I’m great at spotting bandwagons, especially the ones I’m not part of. I use “bandwagon” as a pejorative, the mindless crowd led out onto the streets with pitchforks, not entirely sure what they’re angry about but damned sure everyone is going to know they’re angry.
Except, of course, when I’m part of a bandwagon. Then it isn’t a bandwagon at all, it’s the zeitgeist, it’s a movement, it’s righteous. My choice of mass ire is down to erudition and a deep critical understanding of the topic, all the other ones are just misguided and offensive.
It’s funny that even now, where social media is supposed to be the driver of outrage and public opinion, where TV and radio cover news events for 24 hours, it’s still the print media that largely controls the news.
Every news programme starts with a paper review. The news they cover is still dictated by what is put onto the front pages or what isn’t. And it continues throughout the day. Current events and sports, TV and radio are continually in deference to what is on the front or back pages.
It is discussed with the assumption that it is factual, right, newsworthy and the full picture. Rarely critiqued. Rarely questioned.
Example: how many of the people you know (in real life) are actually calling for Halligan to quit? How many of the people you know discussed the Halligan issue beyond maybe a five minute “bit of an idiot thing to do” if at all?
Seeing those front pages last night, I felt like theBill Hicks sketch talking about CNN news. Bad news Trump Bros, liberals were criticising liberal media for “fake news” a long time before you were. But there was this push to make it an issue. There was this weird attempt to make it an issue of “PC gone mad” with people calling for his resignation.
These “people” being the same group that Trump refers to in his “many people are saying”, i.e. no one. The only people calling for Halligan’s resignation are other politicians trying to create a scandal, don’t try and include me in this issue hoss.
Yet there it is, front page “Halligan told to quit…” There it is again discussed in the morning on the paper review. The slant being that it’s us, the snowflake generation, the virtue signallers, our Jo Malone Outrage scent diffuser wafting under our noses, stomping our feet and demanding his resignation. WE CAN’T EVEN TOUCH WOMEN’S KNEES NOW! WHAT IS THE WORLD COMING TO?
Yet I’m looking around at my fellow snowflakes and not one is calling for his resignation, not one has said much beyond he’s an idiot and seven grand compo seems a bit much. *crickets chirping* Where’s all this shit happening?
It happens because we let it happen. Maybe not in the Halligan case, but there will be those who will use this politically manufactured outrage to further their own agenda, particularly when it is conflated with the #MeToo stories. But we allow it when the agenda is controlled in our favour.
This week we have new monsters out there, rich monsters, celebrity monsters hiding money away. Cherry picked monsters. Throw Bono under the bus, that’s always good for clicks. And that Mrs Brown fella. Never liked him, the show isn’t that funny, doesn’t matter that there are plenty of other attempts at comedy that aren’t that funny either, he’s popular with the working class so needs taking down a peg or two.
As long as we have a wicker man to burn down and destroy, we can get on with our lives pretending that we are innocent. It’ll blow over. Bono will continue to be sneered at and taxes will be brought up every time he tries to do something nice, but we’ll never look below that, never at ourselves.
The Paradise Papers (correction what we have been told so far about the Paradise Papers) are interesting. Not as explosive as the Panama Papers, and look how those changed the world of finance *ahem*, they show the same thing. And that thing isn’t celebrities.
Similar to any issue we see in the media, just check your outrage or your urge to defend and look at the reporting. The leak contains millions of documents and we’ve had a handful of names drip fed to us. Millionaires and Billionaires. Then comes the counter arguments. Those who take a stance just to argue against the outrage and not to discuss the issue.
Contrarians would argue that these complex off-shore systems are akin to Tax Credits, at least morally. Contrarians point out that there is nothing illegal going on here. It’s a manufactured debate, just as the current Halligan “debate” is. Not so much in that there isn’t something to be angry at, but as to the misdirection on where we focus our anger.
First, the contrarians are wrong, or at least misguided in their attempt to deliberately mislead us. But no more misleading than the deliberate targeting of celebrities.
It’s easy to clear up the counter-argument. Tax Credits are specific exemptions allowed in legislation to offset some costs or provide a financial reward for societal benefits. They are specifically written into the legislation to allow for the off set of tax. They are legal and moral because the law specifically says we can. We get some rules to follow. That and this, these and those. No one knows
The tax avoidance systems are not the same. They are loop holes. The large financial institutions (and they are all here in these papers) employ very well-paid people to find loop holes in order that tax can be avoided. Not so much looking for what is permitted, but finding things that aren’t explicitly prohibited. That is a key difference.
