Changing relationship between “information and power”

Last week Paul Gilroy spoke at a meeting in Tottenham on the recent riots in London and elsewhere. Gilroy makes some insightful observations on the differences between the 1980s and 2011 for example the relationship between information and power has changed along with the way we as a nation are “managed”…

The difference between 1981 and now is that the relationship between information and power has been changed, and our tactics for understanding our defence of our communities have to take those changes into account. And that means that we have to think very carefully about how we engage with the media. I’m very happy that there are people here who are independent distributors of information and news, who are circulating what goes on here and circulating interpretations of what’s happened in this country. We have to get it to people outside of our country–we have to internationalize it. We have to think about how technology can work for us. And media is not something transparent.

Because what happens in the digitalization of media and privatization is the contraction and the impoverishment of our media. People talk about “dumbing down”–it’s not just about dumbing down–it’s something different than that. And that means that there’s a much tighter control over what can be said.

And that technology which is so different from in 1981 is also part of what I’d like to call, tonight, a securitocracy, ruling us through security. And that means the DNA in your bodies, in your mouths, in DNA swabs, the CCTV cameras that are all around us here…And, and this is another interesting feature of last week, the way the spin operation works. The media, owned by people like Murdoch, have a ‘golden hour’ after the story breaks, in which they can fix the story, and then that fixed story grows, like a snowball rolling downhill.

What is amazing is that the police admit to 100,000 searches under the terrorist legislation yet not one of these has led to an arrest – so the question is on what basis, what intelligence were these searches carried out and in what manner? One observation Gilroy makes which stands out for me is the “privatisation of the movement” or the “consultariat”. This is something which is also happening across countries in Africa with the NGO-isation of activism and movements and no doubt is happening elsewhere across the world – which leads to a loss of imagination but I think that is the point. It’s happening in Nigeria right now with activists abandoning movement building in exchange for contract building in Abuja.

When you look at the layer of political leaders from our communities, the generation who came of age during that time thirty years ago, many of those people have accepted the logic of privatization. They’ve privatized that movement, and they’ve sold their services as consultants and managers and diversity trainers. They’ve sold their services to the police, they’ve sold them to the army, they’ve sold them to the corporate world…go to some of their websites and you’ll see how proud they are of their clients. And that means that, in many areas, the loss of experience, the loss of the imagination is a massive phenomenon. So that the young people in the courts today don’t have a defence campaign. They don’t have one yet, but I hope that one will develop.

So a lot of that leadership has been channeled into the local government, and has formed a kind of “consultariat.” And if you want to understand what that means, you have to look at places like South Africa, where, in the process after the end of apartheid, a whole layer of militants, a whole layer of people went over, and they got their pensions, and they sold this, and they sold that, because the government, in changing that society, thought that having a Black middle class was going to be the way to do it. Well, that’s not the way it’s going to work here. [applause] Continue reading ……..