Media Lens - Current Alert News analysis and media criticism Sat, 10 Oct 2015 12:19:44 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Nuclear War And Corbyn – The Fury And The Farce

Last month, 250,000 party members voted Jeremy Corbyn leader of the Labour party, 'the largest mandate ever won by a Party Leader'. The combined might of the political and media establishment had fought and lost its Stalingrad, having bombarded Corbyn with every conceivable smear in a desperate attempt to wreck his reputation with the British public. The more extreme the attacks, the more people caught on. Social media surely played a part in this awakening; but the public simply needed to compare the cynicism with Corbyn's obvious decency and common sense.

Long lines of media futurologists, having all dismissed Corbyn's prospects, shuffled back to their keyboards in defeat and disarray. The tide truly had turned; something like real democracy had once again broken out in Britain.

So what to do when your bias has been so naked, so obvious, that it backfires? The political machine knows only one way – carry on regardless!

Thus, the focus has been on Corbyn not singing the national anthem, on whether he would wear a white poppy or a red poppy, or a tie, or do up his top button, or refuse to promise to kneel before the Queen and kiss her hand; all this has been granted national news headlines and incessant coverage.

'At the heart of his dilemma', opined a Times leader ('National Insecurity', October 1, 2015), 'is a reluctance to shift from protest to leadership'. Translating from Murdochspeak, Corbyn has shown a reluctance to shift from principles to obedience in the customary manner.

In his Labour party conference speech, Corbyn generously mocked, rather than damned, the near-fascistic media coverage, noting that:

'According to one headline "Jeremy Corbyn welcomed the prospect of an asteroid 'wiping out' humanity."'

With perfect timing, an Independent tweet made the point the following day:

'Labour MP warns electing Jeremy Corbyn could lead to "nuclear holocaust".'

The comment was a reference to Corbyn's declaration that he would not 'press the nuclear button' in any circumstance, giving the political and media establishment their first sniff at what they hoped was their great 'gotcha!'.

Rather than celebrating Corbyn as a rare, principled politician sticking to a lifelong commitment shared by many reasonable people, he was portrayed as a dangerous loon risking nuclear annihilation. All without even the hint of a credible threat in sight.

We could provide any number of examples of media propaganda, but a high-profile piece on the BBC's flagship News at Ten programme last Wednesday supplied a truly stand-out performance. Here, BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg featured in an almost comically biased, at times openly scornful, attack on Corbyn's stance on nuclear weapons.

Kuenssberg started by saying:

'Jeremy Corbyn wants debate. Well he's got one. And has run straight into a clash, saying what no Labour leader has said in recent history: if he was Prime Minister, whatever the threat, he'd never use nuclear weapons.'

The broadcast then showed her interviewing Jeremy Corbyn:

'Would you ever push the nuclear button if you were Prime Minister?'

Corbyn replied:

'I'm opposed to nuclear weapons. I'm opposed to the holding and usage of nuclear weapons. They're an ultimate weapon of mass destruction that can only kill millions of civilians if ever used. And I am totally and morally opposed to nuclear weapons. I do not see them as a defence. I do not see them as a credible way to do things...'

LK [interrupting]. 'So yes or no. You would never push the nuclear button?'

JC: 'I've answered you perfectly clearly. It's immoral to have or use nuclear weapons. I've made that clear all of my life.'

LK: 'But, Jeremy Corbyn, do you acknowledge there is a risk that it looks to voters like you would put your own principles ahead of the protection of this country?'

The content of the question, together with the obvious emphasis and passion, betrayed where Kuenssberg stood on the matter.

Corbyn responded calmly:

'It looks to the voters, I hope, that I'm somebody who's absolutely and totally committed to spreading international law, spreading international human rights, bringing a nuclear-free world nearer...'

Kuenssberg [interrupting]: 'And that's more important than the protection of this country?'

Kuenssberg sounded incredulous, appeared to be all but scolding Corbyn. Almost as an afterthought, she added:

'Some voters might think that.'

This was her token gesture to the BBC's famed, mythical 'impartiality'.

The idea that the possession and threatened use of nuclear weapons might endanger the British public clearly falls outside Kuenssberg's idea of 'neutral' analysis.

Again, Corbyn gave a reasonable response:

'We are not under threat from any nuclear power. We're not under threat from that; we're under threat from instability.... Listen, the nuclear weapons that the United States holds - all the hundreds if not thousands of warheads they've got were no help to them on 9/11.'

What does it say about the BBC that the leader of the opposition, in declaring a commitment to international law and global peace, is portrayed as a danger to the country, if not the world, with no counter-view allowed?

In a longer version of the interview, posted on the BBC News website, Kuenssberg asked a question about Syria that also betrayed her allegiance to an elite ideological view:

'Isn't there a danger, Jeremy Corbyn, as Syria falls to pieces, as Putin flexes his muscles, that, on a whole range of issues, it looks as though you will preside over a party that is discussing everything, rather than leading them anywhere?'

No hint here from the BBC's political editor that Obama and Cameron might be flexing their 'muscles' and leading Syria, like Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, into total disaster. Why does 'doing something' always mean bombing in contemporary media discourse? Why is no other course of action conceivable? Why is our media so reflexively violent?

Corbyn replied:

'Isn't it better that you reach consensus and agreement within your party where you can. You recognise the intelligence, the values and the independent thinking of all MPs...'

Again, Kuenssberg interrupted, displaying impatience – perhaps even exasperation:

'...even when [inaudible] changes around you, things happen...'

Corbyn exposed Kuenssberg's thin veneer of impartiality:

'You seem to be stuck in the old politics, if I may say, where leaders dictate and the rest follow or not at their peril.'

Returning to the piece broadcast on BBC News at Ten, Kuenssberg then showed archive footage of Corbyn, presumably from the 1980s, helping to put up an anti-nuclear weapons campaign poster. Her accompanying, shouty voiceover told viewers:

'Getting rid of nuclear weapons has always been his ambition. But now he wants to be the Prime Minister. And the Labour Party this week decided to stick to its policy of keeping nuclear weapons – Trident submarines – despite him.'

She continued:

'This morning, though, many of his top team seemed aghast that he'd totally ruled out their use, even as a last resort.'

The BBC then broadcast no less than five senior Blairite Labour figures all opposing Corbyn: Andy Burnham, Shadow Home Secretary; Maria Eagle, Shadow Defence Secretary; Hilary Benn, Shadow Foreign Secretary; Angela Eagle, Shadow Business Secretary; Lord Falconer, Shadow Justice Secretary; and Heidi Alexander, Shadow Health Secretary.

The BBC did not allow a single person to express support for Corbyn's very reasonable and popular stance.

Why, for example, did BBC News not interview John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer? Why not include other prominent Labour figures such as Diane Abbott who notes:

'Jeremy Corbyn's critics seem to think that leadership consists of a willingness to kill millions.'

