The last five years have been a nightmare. And as a result, we have a government whose handling of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has been fatally incompetent. Another result is a new opposition leader who seems to have the disgraced media establishment firmly behind him.
To escape this nightmare, we need to learn from it.
Five years of establishment terror
The political and economic establishment in Britain has never really lost power. But in 2015, it saw a serious threat. So it launched a scorched-earth campaign to eliminate that threat.
Establishment forces watched in shock as the Labour Party elected Jeremy Corbyn as its leader. Not only was he an anti-imperialist peace–prize winner; he also opposed the monarchy, actively supported unions, and wanted a democratic revolution – both politically and economically. He was a break from the narrow mainstream debate in UK politics. And the establishment could not allow it. So it turned his life – and that of his supporters – into a nightmare.
From the very start, Corbyn and his allies were playing tennis without a racket; and the court was never level. British elites ensured that Corbyn’s movement immediately faced ridicule, hostility, and a steep uphill struggle. A 2016 report from the London School of Economics and Political Science highlighted how Corbyn was “a political transgressor” who shocked the “media and the political establishment”, leading it to launch a campaign of “vile attack dog journalism”. And that was barely the first two months of his leadership.
As The Canary has outlined, the media propaganda and smears intensified until Corbyn’s final defeat in 2019. Labour elites, meanwhile, were also angry at members for electing Corbyn, and they helped to undermine his movement at its height between 2015 and 2017 – as the Labour Leaks scandal recently revealed. Centrist and pro-Remain fanatics then helped to destroy Corbyn’s big electoral advance in 2017 by pushing Labour to a disastrous Brexit policy (but still preferring not to back the party in the 2019 election).
‘Don’t you dare step out of the box we’ve put you in!’
In the 1988 book Manufacturing Consent, Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman wrote about the backlash if mainstream media content ‘strays too far away from the political consensus’. Chomsky spoke of the “spectrum of permissible debate”. And what happened with Corbyn was that he wasn’t within that spectrum. He challenged the system that British elites had set up to give citizens the illusion of democracy. So he faced the wrath of the establishment.
To defeat Corbyn, the media propaganda machine had to convince people that peace was dangerous and that human wellbeing would be disastrous. And through a putrid elitist alliance, it succeeded.
Now, Britain’s elites have an opposition they don’t fear under new Labour leader Keir Starmer. He’s no real threat to their interests, and he fits within the ‘spectrum of permissible debate’. So the charade of ‘British democracy’ can resume.
As The Canary has reported, Starmer looks set to sweep the Labour Leaks scandal under the carpet, with the help of the mainstream media; as if the sabotage of Corbyn’s movement never happened. Having played a key part in undermining Labour’s election hopes in 2019 as shadow Brexit secretary, he has already backtracked on progressive Corbyn-era positions. And he’s done it just as the government presides over the worst coronavirus death toll in Europe, getting away with little media scrutiny in the process. At the worst time possible, he has shown establishment forces that he’s no threat.
The establishment’s sigh of relief
Mainstream media big-wigs like Andrew Neil, Laura Kuenssberg, Robert Peston, and George Osborne have all given their nod of approval to Starmer. Even the political editor at Rupert Murdoch’s Sun has been praising the new Labour leader. From an outlet that viciously went after Corbyn from the very start, that’s particularly telling. As historian Mark Curtis put it:
Establishment apologists endorse Starmer. There will be no propaganda campaign. The oligarchy is safe.
Corbyn put himself out there. He stood up for peace, democracy, and social justice with dignity in the face of vile attacks (from the liberal Guardian to the right-wing billionaire media). But he was too nice; he compromised too much, and he didn’t use the movement behind him to democratise the Labour Party and get rid of Labour elites hell-bent on preventing the election of a progressive government. Everyone on the British left needs to learn that lesson. As trade unionist Michael McGahey once said, enemies “will stop chasing you… when you stop running”.
We owe the Tory government nothing. And we owe Keir Starmer nothing. We don’t need to resort to the disgusting establishment tactics of smears or insults. But we don’t need to be polite either; because the government has literally destroyed people’s lives, and Corbyn’s opponents were complicit in that death and suffering. If people’s lives are at stake, then we need to act like it.
Our opponents will hate and smear us because of our principles anyway; so let’s embrace it. Let’s shout the truth from the rooftops. This government has blood on its hands, as does the media establishment that has propped it up. And as the main opposition to this government, we must not allow Starmer to ditch the pledges he made to win the leadership election.
We must refuse to fall in line with ‘permissible debate’ politics. Because our ongoing resistance is more essential than ever. People’s lives literally depend on it.
Featured image via YouTube
Some other recommendations:
- Find a local cooperative – join in, get active, ask how you can help.
- Join a union, get active.
- Join a local community group – meet people you wouldn’t usually meet.
- In every circle of life, try to get people around you question what they hear in the mainstream media, and encourage them to support independent media.
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