Discussion of the UK Media Landscape & Future Prospects for Left Media (Worth watching even if you don’t live in the UK)

If I get the time I may add my comments here, but in short: Getting serious union support (money) for left media is a great idea. The more unions are democratized and the more radical they become, the greater chance there is of that happening.

The thing that’s missing is an organized left. Could Momentum be turned into an activist movement that doesn’t just advocate for the Labour Party but actually pushes politicians from the left? If so, could they be useful enough to everyday people (I mean actually useful, like providing actual help) that they would join up and grow the left? As an outside (far outside) observer, I would guess not. How could they change that? Or maybe the most left in that organization could branch off and try to start something that tries to go in the direction just described. Right now if Momentum members threw a pound in the pot every month they could fund a lot of left media. See how that works?

Yes, there is an irony, or maybe more specifically a catch-22: In order to have a large effective left media, people have to be educated about politics and more specifically they need to have a solid basis for an analysis. And in order for people to be educated in that manner it greatly helps to have a thriving left media.

A thriving left media can be built out of a thriving radical movement, but we don’t have that. At the moment, all over the world, the left continues to be atomized and essentially refuses to organize itself and unite under one flag. There is a little movement in the right (correct) direction in some countries, but viewed optimistically, the most you could say is that it is nascent. If you listen to left media and left orgs, you can hear brief mentions of the necessity of the left to be an organized international force, but that is putting the cart before the horse because the majority of the left in most countries think they can stay in their own lanes and just get together for protests and specific events – and even worse, there is a conventional wisdom that permeates the left that assumes building a unified left under one flag (say a party or something like a better IWW) is not only not necessary, but is a bad idea. I have no problem with a diversified left, but one that isn’t as organized and unified as capitalists are worldwide can never hope to win, let alone put up a credible fight. When we are faced with actual extinction, not being organized and unified is not an option.

To tie up this non-comment comment, an organized unified left could easily fund left media. Not only that, but a media that is organized and unified worldwide could more easily share information, knowledge, resources, and would definitely help build the left and the movement we need.

Labour, Socialism, Aaron Bastani talks with Leo Panitch

Discussion: Good
Set: Getting much better
Direction and camera work: Whole nutha level
Elephant in the room: Touched its toenail
What is the elephant in the room? The people, who will have to form a highly organized, radical mass movement to “educate” the politicians and fight the right at every level. Without this, no socialist program administered through the government will work in the long run. A left that relies solely on a government party as its only voice and expression will not survive, or thrive – at least not under capitalism. Labour will have to be pushed (and supported) by an organized left. So, even with a Corbyn win and a majority of MP’s who identify as socialists, the “what is to be done” question will be more insistent than ever. And, not to sound like and old lefty, but, internationalism is a huge necessary component of all of this and it rarely gets a mention.
I know, it was a short talk and there was an attempt at a focused discussion, but this idea of educating “the people” about socialism while governing is not only not easy, but I wonder what it means in theory and in practice (and just saying praxis, is not an answer).

@chunkymark made a movie: This is Not a Recession, It’s a Robbery [Repost from 3/10/14 (My & his analysis still stands)]

In the past few years, capitalists (corporations, the filthy rich, finance, insurance, oil, big pharma, big ag, and war mongers, to name a few) have significantly stepped-up their buying of governments worldwide. They have been busy putting the money they’ve stolen from us to use, purchasing politicians and imposing neoliberal policies on us all.

At the core of those policies is privatization. Privatization involves transferring the ownership of public wealth from the people to private for-profit corporations. That, along with the 2007-08 crisis, has resulted in a massive transfer and consolidation of wealth that literally kills, criminalizes, impoverishes, and controls, whilst making the rich, much, much richer.

Another tenet of neoliberal ideology (or tactic if you prefer) is the imposition of austerity. Essentially, austerity takes away critical resources from citizens – especially the most vulnerable. This goes hand in hand with a perennial corporate favorite: deregulation. Deregulation weakens regulatory agencies and gets rid of laws that protect citizens by either weakening them or replacing them wholesale.

The all-out assault on the UK by neoliberal corporate power has been extreme.  It has killed thousands and impoverished many more.  It is remaking the entire society before people’s eyes.   It is difficult to overstate the rapidity and viciousness with which this is taking place.  And if you are an average citizen outside of the British Isles, you probably have no idea it’s happening at all.

