We were sad to hear that the comedian Jeremy Hardy had died on 1 February. Typically, media reports and obituaries prefixed the label ‘left-wing’ before the word ‘comedian’ as a kind of government health warning. What they really meant was that he was ‘too far left’. Normally, the media don’t label entertainers as ‘extreme centrists’, ‘neocon sympathisers’ or ‘Israel supporters’, when perhaps they should.
Hardy was a regular panellist on BBC shows, the News Quiz and I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue. His ability to be extremely funny and sharp-witted, as well as being popular with other panellists and the public, probably allowed him a measure of corporate BBC indulgence to inject left-wing bullet points that others might not have been afforded. Fellow comedian Miles Jupp noted that:
‘Many people have the ability to express their political beliefs coherently and many people have the ability to be funny. Jeremy Hardy, who has died of cancer aged 57, had an astonishing ability to do both things at the same time.’
‘from the earliest days his socialist beliefs were a thread that ran throughout his comedy, as they did his life and his campaigning.’
One of us (Cromwell) saw Hardy perform twice at Nuffield Theatre at the University of Southampton, where he had studied in the 1980s. On both occasions, he was very funny, sharp and thoroughly engaging. During the second performance, on 15 October 2017, he spoke passionately about the blatantly negative media coverage targeting Jeremy Corbyn:
‘The worst is the liberal media. Take the Guardian. What is it that the Guardian actually guards? It guards how progressive you’re allowed to be. You can go this far to the left and no further.’
This echoed Noam Chomsky’s well-known remark about the liberal media policing the bounds of permissible debate:
‘Thus far and no further.’
It is ironic, but entirely apt, that the Guardian’s obituary noted that Hardy wrote a column for the paper between 1996 and 2001, but neglected to mention that he was dropped for being too left-wing.
In his final, potent column on 4 April, 2001 Hardy had written:
‘Some of you will be relieved to know that this is the last column I shall be writing for the Guardian. Others may be sorry, and I thank you for that. I have been told that my column has run its course, which is a self-fulfilling accusation…also told that I shouldn’t use the column as a platform for the Socialist Alliance.’
By contrast, commentators – including those holding senior Guardian positions – have not been told to stop using their columns as a platform for the apartheid Israeli state, neoliberalism or Western ‘intervention’ around the world.
Hardy crammed in many astute observations that make poignant reading now, 18 years later. He rightly observed that:
‘most of the exciting developments in politics are happening outside the electoral orb.’
Ironically, it was grassroots pressure outside Parliament and ‘the electoral orb’ that enabled Jeremy Corbyn to be elected Labour leader and pull off results in the 2017 General Election that stunned ‘seasoned’ political ‘analysts’. Consider, too, the recent Extinction Rebellion movement that is literally campaigning for the survival of the human species – precisely because electoral politics has utterly failed; or rather succeeded in entrenching the interests of a right-wing, super-rich and powerful elite.
Hardy warned presciently of the dangers of the Lib Dems attaining power in a coalition – which they did after the 2010 General Election, propping up an extremist Tory-led government. He also pointed to the emasculation of the trade union movement:
‘For me to write this will appal those socialists who still hold the line that “Labour is the party of the organised working class”, but I think it’s time to replace the word “working” with “capitalist”, and try the sentence again. Trade unionists put tremendous effort into the relationship but it’s an abusive one. I’m sure union leaders will say, “But Tony’s not like that when he’s with me”, but they’re just throwing money at the problem.’
Ex-Guardian journalist Jonathan Cook commented via Twitter:
‘Fascinating reading now the late comedian Jeremy Hardy’s last column for the Guardian in 2001. He admits he was pushed out for refusing to use humour simply to provoke a postmodern chuckle and for being too outspoken against Tony Blair, who would go on to wage illegal war in Iraq’.
When we highlighted on Twitter that the Guardian’s Jeremy Hardy obituary had omitted the uncomfortable fact that the paper dropped him for being too left-wing, the deputy obituaries editor of the Telegraph retorted:
‘He wasn’t dropped for being too left-wing. He was dropped for not putting in enough jokes. Read the column’
In fact, anyone reading the column beyond the first paragraph would have noted the crucial part when Hardy said he was ‘told that I shouldn’t use the column as a platform for the Socialist Alliance.’ It was clear from reading the whole column, and using common sense to read between the lines, that Hardy had indeed been dumped by the Guardian for his left-wing views. Hardy’s first wife, Kit Hardy, confirmed this:
‘As his wife at the time, I can vouch that he was dropped for being too left wing. It wasn’t about jokes. He’d have been kept on without jokes if he’d been willing to write inconsequential nonsense. He wasn’t.’
Guardian readers with a long memory may recall that comedian Mark Steel, a good friend of Jeremy Hardy, had earlier been ditched by the Guardian in 1999, after contributing a column for over two years, for his ‘unflinching’ support of ‘unfashionable left-wing causes’ such as striking Liverpool dockers. A more recent example of a progressive columnist being dumped by the Guardian is the 2014 defenestration of Nafeez Ahmed for overstepping the mark in his critical reporting of Israel.
