The State: censor, not savior

(continued from theeditorial of Kairos 46)

While we legitimize a power in permanent war which hides the structural inequality of our societies, caricatured in a convenient dichotomy of a people united in front of an enemy, this one makes us advance in the direction that it wants: concerning the digital in the education for example,  » Covid19 was a catalyst. We will probably achieve in a few months what, without this crisis, would have taken a few years « (1) ; it is known that in the middle of containment, BIPT will propose, regarding the introduction of 5G,  » to grant interim use rights « .(2) The planes were grounded within a few days and for several months, which seemed impossible before, the zeal to stop them being matched only by the zeal to get them back in the air. The precautionary principle is thus selective: the cultural sector is massacred, but not the aeronautics or the car. 

If the above statements are true, as a matter of principle they cannot be said to a large audience, because they would automatically delegitimize the current power. Therefore, a public debate under favorable conditions from which certain truths and policy measures could be derived, is simply impossible. In a consumer society, where the subject has exchanged his freedom for a precarious security and a deleterious purchasing power, leitmotiv of the extreme right to the extreme left, this glaring lack of agora where everything is said is not fought, or worse, is not even perceived. The illusion of one day joining the upper class by getting rich extinguishes any form of protest in most people. 

« For if all enjoy leisure and security, the masses, ordinarily stultified by poverty, will become educated and think, and as a result they will eventually see that the privileged few are useless and will sweep them away. Eventually, a hierarchical society must rely on poverty and ignorance to be viable. 

It is indeed not conceivable, in a political system that has based its entire operation on the growth of production and consumption, using various lies such as advertising, media propaganda, political spectacle(3)It’s a good idea to think outside the box, to say that an innovation, which will benefit an elite, will not benefit the majority, or worse, may harm them. To this end, politicians will occupy an important part of their activity justifying themselves and saying what they do not do, while doing what they do not say, promising employment, health and happiness for all, while reality will implacably show unemployment, disease and social misery. 

« It is therefore a problem of education: the consciousness of the leading group and that of the larger group of executives immediately subordinate to it must be cast in the mold. As for the masses, it is enough to numb their consciousness. 

« Every citizen, or at least every citizen important enough to be watched, could be placed twenty-four hours a day under the gaze of the police and within earshot of official propaganda — to the exclusion of all other channels of communication. Imposing complete obedience to the will of the state, but also perfect uniformity of opinion on all subjects, became possible for the first time. » 

THE CONTROL OF REALITY 

« The names of the four ministries that govern us purposely contradict their true nature. The Ministry of Peace deals with war, the Ministry of Love deals with torture, the Ministry of Truth deals with propaganda, and the Ministry of Plenty deals with famine. 

Master of the  » doublethink « , the political actors will be able to name the thing and its opposite, Sophie Wilmès to say one day to the journalist Jérôme Colin that  » Freedom of expression is sacred. The debate too « , with  » the belief that criticism is healthy ‚ » and another day to interrupt you to tell you that conflicts of interest are a matter of privacy and do not concern the citizen; to indicate on its site  » I am at your disposal for any question/suggestion « , but to refuse to be confronted with sentences that chip away at the varnish of her worked representation. On the one hand, therefore, « freedom of expression », on the other hand, the prohibition to speak, which leads to the prohibition to think. 

« Orthodoxy is not to think. To not need to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness. 

« The Party claims that Oceania has never been allied with Eurasia. He, Winston Smith, knows perfectly well that they were still allies four years earlier, but where is this information filed? Exclusively in its consciousness, doomed to short-term annihilation. And if everyone else accepts the lie imposed by the Party, if all the stories agree with it, this same lie passes into history and becomes truth. « Who controls the past controls the future, » proclaims a Party slogan, « and who controls the present controls the past. ». But the past, now alterable, has never changed. What is true today has been true for centuries. It’s simple, all it takes is a series of uninterrupted victories over memory. « Control of the real », as we say, and in neo-speak, « doublethink » » 

