The rise of the Netizens
The death of Milosevic coincides with a book by David Edwards and David Cromwell who founded Media Lens, a website that monitors media accuracy.
It is not necessary to agree with their decidedly left-wing views on economics or politics to find their analysis fascinating and important. Meticulously and convincingly, they show how even the liberal press – ‘The Guardian’, ‘The Independent’, ‘The News York Times’ – failed to defy the politicians and reveal that the reasons given for war in Serbia and then Iraq were lies.
Whatever Milosevic may have done, the use of the word genocide to describe Serbian actions in Kosovo was nonsense and the NATO Governments knew it. After the war, the allegations of massacre and mass murder in Kosovo, the authors point out, also turned out to be largely fiction. The media knew it too but went along with the charade.
As the same is true of Iraq. The success of the campaign of dissimulation over Kosovo and the failure of the media to question dishonest NATO propaganda was a dress rehearsal for Iraq. Why, the authors ask, did the press accept fictional genocide in Kosovo and then largely ignore real genocide in East Timor a few weeks later?
Other embarrassing gaps and distortions in media coverage in Haiti, Afghanistan and Latin America are analysed with devastating effect. The authors allege, not a conspiracy but a structural deformity which guarantees a lack of independence. How, they wonder, can newspapers and TV networks challenge big corporations and governments when they themselves are part of that world, with advertisers paying 75% of the bills? The sort of people who become top media figures do not ask embarrassing questions when push comes to shove because if they do, they do not last long. A dramatic example is Andrew Gilligan, the BBC defence correspondent who blew the whistle on the lies over WMD in Iraq and was sacked.
They point to a ray of hope in the ‘netizens’, the totally new element in the media equation. Top journalists (even bottom ones) who carelessly or deliberately fail to present a true picture are immediately assailed by a shower of e-mail and angry blog comments from well-informed surfers and it is improving their performance. You are unlikely to have read about ‘Guardians of Power: the myth of the liberal press’ published by the Pluto Press, London, because the said liberal media are so miffed they have largely refused to review it, thus neatly confirming the authors’ point.