Shop a Skiver

shop (verb): to behave treacherously toward; inform on; betray.

skive (colloq.): the practice of avoiding responsibilities, i.e. not paying taxes when you ought to be doing so.

quid (British Informal): one pound sterling.

Rupert Murdoch – in case you didn’t know – is the Australian-born media mogul who controls pretty much everything you will read or watch today: The Australian newspaper, the Fox News channel, the New York Post, Sky Television, the Wall Street Journal, 20th Century Fox, The Times, MySpace, and The Sun, amongst many more entities around the world.

Murdoch’s power in dominating the source of our information can barely be overstated. Being one of the biggest tycoon tax avoidance icons of all time, he ensures the public are not told about how little he gives back to their societies (or rather how much he robs from them). Instead, he prefers to push stories of the poor who steal to feed their families, of welfare recipients and refugees, even though he and his News Corporation move freely in and out of countries, make profits from their people, and refuse to give back what they owe through taxes. He’s the real-life Scrooge, and I’d like to introduce him to the Ghost of Christmas Future.

The Sun‘s influence in Britain, as the number one tabloid newspaper there, is such that it holds massive influence over who will win the general election. Previously loyal to the Conservative Party and their Thatcherite policy of privatisation and, funnily enough, deregulation of the media (making it easier for Murdoch to dominate), come the late 1990s and the emergence of New Labour and its “Third Way,” suddenly Tony Blair was rivaling the Tories on corporate-friendly policy, his Chancellor of the Exchequer Brown-nosing the suits in conflict with his socialist roots. And so, Murdoch had The Sun switch sides, and tell its entire readership to this time, in 1997, vote for New Labour. A decade later, Britain’s reeling from its involvement in the illegal invasion of Iraq, and suffering its worst economic crisis for decades, with the emergence of a police state – jam-packed privatised prisons, more CCTV cameras per-capita than any other country, and the largest DNA database in the world. Meanwhile, Murdoch’s near-monopoly of the media has commercialised televised sports, bled dry working class families wanting to watch them, and poached much entertainment programming from terrestrial television into the pay-TV spectrum.

Given all the damage done to Britain by the politicians supported and even funded by Murdoch and his minions, you’d think the people would be outraged, right? Nope. And that’s because when they pick up their favourite newspaper, they don’t read about these issues, because the paper is dominated and defined by, as Dr John Richardson explains in my film Escape from Doncatraz, “propaganda, public relations, pornography – and sport on the back pages.”

The Sun focuses the rest of its pages on either entertainment or “news” with a focus on fearmongering and divisive reports of petty crimes and personal vendettas – to paint a picture of a dog-eat-dog society, with a strong emphasis on those seeking asylum or applying for welfare as though they are taking funds from the state at the expense of the readers themselves. It’s the “kick the dog” syndrome perpetuated by the Fat Cats in control of the media – if people are angry with someone as poor as – or even poorer than – themselves, then they won’t form communities and rise up in anger at the millions lost through the tax avoidance plans of Rupert Murdoch and his mates, or the billions spent on oil wars.

The best example of this divide-and-conquer strategy by The Sun has been their government-acknowledged “Shop-a-Skiver” campaign that has encouraged people to call a special hotline and “shop” anyone they think may be a “skiver,” such as someone on the poverty line claiming welfare while taking some cash-in-hand work to better get by and make ends meet. The amount of money these people probably cost the taxpayer is so insignificant, even when added together, it’s probably not worth the cost of the hotline maintenance itself! But that’s not the point, now, is it?

And when we talk about the cost to The Taxpayer, who is The Taxpayer, anyway? It sounds like one person! Well, you can be sure of one thing: it isn’t likely to be Rupert Murdoch. Ten years ago The Economist itself reported that in the previous eleven years, Murdoch had made £1.4 billion but paid nothing back in corporation tax – this would have been enough to provide the country with seven hospitals or fifty secondary schools. Wow! But hey, let’s blame Abdul who just arrived here from a country we recently bombed and who costs us about forty quid a week. Damn him!

Murdoch and his kind get away with this thanks to their fancy accountants and their avoidance schemes that Prof Prem Sikka explains in Escape from Doncatraz and through his regular articles for The Guardian (not – yet – owned by Murdoch). I’ve been in Prem’s office, and seen how hard he works, and I don’t think this guy ever sleeps; he’s amazing – a media mogul’s nightmare. But he’s not a superhero – he needs our help!

So, I’ve decided to start my own Shop a Skiver campaign! Clearly the skivers we ought to be worried about most – but who aren’t, funnily enough, receiving much press – are the Fat Cats. And we already shopped one of the bastards…

Conrad Black gave up his Canadian citizenship in order to accept a “peerage” as recommended to the Queen by his buddy, Tony Blair, calling Canada “an oppressive little world.” Well, while the thorns in my side tried to discredit this media activist by claiming I’d committed fraud, and my records came up clean and stood up to scrutiny, Conrad Black was meanwhile found guilty of fraud and sentenced to 78 months in a nasty old American prison – suddenly wanting his Canadian privileges back and wishing he was back in that “oppressive little world.” Tough luck, Lord Black.

Even now his lordship gets to spout his spiel via his rags, writing in the National Post “If saintly men like Gandhi could choose to clean latrines, and Thomas More could voluntarily wear a hair shirt, this experience won’t kill me.” Brilliant roving reporter Robert Fisk responded by saying “Now when Uncle Conrad likens himself to the assassinated Mahatma, the apostle of India, that is mere hubris. But when he compares himself to England’s greatest Catholic martyr, a man of saintly honour if ruthless conviction, this is truly weird.” One down, many more to go!

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