Saturday, July 15, 2017

Between the Lines: Prole Pop (1986)

The Between the Lines column from the December 1986 issue of the Socialist Standard

Prole pop
Why do TV producers assume that people who want to watch (and hear) pop/rock music on TV must be dummies who deserve no better than the incoherent idiocies and inanities offered by the likes of Paula Yates (presenter of The Tube. C4. Fridays. 5.30pm)? Since TV pop shows first began in the Sixties with The Six Five Special (including the awful Pete Murray — last seen campaigning for Thatcher in the 1979 election together with a bunch of other has-beens). Ready Steady Go and the atrocious Top Of The Pops, hosted by nauseating Jimmy Savile and Tony Blackburn, it has always been assumed that those who like "popular" music are fit only for condescension.

Pop. it is felt by those who run TV. is the music of the proles who are too intellectually limited to appreciate the likes of Beethoven. So if you want to see the latest musicians perform on TV the price you must pay is to be treated like a cultural inferior. The Radio One mentality is that if you like workers' music you can't expect serious presentation. If you are a Radio Three, opera on BBC2 type. TV is prepared to treat you with a little dignity. They get Richard Baker to whisper in pompous tones about what led Verdi to write his four-act Rigoletto. Meanwhile, for the proles who watch the bands which most workers buy (Madness sell more records than Verdi's four acts multiplied by twelve) the best we can expect is Steve Wright being patronising or Paula Yates giggling and plugging her old man (Geldof's) Christmas record.


Negative marketing
The US elections for Congress last month were marked by a new campaigning feature: negative advertising. Candidates for Congress can buy space on American TV in order to sell themselves and it has been this soap-powder approach to politics which has characterised US elections for years. In 1986 the advent of negative advertising — used as a tactic by both of the big parties — has meant that candidates' ads are increasingly based not on what a good guy Our Man is. but what a lying, hypocritical, uncaring ponce Their Man is. All over the USA workers have been appealed to on the basis of purely negative messages.

In one sense nothing could be more fitting for capitalism in the tired, intellectually bankrupt condition it has now reached. No more New Deals or Great Men of the People: the only way to persuade workers that Tweedledum is worthier than Tweedledee is by digging up the dirt on Tweedledee. The British need not feel superior; if Kinnock is to oust Thatcher his main hope rests on negative attitudes to her; if Thatcher is to keep Labour out she will need to play on fears of the Labour Left gaining power. Such is the level of capitalist politics that merchants with nothing to sell can only get your votes by claiming that the merchant at the next stall is selling shoddy products. The best to be said for it is that at least with negative advertising politicians tell fewer lies: after all. if they are buying space to explain what a bunch of crooks the others are workers have only to draw the obvious conclusion.


BBC bias
Yes, Norman Tebbit, the BBC is biased. That is why the oldest party in Britain claiming to stand for socialism, and the only one which does, has never been invited to appear on national BBC TV.

It is scandalous for Tebbit and the Tories to attack the BBC for showing viewers the results of the Libyan bombing of civilian workers, in which the British government colluded with the US government in an act of appalling state terrorism. If Tebbit wishes to blame the messenger for delivering the message that is the slippery slope to total state control of the media by the government.

In addition to criticisms over the Libyan reporting Tories have also been attacking the BBC over a Panorama programme (Maggie's Militant Tendency, broadcast on 30 January 1984) which showed the clear links between several known fascists and the Conservative Party. Two of the MPs named in the programme sued the BBC for libel and. after several months, the BBC caved in and dropped its defence. It is highly probable that the BBC was under government pressure to do so. Several points concerning the Panorama programme need to be made:

• It has been alleged that the two Tory MPs who sued for libel are now totally cleared of any fascist connections. That is false. The MPs concerned — Neil Hamilton and George Howarth — denied the Panorama claim that they were members of a neo-fascist group called Tory Action which has infiltrated the Tory Party. What they did not deny at any time were other claims made in the programme: that when Hamilton was at university he advocated "the abolition of parliament and the suppression of the lower classes” (this and all quotes are from a direct transcript obtained from the BBC); that in 1972 he went to the Youth Leaders Congress of the MSI. the Italian Fascist Party, and that when in August 1983 he was on an official parliamentary delegation to Berlin he shocked his hosts by appearing in public and giving a Nazi salute. In the case of Howarth. he hosted a Tory Action reception in the House of Commons in July 1983 — Tory Action is an explicitly racist group led by G.K. Young. ex-Tory candidate for Brent East of whom Young Conservative chairman Philip Pedley said in the programme: “He is a man who seems to see a Communist under every bed and usually a Jewish Communist. He seems to be convinced that unless you are racist you are some sort of traitor . . . ” Howarth's mother was an active NF member for four years, according to NF records.
• Quite aside from the fact that none of the above points were ever denied by Hamilton and Howarth in court, there is the fact that they were not the only Tory MPs said by Panorama to be backed by Tory Action and linked to fascists. The main MP attacked by the programme was Harvey Proctor, described as having "been involved in Tory Action since G.K. Young first set it up". Why did Proctor not sue for libel, considering that the programme explicitly connected him with the National Front and accused him of stirring up racism? Proctor is now under police investigation for homosexual vice crimes — beating male prostitutes — and again he has remained silent. Proctor was not the only MP apart from Hamilton and Howarth named in the programme If the legal victory of Hamilton and Howarth indicates that they were the victims of false allegations (which, in general, they do not seem to have been) the legal inaction of the other MPs might be taken to read that they had no defence to offer.

• The programme made several other highly damaging points, based on indisputable evidence, to show that fascists are operating in the Tory Party. For instance, the programme opened by interviewing Don Moody who had recently been leader of the paramilitary Nazi group. Column Eighty-eight. He had spent thirty years in neo-fascist parties in Britain. He made his office into a shrine to the memory of Adolf Hitler. In 1983 Moody was a Conservative candidate in Cleethorpes. No denial of this evidence has been offered — indeed. Moody was interviewed on the programme, saying that "I think that Adolf Hitler will go down in history with complete and total detachment as the saviour not only of the white man. if you like, but of humankind". Neither has there been any denial of the programme's damning evidence regarding the pressure group run by the neo-fascist historian. David Irving, who claims on the programme to have bought a copy of the membership list of the Federation of Conservative Students for use by his organisation.

The Panorama documentary provided an excellent exposure of clear links between Tories, some of them MPs, and fascists. As such it made public information which should be known. That efforts have been made to silence the programme-makers and intimidate the BBC is proof that capitalist politicians do not like the facts about themselves given to the workers.
Steve Coleman


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