Media Lens - Current Alert News analysis and media criticism http://medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2018.html Tue, 13 Nov 2018 00:08:58 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb How To Be A Reliable ‘Mainstream’ Journalist http://medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2018/885-how-to-be-a-reliable-mainstream-journalist.html http://medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2018/885-how-to-be-a-reliable-mainstream-journalist.html

There are certain rules you need to follow as a journalist if you are going to demonstrate to your editors, and the media owners who employ you, that you can be trusted.

For example, if you write about US-Iran relations, you need to ensure that your history book starts in 1979. That was the year Iranian students started a 444-day occupation of the US embassy in Tehran. This was the event that 'led to four decades of mutual hostility', according to BBC News. On no account should you dwell on the CIA-led coup in 1953 that overthrew the democratically-elected Iranian leader, Mohammad Mossadegh. Even better if you just omit any mention of this.

You should definitely not quote Noam Chomsky who said in 2013 that:

'the crucial fact about Iran, which we should begin with, is that for the past 60 years, not a day has passed in which the U.S. has not been torturing Iranians.' (Our emphasis)

As Chomsky notes, the US (with UK support) installed the Shah, a brutal dictator, described by Amnesty International as one of the worst, most extreme torturers in the world, year after year. That ordinary Iranians might harbour some kind of grievance towards Uncle Sam as a result should not be prominent in 'responsible' journalism. Nor should you note, as Chomsky does, that:

'When he [the Shah] was overthrown in 1979, the U.S. almost immediately turned to supporting Saddam Hussein in an assault against Iran, which killed hundreds of thousands of Iranians, used extensive use of chemical weapons. Of course, at the same time, Saddam attacked his Kurdish population with horrible chemical weapons attacks. The U.S. supported all of that.'

As a 'good' journalist, you should refrain from referring to the US as the world's most dangerous rogue state, or by making any Chomskyan comparison between the US and the Mafia:

'We're back to the Mafia principle. In 1979, Iranians carried out an illegitimate act: They overthrew a tyrant that the United States had imposed and supported, and moved on an independent path, not following U.S. orders. That conflicts with the Mafia doctrine, by which the world is pretty much ruled. Credibility must be maintained. The godfather cannot permit independence and successful defiances, in the case of Cuba. So, Iran has to be punished for that.'

As a reliable journalist, there is also no need to dwell on the shooting down of Iran Air flight 655 over the Persian Gulf by the US warship Vincennes on July 3, 1988. All 290 people on board the plane were killed, including 66 children. President Ronald Reagan excused the mass killing as 'a proper defensive action'. Vice-President George H.W. Bush said: 'I will never apologize for the United States — I don't care what the facts are. ... I'm not an apologize-for America kind of guy.'

The US has never forgiven Iran for its endless 'defiance' in trying to shirk off Washington's impositions. Harsh and punitive sanctions on Iran, that had been removed under the 2015 nuclear deal, have now been restored by President Donald Trump. Trump has also decided to pull out of the INF, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, with Russia. This is the landmark nuclear arms pact signed in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

But 'balanced' journalism need not focus on the enhanced threat of nuclear war, or the diplomatic options that the US has ignored or trampled upon. Instead, journalism is to be shaped by the narrative framework that it is the US that is behaving responsibly, and that Iran is the gravest threat to world peace. Thus, BBC News reports that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has:

'warned that the US will exert "relentless" pressure on Iran unless it changes its "revolutionary course".'

BBC News adds:

'Iran's President Hassan Rouhani earlier struck a defiant tone, saying the country will "continue selling oil".

'"We will proudly break the sanctions," he told economic officials.'

Good reporters know that Official Enemies resisting US imperialism must always be described as 'defiant'. But the term is rarely, if ever, applied to the imperial power implementing oppressive measures.

BBC News dutifully reported Pompeo's comments:

'The Iranian regime has a choice: it can either do a 180-degree turn from its outlaw course of action and act like a normal country, or it can see its economy crumble.'

A good reporter knows not to critically appraise, far less ridicule, the idea that the US is an exemplar of 'a normal country', rather than being an outlaw state that outrageously threatens to make another country's economy 'crumble' for refusing to obey US orders.

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editor@medialens.org (Editor) Alerts 2018 Thu, 08 Nov 2018 09:36:39 +0000
Caught In The Cross Hairs – Media Lens And The Mystery Of The Wikipedia Editor http://medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2018/884-caught-in-the-cross-hairs-media-lens-and-the-mystery-of-the-wikipedia-editor.html http://medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2018/884-caught-in-the-cross-hairs-media-lens-and-the-mystery-of-the-wikipedia-editor.html

In June, the BBC reported that someone operating under the name 'Philip Cross' had been extraordinarily active in editing Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit:

'"Philip Cross" has made hundreds of thousands of edits to Wikipedia pages. But in the process he's angered anti-war activists and critics of British and Western foreign policy, who claim he's been biased against them.'

Political analyst and former UK British ambassador Craig Murray described the scale of Cross's activities:

"Philip Cross" has not had one single day off from editing Wikipedia in almost five years. "He" has edited every single day from 29 August 2013 to 14 May 2018. Including five Christmas Days. That's 1,721 consecutive days of editing.

'133,612 edits to Wikipedia have been made in the name of "Philip Cross" over 14 years. That's over 30 edits per day, seven days a week. And I do not use that figuratively: Wikipedia edits are timed, and if you plot them, the timecard for "Philip Cross's" Wikipedia activity is astonishing if it is one individual.'

So who is Philip Cross? The BBC commented:

'BBC Trending has been able to establish that he lives in England, and that Philip Cross is not the name he normally goes by outside of Wikipedia.'

The excellent Five Filters website looked deeply into these issues and noted of the person writing as Cross:

'After George Galloway, Media Lens is his second most edited article on the site. Cross is responsible for almost 80% of all content on the Media Lens entry.'

This is deeply flattering for a two-man organisation run on donations facing some pretty heavyweight competition:

'Cross calls his Wikipedia targets "goons". The list includes anti-war politician George Galloway, former MP Matthew Gordon-Banks, historian, human rights activist and former UK ambassador Craig Murray, investigative journalist Dr Nafeez Ahmed, Edinburgh University professor Tim Hayward, Sheffield University professor Piers Robinson, and media analysis group Media Lens.'

The Canary website reported of Media Lens:

'Its Wikipedia page has had 851 edits by Cross (57.27% of page total) and is the editor's second most active page.'

The Canary has itself fallen under Cross's cross hairs. The website's Wikipedia page was created on 2 June 2016 at 11:41pm. Cross made his first edit at 8:55am the next morning.

Is Cross offering a neutral, impartial view of our work? In May 2018, he tweeted:

'@medialens is two blokes called David who the mainstream usually ignore with good reason, but are of interest because they are so catastrophically wrongheaded.' (Tweet, May 7, 2018; since deleted)

In the Sunday Herald, Ron McKay noted that Cross's targets tend to have two characteristics in common:

'You don't have to be a conspiracy theorist to see that there are common threads here. All of those [targeted] are... prominent campaigners on social media and in the mainstream media vigorously questioning our foreign policy. All have also clashed with Oliver Kamm, a former hedge-fund manager and now Times leader writer and columnist. All have been edited on Wikipedia by Andrew Philip Cross whom the complainants believe, without conclusive evidence, to be Kamm after dark. He denies it.'

Having been targeted by Cross, Professor Tim Hayward of Edinburgh University was prompted to ask questions about Kamm's influence over Cross's Wikipedia editing after receiving this disturbing comment from Cross:

'You may be having an uncomfortable conversation with one of your Associate Deans/Deans in the near future & his wife. Pity you blocked me before you had a close look at my followers.' (Tweet, May 12, 2018; since deleted)

As part of its investigation, the BBC interviewed a highly experienced Wikipedia administrator known as Orange Mike, who specialises in dealing with conflicts of interest, asking him:

'One of the people whose pages he [Cross] has been editing, and has edited over 1800 times, is George Galloway, and he says he knows that Philip Cross is being paid to do this. Do you think that's likely?'

Orange Mike replied:

'I would not even be remotely surprised. The people who hate Galloway the most are often powerful and often rich. And the idea that they could find someone to use as their tool would not surprise me in the least. But I have no evidence to prove it and therefore would reserve judgement.'

That is also our position. A tweeter, Malone (now called Read JFK), commented to us on the coincidence that Cross has often edited our Wikipedia page on the same day that Kamm has mentioned us on Twitter:

'kamm's tweets crossreferenced with cross's medialens wiki edits. 82 edits on the exact same days kamm tweeted about you! at least 243 including surrounding days (243 is a severe underestimate).'

We are not alone. Tweeter RLM noted the people Kamm has tweeted about on the same day Cross has edited their page:

'Chris Hedges, Max Mosley, Mark Wadsworth, Peter Oborne, LabourLeave, David Ward, Ken Loach, Nick Timothy, Alex Salmond, Nafeez Ahmed, Owen Jones, Diane Abbott, Tim Hayward, Piers Robinson, Craig Murray, Alex Nunns, Glenn Greenwald, Media Lens, "Douma Chemical Attack", Robert Fisk (edited a day before, not the same day), George Galloway, Jeremy Corbyn, Media Lens, Seumas Milne, Edward S. Herman, Paul Flynn, Afshin Rattansi, Mo Ansar, John Pilger, Andrew Murray, Jim Fetzer (tweeted the day before, not the same day).'

