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=== <center>[[George Monbiot]]: [https://www.monbiot.com/2019/01/06/the-mind-hackers/// The Mind Hackers]</center> ===
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=== <center>[[George Monbiot]]: [https://www.monbiot.com/2019/01/06/the-mind-hackers/// Owned]</center> ===
<center><span style="color:grey">Researchers at public universities are developing new ways of shutting down our capacity for independent thought</span></center>
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<center><span style="color:grey">As I’ve found to my cost, the billionaire press seeks to kill change before it happens.</span></center>
  
30th April 2019
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8th July 2019
 
   
 
   
For most of my adult life, I’ve railed against “corporate capitalism”, “consumer capitalism” and “crony capitalism”. It took me a long time to see that the problem is not the adjective, but the noun.
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All billionaires want the same thing – a world that works for them. For most, this means a world in which they are scarcely taxed and scarcely regulated, where labour is cheap and the planet can be used as a dustbin, where they can flit between tax havens and secrecy regimes, using the earth’s surface as a speculative gaming board, extracting profits and dumping costs. The world that works for them works against us.
  
While some people have rejected capitalism gladly and swiftly, I’ve done so slowly and reluctantly. Part of the reason was that I could see no clear alternative: unlike some anti-capitalists, I have never been an enthusiast for state communism. I was also inhibited by its religious status. To say “capitalism is failing” in the 21st century is like saying “God is dead” in the 19th. It is secular blasphemy. It requires a degree of self-confidence I did not possess.
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So how, in nominal democracies, do they get it? They fund political parties and lobby groups, set up astroturf (fake grassroots) campaigns and finance social media ads. But above all, they buy newspapers and television stations. The widespread hope and expectation, a few years ago, was that news controlled by billionaires would be replaced by news controlled by the people: social media would break their grip. But social media is instead dominated by stories the billionaire press generates. As their crucial role in promoting Nigel Farage, Brexit and Boris Johnson suggests, the newspapers are as powerful as ever.
  
But as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to recognise two things. First, that it is the system, rather than any variant of the system, which drives us inexorably towards disaster. Second, that you do not have to produce a definitive alternative to say that capitalism is failing. The statement stands in its own right. But it also demands another, and different, effort to develop a new system.
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They use this power not only to promote the billionaires’ favoured people and ideas, but also to shut down change before it happens. They deploy their attack dogs to take down anyone who challenges the programme.
  
Capitalism’s failures arise from two of its defining elements. The first is perpetual growth. Economic growth is the aggregate effect of the quest to accumulate capital and extract profit. Capitalism collapses without growth, yet perpetual growth on a finite planet leads inexorably to environmental calamity.
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It is one thing to know this. It is another to experience it. A month ago, seven of us published a report to the Labour Party called [https://landforthemany.uk Land for the Many.] It proposed [https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/jun/04/tackle-inequality-land-ownership-laws a set of policies] that would be of immense benefit to the great majority of Britain’s people: ensuring that everyone has a good, affordable home, improving public amenities, shifting tax from ordinary people towards the immensely rich, protecting the living world and enhancing public control over the decisions that affect our lives. We showed how the billionaires and other oligarchs could be put back in their boxes. The result has been four extraordinary weeks of attacks in the Mail, Express, Sun, Times and Telegraph. Our contention that oligarchic power is rooted in the ownership and control of land has been amply vindicated by the response of oligarchic power.
  
