After covering the National Union of Journalists’ Delegate Meeting 2011 earlier this year, I thought it would be interesting to attend the Rebellious Media Conference this weekend, of which the NUJ had a stall. Despite that terrible name – it was originally meant to be called the Radical Media Conference until a media company with the same name stepped in with a lawsuit – the two-day split-venue event turned out to be a good distillation of left-wing media. Organised by an umbrella group containing a number of publications and organisations – New Internationalist magazine, Peace News, visionOntv and others – the conference saw the likes of Noam Chomsky, John Pilger and ZNet’s Michael Albert, as well as speakers from UK Uncut. While the seminar involving Pilger was illuminating with its discussion on how mainstream media reporting is still subject to pressure from Governments, he remained in bullish mood, at one point insisting slightly disingenuously on the subject of Libya that the massacre in Benghazi “never happened” (surely that’s because NATO stopped it from happening?). Albert, meanwhile, had some good points to make on the left-wing movements’ crisis of identity, and how in America the 60s protest movement failed to capitalise on their successes and possibility for change in the following decades – leading, of course, to the nadir of much of the materialist 80s (embodied, to use a striking image, by Jefferson Airplane morphing over twenty years into the turgid Starship:
But, despite his soporific voice, which nearly sent me to sleep at one point, the highlight was Chomsky, with his profound insistence that the UK is following the US in its dismantling of the traditional NHS with the Health and Social Care Bill (Obama's attempted changes to the US Healthcare service notwithstanding). The NHS is one service that the Britain can justly be proud of, an egalitarian, accessible, efficient service which all of society is entitled to use. Yet, to use an example, while British Rail was not perfect, it’s unlikely that it suffered from many of the Byzantium problems which have resulted from contracting out the railways to different companies in the post-privatization age. Could the same fate now befall the NHS?