Sunday, July 17, 2011

British Spring: Loss of fear among British politicians (follow-up to my previous post)

In its edition of July 15, 2011 Le Monde published an article under the title of "Murdoch: au Royaume-Uni, la peur a changé de camp", an article in which the events surrounding the demise of the Murdoch empire are described as "the UK, living its after-Murdoch spring". It is the first article that I have seen which draws an explicit parallel between the Arab Spring and events surrounding the Murdoch empire, although there may of course have been others, and concludes that there was a common factor - loss of fear.

The point being made here is that British politicians, fearful of tackling what they have perceived as the power of the Murdoch press, have suddenly lost their fear. The article does not mention another important similarity with the Arab Spring: the emotional trigger. Just as the Arab Spring had one(s), so the emotional trigger in this instance, I think, was the revelation that journalists working for one of the Murdoch papers had hacked into the mobile 'phone of a murdered girl and had deleted messages on her 'phone, thus giving false hopes to her family that she may have been alive when the search for her was on. The public was revolted. The trigger was ignited; there was no turning back, and the amygdala in the brains of politicians was de-activated, with consequences that we now know - the demise of the News of the World, plus other events that are waiting to happen.

Then came the revelation that the mobile 'phones of relatives of soldiers killed in Afghanistan may also have been hacked. I daresay that should the current reported investigations in the USA prove that the mobile 'phones of the victims of 9/11 had been hacked, the emotional volcano will be too hot to contain. This is an extremely emotive issue, and the consequences will be dire.

Although there have been some remarkable Members of Parliament who have fearlessly attacked the Murdoch press, the report in Le Monde and other reports in the British press have consistenly written that politicians here were dead scared of saying anything that may upset the Murdoch press and cost them their jobs and imperil their future rise. But once the emotional trigger was set alight, that fear was lost, presumably through amygdalar de-activation.

Another similarity with the Arab Spring, is that this was a mass event, in the sense that the revulsion at the revelations was widespread. Hence, an aid in the loss of fear was the emotional support of a wide segment of the public (see my previous post).

Several articles have emphasized the fact that maybe Murdoch did not have as much as power as he was assumed to have, and that he was only perceived to have this power. The point is really largely academic; power is always the power that is perceived, by the brain of course, never the real one which is in any case difficult to calculate.

And the brain may not be far off the mark. After all, when the British Prime Minister is reported as having had no less than 25 meetings with the Murdochs since coming to power, enjoyed a Christmas dinner with them, and when a previous Prime Minister, Tony Blair, is reported to have had three telephone conversations with Rupert Murdoch before the launch of the Iraq war, what else can the brain conclude?

Add to that the fact the the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, was removed from his position as chairman of a committee to decide the total Murdoch take-over of BSkyB, when he declared - long before these events reached boiling point - that he was "at war" with the Murdoch empire, what else can the brain conclude?

Such events, as the Daily Telegraph said in its editorial yesterday, "would have raised eyebrows in Palermo".

The only reality we have is brain reality - and brain reality seems to have been pretty shrewd at making inferences about power.

So, the amygdala is finally de-activated among a large number of members of that sheepish organization known as the Mother of Parliaments. Papers here are speaking about Parliament finding a role and purpose again. I rather doubt it. Which brings me back to the point: how long does amygdalar de-activation last? An interesting experimental question which may lead to lasting new views about politicians.

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