Bewitched, Baffled and Bewildered By William Bowles

By William Bowles
featured writer
Dandelion Salad
26 November 2008

“Whatever else yesterday’s great budget gamble aspired to do, one thing was left unattended to: the thing which is the central disaster at the core of the financial crisis. That thing is, of course, the lack of credit coming from the banks. And there’s no sign that anyone is going to be able to force the banks to do anything. But tonight we’re asking why.“ Indeed, there are an awful lot of “whys” when it comes to the banking sector. I’m beginning to wonder whether I’ve been in some way asleep for some portion of it. Did I miss any senior bankers being arraigned in front of the Commons treasury select committee? Have I missed the attorney general sizing up who she can move against in the criminal law courts?

“It seems that whilst these activities have been going on across the Atlantic, nothing is to happen here. Faisal Islam is looking at how credit might be got moving, and we’ll see what we can do on the other matters. — Snowmail, Channel 4 News, 25 November, 2008

Now who is speaking with forked tongue here? Let me get this straight: is Jon Snow giving us his opinions on the cause of the capitalist crisis, or is this the editorial line of Channel 4 News, because I know I’m baffled by this admission of total ignorance of the facts of the situation?

Either, Snow is saying that Channel 4’s ‘news’ mavens, have, over the preceding years, misled the viewing public into thinking that the economy was solid, when in fact they had no idea one way or the other what the economy would do, except on a day-to-day basis, and even that could go pear-shaped.

Or, he’s admitting to the editorial bias implicit in every piece of news ‘analysis’ as being fixed from the getgo, simply because ‘news’ is a business, just like every other business and hews to the line in its almost mystical belief in the power of the ‘market’. ‘Cept when it fails of course.

Hence Snow’s confusion, may not actually be his but that of his editorial masters who are caught between a (Northern) rock and a hard place in trying explain what’s going on without ‘giving the game away’.

It’s an interesting tightrope walk to watch with Snow? now asking ‘why aren’t we throwing all the banking bosses in jail for completely screwing up the economy?

But it’s not their fault, they’ve only been doing what the system was set up to do, namely make money in a free-for-all setup with virtually no regulation to at least ameliorate the most extreme peaks and troughs of capitalism ie, the Keynesian ’solution’.

The Times today, 25 November, carried a totally back to the Cold War days head ‘Into the red’ and a big cartoon of Gordon Brown holding a Red Flag with a pound symbol instead of a Hammer & Sickle on it. And note that Brown has ‘workers’ clothes on complete with clof cap. Not exactly subtle is it, but then who reads The Times except those who love this stuff?

Into the red eh? And what a dreadful pun. The capitalist class is fighting back! The corporate press is full of all kinds of dire warnings of impending doom, “New Labour is Dead” read the headline in the Daily Mail. Long Live New Labour! It seems that it’s alright to give away billions to the banks and their shareholders but not to you and me.

Socialism rears its ugly head. I wish! All these ‘free market’ wallers are gnashing their teeth, their whole mystique, built up over the years has come crashing down in just a few short weeks.

Back to the Snowmail

“That thing is, of course, the lack of credit coming from the banks. And there’s no sign that anyone is going to be able to force the banks to do anything.”

Come on Jon, if the government really wanted to do something about it, they would, but just like Channel 4 News, they too are caught between a (Northern) rock and hard place. They too, can’t admit that the neo-liberal economic model which was a crock-of-shit in the first place, is a complete and abject failure.

So dump on some corporate whizz-kids with computers, who are otherwise without a shred of conscience (or perhaps consciousness) as to the consequences of their actions. Their bosses too, are driven by the bottom line. All deregulation did was give them a longer piece of rope with which to hang us all.

But this is the thing with ‘personality-driven’ news, it’s extremely insidious, it’s akin to actually allowing a Jehovah’s Witness into your home to brainwash your kids. It’s gotten personal what with Snow’s little ‘witticisms’ some bordering on cynical comments on events. The guy is in your living room!

Hey, just give me the facts, just the facts’, but then the ‘facts’ make uncomfortable reading. And didn’t we have a ‘dry-run’ back when the dotcom bubble burst? That was all powered by funny money as well, money made from financial speculation in a self-referential system driven by greed and the thought of having a license to print money.

Thus the capitalist press harks back to cruder times, even when its their own servants doing the deal! Is there not a certain irony in the situation, the press crying ‘Red’ but unfortunately, there are no Reds, so they have to turn Gordon Brown into Geogi Brownovsky.

They hate having to admit what it is patently obvious to anyone, namely that capitalism in systemically incapable of solving these periodic crises. Left to itself, it would normally ride it out, come what may, war, pestilence or whatever and start once more, the business of accumulating capital.

The problem they confront is that without an enemy in the form of socialism, they have no explanations, no excuses, no one to blame except individuals. Which is why the media have raised the spectre that once haunted Europe, dare we speak its name? Bolshevism and a pretty bastardized one at that, but one that fits New Labour to a tee with its quasi-Stalinist streak.

This is a truly peculiar crisis, in that having reared a public on some Tesco-flavoured good life they can’t simply dump them, at least not in vast swathes as Thatcher did in the 1980s, decimating entire communities. They are truly afraid of the monster that they’ve created and in a sense Snow speaks for them, well he’s as good a measure as any that they have to hand.

Behind all the rhetoric is a paradox, in order to ‘kick-start’ the economy as they put it, they have to get people to buy things but without the usual flow of credit. Roughly 65% of the UK’s GDP is consumer spending, the rest is almost all financial dealings. Go figure. So a system that rocks along almost solely on credit is buggered, hence Snow’s cry of realization and disbelief.

Welcome to the real world Jon Snow.


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4 thoughts on “Bewitched, Baffled and Bewildered By William Bowles

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  3. Perhaps a proper title would be ‘Bewitched, Befuddled and Bemused’ ~

    I once hired a wondrous assistant, formerly (and now since hence) PA to various celebs, who refused direct deposit payroll, insiting on avoiding banks, working only with ‘credit unions’.

    Admittedly I’ve no comprehension of the various organizations of ‘thrifts’, but I see now she was way hipper than we who make these small businesses who sustain more than half of payroll, which federal law requires we subscribe to a ‘bank’.

    Now I begin to get it.

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