In 1984, Sophie Wilmès would have been in charge of the Ministry of Love,  » which enforces law and order « . The State, which deprives us of the capacity to govern our lives, interferes in what still makes our humanity, and breaks social proximity (cf. physical distancing) to transmute it into virtual « proximity », an oxymoron if ever there was one: telecommuting, digitalized confinement with data downloading offered by operators, « hybrid » school, tracing… The ubiquitous Marc Van Ranst, whose official propaganda does not seem to find anything to criticize when he is also driving for GSK while making decisions for 11 million Belgians, said:  » We will eventually get used to this situation (…) Of course,every crisis changes society, that’s what’s happening now too: people will telecommute more, more attention will be paid to hand hygiene, we will keep our distance and we won’t shake hands anymore (…) Cheseare things that will remain « .(4). Getting used to it, the worst thing here… The frog had also begun to appreciate the warm water in which it bathed. 

« The most terrible thing is that the Party convinces you that your impulses and feelings are null and void, even though it deprives you of all power over the material world. Once you have fallen into its clutches, what you feel or don’t feel, what you do or don’t do, is of no importance. You disappear anyway, and no one will ever hear about you or your actions again. You are removed from the course of history. And yet, only two generations ago, men would have considered it insignificant because they were not trying to change history. They were governed by personal allegiances that they did not question. What mattered to them were the relationships between people, and a gesture of abandonment, an affectionate embrace, a tear, a word to a dying person, could have value in itself. 

POLITICIAN : THE ART OF ADVERTISING 

The fact that Sophie Wilmès comes from the advertising world(5) is not a coincidence: the political sphere has been using its methods for a long time in order to distort reality and make it favorable to the power while avoiding contestation: a political decision is sold like a car, by making it desirable and passing it off as indispensable. The extinction of all contestation being still impossible, the media, communication service of the politicians, will work to occult or denigrate it. As Alain Accardo expressed it perfectly:  » The media and their personnel are no more than the instruments, more or less consenting and zealous, that the dominant class needs to ensure its hegemony « (6). Without them, they can do nothing. 

Faced with the growing awareness of a part of the population about the harmful role of the government, the zealous media servants had to publish papers that would restore the image of the politicians and stifle the protest. In an article that has as much to do with journalism as sustainable development has to do with ecology, one can read the « states of mind » of Sophie Wilmès published in La Libre on the first weekend of August. A true eulogy devoid of any critical thinking, Sophie pours out her heart and soul, while what touches her most in life is  » the suffering of others « :  » It was a hard time, not for me (sic), but I could see that people were suffering . Le Soir joins the maneuver with, as the article of La Libre, four pages in the series « racines élémentaires », titled by this comment of the First:  » I am not a victim of my life . We understood it… On August 29, Paris Match launched its soothing article, while the Prime Minister had been elected Woman of the Year by the same people:  » Sophie Wilmès: The Woman of the Year is a Prime Minister in sneakers « . Is that so? What if she had worn loafers? The caption of the article speaks for itself:  » In the middle of the Covid crisis, Sophie Wilmès brings a breath of fresh air to Belgian politics. And a lot of humanity in a suffering world « . Thank you Sophie. Identical interviews that tell us nothing about reality, not a single impertinent, deep question, no mention of conflicts of interest or of all those initiatives to challenge the political management of the crisis, but a litany on the family, the children, the husband,  » the ego in politics « … Either the mainstream media in their traditional role. 

However, they could have asked her some of the questions we have been sending to Sophie Wilmès’ communication department for more than 4 months and for which we have not received any answers(7). The ineptitude and conformist function of this kind of articles can be measured by the themes they could have addressed. What about, for example, « The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations » (CEPI), founded at the World Economic Forum in 2018? Behind the acronym, states such as Norway or Japan, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation or the Wellcome Trust. A classic PPP (public-private partnership), strongly supported by the WHO (of which Bill Gates is the main donor) to accelerate the development of a vaccine. Also at the helm are Belgians, such as Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and Paul Stoffels, scientific director of Johnson & Johnson. But also Luc Debruyne, who headed the global vaccine business for GSK, member of the institutional advisory board of the Flemish Institute for Biotechnology (VIB), strategic advisor… at CEPI. CEPI, in addition to being largely funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has also received 5 million euros from the Belgian government(8). Public money is ultimately transferred to the GSK/Cover platform through CEPI funding, and thus subsidizes the private sector(9).  » A matter of privacy? We could also have asked Sophie why Hugues Malonne, post-authorization DG at the AFPMS, in Philippe De Backer’s team, whose conflicts of interest we have denounced, allowed his agency to exceed its rights and set up an internal validation process, but above all whether there was not a conflict of interest and possible malpractice due to the fact that the wife of the person concerned, Marie Tré-Hardy, is the deputy director of the hospitals whose lab was chosen in the list of those who were entrusted with the validation.(10)