Or Bruce Kent, Vice-President of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, who says of Trident:

'It is manifestly useless as protection against accidents, suicidal or non-state groups, or simple human error. Their nuclear weapons did nothing to save the US in Vietnam or the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.'

Or senior Guardian columnist Simon Jenkins who writes:

'I can recall no head of the army and no serious academic strategist with any time for the Trident missile. It was a great hunk of useless weaponry.'

Jenkins goes on to expose the ugly and rarely-reported truth of Trident:

'The sole reason for Trident surviving the Blair government's first defence review (on whose lay committee I sat) was the ban on discussing it imposed by the then defence secretary, George Robertson, in 1997. Members were told to "think the unthinkable" about everything except Trident and new aircraft carriers. It was clear that Tony Blair and his team had been lobbied, not by the defence chiefs, but by the procurement industry.'

Or why not include a spokesperson from Scientists for Global Responsibility? The UK-based organisation says that:

'the UK needs to place a much greater focus on the use of scientific and technical resources for tackling the roots of conflict, such as climate change, resource depletion and economic inequality, rather than prioritising the development, deployment and sale of yet more weapons technologies.'

Kuenssberg claimed in her summing up from the Labour party conference in Brighton that voters were hearing 'noise rather than nuance'. A sublime example of what psychologists call 'projection'.

She concluded that Corbyn becoming Labour leader was:

'thrilling for many but it's dangerous too. Mr Corbyn may strain to stop disagreements turning into public destructive disputes.'

Danger! Threats! The nation is at risk! Ignorance is Strength.

If Corbyn achieves nothing else, we should be grateful that he and his 250,000 supporters have flushed the political and media establishment out of the pages of Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four and into the light.


An Update On Our Funding Appeal

We would like to say a big 'Thank you!' to everyone who responded to our recent appeal for support. We have been inundated with donations and messages of support, and have been unable to reply to everyone individually. You have kindly donated over £8,000; most of that coming in just one week. Hopefully this will be enough to keep Media Lens going on a full-time basis after the end of next year. We'll know in the next few months, as standing orders and new PayPal subscriptions come in. Thanks again.

If you would still like to donate, either with a one-off payment or a regular amount, you can do so here.

DC and DE

]]> (Editor) Alerts 2015 Sun, 04 Oct 2015 22:58:43 +0000
Media Activism In A Time Of Hope - An Appeal For Support

It is normally impossible for us to regard the leader of a major British or American political party without cringing at their compromised, corporatised, plastic personalities.

We like the fact that Jeremy Corbyn wears uncool shorts and sandals, that he doesn't look 'prime ministerial' or 'presidential'. We have always reviled Blair's self-assured, Clintonian head-waggle; Obama's all-knowing, fatherly smile. We never understood how anyone could be deceived by Thatcher's sonorous, strident 'sincerity'.

We might disagree with Corbyn on any number of issues, but he is at least recognisably human. He seems more like the people we know, less like the people with serious suits and unserious souls who view themselves as 'The Masters of Mankind'.

In three earlier media alerts, we described how media futurologists have been tirelessly informing their long—suffering readers that Corbyn will be 'catastrophic' for the Labour party, the country, the world. Every last one of the claims has been rooted in the assumption that they truly know what is good for UK democracy, what is the limit of possible political change. But the fact is they don't know - nobody does. Consider a couple of simple thoughts:

1) Let's assume that, before Corbyn's victory on September 12, the press was correct in arguing that deep political change was impossible in the UK. After all, journalists were writing at a time when voters had been without hope for decades, when they believed the political system was 100% sewn up and locked down by the 1%. But even if the press was right then, it does not mean that radical political change is impossible now when hope has clearly been restored, when people can see that that an honest and compassionate leader can be voted into a position of genuine influence. Nobody can know what might happen now because the hopelessness of several decades really has been overthrown. The cat is out of the bag, democracy has broken free from its establishment box of choice-as-no-choice. People were given a fleeting chance to vote for someone real and they jumped at it.

2) Even if a hopelessly unelectable, flawed and uncool individual was elected leader of the opposition, he or she might nevertheless bring huge benefits to democracy. Why?

One of the default assumptions of the corporate media is that it is their democratic responsibility to cover the full range of 'mainstream' political opinions. Specifically, it is their job to report what the party of government and the major opposition parties are saying and doing.

Since Tony Blair's New Labour/'Red Tory' coup of the 1990s, this default position has required that the press report the views of two establishment parties saying much the same thing. This has been disastrous for the range of honest and compassionate opinion. 'Presentational' politics has meant 'presentational' journalism pitifully denuded of anything challenging powerful interests at a time when those challenges have been desperately needed.

One of the potentially far-reaching consequences of Corbyn's success is that it obliges the corporate press to pay attention to views that have previously been marginalised or ignored. More optimistically, it gives progressive journalists within the corporate media an excuse to push a more positive agenda.

It seems to us that evidence for a radicalising effect on the media is already visible within just a few days of Corbyn's leadership victory.

A Guardian editorial was more reasonable, respectful and upbeat now that Corbyn is leader:

'Mr Corbyn's win speaks to many things. The biggest is the extraordinary excitement which was fired by his campaign and of which he was in some ways an improbable beneficiary.'

Not much 'excitement' was visible in the Guardian this summer – just a few islands of dissent in a sea of smears.

In July, we discussed Pablo Iglesias, leader of Spain's radical Podemos party:

'One might think that, in discussing the popularity of Corbyn's leadership bid, a rational media would give serious attention to the visions, strategies and success of Podemos, Syriza and the SNP. For example, we can imagine in-depth interviews with Iglesias... on Corbyn's prospects'.

We noted that the Lexis media database recorded 1,974 articles in the national press mentioning Corbyn over the previous month. Our search of articles mentioning both 'Corbyn' and 'Iglesias' yielded zero results.

This week, two days after Corbyn's success, Iglesias was not only mentioned in the context of Corbyn's popularity, he was allowed an opinion piece to comment in the Guardian.

A BBC article this week observed: 'Jeremy Corbyn's victory cannot be understood with reference only to British politics.' Syriza was mentioned, as was Podemos – Iglesias was pictured. Again, a significant change for the BBC.

According to an editorial in the Independent:

'The election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader is the most extraordinary event in British politics since the universal franchise. Whatever else it does, it sends a powerful message to the establishment that there is an appetite for doing politics differently. An uninspiring field of conventional candidates has been swept aside by an insurgent who breaks all the rules.'

