Media Lens - Current Alert News analysis and media criticism Sun, 26 Jun 2016 15:10:41 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb The Fairy Tale Of The ‘Self-Questioning’ BBC

Last week, climate scientists warned that:

'Atmospheric concentrations of CO2 will shatter the symbolic barrier of 400 parts per million (ppm) this year and will not fall below it in our lifetimes'.

Adding to the sense of urgency, NASA reported that last month was the hottest May on record since modern record-keeping began in 1880. Since October 2015, every month has been globally the hottest ever measured. Meanwhile, scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in the US say that 'future summers could regularly be hotter than the hottest on record'.

Dangerous climate change is not something for the future; it is happening now. Recent climate records have not just been broken but 'obliterated', provoking 'a stunned reaction from climate scientists'. One scientist said:

'The numbers are completely unprecedented. They really stick out like a sore thumb.'

As Noam Chomsky wrote in a sobering new article on humanity's prospects for survival:

'Hardly a day passes without new evidence of how severe the crisis is.'

But the required radical and urgent solutions to the crisis will never be found in the 'mainstream' media, owned and operated by the same corporate and state forces that have driven us to the brink of disaster.

In the US, the next presidential election will be contested by two rich establishment candidates, each of whom would be a disaster for climate stability, global peace and social justice. Here in the UK, establishment elites and their media accomplices are doing all they can to crush any public challenge to the destructive political and economic status quo. Even Sir Michael Lyons, former chair of the BBC, has criticised the BBC for its anti-Corbyn bias:

'There have been some quite extraordinary attacks on the elected leader of the Labour party, quite extraordinary. I can understand why people are worried about whether some of the most senior editorial voices in the BBC have lost their impartiality on this.'

In a recent article, critical theory academic Gavin Lewis notes that BBC News is:

'a twin of Rupert Murdoch's Sky News. Its editorial values are so identical that viewers get exactly the same hierarchy of news stories, at the same time of day, and predominantly from the same ideological viewpoint.'

Coverage of Western policy is, says Lewis, 'driven by a crude, skewed "good guy versus bad guy" narrative formula.' This BBC agenda is shaped by the compelling need of the state broadcaster to serve power. As a result, 'it has aligned itself with deeply undemocratic, unrepresentative forces and values.'

As the writer and activist Steve Rushton observes, the BBC habitually protects power, the monarchy, and an unjust and inequitable class system:

'The BBC should be seen as no less of an old boys' network than any other of the UK's institutions. From the top flights of big business, to the judiciary, to the civil service, to Westminster, the same pattern persists. This problem takes a particularly insidious form in the BBC because of its enormous influence, allowing it both to gloss and to normalise these dynamics not only for its audience in Britain, but around the world.'

Sarah O'Connell, who has worked for BBC News for many years, gives an insider view of the organisation:

'not many national BBC news journalists see enough of life at the "bottom" of society to report on it properly or accurately. If most of my colleagues at the BBC didn't start life with a silver spoon in their mouths, by the time they've served ten years at the BBC (and the longevity and security of a BBC news staff job is recognised industry wide), they've pretty much gained honorary status of the establishment class.'

She continues:

'when you walk into a BBC newsroom you can see and hear the privilege. There are only a few genuinely working class voices. There are hardly any black faces at all.'

As an example, O'Connell describes in disbelief how widespread abuse of the parliamentary expenses system by MPs was essentially ignored by the BBC. When she tried to report the scandal, she was told by BBC News editors that 'this isn't a story, MPs have to eat.' She adds:

'But it was a story. It was one of the biggest political stories of the decade. And the BBC missed it, because, to most of their journalists at that time, the idea of having lunch for £150 on expenses, well, it just wasn't a story, was it? Not when it was exactly the kind of thing BBC news executives might be doing as well.'

And yet, high-profile BBC News professionals are sufficiently schooled in doublethink that they can routinely proclaim their adherence to the highest standards of journalism without batting an eye. For instance, Jon Sopel, BBC North America editor, asserted with metaphorical hand on heart:

'It is our job to test our elected officials, to subject them to scrutiny, to ask the questions the public want answering and hopefully to be fearless in our pursuit of those questions.'

It takes great chutzpah, or overweening pride in institutional BBC myths, to try and get away with such remarks. But it's no surprise to hear boiler-plate guff like this from BBC journalists. After all, the man who leads them from atop BBC News is James Harding, a former Times editor under Rupert Murdoch, who churns out corporate PR-speak piously declaring that BBC journalism has an:

'uncompromising commitment to accuracy, to impartiality, to diversity of opinion, and to the fair treatment of people in the news'.

Harding adds:

'If you make a mistake, you should correct it as soon as you become aware of it – particularly in live and continuous news or on a website.'

But what happens when the BBC's 'mistake' is to relentlessly channel and amplify pro-government and pro-business ideology, day after day? When has this ever been 'corrected' by the BBC?

When Harding migrated from the confines of Murdoch's empire to the confines of UK state broadcasting, he famously urged BBC journalists:

'not to shy away from investigative reporting and difficult issues in the wake of the Jimmy Savile and Lord McAlpine affairs.'

He declared the corporation 'the best news organisation in the world', and he promised a renewed commitment to 'curious, inquisitive journalism in the public interest'. He claimed that he wanted BBC News to devote more resources to 'original journalism' and to focus on 'story-getting'.

But the claim was farcical. When asked whether the BBC would have run with whistle-blower Edward Snowden's revelations, if the news organisation had been approached first, he said no. Why not? Because that would have been 'campaigning' journalism. Just contemplate that for a moment. Presenting the truth of US government deceptions is 'campaigning'!

As Glenn Greenwald wrote:

'his reasoning shows how neutered state-funded media inevitably becomes. Here's one of the biggest stories in journalism of the last decade, one that sparked a worldwide debate about a huge range of issues, spawned movements for legislative reform, ruptured diplomatic relationships, changed global Internet behavior, and won almost every major journalism award in the West. And the director of news and current affairs of BBC says they likely would not have reported the story, one that — in addition to all those other achievements — happened to have enraged the British government to which the BBC must maintain fealty.'

