How the BBC helped privatise the NHS

One of the “sacred cows” of British society is its National Health Service (NHS). Former politician Tony Benn once quipped that if any British government tried to fully privatize it, “there would be a revolution”. A recent public opinion poll showed a whopping 89% of British people support the NHS over an American style private system. You’d therefore think it would be pretty big news if a decision was taken for a private company to run an NHS hospital for the first time.

Not according to most of the liberal media, particularly the BBC. The main story on the BBC six-o-clock news this evening was that £8 billion pounds of investment is to be made in Britain’s railways (the fruits of which, we’re told, won’t be enjoyed for at least 10 years and that travelers will start paying for in the New Year with fare increases of up to 10%). The second story was that a Conservative Peer, says that poor people living in benefits will be encouraged to “breed” (you know, a bit like dogs do – but dogs on benefits). The third story was that Labour leader Ed Milliband concedes it’s their “fault” that there’s too many of these breeding poor people living on benefits.

Here’s a snapshot of the BBC’s main stories this evening:

No mention of the fact that private company Circle is to take over the running of Cambridgeshire’s Hinchingbrooke hospital to become the first to be entirely run by a private business after it beat another bidder, Serco, to the contract. I think that’s pretty big news that should be one of the main headlines on the evening news or at least on the front page of the BBC website, not tucked away in the Health section.

Of course, it’s only natural that the state-corporate liberal media see it as their role to provide a smokescreen for the corporate takeover of the British state. The BBC may not be a private company but its governors are appointed by the Government – a conflict of interest if ever there was one. Usually they’re a little bit more subtle than this however. With the student protests yesterday for example, their tact was to focus on the isolated instances of violence by a minority. Other methods they use include limiting a debate to two very narrow alternatives which both support state-corporate power or featuring opinions predominantly from only one side of a debate.

But this comes across as rather blatant by the BBC . Incidentally, only Sky News, Channel 4 and the Financial Times even bothered to cover it as far as I can see.

How dissent is crushed on the high street

“Newsagents take what Smiths [News] tells them is selling well,” says Peter McCaig, of the Independent News Collective, which distributes radical titles such as New Internationalist, Permaculture and Red Pepper. “Which is fair enough. But the result is that money talks. You get porn titles in more easily than any magazine with a political view.”

via Radical magazines fight for survival | Media | The Guardian.

Chomsky responds to me on the BBC

It’s not everyday you see something you’ve written on the BBC website. Last month I wrote a post about the chance to ask Noam Chomsky a question on the BBC’s HardTALK program. Well, like hundreds of others, I sent in a question in and the BBC decided to use it – the very first question in fact!

It’s a testimony to the man’s popularity that such was the interest in his appearance, the BBC saw fit to allow him to respond to further questions online and credit to them for that. So thanks Noam and thanks a lot BBC. The question I asked is below and you can read all the viewer questions answered by him here.

Q: What is the “liberal elite” that you have referred to and what defines their morals and ideas? Nicholas Mead, UK

A: The terms of political discourse are vague and obscure, including these, but also virtually all others: ‘capitalism,’ ‘market’, ‘socialism’, ‘conservative’, etc. I was using the term in the conventional manner, with ‘liberal’ understood in the American sense, something like ‘mildly social democratic’, roughly ‘New Labour’ in the British context.

The term elite refers to those with more privilege and opportunity, hence who dominate decision-making in the economic, political, and ideological spheres. There are no sharp boundaries, no club to belong to. To discover their morals and ideas we investigate what they say but more significantly what they do.

Also polls, which reveal that corporate executives tend to share the views of ‘liberal elites’ on social and cultural issues, though they tend more towards what’s called ‘conservative’ (a much abused term) on economic issues. Impossible to spell it out here, but I’ve written reams about the matter, as of course have many others.

A liberal whitewash of the ultimate crime

The BBC and Guardian both report today that the UK Ministry of Defence is probing allegations that Iraqis were tortured and abused by British troops.

