Tag: Jeremy Paxman

Not “weird” but wonderful: Miliband will win the battle for number 10.

I’ve often heard people remark how surprised they are at just how handsome, sincere and at ease Ed Miliband is when they meet him in person. That’s because the controlled and  biased media have worked hard to purposefully present a purely fictional image of an opposition leader that is weird, arkward, geeky, weak, unattractive and unelectable. But nothing could be further from the truth.

The large discrepancy between Tory media portrayals and reality are a key reason why Cameron didn’t want the televised head-to-head debates with Miliband to go ahead. During his interview with the self-declared “one nation”conservative Jeremy Paxman, Miliband very cleverly highlighted the disparity in fictional creations of the media by his casual dismissal of them, stating that he didn’t care what the media says about him: he cares what the public think.

This not only demonstrates that Miliband values sincerity and solid, needs-led public policy content over superficial image management as a leader, (Cameron by contrast certainly favours PR style-management over content,) it draws a clear dividing line between what is real and what is not, what really matters and what does not, for the public to plainly see.

The public finally got to see the real Ed Miliband – confident, strong, keen to listen rather than just keen to answer, eloquent, sincere, spontaneous (indicating his fundamental honesty) and remarkably, he remembered people’s names.

Even dealing with the deeply personal and undoubtedly difficult questions about his relationship with his brother from the audience, Miliband was positive, smiling – his honesty, warmth and being at ease with his own emotions shone through.

He said: “I thought someone needed to lead the Labour Party who would move us on from New Labour.”

Many people will agree with that. David Miliband is a Blairite, had he been elected party leader, the Labour Party would have stood still, rather than progressing as it has with Ed Miliband at the helm.

Paxman’s attempts at making Miliband look weak failed spectacularly.  Miliband gave some excellent responses regarding questions about Labour’s borrowing record during the global banking crisis, (I particularly like his reference to the fact that it was a global recession, and that he said there is need for reform of the banking and finance sector,) and he disclosed Labour’s intention of redistribution policies with reference to the question about Labour’s mansion tax proposal.

Paxman then attempted to intimidate and bruise, using very personal questions to try and undermine Miliband and make him appear “weak”, inadvertantly allowing him to show his genuine strength instead. I was delighted to hear Miliband point out that he had refused to back proposed bombing raids on Syria despite immense pressure from Barack Obama – the “leader of the free world” – and Cameron. Miliband led the revolt against attacking Syria, which included a handful of Tories, much to Cameron’s fury at the time. (See: David Cameron accused Ed Miliband of ‘siding with Russia’ over Syria).

Miliband confirmed his potential to be a strong PM with a definitive, slightly corny but nonetheless pleasing, applause-inducing best line of the night: “Am I tough enough? Hell yes, I’m tough enough”. 

Five years of Tory media reverse psychology on the public have been reversed masterfully by Ed Miliband in just a few minutes.

Miliband was very assertive and responsive, allowing nothing to faze him when Paxman turned the heat up:“You don’t get to decide the outcome of the general election: the public do. You’re important, Jeremy, but you’re not that important,” he retorted when Paxman suggested that a hung parliament was pre-destined.

Miliband intelligently turned what others would see as daunting media portrayals of his “weakness” into an opportunity to his advantage, re-framing himself as a strong leader who had been continually underestimated – someone whose warmth, decency and calm, rational responsiveness is mistaken for weakness. This is a man who was told he couldn’t beat his brother during the leadership vote (he did) and who was told he couldn’t become prime minister (he can and will).

Miliband presented himself as the decent conviction politician that he is, as someone who has clearly defined principles and integrity. He was passionate, warm, sincere, assertive, positive and at times, very witty and good humoured.

David Cameron, who had an easier ride from Paxman, emerged rattled, red-faced and bruised by Mr Paxman’s questions – particularly on the rise of food banks and zero-hour contracts. He displayed a fundamental hypocrisy when, after dismissing criticism of the impact of zero-hour contracts on others, he was forced to admit that he couldn’t survive on them himself. Cameron evaded answering  and floundered when he was pressed. Miliband did not, providing clear, incisive answers throughout.

