In a society built on lies, the search for truth is a game.

Consider the debate surrounding alleged ‘threats’ to the BBC’s ‘independence’, even as the BBC itself reports of its outgoing chairman:

‘As for Mr Sharp’s departure, I understand conversations between the BBC and the government have been had in recent days. You’d expect that.

‘The BBC chairman is a political appointment.’

If that doesn’t justify Twitter labelling every BBC journalist ‘UK state-affiliated media’, we don’t know what does.

Or consider how, cap in hand, the Guardian now presents itself as a Media Lens-style operation, declaring at the end of its articles:

‘As a reader-funded news organisation, we rely on your generosity. Please give what you can, so millions can benefit from quality reporting on the events shaping our world.’

We wonder how many readers funding this heroic mission are aware that, last year, Guardian editor Kath Viner received a 42 per cent pay rise of £150,000, taking her salary to £509,850. Brazen claims that the Guardian is ‘free from commercial influence’ appear in the pages of a newspaper overflowing with corporate adverts on which it is deeply dependent. Last year, print and advertising generated revenues of £71.5m and £73.7m respectively. The Guardian is owned by the Scott Trust, which runs a £1.3bn investment fund.

Even if we try to imagine corporate journalists rising above this nonsense, it’s impossible to conceive of them examining deeper issues of media bias.

Recall the context in which news and commentary appear: the tsunami of 24/7 corporate advertising that is subject to no discussion whatever regarding its bias. Unless we accept that these adverts should be balanced by a counter-tsunami of anti-corporate advertising, there is no question of media impartiality for this reason alone.

But this is still just scratching the surface. In our corporate society, the greatest triumph of the corporate monoculture is not the filtered content of the daily newspaper or nightly newscast; it is us, our conception of who we are, of what it means to be human. We may mock the Sun and lament the Mail, but look in the mirror – we are the ultimate product of propaganda.

Erich Fromm wrote of man’s conception of him and herself in capitalist society:

‘His body, his mind and his soul are his capital, and his task in life is to invest it favourably to make a profit of himself.’ (Erich Fromm, ‘The Sane Society’, Routledge, 1991, p.138)

The significance cannot be overstated: if millions of corporate men and women fundamentally perceive themselves as products to be sold on the job market, the question of non-conformity, of challenging corporate society, does not even arise. The idea is not just irrelevant, it is a threat to conformity facilitating ‘success’. The result is deeply dehumanising:

‘The alienated personality who is for sale must lose a good deal of the sense of dignity which is so characteristic of man even in most primitive cultures. He must lose almost all sense of self, of himself as a unique and induplicable entity.’ (Fromm, p.138)

In this case, it is not that we are somewhat biased on some specific issue in the way of a newspaper report; the very idea that we should seek and act on truth, that we are moral agents, becomes ridiculous, laughable. And this, indeed, is the basic theme of much tabloid and other media ‘humour’ targeting left and green activists.

In a society of this kind, Fromm wrote, truth is not a concern:

‘All that matters is that nothing is too serious, that one exchanges views, and that one is ready to accept any opinion or conviction (if there is such a thing) as being as good as the other.’ (p.152)

When Fromm says ‘nothing is too serious’, he means that we are fundamentally indifferent.

Can we point to evidence? Last week, it was reported that the highest April temperature ever recorded in Spain – the kind of record that might, historically, have been broken by a fraction of a degree – had been blown away by a rise of 5C.

This latest sign of impending climate catastrophe was reported briefly and then forgotten. It received a tiny fraction of the merited attention and concern – not just from the press but also from the public. It was just one more example of how ‘modern man exhibits an amazing lack of realism for all that matters. For the meaning of life and death, for happiness and suffering, for feeling and serious thought’. (Fromm, p.166)

Needless to say, corporate journalism is the natural home of Corporate Man because its real task is to defend the status quo.

