Saturday, February 9, 2013

How Britain Controls the Global Narrative

Why does the British government build a splendid new home for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) when it is imposing painful cuts in all other areas of public expenditure?

Why does the BBC need a “World News Room” with more reporters worldwide than CNN and far more than India, China and Africa combined?

Why continue to have full-fledged services in Arabic, Urdu, Hindi and Swahili?

The answer is the same to all the questions: it is critically important for British power to impose its narrative on world affairs, and the BBC, a widely effective instrument of propaganda since the heyday of Empire, plays a key role.

Why bother when the Empire is dead and gone?

That’s the beauty of controlling the narrative: the Empire is neither dead nor gone; in fact, it is more powerful today than ever.

As the formal structures of colonial rule came down in the second half of the 20th Century, Britain created a string of “tax havens” around the world, globalizing a system long dominated by its own Jersey Islands and Switzerland. There are some 70 tax havens now, most of them in small island territories like the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and Mauritius, and they operate with the City (financial center) of London as a global hub to launder and invest the world’s black money. Partial estimates put its assets at about $30 trillion, double the size of the American economy, and the annual flow of laundered money at $2 trillion, about the same as Indian GDP.

This system handles the proceeds of criminal activity ranging from tax evasion and official corruption to the trafficking of prostitutes and drugs. According to the latest report from the Washington-based NGO Global Financial Integrity, it drained an estimated $6 trillion from poor countries over the last decade, more than ten times what they received as “development aid.”

The system also victimizes affluent countries, including the United States and Germany; their super-rich use it to evade billions in personal and corporate taxes.

Unlike developing countries, the affluent ones have been trying to deal with the problem by pressuring and penalizing major international banks that are part of the system, albeit with little success. US authorities last year imposed a fine of nearly $2 billion on HSBC, Britain’s (and Europe’s) largest bank without causing a blip in the company’s share price: investors have known about its most lucrative line of business since drug traffickers founded it in the 19th Century. 

It is a measure of Britain’s control of the global narrative that mainstream media report all this sotto voce and explain none of it. Prime Minister David Cameron’s recent talk of a referendum that will open the door to British withdrawal from the EU is in response to intensifying pressure from Germany to rein in London’s role in money laundering, but it would take a Sherlock Holmes to detect that in the reportage.

The announcement on 7 February that the Bank of England, in an unprecedented departure from iron-cast tradition, will appoint a Canadian as Governor, has also gone without any media excursions and alarums. Obviously, it reflects tremendous pressure from Washington, and even though television cameras have recorded Cameron’s state of clipped cold rage, no reporter has bothered to say why.

How can Britain dominate the global narrative when there are so many other independent media organizations?

Two factors allow it.

One is that the super-rich in all countries are heavily invested in the global black market, and they either own mass media at the national level or control them indirectly.

The other is that much of the “elite” media in developing countries, including India, serve British interests. The links that make them British proxies are widely known. The staff of BBC’s Arabic Service resigned en masse to establish Al Jazeera, and the Sheik who financed the move is a firm British ally; he now runs the most influential media organization in the Arab world. The most influential of Arabic print media operate from London.

In India, as I have noted in previous blogs, the British handpicked the families that run The Times of India and India Today media groups; their patriarchs were financial operators who thrived under colonial rule. NDTV and even The Hindu despite its strong nationalist credentials, also have a pronounced pro-British slant that points to ties deeper than natural affinity. The content of many other English-language publications, especially Outlook and OPEN among the glossies, justifies suspicion their basic journalistic integrity lies suborned.

The mass media are only one aspect of Britain’s control of the global narrative. Another powerful tool has been the United Nations, of which it makes more intelligent and nuanced use than any other member State. In fact, others are usually oblivious to what London is doing.

For example, developing countries did not react last year when Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed the British Prime Minister to a 3-member panel that will advise on what should replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that have been the benchmark for the 2000 to 2015 period.

Mr. Cameron has no experience that would fit him for that role, and as noted above, he is the defender of a system that drains wealth from poor countries. His appointment makes sense only as a preemptive move to ensure that the post-2015 development agenda will not broaden the focus of attention from purely domestic standards to the debilitating international environment over which Britain presides.

The United Nations has also proved useful in keeping inconvenient statistics out of public view. The information Global Financial Integrity reports is difficult to ignore but UN agencies manage to do it routinely and with no explanation.

A third method Britain has used to keep control of the global narrative is proxy conflict within developing countries.

In India we have had bitter experience of that tactic during the colonial era and after, but that is only one aspect of the picture. The larger canvas has been the manipulation of the entire Muslim world.

History books record clearly the steps by which Britain took control of the Islamic narrative but contemporary analysts studiously ignore what happened. The process involved four major steps.

One was the creation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. British support raised a caravan robber operating out of Kuwait to power in Riyadh and expanded his domain to the holy places of Islam, bringing them under the control of an extremist sect, the Wahhabi, that mainstream Muslims had considered “haraam.”

Step Two was support for the Muslim Brotherhood, a violent secret society founded in 1932 that took root first in the British controlled Canal Zone of Egypt, in a mosque built with British money. Since then, it has provided the leadership of every major “Islamic terror” organization in the world.

Step Three  was the creation of the "Palestine problem," a series of amazing treacheries that established an enduring conflict by pitting a desperate and traumatized Zionism against the rising but equally wounded sense of Arab nationalism.

And Step Four was the religious polarization and division of India to create Pakistan as a proxy. To control Pakistan itself, a serving British officer set up the Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the spy agency that is the real center of power in that country.

Those four steps, supported by the romanticizing of Arabia's medieval past, pushed the narrative of Islam into a reactionary and violent mode that has made it difficult if not impossible for progressive forces to survive. The current course of events in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, Libya and Mali exemplify that reality.

On a relevant personal note: a few weeks ago I was invited by Oxfam, the British charity, to a meeting to discuss the post-MDG agenda. The theme was inequality as it affected Muslims in India. When I informed the organizer of my intention to raise the issue of British mischief in dividing Indians along religious lines the invitation was revoked. The takeaway from that experience is the significant involvement of supposedly liberal British civil society in controlling the Muslim narrative.

Britain has been far less successful in gaining control of the Hindu narrative but that might change if fascist elements use religion to gain political ascendancy; my next post will deal with that danger.


Anonymous said...

You are 100% correct.
There is no other country in the history of Earth that has done so many damages in this world than United Kingdom. You take any problem that face on this earth, Britisher's hand will be there somewhere.
India-Pakistan, Israel-Palestine, Iran-Iraq, Jordan-Syria, Turkey-Arabs, Egypt-Algeria, Argentina-UK, Ireland, Malaysia-Indonesia, Gibraltar, Cypress, Congo, South Africa, what else? Ohh.. Hindu-Muslim divide & rule.

They had done so many human rights violations beyond any one can imagine, now they talk about Human rights.

Thomas said...

But if India remains unidustrialized how will it defend itself against takeovers, either overt like when Britain conquered India or via "rebel" groups as happened recently with Libya?

Valentina said...

This is cool!