Economic Colonisation: The Dehumanising Effect of the Media

Graham Bell, 11 May 2011

Categories: Greece | Finance | European Union | Protest | The Daily Mail |

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Regardless of wider colonial aims, there are always a few imperative tasks for imperial powers. These tasks normally include stirring up national pride and fear, as well as dehumanising the indigenous population. This justifies the role of the invader to their people, as they implement their ‘superior’ ways on the ‘lesser’ people whom they are ‘liberating’ or ‘helping’. Examples include the treatment of aborigines in Australia, Hitler’s propaganda films about Jewish people, and of course in recent years, Islamaphobia – required as the struggle to secure resources in the Middle East continues.

In the neoliberal age, imperial takeover is not always carried out through force and aggression. Since the 1970s it has often been carried out through economic means, by handing out loans to countries knowing that they will not be repayable. This results in the economic policies of that country being dictated by the lending force – using the debt as a tool to orchestrate internal decision-making from the outside. This practice has been well documented by in the book entitled Confessions of an Economic Hitman by John Perkins, who worked as what the inner circles described as an 'Economic Hitman'. Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine also provides a detailed description of how neoliberal economics have been used to expand empires.

It is not then surprising to see some of the language used by UK journalists when discussing the Greek population. If everything you knew about Greece came from the mainstream media reporting over the last year, you’d be forgiven for thinking that they are a hostile, angry, lawless population. Take for example an article written by John Humphrys on 15th February of this year. In the headline, he proclaims that “tax-dodging” is a national pastime. In the article he goes on to say that in the ‘black economy’, “Many businesses offer two prices: the high one with a receipt; the low one paid in cash”. It appears from these statements that Greece has a lot in common with almost every other functioning economy on the planet, but this is far from the tone that he is trying to set in the article.

Firstly, Humphrys is presumably using anecdotal evidence to justify this claim, and he is no doubt aware of the effectiveness of publishing this in the Daily Mail – to try and make “us” look civilised and “them” look like chancers. Secondly, is he suggesting that the “two prices” rule does not apply heavily in the UK among small businesses? If he is claiming to have the moral high ground to say this as though it’s something that does not happen elsewhere, it’s not clear whether he is merely hypocritical or very uninformed.

Humphrys goes on to patronisingly state that “the clever Greeks found more and more ways of borrowing money from Brussels”, as though a) he did not believe they had the capability to do this, and b) the EU, and not Greece, was the one conned.

The Greek economy is of course in crisis, not because of the behaviour of the people but because of the corrupt regime that has allowed this to happen (similar situations have emerged in Ireland and Portugal, to name a few). The people of Greece are within their rights to be angry, both at their government and at the IMF who have instructed Greece to privatise €50bn worth of assets. The citizens of the country should be angry to see the selling-off of their profitable assets to big business. Reporting this using the words “outrages Greeks snarl” as Helena Smith did, is both callous and dehumanising – snarling evokes images of cavemen, viciousness, and even animals. The Telegraph’s coverage on the further reduction of Greece’s credit rating (10th May 2011) claimed that “Greece hit back at the down-grade angrily denying any imminent restructuring”, another article in the same paper ran with the headline “Greeks wanting gifts”, an example of offensive wordplay. This sort of language all gives the impression of an unhappy, spoilt child.

If the British public could see in its most basic form what is happening to the population of Greece, they would I’m sure have a lot of sympathy with the Greek people. But the reporting by the British media fails to differentiate the state from its citizens – this is left open, leaving the impression that Greek people are as much to blame and as such should suffer the consequences. This is not mass-exploitation, but the same imperial principle applies: dehumanise the population, and do what you like with them. In this case, allow the corporate powers to run-free.

Categories in which this article appears: Greece | Finance | European Union | Protest | The Daily Mail |

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