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Owen Smith: Can we trust this born again Socialist?

July 28, 2016 – 1:31 am | 3 Comments

We live in strange and curious times.
For decades the very notion of left wing policies within the Labour Party was sure to bring a swift denial from a gaggle of fixers and spin doctors, anxiously looking over …

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The dominant ideology of modern times is hard to pin down but its influence is global and catastrophic. A mixture of bogus economic theory, direct assaults on behalf of class power and a Trojan horse to subvert democracy – everyone needs to understand the nature and influence of neoliberalism.


Our taxes pay the wages of politicians, the police and the civil service. These people take our money and our trust to look after OUR interests. When they decide to play the game for themselves and their friends its called corruption and it should always be exposed and challenged.

Corporate Capture

Politics, the Civil Service, the media, the police, the EU Commission – the list of organisations that should bat for us but instead bat for corporate power is depressing – we chart the slide and the fightback. We follow the money, the cushy appointments, the backroom deals all the way to the top

Squashing Dissent

If there is one characteristic of the modern neoliberal era its that the establishment has become hyper-sensitive to any kind of criticism and organised protest. We keep track of all the latest legal and illegal ways that legitimate peaceful protest is undermined, bullied and squashed.


The role played by the ‘security services’ of the UK and the USA in the mass Orwellian surveillance of innocent people was exposed by the whistleblower Edward Snowden – we will trace developments of this terrifying new front in the battle to defend democracy and basic freedoms.

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Don’t forget the role of the press in Brexit

July 30, 2016 – 10:02 am |

They lied and they got away with it and that’s outrageous – since the referendum this sentiment has prompted hundreds of thousands of words of commentary, and rightly so. A crisis so grave and unexpected inevitably makes us suspect some underlying, fundamental shift that we must hurry to comprehend, and so ideas that were not previously at the centre of our thinking have arrived there, with a bang.

We ask ourselves whether we have entered a post-factual society dominated by emotion, whether social media are killing the truth, whether society is fracturing in ways that traditional political discourse can’t express.

In the excitement and confusion, however, it is worth reminding ourselves how much of what we have experienced is not new. If we do that, then at the very least we should have a clearer picture of what has really changed, which in turn might help us to respond better.

Who lied? Politicians for one. There is nothing new about that. The press for another: the right-wing dailies and Sundays that dominate the national newspaper market lied again and again, and no one could say there was anything new in that. 


Anyone else? A good case is made that news broadcasters assisted the liars by presenting lies and truth on an equal footing in the name of ‘balance’, but this too is hardly a new problem: look at the history of climate change reporting. And whatever they may have done wrong, the broadcasters can’t reasonably be accused of deliberately lying to the public. 

Then there are the social media, the algorithmed, bitesized bubble-world in which many if not most of us now experience news. That is certainly new, although it is easy to exaggerate how new – many people in their twenties today can’t remember life without social media while few in their thirties can have much recollection of life before the internet. That’s a lot of people.

The distorting effects of internet and social media activity may well have influenced the referendum outcome and they definitely need close study and debate. But we don’t yet have evidence that they played a decisive or even a significant role. And we can say with confidence that the lies which appear to have made a difference – and the emotions to go with them – did not originate on Facebook, on Twitter or in blogs, though no doubt those media provided an echo-chamber for them. 

And despite persistent claims that in some post-modern way ‘facts don’t work’ in politics any more, the referendum experience does not begin to prove that, for this important reason: fact-testing was not allowed to function properly in the campaign.

Yes, there were debates and confrontations in which remainers challenged leavers and vice versa, and yes there were online fact-checkers at work, from Full Fact and other dedicated and serious bodies, but none of this was able to shake, discredit or erase the lies.

We need to confront this: the forces that generated and defended the lies were not new but old. Those lies were crafted by politicians and the right-wing press, and above all it was the power of right-wing newspapers, notably the Mail and the Sun but also the Express and the Telegraph, that ensured that lies could not be effectively exposed for what they were.

Far-fetched? Paranoid? Not in the least. The enterprise began decades ago, when these papers adopted the EU as a scapegoat. Anything that could be blamed on a supposedly overweening, top-heavy, mad and unaccountable Brussels bureaucracy was blamed on it, and from the 1980s onwards fictions were created about its decisions. 