Eventually, even the hugely-respected, award-winning journalist John Pilger, with an unparalleled record of reporting the truth ‘from the ground up’, became persona non grata at the Guardian. He said in a radio interview in January 2018:
‘My written journalism is no longer welcome in the Guardian which, three years ago, got rid of people like me in pretty much a purge of those who really were saying what the Guardian no longer says any more.’
And yet, the Guardian continues to employ, for example, Luke Harding who abruptly left an interview by Aaron Maté on The Real News Network when he was challenged to provide convincing evidence of the ‘collusion’ referred to in the title of his book, ‘Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win’. Harding was also behind the fake Guardian ‘exclusive’ last December that Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, had met Julian Assange three times in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Harding and the paper’s editor Katharine Viner have shamefully remained silent in the face of robust questioning of their CIA-friendly propaganda story that appears to have no basis in reality.
US comedian Jimmy Dore, interviewed on RT’s Going Underground by Afshin Rattansi, who previously worked at the BBC, said scathingly:
‘Well, the Guardian has been doing fantastic work on this story. “Fantastic” meaning “fantastic fantasies” because the most surveilled building in the world has got to be that Ecuadorian embassy. And, somehow, the Guardian has a story that Manafort visited Julian Assange three times, and even knew what he was wearing, but there isn’t a picture of it.’
Dore concluded of the Guardian:
‘They’re pushing propaganda; they’re not doing journalism.’
Dore also pointed to extremely well-paid, supposed ‘progressives’ in the US who have high-profile slots on US networks such as MSNBC:
‘You know how much MSNBC’s Chris Hayes or Rachel Maddow makes? They make $30,000 a day. That’s a lot of money and that buys your integrity.’
He added, echoing his comments about the Guardian on Assange:
‘It’s just CIA talking points. In fact, they hire people from the CIA to be their “news analysts”. That’s the opposite of journalism, that’s propaganda.’
On a recent MSNBC show, Maddow even speculated that, with parts of the US shivering in sub-zero conditions, the Russians or the Chinese might launch cyber attacks on vital pipelines and the power grid. This grotesque Red-scaremongering was justified as ‘the intelligence community’s assessment.’
‘What would happen if Russia killed the power in Fargo today? What would you do if you lost heat indefinitely as the act of a foreign power on the same day the temperature in your backyard matched the temperature in Antarctica?’
Dore rightly pointed out how this nonsense is but a part of the huge current wave of anti-Russian propaganda that is even worse than the anti-Red hysteria of the McCarthy era in 1950s US. Why worse?
‘Because it’s being pushed ubiquitously. The first Red Scare in the States came from the right. Well, the left is now pushing the Red Scare because they don’t want to admit that neoliberalism failed at the ballot box in 2016. 90 million people didn’t come out to vote in that election in 2016. And Hillary Clinton, the biggest, most well-funded political machine in the history of the United States lost the election to a political novice gameshow host who everyone referred to as a joke and a clown: Donald Trump.’
Dore said of MSNBC management:
‘They wouldn’t even let their hosts cover Bernie Sanders [in the race to become 2016 Democratic Presidential candidate, losing to Hillary Clinton] because he was progressive. In fact, Ed Schultz got fired for covering Bernie Sanders.’
‘That tells you that all the people on air at MSNBC go along with war propaganda when told to, and don’t cover progressive politicians when ordered [not] to. Every one of those hosts goes along with the edict from the top of the corporation Comcast [owners of MSNBC] to tell them what they can talk about, and how they can talk about what they can talk about. They’re all puppets and they’re bought.’
In a similar way, although with much lower salaries, the silence of Guardian commentators on numerous issues has also, in essence, been ‘bought.’ Not a single one, as far as we can tell, has called out the Guardian’s fake Manafort-Assange story. Not a single one has castigated the Guardian over its long-running cynical vendetta against Assange and WikiLeaks. Not a single one has exposed the Guardian’s editorial line that upholds the myth that Western foreign policy is largely determined by concerns over universal human rights, democracy and development. Not a single one has made any significant criticism of the Guardian’s actual role in setting the limits of acceptable ‘news’ and commentary at the ‘liberal’ end of the media ‘spectrum’.
Complicit In Western Imperialism And Rampant Capitalism
To do proper journalism on vital topics – not least UK war crimes – seemingly requires that one leaves the Guardian to do so. Thus, Ian Cobain, formerly a senior Guardian reporter, recently published a shocking exclusive on the Middle East Online (MEE) website that the British army permitted shooting of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan:
‘Soldiers who served in Basra in 2007 say they were told they could shoot anyone holding a phone or a shovel, or acting in any way suspiciously.
‘The British army operated rules of engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan that at times allowed soldiers to shoot unarmed civilians who were suspected of keeping them under surveillance, a Middle East Eye investigation has established.
‘The casualties included a number of children and teenage boys, according to several former soldiers interviewed by MEE.’
