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Flagship Of Fearmongering: The Guardian, MI5 And State Propaganda

Readers of the Guardian woke up last Tuesday (November 1, 2016) to find that the newspaper and website had been given over to promoting MI5. To be more precise: the paper was trumpeting a fearmongering 'exclusive' with MI5 Director-General, Andrew Parker. It was billed as 'the first interview of its kind' and was conducted by the paper's deputy editor, Paul Johnson, and the diplomatic editor, Ewen MacAskill. However, it quickly became clear that this 'interview' consisted largely of the two senior Guardian journalists listening to the MI5 chief and diligently writing down what he said with no discernible challenge or scrutiny.

Ex-Guardian journalist Jonathan Cook summed up perfectly the contents of the 'interview':

• the Russians under Vladimir Putin are an evil empire;
• Islamic jihadists are everywhere but MI5 is brilliant at foiling their terror attacks;
• the increased budget MI5 has received is entirely justified because it is doing such a brilliant job of foiling terror attacks;
• MI5's extra powers to surveil us all are necessary to foil those terror attacks;
• whatever happens with Brexit, MI5 will continue doing a brilliant job protecting the British people;
• MI5 is determined to become a friendlier place for women and minority ethnic applicants.

This was state ideology masquerading as robust reporting; in Britain's 'flagship' newspaper of liberal journalism, no less. The front page of the Guardian website, with an accompanying photograph of two armed policemen, was a model example of propaganda that should be pored over by journalism students for decades to come:

EXCLUSIVE / MI5 chief warns of growing Russian threat to UK
• Moscow 'using cyber-warfare' against targets across Europe
• 'About 3,000' violent Islamic extremists in Britain
• Andrew Parker is first serving spy chief to give newspaper interview
Andrew Parker / There will be terrorist attacks in Britain
Paris-style attacks / UK police warn of jihadi gun threat
Opinion / 'Hear us out before you knock Prevent'

The featured opinion piece was by Simon Cole who is chief constable of Leicestershire and the National Police Chiefs' Council lead for Prevent. This is a government mass surveillance programme rolled out under 'the war on terror' which has been heavily criticised for dividing and alienating sectors of the British public, notably Muslims.

Nowhere in this coverage did the Guardian point out that US and British foreign policy – including wars of aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan, bombing in numerous other countries, support for Israel while it brutally oppresses Palestinians, and drone programmes of 'targeted' killings - has boosted the risk of terror attacks here in the UK. Indeed, intelligence services had warned Tony Blair of the increased terrorist threat to Britons before the invasion of Iraq. Eliza Manningham-Buller, former head of MI5 (and thus a predecessor of Andrew Parker), told the Chilcot inquiry in 2010 that the invasion of Iraq had 'undoubtedly' increased the terrorist threat in Britain. Intelligence and security officials also said that UK foreign policy was a factor in the 'radicalisation' of the suicide bombers who committed the 7/7 terror attacks in London in 2005.

Moreover, as historian and foreign policy analyst Mark Curtis has shown, Britain has long colluded with radical Islamic forces in order to pursue imperialistic foreign policy objectives. Curtis observes that the UK is now participating in seven covert wars: in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia.

Somehow, none of this was deemed relevant to the Guardian's big interview with the head of MI5. Aren't newspapers supposed to do actual journalism, and thus scrutinise and challenge claims made by those in powerful positions? Does the Guardian treat its readers with such indifference, perhaps even contempt, that it feels no need to adhere to such basic standards?

Consider, for example, the following words from the MI5 head about the alleged 'increasing threat' posed by Russia:

'It is using its whole range of state organs and powers to push its foreign policy abroad in increasingly aggressive ways – involving propaganda, espionage, subversion and cyber-attacks. Russia is at work across Europe and in the UK today. It is MI5's job to get in the way of that.'

There was no hint in the Guardian's coverage of MI5's newspeak that the West is engaged in all of these activities too and, given the huge resources deployed by the US and Nato, to a greater extent worldwide. Nor was there any mention of the West's much larger death toll with millions of victims in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere. It beggars belief that the Guardian 'interviewers' would be unaware of all this. So, did they consciously decide not to point out that the West does all the things Parker pinned on Russia, and to a far greater and more deadly effect? Are we to believe that Paul Johnson and Ewen MacAskill – supposedly tough, hard-hitting experienced journalists - were so meek as not to challenge Parker? Don't they realise how supine that makes them appear to their readers?

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