I saw her today at the reception.
A glass of wine in her hand.
She was practiced at the art of deception.
In her glass was a bleeding man.
The Rolling Stones, You Can’t Always Get What You Want
Everybody knows that the boat is leaking.
Everybody knows that the captain lied.
Lenard Cohen, Everybody Knows
My brother is a magician. He earns his living as a documentary producer, but magic has always been a hobby. He’s even a member of the Swedish Magic Circle, having relocated to Göthenburg a quarter of a century ago. He fully intends to teach my young niece the illusionist’s art when the time comes, but his card and coin tricks have been amazing family and friends for years. I could never hope to master even the simplest of his baffling sleights of hand, but he has taught me the key lesson of the art of prestidigitation; even when the audience knows it is being deceived, that knowledge doesn’t remove participation in the deception. It is akin to what Coleridge famously called ‘the willing suspension of disbelief’ in, I think, the Biographia Literaria. We are gathered here today, primarily, to look at the collusion between modern media, the political class, the hard Left and the art of deception.
When I was living in London, and not being a television user, I often used to listen to LBC, the London Broadcasting Company, on the radio. The format was phone-in and news punctuated, with the usual tiresome advertising. They had a good rogues’ gallery of presenters: bluff old Rightish-wing Nick Ferrari – who was a regular recipient of calls from my mother on the subject, usually, of animal cruelty – Iain Dale, the political blogger, Julia-Hartley-Brewer, a sort of jolly-hockey-sticks Rightie. And they had a Leftie too. They still do, as far as I am aware.
James O’Brien is a public-school educated bien pensant cultural Marxist who has worked superbly well to create a brand for himself. People used to make a name for themselves, now they create a brand. He often cries on air, uses his skill with the phone-in format to bemuse those not so used to being on the radio, and thus apparently wins an argument, and lives in the leafy London enclave of Chiswick with his wife and two young daughters. I used to work there. There are scarcely any black people or Muslims, the rapidly expanding core of O’Brien’s listening audience.
After the infamous London riots of August 2011, O’Brien - I love the fact that he has the same surname as the arch thought policeman in Orwell’s 1984 - was very exercised by the fact that TV and press pictures had informed the country that the majority of rioters were black. Now, I met several eye-witnesses to those riots, and they all agreed that the majority of rioters were black. Anyone who has lived in south London knows what a hell-hole it has become largely due to the presence of young black men and the young white men who ape them. But this did not agree with O’Brien’s ideological template.
As an aside, it is also worth noting that after the riots, O’Brien made the extraordinary claim that young urban black men suffered from low self-esteem, and that this was a factor in the recent and largely unpoliced orgy of malice, demonic glee, racist anti-white violence and looting that comprised the London riots. Anyone who has walked the streets of south London, without wearing ideological blinkers, will know to a certainty that the self-esteem of young black men makes Muhammad Ali look like Woody Allen. But back to O’Brien and his racial discontents.
Imagine his joy the next day! The riots had spread to Manchester – not that many people there noticed a difference in quality of life – and this time the pictures told a different story! O’Brien crowed that TV reportage had featured mostly white men. QED, for the Leftist journalist, and I would say that well over 95% of journalists in the UK are Left-of-centre, although that is an unschooled opinion. It just feels that way.
You see the problem, of course. At first, I wondered how O’Brien, as a journalist, could be so obtuse as to believe that BBC and Sky News pictures would not be strictly and selectively edited to package reality in a way that would please Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. Slowly, the penny dropped. Of course O’Brien knew, but truth is the first casualty of modern journalism. His agenda was that he wanted his parish to believe that the reality they saw portrayed on their TV screens was reality itself. It is as though O’Brien had re-written the famous first line of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus – The World is all that is the case – to read; The world is all that is the case on the syndicated news networks. Controlling reality. It’s happening now, on a television in your town. But, as O’Brien proves, it is happening with the mutual consent of both the producers and consumers of the news. As Leonard Cohen sang; Everybody knows…
Everybody know about spin, too, and journalism in the UK today is not exactly the headquarters of political spin, but it has rented an impressive amount of office-space therein. Spin is uncomplicated as a concept; it is a sub-set of lying. A fact or event or set of figures exists, the transmission of which, via media, to the general public is viewed by the political class as possibly affecting future voting habits. That fact or event must, therefore, be presented in such a way as to maximise the apparent goodness and efficiency of the party or politician making the presentation. Statistics on crime, imprisonment, immigration, by-elections, unemployment or economics, the outcome of summit meetings, policy decision or indecision, a gaffe here or there, all are malleable and subject to alteration in order to gloss or smear. Peter Oborne’s description of Labour’s 2005 general election campaign provides a good working model of political spin. ‘The preferred method of communication,’ writes Oborne, ‘involved marketing techniques drawn from the modern advertising industry, with everything that implied in terms of manipulation and deceit.’ (The Triumph of the Political Class).
Lying. Spin. Deception. Legerdemain. Prestidigation. Magic. We are back in Plato’s cave, with its flickering and illusory shadows. What is absent from the MSM is the truth. We are involved in the greatest experiment in the history of civilisation. For the elites, the next two decades will prove whether Capitalism, combined with a type of Socialism, can continue to support itself fiscally via a sort of Indian rope trick. We deserve the truth concerning these momentous upheavals in which we are small rodents endlessly running in little wheels, but we will not get the truth any time soon, not from the media, certainly. Truth, to paraphrase Tom Waits, is away on business. Truth is goofing off somewhere, on a sort of cross between a sabbatical and the witness protection scheme and, if we are on the subject of the law, it certainly serves to sign off with J L Austin’s famous invocation of the Bible’s most famous judge;
'What is truth?' said jesting Pilate, and would not stay for an answer. Pilate was in advance of his time. For 'truth' itself is an abstract noun, a camel, that is, of a logical construction, which cannot get past the eye even of a grammarian. We approach it cap and categories in hand: we ask ourselves whether Truth is a substance (the Truth, the Body of Knowledge), or a quality (something like the colour red, inhering in truths), or a relation ('correspondence'). But philosophers should take something more nearly their own size to strain at. What needs discussing rather is the use, or certain uses, of the word 'true.' In vino, possibly, 'veritas,' but in a sober symposium 'verum.'[