Miliband came across an honest, contained, very human, responsive, fluent, warm and inspiring leader, who refused, largely, to be placed on the defensive. He conveyed the key values behind his politics very well: a passionate desire to reduce inequality, which resonates with many voters and it sincerely reflects Miliband’s personal principles, as well as the rationale for his distinctive brand of democratic socialism.

Cameron, in contrast, came across as out of control, disingenuous, incoherent, lacking in principles and sound judgement, as well as integrity, especially when Paxman said that many voters found it “problematic” that Cameron had chosen to surround himself with people like Clarkson, ex-HSBC boss Lord Green and former News of the World editor Andy Coulson. Paxman asked: “What do you have in common with all these rich people?”

But although Cameron was quick on the uptake, he couldn’t bluster a defence, replying with: “The aspersion you are trying to cast is completely ridiculous.”

I think not. A corrupt scoundrel that has surrounded himself with other corrupt scoundrels is an accurate measure of it. The elitist “old boy network” world of Cameron, here, contrasts starkly with Miliband’s world-view, with strong emphasis on the core principle of equality.

Cameron’s sense of class-based entitlement has always been weakness which he has tried and failed to parade as a strength.

Mr Cameron was forced to confess that he had not asked Lord Green about tax avoidance in HSBC’s Swiss branch at the time of his appointment as a trade minister but said that: “all the normal processes and procedures were followed” and said that allegations the bank helped clients dodge tax had emerged only “subsequently.”

A good exposure there from Paxman. And in fairness, he did grill Cameron on broken promises concerning the NHS, VAT, debt, food banks, zero-hour contracts and immigration, which tore open the coalition’s presented record showing them as being somewhat conservative with the truth.

Paxman claimed that Miliband had made erroneous estimates of unemployment and the level of wages, and I was satisfied when Miliband corrected him, stating what most of us know is true: wage levels have dropped since 2010. There was little opportunity for Miliband to discuss unemployment, however, once again, most of us know that insecure types of self-employment, benefit sanctions and workfare, amongst other things, have been used to massage the coalition’s employment figures. This was the recent finding of the cross-party Work and Pensions Committee inquiry into benefit sanctions, recently.

I think Paxman knew he had been out-manoeuvred by the end of the session. Not by cunning and strategy, but by fundamental honesty and unflinching courage: Miliband didn’t flounder or falter once. It’s revealing that the session closed with Paxman asking Miliband: “Are you okay?” 

This was probably a face-saving tactic on Paxman’s part, as Miliband had trounced his attempts at showing him as “weak”, but it was also a revealing, apologetic attempt at compensation for the fact that he went too far with the personal elements in his questions in a deliberate attempt to undermine him. Miliband was quick to retort, perceptively: “I’m fine thanks, are you?”

Miliband’s pronounced strategy for overcoming a poor, most evilly contrived media-invented image is “be yourself.” It works very well, as everyone else is taken …

And Cameron, being a PR man, can only offer us superficial soundbites that don’t connect up, he has no real self to fall back on: he’s all ego and no soul.

Regardless of polls, I have faith that the British public will recognise a winning, decent, sincere Prime Minister with depth and principles that will serve in the best interests of the country rather than the best interests of his privileged peer group, like the ever-corruptible Cameron has.

Miliband has promised to fight a campaign founded on hope and optimism: he is determined to show that Britain can do better. He is so right.

Well done Ed Miliband!

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 Many thanks to Robert Livingstone for his excellent memes.

Update: It’s been reported that Ed Miliband was punched and pushed by protesters wearing Alex Salmond masks, prior to the televised debate, by the Telegraph, Mirror and Express. The earlier incident, described as extremely aggressive and intimidating, did not hamper Mr Miliband’s performance in the first TV set piece of the election campaign. There is some speculation that the masked men that carried out the attack were Tory supporters, rather than Scottish Nationalists.

It does, however, possibly change the context in which Jeremy Paxman asked Ed Milband if was okay at the close of the session, as he may have known about the undoubtedly harrowing experience that Mr Milband had encountered just hours before. That would of course change Mr Paxman’s motive entirely.

Either way, the opposition leader turned up for the debates, apparently undaunted, and his performance was excellent. This is further indication of what an admirable, strong and courageous man of character Ed Milband is.

Nihilism isn’t cool, trendy or the path to Nirvana: it’s a lazy abstention from all that matters.

