Media Lens - Current Alert News analysis and media criticism Fri, 27 Nov 2015 00:55:45 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb 'Let's Bring In Our Pentagon Spokesman' - Bombing Syria

One of the great Freudian slips of our time was supplied by a Fox News anchor on March 24, 1999, as Nato was preparing to wage war on Yugoslavia:

'Let's bring in our Pentagon spokesman - excuse me, our Pentagon correspondent.'

For indeed the unwritten rule informing this type of journalism is: if you want to get close to the 'defence' establishment, you better be close to the 'defence' establishment: ideologically, sympathetically, 'patriotically'.

A near-perfect example of this industry-wide perceptual bias has been supplied this year by BBC diplomatic editor, Mark Urban.

Last week, Urban discussed the Russian bombing campaign in Syria in a piece entitled: 'Russia's Syria intervention: One month in.'

This was made fascinating by the fact that, in January, Urban had written a piece on the US bombing campaign in Syria and Iraq: 'On board with the US air crews fighting Islamic State.'

So how do these articles compare?


'On Board With The US Air Crews Fighting Islamic State'

The title of the piece on US bombing is an obviously positive, propaganda formulation, indicating that Urban was 'on board' and embedded with a US aircraft carrier attacking the bad guys du jour - Islamic State. The title excludes from consideration the possibility that the US, directly and through regional client regimes, has been supporting Islamic State with weapons, or has other nefarious aims. It is simply waging war on the Official Enemy. This immediately banishes the kind of 'complexity' described by political analyst Bill Blum:

'The mainstream media almost never mentions the proposed Qatar natural-gas pipelines – whose path to Europe Syria has stood in the way of for years – as a reason for much of the hostility toward Syria. The pipelines could dethrone Russia as Europe's dominant source of energy.'

The piece features a Top Gun-style photo of a carrier jet waiting to be launched into action. The article begins by humanising the military operation with context and detail. The aircraft carrier, USS Carl Vinson, 'is a floating town of more than 5,000 souls and 60 fighter aircraft engaged in a costly and complex campaign'. Urban introduces us to Lt Junior Grade 'Sarah', described as 'a 29-year-old weapon systems operator or back seater in an F/A-18F fighter' - a bomb aimer in old money (how journalists love to focus on high-tech military jargon). 'Sarah' is gung-ho:

'There is a coyness among the crews - in front of us at least - about wanting to appear too keen to take life, but after completing the mission, she said, "when we do get to employ [drop bombs] out there it's very exciting".'

The article repeatedly stresses the danger facing US carrier aircrews rather than the people under their bombs: 'Each time it launches one of its jets' the event is 'so dramatic and inherently dangerous'.

While Urban makes just one, oblique reference to the risk to civilians - 'dropping [a bomb] in error could have terrible consequences' - the danger to US aircrews is the major focus:

'But whether it drops multiple bombs or none, the effort involved in launching each mission is considerable and fraught with hazards.'

Urban continues in the same vein:

'"Every flight there is a risk out there," notes Lt Cdr "Mike," who at 35 is one of the veteran pilots on board. It starts with being catapulted off the deck, goes through the in-flight fuel top ups, which he notes "can be unpleasant," flying in close proximity to the tanker in bad weather or at night, and ends with the "controlled car crash" of recovering the jet onto the carrier.

'I watched Lt Cdr Mike's F/A18F land at night on the Vinson's deck after a seven-hour mission over Iraq. As the plane came in at what seemed like an impossibly steep angle and at 160mph, I remembered reading an old carrier pilot's quip that during such recoveries in the hours of darkness, "there are no atheists in the cockpit".'

'Mike, Top Gun pilot that he is', Urban opines, managed to land 'flawlessly' on the carrier.

As well as dangerous, this is uncomfortable work:

'Spending five or more hours strapped to an ejector seat, unable to get up or use a toilet, must be a distinctly unpleasant experience at times. The pilots take snacks and "piddle packs" to relieve themselves into.'

Above all, though, it is dangerous:

'But of course these discomforts are mundane compared to the dangers of going down over IS-controlled territory, as a Jordanian pilot recently did, or crashing during carrier operations.'

Urban continues discussing the risk – to the bombers:

'The crews are all too aware of the risks but are uneasy discussing them with an outsider. "It's not something we like to think about," Lt Sarah said about the risks of getting shot down. Clearly though, it informed her decision not to use her name when interviewed.'

