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News is the Propaganda of the Oligarch

December 10, 2019 - 19:05 -- Admin

We’ve taken drastic action to try to stop the election from
being won by outrageous lies.

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 10th
December 2019

One of the golden rules of journalism is that you don’t
break an embargo: a block on publication until a certain date. For the first
time in my career, I’m breaking one now. The moral case for doing so outweighs
the moral case for respecting it.

For five months, the press regulator, IPSO, that was set up
by the newspapers, has been considering a complaint that could play a crucial
role in this election. It concerns an outrageous lie about the Labour Party
first published by the Mail on Sunday, and repeated many times by other
newspapers and the Conservative party. Two weeks ago, IPSO ruled against the
paper and imposed a major sanction. The Mail on Sunday asked for a review of
the decision, delaying its publication.

The review upheld the decision, but it still hasn’t been
published. So, as far as voters are concerned, the lie stands. A key claim used
to tip the balance against Labour remains uncorrected. I owe more to the truth
than I do to the embargo.

Last summer, seven of us published a report to the Labour
Party, called Land for the Many. It
took many months of work, drawing on a vast range of sources and expertise, to
produce radical but realistic ideas for changing the way we use our most
important resource. We worked hard to make our arguments as watertight as
possible. We needn’t have bothered, because our opponents scarcely addressed
them.

The storm
of lies about our report
in the billionaire press gave me an idea of what
it must be like to be a Labour politician. Pushing back against them all would
be a full time job for several people. But we decided to confront one of them,
in the hope that it might illuminate the others. The Mail on Sunday turned our
independent report to the Labour Party into “bombshell plans being drawn up by
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn”, then told
an outright lie
about what it contained. We proposed, it said, “to scrap
the Capital Gains Tax exemption on main homes”. At the moment, if you sell the
house or flat in which you live, you don’t pay capital gains tax on the profit
you might make. We examined the case for changing this, explained the arguments
for and against, then clearly and specifically rejected the idea. But who
cares, if you can terrify the living daylights out of your readership,
convincing them that Corbyn is the spawn of Satan?

As if to suggest that such lies are organised with the
Conservative Party, the article quoted Boris Johnson, who claimed “this
mad ‘tax on all your houses’ would cripple every Brit who owns or wants to own
their own home”. The lie was picked
up on social media
by other senior
Conservatives
, and has been used repeatedly in Conservative
campaign materials
, websites and Facebook pages. It was reproduced
by most
of the other
billionaire papers
, and continues to be circulated. Just last week, an
article by Tom Newton Dunn in The Sun
claimed that Labour was considering a
“movers tax”, “scrapping the Capital Gains Exemption on main homes”. The false
claim has now been deeply implanted in people’s minds: Labour is coming for your
home.

One of the authors of our report, Anna Powell-Smith, made a
complaint to IPSO. Had she not been determined and whip-smart, she might have
been defeated by a process that seems designed to deter. For much of the five
months this has taken to resolve, the newspaper, with its vastly greater
resources, was allowed to bombard her with Johnsonian arguments, or offer tiny
clarifications on a remote page. It was time-consuming and intimidating. Most
people are likely to have given up or accepted a meaningless concession.
Watching this process, I came to the conclusion that IPSO is not fit for
purpose.

Even so, it eventually bowed to the inevitable. This is a
rare victory against the billionaire press, but it would count for nothing if
buried until the election is over. Anyone who wants a better world finds
themselves at war with the exceedingly rich people who own the media, and the
editors and journalists they employ. The pen might be mightier than the sword,
but the wallet is mightier than the pen. News is the propaganda of the
oligarch. Are we prepared to allow the proprietors of the newspapers, most of
whom live offshore, to determine the course of our politics?

The rewards for political lying are massive: they include
winning referendums and elections. The penalties are either non-existent or
tiny. If the Conservative party is sanctioned by the Electoral Commission for any
of its
outrageous lying
and cheating,
it might, long after the election, have to pay the maximum fine of
£20,000
, which a friendly billionaire will doubtless pull out of his back
pocket.

If elections are won by lies, we find ourselves governed by
liars. They won’t hesitate to ramp up their deceptions when in office. One
focus is likely to be voter suppression. Already the Conservatives, learning
from Republican tricks
in the US, have
floated the idea
that people must bring photo ID to the polling booths.
They know that 3.5
million people
, few of whom are likely to vote Conservative, don’t possess
it.

The old adages – cheats never prosper; the truth will out; virtue always triumphs – are themselves falsehoods. But, futile as it often seems, one-sided as the war between truth and falsehood always is, we must fight the tide of lies. Don’t let them win this week.

www.monbiot.info