Comcast, Verizon et al seemed to threaten ‘Net Neutrality’ every other month of Barack Obama’s tenure, but now that Trumpo has blundered into office, knocking over everything and insulting foes and allies alike with his clown-car diplomacy, of course the jackals are back hovering around the juicy carcass of the internet. What this latest siege against internet freedom teaches us once and for all is that the Republican party, and Neoliberal capitalists in general are hypocritical bullshit artists of the highest order. They talk of the hallowed ‘Free Markets’ which can’t actually exist in a reality consisting of humans with nefarious agendas and governments in the pockets of wannabe monopolists. Then, when an actual free market is created in a virtual world; the Worldwide Web, a market where everyone has equal access to promote their products, ideas and views, the parasitical monopolists oppose it because it does not allow currently successful companies to bribe the ISP gatekeepers restrict access to competitors, while still shamelessly promoting their apparent desired utopia of ‘free markets’! Of course, this is merely a duplication of what currently happens in the physical world, which is a series of imperfect markets which, when loosely regulated, tend towards monopolies and cartel behaviour. Now, confident they have suitably ruined their immediate physical world, they’re seeking to throttle competition in the far-too-egalitarian world of cyberspace, and depressingly, the corrupt moron masquerading as President, along with his cavalcade of sponsored cronies, will probably make it happen.

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‘Suicide Blonde’

Ah. Brexit. The Tory Birthday present with a bomb inside that nobody wants to be left holding when the clock stops ticking. How did we ever get here?

 

Since Thatcher purged her ‘wet’ One Nation cabinet members and dropped her drawers for corporate lobbyists, there has been a growing fringe of hardcore Neoliberals in the Conservative party. Their ultimate goal is what they see is Thatcher’s dream: a state that is no more than custodians of the military and parts of the judiciary. Everything else not only owned and ran by private capital, but hardly regulated at all and paying peppercorn tax at a rate of something close to zero percent. Globalisation moved this dystopian fantasy into view, because it meant easy movement of capital and cheap labour. If they could only remove pesky, burdensome “red tape” like paying workers’ a legal minimum rate or having them work less than 12 hour days, the sun may yet rise on their utopia.

 

The two previous insurmountable barriers to this Randian wet dream were: parliamentary accountability, and the dreaded EU. With the gleeful assistance of Rupert Murdoch and his cronies, the first was mostly neutered with the creation of New Labour. Blair would keep the seat warm and not renovate the façade, so as soon as a financial crash came, the Tories could continue rabidly asset-stripping and moving towards their promised land. 2010 came, and the Neoliberals, who by now had significantly infected all three major political parties, attempted to seize the spoils of crisis. The never-less-than hysterical right-wing press managed to force David Cameron over the line in coalition with the relatively cowed Neoliberal Democrats. The narrative to justify the asset-stripping was as obvious as it was false: the crash was caused by too much public spending and not so much the bankers that supported and financially propped up the Tory party. And of course, this narrative was forced home day after day along with classic divide-and-rule bogeymen: chiefly the right’s old favourite scapegoats of the poor and foreigners. They compressed the complexities of an entire sovereign currency issuing nation’s budgeting into “living within our means”, as if the international markets may at any minute decide to call in our debts by seizing the entire island and repatriating British citizens to Calais.

 

Needless to say, Britons’ general apathy and/or lack of critical thinking capabilities meant that this worked like a charm. Perhaps the biggest success of the Tories’ seven years (so far) of enriching the elites and impoverishing most others was that they simultaneously oversaw the slowest recovery on record, while maintaining an impression of competence with most of the public, but also foisting blame for any adverse side-effects of their warped strategy on two targets: the last Labour administration, and the EU: the hardcore Neoliberals’ nemesis. This proved to be a very misguided strategy for David Cameron, a man so naturally smug with imagined superiority he practically glistened like a plump ham joint basted with privilege.

 

When 2015 rolled into view and things hadn’t demonstrably improved in the economy, Cameron called in master of ad hominem campaigning, Lynton Crosby, who successfully flung enough dung about a Labour-SNP coalition to squeak the shyster back into office, minus his coalition partners. This was actually bad news to Cameron, who had gambled that he would once more be in a coalition with the Lib Dems, absolving him of the obligation to hold the EU referendum. Cameron of course had previous for bombastic hubris, but kept on rolling the dice as he lost the house and car, by deciding Crosby’s tactics of campaigning would be well suited to the ‘remain’ campaign. ‘Project Fear’ generally involved patronising any waverers to death; evoking black rain, locusts and the earth being drowned in a tide of molten metal, rather than attempting to succinctly explain the positive aspects of being within the European Union. It didn’t help that another prominent feature of the now failed campaign was George Osborne’s delirious cocaine smirk.