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nihilismˈ noun 1. the rejection of all political, religious and moral principles, often in the belief that life is meaningless. “Insistence that man is a futile being”. synonyms: negativity, cynicism, pessimism; rejection, repudiation, renunciation, denial, abnegation; disbelief, non-belief, unbelief, scepticism, lack of conviction, absence of moral values, agnosticism, atheism, non-theism.
NO PRINCIPLES.

The road to nowhere, dissolution. In short, it’s the absence of belief in anything meaningful, positive, celebratory or decent. No acknowledgement of our remarkable potential as human beings. No faith in anything – it’s grubby, and leaves you groundless, rootless, unprincipled and in a no-place, with no escape.

Russell Brand is a “trendy” nihilist. However, this is not simply another article about Brand, but rather, I want to use this as an opportunity for discussing critical thinking. Brand is as good a case as any to use to explore this and propaganda techniques.

My friend, Charles Britton, commented on an article I wrote about the Russell Brand interview with Jeremy Paxman, and it’s a brilliant comment, because it shows a step-by-step process of critical thinking and analysis that exposes something that many seem to have have missed: an absence. A void. Brand used a lot of words that say nothing at all. Here is the comment:

“When I saw the argument between Russell Brand and Paxman, there were things he said that were clever, and which I liked and there seemed to be a real passion. Apart from the not voting, I thought, I couldn’t agree with that. And apart from the revolution idea because a) they are bloody, b) you don’t know who’ll you’ll end up with in charge (you may even lose the vote), and c) we do have the vote. If there were enough of a groundswell of anger about how we are being treated to spark a revolution, then it would show in how people voted (and how we campaigned). We’d vote out the bastards without needing a revolution! 

(I’m fairly certain that if people can’t be bothered voting, they won’t be bringing on a full-blown revolution any time soon either. Anyone out there got one booked? Please do pencil me in.)

“I still liked some other things he said. Apart from the implication that the parties are all the same. That’s the kind of thing you hear from most of the ”cutting-edge” (aggressive and politically ignorant) stand-ups on TV panel shows and celebs guesting on Question Time. Sadly, this blanket cynicism tends to win-over the politically illiterate of the crowd. Eventually I realised that there wasn’t really anything much in his statements apart from a certain  confident, [apparently] eloquent style. I’m left confused by this, wondering why his Newsnight interview was so “sensational”!


I have also pondered why Brand has such undeserved attention at the moment, and why some seem to think he had something to say, I clearly missed something, so I studied his interview with Paxman carefully. One thing that really struck me is that Brand completely failed to recognise and acknowledge that life wasn’t the same under the last government.

We didn’t have austerity, there were not thousands of sick and disabled people dying, and there was no substantial increase of absolute poverty and wealth inequalities under the Labour government, because of their policies, but these things are happening now.

Labour created human rights and equality policies, and the Tories are steadily unravelling those. Only the wealthy, and indifferent nihilists can afford imperviousness regarding the fundamental contrasts of Labour and Conservative governments. Brand’s self-serving claim that “they are all the same” only echoes what many of the most disruptive, aggressive and very divisive anarchists, militant greens, narxists and trotskyites have been using to misinform anyone who will listen. But a look at the differences in policies shows clearly that there are fundamental differences between the Conservatives and Labour. (For example, see here: Political Parties – NOT all as bad as each other).

So why would Brand or anyone else, for that matter, offer such a defeatist and dangerous idea up – that voting is futile – especially when the consequence is likely to be further divisions amongst those on the left, whilst the right-wing supporters, who ALWAYS vote, will simply ensure we have another Tory government in office in 2015?

How will that help the situation Brand outlined and criticised? And why is it ever okay to advocate no action? How about encouraging people to take some responsibility for how things are, and to work together to change things for the better?

I’ve written elsewhere about Brand’s narcissism and a fundamental lack of concern for others. As empathy, emotional sustenance and support, solidarity, loyalty, and a sense of belonging all become relics of a fast receding past due to the policies of the Tory-led Government, which act upon citizens as if they were objects, rather than serving them, as human subjects, the mass victims of anomic trauma put up as primitive, last resort narcissistic defences.

These, in turn, only exacerbate the very traumatic conditions, social dislocations, and experiences that necessitated their deployment in the first place. But our ability to organise, self-assemble, and act in co-operation and unison is in jeopardy, as is our future as a society, yet Brand advocated no action.

