Media Lens - Current Alert News analysis and media criticism http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2014.html Thu, 24 Jul 2014 12:13:53 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb A Tale Of Two Titans – Jon Snow of C4 News And Jeremy Bowen of BBC News http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2014/771-a-tale-of-two-titans-jon-snow-of-c4-news-and-jeremy-bowen-of-bbc-news.html http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2014/771-a-tale-of-two-titans-jon-snow-of-c4-news-and-jeremy-bowen-of-bbc-news.html

On July 4, Independence Day in the United States, Channel 4 News broadcast a Jon Snow interview with Hillary Clinton, former US Secretary of State and presumed presidential candidate. For a self-proclaimed 'pinko liberal' like Snow, this was a glorious opportunity to ask hard-hitting questions about US foreign policy and Clinton's own role in shoring up the American Empire.

In the event, the interview was largely a series of soft questions, culminating in a cosy epilogue about Clinton looking forward to being a granny. As John Hilley of the Zenpolitics blog observed, it was 'a safely-moderated version [of what] passes for "probing journalism".'

'Where', asked Hilley, 'was the serious indictment of US-directed murder and mayhem in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Egypt and Syria? What of Washington's protection of terror state Saudi Arabia?'

Why did Snow ask Clinton a loaded question about the West's supposed 'failure' to press Israel on illegal settlements; as though the US, in particular, is a hapless and helpless bystander to Israel's major international crimes?

Hilley continued:

'why didn't Snow highlight America's role as a principal and criminal supporter of Israel, and specify the $3 billion a year it gifts the Israeli state to continue its brutal military occupation? Why didn't he call out the US as a fundamental cause of the problem, and grill Clinton on her own complicit part in that "failure"?'

Also deeply unimpressed by Snow's performance was Media Lens reader Ed Murray. He sent the journalist a scathing email in which he described the interview as 'a party political broadcast on behalf of the American Imperialist Party.'

We highlighted Murray's email via Twitter:

'An uncomfortable email for @jonsnowC4 to read - which he will likely ignore or brush away.'

Snow chose the second option:

'Intriguingly, Media Lens post delightfully critical material, but no option to reply!'

This was a peculiar, clodhopping response from a veteran journalist with, one might think, the skills to navigate resources and dig out information. But somehow Snow had missed that Media Lens has a messageboard where he is welcome to post, an email address to contact us, and a lively Facebook page. He could have replied to our 'delightfully critical material' on Twitter. He could even have responded via his own Channel 4 blog which reaches a national, indeed global, audience. Instead, he went for another diversionary tactic:

'Media Lens: 18,000 Tweets; 14,000 followers/ JSnow 8,500 Tweets 424,000 folowers:If only you were more constructive, you might help!'

This turgid display of Twitter willy-waving was, as more polite and erudite readers pointed out, merely argumentum ad populum. By Snow's logic, perhaps we should bow down before the political wisdom of Justin Bieber (27,200 tweets and 52.7 million followers) or perhaps the remarkably tweet-efficient Beyoncé (only 8 tweets, but a stonking 13.4 million followers).  

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editor@medialens.org (Editor) Alerts 2014 Fri, 11 Jul 2014 00:58:33 +0000
Some Deaths Really Matter – The Disproportionate Coverage of Israeli And Palestinian Killings http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2014/770-some-deaths-really-matter-the-disproportionate-coverage-of-israeli-and-palestinian-killings.html http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2014/770-some-deaths-really-matter-the-disproportionate-coverage-of-israeli-and-palestinian-killings.html

Israeli deaths matter much more than Palestinian deaths. This has long been a distinguishing feature of Western news media reporting on the Middle East. The recent blanket coverage afforded to the brutal killing of three Israeli teenagers highlights this immutable fact.

Channel 4's Alex Thomson offered a rare glimmer of dissent:

'Curious to watch UK media living down to the Palestinian claim that 1 Israeli life is worth 1000 Palestinian lives.'

Major broadcasters, such as BBC News, devoted headlines and extended reports to the deaths, and included heart-rending interviews with grieving relatives in Israel. The Guardian ran live coverage of the funerals for more than nine hours. But when has this ever happened for Palestinian victims of Israeli terror?

A reader challenged the Guardian journalist leading the live coverage:

'@Haroon_Siddique Did I somehow miss @guardian's live-tweeting of Palestinian victims' funerals & eulogies?' 

Several nudges elicited the standard display of hand-washing:

'I'm not an editor so don't take decisions on future coverage.'

