We are controlled by an illusion of democracy based on rigged political parties and rigged elections. It might be cathartic to periodically reject Tweedledum in favour of Tweedledee, but they serve the same interests and are both fierce opponents of all attempts to break their shared monopoly.
It is a system of control that could not possibly be maintained without the support of a powerful corporate media monopoly that pretends ‘balanced’ reporting covers a spectrum stretching from Tweedledum on something called ‘the centre-left’ to Tweedledee on ‘the centre-right’.
The use of military and economic force to control and exploit the world is non-negotiable for these interests. We are free to vote for the Labour party to attack ‘threatening’, but in fact defenceless, Third World countries, or we can vote for the Conservative party to do the same. We can buy the Guardian that respectfully hypes the ‘threat’ as defined by ‘official sources’, or we can buy The Times that does the same.
When public scepticism erupts in response to resultant extremes of criminality and violence that even the media are powerless to deny, the illusion must be bolstered. Then Tweedledum-Tweedledee will choose from their own to rig an “inquiry”, while their media allies present the process as something other than a farce.
The Chilcot Committee
Thus the BBC writes that the tone set by the five-member committee of the Chilcot Iraq war inquiry “has been courteous, not adversarial”. If that sounds like an insult to an outraged public, the BBC is quick to hide the truth:
“Sir John Chilcot and his colleagues know their reputations are on the line. They’ve started as they mean to go on – searching for the full story.” (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/8383168.stm)
A Guardian editorial commented last month:
“Tony Blair has yet to testify before Sir John Chilcot’s inquiry into the Iraq war, but he must already be squirming after the first week’s evidence. Contrary to expectations, the mandarins have not pulled their oh-so-elegant punches.” (Leading Article: ‘Iraq inquiry: Dancing to American drums,’ The Guardian, November 28, 2009)
Mary Dejevsky of the Independent also noted that the questioning had been “gentle”, but “one after another, the top civil servants of the time have plunged the knife in to the former prime minister, sometimes brutally, sometimes with a surgeon’s finesse”.
In reality, almost nothing that was not already known has been revealed. And much that is known has been consigned to the memory hole. There +has+ been one inadvertent scoop, the leaking of a letter submitted by the then attorney-general, Lord Goldsmith, to Blair in 2002. This declared that the invasion had “no legal basis for military action… as things stand you obviously cannot do it”. Blair, the “pretty straight guy”, ignored the letter and banned Goldsmith from cabinet.
Even now, Dejevsky can write that Blair “appears firmly to have believed… that it would be far more damaging to the world’s peace and security if the US acted alone than if Britain stood alongside.” (Ibid)
Blair lied to his party, lied to parliament and lied to his country. Lest we forget, this extended to terrorising his own people. On November 7, 2002, the day before the UN vote on Resolution 1441, which “set the clock ticking” on war, Downing Street began issuing almost daily warnings of imminent terrorist threats against UK ferries, the underground, and major public events. In 2003, Blair ordered tanks to ring Heathrow airport – an astonishing action said to be in response to increased terrorist “chatter” warning of a “missile threat”.
The Guardian/Observer website records dozens of mentions of articles containing the words “Heathrow” and “threat” between November 2002 and February 2003. These abruptly ceased after February 14 – the day Hans Blix, head of the UNMOVIC arms inspection team in Iraq, presented a key report to the UN, and the day before the biggest anti-war protest march in British history. Thereafter, the “threat” just disappeared – no suspects were caught, no missiles were found, and no further questions were asked. In a rare moment of dissent, the Guardian editors had previously commented on the endless scare stories:
“It cannot be ruled out that Mr Blair may have political reasons for talking up the sense of unease, in order to help make the case for a war against Iraq that is only backed by one voter in three.” (Leading article, ‘Gloom in Guildhall,’ The Guardian, November 12, 2002)
John Pilger cited a former intelligence officer who described the government’s terror warnings as “a softening up process” ahead of the Iraq war and “a lying game on a huge scale”. (Pilger, ‘Lies, damned lies and government terror warnings,’ Daily Mirror, December 3, 2002)
We are to believe that Blair did all of this and committed one of history’s supreme war crimes at a cost of more than one million lives out of concern for the world’s peace and security. As Blair’s American co-conspirators might say: Go figure!