But there is no end to the ideological shibboleths that establishment figures churn out. Tony Hall, the BBC's Director-General, once told an interviewer:

'One of the things that has always amazed me about the BBC is that it is the most self-questioning organisation I've ever worked in. It asks itself questions all the time about whether it's doing the right thing, could we have done that better.'

Jenni Russell, a former BBC editor, returns us to the real world:

'Nothing makes the BBC as nervous as the prospect of its own journalists inquiring into its behaviour. [...] No one in the organisation is ever unaware of the possible damage to the BBC's brand when news starts asking critical questions of the BBC itself. The corporate centre's instinctive response is to block and discourage criticism, and any ambitious editors and executives in news are constantly aware of that. [...] Trying to get a reaction out of senior executives either in news or the corporate centre always sent it into hedgehog mode, making it bristling, fearful and unresponsive.'

To put things in perspective, we need to return to the central topic that opened this media alert: global climate chaos. Consider the powerful message given by journalist Rebecca Solnit to journalism students graduating this year from the University of California, Berkeley:

'For journalists and for human beings generally, the elephant in the room has been there for a long time. It's not even the elephant: the elephant in the room is the room itself, the biosphere in which all life currently known to exist in the universe is enclosed, and on which it all depends, the biosphere now devastated by climate change, with far more change to come. [...] Climate change is here, and it is changing everything. It is bigger than anything else, because it is everything, for the imaginable future.'

Solnit added:

'Future generations are going to curse most of us for distracting ourselves with trivialities as the planet burned. Journalists are in a pivotal place when it comes to the possibilities and the responsibilities in this crisis.'

But relying on journalists in the corporate media, not least the BBC, to exercise such responsibility is a forlorn hope. We should reject the elite media which exists to serve elite interests. Instead, we need to develop and support alternative means of informing and empowering the public in the vital struggle for climate protection, peace and equality.



]]> (Editor) Alerts 2016 Tue, 21 Jun 2016 05:53:14 +0000
How The Press Hides The Global Crimes Of The West: Corporate Media Coverage Of Chad

Guest Media Alert

By Richard Lance Keeble

One of the essential functions of the corporate media is to marginalise or silence acknowledgement of the history – and continuation – of Western imperial aggression. The coverage of the recent sentencing in Senegal of Hissène Habré, the former dictator of Chad, for crimes against humanity, provides a useful case study.

The verdict could well have presented the opportunity for the media to examine in detail the complicity of the US, UK, France and their major allies in the Middle East and North Africa in the appalling genocide Habré inflicted on Chad during his rule – from 1982 to 1990. After all, Habré had seized power via a CIA-backed coup. As William Blum commented in Rogue State (2002: 152):

'With US support, Habré went on to rule for eight years during which his secret police reportedly killed tens of thousands, tortured as many as 200,000 and disappeared an undetermined number.'

Indeed, while coverage of Chad has been largely missing from the British corporate media, so too was the massive, secret war waged over these eight years by the United States, France and Britain from bases in Chad against Libyan leader Colonel Mu'ammar Gaddafi. (See Targeting Gaddafi: Secret Warfare and the Media, by Richard Lance Keeble, in Mirage in the Desert? Reporting the 'Arab Spring', edited by John Mair and Richard Lance Keeble, Abramis, Bury St Edmunds, 2011, pp 281-296.)

By 1990, with the crisis in the Persian Gulf developing, the French government had tired of Habré's genocidal policies while George Bush senior's administration decided not to frustrate France in exchange for co-operation in its attack on Iraq. And so Habré was secretly toppled and in his place Idriss Déby was installed as the new President of Chad.

Yet the secret Chad coups can only be understood as part of the United States' global imperial strategy. For since 1945, the US has intervened in more than 70 countries – in Africa, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, South America and Asia. Britain, too, has engaged militarily across the globe in virtually every year since 1914. Most of these conflicts are conducted far away from the gaze of the corporate media.

Reporting of the Habré sentencing has been predictably consistent across all the leading newspapers in the UK and US. Thus the focus has been on the jubilant reactions of a few of the victims of Habré's torture and rape, on the comments from some of the human rights organisations involved for many years in the campaign to bring the Chad dictator to justice – and on the fact that it was the first time an African country had prosecuted the former head of another African country for massive human rights abuses. Only a tiny part of the reporting has mentioned the West's role in the genocide. None of the reporting has placed the Chad events in the broader context of US/Western imperial aggression.

The story in the Guardian, by Ruth Maclean, was typical. Some 21 paragraphs were devoted to the report. But only in the last one (appearing almost as an after-thought) was there any mention of US complicity:

'The US State department and the CIA propped up Habré, sending him weapons and money in return for fighting their enemy, Muammar Gaddafi.'

In a follow-up editorial on 1 June 2016, the Guardian again left mentioning the West's role until the last paragraph:

'Many questions still remain unanswered, including several concerning the responsibility or complicity of Western countries, such as France and the US, which actively supported Habré during the cold war years, turning a blind eye to his methods.'

The Telegraph adopted a similar approach. Aislinn Laing, based in Johannesburg, reported briefly:

'Mr Habré, 73, is a former rebel leader who took power by force in Chad in 1982 and was then supported by the US and France to remain at the helm as a bulwark to Muammar Gaddafi in Libya.'

Adam Lusher, in the Independent, devoted just eight words to contextualising the trial:

'Hissène Habré was once backed by America's Cold War-era CIA.'

In the New York Times, buried in par. 24 of a 27-paragraph report by Dionne Searcey are these words:

'Mr. Habré took power during a coup that was covertly aided by the United States, and he received weapons and assistance from France, Israel and the United States to keep Libya, to the north of Chad, and Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, then the Libyan leader, at bay.'

Similarly, in Paul Schemm's 23-paragraph report in the Washington Post, his par. 15 reads:

'Supported by the United States and France in his wars against Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, Habré was accused of killing up to 40,000 people and torturing hundreds of thousands.'

