Brendan O’Neill and The Matrix

A Barclay Brothers castle, not part of the media elite?
A castle owned by the Barclay Brothers, not members of the elite according to Brendan O’Neill

Journalists and media organisations are embedded within, and influenced by, a wider matrix of relationships and associations with elite figures in politics, business and other areas of what has been called “The Establishment”. The Free Press are keen to expose the complex internal structures of this closed system and analyse the ways in which it frames what the media reports and how it is presented.

You can help! This article will teach you how easy it is to join the dots within the propaganda model and for you to apply these skills in researching and uncovering further and deeper personal links which cast doubt on the media’s willingness to “tell truth to power”. We plan to crowd source and build a database of these links that can then be utilised as a resource by anyone seeking the deeper context to an individual journalist and their stories – a project we will call The Matrix!

The following example is designed to show you The Matrix in action and raise awareness of how it can immediately alter your perception of a piece of journalism…

Brendon O’Neill: “What the Fury About Cumming’s Road Trip Was Really About”

This article was selected for analysis on 30/05/20 as it provided comment on an issue dominant in the contemporary news of the UK: the actions of Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Special Advisor Dominic Cummings surrounding the latter’s contravention of Coronavirus lockdown rules.

The article was the “Most Read” on the Spectator website for that day and sees journalist Brendan O’Neill mount a defence of Cummings.

O’Neill’s main argument in the article is that the intense media attention directed at Dominic Cummings is motivated not by moral outrage at his flouting of national lockdown rules, but rather by an “elite” resentment of Cummings’ role in Brexit. O’Neill refers to a “cosmopolitan, technocratic elite” and “bruised old establishments” representing “a section of society used to getting their own way.”

He uses the word “elite” eight times in the article, also using the phrase “revolt of elites” three times. He claims the attacks on Cummings and Johnson are a punishment for their championing of Brexit, which represented an electoral defeat of “the vast bulk of the political, media and business establishments.”

A point to note is that O’Neill only explicitly identifies Labour as part of this, presumably vast “elite” system. By implication O’Neill is placing himself, plus Cummings and Johnson, in opposition to “elites” that are attacking a “new and popular political order” based on, amongst other things, “the wisdom of the crowd.”

O’Neill makes his point with skill and craft. However, if we make a systematic analysis of the personalities linked to this article and its author – connect to the wider contextual matrix, if you like – can we continue to take the article at face value?

Step Into the Matrix

The media matrix

The first thing to note is that this article was printed in The Spectator. This magazine is owned by the Barclay Brothers, billionaires who also own the Telegraph. Former editors of the paper include current Prime Minister of the UK Boris Johnson.

The chairman of The Spectator is Andrew Neil. Neil previously worked at the Sunday Times and Sky TV, both owned by Rupert Murdoch (another billionaire!). He also worked for the Daily Mail whose major shareholder is Lord Rothermere, reputably worth a cool billion himself.

Andrew attended Paisley Grammar school, which at that time was a fee-paying school. When the school was threatened with closure Andrew appealed to then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher who personally instigated a change in the law which saved the school.

The current editor of The Spectator is Fraser Nelson. Fraser also attended a private school, Dollar Academy, and also previously worked for the Barclays at the Scotsman and Murdoch at The Times.

Nelson is also a board member at the Centre for Policy Studies. Former chairmans of this institute include Lord Saatchi, founding member of the Advertising behemoth Saatchi & Saatchi. Other board members include Sir Graham Brady, Lord Bamford, Professor Niall Ferguson and Sir Douglas Flint. The think tank was founded by former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Mary Wakefield is a commissioning editor at The Spectator. She has also contributed to The Daily Mail, The Times and the Telegraph. She is the daughter of Sir Humphrey Wakefield. Her brother Jack has also contributed to the Spectator and is a former director of the Firtash Foundation, which had links to Gazprom and pro-Russian organisations in Ukraine. She was educated at the independent Wycombe Academy.

Relatives of Mary include Evelyn Baring, Governor of Kenya during the Mau Mau uprising, a former governor general of Canada and former UK Prime Minister Charles Grey. Mary has worked at the Spectator since Boris Johnson was editor and is married to his chief special advisor, Dominic Cummings. Her article on 23/04/20 documenting their family’s experience of coronavirus is now being investigated by regulators for inconsistencies exposed by Cummings’ breach of lockdown.

And so to man of the people Brendan O’Neill. He is a journalist for the Spectator, The Australian (owned by R. Murdoch) and The Big Issue as well as Spiked! Spiked Online is funded by the Koch Brothers, majority stakeholders in the second largest private company in the USA. Other contributors to Spiked! are funded by The Cato Institute (Koch Bros again) and the Institute of Economic Affairs, a think tank whose chairman is Mark Littlewood, a former advisor to the conservative government of David Cameron.

Brendan is also affiliated to the Centre for Independent Studies, an Australian think tank whose chairman is Nicholas Moore, a former chief executive officer of the multi million pound Macquarie Group Ltd. Other associations include StandWithUs, an Israeli lobby group founded and operated in the USA which has direct financial links to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Finally, O’Neill is a former member of the Revolutionary Communist Party. Other former members include Spectator and Times journalist Mick Hume, vocal MEP Brexit campaigner Claire Fox and Munira Mirza, currently Director of the Number 10 policy unit, appointed by current UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson!


Margaret Thatcher, Boris Johnson and the elite
Margaret Thatcher and Boris Johnson – not members of the elite either?

In his article O’Neill skilfully constructs what appears to be a plausible narrative whereby Cummings and Johnson are the victim of “elites” that resent them for Brexit and the way their political successes threaten the interests of this vague but all-powerful group.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines an elite as “a group or class of people seen as having the most power and influence in a society, especially on account of their wealth or privilege”

We would argue that our analysis of the connections and associations of O’Neill reveals a glaring contradiction and casts his article in a whole new light. The journalist is himself embedded within a matrix of highly powerful and privileged people and has been highly disingenuous in presenting “his” elite group as powerless representatives of “the wisdom of the crowd”.

We can only conclude that O’Neill does so to advance his own ideology and that of the elite interests he himself is associated with, most obviously those with clear links to Boris Johnson.

His article, like Mary Wakefield’s, is an attempt to divert those who seek to hold the powerful to account. Now you’ve seen through the Matrix you won’t be fooled!

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