The five Chilcot committee members were hand-picked by Gordon Brown, a notorious practitioner of realpolitik, himself deeply complicit in the Iraq war crime. In 2007, Richard Horton, editor of the leading medical journal, The Lancet, commented:
“This Labour government, which includes Gordon Brown as much as it does Tony Blair, is party to a war crime of monstrous proportions. Yet our political consensus prevents any judicial or civil society response. Britain is paralysed by its own indifference.” (Horton, ‘A monstrous war crime,’ The Guardian, March 28, 2007; http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,2044157,00.html)
Richard Ingrams writes in the Independent:
“The lack of probing questions ought not to surprise us given the composition of the panel, all of them with close links to the political establishment.”
In June, Philippe Sands, Professor of Law at UCL, asked of Sir John Chilcot, a former permanent secretary:
“What was it about his role in the Butler inquiry that caused the prime minister to conclude he was suitable? Some who have worked closely with him, including on the Butler inquiry, fear he is not the right person. Someone who has seen him first hand described his approach as one of ‘obvious deference to governmental authority’. This is a view I have heard repeated several times. More troubling is evidence I have seen for myself.” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/jun/21/iraq-inquiry-philippe-sands)
Sands noted that former attorney-general Lord Goldsmith had given evidence at the Butler inquiry and that some members of the inquiry had pressed him hard:
“By contrast, Sir John’s spoonfed questions give every impression of being designed to elicit a response from the attorney general that would demonstrate the reasonableness of his actions and those of the government.”
The Chilcot committee also includes the historian Sir Martin Gilbert. In 2004, Sir Martin wrote of “the war on terror”:
“Although it can easily be argued that George W Bush and Tony Blair face a far lesser challenge than Roosevelt and Churchill did – that the war on terror is not a third world war – they may well, with the passage of time and the opening of the archives, join the ranks of Roosevelt and Churchill.”
Historian Sir Lawrence Freedman, also on the inquiry, wrote of the December 1998, Desert Fox bombing of Iraq:
“The best arguments for Desert Fox lay as much in what might have been the consequences of inaction as the achievements of action. If the report by Richard Butler, the head of the United Nations weapons inspectors (Unscom), on Iraqi non-compliance had been followed by no more than an awkward shrugging of the shoulders, then Saddam would have been relieved and emboldened.” (Freedman, ‘Ability to exercise sustained military force is essential,’ The Times, April 25, 2000)
This is the standard mainstream version of events. The truth is a million miles distant as chief UN weapons inspector at the time, Scott Ritter, explains in the Guardian – a newspaper that essentially ignored him when it mattered in 2002-2003:
“The U.S. and Britain had both abandoned aggressive UN weapons inspections in the spring of 1998. UN weapons inspectors were able and willing to conduct intrusive no-notice inspections of any site inside Iraq, including those associated with the Iraqi president, if it furthered their mandate of disarmament. But the U.S. viewed such inspections as useful only in so far as they either manufactured a crisis that produced justification for military intervention (as was the case with inspections in March and December 1998), or sustained the notion of continued Iraqi non-compliance so as to justify the continuation of economic sanctions.