An extensive list of news stories and video reports appeared on the BBC website describing how Israel is 'united in grief', alongside stories titled, 'Netanyahu: "Wide and deep chasm" between Israel and enemies', 'Thousands gather for Israeli teenagers' funerals', 'Grief and anger after Israel teenager deaths', and 'On road where teens vanished'.

These all strongly, and rightly, expressed the broadcaster's empathy with the fact that something terrible had happened. But when has the BBC ever expressed this level of concern for the deaths of Palestinian teenagers? The question matters because consistent empathic bias has the effect of humanising Israelis for the public and dehumanising Palestinians. This is an extremely lethal form of media propaganda with real consequences for human suffering.

A Guardian editorial noted that the killings 'had shocked [Israel] to the core'. Western leaders had also expressed solidarity - an outpouring of concern that contrasted with the reaction to Palestinian deaths, which 'so often pass with barely a murmur'. But that was all the Guardian editors had to say.

The missing, ugly reality is that over the last 13 years, on average, one Palestinian child has been killed by Israel every 3 days. Since the outbreak of the second Intifada in September 2000, 1,523 Palestinian children have been killed by Israel's occupation forces. Over the same time period, 129 Israeli children have been killed. Thus, the ratio of Palestinian children to Israeli children killed is more than ten to one. You would be forgiven for not having the slightest inkling of this from Western media coverage. Even in the past few days, in reporting the massive Israeli operation to find the teenagers, only the briefest of nods has been given to the 'five Palestinians, including a number of minors, [who were] killed' in the process.

Following the tragic discovery of the bodies of the three Israeli teenagers, corporate journalism gave headline attention to President Obama's condemnation of 'this senseless act of terror against innocent youth'. Significant coverage was given to the shocked reaction of prime minister David Cameron who said:

'This was an appalling and inexcusable act of terror perpetrated against young teenagers. Britain will stand with Israel as it seeks to bring to justice those responsible.'

But when have Obama or Cameron ever condemned the killing of Palestinian youths or children by Israelis in this vehement way?

We can easily see the contrast in media treatment of Israeli and Palestinian deaths by observing the lack of coverage, and the silence of Western leaders, about two young Palestinians, Nadim Nuwara, 17, and Muhammad Abu al-Thahir, 16, who were shot dead by Israeli security forces in May. The BBC did not entirely ignore the killings. But the deaths were presented as a murky event in which the truth was strongly disputed:

'A human rights group has released a video it says shows two teenage Palestinians being shot dead by Israeli security forces at a protest last week.' (Our emphasis.)

The BBC report was quick to present the Israeli viewpoint upfront:

'But the Israeli military said the video had been edited and did not document the "violent nature" of the incident.

'It also questioned a claim that live ammunition had been fired at the boys.'

A few days later, the Israeli military ordered the removal of the CCTV cameras that had captured the killings. The security cameras belonged to Fakher Sayed who ran a nearby carpentry shop. And the interest in this from BBC News and the rest of the corporate media? Zero, as far as we can tell.

Every violent death is a tragedy. But the disproportionate coverage given to Israeli and Palestinian deaths is symptomatic of a deep-rooted, pro-Israel bias. Why is it so extreme? Because of the intense pressure brought to bear on the media by the powerful Israeli lobby, and by allied US-UK interests strongly favouring Israel. As one senior anonymous BBC editor once put it:

'We wait in fear for the phone call from the Israelis.'

 

DC & DE

 

SUGGESTED ACTION

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.

Please consider signing this petition set up at Change.org by activist Mark Nadim:

'Highlight the 1,500 Palestinian Children Killed by Israeli 'Defence' Force since 2000, and Restraint and Peacemaking rather than Condoning 'Inevitable' Collective Death Sentence!'

Write to:

Paul Royall, editor of BBC News at Ten, and BBC News at Six
Email: paul.royall@bbc.co.uk
Twitter: @paulroyall

Please blind-copy us in on any exchanges or forward them to us later at:
editor@medialens.org

Finally, we would like to thank everyone who kindly responded to our recent appeal for funds. There were too many people to thank individually, but we really do appreciate your support.

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editor@medialens.org (Editor) Alerts 2014 Wed, 02 Jul 2014 02:27:35 +0000
'Gosh, Are They Still At It?' An Appeal For Support http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2014/768-gosh-are-they-still-at-it.html http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2014/768-gosh-are-they-still-at-it.html

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.

Whether you are able to send a donation or not, we value the contributions you make with your feedback, suggestions and in sharing our work with others.

