The 'intringulis' of Britain's plutocracy

In Part III of Big Society, Big Oil and Muzzled Universities, I noted that the plutocratic (or ‘plutonomic’) order that now dominates the UK should not be regarded as a monolithic, homogeneous conspiracy on the part of the richest 1%. I suggested that significant divisions, and resistance to the plutocrats (or the ‘plutonocrats’) needed to be taken into account by any critical analysis. Today we read news that provide the best illustration of why I included that caveat in my article. But the news also provide evidence that the order in question is very much in place.

The news in question involve Mark Thompson, the BBC’s furore–prone director general. Thompson has reportedly given a speech in New York, in which he warned that the Murdochs’ bid to acquire the totality of BskyB has the potential to produce a significant ‘loss of plurality’ in the British media market, and indeed, may even lead to an ‘abuse of power’.

Thompson was stating the obvious. This week I referred to an article in the New York Times by Paul Krugman, in which Krugman, a relatively conservative economist, penned an article that reads like a real-world version of Tomorrow Never Dies. Krugman warned about the way in which the Murdochs are funding Tea Party activists: ‘every major contender for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination who isn’t currently holding office and isn’t named Mitt Romney is now a paid contributor to [Rupert Murdoch’s] Fox News.’

You might have thought that a culture of corruption is only found in the United States. But Krugman also pointed out that ‘in Britain, a reporter at one of Mr. Murdoch’s papers, News of the World, was caught hacking into the voice mail of prominent citizens, including members of the royal family. But Scotland Yard showed little interest in getting to the bottom of the story. Now the editor who ran the paper when the hacking was taking place is chief of communications for the Conservative government — and that government is talking about slashing the budget of the BBC, which competes with the News Corporation.’

Which brings us back to Thompson. Thompson might be thought of as the ‘good guy’ who is battling for public services—well, at least for the BBC. In some respects he may well be. But this is the man who tolerates Shaun Ley-style reporting, and indeed this is the same man that was caught by the press going to 10 Downing Street in an alleged effort to placate Cameron, whom many now believe  to be in Murdoch’s pocket to have done a deal with Murdoch.

Thompson is also the man who was alleged to have engaged in analogous manoeuvres with the most reactionary of Israeli politicians, almost certainly compromising the BBC’s much vaunted objectivity with respect to the coverage of events in the highly volatile Middle East. Remember the furore surrounding the Gaza Appeal? Those reactionary politicians were, of course, both supported by, and a key pillar of, the Bush administration, which was itself in bed, so to speak, with the Fox.

That someone politically in bed with other people who are themselves in bed with the people that the first person seems to be having a go at reveals what the Spanish might describe as the ‘intríngulis’ of British politics—and indeed the intríngulis of what I have referred to as the plutonomic order. Anyone who forgets the vicissitudes of such an ‘intríngulis’—read puzzle, mystery, secret, ulterior motives—is bound to distort the workings of plutonomy.

For more on that intríngulis, you may wish to read John Pilger’s piece in the New Statesman, The BBC is on Murdoch’s Side.