Quakers and Business review of Fraudcast News

Screenshot from 2014-07-29 16:02:27

I was delighted to get a full review of Fraudcast News in a recent issue of The Friend magazine. Below is an excerpt while this a link through to the complete article.

How Bad Journalism Supports Our Bogus Democracies – A Review

An article by Elizabeth Redfern that appeared in the 4th July 2014 edition of the Friend.

Press corruption is sadly a subject we’re now familiar with, from the press’s own coverage of the Leveson Inquiry and more recently the trial of Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson and others, who – in what might become the longest criminal trial in English history – are charged with phone hacking at the now-defunct News of the World tabloid. It would be nice to think that this is an unfortunate blip in an otherwise sparkling British press history. Certainly I hadn’t taken much notice of the inquiry or court case until I’d started to read Patrick’s book, when some familiar words started to nag at me.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under democracy, journalism, publishing

Fraudcast News reading and Q+A, London, Aug 1

Screenshot from 2014-07-18 15:21:44

When Patrick Chalmers hit on becoming a foreign news correspondent, he dreamed of somehow helping advance the cause of social justice around the world. When he eventually landed that dream job, he soon realised it had little to do with improving people’s lives. So he quit to work out where he’d gone wrong, in the process transforming himself into an author, activist and campaigner for better media and governance structures.

Among the results was Fraudcast News – How Bad Journalism Supports Our Bogus Democracies published in paperback and as a free PDF download. Patrick will read from the book and discuss how it relates to current political events at all levels, ranging from climate change inaction, renewed conflict in Iraq, Scottish independence or the rise of UKIP.

 

Screenshot from 2014-07-18 15:26:29

Leave a comment

Filed under democracy, publishing, video activism

Making peace in times of war – the heroes of Vietnam

Leave a comment

Filed under democracy, journalism, video activism

Farage: good in parts, awful in others

The Andrew Marr Show

Good comment piece in today’s Guardian newspaper. Couldn’t help wading into the comments section as per the following:

A more positive interpretation would be that the ineffectual attempts to destroy Ukip show the growing fragility of the carefully crafted management of what is sometimes called “the national conversation”. It suggests that in the future, there may be space for a more genuine plurality of ideas, views and politics than the carefully scripted, staged “rough and tumble” without content that masquerades as democracy in the rich world.

I certainly hope you’re right.

Farage is a funny and clever speaker on EU issues – this speech is a classic

I would never vote for him though, or UKIP, as on many issues he’s the same “free”-market champion as MPs in the Conservative, Labour and LibDem parties.

You could make the same analysis of treatment by the majority media, and the big three political parties, of the Scottish independence question.

This translates into a huge bias towards scare stories about the supposed consequences of voting yes versus a dearth of those that examine either the causes of an upsurge in independent thinking or the very positive possibilities of Scotland’s residents voting to govern themselves.

The model of Western “representative” democracy is dead – that’s what’s at stake in all of this. What we need is a radical reform of our existing systems – something that will need radically different media for us to do so.

Declaration of interest for moderators – I’ve written a book about the very same, as hotlinked in this post.

Leave a comment

Filed under democracy, journalism

Wikileaks and Assange – complicated but compulsory reading

I’ve let my thinking about Julian Assange and Wikileaks swing one way and then the other in the last 10 days – and make no apologies for what you might call being quick to change position but I’d rather say is being open minded. The work done by Wikileaks and its founder is so important that it bears time and attention to work out what’s going on as best we can.

Assange’s publisher Colin Robinson added some excellent perspective today in the Guardian, following on from what was a lengthy but revealing and insightful recent piece by would-be Assange ghost writer Andrew O’Hagan. It prompted me to write the following comment in response to the Guardian piece.

Great to have this counter point to O’Hagan’s piece – this is valuable material.

I disagree with you on this bit, the second sentence:

O’Hagan’s LRB piece is no part of an organised dirty tricks campaign. But by focusing as it does on Assange’s character defects, it ends up serving much the same purpose.

O’Hagan’s piece is essential to understanding where all the confusion arises from in all things Assange.

I read it as a huge admirer of what Assange has achieved. I concluded it thinking that Wikileaks and/or its founder were done – too difficult to work with to the point of taking themselves out of the equation on these issues.

Your piece has re-opened my thoughts on this – so I’m grateful for that.

Must get my copy of Cypherpunks.

Leave a comment

Filed under democracy, journalism, publishing, video activism

Popular savvy about finance – more than just money

Screenshot from 2014-02-25 11:28:49

 

Geoffrey Ingham, a Life Fellow of Christ’s College, Cambridge has weighed into openDemocracy’s Just Money debate with a worthwhile article called: “Whose money is it?” He talks about how money is created and the way that relates to power.