 

Disaster was predictable: the ‘Leave’ campaign simply used Conservative tactics against them: form a fallacious narrative of blame against a large entity, easy to sloganise on memes and news bulletins and repeat the demonstrable lies endlessly with greater vigour. They had the added benefit of appearing to be the underdog fighting the Establishment (despite having many of the more extreme and unpleasant members of the Establishment in their camp). The result was a new triumph for the kind of aggressive demagoguery that Donald Trump would later utilise in an even more debased strategy of trash-talking anyone who disagreed as if he was a worried boxer at an endless weigh-in, and implying any contradictory evidence to his agenda was filtered through a lens of opposition and couldn’t be trusted (ironically calling out the very real elite bias in the mainstream media, but twisting it to suit his own purpose with a deftness that belies his generally astounding lack of tact or intellect).

 

Cameron of course scuttled away at the first sign of hard work as his historic election victory was immediately forgotten and his name forever associated with the most stupendous act of economic suicide this nation has ever inflicted on itself. We had a few weeks in which we genuinely had to imagine our next leader would be a clown, a goblin or a batty old reactionary. It’s hard to remember just how much of a collective sigh the nation emitted when we discovered it was only to be the failed Home Secretary; a minister with worrying authoritarian instincts who repeatedly failed her own immigration targets, made up stories and bought anti-immigrant vans to whip up her nationalist wing, and seemingly had an obsession with ignoring judicial oversight. Her nickname of ‘submarine’ to indicate she tended to duck under the surface when things got tough, was not analysed in the press at the time.

 

Leaving out the failed press hatchet jobs on Jeremy Corbyn being exposed to the full in the snap election, just what the hell are the government doing right now? We’re a year down the line from Article 50 and still we’re going round the mulberry bush with the “best deal for the country” nonsense. May can’t support or endorse any position without outraging one section of her MPs, and the wider picture is that the Neoliberal hardcore earlier referred to earlier, comprising of people like John Redwood, Iain Duncan-Smith and Jacob Rees-Mogg, see their one glorious opportunity for extricating the UK from any remaining handbrake to their low-tax, low-regulation, rentier’s paradise, and they’re not going to let the opportunity slip. They’d rather take down their own PM (and, potentially, party) than compromise now. If it all goes wrong, they’ll use the press to foist the blame onto Hammond, May and the ‘treacherous remoaners’ no doubt. And, if their dearest wish comes to pass, amid the economic ruin, disgraced minister Liam Fox will be desperately offering up every UK public asset to American venture capitalist parasites. This will be ‘disaster capitalism”s finest hour, if the Brexiteers just play it right. That’s what’s it stake with this fiasco. Be warned, whichever way you voted. The worst will not be the wreckage, but the looters which follow.

I noticed Nick Robinson has recently been writing about the perceived threat to “proper journalism” from the slew of popular left-wing blogs challenging the Establishment perspective on everything from economic orthodoxy to social justice. I genuinely approached his piece with an open mind, but sadly, despite Robinson being one of the more reasonable-minded and less dogmatic BBC reporters, it was simply another tribal piece defending the people and institutions he represents, rather than an honest debate about the reasons that people may not trust the Establishment news narratives. Lots of implications that because bloggers aren’t paid, they can’t be trusted, whereas journalists, who are paid, are therefore more trustworthy by virtue of this, as well as referencing veiled insults implying that people who read these blogs are dripping with confirmation bias.

This wantonly disregards the reasons behind the mass disenchantment with the mainstream media, while lumping in unhinged conspiracy theorists with people genuinely sick of corporate hegemony and its cheerleaders. As Noam Chomsky famously skewered Andrew Marr: “I’m not saying you don’t believe in what you’re saying, I’m saying that if you believed something different, you wouldn’t be sitting there.” Establishment members might have liberal ideas about gay rights and helping the poor, but they will never question or criticise the framework of the status quo, as it would work against theirs and their employer’s interests. This is an unavoidable fact, no matter what Robinson argues. I’m sure he convinces himself that every day he’s out there challenging injustice and fighting the good fight, but the BBC still never really questions military intervention or neoliberal economics, despite their widespread unpopularity with the general public.

The demise of the BBC from a state-funded politically neutral organisation to a lapdog and mouthpiece of the Establishment seems complete when we see Laura Kuenssberg found guilty by the BBC trust of misrepresenting Jeremy Corbyn’s view on the ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy for suspected terrorists. The BBC used to welcome new orthodoxies; now it follows the Establishment line of ‘ridicule, ignore and discredit’.