Neither the Los Angeles Times nor the Belfast Telegraph could find any space to mention the West's complicity.

Intriguingly, the final paragraph in the Guardian's report also included a statement by John Kerry, the US secretary of state, which 'acknowledged his country's complicity':

'As a country committed to the respect for human rights and the pursuit of justice, this is also an opportunity for the United States to reflect on, and learn from, our own connections with past events in Chad.'

But how hypocritical is this rhetoric given the fact that the US today is still supporting human rights offenders across the globe – including the current dictator of Chad, Idriss Déby. Moreover, the Western powers, the US and France in particular, are using Chad as a major base for their covert military operations in Africa.

A number of newspapers have commented on how the case set an important precedent for holding high-profile human rights abusers to account in Africa. Yet there has been little mention of the extraordinary background. For in June 2003, the US actually warned Belgium that it could lose its status as host to Nato's headquarters if the Habré case went ahead on the basis of a 1993 law, which allowed victims to file complaints in Belgium for atrocities committed abroad. Campaigners determined to bring Habré to justice only then shifted their attention to Africa.

William Blum comments in the introduction to Killing Hope (p. 13) on the US's secret wars:

'With a few exceptions, the interventions never made the headlines or the evening TV news. With some, bits and pieces of the stories have popped up here and there, but rarely brought together to form a cohesive and enlightening whole; the fragments usually appear long after the fact, quietly buried within other stories, just as quietly forgotten...'

How perfectly this both predicts and explains the corporate media's coverage of the Chad dictator, Hissène Habré!


• Richard Lance Keeble, Professor of Journalism at the University of Lincoln since 2003, has written and edited 36 books. In 2014, he was given a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Association for Journalism Education.


]]> (Editor) Alerts 2016 Thu, 09 Jun 2016 07:28:19 +0000
Anatomy Of A Propaganda Blitz – Part 2: ‘Hitlergate’

The recent furore surrounding a supposed 'Labour antisemitism crisis' is a classic propaganda blitz of the kind described in Part 1 of this alert.


Dramatic New Evidence

As with so many propaganda blitzes, intense media coverage was triggered by 'dramatic new evidence'; namely, the discovery of a graphic posted by Naz Shah two years ago, before she became a Labour MP. The graphic shows a map of the United States with Israel superimposed in the middle, suggesting that a solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict would be to relocate Israel to the US.

Shah's post was highlighted by right-wing political blogger Paul Staines who writes as Guido Fawkes:

'Naz Shah... shared a highly inflammatory graphic arguing in favour of the chilling "transportation" policy two years ago, adding the words "problem solved".'

Jonathan Freedland, comment editor at the Guardian, argued that leftists view Israel as 'a special case, uniquely deserving of hatred', and that this hatred 'lay behind' Shah's call 'for the "transportation" [of Israel to America] - a word with a chilling resonance for Jews'.

In the Observer, Andrew Rawnsley claimed that Shah believed 'that Israelis should be put on "transportation" to America, with all the chilling echoes that has for Jews'.

Guardian assistant editor Michael White reported that Shah had been suspended from the Labour party 'while the context of her antisemitic comments... are thoroughly investigated'. Clearly then, the jury was in - the comments were 'anti-semitic'.

By contrast, Israel-based former Guardian journalist Jonathan Cook, who was given a Martha Gellhorn special award for his work on the Middle East, argued that the map 'was clearly intended to be humorous rather than anti-semitic. I would make a further point. It is also obvious that the true target of the post is the US, not Jews or even Israel – making the anti-semitism claim even more ridiculous'.

Norman Finkelstein, Jewish author of 'The Holocaust Industry' and the son of Holocaust survivors, commented that he had originally posted the graphic on his website in 2014:

'An email correspondent must have sent it. It was, and still is, funny. Were it not for the current political context, nobody would have noticed Shah's reposting of it either. Otherwise, you'd have to be humourless. These sorts of jokes are a commonplace in the U.S. So, we have this joke: Why doesn't Israel become the 51st state? Answer: Because then, it would only have two senators. As crazy as the discourse on Israel is in America, at least we still have a sense of humour. It's inconceivable that any politician in the U.S. would be crucified for posting such a map.'

Finkelstein responded powerfully to the idea that Shah's posting of the image was an endorsement of a 'chilling "transportation" policy':

'Frankly, I find that obscene. It's doubtful these Holocaust-mongers have a clue what the deportations were, or of the horrors that attended them. I remember my late mother describing her deportation. She was in the Warsaw Ghetto. The survivors of the Ghetto Uprising, about 30,000 Jews, were deported to Maijdanek concentration camp. They were herded into railroad cars. My mother was sitting in the railroad car next to a woman who had her child. And the woman – I know it will shock you – the woman suffocated her infant child to death in front of my mother. She suffocated her child, rather than take her to where they were going. That's what it meant to be deported. To compare that to someone posting a light-hearted, innocuous cartoon making a little joke about how Israel is in thrall to the U.S., or vice versa... it's sick. What are they doing? Don't they have any respect for the dead? All these desiccated Labour apparatchiks, dragging the Nazi holocaust through the mud for the sake of their petty jostling for power and position. Have they no shame?'

]]> (Editor) Alerts 2016 Tue, 17 May 2016 05:39:32 +0000
Anatomy Of A Propaganda Blitz - Part 1

We live in a time when state-corporate interests are cooperating to produce propaganda blitzes intended to raise public support for the demonisation and destruction of establishment enemies.

Below, we will examine five key components of an effective propaganda campaign of this kind.


1: Dramatic New Evidence

A propaganda blitz is often launched on the back of 'dramatic new evidence' signifying that an establishment enemy should be viewed as uniquely despicable and targeted with 'action'.