The piece is part of a wider series run by OurKingdom to mark the publication of Ann Pettifor’s e-book, Just Money: How Society Can Break the Despotic Power of Finance. I’ll certainly check that out.

The series explores the nature of money and the politics of the financial system.

I tried to post a comment before getting tied up in knots with the site password system.

Rather than abandoning it, I’m putting it here instead.

Good piece – I totally agree that, like it or not, we have as individuals to wrestle with ideas of how money is created and this article helps in that process. It is essential for people to get to grips with this in order to give needed context to wider societal questions of both poverty and environmental despoilation. I would also recommend the work of Positive Money UK (http://www.positivemoney.org/)

The author did not touch on the aspect of our money-creation system that is even more problematic for all living beings – which is how it acts as a motor for wrecking the planet for all its inhabitants. Debt-based money demands interest repayments alongside the principal, which means we must all perpetually consume or face economic collapse.

Yet if the economic system doesn’t collapse, or we don’t manage to transform it – along with the existing money-creation system at its core – we will face a far more problematic collapse of the eco-system itself. Nature doesn’t do compound growth except as cancer, epidemic or plague. We need a money system with that reality embedded inside it.

Leave a comment

Filed under democracy, journalism

United Kingdom – but for how long?

The Friend

This is an article I wrote for this week’s edition of the Fox Report in The Friend Magazine.

The Friend is the most widely read Quaker magazine in Britain. Its Fox Reports, of which the Democracy unmasked series is the latest, is the magazine’s investigative arm, funded by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust.

Patrick Chalmers reflects on the health of democracy in Britain. He
looks forward to the Scottish referendum, sits in on a Holyrood debate
on growth and hears how 38 Degrees and YouTube are the envy of
conventional politicians.

Public trust in British politicians and the institutions
they inhabit is in tatters – with more than half the
electorate wondering whether to bother turning out
to vote. Yet, despite public disdain for those thrown up
by the Westminster version of representative democracy,
many Britons are far from apathetic about politics itself.
Moves underway in Scotland imply an inevitable
transformation to UK politics. Just how radical a change
lies ahead for the Union?

Scotland’s eligible resident adults, probably including
anyone aged sixteen years or older, will soon get the
chance to wield huge influence over the future of British
politics. On Thursday 18 September 2014 those who do turn
up to vote will answer the simple yes-or-no question: ‘Should
Scotland be an independent country?’

The result will certainly set the speed of Scotland’s
political divorce from the Union but won’t halt
completely a process that is already well set. Yes or
no, the northern partner to a marriage spanning three
centuries is destined to drift further apart from its over-
sized mate to the South.

The Scots have run something of a political marathon
since voting for more devolved powers in the referendum
of 1997. In four elections since, the Scottish national
Party (SNP) has emerged from Labour’s shadow. The
outright majority it won in 2011 cleared the way for a
vote on full independence.

Paying lip service

In a recent television interview the comedian Russell
Brand said he didn’t vote because the system didn’t
represent his views. None of the political choices available
would stop the destruction of the environment or tackle
growing disparity between rich and poor, he said.

Those thinking Holyrood might do things differently
to Westminster, especially on the environment, shouldn’t
hold their breaths. I sat in on a sparsely attended debate
on the Regulatory Reform (Scotland) Bill and all
major parties held standard lines on what  ‘sustainable
economic growth’ might mean.

The pioneering book Limits to Growth, published in
1972, showed how exponentially increasing economies
and populations would quickly run into global resource
limits. Today’s politicians, not just in Scotland but across
all those places we lazily dub representative democracies,
pay no more than lip service to the paradox of infinite
growth on a finite planet.

Labour MSP Jenny Marra seemed at first to be fighting
a corner for the ‘Limits to Growth’ perspective. Not,
though, when the SNP’s Derek Mackay challenged her to
say whether her party supported sustainable economic
growth. Of course it did, she said, but not at the cost
of ‘everything else’, which she qualified as meaning
health and safety regulations. So, for all the chat in
Holyrood’s sparkly new chamber, the fundamental issue
lay undisturbed.

Fundamental political reforms

Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party for England
and Wales, certainly acknowledges the problem of
disaffection with politics. She’s not ready to give up on
elections though. ‘What happens next if you do that?’
she asks. ‘David Cameron isn’t going to say “all right, I’m
going to give up”.’

