Corporatocracy


A curious diversion in the Leveson Inquiry took us back to 1983 and the serialisation of the fraudulent “Hitler diaries” in The Sunday Times. I’ve been reading Selling Hitler, Robert Harris’ terrific book on the shameful affair, and may write on it further at some point. For now, though, here are two thoughts. Firstly that I’d love to be around to see the exposure of the archives of Kim Jong-il’s LiveJournal. Secondly that the case is a marvellous illustration of the poisonous influence of Rupert Murdoch.

Gerd Heidemann, a journalist for Stern magazine, obtained the diaries over time from “Dr Fischer”, who was known for selling Nazi memorabilia. “Fischer” was, in fact, Konrad Kajau and a gifted if inelegant forger who was swotting up on Hitler’s life and writing the diaries himself. Germany’s most credulous man had met one of its most dishonest. Over time Heidemann talked more of his colleagues into trusting the validity of the documents he’d received from Kajau and as they invested more and more of their funds into the project they had no option but to convince themselves they were authentic. Under the pretence of secrecy they sent mere fragments to be studied by handwriting experts and decided not to let historians observe the diaries. One of the pair that did was Hugh Trevor-Roper, who was dispatched by Times Newspapers. The quantity of the documents, and the belief that they’d been firmly authenticated, led him to the presumptuous view that they were valid. This was enough for Murdoch. He imposed the publication on his doubtful employees.

Frank Giles, editor of the Sunday Times…[was] unenthusiastic, yet comforted by his belief that [the diaries] would be running in The Times. His sang froid had been shattered the previous day by a brief, transatlantic announcement from Murdoch that the Hitler diaries were going to be serialized in the Sunday Times after all: now that the Stern would be appearing on the Monday, Sunday had become the perfect day to print the extracts. It would enable the paper to avoid the risk of rivals getting hold of advance copies of the German magazine and printing pirated extracts of the diaries twenty-four hours ahead of them.

Murdoch was not a proprietor who encouraged dissent. Even strong editors found it had to stand up to him. Giles was not a strong editor.

On the day before publication Trevor-Roper, whose doubts had been simmering within his cerebrum, admitted to himself that the diaries were probably fraudulent. He rang Giles. (“These doubts aren’t strong enough to make you do a complete 180-degree turn on that? Oh. I see. You are doing a 180-degree turn.”) The Deputy Editor phoned Murdoch to ask if they should consider rewriting the paper…

“Fuck Dacre,” replied Murdoch. “Publish.”

Murdoch, then, dismissed the scepticism of the man on whose authority he had accepted the diaries as valid. Before Leveson Murdoch granted that he was responsible for the subsequent rhapsodising over Kajau’s scrawls and described it as a “major mistake”. But, of course, he was as liable to accept its implications as a Trophozoite is the feelings of its host: that his work is premised on gratifying his and his allies’ interests and that he’s prepared to enforce his plans across his fiefdom without care for principles of truth and hopes of enlightenment. The dangers of this would clear when he promoted a far more destructive hoax almost exactly two decades later.

Simon Kelner, who edited the Independent, tells of being abused by Murdoch fils after his paper had disparaged the family name…

I sat on a sofa, Brooks perched on the arm of another sofa, and Murdoch walked and talked. He was excitable and angry. “You’ve impugned the reputation of my family,” he said at one point. He called me “a fucking fuckwit” and became furious at my bemusement that he should find our campaign so upsetting, given that one of his newspapers famously claimed that it did indeed decide elections.

Brooks said very little, but, when her boss’s rage blew itself out, chipped in with: “We thought you were our friend”. Their use of language and the threatening nature of their approach came straight from the “Mafioso for Beginners” handbook.

The Mafia comparison fell flat when voiced by Tom Watson but Kelner likes it and so do I. (His mistake, as Alexander Chancellor notes, was to accuse James, the consummate consigliere, of being the boss.) As Jeremy Hunt is accused of aiding the family in their attempt to purchase BSkyB it seems that like the Cosa Nostra the Murdochs have apparent public servants who are willing to serve their business interests. Their gang idly transgresses ethical and legal boundaries. Their critics are liable to be subject to campaigns of persecution and disinformation. And, yet, as with all the most notorious of Mafiosos, they appear to stay ever so slightly detached from the misdeeds of their soldi, er, employees and are still perceived as upstanding members of society by the dignitaries that they bump into at functions.

