In Alfred Hitchcock’s classic 1959 film, North By Northwest, Cary Grant plays the part of an advertising executive who inadvertently gets caught up in a web of espionage after he is mistaken for ‘George Kaplan’, a fictional persona created by a government agency in order to thwart the nefarious activities of a spy, Phillip Vandamm (James Mason).
After reading the transcript of Theresa May’s recent Mansion House speech in which she alluded to the alleged nefarious activities of Vladimir Putin, one might reasonably conclude that real life imitates art and that the Russian leader is a creation of Britain’s secret services.
Resplendent with cliches and insubstantial rhetorical flourishes low on substance, May’s projection of hard power harked back to the days of the British Empire in which, as George Galloway famously remarked, “The sun never set because God would never trust the English in the dark.”
May’s vision of a post-Brexit Britain in a globalised world, is marked by ‘humanitarian interventionism’ predicated on military pre-emption, or as one US administration official put it, “pre-emptive retaliation”. Such a foreign policy strategy is one in which the ‘responsibility to protect’ is informed by a notion of imperialist exceptionalism couched in the language of economic liberalism and free markets. This is regarded by the political establishment as the best way to counter (largely imaginary) military threats.
Thus, in the tradition of Kipling, during a speech at the Mansion House this time last year, May emphasised that the historic role of Britain was to nurture ‘less enlightened’ societies by invoking in them the virtues of neoliberal ‘trickle-down’ economics:
“Over our long history, this country has set the template for others to follow. We demonstrate to the world that we can be the strongest global advocate for free markets and free trade.”
But as income inequality has continued to increase inexorably since the PM made her speech, she has been left to ponder as to whether ‘trickle-down’ is not really a case of ‘gushing-up’. Regardless, there is scant evidence she intends to do anything about it, preferring instead to regurgitate the requisite caveats:
“There have been downsides to globalisation in recent years, and that – in our zeal and enthusiasm to promote this agenda as the answer to all our ills – we have on occasion overlooked the impact on those closer to home who see these forces in a different light.”
“If we take a step back and look at the world around us, one of the most important drivers becomes clear – the forces of liberalism and globalisation which have held sway in Britain, America and across the Western world for years have left too many people behind.”
But rather than acknowledge that neoliberal ideology is the catalyst for growing inequality, May persists with the illusion that the rules-based international capitalist system on which it is based, represents the solution to the problem:
“Liberalism and globalisation…underpin the rules-based international system that is key to global prosperity and security and which I am clear we must protect and seek to strengthen.”
White man’s burden
The alleged merits of a 19th-century rules-based liberal system rooted in the Kipling-esque “white man’s burden” notion of modern international relations, was a topic May returned to during her November 13 2017 speech:
“So as we reach out into the world and write this new chapter in our national history, the task of a global Britain is clear – to defend the rules based international order against irresponsible states that seek to erode it.”
Clearly, the PM had one country in mind as one of the more significant of the worlds “irresponsible states” who she regards as potentially undermining neoliberalism’s global reach:
“The comprehensive new economic partnership we seek will underpin our shared commitment to open economies and free societies in the face of those who seek to undermine them. Chief among those today, of course, is Russia.”
Ratcheting-up Russia’s imaginary threat to Western civilisation, May remarked:
“Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea was the first time since the Second World War that one sovereign nation has forcibly taken territory from another in Europe.”
This simplistic analysis conveniently overlooks the subversive actions of the US in the Ukraine and broader geopolitical and strategic contextual objectives of the Western-led alliance. This meant that Putin was left with little option other than to incorporate Crimea in order to attempt to fend off an encroaching NATO.
Also, by limiting her critique to Europe, May ignored the attempts by Britain, France, the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia among others, to destabilise Syria in addition to the US-led coalitions decades-long illegal wars of aggression against the sovereign nations of Iraq and Libya.
May stepped-up the anti-Russian line by reproducing unsubstantiated soundbites against the country. The PM falsely inferred that Russia’s supposed state-run media propaganda is unique to a country whose official enemies constantly use the rhetoric of war against it.
May’s anti-Russian tirade during the latter part of her speech culminated in what were clear threats against Putin – an arrogance akin to that of a 19th-century imperial overseer. Seemingly eager to continue justifying the reinforcing of the British industrial-military complex, May added to the fear-mongering rhetoric:
“The UK will do what is necessary to protect ourselves, and work with our allies to do likewise.”
That it’s Britain and its NATO allies, not Russia, that represents the greatest potential threat to world peace, is unmentionable in mass corporate media parlance.
Ironically, the Russian state broadcaster, RT, who Theresa May in her speech alluded seeks to “weaponise information…in an attempt to sow discord in the West and undermine our institutions”, revealed the collusion between the Western powers and ISIS. This was a fact that the BBC only began to belatedly acknowledge many years later.
So, as Patrick Henningsen astutely pointed out with an air of sarcasm, using May’s logic, the much-maligned Vladimir Putin – who the PM effectively accused of ‘weaponising information’ – is presumably meddling in the BBC?
Another possibility is that he is a double agent, who like the Cary Grant character in North By Northwest, is unknowingly working for the British government. The third, and most likely possibility, is that Theresa May is a hypocrite and liar.