The Blair government's infamous September 2002 dossier on Iraqi WMD contained four mentions of the claim that Iraq was able to deploy WMD against British citizens within 45 minutes of an order being given. But senior intelligence officials revealed that the original 45-minutes claim referred to the length of time it might have taken the Iraqis to fuel and fire a Scud missile or rocket launcher. The original intelligence said nothing about whether Iraq possessed the chemical or biological weapons to use in these weapons. The government had turned a purely hypothetical danger into an immediate and deadly threat.

In 2011, it was claimed that the Libyan government was planning a massacre in Benghazi, exactly the kind of action that Gaddafi knew could trigger Western 'intervention'. Investigative journalist Gareth Porter commented:

'When the Obama administration began its effort to overthrow Gaddafi, it did not call publicly for regime change and instead asserted that it was merely seeking to avert mass killings that administration officials had suggested might approach genocidal levels. But the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), which had been given the lead role in assessing the situation in Libya, found no evidence to support such fears and concluded that it was based on nothing more than "speculative arguments".'

In 2013, the Syrian government was said to have launched a chemical weapons attack in Ghouta, Damascus, just as UN chemical weapons experts were visiting the city. It was claimed that Assad had ordered the crossing of Obama's very clear 'red line' for 'intervention' – a war that would have destroyed the Syrian government and quite possibly resulted in Assad's violent death. Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh reported on the Ghouta attack:

'The quick announcement that Bashar al-Assad did it is simply not true.'

Western dissidents are subject to continuous smears but also full-on propaganda blitzes of this kind.

In 2012, after WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange requested asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, the corporate media rose up as one to denounce him as a vile 'narcissist' and buffoon. Always 'controversial', journalists now presented Assange as a fully-fledged hate figure.

In 2013, a single comment in an interview caused large numbers of journalists across the 'spectrum' to conclude that Russell Brand – then promoting a vocal form of anti-corporate dissent - was a 'vicious sexist', 'narcissist' and 'idiot'. The intensity of the attacks on him, which are ongoing, eventually resulted in Brand withdrawing from the public eye.

It is hardly in doubt that Assange, Brand and others are being targeted by state-corporate propagandists because they are challenging state-corporate power. How else can we explain the fact that criticism of the many hundreds of journalists and MPs who have repeatedly agitated and voted for wars that have wrecked whole countries is off the agenda? It is not even that criticism of Assange, Brand and co is disproportionate; there is very often no criticism at all of people who have brought death, injury and displacement to literally millions of human beings. But when Brand joked about his then girlfriend: 'When I was asked to edit an issue of the New Statesman I said yes because it was a beautiful woman asking me', these words were viewed as infinitely more deserving of vicious attack right across the media 'spectrum' than political actions destroying whole countries.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has also, of course, been subject to a relentless, almost surreal, year-long propaganda campaign. As we will see in Part 2, this has most recently taken the form of accusations that 'Labour now seems to be a party that attracts antisemites like flies to a cesspit.'

Propaganda blitzes are fast-moving attacks intended to inflict maximum damage. State-corporate propagandists know that media attention will quickly move on from the claim of 'dramatic new evidence', so the durability of the claim is not a key concern. Marginalised media blogs and rare 'mainstream' articles may quickly expose the hype, but most corporate media will not notice and will not learn the lesson that similar claims should be received with extreme caution in future. A prime example was the campaign justifying war on Libya in 2011, which faced minimal corporate media scepticism just eight years after the obvious deception on Iraq.

]]> (Editor) Alerts 2016 Thu, 12 May 2016 09:26:22 +0000
Corbyn's Millions - Blair's Millions

While 'social media' like Facebook and Twitter are forms of corporate media, it is unarguable that they and other web-based outlets have helped empower a serious challenge to traditional print and broadcast journalism. For the first time in history, uncompromised non-corporate voices are able to instantly challenge the filtered 'mainstream' version of events. This certainly helps explain the rise of Labour's Jeremy Corbyn, Podemos in Spain, and now Bernie Sanders in the US.

A key lesson learned by many people over the last few years is that supposedly neutral corporate media in fact have an unlimited capacity for finding fault with the actions and opinions of perceived enemies of elite power, just as they have an unlimited capacity for pardoning loyal servants.

The point was emphasised by an April 12 article in the Telegraph titled:

'Jeremy Corbyn's £3million state-funded salary and pension revealed.'

Telegraph journalists Kate McCann and Steven Swinford found great and damning significance in the fact that:

'Jeremy Corbyn has made more than £3million from the state in the past 30 years, according to official records. The Labour leader has made more than £1.5million in salary as an MP and will benefit from a generous £1.6million pension when he retires.'

The Telegraph quoted 'A senior backbench Labour MP', who said the scale of his earnings 'was "remarkable" in the wake of Mr Corbyn's criticism of David Cameron over his own tax affairs'.

In fact, Corbyn had earned the equivalent of a £45,000 a year salary. This, we were to believe, was a scandal. Former Guardian journalist Jonathan Cook commented:

'In other words, this is a complete non-story. He's an MP and he received the benefits due an MP. If there's a problem with that, then the Telegraph ought to be campaigning against MPs' salaries.'

As Cook noted, the Telegraph thereby revealed 'it is just a propaganda sheet for the business class':

'The only scandal here is that the Telegraph can write a story like this and still be considered a newspaper rather than a muck-raking comic. This example may be extreme, but behind it lie the same motives of class-interest that have driven the hundreds of other hatchet jobs on Corbyn over the past year, published in every British newspaper including supposedly liberal publications like the Guardian.'

The good news is that this 'mainstream' backlash - Sanders has received identical treatment in the US press - has also been exposed by media activists, further demolishing corporate media credibility.

]]> (Editor) Alerts 2016 Wed, 20 Apr 2016 08:07:46 +0000
Last Chance President - Bernie Sanders And The Corporate Media

The comedian Billy Connolly once observed that politicians aren't like the rest of us. They don't look like us, don't sound like us, and they rarely talk about issues that matter deeply to mere voters.