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editor@medialens.org (Editor) Alerts 2014 Tue, 24 Jun 2014 11:17:44 +0000
Blair: Bombing Iraq Better. Again http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2014/767-blair-bombing-iraq-better-again.html http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2014/767-blair-bombing-iraq-better-again.html

By David Cromwell and David Edwards

Over the weekend, the British media was awash with the blood-splattered Tony Blair's self-serving attempts to justify the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003. The coverage was sparked by a new essay in which Blair claimed that the chaos in Iraq was the 'predictable and malign effect' of the West having 'watched Syria descend into the abyss' without bombing Assad. Blair advocated yet more Western violence, more bombing:

'On the immediate challenge President Obama is right to put all options on the table in respect of Iraq, including military strikes on the extremists...'

Par for the course, the liberal wing of the corporate media, notably the Guardian and BBC News, led with Blair's sophistry. (See image, courtesy of News Unspun).

Blair told Andrew Marr on BBC1 that:

'washing our hands of the current problem would not make it go away'.

The choice of phrase is telling. The image of Blair attempting to wash away the blood of one million Iraqis is indelible.

The Guardian's editors performed painful contortions to present an illusion of reasoned analysis, declaring that Blair's essay was both 'thoughtful' and 'wrong-headed'. Robert Fisk's response to Blair was rather different:

'How do they get away with these lies?' 

In the Guardian editorial, titled 'a case of blame and shame', the key phrase was:

'If there has to be a hierarchy of blame for Iraq, however, it must surely begin with Saddam.'

Of course, 'surely'! But only if the Guardian's editors feel compelled to keep selling one core ideological message to its audience. Namely, that, although mistakes do happen, such as 'deficiencies' in the West's occupation of Iraq, US-UK foreign policy is basically well-intentioned. That, in a nutshell, is why the Guardian is part of the liberal establishment bedrock.

The Guardian forgot to mention that Saddam Hussein achieved power with the assistance of the CIA. They forgot to mention that the West supported him through his worst crimes, supplying the technology that allowed him to launch chemical weapons attacks during the Iran-Iraq war, protecting him in the United Nations and the press, and so on.

Like an addict unable to let go of just one more fix, the paper said:

'The situation may not demand, but it certainly invites, intervention.'

The Independent, that other great white hope of British liberal journalism, was no better. An editorial asked: 'Would intervention now work?', adding that it 'may become inevitable because of the threat to Israel and Turkey, a Nato ally.' The paper bemoaned, outrageously, that it had come to this because 'some sort of decisive Western action in Syria, famously defeated in the House of Commons, might have prevented Isis from gaining the strength it has.' In fact, bombing Assad would have massively empowered Isis, one of his major enemies.

The editors complained that there was now:

'no appetite for intervention anywhere, no matter how compelling the arguments.'

The pathetic hand-wringing continued:

'Our failures in Iraq have inoculated Western electorates against any desire to repeat the experiment, no matter that an invasion of Iraq now could be more truthfully termed a "liberation" for the Iraqi people, and an act to save many more lives throughout the Middle East, than the one Mr Blair and Mr Bush presided over 11 years ago. Their failures do mean we cannot act now.'

Ah, this time it really will be a 'liberation', whereas last time, as even London mayor Boris Johnson notes:

'It looks to me as though the Americans were motivated by a general strategic desire to control one of the biggest oil exporters in the world...'

Johnson, who voted for the war and describes it as merely a 'tragic mistake', is concerned not with the criminality and bloodshed but the ability to sell wars in future:

'Blair is now undermining the very cause he advocates – the possibility of serious and effective intervention.'

Amol Rajan, the Independent's editor, boasted of 'our proud record on coverage of Iraq'.

We responded:

'Sorry, we have analysed the Independent's performance closely. Your record was and is shameful. Where to start?' 

We could do worse than by reminding him of his own paper's editorial at the war's launch (when Simon Kelner was the editor):

'The debate about...this war is over...the time has come "to support our troops".' ('When democracies do battle with a despot, they must hold on to their moral superiority', Independent, March 20, 2003)

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editor@medialens.org (Editor) Alerts 2014 Mon, 16 Jun 2014 06:28:36 +0000
The Great White 'Nope' - Genevieve Jacobs, Paul Mason and Alain De Botton http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2014/766-the-great-white-nope.html http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2014/766-the-great-white-nope.html

By David Edwards

 

When corporations own the news and advertisers 'sponsor' the shows, journalists know they are above all answerable to the company managers and allied interests who pay their salaries. The mere public, especially voices of dissent, can be treated with indifference, even contempt. Journalists have power without responsibility, and they know it.

On March 6, the fast-talking presenter of ABC Radio Triple 6's Mornings with Genevieve Jacobs in Canberra described the shameful suffering of indigenous Australians exposed by John Pilger's important film, Utopia.