Former UK ambassador Craig Murray described what happened to his Wikipedia entry after he strongly criticised Kamm:

'The very next day, 8 February, my Wikipedia page came under obsessive attack from somebody called Philip Cross who made an astonishing 107 changes over the course of the next three days. Many were very minor, but the overall effect was undoubtedly derogatory. He even removed my photo on the extraordinary grounds that it was "not typical" of me.'

We noted on Twitter:

'The word "Kamm" appears in the @Wikipedia entry for Media Lens twelve times. "Media Lens" appears in Oliver Kamm's entry... zero times.'

The thoroughness of Cross's campaign against us has been impressive. In 2005, then BBC Newsnight editor Peter Barron wrote of how Media Lens had 'prolifically let us know what they think of our coverage, mainly on Iraq, George Bush and the Middle East, from a Chomskyist perspective'. He added graciously:

'In fact I rather like them. David Cromwell and David Edwards, who run the site, are unfailingly polite, their points are well-argued and sometimes they're plain right.'

These were remarkable and important comments. A senior editor who had himself come under intense criticism from us and hundreds of our readers was nevertheless able to recognise that our points were reasonable and well-intentioned, that we were not nasty people pursuing some dark agenda. Quite reasonably, someone added Barron's comments to our Wikipedia page. The addition was noticed by Cross, who replaced the quotation with this:

'Peter Barron, the former editor of the BBC's ''Newsnight'' commented in November 2005 that although Cromwell and Edwards "are unfailingly polite", he had received "hundreds of e-mails from sometimes less-than-polite hommes engages - they're almost always men - most of whom don't appear to have watched the programme" as a result of complaints instigated by Media Lens.'

Notice that in editing the Newsnight editor's quote, Cross had to carefully read through Barron's original article to find less positive comments to patch in. This was meticulous work to remove a positive opinion about us, not a rush job.

The Five Filters website tweeted on a similar intervention:

'This made me laugh. Cross, who is obsessed with Media Lens, removes David Edwards' (Media Lens co-editor) book from Chomsky's Wikipedia bibliography section because "obscure book by obscure writer" https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?diff=721546372 ... Unbelievable! @medialens'

Tweeter Leftworks commented on edits made to the Wikipedia page for the Iraq Body Count (IBC) website:

'Guess who's been looking after the IBC page on Wikipedia and removing all references to @MediaLens? The one and only Philip Cross!'

As some of our readers will know, we did a lot of work explaining how media favourite, Iraq Body Count, was recording perhaps ten per cent of the Iraqi death toll. Philip Cross has seen to it that our work on this issue has been completely erased from Wikipedia history.

 

'Absolutely No Evidence'

Apart from Cross, in the 17 years we have been working on Media Lens, only one other person has subjected us to a relentlessly negative campaign that is in any way comparable. Almost ten years ago, we documented how Oliver Kamm had been pursuing us relentlessly across the internet – writing blogs about us, posting grisly comments about our genocide 'denial' under online interviews with us, and often warning journalists who mentioned our work – or who, god forbid, praised our work - or who interacted with us in any way, that we were blood-drenched 'genocide deniers' and/or seedy 'misogynists'.

In 2013, Mehdi Hasan, formerly senior political editor at the New Statesman, now a columnist with The Intercept, commented to Kamm on Twitter:

'I cant help but be amused at the way you swoop down in at any mention of MediaLens. Got 'em on an alert?'

Despite continuing to seek out and attack us online, Kamm has shown admirable restraint in not extending his campaign to Wikipedia. We are not aware that he has added a single edit to either of our individual pages, nor to our Media Lens page. It seems that, for Kamm, when it comes to Wikipedia, it is always the Christmas truce.

And by the way, we have never edited Kamm's page on Wikipedia. In fact, we have never made any political edits on Wikipedia at all.

Daniel Finkelstein, Baron Finkelstein of Pinner, Kamm's colleague and friend at The Times, sent a flurry of tweets strongly rejecting the idea that anyone was using Cross to target political enemies:

'But literally so far there is absolutely no evidence. My ears are wide open. My fingers aren't in my ears. I am ready, waiting, willing to see or hear this evidence. But there isn't any. Just a bloke called Philip Cross making some edits.'

When Five Filters responded by sending serious evidence relating to Cross's edits, Lord Finkelstein replied:

'I appreciate your interest but really I just haven't got time for studying some blokes Wikipedia edits.'

 

Wikipedia Intervenes

Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia, initially dismissed complaints that Cross might be acting as a sockpuppet for politically biased individuals or organisations:

'Because as far as I can tell so far, those complaints are so wrong as to be risible. Look into it further. Or show me some diffs [differences between successive versions of a page]'

And:

'The whole claim appears so far to be completely ludicrous.'

However, public pressure was so great that Wikipedia presumably felt compelled to investigate Cross's activities. In July, the Wikipedia Arbitration Committee delivered a majority on two proposals:

'Philip Cross... is warned to avoid editing topics with which he has a conflict of interest. Further, he is warned that his off-wiki behavior may lead to further sanctions to the extent it adversely impacts the English Wikipedia.'

'Philip Cross... is indefinitely topic banned from edits relating to post-1978 British politics, broadly construed. This restriction may be first appealed after six months have elapsed, and every six months thereafter. This sanction supersedes the community sanction applied in May 2018.'

Leftworks was kind enough to translate this into English for us:

'In short, it means that Philip Cross will no longer be able to edit the Wikipedia biographies of numerous people in the public eye, who have complained that he has edited their biographies in an unfair and misleading manner.'

We are very grateful to leftworks, fivefilters.org, RLM, Malone/Read JFK and many others for their work in drawing attention to Cross's campaign against us.

DE and DC

Note: Professor Tim Hayward asked us to delete a tweet by him originally included in this alert after a complaint from Oliver Kamm. 

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editor@medialens.org (Editor) Alerts 2018 Wed, 17 Oct 2018 11:19:06 +0000
Blanket Silence: Corporate Media Ignore New Report Exposing Distorted And Misleading Coverage of Corbyn http://medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2018/883-blanket-silence-corporate-media-ignore-new-report-exposing-distorted-and-misleading-coverage-of-corbyn.html http://medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2018/883-blanket-silence-corporate-media-ignore-new-report-exposing-distorted-and-misleading-coverage-of-corbyn.html

If there's one thing we've learned in the 17 years since Media Lens began, it's that media professionals generally hate being challenged, critiqued or criticised. This fierce antipathetical belligerence underlies the corporate media's total refusal to mention, far less discuss, a recent damning report on how the corporate media have been misreporting Labour and its supposed 'problem' with antisemitism.

The report was published last week by the Media Reform Coalition (MRC), set up in 2011 in the wake of the News International phone hacking scandal, to promote debate about the media and democracy. The MRC coordinates effective action by civil society groups, academics and media campaigners, and is currently chaired by Natalie Fenton, Professor of Communication and Media at Goldsmiths, University of London.

The urgent need for such a media initiative is highlighted by the disturbing reality that Britain has one of the most concentrated media environments in the world, with just three companies in control of 71% of national newspaper circulation and five companies running 81% of local newspaper titles.

In the careful MRC study, articles and news segments on Labour and antisemitism from the largest UK news providers, both online and television, were subjected to in-depth analysis. The research was undertaken by Dr Justin Schlosberg, Senior Lecturer in Journalism and Media at Birkbeck, University of London, together with Laura Laker, an experienced freelance journalist.

In their study, Schlosberg and Laker identified:

'myriad inaccuracies and distortions in online and television news including marked skews in sourcing, omission of essential context or right of reply, misquotation, and false assertions made either by journalists themselves or sources whose contentious claims were neither challenged nor countered. Overall, our findings were consistent with a disinformation paradigm.'

In other words, the corporate media have been pumping out reams of 'fake news' promoting a narrative that Corbyn and Labour are mired in an 'antisemitism crisis'.

Out of over 250 articles and news pieces examined by Schlosberg and Laker, fully 95 examples were found of misleading or inaccurate reporting. In particular, there were (our emphasis):

• 29 examples of false statements or claims, several of them made by news presenters or correspondents themselves, six of them on BBC television news programmes, and eight on the Guardian website.


• A further 66 clear instances of misleading or distorted coverage including misquotations, reliance on single -source accounts, omission of essential facts or right of reply, and repeated value-based assumptions made by broadcasters without evidence or qualification. In total, a quarter of the sample contained at least one documented inaccuracy or distortion.


Overwhelming source imbalance, especially on television news where voices critical of Labour's code of conduct on antisemitism were regularly given an unchallenged and exclusive platform, outnumbering those defending Labour by nearly 4 to 1. Nearly half of Guardian reports on the controversy surrounding Labour's code of conduct featured no quoted sources defending the party or leadership.

