What May Deems (W.M.D.)

I see the neocons and likuds as very damaged and traumatized individuals. They carry a set of internal wounds that express on the outside as a very belligerent and hostile set of postures and actions.”

Chris Martenson, Peak Prosperity Blog, 2016

QuadRanting would like to believe that the Prime Minister privately feels profoundly ashamed about her role as the UK’s propagandist-in-chief. After all, that’s an appellation with the most sordid history imaginable.

Mrs May’s assertions that the only possible candidate for orchestrating the Skripal poisoning in Salisbury is the Kremlin have been widely discredited. The Government has resorted to bullying its own chemical warfare experts to try to get them to lie about the level of certainty surrounding the provenance of the Salisbury nerve agent.

Although the Skripal-Russia story still has a lot of unravelling to do before it’s as dead in the water as Trump-Russia, or the infamously cooked-up Iraq WMDs story, it will carry on echoing down the years in the minds of those who don’t or won’t bother with critical thinking. Which of course is the point of propaganda.

The truly sad thing about Mrs May is that she could choose to pin her flag to the mast of addressing the very real predicament facing our (and every other advanced) nation. She could tell some truth for a change. She could say that there’s a lot of toil, tears and disappointment ahead. Because the reality of declining global net energy per capita will trump all dreams of carrying on as we have for the last couple of centuries, and bits will keep dropping off the economy for many, many decades.

Try uniting us to tackle the problems in our own backyard, Mrs May, rather than merely baring your teeth and dancing to the neocons’ war drums. That would be being tough, Mrs May. That would show strength and stability.

I mean why? What, or who, close to you, is so scary and powerful that you prefer to play to the stalls with tired old, Cold War era, chest-beating than to look like a grown-up who works with international experts and proceeds only as fast as hard facts become available?

How sad must it feel to sit at Chequers at the weekend, watching your corner in the propaganda campaign being fought by a politician whose CV serially lists ‘caught out by my lies’ as the reason for leaving jobs?

What could you be doing for your country and the world, Mrs May, if you didn’t allow yourself to be railroaded by those many damaged and traumatised people whom you think you can trust in the UK’s permanent government?



Russiagate, Truthism and the Big Lie

A lie silly story, repeated often enough, becomes a kind of truth. Hence the inescapable ‘truth’ that Vladimir Putin hacked the 2016 US election on behalf of Donald Trump.

You hear it every day in the right wing media. Never mind the unhealthily-close relationship between these outlets’ proprietors and the military wing of global corporate capital, which really, really needs to portray Russia as a scary bogeyman so it can justify its metastasising demands for bigger arms budgets.

You hear it in the left wing media. They can’t believe the voters rejected HC – as bought-and-paid-for a corporate tool as Obama but sadly lacking his eye- and ear-appeal – all by themselves. And that voters rejected, by extension, the cosmopolitan liberal elites’ peculiar brand of snowflakey, virtue-signalling identity politics.

What’s the word for a silly story that takes on a casual resemblance to a fact with the help of repetition? A ‘truthism’ perhaps. You know it’s happened when you hear, say, John Humphrys on the today programme say something like, “Well we now know that Russian interference in the US election apparently influenced the outcome.”

That’s how Truthism is done. The ‘now’ in “We now know that …” implies that solid evidence of Russian interference has been laid bare since the election – although nothing of any kind has actually been turned up barring a few Facebook ads from Russia-based accounts, which addressed issues not candidates and which almost nobody in the US even saw.

Similarly, while the word ‘apparently’ confers a tone of impartiality, it serves to reinforce the preceding Truthism (i.e. that Russian interference was substantial, not merely a silly story) by immediately shifting attention to whether it affected the election result.

”Like any orthodoxy worth its salt, the religion of the Russian hack depends not on evidence but on ex cathedra pronouncements on the part of authoritative institutions and their overlords.”
(LRB 4 January 2018)

What America really needs is a genuine Emperor’s New Clothes moment where some wholesome, freckled, toothy kid in a baseball cap pipes up: “Hey everyone, there ain’t no Russkis! We just ended up being given a choice between two utterly grotesque presidential candidates and we elected the simple-bad one when we were supposed to pick the smart-bad one!”

The next best thing would be for some publications on both sides of the political spectrum to start laying Russiagate to rest. In the UK, at least, the London Review of Books’ first issue of 2018 has deftly unpicked Russiagate in a piece entitled What We Don’t Talk about When We Talk about Russian Hacking.

