A Media Lens reader quipped recently that he had discovered a solution to the climate crisis. Simply harnessing the energy produced by Orwell turning in his grave would provide a limitless source of cheap, clean energy.
The comment was prompted by the decidedly Orwellian news that the Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland had been awarded the Orwell Prize for political writing. Orwell must have been spinning like a top to have his name linked with a journalist who works so hard to sell Western ‘intervention’. In March 1999, Freedland wrote:
‘How did the British left get so lost? How have its leading lights ended up as the voices of isolationism? How did it come to this…? Why is it the hard left – rather than the isolationist right – who have become the champions of moral indifference? For, make no mistake, that’s what opposition to Nato’s attempt to Clobba Slobba (as the Sun puts it) amounts to… either the West could try to halt the greatest campaign of barbarism in Europe since 1945 – or it could do nothing.’ (Jonathan Freedland, ‘The left needs to wake up to the real world. This war is a just one,’ The Guardian, March 26, 1999)
In a 2005 article on Iraq titled, ‘The war’s silver lining’, Freedland commented:
‘Tony Blair is not gloating. He could – but he prefers to appear magnanimous in what he hopes is victory. In our Guardian interview yesterday, he was handed a perfect opportunity to crow. He was talking about what he called ‘the ripple of change’ now spreading through the Middle East, the slow, but noticeable movement towards democracy in a region where that commodity has long been in short supply. I asked him whether the stone in the water that had caused this ripple was the regime change in Iraq.
‘He could have said yes…’
On March 22, 2011, with Nato bombing underway in Libya, Freedland focused on how ‘in a global, interdependent world we have a “responsibility to protect” each other’. The article was titled:
‘Though the risks are very real, the case for intervention remains strong – Not to respond to Gaddafi’s chilling threats would leave us morally culpable, but action in Libya is fraught with danger.’
Ignoring the resultant chaos, Freedland wheeled out the same arguments in response to the Syrian crisis in 2012:
‘The 2003 invasion of Iraq has tainted for a generation the idea once known as “liberal interventionism”…. We have new problems now. Fail to see that and we make the people of Homs pay the price for the mistake we made in Baghdad.’
Despite this continuous warmongering, Freedland is deemed a sober, restrained commentator by his corporate peers. Ostensibly at the opposite end of the media ‘spectrum’ from the Guardian, David Aaronovitch of The Times responded to Freedland’s winning of the Orwell Prize: ‘Congratulations, J. My favourite award!’
Aaronovitch featured in many of our early alerts after we started Media Lens in July 2001. Like Freedland, he is a militant advocate for Western ‘intervention’, including the ‘Clobba Slobba’ war, famously declaring his willingness to join the fight himself (Aaronovitch, ‘My country needs me,’ The Independent, April 6, 1999). Aaronovitch also supported the case for Western attacks on Iraq, Libya and Syria. This month, he once again called on ‘us’ to bomb Iraq:
‘We must do everything short of putting boots on the ground to help the Kurds to defend themselves against Isis and similar groups.’ (Aaronovitch, ‘Forget the past. Iraqi Kurds need our help now; The 2003 invasion is irrelevant to what is happening in Mosul now. What matters is preventing the advance of Isis,’ The Times, June 12, 2014)
Despite their enthusiasm for ‘intervention’, neither Freedland nor Aaronovitch has ever proposed bombing Israel for its enormous crimes against the captive Palestinian population – a fine example of Orwellian ‘doublethink’. Freedland merely shakes his head sadly and asks if Israelis and Palestinians will be ‘locked in a battle that drags on and on, perhaps till the end of time?’
Yes, We’re Still At It
That warmongers like Aaronovitch and Freedland can still hold down senior positions in the media means there is a desperate need for analysis that punctures the façade of liberal journalism.
A key problem is that corporate journalists cannot or will not criticise either their own employers or potential future employers. Like all corporate employees, journalists who criticise their industry are unlikely to be embraced by any media corporation. This is why Freedland, Aaronovitch, the Guardian and the Independent are almost never subjected to honest criticism from a left perspective. On the contrary, aspirant left writers bend over backwards to praise corporate journalists and media, as do ambitious executives in every industry.
Last month, environment writer Paul Kingsnorth tweeted in mock surprise about Media Lens:
‘Gosh, are they still at it?’
Over ten years ago, when Media Lens was but a toddler, Kingsnorth had been on the staff of The Ecologist where we had a regular ‘Media Watch’ column. The editors quickly tired of what was perceived as our relentless ‘attacks’ on the liberal media, notably the Guardian. Surely there were ‘better’ targets – the Mail, the Sun, The Times and so on? The end came when we wrote critically about the Guardian’s John Vidal, a friend and ally of the magazine. We were making life difficult for their pals at the Guardian – the supposed flagship of environmental journalism – and perhaps an outlet they themselves aspired to write for.
By contrast, many of our readers understand our stance perfectly. One wrote to us earlier this year:
‘many of your criticisms are aimed at the so called liberal media such as the Guardian because if they can’t get it right who can?’
We even received an email from a Guardian insider who told us he had worked on its Environment section which he had seen turn into ‘the vehicle for corporate greenwash that it represents today.’ With careful understatement, he added a more general observation about the paper:
‘It may well be too late for the Guardian as a news organisation’.
He praised Media Lens:
‘[I] recognise the integrity and courage that you have demonstrated, particularly in the face of so much criticism, much of it, sadly, from liberal journalists, some of whom really should have known better, not to mention the brilliant journalistic exposes and fine writing on the murky world of modern journalism.’
Thirteen years after Media Lens was set up, we are indeed ‘still at it’; and in no small part because of the financial support we receive from many hundreds of people every month. We originally worked in what spare time we could find away from other, paid employment before sufficient income allowed both editors to go full-time on Media Lens: first David Edwards (in 2003) and then David Cromwell (in 2010). We are 100% reliant on public support; we take no funding from other sources (nor do we seek it). We are immensely grateful to everyone who sends us donations, large or small, whether one-off or regular amounts.
As regular readers will know, around once a week we send out a media alert – an in-depth analysis of a vital issue ignored or badly skewed in the corporate media. Every day, we post frequent observations, comments and useful links via our message board, Twitter feed and Facebook page. We also publish occasional Cogitations on more spiritual, philosophical themes. Everything we do is free of charge. If you feel you are in a position to support us, we would be very grateful for any donation you are able to make via one of the available methods outlined on our Donate page.
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