Media Lens - Current Alert News analysis and media criticism http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2019.html Tue, 12 Nov 2019 00:16:59 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Unfree Media – State Stenography And Shameful Silence http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2019/914-unfree-media-state-stenography-and-shameful-silence.html http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2019/914-unfree-media-state-stenography-and-shameful-silence.html

A recent viral clip of Jeremy Corbyn featured vital truths about the corporate media that ought to be at the forefront of public consciousness in the approach to the UK General Election on December 12. The clip began:

'A free press is essential to our democracy. But much of our press isn't very free at all.'

Corbyn continued:

'Just three companies control 71 per cent of national newspaper circulation and five companies control 81 per cent of local newspaper circulation.

'This unhealthy sway of a few corporations and billionaires shapes and skews the priorities and worldview of powerful sections of the media.

'And it doesn't stop with the newspapers, on and offline. Print too often sets the broadcast agenda, even though it is wedded so firmly to the Tories politically and to corporate interests more generally.'

Corbyn's words were not from a recent speech. They were actually delivered as part of his Alternative Mactaggart Lecture at the Edinburgh TV Festival in August 2018. But they remain as relevant as ever; hence being picked up anew by 'Tory Fibs', a grassroots socialist Twitter account.

Corbyn shone on a spotlight on the BBC:

'the BBC should be freed of government control, democratised and made representative of the country it serves to help it do that.

'The BBC is meant to be independent, but its charter grants governments the power to appoint the chair and four directors of the board and set the level of the licence fee.'

As regular readers will be well aware, Media Lens has long highlighted the BBC's lack of independence and, more particularly, the insidious role of BBC News in protecting the establishment, promoting deference to the royal family and class system, as well as deflecting scrutiny of state and corporate crimes.

Corbyn concluded on the state of the media today:

'We need to set journalists and citizens free to hold power to account, by breaking the grip of tech giants and billionaires on our media.'

All this is arguably never more evident than when a General Election is looming. Right now, established power is fighting tooth and nail to maintain its control on society. Corporate media, including gatekeepers like the BBC and the Guardian - 'thus far and no farther', in the words of Noam Chomsky - play a central role in maintaining the destructive status quo.

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editor@medialens.org (Editor) Alerts 2019 Thu, 07 Nov 2019 11:24:35 +0000
‘This Is Oil Country!’ – Climate Protests And The Left http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2019/913-this-is-oil-country-climate-protests-and-the-left.html http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2019/913-this-is-oil-country-climate-protests-and-the-left.html

 

The left has a dark secret that is becoming ever harder to ignore: it is riddled with climate scepticism, indifference and denial.

Pick your favourite left-progressive writers, check their Twitter timelines and published work for mentions of the climate crisis. Check their level of support for protesters who, despite being arrested and beaten, have finally forced the issue into 'mainstream' political awareness after thirty years of fatal indifference and hostility.

This week, a Canadian fossil-fuel enthusiast defaced a mural of Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, painting these words over her face:

'Stop the Lies. This is Oil Country!!!'

Remarkably, when it comes to their understanding of the climate issue, much of the left has long lived in 'oil country'. Dissidents who exposed the West's 'humanitarian interventions' in Iraq and Libya as oil grabs have themselves unwittingly been captured by oil industry propaganda presenting climate concern as a scam by money-grubbing scientists seeking research funds and 'bourgeois' cynics seeking new ways to exploit honest working people.

Last week, Julia Steinberger, Professor of Social Ecology and Ecological Economics at the University of Leeds, tweeted:

'Yesterday morning, and during the whole day, #ExtinctionRebellion faced the City of London: the banks who are bankrolling and profiting from fossil industries and planetary devastation.

'Yesterday evening, the human right of freedom of assembly was suspended in all of London.'

As Steinberger added:

'Yesterday's action and reaction are not coincidental: this is what happens when people go up against power.'

And the City of London, indeed, is the locus of corporate power in the UK. Journalist Jonathan Cook describes it as 'a tiny, secretive enclave within Britain, a state within a state'. The protest ban signalled both the real power behind the parliamentary throne, and the depth of corporate opposition to the protests, giving the lie to the claim that they are the plaything of corporate marketing.

Leftists have been misled by a clear surge in media reporting of protests that are obviously hard to ignore (1.4 million protesters in Germany alone on a single day), and by unlikely support from some corporate media. This, it is claimed, indicates a hidden corporate agenda. The leftist website, OffGuardian, which hosts extreme climate denial (see here, here and here), commented this month:

'Remember - when the MSM don't want you to support a protest movement they just don't tell you about it. Think #giletsjaune.

'#ExtinctionRebellion is theatre - we're invited to take sides, polarise, but never question what actually lies behind the movement' 

Ironically, this favoured left take is also popular with hard-right corporate media. A recent comment piece in the Telegraph was titled:

'Extinction Rebellion exposes Left-wing activism as a global elite sham'

In reality, 'mainstream' support for the protests is offset by fierce hostility from many media corporations and should be viewed in the context of decades of extreme media and political opposition. As recently as April 2019, even after the start of the mass climate protests one year ago, Columbia Journalism Review reported:

'Yet at a time when civilization is accelerating toward disaster, climate silence continues to reign across the bulk of the US news media. Especially on television, where most Americans still get their news... Many newspapers, too, are failing the climate test. Last October, the scientists of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a landmark report, warning that humanity had a mere 12 years to radically slash greenhouse-gas emissions or face a calamitous future in which hundreds of millions of people worldwide would go hungry or homeless or worse. Only 22 of the 50 biggest newspapers in the United States covered that report.'

As we have documented for a quarter of century, this is very much the long-term trend. In 2017, Media Matters found that US news networks, ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and PBS had collectively given coverage to climate change that totalled just 260 minutes in the entire year. Of this, 79 per cent, or 205 minutes, was focused on actions or statements by the Trump administration, rather than on climate change itself.

Noam Chomsky has accurately described the 'schizophrenic' nature of 'mainstream' coverage:

'So, it's as if on the one hand, there's a kind of a tunnel vision — the science reporters are occasionally saying look, "this is a catastrophe," but then the regular coverage simply disregards it, and says [of fracking], "well, isn't this wonderful, we won't have to import oil, we'll be more powerful," and so on.'

Chomsky added:

'It's a kind of schizophrenia, and it runs right through society. Take the big banks, JP Morgan Chase, for example. They're the biggest bank and CEO Jamie Dimon is an intelligent man. I'm sure he knows the basic facts about the dire threat of global warming, yet at the same time they're pouring investments into fossil fuel extraction, because that's the business model. They have to make a profit tomorrow.'

The facts, then, do not indicate deep corporate support for climate activism, but patchy support by less fundamentalist individuals and corporations within a system that is designed down to the last nut and bolt to generate maximum profits in minimum time.

The left-sceptic take on the climate protests is as deluded as any notion that the West was 'fighting for democracy' in Libya, or acting to 'liberate' Iraq. It is an example of why environmentalists have long lumped left and right together as 'grey politics' subordinating the planet to fantasies of endless industrial 'progress' and 'growth'. Consider, for example, the terrible record of the Labour Party on climate change until very recently. The truth is that, with honourable exceptions, the left has never had a problem with the concept of infinite growth on a finite planet, only with how the fruits of that growth are distributed. Along with the right, it has struggled mightily to abandon this article of faith, this now completely discredited conceit of 'manifest destiny' (see here for further discussion).

This week, Extinction Rebellion (XR) commented:

'Total silence from the Government since Parliament's declaration of an environment and climate emergency in May.' (XR, emailed press release, 22 October 2019)

The Tory Party is the party of corporate power, and this is where Big Business currently is on climate - it wants to make cosmetic changes, pretend nothing is happening and carry on regardless.

If we are able to maintain a finger-hold on reality, then we have to accept that climate science, based on elementary principles of physics, is not part of a corporate conspiracy, is not effete 'middle class' paranoia, and is not designed to exploit the public. At time of writing, more than 1,100 scientists have signed the 'Scientists' Declaration of Support for Non-Violent Direct Action Against Government Inaction Over the Climate and Ecological Emergency.'