Journalists don’t realise the general malaise is not entirely in what they broadcast, but what they omit. I’m sure the BBC will argue on Newsnight that it gives air to rhetoric which challenges Establishment thinking, but it’s not good enough to preach to the already curious. They know full well that most people only watch primetime news, and it should ensure it always offers alternative perspectives or contextualisation on soundbites. We’re consistently told we’re in debt, and the BBC leaves the story like this, rather than asking why this is a bad thing: what ultimately would happen in a default situation and how would this occur? How can a sovereign currency issuer go “bankrupt”? How many citizens should suffer before it’s considered too high a cost? Are we going to get any details on the Brexit strategy other than crossing our fingers and blasting jingoism out of the rectum of Dacre and Murdoch’s shitrags?

I heard a forgettable talking head recently speaking about an “existential threat to liberal democracy” across the world. Let me make a very simple hypothesis for these “experts”: liberal democracy can function very well if you STOP LETTING THE VERY RICH HOARD ALL THE LOOT.

 

People will always get disgruntled at immigration, mechanisation and a changing world, but nothing focuses the mind like seeing your standard of living steadily decline while those at the top are hiding untold riches in island paradises. If the Establishment stops repeating the mistakes of the 1930s; if it stops allowing globalisation to be used essentially as a racket for multinational plunder and money laundering under the guise of “investment”, it might still stand a chance of redeeming itself.

 

I won’t hold my breath.

These current times seem very reminiscent of the dying days of the Major administration. Remember when they were under fire from all sections of the media, even print, couldn’t get any Tory legislation passed, and people were just itching to boot them out of office for a fresh start? Now we regularly see sacrificial ministers wheeled out to be plucked like quivering chickens by the usually gentle and convivial Andrew Marr; answering questions in the irritatingly evasive manner of a suspect waiting for their lawyer to arrive. Mistress Mayhem AKA The Maybot ™ AKA The Feeding Seal has discovered that, much to her chagrin, the left were right all along: that her honeymoon period was almost entirely superficial, down to a combination of soft interviewing, the lauding of her by the press and their relentless hatchet jobs and character assassinations on her opposite number.

 

The inescapable problem for the Tories is that they have boxed themselves in with their narrow ideological obsessions. When the global financial crash struck in 2008, Gordon Brown was at the helm, and by 2010, following his clandestine insult of a voter being inadvertently broadcast, it should have been a cakewalk for the Tories, and they almost even blew that. As it was, the coalition with the LibDems should have suited David Cameron down to the ground. He could play to his natural liberal instincts and put into place his own vision for the country, which may have been closer to a LibDem vision than a Thatcherite Tory one.

 

Unfortunately for him, his party had been packed with raving neoliberals since Thatcher’s day, itching for further privatisation, deregulation and tax cuts for big business. ‘One Nation’ patrician conservatism was outdated; an anachronism. This may not have been too much of an issue if Cameron was smart, dedicated and strong, but he proved to be none of those things as he gave the Chancellor’s job to his old Bullingdon chum George Osborne, rather than the eminently better-qualified LibDem Vince Cable. Suddenly, we went from “coalition in service of the country in its hour of need” to “coalition in service of forwarding the interests of Tory party hard ideologues and big donors”.

 

Osborne was a proper neoliberal in the strictest sense: socially and economically. He idolised Thatcher, and embodied the worst Tory instincts that come with mindless privilege and a cocaine addiction. As far as he was concerned, he could ‘learn’ the chancellorship ‘on the job’, and soon treated cutting expenditure as some kind of game of Monopoly. Some Tories have been accused of reducing the state’s role to ‘custodian of the military’ and using war simply as a colonial tool. Osborne took a similarly reckless myopic approach to the treasury, seemingly taking gleeful abandon in slashing benefits to non-Tory voters, and privatising everything he could lay his hands on, even bragging of it as an end in itself. He clearly understood ‘disaster capitalism’, and the opportunities it presents for furthering nefarious ideological agendas which would otherwise prove publically unpalatable. As long as he kept blowing the ‘deficit’ trumpet, the Emperor’s clothes could remain just about visible to the oblivious masses.

 

When Cameron quietly dropped his ‘Big Society’ idea, most came to the reductive conclusion that Cameron was simply an empty vessel: an acceptable housewife-friendly face to front the completion of the UK’s asset stripping by the Tory neoliberals; a leader whose background in PR would stand him in good stead for bullshitting his way through the myriad social and economic issues Osborne’s demented slashing and burning would wreak.

 

Now though, finally, the tide seems to be turning. Whether the reality of Brexit fallout has been grasped, or people have just seen through the contradictory rhetoric of “all in it together”, the Tories have lost their majority, despite again being investigated of cheating on election expenditure, and having huge swathes of the mainstream media dancing to their tune.

