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Propaganda TV

Even comrades can take time out to watch TV and catch up on the propaganda given out not on the news or in documentaries, but in regular drama or comedy programmes. On Sunday 31 March there were three high-budget dramas on offer. Foyle’s War (ITV), The Village (BBC1) and The Labyrinth (Channel 4).

Foyle’s War, which makes a hero of a detective turned MI5 agent in the immediate post-war period, lends itself to propaganda, but it is cleverish and nuanced and avoids the obvious howlers by having what it presents as a ‘balance’ of Labour and Tory supporters among the secondary characters.

That does not mean that Foyle’s War is not poisonous, though. It most certainly is. One of the murder victims on the night in question turned out to be an NVKD agent and, for the benefit of the young and/or ignorant in the TV audience, the NVKD was described as the “Russian Gestapo” and all references to Stalin bracketed him with Hitler.

There is no doubt at all that Foyle’s War is being used as yet another vehicle to merge Stalin and Hitler in the public mind.

There were also more domestic bits of propaganda in the show. One of the characters was standing as the Labour candidate in a by-election. He was presented as high-minded and principled, while his election agent, who wanted to use (wait for it) information received about the Tory candidate having been a black-market profiteer, is painted as unprincipled for wanting to use ‘dirty tricks’ and talk about ‘personalities’ rather than policies.

Put aside what we all think about the Labour party (now and in the 1940s) and think of the propaganda agenda behind this condemnation of the election agent for revealing that the opposing candidate was a black marketeer. Foyle’s War presents the revelation in the press as ‘dirty tricks’, while the actual crime of black marketeering is sidelined as irrelevant.

This is exactly the thinking the ruling elite want us to have in the post-Leveson world. Doubles all round for Foyle’s War for toeing the bourgeois line.

As to the other two Sunday night offerings, The Labyrinth was an overblown costume drama which presented the cathars as a wonderful bunch of people unfairly persecuted by catholic villains, the catholics in question being presented as so stage-evil the show could have been written by a bunch of UDA men.

The cathars were all so long ago, it might not seem to matter, but nothing is too remote to be used for bourgeois propaganda. The cathars actually make unpleasant heroes: cack-handed Malthusians before their time, they believed the world was ruled by the devil and that it was wrong to have children as birth trapped a wonderful free-roaming soul in an evil material body.

Last, but certainly not least, the cathars thought suicide was not only acceptable but desirable as it purified the soul.

Arguably, the Catholic Church did the world a favour (for once) by getting rid of these miserable negative lunatics, but here in 2013, when the bourgeoisie wants us to think ‘There is no alternative’ to the capitalism-devil that rules the world (and those of us who don’t like it can go top ourselves), we find the demented cathars glorified on mainstream TV.

Co-incidence? Not on your nelly/telly.

Lastly there was The Village, trailed as the thinking person’s Downton Abbey. Over endless episodes, beginning in 1914, it is supposed to show a hundred years of English history through the life of one Derbyshire village in general and through the life of one working-class man in particular.

About 8 years old when the story begins, ‘Bert’ has a mad drunk violent father whose behaviour would be considered extreme and unacceptable among the very worst of the urban criminal lumpenproletariat, and would just not have been tolerated in a small village where people and families had not only all known each other for generations but were quite often related.

This confusing of the working class with a savage and drunken lumpenproletariat is now a cultural commonplace, and reinforcing this deliberate conflation is the essential propaganda message of The Village. But there are other pernicious messages, too.

As we approach Cameron’s great First World War Commemoration Bonanza, perhaps the most important (in the first episode and presumably beyond) was the presentation of the reaction of the village population to the first world war. Not one dissident voice was raised on The Village. Instead, the very moment war was declared, all the young men marched off happily.

In reality, there were many immediate volunteers, cock-sure they would be home by Christmas, but to present the entire working-class population as willing volunteers is a travesty of the truth.

Two days before war was declared (on 4 August 1914), there was a massive anti-war demonstration in Trafalgar Square. Much like the massive demonstration against the Iraq war, the protest was ignored by the ruling elite (then fronted by the Liberals), who went to war anyway to protect their masters’ profits.

No doubt in years to come the bourgeoisie will try to present support for the Iraq war as universal too, but we know that was not so, and we must also remind a new generation (who will inevitably get caught up in the coming propaganda-fest) that the millions who endured or died in the great working-class massacre of WW1 were the victims of capitalism – and most of them had the nous to know it.

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