Reviewed by Giuseppe Pennisi
Professor of Economics Università Europea di Roma
Does the crisis of the press in general and of the printed press in particular have as one of its determinants in the lack of trust of what is printed? This not the thesis of David Edwards and David Cromwell but rather the feeling the reviewer is left after going through 299 pages where news and reports are documented to be slanted either in good or in bad faith. Good faith is when the journalist is in error for lack of accuracy, sloppiness, laziness and/or mere ignorance. Bad faith is when the articles appear objective but are deeply slanted and intend to deceive the reader and to influence his or her opinion. David Edwards and David Cromwell are the co-editors of Media Lens, a non-profit British organization. On its website the organization defines itself as such : “Media Lens is a response based on our conviction that mainstream newspapers and broadcasters provide a profoundly distorted picture of our world. We are convinced that the increasingly centralised, corporate nature of the media means that it acts as a de facto propaganda system for corporate and other establishment interests. The costs incurred as a result of this propaganda, in terms of human suffering and environmental degradation, are incalculable”.
This self-presentation is telling a lot: Mr. Edwards and Mr. Cromwell do not think very highly of the profession. They do not take on print at the start of their book; they go straight to the Myth of the myths , the BBC alleged objective, unbiased, balanced and truthful reporting. For 60 pages, they document “The Magnificent Fiction” of the BBC. Not only a large number of mistakes is quoted, but also links are established between each of these errors in reporting and dependence on some power. Statistically, it is difficult to agree with the analysis because billion of news items are on the BBC every week, and those chosen may very well be a biased sample themselves. More interesting is that since the BBC was founded by Lord Reith in 1922 , it has been used as a propaganda power house in favor of the Baldwin Government. Thus, why wonder that it has been a propaganda weapon for Tony Blair.
Most of the book deals with reporting on the wars of the last 10 years: the Middle East Israel-Palestinian conflict, the Iraq entanglement, the Iran nuclear weapons of mass destruction. A chapter focuses on the press reports on the world climate problems and how the media is handling Venezuela and its controversial Head of State. Another chapter is an upfront fire on the “liberal press gang” – how the Independent and the Guardian are qualified when they are not called “brilliant fools”.
Thus, the diagnosis is quite bleak. Any therapy to improve the condition of the poor sick journalism or to alleviate its pains? A quite passionate, yet entertaining, book does not set any clear path , but a set of appeals to compassion, awareness, and honest journalism, even with reference to Buddhist monks (a model for guys struggling to make the front page or for chaps concerned more about their career than the betterment of mankind?)––in short, a pleasant read that could, nonetheless, scare the audience away from the media.
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