By Jomo Sanga Thomas*
(‘Plain Talk’, Dec. 20, 2019)
The election of Trump in 2016, Bolsanaro in Brazil in 2018 and Boris Johnson in the UK last week, has brought to the fore yet again the “triumph” of right-wing populism and the role of dark money in politics. To understand these developments, we highly recommend Jane Mayer’s well-researched book “Dark Money, the hidden history of billionaires behind the rise of the radical right”. In the text, Mayer looked at the many ways in which ideas that were decidedly unpopular with voters gained respectability and, in some cases, tip the electoral scales.
Very rich people, she said, pool their vast resources and fund an interlocking array of organisations that work in tandem to influence and ultimately control mass media, academic institutions, think tanks, the courts, statehouses, Congress and ultimately the presidency. In turn, all these billions spent to influence political outcome are written off as tax-deductible ‘philanthropy.’
Read on as Caitlin Johnstone reveal how this anti-democratic practice brought Boris Johnson to PM’s office in the UK.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I have here at my fingertips indisputable proof that egregious election meddling took place in the United Kingdom on Thursday.
“Before you get all excited, no, it wasn’t the Russians. It wasn’t the Chinese or the Iranians. I am not going to draw in millions of credulous viewers waiting with bated breath for a bombshell revelation of an international conspiracy that will invalidate the results of the election. In fact, hardly anyone will even care because this election interference has been happening right out in the open and was perfectly legal. And nobody will suffer any consequences for it.
“Nobody will suffer any consequences for interfering in the UK election because the ones doing the interfering were extremely powerful, and that’s who the system is built to serve.
“Boris John won a landslide victory. Numerous other factors went into this result, including most notably a Labour Party ambivalently straddling an irreconcilable divide on the issue of Brexit, but it is also undeniable that the election was affected by a political smear campaign that was entirely unprecedented in scale and vitriol in the history of western democracy.
“This smear campaign was driven by billionaire-controlled media outlets, along with intelligence and military agencies, as well as state media like the BBC.
“Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has been described as the most smeared politician in history, and this is a fair description. Journalist Matt Kennard compiled documentation of dozens of incidents in which former and current spooks and military officials collaborated with media institutions to portray Corbyn as a threat to national security.
“Journalistic accountability advocates like Media Lens and Jonathan Cook have been working for years to compile evidence of the mass media’s attempts to paint Corbyn as everything from a terrorist sympathizer to a Communist, to a Russian asset, to an IRA supporter, to a closet anti-Semite. Recently, The Grayzone documented how establishment narrative manager Ben Nimmo was enlisted to unilaterally target
“Corbyn with a fact-free Russia gate-style conspiracy theory in the lead-up to the election, a psyop that was uncritically circulated by both right-wing outlets like The Telegraph as well as ostensibly “left”-wing outlets like The Guardian.
“Just as Corbyn’s advocacy for the many over the super rich minority saw him targeted by billionaire media outlets, his view of Palestinians as human beings saw him targeted by the Israel Lobby; Corbyn, a lifelong opponent of anti Semitism was smeared as an anti-Semite.
“The historically unprecedented smear campaign that was directed at Corbyn from right wing forces outside, and from within his own party had an effect. If you say this on social media, you will get a ton of comments telling you you’re wrong, telling you every vote against Labour was exclusively due to the British people not wanting to live in a Marxist dystopia, telling you it was exclusively because of Brexit, totally denying any possibility that the years of deceitful mass media narrative management that British consciousness was pummelled with day in and day out prior to the election, had any impact whatsoever upon its results.
“Right. Sure guys. Persistent campaigns to deliberately manipulate people’s minds using mass media, have no effect on their decisions at all. I am not claiming here that the billions of dollars worth of free mass media reporting that was devoted to smearing Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party had a greater effect on the election results than Brexit and other strategic stumbles in the party. I’m just saying that it had a much greater effect than the few thousand dollars Russian nationals spent on social media memes in the US, which the American political/media class has been relentlessly shrieking about for three years. To deny that a media smear campaign the size and scope of that directed at Corbyn had an effect is the same as denying that advertising, a trillion-dollar industry, has an effect.
“To accept that dark money influences election outcome, means that the very rich and government agencies indisputably interfered in the British election, to an exponentially greater extent than anything the Russians are even alleged to have done. Yet, according to British law it was perfectly legal, and according to British society, it was perfectly acceptable. It’s perfectly legal and acceptable for powerful individuals to have a vastly greater influence on a purportedly democratic election than any of the ordinary individuals voting in it.
“A free and healthy society would not work this way. A free and healthy society would view all forms of manipulation as taboo and unacceptable. A free and healthy society would not allow the will of members of one small elite class to carry more weight than the will of anyone else. A free and healthy society would give everyone an equal voice at the table and look after everyone’s concerns. It certainly wouldn’t tolerate a few individuals who already have far too much abusing their power and wealth to obtain even more.”
For all the foregoing reasons, we have always been opposed to dark money influence in politics. We have long called for campaign finance reform and call on all our people to exercise vigilance as SVG prepares for the 2020 elections.
*Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].