Sunday, 6 March 2011

More fun from the Murdoch thread on CiF...

(Responding to a poster who considered that I had no argument, simply "venomous ... ad-hominem" attacks)

That's quite precious. It appears you've skipped the posts where I explained my beliefs regarding the limits of unregulated capitalism (note - "unregulated" - not anti-capitalism in general) and go straight for the part where I have some fun with a post that is blatantly nonsensical to anyone who's bothered to take even a token interest in the political background of the last century or so - a vernacular interpretation of the founding principles of the left was that at the turn of the last century, the workers who provided the labour from which capital was made were getting a very bum deal when it came to benefiting from the capital their labour produced. Socialism was intended as a political movement to redress that balance. Certainly I never read anything in Das Kapital which suggested that money be taken from the working-class and handed to liberal media elites in capital cities.

Say what you like about Lord Reith and his somewhat patrician attitude, but his mantra of "educate, inform, entertain" was intended to improve the lot of all, including the working classes. Whether you love it or loathe it, over the last few decades the BBC has had to put more emphasis on "entertain" in order to continue providing a quality service in terms of education and information - but the quality of that output is largely unquestioned. To give just one example, the base level of knowledge of our planet in the UK would be very different had the "Earth" series never come to fruition (and arguably it could never have been made the way it was if commercial viability was brought into the equation). Murdoch's mantra on the other hand is more along the lines of "entertain as cheaply as possible, misinform where possible, destroy competition, jack up prices, profit".

Now, if you're of the opinion where the principles of business to make profit are absolutely sacrosanct and paramount then you'll have no problem with that, but if you care about the quality and diversity of information reaching the public, you're likely to think differently. Here we have the crux of the problem that's demonstrated so clearly on this board, because if you're of the free-market right you will consider the output of the right-wing press and Murdoch's broadcast media to be expressing a truthful position and, conversely, consider the output of the two left-leaning national papers to be scurrilous lies - believing that the BBC is aiding and abetting. If you're of the left persuasion of any stripe it's probable that position is likely to be reversed, and as such, consensus is difficult if not impossible.

What Murdoch has done Stateside (as have many other right-wing broadcasters in the wake of the Fairness Doctrine repeal) is continue to drive that wedge home as far as possible - classic "divide-and-conquer" tactics. Put more bluntly, if they can get a significant percentage of the rest of us fighting the others by claiming that the others are behind what's screwing them (whether by reinforcing existing beliefs or attracting new converts is immaterial), then not only do they distract us from the notion (I'd say hard fact, but I'm trying for balance ;)) that it is the wealthy business owners happily screwing *all* of the rest of us, but profit handsomely from the advertising dollars that their broadcasts bring in. It's a much more nuanced and insidious version of "The Big Lie".

(Responding to a poster who suggested I read Hayek's "The Road To Serfdom")

I've read "The Road To Serfdom" - it was a long time ago, but thankfully Wikipedia has helped me out with the passage I was racking my brains trying to remember.

"...probably nothing has done so much harm to the liberal cause as the wooden insistence of some liberals on certain rules of thumb, above all of the principle of laissez-faire capitalism"

This is where I find the notion that "lefties" are, as a bloc, reading only things that support their (our) preconceived positions and avoiding opposing views, creating a vast echo chamber not only laughable, but the biggest example of projection on the part of some on the right that I've ever encountered.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

The Murdoch Fait Accompli

(Cross-posted and paraphrased from CiF)

Murdoch's MO in the UK has never really changed, tending towards a variation of "Agree to token competition, mercilessly leverage existing monopolies to rubbish said competition, then use the competition's weakened state to buy them out and obtain the monopoly in the new market as intended all along".

As to which political party his empire backed and when, the question is largely academic. The views pushed by News Corp are uniformly right-authoritarian (unless you happen to be rich or a friend of the family - preferably both, in which case there are few unforgivable sins). Backing New Labour in 1997 was a no-brainer, as you'd have had to have been comatose not to notice that there was no possible rescue for the Tories at that time. However, he was able to use his influence to make sure that Blair and his cabinet tacked as far to the right as possible - to the point where Labour was no longer recognisably Labour. I was always certain that he was biding his time until his natural Tory allies managed to decontaminate themselves enough to get within spitting distance of power, and so it has proved. Anyone who gets involved with Murdoch knows full well that they are the pilot fish to his shark and always will be - the only point where the analogy falls down is that it is rare for a shark to attack or eat a pilot fish, whereas Murdoch silently holds the threat of a full-scale career-ending backlash over his fellow travellers, who are certain in the knowledge that he will never be afraid to use it.

Finally, anyone who thinks Murdoch is an advocate of the "free market" - in fact anyone who thinks any oligarch is being honest when claiming advocacy of free market ideology (in the sense of a level playing field where the "best" business will naturally be the most successful) must be huffing some seriously good stuff. In reality "market forces" become a process of attrition whereby the players with the most resources will always tip the playing field in their favour by throwing resources from their existing reserves into the new market while the smaller competitors slowly but surely go to the wall. The most obvious example of Murdoch doing this was the short-lived battle between Sky and BSB in the '80s, but it seems to be accepted business practice in many spheres. Which is why, when it comes down to it, those saying that Murdoch is successful because he has the best product is either what he would consider a useful idiot - or possibly a disingenuous shill.

The one small comfort available to those of us who do not subscribe to the notion that wealthy oligarchs are superior beings who should be given carte blanche to do as they please while encouraging the rest of us to fight each other over the scraps that fall from their table - is that for all their much-vaunted clout (though being realistic it's still considerable), Murdoch and his ilk were not able to engineer an outright Tory majority last year. The hope is that the power of the press is waning in that regard, as more people turn to other sources of information. However this is not a given, and this is no time to be sitting back and letting things take their course.