10 July 2007

How dare you say the Emperor has no clothes

One thing that is crucial in sustaining a mediocracy1 is to protect it from criticism, and to conceal its underlying deficiencies as far as possible. Even if it isn't possible to conceal problem areas from the people who actually come into contact with them, we can make it impossible for their observations to receive a platform. The media, in particular, must preserve the myth that nothing is fundamentally wrong. (The only section of the British media which doesn't quite play according to this rule is the Daily Mail. Which is probably why it's so despised by the establishment.)

At the same time, the dissatisfaction and restlessness produced by the deceptions and repressions of a mediocracy1 need to be directed at a suitable target, though obviously not the government or the statist machinery. What is left, then, is the commercial sector and private individuals.

So we get a kind of double standard for "whistleblowing" (insiders drawing attention to dishonesties or shortcomings). Where the private sector is concerned, it is encouraged; when it is the state that is exposed, it is punished.

Another way of looking at the issue is that it's a consequence of mediocratic phoneyness. A misplaced pseudo-egalitarianism means that things have to look as if they're more open and democratic, and as if ordinary people can make a difference vis-a-vis entrenched power groups. In practice, the 'egalitarianism' is driven by a top-down pro-state elite which cannot tolerate rival power groups or, indeed, any kind of dissent. Hence the 'paradox' that New Labour, marketed in terms of opennness and accessibility, has been one of the most dangerous British administrations to be on the wrong side of since the Cromwellites.

In Monday's Telegraph, Admiral Sir Alan West advocated snitching on your neighbours if you suspect them of being terrorists. (Funny how the problems of terrorism — arguably created by the state with its paradoxical mixture of (a) failing to stand up to authoritarian threats from certain minority communities and (b) a gung-ho approach to military intervention in other people's countries — are generally to be solved by making the lives of private citizens more uncomfortable.) This follows hot on the heels of Home Office plans2 to require council workers, charity staff and doctors to tip off police about anyone who they believe could commit a violent crime.

On the other hand, consider what happens to those who blow the whistle on possible defects in the state apparatus:

  • the late David Kellythrown to the wolves by the Ministry of Defence for questioning pre-war propaganda;

  • Jack Lemleyrubbished by the government for daring to reveal the fiasco behind the London Olympic project;

  • Rita Palsmear campaign by the General Medical Council3 for drawing attention to illegal practices in Midland hospitals4;

  • most recently, Angela Masonsuspended for filming the reality of life in inner city comprehensives5.

    1 Applies equally well to communist or other authoritarian regimes
    2 h/t Not Saussure via Shuggy
    3 As the principal body behind a professional monopoly remunerated predominantly from state sources, the GMC is effectively an arm of the state.
    4 h/t Devil's Kitchen
    5 See also Educational Conscription

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