Αlmost everything is fake. The brave proverbs with which we were brought up – the truth will out, cheats never prosper, virtue will triumph – turn out to be unfounded. For the most part, our lives are run and our views are formed by chancers, cheats and charlatans. They construct a labyrinth of falsehoods from which it is almost impossible to emerge without the help of people who devote their lives to navigating it. This is the role of the media. But the media drag us deeper into the labyrinth.
There are two kinds of corporate lobbyists in the UK. There are those who admit they are lobbyists but operate behind closed doors, and there are those who operate openly but deny they are lobbyists. Because David Cameron has broken his promise to shine “the light of transparency on lobbying in our country and … come clean about who is buying power and influence” we still “don’t know who is meeting whom. We don’t know whether any favours are being exchanged. We don’t know which outside interests are wielding unhealthy influence … Commercial interests – not to mention government contracts – worth hundreds of billions of pounds are potentially at stake.” (All that was Cameron in 2010, by the way) At the same time, the media is bustling with people working for thinktanks which refuse to say who is paying them, making arguments that favour big business and billionaires.
Perhaps the most prominent is the Institute of Economic Affairs. Like most groups of this kind, it refuses to disclose its funding. But there’s a trail of smoke. We now know that it has been taking substantial sums from British American Tobacco (BAT), Japan Tobacco International, Imperial Tobacco and Philip Morris International. BAT has funded the institute since 1963. By pure coincidence, the institute has fiercely defended the tobacco companies from efforts to regulate their products.