'What veteran filmmaker John Pilger had to present for his film was in many ways a Third World country, a place where there is despair and dispossession, desperate injustice.'

Jacobs quoted football legend and 'Australian of the year', Adam Goodes, on 'mainstream' Australia's response to Pilger's film:

'Our response, our muted response, is a disgrace. It is disturbing and hurtful that we just don't evidently care all that much.'

Jacobs then interviewed Pilger, asking him:

'So what does that say about the state of the national debate?'

It was a good question, one that would soon return to haunt the questioner.

Like so many journalists responding to so much serious criticism, Jacobs breezily insisted that her organisation was different, it had embraced all points of view: 'John, that's a debate we're very aware of here in Canberra... I think we're well aware of that, John!' she told Pilger repeatedly, who exposed the usual, key flaw in the argument:

'Intensely discussed, yes, you're absolutely right. But discussed in the narrowest terms.'

This recalled the sublime moment when Noam Chomsky rendered a brash young Andrew Marr temporarily speechless, after the BBC interviewer had commented of the Gulf War:

'There was a great debate about whether there should have been a negotiated settlement.'

Chomsky interrupted: 'No, sorry, no, that's not [the] debate...'

Jacobs, though, was insistent:

'Certainly here in Canberra we do have that discussion vigorously and often... I have spoken to people in the studio... I think that has been widely discussed.'

Given that the issues had in fact been endlessly discussed, what on earth was the point of Pilger's film? Jacobs asked again:

'That's my question though – what do you bring that is new to this?'

Pilger replied: 'Well, have you seen the film?'

Jacobs: 'I haven't seen the film, but...'

Like her audience, Jacobs knew exactly what was coming next:

'Well then, how can we...? This is the problem, you see. And forgive me for raising it. How can you have a discussion with me about a film you haven't seen?... You say you're having a lot of debate there, but you apparently haven't watched the film that we're supposed to be talking about!'

Pilger's voice dropped and slowed as he circled the flailing interviewer like a 'Saltie' croc:

'I'm giving you the opportunity to explain to me and your listeners why you haven't, why you haven't watched the film before you discuss with the filmmaker the film?'

Jacobs explained that she hadn't seen the film 'because my producer suggested to me this morning that it would be a really good idea to discuss this'. But there was no place to hide:

'You run a programme, and with all respect to you, that's what Adam Goodes is talking about - that people like you cannot be bothered! And that's what he's writing about. Don't you find this so exquisitely ironic?'

Jacobs instantly shut down the debate and turned to emailed comments sent in by listeners. Would these be favourable to the guest who had just sunk the host? Jacobs blurted:

'Gus says to me, "Doesn't 'Triple 6' ever get tired of having people on the radio to lecture us about how racist we are? Didn't we say sorry? Are we going to move on?"'

And by way of balance:

'Rob says, "While I don't disagree with Pilger on many issues he's tackled over the years, his holier than thou, patronising tone alienates those who support his efforts and hardens the attitudes of those who don't."'

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editor@medialens.org (Editor) Alerts 2014 Wed, 11 Jun 2014 07:11:46 +0000
Thinking The Right Thoughts http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2014/763-thinking-the-right-thoughts.html http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2014/763-thinking-the-right-thoughts.html

By David Cromwell & David Edwards

There are always convenient news-hooks on which corporate journalists can hang their power-friendly prejudices about the West being 'the good guys' in world affairs. Channel 4 News is not immune from this chauvinism. For example, Matt Frei introduced a report about last month's elections in Iraq with this propaganda bullet:

'Now, America once invaded Iraq so that, in large part, Iraqis could do what they did today – go to the polls.' (Channel 4 News, April 30, 2014)

Frei was, in fact, diligently reading out the first line of a blog piece by his colleague Jonathan Rugman, C4 News foreign affairs correspondent. The actual overriding reason for the West's war of aggression – strategic geopolitical dominance, including control of valuable hydrocarbon resources in the Middle East – was simply brushed aside. As ever, 'we' must be seen to be acting out of benign intent and pure desire to bring democracy to people around the globe. The reality is that 'we' must stifle other countries' independent development and, if required, bomb them into submission to Western state-corporate hegemony.

Frei acting as a mouthpiece to Rugman's bizarrely skewed perspective on the Iraq War was yet another case of sticking to the editorial line from the C4 News 'team you know and trust'. When we asked C4 News correspondent Alex Thomson whether he agreed with this particular editorial monstrosity from his team he ducked out:

'whoah - I'm surfing right now and staying well out of this one!'

To be fair to Thomson, that was his jovial way of not defending his colleagues. He knows we know, and we know he knows we know, where his sympathies lie on that one.