Thus they created the climate. Once the referendum became a real possibility they proceeded to whip up the storm, confecting new lies of their own and propagating those of others for all they were worth.

Getting away with this was easy because, despite the Leveson Report and the will of parliament, when it comes to ethics and accuracy the national press remains free to mark its own homework, answerable only to a complaints body (‘IPSO’) entirely of its own design. IPSO is the discredited Press Complaints Commission with new window-dressing: even if it wanted to raise standards of accuracy in reporting it does not have the power.

Thanks to IPSO, therefore, these papers lied to their millions of readers every day with complete impunity, and it is hardly surprising that the lies steadily grew bigger and more brazen.

But surely, you might think, there were truthful journalists capable of challenging the lies in other publications, online and on screen. Surely in the internet age every liar can be called out. This is a misconception.

Truthful journalists exist, and there are papers such as the Financial Times and the Guardian which have a serious commitment to accuracy, but they have nothing like the reach or power of the Sun and the Mail. As for the Mirror, which opposed Brexit, it may still have a daily sale of almost a million but in comparison with the two market leaders it is poor, understaffed, muddled and unimaginative.

And just as they dominate the newsstands, the Mail and the Sun – prodded along by the ever more reckless Express – are able to set the agenda for broadcast news.

If the Mail goes big on anything, and it does that every day, the editors in the television and radio news studios rarely have the nerve to ignore that claim or that subject, no matter how crazy it might be. And thanks to the legal obligation to provide balance the views of the Mail and the Sun, however blatantly dishonest, are almost always at least half the picture.

Meanwhile, of course, in their own pages these papers almost never present a balanced view. On the contrary, they blot out the opinions and activities of their adversaries so far as they can, and on those occasions when they have no choice but to engage (perhaps because those adversaries have managed to make their point on television) they resort to the personal, to mockery, to mudslinging and to more lies.

This is the power of the megaphone. This is how the truth gets lost, and how those who seek to test facts on behalf of the public are drowned out, marginalised and hamstrung.

At the same time, the arguments are vigorously infused with emotions, so that reason is pushed to the margin. Neither Twitter nor Donald Trump invented this; newspapers have been piping outrage, fury and contempt into our homes and lives for decades. Paul Dacre, the editor of the Mail, doesn’t talk about informing his readers, he talks about making them laugh, making them cry and most of all making them angry.

These were the forces at work in the referendum and very little about them was new. Most of the same things happened in the 2015 election, and look at the result then.

They also happened, to give another recent example, in the response of these and some other newspapers to the gravest crisis they have experienced in decades: the phone hacking scandal and the Leveson Inquiry. Their campaign of lies and thuggery in relation to that inquiry, combined with their power over a mystifyingly compliant David Cameron, ensured that even though parliament approved reforms to press regulation, and even though public opinion was overwhelmingly behind the changes, nothing happened. 

A little further back, similar methods were used in the press assault on the family of Madeleine McCann. 

This is not to suggest that the referendum outcome was exclusively the work of Paul Dacre, Rupert Murdoch and their ilk. Other people and other factors, including factors wholly unrelated to the EU, played their parts. Farage, Johnson and Gove, for example, were capable of contriving evasions and distractions of their own, while the Remain campaign was, to say the least, unsophisticated and lacklustre.

But this much is surely clear: the Leave victory, which relied so heavily on falsehood, would not have been possible without the full-blooded commitment of the right-wing press. This means that, while it is right to scrutinise other, newer factors that may have been at work, it would be a mistake to lose sight of the vital role of editors and proprietors.

Two further points need to be made and the first is this. Deliberate press dishonesty may be old and familiar, but it always was and it still is absolutely wrong. It is an offence against civilised society and a betrayal of the responsibilities of journalism. In the words of the journalist Peter Oborne: ‘Newspapers have what amounts in the end to a constitutional duty to tell their readers the truth.’

If that sounds high-minded, then consider this. As a society, we choose to subsidise our newspapers every year to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds by zero-rating them for VAT, and we do that on the grounds that those newspapers are essential to us because they provide the information we need as citizens if we are to make democratic decisions. Now ask yourself: are the Sun, the Mail and the Express performing that role?

Finally, this is not just about the past. It is also about the future. If you imagine that one day a couple of years hence it will be possible to have a reasoned national argument about whether the terms of Brexit are good for Britain or ruinous, then think again. Unless something changes, exactly the same storm of falsehood will engulf that discussion as did the referendum.