The Greens have long backed fundamental political
reforms in the UK. Their policies include introducing a
proportional voting system in place of first-past-the-post
for national elections and replacing the House of Lords
with a wholly elected chamber. They would also establish
a written constitution in place of the UK’s absurd
patchwork of statutes, treaties and court judgments. The
Greens also back economic stability within planetary
resources limits, not growth. The party’s problem is
getting sufficient votes to have an impact.

Bennett won her post as Green party leader in
September 2012 after an election in which just a quarter
of her party’s 12,000 or so eligible members took part.
She secured a majority in the third round on preference
vote redistribution. Those modest numbers compare with
barely more respectable ones for the UK’s three main
parties, which together account for only about one per
cent of the electorate. A parliamentary report published
in December 2012 gave Labour 193,000 members, the
Conservatives between 130,000 and 170,000 and the
Liberal Democrats 49,000.

38 Degrees

Conventional parties would kill for the near-two million
membership numbers enjoyed by 38 Degrees, a political
campaigning organisation aiming to work for positive
societal change, or to have people tune in to their
messages in anything like the millions drawn to Russell
Brand’s Paxman television interview on YouTube (More
than 9.6 million people had watched it by early January).

Maddy Carroll, a campaign director at 38 Degrees,
listed members’ top concerns as protecting the NHS,
finding alternatives to the current economic system,
regulating banks, capping the bonuses of bankers, ending
zero-hours contracts and clamping down on tax dodging
by global corporations. ‘What joins us all together is this
belief in holding those in power to account –
corporations, governments and other entities. Using that
model, we have had a huge amount of success,’ she said.

The organisation, as guided by members, is less
inclined towards fundamental political reform, more
intent on campaigns about policy specifics. 38 Degrees
has had a few stand-out wins by channelling popular
opposition to specific policies. It certainly helped
halt government plans to sell off the national forests
in 2011. Members’ efforts included gathering half a
million signatures against the sale, mobilising a hundred
thousand people to email or call their MPs and raising
the cash for ads and a YouGov poll.

Yet those same members failed to halt the government’s
flagship Health and Social Care Act 2012, which
farmed out large chunks of health care provision to
commissioning groups. Despite the setback, 38 Degrees
members continue fighting government health policies,
in court actions and case-by-case campaigns.

Popular education and empowerment

In these still-early days of mass membership campaigning
groups perhaps their most important work will prove to
be in popular education and empowerment. Carroll
highlights the work done by local 38 Degrees member
groups in pressuring their local MPs, holding meetings
and building networks outside the confines of old-style
party boundaries.

The best of individual MPs, once in office, soon find
the limits to their power and independence. A case in
point is Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston. She won
an open primary in her south Devon constituency and
then election to office in 2010. She has since struggled
for insider influence given her readiness to criticise the
government publicly.

Not all is yet lost, according to Anthony Zacharzewski,
founder of the Democratic Society. His membership
organisation attempts to promote democracy and new
forms of governance by encouraging citizen participation
and bridge-building projects linking the public to those
in power.

On good days Zacharzewski, an ex-Whitehall civil
servant, believes it is possible to radically transform
both the public accountability and transparency of UK
representative democracy. On bad days he’s less optimistic
about chances for orderly change. ‘It’s a much more slow-
burning crisis than people would imagine, it’s more a
hollowing out. The thing I find much more positive is
that there’s still a desire for representative democracy but
people want it to be more representative,’ he said.

What he foresees is something of a transition to mass
participation in decision-making. Perhaps something
that looks a bit like representative democracy but which
involves MPs working in very different ways to how
they do today. All of which sounds reasonable enough
while also being frustratingly far off for all those in
Scotland facing their imminent referendum.

So, will Scots shy away from taking back power over their
political destinies or kick the Unionist can further down
the road until the day reforms crop up for all?

Lesley Riddoch, an author, journalist and commentator,
hopes her fellow Scots will opt for power even though
she’s not yet convinced they’ll dare: ‘No one has been
here before, so who knows?’ Riddoch has her
ears closer to the ground than most, criss-crossing the
country to promote her book Blossom: What Scotland
Needs to Flourish.
What she hears consistently is people’s
frustration with politics as usual. ‘They are sick of
platitudes from politicians on either side,’ she says. ‘We
know we are not hearing authentic responses.’

So she ignores opinion polls showing a hefty margin
in favour of the Union. She also recalls the SNP’s record
of repeatedly springing political surprises despite being
ignored, patronised and ridiculed in turn by various
versions of incumbent power. She says: ‘They have done
nothing but pull rabbits out of hats. In 2011, they were
still behind in the polls a couple of months before the
election.’

With three centuries of history on their backs, that
would be some rabbit and some hat.

Leave a comment

Filed under democracy, journalism