Monday, June 4, 2012

A culture of connections and glass ceilings drags Britain's integrity into the gutter

"Corruption" is something that British people tend to think of something that affects the Third World. When people think of corruption, they think of bribery, brown envelopes, nepotism, a closed and unresponsive elite, massive government waste and grossly dysfunctional government.

But they need look no further than our own shores; for the political and media circles that turn the cogs of British power is full of it.

 To be fair, a lot of "corruption" nowadays, compared to thirty or forty years ago, has evolved and been modified to fit into the times. Direct bribery, such as it is, is at a much smaller degree than it was thirty years ago.
The Metropolitan Police, the largest and most dysfunctional police force in the UK, have made large steps forward; yet, there are still a number of openly corrupt police officers who have taken bribes from media figures, as we have seen (ironically) from the media.
Bribery is a left-over symptom of the wider issue that pervades the two institutions that have the most influence on British society, politics and media.

The wider issue is this: the culture of connections and exclusivity, in particular that culture which pervades the right-wing media and politics.

The long inquiry into media and politics that has been the Leveson inquiry has opened-up this particular can of worms for all and sundry. Although the average person on the street does not pay much attention to it, the constant drip-drip of revelations in the press about the reliance that many politicians have on the media (in particular the Murdoch media group), and the influence that the Murdoch media group has long sought and abused, leaves little to doubt. The average person on the street will (rightly) think that the whole thing stinks of sleaze, of an exclusive portion of society that pulls the levers of power and that the average person has no chance of controlling.

This is the definition of corruption, albeit just one segment of it. The media is corrupt in that it is an industry that only people who are from well-off backgrounds have a fair chance of gaining entry to. If you want to be a journalist, and have no contacts within the industry already, the only way to get your foot in the door after university is through being an intern. But these are virtually unpaid positions, so anyone who is unable to fund such a position without their own funds, or (more likely) their parents', has little chance of being able to afford such an indulgence. So by definition, you need to be from a wealthy background to stand a chance.

An example of this can even be seen at the quality of TV personalities and organisers at the BBC, as the massive criticism of the BBC's TV coverage of the Diamond Jubilee river pageant shows. The common criticism is that you had presenters who didn't know what to talk about (discussing banal and pointless issues without being remotely informative), and a poorly-thought-out programme for the spectacle. This is a direct result of the closed world that media represents; incompetence follows corruption, as night follows day.

(I should also say that the same goes for the arts: anyone interested in working in fashion/design/arts and so on, would likely find a similar scenario, unless they were lucky. This is what usually happens in London, where these industries, as well as media, are centred)

Then there is politics. As I wrote on my previous article, we can learn a lot about the nature of politics from the quality (or lack of) in government personalities. Jeremy Hunt is perhaps the best example of this kind of corruption of connections and exclusivity. I described him as one of the government's "donkeys" in my previous article, but it's also indicative to look at how he, and the likes of David Cameron and Gideon/George Osborne, got where they did.
They did not get there through "merit": Jeremy Hunt worked as a manager of a design company for three years, and his staff thought he was a clone of Harry Enfield's character, Tim Nice-But-Dim. The fact that he had no opinion on most subjects, showed no talent at most things whatsoever, but that his parents were both solidly Conservative, made him an ideal candidate for Conservative MP. And so he became one.
This tells you all you need to know about the Conservative Party. Of course, Labour and the LibDems may suffer from some form of exclusivity, but it seems that the Conservatives are the most guilty of this form of corruption.

When you have a system in place that excludes anyone who is one not "one of us", this is the definition of corruption. This system runs like a virus through segments of politics and media in Britain today. This system, by definition, breeds only incompetence upon arrogance, and is why corruption is the plague of Third World governments.

It is ironic, then, that other nations considers Britain's parliament and media to be the envy of the world. What is there to envy? Their exclusivity? Better to look somewhere else.

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