Friday, 21 November 2014

TV Review: Dispatches (How The Rich Get Richer, Fraser Nelson)

Fraser Nelson, the editor of Spectator, is shocked to discover the extent of inequality in Britain. Presumably because he’s an alien, visiting earth for the first time.
Or he’s had his head stuck firmly up his arse for most of his adult life. Or maybe he’s just never thought about it before.
I don’t know.

I haven’t read much of his writing, and avoid The Spectator for all the same reasons it avoids me: class prejudice coupled with a total lack of interest in the activities and opinions of the other.
The programme is subtitled How The Rich Get Richer; perhaps Nelson just hasn’t ever wondered why they get richer, which is, of course, the question any journalist worthy of the name would be asking in almost any given situation.
Maybe he’s just not that curious. (Also surely a standard pre-requisite for journalists?)

In a neat piece of cross-media self-promotion, Mr Nelson wrote a blog for his own magazine, introducing his own programme. (I think it’s called meshing, or something annoying like that.)
Incidentally, when I try to watch the trailer from the programme (about wealth inequality in “my” country) embedded in the blog, the message “This video is not available in your country” appears. Ah, the internet. Always good for fans of irony.

“Inequality is rising up the political agenda.”
Yeah, but only for the last thousand years. Thank God we’ve got this brilliant mind on the case.
“[B]ut the debate usually descends into clichés about wealth, bankers and tax.”
Yeah, it’s always disappointing when a debate about wealth inequality “descends” to the levels of discussing wealth inequality.

In a classic piece of “personal story” stuff (they love this hackneyed shite on TV) Fraser Nelson talks about how his Dad was a working-class Glasweigan, so, you know….he knows the score, he’s not prejudiced. (I know how he feels. Not only are my parents working-class Glasweigans, but most of my friends are black lesbian single-parent-family Muslim asylum-seeking trans-gendered police officers, sooooo…y’know…I can’t possibly be prejudiced, even if I say and do very ignorant and prejudiced things.)
But there’s an ill wind that blows, as Nelson himself knows, since it blew his arse far enough up the social ladder….

Describing the research carried out for the programme (by The Centre for Social Justice, an Orwellian name, if ever there was one), our intrepid reporter found “other results that were not expected”. These include the revelations that the poorest people are more likely to be victims of violence, and average life expectancy is lower for the poorest than the richest.
What a brilliant piece of research. I wonder how much it cost.
These results might be unexpected to someone who had never spent a single second considering the issue. Or, more to the point, someone who hasn’t been living at the sharp end of the problem.

The research, and the report based on it, pits a million people from “the most affluent neighbourhoods” against a million people from “the most deprived”. Nelson’s blog uses the findings to attack “Labour, Oxfam and others” for pretending that inequality is in any way related to taxation – and yet in the programme, he (very gently, almost obliquely) chides the government for taxing income instead of wealth.
Is he just confused?

“Yes, money is part of how the rich get richer” Nelson’s grudgingly admits in the blog.
Which is big of him. And clever.
“But so are things like having a decent education”, he goes on to say, as if a decent education were the only thing in human life on which someone has not hung a price tag.
And then he names a few more, like “work that encourages and rewards effort”, as if it too were mysteriously unaffected by money. (The idea that wages are unaffected by money is an especially novel idea. Maybe he’s advocating moneyless anarcho-syndicalism or something. That would be really novel for the editor of The Spectator.)

Again and again the programme hammered home the parliamentary “WE’VE HAD A RECESSION” line.
For the uninitiated, “recession” is a technical term for the transfer of vast amounts of wealth from public to private hands, and the consolidation of power to fewer people.

Studiously avoiding journalism, Nelson blames the Labour government’s quantitative easing policy for wealth inequality, as if only that, and not the previous several centuries of wealth, economic policy, power and fucked-up human relations got us where we are.
The point he cannot bring himself to consider is that the rich get richer because the rich decide who gets rich/er, and extend their influence with every takeover.
And that “crisis” is absolutely essential to the functioning of an economy designed and run by and for the lucky/megalomaniacal few.
And that the poorest pay first and most, and recover last and least from such ruptions, while those who cause them usually come out better off, apart from a few low-level scapegoats (“the bankers” now being very gently and very selectively criticised by cautiously populist politicians and broadsheet columnists).
And that all this, while not entirely predictable (depending as it does on the behaviour of unreliable humans), is deliberate, and managed to at least some extent.

Nelson promised more “extraordinary findings” from the CSJ report in his next blog. Perhaps they will include the shocking revelations that rich people are more likely to own a castle, or the very poorest people in Britain don’t winter in the Alps.
Or that the very poorest people are unlikely to give a shit what the editor of The Spectator thinks about their lives.

Next week, Channel 4 will commission a programme on gender inequality, with a lengthy report written by every stand-up comedian ever which will deliver the shocking discovery that men are different to women.

1 comment:

  1. Nicely written chief. Rather you watching that shite than me x