This is, to say the least, totally unacceptable from any supposedly responsible news outlet. It is even more galling when it comes from the Guardian and BBC News, both with large global audiences, who constantly proclaim their credentials for 'honest and balanced reporting'.

Much recent corporate media coverage has focused on the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of 'antisemitism'. Corporate media across the spectrum have argued that in refusing to accept the IHRA definition in total, with all of its accompanying examples, Corbyn has promoted antisemitism, alienated Britain's Jewish community and divided his own party.

Philip Collins wrote in The Times of Corbyn (our emphasis):

'He has, for some reason he cannot articulate, insisted that the Labour Party should be just about the only institution that does not accept the definition of antisemitism approved by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.' 

In July, a Times editorial stated of Labour's National Executive Committee (our emphasis):

'Instead of adopting a standard definition of antisemitism formulated by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, and endorsed by governments around the world, the NEC has amended it in unacceptable ways... Let there be no doubt: these are unconscionable and antisemitic accusations.'

In September, another Times leader opined (our emphasis):

'Labour's national executive committee will vote today on whether to adopt the internationally recognised definition of antisemitism. It is essential that it does. Governments and organisations worldwide have adopted the carefully worded text developed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. Jeremy Corbyn's hamfisted attempt to rewrite it, without consultation and with the apparent aim of protecting certain activists, shames his party.'

The Times added:

'British Jews are well placed to define what constitutes racism towards them, just as any minority deserves the last word in the debate as it applies to them. Gordon Brown has called for Labour to "unanimously, unequivocally and immediately" adopt all the examples. Anything less would mark a dark day indeed for the party.'

Noting that three leading British Jewish newspapers had declared that a Corbyn-led government would pose 'an existential threat to Jewish life in this country', senior Guardian columnist and former comment editor Jonathan Freedland asked:

'How on earth has it come to this?'

Part, but not all, of the problem, Freedland suggested, was (our emphasis):

'Labour's failure to adopt the full text of the near universally accepted International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, including all its illustrative examples'.

He added:

'When Jews hear that the IHRA is not good enough, they wonder: what exactly is it that Labour wants to say about us?'

And yet, as the MRC report [pdf] makes clear, although the IHRA is an international body with representatives from 31 countries, only six of those countries have, to date, formally adopted the definition themselves. Several high-profile bodies have rejected or distanced themselves from the working definition, including the EU's Fundamental Rights Agency - a successor to the body that drafted the original wording on which the definition is based - and academic institutions including the London School of Economics and School of Oriental and African Studies. Moreover, academic and legal opinion has been overwhelmingly critical of the IHRA definition, including formal opinions produced by four leading UK barristers.

But, note Schlosberg and Laker:

'Virtually none of this essential context found its way into news reports of the controversy. Instead, the Labour Party was routinely portrayed by both sources and correspondents as beyond the pale of conventional thinking on the IHRA definition.'

Nearly 50% of Guardian reports failed to include any quotes from those critiquing the IHRA definition or defending Labour's code of conduct on antisemitism. In fact, media reporting (our emphasis):

'effectively gave those attacking Labour's revised code and championing the IHRA definition a virtually exclusive and unchallenged platform to air their views. By comparison, their detractors – including a number of Jewish organisations and representatives of other affected minorities – were systematically marginalized from the coverage. Furthermore, Labour MPs adopting even moderate positions defending the code were subjected to far more aggressive questioning from interviewers than those adopting extreme positions attacking it.'

In a calm, methodical and rigorous manner, the MRC has exposed to public view the blatant anti-Corbyn bias of even the 'best' media outlets: the BBC and the Guardian.

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editor@medialens.org (Editor) Alerts 2018 Wed, 03 Oct 2018 11:05:10 +0000
Guest Media Alert by John Pilger: 'Hold the front page. The reporters are missing' http://medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2018/881-guest-media-alert-by-john-pilger-hold-the-front-page-the-reporters-are-missing.html http://medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2018/881-guest-media-alert-by-john-pilger-hold-the-front-page-the-reporters-are-missing.html

Note From The Editors

This is a slightly amended version of the foreword to the new Media Lens book, 'Propaganda Blitz - How The Corporate Media Distort Reality', published today by Pluto Press. Warm thanks to John Pilger for contributing this superb piece to our book.

---

The death of Robert Parry earlier this year felt like a farewell to the age of the reporter. Parry was "a trailblazer for independent journalism", wrote Seymour Hersh, with whom he shared much in common.

Hersh revealed the My Lai massacre in Vietnam and the secret bombing of Cambodia, Parry exposed Iran-Contra, a drugs and gun-running conspiracy that led to the White House. In 2016, they separately produced compelling evidence that the Assad government in Syria had not used chemical weapons. They were not forgiven.

Driven from the "mainstream", Hersh must publish his work outside the United States. Parry set up his own independent news website Consortium News, where, in a final piece following a stroke, he referred to journalism's veneration of "approved opinions" while "unapproved evidence is brushed aside or disparaged regardless of its quality."

Although journalism was always a loose extension of establishment power, something has changed in recent years. Dissent tolerated when I joined a national newspaper in Britain in the 1960s has regressed to a metaphoric underground as liberal capitalism moves towards a form of corporate dictatorship. This is a seismic shift, with journalists policing the new "groupthink", as Parry called it, dispensing its myths and distractions, pursuing its enemies.

Witness the witch-hunts against refugees and immigrants, the willful abandonment by the "MeToo" zealots of our oldest freedom, presumption of innocence, the anti-Russia racism and anti-Brexit hysteria, the growing anti-China campaign and the suppression of a warning of world war.

With many if not most independent journalists barred or ejected from the "mainstream", a corner of the Internet has become a vital source of disclosure and evidence-based analysis: true journalism. Sites such as wikileaks.org, consortiumnews.com, wsws.org, truthdig.com, globalresearch.org, counterpunch.org and informationclearinghouse.com are required reading for those trying to make sense of a world in which science and technology advance wondrously while political and economic life in the fearful "democracies" regress behind a media facade of narcissistic spectacle.

In Britain, just one website offers consistently independent media criticism. This is the remarkable Media Lens -- remarkable partly because its founders and editors as well as its only writers, David Edwards and David Cromwell, since 2001 have concentrated their gaze not on the usual suspects, the Tory press, but the paragons of reputable liberal journalism: the BBC, the Guardian, Channel 4 News.

Their method is simple. Meticulous in their research, they are respectful and polite when they ask a journalist why he or she produced such a one-sided report, or failed to disclose essential facts or promoted discredited myths.

The replies they receive are often defensive, at times abusive; some are hysterical, as if they have pushed back a screen on a protected species.

I would say Media Lens has shattered a silence about corporate journalism. Like Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman in Manufacturing Consent, they represent a Fifth Estate that deconstructs and demystifies the media's power.

What is especially interesting about them is that neither is a journalist. David Edwards was a teacher, David Cromwell is a former scientist. Yet, their understanding of the morality of journalism -- a term rarely used; let's call it true objectivity -- is a bracing quality of their online Media Lens dispatches.

I think their work is heroic and I would place a copy of their just published book, Propaganda Blitz, in every journalism school that services the corporate system, as they all do.

Take the chapter, Dismantling the National Health Service, in which Edwards and Cromwell describe the critical part played by journalists in the crisis facing Britain's pioneering health service.

The NHS crisis is the product of a political and media construct known as "austerity", with its deceitful, weasel language of "efficiency savings" (the BBC term for slashing public expenditure) and "hard choices" (the willful destruction of the premises of civilised life in modern Britain).

"Austerity" is an invention. Britain is a rich country with a debt owed by its crooked banks, not its people. The resources that would comfortably fund the National Health Service have been stolen in broad daylight by the few allowed to avoid and evade billions in taxes.

Using a vocabulary of corporate euphemisms, the publicly-funded Health Service is being deliberately run down by free market fanatics, to justify its selling-off. The Labour Party of Jeremy Corbyn may appear to oppose this, but does it? The answer is very likely no. Little of any of this is alluded to in the media, let alone explained.

Edwards and Cromwell have dissected the 2012 Health and Social Care Act, whose innocuous title belies its dire consequences. Unknown to most of the population, the Act ends the legal obligation of British governments to provide universal free health care: the bedrock on which the NHS was set up following the Second World War. Private companies can now insinuate themselves into the NHS, piece by piece.

Where, asks Edwards and Cromwell, was the BBC while this momentous Bill was making its way through Parliament? With a statutory commitment to "providing a breadth of view" and to properly inform the public of "matters of public policy", the BBC never spelt out the threat posed to one of the nation's most cherished institutions. A BBC headline said: "Bill which gives power to GPs passes." This was pure state propaganda.

There is a striking similarity with the BBC's coverage of Prime Minister Tony Blair's lawless invasion of Iraq in 2003, which left a million dead and many more dispossessed. A study by Cardiff University, Wales, found that the BBC reflected the government line "overwhelmingly" while relegating reports of civilian suffering. A Media Tenor study placed the BBC at the bottom of a league of western broadcasters in the time they gave to opponents of the invasion. The corporation's much-vaunted "principle" of impartiality was never a consideration.

