The Blame Game: The Crisis as a failure of Morality

Five years into the economic crisis and what have we learned, or as is the concern of this blog, what has the media learned? Have we witnessed a deluge of documentaries and news features on the structural issues of the crisis; questions of how markets work or indeed don’t work? the nature of class and power in our society? Has the assumed superiority of market systems been challenged, or indeed have any alternatives been discussed, indeed has the media moved beyond discussions about how to ‘fix’ the  markets. Moreover has the media and especially the print media given any consideration towards its own ideological role in the various crises. To paraphrase a well known property developer ‘have we ****!’

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Free & Open Source as actually-existing communism: Paul Bowman (Workers Solidarity Movement)

Political Economy of the Internet Series

In the space of little more than 10 years an entirely voluntary and unwaged network of producer-consumers have collectively produced an operating system – GNU/Linux – that is not only comparable to, but in many aspects, superior to the flagship commercial product of global capitalism’s most successful hi-tech company – Microsoft….

…The rise of the free software and open source movements is a story in itself and one that is still very much in the process of being written. Indeed a number of books have already been turned out by media and academic commentators struggling to explain the phenomena and particularly to get to grips with the aspects of it that have most perplexed and disturbed the received truths of capitalist economics. In short, the free software movement is the product of thousands of software writers or hackers working collaboratively, without pay to create whole systems of software that are owned not by the producers but the common property of all. 

Paul Bowman of the WSM discusses the open source movement conceived as an example of ‘actually existing communism’ under attack by the capitalist state and market.

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Thoughts on the Political Economy of the Internet – A call to Bloggers, Writers and Activists

Critical Media Review will begin a series where it will gather and collate blogs, articles, thoughts and comments on issues surrounding the great ‘public sphere’ of the twenty-first century – the internet. CMR calls on bloggers, scholars, activists and any interested individuals to send their thoughts, articles and links here.  Short articles and links to already existing work are welcome.  CMR can be reached at criticalmediareview@gmail.com

CMR is interested especially (but not restricted to) the following areas:

The Internet, privacy and the commodification of everything – one reading of the growth of the internet and especially social media is the encroachment of our private lives by capitalism. Now alongside the privatisation of such services as water and power, in recent years  our most intimate private lives, friendships and networks have become mere informational commodities to be recorded, commodified and traded. Moreover our ever connectedness through smart phones and other mobile devices mean we are connected to our workplaces, the markets and advertisers twenty-four hours a day seven days a week. It allows for the dystopia of the surveillance society as predicted by Orwell and Foucault. And finally  is the very success of social networks built upon the commodified free-labour of users themselves?

The internet and open-source as an alternative to capitalism as we know it – the internet its connectivity and its potential for collaborative and co-operative work offers a model to move beyond commodity capitalism.

The internet and the alternative media – the internet offers an unprecedented opportunity to working class and subaltern groups, firstly as it offers a cheap and effective platform for the production and dissemination of alternative views and news; secondly as it offers the possibility of two-way and three-way discussion. It bypasses traditional gatekeeping practices of the mainstream corporate media and even within the working class movement bypasses traditional gatekeeping by party hierarchies (by access to party publications and networks). However is so-called ‘citizen journalism’ a match for the resources and power-structures of the corporate media?

The internet as a site of struggle – As seen in the Arab Spring and in battles over copyright legislation the internet is becoming more and more a site of struggle itself. How will the state react to perceived threats coming from hacker activists and how will users of the internet react to current state policies attempting to bring capitalist laws on copyright to the cyber sphere?

The internet and its relation to the material basethe internet and other communicative networks can be perceived in terms of the base/superstructure as defined by Marx. In a rethinking of the base /superstructure concept what is the relationship between material ‘reality’ and the internet. How does the internet effect the economic and social base in terms of politics and class struggle and indeed how does the material base of class and the relations of production affect the development of the internet itself?

