Propaganda-managed democracy: the UK and the lessons of Iraq

David Miller

Abstract


The separation between words and deeds, or rhetoric and reality, is increasingly recognized in every sphere of public life, from the inappropriately-named 'reality TV' shows and the hyper-unreality of advertising, to election razzmatazz, corporate spin and government propaganda. We live in a period where we must recognize what John Kenneth Galbraith, in The Economics of Innocent Fraud, describes as a 'continuing divergence' between 'approved belief ' and reality. We live in the age of the fake. For many, the lies around Iraq crossed a line and revealed concerted government lying which was seen as comparatively new. In my view it is new in the sense that we are in a new, neoliberal period which stands in marked contrast to the period of social democracy (roughly 1945-1979) when the gap between words and actions was of necessity narrower. The compromise between capital and labour forced the creation of a common language. This had its limits, but at least in key aspects of domestic policy the gap between rhetoric and reality was narrower. There was less need to lie, less need to attempt to align capitalist interests with general interests because there was some compromise and mediation of interests.

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