This was positive by Independent standards. It is easy to imagine that the paper's editors feel obliged to represent this popular strand of thought among many of its readers now that it has 'mainstream' party political support. The editorial even added:

'As the newspaper that opposed the war in Iraq most vigorously [sic], we also welcome Mr Corbyn's weight tilting the scales of public debate further towards proper scepticism about military intervention abroad. While we are uneasy about Mr Corbyn's reflex anti-Americanism, if he makes Mr Cameron more cautious about military action, that would be no bad thing.'

This from the newspaper group that, just three years ago, devoted its front-page to this question:


This week, the Independent published a piece under the title: 'Ignore the attacks, here are fifteen things that Jeremy Corbyn actually believes in.'

This already makes the point that the presence of a comparatively honest, compassionate leader of a major party has an impact shifting media performance and public discussion in a more progressive direction.

Now, of course, we are being told that Corbyn could not possibly win a general election. This is declared 'reality', everything else 'fantasy'. The late historian Howard Zinn once wrote:

'Realism is seductive because once you have accepted the reasonable notion that you should base your actions on reality, you are too often led to accept, without much questioning, someone else's version of what that reality is. It is a crucial act of independent thinking to be sceptical of someone else's description of reality.' (Howard Zinn, The Zinn Reader - Writings on Disobedience and Democracy, Seven Stories Press, 1997, p.338)

And the current version of 'realism' is based on a fatal flaw:

'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.' (Zinn, A Power That Governments Can't Suppress, City Lights, 2007, p.267)

The success of Podemos, Syriza and the SNP suggest that Corbyn's success is no isolated event, that it is symptomatic of deep changes across European society and beyond. It seems to us that the age of the great corporate media monopoly is coming to an end. At last, through internet-based websites, blogs and social media activism, any number of smart, dedicated, non-corporate individuals and groups are seriously challenging the output of elite journalism. Corbyn's defiance of 'mainstream' media opinion shows how corporations have lost their ability to completely dominate the debate and impose their version of reality. Competing versions are now on offer and the tired, compromised corporate version is being exposed for what it is. Newly-appointed Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell MP, said this week:

'We've managed to break through to have a proper political debate, but largely as a result of the public meetings we've held and the social media. Years ago we never had Twitter, we never had emails on this scale, we never had websites. Now we've created our own media and that's enabled a better political debate.' ('John McDonnell: Corbyn's shadow chancellor speaks to Jon Snow', Channel 4 News, 14 September 2015)

We are continuing to do our best to support this freedom of speech. The British historian Mark Curtis wrote this week:

'The fear of Corbyn on the part of the elite is palpable in the literally hysterical right wing and "liberal" media coverage, well documented as ever by Medialens.'

After 14 years of the Media Lens project, it feels quite odd for us to be working in a context of hope. For much of the time we have been 'jousting with toothpicks' against the corporate behemoth with no way of knowing if anything really substantial could be achieved. While our gloom over inaction on climate change remains, the surge of radical politics across Europe really is an inspiration.

In our case, the optimism is slightly offset by a decline in donations supporting our work. This may partly be our own fault – as we rarely send appeals, readers may have assumed we don't need their support. Whatever the reason, donations have declined substantially. If the current trend continues, we will be back doing other paid work by the end of next year, which would be a major blow. We have also recently lost one of our two accounts accessing the Lexis newspaper archive – the second account expires later this month. This will leave us without access to the archives for the first time in 14 years, inflicting real damage on our work. If anyone is willing to donate, or help us access, two guest accounts, that would be a great help.

If you would like to support our work, please go here to make a donation.

You can write to us here:


DE and DC

]]> (Editor) Alerts 2015 Thu, 17 Sep 2015 06:56:37 +0000
Invisible War Crimes – The Corporate Media On Yemen

Anyone struggling to understand the violent upheaval in Yemen this year might be tempted to consult the country's 'most important source of news' – the BBC. An online piece titled 'Yemen crisis: Who is fighting whom?' explains:

'Yemen is in the grip of its most severe crisis in years, as competing forces fight for control of the country.'

The article continues:

'The main fight is between forces loyal to the beleaguered President, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, and those allied to Zaidi Shia rebels known as Houthis, who forced Mr Hadi to flee the capital Sanaa in February.'

Both President Hadi and the Houthis are opposed by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). 'The picture is further complicated', says the BBC, ' by the emergence in late 2014 of a Yemen affiliate of the jihadist group Islamic State.'

Yemen has now 'descended into conflicts' between all these different groups, pushing the country 'to the edge of civil war'.

In addition:

'After rebel forces closed in on the president's southern stronghold of Aden in late March, a coalition led by Saudi Arabia responded to a request by Mr Hadi to intervene and launched air strikes on Houthi targets. The coalition comprises five Gulf Arab states and Jordan, Egypt, Morocco and Sudan.'

Adopting the required ideological viewpoint, the BBC piece observes that what 'worries' the West about events in Yemen is 'the threat of attacks emanating from the country as it becomes more unstable.'

And the cited source for such alleged concerns? 'Western intelligence agencies' who 'consider AQAP the most dangerous branch of al-Qaeda because of its technical expertise and global reach.' This fits the usual pattern of 'our' government being concerned about 'keeping people safe' from the 'shadows and threats' that surround us on all sides.

One line hints at the West's real concern:

'Yemen is strategically important because it sits on the Bab al-Mandab strait, a narrow waterway linking the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden, through which much of the world's oil shipments pass.'

There are clear parallels with Iraq. As Alan Greenspan, former chair of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, observed:

'I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.' (Greenspan, The Age of Turbulence, Penguin, 2007, p.463)

The independent journalist Paul Street notes that:

'Saudi Arabia unshakably views Iran as a grave threat and sees Tehran's hand behind almost every regional development it doesn't like.'

In supporting the Saudi regime's bid to show who is the regional boss in the Arabian peninsula, Street continues, the Obama administration:

'is placating the Saudi royal family, who sits atop a giant pile of oil and money that Washington does not take lightly.'

Noam Chomsky says bluntly that the US-supported Saudi assault on Yemen is:

'the most extraordinary global terrorism campaign in history'.

The propaganda version of events, summarised and promoted by the BBC's Security Correspondent Frank Gardner, is that Saudi Arabia is waging a war against 'a pro-Iranian rebel movement taking over their southern neighbour', Yemen. But a major missing factor in BBC reporting, or at best passed over very quickly, is the role of the West in Yemen's violence. Gardner only goes as far as saying that the Saudi-led coalition is 'US-backed'. But surely there is more to be said than that? Why the lack of explanation or detail?

This pattern of omissions is repeated across corporate media coverage, as we will see below.

]]> (Editor) Alerts 2015 Wed, 09 Sep 2015 23:12:18 +0000
Corbyn And The End Of Time - The 'Crisis Of Democracy'

Unsurprisingly perhaps, our search of UK newspapers for the terms 'Jeremy Corbyn', 'Vikings' and 'Mayans' delivered only one result. After all, how could they possibly be linked? Rachel Sylvester explained in The Times on September 1:

'Just as the Vikings and the Mayans brought about their own extinction by destroying the environment on which their cultures depended...'