While working as the ostensibly leftist senior political editor at the New Statesman, Mehdi Hasan – who now presents the Mehdi Hasan Show on Peacock and MSNBC – wrote the following comments in a letter to Lord Dacre, the owner of the Daily Mail:

‘Although I am on the left of the political spectrum, and disagree with the Mail’s editorial line on a range of issues, I have always admired the paper’s passion, rigour, boldness and, of course, news values. I believe the Mail has a vitally important role to play in the national debate, and I admire your relentless focus on the need for integrity and morality in public life, and your outspoken defence of faith, and Christian culture, in the face of attacks from militant atheists and secularists. I also believe… that I could be a fresh and passionate, not to mention polemical and contrarian, voice on the comment and feature pages of your award-winning newspaper.’

Hasan added:

‘I could therefore write pieces for the Mail critical of Labour and the left, from “inside” Labour and the left (as the senior political editor at the New Statesman).’

One could hardly imagine a better example of Fromm’s ‘alienated personality who is for sale’ (p.138), with Hasan hawking the features, advantages and benefits of his insider left credentials for attacking the left.

Another prime example of this personality type treating truth as a game is senior Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland. Political analyst Norman Finkelstein, whose mother survived the Warsaw Ghetto, the Majdanek concentration camp and two slave labour camps, and whose father was a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto and the Auschwitz concentration camp, commented on Freedland:

‘… when my book, The Holocaust Industry, came out in 2000, Freedland wrote that I was “closer to the people who created the Holocaust than to those who suffered in it”. Although he appears to be, oh, so politically correct now, he didn’t find it inappropriate to suggest that I resembled the Nazis who gassed my family.’

Finkelstein made a key point:

‘We appeared on a television program together. Before the program, he approached me to shake my hand. When I refused, he reacted in stunned silence. Why wouldn’t I shake his hand? He couldn’t comprehend it. It tells you something about these dull-witted creeps. The smears, the slanders – for them, it’s all in a day’s work. Why should anyone get agitated? Later, on the program, it was pointed out that the Guardian, where he worked, had serialised The Holocaust Industry across two issues. He was asked by the presenter, if my book was the equivalent of Mein Kampf, would he resign from the paper? Of course not. Didn’t the presenter get that it’s all a game?’

It’s all a game to be played for profit – nothing is to be ‘taken too seriously’ by corporate humans who exhibit ‘an amazing lack of realism’ for everything that matters.

Plainly A War Crime’ – Chorley Interviews Chomsky

Matt Chorley, formerly of the Taunton Times, hosts a radio show on Rupert Murdoch’s Times Radio. On 26 April, Chorley tweeted a clip of his impersonation of ‘Zippy’, a puppet in the UK children’s programme, Rainbow, which ran for two decades from 1972-1992. The clip also featured Tim Shipman, the Sunday Times’ chief political commentator, responding with his own impersonation of ‘George’, a pink hippopotamus from the same show.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with having a bit of fun. But in his recent interview with Noam Chomsky, the level of Chorley’s journalism did not rise much higher. Like Hasan and Freedland, and most of corporate journalism, Chorley is an individual pursuing Fromm’s ‘marketing orientation’.

We learn a lot when the likes of Chorley encounter Chomsky and other dissidents whose souls are not for sale; not because the Chorleys have much to say, but because we are witness, not just to a clash of ideas and values, but of ways of being. It is a clash between sincerity and fakery, clarity and obfuscation, engagement and indifference, compassion and egotism.

Typically, these clashes involve a corporate interviewer who is focused, not on asking genuine questions, but on throwing traps in Chomsky’s path. The aim is not to find out what he thinks but to catch him out in some way, to demonstrate that he is deluded, or treasonous. Indeed, after the interview, Chorley described his purpose in talking to Chomsky:

‘See how the long-term Russia enthusiast explains Ukraine.’

This clarifies an otherwise mystifying comment by Chorley in the interview, suggesting that Chomsky’s ‘anti-West position’:

‘led you to an alliance with Vladimir Putin, who was a new type of Russian leader. And it was all hunky-dory, up until the point he invades Ukraine, and now you’re essentially trying to justify it by the back door – he’s let you down, Vladimir Putin.’

Anyone who knows anything about Chomsky knows that he has never been a ‘long-term enthusiast’ for Russian Bolshevism, Russian Communism, Stalinism, Soviet state tyranny in general, and certainly not for Putin. The problem, we would guess, is that Chorley doesn’t know what anarcho-syndicalism is, or what Chomsky means when he says he’s a ‘derivative.


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