to my last reason for NZ to turn left. The most important issue we face on this planet is climate change. The National government have signed up to the Paris accord, however, this according to renowned climate scientist James Hansen doesn’t go far enough to avoid temperatures elevating by 2 degrees. Climate scientists warn that this rise would have dramatic affects; one in which seas will rise by more than 5 metres over the coming centuries, and one in which droughts, floods and extreme heatwaves will ravage many parts of the world. Currently National seem to be randomly tossing figures around without any concerted plan. For example the government have stated that it will aim for a 2030 target of 30% below 2005 emission levels, which actually is equivalent to cutting emissions to 11% below 1990 levels. Their rhetoric is meaningless as are their actions, but this shouldn’t be surprising as it’s a party wedded to big business, including the fossil fuel industry.

During this election cycle, National have ran an exceptionally negative campaign towards Labour and the Greens. This has been a two pronged attack; ridiculing Labour by stating their proposals are not affordable, while scaring the public into believing they’ll be paying masses of tax to pay for services. One of the stand-out moments was Steven Joyce the current Finance Minister, claiming there was a $11.7bn hole in Labour’s budget. steven joyceThis was of course total rubbish, but it didn’t matter, it had the desired effect. In the right-wing world there is no requirement to tell the truth only the result matters. These tactics were designed to make Labour seem indecisive regarding taxes, at the same time slowing the Jacinda effect. My thoughts are Jacinda Adhern should have been bold the moment she took office, stating; these are the problems, this is what we’ll do, this is why we’ll do it and here’s how we’ll pay. Obviously the only way they could pay is through taxes. Bizarrely, New Zealand, appears to be tax phobic, which would indicate that the people are heavily taxed. This couldn’t be further from the truth, tax is a little less than most OECD countries and is a lot less progressive than it once was (top tax rate was 66%). Tax is obviously spent on services such as health, education, police, prisons and welfare. Therefore, what we pay on tax is directly linked to what sort of services we want in New Zealand. Tax is no more than the pooling of our resources to make the nation better. Scandinavia is well known for their high taxes, but have an excellent standard of living, often topping rankings in; education, low crime, good health outcomes and excellent social cohesion. Tax isn’t the only solution to problems in New Zealand or anywhere else for that matter, but it does offer a means to improve services and reduce inequality.

So why do I keep harping on about inequality? It’s quite simple, inequality is directly connected with; increased crime rates, poorer health outcomes, less social mobility, substandard education, a decrease in social cohesion and a less stable economy. The ruling elite will continue to divide society, convincing the middle class to blame the poor, while the poor blame the immigrants. All the while the rich will get tax cuts or avoid tax completely. Rather than looking at the most marginalised and the vulnerable in society we should be looking towards the ruling elite to locate where the problem lies. As I stated at the top of this piece, the choices for the election are not particularly stark, but I still hope for a change of government and maybe a step in the right direction.

 

Jeremy Corbyn: The man with a plan

Jeremy Corbyn has navigated through another tumultuous few weeks, fending off the usual unsubstantiated accusations about him and his supporters. Plus a plethora of dirty tricks from the evil twins of the National Executive Committee and the Parliamentary Labour Party, in an attempt to subvert democracy.mr whippy Meanwhile Owen Smith the Labour leadership rival, over this period has trawled the UK’s ice cream hot-spots trying to convince anyone who would listen to him how radical he is by adopting many of his opponents ideas. Smith has largely sounded muddled and inconsistent during many of the debates. This incoherence is primarily due to him adopting a political stance on the left that is unfamiliar. Among all this mayhem Mr Corbyn has responded to his detractor’s cries of ambiguity regarding his proposed rejuvenation of society and presented a plan in the form of a 10 point vision. This much needed and ambitious goal is set to transform the UK from an ailing, highly unequal country to a more compassionate society, where nobody gets left behind.