Senator Bernie Sanders, candidate for the Democrat's US Presidential nomination, on the other hand, does look and talk like 'ordinary' people. He is the kind of smart, straight-talking, Jewish New Yorker celebrated by shows like Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm.

If the liberal commentariat is to be believed, leftist enthusiasm for Bernie is sharply curbed by the very fact that he's Jewish. In the Guardian last week, Rafael Behr, who is also Jewish, wrote:

'There have been enough reports in recent weeks of Labour councillors and candidates peddling antisemitic mumbo-jumbo – Jews as puppet-masters behind 9/11, Isis and global capitalism – to suggest the party has an infestation on its hands.'

An 'infestation', no less! The link to Labour officials 'peddling antisemitic mumbo-jumbo' took the reader to a piece by Behr's own comment editor at the Guardian, Jonathan Freedland, also Jewish, who wrote last month:

'Thanks to Corbyn, the Labour party is expanding, attracting many leftists who would previously have rejected it or been rejected by it. Among those are people with hostile views of Jews.'

In reality, leftists embrace Sanders for the same reason they resist Behr and Freedland. Sanders talks honestly about corporate (not Jewish 'puppet-masters') control of society; Behr and Freedland do not. Sanders talks about the causes of vast and shameful inequality in the world's wealthiest country. He talks about corporate media bias rooted in advertiser funding. He talks about 'whether or not we think it's proper for the United States to go around overthrowing governments'. Behr and Freedland, and a long list of Guardian corporate apologists, do not talk honestly about these issues.

Every movement has its haters, of course, but in our experience when serious left commentators critique these liberal journalists, it has flat zero – nothing! - to do with ethnicity, race, creed or religion.

Sanders' recent discussion with Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks (TYT) show was an astonishing departure from standard, six-second soundbite politics. Imagine a high-profile UK politician talking like this about the media:

'First of all, we're talking about the corporate media, right?... We need to break through the fog of the corporate media, which does everything that they can to keep us entertained without addressing the real issues. I'm on the corporate media every single day and you don't know how hard it is just to try to demand that we begin to talk about the real issues. They really do not want to. They talk about everything under the sun, but not the real issues.'

Sanders is not arguing that the corporate media is merely biased, or unbalanced, in reporting issues; he is arguing that it never talks about real issues. He offers a jaw-dropping example:

'Here's the story. I have been mayor for eight years, Congressman for sixteen, a US Senator for nine years. Do you know how many times people in the media have said: "Bernie, what are you going to do to end poverty in America? This is an outrage! We have 47 million people in poverty, what are you going to do about it, Bernie?" The answer is zero. Not once.'

The remarkable result, as Sanders notes:

'Concepts of income and wealth inequality, concepts of justice, learning what goes on around the rest of the world [are] never talked about in the corporate media.'

So what is going on? Why won't corporate media discuss real issues. Sanders explains:

'I had to write a letter to the presidents of all of the networks to tell them that on their Sunday shows they never talk about climate change. Almost never talk about it. Why? Well, does it have to do with the fact that they get a lot of coal company and oil company money advertising? I think it does. They don't talk about it.'

He adds:

'I want a vigorous effort to address climate change. I mean, I am very worried. I talk to these scientists. This planet is in serious danger. You can't cuddle up to the fossil fuel industry; you've got to take them on.'

It seems incredible, but in fact Sanders is correct on climate coverage. The not-for-profit Media Matters for America reported that, despite ever-worsening warnings of the dangers and a long list of broken temperature and other records, media coverage actually declined in 2015:

'In 2015, ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox collectively aired approximately 146 minutes of climate change coverage on their evening and Sunday news shows, which was eight minutes less than the networks aired in 2014. This five percent drop in coverage occurred even though 2015 was a year full of significant actions to address climate change, including the EPA finalizing the Clean Power Plan, the first-ever federal limits on carbon pollution from power plants; President Obama rejecting the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, citing the need to fight climate change; Pope Francis releasing the first-ever papal encyclical on climate change; and leaders from 195 countries agreeing to a landmark accord to lower greenhouse gas emissions at the United Nations climate summit in Paris.'

In mid-March, corporate media described how climate scientists were now warning of nothing less than a 'climate emergency'. The Guardian reported:

'February smashed a century of global temperature records by a "stunning" margin, according to data released by Nasa. The unprecedented leap led scientists, usually wary of highlighting a single month's temperature, to label the new record a "shocker" and warn of a "climate emergency".'

When famously dispassionate climate scientists use this kind of language, it's time to start paying attention. Assuming you care about the life-expectancy of your children and grandchildren, and indeed of yourself.

According to the Nexis media search engine, the term 'climate emergency' was mentioned about a dozen times between March 14 and March 21. The term has not been used since. A subsequent, March 22, Guardian piece mentioned merely that scientists had been 'alarmed' by the recent record heat.

]]> (Editor) Alerts 2016 Fri, 08 Apr 2016 06:50:27 +0000
Kunduz Killers Go Free

On the night of October 3, 2015, a United States Air Force AC-130 gunship repeatedly attacked a Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan. Forty-two people were killed and dozens wounded. The US military plane had conducted five strafing runs over the course of more than an hour despite MSF pleas to Afghan, US and Nato officials to call off the attack.

As we reported at the time, MSF were unequivocal in their condemnation of the American attack. The hospital was 'intentionally targeted' in 'a premeditated massacre'; it was a 'war crime'. The medical charity rejected US assurances of three inquiries by the US, Nato and the Afghan government. MSF demanded instead an independent international investigation. It was to no avail. The US ignored public outrage and went ahead with its standard whitewashing procedures when it commits war crimes that get exposed. The outcome was announced on March 18. BBC News reported:

'The US military has disciplined more than a dozen service members after an air strike on a Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) hospital in Afghanistan killed 42 people last year.

'The Pentagon has acknowledged that the clinic was targeted by mistake, but no personnel will face criminal charges.'

Note that the BBC wording – 'the Pentagon has acknowledged that the clinic was targeted by mistake' – is deceptive bias. The BBC made no mention that MSF had presented strong evidence that the clinic was 'deliberately targeted', that the attack was a 'war crime', and that there was an urgent need for an independent inquiry.

