Media Lens - Current Alert News analysis and media criticism Tue, 09 Feb 2016 11:24:18 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Rebranding The Conquistadors As Social Justice Warriors – The Guardian, Corporate Sponsorship And ‘Branded Content’

Even a progressive journalist like Glenn Greenwald can't shake off a rose-tinted view of the paper he once wrote for:

'Like everything, it's very imperfect, but survival of the @Guardian as a large, vibrant media outlet is important'

But in what sense is the Guardian's survival actually 'important?' Our response:

'Important for the hawking of Perpetual War as "humanitarian intervention" and corporate tyranny as "democracy".'

From the moment Jeremy Corbyn stood as prospective Labour leader, the Guardian has waged a relentless campaign to destroy this rare shoot of progressive hope. The paper has backed away from the truth about state and corporate power fuelling yet more catastrophic climate change. It has failed to fully and consistently expose the corporate basis to the climate denial campaign and the corporate capture of the 'mainstream' media in facilitating this. These are salient horrors, but the list could go on...

Like most newspapers, the Guardian is struggling financially and is desperately worried about a dwindling stream of advertising revenue. The paper's declared intent of becoming 'the world's leading liberal voice', with rapid expansion in the US and Australia, has backfired, leading to the need for significant cuts including likely job losses.

As a result, the paper is heading ever deeper into the murky world of 'branded content' to raise much-needed funds from corporate advertisers. This is overseen by the pseudoscientific-sounding 'Guardian Labs', a division of Guardian News & Media which was launched in 2014. Guardian Labs currently brings in 16% of the newspaper group's revenue. But it is expected to 'make a far, far greater contribution' over the next three years.

Readers should be ever more sceptical about what this means for the supposed fiercely independent and balanced journalism that the paper forever claims to publish. The latest salvo in this Guardian PR blitz appeared last Monday when Chris Elliott, the readers' editor, wrote about changes in how commercially sponsored content in the paper is to be labelled.

Firstly, the phrase 'sponsored by' will no longer appear. It will be replaced with 'supported by' which will, claimed Elliott, 'describe editorially independent content' even when the funding has come from 'third parties'. Such funding includes:

'The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to help support the Guardian's Global Development site; and a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to support the Guardian's Cities project.'

These 'independent' pieces are written by Guardian and Observer journalists 'to the same standards expected in all of our journalism'. The mind boggles.

Secondly, straight 'advertisement features' will now be labelled 'paid content/paid for by'. Such content is 'paid for and controlled by the advertiser rather than' the Guardian.

In his defensive piece, Elliott dismissed a recent campaign by pressure group 38 Degrees aimed at the Guardian's partnership with Shell, the giant oil corporation. Last year, the paper had attempted to project a green image by supporting a move away from fossil fuels and to 'keep it in the ground' instead. Elliott now provided a corporate response issued by a 'Guardian spokesman' to justify its close assocation with Shell:

'Shell and the community jobs site Working Mums are co-sponsoring the Guardian's Work/Life balance hub on our Women in Leadership network. The hub is focused on how working parents can use flexible working culture to manage both their job and their home life.'

That PR statement may as well have come from Shell itself.

The 'Guardian spokesman' continued:

'The acceptance of advertising or partnership content in no way affects our editorial position.'

Of course, newspapers always make this claim, adamant that there is a 'firewall' between advertising and journalism. The reality is different, as we have noted on several occasions. Indeed, advertising is one of the five 'news filters' identified in Herman and Chomsky's propaganda model that provides the best explanation for the state- and corporate-biased output of Western news media.

Even the BBC's Andrew Marr, a journalist who is about as firmly embedded in the establishment as it is possible to be, admitted that advertising helps to shape the news:

'It does, of course. It's hard to make the sums add up when you are kicking the people who write the cheques.' (Andrew Marr, 'My Trade - A Short History Of British Journalism', Macmillan, 2004, p.112)

]]> (Editor) Alerts 2016 Wed, 03 Feb 2016 23:53:50 +0000
Obama - The Art Of Ruin

In a revealing tweet last October, BBC diplomatic correspondent, Bridget Kendall, commented acerbically on a press conference given by Russian president Vladimir Putin:

'... And he can't resist bragging about his own experience going up in fighter jet'

We thought aloud on Twitter that we couldn't recall any BBC journalist accusing Obama of 'bragging' about anything.

One of our Twitter followers tried to help us out:

'If you can find a series of photo-op images of Obama wrestling wild animals shirtless, you might have a point'

It's true that Putin likes to portray himself as a bare-chested, judo wrestling, fighter pilot. But then Thatcher was famously filmed clinging to the commander's cupola of a charging tank with a Union Jack fluttering at her side. Declaring 'Mission Accomplished' in Iraq from an aircraft carrier, George Bush made a grandiose landing in a military jet with 'George W. Bush – Commander-In-Chief' emblazoned on the plane's nose.

Is the current US president different? Is it just that he keeps his shirt on and is above bragging?

In November 2013, the Washington Times reported that Obama had been overheard 'bragging to administration aides about his ability to kill people with drones'. The president's exact words:

'[I'm] really good at killing people.'

While the US was bringing disaster to Libya in 2011, Obama bragged:

'Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different. And as president, I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action.'

