An unholy alliance: The Media, the State and Big Business By William Bowles

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By William Bowles
Featured Writer
Dandelion Salad
Crossposted at Strategic Culture Foundation
19 December 2009

Readers might not be very familiar with Private Eye, the UK’s one and only satirical magazine that’s been going for decades and long a thorn in the side of the Establishment in spite of the fact that its editors are very much a part of the Establishment. But then this why they get the ‘inside dope’ on the corruption and other nefarious ‘dealings’ that occupy the ruling elite who assist their business pals in ripping off the public purse.

For me as a lifelong adsorber of information of all kinds, PE’s major strength is in its inside info on the relationship between (big) business and the state, whether at the national or local level. Pretty much every major scandal that finally breaks in the mainstream press, for example the Trafigura disaster was reported in PE first. The oil trading company Trafigura dumped thousands of tons of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast, 31,000 people were injured by the foul stuff and 16 died.[1]

When the story finally broke in the corporate press, Trafigura tried to get the story squashed and they hired the solicitors Carter-Ruck to get an injunction forbidding publication of news about the catastrophe Trafigura had unleashed on The Ivory Coast (which succeeded, but only for a while, see below). Affectionately known in the pages of PE as Carter-Fuck, it is a company that seems to get mentioned in almost every issue.

“Messrs Carter-Fuck, London’s most vainglorious solicitors, tout for business by boasting of their matchless skills in “reputation management”. — ‘Carter-Rucking Hell’, Private Eye, No.1248, 30 Oct-12 Nov, 2009

The story concerns a secret injunction that Carter-Ruck obtained that actually gagged Parliament from talking about things Trafiguran. It’s called a super-injunction[2] that “anonymises” the names of those involved in the legal proceedings (the gag order on the media talking about things Trafiguran even in Parliament). Eye calls this “censorship by judicial process” and Carter-Ruck are the experts at it.

The UK has the most egrarious libel laws on the planet, as well as the notorious ‘gag’ order, and PE has been sued for libel over and over again down the years, it’s only PE’s rich ‘patrons’ that have saved it from oblivion time and again.[3]

To illustrate just how intermingled the state and big business are, in the same issue of PE there’s a very short story about the government’s financial involvement with, you guessed it, Trafigura. In this story, Trafigura did manage not to get mentioned in Parliament.

It concerns the unmentionable relationship between Trafigura, the Commonwealth Development Corporation (CDC)[4], a publicly owned company and a “dubious” mining company called Anvil[5], a company that is actually part of ‘Toxic’ Bob Friedland’s Heritage Oil & Gas which in turn is tangled up with mercenary outfits that operate in Africa in exchange for lucrative mining concessions.[6]

In any case, what didn’t get mentioned in Parliament because the Speaker cut the MP off, was his question about CDC’s co-investment of public money with Trafigura in the “dubious” mining company Anvil. Cut off because had the question been put in Parliament it would have revealed to the world what the MP in question called the “loathsome Trafigura” and its connection to our money being invested in a company actually owned by another shady character called “Toxic” Bob Friedland.

What is revealed here in this very typical story from the pages of Private Eye is the incestuous and extremely tangled relationship between big business and the state, a relationship developed literally over the centuries and it is truly an old boys club (though with the advent of ‘New’ Labour, there’s a new set of ‘old boys’ on the block).

The insidious and thoroughly undemocratic relationship between the state and big business has reached new heights (or depths, depending on your POV) under ‘New’ Labour with a number of companies floating to the top like scum on water.

For example, there is Capita (known by PE as “Crapita”), what I call a ‘new age’ company as it has its multiple fingers in all kinds of juicy pies like recruitment, ‘consulting’, IT and ‘outsourcing’ (see ‘consulting’) all very much ‘New’ Labour territory and fertile ground for the network mentioned above.

You need only look at the ‘pedigree’ of the Labour inner sanctum; lawyers, accountants, investors, ‘public relations’ that is to say, propaganda, marketing, advertizing, and of course ‘journalism’, all ‘new age’ professions.

Many, and perhaps not coincidentally, share something in common with some of their US neo-con counterparts: they both have ‘Trotskyist’ backgrounds. Is this a case of out of frying pan and into the fire, or perhaps so far to the left, they ended up on the right?

They went to the same universities and pretty much at the same time. By contrast, the Tory hierarchy still has one foot (or more) in the the ‘old’ school and all that ‘old’ money, which is why they’re in such a bind over the Common Market as they hanker too, just as their Labour counterparts, for a return of the ‘good old days’ when Britannia ruled the waves. Why doesn’t the Tory Party just merge with the Labour Party and let the Lib-Dems have the ‘opposition’ and be done with this farce called democracy?

Clearly what has happened is that ‘New’ Labour has put its own unique stamp on the Reagan/Thatcher model of ‘back to basics’ capitalism, that is to say, the archetypal Victorian model of a rapacious capitalism but this time run by psychopathic half-wits with university ‘degrees’ and a good deal of greed for power and money. In fact, the very picture of an 80s Thatcher man (or occasionally woman), replete with Armani suits and Beamers.

What was it Marx (or was it Engels?) said about history repeating itself but the second time as farce? Well whoever, they were right.

The question that needs to be asked is why, with all this information readily available concerning the immense corruption in government and business that nothing changes? Even the ‘revelations’ concerning the Parliamentary expenses scandal, aside from driving a few more people to the British National Party (those that can still be bothered to vote), it’s still business as usual.