Already the heart has dropped. Is this really leading where we think it's leading?

' the Labour party is threatening its survival by abandoning electoral victory as a definition of success. If Labour chooses Jeremy Corbyn - a man who will never be elected prime minister - as leader next week, its end could be as brutal and sudden as those other once great tribes.'

This was the latest preposterously apocalyptic claim to emerge from an increasingly frantic corporate media effort to undermine Corbyn.

Sylvester's article was titled: 'Will a Corbyn victory be the end of Labour?' On and on, the establishment press has attacked an obviously authentic representative of Labour values as the ultimate threat to Labour values. On and on, the alleged concern has been to save the Labour party from itself, to protect its electability, to defend democracy. Much of this 'concern' has been expressed by sworn enemies of the Labour party.

A glance back at US history helps clarify what is really going on.

]]> (Editor) Alerts 2015 Fri, 04 Sep 2015 07:00:34 +0000
‘Bullying’ – BBC Political Editor’s Bizarre Term For The Public Resisting The Establishment

The BBC's Nick Robinson has made a career out of telling the public what leading politicians say and do; sometimes even what they 'think'. This stenography plays a key role in 'the mainstream media', given that a vital part of statecraft is to keep the public suitably cowed and fearful of threats from which governments must protect us. The 'free press' requires compliant journalists willing to disseminate elite-friendly messages about global 'peace', 'security' and 'prosperity', uphold Western ideology that 'we are the good guys', and not question power deeply, if at all.

But when a senior journalist complains of 'intimidation and bullying' by the public, making comparison's to 'Vladimir Putin's Russia', the mind really boggles at the distortion of reality. Those were claims made by Robinson, the BBC's outgoing political editor, using an appearance at the Edinburgh international book festival to settle a few scores.

As we noted on the eve of last year's referendum on Scottish independence, Robinson was guilty of media manipulation in reporting remarks made by Alex Salmond, then Scotland's First Minister and leader of the Scottish National Party. During a press conference, Robinson had asked Salmond a two-part question about supposedly solid claims made by company bosses and bankers - 'men who are responsible for billions of pounds of profits' - that independence would damage the Scottish economy. Not only did the full version of the encounter demonstrate that Salmond responded comprehensively, but he turned the tables on Robinson by calling into question the BBC's role as an 'impartial' public broadcaster. The self-serving report that was broadcast that night by Robinson on BBC News at Ten did not accurately reflect the encounter. Instead, the political editor summed it all up misleadingly as:

'He didn't answer, but he did attack the reporting.'

But the public was able to compare Robinson's highly selective editing of Salmond's press conference with what had actually taken place. The episode sparked huge discussion across social media. It even led to public protests outside the BBC headquarters in Glasgow. Some called for Robinson to resign.The protests involved thousands of pro-independence campaigners, although Nicola Sturgeon, Salmond's then deputy and now leader of the SNP, distanced her party from the demonstration outside the BBC when she 'emphasised it was not organised by the official Yes Scotland campaign'. The Glasgow protest was but one episode in a bigger picture of considerable public dissent against BBC News; indeed, against corporate news bias generally.

The outcome of the September 2014 referendum, following frantic propaganda campaigns to block Scottish independence by the main political parties, big business and corporate media - akin to what we are seeing today with the establishment targetting Jeremy Corbyn - was 55 per cent 'No' and 45 per cent 'Yes'.

Now Robinson, promoting his latest book 'Election Diary', has spoken out about what happened when his reporting was exposed for what it was:

'Alex Salmond was using me to change the subject. Alex Salmond was using me as a symbol. A symbol of the wicked, metropolitan, Westminster classes sent from England, sent from London, in order to tell the Scots what they ought to do.

'As it happens I fell for it. I shouldn't have had the row with him which I did, and I chose a particular phrase ["He didn't answer, but he did attack the reporting."] we might explore badly in terms of my reporting and that is genuinely a sense of regret.'

So Robinson's distorted reporting, caught and exposed in public, led merely to 'a sense of regret' which 'we might explore badly'.

He then launched a bizarre attack on the public:

'But as a serious thought I don't think my offence was sufficient to justify 4,000 people marching on the BBC's headquarters, so that young men and women who are new to journalism have, like they do in Putin's Russia, to fight their way through crowds of protesters, frightened as to how they do their jobs.'

The hyperbole continued:

'We should not live with journalists who are intimidated, or bullied, or fearful in any way.'

And yet, in June, Robinson had played down the alleged bullying as ineffectual:

'In reality I never felt under threat at all'.

Given that the protest was triggered by Robinson's propaganda, one wonders to what extent the 'young men and women who are new to journalism' at the BBC were 'intimidated, or bullied, or fearful', or whether this was more tragicomic bias from Robinson. Needless to say, Robinson was silent about how the corporate media routinely acts as an echo chamber for government propaganda, scaremongering the public about foreign 'enemies' and security 'threats'.

A couple of days later, Salmond responded to Robinson. He told the Dundee-based Courier newspaper:

'The BBC's coverage of the Scottish referendum was a disgrace.

'It can be shown to be so, as was Nick's own reporting of which he should be both embarrassed and ashamed.'

Salmond continued:

'To compare, as Nick did last week, 4000 Scots peacefully protesting outside BBC Scotland as something akin to Putin's Russia is as ludicrous as it is insulting.

'It is also heavily ironic given that the most commonly used comparison with the BBC London treatment of the Scottish referendum story was with Pravda, the propaganda news agency in the old Soviet Union.'

The Guardian then gave ample space to Robinson to respond to Salmond with an ill-posed defence of the BBC's slanted coverage of the independence debate. This was amplified by a news piece by Jane Martinson, head of media at the Guardian, about the 'row' between the two.

'The BBC', declaimed Robinson, 'must resist Alex Salmond's attempt to control its coverage'. In fact, Salmond had rightly pointed out that the BBC's broadcasting had been biased and 'a disgrace'; a view held by many people in Scotland and beyond. Robinson's pompous response was that, all too often, politicians 'simply do not understand why the nation's broadcaster doesn't see the world exactly as they do.' Case dismissed.

The BBC political editor then fell back on the old canard that complaints from both sides implied that reporting had been balanced:

'There were many complaints about our coverage of the Scottish referendum – although interestingly just as many came from the No side as the Yes.'

Deploying this fallacious argument means that the strong evidence of bias against 'Yes' need not be examined (see, for example, this book and short film by Professor John Robertson of the University of the West of Scotland). In its place, Robinson paints a heroic picture of himself and the BBC rejecting demands from 'politicians' to 'control' news reporting. Robinson declared his unshakeable confidence in:

'the BBC's high journalistic standards, which are recognised around the world'.