Crucially, their empire is one that defies the conventions of society while feeding off and corrupting it. This doesn’t merely refer to the scale of the criminality that much of it seems to be founded on but the scope of its ideological penetration. Let’s recall that almost everyone one of Murdoch’s titles backed the war on Iraq (the exception, it seems, was the Papua New Guinea Courier Mail). So, let’s tear apart the doors that reveal the backroom dealings that our supposed enlighteners have worked so hard to conceal. I only hope the Leveson Inquiry is as or more effective than Giovanni Falcone’s Maxi Trials.

Time, I think, for more earnest investigation of the horrifying reality of adverts. We’ve seen the miserable image of family life that they’re promoting to a nation that’s already torn by familial division. Here, though, I’m going to take it up a notch; to some of the products they’re implying add a gloss to the sterility of life; to the promos so disgusting they’d even offend Denis Bagley’s furuncle. I speak, of course, of fragrance adverts: so materialistic they make P Diddy look like a Franciscan monk; populated by the sorts of wankers who’d make a full week of dinners with Come Dine With Me contestants seem quite appealing. Here’s a good example…

This fetishisation of wealth couldn’t be more obnoxious if he’d done a line of coke off her backside; stuffed a wad of notes into her hand and kicked her out the door. Heck, at least they’d have stopped smiling.

One thing that allows my hair, nails and computer screen to make it through a full viewing of this advert, though, is that it’s so superficial it’s almost kitsch. This, somehow, is even worse…

Yes, with a dash of “Only the Brave” fragrance you too can risk death in a car accident. At least the prosperous pinheads in the first advert were completely frivolous. This dude is bastardising our emotions; the things that make us human. It’s like a nu-metal band covering What a Wonderful World.

This, however, is the worst of all…

Now, people in advertising – for all of their hatefulness – can’t be entirely idiotic. They’re given massive piles of cash with which to craft their noxious works and their employers must see profit or they wouldn’t hire them. But the terrifying conclusion one must draw from that is that bequiffed wankers basking in the smugness that the exclusivity of their appalling parties has inspired in them appeal to prospective customers. Is it? Well, I’m not sure. No, really – I’m no expert on psychology; I can’t be sure. But I suspect it’s more that these adverts appeal to basic urges in humans: for acceptance, for identity and, yeah, for a bedmate. Yet they frame these desires as bland and boorish, and push them in barren, base directions. For that reason, and despite the fact that I’m of course being somewhat facetious, they’re as vile as a pool of day-old sick.

The abundance in 21st Century life, and the scale of innovation that’s given rise to it, is in many ways a splendid thing. Of course it is! I’m grateful that I can tap away at the computer, a drink at my elbow, with the boiler staving off the December chill. On the other hand, the ampleness of stuff has served to disorientate humans, who’ve evolved to make the best of what little they’ve caught, scavenged and made. Profiteers have been happy to exploit this.

On several occasions I’ve made reference to the hijacking of the Western diet by “hyperpalatable” concoctions of the food industry. Stephan Guyenet draws my attention to a programme on the “flavorists” – mercenaries for processed food corporations. Teams of scientists devise alluring tastes and smells from a host of weird synthetic sources. (“Strawberry and vanilla flavour,” the reporter tells us, “Can come from the gland in a beaver’s backside.” Mmm. Nice.)

These creations are generally a means of enhancing ingredients that are (a) cheap, (b) simple to package and (c) simple to repackage as a basically similar but apparently original new product. (There are more brands of cereal than Chinese women nowadays.) These are typically the least nutritious: refined starches, sucrose and hydrogenated fats. The flavours are so powerfully concentrated that – along with the sugarsalt and other stuff in the products – they help to derange the physiological functions that help us control our diets. Appetite isn’t simply a matter of eating until that last baked bean fills up the last recess in our stomachs; it’s balanced by a host of complex and delicate mechanisms. Such foods can send our brain reward systems wild, but they lacks the nutrition that the body’s actually unting for. Thus, consumption continues. That, indeed, is why they do it. “You’re trying to create an addictive taste?” The reporter asked. “That’s a good word,” came response.

People like to mock the notion that obesity is the result of anything more pathological than human weakness but the failure of unhealthy people to exert control is, to some extent, the consequence of societal trends that hinder faculties that should advise this regulation. They’re not simply weak, in other words; they’ve been weakened.

Fans of consumerism are predictably averse to such heresies. The e’er reliable Brendan O’Neill appears to think that folk who are concerned about modern diets are just a bunch of pâté-pecking, lobster-lunching snobs; or, worse, muesli-munching Guardianistas. In fact, the wisest course, I’d guess, is a return to simpler not more rarified consumption habits,  and the people who should have been wise to unhealthy trends aren’t liberals but conservatives. The problem, after all, has stemmed from wacky modern innovations and a shift from traditional diets. By reversing the process – to some extent, at least – Westerners could get their collective eating back in order.