Whereas Thomson has enough savvy to see behind much US-UK government rhetoric, he is aware that he must rein in any expressed scepticism to hang on to his job. As a general rule, journalists in the public eye are constrained to direct scepticism in one direction only: towards the propaganda output of officially declared enemies.

Thus, BBC Moscow correspondent Steve Rosenberg was free to make this observation via Twitter:

'Dominating the Russian airwaves, Moscow's lexicon for the Ukraine conflict: "junta", "fascists", "Banderovtsy", "genocide", "extremists"'

That's fine. But when has Rosenberg, or any of his colleagues, ever highlighted how 'our' airwaves are dominated by 'London's lexicon' and 'Washington's lexicon'? Why is it the job of a supposedly impartial BBC journalist to expose 'Moscow's lexicon', but not that emanating from London or Washington? Rosenberg ignored us when we asked him those questions on Twitter.

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editor@medialens.org (Editor) Alerts 2014 Thu, 15 May 2014 07:25:10 +0000
Eeny, Meeny Madness - Beyond Racism http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2014/764-eeny-meeny.html http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2014/764-eeny-meeny.html

By David Edwards

Jeremy Clarkson is star presenter of the BBC's Top Gear show which, tragically for anyone who cares about the climate, holds a 2013 Guinness world record for most widely watched factual programme in the world.

Clarkson asked for his viewers' forgiveness following the publication of a clip that showed him reciting the nursery rhyme, 'Eeny, meeny, miny, moe; catch a nigger by the toe', in unaired footage obtained by the Daily Mirror. Clarkson can clearly be seen mumbling a portion of the N-word.

The Blairite Deputy Labour leader, Harriet Harman, who voted for the 2003 invasion of Iraq and was part of the government that waged the war, said:

'Anybody who uses the N-word in public or private in whatever context has no place in the British Broadcasting Corporation.'

In the Guardian, senior columnist Suzanne Moore commented:

'Clarkson is not stupid. Nor is he a maverick or outlier. He is a central part of the establishment. He parties with Cameron. Just as Ukip is not a maverick party, but made up of disgruntled Tories; just as Boris Johnson is not a maverick but a born-to-rule chancer... this section of the right deludes itself that it is somehow "outside" the establishment rather than its pumping heart.'

We wrote to Moore on Twitter:

'You say the right "deludes itself" it is "somehow 'outside' the establishment rather than its pumping heart". But which paper sold us Blair, the man who destroyed resistance to the establishment? Which paper told us to vote Blair in 2005, after Iraq? And which paper sold us "R2P" ["Responsibility to protect"] in Libya and Syria, which has clearly involved "the rich and powerful deriding the powerless"?'

Moore ignored us but noted on her Twitter feed:

'Media Lens have roused themselves to tell me off? Why this week? Why not every week?'

But the point we were making to Moore was a serious one. As John Pilger commented to us in 2008:

'Since Blair and Brown closed down the last vestiges of Labour as a social democratic party, the task of the media has been to deny the great political happening of the post-war years: the convergence of Labour and the Conservatives as one political entity with two factions serving a single ideology state.' (Email to Media Lens, November 24, 2008)

Pilger has also described how, for many years, the Guardian 'swooned over Blair as a mystic of the "Third Way".' 

On May 3, 2005 - two days before the UK general election and two years after the criminal invasion of Iraq - a leading article in the Guardian opined:

'While 2005 will be remembered as Tony Blair's Iraq election, May 5 is not a referendum on that one decision, however fateful, or on the person who led it, however controversial...'

The editors concluded:

'We believe that Mr Blair should be re-elected to lead Labour into a third term this week.'

The leader was titled: 'Once more with feeling.'

The Guardian has continued to boost Blair on numerous occasions since then.

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editor@medialens.org (Editor) Alerts 2014 Mon, 12 May 2014 13:11:10 +0000
'Hard Clay' - Remaking Afghanistan In 'Our' Image http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2014/762-hard-clay-remaking-afghanistan-in-our-image.html http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2014/762-hard-clay-remaking-afghanistan-in-our-image.html

By David Edwards

 

Last month, we reviewed the mind-boggling contrast between corporate media coverage of the January 2005 election in Iraq and the March 2014 referendum in Crimea.

Whereas all media accepted the basic legitimacy of an Iraq election conducted under extremely violent US-UK military occupation, they all rejected the legitimacy of a Crimea referendum conducted 'at [Russian] gunpoint'.

It was not difficult to guess how the same media would respond to the Afghan presidential election of April 5 under the guns of Britain and America's occupying force.