One of the most telling chapters in Propaganda Blitz describes the smear campaigns mounted by journalists against dissenters, political mavericks and whistleblowers. The Guardian's campaign against the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is the most disturbing.

Assange, whose epic WikiLeaks disclosures brought fame, journalism prizes and largesse to the Guardian, was abandoned when he was no longer useful. He was then subjected to a vituperative – and cowardly -- onslaught of a kind I have rarely known.

With not a penny going to WikiLeaks, a hyped Guardian book led to a lucrative Hollywood movie deal. The book's authors, Luke Harding and David Leigh, gratuitously described Assange as a "damaged personality" and "callous". They also disclosed the secret password he had given the paper in confidence, which was designed to protect a digital file containing the US embassy cables.

With Assange now trapped in the Ecuadorean embassy, Harding, standing among the police outside, gloated on his blog that "Scotland Yard may get the last laugh".

The Guardian columnist Suzanne Moore wrote, "I bet Assange is stuffing himself full of flattened guinea pigs. He really is the most massive turd."

Moore, who describes herself as a feminist, later complained that, after attacking Assange, she had suffered "vile abuse". Edwards and Cromwell wrote to her: "That's a real shame, sorry to hear that. But how would you describe calling someone 'the most massive turd'? Vile abuse?"

Moore replied that no, she would not, adding, "I would advise you to stop being so bloody patronising."

Her former Guardian colleague James Ball wrote, "It's difficult to imagine what Ecuador's London embassy smells like more than five and a half years after Julian Assange moved in."

Such slow-witted viciousness appeared in a newspaper described by its editor, Katharine Viner, as "thoughtful and progressive". What is the root of this vindictiveness? Is it jealousy, a perverse recognition that Assange has achieved more journalistic firsts than his snipers can claim in a lifetime? Is it that he refuses to be "one of us" and shames those who have long sold out the independence of journalism?

Journalism students should study this to understand that the source of "fake news" is not only trollism, or the likes of Fox news, or Donald Trump, but a journalism self-anointed with a false respectability: a liberal journalism that claims to challenge corrupt state power but, in reality, courts and protects it, and colludes with it. The amorality of the years of Tony Blair, whom the Guardian has failed to rehabilitate, is its echo.

"[It is] an age in which people yearn for new ideas and fresh alternatives," wrote Katharine Viner. Her political writer Jonathan Freedland dismissed the yearning of young people who supported the modest policies of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as "a form of narcissism".

"How did this man ....," brayed the Guardian's Zoe Williams, "get on the ballot in the first place?" A choir of the paper's precocious windbags joined in, thereafter queuing to fall on their blunt swords when Corbyn came close to winning the 2017 general election in spite of the media.

Complex stories are reported to a cult-like formula of bias, hearsay and omission: Brexit, Venezuela, Russia, Syria. On Syria, only the investigations of a group of independent journalists have countered this, revealing the network of Anglo-American backing of jihadists in Syria, including those related to ISIS.

Supported by a "psyops" campaign funded by the British Foreign Office and the US Agency of International Aid, the aim is to hoodwink the Western public and speed the overthrow of the government in Damascus, regardless of the medieval alternative and the risk of war with Russia.

The Syria Campaign, set up by a New York PR agency, Purpose, funds a group known as the White Helmets, who claim falsely to be "Syria Civil Defence" and are seen uncritically on TV news and social media, apparently rescuing the victims of bombing, which they film and edit themselves, though viewers are unlikely to be told this. George Clooney is a fan.

The White Helmets are appendages to the jihadists with whom they share addresses. Their media-smart uniforms and equipment are supplied by their Western paymasters. That their exploits are not questioned by major news organisations is an indication of how deep the influence of state-backed PR now runs in the media. As Robert Fisk noted recently, no "mainstream" reporter reports Syria, from Syria.

In what is known as a hatchet job, a Guardian reporter based in San Francisco, Olivia Solon, who has never visited Syria, was allowed to smear the substantiated investigative work of journalists Vanessa Beeley and Eva Bartlett on the White Helmets as "propagated online by a network of anti-imperialist activists, conspiracy theorists and trolls with the support of the Russian government".

This abuse was published without permitting a single correction, let alone a right-of-reply. The Guardian Comment page was blocked, as Edwards and Cromwell document. I saw the list of questions Solon sent to Beeley, which reads like a McCarthyite charge sheet -- "Have you ever been invited to North Korea?"

So much of the mainstream has descended to this level. Subjectivism is all; slogans and outrage are proof enough. What matters is the "perception".

When he was US commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus declared what he called "a war of perception... conducted continuously using the news media". What really mattered was not the facts but the way the story played in the United States. The undeclared enemy was, as always, an informed and critical public at home.

Nothing has changed. In the 1970s, I met Leni Riefenstahl, Hitler's film-maker, whose propaganda mesmerised the German public.

She told me the "messages" of her films were dependent not on "orders from above", but on the "submissive void" of an uninformed public.

"Did that include the liberal, educated bourgeoisie?" I asked.

"Everyone," she said. "Propaganda always wins, if you allow it."

 

 

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editor@medialens.org (Editor) Alerts 2018 Thu, 20 Sep 2018 08:26:32 +0000
Propaganda Blitz - A New Media Lens Book And An Urgent Appeal For Support http://medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2018/880-propaganda-blitz-new-media-lens-book-and-an-urgent-appeal-for-support.html http://medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2018/880-propaganda-blitz-new-media-lens-book-and-an-urgent-appeal-for-support.html

 

When we started Media Lens in 2001, our guiding aspiration was that independent, web-based activism would have a profoundly positive impact on public discourse.

Hard to believe now, but we nurtured hopes that the greater honesty and compassion of thousands of non-corporate media activists would force traditional media to improve. 'Mainstream' outlets that continued to sell elite bias as objective Truth would be relentlessly exposed, become a laughing stock - they would simply have to raise their game. We even had a notion that decent, or half-decent, people working within corporate media might secretly welcome these pressures and quietly embrace change out of enlightened self-interest. Why? Because corporate executives love their children, too. As was very obvious then, and is even more obvious now, the prioritising of profit over people and planet must be reversed.

But, of course, human beings and human societies are not that reasonable and rational. It was never going to be that easy.

What has actually happened is that, as non-corporate media have increasingly exposed the limits and failings of corporate media, the latter have adopted a bunker mentality, shutting out inconvenient truths, shutting out dissent, shutting down communication with critics. When we started sending media alerts, BBC and Guardian journalists regularly responded with quite rational, reasonable responses. Now, we mostly receive stony silence, or abusive sneers.

Make no mistake, there has been change: corporate media have been grievously wounded by web-based activism. Their response has been to retreat into an ever more extreme fantasy world that in many ways exceeds the madness even of the McCarthyite era. They have actually become much worse, not better.

In the 1950s, the West really had recently faced down a genuinely existential Nazi threat; Stalin was an utterly ruthless dictator who did in theory (if not in reality) head a party and state bent on global class war and revolution. East and West did find themselves facing a perceived enemy armed with weapons that could wipe us all off the face of the planet, if only by accident. The hysteria, lying and propaganda were preposterous; but they did have some basis, however tenuous, in the real world.

Now, by comparison, we have the same or worse levels of hysteria and intolerance directed against Iraqi, Libyan, North Korean and Iranian 'threats' that exist only in the crazed crania of state-corporate propagandists for whom war is just profit-maximising by other means, just another marketing plan. We have claims that omnipresent Putin is seeking to undermine Western democracies at every turn, influencing everything from Brexit to the election of Trump, and of course Corbyn.

And yes, Corbyn – a life-long anti-racist campaigner, a rare compassionate human being in British politics - has been found suddenly to be posing an 'existential threat', no less, to Britain's Jews on the basis of exact truth reversal and pure invention. The Five Filters website recently collated a list of 107 Guardian and Observer articles – all but three of them published this year - promoting this completely fake scandal. As Noam Chomsky commented to us earlier this month:

'The charges of anti-Semitism against Corbyn are without merit, an underhanded contribution to the disgraceful efforts to fend off the threat that a political party might emerge that is led by an admirable and decent human being, a party that is actually committed to the interests and just demands of its popular constituency and the great majority of the population generally, while also authentically concerned with the rights of suffering and oppressed people throughout the world. Plainly an intolerable threat to order.' (Noam Chomsky, email to Media Lens, September 9, 2018)

It takes someone of Chomsky's integrity and standing to help us all to, in effect, pinch ourselves and recognise that the 107 Guardian articles really are fake and really have been published in a corporate newspaper that endlessly rails against 'fake news'. We ask you, does it take more than a glance at this separate list of Guardian and Observer attacks on Corbyn published between 2015-2017 to understand that the antisemitism 'scandal' is just the establishment throwing the ethical kitchen sink at Corbyn having thrown everything else? Could it be more obvious that Corbyn's mild socialism is simply not allowed as an option for voters?