“An inspection process that diluted arguments of Iraq’s continued retention of WMD by failing to uncover any hard evidence that would sustain such allegations, or worse, sustain Iraq’s contention that it had no such weaponry, was not in the interest of U.S. policy objectives that sought regime change, and as such required the continuation of stringent economic sanctions linked to Iraq’s disarmament obligation…
“In the end, the British were left with the role of fabricating legitimacy for an American policy of terminating weapons inspections in Iraq, supplying dated intelligence of questionable veracity about a secret weapons cache being stored in the basement of a Ba’ath party headquarters in Baghdad, which was used to trigger an inspection the U.S. hoped the Iraqis would balk at. When the Iraqis (as hoped) balked, the U.S. ordered the inspectors out of Iraq, leading to the initiation of Operation Desert Fox, a 72-hour bombing campaign designed to ensure that Iraq would not allow the return of UN inspectors, effectively keeping UN sanctions ‘frozen’ in place.” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/nov/27/truth-uk-guilt-iraq-chilcot)
In other words, the US-UK coalition manufactured a crisis to +prevent+ inspectors from giving Iraq a clean bill of health. Similarly, in 2002, as the leaked Downing Street memo exposed, the coalition planned to provoke Saddam Hussein into obstructing weapons inspections and so provide a justification for war (the second part of the plan was to provoke an Iraqi military response justifying war through increased bombing). This is simply not part of the mainstream version of events. Indeed it is not part of the media worldview, which depicts the British state as reasonable and peaceable, rather than as cynical and violent.
Our media database search (December 2009) for articles mentioning ‘Ritter’, ‘party’ and ‘headquarters’ found two articles mentioning this story. One rare mention, in the Mail on Sunday in December 1998, noted that Ritter’s advisers “deliberately provoked a showdown with the Iraqis”. Ritter gave more detail:
“They set the date to commence bombing December 16 and then asked the UN inspection team to demand access to Saddam’s Ba’ath Party headquarters, even though there was no evidence that the complex was a weapons storage site.
“But Saddam didn’t bite. He allowed four inspectors inside. So the US demanded that 12 more inspectors be allowed in and this time it worked. The demand was denied.” (Sharon Churcher, ‘How America kept Saddam in Power,’ Mail on Sunday, December 20, 1998)
Former New Statesman editor John Kampfner has described how, in 1999, Lawrence Freedman was invited to help shape “a philosophy that Blair could call his own” on foreign affairs, complete with benchmarks as to when countries should attack other countries out of humanitarian concern. This was the infamous “Blair doctrine” announced in a speech in Chicago. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2007/ may/05/biography.politicalbooks)
In his speech, Blair said:
Many of our problems have been caused by two dangerous and ruthless men – Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milosevic.”
In 2001, Sir Lawrence wrote:
“Was 11 September 2001 the start of the Third World War? To save the suspense, the answer is ‘yes’…” (Freedman,
‘This is the third world war,’ The Independent, October 20, 2001)
Richard Ingrams notes that on Channel 4, Sir Lawrence referred to the “rather noble criteria” underlying the 2003 invasion of Iraq. (http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/columnists /richard-ingrams/richard-ingramsrsquos-week-the-insistent-doubts-about-chilcots-tame-professor-1834666.html)
During the current inquiry, Sir Lawrence has revealed that he had “instigated” a pre-war seminar for Blair to discuss Iraq because: “I was aware of misgivings among some specialists in Iraq about the direction of policy.” He added that this was “my only direct engagement in Iraq policy making”. Ingrams comments:
“We were not told how a professor of history came to be in a position to organise such a seminar for the Prime Minister, nor, for that matter, whether there might have been some indirect engagements subsequently on the part of Freedman.” (Ibid)
George Galloway MP has discussed the token woman on the panel, Baroness Usha Prashar:
“Why can we not have real politicians on the inquiry? Why cannot the hon. and learned Member for Medway (Mr. Marshall-Andrews) – forensic, learned, legal – be on the committee? Why cannot the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell), with all his experience, skills and training, be on the inquiry? Why cannot the former Foreign Secretary Lord Hurd, with his vast knowledge of international affairs, be on the inquiry? Why should Parliament be represented by a woman I have never heard of?
“I have sat in this place for 23 years, and I doubt whether anybody here, other than those with the privilege of knowing the lady personally, could tell us anything that she has ever done. How can she represent Parliament in this great debate-this great inquiry? There are no military men, no men or women of legal eminence and no politicians except a non-political peeress of whom none of us has heard. This inquiry team has no credibility out there among the public.”
