If you’d asked me in my twenties where my political affiliations lay, I would have confidently replied ‘on the left!’ These days, my response is less assured. Indeed, I would say that, right now, I feel politically homeless and I remain uncertain as to whether I have discovered the true face of what I always believed to be the left, or whether the left is in fact dead. This short blog will attempt to explore the latter.
At university during the early noughties, as my anger and disillusionment with Labour grew and grew, I read numerous books and articles by John Pilger, Greg Palast and Noam Chomsky (among others), which helped to give me a clearer understanding of the corrupting influence of big business on politics, while finding a tonic to Bush and Blair’s imperialist wars (and the destruction of the democratic process) in the satire of Bremner, Bird and Fortune.
Today it seems conservatives have never had it so good as I find myself asking, where is the left?
The idea that we could ever have a truly ‘objective and impartial’ news is evidently beyond human capacity; we all lean one way or the other. The question is, whose interests are better served by an exclusively moneyed climate – the people, particularly those on the bottom without power and influence, or the minority mega-rich who own the media (and the politicians), raking in millions from corporate advertising, and in whose circles many journalists seem to move in and/or aspire to be a part of?
The way much of the mainstream media is cosying up to Big Tech, Big Pharma and the Military Industrial Complex endeavouring to inhibit our freedoms, while turning a blind eye to the persecution of whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning, should trouble us all. Though the aforementioned journalists and intellectuals are still out there reporting on such things, they are nevertheless ageing and I am struggling to find a credible left wing alternative coming from a younger generation with not only the courage to reveal the crimes of power, regardless of whether it’s ‘us’ or ‘them,’ but that also demonstrates an astute understanding of the mechanisms of the establishment.
John Pilger used to feature regularly in papers like the Mirror and the Guardian but, in more recent times, he seems to have been pushed to the margins where most of his articles appear on his website (perhaps due to his staunch support for one of the world’s greatest living journalists, Julian Assange?). I see him doing the odd interview on RT. The latter has seen a pretty successful propaganda campaign that RT is, in fact, controlled by arch super-villain Putin which, in an era that lacks critical thinking, has probably scared off a significant number of those who would otherwise be receptive to the kind of thoughtful, people-centred journalism espoused by Pilger.
In recent years, I have discovered the great Chris Hedges and Matt Taibbi. I would say Hedges is more openly left wing and is hugely critical of corporate power both in the US and abroad. I recommend tuning into his show ‘On Contact’ while Taibbi, who likewise comes across as more to the left, is interesting because he has a refreshingly reflective view on the function of the media. Some of his talks about being on the presidential trail during the Trump campaign are quite thought-provoking and worth a look.
Hedges and Taibbi are American and while Pilger has spent a lot of time in the UK, he is Australian. This leaves me wondering, where are the lefty journalists in the UK?
I came across an organisation called Media Lens and I recommend checking out their various alerts as well as their book ‘Propaganda Blitz’. What I find most interesting about them is that they reveal the obsequiousness of organisations that function ‘under a liberal halo’ to quote John Pilger; incidentally, news sources that I once considered credible, such as the Guardian and the Independent.
Media Lens has led me to sites such as Declassified UK, and I find Jimmy Dore’s interviews with Aaron Maté, Max Blumenthal, Chris Hedges and Glenn Greenwald provide some kind of leftist take on the functioning of power (albeit from a US perspective, which doesn’t always translate to leftism in the UK). The left is definitely out there (maybe not flat lining as such), but it’s very much on the fringes – pushed to the margins ironically upon the advent of the Internet and particularly Social Media.
It amuses me to hear conservative commentators lament the BBC as a ‘leftist bubble’ (it was actually founded by a Tory and its directors have sat on the boards of companies such as HSBC and BAE Systems – no conflict of interest there!), or bemoan the likes of Ash Sarkar, Owen Jones and Afua Hirsch; these ‘journalists’ (and a depressing number besides) are an outright gift to power; they are allies of neo-liberalism and its materialism-driven, war-mongering corporatocracy. Peddlers of luxury beliefs and identity politics – who sound like middle class sixth formers – these hacks challenge absolutely nothing.
Across the pond it’s just as bleak as equally vapid liberals cheer on AOC’s ‘Tax the Rich’ dress designed by an ‘immigrant woman of colour’ (in reality a lady who moved to New York from Toronto and has a banker boyfriend worth $100 million, the hardship!), at possibly one of the most vile odes to greed in human history, aka ‘the Met Gala.’ Meanwhile, struggling New Yorkers are outside in the cold protesting the eviction moratorium and getting beaten up by police – many of them people of colour.
Watching Fox (or really any of the major news networks for that matter), reading the Mail, Telegraph and the Times, plus many of the redtop tabloids, it’s easy to see what they represent: rampant corporatism, which has been the dominant force in the world for at least the past hundred years and therefore why I think a left-leaning alternative is important, for it’s where I feel I’m more likely to find a better understanding of the mechanisms of power and the impact its having on things like the environment, personal freedoms and human rights.
Rarely have the above convinced me as credible sources for such concerns – rather, for the most part, peddlers of outrage and hate be it draped in the viciousness of patriotism (Fox), or a vague sense of ‘Britishness’ promoted by the aforementioned UK rags – hence over the years I turned to sources including the Guardian, Independent, Huffington Post, the Intercept and BBC Newsnight, all of which leave me wondering what the fuck it is they are supposed to represent.
What I find absurd is the growing trend among liberals (aka some of the most privileged members of society) that have taken it upon themselves to not only be the arbiters of social justice (to be handed down as a kind of scripture), but also have somehow managed to simultaneously cast themselves as victims of oppression. Unfortunately, such hypocritical arrogance and sense of victimhood has come to pervade much of politics, academia, the arts and the mainstream media. What I find equally troubling is the increasing number of gullible fools who buy this crap.
As Media Lens has noted, publications like the Guardian have often been the biggest cheerleaders of war while a Saudi investor owns a 30% stake in the ‘Independent’ (no conflict there when it comes to issues of human rights). In fact, I have since come to find the aforementioned so embarrassingly facile, largely through being infected by the infantilism of an Americanised ‘politicisation of everything,’ which appears equally spiteful and moronic, that I can no longer bear to read them.
It is now crystal clear to me what most liberal rags actually represent: the death of journalism (and by extension, quite possibly, the death of the left).
As for satire, that’s been dead a long time … it’s sorely needed, but I don’t even see it on the margins.
20 October ‘21
© Percival Alexander