The BBC continued:

'the sanctions, which were not made public, were mostly administrative.

'Some received formal reprimands while others were suspended from duty.

'Both officers and enlisted personnel were disciplined, but no generals were punished.'

MSF said that they would not comment until the Pentagon makes the details of its report public. (At the time of writing, this has yet to happen).

On the morning of March 18, we noted that the BBC's report was, for a while at least, linked from the front page of its news website. But it was soon removed from this prominent position and instead buried deep in the international news section. This is not unusual when reporting the crimes of the West; if they are reported at all.

Our subsequent online searches revealed just four low-key, relatively brief newspaper reports in the British press that US personnel had been 'punished' for the Kunduz bombing: in the Independent, the Daily Mail, the Telegraph and the Guardian. The Telegraph reported that the Pentagon would shortly 'publish a version of its report on the attack. It will be redacted to remove classified material.' In other words: anything too embarrassing or damaging to US interests.

A few days later, on March 23, a tiny news item on page 34 of The Times carried the headline 'US commander sorry for hospital attack'. The entirety of the piece, all of 61 words, was this:

'The new commander of US-Nato forces in Afghanistan has apologised for a mistaken attack on a hospital in Kunduz last October that killed 42 people. General John Nicholson of the US army went to the northern city to meet relatives of those who died at the hospital run by the charity Médecins Sans Frontières. He said the incident was a "horrible tragedy".'

As ever, Western atrocities are described as 'tragedy' rather than 'war crime'. No other UK national newspaper, as far as we could see, even reported General Nicholson's 'apology'.

The New York Times did better, and included this telling quote from Zabiullah Niazi, a nurse who had lost an eye, a finger and the use of one hand, as well as suffering other injuries in the US attack:

'They hit us six months ago and are apologizing now. The head of the provincial council and other officials who said we accept the apology, they wouldn't have said it if they had lost their own son and eaten ashes, as we did.'

According to Mr. Niazi, General Nicholson did not even appear at an arranged meeting in the governor's office with two survivors and male members of victims' families. Instead, he made a speech in a packed auditorium where family members and survivors did not get a chance to speak. As a further sign of the tightly stage-managed proceedings, the general's wife stopped by 'for one minute to say hello and express sorrow', said Mr Niazi. She spent more time – five minutes - with female survivors and family members in a separate room.

The general's 'apology' was similarly dismissed by an Afghani doctor whose brother, also a doctor, was killed in the US attack. Dr. Karim Bajaouri said:

'They are asking forgiveness for killing civilians?! They're only making an apology? First they fire on civilians and then apologize. Personally, I don't need such apologies, I do not accept them. Our moral wounds cannot be healed this way.'

The Guardian made a recent passing reference to Kunduz in an article by Simon Tisdall, an assistant editor and foreign affairs columnist. The focus of the piece was on Afghanistan as an election issue in the US Presidential race:

'The fact that the most memorable US contribution to the battle for Kunduz was the destruction of a Médecins Sans Frontières hospital with the loss of at least 22 lives, none of them insurgents, only emphasised how hapless and haphazard the US mission in Afghanistan has become.'

(Oddly, Tisdall's article was originally published on October 15, 2015, but then updated on March 29, 2016; presumably to include the above line.)

Once again, compliant 'liberal' journalism is marked by its readiness to label war crimes as merely 'hapless' and 'haphazard'.

In the wake of the Pentagon's accouncement of 'punishments' for the Kunduz killers, an article on the Foreign Policy website noted:

'Human rights advocates denounced the U.S. military's decision not to file criminal charges against troops'.

Andrea Prasow of Human Rights Watch told Foreign Policy:

'It's incredibly disappointing and discouraging. We have come up with our own analysis of the case, and we think there should be a criminal investigation.'

As Prasow observed, the American military 'has a vested interest in protecting its own'.

HRW added:

'For good reason the victims' family members will see this as both an injustice and an insult: the US military investigated itself and decided no crimes had been committed'.

The statement continued:

'The failure to criminally investigate senior officials liable for the attack is not only an affront to the lives lost at the MSF hospital, but a blow against the rule of law in Afghanistan and elsewhere.'

Such comments contrast starkly with the bland indifference of the 'liberal' press.

Summing up, then, the reaction to the Pentagon's 'punishment' of the Kunduz killers in the 'mainstream' press was as instructive as ever. True to form, we found not a single editorial or column denouncing this latest US whitewashing of US crimes.

Then again, it is standard practice for the Western media to mock Official Enemies, while being blind to the crimes of 'our' own Glorious Leaders.

DC and DE


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]]> (Editor) Alerts 2016 Thu, 31 Mar 2016 00:41:33 +0000
Death In Honduras – The Coup, Hillary Clinton And The Killing Of Berta Cáceres


On February 28, Hillary Clinton told an audience from the pulpit of a Memphis church: 'we need more love and kindness in America'. This was something she felt 'from the bottom of my heart'.

These benevolent sentiments recalled the national 'purpose' identified by President George H.W. Bush in 1989, shortly before he flattened Iraq. It was, he said, 'to make kinder the face of the nation and gentler the face of the world'.

Clinton, of course, meant North America, specifically the United States. But other places in America are short on love and kindness, too. Consider Honduras, for example.

On June 28, 2009, the Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was kidnapped at gunpoint by masked soldiers and forced into exile. Since the ousting, the country 'has been descending deeper into a human rights and security abyss' as the military coup 'threw open the doors to a huge increase in drug trafficking and violence, and... unleashed a continuing wave of state-sponsored repression'. In 2012, Honduras had a murder rate of 90.4 per 100,000 population, then the highest rate in the world. In 2006, three years before the coup, the murder rate had stood at 46.2 per 100,000.