This support for the protests, not positive comments from the Guardian, is what matters.

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editor@medialens.org (Editor) Alerts 2019 Wed, 23 Oct 2019 11:57:17 +0000
‘How Dare You!’ The Climate Crisis And The Public Demand For Real Action http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2019/912-how-dare-you-the-climate-crisis-and-the-public-demand-for-real-action.html http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2019/912-how-dare-you-the-climate-crisis-and-the-public-demand-for-real-action.html

Reality clashed with the BBC version of false consensus in a remarkable edition of HardTalk last month. Roger Hallam, co-founder of Extinction Rebellion, was starkly honest about humanity's extreme predicament in the face of climate breakdown and refused to buckle under host Stephen Sackur's incredulous questioning. Sackur's inability to grasp that we are already in a climate emergency, and that massive changes are necessary now to avoid societal collapse, was clear for all to see. His line of questioning attempted to present Hallam to the BBC audience as a dangerous revolutionary, trying to destroy capitalism for twisted ideological reasons.

Sackur: 'You want to bring down the capitalist system as we know it, is that correct?

Hallam: 'The capitalist system is going to be brought down by itself. The capitalist system is eating itself.'

Sackur: 'Well, no, the point about your...'

Hallam (interrupting): 'Let me make this point clear, right. The capitalist system – the global system that we're in – is in the process of destroying itself, and it will destroy itself in the next ten years. The reason for that is because it's destroying the climate. The climate is what's necessary to grow food. If you can't grow food, there will be starvation and social collapse. Now, the problem is, people in elites, people in the BBC, and people in the governmental sector, cannot get their heads round what's actually happening. The fact of the matter is, if you go out and talk to ordinary people in the street, they're aware of this. And that's why hundreds of thousands of people around the world are starting to take action...'

Sackur (interrupting): 'I understand what you're [saying], your perspective on the climate is that the emergency is here, it's now and we have to respond.'

Hallam (interrupting): 'No, I don't think you have [understood].'

As Hallam pointed out in the interview, 'hard science' shows that, as things stand, billions of people will die in the next few decades as a result of climate breakdown. William Rees, professor emeritus of human ecology and ecological economics at the University of British Columbia, and the originator of the concept of 'ecological footprint', agreed. He added bluntly:

'Humanity is literally converting the ecosphere into human bodies, prodigious quantities of cultural artifacts, and vastly larger volumes of entropic waste. (That's what tropical deforestation, fisheries collapses, plummeting biodiversity, ocean pollution, climate change, etc. are all about.)'

Earlier this year, Noam Chomsky noted that:

'In a couple of generations, organized human society may not survive.'

If corporate media were structurally capable of reflecting reality, this would be constant headline news:

'Every single [newspaper] should have a shrieking headline every day saying we are heading to total catastrophe. [...] That has to be drilled into people's heads constantly. After all, there's been nothing like this in all of human history. The current generation has to make a decision as to whether organized human society will survive another couple of generations, and it has to be done quickly, there's not a lot of time. So, there's no time for dillydallying and beating around the bush. And [the US] pulling out of the Paris negotiations should be regarded as one of the worst crimes in history.'

Human extinction within one hundred years is a real possibility. A massive upsurge of public concern, placing unassailable pressure on governments to drastically change course, is urgently needed. Climate strikes, with seven million people taking part last Friday, inspired in large part by the example of 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, need to be ramped up even further, demanding real change; not fixes to a fundamentally destructive system that is falling apart, bringing humans and numerous other species with it.

As Thunberg passionately told world leaders at the UN in New York last week, in a powerful mix of emotion and reason:

'People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction. And all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you! [...] How dare you pretend that this can be solved with business-as-usual and some technical solutions.'

Thunberg's speech gave the lie, yet again, to ill-founded claims that she is being manipulated or 'manufactured' as a front for neoliberalism, 'green' capitalism or 'neo-feudalism'. As Jonathan Cook wrote in a cogent demolition of cynical claims made against her, including by some on the left:

'Thunberg is not Wonder Girl. She will have to navigate through these treacherous waters as best she can, deciding who genuinely wants to help, who is trying to sabotage her cause, and which partners she can afford to ally with. She and similar movements will make mistakes. That is how social protests always work. It is also how they evolve.'

Cook added:

'Should Thunberg become captured, wittingly or not, by western elites, it is patronising in the extreme to assume that the many millions of young and old alike joining her on the climate strikes will be incapable of recognising her co-option or whether she has lost her way. Those making this argument arrogantly assume that only they can divine the true path.'

 

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editor@medialens.org (Editor) Alerts 2019 Mon, 30 Sep 2019 06:43:51 +0000
Stockholm Syndrome – Julian Assange And The Limits Of Guardian Dissent http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2019/911-stockholm-syndrome-julian-assange-and-the-limits-of-guardian-dissent.html http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2019/911-stockholm-syndrome-julian-assange-and-the-limits-of-guardian-dissent.html

Nothing happened on September 2 in central London. Roger Waters, co-founder of Pink Floyd, did not initiate a protest outside the Home Office. He did not sing and play the Floyd classic 'Wish You Were Here', or say:

'Julian Assange, we are with you. Free Julian Assange!'

The renowned journalist and film-maker John Pilger did not say:

'The behaviour of the British government towards Julian Assange is a disgrace - a profanity on the very notion of human rights.

'It's no exaggeration to say that the persecution of Julian Assange is the way dictatorships treat a political prisoner.'

None of this happened for any major UK or US newspaper, which made no mention of these events at all. Readers of Prensa Latina, Havana, were more fortunate with two articles before and after the event, as were readers of Asian News International in New Delhi. Coverage was also provided by Ireland's Irish Examiner (circulation 25,419) in Cork, which published a Press Association piece that was available to the innumerable other outlets that all chose to ignore it.

Four months after he was dragged from the Ecuadorian embassy, Assange is still locked up in solitary confinement for 21 hours a day or more. He is still being denied the basic tools to prepare his case against a demand for extradition to the United States where he faces incarceration and torture. He is not allowed to call his US lawyers, is not allowed access to vital documents, or even a computer. He is confined to a single cell in the hospital wing, where he is isolated from other people. Pilger commented at the protest:

'There is one reason for this. Julian and WikiLeaks have performed an historic public service by giving millions of people facts on why and how their governments deceive them, secretly and often illegally: why they invade countries, why they spy on us.

'Julian is singled out for special treatment for one reason only: he is a truth-teller. His case is meant to send a warning to every journalist and every publisher, the kind of warning that has no place in a democracy.'

On the Sydney Criminal Lawyers website, journalist Paul Gregoire discussed Assange's declining health with his father, John Shipton, who said:

'His health is not good. He's lost about 15 kilos in weight now – five since I last saw him. And he's in solitary confinement for 22 hours a day, in the hospital ward of the gaol.'

Gregoire responded:

'As you've just explained, Julian is being held in quite extreme conditions. He's isolated from other inmates. And as well, his visits are restricted and so are his communications with his legal representation. Yet, he's only being held for breach of bail, which is a rather minor charge.'

'Yes, very minor.'

'How are the UK authorities justifying the restrictions around his imprisonment seeing he's being incarcerated on such a minor offence?'

'I don't know if they feel the necessity to justify these decisions. Their decisions are arbitrary.'

'So, they're giving no explanation as to his treatment.'

'No.'

It does seem extraordinary, in fact medieval, for such brutal treatment to be meted out to someone for merely breaching bail, with almost zero 'mainstream' political or media protest. This is only one reason, of course, why the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, penned an article titled, 'Demasking the Torture of Julian Assange'. Melzer commented:

'What may look like mere mudslinging in public debate, quickly becomes "mobbing" when used against the defenseless, and even "persecution" once the State is involved. Now just add purposefulness and severe suffering, and what you get is full-fledged psychological torture.'

Investigative journalist Peter Oborne courageously challenged conventional wisdom on Assange this month in a British Journalism Review piece titled, 'He is a hero, not a villain'. Oborne described how, in July, the Mail on Sunday had published a front-page story revealing the contents of diplomatic telegrams – 'DipTels' – sent to London by the British ambassador to the US. The memos described President Trump's administration as 'inept' and Trump himself as 'uniquely dysfunctional'.