There is apparently no space for a discussion of the morality or legality of the US effort, particularly in light of the catastrophic US 'interventions' in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere. And by the way, why is it the job of the US to bomb anyone, anywhere in the world without UN approval? And why should we believe the US imperial power is guided by moral motives?

The success of the mission is boldly affirmed:

'Those commanding the operations on board are quite sure they are making progress. "Absolutely the situation has changed since airstrikes began", says Cmdr Mike Langbehn, boss of one of the Hornet squadrons... The days of IS making sweeping gains were over and their progress has been halted, several officers said. "They swept through the country, now they're not," commented Capt Thomas.'

By contrast, investigative journalist Patrick Cockburn comments in the London Review of Books this month: 'the [US] campaign has demonstrably failed to contain IS, which in May captured Ramadi in Iraq and Palmyra in Syria'.

Remarkably, the 10-minute video embedded in Urban's article is even more one-sided. It opens with a motivational propaganda speech by the carrier's chaplain on the US mission to 'stem the tide of tyranny and hatred'. It continues with a long description of the awesome size and power of the ship and its weapons, includes jokey interviews with the air crew on their superstitions and on how careful they are not to hit civilians, with officers confidently discussing progress made. The commanding officer is quoted as saying his bombers are 'working the Isis target a couple of bodies at a time'. The video concludes with a poignant prayer from the chaplain requesting that the 'Lord' protect US forces working so patiently to end human life a couple of corpses at a time.

Urban's piece on the US bombing campaign, then, is classic 'patriotic', wartime propaganda glorifying 'our' courageous fighting men and women – named and humanised for the reader - risking their lives to make the world a safer place. And of course they are winning. 

]]> (Editor) Alerts 2015 Thu, 05 Nov 2015 09:14:26 +0000
'I Would Have Refused Such An Order’ – Former RAF Pilot Gives His View Of US Bombing Of MSF Hospital In Kunduz

In our previous media alert, 'Sick Sophistry', we examined media coverage of the deliberate US bombing of a Médecins Sans Frontières hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan on October 3. In particular, we exposed the BBC's Pentagon-friendly reporting of the hospital as having been 'mistakenly' bombed.

On October 24, MSF announced that 30 people had now tragically died, up from the initial toll of 22. The humanitarian organisation, also known as Doctors Without Borders, continued to call for an independent international investigation into what it has called a 'war crime'. Associated Press has just reported new evidence 'that U.S. forces destroyed what they knew was a functioning hospital'.

The report comments:

'The Army Green Berets who requested the Oct. 3 airstrike on the Doctors without Borders trauma center in Afghanistan were aware it was a functioning hospital but believed it was under Taliban control, The Associated Press has learned.'

Damningly, AP adds:

'A day before an American AC-130 gunship attacked the hospital, a senior officer in the Green Beret unit wrote in a report that U.S. forces had discussed the hospital with the country director of the medical charity group, presumably in Kabul, according to two people who have seen the document.'

Meanwhile, there has still been no leading article in any UK newspaper backing MSF's call for an independent inquiry.

In response to our alert, we were contacted by a former RAF pilot with twenty years' military experience in several countries, including Afghanistan. He had discovered our alert by following a link in a comment posted underneath a recent Guardian piece mentioning the attack.

The former pilot gave us his name but, for obvious reasons, wishes to remain anonymous. He told us that he has experience of flying fast jets and multi-engine aircraft, and that he served operationally in the Balkans, Kosovo, Afghanistan and elsewhere. As far as we can tell, he appears to be genuine. He wrote to us in a series of emails (October 21-24):

'First time I have ever come across your organisation and I am very impressed by your work.'

He then wrote:

'It has been my firm opinion from the very beginning that Kunduz hospital was indeed deliberately targeted. I slightly digress from the Lindorff article in that the C-130 Gunship is a pinpoint platform with a choice of munitions. The fact that the hospital was targeted on five separate occasions with unerring accuracy simply underlines how deliberate this attack was. The Gunship itself is a revered weapon on the battlefield, manned by elite crews who are very highly trained. I was involved in the Afghan campaign almost from the beginning when things were pretty hairy. The aircraft of choice for UK Special Forces on the ground was the Gunship and they lobbied for a UK version. It is expensive and due to the side-mounted howitzer limited to one role and so their requests were denied. The Gunship gives unsurpassed support to troops on the ground because of its multi-hour endurance and loiter capability and the accuracy of its smaller calibre cannon and capability of its enormous 105mm howitzer.'