More incredible even than all of this is the impossible, the unimaginable, the completely insane response to looming climate catastrophe. Set aside this summer's staggering extreme weather events in the UK, Europe and right around the world. Set aside the giant hurricanes and typhoons that will soon, scientists warn, exceed the category 5 maximum-level strength, such that there will be 'superstorms capable of taking out cities like Dubai or Tampa. They are here, right now'. Why would that not happen? CO2 levels are rising inexorably. Temperatures are rising inexorably. And last year, as energy analyst Barry Saxifrage reported:

'humanity set another fossil fuel energy record of 11.4 billion tonnes of oil equivalent (Gtoe). A decade ago we were at 10 Gtoe of energy. In 2000, we were at 8 Gtoe.'

But these smaller scale disasters and warnings are dwarfed by the fact that the governments of the world have already sat back and watched the loss of Arctic ice guarantee climate mayhem – a loss already dramatically impacting the jet stream, which has become weaker and wavier (key factors enhancing the destructiveness of the recent superstorms) – without any perceptible sense of emergency. As former Nasa climate scientist James Hansen makes clear, the claim that leaders have done much of anything to address this genuinely existential threat is 'bullshit', a 'fraud'.

There is no alarm, no sense of crisis. Our leaders have done nothing. Beyond platitudes, they have said nothing. Why not? Because they don't exist.

It is clear enough now that we, the people, in fact do not have representatives or leaders: we have puppets selected to respond to the needs of corporate interests for war and growth, and yet more growth. But if we are looking to someone in the cockpit to steer us away from the mountain of evidence of looming climate cataclysm, then there is no-one flying the plane. If we are looking to corporate media to recognise and respond to truth, then forget it – they have battened down the hatches, have excluded all but the most tepid dissent and have buried their heads in the sand.

So it's up to you and us. Can anything be done? We genuinely do not know. But we do know that we cannot give up on everyone and everything we know and love; we cannot accept defeat. To give up on hope is to guarantee there is no hope. As the historian Howard Zinn said so well:

'There is a tendency to think that what we see in the present moment will continue. We forget how often we have been astonished by the sudden crumbling of institutions, by extraordinary changes in people's thoughts, by unexpected eruptions of rebellion against tyrannies, by the quick collapse of systems of power that seemed invincible.' (Howard Zinn, 'A Power That Governments Can't Suppress', City Lights, 2007, p.267)

 

'Propaganda Blitz'

In that spirit, we are delighted to announce the publication of our new book, 'Propaganda Blitz – How The Corporate Media Distort Reality', published by Pluto Press on September 20. In his superb foreword, John Pilger writes:

'In Britain, just one website offers consistently independent media criticism. This is the remarkable Media Lens – remarkable because its founders and editors as well as its only writers, David Edwards and David Cromwell, since 2001 have concentrated their gaze not on the usual suspects, the Tory press, but the paragons of reputable liberal journalism – the BBC, the Guardian, Channel 4 News.

'Their method is simple. Meticulous in their research, they are respectful and polite when they email a journalist to ask why he or she produced such a one-sided report, or failed to disclose essential facts or promoted discredited myths. The replies they receive are often defensive, at times abusive; some are hysterical, as if they have pushed back a screen on a protected species.

'My impression is that they have shattered a silence about corporate journalism. Like Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky in Manufacturing Consent, they represent a Fifth Estate, questioning, deconstructing and ultimately demystifying the media's monopoly.

'What is especially interesting about them is that neither is a journalist. David Edwards was a teacher, David Cromwell is a former scientist. Yet, their understanding of the morality of real journalism – a term rarely used; let's call it true objectivity – is a bracing quality of their online Media Lens dispatches.

'In 2007, they were awarded the Gandhi Foundation International Peace Award. I was asked to contribute to the citation. "Without Media Lens during the attack on and occupation of Iraq," I wrote, "the full gravity of that debacle might have been consigned to oblivion, and to bad history."

'Such is the importance of their work, which I think is heroic. I would place a copy of this book in every journalism school that services the corporate system, as they all do.'

Media Lens is 100 per cent crowdfunded – we have no advertisers, organisational funders or wealthy donors - and, since 2010, the public has supported the two of us as fulltime editors.

However, funds have been on a downward trend over the past few years. This is in part, perhaps, because we have rarely requested support. Also, many people are struggling financially and there are, of course, numerous important causes that need support. We therefore made the decision in April this year to take a significant pay cut. Unfortunately, current donations suggest that this lower level of pay will only be sustainable for another year at most. If financial support continues to fall, we will need to make further cuts. At this point, we may well have to seek alternative employment, likely impacting severely on Media Lens' output.

As discussed, 'mainstream' politics and media are trapped in a lethally deluded view of the world shaped by the needs of short-term profit. Only public dissent, only a great mass of people challenging and rejecting this state-corporate insanity, offers any hope at all. It is clear there will be no change from within the system.

If you have ever considered supporting Media Lens or, perhaps, of increasing your support, this is certainly one time when we strongly urge you to do so, please. 

David Edwards and David Cromwell

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editor@medialens.org (Editor) Alerts 2018 Wed, 19 Sep 2018 08:37:28 +0000
Charges 'Without Merit' - Jeremy Corbyn, Antisemitism, Norman Finkelstein and Noam Chomsky http://medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2018/879-without-merit-jeremy-corbyn-antisemitism-norman-finkelstein-and-noam-chomsky.html http://medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2018/879-without-merit-jeremy-corbyn-antisemitism-norman-finkelstein-and-noam-chomsky.html

 

Last week, Peter Brookes tweeted his latest cartoon for The Times, commenting:

'#Novichok not the only poison being spread around Britain. #LabourAntisemitism #Corbyn.'

Referencing allegations that two Russian agents had been responsible for the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury on March 4, the cartoon depicted a British policeman holding up mugshots of a menacing, bug-eyed 'Jeremy Korbynski' (wearing an 'I Love Hamas' badge) and a vampiric, evil-looking 'Seumasov Milne' (wearing a 'Down With Israel' badge), with the policeman saying:

'THESE TWO MEN ARE SUSPECTED OF SPREADING POISON AROUND BRITAIN...'

As Brookes made clear in his tweet, the alleged 'poison' Corbyn and Milne, Labour's director of communications, are supposedly spreading is, of course, antisemitism.

We have always been struck by the sense of complete unreality surrounding this debate and decided to check when and how often Corbyn has been accused of antisemitism since first being elected as an MP in 1983.

Labour was defeated in the general election of May 7, 2015, causing leader Ed Miliband to resign. On June 3, the BBC reported that Corbyn had joined the contest to replace him. We monitored this period closely and it is simply unarguable that Corbyn was portrayed by journalists, and even party political foes, as a basically decent person. He was depicted as a left relic, certainly - irrelevant and ridiculous - but also as sincere and well-intentioned. There was no sense whatever in 'mainstream' media coverage that Corbyn was a malign individual.

In July, we conducted a ProQuest newspaper database search, which found the following hits for UK press articles mentioning:

'Jeremy Corbyn' and 'antisemitism' before May 2015 = 18 hits

'Jeremy Corbyn' and 'antisemitism' after May 2015 = 6,133 hits

None of the 18 mentions before May 2015 included any accusation that Corbyn was antisemitic. And it was not, as some people have claimed, that Corbyn, a leading anti-war MP, was unknown or unworthy of attention. ProQuest found 3,659 hits for 'Jeremy Corbyn' before May 2015.

Writing for the Medium website last month, Patrick Elliot described his own research confirming these results. Elliot noted that the first story ever to be published in a UK national newspaper with the words 'Corbyn' and 'antisemitism' in the same sentence appeared in the Guardian on August 13, 2015, reporting an accusation the previous day in The Jewish Chronicle. The voting process for the Labour leadership election began one day later, on August 14. Elliot wrote:

'During the three years of Corbyn's Labour leadership, the association of antisemitism with the Labour Party has been a relentless media narrative. The 2,087 articles published in that time have come at an average of nearly two per day.

'Yet in more than six and a half years prior to his election, just 178 articles were published associating the Party with antisemitism, at an average of one every fortnight. Is antisemitism 25 times more prevalent in the Party now?'

 

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editor@medialens.org (Editor) Alerts 2018 Wed, 12 Sep 2018 07:48:14 +0000
Empire Journalism: Venezuela, the US and John McCain http://medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2018/878-empire-journalism-venezuela-the-us-and-john-mccain.html http://medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2018/878-empire-journalism-venezuela-the-us-and-john-mccain.html

The US political commentator Michael Parenti once observed that:

'Bias in favor of the orthodox is frequently mistaken for "objectivity". Departures from this ideological orthodoxy are themselves dismissed as ideological.'

Once you understand the truth of that remark, seeing the daily biases and distortions of the corporate media becomes obvious. Thus, there is plenty of space on the BBC News website, and plenty of time on the BBC's airwaves, to discuss the Venezuela migrant crisis, hyper-inflation and food shortages. Rob Young, a BBC News business correspondent, wrote:

'Venezuela, now in its fourth year of recession, has joined a sad list of other countries whose economies imploded as hyperinflation tore through them.'

Young quoted a senior official of the International Monetary Fund:

'The situation in Venezuela is similar to that in Germany in 1923 or Zimbabwe in the late 2000s.'

A BBC News clip headlined, 'Begging for food in Venezuela', emphasised:

'Food has become so scarce in Venezuela after the economy collapsed that people are getting desperate.'