Mark McGowan, AKA The artist taxi driver, AKA Chunky Mark, is a working class bloke in London. He has been watching it all happen with shock, horror, and disbelief and is just trying to make sense of it all. He shoots videos in his cab before he starts work in the morning and posts them on youtube. Over the years, he has also managed to interview people from almost every walk of life. This movie is a collection of those commentaries and interviews.

From what I’ve been able to glean, Mark is a concerned citizen, father, artist, activist – and has a pretty good sense of humor to boot. He’s smart, sincere, frightened, concerned, and wants justice. What comes through again and again is his empathy, his humanity. He wonders aloud what many of us think every day: why are the people in power so sadistic and why aren’t the rest of us doing something about it?  He screams and rants and rages quite loudly, and a bit more than occasionally. I’ll leave out any discussion of how much might be performance because I think it is his genuine immediate reaction to what is happening – and because I think it’s appropriate. It seems a much more human response than what I see from most people. He may or may not realize it, but his pauses and sighs have an even bigger impact than the yelling. But I digress…

Though you may not be familiar with UK politics, much of what Mark is covering should sound very familiar. It should be obvious by now that this corporate neoliberal agenda is not unique to the UK. In fact, neoliberalism as we know it was born in the u.s.a. (at the University of Chicago to be exact). While the u.s. doesn’t have an NHS to dismantle, it’s healthcare was given over to corporations long ago.  Schools are another matter.  The neoliberals have been busy here demonizing teachers, attacking unions, and attempting to privatize public schools.  State pensions (which most americans don’t even possess) have been raided (through fees, budget cuts, legislation, and fraud) and everyone who has a pension is funding speculation. That money is at risk of being lost. (For those of you reading this in the future: Yes, the derivatives your pension fund helped inflate into a massive toxic bubble that burst are the reason they’re giving for cutting your pension.)  The corporate neoliberal model is being imposed all over the world: India, Turkey, Brazil – most of Europe…the list is long.  Just look for bought-off politicians selling off the state to corporate “interests” and media imitating the u.s. and the picture should become very clear.

Of course this film and Mark’s youtube videos aren’t the be all end all source for information, but I like Mark’s DIY spirit, his frustration, his sense of urgency, his passion and humanity.  Things sorely lacking from most people I see.

Caveats: For those with delicate sensibilities, there is a lot of swearing in this film. If you’re still living in another century it may be time to travel to the present. As I said in the beginning, Mark is just a guy trying to understand what’s going on. I think he has done a damn good job of zeroing in on root causes, but – as with most people – he is just as susceptible as the next guy to occasionally trodding down the wrong path. For example, Alex Jones makes a very brief appearance in the cab. He is an american “shock jock” who mixes wacky conspiracy theories with facts and dangerous ideas; so, in the end, it’s best to dismiss him totally. There are so many people with sane analyses, there is really no reason to pay him any attention except as comic relief.

Max Keiser also makes an appearance. While Max does offer some good analysis of financial criminal behavior, he is a capitalist and he shares the libertarian utopian idea that if we only had “true free markets” we could have good capitalism (but in the meantime, he is a regular old capitalist). If one knows enough to see through that and can suss out the useful bits of his analysis, have at it – but really, there are hundreds of other more reputable sources out there who aren’t selling their own bitcoins, etc…

So, with those caveats, watch the film to be entertained, see a slice of life, and hopefully get a sense of what’s happening, because whether you know it or not, some version of everything detailed in it is probably happening where you live.

~ Cheers

Chomsky BBC Interview Corbyn, Deadly Republicans, Class, Corruption

Fairly typical bright but fundamentally clueless BBC interviewer talks to Chomsky like an equal, is confronted with the truth, and most of it bounces off of him as if he were made of teflon. He seems clueless because he has almost totally absorbed the reigning neoliberal ideology of the establishment. He wouldn’t be there if he hadn’t. Chomsky’s and Edward S. Herman’s Manufacturing Consent breaks down how the interviewer got where he is. It also explains why the BBC has fallen even further into its role as partisan mouthpiece for the right (i.e, the aforementioned neoliberal establishment). Spoiler alert: the BBC is state media and corporations and the super rich run the state.
The way the BBC titled the video is the definition of burying the lede.
Enjoy:

@chunkymark made a movie: This is Not a Recession, It’s a Robbery

In the past few years, capitalists (corporations, the filthy rich, finance, insurance, oil, big pharma, big ag, and war mongers, to name a few) have significantly stepped-up their buying of governments worldwide. They have been busy putting the money they’ve stolen from us to use, purchasing politicians and imposing neoliberal policies on us all.