He continued:

'I do not accept that the target could have been mistakenly targeted. The crew and command centre would have been fully aware they were attacking a hospital. I followed one of your links suggesting that the C130 crew challenged their orders to target the hospital. This is the very least that I'd have expected to happen. I have extensive operational experience flying in Afghanistan. I am struggling to comprehend in what circumstance I would blindly follow an order to attack a fully manned civilian hospital. If the description provided by MSF's director-general is accurate I can say without hesitancy that I would have refused such an order for it is an obvious war crime. During the Kosovo war it was fairly routine for RAF Harrier pilots to return home with bombs still loaded because they had been unable to confirm visual acquisition of targets. RAF pilots are probably more inclined to think for themselves than American crews who are extremely tightly controlled. American military personnel give up many rights when they join up, but I am still disappointed that this crew did not appear to do more to challenge their orders. Back in the UK, we lost crown immunity many years ago and it is essential to challenge every questionable act carried out on the battlefield (our emphasis).

'Given that we agree that the hospital was deliberately targeted it would be useful to try and understand why. It is my opinion that whilst possible, it is unlikely that this was a mistake, intentional or otherwise, by Afghan commanders on the ground. I saw an unconfirmed report stating that US Special Forces were on the ground in Kunduz so it is unlikely that Afghans alone would have called in the attack. So the alternative is that the crew were given their mission from US Central Command or it was called in on the ground by their own people. This is why I doubt we'll see an independent inquiry. Very senior military officers would be on the hook for what happened in Kunduz because they would have authorised the sustained attack. It is still possible that the Kunduz hospital is seen as an operational "success"; the world of special operations is opaque. It is also a vague possibility that this was an act of gross incompetence, but that would still constitute a war crime. In any case, I simply do not believe it to be incompetence because of the sustained nature of the attack.'

He also commented on media coverage:

'The response in the mainstream media mainly consisted of repeating what came off the wires. Unfortunately, the US military changed their version several times which weakened their case immediately. My own experience of BBC journalists is positive but when it comes to describing a major news event there is an immediate suspicion of editorial control from on high. I think it is extremely valuable that you target both individual journalists and the reporting of such events in general. I absolutely commend this approach, which is why I am happy to support you in your endeavours.'

You may be shocked that even the deliberate bombing of a hospital may be regarded as an operational 'success'. There is no doubt that, were the full truth to emerge, the attack on the MSF hospital would be even more deeply embarrassing and damaging to Western interests than it already is. After all, 'we' do not commit war crimes; only 'our' enemies do that.

Long-time readers may recall that, in 2007, a serving British army officer in Iraq responded to an exchange we'd had with Mark Urban, the diplomatic editor of BBC Newsnight. The officer strongly rejected Urban's contention that the central US aim was that of 'forcing a democracy into the heart of the Middle East' (Newsnight, BBC2, April 12, 2005), commenting:

'There is a widespread, and well-sourced, belief based on both experience and evidence, in both the British military and academia, that the US is not "just in Iraq to keep the peace, regardless of what the troops on the ground believe. It is in Iraq to establish a client state amenable to the requirements of US realpolitik in a key, oil-rich region. To doubt this is to be ignorant of the motives that have guided US foreign policy in the post-war period and a mountain of evidence since 2003." (quote from Media Lens).'

The officer gave rare voice to widespread scepticism within the military:

'That the invasion was "illegal, immoral and unwinnable", and the "greatest foreign policy blunder since Suez"... is the overwhelming feeling of many of my peers, and they speak of loathsome six-month tours, during which they led patrols with dread and fear, reluctantly providing target practice for insurgents, senselessly haemorrhaging casualties, and squandering soldiers' lives, as part of Bush's vain attempt to delay the inevitable Anglo-US rout until after the next US election.

'Given a free choice most of us would never have invaded Iraq, and certainly would have withdrawn long ago.'

In response, Urban discussed the officer's email on the BBC's Newsnight programme; a rare concession to media activism.