Russiagate Truthism is likely to prove counter-productive, not because it is propaganda but because it is bad propaganda. Even not-very-switched-on people don’t feel they’ve seen any proof of the interference. Despite being assiduously pushed by the mainstream media, Russiagate risks making the governments of the UK and US (do any other countries care about it?) look ridiculous.

Good Lord, how cheap is America these days?

How deep do your pockets need to be to get a 100-plus million Americans to buy-into your product?

Here’s a little table of US adverting budgets from 2015 to help you answer that:

  • Procter & Gamble Co – $4.3 billion
  • AT&T – $3.9 billion
  • General Motors Co. – $3.5 billion
  • Comcast Corp. – $3.4 billion
  • Verizon Communications $2.7 billion
  • Ford Motor Co. $2.7 billion

Or, from 2017:

  • “Russia” (apparently) – $100,000

The cheek of those danged Rooskies! Seems they stole the 2016 US election from Saint Hillary by splurging forty thousand times less on advertising than P&G needs to dispense to maintain soap powder sales.

If we’re to believe the narrative the US deep state is furiously peddling, then Trump owes his elevation to the White House solely to a minuscule amount of fiendishly-clever Facebook advertising taken out by shadowy actors linked to the Russian state.

Presumably, the skies between Madison Avenue and Red Square are already filled with planeloads of US corporate marketeers, all scrambling to get the Russians to tell them how to buy their fellow countrymen’s brand loyalty for peanuts.

As a narrative, this week’s developments take the Russiagate meme way down below farce and ridicule to whatever the name is for the roiling stew of propagandising lunacy the mainstream media exists to feed us.

It’s unbelievable that apparently intelligent people would give any credence to this mendacious bullshit. But they do. Yesterday’s edition of The Daily Zeitgeist podcast dropped its usual tone of cynical absurdism to report straight-faced the central claim that “the Kremlin got to 126 million Americans via Facebook” last year, and – yes, the host actually said these words – “changed the course of American history.”

All this would be as funny as the idea that Michael Fallon resigned as UK Defence Minister solely because of ‘kneegate’ if it wasn’t for the likely deadly consequences of the Imperial Elite tearing into itself like a pack of wolverines in a sack.

The fury of those who thought they’d bought and paid-for Clinton’s coronation over the last 20 years, only to have it snatched away from them by the voters, is palpable from thousands of miles away. Like the little Austrian corporal calling down total destruction on the population for not delivering his megalomaniac vision, 70 years ago, the last people the elites will blame is themselves.

We’re merely voters. Our rulers can and will try to throw our rights and freedoms under the bus if they become sufficiently scared-of or angry at the citizenry. While the media focuses on using Russiagate to crowbar the elected president from the White House (however you feel about Trump), the crunching and sawing noises you hear from backstage are the sound of free expression being undermined to save us from ‘fake news’ and the chance to think critically for ourselves.

On the other hand, if I cashed in my modest pension balances, I reckon they’d total the equivalent of a hundred thousand bucks.

What’d be more fun to buy with that? An annuity? Or a superpower that’s badly lost its way?

Memo to ‘The Economist’

Almost every day I get needy emails from the neo-liberal establishment’s fantasy worldview generator, The Economist, begging me to re-subscribe. Sometimes I’m tempted. But then they go and blow it, as usual.

Today they’re telling folk straight-facedly:

“special counsel [Robert Mueller]’s true target is not Mr Trump or Mrs Clinton, it is Russia, the hostile power that attacked American democracy.”

You have to be pretty far gone to be able to trot out an oxymoron like ‘American democracy’ without turning into a turnip. But the The Economist is still further removed from reality and decency.

It’s now reduced to parroting “Putin did it, Putin did it, Putin did it…” on the age-old grounds that you can make anything feel like the truth provided you repeat it often enough. Perhaps the paper really does want to alienate everyone capable of critical thinking. And thus keep pure the hermetically-sealed echo-chamber it offers Washington’s corporate kleptocracy.

Gold divers and diazepam pens

What’s up with the world today?

Bread and circuses news: ‘Britain’ ‘won’ three gold medals in Rio yesterday. Actually, it was three people representing Britain … in a sense … who won three medals. In that they are young, fit and committed, they aren’t exactly representative of me or most people I know, none of whom took the time to watch them. Nevertheless, this news is wall-to-wall on every news website and dead tree outlet. You’d think we were insecure or something.

Running out of tunes news: Ed Sheeran, whoever he is, is being sued for plagiarising a Marvin Gaye track. Maybe we’re just running out of good tunes. Wasn’t there someone in the 18th century who went mad worrying about that?