Framing the Treaty: Paul Murphy and the Irish Times

In Wednesdays Irish Times editorial the paper unsurprisingly took a strong line in supporting the fiscal treaty. What was interesting from the point of view of critical media review was how the paper then accused the treaty opposition of attempting to re-define the issue:

Opposition deputies from Sinn Féin to the ULA were already lining up to redefine the issue as “austerity”, the “iniquitous bailout”, raising again the ghosts of Nice I and Lisbon I, rallying the inveterate naysayers. The “Peoples opportunity to reject austerity at the ballot box”, was how Socialist MEP Paul Murphy described the battle ahead.

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/opinion/2012/0229/1224312524779.html

Interesting in that decades of research have shown that what the mainstream media does is constantly ‘re-define’ issues in a subjective and constructed manner. Re-defining or what communication scholars call framing is how the media looks at an issue from a single  often skewed point of view usually narrowing the frame of discussion and debate.  Remember how the Irish media sidetracked  or ‘re-defined’ a private banking collapse into a debate over the ‘private and public sector’ wages and pensions and how the only solution to the property and banking crisis was the need for pay cuts to ‘restore competitiveness’. Reporting on the cause of the banking collapse was re-defined as ‘we are where we are’, policy was re-framed as ‘sharing the pain’. To say nothing of the famous ‘soft landing’ of 2007.  Recently of course the ‘we all partied’ or ‘went mad’ borrowing or even the slightly more critical frame of ‘bad bankers’ and ‘bad developers’ distracts from the actual failures of a lassiez faire planning system and private housing market.  And as shown in previous critical media review articles the entire framing of housing as a speculative commodity had a huge role in the ensuing collapse and the economic morass Ireland is now in.

It will be interesting to see how the Irish Times and rest of the Irish media frame any opposition to the treaty. Will it be on the actual issues of the fiscal treaty or will it be (as it was with Lisbon) that the voters on the no side are ‘confused‘, ‘don’t understand’ or maybe they are ‘anti-european’, ‘nationalist‘ or out right ‘xenophobic‘. Already seemingly there is a frame that people are voting no for any reason bar the fact they may actually disagree with the treaty itself.

Right of Reply?

Also in a further development it turns out Socialist Party MEP Paul Murphy wrote a letter tothe Irish Times in reply to the accusation of ‘re-defining’ the debate. By the journalistic notion of  ‘right to reply’ the Irish Times should have at least printed the letter if not offered space for an article. Instead it has thus far been ignored. It seems that in times of economic crisis the ‘paper of record’ is dropping all pretence of objectivity and even denying MEPs the right of reply.  We reprint Paul Murphy’s letter below:

As your editorial of 29 February suggested, there is already an attempt to encourage people to vote on issues other than the content of the Fiscal Treaty before us. This attempt comes not from the Left opposition to the Treaty, but from the government and the establishment media. Exhibit A: that very editorial, which welcomes the Taoiseach’s description of it as an ‘essential building block in Ireland’s recovery’. Exhibit B: the Tanaiste’s suggestion that it is a vote for ‘economic stability and economic recovery and an ‘opportunity to go beyond casino capitalism’. Exhibit C: the Taoiseach’s statement that it is an ‘opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to responsible budgeting’.

Let us engage in a debate on the text. Article 3 provides for a structural deficit of a maximum of 0.5%. Ireland’s projected structural deficit in 2015 according to the Department of Finance will be 3.7%. To meet the target in one year (if the Commission was to demand it), would mean additional cuts and austerity of €5.7 billion. To meet the target over a number of years, would mean an extension of the grinding austerity that is already destroying lives and economies across Europe. It is not a Treaty for economic stability, it is a Treaty for synchronised institutionalised austerity across Europe.

Article 4 provides that Ireland will have to reduce its debt to GDP ratio at a rate of about 3% of GDP per year (presuming that Ireland’s debt to GDP ratio is around 120% in 2015). If there is no economic growth, which is practically precluded by the savage cuts insisted on by Article 3, that means paying back €4.5 billion a year in principal payments to the bondholders on top of the interest of around €8 billion a year. It is a Treaty for the casino capitalists, not an opportunity to go beyond their system.