The Admiral’s speech
One of the ways the mass media propaganda system works is through emphasis and de-emphasis of stories. Sometimes a story might be reported, and a piece is put in a small corner of their content (so they can always say later that they did cover it), but if something is emphasised, it becomes screaming headline news. For example, the massacres by the Wagner group in Mali in March this year barely caused a ripple in the UK press (months later, the Guardian would report them, as part of an anti-Russian stance). To take another example, the Susan Hussey scandal, indicative as it was of racial and cultural attitudes among the royal entourage, was blasted to full-bore front-page coverage by the BBC and other outlets, presumably because of the potential Harry and Meghan angle. In some ways, it probably deserved a couple of inches in the gossip columns.
A side effect of this, is when insiders are talking to each other, they can safely say scandalous things that many may find objectionable, but they will never be reported (or, in some instances, will be held onto and reported at a later date, when scandal becomes convenient to one faction or other). To take a recent example: Tony Radakin, the Chief of Defence Staff (the highest ranked officer in the armed forces) gave a speech at the Mansion House of the City of London on 19 October last year. The full text is online here.
The City of London itself is an interesting body of insiders: although it is a local authority of a kind with the usual powers of such, it has corporate electors (nominated employees of firms based in the City). As such, it is intimately bound up with the globe-spanning businesses of the financial centre of London. As the journalist Matt Kannard in the muck-raking website Declassified has noted (without whose output, Radakin’s speech may have gone unnoticed too):
‘The Corporation recently blocked Declassified’s request for the release of information about the foreign schedule of its leader, the Lord Mayor, but we have managed to see his 2019-20 agenda. This saw him planning to visit an average of three different foreign countries every month, considerably more than the foreign secretary typically does’ (tinyurl.com/yehtryxf).
They argued that as the trips were privately funded, freedom of information laws do not apply. Kennard was told: ‘It is the role of the national government to lead on foreign policy. It is the role of City of London Corporation to support the City. As part of this role the City Corporation engages with business partners across the world and throughout the year’. That the Lord Mayor of London also liaises with the Foreign Secretary on a regular basis shows just how influential this business clique is.
So, when addressed by the head of the Armed Forces of the United Kingdom, it is unsurprising that an honest and frank description of the state of the world is to be expected.
As he attests, international order and the rule of law:
‘matter here in the City of London too, because markets thrive on stability, and our prosperity rests on a world that is safe for the passage of trade’.
‘And when the rules are broken, volatility and instability follow. When aggression is left unchecked the costs ricochet through global markets. This affects people everywhere, and especially the world’s poorest.’
This is a voice of the very pinnacle of the defence establishment clearly stating that the purpose of having armed forces is to help benefit the commercial relations of capitalists within the UK. He emphasises:
‘The role of the United Kingdom Armed Forces, even with a war in Europe, is more than just focusing on defending the nation’.
‘It is about a maximalist approach to the military instrument. Using our power and influence in all its guises: both to further our security and prosperity. But especially – when we get it right – to add to the agency and authority of the British Government and the nation.’
‘Agency and authority’ are the very arguments Putin uses to justify his approach to foreign policy too. A lot of voters in the UK might sincerely believe that the military exists to protect their lives and their homes, and might, rightly, be expected to object to a notion that the military exists to help corporations make deals worldwide. That, after all, is pure gangsterism. Indeed, the propaganda in movies and TV is exactly that the military exists to ensure we ‘sleep safe in our beds’, not to make money overseas. But:
‘We spend more than £20 billion with British industry every year. And in 2020 we generated almost £8 billion in defence exports, more than any other European country.’
The defence exports are part of the leverage, creating friendly states bound by military ties, and in turn supporting the existence of governments whose own military is there to protect the leaders from the people. But it is still interesting to see the economic aspects of Britain’s war machine being so clearly laid out.
Radakin also notes: ‘Britain is an expeditionary rather than a continental power’. This might be expected of an Admiral. After all, the rivalry between the services is about funding, and a purely defensive British defence strategy would have less need for the clout of a big navy.
There is an element of hypocrisy too. He notes Putin’s ‘nuclear rhetoric’. As the Peace Campaigner Milan Rai has noted:
‘Daniel Ellsberg, the US military analyst who leaked the Pentagon’s secret internal history of the Vietnam War, the Pentagon Papers, wrote in 1981: “Again and again, generally in secret from the American public, US nuclear weapons have been used, for quite different purposes: in the precise way that a gun is used when you point it at someone’s head in a direct confrontation, whether or not the trigger is pulled.” Britain has used its nuclear weapons in the same way, repeatedly’ (tinyurl.com/2cksf6ex ).
The armed forces are a gun pointed at the world’s head, for the benefit of the owners of society, and it is refreshing to hear them admit it.