I hate adverts. This is hardly an original opinion – hell, I’m sure you feel the same. But while it’s trite to say that they’re repugnant insults to everything good about humankind it’s also true, so let’s hate adverts together.

As explored here, the real exemplars of the advertising method are promotionals based around family life. The consistent message is that families – just like friends, careers, holidays and, indeed, all of existence – are tedious and frustrating things and that the only way to coexist without overmuch pain is to acquire the thing the ad is offering. This is painfully blatant in pre-Christmas promos. Here’s a great example: a shiny, happy advert which essentially asserts that you’ll have a dull and cheerless Christmas if “Santa” fails to bring a Nintendo Wii…

You see that father? Him with the greasy black hair? He would have been thrashing those children with a belt if they hadn’t received the Wii family pack. Do you want to be thrashing your children with a belt? Well then…

Microsoft’s latest suggests that worthwhile family experiences “all start with a Windows 7 PC”. Because having a laugh at the expense of a relative’s dancing literally never happened before Gates and his cronies put out their latest installment of humdrum gadgetry…

The catchphrase of the ad is that it’s “a great time to be a family”. Would it be anal to cite divorce rates nowadays?

What insults me about these godforsaken things is how – can I phrase this without sounding hugely pretentious? No – blind they are to human resourcesfulness. Your mind and body, they imply, aren’t capable of producing entertainment, stimulation and emotional fulfilment. Nah, you need another thing. This runs counter to all notions of human inventiveness and individuality, and – if y’all don’t mind me dropping the “c” word – that sheds a dim light on the whole “capitalism” thing. Liberty, if it means anything, has to mean more than the freedom to dance like a loon before a small, exorbitantly priced box.

Lots of people have been chuckling over a U.S. court’s decision to classify pizza as a vegetable. This feels a tad more sinister when it’s realised that this was part of the creation of guidelines for children’s school lunches. Yeah, along with this “vegetable” the kids will enjoying a big whack of bleached flour, salt and soybean oil. Come back, Jamie Oliver. Most is forgiven.

I love the arguments of the corporate lobbyists who’ve invested their millions in a fatter future…

Food companies including Coca-Cola, Del Monte Foods and the makers of frozen pizza and French fries have a huge stake in the new guidelines and many argue that it would raise the cost of meals and call for food that too many children just will not eat.

But here’s a question: why won’t they eat them? It’s not as if parents for the – ooh, what was it? – tens of thousands of years before pizza had to smother vegetables in refined starch and hydrogenated fat to get the kids to chew ‘em down. No, as Kristin Wartman writes at the Huffington Post, the consumption of lots of industrially processed foods shapes the palate to accept – that’s right – industrially processed foods. Anything that doesn’t have their concentration of thick sugar, fat and salt seems bland and bitter. And, as “food reward” theorists have hypothesised, once you start eating these foods it can be hard to stop…

The human brain evolved to deal with a certain range of rewarding experiences. It didn’t evolve to constructively manage strong drugs of abuse such as heroin and crack cocaine, which overstimulate reward pathways, leading to the pathological drug seeking behaviors that characterize addiction. These drugs are “superstimuli” that exceed our reward system’s normal operating parameters…In a similar manner, industrially processed food, which has been professionally crafted to maximize its rewarding properties, is a superstimulus that exceeds the brain’s normal operating parameters, leading to an increase in body fatness and other negative consequences.

The food industry, in other words, is manufacturing its own customers. And, in doing so, they’re furthering obesity, heart disease and diabetes. These kids are just tucking in.

Savour this, from 2003…

Tony Blair today derided as “conspiracy theories” accusations that a war on Iraq would be in pursuit of oil, as he faced down growing discontent in parliament at a meeting of Labour backbenchers and at PMQs.

Now, wrap your chops round this, from the one-time US ambassador John Bolton…

…critical oil and natural gas producing region that we fought so many wars to try and protect our economy from the adverse impact of losing that supply or having it available only at very high prices.

Bitter taste, huh?

Meanwhile, Senator Lindsay Graham offers a portrait of the U.S.’s thinking in terms of the war in Libya…

Let’s get in on the ground. There is a lot of money to be made in the future in Libya. Lot of oil to be produced.

Is it a good or bad thing that politicians are revealing their lowest motives rather than being exposed? On the one hand, it’s nice that their existence is unarguable. On the other, if they keep this up they’ll put investigative journalists onto the dole.