Finally, also sitting on the committee is Sir Roderic Lyne who was British Ambassador to the Russian Federation from 2000 to 2004. He is currently a Senior Adviser to JPMorgan Chase Bank, and a non-executive director of Peter Hambro Mining. He is a member of the Board of the Russo-British Chamber of Commerce. A radical dissident Sir Roderic is not.
In short, Brown’s selection of the Chilcot inquiry committee was one more establishment insult to the British people and to our victims attempting to survive in the wreckage of Iraq. It was one more gesture of contempt for compassion, truth and democracy.
Buckling Under Bush
In an early leading article on the Chilcot inquiry, the Guardian observed:
“What is already clear from the first week alone is that the decisions, secret or otherwise, that led to war were the product of systemic failure. Intelligence analysts, diplomats, in fact the entire machinery of the British government, proved supine against Washington’s will. Under that pressure, almost everyone buckled.” (Leading Article: Iraq inquiry: Dancing to American drums,’ The Guardian, November 28, 2009)
They certainly did. The Guardian’s Martin Woollacott wrote in January 24, 2003:
“Among those knowledgeable about Iraq there are few, if any, who believe he is not hiding such weapons. It is a given.” (Woollacott, ‘This drive to war is one of the mysteries of our time – We know Saddam is hiding weapons. That isn’t the argument,’ The Guardian, January 24, 2003)
This was close to being an exact reversal of the truth. Hans Blix, former head of UNMOVIC arms inspections in Iraq (November 2002-March 2003), said in June 2003:
“If anyone had cared… to study what UNSCOM [arms inspections in Iraq from 1991-1998] was saying for quite a number of years, and what we [UNMOVIC] were saying, they should not have assumed that they would stumble on weapons.” (Miles Pomper and Paul Kerr, ‘An Interview With Hans Blix,’ Arms Control Today, June 16 2003)
Unfortunately, almost no-one had cared to study anything. Former chief UN weapons inspector, Scott Ritter, put the issue in perspective last month:
“As of December 1998, both the U.S. and Britain knew there was no ‘smoking gun’ in Iraq that could prove that Saddam’s government was retaining or reconstituting a WMD capability. Nothing transpired between that time and when the decision was made in 2002 to invade Iraq that fundamentally altered that basic picture.
“But having decided on war using WMD as the justification, both the US and Great Britain began the process of fabricating a case after the fact. Lacking new intelligence data on Iraqi WMD, both nations resorted to either recycling old charges that had been disproved by UN inspectors in the past, or fabricating new charges that would not withstand even the most cursory of investigations.”
“The evidence needed to undermine any WMD-based case for war, derived from the work of the UN weapons inspectors, was always available to those officials in a position to weigh in on this matter, but either never consulted or deliberately ignored…” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree /2009/nov/27/truth-uk-guilt-iraq-chilcot)
But “even the most cursory of investigations” was never attempted. We were amazed in 2002-2003 at the media’s complete lack of interest in testing US-UK government claims. Ritter’s comments above +were+ published in the Guardian, but in 2009, long after they had lost the power to make a difference. In 2003, the Guardian and Observer mentioned Iraq in a total of 12,356 articles. In these articles, Ritter was mentioned 17 times, mostly in passing. The Independent mentioned Ritter eight times in 5,648 articles on Iraq in 2003. Ritter’s claim that Iraq had been “fundamentally disarmed” by December 1998, received fewer than a dozen brief mentions in the Guardian in 2002. Ritter made the point:
“The president’s task was made far easier given the role of useful idiot played by much of the mainstream media in the U.S. and Britain, where reporters and editors alike dutifully repeated both the hyped-up charges levied against Iraq and the false pretensions that a diplomatic solution was being sought.” (Ibid)
Everyone knew that Iraq’s nuclear programme had been completely eliminated by weapons inspectors before December 1998. The only conceivable threat was offered by the prospect of the Iraqi government supplying old battlefield chemical and biological weapons to al Qaeda. But Saddam Hussein was known to be a mortal enemy of al Qaeda, and any retained WMD would long since have become “harmless sludge”, according to credible experts, like Ritter, whose arguments were available from all good booksellers from 2002 onwards (See: Ritter and William Rivers Pitt, War On Iraq, Profile Books, 2002).
