What are politicians doing at Glastonbury and the GQ awards? I feel guilty going, and I’m a comedian. Why are public officials, paid by us, turning up at events for fashion magazines? Well, the reason I was there was because I have a tour on and I was advised it would be good publicity. What are the politicians selling? How are they managing our perception of them with their attendance of these sequin-encrusted corporate balls?
We witness that there is a relationship between government, media and industry that is evident even at this most spurious and superficial level. These three institutions support one another. We know that however cool a media outlet may purport to be, their primary loyalty is to their corporate backers. We know also that you cannot criticise the corporate backers openly without censorship and subsequent manipulation of this information.
Now I’m aware that this was really no big deal; I’m not saying I’m an estuary Che Guevara. It was a daft joke by a daft comic at a daft event. It makes me wonder, though, how the relationships and power dynamics I witnessed on this relatively inconsequential context are replicated on a more significant scale.
For example, if you can’t criticise Hugo Boss at the GQ awards because they own the event, do you think it is significant that energy companies donate to the Tory party? Will that affect government policy? Will the relationships that “politician of the year” Boris Johnson has with City bankers — he took many more meetings with them than public servants in his first term as mayor — influence the way he runs our capital?
Is it any wonder that Amazon, Vodafone and Starbucks avoid paying tax when they enjoy such cosy relationships with members of our government?
Ought we be concerned that our rights to protest are being continually eroded under the guise of enhancing our safety? Is there a relationship between proposed fracking in the UK, new laws that prohibit protest and the relationships between energy companies and our government?
I don’t know. I do have some good principles picked up that night that are generally applicable: the glamour and the glitz isn’t real, the party isn’t real, you have a much better time mucking around trying to make your mates laugh. I suppose that’s obvious. We all know it, we already know all the important stuff, like: don’t trust politicians, don’t trust big business and don’t trust the media. Trust your own heart and each another. When you take a breath and look away from the spectacle it’s amazing how absurd it seems when you look back.
Is it just me, or have we been here before? Say, back in 2003, during the buildup to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq? And is something amiss when one of the most reliable voices of reason amid the current World War III scenario is Russell Brand? Or when a (possibly former) entertainment icon for early adolescent girls steals the show by doing a faux softcore stage performance on cable television?
After a week-long mounting media storm here in America, and also in Britain, and also in many other countries, here’s what we’re now faced with:
From CNN this morning:
The United States has concluded Syria carried out chemical weapons attacks against its people, President Barack Obama said Wednesday, a claim that comes amid a looming diplomatic showdown over whether to strike against Bashar al-Assad’s military.
From Reuters yesterday:
President Barack Obama vowed on Wednesday that the Syrian government would face “international consequences” for last week’s deadly chemical attack, but made clear any military response would be limited to avoid dragging the United States into another war in the Middle East.
From The Washington Post this morning:
As the United States and its allies weigh limited military strikes against Syria, their lawyers have been exploring a range of legal frameworks for any operation, including propositions that members of the international community have the right to use force to protect civilians or to deter a rogue nation from using chemical weapons.
However, the Post also reports that
the Obama administration’s efforts to build a legal case are encountering skepticism from U.N. officials and other experts, including former Republican and Democratic State Department lawyers, who argue that the use of force against the Syrian regime, absent a U.N. Security Council resolution, would be illegal.
On the other hand, the Associated Press (via Yahoo! News) reports that
Britain’s leaders said Thursday it would be legal under humanitarian doctrine to launch a military strike against Syria even without authorization from the United Nations Security Council.
Meanwhile, Reuters (via Yahoo! News Canada) reports that
Russia is sending two warships to the east Mediterranean, Interfax news agency said on Thursday, but Moscow denied this meant it was beefing up its naval force there as Western powers prepare for military action against Syria. Read the rest of this entry
Russell Brand, Daniel Pinchbeck, and Graham Hancock on psychedelics, consciousness, media, society, and reality
In an event that was mind-expanding (or -blowing) in its own right, simply because it happened, last November Daniel Pinchbeck, Graham Hancock, and Russell Brand (!) teamed up to speak at a Reality Sandwich retreat at the Boulder Mountain Guest Ranch in Utah. They ended up having, in the words of the event’s description at Reality Sandwich, “a frank and funny conversation covering a wide range of topics including the nature of contemporary media, quantum physics, the difference between psychedelics and ‘horrible drugs that nullify you,’ what comes after time, and the idea that people have been ‘coded’ by society not to anticipate change.” As Brand described it in the opening moments, the whole thing took place “in a tent, beneath an illuminated fish, in front of a pagan altar.”
Fortunately, the conversation was recorded for posterity, and if you’re at all interested in such topics and people, you’ll find it makes for truly fascinating viewing and listening.
For those like me who prefer to read such things instead of, or along with, watching them, Origin Magazine helpfully offers a somewhat abridged (and typo-filled) transcript. Here are cogent excerpts from each speaker — not presented in the actual order of the conversation itself, mind you, so don’t make the mistake of thinking they’re sequentially connected. (Pinchbeck’s and Hancock’s excerpts are presented in the order in which they were spoken, but Brand’s comes from a different point in the conversation.)