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Jonathan Cook responds on Monbiot

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David Edwards
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Joined: 26 Jan 2004
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Post Post subject: Jonathan Cook responds on Monbiot Reply with quote

From former Guardian journalist Jonathan Cook, who earlier this month won the Martha Gellhorn Special Award for Journalism:

sorry to see you guys being smeared by monbiot. i noticed something about monbiot's recent behaviour that i haven't seen anyone else comment on. monbiot was once the only guardian columnist who regularly took on his detractors in the talkbacks, challenging them with facts and research. that appears to have stopped, and it happened just as he became a convert to nuclear power. now he's like the rest: he offers his pronouncements and judgments on tablets of stone. his critics are denied any chance of hearing his arguments against their specific criticisms. is it just coincidence that his behaviour has changed as he has started to make those on the left his chief targets? or does it reveal someting about a mindset, possibly the need for the powerful to defensively protect themselves from challenges to their authority?

monbiot becomes an interesting test case for what i take to be your view that, by working in the mainstream, dissident journalists not only lend credence to the mistaken idea that the corporate media is genuinely pluralistic but are also forced to make compromises with their own principles to survive. although i agree with the first thesis, i've never been entirely certain of the second. i've wondered whether the "leftwing" corporate media might actually need to give free rein to the odd dissident to shore up its credentials (although admittedly not when it comes to dissidents discussing the nature of the media they participate in). i've even suggested in some of my writing that the position of the token dissidents might be strengthened in the mainstream as the internet offers readers new, properly progressive perspectives on world events. monbiot is rapidly pouring cold water on my optimism.

i also wonder how much his current behaviour can be explained by his work at the lonely (at least in the mainstream) forefront of challenging the corporate and populist agenda on climate change. he's been banging his head against this particular brick wall for years, not only at the institutional and governmental level but also with most of the readers who comment below the line. he went from arguing the case for climate change with facts and figures to a period last year when he started psychoanalysing those who denied the reality of global warming. then he suddenly announced his conversion to nuclear power, attacking many of his former allies, and stopped for the first time responding to his critics in the talkbacks. it strikes me that, faced with blanket denial of the truth about climate change in the corporate world he inhabits, he has started withdrawing into the very world of denial and bad faith he used to accuse his critics of. in short, the corporate war of attrition on global warming appears to have defeated him. he now seems to be turning on the "extreme" right and left alike, apparently looking for a comfort blanket in the thought that he is the "sensible centre".

what surprised me about this latest article is that it is so gratuitious on every level. why choose this relatively obscure topic at a time when there are so many pressing current issues that need addressing? is supposed genocide denial really a threat to anything or anyone right now? why use the flimsy and tenuous pretext of a times editorial to justify an unnecessary article? why blur the distinctions between writers of such differing intellectual backgrounds as hume and herman? why drag in so many other bit-players on this topic such as chomsky, pilger and yourselves?

this strikes me as an attempt to "position" himself much more than as an argument for, or even against, something.

feel free to use any of this or the other email as you see fit - and i'm always happy to be on the record.

all best, jonathan (June 14)
Tue Jun 14, 2011 11:56 am
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Frank Harris

Joined: 29 Dec 2005
Posts: 25
Location: UK

Post Post subject: Reply with quote

i've wondered whether the "leftwing" corporate media might actually need to give free rein to the odd dissident to shore up its credentials

Surely this is fundamental to the functioning of the propaganda apparatus. It must appear not to be a propaganda apparatus. They will make great sacrifices to achieve this. This does not get sufficiently factored in.
Tue Jun 14, 2011 1:30 pm
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