It is disingenuous to say that these are “legal”, they’re only legal because they have yet to be tested by a court. Technically right doesn’t mean something is legal, that is for a court to decide.
In the absence of clarity in legislation, judges can also interpret law based on “the spirit” or its intention. It’s why legislation has long titles as well as short. The long title outlines the intention of the legislation. EU directives have several pages dedicated to their intention to assist the courts in interpreting any grey areas.
It is hard to account for everything when drafting legislation. Hopefully the generality of some legislation means that everything is covered, but there are always grey areas. The financial industry has whole business units devoted to finding these grey areas and exploiting them.
That is not the same as me totting up my bin charges and medical expenses each year unless you are reducing it to an absurd level. My intention of only paying what I have to is generally correct, however the mechanism behind them are vastly different. These mechanisms for tax avoidance are only available to the very wealthy.
However, it is also wrong to only focus on the named wealthy people. I may not have much time for a constitutional monarchy, but I’d assume Queen Elizabeth II spends about as much time analysing her investments as I did analysing my pension statement last week.
I’ve honestly no idea where my money is invested. Actually, scratch that I do. Like your pension if you have one, it’s probably floating around various offshore accounts. It’s probably bouncing around from loophole to loophole as I speak. It was probably invested in the subprime mortgage system in the US ten years ago. It’s probably settled into some other scheme that is only legal by virtue of no one’s found it to be illegal just yet.
I’ve not asked. I’m not going to ask. The statement seemed to say everything is ok and as long as I continue to earn what I am and retire at 75, I should be able to survive on ten euro a week. But Bono’s a bastard, Brendan O’Carroll is a hypocrite. I think.
The immorality isn’t celebrities handing over the management of their finances to third parties. It’s the third parties and the financial companies they use who consistently chase new loop holes and avoidance measures. Our pensions and our investments, knowingly or otherwise, are tied up in the same mess.
We saw the exact same thing with the Panama Papers. The most interesting stories were buried in favour of the more scandalous. David Cameron’s exploits and property investments were given more print space than Prince Charles’s investment in a company setting up dodgy carbon trading for rain forests. A scheme he then lobbied on behalf of.
We’ll only remember Bono, not what may follow next, not the real scandals of those in power accumulating wealth, hiding their wealth. It’s more insidious that politicians deliberately hide their wealth through these schemes than how Brendan O’Carroll is paid. But that’s not what we’ll remember.
We’ll remember Michael Ashcroft hiding in a toilet, not why he was hiding in a toilet because the stories we’re being given are only about the toilet.
Anyway, there is some good news. Over the last few years an anti-corruption effort has discovered €2 billion “off-the-books” cash tucked away in a major institution. That’s one big mattress to be hiding cash in. The same investigations closed 5000 bank accounts owned by the Institution that were, let’s be generous and say “suspicious.” Templemore had nothing on these guys.
The investigation has led to firings within the institution, but has also revealed corruption in the police, government, financial institutions as well as organised crime. It has been one of the most significant anti-corruption movements in recent history. And it is all down to one man: Pope Francis.
Earlier this year, after taking on the Knights of Malta and sacking Matthew Festing (Prince and Grand Master Fra’ Matthew Festing to give him his full title, His Most Eminent Highness to us proles), Festing started a formal campaign to get Francis declared a heretic.
That’s pretty big news right? If we can have 24/7 coverage of a chimney while we wait for a Pope to be selected, then the extreme nuclear option of having him declared a heretic deserves some coverage.
Festing has support from other ousted right-wing conservative Catholics, support from the likes Steve Bannon and those who were previously enriched by the Roman Curia, but are now out of work and under investigation for corruption.
Y’all remember it right? It was in February. They put posters up in Rome and everything.
Nothing will change the financial institutions and financial system if we keep going along with the media driven cherry picked sacrificial lambs. I may be naïve, but I find politicians hiding revenue more odious and newsworthy than Bono not keeping track of his investments.
I find heirs to a throne interfering in politics to further their investments more odious and newsworthy than how Brendan O’Carroll’s financial advisor set up his company.
I find an 81-year-old man risking everything to take on corruption and accumulation of wealth in the Vatican more newsworthy than a stupid question asked at an interview by a politician who seems nice, if a bit dim.
It seems harder than ever to find the signal for all the noise of what we are supposed to be angry about. But we should always err on the side of caution. Remember those times you disagreed with the media agenda because outrage was opposite to your views? It works the same, even when we agree with the outrage in principle.
It’s never the full story, it’s never the real story, it’s always the story they want to tell.
Oh God, I’ve become that person, I’ve become the “What they won’t tell you in the MSM” Guy.
Listrade can be found on twitter @listrade