Friday, 7 August 2015

The Big Other

In his book ‘Capitalist Realism’ Mark Fisher discusses the concept of the big Other. The big Other is a name for the imagined rationalisation of various collectively held fictions. These  fictions are known not to be true but somehow, for the sake of the big Other, they must be maintained. Fisher cites the former Soviet Union as going to great lengths to maintain the pretence of being a workers paradise when everyone at all levels within and without the country knew it to be otherwise.

In 1968 Krushchev finally said in public what everyone was thinking, that the Soviet Union had some serious problems. But he did so in a public way. The secret was out so now even the big Other must know the truth! This is what made the revelation so tremendous.

The concept of the big Other is further revealed through Gerald Ratner. Ratner famously ruined his company, Ratner’s the jewelers, by publicly denigrating what his company sold. Ratner, it seems, believed that he was stating what everyone knew, even his customers. After Ratner had made his public statement his customer stayed away in droves, hence the demise of Ratners.  By not  respecting the feelings of the big Other Gerald Ratner had caused the demise of Ratner’a the Jewellers. 

Foreign readers may be interested to know that the British media is subject to a system called the 'D' notice. Notionally government guidelines on what the media should NOT write about for reasons of military secrecy. 

It’s no particular secret that GCHQ are in the business of monitoring communications. It even says so on their website. But back in the 1960s Daily Express journalist Chapmen Pincher got into hot water because he went public with the news. d-notice-system-state-media-press-freedom

As it turned out Pincher was cleared of an accusation of revealing more than the various ‘D’ notices that the UK government issue to media outlets advise. It seems as though the Wilson government of the time felt that the press should have had much less to say on the subject than they did. In fact the British, or at least the English, have been intercepting and deciphering communications since the time of Elizabeth the first. Sir Francis Walsingham

But it seems that the big Other prefers not to know about it. Perhaps the big Other is with Henry L. Stimson who said, "Gentlemen don't read each other's mail." Or perhaps it is just so  the Prime Minister is not required to answer embarrassing public questions on topics that have formally entered the public domain. 

Of course, in defense matters the end can usually be persuaded to justify the means. and they do say,  “If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear.” But, is does seem likely that the Government also pressurises the media on topics beyond those related to national security.  media-gagged-westminster-child-abuse-ring

It’s a sad fact that Britain seems predisposed to give out knighthoods to child abusers. Former PM Sir Edward Heath may now be joining the racks of Sir Cyril Smith and Sir Jimmy Saville. The Jimmy Saville case being the one that finally convinced the big Other that being a TV celebrity is not enough to provide eternal immunity. 

Mrs Thatcher knew, back in the 1980s, of the accusations levelled against Cyril Smith but it didn't stop her approving his Knighthood.  And it seems that the British police are still afraid to fully pursue their investigations.  establishment-child-sex-abuse   According to a BBC Newsnight report  a Metropolitan police investigation was halted by an unknown senior officer who threatened to prosecute the investigating officers under the Official Secrets Act if they revealed what they had found.

The big Other may have finally accepted that dead or surviving B-list celebrities can be abusers but it is not yet ready to admit the same of politicians.

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