Recall that the former RAF officer who emailed us after our Kunduz media alert made this particularly welcome point:

'it is essential to challenge every questionable act carried out on the battlefield'.

It certainly is essential. And this is true, not just for military personnel with destructive high-tech weaponry at their fingertips; but also for journalists whose reporting has the power to facilitate or obstruct crimes against humanity.

DC and DE


Suggested Action

If you decide to contact a journalist in response to our alert, please keep the tone civil. We do not condone abusive language.

Please ask the Guardian and the Independent to publish editorials backing MSF's call for an independent investigation into the US bombing of the Kunduz hospital:

Katharine Viner, Guardian editor-in-chief
Twitter: @KathViner

Amol Rajan, Independent editor
Twitter: @amolrajan

Please forward any replies to us:

]]> (Editor) Alerts 2015 Tue, 27 Oct 2015 04:45:08 +0000
Sick Sophistry – BBC News On The Afghan Hospital ‘Mistakenly’ Bombed By The United States

One of the defining features of the corporate media is that Western crimes are ignored or downplayed. The US bombing of a Médecins Sans Frontières hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, on the night of October 3, is an archetypal example.

At least twenty-two people were killed when a United States Air Force AC-130 repeatedly attacked the hospital with five strafing runs over the course of more than an hour, despite MSF pleas to Afghan, US and Nato officials to call off the attack. The hospital's main building, which contains the emergency operating room and recovery rooms, was heavily damaged. Dave Lindorff noted:

'the hospital was deliberately set ablaze by incendiary weapons, and the people inside not incinerated were killed by a spray of bullets and anti-personnel flechettes.'

Lindorff added:

'The AC-130 gunship is not a precision targeting weapon, but a weapons system designed to spread death over a wide swath.'

Shockingly, MSF had already informed US military forces of the precise coordinates of the hospital in order to prevent any attacks. Indeed, the hospital is:

'a well-known and long-established institution with a distinctive shape operating in a city that until recently was under full [Afghan] government control. That the US/NATO command did not clearly know the function of that structure is inconceivable.'

MSF were unequivocal in their condemnation of the American attack. The hospital was 'intentionally targeted' in 'a premeditated massacre'.  It was, they said, a 'war crime'. The organisation rejected US assurances of three inquiries – by the US, Nato and the Afghan government. Instead, MSF demanded an independent international investigation.

In the days following the attack, the US changed its official story several times. At one point, as Glenn Greenwald observes, the dominant narrative from the US and its Afghan allies was that the bombing had not been an accident, but that it had been justified because the Taliban had been using the hospital as a base; an outrageous claim that MSF vehemently rejected. It was even reported that an American tank had later forced its way into the hospital compound, potentially destroying evidence of the war crime that had just taken place.

Yes, the bombing was reported in the 'mainstream' media; sometimes with harrowing footage of ruined hospital corridors and rooms. Hospital beds were even shown where patients had burned to death. But the US bombing did not receive the extensive headline coverage and editorial outrage that it deserved.

If you are unsure of that, just imagine the response of the British media if it had been a Russian gunship that had bombed a hospital with the loss of 22 lives, despite pleas from doctors to call off the attack. Western leaders would have instantly condemned the Russian bombing as a 'war crime', and the corporate media would have taken their lead from the pronouncements coming out of the offices of power in Washington and London.

By contrast, we have not found a single editorial in any UK national newspaper condemning the US bombing of the hospital or calling for an independent investigation. This is one more example of the dramatic subservience of the corporate media to the state and indeed its long-term complicity in state crimes against humanity.

In the meantime, with nothing to say on Kunduz, the Guardian has found space to publish editorials on hoverboards and the Great British Bakeoff, as well as Guardian editor Katharine Viner's 'grilling' of George Osborne at the Tory party conference. To compound the paper's ignominy, it still proudly carries Tony Blair in its Comment section where it describes him merely as 'a former British prime minister', rather than the notorious and unpopular war criminal he so clearly is. That accurate description is only emphasised by the weekend's revelations of a memo written by Colin Powell, then George Bush's US Secretary of State, that Blair had pledged his support for a US invasion of Iraq fully one year in advance, even while telling Parliament and the country that a 'diplomatic solution' was still being sought. 

]]> (Editor) Alerts 2015 Mon, 19 Oct 2015 23:59:08 +0000
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