The Iraqi “threat” was a fantasy invented by the immensely powerful, nuclear-armed bullies of the West. This is why former British ambassador to Washington, Christopher Meyer, was able to observe last month that prior to the attacks on September 11, 2001, Iraq was merely “a grumbling appendix”. (http://uk.news.yahoo.com/18/20091126/tpl-blair-us-relations-in-spotlight-at-i-5b839a9.html)
The extent of media buckling under Bush-Blair propaganda was spectacular. On February 6, 2003, a Guardian leader responded to US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s infamous speech at the UN the previous day:
“It is not credible to argue, as Iraq did in its initial reaction to Mr Powell, that it is simply all lies. It may be that some of what he said is unfounded or exaggerated. But not all of it. As we have noted on numerous occasions, Iraq is not cooperating with the UN in the way the world has a right to expect. Mr Powell has reinforced that impression. Saddam, that bloodiest of dictators who has caused so much pain and suffering for so long, is once again recklessly courting the very disaster so many people rightly fear. Iraqi behaviour must change radically and without any more delay.” (Leading article, ‘Powell shoots to kill: But battle over Iraq is far from finished,’ The Guardian, February 6, 2003)
But it was credible that it was “simply all lies”. Again, Ritter was on hand to make this clear, although not in the Guardian:
“He just hits you, hits you, hits you with circumstantial evidence, and he confuses people – and he lied, he lied to people, he misled people… The Powell presentation is not evidence… It’s a very confusing presentation. What does it mean? What does it represent? How does it all link up? It doesn’t link up.” (‘Ritter dismisses Powell report,’ Kyodo News, February 7, 2003)
As we recently noted, the pitiful response of the BBC’s leading interviewer, Jeremy Paxman, was standard for the media:
“I thought, well, ‘We know that Colin Powell is an intelligent, thoughtful man, and a sceptical man. If he believes all this to be the case, then, you know, he’s seen the evidence; I haven’t.'” (See our alert for details: The BBC Jeremy Paxman on Iraq)
The Guardian’s insult to the intelligence in the wake of Powell’s “evidence” was completed by its observation that “Iraqi behaviour must change radically and without any more delay.” But by February 2003 the Gulf was packed with hundreds of thousands of troops, hundreds of tanks, and hundreds of ships and planes. It was inconceivable that the US and Britain would simply bring them all home again, regardless of what Iraq did or did not do.
In April 2003, one week after US tanks had captured both Baghdad and the hearts of most British journalists, one of the Guardian’s most senior commentators, the late Hugo Young, wrote of Tony Blair:
“For a political leader, few therapies compare with military victory. For a leader who went to war in the absence of a single political ally who believed in the war as unreservedly as he did, Iraq now looks like vindication on an astounding scale.” (Young, ‘So begins Blair’s descent into powerless mediocrity, Victory in Iraq risks being effaced by imminent surrender over the euro,’ The Guardian, April 15, 2003)
“No one can deny that victory happened. The existential fact sweeps aside the prior agonising. That is an inexorable short-term truth about war. Not even the promised shed-loads of chemical and biological weapons seem any longer necessary to make war seem good. For many people, especially those who waged it, its validation becomes very simple. We got rid of a pitiless enemy of humanity. What more do you want? All that agonising about the whys and wherefores? Forget it.” (Ibid)
The Guardian’s Simon Hoggart went beyond vindication of Western crimes in an article titled, “Anti-war MPs cling to intellectual life rafts.” Mocking courageous opponents of the war like MPs George Galloway, Tam Dalyell and Alice Mahon, Hoggart wrote:
“The end of a war is not a time for taking stock, for reflecting on what has been lost and what achieved, but for scrambling on to the intellectual life rafts and hoping for rescue. Tony Blair, for his part, didn’t gloat. He doesn’t do gloating.” (Hoggart, ‘Anti-war MPs cling to intellectual life rafts,’ The Guardian, April 15, 2003)
In its November 23 editorial, the Guardian writes:
“No one disputes that the foreign secretary plotted to ‘work up’ an ultimatum that could trigger war even though he believed that ‘the case was thin’…”
The careful choice of words is interesting. In fact, as Michael Smith’s reports on the leaked Downing Street memo revealed in The Times, the phrase “an ultimatum that could trigger war” should read “an ultimatum +designed+ to trigger war” – infinitely more damning (See Chapter 5 of our book Newspeak, Pluto Press, 2009, for many more examples of media mendacity on this point).