Likewise, there has been ample heart-wrenching coverage of Venezuelans fleeing to other countries. But you will struggle to find any substantive analysis of the severe US sanctions and long-standing threats to bring about a US-friendly government in Caracas, including an attempted coup in 2002 to remove Hugo Chávez, Venezuela's then president.

On August 19, BBC South America correspondent Katy Watson reported for BBC News at Ten:

'President Nicolas Maduro is doing little to stop his country's economic freefall. Last week, he announced plans to devalue the country's currency; an attempt to rein in inflation that the International Monetary Fund says could hit one million per cent by the end of the year.'

But there was next to no context. BBC viewers were led to believe that the blame for the crisis in Venezuela lay squarely at Maduro's door.

By contrast, consider the analysis of Gabriel Hetland, an expert academic on Latin America. He stated that the Venezuelan government's actions – and inactions – have made the crisis 'far worse'. But crucially:

'the government has not acted in a vacuum, but in a hostile domestic and international environment. The opposition has openly and repeatedly pushed for regime change by any means necessary.'

On August 4, there was even an attempt to assassinate President Maduro, with responsibility claimed by a clandestine opposition group made up of members of the Venezuelan military.

Hetland continued:

'The US government has not only cheered, and funded, these anti-democratic actions. By absurdly declaring that Venezuela is an "unusual and extraordinary threat" to US national security and pressuring investors and bankers to steer clear of the Maduro administration, the White House has prevented Venezuela from obtaining much-needed foreign financing and investment.'

The Morning Star's Tim Young pointed out that:

'Sanctions now form a key part of what is a strategic plan by the US to ruin the Venezuelan economy.'

These US sanctions have even impacted Venezuela's health programme, with the country's vaccination schemes disrupted, dialysis supplies blocked and cancer drugs refused. Young added:

'It is clear that the US sanctions — illegal under international law — are part of an overall strategy to bring about what the US calls "regime change."

'Its aim is to undermine and topple the elected government of President Nicolas Maduro and secure control of Venezuela's vast oil reserves and other natural resources and wealth.'

In a news report in the Independent last year, Andrew Buncombe quoted remarks by Mike Pompeo, then head of the CIA, suggesting that:

'the agency is working to change the elected government of Venezuela and is collaborating with two countries [Mexico and Colombia] in the region to do so.'

As Buncombe observed:

'The US has a long and bloody history of meddling in Latin America's affairs.'

That is an accurate and truthful headline you are very unlikely to see on BBC News.

To realise how incomplete and distorted is BBC News coverage, you only have to listen to the superb independent journalist Abby Martin, who has risked her life to report what the corporate media is not telling you about Venezuela. It is little wonder that, as she discusses, her important news programme, 'Empire Files', is currently off-air as a result of US sanctions against left-leaning TeleSUR, the Venezuela-based television network.

A report by media analyst Gregory Shupak for US-based media watchdog FAIR, notes the repeated usage of the word 'regime' to describe Venezuela by the US corporate media. As Shupak observes, a 'regime' is, by definition, a government that opposes the US empire. He goes on:

'Interestingly, the US itself meets many of the criteria for being a "regime": It can be seen as an oligarchy rather than a democracy, imprisons people at a higher rate than any other country, has grotesque levels of inequality and bombs another country every 12 minutes. Yet there's no widespread tendency for the corporate media to describe the US state as a "regime."'

In short, if you rely on the corporate media, not least the BBC, for what's going on in Venezuela, you will get the US-friendly version of events, downplaying or simply ignoring the crippling effects of US sanctions and threats.

On Venezuela, as with so many other issues, BBC News regularly violates its own stated 'Editorial Values':

'Accuracy is not simply a matter of getting facts right; when necessary, we will weigh relevant facts and information to get at the truth.'

The notion that BBC News journalists perform a balancing act, sifting through 'facts and information' to present 'the truth' to the public is simply pure fiction, as the ample evidence presented in our forthcoming book, 'Propaganda Blitz', makes clear.

 

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editor@medialens.org (Editor) Alerts 2018 Thu, 06 Sep 2018 00:59:37 +0000
Israel Is The Real Problem http://medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2018/876-israel-is-the-real-problem.html http://medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2018/876-israel-is-the-real-problem.html

Elite power cannot abide a serious challenge to its established position. And that is what Labour under Jeremy Corbyn represents to the Tory government, the corporate, financial and banking sectors, and the 'mainstream' media. The manufactured 'antisemitism crisis' is the last throw of the dice for those desperate to prevent a progressive politician taking power in the UK: someone who supports Palestinians and genuine peace in the Middle East, a strong National Health Service and a secure Welfare State, a properly-funded education system, and an economy in which people matter; someone who rejects endless war and complicity with oppressive, war criminal 'allies' such as the United States, Saudi Arabia and Israel.

In a thoroughly-researched article, writer and academic Gavin Lewis has mapped a deliberate pro-Israel campaign to create a 'moral panic' around the issue of antisemitism. The strategy can be traced all the way back to the horrendous Israeli bombardment of Gaza in the summer of 2014. A UN report estimated that 2,252 Palestinians were killed, around 65 per cent of them civilians. The death toll included 551 children. There was global public revulsion at Israel's war crimes and empathy with their Palestinian victims. Support rose for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement (BDS) which campaigns 'to end international support for Israel's oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law'.

As Lewis observes, BDS came to be regarded more and more as a 'strategic threat' by Israel, and a campaign was initiated in which Israel and its supporters would be presented as the world's real victims. In the UK, the Campaign Against Antisemitism was established during the final month of Israel's 2014 bombardment of Gaza. Pro-Israel pressure groups began to bombard media organisations with supposed statistics about an 'antisemitism crisis', with few news organisations scrutinising the claims.

In particular, as we noted in a media alert in April, antisemitism has been 'weaponised' to attack Corbyn and any prospect of a progressive UK government critical of Israel. Around this time in Gaza, there were weekly 'Great March of Return' protests, with people demanding the right to reclaim ancestral homes in Israel. Many were mown down by Israeli snipers on the border firing into Gaza, with several victims shot in the back as they tried to flee. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, a total of 155 Palestinians were killed in the protests, including 23 children and 3 women. This is part of the brutal ongoing reality for Palestinians.

Recently, much media attention has focused laser-like on the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, including 11 associated examples. Labour adopted 7 of these examples, but dropped 4 because of their implication that criticism of Israel was antisemitic. As George Wilmers noted in a piece for Jewish Voice for Labour, Kenneth Stern, the US Attorney who drafted the IHRA wording, has spoken out about the misuse of the definition. It had:

'originally been designed as a "working definition" for the purpose of trying to standardise data collection about the incidence of antisemitic hate crime in different countries. It had never been intended that it be used as legal or regulatory device to curb academic or political free speech. Yet that is how it has now come to be used.'

Examples of the curbing of free speech cited by Stern in written testimony to the US Congress include Manchester and Bristol universities.

In an interview on Sky News last weekend, one pro-Israeli commentator stated openly that the aim is to push Corbyn out of public life. As The Canary observed, Jonathan Sacerdoti, a former spokesperson for the Campaign Against Antisemitism (mentioned above) was:

'clear that his motivation for wanting Corbyn gone is, in part, opposition to his position on Israel.'

Lindsey German, national convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, reminds us of something crucial that the corporate media has been happy to downplay or bury:

'We should not forget either that the Israeli embassy was implicated in interfering in British politics last year when one of its diplomats was recorded as saying that he wanted to "bring down" a pro-Palestine Tory MP, Alan Duncan. While he was sent back to Israel in disgrace, the matter went no further - disgracefully given that this was blatant interference in the British political system.'

In 2017, an Al Jazeera undercover sting operation on key members of the Israel lobby in Britain had revealed a £1 million plot by the Israeli government to undermine Corbyn.

German continued:

'Are we seriously supposed to imagine that this was a maverick operation, or that there is no other attempt to influence British politics, especially when both Labour and Conservative Friends of Israel organisations have strong links with the embassy? The present ambassador is Mark Regev, the man who was press spokesman in 2009 when he defended the killing of Palestinians through Operation Cast Lead, and who has defended the recent killings of Gazan Palestinians by Israeli forces.'

For shared elite interests in Israel and the UK, there is much at stake. Historian and foreign policy analyst Mark Curtis highlights 'the raw truth' rarely touched by the corporate news media:

'The UK's relationship with Israel is special in at least nine areas, including arms sales, air force, nuclear deployment, navy, intelligence and trade, to name but a few.'

Indeed, arms exports and trade are increasingly profitable to British corporations doing business with Israel. Moreover, senior government ministers have emphasised that the UK-Israel relationship is the 'cornerstone of so much of what we do in the Middle East' and that 'Israel is an important strategic partner for the UK'. As Curtis notes:

'The Palestinians are the expendable unpeople in this deepening special relationship.'