Hillary health news: Some people are worried about Mrs Clinton’s brain function. On top of more-than-slightly odd behaviours on camera, the potential next leader of the free world appears to be accompanied by a minder with a diazepam pen. That’s used to treat fitting and mini seizures. Hope she’s all right. It’s a bit more of an important question than who’s best at falling gracefully from a 3m diving board. But for whatever reason the mainstream media won’t ask it.

Purple-faced news: Surveyors are saying that UK house prices paused for breath in July. It was Brexit, not the fact that the pool of buyers able to stomach stratospherically high prices is drying up. Yeah, right. Prices will soon be rising again, surveyors assure us. Could that be people whose fees are a percentage of their valuations talking their own book? Yes or yes?

Pushing on a string news: While athletes born and trained in Britain were winning athletic events at an athletic tournament in Brazil, the Bank of England was missing its bond-buying target in the latest round of QE. Seems the pension funds, at whose desperate plight this money printing bonanza is directed, inconsiderately failed anticipate the event and allowed their top people to go on holiday. In August. Can you imagine that? Your money. Safe in their hands.

Dreadful news: Tens of thousands of Nepalis are still living in squalid conditions a year after the earthquake. On top of muddle and corruption among officials, victims have been hit by an economic blockade imposed by India.

Helicopter hyperbole news: One paper is calling yesterday’s helicopter incident in Wales “The miracle touchdown”. No it wasn’t. There was a mechanical problem. The pilot set down safely on an open moor. Everyone got out before fire took hold and destroyed the aircraft. The story doesn’t even attempt to justify the headline. Which is par for the course these days.

Safe in their hands news: Hospitals in Middlesex, Devon, Lancashire and Shropshire are considering shutting A&E departments for lack of funds. They haven’t got enough staff. Their costs are rising faster than their incomes. But staff are the biggest cost and staff numbers are falling. So where’s the money going? Ah, that would be all those back-end-loaded PFI deals. Hospitals are getting what Tony Blair got paid for.

Habit of a lifetime news: Hard to believe it but the BBC is actually going to try to stop presenting misleading statistics. I know, I know. Some people think that is the BBC’s job. It says here that presenters will be urged to tell us when there’s no evidence to back up a claim, instead of giving us a “he said/she said” debate between two competing spokesmen. Three-quarters of stats from politicians quoted in BBC news stories come from the governing party, too. Will this be the end of meaningless tit-for-tat interviews instead of proper news analysis? Unlike the housing market I’m not holding my breath.

Green news: It was algae what done it. Turned the Olympic diving pool green. “Harmless” claim the organisers after the filtration system broke. “Not so sure about that,” says a tight-lipped spokesman for the UK Pool Water Treatment Advisory Group.

Vetus causa bellandi news: They’ve found a British steamship sunk in an arctic river in Russia. It sank 140 years ago and regional media say its the discovery of the year. Elements in Washington are hoping to find an excuse to start a war with Mr Putin over the loss of the vessel.

Clutching at straws news: Utterly aghast at having to live with a Republican presidential candidate they neither own nor control, America’s elite are going all out to diss Donald. His badly-phrased comment on the power of the gun lobby was immediately seized on as a thinly-veiled incitement for #2A-ers to assassinate his rival. Now that a day has gone by, the papers feel able to drop the scare quotes around “assassinate” and proceed as if that’s what he specifically said. While they studiously ignore the issue of Clinton’s physiological brain functions.

Red relations and green water

So what’s new in the world?

Big news: Theresa May says its time to repair relations with Russia. That’s sticking it to A LOT of people, here and especially in the US. How the UK right wing media, who’ve been dutifully following the neocon line these past years, will take it remains to be seen.

Little news: The Olympic diving pool in Rio turned soupy green overnight. Global warming? Bad plumbing? A spell?

Bad news: Trump ‘jokingly’ hints that good ol’ boys might exercise their gun rights to ‘stop’ Hillary. As The Donald is the candidate most likely to be ‘stopped’ that way by Dark Forces from deep in the state, it’s hardly a funny line. Anyway, everyone knows that Clinton couldn’t and wouldn’t do anything to upset gun owners.

Chew news: Dogs in Britain are getting less fertile for the same reason as Californian condors are. It’s their diet, which is increasingly laden with toxins from the environment. Who’s next? People? That’s what the stories are saying.

Painful news: A hospital in Lincolnshire may have to close its A&E at night. One in Liverpool is planning to stop routine operations and axe its IVF programme. Staffing and funds are at the root of the problems. Actually, that’s more or less the same thing. No money, no staff. No-one’s saying so but the hot money would have to be on PFI repayments sucking the life out of the Trusts running them. No wonder those shadowy financiers gratefully funnel so much money to Tony.