‘a former Royal Marine says that one of his officers confessed to his men that he had been responsible for the fatal shooting of an Afghan boy, aged around eight, after the child’s father carried his body to the entrance of their forward operating base and demanded an explanation.’
Why has this not made front-page news in the Guardian or elsewhere in the British press, as far as we are aware? Likewise, needless to say, you’d be hard-pushed to find honest and disturbing accounts of UK war crimes making the headlines on BBC News at Ten.
Last November, Cobain reported that UK spy agencies knew that an important source of false Iraq war intelligence, a Libyan militant called Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi, had been tortured. Cobain observed that UK government ministers ‘relied upon his answers to help justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq.’ Again, Cobain’s piece appeared on the MEE website.
As Jonathan Cook said:
‘Interesting that the award-winning author of this article, Ian Cobain, used to work at the Guardian. Why is that writers like this, who are so effective at digging up the dirt on western intelligence agencies, no longer seem to find a home at the Guardian?’
Meanwhile, as historian Mark Curtis pointed out, the Guardian continues its love affair with Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister who led this country into war on a false premise, leading to the deaths of around one million Iraqis:
‘The man who oversaw this criminality and public deception campaign has another article in the Guardian today – Blair is loved by the Guardian, the Anglo-American power elite’s main liberal asset in the UK.’
That this keeps happening, and that the British public is routinely soaked in pro-war propaganda, exposes the untruth that there is genuine media oversight and regulation in the UK. Ofcom claims that:
‘We keep an eye on the UK’s telecoms, television, radio and postal industries to make sure they’re doing the best for all of us’.
Really? ‘For all of us’? How does this square with the incessant media propaganda pumped out about Venezuela, currently threatened by Western power?
As John McEvoy noted for The Canary in a devastating, in-depth account of the Guardian:
‘it has a long record of smearing the Venezuelan government, supporting opposition power grabs, and presenting Western intervention as a noble solution. In doing so, it is complicit in offering moral authority to the current coup attempt in Venezuela, and therefore complicit in Western imperialism.’
On 1 February, the Guardian published its first ever news piece written by a ‘bot’. A cynic, or perhaps a realist, might suggest that all Guardian news pieces on WikiLeaks, Venezuela and much else besides, might as well be written by ‘bots’. Depending on the source material fed to the bots, of course, they may well be more accurate and less propaganda-filled than the efforts spewed out by obedient, careerist, power-serving humans.
Journalist Matt Kennard, formerly a Financial Times reporter, has warned of:
‘how corporate media works to drain young journalists of idealism and infects them with an ideology they can’t even see (that’s the beauty of it).’
In the afterword to his 2016 book, ‘The Racket: A Rogue Reporter vs. the Masters of the Universe’, he expanded his thoughts. First, he defined ‘the racket’:
‘an amalgamation of different players, including transnational corporations, banks, hedge and mutual funds, and insurance companies; in effect, the many different concentrations of private wealth we have in our society. We often don’t know the names of the people who run these institutions, but they hold the real power in our world, and are backed by the U.S. government, and as a last resort the U.S. military. But the racket is nothing without the media.’
This echoes our arguments, rooted in the pioneering work of Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky in ‘Manufacturing Consent’ (Vintage, 1988) that, in the current era of extreme climate instability:
‘The corporate media, including the liberal media wing, is a vital cog of the rampant global capitalism that threatens our very existence.’ (‘Propaganda Blitz’, Pluto Books, 2018, p. 213)
What happens to graduates who enter these corporate media outlets? Kennard warned:
‘As I saw young journalists coming up in the industry I noticed opinions changing or moderating as they became acclimatized to the institutions…slowly, you stop expressing opinions that are different from everyone else’s, shed any previously held idealism. If you do carry on thinking as before, you quickly become a “maverick” or, even worse, “immature” and “childish.” It’s hard to go into work every day for a whole career under this kind of groupthink pressure and stay sane.’
After Kennard left the Financial Times, he tried contributing to the Guardian. He soon discovered that ‘progressive’ outlets like the Guardian and the New York Times:
‘are vital to maintaining the facade of a free and fair media. They give the impression of fighting against the racket when in fact they support it in the fundamentals.’
The Guardian is:
‘among the most biased and self-righteous institutions around…full of private-school-educated Oxbridge graduates who see themselves as crusading liberals fighting against corporate and state power. But if you step a bit to the left of them, you will know about it. They guard their left flank religiously, instructing the world that anyone operating there is beyond the pale.’
Is it any wonder that over the past two decades, the ‘liberal’ Guardian has shed reporters and columnists deemed to have been operating ‘beyond the pale’? Is it any wonder that it has exploited ‘fake news’ about an ‘antisemitism crisis’ under Jeremy Corbyn‘s Labour? For anyone who cares about journalism that truly challenges the elite consensus, it is long past time to dump the Guardian, break the corporate media monopoly and support real progressive journalism instead.
(h/t image @fivefilters)