May. 13th, 2001

So. The End of Politics by Noreena Hertz, or as Neil calls her, the Cambridge Professor for No Logo. Funnily enough that book wasn't even mentioned, although I suspect there was deep inspiration sourced from it.. although the publisher of the book, effectively Rupert Murdoch, was taunted about his intervention over the Patten book denouncing China. Ho hum.

It must be hard to get people interested in political documentaries, although you would have thought that one such as this, with such potential populist appeal, would sell itself.. but just to make sure, Channel 4 employed a cameraman (or in today's liberal society, possibly camerawoman) who obviously had a thing about Noreena, because every interview which took place involved about 50% of her face, 25% panning and 25% of the subject in question. Infuriating when you were looking for people's body language behind the bold statements they were making, only to see gorgeous Noreena pouting and nodding. Yes, we know she's good looking Channel 4, now can we get back to the issue?

The issue at hand being, of course, globalisation. The faked-up lecture scene extensively used, pretending to be from the boards of the lecture theatres of one of my old stomping grounds, the Judge Institute of Management Studies, was frankly awful. No lecture theatre that I know of has a spotlight and a black background (and foreground) - how on earth would you be able to take notes otherwise?

So an academic who is pretty and not particularly skilled at presentation, being awfully directed and edited (or, perhaps, indulged?) by a pretty risible technical crew.. but what of the message itself? How lost did it get in the medium?

The advantage they all had, of course, is that this is fundamentally a terrifying and striking enough issue to shine through almost any presentation - even that of smelly rioters with dogs on string (even if the media pay them to look violent because the actual protests are disappointingly devoid of violence.. doubters should listen to the media camera crews who were told to "ignore peaceful protest and film the troublemakers"). So, global corporations taking over the world. There was the story of Honduras.. on the one hand, with some of its population spoilt by the banana company Chiquita, given housing, schooling, healthcare.. on the other hand gaining from the government there (a democratic constitutional republic, as the programme failed to mention) tax exemption on imports, exports and income and corporation tax, leaving those not working for it, and the country as a whole, suffering. That nicely expands, of course, since Chiquita was the company who effectively forced by lobby the banana war between the US and the EU, by leading the US to raise the issue of the dispute at the World Trade Organization (who I have talked about in my journal before). Given the EU were trying to look after the interests of their former colonies, they were always going to lose - human rights don't come into WTO decisions by definition, only profit and loss sheets and trade barriers - and the ignoring of the WTO's decision by the EU for some years leading European companies suffering 100% tariffs was also covered. I'm not going to go on about the WTO.. I think it's had quite enough coverage.

There was some discussion about the handing over to the corporate world of things the state would have been expected to run previously - most obviously schools - and some discussion of whether governments having provided the infrastructure had their influence diminished as the companies made use of it. Bizarrely in my view there was no mention of Railtrack - despite some nice train shots - who made such a hash when taking infrastructure control from the state. Similarly, where was the coverage of the tube and PPP?

Another issue I felt was skirted over, ahem, was that of gender. The point was well made that many of the slaves of globalisation are women, traditionally not workers in many states of the world. However, any deeper reasons for the sexism and exploitation of women by what are often male-dominated corporations (and certainly male run - all of the company leaders they interviewed were male) seemed to be completely missed by the programme. Instead they quickly returned to this theme of the Government striving to accommodate multinationals. I wonder what the percentage of women in those governments is?

Finally, and an area close to my heart, is that of university research being controlled and stilted by sponsorship of university departments by multinationals, with the money from BAT going towards Nottingham Uni. There was no mention of how the Judge Institute was paid for (with money from, amongst others, KPMG and the Margaret Thatcher Foundation), or the new Microsoft Centre in Cambridge, even though Gates appeared often on the programme and Thatcher (with Bush) was extensively blamed by the two old party grandees (Clarke for the Tories and Hattersley for Labour) for the whole world-wide shift towards globalisation.

There seemed to be some assumption that state running of education was somehow infinitely preferable to corporate sponsorship because of the greater independence the state somehow provided. There wasn't much explanation of this, never mind justification, and when governments are by the programmes own admission already ceding much power to corporations, it seems rather strange to suggest that government wouldn't act indirectly to forward the aims of multinationals leaning on them heavily. Whatever, I felt this was the weakest part of an already rather frail programme.

The programme ended as it started, with Noreena standing in Liverpool St Station with the footage speeded up to let the people around her whiz unrecognisably around her, but muttering a mantra about how the state must reclaim the people in order for the people to feel it worth reclaiming the inheritance of those who fought for suffrage. All very well, but it was at this point things should have got interesting - how would they resist corporate influence? How would they justify the multinationals withdrawing and removing jobs to the workforces who no longer trust them anyway? How can they prove self-worth in the context of people no longer caring, and voting with beans tins and not ballot papers? And, again I must ask, where was the interview with Naomi Klein?

(I have no idea if the woman from the Daily Mirror (Athalie Matthews) who commented ages ago is still reading this, I rather suspect not. But never mind. It's about time I started indulging some of my other interests. So sorry, LJ readers, but there's more of this to come. Feel free to remove me from your friends list now if you don't like this stuff filling your friends pages, but I make no apologies.)



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