Those who defend capitalism argue that, as consumption switches from goods to services, economic growth can be decoupled from the use of material resources. Last week, [https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13563467.2019.1598964?tokenDomain=eprints&tokenAccess=34DIKBKNXiFceff2QzRt&forwardService=showFullText&target=10.1080%2F13563467.2019.1598964&doi=10.1080%2F13563467.2019.1598964&doi=10.1080%2F13563467.2019.1598964&doi=10.1080%2F13563467.2019.1598964&journalCode=cnpe20& a paper in the journal New Political Economy] by Jason Hickel and Giorgos Kallis examined this premise. They found that while some relative decoupling took place in the 20th century (material resource consumption grew, but not as quickly as economic growth), in the 21st there has been a re-coupling: rising resource consumption has so far matched or exceeded the rate of economic growth. The absolute decoupling needed to avert environmental catastrophe (a reduction in material resource use) has never been achieved, and appears impossible while economic growth continues. Green growth is an illusion.
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Some of these reports peddle flat-out falsehoods. [https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7171049/Report-lays-Corbyns-proposal-grab-inheritances-tax-profits-family-house-sales.html A week ago], the Mail on Sunday claimed that our report recommends a capital gains tax on people’s main homes. This “spiteful raid that will horrify millions” ensures “we will soon be joining the likes of China, Cuba, Laos and Vietnam in becoming one of the world’s few Marxist-Leninist states.” This claim was picked up, and often embellished, by all the other right-wing papers. The policy proved, [https://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/2019/06/23/labours-wealth-grab-would-iniquitous-country/ the Telegraph explained], that “keeping a hard-Left Labour Party out of office is not an academic ideological ambition but a deadly serious matter for millions of voters.” Boris Johnson, Phillip Hammond and several other senior Tories weighed in, attacking our “mad” proposal.
  
A system based on perpetual growth cannot function without peripheries and externalities. There must always be an extraction zone, from which materials are taken without full payment, and a disposal zone, where costs are dumped in the form of waste and pollution. As the scale of economic activity increases, until capitalism affects everything from the atmosphere to the deep ocean floor, the entire planet becomes a sacrifice zone: we all inhabit the periphery of the profit-making machine.
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But we made no such recommendation. We considered the idea, listed its possible advantages and drawbacks, then specifically rejected it. As they say in these papers, you couldn’t make it up. But they have.
  
This drives us towards cataclysm on such a scale that most people have no means of imagining it. The threatened collapse of our life support systems is bigger by far than war, famine, pestilence or economic crisis, though it is likely to incorporate all four. Societies can recover from these apocalyptic events, but not from [https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/mar/25/treating-soil-like-dirt-fatal-mistake-human-life the loss of soil], an abundant biosphere and a habitable climate.
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There were dozens of other falsehoods: apparently we have proposed a “garden tax”; we intend to add [https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7105601/James-Brokenshire-blasts-Labours-planned-tax-raid.html “an extra £374 a year] on top of what the typical household pays in council tax” (no such figure is mentioned in our report); and inspectors will be sent to people’s homes to investigate their bedrooms. Dozens of reports claim that our proposals are “plans” hatched by Jeremy Corbyn: “Jeremy Corbyn’s garden tax bombshell”; “Jeremy Corbyn is planning a huge tax raid”; “Corbyn’s war on homeowners”. Though Corbyn is aware of our report, he has played no role in it. What it contains are not his plans but our independent policy suggestions, none of which has yet been adopted by Labour. The press response gives me an inkling of what it must be to walk in his shoes, as I see my name (and his) attached to lurid schemes I’ve never heard of, and linked to Mugabe, Maduro and the Soviet Union. Not one of the many journalists who wrote these articles has contacted any of the authors of the report. Yet they harvested lengthy quotes denouncing us from senior Conservatives.
  
The second defining element is the bizarre assumption that a person is entitled to as great a share of the world’s natural wealth as their money can buy. This seizure of common goods causes three further dislocations. First, the scramble for exclusive control of non-reproducible assets, which implies either violence or legislative truncations of other people’s rights. Second, the immiseration of other people by an economy based on looting across both space and time. Third, the translation of economic power into political power, as control over essential resources leads to control over the social relations that surround them.
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The common factor in all these articles is their conflation of the interests of the ultra-rich with the interests of the middle classes. While our proposals take aim at the oligarchs, and would improve the prospects of the great majority, they are presented as an attack on ordinary people. Progressive taxation, the protection of public space and good homes for all should strike terror into your heart.
  
