Norway leads the world in almost every measure of civilisation. In fact, it just ranked first place in the World Happiness Report. And this is how batshit crazy UK politics looks to a citizen from Norway’s mature social democracy.
The Norwegian view
Jonas Fossli Gjersø, a history lecturer at the London School of Economics, aired his views in a September 2016 essay for openDemocracy. The essay resurfaced this week on social media, for good reason. He writes:
As a Scandinavian who has spent more than a decade living in Britain, nothing has made me feel more foreign than observing the current Labour leadership election. From his style to his policies Mr Corbyn would, in Norway, be an unremarkably mainstream, run-of-the-mill social-democrat. His policy-platform places him squarely in the Norwegian Labour Party from which the last leader is such a widely respected establishment figure that upon resignation he became the current Secretary-General of NATO.
Yet, here in the United Kingdom a politician who makes similar policy-proposals, indeed those that form the very bedrock of the Nordic-model, is brandished as an extremist of the hard-left and a danger to society.
So who is right? Is the Norwegian Labour movement some dangerous extremist group that unknowingly has occupied the furthest leftist fringe of the political spectrum? If so, a casual glance at the UN’s Human Development Index would suggest that Norway certainly has not suffered as a result of successive Labour-dominated governments. Or is it, perhaps, that the British media’s portrayal of Corbyn, and by extent his policies are somewhat exaggerated and verging on the realm of character assassination rather than objective analysis and journalism?
Exchange the words ‘Labour leadership election’ for ‘never-ending Labour coup’, and the essay hasn’t aged a day.
They are the experts
Gjersø is right. Just as in the United States, a unanimously neoliberal media has worked to make socialism a dirty word. What makes this all the more remarkable, is that evidence of the opposite is all around us. It was a socialist government that built our nation’s greatest achievements. The NHS, social housing, the state education system, pensions, benefits for those unable to work or find work, public transport. These were not gifts of capitalism, but built by socialism. And built when Britain was at its poorest, in the aftermath of the Second World War.
Sharing works. And it is true all around the world.
Social democracies distribute their wealth more equally, and end up with a much broader middle class, and far fewer citizens in poverty. They have better educated, healthier, happier, more productive societies as a result. They have less corruption, and greater environmental sustainability too. Bottom line: they are further advanced civilisations than our own.
It is not a matter of opinion that these societies function better. It is a matter of fact. The social democracies of the world consistently top global league tables. The World Happiness report, the OECD Better Life index, the UN Human Development Index, the Press Freedom Index – all see social democracies lead the world.
Meanwhile, the UK slides its way down the table into oblivion.
So if social democracy produced our most-cherished institutions, what’s with the hostility?
A manifesto that Gjersø describes as being almost identical to one from the most successful model in the world is derided as ‘loony leftism’ in Britain. And the reason is our media.
The Media Reform Coalition published a report in 2015 entitled: “Who owns the UK media?” And researchers found that just three corporations own 71% of national newspaper circulation. These owners decide who to hire, what stories to cover, and ultimately shape the public opinion of the country.
The head of the BBC (our nation’s supposedly impartial public broadcaster) is the former HSBC bank chief Rona Fairhead. And her Head of News and Politics is former Murdoch hack, James Harding. Little surprise then, that numerous independent studies have found the BBC guilty of bias towards business and conservative sources. And hostile to left-wing ideas and guests.
The board of the so-called centre-left Guardian looks like a who’s who of the UK establishment. You can see the full membership of the board here. The impact of this has been a restraining force on The Guardian’s editorial stance on issues from austerity to tax avoidance and evasion. Forbes, and The Bureau of Investigative Journalism have produced detailed and shocking reports of the paper’s own use of tax loopholes to exploit the tax system in its favour. Media Lens has covered The Guardian’s role in demonising the movement for Scottish independence. And here is an extensive list of the unprecedented abuse the paper has meted out to Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters.
That’s all before we even get to the likes of The Times, the Telegraph, The Sun, and The Daily Mail – where things get really murky.
Drip-feed to self-destruction
We did not just enter a “post-truth era”. We have been in one for some considerable time. It is the only way a majority of UK voters would install a government so hostile to their interests. A government elected on the promise to cut their pay, their pension, their welfare state, and the basis for their human rights.
The purpose of our media is to drip-feed misinformation to us so that we’ll agitate against our own interests. As Noam Chomsky once wrote:
Propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state.
And it’s long overdue that we cut the cord, and trusted ourselves and each other again.
– Read more from The Canary on BBC bias.
– Read and support the work of independent outlets which seek to hold the powerful to account. Please add more that you like in the comments:
The Canary, Media Diversified, Novara Media, Corporate Watch, Common Space, Media Lens, Bella Caledonia, Vox Political, Evolve Politics, Real Media, Reel News, STRIKE! magazine, The Bristol Cable, The Meteor, Salford Star, The Ferret.
Featured image via YouTube Screengrab
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?