It reveals the one thing that has changed since the days of Disraeli, namely the integrated and extremely sophisticated and seamless system of social manipulation that technology has unleashed on what is so far a slumbering (but hopefully not in a coma) public.

Take for example, the (direct and personal) relationship between Tony Blair and Rupert Murdoch and his tenticular News Corporation. Britain’s biggest and trashiest newspaper, The Sun, owned of course by News Corporation openly supported Tony from the getgo, until that is a couple of weeks ago when Murdoch flipped ‘sides’, with The Sun now supporting the Tories. Essentially big business supports any government that’ll keep the lid on things and if it means swapping out the Labour for Tory, what difference does it make to the rich and powerful? Nothing. And at the end of the day what difference does it make to the rest of us? Nothing.

And using entirely different techniques from the ‘Red Tops’ state organs like the BBC have the same aim as The Sun: preserve the status quo. They do it under the cover of ‘impartiality’ but as the l’affaire BNP reveals, the BBC, under the cover of impartiality actively participated in creating a diversion, a piece of public theatre. But you’ll wait in vain to see anyone from the Left on Question Time.[7]

The people who write trash for the Sun are the same professionals (the ‘intelligentsia’) who write for the working class (The Sun’s target audience) as those who write for the BBC. So what we get is how the ‘intelligentsia’ interprets what it is to be ‘working class’ and importantly what they think occupies the thoughts of the working class.

Conveniently their vision fits all the stereotypes: the working class are ignorant and essentially violent and need constant distractions. And let’s constantly remind them that they‘re always a hair’s-width away from being a criminal (and we all know crime doesn’t pay, unless of course you’re in business or government then you get a peerage for your efforts).

Now the BBC claims that when it interviews someone, for example a victim of a crime that leads with the predictable ‘he or she thinks ‘violent crime is on the increase’, it is reflecting what people feel, not note, what’s actually going on ‘out there’. The BBC claims that is has a duty to reflect what the ‘common man’ thinks that’s why it invariably leads a crime story with words like “the perception is that crime is on the increase…people feel unsafe on the streets…knife crime is out of control…”

This is messing with reality in a big way as the BBC is saying that what’s actually going on out there is not important, what’s important is what people think is going on out there and well, let’s not disabuse the public of its (false) impressions by informing them of the opposite to what is ‘received opinion’ (received that is from the BBC in the first place).

The BBC prides itself on not expressing ‘opinions’ in its ‘news’ broadcasts, indeed it claims that it expressly asks its news people “to leave their opinions at the front door” or something like that.

But the journalists who work for the BBC and the corporate press share a common background, a common worldview, a world where the only news that counts is ‘unbiased’ ‘news’.

All are university grads from ‘journalism’ schools where ‘objective’ journalism is nothing short of an iron ‘law’. They move, not very gracefully, between government, ‘journalism’ and propaganda, sorry, public relations and back again. They become ‘consultants’ and ‘advisors’ to government then back to doing the same for business, using all the inside dope they got whilst being part of government. It’s a very comfortable and well paid life for the apparatchik that serves capital.


1. For more information on how the entire story finally made the news see for example ‘What The Guardian’s Banned From Telling You’, The Third Estate 12 October, 2009.)

2. ‘How super-injunctions are used to gag investigative reporting’, The Guardian, 13 October, 2009

3. Just how dangerous it is to print stories that threaten the status quo can be seen from the following quote that appeared on Private Eye’s Website blog concerning printing their story on Trafigura:

‘[T]he Eye was taking a big legal risk in printing the question – and any indication, tweeted or otherwise, ahead of the mag being widely available would probably have only landed us with an injunction and an order to pulp all copies of the mag, and not had the question out there at all. This has happened in the past – both Cecil Parkinson and Robert Maxwell succeeded in having the mag taken off the streets post-printing but pre-distribution in the 1980s.’

4. See ‘MPs blast ‘incompetent’ Brown over company sell-off’, The Guardian, 25 November, 2007.

5. ‘Anvil Mining inks strategic alliance with Trafigura Beheer’, Steel Guru, 12 August, 2009.

6. “In addition, one of the hidden players, ‘Toxic’ Bob Friedland, a power behind the throne of Tony Buckingham’s Heritage Oil & Gas, and also a sidekick of Colonel Tim Spicer, has left a trail of toxic waste behind him as he dug his way across Burma, the United States, Canada and Venezuela in search of gold. A search that thus far has left cleanup costs (not his to pay) of hundreds of millions of dollars of the cyanide and heavy metal-polluted landscapes. — ‘Tony Blair’s pet Bulldog? The curious case of Colonel Tim Spicer’ By William Bowles, 18 August, 2004. It’s relationships like these that expose the sleazy and corrupt nature of ‘New’ Labour’s connections to business. Further digging reveals all kinds of cross-connections between Trafigura and Heritage Oil & Gas with for example the French bank BNP.

For more on ‘Toxic’ Bob Friedland see ‘“TOXIC BOB” WASTES BURMA: Forced Labour and Pollution Rampant at Canadian-owned Mine’

7. See Negative spacemen, Alan Simpson MP on the furore surrounding the British National Party’s Nick Griffin appearing on Question Time the BBC’s #1 news and current affairs program.