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LABOUR HATERS: The Boston Globe’s Worrisome Rightward Lurch

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September 17, 2015

BY 

There was a time when the Boston Globe was led by what Americans like to call “good liberals.” In global terms that would have made them perhaps center-left at best. Reliably progressive on social issues. Able to at least consider the public good in political economic discussions while trumpeting the wonders of capitalism like every other mainstream news outlet. Of late, however, with staff cuts continuing apace and much of their content devoted to advertising-friendly fluff, they’re well on their way to becoming little more than corporate cheerleaders.

How else to explain yesterday’s bizarre editorial “The Labour Party’s worrisome leftward lurch”?

Why the pressing need for the Globe editorial board to bash the ascendency of a genuinely pro-worker socialist like Jeremy Corbyn to the leadership of the Labour Party in the United Kingdom — which was, after all, founded as a socialist party? And governed as such for decades post 1945.

The piece attempts to smear Corbyn as wildly unrealistic and out of touch after the long and ostensibly glorious reign of Tony Blair’s corporatist New Labour wing of the Labour Party. This position relies on the low levels of American awareness of international politics. Because only near total public ignorance of foreign affairs could embolden Globe editors to paint the devastating effects of nearly four decades of successive warmongering neoliberal Thatcherite and Blairite governments as being positive on the balance for the vast majority of UK residents.

Worst of all, the Globe editorial board fails to mention that the UK public is overwhelmingly in support of Corbyn’s major policy proposals. But can barely restrain its glee in attacking those very same proposals. Most puzzling. They seem to be simply echoing their counterparts in the corporate media across the pond. And this passage in the middle of the hectoring editorial is where the knives really come out:

“The election of Corbyn as Labour Party leader represents a large leftward lurch even from the politics of Miliband. Corbyn’s stands include such outmoded ideas as nationalizing the UK’s railroads and energy companies, imposing a maximum wage on private-sector salaries, and the widespread reimposition of rent control. Some prominent Labour MPs are already upset about his refusal to rule out joining the campaign to pull Britain out of the European Union.

The polemic continues: “On foreign policy, Corbyn has called for unilateral nuclear disarmament for Britain, is against air strikes targeting ISIS, and supports a ban on the sale of weapons to Israel. He has talked of having Britain leave NATO, though more recently has called for a rethinking of NATO’s mission. He labeled the killing, rather than trial, of Osama bin Laden ‘a tragedy.’”

Let’s get this straight:

  • Corbyn’s “large leftward lurch” includes renationalizing the UK’s railroads and its energy industry — both of which did just fine as public services. Privatizing energy, an extremely undemocratic and brutal process in the case of the once-mighty coal industry, caused massive layoffs and the ongoing immiseration of entire sections of the country. Not to mention providing worse service across the board for higher prices while profits for stockholders soared. Privatizing rail resulted in “series of failures, scandals and fatal crashes, each at great expense to taxpayers” according to the pro-renationalization activist group Bring Back British Rail. Nevertheless, the Globe thinks such privatization was positive, and that Corbyn’s thinking about deprivatizing those industries is bad. Got it.
  • And a maximum wage is also bad? In an age when fewer and fewer people control more and more of the world’s wealth — and then use the money to rig political systems to their ever-increasing advantage — we don’t want to cap CEO salaries? Why would this a bad thing? Here’s what Corbyn has to say on the matter: “Why is it that bankers on massive salaries require bonuses to work while street-cleaners require threats to make them work? It’s a kind philosophical question really. There ought to be a maximum wage. The levels of inequality in Britain are getting worse.” Sounds like a fine idea from this corner. Especially here in the US where CEOs make more than 350 times as much as the average worker — compared to UK CEOs, who make 183 times as much as their average worker … up from 160 times as much in 2010.

  • And rent control? Why is that bad? The Globe itself reports on the huge and growing housing crisis in the Boston area. And is continually amazed that “letting the market handle it” isn’t working. Of course the market isn’t handling the crisis at all. It’s not designed to do that. It’s designed to make profits for the real estate and construction corporations. So some sort of rent control is definitely one reform that needs to come back to both the UK and Boston. Were the old rent control systems perfect? No. Could they be handled better now? Sure. Were they better than the current situation for working and middle class families in both locales?Hell yes. Then why can’t rent control be on the table, too?
  • Also, is pulling the UK out of the European Union bad? Even if the existing foundational treaties can’t be renegotiated to benefit the people of Europe? When the Greek crisis recently exposed the EU as just a front for German banks and American financial service hucksters providing toxic loans to entire countries via the Troika of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund in collusion with various local oligarchs? And then reducing those countries to penury if they refuse to pay up under the worst possible terms? Is allowing bankers to hold sovereign nations hostage an example of the “good governance” that Globe writers are always crowing about?
  • And then … seriously now … is unilateral nuclear disarmament bad? Of what possible use are nuclear weapons to Britain or any country? They’re massively expensive, utterly pointless — except to the war companies that profit from their manufacture, and the reactionaries that insist on huge militaries — impossible to defend against, and if they’re ever used by anyone then … the entire planet is completely screwed. Because even if it’s “only one” nuke, the door will then be open for using more. And more. And more. Until the Earth is a cinder. So why is nuclear disarmament bad?
  • By the same token is banning “bomb diplomacy” against enemies like ISIS — which has worked so very well when the US, a servile UK and other puppet allies du jour used it in Iraq that it spawned ISIS in the first place — a bad idea? Is disbanding NATO — a cold war relic that a parade of US and European neocons are using to reignite hostilities with the Russia via proxy wars in border countries like Ukraine — so terrible?

Not that the Globe offered anything at all in the way of proof of its positions. It simply stated them. In the confident normative tone that is the mark of the edicts of hegemonic power. That is to say, these kinds of truisms are the stock in trade of journalists who are acting as mouthpieces for the rich and powerful. Which rich and powerful people and institutions don’t really matter.

What does matter is that attacking the kinds of positions that Jeremy Corbyn represents is pro-corporate, pro-war, anti-democratic and therefore quite right wing.

And how do we account for this strong rightward drift from Globe editors? One could speculate, as above, but it’s not clear.

So Globe readers need to contact them and ask them. Early and often. Boston is about the last city on the planet that needs two major right wing corporate newspapers.


PS: Shout out to the Boston Carmen’s Union, who slapped down Joan Vennochi’s pro-Pioneer Institute column in last Friday’s Globe with a feisty fact-laden rejoinder on their website.

Apparent Horizon is the first column syndicated by the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. Jason Pramas is BINJ network director.


Copyright 2015 Jason Pramas. Licensed for use by the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism and media outlets in its network.