The Daily Telegraph had welcomed 'the first democratic elections' in Iraq (Leader, 'Mission accomplished,' December 6, 2004) and dismissed the Crimea vote as 'an illegal referendum conducted at gunpoint'. As for Afghanistan:

'The sight of millions of Afghans defying the Taliban to vote in their country's presidential election should induce genuine humility. We might take democracy for granted; they emphatically do not.'

Democracy it was, then. Had the editors forgotten that the vote was taking place under US-UK military occupation? In fact, no:

'The idea that the Taliban are waiting to sweep back to power as soon as American and British troops depart has also taken a knock. If this poll continues to proceed smoothly, the country should have the inestimable benefit of a legitimately elected leader.'

The election was thus declared both democratic and legitimate. As in Iraq, the delegitimising effect of military occupation was ignored – 'our' occupations are simply accepted as legitimate and uncontroversial.

A Sunday Times leader hailed 'democratic elections' in Iraq, noting only that they were threatened by 'terrorists' - Iraqis, not the illegal foreign invaders who had wrecked the country with war, sanctions, bombing and more war (Leader, 'Send more troops,' October 10, 2004). By contrast, The Times claimed that the Crimea referendum was made absurd by Russian troops 'massing on their western border'. (Leading article, 'Russian Pariah,' March 17, 2014)

But The Times found nothing absurd about the Afghan election:

'We should honour and celebrate the resolve of these voters, their commitment to the democratic process.'

To be sure, military involvement had been a problem:

'The Taleban has been malignly active in the run-up to the election, attacking foreigners in restaurants and showering death threats on democratic activists.'

What about the occupation?

'As US and British troops ready themselves for withdrawal by the end of this year, the Afghans are evidently eager to take command of their own political destinies.'

And yet this was impossible in Crimea, although Russian troops were not occupying and fighting, merely said to be 'massing' on the border.

For the BBC, the Iraq election was 'the first democratic election in fifty years'. (David Willis, BBC1, News at Ten, January 10, 2005) But the West had dismissed the Crimea referendum 'as illegal and one that will be held at gunpoint'.

The BBC felt no need to reference the West's view on Afghanistan, stating baldly:

'The election marks the country's first democratic transfer of power.'

On Channel 4 News, Alex Thomson, a courageous and comparatively honest reporter, covered the Afghan vote from Kabul. We tweeted him:

'How free are these elections, Alex? What's the state of press freedom, for example?'

We supplied some context:

'In 2004-5, press supplied no analysis of state of press freedom prior to elections in Iraq, January '05. Will you in Afghanistan?'

Thomson responded: 'huge questions gents'. He added:

'quick honest answer? I probably won't regrettably. There's a civil war on and it's not too priority...'. Moreover: 'I can only work 18-20 hours a day and there isn't time is truthful answer. Someone should find research.'

Establishing whether the elections were actually free and fair - or not - was not 'too priority', somebody else's job. A few moment's research, and indeed thought, would have told Thomson that an election under US-UK occupation could not be described as free and fair.

Thomson later commented on his Channel 4 blog:

'So enjoy your election in all its colour, noise, excitement and yes, valid democratic exercise up to a limited point.'

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editor@medialens.org (Editor) Alerts 2014 Mon, 28 Apr 2014 11:13:55 +0000
The Neverending ‘Wakeup Call’ http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2014/761-the-neverending-wakeup-call.html http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2014/761-the-neverending-wakeup-call.html

By David Cromwell and David Edwards

The new report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is clear that the impacts of climate change are likely to be 'severe, pervasive and irreversible'. Impacts include droughts, floods, heat waves, endangered species, crop failure, food insecurity, famine and even war.

But for more than 25 years, since the IPCC was set up in 1988, there have been numerous scientific 'wakeup calls' and nothing significant has changed. In fact, turbo-charged, fossil-fuel driven capitalism has proceeded to run amok. And, for the vested interests who are the winners in the global economy, the tiny 'one per cent' or less, it is vital that nothing stops their continued 'success'. Their cynical propaganda campaign is often dressed up as the need to be 'sensible' and to take measures that do no 'harm' to the economy.

As Dana Nuccitelli, an environmental scientist and contributor to SkepticalScience.com, notes:

'Contrarians have tried to spin the conclusions of the report to incorrectly argue that it would be cheaper to try and adapt to climate change and pay the costs of climate damages. In reality the report says no such thing. The IPCC simply tells us that even if we manage to prevent the highest risk scenarios, climate change costs will still be high, and we can't even grasp how high climate damage costs will be in the highest risk scenarios.'