At the core of those policies is privatization. Privatization involves transferring the ownership of public wealth from the people to private for-profit corporations. That, along with the 2007-08 crisis, has resulted in a massive transfer and consolidation of wealth that literally kills, criminalizes, impoverishes, and controls, whilst making the rich, much, much richer.

Another tenet of neoliberal ideology (or tactic if you prefer) is the imposition of austerity. Essentially, austerity takes away critical resources from citizens – especially the most vulnerable. This goes hand in hand with a perennial corporate favorite: deregulation. Deregulation weakens regulatory agencies and gets rid of laws that protect citizens by either weakening them or replacing them wholesale.

The all-out assault on the UK by neoliberal corporate power has been extreme.  It has killed thousands and impoverished many more.  It is remaking the entire society before people’s eyes.   It is difficult to overstate the rapidity and viciousness with which this is taking place.  And if you are an average citizen outside of the British Isles, you probably have no idea it’s happening at all.

Mark McGowan, AKA The artist taxi driver, AKA Chunky Mark, is a working class bloke in London. He has been watching it all happen with shock, horror, and disbelief and is just trying to make sense of it all. He shoots videos in his cab before he starts work in the morning and posts them on youtube. Over the years, he has also managed to interview people from almost every walk of life. This movie is a collection of those commentaries and interviews.

From what I’ve been able to glean, Mark is a concerned citizen, father, artist, activist – and has a pretty good sense of humor to boot. He’s smart, sincere, frightened, concerned, and wants justice. What comes through again and again is his empathy, his humanity. He wonders aloud what many of us think every day: why are the people in power so sadistic and why aren’t the rest of us doing something about it?  He screams and rants and rages quite loudly, and a bit more than occasionally. I’ll leave out any discussion of how much might be performance because I think it is his genuine immediate reaction to what is happening – and because I think it’s appropriate. It seems a much more human response than what I see from most people. He may or may not realize it, but his pauses and sighs have an even bigger impact than the yelling. But I digress…

Though you may not be familiar with UK politics, much of what Mark is covering should sound very familiar. It should be obvious by now that this corporate neoliberal agenda is not unique to the UK. In fact, neoliberalism as we know it was born in the u.s.a. (at the University of Chicago to be exact). While the u.s. doesn’t have an NHS to dismantle, it’s healthcare was given over to corporations long ago.  Schools are another matter.  The neoliberals have been busy here demonizing teachers, attacking unions, and attempting to privatize public schools.  State pensions (which most americans don’t even possess) have been raided (through fees, budget cuts, legislation, and fraud) and everyone who has a pension is funding speculation. That money is at risk of being lost. (For those of you reading this in the future: Yes, the derivatives your pension fund helped inflate into a massive toxic bubble that burst are the reason they’re giving for cutting your pension.)  The corporate neoliberal model is being imposed all over the world: India, Turkey, Brazil – most of Europe…the list is long.  Just look for bought-off politicians selling off the state to corporate “interests” and media imitating the u.s. and the picture should become very clear.

Of course this film and Mark’s youtube videos aren’t the be all end all source for information, but I like Mark’s DIY spirit, his frustration, his sense of urgency, his passion and humanity.  Things sorely lacking from most people I see.

Caveats: For those with delicate sensibilities, there is a lot of swearing in this film. If you’re still living in another century it may be time to travel to the present. As I said in the beginning, Mark is just a guy trying to understand what’s going on. I think he has done a damn good job of zeroing in on root causes, but – as with most people – he is just as susceptible as the next guy to occasionally trodding down the wrong path. For example, Alex Jones makes a very brief appearance in the cab. He is an american “shock jock” who mixes wacky conspiracy theories with facts and dangerous ideas; so, in the end, it’s best to dismiss him totally. There are so many people with sane analyses, there is really no reason to pay him any attention except as comic relief.

Max Keiser also makes an appearance. While Max does offer some good analysis of financial criminal behavior, he is a capitalist and he shares the libertarian utopian idea that if we only had “true free markets” we could have good capitalism (but in the meantime, he is a regular old capitalist). If one knows enough to see through that and can suss out the useful bits of his analysis, have at it – but really, there are hundreds of other more reputable sources out there who aren’t selling their own bitcoins, etc…

So, with those caveats, watch the film to be entertained, see a slice of life, and hopefully get a sense of what’s happening, because whether you know it or not, some version of everything detailed in it is probably happening where you live.