But notice there will be no probe into the biggest crime of all – the war of aggression launched by the UK and it’s allies on Iraq. Since without this act, none of the above alleged crimes would have been possible, it should be this crime which is on the front pages, not the terrible acts of a few soldiers.

Why are the lessons and conclusions laid down by the Nuremberg tribunal and enshrined in law by the UN continually ignored by the liberal mainstream media? Quite rightly, they get extremely upset if someone tries to deny the holocaust. But they don’t even a raise a whimper when the laws that resolved to ensure nothing like it ever happened again are so blatantly ignored by those in power.

The Nuremberg tribunal defined aggression and aggressive war as the supreme international crime. This is exactly what the UK and it’s allies launched on Iraq in 2003. Benjamin Ferencz, one of the chief prosecutors at the Nuremberg trials, best describes how international law was clearly violated in 2003:

The United Nations charter has a provision which was agreed to by the United States formulated by the United States in fact, after World War II. Its says that from now on, no nation can use armed force without the permission of the U.N. Security Council. They can use force in connection with self-defense, but a country can’t use force in anticipation of self-defense. Regarding Iraq, the last Security Council resolution essentially said, ‘Look, send the weapons inspectors out to Iraq, have them come back and tell us what they’ve found — then we’ll figure out what we’re going to do. The U.S. was impatient, and decided to invade Iraq — which was all pre-arranged of course. So, the United States went to war, in violation of the charter.

Yet again, this is a textbook example of how the mainstream media continue to distract public attention away from the crimes of the powerful.

Question Time revealed more about the liberal elite than the BNP

screen-captureThe appearance of British National party leader Nick Griffin on the BBC’s Question Time served to prove many things about the media and political elite in the UK, two of which are particularly notable and concerning. One is that a rational, open and honest political debate is impossible in the mainstream media. Two is that mainstream political parties and liberal elites will now do anything to win moral authority and avoid talking about policy and real issues that affect the majority of the population. This is nothing new but it was illustrated acutely and obscenely in this particular show.

Some of the questions asked during and after the event are also mystifying to say the least in a supposedly democratic and intelligent current affairs show. Two examples are:

Should Nick Griffin have been allowed on Question Time?

This is a non-question. Anyone that professes to be in favor of free-speech and claims to oppose a party such as the BNP has to say yes. It is an insult to people’s intelligence – especially the 1 million that voted for him – to suggest they are unable to assess whether the BNP are fit to vote for. The answer to dealing with extremist organizations such as the BNP is not to repress them. It’s to prove the irrationality of their more extreme viewpoints (which isn’t hard).

Would Winston Churchill have joined the BNP?

Again, I don’t see why there’s been so much debate over this. The answer is unequivocally yes because Churchill lived in a far more “backwards” era towards race relations which is where the BNP belong. During that time,  it was fine for Churchill to proudly proclaim such things such as “I am strongly in favour of using poisonous gas against uncivilised tribes” and “I do not admit… that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America, or the black people of Australia… by the fact that a stronger race, a higher grade race… has come in and taken its place.”

The point is, Nick Griffin is a racist and even a panel of kids could have proved that. The main reason the liberal elite i.e. BBC, New Labour, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats were so keen to debate him is because they know how morally bankrupt they are and how little they have to offer the electorate in terms of policy, solutions and debate so they pick on an easy target to lynch to get the public onside. It is the very same political establishment’s fault the BNP have come this far. They long ago jumped into bed with big business leading to the deteriorating social and economic conditions which have inflamed the racial hatred the BNP thrive on. It was particularly sickening to see Jack Straw – a man with the blood of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, Afghanis and Western soldiers on his hands – reveling in some kind of moral superiority over Griffin. If actions speak louder than words, then he is as offensive – if not more so – than the BNP leader.