The BBC News website asked on its front page, 'Is climate report overly alarming?', and linked to a piece by environment correspondent, Matt McGrath. The BBC journalist had trailed his piece via Twitter:

'Dissent among scientists over key climate impacts report'

But, as several Twitter users observed, the 'dissent' among 'scientists' amounted to the objections of one individual, Richard Tol; that's one IPCC author out of 70.

Leo Hickman, chief adviser on climate change at WWF-UK, retorted:

'Hey, BBC, I've fixed the headline for you: "One go-to contrarian scientist dissents over key climate impact report"'

The noted climate scientist Michael E. Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, retweeted Hickman's comment approvingly.

In fact, Tol is not even a 'go-to contrarian scientist', but rather a 'go-to contrarian economist'. He is a professor of economics at Sussex University.

The BBC's McGrath kept his head down. Twitter user Peter Webber noted:

'Days later and @mattmcgrathbbc hasn't had professionalism to rebut criticism of his "inaccurate reporting" on IPCC "scientific dissent"' 

Entirely missing from 'mainstream' coverage were salient facts about Tol's ideological stance and wretched background. For instance, Tol has worked with Bjorn 'Skeptical Environmentalist' Lomborg in downplaying the importance of tackling the climate crisis. In 2009, Tol was listed as an adviser to the Nigel Lawson-chaired Global Warming Policy Foundation, the notorious pro-business climate denialist 'thinktank'. Two years earlier, in 2007, Tol was among the US Senate Republican Party's 'list of scientists disputing man-made global warming claims'. Tol 'dismissed the idea that mankind must act now to prevent catastrophic global warming'. He outrageously scorned the Stern review on the economics of climate action, and the urgent need for concerted action, as 'preposterous', 'alarmist and incompetent.' 

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editor@medialens.org (Editor) Alerts 2014 Tue, 01 Apr 2014 22:47:14 +0000
Voting At Gunpoint - The Jaw-Dropping Media Bias On Crimea http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2014/760-voting-at-gunpoint.html http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2014/760-voting-at-gunpoint.html

By David Edwards

 

Prior to the March 16 referendum, the BBC website reported:

'Crimeans will vote on whether they want their autonomous republic to break away from Ukraine and join Russia.'

The title of the news report indicated the focus:

'Is Crimea's referendum legal?'

The answer:

'Ukraine and the West have dismissed the referendum as illegal and one that will be held at gunpoint, but Russia supports it.'

Legality was not an issue in BBC coverage of the January 2005 election held in Iraq under US-UK occupation. This was accepted on the main BBC evening news as 'the first democratic election in fifty years'. (David Willis, BBC1, News at Ten, January 10, 2005)

And the Iraq election was not merely 'held at gunpoint'; it was held in the middle of a ferocious war to crush resistance to occupation. Just weeks before the vote, American and British forces had subjected Iraq's third city, Fallujah, to all-out assault leaving 70 per cent of houses and shops destroyed, and at least 800 civilians dead. ('Fallujah still needs more supplies despite aid arrival,' www.irinnews.org, November 30, 2004)

The US 1st Marine Division alone fired 5,685 high-explosive 155mm shells during the battle. The US 3rd Marine Air Wing contributed 709 bombs, rockets and missiles, and 93,000 machine gun and cannon rounds. There was much else besides, of course, and not just in Fallujah.

In the same month as the election, an Iraqi doctor, Ali Fadhil, reported of the city:

'It was completely devastated, destruction everywhere. It looked like a city of ghosts. Falluja used to be a modern city; now there was nothing. We spent the day going through the rubble that had been the centre of the city; I didn't see a single building that was functioning.' (Fadhil, 'City of ghosts,' The Guardian, January 11, 2005)

The BBC made no mention of the argument that the deaths of 100,000 Iraqis as a result of the invasion over the previous two years made a nonsense of the claim that the election was free and fair.

The US had in fact rigged the rules to ensure US-friendly Kurds had 27% of the seats in the national assembly, although they made up just 15% of the population. In a rare departure from mainstream propaganda, Naomi Klein commented in the Guardian:

'Skewing matters further, the US-authored interim constitution requires that all major decisions have the support of two-thirds or, in some cases, three-quarters of the assembly - an absurdly high figure that gives the Kurds the power to block any call for foreign troop withdrawal, any attempt to roll back Bremer's economic orders, and any part of a new constitution.' (Klein, 'Brand USA is in trouble, so take a lesson from Big Mac,' The Guardian, March 14, 2005)

Washington-funded organisations with long records of machinating for US interests abroad were deeply involved in the election. The National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI) were part of a consortium to which the US government had provided over $80 million for political and electoral activities in Iraq. NDI was headed by former Secretary of State Madeleine 'We think the price is worth it' Albright, while IRI was chaired by Republican Senator John McCain. (Lisa Ashkenaz Croke and Brian Dominick, 'Controversial U.S. Groups Operate Behind Scenes on Iraq Vote,' www.newstandardnews.net, December 13, 2004)

In January 2005, our search of the Lexis media database found that there had not been a single substantive analysis of press freedom in occupied Iraq - obviously a key requirement for a free election - in any UK national newspaper in the previous six months. The issue had simply been ignored.

