There was a time when I questioned what the mainstream media was for, and I had stopped reading newspapers and watching the television news.
But then came the day that I picked up a copy of The Guardian in Brussels, and I read George Monbiot. He really saved public authorship for me. I found it amazing that somebody would be permitted to communicate their counter-cultural political, social and environmental opinions so openly, so widely. I found hope in his voice – hope for truth, change and progress.
This week, that dream has died.
George Monbiot has made a public declaration of his financial “interests”, in an apparent attempt to encourage transparency. But this exercise has merely made it clear to me that he is totally compromised :-
He writes about political activism, but I don’t know any political activists who earn the kind of money he swallows down from The Guardian.
He’s within his rights to trade his skills for money : money earned by sales of The Guardian, paid for by people who want to read his political, social and environmental narratives; people who are often unpaid grassroots activists or lowly-paid charity staff.
What does this mean for progress, however ? The Guardian operation is clearly just noise : a mouthpiece for views that don’t get aired in other places, ideas that will never be allowed to gain power. Writers like George Monbiot advance their sales and keep the whole caravan rumbling along; but there’s no democratic movement being built by the hawking of its wares.
I remember a short train-interchange conversation I had with David Strahan, the energy writer, once. He seemed to be laughing at my noble altruism when I said I write for nothing. He said he needed to make a living. He lives in Hampstead (translation for Americans : “The Hamptons”).
Maybe I should change my approach. Maybe I should charge for some of the things I write, and put the money into a nationally-owned bank account at the Co-operative Bank, for the purposes of promoting solar power in districts of the UK where there is high unemployment and low incomes (unlike in Hampstead). I could call it the “Van Jones Appreciation Society”.
George Monbiot has capitulated to nuclear power public relations. His words do not increase the sum total of solar power in the UK, yet solar power can provide a much better part of the low carbon energy mix than nuclear power ever can. George Monbiot is not providing anything towards the solutions to climate change.