Media Lens - Current Alert News analysis and media criticism http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2019.html Sun, 19 May 2019 20:23:11 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb The London Climate Protests – Raising The Alarm http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2019/903-the-london-climate-protests-raising-the-alarm.html http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2019/903-the-london-climate-protests-raising-the-alarm.html

The feeling is often there at night, of course, in the wee small hours. But it can arise at almost any time – looking at someone we care about, listening to birdsong on an unusually warm spring morning, shopping.

It is like being trapped on a sinking ship, with the captain and crew refusing to admit that anything is wrong. The passengers are mostly oblivious, planning their journeys and lives ahead. Everything seems 'normal', but we know that everything will soon be at the bottom of the sea. Everything seems ordinary, familiar, permanent, but will soon be gone. It feels as if our happiness, our every moment spent with the people and places we love, is irradiated by the fear of impending climate collapse.

Last month, the Extinction Rebellion protests in London (and globally) finally challenged some aspects of this waking nightmare – at last, a sense that human beings are not completely insane, that we are capable of responding with some rationality and dignity. In the end, 1,100 people allowed themselves to be arrested, with 70 charged, for all our sakes.

While many people thrill to the prospect of pouring milkshake over political opponents, Extinction Rebellion proved, conclusively, once and for all, that non-violent protest is the superpower of democratic change. And this was not just non-violent protest; it was non-hating, rooted in love of the planet, love of people, love of life. The mystic Lao-Tzu wrote:

'Nothing in the world
is as soft and yielding as water.
Yet for dissolving the hard and inflexible,
nothing can surpass it.

'The soft overcomes the hard;
the gentle overcomes the rigid.'

The special forces in this compassionate revolution are the 83-year-old grandfather who spoke so eloquently atop a blocked train in Canary Wharf. They are the little children sitting quietly in the middle of Oxford Street, the mums with toddlers, and of course the extraordinary Greta Thunberg whose insight and intelligence have stunned many veteran climate activists. Where the adults have been cautioning for years that we should not be too 'alarmist', too 'pessimistic' for fear of upsetting a lily-livered public, Thunberg has said simply:

'I want you to panic. I want you to act as if the house was on fire... To panic, unless you have to, is a terrible idea. But when your house is on fire and you want to keep your house from burning to the ground then that does require some level of panic.'

She is exactly right. In his recent BBC documentary, 'Climate Change: The Facts', 93-year-old David Attenborough missed 16-year-old Thunberg's point. The first half of Attenborough's film did an excellent job of drawing attention to the threats, but the second half was much too positive on the prospects for individual and collective action. It ended on a hopeful, reassuring note. It should have ended on a note of deep alarm and, yes, panic.

When governments seek to mobilise the public for action, they terrify us with tales of Huns bayonetting babies, of weapons of mass destruction ready to destroy us within 45 minutes. They do this because it works – people are willing to kill and be killed, if they think their own lives and those of the people they love are at stake.

We have always argued that climate scientists and activists should also emphasise the terrifying prospects – not in the dishonest, hyped way of state cynics, but honestly, sticking to the facts. When the science is punching great holes in the blind conceit of industrial 'progress' we should not pull our punches. Again, the Extinction Rebellion protests – the name makes the point - have powerfully vindicated this strategy. An opinion poll after the protests found:

'Two-thirds of people in the UK recognise there is a climate emergency and 76% say that they would cast their vote differently to protect the planet.'

John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, said the debate around environmentalism had been fundamentally altered:

'Climate activists, young and old, have put the UK government under enormous pressure to officially recognise the climate emergency we are facing. There is a real feeling of hope in the air that after several decades of climate campaigning the message is beginning to sink in. What we need now is to translate that feeling into action.'

As a result of this pressure, the UK last week became the first parliament to declare a climate emergency – previously unthinkable. Leading climate scientist, Professor Michael Mann, tweeted of the declaration:

'Yeah, there's a lot going on in the current news cycle. But this is undoubtedly the most important development of all'

Light-years beyond his Conservative opponents on this issue, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn commented:

'We have no time to waste. We are living in a climate crisis that will spiral dangerously out of control unless we take rapid and dramatic action now.

'This is no longer about a distant future we're talking about nothing less than the irreversible destruction of the environment within our lifetimes of members of this house. Young people know this. They have the most to lose.'

By contrast, the voting record of Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, indicates that he 'Generally voted against measures to prevent climate change.' Prime Minister Theresa May has maintained a studied, shameful silence, clearly hoping the issue and the protests will go away. Action is clearly not on her agenda.

As if the climate crisis was not bad enough, a new UN report reveals that one million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction. The world is experiencing a rate of destruction tens to hundreds of times higher than the average over the past 10 million years. Dr Kate Brauman, from the University of Minnesota, a lead author of the assessment, commented:

'We have documented a really unprecedented decline in biodiversity and nature, this is completely different than anything we've seen in human history in terms of the rate of decline and the scale of the threat.'

The following day, only two UK newspapers, (Guardian and i) led with the UN report on species extinction, most preferring to focus on a royal birth. The BBC News website featured no less than six stories about the royal baby before the headline, 'Humans "threaten 1m species with extinction".' This was a classic example of why Erich Fromm warned in his book 'The Sane Society', that it truly is possible for an entire society to be, in effect, insane.

 

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editor@medialens.org (Editor) Alerts 2019 Thu, 09 May 2019 07:51:54 +0000
40,000 Dead Venezuelans Under US Sanctions: Corporate Media Turn A Blind Eye http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2019/902-40-000-dead-venezuelans-under-us-sanctions-corporate-media-turn-a-blind-eye.html http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2019/902-40-000-dead-venezuelans-under-us-sanctions-corporate-media-turn-a-blind-eye.html

A new report on April 25 by a respected think tank has estimated that US sanctions imposed on Venezuela in August 2017 have caused around 40,000 deaths. This atrocity has been almost entirely blanked by the British 'mainstream' media, including BBC News. Additional sanctions imposed in January 2019 are likely to lead to tens of thousands of further deaths.

The report was co-authored by Mark Weisbrot and Jeffrey Sachs for the US-based Center for Economic and Policy Research. CEPR was founded in 1999 'to promote democratic debate on the most important economic and social issues that affect people's lives.' Its advisory board includes Nobel Laureate economists Robert Solow and Joseph Stiglitz.

Weisbrot is Co-Director of CEPR and his expertise encompasses economic growth, trade, international financial institutions, development and Latin America. Sachs is a world-renowned economist and senior UN advisor with considerable knowledge of policies related to sustainable development and combatting poverty. Their credentials are impressive and the title of their report is damning: 'U.S. Sanctions on Venezuela Are Responsible for Tens of Thousands of Deaths'.

The Trump administration imposed sanctions on Venezuela in August 2017. These prohibited the Venezuelan government from borrowing in US markets, thus preventing the country from restructuring its foreign debt. As the report made clear:

'It is important to emphasize that nearly all of the foreign exchange that is needed to import medicine, food, medical equipment, spare parts and equipment needed for electricity generation, water systems, or transportation, is received by the Venezuelan economy through the government's revenue from the export of oil. Thus, any sanctions that reduce export earnings, and therefore government revenue, thereby reduce the imports of these essential and, in many cases, life-saving goods.'

The authors added:

'The sanctions reduced the public's caloric intake, increased disease and mortality (for both adults and infants), and displaced millions of Venezuelans who fled the country as a result of the worsening economic depression and hyperinflation. They exacerbated Venezuela's economic crisis and made it nearly impossible to stabilize the economy, contributing further to excess deaths. All of these impacts disproportionately harmed the poorest and most vulnerable Venezuelans.'