And yet a Guardian editorial lauded the vote as 'the country's first free election in decades', a 'landmark election' that would be 'in a way, a grand moment'. (Leader, 'Vote against violence,' The Guardian, January 7, 2005; Leader, 'On the threshold,' The Guardian, January 29, 2005)

The editors added:

'It is in the interests of all - Iraqis, the Arabs, the US and Britain - that something workable be salvaged from the wreckage as Iraq stands poised between imperfect democracy and worsening strife.' (Ibid, Leader, January 29, 2005)

By contrast, a Guardian leader commented on the referendum in Crimea:

'The legality of this vote is at best highly questionable: the region is under armed occupation, the Crimean prime minister was deposed when gunmen took over regional government buildings last week and, according to Chancellor Angela Merkel, the referendum is incompatible with Ukraine's constitution.'

A second leader was more direct:

'The referendum that took place in Crimea yesterday is both irrelevant and deeply significant. Irrelevant because it has no standing in the law of the country to which it applies, and because it took place while the autonomous region was under military occupation.'

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editor@medialens.org (Editor) Alerts 2014 Thu, 27 Mar 2014 09:18:26 +0000
Scotlandshire: BBC Scotland Coverage Of The Independence Referendum http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2014/759-scotlandshire-bbc-scotland-coverage-of-the-independence-referendum.html http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2014/759-scotlandshire-bbc-scotland-coverage-of-the-independence-referendum.html

By David Cromwell

The BBC's 'Amazing Litany' Of Bias

Coverage of the Scottish independence referendum, due to be held on September 18 this year, is a compelling example of the deep establishment bias of the corporate media. Some critics have characterised the BBC's coverage, in particular, as though Scotland is merely a region or a county of the United Kingdom called 'Scotlandshire'.

The establishment, pro-Union bias of 'mainstream' coverage emerges clearly from a careful analysis by an experienced media academic, and by the BBC's reprehensible attempt to rubbish both the study and its author. The year-long study was conducted by a small team led by Professor John Robertson of the University of West Scotland. Between 17 September 2012 – 18 September 2013, the team recorded and transcribed approximately 730 hours of evening TV news output broadcast by BBC Scotland and Scottish Television (STV). The study concluded that 317 news items broadcast by the BBC favoured the 'No' campaign (i.e. no to Scottish independence) compared to just 211 favourable to the 'Yes' campaign. A similar bias in favour of the 'No' campaign was displayed by STV. Overall, there was a broadcaster bias favouring the 'No' campaign by a ratio of 3:2. In other words, there was 50 per cent more favourable coverage to the 'No' campaign.

Professor Robertson told Media Lens that 'more importantly', there was also:

'undue deference and the pretence of apolitical wisdom in [official] reports coming from London – the Office for Budget Responsibility and Institute for Fiscal Studies, for example; but, also, Treasury officials [were] presented as detached academic figures to be trusted.' (Email, March 18, 2014)

There was also a deep-rooted personalisation of Scottish independence by the broadcasters in their systematic conflating of the 'wishes' of Alex Salmond, Scotland's First Minister, with the aims and objectives of the 'Yes' campaign. This was not the case with media coverage of the 'No' campaign. The objectives of the 'No' Campaign were not routinely portrayed as the 'wishes' of Alastair Darling, leader of the 'Better Together' group campaigning to keep Scotland within the United Kingdom.

Professor Robertson told us that:

'the conflation of the First Minister's wishes with the YES campaign seems a classic case of undermining ideas by association with clownish portrayal of leading actors [in the campaign].'

This media performance was, he said, reminiscent of past corporate media demonisation of former miners' leader Arthur Scargill and Labour leaders Neil Kinnock and Michael Foot.

Finally, Professor Robertson noted that there was a strong 'tendency to begin [news] reports with bad economic news for the Yes campaign [...]. Reports leading off with bad news or warnings against voting Yes were more common than the opposite by a ratio of 22:4 on Reporting Scotland (BBC) and a ratio of 20:7 on STV.'

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editor@medialens.org (Editor) Alerts 2014 Mon, 24 Mar 2014 09:18:04 +0000