Since 2014, when Shamocracy emerged out of the primordial soup of a North Carolina pool party, Brogan and co-founder Nick have been talkabouting stories that were either being skewed or ignored altogether by the media. Brogan is unquestionably the pessimistic half of Shamo.
Which is more disagreeable: the archive picture of David Cameron with the Remembrance poppy photoshopped onto it, or the one in which the war-hungry PM wears it for real? Downing Street on Monday bizarrely decided to use the (poorly) altered photo as its Facebook profile pic, before swiftly taking it down and replacing it with one of the Prime Minister wearing the red poppy in live-action; the change occurring because the suggestion that Cameron couldn’t be arsed to pose for a photo wearing the poppy might be deemed offensive (imagine the typhoon-level media shitstorm if Labour had done the same with Jeremy Corbyn). The replacement image – of DavCam beaming, blood-red paper flower on his lapel – is no less insulting or fraudulent, however.
Those in the public spotlight who shun the near-ubiquitous red poppy have their reasons. Derry-born footballer James McClean elects to forego wearing the poppy because of what it symbolizes in his home town, while news presenters Jon Snow and Charlene White won’t wear the poppy because they wish to remain impartial and not show favouritism towards any one charity or cause. The political commentator and WWII veteran Harry Leslie Smith, meanwhile, last year stopped wearing the poppy because he felt the symbol had been “co-opted by current or former politicians” to justify new wars.
You have to wonder whether those who routinely wear the poppy, like David Cameron, so carefully consider the statement they’re making every time they pin the paper on their chest. The Remembrance Day flower was inspired by the poppies that grew out of the graves of soldiers in Flanders during WWI. It stands for the wasted dead. It is a symbol of all those who lost their lives in battle from the Great War up to the present day. The poppy, plucked from the gore-soaked fields of one of WWI’s most notorious battlegrounds, is designed to remind us that war isn’t – to say the least – favourable.
Four years ago, the BBC buried its own Newsnight investigation into Sir Jimmy Savile. In the time since, it has pushed the BBC whistleblowers who helped to expose Savile out of its ranks, while at the same time apparently concealing the alleged deep-rooted cover-up that took place within the corporation regarding Britain’s most notorious sex offender. You’d think the Beeb would be wary, then, of drifting once again into the murky waters of child abuse and alleged institutional whitewashing. But on Tuesday night, by choosing to air a new episode of Panorama, the BBC not only waded back into those waters, it made active steps towards hampering a very serious, wide-ranging police inquiry.
Panorama’s The VIP Paedophile Ring: What’s The Truth?, presented by Daniel Foggo, did not get to the bottom of its own question. The irony in that subheading – What’s the Truth? – is that this was a show that deliberately omitted numerous key details. Ignoring the various accounts of ex-police officers and other credible witnesses, the show focused solely on the shakier aspects of the nationwide investigation into VIP child abuse, electing to paint the case against as much stronger than the one for. Foggo called Leon Brittan a “poor man”, while the programme itself depicted victims as liars, and hinted that new Labour deputy Tom Watson was no more than an opportunist using the scandal for political gains. There was an attempt to discredit Exaro, the investigative news organisation that has brought the VIP paedophile scandal to public – and police – attention. This was, to anyone in the know, obviously nothing more than a hatchet job.
Which news item did you hear about this week – the fact that the NHS has been brought to its knees so severely that a third of UK GPs expect to quit in the next five years, or the fact that Jeremy Corbyn had help writing his Labour conference speech? The fact that the World Economic Forum has placed our ‘big picture’ economy 108th in the world table, below Haiti and Zimbabwe, or the proposal that Corbyn is a threat to what is claimed to be the fastest growing economy in the developed world? The fact that David Cameron’s government has been doing deals with human rights violator Saudi Arabia in secret, or that Corbyn borrowed a tie for Monday’s conference? Most likely, you heard the second story over the first in each case.
It’s obviously no accident: as we’ve highlighted before, the UK press predominantly supports the Conservatives, meaning news that reflects badly on David Cameron’s party isn’t as widely reported as that which affects Jeremy Corbyn’s. Increasingly, people are turning away from the mainstream media to alternative sources for their news, but not quite enough for the public opinion-at-large to change. The Tories wouldn’t have returned to power in 2015 otherwise, and the Labour party wouldn’t now be going through a crisis in search of lost votes. Unfortunately for fans of impartial news coverage, the right-wing control the conversation in this country. On Monday, Jeremy Corbyn made reference to that in his conference speech. Simply pointing out the bias against himself and his party, though, isn’t enough.