In the New York Times on Sunday, the Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz [https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/19/opinion/sunday/progressive-capitalism.html sought to distinguish] between good capitalism, that he called “wealth creation”, and bad capitalism, that he called “wealth grabbing” (extracting rent). I understand his distinction, but from the environmental point of view, wealth creation is wealth grabbing. Economic growth, intrinsically linked to the increasing use of material resources, means seizing natural wealth from both living systems and future generations.
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We’ve a lodged a complaint to the press regulator, IPSO, about one of the worst examples, and we might make others. But to pursue them all would be a full-time job (we wrote the report unpaid, in our own time). The simple truth is that we are being outgunned by the brute power of billionaires. And the same can be said for democracy.
  
To point to such problems is to invite a barrage of accusations, many of which are based on this premise: capitalism has rescued hundreds of millions of people from poverty – [https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/george-monbiot-and-the-climate-change-heart-of-darkness now you want to impoverish them again]. It is true that capitalism, and the economic growth it drives, has radically improved the prosperity of vast numbers of people, while simultaneously destroying the prosperity of many others: those whose land, labour and resources were seized to fuel growth elsewhere. Much of the wealth of the rich nations was – and is – [https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/west-got-rich-modern-capitalism-born built on slavery and colonial expropriation].
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It is easy to see why political parties have become so cautious and why, as a result, the UK is stuck with outmoded institutions and policies, and succumbs to ever more extreme and regressive forms of taxation and control. Labour has so far held its nerve – and this makes its current leadership remarkable. It has not allowed itself to be bullied by the billionaire press.
  
Like coal, capitalism has brought many benefits. But, like coal, it now causes more harm than good. Just as we have found means of generating useful energy that are better and less damaging than coal, so we need to find means of generating human wellbeing that are better and less damaging than capitalism.
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The old threat has not abated – it has intensified. If a newspaper is owned by a billionaire, be suspicious of every word you read in it. Check its sources, question its claims. Withhold your support from any party that allows itself to be bullied or worse guided by their agenda. Stand in solidarity with those who resist it.
 
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There is no going back: the alternative to capitalism is neither feudalism nor state communism. Soviet communism had more in common with capitalism than the advocates of either system would care to admit. Both systems are (or were) obsessed with generating economic growth. Both are willing to inflict astonishing levels of harm in pursuit of this and other ends. Both promised a future in which we would need to work for only a few hours a week, but instead demand endless, brutal labour. Both are dehumanising. Both are absolutist, insisting that theirs and theirs alone is the one true God.
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So what does a better system look like? I don’t have a complete answer, and I don’t believe any one person does. But I think I see a rough framework emerging. Part of it is provided by the ecological civilisation proposed by Jeremy Lent, one of the greatest thinkers of our age. Other elements come from Kate Raworth’s doughnut economics and the environmental thinking of Naomi Klein, Amitav Ghosh, Angaangaq Angakkorsuaq, Raj Patel and Bill McKibben. Part of the answer lies in the notion of “private sufficiency, public luxury”. Another part arises from the creation of a new conception of justice, based on this simple principle: every generation, everywhere shall have an equal right to the enjoyment of natural wealth.
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I believe our task is to identify the best proposals from many different thinkers and shape them into a coherent alternative. Because no economic system is only an economic system, but intrudes into every aspect of our lives, we need many minds from various disciplines economic, environmental, political, cultural, social and logistical working collaboratively to create a better way of organising ourselves, that meets our needs without destroying our home.
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Our choice comes down to this. Do we stop life to allow capitalism to continue, or stop capitalism to allow life to continue?
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[http://www.monbiot.com/ &copy;www.monbiot.com]
 
[http://www.monbiot.com/ &copy;www.monbiot.com]

Latest revision as of 15:17, 25 July 2019

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Boris Johnson

George Monbiot: Owned

As I’ve found to my cost, the billionaire press seeks to kill change before it happens.

8th July 2019

All billionaires want the same thing – a world that works for them. For most, this means a world in which they are scarcely taxed and scarcely regulated, where labour is cheap and the planet can be used as a dustbin, where they can flit between tax havens and secrecy regimes, using the earth’s surface as a speculative gaming board, extracting profits and dumping costs. The world that works for them works against us.