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editor@medialens.org (Editor) Alerts 2018 Thu, 09 Aug 2018 06:41:17 +0000
'World On Fire’: Climate Breakdown http://medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2018/875-world-on-fire-climate-breakdown.html http://medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2018/875-world-on-fire-climate-breakdown.html

What will it take for society to make the deep-rooted changes required to prevent the terrifying and awesome threat of climate breakdown? This summer's extreme weather events are simply a prelude to a rising tide of chaos that will be punctuated by cataclysmic individual events – floods, heatwaves, superstorms – of increasing severity and frequency. How long before people demand radical action from governments? Or, and this is what is really needed, how long until citizens remove corporate-captured governments from power and introduce genuine democracy?

Consider just some examples of this summer's extreme weather. In Japan, ferocious heat killed more than 80 people and flooding killed more than 200. In Greece, 80 people died in terrible wildfires. In Canada, a heatwave killed more than 70. In many places around the world, including northern Europe, central America, Russia and parts of the US, extreme drought has put harvests at risk. Across the globe, 118 all-time records were broken or tied. In the United Arab Emirates, a record temperature in excess of 51C was recorded, Montreal broke 36C, the Baltic Sea reached 25C and the Swedish polar circle saw temperatures in excess of 32C. The Russian Arctic experienced 'anomalously high temperatures' more than 20C warmer than usual. And on and on.

To his credit, BBC News North America correspondent James Cook gave a sense of the scale of the climate disasters that were unfolding, with the reported death toll in Greece still rising:

'Climate change. It's here. It's catastrophic.

This month alone:

— "50 dead" in Greece wildfires

— Arctic Circle ablaze

— Japan heatwave, flooding and landslides kill hundreds

— Record temperatures in Algeria, Morocco, Oman

— Drought squeezes US lemons'

Under the heading, 'The world on fire', Assaad Razzouk, a commentator on climate and clean energy, also tweeted a disturbing set of numbers:

'New July 2018 temperature records

UAE: 51.4°C

Africa + Algeria: 51.3°C

Tunisia: 49.2°C

LA: 48.9°C

Baku: 42.7°C

Yerevan : 42.4°C

Japan: 41.1°C

Kabul: 40.5°C

Tbilisi: 40.5°C

Montreal: 36.6°C

Lapland: 33.4°C

Swedish polar circle: 32.5°C

Baltic Sea: 25°C'

Scientists report that the 'signal of climate change is unambiguous' in these extreme phenomena. In Europe, climate change driven by humans has made such events more than twice as likely to occur, and possibly as much as five times more likely.

By the 2040s, heatwaves even worse than this summer's will likely occur every other year, if not more often. This will lead to a tripling of annual heat-related deaths in the UK to 7,000. MPs say that the country is 'woefully unprepared' for such deadly heatwaves, with 'the government ignoring warnings from its official climate change adviser.'

Andrew King and Ben Henley noted in an article on The Conversation website:

'The world has so far had around 1℃ of global warming above pre-industrial levels, but at the global warming limits proposed in the Paris climate agreement, hot summers like that of 2003 in central Europe would be a common occurrence.

'At 2℃ of global warming, the higher of the two Paris targets, 2003-like hot summers would very likely happen in most years.

'Similarly, we know that heat exposure and heat-induced deaths in Europe will increase with global warming, even if we can limit this warming to the levels agreed in Paris.'

Climate scientists have ample evidence that human-driven global warming is already 'making heat waves longer, hotter and more frequent'. Corinne Le Quéré, director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia, describes the evidence as 'really compelling'.

Michael Mann, one of the world's leading climate scientists, says that:

'The impacts of climate change are no longer subtle. We are seeing them play out in real time and what is happening this summer is a perfect example of that.'

He added:

'We are seeing our predictions come true. As a scientist that is reassuring, but as a citizen of planet Earth, it is very distressing to see that as it means we have not taken the necessary action.'

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editor@medialens.org (Editor) Alerts 2018 Wed, 01 Aug 2018 05:49:00 +0000
No Nerve Agents Found - The OPCW Interim Report On Douma http://medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2018/874-no-nerve-agents-found-the-opcw-interim-report-on-douma.html http://medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2018/874-no-nerve-agents-found-the-opcw-interim-report-on-douma.html

In terms of suffering caused, there is often not, in fact, much to choose between dismembering and burning people alive with high explosives, shredding them with shrapnel, and choking them with poison gas. Modern 'conventional' weapons can be far more cruel and devastating than, for example, chlorine gas. But chemical weapons, prohibited by international law, are extremely potent in allowing Western 'humanitarians' to justify 'intervention' in response to crimes - real, hyped or imagined - that the West has itself far surpassed using more respectable forms of mass murder.

Noam Chomsky has observed that 'propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state'. This is certainly true for social control at home, but propaganda also allows nominally democratic states to wield their military bludgeons abroad in much the same way as totalitarian states.

Thus, in April, it happened again: the entire corporate media system rose up with instant certainty to damn an enemy state for crimes against humanity on April 7, in Douma, Syria.

This was not acceptable death by bomb and bullet; this was a nerve gas attack. The villainous agent on every journalist's lips: sarin, a highly toxic synthetic organophosphorus compound that has no smell or taste, but which quickly kills through asphyxiation.

As we discussed at the time, there was no question that this was a repetition of the fake justification for war to secure non-existent Iraqi WMDs, or to prevent a fictional Libyan massacre in Benghazi. Instead, the Guardian editors insisted that this certainly was 'a chemical gas attack, orchestrated by Bashar al-Assad, that left dead children foaming at the mouth'. From the safety of his Guardian office, assistant editor Simon Tisdall hammered the drum for a war that risked even nuclear confrontation:

'It means destroying Assad's combat planes, bombers, helicopters and ground facilities from the air. It means challenging Assad's and Russia's control of Syrian airspace. It means taking out Iranian military bases and batteries in Syria if they are used to prosecute the war.'

By contrast, Scott Ritter - a former chief UN weapons inspector in Iraq who understands the issues - was more cautious:

'The bottom line, however, is that the United States is threatening to go to war in Syria over allegations of chemical weapons usage for which no factual evidence has been provided. This act is occurring even as the possibility remains that verifiable forensic investigations would, at a minimum, confirm the presence of chemical weapons...'

No matter, on April 14, three days after Ritter's article appeared, the US, UK and France attacked Syria in response to the unproven allegations. 

Robert Fisk of the Independent visited Douma and spoke to a senior doctor who works in the clinic where victims of the alleged chemical attack had been brought for treatment. Dr Rahaibani told Fisk what had happened that night:

'I was with my family in the basement of my home three hundred metres from here on the night but all the doctors know what happened. There was a lot of shelling [by government forces] and aircraft were always over Douma at night – but on this night, there was wind and huge dust clouds began to come into the basements and cellars where people lived. People began to arrive here suffering from hypoxia, oxygen loss. Then someone at the door, a "White Helmet", shouted "Gas!", and a panic began. People started throwing water over each other. Yes, the video was filmed here, it is genuine, but what you see are people suffering from hypoxia – not gas poisoning.'

When Fisk's report wasn't ignored, it was sneeringly dismissed. A headline in The Times read:

'Critics leap on reporter Robert Fisk's failure to find signs of gas attack'

The Times, which is no stranger to controversy, suggested that there were big question marks over Fisk's record:

'Fisk is no stranger to controversy.' 

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editor@medialens.org (Editor) Alerts 2018 Tue, 17 Jul 2018 06:14:35 +0000
Enlightened Corners – The Russia 2018 World Cup http://medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2018/873-enlightened-corners-the-russia-2018-world-cup.html http://medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2018/873-enlightened-corners-the-russia-2018-world-cup.html

Senior Guardian sports writer Barney Ronay indicated the basic tone of early corporate coverage of the Russia 2018 World Cup:

'Moscow is like a giant scale version of Lewisham'

Journalist Peter Oborne responded:

'I know Moscow. It is one of the great cities of the world. Barney Ronay should stick to sports reporting. He diminishes himself by trying to join in Guardian anti-Russian sneering.'

In fact, Ronay had already joined the Guardian's sneering with his review of the World Cup's opening ceremony and first match. He commented:

'There was the required grimly magisterial speech from your host for the night, Mr Vladimir Putin.'

The intended irony being, of course, that the grim 'Mr Vladimir Putin' – think Vlad the Impaler - was hosting a joyous sporting occasion. And we do not mean to suggest that there is not much that is grim about Putin's Russia (as Oborne also made clear in an excellent article he tweeted to people who responded to his criticism of Ronay); that is not our point.

For Ronay, the grimness was inescapable, as he noted in describing the opening match between Russia and Saudi Arabia:

'This match had been dubbed El Gasico by some, a reference to the fact these two nations host between them a quarter of the world's crude oil reserves. Perhaps something a bit darker – El Kalashniko? – might have been more apt given the distressingly tangled relations between these two energy caliphates, who are currently the best of frenemies, convivial sponsors of opposing sides in the Syrian war.'

Although Ronay is a sports writer, realpolitik was a running theme throughout his review of the opening ceremony:

'Here the power-play was on show for all to see, the stadium TV cameras cutting away mid-game to show shots of Putin and Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman leaning in to swap gobbets of power gossip in the VIP cockpit. Lodged between them sat the slightly jarring figure of Gianni Infantino, the mouse who roared, an administrator who really must blink now and then and wonder what exactly he's doing here. Football does get itself into the strangest of places.'