In January 2019, additional US sanctions cut Venezuela off from its largest oil market – the United States. Washington also intervened to pressure other countries, including India, not to buy Venezuelan oil that had been previously imported by the US. The consequences have been catastrophic. Amongst the report's findings were:

• More than 40,000 deaths from 2017–18;
• Sanctions have reduced the availability of food and medicine, and increased disease and mortality;
• The August 2017 sanctions contributed to a sharp decline in oil production, causing great harm to the civilian population;
• If US sanctions implemented in January 2019 continue, they will almost certainly result in tens of thousands more avoidable deaths;
• This finding is based on an estimated 80,000 people with HIV who have not had antiretroviral treatment since 2017, 16,000 people who need dialysis, 16,000 people with cancer, and 4 million with diabetes and hypertension (many of whom cannot obtain insulin or cardiovascular medicine);
• Since the January 2019 sanctions, oil production has fallen by 431,000 barrels per day or 36.4 per cent. This will greatly accelerate the humanitarian crisis. But the projected 67 per cent decline in oil production for the year, if the sanctions continue, would cause vastly more loss of human life.

Weisbrot spelled out the enormity of punitive US policy towards Venezuela:

'The sanctions are depriving Venezuelans of lifesaving medicines, medical equipment, food, and other essential imports. This is illegal under U.S. and international law, and treaties that the U.S. has signed. Congress should move to stop it.'

Just as the corporate media blamed Saddam Hussein for the devastating impact of US-UK sanctions on Iraq which led to the deaths of over one million Iraqis between 1990 and 2003, 'our free press' are united in blaming Nicolás Maduro, the Venezuelan president, for the country's economic and humanitarian crisis. The new CEPR report refutes that propaganda framework. Sachs emphasised:

'Venezuela's economic crisis is routinely blamed all on Venezuela. But it is much more than that. American sanctions are deliberately aiming to wreck Venezuela's economy and thereby lead to regime change [our emphasis]. It's a fruitless, heartless, illegal, and failed policy, causing grave harm to the Venezuelan people.'

The report highlights that:

'the pain and suffering being inflicted upon the civilian population may not be collateral damage but actually part of the strategy to topple the government.'

Indeed, Weisbrot and Sachs make the devastating point that sanctions:

'would fit the definition of collective punishment of the civilian population as described in both the Geneva and Hague international conventions, to which the US is a signatory.'

In a sane political and media world, this would be headline news.

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editor@medialens.org (Editor) Alerts 2019 Tue, 30 Apr 2019 11:05:20 +0000
Assange Arrest – Part 2: ‘A Definite Creep, A Probable Rapist’ http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2019/901-assange-arrest-part-2-definite-creep-probable-rapist.html http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2019/901-assange-arrest-part-2-definite-creep-probable-rapist.html

 

In December 2010, Guardian columnist Suzanne Moore commented on Julian Assange in the Mail on Sunday:

'Indeed it's difficult to get a clear picture of the complaints by two women he had sex with in Sweden in August... The sex appears to have been consensual, though his refusal to use condoms was not. His behaviour looks bad rather than illegal but who really knows? The Swedish prosecutors themselves say they believe these women's stories but don't believe these are crimes.'

'Who really knows?' The answer, of course, was and is that, in the absence of a trial, nobody except the people directly involved knows what really happened.

If Moore was somewhat reasonable in 2010, her stance had changed by June 2012, when Assange sought political asylum in Ecuador's London embassy – a time when, still, nobody really knew what had happened. She tweeted:

'Seems like Assange's supporters did not expect him to skip bail? Really? Who has this guy not let down?'

She added:

'I bet Assange is stuffing himself full of flattened guinea pigs. He really is the most massive turd.'

As discussed in Part 1, the nub of this 'mainstream' scorn was the belief that Assange's concerns about extradition were a cowardly excuse for fleeing possible sex crimes - fears of extradition were a nerdish, paranoid fantasy. Moore wrote in 2011:

'The extradition hearing last week involved massive showboating on both sides. Assange supporters were gathered outside the courts dressed in orange Guantanamo Bay jumpsuits. Does anyone seriously believe this is what will happen to Assange?'

It is a bitter irony, then, that Assange is currently trapped in the high-security Belmarsh Prison, which has been described as 'Britain's Guantanamo Bay'.

The fact that Assange has now been arrested at the request of the US seeking his extradition over allegations that he conspired with Chelsea Manning, means that Assange's claimed motive for seeking political asylum now appears very credible indeed - he was right about US intentions.

Assange can now be depicted as a cowardly fugitive from Swedish justice only by someone finding it outrageous that he should resist extradition by the Trump regime to spend the rest of his life in jail, or worse.

In other words, if corporate journalists are responding to the facts, rather than power-serving prejudice, recent events should have moderated their stance towards Assange. It is easy to check.

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editor@medialens.org (Editor) Alerts 2019 Thu, 18 Apr 2019 08:56:13 +0000
Assange Arrest - Part 1: 'So Now He's Our Property' http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2019/900-assange-arrest-part-1-so-now-he-s-our-property.html http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2019/900-assange-arrest-part-1-so-now-he-s-our-property.html

If 'journalism' meant what it is supposed to mean– acting as the proverbial 'fourth estate' to challenge power and to keep the public informed – then Julian Assange and WikiLeaks would be universally lauded as paragons. So would Chelsea Manning, the brave former US Army whistleblower who passed on to WikiLeaks more than 700,000 confidential US State Department and Pentagon documents, videos and diplomatic cables about the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The most infamous example was 'Collateral Murder', a video clip filmed from a US helicopter gunship, showing the indiscriminate killing of a dozen or more Iraqi civilians, including two Reuters journalists, in 2007. Shockwaves reverberated around the world, to the deep embarrassment of the US government and military. Today, Manning is incarcerated in a Virginia jail, and Assange is locked up in the high-security HM Prison Belmarsh.

In 2013, Manning was given a 35-year prison sentence for daring to reveal brutal US abuses of power. This was commuted by President Barack Obama in 2017, two days before he left office, and Manning was able to go free. However, last month she was called to testify against WikiLeaks before a secret grand jury in Virginia. Recognising that this had clearly been set as a trap to incriminate both her and Assange, she refused to answer questions:

'I will not participate in a secret process that I morally object to, particularly one that has been used to entrap and persecute activists for protected political speech.'

And now Assange, after almost seven years of political asylum in cramped quarters in Ecuador's embassy in London, and in fading health, has been literally dragged out of what should have been a safe refuge, contrary to international law, and placed at the mercy of UK and US power.

Sean Love, a medical doctor who examined Assange while he was in the embassy, was clear that the WikiLeaks co-founder had suffered badly while in asylum, and would carry that suffering with him for the rest of his life:

'Assange does not leave behind the physical and psychological sequelae of his confinement at the embassy. The harms follow him; they are irreparable. The inhumanity of his treatment and the flagrant denials of his universal rights by Ecuador and the UK are unconscionable.'

He also countered the scurrilous propaganda that Assange had behaved badly while in the embassy:

'Never did I witness Assange having poor hygiene or discourteous behavior toward embassy staff. His suffering was readily apparent, yet he was always pleasant, professional; admirable characteristics under extreme and punitive circumstances.'

Fidel Narvaez, former consul at the Ecuador embassy from the first day Assange arrived, on 19 June 2012, until 15 July 2018, said that the claims smearing Assange's behaviour in the embassy were 'absolutely false, or distorted, or exaggerated'. Narvaez added that:

'whenever I was in the room with Julian, there was always an attitude of respect, of mutal respect, always, from all the diplomatic and administrative staff towards Julian and from Julian towards them... I challenge any member of the embassy staff to cite an occasion when Julian ever - ever! - treated them with a lack of respect.'

Narvaez says the atmosphere may well have changed after he left when, he believes, Moreno's regime tried to make life 'unbearable' for Assange in the embassy.

Prime Minister Theresa May boasted of Assange's arrest to Parliament:

'This goes to show that in the United Kingdom, no one is above the law.'

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt opined:

'Julian Assange is no hero'.

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin on Thursday celebrated Assange's arrest, arguing that it's 'great for the American people':

'We're going to extradite him. It will be really good to get him back on United States soil. So now he's our property and we can get the facts and truth from him.'