'All hell broke loose. The May government announced an official leak inquiry. The Metropolitan Police launched a criminal investigation. The intelligence services got involved.

'The Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner Neil Basu warned the press not to publish any further documents as this could "constitute a criminal offence". The Mail on Sunday paid no attention. It published further leaks and other papers came to its support. So did politicians. Tory leadership candidates Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt were among those who criticised Basu's comments.

'Hunt, who was then foreign secretary, said: "I defend to the hilt the right of the press to publish those leaks if they receive them and judge them to be in the public interest...'

'Meanwhile, that leaker-in-chief Julian Assange continued to languish in Belmarsh prison, where he is serving 50 weeks for skipping bail...

'Julian Assange is a controversial figure, to be sure. Many of those who have dealt with him have found him difficult. But I find myself wondering what exactly the difference is between his alleged crime of publishing leaked US diplomatic cables and the Mail on Sunday's offence of publishing leaked Foreign Office cables.

'Why is Assange treated by the bulk of the British media as a pariah? And the Mail on Sunday as a doughty defender of press freedom? After all, Julian Assange is responsible for breaking more stories than all the rest of us put together.'

Oborne commented:

'This looks to me like a monstrous case of double standards, even by the ocean-going standards of Britain's media/political class.'

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editor@medialens.org (Editor) Alerts 2019 Tue, 17 Sep 2019 08:36:06 +0000
The Campaign To Stop Corbyn – Smears, Racism And Censorship http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2019/910-the-campaign-to-stop-corbyn-smears-racism-censorship.html http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2019/910-the-campaign-to-stop-corbyn-smears-racism-censorship.html

The greatest fear of those holding the most power and wealth is that they will lose their exalted position in the world. They will resist any changes to the grossly unequal and unjust class structure that causes grievous damage to so many people; and to the planet itself. Even the threat of real change must be crushed. This, in a nutshell, underpins the astonishing and relentless campaign to stop Jeremy Corbyn, a moderate leftist, from ever becoming Prime Minister.

On July 10, BBC broadcast an episode of Panorama that purported to be an impartial investigation into the loaded question, 'Is Labour Anti-Semitic?'. It quickly became clear that the programme makers were not interested in a serious appraisal of the evidence and that the question was merely rhetorical. The thrust of the programme was that Labour is anti-semitic. The Labour Party response was scathing:

'The Panorama programme was not a fair or balanced investigation. It was a seriously inaccurate, politically one-sided polemic, which breached basic journalistic standards, invented quotes and edited emails to change their meaning. It was an overtly biased intervention by the BBC in party political controversy.

'An honest investigation into antisemitism in Labour and wider society is in the public interest. The Panorama team instead pre-determined an answer to the question posed by the programme's title.'

The programme was presented by BBC journalist John Ware who had previously made clear his antagonism towards Corbyn's politics. As journalist Jonathan Cook wrote:

'that Panorama made no attempt at even-handedness or fairness in its programme on Labour should have come as no surprise. The man in charge of the investigation was John Ware, a former Sun journalist. He cannot be considered dispassionate either about Corbyn or the prospects of Labour defeating the Conservative Party at a general election, which may be just around the corner.'

Cook continued:

'Two years ago, Ware wrote a lengthy article for a right-wing magazine warning of the danger of Corbyn reaching power. He was a politician, wrote Ware, "whose entire political career has been stimulated by disdain for the West, appeasement of extremism, and who would barely understand what fighting for the revival of British values is really all about".

'Shortly after Corbyn's leadership election victory in 2015, Ware headed a Panorama documentary that sought to malign the new leader. Ware is also a strident supporter of Israel and of its state ideology, Zionism. In a 2005 edition of Panorama he suggested that Muslims in Britain who spoke out about Israel's crimes against Palestinians were "extremists".

'In an article in the Jewish Chronicle last year Ware concluded that anti-Zionism had "morphed into antisemitism – itself a Corbyn legacy".'

The Panorama programme was immediately followed by BBC News at Ten which gave it extensive coverage, pumping up the propaganda value of the fake 'investigation'. BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg intoned gravely:

'Many party members have left, and if Labour can't get a grip of racism in its own ranks, what might they lose next?'

Consider her choice of words: 'Many party members have left' and 'Labour can't get a grip of racism in its own ranks'. The public is supposed to swallow the BBC's implication of endemic Labour anti-semitism as impartial, objective reporting.

Kuenssberg continued:

'This is a problem that has dogged the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn's leadership, not for a few weeks, not just for a few months, but for several years now.'

Many commentators, including Media Lens, have long argued that the issue of anti-semitism has been exploited to inflict as much damage on Corbyn as possible. But that rational perspective is systematically excluded from BBC News 'journalism'. Instead, as ever, the BBC political editor continued to hammer home the requisite propaganda bullet points:

'Corbyn has been unable, it seems, to crack down on it [anti-semitism] in the way he has promised to do, again and again.'

In the BBC version of 'neutral' news reporting, there is no hint that Corbyn's opponents - not least the corporate media, including the BBC - wish to destroy him and what he stands for. But then, from the very beginning, the BBC has been on the side of the establishment and the government of the day. As BBC founder John Reith confided in his diary during the 1926 General Strike:

'They know they can trust us not to be really impartial.'

('The Reith Diaries', edited by Charles Stewart, Collins, 1975; entry for 11 May, 1926)

The experienced journalist Peter Oborne said via Twitter:

'I proposed to the BBC a documentary on Tory Islamophobia three years ago. Zero interest.'

It is possible that in over-reaching themselves, and presenting such a skewed perspective, Panorama and the BBC had inadvertently highlighted the manufactured nature of the 'anti-semitism crisis'. As Asa Winstanley observed:

'all the program proved was just how dishonest the British establishment and the Israel lobby have been in manufacturing this "Labour anti-Semitism crisis" for the past four years.'

In a piece for The Electronic Intifada, Ali Abunimah gave crucial background context, observing that the Israel lobby is working hard to split the left:

'Influential Israel lobby groups are offering "rules" for how Jewish communal organizations can divide the left and break up emerging intersectional coalitions.

'They also advocate for "delegitimizing" Jews deemed too supportive of Palestinian rights.

'Israel and its lobby see the strengthening solidarity between Palestinians and other oppressed groups, especially Black people in the United States, as a major threat and they are determined to fight back.

'Indeed, last year, Al Jazeera's leaked undercover documentary The Lobby–USA revealed how the Israeli government and its lobby worked to disrupt the Black Lives Matter movement in retaliation for Black solidarity with Palestine.'

A central strategy of this pro-Israel campaign is to repeatedly state a false equivalence between anti-Zionism and anti-semitism. Abunimah explained:

'Zionism, Israel's state ideology, is racist because it grants superior rights to Jews enshrined in dozens of Israeli laws and holds that Palestinians expelled and exiled from their homeland should not be allowed to return to it solely and exclusively because they are not Jews.

'Anti-Zionism, therefore, is not prejudice against Jews as Israel and its lobby groups claim.

'Anti-Zionism, based in universal human rights principles, is anti-racism.'

A new report by Israel's Reut Institute and the US-based Jewish Council for Public Affairs warned ominously that '"Corbynization" is spreading through segments of the political left' and that 'UK-based anti-Israel groups have been inspiring liberal and progressive elite circles worldwide.'

This, says Abunimah, 'underlines why Israel and its lobby view discrediting and removing Corbyn as a paramount priority.'

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editor@medialens.org (Editor) Alerts 2019 Mon, 22 Jul 2019 06:28:08 +0000
Suspending Chris Williamson - The Fury And The Fakery http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2019/909-suspending-chris-williamson.html http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2019/909-suspending-chris-williamson.html

On June 26, the Labour Party lifted the suspension of pro-Corbyn MP Chris Williamson, triggering a maximum effort propaganda blitz designed to reverse the decision.