Bookies’ favourite, frontrunner in the polls, backed even by voters in Scotland – it seems now nothing and no one is going to stop Jeremy Corbyn becoming the next Labour leader. Not that some haven’t tried: the right-wing media troika of The Sun, the Daily Mail and The Telegraph have done their bit by scraping the barrel to paint Corbyn as a heartless husband and anti-Semite, but mostly it’s been those within Corbyn’s own party delivering the worst blows. The leadership rivals have pitched in of course – Liz Kendall has called Corbyn a potential “disaster” for Labour, while Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper share the opinion that Corbyn would turn Labour into a mere “party of protest”. Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, meanwhile, have all conjured up their own apocalyptic visions of Labour under Corbyn.
By now, you’ve probably heard the ‘Jeremy Corbyn is unelectable’ line (which, as the man himself pointed out, can hardly be true when he’s been voted in eight times as an MP already) so many times you’ve lost count. We’ll see in 2020 (providing the current government makes it that far) how true this argument is, but right now the fact is that Corbyn is quite the opposite of ‘unelectable’. If social media chatter and sell-out crowds weren’t evidence enough, a recent poll suggests that, to the general public, Corbyn is actually considered the most electable of the Labour leader candidates. According to Survation, should he win the leadership bid, Corbyn would be the Labour head that supporters of rival parties would be most likely to vote for in the next election.
This should be music to the ears of Labour officials desperate to reclaim the votes they lost in 2015; with reports suggesting some ex-Labour voters may never return, the party needs all the help it can get. And, with Labour’s perceived fiscal irresponsibility proving to be one of the main reasons voters shied away from Labour in May, the chances of the party will not be helped by a leader that refuses to correct the false notion that Labour crashed the economy in 2008. While Corbyn has vehemently denied the Labour crash lie, Andy Burnham and Liz Kendall have been apologetic, chastising their own party for something that never happened. Yvette Cooper has joined Corbyn in rejecting the Labour crash narrative, but sided with Burnham and Kendall in abstaining from voting against the Welfare Reform bill – designed to correct the alleged mistakes of the last Labour government, and opposed by Corbyn – all the same.
Just over six months ago, I began researching an almost unbelievable-sounding story. I hadn’t heard anything about it prior to a January episode of The Trews, entitled ‘Is The Establishment Riddled With Paedophiles?’; but after reading the title alone, the curious journalist in me naturally wanted to dig. Still, I assumed reading up on this so-called Westminster child abuse scandal, or ‘VIP abuse scandal’ as it’s also known, wouldn’t lead to much. Surely the idea that powerful figures – a network of high-ranking politicians, civil servants and prominent celebrities – had been committing child abuse on an industrial scale and going unpunished for it over decades was just some Icke-ian conspiracy theory.
At the end of a long weekend of research, I emerged numbed with an article dense with allegations of rape, torture and murder of children by British establishment figures, the facts all drawn from reputable sources. This wasn’t investigative journalism – I simply trawled the internet and found articles from the Guardian, Independent, Daily Mail, Sky News, the Mirror, Telegraph, all detailing chilling tales from alleged victims and witnesses, from ex-police and crusading MPs. It was information that had been largely kept quiet, and that for the most part hadn’t been pushed as a big story.
Now it’s six months later, and it appears the mainstream media and public-at-large are finally taking notice of whatever you want to call this horrible affair. And the name that’s changed it all is undoubtedly Sir Edward Heath’s. During my research, I found Heath’s name kept coming up, even if none of the accusations could be verified. So, was I surprised when it was announced this week that Heath was included in the ongoing police investigation into child sex abuse, an investigation which includes 76 politicians both living and dead? No.
“I shall wear the creditors’ loathing with pride”; so said outgoing Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis yesterday, as he announced his post-referendum resignation with characteristic acerbic wit. Such blunt openness is chiefly why it’s Varoufakis, and not Greek PM Alexis Tsipras, who’s been hogging the press attention as the crisis in Greece has unfolded. In just a short time, Varoufakis has made a huge impact in world politics and challenged the shaky status quo in Europe. Now apparent pressure from other European finance ministers and his own party has meant Varoufakis’s ministerial job will go to another.
Varoufakis’s resignation-with-a-push is no doubt in part down to his laissez-faire approach to life – saying what he likes about who he likes, or doesn’t, and pressing on with what he believes in even in the face of staunch opposition. Varoufakis is nothing like our finance minister in the UK, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne. In appearance alone they are strikingly dissimilar. Whereas Osborne’s an ill-fitted suit-and-tie man nervously holding a battered red briefcase, Varoufakis prefers leather jacket and t-shirt, looking every bit like the shaven-headed gym instructor to Osborne’s uptight, plastic-haired estate agent.