But some people promote themselves, making a lot of money from “criticising” the status quo, and Brand isn’t alone in being privately invested in how things are whilst publicly claiming otherwise.

Brand used recognisble propaganda techniques in his interview with Paxman, that signpost people to a variety of typified meanings, without actually meaningfully exploring any of them, using superficial Buzzwords (and phrases,) and Glittering Generalities.

The narrative isn’t coherent and meaningful, has no real depth, but what Brand does very well is implies – “signposts” you – via common stock phrases, creating the impression he understands and sees the world as you do. He creates a faux sense of rapport by doing so. But if you look elsewhere, the clues about Brand are there, in his books, articles and other interviews. It soon becomes clear that he does not connect with people, he doesn’t seem to relate. He generally seems to see others as a means to his own ends, and tends to exploit them. Those that have a joke at the expense of others have little empathy, and tend to be unsurprisingly exploitative and cruel.

That’s all Brand does, and even in the interview with Paxman, when he was asked something he couldn’t answer, he resorted to talking the piss out of Paxman.

It’s worth bearing in mind that when someone speaks or writes, they are trying to convince you of something. Ask yourself what it is that they want you to believe, then analyse their basic proposition carefully. Examine what they are saying, look for consistency, coherence, reasoning and logic, and look for the evidence to support the proposition.

Analyse what he actually said – there is NO proposition there at all, he used a lot of words to say nothing – it really is a cul-de-sac. Buzzwords and phrases are a propaganda technique to shape people’s perception, and persuade them that you “know” about their lives, situation and that you have insight.

Management jargon is an example – the familiarity of the words and phrases lulls you and fools you into feeling some important recognition has been made.

Here are some of the buzzwords and phrases Brand used to get your attention, gain your credibility, admiration, create a false sense of rapport; people, power, hierarchical, paradigm, serves a few people, humanity, alternate, alternate political systems, destroy the planet, economic disparity, needs of the people, treachery, deceit, political class, disenfranchised, disillusioned, despondent, underclass, represented, social conditions, undeserved underclass, impact, but that’s all just semantics really, political or corporate elites, serve the population, currently, public dissatisfaction.

We have all used these words and phrases, but we have put them together in structured and meaningful comments, with an aim. Brand didn’t do that.

Glittering Generalities is a propaganda technique, arises very often in politics and political propaganda. Glittering generalities are words that have different positive meaning for individual subjects, but are linked to highly valued concepts.

When these words are used, they demand approval without thinking, simply because such an important concept is involved. Brand made use of these Glittering Generalities; socialist, egalitarian, massive redistribution of wealth, heavy taxation of corporations, massive responsibility for energy companies, environment, profit is a filthy word, global utopian system, genuine option (amongst several others).

The whole dialogue is a propaganda vehicle that aims to deliver one message: there’s no point voting. Go back to sleep. There are identifiable dark fifth column ideologies of nihilism (and related forms of anarchism) which have steadily gained popularity among some of the far-left here in the UK. Que sera sera. Idealism often morphs into cynicism.

These  ideologies reflect anti-values of defeatism, hopelessness, rejection of democracy, and organised government. What a deadly sedative – a very poisonous narcotic for a nation that desperately needs to rekindle respect for human rights, equality, and shared societal values of co-operation, compassion, hope, mutual support and community.

Nihilism is so dangerous because it is a glib, superficial and reactionary response that fundamentally attacks the very worth of humanity itself – because it’s based on the view that nothing really matters, everything is meaningless, nothing and no-one has any real worth, value or meaning.

Nihilism is a spiralling vortex of wretched and miserable relativism. It leaves people groundless and rootless. Que sera sera.

But we have a responsibility to take an interest in our lives, and the plight of others, regardless of our view of “human nature”.

The is /ought distinction highlights that there’s a fundamental difference between descriptive and prescriptive statements. As conscious beings with at least a degree of free-will, we can hoist our selves out of apathy by learning from consequences, by our empathy and concern for others, by our good will and by our conscious intent.

We are not cultural dupes – determined by social structure, or by our biology, sure, we are influenced by these, and a little constrained by them, but we are also capable of transcending these constraints – we are so much greater than that, or at least we have the potential to be so.