Williamson had been suspended on February 27, after footage emerged of him responding to claims of institutionalised anti-semitism in the Labour Party. This is what Williamson said:

'The party that's done more to stand up to racism is now being demonised as a racist, bigoted party. I've got to say I think our party's response has been partly responsible for that because in my opinion... we've backed off far too much, we've given too much ground, we've been too apologetic.'

He added:

'We've done more to actually address the scourge of anti-semitism than any other political party, any other political party. And yet we are being traduced.'

Anyone watching the film can see that Williamson was passionate about combating the 'scourge of anti-semitism', was emphasising his pride in the Labour Party's historical commitment to that cause and was frustrated by the failure of the Labour leadership to adequately defend that commitment. The blogger Jewish Dissident captured the reality exactly:

'Whether one agrees with Chris or not, it's hard to think of a single comparable instance where an innocuous comment of this sort has led to such a risible media circus, or to such a sustained campaign of personal and political vilification.

'The treatment of good old Boris, our next Prime Minister, makes for an interesting contrast. The man who is apparently destined to lead our country has a clear track record of actual, as opposed to bogus, racism and bigotry. He's the man who has talked about "watermelon smiles" and "piccaninnies", described women as "hot totty", professed his inability to distinguish between burka-clad women and letter boxes, and derided gay men as "bumboys".'

Jewish Dissident noted further:

'Every single one of Johnson's vile, bigoted comments has been allowed to pass by the media and the Westminster establishment. Because, after all, it's just "good old Boris" talking.'

And this really is the point - occasional comments and opinion pieces may express revulsion, but propaganda blitzes are not launched at Johnson, with half of his own party and all the opposition party, and all corporate media, shrieking for his head.

Johnson commented on Williamson that it was 'shameful that Labour have reinstated this key Corbyn ally back into their party after his appalling remarks. We must never allow these apologists for anti-Semitism anywhere near government'.

This warning appeared in an ITV website article that also contained damning criticism from Labour MP Margaret Hodge, Labour MP Stella Creasy, Amanda Bowman, vice president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Gideon Falter, chief executive of Campaign Against Antisemitism, and anti-racism campaign group Hope Not Hate, with three pictured tweets highlighting and repeating their accusations. These six sources were not balanced by a single comment of any kind defending Williamson. This unarguably constitutes a form of extreme propaganda, rather than balanced journalism.

ITV could have turned for a comment to Jewish Voice for Labour, which said it welcomed the lifting of Williamson's suspension, and criticised the media focus on the MP's opponents:

'There is huge support for Chris within and outside the party and this had not been reflected in the media coverage.'

As we have previously noted, a key feature of a propaganda blitz is that accusations are accompanied by expressions of incandescent moral outrage:

'The rationale is clear enough: insanity aside, in ordinary life outrage of this kind is usually a sign that someone has good reason to be angry. People generally do not get very angry in the presence of significant doubt. So, the message to the public is that there is no doubt.' (David Edwards and David Cromwell, 'Propaganda Blitz', Pluto Press, 2018, p.6)

Thus, Labour MP Margaret Hodge, a key Corbyn opponent, said of the decision to lift Williamson's suspension:

'It is appalling, outrageous and unacceptable that he should be allowed back into the party. It's a cynical move... and we will have Jew haters sitting as Labour MPs under Jeremy Corbyn.'

Thus, also, columnist Rod Liddle, who wrote in the Sunday Times under this title:

'Unless you're anti‑semitic, walk away from Labour — it stinks from top to bottom'

As we will show below, this is a completely fake claim. In true McCarthyite tradition, Liddle observed that Williamson, who is the democratically elected MP for Derby North, 'looks, facially - to me at least - like a man called Reinhardt who has just been discovered hiding out in Argentina and might, if you shouted "Heil Hitler", have great difficulty controlling the actions of his right arm'.

Liddle expressed his revulsion at 'the fact that the Labour Party nowadays finds Jew-hating an agreeable and potentially vote-winning sideline and is riddled with it, from top to bottom', concluding:

'That Williamson is anti-semitic I have no doubt. But compared with Jeremy Corbyn he is an exemplar of anti-racist progressivism.'

At the other end of the supposed media 'spectrum', in a piece titled, 'Of all the hills to die on, why on earth has Labour chosen Chris Williamson?', Guardian columnist Marina Hyde described Williamson as an 'annoying prick in a black polo-neck' who looks like a 'boil-washed Terence Stamp'. Hyde lamented 'Williamson's long history of highly problematic statements'. Significantly, she did not cite from, or link to, any such long, ugly history. Apparently parroting Jon Lansman, Chair of Labour's Momentum group, Hyde commented:

'It's notable that the returning Williamson didn't even bother with a non-apology apology.'

It's unlikely that Hyde cared, or even knew, that Williamson had published a long, gracious message in February that began:

'A personal message and sincere apology from me regarding my recent remarks on anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.'

He added:

'On a personal level, I have been an anti-racist all my life. As a former member of the Anti-Nazi League, I participated in direct action to confront foul anti-Semites in the streets... It pains me greatly, therefore, that anyone should believe that it is my intention to minimise the cancerous and pernicious nature of anti-Semitism.'

These are not the words of a 'Jew hater'. In addition to this apology, after he was briefly reinstated to the Labour Party, Williamson reaffirmed his commitment to fighting 'racism in all its forms', saying he would like to 'work in tandem' with the Board of Deputies of British Jews as 'allies'.

Our July 4 ProQuest national newspaper search of articles appearing in 2019 found:

'Chris Williamson' and 'anti-semitism' = 608 hits

'Chris Williamson' and 'anti-nazi' = 5 hits

Examining the results more closely, it turns out that the fact that Williamson literally fought on the streets against anti-semites as part of the Anti-Nazi League has been mentioned twice in UK national newspapers this year.

More than 150 Labour MPs and peers – the infamously pro-war, Blairite section of the party – added to the propaganda blitz by protesting the decision to readmit Williamson in a statement led by the bitterly anti-Corbyn deputy leader Tom Watson.

Also in perfect accordance with our propaganda blitz theory, the propaganda coup de grace was supplied by leftists Owen Jones of the Guardian and Ash Sarkar of the ostensibly 'alternative' Novara Media. Williamson's suspension was lifted on June 26. That day, Sarkar tweeted:

'This outcome is indefensible.'

On June 27, having presumably missed Williamson's earlier apology, Jones wrote:

'Chris Williamson could always show he's learned why he's caused distress and then acted on that: I'm yet to see evidence of it.'

One day later, Williamson was suspended again. Jones recently claimed that Williamson 'causes relentless immense damage to the left'. 

Asked if he would 'stand with Chris Williamson', leftist singer Billy Bragg responded this week:

'Can't do that Daniel. Labour needs to resolve the issue of anti-semitism within the party. Right now Williamson is part of the problem, not the solution.'

We asked Bragg what specifically had led him to this conclusion; he did not reply.

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editor@medialens.org (Editor) Alerts 2019 Thu, 04 Jul 2019 11:23:37 +0000
The Shaving Kit - Manufacturing The Julian Assange Witch-Hunt http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2019/908-the-shaving-kit-manufacturing-the-julian-assange-witch-hunt.html http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2019/908-the-shaving-kit-manufacturing-the-julian-assange-witch-hunt.html

Last week, UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid signed the US extradition request to hand over Julian Assange, who is charged with 18 counts of violating the US Espionage Act. Assange's immediate fate now lies in the hands of the British justice system.

Javid 'consistently voted for use of UK military forces in combat operations overseas', including war on Afghanistan, Syria and the catastrophic 2011 assault on Libya. In other words, he is a key figure in precisely the US-UK Republican-Democratic-Conservative-Labour war machine exposed by WikiLeaks.

John Pilger described Assange's extradition hearing last week to The Real News Network:

'I don't think these initial extradition hearings will be fair at all, no... He's not allowed to defend himself. He's not given access to a computer so that he can access the documents and files that he needs.