The Guardian continues:
“If, however, the inquiry gets too bogged down in logistical questions it could create the impression that the mission was merely poorly executed, as opposed to being misconceived.”
As ever, the language is carefully chosen to protect Tweedledum and Tweedledee from a public that has woken up to their criminal actions. Were the terror attacks on September 11, 2001, merely “misconceived”? Or were they crimes, atrocities? Consider the Independent’s remarkable conclusion:
“But in the end, Sir John and his team will be judged on their success in getting answers to a number of crucial questions: What intelligence on the threat posed by Iraq did ministers see and was this evidence deliberately distorted in making the public case for war? Was the door prematurely shut on a diplomatic solution to the crisis?” (Leading article, ‘Sir John Chilcot must assert his independence and focus on the key issues,’ The Independent, November 24, 2009)
But we know the answers to both these questions. The threat of Iraqi WMD was simply invented. It beggars belief that the Independent can still ask if “the door” was “prematurely shut on a diplomatic solution”. We know, without a shred of doubt, that the door to a “diplomatic solution” was never open – “the crisis” was not a real crisis. It was a fiction manufactured precisely +because+ the US-UK governments wanted war; they were determined to invade Iraq. The “diplomatic solution” was a diplomatic ploy, a sham, a trap. Even now, the Independent cannot bring itself to recognise the ruthless, cynical nature of the political system by which we are governed.
The Glass Abattoir
A Guardian leader observed: “the primary aim of the probe must be to promote the reconciliation of the public with a political class which misled it so badly”. (Leading article, ‘Chilcot inquiry: Healing the wounds of war,’ The Guardian, November 23, 2009)
The “political class” did the misleading, notice – no mention of the media. A later Guardian editorial comments:
“Neither the US nor Britain has kicked the intervention habit, and the conflict in Iraq is also far from over.” (Leading Article: ‘Iraq inquiry: Dancing to American drums,’ The Guardian, November 28, 2009)
Again, the Guardian presents itself as a neutral voice, an impartial observer of the powerful. In fact, as we have seen, it was very much one of the useful idiots to which Ritter referred. It is true that neither the US nor Britain has kicked the intervention habit. But what of the Guardian itself?
In May 2007, a front-page Guardian article declared that Iran was “forging ties with al-Qaida elements and Sunni Arab militias in Iraq in preparation for a summer showdown with coalition forces intended to tip a wavering US Congress into voting for full military withdrawal”. (www.guardian.co.uk/frontpage/story/0,,2085195,00.html)
Juan Cole, Professor of Modern Middle East and South Asian History at the University of Michigan, responded:
“US military spokesmen have been trying to push implausible articles about Shiite Iran supporting Sunni insurgents for a couple of years now, and with virtually the sole exception of the New York Times, no one in the journalistic community has taken these wild charges seriously. But The Guardian?” (Juan Cole, Informed Comment blog, May 22, 2007; www.juancole.com/2007/05/ parliament-building-shelled-iraqi.html)
In September, a Guardian editorial declared:
“Iranian negotiators should realise that their centrifuges are reaching their highest trade-in value. Push it any further, and Iran will not have an internationally monitored production line of enriched uranium to feed its nuclear reactors. Instead of international finance and trade, it will attract blockades and bombs.” (Leading article, ‘Iran: Spinning out of control,’ The Guardian, September 25, 2009)
The Guardian might ask if these are the words of a newspaper that has “kicked the intervention habit”. But a corporate media system can never subject itself to this kind of self-analysis.