Predictably, in dealing with a politician slightly off-centre, the world’s media has presented Varoufakis as some kind of rock star, a motorcycle-riding rebel with a wife who inspires hit Pulp songs. It’s a distraction – Varoufakis may appear outwardly meme-worthy, but he’s been the real deal for Greece, negotiating tirelessly with a ruthless Europe over whether or not the country deserves a paddle whilst they’re up shit creek. George Osborne, in contrast, is the personification of cronyism in British politics, a long-time friend of the PM who found his way into the Conservative Party through an Oxford contact. One sweats over crucial meetings in Europe, the other can’t even stay tuned in for PMQs. If one appears to care too much, the other sometimes doesn’t appear to care at all.
There have been some huge progressive successes around the world this past month – none of them, unfortunately, happened in the United Kingdom. Just this week it emerged that David Cameron planned to lower the threshold for what constitutes child poverty in Great Britain, while a US treasury official revealed that the UK had actually been hampering progress on tackling global tax avoidance. Such flagrant opposition to progress has not been uncommon of late; in the worldwide race to the future, Britain appears – following a brief pause on May 7th – to have begun actively running backwards.
Since the surprise Conservative majority win at last month’s election, proposals for radical change have come thick and fast. Just as the results of Portugal’s drugs programme show what a wild success decriminalisation can be, the UK bans legal highs (a characteristically ill-thought-out Cameron government policy that also technically makes tea illegal). As the United States opts to forego extending the NSA’s spying powers, the UK elects to expand its own. As Finland revolutionises education and embarks on a basic income experiment, the UK embraces ‘academisation’ and cuts welfare to the bone.
So, Sepp Blatter wins again. Despite all the scandal (forget the past few days, the past 17 years should’ve been enough), Blatter has been once more crowned king at the head of FIFA. Predictable, if still hugely depressing – this is, after all, the man who suggested female footballers wear tighter shorts, who’s shrugged off stories of match-fixing, who confidently once declared, “there is no racism in football”.
Obviously, making ill-advised comments isn’t the worst thing Blatter is known for; he’s also presided for years over what is now said essentially to be a worldwide criminal enterprise. You only have to look to the settings of the next two World Cups for evidence of questionable ethics: The first, belligerent, LGBT-unfriendly Russia, will host the World Cup in 2018. This, despite the fact that the former Soviet Union hasn’t shown as much aggression towards its neighbours since before the Berlin Wall fell (heard the recent one about Putin threatening Denmark with nukes?).
If current predictions are anything to go by, UKIP is set to receive the third highest number of votes at the 2015 election, bringing it in just behind Labour and the Conservatives. It means that, tomorrow, around 13% of people in the UK will enter voting booths and think of one party, one that they believe is best for Britain. They’ll think of UKIP, the party that has no time for climate change, multiculturalism or a public NHS; they’ll think of UKIP panjandrum Nigel Farage, with his sweaty face and his colourless M&S suit, splashed with lager and infused with the fog of a thousand cigarettes. “Yeah,” they’ll sigh to themselves. “This is the one – this is the party for me.”
It’s not been an easy election campaign for UKIP. If anything, Nigel Farage’s party – a kind of time machine which will, if elected, transport you back to a Britain where workers couldn’t afford healthcare and anyone with skin a shade off-white was treated with suspicion – has been more gaffe-prone than all the other parties put together. Of late, they’ve been challenged to a duel by a Polish aristocrat, because of their treatment of immigrants, blamed traffic jams on immigrants, and rejected the call for a raise in the minimum wage, because of immigrants. None of the insanity has, however, done much to stymie support for the party. Nor has it convinced UKIP members to stop making excellent mistakes even in the final weeks of their election campaign.
Want the Tories out? Vote Labour. Do not vote Green or SNP – you’ll only be splitting the left vote. Alternatively, if you seek to deny Labour the chance to govern, vote Conservative. Don’t even think about voting UKIP – it’ll just steal votes away from David Cameron’s party. As for the Lib Dems, give them your vote if you want to ensure whoever they decide to do a deal with never strays ‘too far right or too far left’.
This is what you’ve been told, anyway. Seemingly almost every party leader wants to pressure you into casting your vote based on how it’ll allow you to best cheat the system. Failing to recognise that such an endorsement confirms how absurd first-past-the-post voting is, the leaders have proceeded not just to tempt you with what treasures a vote for them will buy you, but to terrify you with the fear of what a vote for someone else will bring. Even Nigel Farage has been telling UKIP supporters to vote Conservative, so behind the tactical vote is he that he’s willing to lose a percentage just to ensure Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon don’t bring their deadly cocktail of communism and Scottishness into parliament.