This is precisely the attitude one would expect from someone who is rewarded handsomely for thinking the right thoughts about their employer.

]]> (Editor) Alerts 2015 Tue, 25 Aug 2015 01:32:21 +0000
Whitewash - The Guardian Readers’ Editor Responds On Jeremy Corbyn

In our previous media alert, we described 'the panic-driven hysterical hate-fest campaign' being waged against Labour leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn right across the corporate media 'spectrum'.

This week, Guardian readers' editor Chris Elliott responded to readers' complaints:

'I read or viewed 43 pieces of journalism published between 21 and 30 July... Seventeen of the 43 pieces struck me as neutral... there were 10 pieces that could broadly be described as either being comment pieces in favour of Corbyn or news stories reporting positively about him.'

Elliot would only concede that 'in the early days of Corbyn's charge, the readers rightly got a sniff that on occasions we weren't taking him seriously enough. That has changed...'.

We wrote to Elliott:

'Hi Chris

'Hope you're well. Thanks for your piece: "Analysing the balance of our Jeremy Corbyn coverage."...

'Could you let us know, please, which 17 pieces struck you as neutral, and which 10 pieces were in favour of Corbyn, or reporting positively about him?' (Email, August 4, 2015)

Elliott replied:

'Dear Mr Edwards,

'I am sorry but I have set out all that I had time and resource to do. I cannot help you further.

'Best wishes

'Chris Elliott' (Email, August 4, 2015)

We were, of course, grateful for the response.

In his article, Elliott rightly warned that, 'This is not a scientific piece of research – we don't have the resources.'

In reality, evaluating Guardian bias on Corbyn does not require scientific method, just simple common sense.

Consider, for example, an article written by arch-Blairite Peter Hain, who is up to his neck in responsibility for Iraq sanctions, invasion and occupation. Hain's piece was titled:

'Jeremy Corbyn's policies may be popular – but they don't add up to a platform'

The article jumped out at us because it contained rare criticism of two other candidates for the Labour leadership:

'The two most credible candidates - Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper - have been underwhelming: cautious and austerity-lite.'

This does indeed qualify as mild criticism. But compare it with Hain's comments on Corbyn:

'Those inside the Westminster bubble have been transfixed, indeed bewildered, by Jeremy Corbyn's soaring campaign for Labour leader. The more he is denounced, the better he seems to do.

'Have Labour members gone mad, party luminaries wonder? Has the Militant Tendency's 1980s entryism been somehow reincarnated from its current impotence, headlines ask?'

Hain continued:

'Nobody – least of all him [Corbyn], ironically – imagines he could be prime minister, or even that as opposition leader he could survive the high noon bearpit of Prime Minister's Questions, or deliver an effective instant response to a George Osborne budget speech.'


'But the reason I won't vote for Corbyn is that, underneath his appealing slogans and rousing values, there is no programmatic substance... His economic policy amounts to an unelectable platform of "tax and spend" – an anguished cry of protest, not a serious alternative for a Labour government... He demonstrates little understanding of the immensely arduous challenge of electing, let alone running, a social democratic or democratic socialist government...'.

If this isn't clear enough, a simple observation should make it clearer: there is more damning personal and political criticism in this single piece on Corbyn than we found in several hundred Guardian articles on Burnham, Cooper and Kendall over the last month combined.

By contrast, the following comment from a Guardian news report indicates the level of criticism that has only rarely been directed at these three candidates:

'A senior Labour politician... attributed Corbyn's success so far to the failure of Burnham, Cooper and Kendall to grip the imagination.'

We also managed to find this from Rafael Behr in the Guardian:

'Kendall has misjudged the balance between delivering hard truths to the party and charmlessly rubbing it up the wrong way, which in turn raises doubts about the tuning of her political antennae.'

A Guardian leader commented:

'Mr Burnham's campaign, with its heavy emphasis on emotional reconnection with the party's core electorate, is steeped in nostalgia.'

Again, minor, low-level criticism; nothing that could be considered a personal and political demolition in the style of Hain.

Comedian Frankie Boyle wrote a piece criticising 'passive' Labour. He referred obliquely to 'leadership candidacy androids' who lack 'personality and charm' in a party that is to the right of John Major. Burnham, Cooper and Kendall were not mentioned by name; their role as New Labour Blairites supporting the Iraq crime and other horrors was not discussed. Seumas Milne, the Guardian's resident leftist fig-leaf, also referred to the 'New Labour machine politician' alternative to Corbyn, supplying rare, substantial criticism of the other candidates for moving 'sharply to the right'.

The fiercest personal criticism came from John Harris:

'As Corbyn rises, Andy Burnham is suddenly styling himself as the faux-radical saviour of a party "scared of its own shadow".'

And yet his campaign began 'with a speech at the City offices of a corporation associated with huge tax avoidance...'.

Yvette Cooper exhibits 'that awful modern Labour tendency to boil even the great causes of the age down to borderline inanity and talk to people as if they are stupid'.

Not that Harris is a Corbyn fan: 'I am less interested in him than what his candidacy, in tandem with Labour's new voting system, has let loose.'

Vanishingly rare exceptions aside, the other three leaders have been criticised for being charmless, overly nostalgic, dull, hypocritical, inane, and so on. Clearly, none of this compares to the many articles passionately warning readers against the 'madness', the 'catastrophe', of voting for Corbyn when 'Nobody – least of all him, ironically – imagines he could be prime minister.'

]]> (Editor) Alerts 2015 Thu, 06 Aug 2015 08:07:00 +0000
Fantasy Politics - 'Corbyn's Morons' And The 'Sensible Approach'

In May, voters grasped Spanish political orthodoxy and shook it like a rag doll:

'The anti-austerity party Podemos claimed its biggest victory in Barcelona, where activist Ada Colau seized control of the city hall. Podemos and Ciudadanos... made advances across the country that will give them a chance to shape policy for the first time.'

Podemos also backed the campaign of Manuela Carmena, a 71-year-old labour-rights lawyer, who ended 24 years of rule by Spain's hard-right Popular party in the capital, Madrid. These were major triumphs in the face of fierce and united corporate media opposition. Jose Juan Toharia, president of polling firm Metroscopia, said:

'Tomorrow's Spain doesn't feel identified with the establishment parties.'

A Guardian leader commented:

'Together, the two traditional parties have seen their support shrink from two-thirds of the poll in 2011, to just over half. Podemos and Ciudadanos have filled the void. The two-party system that had dominated Spain since the end of dictatorship in 1978 is crumbling.'

