Monday, December 20, 2010

Stay placid

Forget the tabloids. Here's the cavalry of "maverick" newspaper columnists coming to the rescue of government and corporate tax avoiders to brand protesters as the real enemy from within.

It is was only two years ago that Britain's newspapers were - almost in unison - kicking and screaming histerically at the super-rich and their corrupt Westminster mates "whose excesses dragged the country to the edge of bankruptcy".

Comments such as "never again are we going to be taken for a ride", "lessons-need-learning", and "why should the little people clean up the mess left by the powerful" were the order of the day in every newspaper.

And so it happens that, within less than 24 months, it's no longer the fault of the casino bankers, the corporate tax dodgers and their lapdog politicians.

In fact, they're not even the real powers that be. They're the defenseless victims, the "grown-ups", those actually in need of constant rescuing from the threat of "self-righteous" and "red-faced" "intoxicated anarchists" with "pumped-up rage" that "will achieve nothing" but inconveniencing "ordinary shoppers".

Seriously. Forget the tabloids. You read Britain's newspapers these days and it's as if the actual culprits behind the world's ills were students, anti-tax avoidance protesters and, of course, evil Julian Assange and his supporters.

Look at the amount of columnists who, for all their maverick posturing, toss-arguing, straw clutching and verbal meandering, always - invariably - end up as guardian dogs of the status quo.

What follows is a quick selection of "quality" newspaper articles from the last ten days.

The morning of the tuition fees vote in the Commons, the Independent's Steve Richards didn't feel the need to analyse, dissect or criticise the government's new tuition fees politicy. He didn't even say if he agreed or not. No. His energies were all spared for the protests which "have a whiff of urgent glamour", and "will have made no practical difference whatsoever". Basically, years of broadsheets lecturing on "generation apathy" and look who's apathetic now.

That still wasn't quite as lame as Howard Jacobson who, a couple of days later, boasted in the same paper: "I am temperamentally averse to demonstrations [...]. Any more than five human beings believing the same thing and congregating to say so are bound to be on a course that will lead to trouble. We are safe only when we act individually".

Or Toby Young in the Telegraph. "The student protesters are morally indistinguishable from the merchant bankers", he spouted. Are they really? Except that you'd be hard pressed if you could spot a single article where the same Mr Young uttered a word against the bankers. He'd rather go for the soft target, would he not, whether it's students on tuition fees or the spontaneous movement whose only request is that the superrich too don't get preferential treatment when it comes to tax in the age of "we're-all-in-this-together".

Because what they're doing is, "they're hurting ordinary shoppers [...], the poorest and most vulnerable", says Young. Who then follows with the predictable dollop of whataboutery: "why don’t [the protesters] patrol the streets of their home towns giving food and blankets to the homeless [instead]?".

Then there's Christina Patterson back at the Independent, as we already discussed on Saturday. Her particular targets, the celebrity supporters of Wikileaks and their "delicious sense of self-righteousness". Says she.

Nothing, however, as the supreme pontificating coming from Mary Ann Sieghart who, after three or four paragraphs of logical swirls, eventually brands all demonstrators as "anarchists". Whether Wikileaks, the students or the anti-tax avoidance protesters, they're all "intoxicated by a spirit of anarchy" - cue "a bunch of students in balaclavas [...] who go round smashing windows" - but no, she's not tarring them all with the same brush.

All that intellectual energy and all that newspaper ink to simply say: young people, we liked you more when you just watched Big Brother or the X-Factor. Now keep your head down again and stay supine.

Also on the subject: "Stay stupid".


Jackart said...

So. No-one's arguing that this tax avoidance is illegal.

So. Companies obey tax law put in place by a LABOUR government and this is OK, until a Conservative government gets in and then Waaaaaa!

This demonstrates the pathetic lack of self-awareness of the left. Fulminating against "the bankers" is just class war rhetoric, little different from fulminating against "the jews" or "the immigrants". It's just someone other to blame for economic woe.

"The rich" didn't cause this crisis. They didn't overstrech themselves to buy stuff they coudn't afford. It's the broad mass of middle and low income people who convinced themselves that the housing merrygoround would go on for ever facilitated by banks, who were in turn egged on by Governments, who wanted people to "get on the housing ladder" and therefore encouraged the banks to "increase access" to mortgages.

"The bankers" is a meaningless phrase. DO you mean the bri-nylon clad "advisors" on the high-street? Or is it city-boys? If so, are you including private client advisors, who can't really be blamed? Nor can equity traders. Nor, indeed can bond traders. What about hedge-funds? THey're not to blame either, though you probably think they are. It's not the CDO market, that stayed liquid (and unregulated).

It's just (some of) the highly regulated retail banks, lending to you and me which needed bailing out. And for that, we can all blame ourselves and the Government.

claude said...

I'm in a rush now but
I'll let your party chief answer that for you.

Charlie said...