OPACITY SET UP AS A SYSTEM 

We do not have either the certainty that Covid is nothing or that it would be of an unprecedented gravity. We only notice some strange things and an opacity more than indecent in this period: centralization of figures related to infected and deceased people, distorted statistics (infected people counted several times) or presented in a biased way (percentages of increase calculated on very small populations; number of asymptomatic cases not counted separately ; growth of cases not correlated with the increase in tests), incestuous mixes between the political/scientific world and the private pharmaceutical world, in particular GSK, fabrication of anguish with information phone calls mainly oriented on the number of daily cases, several times a day; contradictory information (masks are not useful/masks are indispensable(11)), fear of those who have a different opinion from the official version to express themselves, under penalty of stigmatization/criminalization; political refusal to take decisions apparently important for a consequent part of the population, our old people, respecting the sacrosanct law of supply and demand… 

There seems to be too much evidence that favors have been done to private multinationals (cf. Philippe De Backer, with the rejection of clinical labs to carry out tests in favor of a consortium of companies, or, again, him, with his interests in Vesalius Biocapital; the Hugues Malonne affair; the Goffin and Avrox affair, etc). 

« For it is only by reconciling contradictions that one keeps power indefinitely. The endless cycle could not be broken otherwise. If equality between men is to be outlawed forever, if the upper class, as it has been called, wants to retain its supremacy, then the prevailing mood must be one of controlled insanity. » 

Beyond the doubt, this confusing mishmash of information and counter-information, we ask to know. This seems obvious. Today’s crisis is global, the logical consequence of a « failing » system. But it is impossible to expect the media to do anything other than what they are programmed to do, i.e. to ensure the perpetuation of the dominant. In the middle of Covid-19, when exceptional measures are taken that put millions of people in Belgium at risk, asking those who are supposed to serve us — but have not done so for a long time — about the conflicts of interest between political and scientific actors and the world of pharmaceutical multinationals cannot be heard. 

« Winston drops his arms down his body and slowly fills his lungs. His mind wanders through the maze of doublethink. Knowing without knowing, being aware of the full truth while telling cleverly constructed lies. Maintaining at the same time two antithetical opinions, with an equal conviction. Playing logic against logic, flouting morality while claiming it, believing democracy to be impossible and designating the Party as its guardian, forgetting what needs to be forgotten, then recovering one’s memory if necessary, only to forget it again. And above all, to apply this treatment to the process itself: to induce unconsciousness knowingly, and to repress the act of self-hypnosis to which one has just given oneself up — the height of subtlety. To understand the word « doublethink », one must be able to « doublethink » oneself. 

COMPLAINT AGAINST THE STATE 

We did not suddenly think that in this great dysfunction (because chaos benefits some), justice would save us, and that the truth, thanks to it, would win. However, we believe that in the situation we are in, bringing it in can only be to our advantage: if we were to win our case, we would prove that the State is guilty of having hindered the freedom of the press; if not, that the truth cannot be obtained even when we summon the justice. 

« Belonging to a minority, even if it is only one person, does not make you crazy. There is truth and untruth, and if you hold on to the truth against all odds, you are not crazy. » 

We have therefore filed a complaint against the Belgian state for obstructing the freedom of the press, while for more than four months, all press conferences have been refused to us(12). Before July 27, they justified this by the pool rule (see box). Today, they find something else. They have to find out. 

Alexandre Penasse

THE POOLS, OR THE INVENTION
THAT CREATES THE ILLUSION OF PLURALITY 

After our first press conference on April 15 and the « discomfort » caused, in the words of the dominant press, the reasons for refusing to attend subsequent press conferences have varied, with Wilmès’ office constantly seeking to explain the inexplicable, to justify our « democratic » absence. Throughout their rhetorical exercise, one word kept coming up: pool.