'I think where it will change is if the lower court - the magistrate's court that is dealing with it now and will deal with it over the next almost nine, ten months - if they decide to extradite Julian Assange, his lawyers will appeal. And it will go up to the High Court. And I think it's there in the High Court where he may well - I say "may" - get justice. That's a cautiously optimistic view. But I think he's most likely to get it there. He certainly won't get it the United States. There's no indication of that.'

As we noted in a media alert last week, the groundwork for the persecution of Assange has been laid by a demonising state-corporate propaganda campaign. Nils Melzer, the UN special rapporteur on torture, who is also Professor of International Law at the University of Glasgow, has turned the accepted 'mainstream' view of Assange completely on its head:

'First of all, we have to realize that we have all been deliberately misled about Mr Assange. The predominant image of the shady "hacker", "sex offender" and selfish "narcissist" has been carefully constructed, disseminated and recycled in order to divert attention from the extremely powerful truths he exposed, including serious crimes and corruption on the part of multiple governments and corporations.

'By making Mr Assange "unlikeable" and ridiculous in public opinion, an environment was created in which no one would feel empathy with him, very similar to the historic witch-hunts, or to modern situations of mobbing at the workplace or in school.' (Our emphasis)

These are very significant, credible comments and, as we will discuss below, Melzer recently provided a stunning example on Twitter of how this 'carefully constructed, disseminated and recycled' image of Assange has been faked.

Melzer's revelation concerns Assange's long, dishevelled beard, which was a source of much 'mainstream' hilarity when Assange was arrested and dragged from the Ecuadorian embassy on April 11. First, let's remind ourselves of some of the grim highlights of this media coverage. In the Daily Mail, Amanda Platell wrote:

'How humiliating that as the alleged sexual predator Julian Assange emerged from Ecuador's embassy, flourishing a wild beard, Australian scientists revealed a primordial link between "flamboyant accoutrements such as beards" and titchy testicles.'

In the New Statesman, the Guardian's Suzanne Moore celebrated:

'O frabjous day! We are all bored out of our minds with Brexit when a demented looking gnome is pulled out of the Ecuadorian embassy by the secret police of the deep state. Or "the met" as normal people call them.'

In the Evening Standard, William Moore commented:

'Julian Assange... looked like a sort of mad Lord of the Rings extra as he was hauled away from the Ecuadorian embassy last week.'

Charlotte Edwardes wrote in the Evening Standard:

'Julian Assange's removal from the Ecuadorian embassy brought his straggly beard into the light. The Beard Liberation Front gets in touch to say he will not be considered for its annual shortlist of the best facial hair. "It is impossible to unequivocally state that his beard presents a positive public image," it says.' (Edwardes, 'Julian Assange's removal', Evening Standard, 12 April 2019)

David Aaronovitch of The Times tweeted:

'I see Tolstoy has just been arrested in central London.'

Like so many journalists, Derek Momodu, the Daily Mirror's Associate Picture Editor, made a joke about a bearded character from the BBC comedy series 'Only Fools And Horses':

'Unconfirmed reports that Wikileaks boss Julian Assange tried to pass as Uncle Albert to avoid arrest - but no-one was fooled.'

The Daily Star devoted an entire article to the mockery:

'Bearded Julian Assange compared to Uncle Albert as Twitter reacts to arrest

'Pamela Anderson's favourite fella has got a surprising new look.'

Embedded in the piece was a Daily Star reader survey that attracted 234 votes:

'Would you describe Julian Assange as...

'A hero [36%]

'A weirdo' [64%]

Unsurprising results, given the context and the wider political-media campaign.

The Daily Express also devoted an article to comedy takes of this kind:

'Hilarious Julian Assange memes have swept Twitter in the wake of the Wikileaks founder's arrest including one he tried to pass himself off as Uncle Albert from Only Fools and Horses - here are the best ones.'

In The Times, Ben Macintyre wrote a piece titled, 'Julian Assange belongs with crackpots and despots', observing that Assange had been 'hauled out of the Ecuadorian embassy, wearing the same beard and outraged expression as Saddam Hussein on removal from his foxhole'. The caption accompanying the photos said it all:

'Julian Assange revelled in holding court at the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Right, the Panamanian [dictator] General Manuel Noriega took refuge in the Vatican embassy in 1989'

There are clear Stalinist and Big Brother echoes when one of the most important political dissidents of our time generates this headline (subsequently edited) in the Daily Mail:

'A soaring ego. Vile personal habits. And after years in his squalid den, hardly a friend left: DOWNFALL OF A NARCISSIST'

The title of a Guardian press review also headlined completely fake, Ecuadorian government claims that Assange had smeared the walls of the embassy with his own excrement as highlighted in The Sun:

'"Whiffyleaks": what the papers say about Julian Assange's arrest'

The assumption behind all these comments, of course, was that Assange's beard was further confirmation that he was 'a definite creep, a probable rapist, a conspiracist whackjob', as 'leftist' media favourite Ash Sarkar of Novara Media tweeted. Or, as the Guardian's George Monbiot wrote in opposing Assange's extradition:

'Whether or not you like Assange's politics (I don't), or his character (ditto)...'

As discussed, Nils Melzer argues that Assange has become '"unlikeable" and ridiculous in public opinion', not because of who he is, but because of a state-sponsored propaganda campaign - the journalists listed above are either complicit or dupes. This media charade was exposed with great clarity by Melzer's revelation on Twitter:

'How public humiliation works: On 11 April, Julian Assange was mocked for his beard throughout the world. During my visit, he explained to us that his shaving kit had been deliberately taken away three months earlier.'

It had simply never occurred to the great herd of journalists - which understood that Assange was someone to be smeared, mocked and abused – that his appearance might have something to do with Ecuador's brutal treatment cutting off his communications, his visitors and even his medical care. Fidel Narvaez, former consul at the Ecuadorian embassy from the first day Assange arrived, on 19 June 2012, until 15 July 2018, said the Ecuadorian regime under president Lenin Moreno had tried to make life 'unbearable' for Assange.

As part of a Swedish project in support of Assange, a message containing an offer from Melzer to be interviewed was emailed to around 500 individuals, primarily Swedish journalists. Recipients were able to reply with a single click on an embedded link in the message. Not a single journalist did so. In an email copied to Media Lens, Melzer commented:

'My impression is that, after my initial press release, most of the mainstream media have gone into something like a shock paralysis leaving them unable to process the enormous contradiction between their own misguided portraits of Assange and the terrifying truth of what has been going on in reality. The problem, of course, is that mainstream media bear a significant share of the responsibility for enabling this disgraceful witch-hunt and now have to muster up the strength to face their tragic failure to objectively inform and empower the people in this case.

'One of my own nationalities being Swedish, I am quite familiar with what a certain obsession with political correctness can do to one's capacity for critical thinking. But the fact that, of more than 500 solicited Swedish journalists, not a single one was interested in an in-depth interview with a Swiss-Swedish UN expert publicly accusing Sweden of judicial persecution and psychological torture, speaks to a level of denial and self-censorship that can hardly be reconciled with objective and informative reporting.' (Melzer, email, 13 June 2019)

It is indeed a dramatic example of denial and self-censorship. But alas, there is no 'shock paralysis', for corporate media have been treating the best-informed, most courageous and most honest truth-tellers this way for years and decades.

When Denis Halliday, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, resigned in protest in September 1998, describing the UN sanctions regime he had set up and run as 'genocidal', his comments were mentioned in passing then forgotten. The same treatment was afforded his successor as UN Humanitarian Coordinator, Hans von Sponeck, who resigned in protest at the sanctions in February 2000. Since its publication in 2006, von Sponeck's forensic, deeply rational and deeply damning account of his experiences, 'A Different Kind Of War – The UN Sanctions Regime In Iraq' (Berghahn Books, 2006), has been mentioned once across the entire US-UK press, in a single paragraph of 139 words in an article by Robert Fisk in the Independent, and never reviewed. (Fisk, 'Fear climate change, not our enemies', The Independent, 20 Jan 2007)

At a time of maximum global media coverage of Iraq, Halliday was mentioned in 2 of the 12,366 Guardian and Observer articles mentioning Iraq in 2003; von Sponeck was mentioned 5 times. Halliday was mentioned in 2 of the 8,827 articles mentioning Iraq in 2004; von Sponeck was mentioned 5 times.