But Rafael Correa, the former president of Ecuador who had granted Assange asylum in 2012, was scathing about the man who had succeeded him in 2017:

'The greatest traitor in Ecuadorian and Latin American history, Lenin Moreno, allowed the British police to enter our embassy in London to arrest Assange. Moreno is a corrupt man, but what he has done is a crime that humanity will never forget.'

Journalist John Pilger had strong words:

'The action of the British police in literally dragging Julian Assange from the Ecuadorean embassy and the smashing of international law by the Ecuadorean regime in permitting this barbarity are crimes against the most basic natural justice. This is a warning to all journalists.'

Former CIA whistleblower Edward Snowden warned:

'Assange's critics may cheer, but this is a dark moment for press freedom.'

In an interview on Democracy Now!, Noam Chomsky called Assange's arrest 'scandalous in several respects' and expanded:

'One of them is just the effort of governments—and it's not just the U.S. government. The British are cooperating. Ecuador, of course, is now cooperating. Sweden, before, had cooperated. The efforts to silence a journalist who was producing materials that people in power didn't want the rascal multitude to know about [...] that's basically what happened. WikiLeaks was producing things that people ought to know about those in power. People in power don't like that, so therefore we have to silence it. OK? This is the kind of thing, the kind of scandal, that takes place, unfortunately, over and over.'

He added:

'The other scandal is just the extraterritorial reach of the United States, which is shocking. I mean, why should the United States—why should any—no other state could possibly do it. But why should the United States have the power to control what others are doing elsewhere in the world? I mean, it's an outlandish situation. It goes on all the time. We never even notice it. At least there's no comment on it.'

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editor@medialens.org (Editor) Alerts 2019 Tue, 16 Apr 2019 07:25:42 +0000
Fake News Tsunami - Trump's 'Collusion' And Corbyn As 'Dangerous Hero' http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2019/899-fake-news-tsunami-the-mueller-report-and-peter-oborne-on-tom-bower.html http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2019/899-fake-news-tsunami-the-mueller-report-and-peter-oborne-on-tom-bower.html

According to corporate journalism, a tidal wave of 'fake news' has long been threatening to swamp their wonderful work reporting real news. The ProQuest media database finds fully 805,669 hits for newspaper articles mentioning the term 'fake news'. The key sources of such fakery are said to be social media, and above all, of course, Russia.

It is a perfect irony, then, that 'the Mueller report', conducted by the US Department of Justice Special Counsel's Office, headed by former FBI Director Robert Mueller, 'did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities'.

Jeremy Scahill of The Intercept explains the significance:

'This has been an utterly colossal media failure and it reveals how little things have actually changed with the broader press since the Iraq War lies. The overall tone of much of the reporting on this Trump-Russia story has started from the position that the intelligence community was being truthful about Trump and Russia. The reporting then sought to further confirm those assertions. It was confirmation bias to the nth degree...

'Also, the fact that Trump is a cartoonish buffoonish villain contributed to an atmosphere where the attitude was that anything Trump was accused of—no matter how insane it sounded—was totally plausible, if not likely, if not certain to have happened. Trump was not supposed to win. It was Hillary Clinton's turn.'

As we will discuss below, this should ring loud bells with British readers subjected to a very similar smear campaign targeting Jeremy Corbyn, who was also 'not supposed to win' the Labour Party election leadership.

In 2017, a Guardian leading article commented on Trump and Russia:

'The Guardian view of Trump's Russia links: a lot to go at.'

Another leader in 2017 went much further:

'Meanwhile the grenades he [Trump] lobs via Twitter or interview cloud the issue that still lies at the heart of his presidency: Russian meddling in the US election, and the possible collusion of his own campaign. All other iniquities pale beside this.'

Also in the Guardian in 2017, columnist Paul Mason highlighted 'Kremlin involvement in the Trump campaign' as the key reason 'Trump could be out of office within a year'.

The Telegraph agreed that the 'russiagate' claim 'is the cloud hanging over the entire presidency'.

The press has been filled with numerous similar examples.

Strongly echoing UK experience, Scahill adds:

'We have been subjected to more than two years of nonstop, fact-free assertions and wild theories masquerading as fact, masquerading as insightful analysis.'

A tsunami of 'fake news', in other words, supplied by the very same media who have supplied that other tsunami of warnings on the threat of 'fake news'.

The key word, and the title of Guardian journalist Luke Harding's best-selling book: 'Collusion'. The rest of the book title, unfortunately for Harding: 'How Russia Helped Trump Win the White House' (Guardian Faber Publishing; Main, 2017).

Harding was also lead author of a fake, front-page Guardian claim in November 2018 that Paul Manafort, Donald Trump's former campaign manager, had met Julian Assange three times in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Both Harding and Guardian editor Kath Viner have refused to respond to challenges posed, for example, by former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald. Needless to say, our questions were also ignored.

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editor@medialens.org (Editor) Alerts 2019 Fri, 05 Apr 2019 07:26:43 +0000
The Destruction of Freedom: Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange And The Corporate Media http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2019/898-the-destruction-of-freedom-chelsea-manning-julian-assange-and-the-corporate-media.html http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2019/898-the-destruction-of-freedom-chelsea-manning-julian-assange-and-the-corporate-media.html

In 2013, US Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning was given a 35-year prison sentence after she had leaked more than 700,000 confidential US State Department and Pentagon documents, videos and diplomatic cables about the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to WikiLeaks. Perhaps the most notorious of the releases was a US military video that WikiLeaks titled 'Collateral Murder'. It showed the indiscriminate killing of up to eighteen people in Baghdad on 12 July, 2007. The footage, taken from an Apache helicopter gun-sight, showed the slaying of a wounded Reuters journalist and his rescuers. A second Reuters staff member, employed as a driver and camera assistant, was also killed. Two young children, whose father was among those killed, were seriously wounded.

The video, together with the transcript of army exchanges during the indiscriminate US killings, shocked many around the world:

Let's shoot.
Light 'em all up.
Come on, fire!
Keep shoot, keep shoot. [keep shooting]
keep shoot.
keep shoot.
[...]
Oh, yeah, look at those dead bastards.
Nice.

While in prison, Manning twice attempted to commit suicide and also spent time in solitary confinement. She was released in 2017, after her sentence was commuted by President Barack Obama, two days before he left office.

On 8 March – International Women's Day – Manning was once again jailed after she refused to testify against WikiLeaks, and its founder Julian Assange, before a grand jury in Virginia. A grand jury means that the public is not allowed entry: the hearings are held in secret. She said in a statement:

'I will not comply with this, or any other grand jury.

'Imprisoning me for my refusal to answer questions only subjects me to additional punishment for my repeatedly-stated ethical objections to the grand jury system.

'I will not participate in a secret process that I morally object to, particularly one that has been used to entrap and persecute activists for protected political speech.'

Binoy Kampmark, who lectures at RMIT University in Melbourne, remarked:

'The sense of dredging and re-dredging in efforts to ensnare Manning is palpable... There is a distinct note of the sinister in this resumption of hounding a whistleblower'.

Kampmark added:

'Manning's original conviction was a shot across the bow, the prelude to something fundamental. Journalists long protected for using leaked material under the First Amendment were going to become future targets of prosecution.'

Sending Manning back to jail shows:

'the unequivocal determination of US authorities to fetter, if not totally neutralise, the reach of WikiLeaks in the modern information wars.'

The famous whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, who released the Pentagon Papers in 1971 detailing US war crimes in Vietnam and US government lies to the public, told Amy Goodman in a Democracy Now! interview:

'This is a continuation of seven-and-a-half years of torture of Chelsea Manning, in an effort to get her to contribute to incriminating WikiLeaks, so that they can bring Julian Assange or WikiLeaks to trial on charges that would not apply to The New York Times. It's been speculated for years now that the secret charges, if they did exist—and apparently they do exist—against Julian Assange were under the same charges that I was first—the first person to be prosecuted for, back in 1971: violations of the Espionage Act, conspiracy and theft. It would be the same cases brought against me.'

