A lot of sites have been posting on the issue of immigration recently, some with the attempt of having a proper discussion, others to merely point out the shameful way that the subject is reported in the press. Left Outside has tried to condense just what arguments newspapers consistently rely on to incite hatred of immigrants and he concludes that the arguments are very old and still very untrue. Nonetheless, they still induce anger in those that read and believe the basic myths about immigration – that immigrants take our jobs/money/culture/freedoms/women/homes/land/identity. The enemies of reason tries to rationalise why newspapers would desire to do this – what part of the brain are they trying to feed, what market are these myths being sold to – and he concludes that they are designed to: ‘prompt outrage… [and] make you demand justice against a lack of fairness’. in other words, they give readers a chance to rise up (in whatever way) against something that is fundamentally unfair and that they get some kind of catharsis from doing so.
I would develop this a little further and say that newspapers are very aware of their position as a communication tool for the incredibly rich and powerful and that their primary function is to ensure that the rich stay rich and the rest of us remain profitable for them. If we really wanted to get outraged over something perhaps we could choose bigger issues like – for example – the fact that almost half the world – over 3 billion people – live in poverty with over 80% of humanity living on less than $10 a day. Or the fact that ‘the poorest 40 percent of the world’s population accounts for 5 percent of global income… [whilst] the richest 20 percent accounts for three-quarters of world income’. Nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their name; water problems (including lack of clean drinking water and basic sanitation) affect over half of humanity; every second child lives in poverty (1 billion), 121 million are out of education; in 2005 the richest 25% were responsible for over 76% of private consumption, whilst the world’s poorest 20% consumed just 1.5%.
We live in a world that has been inherited by a few – the world’s billionaires, just 497 people (approximately 0.000008% of the world’s population) — were worth $3.5 trillion (over 7% of world GDP) – who have mastery over the media messages we consume. Of course when you take a step back and look around you you may realise that the world is a beautiful place, but conversely the human society that has evolved is pretty fucking shitty. Sometimes we can indulge in personal complaints – why am I working 5 days a week, doing a job I hate, for a wage that just barely enables me to live in a house and feed myself? etc – but we’re always told to be grateful, because there is always someone worse off. This, of course, is true. I might complain that I am not rich, but in many ways I am: I have a loving family, a fiancee, I own a house, a car, the PC I am typing this on, a mobile phone, a games console, a TV; I have running water, gas, electricity and so on. However, why are we forced into accepting our position in life by looking at those less fortunate, why do we not look the other way and question why the system has collected the world’s wealth into the hands of the few? Rather than feel grateful for the fact we’re not starving to death or dying through disease, shouldn’t be looking up the chain and questioning just why there is this economic underclass of billions and just what the fuck are a few people doing with a staggering percentage of the world’s wealth?
Newspapers are a fundamental part of this system of wealth, they are owned by the wealthy who cosy up to the even wealthier – no-one should doubt the power of the Murdoch media empire to shape debate in order to maintain the riches of the elite – so they must quench our first for some kind of battle against unfairness. Therefore each country’s press gives us the ultimate bogeyman: the immigrant. It is never the billionaire on top of the pile that is stealing our money, making us redundant or stealing our women (though, inevitably they do control our employment and profit from our endeavour), it is – we are told to believe – the homeless, disenfranchised and dis-empowered immigrant who is fact doing all of these things. Instead of taking up arms against a small number of obscenely rich people we instead raise our newspapers in anger against a sea of immigrants, and by opposing them we deflect our power from justifiable opposition to the real injustice that is all around us – we waste our anger on a red herring.
The trouble with the system is that we only seem to have two choices: play along and hope for an increasing slice of the wealth as we get older, or fuck the system and live a life in abject poverty or if not at least disdained by most of society (the recent press attacks on Travellers and Gypsies being the perfect example of how outsiders to the game are treated). The higher we climb the ladder of monetary reward the more power and chance we have of making any real change to the overall system, but precisely because of increased power / wealth we are more reluctant to do so. Politicians are perfect examples of human ideals being corrupted by society’s rewards: politicians may start with a dream, a change they may want to affect, but when they actually get into power they realise that to follow their dreams would risk sacrificing the power they have achieved, because they cannot make any changes without power, they drop the changes and follow policies that will get them re-elected (even though their logic is self-defeating because they know they’ll never use this power to affect real change). Thus we have the political circle that we have today, one party promises change and reform, is elected, realises changes may be unpopular in the short term, drops them to follow short term policies to ensure re-election, eventually the country becomes disillusioned with the lack of change and votes in another party that does exactly the same (the process has been repeating for hundreds of years and nothing looks set to change).
Two World Wars were fought by troops confident that social change would follow such momentous events, yet the soldiers who gave so much for their country were always to be disappointed. Change can only ever happen if the general population is mobilised towards a cause thought just by the overwhelming majority. Because the press is largely responsible for shaping public opinion or awareness about any issue, such issues are never likely to be the overwhelming unfairness of an society in which so much is owned and controlled by so few. Instead we are fed bogeymen, of which the immigrant seems to be the most persistent and popular. Of course, the truth about immigration and immigrants is out there, the counter-arguments are laid forth on many websites and even within the mainstream media, but the only result is that the informed and educated are forced to mobilise to fight myths put forward by the press, rather than mobilising against bigger issues. We fight each other and are weak, rather than joining together to battle the real problems.
We therefore live in a society where it seems the best we can fight for is a correction of the myths that surround target groups; whilst the perpetrators of the real crimes against humanity are never threatened because we are too busy squabbling over the lies that they feed us to engage in the bigger questions surrounding their power and responsibilities. Perhaps the biggest irony is that the displacement of people in recent years has largely been caused by the super-rich elite whose corporations have demanded free markets throughout the world – which includes access to the cheapest and most valuable asset of all: people. We accept our cheap clothes made in a sweatshop in some foreign country by a Western corporation, whilst simultaneously demanding ‘British jobs for British workers’. Do we not realise that it is the corporations that decide who is employed and where, not some mythical homogeneous group of immigrants who are themselves victims of corporate power and greed?
It always surprises me that people feel threatened by those with nothing, when logic dictates it is the rich and powerful that can inflict harm upon us should they so wish. Likewise, we attack the most vulnerable, dis-empowered and disenfranchised with a logical realisation that they are the least able to change any of this. For example, The Daily Mail constantly attacks the poorest people in society and the benefits that they receive (gaining much support and vitriol from ‘hard-working, tax-paying’ readers) whilst simulatenoulsy being owned by Lord Rothermere who pays no taxes on the income from the Daily Mail (which the readers presumably don’t know about). It makes no sense, yet somehow the mainstream media have made this incongruity a stable fact of life. In the words of Malcolm X:
If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.