True, vanishingly rare, and incomplete, exceptions do appear. In 2004, George Monbiot wrote in the Guardian that “the falsehoods reproduced by the media before the invasion of Iraq were massive and consequential: it is hard to see how Britain could have gone to war if the press had done its job”. (Monbiot, ‘Our lies led us into war,’ The Guardian, July 20, 2004; http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics /2004/jul/20/media.pressandpublishing)
The media merely “reproduced” falsehoods, then. Similarly, the “job” of the media was assumed not to be the one it performs with such consistency, year after year, for the powerful. Happily, Monbiot’s own newspaper, the Guardian, was among a select group of liberal papers that “were the most sceptical about the claims made by the government and intelligence agencies”, although they “still got some important things wrong”. The appallingly deceptive version of events offered by the pro-war Observer was judged by Monbiot to have been “partly false”. The ugliest truth was not even mentioned – Monbiot talked of media “mistakes”, not “crimes”.
But Monbiot does deserve credit – his article provided a rare discussion of an issue that is normally unmentionable. His comments will have been noted by the powers that be, and not appreciated. Sir Ken Macdonald QC, former Director of Public Prosecutions, recently shone an equally rare light on the subject of thought control in modern Britain:
“In British public life, loyalty and service to power can sometimes count for more to insiders than any tricky questions of wider reputation. It’s the regard you are held in by your peers that really counts, so that steadfastness in the face of attack and threatened exposure brings its own rich hierarchy of honour and reward. Disloyalty, on the other hand, means a terrible casting out, a rocky and barren Roman exile that few have the courage to endure.” (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/article6955241.ece)
This helps explain why modern media and politics are such obvious moral and intellectual demeritocracies.
The corporate media concern, quite obviously, is not with examining and declaring the reality of what the organisation is – much less the ugly reality – but the reality of what it needs to appear to be to its customers in order to maximise profits. Expecting honest self-analysis from the Guardian and the Independent is like expecting the meat industry to set up glass abattoirs next to supermarkets. The idea is a logical absurdity, a structural impossibility. Abattoirs have to kill animals out of sight and earshot of consumers. Corporate media have to serve state-corporate power while feigning neutrality. The sham of media neutrality has to be defended by silence – honest, rational analysis is a serious threat.
And so we have the Guardian opining that, in the face of US government propaganda in 2002-2003, “almost everyone buckled”.
The elephant tap dancing across the living room floor, shaking the house to its very foundations, is not even mentioned. This is the role of the media in causing the deaths of more than one million living, breathing, dreaming, suffering human beings. This is the role of a media, which did not merely buckle in helping this happen, but which performed the traditional propaganda service it has been +designed+ to perform in the service of the interests that created it.
The problem is that there can be no fundamental political change so long as the media has the power to stifle discussion and dissent. This is why media protestations that politicians need to be called to account are so cynical, so insulting to the intelligence. The very structure, the very reason for being of the media, ensures that there can be no real change.
Power has to be taken away from the mainstream media. The answer, as ever, lies with ordinary people willing to reject compromise, willing to invest their time, energy and resources in work that prioritises people and planet above profit.
In truth, this path is not at all “rocky and barren”; it does not involve a “terrible casting out”. It is alive with humanity, compassion and creativity. It is the life of meek servility to power and profit that is soulless, miserable and dead.
The goal of Media Lens is to promote rationality, compassion and respect for others. If you do write to journalists, we strongly urge you to maintain a polite, non-aggressive and non-abusive tone.
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