During the First World War, the Allies excelled themselves at propaganda depicting the Beastly Hun as a depraved barbarian pitch-forking babies and raping nuns. Almost none of it was true. Reading recent accounts here and elsewhere, however, you could be forgiven for thinking that some dastardly arm of something or other had it in for the bankers, each day inventing yet another unlikely tale of disgusting behaviour.
The problem in 2012 compared to 1916 is that almost all the charges levelled at bankers can be relatively easily verified. Far from representing left-wing propaganda, the endless examples of crooked banking practice are probably the top of a small iceberg – clinging onto which, below the water level, is a 4 billion cubic centimetre lump of anthrax.
For a while back there in 2011, the defence-line being drawn by the Establishment was along the lines of the Islamist/Islamic con: “you should be more accurate, and talk about a tiny minority of investment bankers” and so forth. But the revelation of banking retail scams during 2012 (almost all of which hark back to at least 2007) has blown that particular Torres Vedras away.
Yesterday, I posted the latest episode in the RBS saga. This has been a quite extraordinary trail of unethical and at times downright criminal attempts to make the citizen cough up in yet another way for the deranged greed of those who worked for
Sir Freddie Goodwin. As the series has unfolded, however, it’s become obvious at the firstname.lastname@example.org inbox that the vast majority of retail banks both here and in the US are engaged in very similar practices.
So I fully expect at any day to hear that Lloyd Blankfein is a secret baby-forker: except he isn’t, of course, because there’s no money in it. But there is money in child prostitution, and Lloyd has been up to his fat neck in that little cess-pit. This too is represents an amazing depiction of “Do what you must, just don’t get caught”.
The biggest trading post for under-age sex trafficking in the US is a Web site called Backpage.com. Behind it in some grubby cellar somewhere is a cleverly obscured outfit called Village Voice Media, but nobody knew for a long time who was backing it. However, earlier this year New York Times journalist Nicholas Kristoff began asking around.
He discovered after much sleuthing that the backers were a syndicate of private equity financiers… including Goldman Sachs with a 16% stake. This isn’t new news by the way, it’s just that I hadn’t been shown the piece until two days ago. What struck me about it was not the amoral use of vulnerable females by a bank (what’s new there?) but the absolutely classic Nuremburg Nazi-apparatchik defence when caught. Kristoff writes:
‘Goldman Sachs was mortified when I began inquiring last week about its stake in America’s leading Web site for prostitution ads. It began working frantically to unload its shares, and on Friday afternoon it called to say that it had just signed an agreement to sell its stake to management.
“We had no influence over operations,” Andrea Raphael, a Goldman Sachs spokeswoman, told me.’
“Look, I hat nuzzink to do mit der dropping of zose pellets in ze showers, versteht? Und I haff sold all my memorabilia,” said Andrea Schnitzelnoodle as she faced the Allied judges. Dear oh dear oh dear.
A brief look back at the arrogant malpractice of RBS alone in recent times is incredible: defrauding SMEs, overcharging SMEs, falsifying credit records, shifting irretrievable toxicity into the taxpayer-liable part of the Group, hiding subpoena-demanded documents from the authorities, forcing entrepreneurs into insolvency….all of it done in the full knowledge that, without the taxes paid by those customers, RBS would simply have melted down into a radioactive pancake.
The other main difference between today and, say, the Second World War, is that the Japanese emperor didn’t say to his soldiers and subjects, “Look here, we really must stop knocking our gallant chaps who gouge out the eyes of living Burmese and then leave them for British advance parties to discover screaming in the noonday sun. I mean, eggs and omelettes and all that”.
But the Mayor of London does precisely that in relation to banks. Now let’s face it, I’ve been unfairly victimising BoJo of late. And the unfairness is there for all to see when you consider that, in private, the overwhelming majority of the Tory Right and much of its press would agree with everything he says. Michael Fallon, for example, is of a very similar view to the Turkish Aryan. You would be amazed to hear what some apparently quite respectable folks at the Daily Express, Evening Standard and Daily Telegraph think on the subject. (And they exist at the Mail too – despite its on the whole laudable attacks on banking scams).
This is, it goes without saying, no different to the censorship employed by the Guardian, Observer and Mirror over several decades about the equally blatant attempts of hard-Left Trade Union leaderships to nobble the British economy, and bring the sovereign legislature to its knees. There remains also a spooky silence among Britain’s liberal titles about the conduct of certain returning officers during the process to elect Ed Miliband leader of the Labour Party.
What it all comes down to in the end is power, and in particular the power that money can bring. It explains why, in New York, London, Hong Kong, Berlin, Brussels and Athens, nobody is going to jail.
But the reason there is much back-slapping hail-fellow-well-met whenever Stephen Hester visits the Treasury is that the obverse is true: the powerless surrender and amoral desperation that having no money can bring.
Hester is a banker, and the Treasury officials are senior Mandarins. Between them, these two sectors represent a staggering 64% of all Britain’s National Debt liabilities. Looking at that figure, it’s obvious that looking to their creatures the politicians for help in controlling them is a vain one indeed. The media both off and online are the only people left who can not so much bring them to justice, as force the Justice system to do its job.
If shame won’t do it (and it almost certainly won’t) then I think we should work on the basis of threatening to reveal their criminality and throw them into dungeons somewhere. This is the big advantage that rational blackmail has over accusatory but baseless propaganda: the innocent victim can ignore the invention; but the Sir Humphreys and the Diamonds cannot afford to ignore others unveiling the truth about their base greed.