Equally, if you believe that five or ten years from now it might be possible to reach some reasoned national view about whether Britain has gained or lost by Brexit you are kidding yourself. The Mail and the Sun – they may not exist as print papers but there is every reason to assume they will still enjoy great power – will do all they can to prevent a rational, fact-based public assessment. 

This is a bleak prospect, but change is possible and it can begin now. We came close in the aftermath of Leveson, and the structures have all been created. When David Cameron lost his nerve, however, or had his lead jerked by the editors and proprietors, he failed to deliver the sticks and the carrots needed to make the system work.

A stroke of a pen, quite literally, is all that is needed now to initiate the process of protecting the British public from press abuse while at the same time painstakingly safeguarding freedom of expression. It can be done, if the government will do it. Perhaps together we could shame it into doing so.


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Schools versus communities

July 30, 2016 – 9:11 am |

THE case of Michaela Free School, which was revealed to be placing children in “lunch isolation” if their parents fell behind with paying lunch money, reveals so much about what is wrong with recent education …

Soon nurses will pay for their education – they should demand higher wages

July 30, 2016 – 8:58 am |

The NHS doesn’t have enough nurses, nor are enough being trained to meet future demand. And yet the government has confirmed it is scrapping nursing bursaries, which cover the cost of tuition fees. Instead, prospective …

Owen Smith to be replaced by Dusty Bin from 3-2-1

July 29, 2016 – 1:36 pm |

Owen Smith faces calls to withdraw from the race to be the next leader of the Labour Party and be replaced by a “unity candidate” – 80’s quiz show legend – Dusty Bin from 3-2-1.
Explaining the growing support for Dusty, veteran Labour …

Fossil Fuel Industry Continues Wrath on Renowned Climate Scientist Michael Mann

July 28, 2016 – 10:57 am |

Despite—actually, because of—the innumerable peer-reviewed studies and national academies that have affirmed his work, Prof. Michael Mann from Penn State University continues to be on the receiving end of the fossil fuel industry’s wrath.
In Canada, …

Owen Smith: Can we trust this born again Socialist?

July 28, 2016 – 1:31 am | 3 Comments

We live in strange and curious times.
For decades the very notion of left wing policies within the Labour Party was sure to bring a swift denial from a gaggle of fixers and spin doctors, anxiously looking over …

An open letter to the The Guardian’s ‘Get Corbyn’ crew – shame on you.

July 27, 2016 – 1:54 pm | 22 Comments

To all those working on the ‘Get Corbyn’ strategy at The Guardian…
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Neoliberalism is a species of fascism

July 25, 2016 – 11:42 am | One Comment

The time for rhetorical reservations is over. Things have to be called by their name to make it possible for a co-ordinated democratic reaction to be initiated, above all in the public services.
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Guardian tries to silence Democrat leak scandal

July 25, 2016 – 9:32 am |

The pattern is unmistakable in both the UK and US – and I apologise for sounding like a stuck record. Liberal mainstream media prove over and over again their aversion to telling us the news …

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July 24, 2016 – 9:46 pm |

The British decision to leave the European Union is seen by many as a rejection of globalization, although the thumbs down was on free movement of labor within the bloc and not on free trade …

The Blairites are surrounded by the membership – let’s reclaim Labour as the people’s party

July 22, 2016 – 12:56 pm |

“Since 1832 we have been gradually excluding the voter from government – now, we have got them to a point where they vote once every five years for which bunch of buffoons will try to …

The Stench of Death hangs over The Guardian – not Labour.

July 20, 2016 – 11:53 am | 11 Comments

The Haze was amused to read a recent slew of articles in The Guardian,  insisting that the Labour Party has been afflicted by some terrible disease and is close to death. Voters are getting involved in …

Blair lied about the WMD’s, the case for war and his knowledge of the risks – he should stand trial for war crimes

July 6, 2016 – 2:14 pm |

The Chilcot Report is damning. Only its limited terms of reference prevent Tony Blair from being arrested for war crimes today.
All those who marched against the Iraq War have been vindicated, the Labour MP’s …

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July 5, 2016 – 10:39 am |

Last week, a human rights defender’s body was found drowned in the hydro-electric dam she spent three years fighting. Nilce de Souza Magalhães was a fierce opponent of the Usina Hidrelétrica Jirau, a rock-fill dam …

Most Labour MPs in the UK Are Revolting

July 1, 2016 – 11:07 am | 3 Comments

On the disgraceful coup attempt against Jeremy Corbyn.
The vast majority of U.K. Labour MPs—81 percent—and their accomplices in the country’s liberal media are attempting a coup against Jeremy Corbyn. He was elected by Labour’s members …

It’s Still the Iraq War, Stupid.