In 2002, Scott Ritter, former UN chief weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991-1998 declared that Iraq had been 'fundamentally disarmed' of 90-95% of its weapons of mass destruction by December 1998, signifying that the case for war was an audacious fraud. (Ritter and William Rivers Pitt, 'War On Iraq', Profile Books, 2002, p.23) In the 12,366 articles mentioning Iraq in 2003, the Guardian and Observer mentioned Ritter a total of 17 times.

In February, we described how Alfred de Zayas, the first UN rapporteur to visit Venezuela for 21 years, had commented that US sanctions were illegal and could amount to 'crimes against humanity' under international law. Our ProQuest UK media database search for the last six months for corporate newspaper articles containing:

'de Zayas' and 'Venezuela' = 2 hits

One of these, bitterly critical, in The Times, was titled:

'Radical Chic - The UN's system of human rights reporting is a politicised travesty'

There have been a couple of other mentions in the Independent online, but, once again, we find ourselves reaching for the same comment from Noam Chomsky that sums it up so well:

'The basic principle, rarely violated, is that what conflicts with the requirements of power and privilege does not exist.' (Chomsky, 'Deterring Democracy', Hill and Wang, 1992, p.79)

DE

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editor@medialens.org (Editor) Alerts 2019 Thu, 20 Jun 2019 07:28:29 +0000
Buried In Broad Daylight - The ‘Free Press’ And The Leaked OPCW Report On Douma http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2019/907-buried-in-broad-daylight-the-free-press-and-the-leaked-opcw-report-on-douma.html http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2019/907-buried-in-broad-daylight-the-free-press-and-the-leaked-opcw-report-on-douma.html

A defining feature of the propaganda system is that facts supporting the agenda of Western power are pushed to the forefront of the 'mainstream' media, while inconvenient facts are buried. A prime example is the shameful media silence in response to a devastating document leaked from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), discussed in a recent media alert. The document, an engineering assessment of two chlorine cylinders found at two separate locations after an attack on the Damascus suburb of Douma on April 7, 2018, casts serious doubt on the official narrative that Syrian government forces had dropped them from helicopters. The claim that Assad had used chemical weapons 'against his own civilians' was used by the US, UK and France to 'justify' missile strikes on 'chemical weapons facilities' on April 14, 2018.

One of the cylinders was found on top of a four-storey building with its front end lodged in a hole in the roof. The other cylinder was found lying on a bed in the top-floor room of an apartment with a crater-like opening in the roof. Engineering analysis - based on measurements, photographs and computer modelling - were conducted on the two cylinders and the scenes where they were found. The aim was to 'evaluate the possible means by which these two cylinders arrived at their respective locations as observed.' The leaked report, signed by Ian Henderson, a senior OPCW engineer with many years' experience, concluded:

'In summary, observations at the scene of the two locations, together with subsequent analysis, suggest that there is a higher probability that both cylinders were manually placed at those two locations rather than being delivered from aircraft.' [Our emphasis.]

But this dissenting engineering analysis was excluded from the final OPCW Fact-Finding Mission report presented to the UN Security Council on March 1, 2019.

Theodore Postol, professor of science, technology, and international security at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, whose main expertise is in ballistic missiles, gave an initial assessment of the leaked OPCW report on May 21, and agreed with its conclusion. He summarised:

'For now, it suffices to say that the UN OPCW engineering report is completely different from the UN OPCW report on Khan Sheikhoun, which is distinguished by numerous claims about explosive effects that could only have been made by technically illiterate individuals. In very sharp contrast, the voices that come through the engineering report are those of highly knowledgeable and sophisticated experts.'

On June 4, Postol released a more in-depth assessment which completely rejected the propaganda claim that the cylinders could only have been dropped from Syrian government helicopters. This strengthens the conclusion that the April 2018 Douma attacks were indeed staged, presumably by Syrian rebels attempting to provoke a Western military response against Assad (and perhaps even with Western connivance).

Postol noted the glaring discrepancies between the OPWC report that was submitted to the UN (minus the dissenting analysis of the leaked document) and the facts on the ground:

'The calculations produced as proof for the conclusions bear no relationship to what was observed at the scene and both the observed data from the scene and the calculations bear no relationship to the reported findings.'

Postol expanded:

'An important characteristic of concrete is that it is brittle. By definition, such a material is not flexible but will develop cracks and fail catastrophically when subjected to stresses that are sufficiently large. Concrete can be substantially strengthened [as in this case] by embedding reinforcing steel rebar or other strong but flexible materials within it. The rebar performs the function of maintaining the strength of the material when it is flexed rather than failing catastrophically as is the case with the surrounding brittle material.'

He added:

'A very important additional phenomenon associated with the impact of an object can be the creation of a hole due to a process that is generally referred to as "tunneling." Because the breach created by the penetrating object results in the crushing and pushing of brittle concrete as the object moves forward, the diameter of the hole produced by the impact of the object will be very close to that of the penetrating object. This means that a hole created by a 40 cm diameter chlorine cylinder should be close to 40 cm in diameter...'

But this was not the case:

'The diameter of the hole is nearly twice that of the cylinder and the steel rebar that was supposed to stop the cylinder from penetrating through the roof is instead completely shattered and bent away from the forward direction by more than 60°... This photograph shows that the crater was produced by an explosion on the roof which had nothing to do with the impact of a chlorine cylinder. These discrepancies simply mean that the cylinder was placed on the roof after the hole was produced by the explosion of a mortar shell or artillery rocket.'

Postol provided much more detail, but this was his summary:

'There is absolutely no doubt that the OPCW finding that the chlorine cylinder found at what it identifies as Location 2 did not produce the hole in the roof that allegedly led to the killing of more than 30 people that the OPCW claims were trapped and poisoned in the building. The OPCW's own science-based technical analysis does not come close to matching what was observed at Location 2.'

The only possible conclusion is that 'chemical weapons attacks' at the two sites where the cylinders were found must have been staged.

Postol praised the high-quality analysis presented in the leaked OPCW document. But he was damning about senior OPCW management who had disregarded the dissenting engineering assessment and instead presented a deeply biased and misleading final report to the UN:

'The OPCW has been compromised in terms of the content they are providing. The deception of the OPCW is quite blatant. Perhaps they are not used to people who are knowledgeable on these issues scrutinizing their material.'

On June 3, Labour MP Chris Williamson submitted a parliamentary question:

'To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, with reference to investigations suggesting that reports of the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Government in Douma in April 2018 were staged and with reference to reports that OPCW expert advice was redacted from its final report, whether he has made a reassessment of the decision to bomb targets in Syria in 2018.'

In an interview with Afshin Rattansi on RT's Going Underground, Williamson rightly pointed to the insidious part played by the 'mainstream' media:

'The hysterical mainstream media at the time a year ago who seemed to be clamouring for military airstrikes have been incredibly silent about this [leaked OPCW report]. I remember having a very rough interview on Channel 4 about the whole issue. And yet they seem to, as far as I'm aware, have failed to follow up now with this quite damning revelation which has been brought to light by a whistle-blower.'

He added:

'What is very regrettable today is the tradition that we used to take for granted, that investigative journalists – serious journalists like John Pilger – seem to be sadly lacking these days.'

Williamson also cited Robert Fisk – 'a very unusual animal these days' – who reported from Douma last April, after interviewing civilians in the vicinity of the alleged chemical weapon attacks. A senior Syrian doctor, Dr Assim Rahaibani, told him that the 'gas' video that had so horrified the world showed patients who had been overcome, not by gas, but by oxygen starvation:

'I was with my family in the basement of my home three hundred metres from here on the night but all the doctors know what happened. There was a lot of shelling [by government forces] and aircraft were always over Douma at night – but on this night, there was wind and huge dust clouds began to come into the basements and cellars where people lived. People began to arrive here suffering from hypoxia, oxygen loss. Then someone at the door, a "White Helmet", shouted "Gas!", and a panic began. People started throwing water over each other. Yes, the video was filmed here, it is genuine, but what you see are people suffering from hypoxia – not gas poisoning.'

