by Stephen Poole
This book from the editors of the Medialens website is not really about “Newspeak”, but offers a miscellany of detailed criticism of mainstream reporting on issues such as the Iraq war, Israel/Palestine, Hugo Chávez, global warming and so on. A major theme throughout is the fiction of media “balance”, whereby opposing viewpoints represent the limits of the respectably thinkable. Deserved smackdowns are applied to Channel 4’s trash documentary The Great Global Warming Swindle; Andrew Marr’s declaration after the defeat of the Iraqi army in 2003 that the PM “now stands a larger man”; and the Guardian’s own Chomskygate affair of 2005.
Litotes is not among the authors’ stylistic weapons: they claim that “the BBC is part of a system of thought control complicit in the deaths of millions of people abroad, in severe political oppression at home, and in the possible termination of human life on this planet”. So runs their counterproductive tendency to bathe everything in childishly apocalyptic polemic; they also affect to know what is going on “unconsciously” in journalists’ minds, and seem unaware that their own preferred descriptions of events are often just as rhetorically framed as the versions of the “psychopathic corporate media” (on which they nonetheless rely for factual reference). Still, they are useful irritants. I liked their reply to one discomfited journalist: “The technical term for what you have experienced is: democracy.”
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