MP Jeremy Corbyn, reportedly 'far ahead of his rivals in the Labour leadership election', has explicitly called for Labour to learn from Greece's Syriza, Spain's Podemos and the Scottish National Party by campaigning against 'austerity'. Corbyn said:

'I have been in Greece, I have been in Spain. It's very interesting that social democratic parties that accept the austerity agenda and end up implementing it end up losing a lot of members and a lot of support. I think we have a chance to do something different here.'

This echoes a comment made by Podemos' leader Pablo Iglesias in an interview with Tariq Ali. Iglesias suggested that Podemos and Syriza offered potent examples that had already been followed in Scotland:

'We saw this in the UK. The Scottish National Party [SNP] really beat the Labour Party by criticising austerity and criticising cuts, which are related to the failure of the "third way" policies of Tony Blair and Anthony Giddens.'

One might think that, in discussing the popularity of Corbyn's leadership bid, a rational media would give serious attention to the visions, strategies and success of Podemos, Syriza and the SNP. For example, we can imagine in-depth interviews with Iglesias and Colau on Corbyn's prospects. We can imagine discussions of how a weakening of the two-party grip on Spanish politics might be repeated outside Scotland in the UK, where similarly moribund political conditions apply. As former ambassador, Craig Murray, has observed:

'[I]f the range of possible political programmes were placed on a linear scale from 1 to 100, the Labour and Conservative parties offer you the choice between 81 and 84.'

And yet, we have not seen a single substantive discussion of these issues in any UK national newspaper. The Lexis media database records 1,974 articles mentioning Corbyn over the last month. Of these, just 29 mentioned Podemos. Our search of articles mentioning both 'Corbyn' and 'Pablo Iglesias' yielded zero results, as did our searches for 'Corbyn' and 'Ada Colau', and 'Corbyn' and 'Manuela Carmena'. Lexis found 133 Guardian articles mentioning Corbyn over the last month, with three of these containing mentions in passing of SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon. The Independent had 47 hits for Corbyn, with one article mentioning Sturgeon.

These would appear to be natural sources and comparisons, particularly given Corbyn's explicit references to them. Instead, we found complete indifference combined with a ruthless and relentless campaign to trash Corbyn across the so-called media 'spectrum'.

]]> (Editor) Alerts 2015 Wed, 29 Jul 2015 08:18:18 +0000
Daesh, The Revolutionary Neoliberal Party and the British Falsehood Corporation


'It's A Distortion That The BBC Wants To Be Fair'

Lord Hall, the director general of the BBC, is to be questioned by MPs over his refusal to refer to Islamic State using the term 'Daesh' (an Arabic abbreviation that means 'one who crushes something underfoot' and 'one who sows discord') because it is pejorative and therefore biased. Controversial British prime minister David Cameron had sent a request to the BBC supported in a letter signed by 120 MPs from across the spectrum – Labour, Tory and SNP. Independent journalist Jonathan Cook comments:

'So let us agree that Cameron can insist on the BBC calling Islamic State "Daesh" when he also insists on the broadcaster referring to the Conservatives as the "Revolutionary Neoliberal Party" [RNP].'

Julian Lewis, RNP chairman of the defence select committee, said he would also be writing to the BBC:

'The BBC ought to hang its head in shame – they would never dream of taking this attitude if we were talking about the fascists or the Nazis... We are engaged in a counter propaganda war of ideas – and the British used to be rather good at this during the Cold War.'

Chris Grayling, a member of the RNP British Cabinet and leader of the Commons, apparently detected no self-contradiction when he said the BBC should openly take the side of the UK in international conflicts:

'During the Second World War, the BBC was a beacon of fact, it was not expected to be impartial between Britain and Germany.'

Of course, the idea that political parties should pressure media to produce biased information was one of the horrors Britain was said to be fighting from 1939-1945. Also, the notion that the BBC should be guided by emergency measures adopted in a time of total war against a Nazi state genuinely threatening conquest indicates the curious mindset of some on the right. In reality, as Seumas Milne noted in the Guardian:

'The BBC is full of Conservatives and former New Labour apparatchiks with almost identical views about politics, business and the world. Executives have stuffed their pockets with public money.'

Milne added:

'There is no point in romanticising a BBC golden age. The corporation was always an establishment institution, deeply embedded in the security state and subject to direct government control in an emergency.'

Indeed, the BBC was founded in 1922 and immediately used as a propaganda weapon for the Baldwin government during the General Strike, when it became known by workers as the 'British Falsehood Corporation' (BFC). Perhaps the BBC should rebrand itself. Actor Ken Stott commented in the Radio Times:

'The establishment is a dirty, dangerous beast and the BBC is a mouthpiece for that.' (Radio Times, December 3, 2014)

This helps explain a tweet sent recently by the BBC's high-profile diplomatic editor, Mark Urban:

'Anti-Americanism alive & well as shown by "who is biggest threat to world peace?" Survey via @INTLSpectator'

For the embedded BFC, viewing America, very reasonably, as a lethal threat is to be guilty of something called 'Anti-Americanism.'

But for some, too much is not enough. In the Telegraph, Stephen Pollard, editor of the Jewish Chronicle, commented on the BBC chief's limp resistance to imposed thought control:

'He appears to believe that impartial reporting means equidistance between a terror group which butchers its victims and the rest of humanity.

'But equidistance is not the same as impartiality.'

Run that past us again:

'Impartiality means accuracy and reliability in news gathering – which ought indeed to be the BBC's governing ethos. It does not mean refusing ever to make any judgments between two sides in a conflict.'

How so?

'Because in the real, impartial world, there is no equidistance between Daesh and its victims.'

Whatever 'equidistance is not the same as impartiality' means – arguably, it means nothing – presumably the 'logic' can be applied elsewhere. After all, in 'the real, impartial world,' there is also no 'equidistance' between Nato and its victims. So perhaps we should demand that the BBC describe Nato as 'The Western Corporate Mercenary Army', or 'The Western State-Corporate Militant Mob', because impartiality is one thing and equidistance quite another. As everyone knows.

Inevitably, the response of David Jordan, the BBC's director of editorial policy and standards, to these state-corporate attacks was less than heroic:

'Suggesting that the BBC wants to be fair to the so called "Islamic State" distorts the truth...'

It was 'a distortion', then, to suggest that the BBC aims to be 'fair'. Jordan continued:

'Our aim, as always, is to report accurately and report the facts – nothing else.'

Facts are sacred; it's not the BBC's job to make judgements. Except:

'The BBC has at its cornerstone a commitment to democracy and its pillars. The BBC is no friend of authoritarian repression anywhere in the world and our history shows it.'

The 'democracy and its pillars' being, of course, 'us'. As for 'authoritarian repression' – well, that's 'them', as labelled by the government for a BBC intent on reporting 'the facts – nothing else'.