 

Separating Theresa May’s abysmal campaign from the effectiveness of the party in general, an obviously oversimplified hypothesis of their failings would be that they do not know how not to do what they’ve done since Thatcher’s day, despite society and events moving on immeasurably. When Thatcher was handing every public asset to the private sector, it was new. You could disagree with it, but you couldn’t prove categorically that it would fail. Memories of the ‘Winter of Discontent’ sustained Thatcher’s crushing of trade unions and selling off of state monopolies: the context has changed in these last 40 years. Neoliberalism is a discredited economic ideology and a busted flush: 2008 was its natural death.

 

But rather than be flexible, the Tory ideologues have only one thought process: more privatisation and deregulation. Only, there is hardly anything left to sell, and it is now hugely unpopular with the general public. Their ‘zombie neoliberalism’ is fooling no one. People can see the connection between the Grenfell Tower disaster and the wider narrative where people are only valued for their economic power and big business literally gets away with murder in pursuit of profit.

 

They no longer have an aura of competence, or a plausible narrative for their plundering of state assets. How can they say more cuts are necessary when they’ve had 7 years to deal with the deficit and failed miserably? Who will be inspired to welcome more misery and cutbacks when they’ve seen no positive results from the 7 years they’ve already endured? Did they really think nobody would notice the stealth abolition of the NHS?

 

The Conservatives have managed to alienate and piss off most of the public sector, including the people we tend to value the most: doctors, police and firefighters, while propagating a culture of racism, class discord and anti-intellectualism. And the only plan they have to satiate these people is to tell them to suck it up because Brexit is the only thing that matters in the world, but they can’t tell us anything about what its aftermath will look like.

 

Perhaps I’m jumping the gun: record numbers still voted for the worst manifesto I have ever known from a major party, and a leader who is seemingly terrified of people unless they’re subservient acolytes. But a leopard can’t change its spots. Either the Tories start ripping off more Labour policies, or they will continue claiming the state can’t do anything positive other than bending over for big business. I cannot see either inspiring again, particularly when it becomes clear that Brexit was a huge mistake. A purge of the neoliberals may take a decade, but surely it is the only cure for this death spiral for the party that seemed unassailable just a fortnight ago.

We’ve just witnessed a seismic event in our national history; I’m fairly certain of that. The Grenfell Tower disaster will be talked about for weeks, and written about for decades. The working classes, who have generally been patronised, written off and demonised by the media and establishment since Thatcher’s day, have a voice again, but only in the aftermath of a delirious nightmare come true.

 

You cannot listen to any of the residents’ stories without welling up with grief or fury at the injustice of this catastrophe. Mothers throwing children from high-rise windows; frantic narrow escapes involving vaulting over piles of corpses; trapped people screaming in desperation as death enveloped them. This must have been as close to a manifestation of Hell as the human mind could conceive.

 

Safe in my family postwar council home, I got up and watched the news footage in genuine astonishment. My first thought, other than horror at the people caught in the nightmare, was the intensity and scale of the inferno. How could a modern building be so consumed so quickly? Even my modest knowledge of fire prevention told me that fires do not spread like that unless there is an accelerant involved; certainly not if there are sprinklers or fire retardant material on every floor. The reports confirm the first response team arrived a mere six minutes after the alarm was raised, and yet the building was absolutely engulfed from the fourth to top floors as it was still being battled, and took hours to bring under control.

 

People disparaging any mention of political decisions (and ideologies) in the context of this horror are disrespecting every victim of this utterly avoidable tragedy. A few things swirled around my mind when the wretched scene had sunk in; was this another case of neglect from private companies cutting corners on safety in tower blocks not meant for affluent residents? Subsequent reports heavily imply that recent refurbishment seemed to concentrate more on making the outside of the building more pleasing to the eye of the wealthy denizens across the way, than ensuring every floor had basic fire prevention and safety measures implemented. It was also revealed that a resident group’s previous warnings were ignored. Perhaps some zealous ministers will think twice about using their favoured “bonfire of red tape” idiom from now on, for this is ‘deregulation culture’ writ large.

 

The disgusting irony of that phrase in this context also brings to mind former London Mayor Boris Johnson’s decision to close numerous London fire stations, as well as telling a critic of this policy to “get stuffed” in his own trademark infantile manner. Boris himself is of course renowned for blowing over £320k on water cannons that were later declared illegal and had to be sold unused; the notion that water jets should be used to protect citizens from the worst effects of devastating conflagrations apparently less desirable than using them to potentially blind protestors to the corpulent gibbon.

 

Neoliberalism should have been laid to rest in 2008, when the inevitable culmination of its ideology in the finance sector saw it bring the world economy to its knees. But then Cameron and his coalition of chaos decided to apply defibrillation, and its zombie version rose to begin cannibalising the few aspects of the system that could be seen as remotely positive. Jeremy Corbyn’s success in the snap election has cast a shadow over its immediate future, but this disaster should be the last rites for this sickening cult of individualism, corporate greed and abdication of state responsibility to its people.