Citing journalist Seymour Hersh and others, Gareth Porter has supplied a different version of events:

'When the Obama administration began its effort to overthrow Gaddafi, it did not call publicly for regime change and instead asserted that it was merely seeking to avert mass killings that administration officials had suggested might approach genocidal levels. But the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) , which had been given the lead role in assessing the situation in Libya, found no evidence to support such fears and concluded that it was based on nothing more than "speculative arguments".'

Indeed, not only was Obama not motivated to avert mass killing, as so many corporate journalists have claimed, he pursued illegal regime change against the advice of his most senior military advisers:

'The JCS [Joint Chiefs of Staff] warned that overthrowing the Gaddafi regime would serve no US security interest, but would instead open the way for forces aligned with al-Qaeda to take over the country. After the Obama administration went ahead with a NATO air assault against the Gaddafi regime the US military sought to head off the destruction of the entire Libyan government...

'But the State Department refused any negotiation with Gaddafi on the [JCS] proposal. Immediately after hearing that Gaddafi had been captured by rebel forces and killed, Clinton famously joked in a television interview, "We came, we saw, he died" and laughed.

'By then the administration was already embarked on yet another regime change policy in Syria.'

The results of this regime change policy, in both Libya and Syria, have been simply catastrophic.

This month, in his final State of the Union address, Obama took his braggadocio to another level:

'Let me tell you something. The United States of America is the most powerful nation on Earth, period. Period. It's not even close. It's not even close. It's not even close. We spend more on our military than the next eight nations combined. Our troops are the finest fighting force in the history of the world. No nation attacks us directly or our allies because they know that's the path to ruin.'

Sounding like a left parody of imperial power, Obama said:

'If you doubt America's commitment - or mine - to see that justice is done, just ask Osama bin Laden.'

Justice is a warm gun and a double head tap.

If Putin bragged about being 'good at killing people', of ruining whole countries, and paraded extrajudicial killing as 'justice', the likes of Bridget Kendall would denounce him as a sociopath. This never happens because Obama and the Official Enemy are perceived through two separate media lenses – one, dark and damning, for 'them'; the other, rose-tinted and admiring, for 'us'.

Thus, in a response to his latest speech in the Guardian, Lucia Graves somehow found the president's rhetoric 'lofty and seemingly above the fray'. Obama 'defined himself more abstractly as against fear'. American fear, that is - not the fear of nations facing American 'justice' and the associated 'path to ruin'.

At the extreme end of the media 'spectrum', while offering mild criticism, Guardian leftist Owen Jones linked to Obama's State of the Union speech, commenting:

'Funny, charming, with a coolness that eludes practically every other politician, he is the ultimate ambassador for US power.'

Jones claims he intended to represent the views of others with these opening comments. But later in the same piece he wrote:

'None of this is to scapegoat Obama. Even the most well-intentioned president will struggle against a system described last year by Princeton researchers as an "oligarchy"...'

Obama, as ever, is to be viewed as 'well-intentioned'.

By contrast, Jones wrote a piece this week under the title: 'Putin is a human rights abusing oligarch. The British left must speak out.' This piece began rather differently:

'A rightwing authoritarian leader who attacks civil liberties, stigmatises lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, indulges in chauvinistic nationalism, is in bed with rapacious oligarchs, and who is admired by the European and American hard right. Leftwing opposition to Vladimir Putin should be, well, kind of an obvious starting point.'

Russia 'is ruled by a human rights abusing, expansionist, oligarchic regime.' Jones has surely never referred to the corporate oligarchy that runs the US as a 'regime'. Three-time US presidential candidate, Ralph Nader, on the other hand, has said:

'We have a two-party dictatorship in this country. Let's face it. And it is a dictatorship in thralldom to giant corporations.' (Nader, interview with The Real News Network, November 4, 2008)


]]> (Editor) Alerts 2016 Wed, 27 Jan 2016 11:02:05 +0000
‘Our Only Fear Was That He Might Pull His Punches’ – BBC Caught Manipulating The News

Nobody with a questioning mind seriously expects impartiality from BBC News. Certainly not anyone who has followed its reporting on the National Health Service, Scottish independence, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn or a myriad of other important issues.

While some may believe that the corporation's failure to provide fair and balanced journalism is a relatively recent phenomenon, many others will recognise that it stretches back many decades: coverage of the West's destruction of Libya in 2011; the invasions of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003; Nato's war on the former Yugoslavia in 1999; genocidal UN sanctions against Iraq in the 1990s; the Persian Gulf War in 1990-91; the miners' strike in 1984-85; the Falklands War in 1982; and on and on.

Indeed, you can go all the way back to the early years of the BBC. During the May 1926 General Strike, just four years after the broadcaster was founded, the BBC bent over backwards to protect the government and oppose the striking workers. John Reith, the BBC's first general manager and later BBC Director-General, was under no illusions; this was not a time for 'objectivity' and 'neutrality'. With the strike underway, he wrote in his diary:

'They [i.e. the Cabinet] know they can trust us not to be really impartial.'

Despite grand documents, notably its much-trumpeted Royal Charter, and robotic PR statements about maintaining impartiality and independence, and being 'vigilant about our values', the reality is that BBC News reflects and upholds establishment values and priorities.

The position of BBC political editor plays an important role in this propaganda system. His or her function is essentially to tell the public what leading politicians say or even 'think'. It is certainly not to question power or challenge government authority in any meaningful way.

]]> (Editor) Alerts 2016 Wed, 13 Jan 2016 00:04:07 +0000