Winston Smith is alive and well more than thirty years after the dystopian vision of a future involving ‘The Ministry of Truth’ was envisaged by Orwell in his novel 1984.
For many years United Kingdom governments, designed wholly to do the bidding of an elite superrich establishment, and ably supported by their media arm, have scoffed and pointed the finger.
The likes of Galtieri, Amin, Mugabe, Gadaffi and Saddam were clearly labelled as manipulators of their country’s politics, stage managing news reporting and only ever publicly speaking before audiences of party activists or sycophants.
Not like us, they said. Not like us who live in the land of the mother of parliaments. We hold ourselves up as a beacon of honest discourse. Our forebears fought wars and made tremendous sacrifices to ensure that our freedom of speech, our right to be heard, our democratic way of life continued.
No, these despots are not like us. We are proud of our free press and our broadcasting services, which are hailed throughout the world as a shining light of impartiality, and fair and balanced reporting.
I thought that to be true once. I’m sure many of us did. If you do now you are either very naive or hiding your head under the blankets of being comfortable.
There is soon to be a General Election in the UK (you may have heard about it). A hastily arranged opportunist election arranged by the current government after the polls told them that there is a very good chance they can bounce their weak English opposition out of the way, increasing their ability to indulge in whatever hard line far right fantasy takes their fancy.
The leader of the current government, a monotonous and repetitive individual known for her cunning and ruthlessness, not her ability to communicate or empathise, is trying to make a link, tenuous at best, which suggests that voting to give her a bigger majority equates to giving her more bargaining and negotiating power when it comes to trying to persuade 27 members of a free trading bloc that the UK should gain a similar arrangement to them without having to financially contribute to the administration of the bloc or agree to its terms of free movement.
This she does by repetitive sound bite public references to her alleged ‘strength’ and ‘stability, a technique designed to inculcate in the minds of a section of voters who develop opinions on the basis of hearing a viewpoint by rote several times in the media that she, and her government, are actually strong and stable. I would suggest that they are not.
Not being a quick thinker on her feet, prone to avoiding answering direct questions, responding usually with a platitude, this leader is being ably abetted in her campaign by the state media and the rightwing mainstream press, who are owned by members of the elite that her government is in power to protect.
This leader never, never, is put into a situation where a member of the public might say something to her, or ask a question, that makes her feel awkward, or challenges her policies, instances where normally a politician who had courage in their convictions would welcome the opportunity to voice her opinion, to debate the point, to convince or persuade others that she is correct. Not in this case.
Moving from one stage-managed gathering of party activists and acolytes holding up banners for the cameras to another, the public kept firmly at arms length locked out of secure venues, reporters preselected to ask questions, the questions known, analysed and suitable answers fed to her in advance, this leader’s campaign is based entirely on falsehood and manipulation, or as is fashionable these days ‘fake news’.
When she did recently come across a real person on the campaign trail, by accident, I think it may have been in Cornwall perhaps, she was so take aback at the lady’s question that she just stuck with her standard strength and stability mantra, being unable to adapt, a response which was inappropriate to the question she was asked, making her look foolish.
Avoiding leadership debates she has agreed to appear on the state broadcaster’s premier political debate show, but only if there is an agreement that no debate will take place. and that she has to answer only questions from the studio audience.
You can rest assured that the audience concerned will be vetted, questioners selected in advance, a couple chosen to ask mildly challenging preselected questions, which make it look impartial. and she will be well briefed on responses to make beforehand.
The media are letting her away with all of this, and castigating her opponents. Us proponents of social democratic self-government in Scotland hear what our friends are saying about the treatment of Jeremy Corbyn by the mainstream UK media but we are not surprised. This comes as no shock to us. We have watched the political leaders of our movement suffer such a fate, sometimes worse, for a number of years now, by the British state’s media arm.
Contrast the First Minister of Scotland with this contrived manipulation. Every time Nicola Sturgeon stands in front of a media conference or is interviewed on TV she has to justify her every decision, every policy, and every move any of her government team, or party members, make that can be interpreted negatively by a confrontational and negative media.
She does not at any time have difficulty in walking through high streets talking to real people, and answering direct questions honestly either.
No, never let anyone in the UK media or politics criticise the manipulation of news and voters ever again in other countries. Those in glasshouses should never throw stones. Never in modern times has it been so obvious to so many that democracy, freedom of speech and impartiality in the UK is simply a sham, a front to protect the few.
Winston Smith is indeed alive and well.
Scotland must walk away from that.