Thanks for reminding me what a pair of idiots Toby Young and Howard Jacobson are. The latter's columns are always either incredibly pompous or incredibly depressing or both.

claude said...

I finally have some time to answer Jackart's delirious comment.

In order:
"So. No-one's arguing that this tax avoidance is illegal."
So? 42 day-detention without charge is legal.
Immigrant child detention is legal. It doesn't mean it's bloody right, does it?
The fact that we're the world's laughing stock with all the tax havens doesn't make it right, does it? The law needs to change asap. Now more than ever, Britain's ridiculously lax loopholes on tax need to be sorted out. The childlike argument that "Labour didn't change it either" is hardly justification for the Tories to do the same.

"So. Companies obey tax law put in place by a LABOUR government and this is OK, until a Conservative government gets in and then Waaaaaa!"

You really can't help it, can you? Everything has to be "but Labour too", "but also Labour", "Labour did that". If you have time to waste, why don't you take a look at the tons of blog posts I wrote in 2008-09, when LABOUR were in power, criticising the previous government's pathetic attitude towards the super rich.

Except, this is the bit where you come across as all over the place. Do you think Labour were wrong to be so kind to the multi-millionaires or not? Because, apparently, you still think that...

...""The rich" didn't cause this crisis. "
Yeah 'course they didnt. The plebs did, it shows the level of class snobbery you've got. Of course you've never been so skint to know what it's like be cajoled into an easy mortgage or one, two or five loan via sophisticated marketing techniques.

Because of course some desperate sod who's about to be kicked out of their home are supposed to be as clued up as a bank who's actively bombarded him with offers and prepared all the legal stuff and paperwork, right?

I mean, empathise with those less fortunate than you, mate, for fuck sake!

You've got to feel sorry for those poor banks, "forced", yeah, to give out millions of loans during the binge years, to anything that moved, from part-timers, to minimum wage workers, to teenagers, to casuals, to the unemployed and even to dogs (literally).

Is it even worth bothering with the dull roll of honour of all the people each of us knows who were pestered with unsolicited virtual money, credit cards, overdrafts, summer loans and christmas loans from all directions, or those who were actively encouraged to go into the red to incur charges?

They actively encouraged them, cajoled them, tempted them, harassed them, using the most sophisticated marketing techniques, ranging from dangling carrots to outright lies.


claude said...

(part two)

And you're trying to say a clueless 18 year old or a low-pay desperado should have known better -individually- than a top notch marketing department at an international bank!!!

Oh, because they tried to resist it so hard those poor banks. Never mind their dividens grew esponentially, like never before, parallel to the country's skyrocketing level of private debt. Coincidence, no doubt. You don't see that simple fact, do you. Of course it doesn't even cross your mind that if every single loan had been checked out properly and competently, let alone offered in the first place, less yachts would have been purchased.

I wish more people could read your comments, it would show the Tories' true colours. Always, and i mean A-L-W-A-Y-S defending the rich and the powerful come what may, even if it stares and you in the face with a neon sign that says "I DID IT".

Why is it that the old strawman that the banks are "not responsible" for people's incapacity to manage their own finances is usually made by those who've never had to struggle to pay the rent or an electricity bill? Those for whom there is little pain involved in turning down five Barclaycard offers in a month. Perhaps those whose wages are enough to pay for their tooth extraction instead of whacking it on their credit card out of desperation?

So innocent are UK banks, that -oh another magic coincidence - Britain is the land where 2/3 of all personal debt in the entire EU is. Are the French, the Italians or the Germans better at managing finances or could it be that their population wasn't subjected to such a toxic, clinical bombardment?

Tell a Frenchman or a German that 18-year-old students in the UK are still routinely showered with thousands of plastic money and "it's-your-own-fault-if-you-mismanage-it" and they'll laugh at you. Oh...Remind me, which country ended up bailing out the banks in the end?

the patriot said...

shame on you for still bothering with the newspapers; they're all lying fucks while creaming off £1 waste of fuckin money i say; interesting how the dumbass guardianistas always escape your leftist wrath they can't do no wrong i see.
oh and sack houllier.

Charlie said...

Yeah, that explains why he slates columnists in The Independent, that hotbed of right-wing thinking.

Stan Moss said...

I WOULD like to pick up on a couple of helpful points raised on this thread.

Sure Labour were guilty of not challenging what was going on but, to our Tory here, LET'S NOT RE-WRITE HISTORY.

Mass-lending in this country began under Margaret Thatcher when she:

- Abolished exchange controls;
- Ended the restrictions on building society lending;
- Abolished the restrictions on bank lending set up but the government before her;
- Abolished the Reserve Assets Ratio which made the banks hold AT LEAST 12,5% of their deposits in some specified assets;
- Abolished hire purchase restrictions.

All of the above took place between 1979 and 1982 *under Thatcher* and is what really gave birth to the mid to late 1980s credit explosion.