So how, in nominal democracies, do they get it? They fund political parties and lobby groups, set up astroturf (fake grassroots) campaigns and finance social media ads. But above all, they buy newspapers and television stations. The widespread hope and expectation, a few years ago, was that news controlled by billionaires would be replaced by news controlled by the people: social media would break their grip. But social media is instead dominated by stories the billionaire press generates. As their crucial role in promoting Nigel Farage, Brexit and Boris Johnson suggests, the newspapers are as powerful as ever.

They use this power not only to promote the billionaires’ favoured people and ideas, but also to shut down change before it happens. They deploy their attack dogs to take down anyone who challenges the programme.

It is one thing to know this. It is another to experience it. A month ago, seven of us published a report to the Labour Party called Land for the Many. It proposed a set of policies that would be of immense benefit to the great majority of Britain’s people: ensuring that everyone has a good, affordable home, improving public amenities, shifting tax from ordinary people towards the immensely rich, protecting the living world and enhancing public control over the decisions that affect our lives. We showed how the billionaires and other oligarchs could be put back in their boxes. The result has been four extraordinary weeks of attacks in the Mail, Express, Sun, Times and Telegraph. Our contention that oligarchic power is rooted in the ownership and control of land has been amply vindicated by the response of oligarchic power.

Some of these reports peddle flat-out falsehoods. A week ago, the Mail on Sunday claimed that our report recommends a capital gains tax on people’s main homes. This “spiteful raid that will horrify millions” ensures “we will soon be joining the likes of China, Cuba, Laos and Vietnam in becoming one of the world’s few Marxist-Leninist states.” This claim was picked up, and often embellished, by all the other right-wing papers. The policy proved, the Telegraph explained, that “keeping a hard-Left Labour Party out of office is not an academic ideological ambition but a deadly serious matter for millions of voters.” Boris Johnson, Phillip Hammond and several other senior Tories weighed in, attacking our “mad” proposal.

But we made no such recommendation. We considered the idea, listed its possible advantages and drawbacks, then specifically rejected it. As they say in these papers, you couldn’t make it up. But they have.

There were dozens of other falsehoods: apparently we have proposed a “garden tax”; we intend to add “an extra £374 a year on top of what the typical household pays in council tax” (no such figure is mentioned in our report); and inspectors will be sent to people’s homes to investigate their bedrooms. Dozens of reports claim that our proposals are “plans” hatched by Jeremy Corbyn: “Jeremy Corbyn’s garden tax bombshell”; “Jeremy Corbyn is planning a huge tax raid”; “Corbyn’s war on homeowners”. Though Corbyn is aware of our report, he has played no role in it. What it contains are not his plans but our independent policy suggestions, none of which has yet been adopted by Labour. The press response gives me an inkling of what it must be to walk in his shoes, as I see my name (and his) attached to lurid schemes I’ve never heard of, and linked to Mugabe, Maduro and the Soviet Union. Not one of the many journalists who wrote these articles has contacted any of the authors of the report. Yet they harvested lengthy quotes denouncing us from senior Conservatives.

The common factor in all these articles is their conflation of the interests of the ultra-rich with the interests of the middle classes. While our proposals take aim at the oligarchs, and would improve the prospects of the great majority, they are presented as an attack on ordinary people. Progressive taxation, the protection of public space and good homes for all should strike terror into your heart.

We’ve a lodged a complaint to the press regulator, IPSO, about one of the worst examples, and we might make others. But to pursue them all would be a full-time job (we wrote the report unpaid, in our own time). The simple truth is that we are being outgunned by the brute power of billionaires. And the same can be said for democracy.

It is easy to see why political parties have become so cautious and why, as a result, the UK is stuck with outmoded institutions and policies, and succumbs to ever more extreme and regressive forms of taxation and control. Labour has so far held its nerve – and this makes its current leadership remarkable. It has not allowed itself to be bullied by the billionaire press.

The old threat has not abated – it has intensified. If a newspaper is owned by a billionaire, be suspicious of every word you read in it. Check its sources, question its claims. Withhold your support from any party that allows itself to be bullied or – worse – guided by their agenda. Stand in solidarity with those who resist it.

©www.monbiot.com

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