Ellsberg continued:

'Unfortunately, bringing that against a journalist is even more blatantly a violation of the First Amendment, freedom of the press. And although Donald Trump has made it very plain he would love to prosecute and convict The New York Times, he doesn't have the guts to do that, to do what he wants, fortunately, because it would be so obviously unconstitutional, that although his base would be happy with it and he would be happy with it, he would get into too much trouble constitutionally. So he wants to find charges against Julian that would be different from mine, because if he brought the same charges that he brought against me—in this case, against a journalist—it would clearly be found unconstitutional.'

He then pointed to the significance of this latest development:

'And so, Chelsea, having failed to give them what they wanted over seven-and-a-half years here she was incarcerated, or since, or in the grand jury—namely, false incriminating charges against WikiLeaks—they're resorting again to torture, which does work at getting false confessions. That's what it's for. That's what it mainly does. They want her to contradict her earlier sworn testimony many times, that she behaved in relation to WikiLeaks exactly as she would have to The New York Times or The Washington Post, to whom she went first, before going to WikiLeaks. And they didn't pick up on what she was offering, so she went to WikiLeaks. But she took sole responsibility, not to spare them, but because that was the truth. And she tells the truth.'

Journalist Glenn Greenwald, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his contribution to a series of Guardian and Washington Post articles based on documents released by whistleblower Edward Snowden, concurred that the real target is WikiLeaks:

'the Trump administration is trying to do what the Obama administration tried to do but ultimately concluded it couldn't do without jeopardizing press freedoms, which is to prosecute WikiLeaks and Julian Assange for what it regards as the crime of publishing top-secret or classified documents.'

Greenwald rightly called this attempt to go after WikiLeaks 'a grave threat to press freedom'. However:

'most reporters are mute on this scandal, on this controversy, and while a lot of Democrats are supportive of it, because they still hate WikiLeaks so much from the 2016 election that they're happy to see Julian Assange go to jail, even if it means standing behind the Trump administration'.

The reference to the 2016 election is the allegation that WikiLeaks' publication of emails from the Democratic Party and John Podesta, Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign chairman, brought about Trump's victory. Assange had even supposedly conspired with Trump, and with Trump's alleged Russian allies, to fatally damage Clinton's 2016 campaign: charges that are without any solid basis.

The Courage Foundation, a trust set up to fundraise the legal defence of individuals such as whistleblowers and journalists, warns of the 'Assange Precedent'; namely, the threat to all media posed by the Trump administration's attempt to prosecute Julian Assange:

'All media organizations and journalists must recognize the threat to their freedom and ability to work posed by the Trump Administration's prosecution of Assange. They should join human rights organizations, the United Nations and many others in opposing Assange's extradition. They should do so out of their own self-interest given that their ability to safely publish is under serious threat.'

In December 2015, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention deemed that the WikiLeaks founder, whose health is deteriorating, has been arbitrarily detained since 2010, and that he should be freed and compensated. George Galloway rightly points out that:

'It's a kind of modern day torture that Julian Assange has been subjected to.'

In November 2018, Assange's mother made an urgent and impassioned plea to raise awareness of his plight:

'This is not a drill. This is an emergency. The life of my son...is in immediate and critical danger.'

On 18 March, Christine Assange renewed her appeal to journalists, in particular, to stand up for her son. Their record to date has been, in the main, shameful. We have previously detailed numerous examples of journalistic abuse, scorn and ridicule thrown at Assange, and WikiLeaks, notably by Guardian journalists. For instance, Hannah Parkinson, who writes for the Guardian and its sister Sunday paper, the Observer, tweeted this about Assange last year:

'this little shit has lived rent free in Knightsbridge for 5 years, probably saved about £200k'

The tweet was 'liked' by John Simpson, the 'impartial' grandly-titled BBC World Affairs Editor who exudes gravitas, if little insight, on world affairs.

And in response to the news last October that Assange was to launch legal action against the government of Ecuador, accusing it of violating his fundamental rights and freedoms, Parkinson had tweeted:

'a teenager whose parents turn the wifi off'

This is par for the course at the Guardian whose journalists are regularly shamed by WikiLeaks and Julian Assange doing the real job of exposing power to public scrutiny. In 2015, Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs had even mocked Chelsea Manning when she was put in solitary confinement:

'And the world's tiniest violin plays a sad song'

That, however, did earn a mild rebuke in a tweet from Guardian editor Matt Wells. The tweets were subsequently deleted, but not before screenshots had been saved.

The disdain, sometimes outright hostility, towards WikiLeaks and Assange is also reflected in the minimal coverage, and distinct lack of support, for Chelsea Manning's renewed incarceration. The Guardian merely published a brief article titled, 'Chelsea Manning jailed for refusing to testify to grand jury in WikiLeaks case'. As WikiLeaks journalist Kristinn Hrafnsson pointed out:

'Of the MSM ['mainstream' media] the @guardian benefitted most from material Chelsea Manning was sentenced for in 2013. You might expect a huge story on the yda [yesterday] jailing of @xychelsea [Chelsea Manning] to extort her to testify against Assange/@wikileaks. But nothing except a small AP [Associated Press] based story that quickly lost front.'

Hrafnsson added:

'Every day Chelsea Manning @xychelsea spends in jail for refusing to testify against Assange/@wikileaks adds shame to those journalists who remain silent about this disgrace. This applies especially to those who benefited most from her brave acts in the past. @guardian @nytimes'

The Guardian had, of course, benefitted in publishing Greenwald's work based on Manning's releases via WikiLeaks; as well as book sales that were generated on the back of WikiLeaks' work. In 2012, journalist and filmmaker John Pilger wrote that the British government's pursuit of Julian Assange was 'an assault on freedom and a mockery of journalism'. He described the corporate media's treatment of Assange as 'a vituperative personal campaign':

'Much of it has emanated from the Guardian, which, like a spurned lover, has turned on its besieged former source, having hugely profited from WikiLeaks disclosures. With not a penny going to Assange or WikiLeaks, a Guardian book has led to a lucrative Hollywood movie deal. The authors, David Leigh and Luke Harding, gratuitously abuse Assange as a "damaged personality" and "callous". They also reveal the secret password he had given the paper in confidence, which was designed to protect a digital file containing the US embassy cables.'

A ProQuest newspaper database search on 19 March revealed that there were but four newspaper articles about the imprisonment of Chelsea Manning in the whole of the national print press: The Times, the Daily Mail, The Herald and the Daily Record (the latter two newspapers are based in Scotland). The Guardian article mentioned above, based on an Associated Press release, was published online; but not in the print version. There was also an online Telegraph piece which was also just a press release (by Agence France-Presse). As far as we could tell, there was not a single editorial or column in a major national newspaper defending Chelsea Manning, nor pointing to the grave danger to press freedom that her new incarceration posed. That is a disgraceful indictment of our so-called 'free press'.

In an interview last week with Dennis Bernstein on Radio KPFA, John Pilger described the significance, and injustice, of the recent jailing of Chelsea Manning. The irony of her being imprisoned on International Women's Day was first noted, then Pilger pointed to the shameful silence from the women's movement, and other human rights activists:

'Where are they [human rights activists] on Chelsea Manning? Why were there only ten people outside the Court House? Where is Amnesty International? Where are the women's groups? Where are the LGBT groups? Where are the Pride people? Why aren't they massing in support of Chelsea Manning? Instead I see Chelsea Manning's story relegated in a sort of, "Oh well, that's almost inevitable this is going to happen." But this [...] is the most significant act of principle; an inspiration to all decent people; to democrats, to people who believe in justice. So where are the groups who have been very loud in their condemnation – rightly - of Donald Trump? Where are they? Why are we not hearing from them?'

Discussion then turned to the crushing reality that the corporate media is an extension of an oppressive establishment order:

Dennis Bernstein: 'it seems to me that journalists believe Chelsea Manning should be in jail. And that Julian Assange isn't a publisher, and that he should be tried for treason because, after all, these journalists are patriots. They're no reporters.'

