Originally appeared at A-specto, translated by Borislav exclusively for SouthFront
Of course, the scandal with the leaked “Panama Papers” is outrageous in that it involves politicians and public figures. From Argentina to Iceland to Saudi Arabia, Russia, Ukraine and the UK, there are very wealthy people who evade paying taxes. What is scandalous is that all of this is at the expense of people in their own countries who are getting poorer, but have to pay taxes. The appalling for many in this case is the greed and the global networks through which these schemes are happening.
But let’s be clear headed and not pretend that we got hit with a wet rag. For as much as we simulate extreme emotions, it’s not the first time we hear about these schemes to make us so “scandalized”. For years, we’ve know about how famous tennis players and all sort of celebrities have citizenship in Monaco and that is not simply because there are beautiful views there. And even when we focus more locally, the story will again seem somehow familiar – remember the international investigation of independent journalists, which revealed the schemes of our President Plevneliev in Cyprus.
Along the eruption of the leaks, the media failed to comply with ethical principles when disclosing such information. Creativity with pictures and drawings of Putin, schemes, bubbles and graphics replaced deep analysis and criticism, and Putin himself did not even exist in the lists. He was acknowledged as was a “possible” link, since he’s been photographed with some of the Russians on the list. A really rousing element. Not David Cameron’s father, not the Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Azis, not Petro Poroshenko, not some footballer or actor. The facts were set aside to highlight Putin’s nonexistent role in these documents. His non-role in them.
The “Panama Papers” is a lesson in enlightenment: it’s about to how media logic modifies the manufacture of news. It’s also about what can go wrong in such “revelations” when even on a first glance, a critical perspective frees up space to one-sidedness. A transformation of the facts into sensationalism and attractiveness.
When the full reports of the “Panama Papers” leaked on Sunday, two things were clear: First, the participating media had great success in the competition for exclusive news. And second, it was clear that the topic is extremely beneficial for all sorts of headlines and will continue to produce them in the next few days. Let’s note that even the practice of publishing the leaks is somehow “structured”. The expensive investment for such a study should bear fruit – namely, news and many millions of readers around the world. And when they all report the same thing, it is very important for the knowledge to seep through in small doses, like drops of strong espresso in front of a caffeine dependent person.
One of the editors of the “Sueddeutsche Zeitung” (the newspaper, which first published the news about the revelations in The “Panama Papers”) Stefan Plyohinger, answering the question of why there are not many American names on the list, stated: “Just wait and see what will come out” and later he explained that he did not specifically mean it about the United States, but rather that we should all be breathless and wait for the next dose. This is a good example of the “structuring” of information and it’s distribution in doses like food for the poor and hungry for “scandals” and gossips reader. Especially if the feeding targets the coveted story of the Evil Empire – Russia .
This is a purely economic logic that is related to the unity of power in certain situations, and this is pure populism. For example: not only the British “Guardian”, but many other prestigious media outlets placed at the center of their materials, the Russian President Vladimir Putin and his alleged trace in the leaks, by using strange arrows and pictures, despite the fact that his name is de facto not present there, but only the names of people he knew. An important direct trace, let’s admit! His name however, makes possible headlines like “Putin is again pulling the strings,” or “The Russian is again the worst in the world” and so on. Which in this case is more important than than the facts.
Former British diplomat Craig Murray commented that the strange emphasis on Putin’s name is a direct “western government program.” One of his arguments is that the foundation, which is part of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) receives money from influential and important, influence seeking donors. Murray also adds: “The media focused mainly on non-Western people on the list. What would have happened if you had made a study of Mossack Fonseca for every listed company in Western markets and every western millionaire who can not be traced? It would be much more interesting for me because I understand that China and Russia have a lot of corruption and you don’t need to tell me again”. In addition to producing news out of non-news, the case of the Panamanian Papers looks to have a mysterious direction.
“The Guardian” revealed that Prime Minister David Cameron’s father is in the list, on the second day. In Germany, the media also turned to Germans fleeing tax evasion on the second day. A tax evasion supported by banks and politics. As we can see, there are not many Western politicians in the lists, another important detail about the purpose and direction of the “gradual” revealing of the spicy news “Panama-gate”. Some experts state that many of the “black” money, that were formerly in Switzerland or the Bahamas, are today hoarded in Nevada and Wyoming. The question of who is served by the politically supported system of “legal” tax evasion should be placed in the famous: Cui bono?
But western agents and obedient government journalists use the “Files Panama” for an attack which has a blurring effect. What happens is a disclosing of “secrets” through a mechanism of blurring. The cynicism of the leaked documents does not come from what country are the very rich people who evade taxes, but that they may do so legally.
In an interview with “Russia Segodnya” one of the representatives of WikiLeaks, Christine Hrafnson commented on the “Panama Papers” scandal According to him, these documents should be available in their complete form for everyone, so that there can be no manipulations, and that such studies should always be viewed with suspicion, unless it is clear who finances them. According to him, the organization ICIJ and its funding foundation has nothing to do with WikiLeaks. In WikiLeaks, declassified documents always go to the official page in their whole and everyone can look at them. Hrafnson says that he does not agree with the definition that the “Panama Papers” are an “open approach to journalism.” WikiLeaks issued a statement that according to them, behind the case of the Panama Papers, stands Washington. They say the attack was “manufactured” against Russia and President Putin. On Wednesday the whistle-blower organization wrote in the social network Twitter that the “Panama Files” are produced by the Project for investigating corruption and organized crime (OCCRP), directed against Russia and the former Soviet Union. According to WikiLeaks’ the “attack against Putin ” is funded by the US Agency for International Development and US billionaire George Soros.
In the meantime, let’s recall how criticized are Wikileaks because they publish “inappropriate” information about the State Department and what it does behind it’s citizens backs. The “Guardian” first published leaks by Edward Snowden, but of course, it also concealed many documents under the pressure of the British authorities. Julian Assange is still closed in the Ecuadorian embassy in London because he showed us what’s behind the secret agreement between the US and the European Union – TTIP.
And instead of just complaining that the media within capitalism behave like a media, driven by the interests of the establishment of influence and manipulation, we have to think more about the directed “sensationalism” that we consume. At the core is the problem of the distribution of wealth, and that the richest hundred have more wealth than the poorest three billion combined. This is the fact that should worry us, and that should make us think about what a system we live in. Realizing this we can seek a way to change this system.