Anyway, insisting that an argument is a “conspiracy theory” – as I’ve written, at some length – is often a nifty tactic used by people who’d like to make plausible and relevant ideas seem foolish and esoteric. Now, though, it seems that many powermongers don’t feel obliged to ridicule or even dispute the “war for oil” theses. They’re just like, “Yeah. So?” Perhaps the growing awareness of the shaky state of oil production means they doubt that people will be taken in. On the other hand, perhaps they think that fears regarding oil consumption mean that people will be more likely to tolerate a war if it’s for oil than something they can’t use.

I sympathise with people who people who think refrains like “war for oil” are a tad simplistic, by the way. But an act can have more than one intention. I don’t go to the pub for its spiced rum alone but I doubt I’d go if they took it off the menu.

The Fox & Werrity saga is more interesting than I’d thought. I’d suspected that Werrity was just a pal that Fox dragged around to take care of the business he couldn’t handle. With the revelation that Werrity was being funded by the plutocrats who’d financed the fantastic one’s ideological activities is seems more likely that he was a “minder” on their behalf. Keeping an eye on their investment.

It emerged on Friday that Mr Werritty’s activities were funded by a not-for-profit company linked to an employee of Michael Hintze, the hedge fund millionaire. Oliver Hylton, who works for Mr Hintze’s CQS hedge fund, is the sole director of Pargav Ltd, although he has insisted he had no role in running the company.

Pargav has paid for flights and luxury hotels for Mr Werritty’s extensive international travels, according to financial records obtained by the Times.

Hintze was, along with Michael Lewis, the former – not, as I’ve said, current – deputy chairman of the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM), a generous donor to the Atlantic Bridge. Oh, and speaking of Lewis…

The newspaper reported that six groups had each paid up to £35,000 into [Pargav Ltd] since October 2010.

These donors appear to include Jon Moulton, the venture capitalist best known for trying to buy MG Rover, and Michael Lewis of Oceana Investments, a Tory donor who until two years ago was deputy chairman of Bicom, the pro-Israel lobbying group.

Fancy that! The billionaire head of BICOM, Poju Zabludowicz, is also said to have been a donor to Pargav.

Pargav is registered at 60 Goswell Road, in Islington, north London, and has yet to file any accounts. Mr Hylton, its director, is already linked to Mr Werritty through their directorships of Security Futures, a consultancy which was dissolved last year.

Security Futures was also a donor to the Atlantic Bridge. Fancy – once again – that.

It’s also been reported that Fox had a mysterious American adviser named John Falk. Mr Falk…

…described himself on websites as ‘an adviser to Dr Liam Fox MP, the Conservative Party shadow defence minister in the development of the Atlantic Bridge network’, a charity set up by Dr Fox to promote the ‘special relationship’ between the U.S. and the UK.

And what a network! Falk is better known as a lobbyist for the Defence Industry.

These men had a considerable stake in Fox’s pro-Israel and  pro-“Defence” Atlanticism. And, considering his sycophancy to the arms trade and the Americans – guided, perhaps, by a watchful Werrity – it’s not unreasonable to conclude that their paying out was paying off.

Liam Fox, our ridiculous Defence Secretary, has been in the news after it was revealed that he’s been giving a friend of his access to MoD files. This pal, the Guardian reports, had run a think tank Fox has established. This, coincidentally, was dissolved last week after the Charity Commission said that, well – its activities weren’t very charitable…

A charity set up by Liam Fox, the defence secretary, has been dissolved by its trustees after criticism by the Charity Commission.

The Atlantic Bridge, which had already been suspended for promoting Conservative party policies in defiance of regulations, was founded by Fox and run by his close friend Adam Werritty.

Fox’s relationship with Werrity was drawn into question when the Guardian revealed Werritty had visited Fox at Ministry of Defence offices 14 times in the past 16 months.

Oh, that think tank.

I don’t know why I spent so much time raking through the details of a minor league think tank. (I even made a Wikipedia page for the blasted thing.) Still, while it’s in the news it’s worth revisiting. The Atlantic Bridge was set up to give British and American conservatives a chance to meet and share ideas and, in Fox’s words, create an “intellectual framework that will strengthen the special relationship”. It was, then, the sort of “social club” that sociologist William Domhoff claims provides elites with opportunities to “reach consensus” and “affirm cohesion”.

(more…)

I’m not sure I could write on the fetishisation of technology without sounding desperately pompous. ‘Til I find a way I’ll let these fellows make the point…


Amazon are currently thrilled with their new “kindle”. I can’t feeling that some people get more inspired by the medium through they experience art than the actual art itself. If they’d read anything at all enobling, for example, they might have felt more inclined to help their workers, who, as reported in this devastating expose, labour under intense scrutiny, at an exacting pace, in the brutal heat of cramped warehouses.

« Previous PageNext Page »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 184 other followers