John Pilger: 'Well, I think I'll stand back a little from that question a little, Dennis. I think we can go on and beat our heads on the media brick wall, and asking these questions on the media. The media is part of an oppressive system in various forms [...]. It is an extension of the established order and these days it is without something it used to have, and that is spaces – limited spaces – but spaces for free and fair comment. Right across the corporate media these spaces have evaporated. So they are part of a system. They have shown this in a most grotesque way by the persecution of Julian Assange – the slandering of him, the distortion of the facts about his case.'

Pilger, who is well-versed in Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky's propaganda model of the media, explained that it has already been clear for some considerable time how and why the corporate media operate in the way they do. It is now time for nonviolent direct action against the media that constantly promotes rapacious Western interests and erodes public freedoms:

'It is certainly right for us to protest – and I think our protests against the media should be more of a direct action now: occupy their spaces, occupy their buildings, confront them.'

Pilger added that 'people who preserve human decency' – the majority, that is – need to ask ourselves what we are doing about the ongoing state and corporate assault on freedom of expression; and, indeed, on freedom itself:

'The Chelsea Manning/Julian Assange case goes to the very heart of everything. It is about freedom. It's not just about freedom of expression. It is about justice. It is about the law: the use of law, the misuse of law. It is about right and wrong. If there is going to be any real debate, I think we have to confront it, and we have to do it on our terms; not through the hopeless cypher of a corporate media.'

The corporate media is institutionally opposed to the interests of the vast majority of the public; that is why we reject the label 'mainstream'. The corporate media, including BBC News, systematically promotes imperialist and exploitative state interests, together with private power in the form of big business, financial speculation, military forces, the arms industry, the fossil fuel lobby, destructive agribusiness, unsustainable food production and rampant global consumerism that is destroying ecosystems, ramping up mass loss of species and endangering human survival through climate chaos. This oppressive system, with the corporate media a vital cog in the apparatus, must be exposed, confronted, dismantled and replaced with a society that truly promotes democracy, justice and human potential. It is up to us to make it happen before it's too late.

DC

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editor@medialens.org (Editor) Alerts 2019 Tue, 19 Mar 2019 07:57:30 +0000
The Fake News Nazi - Corbyn, Williamson And The Anti-Semitism Scandal http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2019/897-the-fake-news-nazi.html http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2019/897-the-fake-news-nazi.html

One of us had a discussion with an elderly relative:

'He can't be allowed to become Prime Minister.'

'Why not?'

'It's so awful...'

'What is?'

'The way he hates the Jews.'

The last comment was spoken with real anguish, the result of continuous exposure to just two main news sources: the Daily Mail and the BBC.

What is astonishing is that, just four years ago, essentially no-one held this view of Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn first became an MP in 1983. He stood for the Labour leadership 32 years later, in May 2015. We searched the ProQuest database for UK newspaper articles containing:

'Jeremy Corbyn' and 'anti-semitism' before 1 May 2015 = 18 hits

'Jeremy Corbyn' and 'anti-semitism' after 1 May 2015 = 11,251 hits

None of the 18 hits accused Corbyn of anti-semitism. For his first 32 years as an MP, it just wasn't a theme associated with him.

We also searched the ProQuest database for UK newspaper articles containing:

'Labour Party' and 'anti-semitism' before 1 May 2015 = 5,347 hits

'Labour Party' and 'anti-semitism' after 1 May 2015 = 13,921 hits

The archive begins in 1980, which means that more than twice as many articles have included these terms in the last four years than in the 35 years from 1980 until May 2015 when Corbyn stood for the Labour leadership. A standard response to these findings runs along these lines:

'Irrelevant backbencher gets less Press attention than Leader of The Opposition SHOCKER. What's your next scoop, Water Wet, Sky Blue?'

But in fact, Corbyn was not an irrelevant backbencher. We found 3,662 hits for articles mentioning Corbyn before May 2015. Many of these are mentions in passing, but he had also long been a high-profile anti-war MP at a time of numerous wars. And he was frequently smeared, only not about his supposed anti-semitism. Consider, for example, an article that appeared in The Sun in 1999, under a typically cruel title:

'Why did it take you so long to dump him, Mrs Corbyn?' (Ally Ross, The Sun, 13 May 1999)

The story:

'EXTREME Left MP Jeremy Corbyn has been dumped by his missus after an amazing bust-up over their son's education.'

The key issue, according to The Sun:

'Now the question on everyone's lips is: Why did it take her so long to leave the loathsome Lefty, and more importantly, why is she only moaning about his choice of schools?'

Because there was, apparently, plenty to moan about. The Sun described Corbyn as 'class crusader Jeremy - a rabid IRA sympathiser' who 'not only looks and dresses like a third-rate Open University lecturer, he thinks like one too. In 1984 the Provo stooge invited twice-convicted terrorist and bomber Linda Quigley to the House of Commons just 13 days after the IRA's murderous attack on Tories staying at the Grand Hotel in Brighton'.

This was pretty brutal stuff. The Sun added of Corbyn's ex-wife:

'Claudia's saviour of the masses also suffers incredible delusions of grandeur. Communist states may be falling like dominoes, but raving Red Jeremy still believes his outdated views are relevant to modern-day Britain.'

And:

'Not only is Jeremy a political coward who backs terrorists, he is also a self-confessed big girl's blouse.'

And:

'Jeremy's mis-shapen suits, lumpy jumpers and nylon shirts are not exactly what the well-dressed radical is wearing in 1999... Claudia should be aware her ex is irredeemably, unforgivably, annoyingly stupid.'

Given the no-holds-barred nature of the smear, it is amazing that The Sun made no mention at all of Corbyn's vile anti-semitism, viewed as his most obvious and dangerous defect now.

The reason is that, as this shows, not even his worst enemies viewed him as an anti-semite. The extreme Tory press aside, the accepted view of Corbyn pre-2015 is indicated by a long, admiring piece in which Jewish journalist Deborah Ross, whose family members were murdered in Polish pogroms even before the Nazi Holocaust was unleashed, interviewed him for the Independent in 2005. Ross commented:

'He is also, it is generally agreed, an exemplary constituency MP. Even my friend Rebecca, who recently sought his help on a local issue, and never usually has a nice word to say about anybody, which is why I like her, describes him as a "totally genuine mensch".'

Ross added:

'As The Sun would have it, Mr Corbyn is a "beardy Bolshevik" and "loathsome lefty" but he does not come across as either. He has strong opinions but does not demand you listen to them, if you don't want to.

'He is scandal free, unless you count the hoo-ha a few years back when it was revealed that Jeremy's oldest son would be attending a grammar school outside the borough.'

Joseph Finlay is a former Deputy Editor of the Jewish Quarterly, who co-founded a range of grassroots Jewish organisations such as Moishe House London, Wandering Jews, Jewdas and The Open Talmud Project. On 2 March 2018, Finlay wrote in his blog under the title, 'Jeremy Corbyn is an anti-racist, not an anti-Semite':

'Firstly we need to restore some perspective. The Labour party has thousands of Jewish members, many Jewish councillors, a number of prominent Jewish MPs and several Jewish members of its ruling council. Many people at the heart of the Corbyn team, such as Jon Lansman, James Schneider and Rhea Wolfson are also Jewish. Ed Miliband, the previous party leader, was Jewish (and suffered antisemitism at the hands of the press and the Conservatives). I have been a member for five years and, as a Jew, have had only positive experiences.'

Finlay added:

'Jeremy Corbyn has been MP for Islington North since 1983 – a constituency with a significant Jewish population. Given that he has regularly polled over 60% of the vote (73% in 2017) it seems likely that a sizeable number of Jewish constituents voted for him. As a constituency MP he regularly visited synagogues and has appeared at many Jewish religious and cultural events. He is close friends with the leaders of the Jewish Socialist Group, from whom he has gained a rich knowledge of the history of the Jewish Labour Bund, and he has named the defeat of Mosley's Fascists at the Battle of Cable as a key historical moment for him. His 2017 Holocaust Memorial Day statement talked about Shmuel Zygielboym, the Polish Bund leader exiled to London who committed suicide in an attempt to awaken the world to the Nazi genocide. How many British politicians have that level of knowledge of modern Jewish history?'

