Friday 1 June 2012

The Hunt-Osborne text: literature meets politics

Text from Hunt to Osborne:'Could we chat about Murdoch Sky bid?Am seriously worried we are going to screw this up."

I'm very interested when 'literature' and 'politics' intersect. I've put those two categories in inverted commas because I'm talking here about the conventional idea of what literature is, and the conventional idea of what politics is. On my reckoning, all literature is political, but let's leave that to one side for the moment.

I think if we look at this text as a piece of literature, it takes us straight to the politics of what's going on here. Literary critics talk about the 'gaps' or 'space' left by a piece of literature in which the reader makes interpretations or leaps in order to make meanings. Not all writing is the same - some kinds of writing seem to leave more  to the reader than others, particularly when it comes to the idea that a reader evaluates or comes to some  kind of ethical sense. So, the play 'Waiting for Godot' is not only mysterious (who are they waiting for? Why? - are both questions which aren't answered by the play), but there are next to no pointers towards what the whole thing is for. We have no alternative but to enter into dialogue with ourselves or others to try to position ourselves in relation to the play, the theatre, and our outlook on what we've seen. In that 'space', it's quite possible that we come to realise that maybe in this  play, those conventional questions about 'who are they waiting for and why' might not need answering. The play, perhaps, might be about the sensation of what we've just been looking at, namely 'waiting'. After all, it is in the title! 

Conversely, some kinds of literature try to tell you exactly what to think. The traditions of fables and parables are like that. We read or hear a little story that is to be taken as an example and the teller or writer then tells us how to interpret say, 'The Good Samaritan' or 'The Crow and the Fox'. 

So, let's take a look at the text from Hunt to Osborne from the point of view of 'gaps'. 

The text uses a pronoun - 'we' - and it uses it twice. Pronouns are interesting because they are like allusive hints, pointers to a world beyond the sentence in which they are uttered. They always refer backwards and often forwards to a presence (or several presences). Because of that, pronouns make revealing assumptions. They assume that the person being spoken to (known as the 'narratee')  knows who or what you're talking about and it is these assumptions that reveal our attitudes, or ideology if you like. 'We' is one of the most significant because it is an including-excluding word. I can use 'we' with some people and it means 'Arsenal football club' thereby including-excluding. It's also the 'we' of racist discourse in which it can be the word that excludes people from the right to be considered equal without that ever being stated. 

In this text, then my first question is who is in the 'we'? And are the two 'we's,  the same 'we'? The first 'we' seems to be Hunt referring to himself and Osborne - though not necessarily so. If there was a previous conversation between Hunt and Osborne about, let's say, the cabinet then this 'we' could be referring to that. What about the second one? Is the matter of screwing up solely in the hands of Hunt and Osborne or is there a wider 'we' that could be screwing up? 

My own hunch is that Hunt would like himself and Osborne to have a chat (ie it's just a Hunt-Osborne 'we') and he would like them to have a chat because he is worried that the inner cabinet, those in on the Murdoch deal, might screw it up((ie it's a wider 'we'). Incidentally, I can't prove this. It's just a guess.

This takes me to thinking about how these two 'we's would intersect. What could Osborne and Hunt do to prevent a screw-up? What fiddlings are within their power to prevent a screw-up? This seems to be being alluded to here. And how interesting that Hunt would think there is something he and Osborne could do to fix the matter!  Alternatively, how could this 'we' or any other 'we' be screwing it up? What are they doing that is jeopardising the bid? Presumably, the bid should be a shoo-in, but it's going wrong. This needs to be rectified in ways that Hunt doesn't need to specify. He knows that Osborne will know what might need to be done.

Then there's the obvious question about why Hunt would or should be 'seriously worried' about this matter. Surely, he can only be 'seriously worried' if he has invested some kind of hope or desire in the bid being successful. The very fact that he can declare this openly suggests to me that he thinks that Osborne ('we') will be similarly 'worried'. Or, if I, Hunt, am 'worried', George, then I, Hunt, am sure you'll want to know about my concerns, because, after all, isn't this a bid that you want to go through  - as well as the wider 'we', assuming I'm right about that?

My view of the whole case is that it is a conspiracy between Murdoch (or Merde-och, as I prefer to call him), a large section of the leadership of the Tory Party, with the police acting as willing (and well rewarded) gatekeepers preventing the outside world finding out what is really going on. 

This text is like a window on the conspiracy revealed most tellingly by the 'we's, the 'seriously worried' and the 'screw up'.