Archive for December 9th, 2011

Friday, December 9, 2011

Pressure Groups and Propaganda: Victims of Something

If someone had asked me before August this year who Chris Gelken is, China Radio International (CRI) would probably have come to my mind. In August, CCTV-9 (China’s state-television English channel) and Iran’s state-owned Press TV joined the picture. That, plus an article Gelken – allegedly, that is – wrote for The Latest, a Citizen-Journalism-for-All website, founded by Marc Wadsworth, a broadcaster, writer and political activist, according to the Guardian.

One of the two most unpleasant paragraphs was the introduction – written by “The Latest”, not by Gelken, with a question as to why a significant minority of disgruntled white voters reject the mainstream parties for the racist British National Party, and the announcement that Chris Gelken gives some clues in this frank description of his “metamorphosis from a liberal with socialist tendencies to a conservative nationalist with a hint of xenophobia”. That one struck me, because it seemed to blame Britain’s “realities” for BNP voters’ individual decisions. Realities shape decisions for sure – but a vote cast is an individual responsibility.

The second paragraph that struck me was about Gelken losing his temper with a barman who didn’t know what a pie is – that paragraph was attributed to Gelken himself.

In August, I took Gelken’s authorship for granted. Not knowing who Marc Wadsworth was, I saw no conflict between those who wrote the introduction and the article. This was my reaction, in August.

Gelken reacted to my post on December 6, in a thread underneath my commenting rules.

He wrote two initial comments to which I answered after some reflection, but without seeing much news in it, plus a third, which did include information that actually did.

My feelings about Gelken haven’t changed – but as far as the article’s authenticity is concerned,  his third comment in the commenting-rules thread does look like a game-changer to me. From Gelken’s comment:

Wadsworth begins paragraph 6 with:

“Several emails passed between Gelken and the editor, culminating in a sub-edited comment piece that was shown to Gelken before publication. He objected.”

While Gelken’s quote stops here, the original last sentence actually continued:

He objected, though the article was a true reflection of the copy he had sent to the editor.

What’s a true reflection? As far as I can see, the statement doesn’t offer an explanation – nor does it simply publish Gelken’s article word by word, which should have been the easiest solution, from the beginning.

The statement by “The Latest” in full can be found here.

Gelken wrote in several comments on FOARP’s blog that there was no way for him to sue “The Latest”. I find that hard to believe, as stated here. But having seen the approach “The Latest” has taken – publishing the article as Gelken’s, and stating on another page that this (only, I’d like to add) reflects what Gelken wrote, I had to think again.

The most severe criticism “The Latest” seems to have in store for Gelken is this paragraph, also quoted in their above statement, and attributed to him:

“I was hearing and seeing things I never thought I would see. What began, I am sure with the best of intentions, has gone badly wrong. Reverse discrimination, unparalleled and unrestricted immigration, a real fear among some officials of offending certain “minorities” (I hate that word) that has reached the point where some people are being excluded or discriminated against simply on the basis of being Anglo-Saxon…”

I’m getting the impression that Gelken and “The Latest” happened to disagree about a  crucial definition of who belongs into the camp of innocent victims – about UK citizens, or Anglo-Saxons, for example (vis-à-vis continental EU Europeans, if that quote was correctly attributed to Gelken by “The Latest”) -, and that they fell out with each other over a definition of who is a victim after all, with all the toxic dust that usually rises in such a case.

Maybe “The Latest” safely fulfilled its legal obligations by publishing the statement which refers to the “true reflection”. Maybe no lawyer would want to pick up Gelken’s case, given the politically-correct minefield on which the quarrel between him and “The Latest” is moving around. At least in Germany, that wouldn’t look inconceivable to me. There will be no assigned defender, in a civil-law case in my country.

Political and private quarrels alike seem to become particularly toxic when they involve victimhood issues. Anyone may claim being victimized for being a member of a certain group, depending on the circumstances. Anyone may claim to be victimized when he that for any other reason, he has been treated unfairly individually. They won’t necessarily refer to themselves as victims – but that’s how it frequently comes across.

And the greater injustices someone has suffered – for real, or according to his or her  convincingly expressed feelings, the more society will owe him or her. A continental European’s right to work in the UK would stand or fall with how he is defined – as a “victim”, or as a “perpetrator”, or neither. In the two latter cases, he has no claims to make.

Not everyone generally agrees with these rules of the game, but many people – members of the public, pressure groups, and politicians – are willing to play along.

To be clear: there are victims, there are people who make the genuine experience of being victims, every day, and there are people who have to suffer unacceptable injustices. But that is something that is best judged case by case.

Another noteworthy aspect seems to be Gelken’s timing in his comments. In my view, “the Latest” link he provided in his third comment was the only crucial one in our discussion – but crucial it was. Didn’t he see that it was the only one that counted? The thread on FOARP’s blog, concerning the same topic, is even longer than the one on mine.

One explanation could be that Gelken wanted to make the debate as effective as possible – and used my blog as a platform for a vendetta against “The Latest”. As far as I can see, there would be nothing objectionable in that, except that the timing required an unnecessary amount of time – and I wouldn’t blog the way I am, if I had something against propagandists discussing their present or former work here. If they do, I can spend less time on writing Net Nanny posts.

Another explanation could be that Gelken took offense from being referred to as an, umm, anchorman (for the sake of civility, I’m not going to use the noun I deem truly apposite re Chris Gelken). But I’m not buying that. Maybe I’m lacking sensitivity in that area, but if someone called me an, umm, blogger (for the sake of civility, I’m not going to use the noun I deem truly apposite re JR), I’d see no damage this might do to this blog or its credibility. It would only bother me if people whom I’d expect to shrug took such a line serious, and told me that the guy who wrote this actually had a point.

And yet another explanation could be that Gelken simply didn’t see the importance of that “The Latest’s” true-reflection statement, or that he took it for granted that I had read it before. But he’s a propagandist – I’m pretty sure that he was an effective one, and that he knows how an audience receives and processes information.

Either way, there is one important point. While my exchange of comments hasn’t changed my mind about Gelken, I’m not looking at the “Latest” article in question as one written which was written by Gelken any longer. If this blog was used by him as a platform against the approach taken by “The Latest”, so be it – so long as it helps to add some transparency to what actually happened, or so long as it helps to question the narrative spread by “The Latest”.

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