~ Cheers

Common sense

Common sense. It’s a double (actually triple) entendre. Brand is considered “common” in the English class system (yes, even though he is rich now) and is offering what I consider common sense political – and even spiritual – analysis. There is a third meaning as well to those familiar with Thomas Paine.

Of course, nothing he’s saying is new. Many have said it before and many are saying it now, but few have the access to media Brand has, and even fewer have his following. In media terms, his audience – the audience he carries around with him if you will – far exceeds even the most popular television show’s audience on its best night. For example the finale of Breaking Bad garnered a 6.6 million audience share. As of today, Brand has 7,366,715 followers on twitter – and I think it’s safe to assume that number represents a fraction of his fans worldwide who aren’t following him on twitter.

Not only is he articulate – often eloquent – concerning our current situation as humans on a planet increasingly controlled by corporate power and the politicians they pay for, but he has every skill needed to deal with media “journalists” and all of the various and sundry lackeys of the elite who populate our popular media landscape.

Aside from being a skilled debater (he would make a joke here), he is extremely quick-witted and capable of encapsulating complex thoughts in pithy “sound-bites.” While he has many other skills perfectly suited to communicate through the media, his most important trait is his humanity. Simply put, he cares about other people and believes people generally tend toward good impulses rather than ill. Again, there are others who appear in the media who still have their humanity, but Brand can communicate it better than most. They used to call it, “the common touch.”

So, who cares? Well, I guess it depends on who you are. Most people on the left have been trying to communicate some variation of these ideas for quite a long time now, with very little success. The prominent left’s reaction to Brand’s interview with Paxton is a testament to how fractured and divisive the left has become – and an object lesson in what some lefties do with their access to the media. Of course, some of this is airing dirty laundry, but now is as good a time as any if a certain faction of what’s left of the left wants to be on board for any actual popular resistance, let alone “lead” it.

Mark Fisher discusses these issues and how Russell Brand matters in his article, “Exiting The Vampire Castle.”

On December 5th, 2013, Doug Henwood interviewed Fisher for his radio show and podcast Behind the News. Though there is a bit of academic language thrown around, I think he does a nice job of summing up the way I would. Essentially, he supports what Brand is doing in the media, rejects divisive “indentitarianism,” calls for putting class firmly in the center of left discourse, and for getting back to practicing solidarity and common cause.

I want to end here, but because we are where we are, it seems more of a whimper than a bang. These calls have been made before (though I sense more energy building behind the critique of identity politics). The truth is, we have to call out even those calls, because after a certain point, talk and theorizing will beget even more talk and theorizing if that is the bulk of left “action.” I am not diminishing the need for those things; in fact, acting and theorizing are not mutually exclusive – but we will eventually have to do the hard organizing work they did generations ago, because about half of us will have very few other options. This isn’t a static situation by any means. There will be another manufactured crisis. It will be worse than the last one. The same corporations will be responsible.

The elite have embraced Neoliberalism and are using a series of policies based on that economic philosophy to organize the entire world in their image. It is a world where everything is commodified, i.e., made into something that can be bought or sold, where everything owned by the public and everything for the public good is privatized and only exists to generate profit, where no one has privacy and everyone is a number.

While capitalists of the past may have had visions of world domination, it would be difficult even for them to conceive of how much capital has been consolidated and what those capitalists (yes, mostly in the form of corporations) have been able to do with that capital. They are utilizing a neoliberal agenda that enacts and enforces laws using politicians and global organizations to reorganize the very structure of our lives. From food and water to oil and jobs, from education to housing, our lives are being reshaped by global capital. This is the threat. This is what is happening before our eyes. They have more power and wealth than has ever existed in history and they are using it on people in the same way all over the world.

In the end, this may turn out to be their greatest weakness. If exploited and oppressed people understand the same thing being done to them is being done to their brothers and sisters around the world, they can begin to talk. When they talk, they can begin to organize, and then together we can fight the corporate power that exists only to exploit for profit. A worldwide class war perpetrated against working people demands worldwide solidarity and organizing.

Unions like the IWW with international aspirations never really achieved their goals. Now, the consolidation of capital by a relative few corporations and individuals using the same set of policies all over the world may have created the conditions for the first actual worldwide movement of people to come together and with one voice say, “basta!”