BBC Syria producer Riam Dalati said earlier this year via Twitter that:

'After almost six months of investigation, I can prove without a doubt that the Douma hospital scene was staged'.

He subsequently set his Twitter status to 'private'. Moreover, in a now deleted tweet, he stated two days after the Douma attack:

'Sick and tired of activists and rebels using corpses of dead children to stage emotive scenes for Western consumption. Then they wonder why some serious journos are questioning part of the narrative.'

As far as we know, BBC News has never given proper coverage to the serious doubts surrounding the alleged 'chemical weapons' attack on Douma, other than to ascribe such doubts to Syrian and Russian government claims of 'fabrication'. As we saw with Iraq and Saddam's 'denials of WMD', a powerful propaganda technique to dismiss facts, evidence and truth is to make them come out the mouths of Official Enemies.

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editor@medialens.org (Editor) Alerts 2019 Fri, 14 Jun 2019 07:02:25 +0000
‘Mirthless Laugh’ - The Persecution And Torture Of Julian Assange http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2019/906-mirthless-laugh-the-persecution-and-torture-of-julian-assange.html http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2019/906-mirthless-laugh-the-persecution-and-torture-of-julian-assange.html

For anyone persuaded by the state-corporate campaign of sneers and smears depicting Julian Assange as a shit-smearing narcissist and rapist, the comments made by Nils Melzer, the UN's special rapporteur on torture, must be deeply shocking. The BBC headline:

'Julian Assange subjected to psychological torture, UN expert says'

Melzer is Professor of International Law at the University of Glasgow. He also holds the Human Rights Chair at the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights in Switzerland, where he has been teaching since 2009, including as the Swiss Chair of International Humanitarian Law (2011–2013). Melzer previously worked for 12 years with the International Committee of the Red Cross as Deputy Head of Delegation and Legal Adviser in various zones of conflict and violence. He commented:

'I've worked in many areas of war in my life, in situations of violence, and I've talked to victims of persecution around the world and I've seen very serious atrocities.

'But [what] I have never seen is that a single person has been deliberately isolated and, I would say, persecuted - not prosecuted, but persecuted - by several democratic states in a concerted effort to eventually break his will.'

Melzer added that, because of his treatment, Assange's health was at serious risk:

'We could see that Assange showed all the symptoms that are typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture.'

Assange, he said, needs access to a psychiatrist who is 'not part of the prison service - someone he can fully trust' - to avoid his health deteriorating further.

In an interview with The Canary, Melzer described exactly how and by whom Assange has been 'persecuted':

'The evidence made available to me strongly suggests that the primary responsibility for the sustained and concerted abuse inflicted on Mr Assange falls on the governments of the United Kingdom, Sweden, the United States and, more recently, also Ecuador...

'The consistent and repeated failure of all involved states to protect Mr Assange's fundamental right to fair judicial proceedings and due process makes the hypothesis of mere coincidence extremely unrealistic and gives a strong impression of bias and arbitrary manipulation. This starts with the secretive grand jury indictment in the United States, continues with the abusive manner in which Swedish prosecutors disseminated, re-cycled and perpetuated their "preliminary investigation" into alleged sexual offences, exacerbates with the termination by Ecuador of Mr Assange's asylum status and citizenship without any form of due process, and culminates in overt bias against Mr Assange being shown by British judges since his arrest.

'The only realistic explanation for this sustained systemic failure of the judiciary is that the United States, and probably also the other involved states, are trying to make an example of Mr Assange before the eyes of the world, not as much as a punishment for whatever real or perceived harm he is alleged to have caused, but as a measure of deterrence for others who might be tempted to imitate Wikileaks and Mr Assange in the future. In these circumstances, Mr Assange has absolutely no chance to get a fair judicial proceeding in any of these jurisdictions.'

With admirable candour, Melzer explained to Democracy Now! how he had himself been influenced by the smear campaign:

'[I] had been affected by the prejudice that I had absorbed through... public... narratives spread in the media over the years. And only when I scratched the surface a little bit, I saw how little foundation there was to back this up and how much fabrication and manipulation there is in this case.'

He made the same point on Twitter:

'For the record: I never said I considered #JulianAssange "a bad actor" but that, initially, I had been affected by the same misguided smear campaign as everybody else, and only saw the real facts once I investigated in detail'

This comment instantly recalled the 'mainstream' commentators who have seemed so certain in their damning view of Assange. We thought, for example, of Guardian commentator Suzanne Moore, who said of Assange on Twitter in 2012:

'He really is the most massive turd.'

Tragicomically, Moore then commented to a colleague:

'I never met him. Did you?'

We tweeted Melzer's thoughtful tweet to Moore and two other leading lights of the Guardian's smear campaign below this message:

'If one tweet might give Guardianistas like @MarinaHyde @HadleyFreeman and @suzanne_moore pause for thought, perhaps it's this one from the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture.'

Marina Hyde responded:

'What a privilege for us ladies to be lectured on our incorrect response to a rape accusation by the men who have famously only read one book (Manufacturing Consent, and they didn't even understand aspects of that)'

Hyde was bluffing about her supposed insight into our misreading of 'Manufacturing Consent'. The late Edward Herman, the book's lead author, told us repeatedly, 'Media Lens is doing an outstanding job', often emailed us in support and regularly sent donations. The book's co-author, Noam Chomsky, has said: 'Am really impressed with what you are doing' (Chomsky, email to Media Lens, September 14, 2005) and commented on our latest book, 'Propaganda Blitz' (Pluto Press, 2018): 'A great book. I've been recommending it.' In response to earlier dismissive remarks on Twitter in 2015, former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald commented to us, copying to Hyde:

'Mocking you as conspiracists is how UK journalists demonstrate their in-group coolness to one another: adolescent herd behavior' (Greenwald, Twitter, 25 August 2015)

Hyde was similarly bluffing in accusing us of lecturing (in effect, 'mansplaining') – we were simply highlighting credible, new expert testimony. And she was also bluffing in making an issue of our gender: obviously, Melzer's comments stand or fall on their own merits, regardless of the gender of people recommending them. If Hyde imagines the opinion of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture is skewed by sexist bias, then she should feel free to supply the evidence.

Sometimes, of course, gender does matter, and it is why we selected just these three Guardian commentators for inclusion in our tweet. As anyone who has been following the smear campaign knows, female journalists have been used by the Guardian and other media to lead attacks on a male political dissident facing accusations of rape; their gender helping to empower and protect the smears. Hyde's tweet provided an excellent example - male critics can be instantly dismissed as 'lecturing' 'mansplainers', 'misogynists' and 'rape apologists'. As Chomsky has pointed out, there is very little one can do to defend against these personal attacks:

'There's no way to respond. Slinging mud always works.'

 

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editor@medialens.org (Editor) Alerts 2019 Tue, 11 Jun 2019 13:41:09 +0000
Life Or Death - Corporate Media Or Honest Media? http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2019/904-life-or-death-corporate-media-or-honest-media.html http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2019/904-life-or-death-corporate-media-or-honest-media.html

Relying on the corporate media, including BBC News, to provide a reliable account of the world is literally a matter of life or death, on many levels.

Imagine, for example, a Russian dissident living in the UK who had published copious evidence of Russian war crimes, and who had then sought political asylum in an embassy in London. Imagine if that dissident were then expelled from the embassy, under pressure from Russia, immediately imprisoned in a high-security prison here and faced with the prospect of extradition to Russia to face life imprisonment or the death sentence. There would be a massive uproar in the Western media. Western political leaders would issue strong statements of disapproval and demand the freedom of a brave dissident. The case of Julian Assange, co-founder of WikiLeaks, is much worse. He is being pursued relentlessly by a powerful country, the United States, of which he is not even a citizen.

US prosecutors are now reportedly helping themselves to Assange's possessions, including medical records and two manuscripts. Baltasar Garzon, international legal co-ordinator for the defence of Assange and WikiLeaks, urged international bodies to intervene in what he called:

'an unprecedented attack on the rights of the defence, freedom of expression and access to information.'

