Media Campaigns & Social Breakdown

The Press Gazette’s 2014 British Journalism Awards takes place in London next Tuesday. One of the six finalists for best Campaign of the Year is Exaro (in whom we have an interest) for its work on the alleged cover up of child abuse within sections of the establishment.

Four of the campaigns are about some form of abuse of human rights. Together, they tell us something, if indirectly, about the political shake-up going on the UK and the tensions appearing within the British warfare-welfare state.

In addition to Exaro’s campaign, one campaign exposes the brutally cruel pre-industrial custom of female genital mutilation, one backs the domestic violence disclosure scheme to protect women and the third is about forced labour in the UK (its impact somewhat mitigated by being behind a pay wall).

Two of these may be considered issues brought to public attention by globalisation. Everyone takes care to appear liberal but many are only aware of FGM because it has been imported by poor migrants from Africa while the forced labour gangs are a direct effect of weak border controls and economic liberal commitments to free movement of labour.

As with sex trafficking and other effects of globalisation, things are always more complex than they appear. There are undoubtedly non-consensual trades in people or trades based on misleading information that can reasonably be classed as exploitation or even slavery but many low paid migrants and sex workers travel because conditions at home are even worse.

The work of Exaro and the domestic violence disclosure scheme have nothing to do with globalisation but everything to do with indigenous social failure. The vulnerable are increasingly proven to have been regarded as of no consequence by the State for too long.

Forty years after Erin Pizzey founded the first women’s refuge in 1971, it took the murder of a woman in 2009 to get the full attention of the political class. Most of the crimes against children being investigated by Exaro took place decades ago and the victims received scant support until recently from law enforcement with serious claims of cover up at a high level.

These campaigns indicate a broader crisis of confidence in the 'system'. They perhaps help to explain why some sections of the public are moving in frustration to the somewhat intellectually confused populist Right (UKIP) whose main virtue is that they are not responsible for the current mess.

The first set show a liberal elite that opened its doors to migrants without considering their ability to adjust to modernity (more recent sexual abuse of young women derives from these groups) or ensuring that the ‘pull’ from British business and the ‘push’ of poverty did not lead to a system of exploitation.

The second set shows that vulnerable parts of the community have been treated as disposable. These social elements now find their voice in the media and on the internet but, in doing so, they have raised the question of what politicians have been doing all this time.

The discovery that children were abandoned in the North because the police were given instructions to concentrate on crimes against property has raised the same sort of question about justice – who is the State for? – which black citizens are asking in Ferguson, Missouri.

These media campaigns are only part of the whole. The whole appears to be a manipulative rear guard action by the establishment to resist what seems to be coming anyway – a demand by increasing numbers of ‘ordinary people’ that the State begin to act in accordance with their values and not simply ask to be trusted when, so often, it cannot be trusted.