Appropriately enough, Sir Christopher Bland, who chaired the BBC between 1996 and 2001, argued this week that the BBC 'is worryingly close to becoming an arm of the Government'. Bland said of Cameron's government:

'Rather subtly and unattractively it draws the BBC closer to becoming [sic] an arm of government which is always something that the BBC and government have resisted.'

This recalls former director general Greg Dyke's quickly-buried assertion that BBC bosses and political journalists are determined to protect Britain's elite-favouring status quo because they 'are part of one Westminster conspiracy. They don't want anything to change. It's not in their interests.'

]]> (Editor) Alerts 2015 Wed, 08 Jul 2015 11:23:58 +0000
‘Address Your Remarks To Downing Street’ –The Sunday Times Editor Deepens His Snowden Debacle

George Orwell once wrote:

'I really don't know which is more stinking, the Sunday Times or The Observer. I go from one to the other like an invalid turning from side to side in bed and getting no comfort which ever way he turns.' (George Orwell, quoted, Bernard Crick, George Orwell: A Life, p. 233, Penguin Books, 1992)

The competition remains fierce, but the Sunday Times edged marginally ahead with a recent front-page exclusive that stank to truly celestial heights. As we noted in our previous alert, the Sunday Times dramatically claimed that Russia and China had 'cracked the top-secret cache of files stolen by the fugitive US whistleblower Edward Snowden'. The 'exclusive story' contained precisely no evidence for its anonymous claims, no challenges to the assertions made and no journalistic balance. In a CNN interview the same day, lead reporter Tom Harper trashed his own credibility, and that of his paper, when he blurted:

'We just publish what we believe to be the position of the British government.'

One of our readers, William Douglas, emailed a powerful criticism of Harper's claims direct to Sunday Times editor Martin Ivens, asking him to explain why anyone should take the article seriously. Douglas sent a blog piece by Craig Murray, the former British diplomat, who had offered five reasons for thinking the MI6 story was 'a lie'. Ivens' reply was astonishing:

'I think you should address your remarks to 10 Downing St. If you think they have lied to us then so be it.'

There was no attempt to respond to the challenge, or to answer Murray's serious objections; just a preposterous and insulting suggestion to contact the British government. Clearly Ivens is unaware of legendary journalist I.F. Stone's comment:

'Every government is run by liars and nothing they say should be believed.'

Ivens' response is the reality of media contempt for their supposedly valued readers, or 'partners' as the Guardian affects to call the people it deceives. The Sunday Times states heroically:

'The Sunday Times takes complaints about editorial content seriously. We aim to resolve your complaint efficiently, promptly and effectively by direct contact with you.'

Failing that, write to the government!

One might have thought that editors and journalists elsewhere would have leapt on Ivens' contemptuous response to a serious correspondent, condemning Ivens for dragging their supposedly noble 'profession' into further disrepute. But, according to our searches of the Lexis newspaper database, the email went totally unreported.

]]> (Editor) Alerts 2015 Wed, 24 Jun 2015 11:04:47 +0000
‘We Just Publish The Position Of The British Government’ – Edward Snowden, The Sunday Times And The Death Of Journalism

In the wake of the greatest crime of the twenty-first century, the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, you might have thought that the days of passing off unattributed government and intelligence pronouncements as 'journalism' would be over. Apparently not. On June 14, the Sunday Times, owned by Rupert Murdoch, published what has already become a classic of the genre (behind a paywall; full text here).

The prominent front-page story was titled: 'British spies betrayed to Russians and Chinese; Missions aborted to prevent spies being killed'. It sounded like an exciting plot for a James Bond film. And the first line was suitably dramatic:

'Russia and China have cracked the top-secret cache of files stolen by the fugitive US whistleblower Edward Snowden, forcing MI6 to pull agents out of live operations in hostile countries, according to senior officials in Downing Street, the Home Office and the security services.' (our emphasis)

What followed was a series of assertions from faceless sources, backed by zero evidence and outright falsehoods.

Western intelligence agencies – famously trustworthy and free of any hidden agenda - said they had 'been forced into the rescue operations after Moscow gained access to more than 1m classified files held by the former American security contractor, who fled to seek protection from Vladimir Putin'. Anyone seeking 'protection' from one of the world's 'Bad Guys' is, of course, immediately deemed suspect.

'Senior government sources' claimed that 'China had also cracked the encrypted documents', endangering British and American spies. One senior Home Office official accused Snowden of having 'blood on his hands', although Downing Street said there was 'no evidence of anyone being harmed'. The journalists appeared unperturbed by the discrepancy and ploughed on.

More anonymous sources popped up: 'David Cameron's aides confirmed', 'A senior Downing Street source said', 'said a senior Home Office source', 'a British intelligence source said', 'A US intelligence source said'. The only named source in the whole piece was Sir David Omand, the former director of GCHQ, the secretive agency that conducts mass surveillance for the British intelligence services.

Taking as undisputed fact that Russia and China had access to Snowden's material, Omand said that this:

'was a "huge strategic setback" that was "harming" to Britain, America and their Nato allies.'

No other views were reported by the Sunday Times. This was stenography, not journalism.

The article appeared under the bylines of Tom Harper (the paper's home affairs correspondent), Richard Kerbaj (security correspondent) and Tim Shipman (political editor). But it was clearly prepared with major input from intelligence and government sources with their own particular agendas. All of this was, no doubt, given the all-clear by the paper's editor, Martin Ivens.

BBC News echoed the Sunday Times article, with an online piece containing 'analysis' by BBC security correspondent Gordon Corera. This supposed expert commentary was based on 'my understanding from conversations over an extended period' and performed his usual function of providing a conduit for the government view. Some mild scepticism – 'a pinch of salt' - did filter through to later versions of the BBC article as it was updated. But it was shunted to the bottom of the piece, with no mention in the introduction.

In summary, the Sunday Times article contained no evidence for its anonymous claims, no challenges to the assertions made, and no journalistic balance. It was almost inevitable, then, that it would quickly fall apart under scrutiny.

]]> (Editor) Alerts 2015 Wed, 17 Jun 2015 07:21:31 +0000
Testing The Limits - Paul Krugman Of The New York Times and Gary Younge of the Guardian


Paul Krugman and Gary Younge are two of the most honest commentators currently writing in two of the best American and British newspapers. The extent of their truth-telling tells us much about the current state of free speech.

Paul Krugman is Professor of Economics and International Affairs at Princeton University and a columnist for The New York Times. He is regularly cited as a courageous, honest commentator challenging power. In 2008, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences. Gary Younge is an award-winning progressive journalist, one of the Guardian's highly-respected counterparts to Krugman.


'A Frank Discussion'

If we take a step back from being awed by the prestige of a world-famous newspaper publishing a Nobel laureate, we can see that a recent comment piece by Krugman on Iraq is so filtered, so compromised, that he barely achieves the rational level of a schoolchild. If this sounds insulting and preposterous, readers can judge for themselves if it is a reasonable description from what follows.

