Thursday, 2 September 2010

Redrawing the Boundaries of the State

A number of things have happened recently which make it clear that "The State" is not what some people would like it to be. The most important of these is the New York Times revelations about the Prime Minister David Cameron's Media Advisor, Andy Coulson's alleged lawbreaking in respect of breaching the civil liberties of a large number of people. The NY Times allegations are serious and the UK public needs to know about them. Alas, unless they read the Guardian, they are extremely unlikely to find out about them.

Strangely though, on the day this story broke in New York a scandal about another minister in the government broke. He was accused of doing something neither unlawful nor immoral; being gay. Whether he is or not does not actually matter, the fact is that this story was very conveniently planted just at the right time to cover and distract from any possible whiff of a much more serious scandal, which does involve not merely doing something illegal and immoral, but something, namely breaching people's civil liberties and human rights, which the alleged perpetrator's employer, the Prime Minister used as a campaign tool during the general election.

Yet the silence from the media has been deafening. The allegation that someone this close to the government has been illegally tapping people's phones, something that even the security services can only do with difficulty and legal constraints, is not considered newsworthy by;

  • The BBC
  • ITN
  • Channel 4 News
  • The Independent
  • The Murdoch Press
  • Sky News
  • The Right-wing press incl. the Daily Mail and similar
  • Most political bloggers, including Guido Fawkes
  • The Daily Torygraph
OK so the fact that the right-wing press and the Murdoch press has censored this story is not surprising, but the fact that the others have also, especially the BBC, is worrying.

It is this censorship which gives greatest rise to concern. This is the sort of thing which should happen only in dictatorships. Stories about the government which are inconvenient for it are regularly censored in places like North Korea, Burma and China. So this begs the question about the mechanism behind how this functions in the UK. The only answer can be, is that since these media organisations now fulfil the same role which they do in these dictatorships, it too has to be considered an arm of the state.

Actually it has always seemed obvious to me that teachers, doctors, nurses, lecturers, librarians, home helps, classroom assistants etc. despite being paid from the public purse, are not arms of the state. They do not represent the state or the government while doing their jobs, in the way civil servants, the army or the police do. However it is clear that the censorship of this important story reveals how the majority of the media have effectively become part of the state apparatus in the UK even to the extent of pushing a cover-up distraction non-story (William Hague) to help bury it.

The normal distinction between state and non-state has, in the past been too simplistic anyway; "If you are paid by the public purse you are part of the state apparatus, if not you are not." Rubbish. The truth is that the private sector has, for a very long time, been taking on functions of the state, particularly the media. Perhaps it is better to use the word 'establishment'. The Establishment in the UK has always been those organisations in whom power is vested. This clearly includes the City, large private sector companies, the media and some very rich individuals. When the government is Conservative, the rest of the establishment works with it, when the government is Labour the rest of the establishment works against it.

It is time we regard this establishment as effectively representing arms of the real state. These are the sites of real power, these are the organisations which make the decisions that affect everyone's lives. This power base is all the more powerful because it is able to portray itself as seperate from the state and not part of it when it really is. It also has the power to position others who exercise no state power functions as being part of "the state".

However, this censorship of the Coulson scandal is appalling and, even more than the alleged act of phone-tapping, is something people should be much more concerned about. That the media is controlled to such an extent by rightwing billionnaires is the greatest threat to our freedom, civil and human rights.

No comments:

Post a Comment