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The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.

Bruges Group Blog

Spearheading the intellectual battle against the EU. And for new thinking in international affairs.

The mass media are warped as a barley twist


On Tuesday night BBC4 screened a 1980 episode of 'Yes, Minister' about the dangers to personal privacy of a governmental national database. Things have certainly moved on since then - we surrender our DPA rights almost every time we shop or go online. But the information asymmetry between officialdom and the citizen is still a live issue over four decades later, amplified by the relations between Big Brother and his corporate pals in news and social media.

For example, Musk's Twitter aka X is hailed as a forum for free speech, very welcome after the revelations of Matt Taibbi and others about the way it was previously used to suppress coverage and slant it against conservatives, reflecting the wishes of various US State agencies.

However even now X Corp is not quite a repentant sinner. Its CEO Linda Yaccarino has nuanced the notion of censorship (htp: Russell Brand) so that content that is 'lawful but awful' will be 'extraordinarily difficult for you to see it' and that users may have 'freedom of speech, not freedom of reach.' That may explain why I don't get to see Tucker Carlson in my Twitter feed even though I follow him; I have to go looking for his latest. It's also interesting that Peter Hitchens complains of what seems to be a regular pattern of deleting batches of his followers to keep the numbers to a certain level.

Musk has multiple business interests so it is unsurprising that he will recruit people with a well-established record. Yaccarino was previously an executive with NBC (and her husband one with Turner Broadcasting), so perhaps we could see them as a 'power couple' and, as people say, 'connected.' 'There's a divinity that shapes our ends / Rough-hew them how we will,' says Hamlet; try substituting 'Establishment' for 'divinity' and see how that works in the context of political reform. 'Yes, Minister' is as relevant today as it was in the Eighties; except that corporations have since grown larger than many governments and have used the latter to develop forms and procedures for supranational governance that foster their commercial interests.

A propos, YouTube (owned by Google) has announced its intention to consult 'groups such as the WHO and other health bodies on what information is deemed to be acceptable for people to talk about on the platform – despite these institutions having recently received major blows to their credibility.'

Big Pharma certainly has an interest in such matters: Pfizer's net worth is $205bn+, AstraZeneca's $212bn+, Moderna's $42bn+ to name but three of the jabbers motivated to control the public's jibber-jabber. The WHO's Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, now in his seventh year as incumbent, is not uncontroversial and the GDP of his home country Ethiopia is pretty much matched by Pfizer's revenues last year, let alone the top 20 companies in that sector. It's a rich man's world.

Let's go back to two of the Left's above-named targets, but before we continue please note that I am not a Tory, much less what Americans think of as a conservative. I see the genuinely far right as having stunted empathy for their fellow humans and a labrador-like greed (but for money.) I hear that some in the US GOP say that the poor 'don't deserve' pensions and healthcare and censure them for failing to save for retirement - out of incomes that are kept depressed by foreign outsourcing and mass immigration.

But the opposite of far right is far wrong. On both sides of the Atlantic the parties that purport to further the cause of the ordinary people seem more concerned to maintain their institutional standing than to liberate the workers, whom they buy off with barely adequate benefits rather than opportunities.

So, Tucker Carlson (hiss!) His recent interview with Donald Trump has been criticised for being too soft on the maverick ex-President. This misses the point that a gentle approach is more likely to reveal useful insights into the interviewee - remember David Frost and Richard Nixon? It is for the viewer to watch, hear and judge various sources; unlike a Möbius strip, a genuine debate has more than one side. So far their talk has had over a quarter billion views; so much for Fox News' cancellation of Carlson (though I personally had to search for it on Twitter, despite my subscription.) I guess Tucker-Trump was, like some banks, just too big to fail.

This show ran against what George Galloway has scornfully termed the 'donkey derby' of Republican Presidential hopefuls. For me a highlight of Debate Night (12.8 million views, 5% of Carlson's) was Chris Christie calling Vivek Ramaswamy as (like Barack Obama) a 'skinny guy with a funny last name' and twitting him for his youth. If Trump is looking for a fat old bigot running mate to endear himself to ethnic minorities he'll know who to call; Christie's feeble reference to ChatGPT will not get him down with the kids, either. Like Biden though for different reasons, the Golden Oaf has realised that appearances on such platforms are 'more honoured in the breach than the observance.'

Now to 'the hated' Peter Hitchens, who amazes me for his tolerance for gibbering idiots on X; perhaps it is a sign of his constitutional combativeness. Hitchens has never ceased to be a radical: once a Trotskyist, he is now a Christian, which properly understood is nothing like either the political Left or Right. As such I think he is a threat to both, since they are two sides of the same coin of materialism. He is like the distorted image of the skull in Holbein's painting The Ambassadors, undermining the self-importance of the worldly with its indication of an extra dimension. After all the years of UK TV's cultural conditioning to see religion as ridiculous - from All Gas and Gaiters to The Vicar of Dibley - just imagine, an Anglican throwback still exists, like the coelacanth! And he is infuriatingly difficult to define, to set in one camp or another: a trade unionist, pro-grammar schools, anti-war, a patriot who advises the young to emigrate… I think he rather enjoys creating that fury. Yet for all the fashionable sex-talk of being 'non binary' the system does not like someone who won't wear the jersey of either side in politics; it messes up their simplistic philosophical landscape. Long may he be the grit in that oyster.

I suppose we are making progress, in that we are moving from the exclusion of contrarians to twisting and hobbling their contributions; much remains to be done.

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