In his May 18 piece, 'Errors And Lies', Krugman wrote that the prospect of George W. Bush's brother, Jeb Bush, running for president, meant 'we may finally have the frank discussion of the Iraq invasion we should have had a decade ago.'

This sounded wonderful – Krugman was apparently about to deliver just such a 'frank discussion'. He rightly recognised the reticence of a 'political and media elite' keen to 'move on', having agreed 'that invading Iraq was a terrible mistake'. But as Krugman noted, this is 'a false narrative, and everyone who was involved in the debate over the war knows that it's false. The Iraq war wasn't an innocent mistake, a venture undertaken on the basis of intelligence that turned out to be wrong. America invaded Iraq because the Bush administration wanted a war. The public justifications for the invasion were nothing but pretexts, and falsified pretexts at that. We were, in a fundamental sense, lied into war.'

Krugman described the war as a 'lie', then, rather than a 'mistake'. In his concluding sentence, he even courageously asserted that it had been a 'crime'. He also wrote:

'The fraudulence of the case for war was actually obvious even at the time: the ever-shifting arguments for an unchanging goal were a dead giveaway. So were the word games — the talk about W.M.D that conflated chemical weapons (which many people did think Saddam had) with nukes, the constant insinuations that Iraq was somehow behind 9/11.'

This is all very vague. In fact, the 'ever-shifting arguments' were not the problem; the problem was the evidence. People in a position to know – for example, former chief UN weapons inspector in Iraq, Scott Ritter - did not believe Saddam Hussein possessed chemical weapons that were anything more than 'useless sludge'. Krugman's sop to the propagandists was outrageous, suggesting informed sincerity where in fact there was just cynical fabrication. There was simply no case whatever for believing that Iraqi WMD, known to have been destroyed, were any kind of threat to the US.

Krugman posed a question that is obviously key for any 'frank discussion':

'Why did they want a war? That's a harder question to answer.'

It is certainly a harder question to answer honestly:

'Some of the warmongers believed that deploying shock and awe in Iraq would enhance American power and influence around the world. Some saw Iraq as a sort of pilot project, preparation for a series of regime changes. And it's hard to avoid the suspicion that there was a strong element of wagging the dog, of using military triumph to strengthen the Republican brand at home.'

Here Krugman was trying really hard to focus on any obscure corner of the living room to avoid noticing the elephant. In his book, 'Fuel on the Fire', based on declassified British Foreign Office files, Greg Muttitt explains:

'The most important strategic interest lay in expanding global energy supplies, through foreign investment, in some of the world's largest oil reserves – in particular Iraq. This meshed neatly with the secondary aim of securing contracts for their companies.'

Ironically, having himself failed to write frankly about this key issue, Krugman then speculated on the causes behind the political and media silence:

'Some of them, I suppose, may have been duped: may have fallen for the obvious lies, which doesn't say much about their judgment. More, I suspect, were complicit: they realized that the official case for war was a pretext, but had their own reasons for wanting a war, or, alternatively, allowed themselves to be intimidated into going along. For there was a definite climate of fear among politicians and pundits in 2002 and 2003, one in which criticizing the push for war looked very much like a career killer.'

Again, this was a deeply irrational analysis from Krugman. Politicians and journalists were foolish, duped, intimidated, fearful of losing their careers, of course. But this hardly explains a pattern of political and corporate media subservience to corporate power over decades, with the same mendacity on virtually every issue impacting power and profit.

A rational analysis would at least glance at the structure and corporate funding of political parties; at the profit-orientation, elite ownership and advertiser-dependence of the corporate media. Why focus on poor 'judgement' and a 'climate of fear' when political and economic structures endlessly producing the same pattern of media 'failure' are staring us in the face? Why was rational analysis of this kind suddenly impossible for someone as astute as Krugman? Had he suddenly become a fool? Of course not, he was exactly repeating the self-censoring behaviour he lamented in other journalists - honest analysis of the corporate media is taboo in the corporate press.

Krugman also seriously misled his readers when he wrote:

'On top of these personal motives, our news media in general have a hard time coping with policy dishonesty. Reporters are reluctant to call politicians on their lies, even when these involve mundane issues like budget numbers, for fear of seeming partisan. In fact, the bigger the lie, the clearer it is that major political figures are engaged in outright fraud, the more hesitant the reporting. And it doesn't get much bigger — indeed, more or less criminal — than lying America into war.'

In fact, corporate media are the corporate arm of the propaganda system they are supposed to be monitoring. Far from having 'a hard time coping with policy dishonesty', they have a hard time coping with the occasional journalists who attempt to expose the dishonesty. Immensely powerful economic and political forces select, shape, mould, reward and punish editors, journalists and whole organisations to ensure that they do not deliver the kind of 'frank discussion' Krugman promised but failed to supply.

Apart from the motives for war and the structural conditions behind media performance, there was one other crucial consideration missed by Krugman. What reasonable analysis would discuss a spectacular contemporary example of political mass deception without placing it in some kind of historical context? Was the great Iraq deception a one-off? Was it an outlier event? Was it a standard example, a carbon copy of similar events over years and decades? Have we seen similar events since 2003? Are they happening now? Again, one of US journalism's finest – at the extreme left of the 'mainstream' spectrum – had nothing at all to say about these key questions.

And in fact, as we and others have documented, the Iraq deception was not at all an outlier. It was a standard example of corporate political-media deception that just happened to go so catastrophically wrong that the reality could not be entirely ignored - although the propaganda system was far more effective in burying the truth than we might imagine. According to a 2013 ComRes poll, 44% of UK respondents estimated that fewer than 5,000 Iraqis had died since 2003. 59% thought fewer than 10,000 had died. Just 2% put the toll in excess of one million – the likely real toll.

Krugman did not even mention that Iraqis had died, let alone discuss the almost unimaginable scale of the bloodbath. He concluded:

'But truth matters, and not just because those who refuse to learn from history are doomed in some general sense to repeat it.'

Crucially, Krugman was unable to recognise that history had already repeated itself, not least in the repetition of his own self-censoring analysis. The West's overthrow of the Libyan government in 2011 was based on exactly the same kind of lies and media complicity, the same enthusiasm for war waged by Western powers who somehow, miraculously, were said to retain moral credibility as humanitarian agents.

In fact, this was an even more extreme example of propaganda deception than Iraq, precisely because it happened in the aftermath of that earlier deception. And, unlike Iraq, the media have not yet summoned the courage to expose even a portion of the US-UK governments' lies, or the media's complicity in them. All of this falls beyond Krugman's idea of a 'frank discussion'.

]]> (Editor) Alerts 2015 Tue, 02 Jun 2015 08:23:49 +0000