Behind the Scenes: Notes on the Shadowy Elite

by apatheticacademics

(In the first of our shorter “Notes On” series we take a glance at the idea that there is a shadowy elite manipulating our society)


“we aren’t THAT in the shadows” 


We’ve all heard the stories. A ‘shadowy elite’ who sit on the side-lines plotting and manipulating elections, stock markets and our culture for their own means. Janine Wedel in her 2010 TED talk, categorise these ‘shadow elites’ as existing in the intersection between when “one organisation ends and another begins”[1] operating both in public and private hiding behind think tanks, NGOs, privatised contractors and shady government affiliated projects. They are the political donors, the CEOs of private companies, the high level civil servants and the media moguls who sit at the boundary of “public and private power”, rarely seen or shown to the public but almost always felt. However, rather than the sinister Marvel villainesk picture of these people that is painted frequently, the reality is substantially more banal and placid than some people would have it.

Jean-Claude Milne, the linguist and philosopher, proposes that instead of a series of bond villains hell bent on complete world dominance there is instead a, not so, secret “stabilising class”. [2] They operate in plain sight, in the boardrooms of companies, in the government, media and public organisations and they feed off stability. Their aim is to keep alive the current neo-liberal, capitalist and private business empires they, and their ancestors, have built. These are the Rothschilds, the Murdochs, the Eton school alumni, the Bilderberg Group and the Oxbridge cartels, existing in a world of backroom deals, boys clubs and dodgy handshakes. Change does not completely allude them, as Žižek states, but change can only happen for the purpose of “stability and continuity of the existing social, economic, and political order.”[3] Their only preoccupation is to continue to be in power, through close political ties, the money markets and through manipulation of the press. As such the litmus paper of all today’s western elections is “who succeeded in winning over this class?”[4]

The most recent, and starkest, example of this is the way Jeremy Corbyn has been treated over the years of his Labour leadership by the mainstream British press. It is always wise to take such accusations with a handful of salt, see Trump’s attack on CNN etc, however even seasoned political analysts like David Dimbleby have spoken out over the “the unfair deal at the hands of the press” suffered from Jeremy Corbyn.[5] Recent academic research underpins this with a paper coming from LSE’s media department over the last year outlining “the journalistic representations of Jeremy Corbyn in (the) British Press”.[6] By studying eight British daily national newspapers over a month long period, they ultimately found that “Jeremy Corbyn was represented unfairly by the British press” on the whole. They found that “through a process of vilification that went well beyond the normal limits of fair debate and disagreement in a democracy.” Attacks on Corbyn were not measured, sustainable and he proved to be distasteful for the majority of the press consuming public. The report found that he was regularly “denied his own voice” in the paper’s stories, only rectified when the media bias laws came into effect in the six weeks up to the general election. This was a continued assault from all sides being “systematically treated with scorn and ridicule in both the broadsheet and tabloid press in a way that no other political leader is or has been”. The newspapers in question were found to have failed “to give the reading public a fair opportunity to form their own judgement”. Resulting in the news media slipping from their perceived “watchdog role” to an “attack dog” persona.

Deep cracks appear in our democracy when we consider these attacks on the perceived threat of a Corbyn government. If we look into who actually owns these newspapers, we might be able to gauge why the attack on Corbyn was so vitriolic in its distain for every part of his personality and policies. Out of the all of daily national newspapers on sale in Britain four people control over 75% of them, with Lord Rothermere (27.3%) and Rupert Murdoch (24.9%) controlling the lion’s share of both print and online media formats.[7] It is clear that these moguls have vested interests in deflecting and preventing Corbyn’s rise and instead backing a middle ground politician who will not threaten the status quo as much. The sinister side of this is the plain disrespect for the free press, democratic notions and the public’s need to hold all of the facts to make an informed decision.

The issues which arise when we consider this stabilising class are manifold, how can we say we live in a complete democracy when most of the media is controlled by a group of shady moguls who openly manipulate and spin events to further their own needs? This is not a conspiracy theory in the zeitgeist sense, but rather something that needs to be addressed through halting mass privatisation, by splitting up and independently stopping monopolies of our news and media organisations and instilling more ironclad and robust bias laws which should effect everybody. A stabilising class is not good for our democracies, it stands in the way of the true will of the people (see the approval ratings of Labour’s policies) and a media that only acts in the interests of its owners and does not truly present true new, is only okay when their interests remain benign. The truth is we need to snap these people out of power before their actions take on a more sinister tone and the everyday people are the victims of this wielding of power (if they haven’t been already). The language they will understand is the removal of their power.








[4] Trouble in paradise page 54