Corbyn’s 10 pledges

  1. Full employment and an economy that works for all: based around a £500bn public investment via the planned national investment bank.
  2. A secure homes guarantee: building 1m new homes in five years, at least half of them council homes. Also rent controls and secure tenancies.
  3. Security at work: includes stronger employment rights, an end to zero hours contracts and mandatory collective bargaining for companies with 250 or more employees.
  4. Securing NHS and social care: end health service privatisation and bring services into a “secure, publicly-provided NHS”.
  5. A national education service: featuring universal public childcare, the “progressive restoration” of free education, and quality apprenticeships.
  6. Action to secure our environment: includes keeping to Paris climate agreement, and moving to a “low-carbon economy” and green industries, in part via national investment bank.
  7. Put the public back into our economy and services: such as re-nationalising railways and bringing private bus, leisure and sports facilities back into local government control.
  8. Cut income and wealth inequality: make a progressive tax system so highest earners are “fairly taxed”, shrink the gap between the highest and lowest paid.
  9. Action to secure an equal society: including action to combat violence against women, as well as discrimination based on race, sexuality or disability, and defend the Human Rights Act.
  10. Peace and justice at the heart of foreign policy: aims to put conflict resolution and human rights “at the heart of foreign policy”.

To any Socialist, these are just common sense ideas, they prioritise developing a society as a whole, rather than swelling the ruling elite’s tax avoiding bank balance that’s hidden in places such as Bermuda. On the flip-side, right wingers will be treating this benign list with hostility, disdain and as a virtual deceleration of an ideological war. carlton clubThe neoliberals will interpret this as preposterous, unacceptable, government meddling and it may cause rich, middle aged men sat in their supposed places of importance such as ‘The Carlton Club‘ to choke on their brandy. So comrades, the first thing you may well be asked by any self-respecting neoliberal (if there is such a species) from either a blue or red persuasion is; how does Jeremy Corbyn pay for all this? To appreciate the answer to this question, opponents will have to put their right-wing ideology aside for one moment and try to think holistically. They will first need to discover that they are not the only people in world that matter, while understanding at the same time contrary to what Thatcher declared, society really does exist. This no doubt will be a bridge too far for the most entrenched of Conservatives. However, for the vast majority of people these ideas may appear wonderful in theory, but unattainable in practice. This is partly because we have had years of the Conservatives and more broadly neoliberals in the form of ‘New Labour’ setting the economic terms of debate. Disastrous policies such as austerity, which largely consisted of; being soft on taxes for the rich, cutting back on public services, paying subsidies for private contractors and stagnating wage increases for the peasants. This has not only failed to reduce the country’s debt, but it has increased the debt from roughly 65% of GDP in October 2010 to approximately 85% of GDP as measured in January 2016.

uk-debt-since-95

Solutions

One controversial economic proposal that has been suggested from the Corbyn camp is peoples quantitative easing (PQE), this is described as a new national investment bank. The general premise is, rather than printing money to bail out the banks, PQE would be used to boost spending on infrastructure and public spending. It is surmised that this cash injection via PQE, would boost inflation, which would have the effect of reducing the real burden of our accumulated debt. It is thought that this idea could work but it would have to be used sensibly and needs to be carefully managed.

With the potential problems of PQE in mind, lets see if we can uncover money in a safer way. I have 4 more simple suggestions.

Non-renewal of Trident

I am aware that this has recently been voted through the house, however, it is the most ridiculous waste of money I can think of. This £205bn relic of the cold war just makes no sense. It works on the logic that the Prime Minister has to be prepared to launch a catastrophic retaliatory strike on a sovereign nation that has already launched its missiles towards the UK. So we solve the imminent deaths of 100,000’s to millions of our own people with the outright slaughter of 100,000’s to millions of other innocent people in a foreign land. Great idea! Hey, I’ve got a radical idea how about we use diplomacy, while not destroying people’s homes in far away places. This philosophy of diplomacy works very nicely with Jeremy’s points 9 & 10. Simple, maximum amount saved £205bn.

