Wednesday, 20 November 2013

The Media's Unexamined Pro-power Spin

In the Guardian today, Simon Jenkins writes on the recent spectacle of spy chiefs colluding with parliamentarians to completely gerrymander the enquiry into their criminal activities.

To give you a flavour of how woefully miscast this article is, here's a headline:

The days of believing spy chiefs who say 'Trust us' are over

Firstly, I dont know about you, but I never trusted either the spies or their chiefs. I never thought it made sense, for example, to trust someone whose entire reason for existing is to deceive, to lie, to dissemble, to mislead, and misdirect.

Now, I understand why politicians employ such people, but I never thought anyone should or would be fool enough to trust them. (Indeed, I dont believe the politicians ever did trust them; that's just another of the impolite fictions they promulgate against us. More on that later, maybe.)

And understanding this, I never trusted the assurances given to us by the politicians, that these people are totally under control, that politicians have rigorous knowledge of and oversight of their activities, and etc.

It's simply not credible, ever, that people selected, trained, legally empowered and funded, for their ability to deceive, can be trusted to be honest with their employers. This is especially true when their employers - the political class - are not exactly the most morally upright people to ever walk the earth, themselves.

But wait! - it gets worse:
The world now faces total electronic penetration, with huge power to those who control it. After Edward Snowden, we would be deluded to accept any assurances.
 After.  After Ed Snowden, we'd be deluded to 'accept any assurances'.

What about before Edward Snowden, Mr Jenkins? Would an intelligent, educated, informed, rational, prudent and cautious person, have accepted the bland and blithe assurances of the second-most dishonest class of people ever to walk the earth - politicians - before Edward Snowden's revelations?

The same people who lied us into invading Iraq, who lied about their reasons for invading Afghanistan, who are still lying about Syria, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Vietnam, and Korea?

Would assurances from these people have been acceptable if Edward Snowden had stayed on the reservation?

No, Mr Jenkins, no, these assurances were never credible, never onvincing, and never could be. They were never believable and no thoughtful person ever believed them.

In point of fact, no person in a position of public power should ever be trusted. The laws, the constitutional documents and customs, the checks and balances of democratic mechanisms, exist because we recognise explicitly that no person in a position of public power can ever be trusted.

We cannot afford to trust in such cirumstances. The probability of corruption is too high: approaching 100% over time, and the consequences of error are too great. As more of us are now realising; right, Mr Jenkins?

But wait! - it gets worse:
Any claim that "everyone knew these things were going on" is rubbish.
Quite. Not everyone knew because not everyone wanted to know. But some of us knew, not because we had the documentary evidence that Mr Snowden has now supplied, but because we had the evidence of history and of human nature, that history supplies to anyone who cares to look. Plus we had a lot of clues revealed by other events and stories, like this one.

Given what Mr Snowden has now revealed, who was talking rubbish before his revelations, Mr Jenkins?


Dont get me wrong, I agree with a lot of Mr Jenkins' views on any number of questions. He's often written excellent analyses subsequently published in the pages of the Guardian, and I've told him so in comments there.

The problem with Mr Jenkins' view on this point is that it continues and fosters the "oh dear, mistakes were made" dissembling of the most habitual and consequential criminals on our planet. Therefore, today he is my stalking horse for the whole of the establishment media.

I never made the mistake of accepting the blithe assurances of rigorous oversight by elected members.

The elected members themselves - with perhaps a very few very naive exceptions - never made this mistake.

Both I and they knew full well that the spies cannot ever be trusted.

So why does Mr Jenkins even attempt this pallid whitewash?

Why does an intelligent, informed, educated, and erudite man apparently believe that the Snowden revelations reveal something entirely unanticipated?

I dont believe Mr Jenkins is a consciously bad person. I dont believe he consciously intends to deceive. Quite the opposite, I believe in his good intentions.

But I also believe he is living a life of unexamined predispositions that have blinded him to otherwise very obvious truths, such as those I have described above regarding the innate untrustworthiness of those weilding great power in secret.

It's not like Mr Jenkins hasn't heard of Lord Acton and his famous dictum, is it? Surely he hasn't forgotten the destruction of Iraq? I mean, it's not entirely over yet, is it?

What Mr Jenkins is guilty of is not examining - and then rejecting - these predispositions when there is (A) an overwhelming wealth of historic and current evidence that they are false, and (B) no chance at all that Mr Jenkins has been ignorant of this evidence, and (C) no chance that Mr Jenkins lacks the ability to comprehend it's import.

Mr Jenkins' major guilt lies in his position of privilege: he not only has access to the relevant facts, access to the pertinent history, and is possessed of the intellect and training to deal with them, but he occupies the position of a protected purveyor of political analysis. In other words, he's a journalist whose explicit function is to critically examine these questions, these predispositions, and make public judgements on them.

It seriously calls into question his fitness for the role if he tries to claim he has not seen the necessity to first apply that critical examination process to himself.

The article he produces is thus true in the most limited sense: after Snowden, nobody should trust the bland assurances of the spies or the politicians who claim to have them under tight control.

We now know, without any possibility of error, that both of these assurances are false.

What the article gets wrong is that Mr Jenkins claims we didnt know this before Snowden. He further implies hat we couldn't anticipate the falsity of these assurances. That the corruption of those weilding enormous power in secret was neither inevitable nor predictable.

But we did know this before Snowden.

We could - and many of us did - anticipate the falsity of these assurances.

We knew without any possibility of error that the corruption was inevitable and we did predict it.

If Mr Jenkins didn't know this, and didn't anticipate it, what right has he to any audience today? What credibility does he have left as an informed and honest analyst of the weilding of public power?

The issues he has "overlooked" and left unexamined are the most critical issues facing us all today. If Mr Jenkins lacks the ability or the will to examine them critically then what good is he to us?

Mr Jenkins, your essay has been weighed in the balance and found wanting. Your performance is a pretty good marker for the state of your entire profession:

E minus: capable of far better.

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