Conservatives don’t value such human potential: they tend formulate policy to squash it, curtail it, they stand against the tide of social evolution. Regressive ideology, authoritarian principles.

There is a tangible link with nihilism, and the egocentricity of psychopathy. First of all, psychopaths may be regarded as moral nihilists. Secondly, psychopaths like an apathetic, disengaged and anomic society, where citizens lack conviction, and there’s an absence or erosion of moral values.

Psychopaths regard the rest of us as being defective, and seek relentlessly to remake the world in their own image, to proselytize their viewpoint and  to “teach” their “defective” empathic fellows to think like them. Unfortunately, they can. People can become psychopathic, they can numb down their sensitivity to others. But a psychopath can never learn to think like an empathic person.

People with a normal capacity for empathy can turn off that capacity and think like psychopaths. Language is a powerful thing, and normal human beings respond to linguistic cues to switch to “psychopathy mode”.

The ancient Greeks and the Founders of our country understood the devastating destructiveness of the language of stigmatising, demonising and othering, particularly to democracies. They called the charismatic psychopaths who excelled at its practice “demagogues.” More recently, neuroscience has provided evidence that such demonising, dehumanising and hate radically alters the way the human brain processes information, making subjects immune to reason, increasingly intolerant, and very easily manipulated.

Divide and conquer is the age old defence of elites. Diversion. I am sure there is a link between nihilism, psychopathy and Conservative ideology. Extensive research has found significant correlations between key antisocial personality traits and  Conservative views. Specifically, the research claims to find elements of narcissism, psychopathy and Machiavellianism in Conservative subjects.

The Tory mantra: “there is no such thing as Society” leaks a significant clue about principle elements of core Conservative beliefs. The Conservative ideological justification for the destruction of the social unit, promotion of competitive individualism and “survival of the fittest” principles, the shrinking of the State and deliberately manipulated destruction of public belief in government overall is psychopathic.

It’s all about isolating people, breaking up networks and destroying co-operation and community. And of course such unifying and community-building ideas are the very foundations of socialist values and principles.

By focusing on competitive individualism as the primary method of improving the economy and society, Conservatism is an inherently misanthropic ideology; as all motives are seen through pure self-interest, cynicism in human nature becomes the norm. If people exist to simply get what they can for themselves, the motivation for sociability and co-operation decreases.

We become insular, fragmented and isolated. The characteristic of the psychopathic value system is its somewhat Manichean world view  – idealised me versus demonised him, idealised us  versus demonised them, reflecting the echo-other world view of the pathological narcissist or psychopath. The Tories deliberately create anxiety about others, divide social groups, reduce social cohesion, and create folk devils to bear the brunt of the blame for consequences of Tory policies.

It’s by no coincidence at all that those folk devils also bear the brunt of inhumane Tory policies, too. The Labour government didn’t get everything right for everyone, but Labour have never persecuted social groups like the Tories have, or wilfully destroyed state support for the most vulnerable citizens.

If we don’t vote, then that leaves the Tory supporters, who will simply vote the Tory authoritarians back into Office, and guess what? That doesn’t affect Brand at all. Well, except for the standard £107, 000 that all millionaires get under this Government, each, per year, in the form of a tax break.

We can politically engage, campaign, lobby politicians, and take some responsibility, rather than shrugging, disengaging, and ensuring that nothing will change. Authoritarian governments require a passive, disengaged public to emerge and to maintain their power. We have a duty to challenge and to push back – to demand positive changes and shape a society that supports those that cannot support themselves, that’s the mark of a civilised society. We simply have to fight our way back to decency.

We have to reclaim the progress we once made in an evolved human rights orientated culture. The Tories have undone many decades of hard work and struggle to establish those rights. We have to act, and we must vote. Vote Labour.

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This is also worth reading: “They are not all the same.” ‘They’re all the same’ is what reactionaries love to hear. It leaves the status quo serenely untroubled, it cedes the floor to the easy answers of Ukip and the Daily Mail. No, if you want to be a nuisance to the people whom you most detest in public life, vote. And vote Labour.”  Robert Webb

– http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2013/10/robert-webb-re-joins-labour-protest-russell-brand

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Thanks to Robert Livingstone for his brilliant artwork