Israel-based journalist Jonathan Cook notes that a recent Labour Party report 'decisively undercut' the claims of Corbyn's critics 'not only of endemic anti-semitism in Labour, but of any significant problem at all'. Cook summarised:

'Over the previous 10 months, 673 complaints had been filed against Labour members over alleged anti-semitic behaviour, many based on online comments. In a third of those cases, insufficient evidence had been produced.

'The 453 other allegations represented 0.08 percent of the 540,000-strong Labour membership. Hardly "endemic" or "institutional", it seems.'

He added:

'That echoed an earlier report by the Commons home affairs committee, which found there was "no reliable, empirical evidence" that Labour had more of an anti-semitism problem than any other British political party.'

In 'Antisemitism in contemporary Great Britain: A study of attitudes towards Jews and Israel' by the Jewish Institute for Policy Research, L. Daniel Staetsky found:

'Levels of antisemitism among those on the left-wing of the political spectrum, including the far-left, are indistinguishable from those found in the general population. Yet, all parts of those on the left of the political spectrum – including the "slightly left-of-centre," the "fairly left-wing" and the "very left-wing" – exhibit higher levels of anti-Israelism than average. The most antisemitic group on the political spectrum consists of those who identify as very right-wing: the presence of antisemitic attitudes in this group is 2 to 4 times higher compared to the general population.'

The report notes that 'the prevalence of antisemitism on the far right is considerably higher than on the left and in the political centre'.

Noam Chomsky has commented:

'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, 9 September 2018)

 

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editor@medialens.org (Editor) Alerts 2019 Wed, 06 Mar 2019 10:01:01 +0000
‘We Don’t Do Propaganda’ http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2019/896-we-don-t-do-propaganda.html http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2019/896-we-don-t-do-propaganda.html

Earlier this month, Dutch historian Rutger Bregman, author of 'Utopia For Realists', was interviewed by the high-profile Fox News presenter Tucker Carlson. During a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos in Janary, Bregman had bluntly told billionaires that they should stop avoiding taxes and pay their fair share:

'We gotta be talking about taxes. That's it. Taxes, taxes, taxes. All the rest is bullshit, in my opinion.'

His comments went viral which, in turn, led to him being invited on to Carlson's television show. It's safe to say that the interview did not go as the right-wing host would have liked. In fact, Fox News decided not to air the segment. However, it was captured on mobile phone footage in the Amsterdam studio where Bregman was doing the interview and it was later distributed via Twitter. He told Carlson:

'The vast majority of Americans, for years and years now, according to the polls – including Fox News viewers and including Republicans – are in favour of higher taxes on the rich. Higher inheritance taxes, higher top marginal tax rates, higher wealth taxes, it's all really mainstream. But no one's saying that at Davos, just as no one's saying it on Fox News, right? And I think the explanation for that is quite simple, is that most of the people in Davos, but also here on this channel, have been bought by the billionaire class. You know? You're not meant to say these things. So I just went there, and I thought, you know what, I'm just going to say it, just as I'm saying it right here on this channel.'

Carlson was happy enough at this point. Indeed, he praised Bregman for what he'd said in Davos:

'That was one of the great moments - maybe the great moment in Davos history.'

Carlson added:

'If I was wearing a hat, I'd take it off to you.'

The Dutch historian continued:

'America is still pretty much the most powerful country in the world, right? So if it really would want to, it could easily crack down on tax paradises. But the thing is, you guys have brought into power a president who doesn't even want to share his own tax returns. I mean, who knows how many billions he has hidden in the Cayman Islands or in Bermuda. So I think the issue really is one of corruption and of people being bribed, and of not being, not talking about the real issues. What the family—what the Murdochs [owners of Fox News] basically want you to do is to scapegoat immigrants instead of talking about tax avoidance.'

By this point, it was clear that Carlson was unhappy with how the interview was going:

'And I'm taking orders from the Murdochs, that's what you're saying?'

Bregman responded reasonably:

'No, I mean, it doesn't work that directly. But I mean, you've been part of the [right-wing libertarian think tank] Cato Institute, right? You've been a senior fellow there for years.'

The Fox News presenter interjected aggressively, seemingly rattled:

'Well how does it work?'

Bregman replied:

'Well, it works by you taking their dirty money. They're funded by Koch billionaires, you know? It's as easy as that. I mean, you are a millionaire, funded by billionaires, that's what you are. And I'm glad you now finally jumped the bandwagon of people like Bernie Sanders and AOC [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a newly elected Democrat politician in New York], but you're not part of the solution, Mr. Carlson. You're part of the problem, actually. ... All the anchors, all the anchors of Fox—'

By this point, Carlson had lost it:

'You would have to be a moron, you would have to be—'

Bregman carried on speaking:

'They're all millionaires. How is this possible? Well it's very easy, you're just not talking about certain things.

'You are a millionaire funded by billionaires, that's what you are... You're part of the problem.'

Bregman then correctly predicted: 'you're probably not going to air this on your show.'

He added:

'But I went to Davos to speak truth to power and I'm doing exactly the same thing right now. You might not like it, but you're a millionaire funded by billionaires and that's the reason you're not talking about these issues.'

Carlson:

'But I am talking about these issues.'

Bregman replied:

'Yeah, only now. Come on, you jumped the bandwagon. You're all like, oh, I'm against the globalist elite, blah blah blah. It's not very convincing to be honest.'

That was too much for Carlson who exploded:

'I wanna say to you why don't you go fuck yourself ― you tiny brain. And I hope this gets picked up because you're a moron. I tried to give you a hearing, but you were too fucking annoying...'

Unflustered, Bregman interjected with a smile:

'You can't handle the criticism, can you?'

Afterwards, Bregman shared the clip on his Twitter feed:

'Here's the interview that @TuckerCarlson and Fox News didn't want you to see. I chose to release it, because I think we should keep talking about the corrupting influence of money in politics. It also shows how angry elites can get if you do that.'

As predicted, Fox News did not air the segment. No doubt prompted by Bregman releasing the exchange into the public domain, Carlson addressed it on his show:

'Things went fine for the first few minutes and then Bregman launched into an attack on Fox News. It's not clear that Bregman has ever seen Fox. But he wanted to make his point. Fine.

'But then he claimed that [adopts a fierce voice] my corporate masters tell me what to say on the show, and that was too much.'

Carlson continued:

'Whatever my faults or those of this channel, nobody in management has ever told us what positions to take on the air – never - not one time. We have total freedom here and we are grateful for that. I have hosted shows on both the other cable channels so I know first-hand how rare that freedom is. On this show, thanks to Fox, we get to say exactly what we think is true, for better or worse.

'But there was no convincing Bregman of that, he knew what he knew. So I did what I try hard never to do on this show, and I was rude. I called him a moron and then I modified that word with a vulgar Anglo-Saxon term that is also intelligible in Dutch.

'In my defence, I would say that was entirely accurate. But you're not allowed to use that word on television. So, once I'd said it out loud, there was no airing the segment.'

Carlson then pointed out that Bregman had released the exchange and that you could find it online:

'There is some profanity, and I apologize for that. On the other hand, it was genuinely heartfelt and I meant it with total sincerity.'

It was a far from convincing explanation for why Fox News had not aired the segment. After all, a simple bleep could have overridden any profanity: a standard procedure used in television.

Note that we are not claiming that everything Carlson says can be dismissed as kow-towing to his 'corporate masters'. Last year, for example, he admirably challenged the establishment consensus on Syria. That expression of dissent may well have boosted his ratings: always a welcome factor for a media outlet. Our point is that there is no freedom to 'say exactly what we think' on a corporate outlet. As Herman and Chomsky explained in 'Manufacturing Consent', there are structural limits in the 'mainstream' media:

'the "societal purpose" of the media is to inculcate and defend the economic, social and political agenda of privileged groups that dominate the domestic society and the state. The media serve this purpose in many ways: through selection of topics, distribution of concerns, framing of issues, filtering of information, emphasis and tone, and by keeping debate within the bounds of acceptable premises.'

(Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky, 'Manufacturing Consent', Vintage, 1998/2004, p. 298)

That phrase, 'keeping debate within the bounds of acceptable premises', is crucial. Thus, for instance, a Fox News presenter who looked critically at the ownership and advertising behind that network would not last long; indeed, would likely never have been promoted into that trusted position in the first place.

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editor@medialens.org (Editor) Alerts 2019 Wed, 27 Feb 2019 09:54:36 +0000
Dump The Guardian http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2019/894-dump-the-guardian.html http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2019/894-dump-the-guardian.html

We were sad to hear that the comedian Jeremy Hardy had died on 1 February. Typically, media reports and obituaries prefixed the label 'left-wing' before the word 'comedian' as a kind of government health warning. What they really meant was that he was 'too far left'. Normally, the media don't label entertainers as 'extreme centrists', 'neocon sympathisers' or 'Israel supporters', when perhaps they should.

Hardy was a regular panellist on BBC shows, the News Quiz and I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue. His ability to be extremely funny and sharp-witted, as well as being popular with other panellists and the public, probably allowed him a measure of corporate BBC indulgence to inject left-wing bullet points that others might not have been afforded. Fellow comedian Miles Jupp noted that:

'Many people have the ability to express their political beliefs coherently and many people have the ability to be funny. Jeremy Hardy, who has died of cancer aged 57, had an astonishing ability to do both things at the same time.'

He added:

'from the earliest days his socialist beliefs were a thread that ran throughout his comedy, as they did his life and his campaigning.'

One of us (Cromwell) saw Hardy perform twice at Nuffield Theatre at the University of Southampton, where he had studied in the 1980s. On both occasions, he was very funny, sharp and thoroughly engaging. During the second performance, on 15 October 2017, he spoke passionately about the blatantly negative media coverage targeting Jeremy Corbyn:

'The worst is the liberal media. Take the Guardian. What is it that the Guardian actually guards? It guards how progressive you're allowed to be. You can go this far to the left and no further.'

This echoed Noam Chomsky's well-known remark about the liberal media policing the bounds of permissible debate:

'Thus far and no further.'

It is ironic, but entirely apt, that the Guardian's obituary noted that Hardy wrote a column for the paper between 1996 and 2001, but neglected to mention that he was dropped for being too left-wing.

In his final, potent column on 4 April, 2001 Hardy had written:

'Some of you will be relieved to know that this is the last column I shall be writing for the Guardian. Others may be sorry, and I thank you for that. I have been told that my column has run its course, which is a self-fulfilling accusation...also told that I shouldn't use the column as a platform for the Socialist Alliance.'

By contrast, commentators – including those holding senior Guardian positions – have not been told to stop using their columns as a platform for the apartheid Israeli state, neoliberalism or Western 'intervention' around the world.

Hardy crammed in many astute observations that make poignant reading now, 18 years later. He rightly observed that:

'most of the exciting developments in politics are happening outside the electoral orb.'

Ironically, it was grassroots pressure outside Parliament and 'the electoral orb' that enabled Jeremy Corbyn to be elected Labour leader and pull off results in the 2017 General Election that stunned 'seasoned' political 'analysts'. Consider, too, the recent Extinction Rebellion movement that is literally campaigning for the survival of the human species – precisely because electoral politics has utterly failed; or rather succeeded in entrenching the interests of a right-wing, super-rich and powerful elite.

Hardy warned presciently of the dangers of the Lib Dems attaining power in a coalition – which they did after the 2010 General Election, propping up an extremist Tory-led government. He also pointed to the emasculation of the trade union movement:

'For me to write this will appal those socialists who still hold the line that "Labour is the party of the organised working class", but I think it's time to replace the word "working" with "capitalist", and try the sentence again. Trade unionists put tremendous effort into the relationship but it's an abusive one. I'm sure union leaders will say, "But Tony's not like that when he's with me", but they're just throwing money at the problem.'

Ex-Guardian journalist Jonathan Cook commented via Twitter:

'Fascinating reading now the late comedian Jeremy Hardy's last column for the Guardian in 2001. He admits he was pushed out for refusing to use humour simply to provoke a postmodern chuckle and for being too outspoken against Tony Blair, who would go on to wage illegal war in Iraq'.

When we highlighted on Twitter that the Guardian's Jeremy Hardy obituary had omitted the uncomfortable fact that the paper dropped him for being too left-wing, the deputy obituaries editor of the Telegraph retorted:

'He wasn't dropped for being too left-wing. He was dropped for not putting in enough jokes. Read the column'

In fact, anyone reading the column beyond the first paragraph would have noted the crucial part when Hardy said he was 'told that I shouldn't use the column as a platform for the Socialist Alliance.' It was clear from reading the whole column, and using common sense to read between the lines, that Hardy had indeed been dumped by the Guardian for his left-wing views. Hardy's first wife, Kit Hardy, confirmed this:

'As his wife at the time, I can vouch that he was dropped for being too left wing. It wasn't about jokes. He'd have been kept on without jokes if he'd been willing to write inconsequential nonsense. He wasn't.'

Guardian readers with a long memory may recall that comedian Mark Steel, a good friend of Jeremy Hardy, had earlier been ditched by the Guardian in 1999, after contributing a column for over two years, for his 'unflinching' support of 'unfashionable left-wing causes' such as striking Liverpool dockers. A more recent example of a progressive columnist being dumped by the Guardian is the 2014 defenestration of Nafeez Ahmed for overstepping the mark in his critical reporting of Israel.

Eventually, even the hugely-respected, award-winning journalist John Pilger, with an unparalleled record of reporting the truth 'from the ground up', became persona non grata at the Guardian. He said in a radio interview in January 2018:

'My written journalism is no longer welcome in the Guardian which, three years ago, got rid of people like me in pretty much a purge of those who really were saying what the Guardian no longer says any more.'

And yet, the Guardian continues to employ, for example, Luke Harding who abruptly left an interview by Aaron Maté on The Real News Network when he was challenged to provide convincing evidence of the 'collusion' referred to in the title of his book, 'Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win'. Harding was also behind the fake Guardian 'exclusive' last December that Paul Manafort, Donald Trump's former campaign manager, had met Julian Assange three times in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Harding and the paper's editor Katharine Viner have shamefully remained silent in the face of robust questioning of their CIA-friendly propaganda story that appears to have no basis in reality.

US comedian Jimmy Dore, interviewed on RT's Going Underground by Afshin Rattansi, who previously worked at the BBC, said scathingly:

'Well, the Guardian has been doing fantastic work on this story. "Fantastic" meaning "fantastic fantasies" because the most surveilled building in the world has got to be that Ecuadorian embassy. And, somehow, the Guardian has a story that Manafort visited Julian Assange three times, and even knew what he was wearing, but there isn't a picture of it.'

Dore concluded of the Guardian:

'They're pushing propaganda; they're not doing journalism.'

Dore also pointed to extremely well-paid, supposed 'progressives' in the US who have high-profile slots on US networks such as MSNBC:

'You know how much MSNBC's Chris Hayes or Rachel Maddow makes? They make $30,000 a day. That's a lot of money and that buys your integrity.'

He added, echoing his comments about the Guardian on Assange:

'It's just CIA talking points. In fact, they hire people from the CIA to be their "news analysts". That's the opposite of journalism, that's propaganda.'

On a recent MSNBC show, Maddow even speculated that, with parts of the US shivering in sub-zero conditions, the Russians or the Chinese might launch cyber attacks on vital pipelines and the power grid. This grotesque Red-scaremongering was justified as 'the intelligence community's assessment.'

She asked:

'What would happen if Russia killed the power in Fargo today? What would you do if you lost heat indefinitely as the act of a foreign power on the same day the temperature in your backyard matched the temperature in Antarctica?'

Dore rightly pointed out how this nonsense is but a part of the huge current wave of anti-Russian propaganda that is even worse than the anti-Red hysteria of the McCarthy era in 1950s US. Why worse?