Ronay added:

'A few weeks ago Fifa produced a film showing Putin and Infantino doing keep-ups together inside the Kremlin. Even here the dark hand of the Putin alternative reality machine was felt, with talk that the president's performance had been doctored by technicians to make his skills sicker, more convincing, less the usual middle-aged mess of toe‑pokes and shinners.'

Driven by an army of 'Russian bots', the 'Putin alternative reality machine' is supposed to be distorting everything from Brexit to Trump's presidency, to Corbyn's rise to prominence, but is mostly an excuse for the West's alternative reality machine to attack internet freedom that has left the establishment shaken, not stirred.

Finally, Ronay added:

'To squeals and roars Putin appeared at last to deliver a speech about the joys of football, not to mention peace, love and understanding, all of which are great. It was perhaps a little rambling and terse, less opening day Santa Claus, more notoriously frightening local vicar called away from his books to open the village fete.'

Chief Guardian sports writer Martha Kelner, formerly of the Daily Mail and niece of the former Independent editor Simon Kelner who was at one time deputy sports editor at the Independent, also focused on the ominous undertones:

'Just 15 minutes before kick-off the Russian president was driven in a convoy of cars with blacked out windows into an underground space beneath the 81,000-seat stadium. Large swaths of the crowd burst into a spontaneous chant of "Vladimir, Vladimir". When Russia won the right to host the World Cup eight years ago the Russian president possibly expected it to be an opportunity to ingratiate himself with the international community. The aims have changed drastically since then, with Russia's involvement in wars in Ukraine and Syria, allegations of meddling in foreign elections and one of the biggest doping scandals in sporting history.'

Perhaps in 2012, some free-thinking Guardian journalist reviewed the opening ceremony of the London Olympics, noting that David Cameron 'possibly expected' the Games 'to be an opportunity to ingratiate himself with the international community', having destroyed Libya in 2011, and having voted for the war that destroyed Iraq in 2003. In reality, of course, there was no need for Cameron to ingratiate himself – it was precisely the 'international community' that had committed these crimes.

Like all Bond villains, Putin was joined by other leaders of a lesser God:

'Putin was joined in the VIP box by a host of lesser known world leaders including Shavkat Mirziyoyev, the president of Uzbekistan, Sooronbay Jeenbekov, the president of Kyrgyzstan, and Juan Carlos Varela, the president of Panama.'

But Kelner glimpsed light in the darkness:

'There was evidence, too, of progress being made through football in the less enlightened corners of the world. Yasser, an IT engineer from Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, attended the game with his wife and two primary school age daughters. They were surprise visitors, especially as women were not even allowed into football stadiums in Saudi Arabia until January this year.'

It would never occur to a Daily Mail/Guardian journalist that Britain and its leading allies might be considered 'less enlightened corners of the world', given their staggering record of selecting, installing, arming and otherwise supporting dictators in 'less enlightened corners', including Saudi Arabia as it devastates famine-stricken Yemen.

A Guardian TV guide commented:

'Expect a fearsomely drilled opening ceremony live from Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium, followed by a human rights activist's dream of an opening fixture as Russia take on Saudi Arabia.' (Catterall, Ali; Harrison, Phil; Howlett, Paul; Mueller, Andrew; Seale, Jack; et al, 'Thursday's best TV: The Trouble with Women; Fifa World Cup,' The Guardian, 14 June 2018)

We can be sure that the England team has never featured in 'a human rights activist's dream'.

The Guardian sneers were very much extended to singer Robbie Williams who performed at the opening ceremony. A piece by Mattha Busby reported:

'Robbie Williams has been accused of selling his soul to the "dictator" Vladimir Putin after it emerged he will be performing in Russia for the football World Cup.'

Busby cited Labour MP Stephen Doughty, who voted for war on Iraq and Syria:

'It is surprising and disappointing to hear that such a great British artist as Robbie Williams, who has been an ally of human rights campaigns and the LGBT+ community, has apparently agreed to be paid by Russia and Fifa to sing at the World Cup opener.

'At a time when Russian jets are bombing civilians in Syria, the Russian state is poisoning people on the streets of Britain, as well as persecuting LGBT+ people in Chechnya and elsewhere – let alone attempting to undermine our democracies – I can only assume Robbie will be speaking out on these issues alongside his performance?'

The Guardian clearly felt the point needed underlining. It also cited John Woodcock MP, who voted for war on Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and Iraq:

'We all want to support the England team but Robbie Williams is handing Vladimir Putin a PR coup by performing at the thuggish pariah's opening ceremony just months after Russia carried out a chemical weapons attack on English soil.'

Nobody criticised Paul McCartney, Mike Oldfield or indeed The Queen for participating in the London 2012 opening ceremony. But then nobody could think of any reasons for considering David Cameron a 'thuggish pariah'.

Former Guardian music editor, Michael Hann, observed dismissively:

'Williams's stardom has been largely confined to Europe and isn't of the wattage it once was. Still, nothing hung around long enough to get dull...'

As for the event:

'It was short, it was mostly painless. And it was completely pointless.'

Kelner's piece included a tweeted video clip from England footballer Kyle Walker showing Williams giving the middle finger to his critics, with Walker commenting sarcastically: 'So nice of Robbie to say hello.'

In The Times, under the title, 'Fans give Moscow shiny, happy feel to help Putin create image of harmony,' chief football correspondent Oliver Kay scratched his head in bewilderment, asking:

'What does Russia want from this tournament?'

Kay rejected out of hand the notion that it was 'about trying to convince the rest of the world that Russia is open to embracing what the West would regard as a modern, progressive approach to life'. (Oliver Kay, The Times, 13 June 2018)

Fellow Times journalists and other Westerners taking a 'modern, progressive approach to life' will have nodded sagely from their more 'enlightened corners of the world'.

Broadcast media were happy to join in this New Cold War fun. The Telegraph noted of ITV's senior football commentator Clive Tyldesley:

'One man who is definitely not going mushy on us is Clive Tyldesley. The great man was in fine form on commentary, getting a reducer in early doors with an anecdote about the Russian manager, Stanislav Cherchesov, having a nationally-celebrated moustache and observing that "Stalin had a proper 'tache". Somewhere, [football commentator] Andy Townsend murmured, half to himself, "a cult of personality dictator who slaughtered millions of his own citizens? Not for me, Clive."' ('Clive Tyldesley takes on Vladimir Putin as ITV kicks off World Cup with brilliant opening broadcast,' Telegraph, 14 June 2018)

And:

'The camera dutifully sought out President Putin after the opening, mildly controversial goal; the top man was shaking hands with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. Clive: "They are doing an oil deal, nothing to do with the match."'

Discussions of ugly realpolitik do have a place in sports analysis. But did UK and US realpolitik in plundering Iraq and Libya's oil, in propping up dictators in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Turkey, Kuwait, Uzbekistan, in supporting Israel's ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, in obstructing action on catastrophic climate change, in subordinating Third World people to power and profit over hundreds of years, make it into sports reviews of the London Olympics, or any other UK or US sporting event?

The Sun reported of broadcaster Gabby Roslin:

'Despite her excitement, Gabby, 45, does have some reservations about being in Russia.

'"I'd be lying if I said I was completely free and easy and it will be just like a weekend Marbella, because it won't," she admits. "But you have to be open to cultural differences and not try to change it and make it fit for you. Russia are not going to do that."' ('World in motion: Your TV schedule is about to be taken over by football as 2018 World Cup kicks off in Russia,' The Sun, 9 June 2018)

And then there was 'Putin's Russia with David Dimbleby', a BBC One special. A TV guide in the Telegraph commented:

'"In a democracy if you fail to deliver on economic promises, if you surround yourself with cronies and use the law to suppress opposition, you would rightly be thrown out on your ear. But this is Russia, they do things differently here..." So begins David Dimbleby's thoughtful film in which - as the eyes of the world turn towards Moscow for the 2018 World Cup football tournament - he takes the opportunity to cast an eye over Vladimir Putin's 18 years as leader and assess the state of Russia today, especially in regard to the West.' ('What's on TV tonight: Putin's Russia, The Fight for Women's Bodies and Beetlejuice,' Telegraph, 13 June 2018)

They also do things differently at the BBC. On January 18, 1991 - one day after the US-UK's Operation Desert Storm had begun devastating Iraq with 88,500 tons of bombs, the equivalent of seven Hiroshimas, just 7 per cent of them 'smart bombs' - Dimbleby asked the US ambassador to Britain:

'Isn't it in fact true that America is... by dint of the very accuracy of the weapons we've seen, the only potential world policeman? You may have to operate under the United Nations, but it's beginning to look as though you're going to have to be in the Middle East, just as in the previous part of this century, we and the French were in the Middle East.' (Quoted, John Eldridge, 'Getting The Message: News, Truth and Power,' Routledge, 2003, p.14)

Dimbeleby retained his job as an impartial, objective public broadcaster. In fact, nobody noticed anything controversial at all.

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editor@medialens.org (Editor) Alerts 2018 Thu, 21 Jun 2018 06:43:07 +0000