The years since 2009 have seen 'an explosive growth in environmentally destructive megaprojects that would displace indigenous communities. Almost 30 percent of the country's land was earmarked for mining concessions, creating a demand for cheap energy to power future mining operations. To meet this need, the government approved hundreds of dam projects around the country, privatizing rivers, land, and uprooting communities.' In 2015, Global Witness reported that Honduras was 'the most dangerous country to be an environmental defender'.

Berta Cáceres, a mother of four children, was co-founder and general coordinator of the COPINH (Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras) group opposing this state-corporate exploitation. Last year, Cáceres was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize, the world's leading award recognising grassroots environmental activists, for her work opposing a major dam project. Many of COPINH's leaders have been murdered in recent years. In 2013, Cáceres said:

'The army has an assassination list of 18 wanted human rights fighters with my name at the top. I want to live, there are many things I still want to do in this world. I take precautions, but in the end, in this country where there is total impunity I am vulnerable. When they want to kill me, they will do it.'

Last week, on the night of March 3, armed men burst through the back door of Cáceres's house and shot her four times, killing her in her bed. US media watch site Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) commented:

'There was widespread outcry and grief over her death, and the story was covered by major media in the United States. But there was a glaring problem with the coverage: Almost none of it mentioned that the brutal regime that likely killed Cáceres came to power in a 2009 coup d'état supported by the United States, under President Barack Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary.'

]]> (Editor) Alerts 2016 Thu, 10 Mar 2016 08:41:43 +0000
Rebranding The Conquistadors As Social Justice Warriors – The Guardian, Corporate Sponsorship And ‘Branded Content’

Even a progressive journalist like Glenn Greenwald can't shake off a rose-tinted view of the paper he once wrote for:

'Like everything, it's very imperfect, but survival of the @Guardian as a large, vibrant media outlet is important'

But in what sense is the Guardian's survival actually 'important?' Our response:

'Important for the hawking of Perpetual War as "humanitarian intervention" and corporate tyranny as "democracy".'

From the moment Jeremy Corbyn stood as prospective Labour leader, the Guardian has waged a relentless campaign to destroy this rare shoot of progressive hope. The paper has backed away from the truth about state and corporate power fuelling yet more catastrophic climate change. It has failed to fully and consistently expose the corporate basis to the climate denial campaign and the corporate capture of the 'mainstream' media in facilitating this. These are salient horrors, but the list could go on...

Like most newspapers, the Guardian is struggling financially and is desperately worried about a dwindling stream of advertising revenue. The paper's declared intent of becoming 'the world's leading liberal voice', with rapid expansion in the US and Australia, has backfired, leading to the need for significant cuts including likely job losses.

As a result, the paper is heading ever deeper into the murky world of 'branded content' to raise much-needed funds from corporate advertisers. This is overseen by the pseudoscientific-sounding 'Guardian Labs', a division of Guardian News & Media which was launched in 2014. Guardian Labs currently brings in 16% of the newspaper group's revenue. But it is expected to 'make a far, far greater contribution' over the next three years.

Readers should be ever more sceptical about what this means for the supposed fiercely independent and balanced journalism that the paper forever claims to publish. The latest salvo in this Guardian PR blitz appeared last Monday when Chris Elliott, the readers' editor, wrote about changes in how commercially sponsored content in the paper is to be labelled.

Firstly, the phrase 'sponsored by' will no longer appear. It will be replaced with 'supported by' which will, claimed Elliott, 'describe editorially independent content' even when the funding has come from 'third parties'. Such funding includes:

'The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to help support the Guardian's Global Development site; and a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to support the Guardian's Cities project.'

These 'independent' pieces are written by Guardian and Observer journalists 'to the same standards expected in all of our journalism'. The mind boggles.

Secondly, straight 'advertisement features' will now be labelled 'paid content/paid for by'. Such content is 'paid for and controlled by the advertiser rather than' the Guardian.

In his defensive piece, Elliott dismissed a recent campaign by pressure group 38 Degrees aimed at the Guardian's partnership with Shell, the giant oil corporation. Last year, the paper had attempted to project a green image by supporting a move away from fossil fuels and to 'keep it in the ground' instead. Elliott now provided a corporate response issued by a 'Guardian spokesman' to justify its close assocation with Shell:

'Shell and the community jobs site Working Mums are co-sponsoring the Guardian's Work/Life balance hub on our Women in Leadership network. The hub is focused on how working parents can use flexible working culture to manage both their job and their home life.'

That PR statement may as well have come from Shell itself.

The 'Guardian spokesman' continued:

'The acceptance of advertising or partnership content in no way affects our editorial position.'

Of course, newspapers always make this claim, adamant that there is a 'firewall' between advertising and journalism. The reality is different, as we have noted on several occasions. Indeed, advertising is one of the five 'news filters' identified in Herman and Chomsky's propaganda model that provides the best explanation for the state- and corporate-biased output of Western news media.

Even the BBC's Andrew Marr, a journalist who is about as firmly embedded in the establishment as it is possible to be, admitted that advertising helps to shape the news:

'It does, of course. It's hard to make the sums add up when you are kicking the people who write the cheques.' (Andrew Marr, 'My Trade - A Short History Of British Journalism', Macmillan, 2004, p.112)

]]> (Editor) Alerts 2016 Wed, 03 Feb 2016 23:53:50 +0000
Obama - The Art Of Ruin

In a revealing tweet last October, BBC diplomatic correspondent, Bridget Kendall, commented acerbically on a press conference given by Russian president Vladimir Putin:

'... And he can't resist bragging about his own experience going up in fighter jet'

We thought aloud on Twitter that we couldn't recall any BBC journalist accusing Obama of 'bragging' about anything.

One of our Twitter followers tried to help us out:

'If you can find a series of photo-op images of Obama wrestling wild animals shirtless, you might have a point'

It's true that Putin likes to portray himself as a bare-chested, judo wrestling, fighter pilot. But then Thatcher was famously filmed clinging to the commander's cupola of a charging tank with a Union Jack fluttering at her side. Declaring 'Mission Accomplished' in Iraq from an aircraft carrier, George Bush made a grandiose landing in a military jet with 'George W. Bush – Commander-In-Chief' emblazoned on the plane's nose.

