At the end of January, when the news cycle had just about past stories of the winter NHS crisis – descriptions of ‘war zone conditions’ with people dying on waiting room chairs due to huge understaffing and a lack of beds – the Ministry of Defence decided it was a good time to start lobbying for a fresh cash injection.
General Sir Nick Carter’s warning that Russia will ‘creep up on us’ and we will be ‘constrained’ unless we improve upon the paltry £45 billion a year currently spent on defence made the top story on the BBC and the front pages of several newspapers on the 22nd of January.
Whereas any rational person would consider defence budget increases a low priority in a society that is experiencing record child poverty figures, record hospital waiting times and record numbers of people sleeping on the streets, Carter’s position was an exercise in simple cronyism rather than a genuine concern for the greater good of the country.
Carter’s demands for more defence spending were made at a Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) shindig, whilst the statistics and infographics that metastasised around UK newspapers and websites were knocked together by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).
RUSI counts among its ‘Platinum and Chairman’s Circle Corporate Members’ who bankroll the organisation, BAE Systems, the beneficiary of the astoundingly corrupt Al-Yamamah deal who have also reached settlements with the Serious Fraud Office for bribery accusations in Chile, Czech Republic, Romania, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Tanzania and Qatar. BAE contribute £200,000 to £499,999 a year to the small think tank. It also receives £100,000-£199,999 from the Ministry of Defence, which, considering RUSI are pushing for MoD budget increases, is a bit like writing a Wikipedia article and then citing it in order to win an argument.
The IISS also counts cheques from the same British/American Military-Industrial juggernauts as RUSI: Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, Raytheon. Though both RUSI and the IISS are NATO-funded, the IISS claim to receive £100,000-£499,999 from the organisation, making it one of its larger benefactors.
Though funding think tanks isn’t illegal, the way they can be used to add authority and prestige to crude corporate lobbying attempts is insidious, and the media are suckers for it every time. ‘Weapons manufacturers think that the UK should purchase more weapons’ is a headline similar in revelatory content to ‘water is wet’, but when you invoke the scholarly and imperious title ‘International Institute for Strategic Studies’, without disclosing that they effectively operate as an outsourced PR unit for NATO and companies who profit from manufacturing things designed to exterminate human beings, then the report is handed a completely undeserved credence.
This is a journalistic failing rather than a regulatory one. Large corporations have always paid nerds to express their agendas, and will continue to do so until the products they flog succeed in finally destroying this decaying rock we all live on and put us out of our misery. However, the mainstream media’s addiction to think tanks is a growing and damaging prospect. The statements, infographics and talking points of the likes of RUSI have become crack cocaine for lazy journalists who are on the prowl for some sweet clickbait. The result is that the most pernicious corporate interests are pushed higher and higher up the pages of newspapers and earlier on the schedules of cable news rotations without scrutiny.
This constructs the mad reality we experience, in which an austerity nation stripped to bone of basic social welfare protections always has a few hundred billion up its sleeve for jet fighters and explosives to scare those dastardly Russians in ways and for purposes that no-one can really articulate at the moment.
For the likes of BAE Systems, the social safety net is not so much a net but a golden harness elevating them to wherever they wish to go, beyond the reach of the most biting austerity cuts.
Amity Underground | UK Military-Industrial Complex