Whether you support or oppose the fact that multinational pharmaceutical companies have the power to influence policy decisions that are made on behalf of the collective, is basically beyond the scope of the issue that concerns us here in the first place. Indeed, the government decided in the name of an obscure and arbitrary rule (the pools) that he pulled out of his hat, not to make a debate of it: « you introduce here a politically biased question, which is not the habit of journalists », Sophie Wilmès will say on April 15. Journalists in power, spokespersons for the bosses and politicians, are used to asking conventional, unbiased questions, and the former to answering them as they should. In this game, the citizen-spectators are cheated, while some still think that the dice are not loaded. 

POOLS, INVENTIONS OF POWER 

Thanks to their arbitrary decisions disguised as a democratic choice, since April 15 the press conferences have been full of inane and empty questions. Sports competitions, mother’s day, kayaking, shopping, flying… don’t let the mainstream media call you a « conspiracy theorist ». Brushed in the direction of the hair, the politicians return the favor to the journalists: they invite them back… and they like it, the journalists in the orders, having the feeling that a part of the power which they admire in the one they question is reflected on their person. All this is priceless: compromises, lies, collusion. 

BUT WHAT IS A POOL ?

According to the dictionary : Pool. Def. In English 1. means a pond, a swimming pool, a pool. 2. A prognosis, a pool (of talent, experience), a team. 

In French. 1. Grouping (of physical or moral persons) ensuring the common management of an operation, of resources, of means. D cooperation; cartel, agreement, group. Banking pool , financial pool . 2. A group of people doing the same work in a company. Pool of typists. Press pool . D team. 

According to the journalists’ union, the AJP, in a letter: « Pools are by definition limited groupings of days

nalists, which then serve all other media (image, sound and information sharing). There is a rotation among these journalists/media within the pools. There is no « right » to be in the pools.  »

ACCORDING TO THE FIRM WILMÈS VIA ITS SPOKESMAN 

Definition as of March 30 : limitation of access to a press conference  » to certain pooled newsrooms , due to the strict instructions related to the Coronavirus . »(13) Configuration that can be re-evaluated when social distancing measures are lifted(14). However, by definition,  » physical access is allowed to editorial offices that are listed by the General Association of Professional Journalists of Belgium who organize themselves to form pools among themselves « (15). In summary, a journalist who is a member of the AJP and holds a press card,(16), can be part of a pool.

As of April 3 : Selection of journalists based on unclear criteria, requiring prior registration on a secret list as other media outlets do,(17) The journalist will only learn just before the press conference, depending on the configuration of the room and the number of requests, if he will be able to enter. All of this was done in close consultation with his journalist counterparts. This selection does not prevent the journalist from attending the live streaming(18).

As of May 5 :  » Distribution key of agencies — audiovisual and written press — responding to a pool operation , allowing everyone to have a chance (sic) to access the press conference « . The governmental selectors who constitute these secret lists of pools do not, however, exclude requests from media that have fewer resources and less audience than the big media players in the Belgian landscape, organizing a rotation that leaves room for one free media each time.  » Your client was awarded this position on April 15. April 24thLe Ligueur has occupied it « (19). However, those who are not admitted to the conference are entitled to full access to information, being able to attend the press conference broadcast live on the internet and without editing(20). This practice is validated by the entire profession(21).

Purely authoritarian decision, the poolThis is a practice which, if it can sometimes be justified, allows above all to preserve the media monopoly of the « big media » owned by the biggest fortunes, in ideological concordance with the political power which serves these fortunes. 

KAIROS ’ DEFINITION OF POOLS

Based on our experience, we define a pool as an arbitrary selection of journalists from the  » major media players in the Belgian landscape « , i.e. the dominant press, i.e. the one that asks the government the questions it wants to hear. This arbitrary selection becomes perfectly intelligible when the consensus is broken by an « accident », i.e. when an intruder succeeds in asking a question not included in the tolerated themes. Since the choice of pool is not based on any democratic and transparent criteria, the rules change according to circumstances, self-justifying by « necessity », as the social distancingrequested by Covid-19, rather than by arbitrary power… 

The words of the journalists’ union, AJP, that  » the pools are by definition limited groupings of journalists, who then serve all the other media « , denotes a profound denial of the existing differences between media that are privately owned o(or political instruments like the RTBF), and the « small », free media. We knew it, but experience supports us: no mainstream media will relay our words, our questions and our concerns. This would be to misunderstand their main function: to feign the description of reality when they are only concerned with generating its acceptance. 