Is the current US president different? Is it just that he keeps his shirt on and is above bragging?

In November 2013, the Washington Times reported that Obama had been overheard 'bragging to administration aides about his ability to kill people with drones'. The president's exact words:

'[I'm] really good at killing people.'

While the US was bringing disaster to Libya in 2011, Obama bragged:

'Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different. And as president, I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action.'

Citing journalist Seymour Hersh and others, Gareth Porter has supplied a different version of events:

'When the Obama administration began its effort to overthrow Gaddafi, it did not call publicly for regime change and instead asserted that it was merely seeking to avert mass killings that administration officials had suggested might approach genocidal levels. But the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) , which had been given the lead role in assessing the situation in Libya, found no evidence to support such fears and concluded that it was based on nothing more than "speculative arguments".'

Indeed, not only was Obama not motivated to avert mass killing, as so many corporate journalists have claimed, he pursued illegal regime change against the advice of his most senior military advisers:

'The JCS [Joint Chiefs of Staff] warned that overthrowing the Gaddafi regime would serve no US security interest, but would instead open the way for forces aligned with al-Qaeda to take over the country. After the Obama administration went ahead with a NATO air assault against the Gaddafi regime the US military sought to head off the destruction of the entire Libyan government...

'But the State Department refused any negotiation with Gaddafi on the [JCS] proposal. Immediately after hearing that Gaddafi had been captured by rebel forces and killed, Clinton famously joked in a television interview, "We came, we saw, he died" and laughed.

'By then the administration was already embarked on yet another regime change policy in Syria.'

The results of this regime change policy, in both Libya and Syria, have been simply catastrophic.

This month, in his final State of the Union address, Obama took his braggadocio to another level:

'Let me tell you something. The United States of America is the most powerful nation on Earth, period. Period. It's not even close. It's not even close. It's not even close. We spend more on our military than the next eight nations combined. Our troops are the finest fighting force in the history of the world. No nation attacks us directly or our allies because they know that's the path to ruin.'

Sounding like a left parody of imperial power, Obama said:

'If you doubt America's commitment - or mine - to see that justice is done, just ask Osama bin Laden.'

Justice is a warm gun and a double head tap.

If Putin bragged about being 'good at killing people', of ruining whole countries, and paraded extrajudicial killing as 'justice', the likes of Bridget Kendall would denounce him as a sociopath. This never happens because Obama and the Official Enemy are perceived through two separate media lenses – one, dark and damning, for 'them'; the other, rose-tinted and admiring, for 'us'.

Thus, in a response to his latest speech in the Guardian, Lucia Graves somehow found the president's rhetoric 'lofty and seemingly above the fray'. Obama 'defined himself more abstractly as against fear'. American fear, that is - not the fear of nations facing American 'justice' and the associated 'path to ruin'.

At the extreme end of the media 'spectrum', while offering mild criticism, Guardian leftist Owen Jones linked to Obama's State of the Union speech, commenting:

'Funny, charming, with a coolness that eludes practically every other politician, he is the ultimate ambassador for US power.'

Jones claims he intended to represent the views of others with these opening comments. But later in the same piece he wrote:

'None of this is to scapegoat Obama. Even the most well-intentioned president will struggle against a system described last year by Princeton researchers as an "oligarchy"...'

Obama, as ever, is to be viewed as 'well-intentioned'.

By contrast, Jones wrote a piece this week under the title: 'Putin is a human rights abusing oligarch. The British left must speak out.' This piece began rather differently:

'A rightwing authoritarian leader who attacks civil liberties, stigmatises lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, indulges in chauvinistic nationalism, is in bed with rapacious oligarchs, and who is admired by the European and American hard right. Leftwing opposition to Vladimir Putin should be, well, kind of an obvious starting point.'

Russia 'is ruled by a human rights abusing, expansionist, oligarchic regime.' Jones has surely never referred to the corporate oligarchy that runs the US as a 'regime'. Three-time US presidential candidate, Ralph Nader, on the other hand, has said:

'We have a two-party dictatorship in this country. Let's face it. And it is a dictatorship in thralldom to giant corporations.' (Nader, interview with The Real News Network, November 4, 2008)


]]> (Editor) Alerts 2016 Wed, 27 Jan 2016 11:02:05 +0000
‘Our Only Fear Was That He Might Pull His Punches’ – BBC Caught Manipulating The News

Nobody with a questioning mind seriously expects impartiality from BBC News. Certainly not anyone who has followed its reporting on the National Health Service, Scottish independence, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn or a myriad of other important issues.

While some may believe that the corporation's failure to provide fair and balanced journalism is a relatively recent phenomenon, many others will recognise that it stretches back many decades: coverage of the West's destruction of Libya in 2011; the invasions of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003; Nato's war on the former Yugoslavia in 1999; genocidal UN sanctions against Iraq in the 1990s; the Persian Gulf War in 1990-91; the miners' strike in 1984-85; the Falklands War in 1982; and on and on.

Indeed, you can go all the way back to the early years of the BBC. During the May 1926 General Strike, just four years after the broadcaster was founded, the BBC bent over backwards to protect the government and oppose the striking workers. John Reith, the BBC's first general manager and later BBC Director-General, was under no illusions; this was not a time for 'objectivity' and 'neutrality'. With the strike underway, he wrote in his diary:

'They [i.e. the Cabinet] know they can trust us not to be really impartial.'

Despite grand documents, notably its much-trumpeted Royal Charter, and robotic PR statements about maintaining impartiality and independence, and being 'vigilant about our values', the reality is that BBC News reflects and upholds establishment values and priorities.

The position of BBC political editor plays an important role in this propaganda system. His or her function is essentially to tell the public what leading politicians say or even 'think'. It is certainly not to question power or challenge government authority in any meaningful way.

]]> (Editor) Alerts 2016 Wed, 13 Jan 2016 00:04:07 +0000