'Because it's being pushed ubiquitously. The first Red Scare in the States came from the right. Well, the left is now pushing the Red Scare because they don't want to admit that neoliberalism failed at the ballot box in 2016. 90 million people didn't come out to vote in that election in 2016. And Hillary Clinton, the biggest, most well-funded political machine in the history of the United States lost the election to a political novice gameshow host who everyone referred to as a joke and a clown: Donald Trump.'

Dore said of MSNBC management:

'They wouldn't even let their hosts cover Bernie Sanders [in the race to become 2016 Democratic Presidential candidate, losing to Hillary Clinton] because he was progressive. In fact, Ed Schultz got fired for covering Bernie Sanders.'

He continued:

'That tells you that all the people on air at MSNBC go along with war propaganda when told to, and don't cover progressive politicians when ordered [not] to. Every one of those hosts goes along with the edict from the top of the corporation Comcast [owners of MSNBC] to tell them what they can talk about, and how they can talk about what they can talk about. They're all puppets and they're bought.'

In a similar way, although with much lower salaries, the silence of Guardian commentators on numerous issues has also, in essence, been 'bought.' Not a single one, as far as we can tell, has called out the Guardian's fake Manafort-Assange story. Not a single one has castigated the Guardian over its long-running cynical vendetta against Assange and WikiLeaks. Not a single one has exposed the Guardian's editorial line that upholds the myth that Western foreign policy is largely determined by concerns over universal human rights, democracy and development. Not a single one has made any significant criticism of the Guardian's actual role in setting the limits of acceptable 'news' and commentary at the 'liberal' end of the media 'spectrum'.

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editor@medialens.org (Editor) Alerts 2019 Tue, 12 Feb 2019 23:24:25 +0000
Venezuela Blitz - Part 2: Press Freedom, Sanctions And Oil http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2019/893-venezuela-blitz-part-2-press-freedom-sanctions-and-oil.html http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2019/893-venezuela-blitz-part-2-press-freedom-sanctions-and-oil.html

 

Press Freedom - Taking A Glance At A Newspaper Stand

In support of their claim that Maduro is a 'tyrant' who does not allow free elections, corporate media consistently point to a lack of press freedom. When British academic Alan MacLeod of Glasgow Media Group reviewed 166 Western media articles evaluating the state of press freedom between 1998-2014, he found that all depicted Venezuelan media as 'caged', or unfree. Last week, Canadian political analyst Joe Emersberger commented in The Canary:

'The idea that Venezuela has a "caged" media has to be one of the most unforgivable pieces of Western propaganda about the country. And a simple analysis shows just how ignorant that allegation is. Indeed, just a few days ago, one of Venezuela's most widely read newspapers, El Universal, published an op-ed enthusiastically applauding the efforts of the US-backed opposition to bring about President Nicolás Maduro's ouster by recognizing opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the country's new president. The op-ed said Guaidó was managing his US-backed strategy "perfectly". And it joyously stated that the US and its allies had Maduro surrounded, and almost ready to be ousted.'

In 2016, Emersberger wrote of earlier protests:

'In fact the protests and the leading opposition leaders' take on the protests are being extensively covered on the largest private networks: Venevision, Televen, Globovision. If people abroad sampled Venezuela's TV media directly, as opposed to judging it by what is said about it by the international media and some big NGOs, they'd be shocked to find the opposition constantly denouncing the government and even making very thinly veiled appeals to the military to oust Maduro.'

The Venezuela Analysis website tweeted:

'A cursory glance at any newspaper stand in Caracas will reveal that vast majority of Vzlan papers are anti-govt. Opposition also has massive social media presence – just search Twitter for "Venezuela" w/ Spanish filter. Intl journalists been lying re lack of media freedom for yrs'

Independent journalist Abby Martin did exactly as suggested and visited a Venezuelan newspaper stand. She offered this summary:

'So, out of the seven papers, four are anti-government, two are pro-government, and one is neutral, can go either way. So, it looks like the press is not as controlled as we think.'

This is the kind of research even corporate journalists should be able to conduct for themselves.

 

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editor@medialens.org (Editor) Alerts 2019 Thu, 07 Feb 2019 08:37:04 +0000
Venezuela Blitz – Part 1: Tyrants Don’t Have Free Elections http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2019/892-venezuela-blitz-part-1-tyrants-don-t-have-free-elections.html http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2019/892-venezuela-blitz-part-1-tyrants-don-t-have-free-elections.html

In our new book, we describe a 'Propaganda Blitz' as a fast-moving campaign to persuade the public of the need for 'action' or 'intervention' furthering elite interests. Affecting great moral outrage, corporate media line up to insist that a watershed moment has arrived – something must be done!

A classic propaganda blitz was triggered on January 23, when Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó declared himself 'interim President'. This was presented as dramatic new evidence that the people of Venezuela had finally had enough of Nicolas Maduro's 'regime'.

In reporting this news the following day, the BBC website featured a disturbing graphic of a captive with arms tied behind his back being tortured. The caption read:

'Inside Venezuela's secret torture centre'

The image linked to a complex interactive piece that allowed readers to explore the torture centre. There was also a long report on the same centre. The interactive report included this statement by a former prisoner, Rosmit Mantilla:

'In a country like Venezuela there's no difference between being in or out of prison. You are equally persecuted and mistreated, and you can die either way.'

Venezuela, then, is a giant gulag. The interactive piece had clearly taken a good deal of time and effort to produce – odd that it should appear on the same day that news of Guaidó's coup attempt was reported. The BBC followed this up with a piece on January 25 openly promoting 'regime' change:

'Venezuela's Maduro "could get Amnesty"

'Self-declared leader Guaidó also appeals to the powerful army, after receiving foreign backing.'

In fact, Guaidó, also received foreign rejection from China, Russia, Turkey, Greece, Syria and Iran. On January 29, the BBC front page headline read:

'Venezuela, "living under dictatorship"

'The opposition leader tells the BBC President Maduro has abused power, and renews calls for polls.'

Echoing the BBC's 'amnesty' front page story, the Guardian's Simon Tisdall, also talked up the merits of the coup:

'It seems clear that Juan Guaidó, the opposition leader, has the backing of many if not most Venezuelans.'

A remarkable claim, given that George Ciccariello-Maher reported in The Nation that an opinion poll in Venezuela conducted between January 7-16 had found that 81 per cent of Venezuelans had never heard of Juan Guaidó. But then this is the same Simon Tisdall who wrote in 2011:

'The risky western intervention had worked. And Libya was liberated at last.'

The Guardian may currently be Guaidó's greatest UK cheerleader. After the opposition leader gave the paper an exclusive interview, former Guardian journalist Jonathan Cook tweeted:

'Extraordinary even by the Guardian's standards. Juan Guaido, the CIA's pick to lead a coup against Venezuela's govt, gives the paper one of his first interviews – and it simply acts as a conduit for his propaganda. It doesn't even pretend to be a watchdog'

On February 1, Cook added:

'Oh look! Juan Guaido, the figurehead for the CIA's illegal regime-change operation intended to grab Venezuela's oil (as John Bolton has publicly conceded), is again presented breathlessly by the Guardian as the country's saviour'

The BBC continues to administer a daily dose of propaganda. On January 31, the big morning news story was:

'Venezuela opposition "speaking to army"

'Opposition leader Juan Guaidó says his team has held talks with the army about regime change'

As we noted, if a US version of Guaidó made that admission in public, he would soon be paid a visit by Navy Seals, perhaps shot on the spot and dumped at sea, or bundled away to a life on death row for probable later execution.

On February 4, the front page of the BBC website featured a heroic picture of Guaido's mother kissing her son on the forehead at a protest rally. Sombre, stoic, the saviour's head appears bowed by the weight of the hopes and expectations of his people (people who, until recently, had no idea who he was and had never voted for him). This was a pure propaganda image. More will certainly follow. We discussed earlier BBC efforts here.

 

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editor@medialens.org (Editor) Alerts 2019 Tue, 05 Feb 2019 10:01:17 +0000