The only way to break the illusions they create? Work on ways to get information across that is free of private interests. 

« Until there is awareness, there will be no revolt, and until there is revolt, there will be no awareness. » 

Notes et références
  1. Dixit Laurent Hublet, CEO de BeCentral, La Libre, 18 et 19 juillet 2020.
  2. « Covid-19 : l’occasion de continuer le business – derrière le paravent médiatique (où n’arrivent que les « bonnes questions ») », voir www.kairospresse.be .
  3. Voir « Nous sommes pris dans le spectacle » ; https://www.kairospresse.be/article/nous-sommes-pris-dans-le-spectacle .
  4. Metro, 2 juin 2020.
  5. Ses études à l’Ihecs et son premier emploi dans une agence de com ; son mari, Christopher Stone, fondateur de Dewez et managing director chez Decaux.
  6. Alain Accardo, « Journalistes précaires, journalistes au quotidien », Ibid., p.13–14.
  7. Le 4 septembre, le cabinet nous a répondu, répondant à la demande de notre avocate. Nous en publierons le contenu, édifiant !
  8. https://diplomatie.belgium.be/fr/newsroom/nouvelles/2020/la_belgique_libere_5_millions_euros_pour_recherche_vaccin_covid-19)
  9. https://www.technologynetworks.com/biopharma/product-news/ gsk-and-clover-biopharmaceuticals-covid-19-vaccine-begins-human-clinical-trials-336466
  10. https://www.levif.be/actualite/belgique/tests-serologiques-les-coulisses-dune-validation-controversee-a-7-millions-enquete/article-normal-1300775. html
  11. Voir « Port du masque systématique, quelle utilité », https://www.kairos- presse.be/article/port-du-masque-systematique.
  12. Voir « 137 jours interdit de conférence de presse », https://www.kairospresse. be/article/137-jours-sans-conferences-de-presse.
  13. Porte-parole de la Ministre : « En raison des consignes strictes liées au Coronavirus, l’accès à la salle de presse est strictement limité à certaines rédactions en pool. »
  14. Porte-parole de la Ministre : « Cette configuration sera réévaluée lorsque les mesures de social distancing seront levées ».
  15. « L’accès physique est autorisé aux rédactions qui sont répertoriées par l’Association Générale des Journalistes Professionnels de Belgique. Celles-ci s’organisent afin de former des pools entre elles. Cela se passe sans encombre ».
  16. Ce qui est mon cas.
  17. « Lors des prochaines conférences de presse, il vous sera demandé de vous inscrire comme c’est le cas pour n’importe quel organe de presse ».
  18. « Nous aviserons à ce moment-là en fonction de la configuration de la salle et le nombre de demandes ; le tout en bonne concertation avec vos homologues journalistes. Ceci étant dit, toutes les conférences de presse et leur contenu sont accessibles à tout un chacun, dans leur entièreté, en streaming live ».
  19. « Cinq places sont prévues pour les collaborateurs des ministres-présidents. Le reste est donc prévu pour la presse, selon une clé de répartition agences/ audiovisuel/presse écrite ; sur la base d’un fonctionnement de pool. Ce système permet à chacun d’avoir une chance d’accéder à la conférence de presse. Nous gardons bien entendu une place pour les demandes en provenance des médias qui bénéficient de moins de moyens et de moins d’audience que les grands acteurs médiatiques du paysage belge. Cette place, votre client en a bénéficié le 15 avril. Le 24 avril, Le Ligueur l’a occupée. Pour cette conférence-ci, nous l’attribuons à DaarDaar ».
  20. « Par ailleurs, je tiens à signaler que l’accès à l’information est totale : la conférence de presse est rediffusée en direct sur internet, sans montage ».
  21. « Cette manière de procéder est validée et soutenue par l’ensemble des participants et l’union professionnelle des journalistes ».
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