Tax recovery

Richard Murphy published a report regarding the amount of revenue lost due to tax avoidance, evasion and late payments. It is estimated that £119.4bn was lost over 2013/14, a similar figure was reported in 2010. Murphy breaks down lost revenue into three categories;

  • Tax debt non-collection – tax that is not paid by a person or a company who knows that they owe it, but who doesn’t pay, or delays payment.
  • Tax avoidance – tax that is lost when a person claims to arranges their affairs to minimise tax within the law in the UK, or in other countries.
  • Tax evasion – tax lost when a person or company deliberately and unlawfully fails to declare income that they know is taxable or claims expenses that are not allowed.

The main area of tax revenue loss was through evasion, £82.1bn failed to reach the system through these varying methods;

  • Tax evasion in the shadow economy. The shadow economy represents economic activities that are not recorded or declared to avoid government regulation or taxation.
  • Tax lost as a result of other criminal or fraudulent activity in the UK economy.
  • Capital Gains Tax and Inheritance Tax and offshore tax evasion.
  • Tax evasion on investment and rental income.

In the document Murphy outlines a number of ways to combat tax evasion and avoidance. The two obvious ones would be; to introduce an anti-avoidance rule in to UK tax law, and secondly an introduction of country by country reporting by multinational corporations. These types of strategies are heavily dependent on the government committing to a crack down on tax evasion and avoidance, rather than paying lip service to it. Sadly the lines between corporate and state interests are becoming increasingly more difficult to distinguish. Lobbying groups are ever more persuasive on behalf of their corporate clients, while employees move freely between the two sectors.

However, the fact remains that there is a large chunk of change out there, that could make a huge difference in the public sphere. I believe a Corbyn government would make it their duty to seize as much of this lost revenue, which would go a long way to rejuvenating the nation. Maximum amount saved – £120bn per year

Robin Hood Tax or the Financial Transactions Tax (FTT)

A Financial Transaction Tax is my third suggestion in an effort to obtain funds for Jeremy’s 10 point plan. This proposed tax is a tiny percentage 0.05% that would be placed on financial transactions such as; stocks, bonds, foreign currency and derivatives. These taxes are easy to implement and difficult to avoid, they have also been well tested in other countries. It has been estimated that a tax of this nature could raise up to £250bn globally per year, £20bn in the UK alone. The tax would be imposed at the riskier end of financial services, which would make absolute moral sense. The financial crash in 2008 was largely due to bankers gambling with other people’s money, so it should be their turn to pay back in to society. It is the most profitable industry on earth, yet it caused pain and misery for millions. It’s time they helped clean up this mess. Total savings £20bn per year.

Raising Income Tax top rate to 50%

This usually initiates groans from many people, however, we need to explain to the populace that this top rate would only be paid on anything earned above the £150,000 a year threshold. As you could imagine this doesn’t affect the majority of workers in any way. It it estimated that 300,000 people would be subjected to this rate of tax, which could if collected properly raise up to £6bn per year. Now, this proposal would receive lots of criticism from the right, who will state that it would initiate some form of mass exodus from the business community. The reality is, under Thatcher for the first 9 years the top tax rate was 60%. The hyperbole that would be heard from the neoliberal MP’s, the media billionaires and the rest of the ruling elite, would be borne out of nothing but greed, self-interest and narcissism. Total savings £6bn per year.

So, looking at the scores on the doors using these 4 ideas, we could raise £146bn per year, plus the £205bn Trident would cost over its lifetime. This is a good start towards that £500bn, which I’m sure isn’t intended to be raised in one year. What also needs to be taken into account is the huge sums of money that have been wasted paying subsidies for the failed privatisation of education, health, railways and benefits. Nationalising these services would save money, rather than financialising every aspect of government expenditure all to benefit the few. People want responsible government who care about everybody in the nation. Leadership that acts as the buffer between corporations and the masses. Not a government who exploit the public; whether that’s in the workplace with zero hour contracts, using our taxes to bail out failed corporate ventures or forcing our unemployed to work for free with the threat of loss of benefits constantly looming. This government passes all its draconian policies by instigating fear in our minds. From supposed terrorists on every street corner to immigrants taking our jobs and lazy benefit scroungers tanking the economy. There’s always another target to focus on except the real perpetrators. The masses need to recognise the enemy before we can all fight them effectively.