June 26, 2016 – 3:14 pm | One Comment

No rational person could blame Jeremy Corbyn for Brexit. So why are the Blairites moving against Corbyn now, with such precipitate haste?
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A coalition of liars is trying to smash Jeremy Corbyn – fight back!

June 26, 2016 – 11:49 am | One Comment

A coalition of liars is trying to subvert the democratic mandate of the Labour Party membership by conspiring to unseat Jeremy Corbyn from his role as leader of the Labour Party.
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June 24, 2016 – 9:31 am | One Comment

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Labour M.P. Jo Cox murdered by right wing terrorist

June 16, 2016 – 4:39 pm | Comments Off on Labour M.P. Jo Cox murdered by right wing terrorist

Sodium Haze is deeply saddened and shocked by the murder of Labour M.P. Jo Cox.
Early reports suggest she was shot several times by a right wing terrorist invoking the name of far right extremist group “Britain …

DWP contractors harass advocates of vulnerable benefit claimants in the courts

June 11, 2016 – 8:34 am | Comments Off on DWP contractors harass advocates of vulnerable benefit claimants in the courts

To start with a bit of background. Last year SUWN (Scottish Unemployed Workers Network) activist Tony Cox was dragged through the courts after accompanying a vulnerable woman to the Jobcentre and correcting their interpretation of the …

If the left can win the referendum, they can lose it too!

June 7, 2016 – 11:27 am | 2 Comments

And lose the referendum is what the left is about to do because of its refusal to discuss the effects of immigration on local communities. The standard line is to acknowledge the pressures on local …

Confessions of a Panama Papers hit man

May 24, 2016 – 10:39 am | Comments Off on Confessions of a Panama Papers hit man

As an Economic Hit Man (EHM) in the 1970s I spent a great deal of time in Panama. I hate to admit it, but I helped forge the system that has now been exposed in …

NHS managers are being forced to lie to the public

May 20, 2016 – 8:42 am | Comments Off on NHS managers are being forced to lie to the public

Local managers are being forced to slash NHS budgets and replace existing hospital and community services with unproven ‘new models of care’ (inspired by, and attractive to, the corporates.).
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May 16, 2016 – 3:48 pm | 3 Comments

Do you have sympathy towards or even support Jeremy Corbyn? Perhaps you recognise and feel angry about the relentless campaign in the corporate media to discredit his leadership of the Labour Party?
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May 11, 2016 – 12:40 pm | Comments Off on The demoralized mind – how can we treat our sick culture and make ourselves well?

Western consumer culture is creating a psycho-spiritual crisis that leaves us disoriented and bereft of purpose. How can we treat our sick culture and make ourselves well?
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Trapped in ‘Vicious Circle,’ Greece Passes Crushing New Austerity Package

May 11, 2016 – 11:19 am | Comments Off on Trapped in ‘Vicious Circle,’ Greece Passes Crushing New Austerity Package

‘Every day they destroy our country a little more,’ says protester in Athens
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May 7, 2016 – 10:02 am | One Comment

No matter how terrible the BBC is, it constantly manages to get worse. The BBC News this evening appears like an especially rabid Tory Party broadcast. Sarah Smith was just breathtaking, while I thought Laura …

Another goodbye to democracy if TTIP is passed

May 5, 2016 – 9:04 am | Comments Off on Another goodbye to democracy if TTIP is passed

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Disaster Capitalism: Ecuador Forced to Pay US Oil Giant $180M

May 2, 2016 – 1:16 pm | Comments Off on Disaster Capitalism: Ecuador Forced to Pay US Oil Giant $180M

The Ecuadorean government is being forced to use money that could go toward relief efforts to instead pay off a multinational oil company.

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May 2, 2016 – 11:05 am | One Comment

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April 29, 2016 – 4:14 pm | One Comment

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