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Responses to Monbiot From Jonathan Cook And David Peterson

 
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David Edwards
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Post Post subject: Responses to Monbiot From Jonathan Cook And David Peterson Reply with quote

Jonathan Cook to Media Lens, October 28, 2012:

monbiot's position reminds me of an argument you often hear on the left in israel, and which i struggled with for many years. people would say: "what we need is shimon peres or yitzhak rabin back to fix things, to bring us peace. if only we could get rid of ariel sharon or benjamin netanyahu, things would be ok." and i'd be thinking, but peres and rabin were in power for many years and things were no better under them. in fact, one could make an argument that things got much worse when the "left" was in power in israel, because the international community was so ready to abet israel when a "good guy" was in charge. it's not surprising that the growth in the settlements was fastest during barak's tenure as the dove candidate. netanyahu, the bad guy, has to fight every inch over the settlements because the world watches more carefully what he's up to.

you see the same thing in the US. the left says: things would be so much worse if obama was replaced by romney. greenwald makes this important point over and over: obama has got away with more than bush was able to do in wrecking civil liberties precisely because neither the left nor the right is likely to criticise him when he shreds the constitution.

it strikes me monbiot is making a similarly complacent argument for the guardian, and it's no more convincing. we should leave the guardian alone because it's doing a much better job than the times or the telegraph.

the answer to that is the same as it is to the two examples above. things will continue to deteriorate until we have structural change that roots out zionism as israel's hegemonic ideology, the corporate control of the US political system, and our belief that a corporation like the guardian stands for justice, truth and the little man. the fight for meaningful change starts there. anything less is, as i said to you in a previous email, like sticking a plaster on a gangrenous limb.

the moaning by monbiot about bombardment, the shrill tone, the ascribing of motives, etc is a diversion from the real issues. it's a form of special pleading.

the fact is that right now: there is no non-zionist party that stands a hope of power in israel, there is no electable candidate to challenge romney or obama, and there is no mainstream alternative to our half a dozen papers. which means the task for those who identify the need for structural change is extreme and thankless.

in israel you can do an azmi bishara. he called israel's bluff and created a political party demanding israel's reform from a jewish state into a state of all its citizens, a liberal democracy. the shin bet accused him of being a spy and now he lives in exile, under threat of death should he return.

in the US, you can do a chris hedges, join the occupy movement and get pepper-sprayed and jailed.

in the media, you can do a media lens and get pilloried by "respectable" journalists.

those, it seems to me, are the choices we have right now. they are stark because the situation we are in is stark.

monbiot is in denial: he wants to argue that he does not need to make a choice, or worse that there is no choice to be made. he wants to be a dissident and to work for a massive corporation that contributes to global destruction both materially and ideologically, through its promotion of endless growth as ultimately benevolent.

in the case of nick cohen and his ilk, this "have my cake and eat it" attitude doesn't surprise me. but monbiot really should know better. he understands that we are on the precipice of global catastrophe, if not already hurtling earthwards.

one piece of evidence that he is in denial, or at the very least not being transparent, is that this vital debate about strategy - the one i set out above - is not one he is having on the page, in his columns. it is *the* debate of our time: whether to avert disaster through reform of our political systems, our media, our consumption patterns, or through wholesale structural change.

this is the key to it, i think. monbiot knows that the guardian would never host that kind of debate, so he pretends it isn't necessary or even desirable. in this, he has slipped into dishonesty, he's sided with the nick cohens.

this is the difference with greenwald. he knows this is the debate, he knows it can't be done in the guardian, so he avoids it entirely. that is at least honest.

not sure it helps, but it was good to pick over my thoughts.

i'm interested to see your reply if / when you send it.

all best, jonathan


David Peterson to Media Lens, October 28, 2012:

Friends: George Monbiot is trying to dissuade Media Lens from even bothering to counter his statement and his general belief about the Guardian – Observer’s performance as a news organization by raising the bar of evidence sufficiently high (i.e., exhaustive case studies of Guardian - Observer performance on a variety of important topics) that he expects you not to take him up on his challenge.

The readership of his website will find his letter to you (or be directed to it via Twitter), see that you have not just turned-on-a-dime and in short order produced, say, ten case-studies of sufficient scope as to meet his criteria, and come away feeling that you cannot answer him.

If you'd like to answer him, first explain the forensic technique that Monbiot has just employed, then assemble a series of compilations of similar Media Alerts by topic, using the Media Lens search engine to collect them for you (e.g., the way that I did over the summer when responding to Iraq Body Count's Josh Dougherty: "Iraq Body Count").

On questions of antagonizing or alienating potential allies at news organizations, ask why John Pilger not only is a potential but an actual ally (defined roughly as “anyone who's broadly on the same side but has a difference of opinion on a particular issue (and who hasn't yet thoroughly antagonised me through bombardment or misattribution”), and then ask what it is about Pilger’s work such that the risk of antagonizing or alienating him never arises.

About the Herman propaganda model: Keep in mind that it is a model of institutionally-constrained behavior within largely corporate organizations that are in the business of producing “news” within the larger context of highly-complex, highly-stratified societies. It doesn’t predict whether very few or very many Guardian-Observer contributors are going to pick their noses at 1 PM in the afternoon. Nor does it predict that Seumas Milne or Glenn Greenwald (or Pilger) will take any particular position on any topic.

Questions: How did the Guardian-Observer perform on the topic of Iraq’s alleged “weapons of mass destruction” from January 1, 2002 through March 20 2003 (or later)? How have the Guardian-Observer performed on the topic of Iran’s nuclear program these past ten years? And how have the Guardian-Observer performed on the entire WikiLeaks – Julian Assange saga from, say, the start of April 2010 through the present?

One more question: How have the Guardian-Observer performed on the topic of human-caused climate change? We know that this topic is very dear to Monbiot, whose work on it very well may stand apart from that of the Guardian-Observer’s overall.

“If you stepped back from the handful of instances that offend you and looked at the whole picture,” Monbiot writes in closing, “I think any fair-minded assessment would produce conclusions very different from those you have reached.”

This I seriously doubt.

-- David P.
Tue Nov 06, 2012 11:49 am
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