Saucy news: HP Sauce is the favourite brand of Brexit voters. They also like Bisto, Birds Eye, Cathedral City and Richmond sausages (is the last one a brand?). Remain voters like BBC.co.uk, iPlayer, Instagram, Spotify,  London Underground, AirBnB, Virgin Trains and EasyJet. Obvious conclusion: Brexiteers are salt of the earth types, though probably somewhat prone to body odour. Remainers are masochistic, narcissitic  metropolitanites with their heads in the Cloud. Less obvious conclusion: remainers’ brand choices are ”progressive, up to date, visionary, innovative, socially responsible [EasyJet???], intelligent.”  You’d never have guessed that the conclusions were drawn by a bunch of metropolitan ad-men and the story appeared on BBC.co.uk

Tippy-toes news: Will Young is the second celebrity to make the line up for Strictly Come Dancing. No, I don’t know what any of that means. Nor the name of the first celebrity.

Repent at leisure news: More than a third of recent graduates regret having gone to uni. Reason? A bucket-load of student debt to pay off (average £44,000) and jobs that give them an average monthly disposable income of £160. Funny how the media that’s endlessly cheered for universal student debt, sorry, degrees for all, is all of a sudden discovering what a complete crock Tony’s companion debt-wheeze to PFI was bound to turn into.

Quis custodiat? news: Yesterday all the stories were about the Competition and Markets Authority giving the banks a hearty slap over their treatment of customers. Today, everyone’s suddenly discovered that it amounts to little more than a loud ‘tut’. Needless to say, the job of policing banks’ better behaviour has been left with … the banks.

Who that? news: Charles W Sweeney. Now, if I’d written Paul Tibbett, people would have got it easily. Yesterday was the anniversary of the atomic bomb attack on Nagasaki. It would have been tomorrow but the weather forecast was apparently bad. Sweeney flew the plane –  whose name no-one remembers either.

Shouty Americans news: Trump is reckless and not qualified to be a US president, say republicans. Apparently that means he’s not a complete two-faced puppet of corporate interests who’ll go back on all his promises as soon as he’s elected. Anyway, aren’t all the Republican high-ups promising to vote for Hillary?

We’ll never hear the last of this news: Tesla driver gets chest pains. Puts car in ‘auto pilot’ mode and it drives him 20 miles to hospital. He’s treated for a dangerous blood clot. Fans of autonomous cars will be all over that one like a rash. Anyone want to give me £60k to buy a Tesla?

Turn back 10 pages news: Tomorrow’s graduates will be applying for jobs working in virtual worlds and outer space, according to ‘experts.’ Future careers will include Virtual Habitual Designers, Ethical Technology Advocates, Space Tour Guides (I kid you not, these people will “use their knowledge to construct visits to the more interesting parts of Earth’s orbit”), and Personal Content Curators. The latter will manage software-brain interfaces, organising thoughts and memories for fellow graduates who are too busy spending their meagre £160 monthly disposable income and worrying about their student debt to think for themselves.

Vote Leave dulls down its message

EU-Guide-In         EU-Guide-Out

Did Vote Leave miss a trick when it designed its page in the Electoral Commission’s referendum voting guide? Or does it know something about a dull, impenetrable presentation that everyone else has missed?

Vote Remain pitches in with patriotic colours, punchy headings and big, positive bullets. Not forgetting snaps of happy, smiley people. Who will be..? Stronger! Safer! Better Off!

See? Didn’t even have to read it.

Vote Leave’s page looks like something you’d see wired to a farm gate during a foot and mouth outbreak.

Assuming that many undecided voters will go with their hearts rather than their heads on May 23rd, which of these layouts will leave them with more of a warm, fuzzy feeling if it was the last thing they glanced at before entering the polling booth?

Vote Leave actually has the better-written content, inasmuch as it picks two hot buttons – immigration and the UK’s £350 million weekly contribution to the EU budget – and repeats them. I’m not sure what the UK would do with 660,000 more nurses on top of the 300,000 it’s already got but I get the point they’re making.

Vote Remain blunt their messages in their haste to make a lot of positive points quickly. For example, they flag up the claim that EU membership is worth a net £91 billion a year to the UK economy. But calling it £1,800 million a week would have made it into more of a mind-sized number; much easier for people to sum up as five or six times higher than Vote Leave’s contribution figure.

If this was a contest over substance vs. style, you’d have to award the marks for substance to Vote Leave. But this is one of those situations where style matters a lot.

Vote Leave may have overestimated the importance of being earnest.