He added:

'It is extremely worrying that Ecuador has proceeded with the search and seizure of property, documents, information and other material belonging to the defence of Julian Assange, which Ecuador arbitrarily confiscated, so that these can be handed over to the agent of political persecution against him, the United States.'

The US is undoubtedly looking for evidence to build a bogus case against Assange to lock him away for life for alleged crimes against the world's number one rogue state. As Noam Chomsky has long observed, the US behaves like the Mafia writ large. You go against their power at your peril.

The incentives for Ecuador, under a Washington-friendly government led by Lenín Moreno since 2017, to behave in this appalling manner are obvious. A report in The Canary spelled it out:

'Ecuador is raking in new [trade] deals with the UK and US after handing over Julian Assange'.

In Sweden, surely under US pressure, prosecutors have now applied for a warrant for Assange's arrest. Craig Murray provided the vital background to this latest disgraceful development, pointing to the:

'incredible and open bias of the courts against Assange [...] since day 1.'

The former British diplomat is clear about the crucial importance of the work of WikiLeaks and Assange:

'Julian Assange revolutionised publishing by bringing the public direct access to massive amounts of raw material showing secrets the government wished to hide. By giving the public this direct access he cut out the filtering and mediating role of the journalistic and political classes.'

Murray pointed out the contrast with the Panama Papers, detailing how the super-rich hide their money, covered by the Guardian and other 'mainstream media' outlets with great fanfare. However, contrary to media promises, such coverage:

'only ever saw less than 2% of the raw material published and where major western companies and individuals were completely protected from revelation because of the use of MSM ["mainstream" media] intermediaries.'

He continued:

'Or compare Wikileaks to the Snowden files, the vast majority of which have now been buried and will never be revealed, after foolishly being entrusted to the Guardian and the Intercept. Assange cut out the intermediary role of the mediating journalist and, by allowing the people to see the truth about how they are governed, played a major role in undercutting public confidence in the political establishment that exploits them.'

John Pilger, a staunch defender of Assange and WikiLeaks source Chelsea Manning, as all journalists should be, said via Twitter:

'The filthy war on Julian #Assange and Chelsea Manning, whose heresy is to have revealed the crimes of great power, intensifies. Craven Sweden plays to its theatre of darkness while Assange the prisoner is denied even his glasses.'

Manning is yet again back in prison, following a brief spell of freedom. She has steadfastly refused to testify to a secret grand jury in Virginia that is attempting to entrap her into revealing incriminating evidence about her past communications with WikiLeaks. The reluctance of corporate journalists, and even human rights groups, to support Manning, Assange and WikiLeaks is symptomatic of a broken political system still masquerading as 'democracy'.

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editor@medialens.org (Editor) Alerts 2019 Thu, 23 May 2019 07:20:00 +0000
The London Climate Protests – Raising The Alarm http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2019/903-the-london-climate-protests-raising-the-alarm.html http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2019/903-the-london-climate-protests-raising-the-alarm.html

The feeling is often there at night, of course, in the wee small hours. But it can arise at almost any time – looking at someone we care about, listening to birdsong on an unusually warm spring morning, shopping.

It is like being trapped on a sinking ship, with the captain and crew refusing to admit that anything is wrong. The passengers are mostly oblivious, planning their journeys and lives ahead. Everything seems 'normal', but we know that everything will soon be at the bottom of the sea. Everything seems ordinary, familiar, permanent, but will soon be gone. It feels as if our happiness, our every moment spent with the people and places we love, is irradiated by the fear of impending climate collapse.

Last month, the Extinction Rebellion protests in London (and globally) finally challenged some aspects of this waking nightmare – at last, a sense that human beings are not completely insane, that we are capable of responding with some rationality and dignity. In the end, 1,100 people allowed themselves to be arrested, with 70 charged, for all our sakes.

While many people thrill to the prospect of pouring milkshake over political opponents, Extinction Rebellion proved, conclusively, once and for all, that non-violent protest is the superpower of democratic change. And this was not just non-violent protest; it was non-hating, rooted in love of the planet, love of people, love of life. The mystic Lao-Tzu wrote:

'Nothing in the world
is as soft and yielding as water.
Yet for dissolving the hard and inflexible,
nothing can surpass it.

'The soft overcomes the hard;
the gentle overcomes the rigid.'

The special forces in this compassionate revolution are the 83-year-old grandfather who spoke so eloquently atop a blocked train in Canary Wharf. They are the little children sitting quietly in the middle of Oxford Street, the mums with toddlers, and of course the extraordinary Greta Thunberg whose insight and intelligence have stunned many veteran climate activists. Where the adults have been cautioning for years that we should not be too 'alarmist', too 'pessimistic' for fear of upsetting a lily-livered public, Thunberg has said simply:

'I want you to panic. I want you to act as if the house was on fire... To panic, unless you have to, is a terrible idea. But when your house is on fire and you want to keep your house from burning to the ground then that does require some level of panic.'

She is exactly right. In his recent BBC documentary, 'Climate Change: The Facts', 93-year-old David Attenborough missed 16-year-old Thunberg's point. The first half of Attenborough's film did an excellent job of drawing attention to the threats, but the second half was much too positive on the prospects for individual and collective action. It ended on a hopeful, reassuring note. It should have ended on a note of deep alarm and, yes, panic.

When governments seek to mobilise the public for action, they terrify us with tales of Huns bayonetting babies, of weapons of mass destruction ready to destroy us within 45 minutes. They do this because it works – people are willing to kill and be killed, if they think their own lives and those of the people they love are at stake.

We have always argued that climate scientists and activists should also emphasise the terrifying prospects – not in the dishonest, hyped way of state cynics, but honestly, sticking to the facts. When the science is punching great holes in the blind conceit of industrial 'progress' we should not pull our punches. Again, the Extinction Rebellion protests – the name makes the point - have powerfully vindicated this strategy. An opinion poll after the protests found:

'Two-thirds of people in the UK recognise there is a climate emergency and 76% say that they would cast their vote differently to protect the planet.'

John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, said the debate around environmentalism had been fundamentally altered:

'Climate activists, young and old, have put the UK government under enormous pressure to officially recognise the climate emergency we are facing. There is a real feeling of hope in the air that after several decades of climate campaigning the message is beginning to sink in. What we need now is to translate that feeling into action.'

As a result of this pressure, the UK last week became the first parliament to declare a climate emergency – previously unthinkable. Leading climate scientist, Professor Michael Mann, tweeted of the declaration:

'Yeah, there's a lot going on in the current news cycle. But this is undoubtedly the most important development of all'

Light-years beyond his Conservative opponents on this issue, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn commented:

'We have no time to waste. We are living in a climate crisis that will spiral dangerously out of control unless we take rapid and dramatic action now.

'This is no longer about a distant future we're talking about nothing less than the irreversible destruction of the environment within our lifetimes of members of this house. Young people know this. They have the most to lose.'

By contrast, the voting record of Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, indicates that he 'Generally voted against measures to prevent climate change.' Prime Minister Theresa May has maintained a studied, shameful silence, clearly hoping the issue and the protests will go away. Action is clearly not on her agenda.

As if the climate crisis was not bad enough, a new UN report reveals that one million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction. The world is experiencing a rate of destruction tens to hundreds of times higher than the average over the past 10 million years. Dr Kate Brauman, from the University of Minnesota, a lead author of the assessment, commented:

'We have documented a really unprecedented decline in biodiversity and nature, this is completely different than anything we've seen in human history in terms of the rate of decline and the scale of the threat.'

The following day, only two UK newspapers, (Guardian and i) led with the UN report on species extinction, most preferring to focus on a royal birth. The BBC News website featured no less than six stories about the royal baby before the headline, 'Humans "threaten 1m species with extinction".' This was a classic example of why Erich Fromm warned in his book 'The Sane Society', that it truly is possible for an entire society to be, in effect, insane.

 

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editor@medialens.org (Editor) Alerts 2019 Thu, 09 May 2019 07:51:54 +0000