There has been little decent commentary worth reading in the aftermath of the debate but Brendan O’Neil writes an excellent piece here in Spiked and prior to the event, Neil Clarke highlighted the reasons behind the rise of the BNP.

Ask Chomsky a question on HARDtalk

The BBC are currently asking viewers of HARDtalk to submit questions to Noam Chomsky for a show to be broadcast on Thursday 29th October. Two questions will be chosen for broadcast. They must be grabbing their chance while he’s in London on the same day to talk on Human Rights in the 21st Century at the LSE.

I quite like HARDtalk because they do generally probe political figures harder than most mainstream current affairs programs. You can of course always e-mail Chomsky directly too as apparently he responds in person and usually pretty quickly but if you’d like to see Tim Sebastian do the probing for you, then you can do so here.

One thing I’d definitely like to ask him is where the hell he finds the time to lecture in linguistics, write countless books on the subject as well as engage in political analysis, writing, speaking events and interviews like the one on HARDtalk. And all at the ripe old age of 80. The man is a phenomenon.

The last time he was on HARDtalk can be seen here by the way although the image quality isn’t great:

3 very different Ted Kennedys remembered

Ted Kennedy

Ted Kennedy

I knew absolutely nothing about Ted Kennedy although I had heard of the Chappaquiddick (what a great place name that is) incident when he apparently ditched a car in lake resulting in the death of his lady passenger before finally turning himself in to the police a whole week later (thus ruining any chance he ever had of running for president). However, I read three reactions to his recent death that make you wonder whether they’re all talking about the same man.

The BBC hailed him as a “champion of liberal causes”:

Yet, despite the shadow of Chappaquiddick, he became a respected elder statesman of the Democratic Party, and a champion of liberal causes in the US Senate.

Independent US presidential candidate Ralph Nader, not known for his admiration of the Democratic party or mainstream media versions of history, remembered his legacy of “helping the needy and impoverished”:

Among Senator Ted Kennedy’s many accomplishments in the U.S. Senate was a little-heralded but critical boost he gave to the Freedom of Information legislation in 1974. At a time when the opposition to this key bill was in need of a countervailing champion, we visited Senator Kennedy, had a very substantive meeting and secured his networking support among other Senators, which led to its passage.One can only surmise how many major changes Senator Kennedy could have secured through the Congress had the Senate been populated by the kind of progressives who served in the mid-Sixties instead of their more conservative successors, both in Congress and in the White House.

His legacy of helping the impoverished, the excluded, and the needy in our society will persist. Our sympathies are with his family in these sorrowful times.

Writing in the First Post however, Alexander Cockburn dismisses all of these glowing assessments remembering him as a “hollow champion” who helped dismantle the labour movement in America and lay the groundwork for the neo-liberal NAFTA era that’s created many of today’s social and economic problem:

While Teddy Kennedy’s disasters were vivid, his legislative triumphs, draped in this week’s obituaries with respectful homage, were far less colourful. And they were actually devastating for the very constituencies – working people, organised labour –whose champion he claimed to be.

Though the obituarists have glowingly related Kennedy’s 46-year stint in the US Senate and, as ‘the last liberal’, his mastery of the legislative process, they miss the fact that it was out of Kennedy’s Senate office that came two momentous bits of legislation that signalled the onset of the neo-liberal era: deregulation of trucking and aviation. They were a disaster for organised labour and the working conditions and pay of people in those industries.

(Kennedy).. helped push through NAFTA, the “free trade” pact that was another body blow to American labour. 
….because his mishaps were so dramatic, no one remembers quite how noxious his political triumphs were for those who now mourn him as their lost leader.

Knowing how the mainstream media usually glowingly celebrate the deaths of their liberal heroes, I’m inclined to believe Cockburn’s assessment of things. However, Nader isn’t a man usually taken-in by mainstream liberal versions of history but since he works in Washington where Kennedy himself did, maybe not even he dared voice his full opinion.