Media Lens - Current Alert News analysis and media criticism Fri, 21 Oct 2016 00:16:35 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb ‘Centrist Soft-Liberal Feminism’ - Presidentialising Hillary Clinton

A Guardian piece last month described: 'How September 11 revealed the real Hillary Clinton.'

While even supporters recognise that Clinton's campaign has been notably cold, passionless and bereft of conviction, 'The Clinton who emerges from the WNYC [New York Public Radio] tapes is passionate, raw and unrestrained.'

The Guardian quotes sources who reveal how Clinton 'showed herself to be a fighter', demonstrating a 'personal care' that 'made a profound impression'. She was 'kind and gentle', the 'most vivid memory' being of 'the senator's eyes'. Her behaviour was 'the mark of somebody who is sincere, who you want on your side'. All in all, 'she came across as an effective and empathetic leader'. Tragically, the public has seen little of this:

'I regret that sometimes she doesn't come across well in front of a crowd as people don't know her as so many of us do.'

This presidentialising of Clinton is a key, structural function of 'left-liberal' media like the Guardian, the Observer, the Independent and the BBC. Establishment candidates like Bill Clinton, Obama, and now Hillary Clinton are presented as awesomely benevolent, brave and wise. Even George W. Bush – derided as a buffoon both before and after he held office – was depicted as a calmly authoritative humanitarian. An ITN news report talked of Bush 'losing patience' with the president of crisis-hit Haiti. (ITN, 10:15 News, February 28, 2004) This was Bush as benign father figure, fierce in his determination to help the poor.

Propaganda of this kind exploits the human tendency to revere authority and celebrity. If leaders have an aura of benevolence, when their turn comes to 'intervene' with great violence in far-flung countries, few will be willing to question their good intentions.

In our time, this benevolence is often said to be indicated by a leader's alleged passion for gender and sexual rights. Why 'alleged'? Machiavelli explained:

'It is not essential... that a Prince should have all the good qualities which I have enumerated above, but it is most essential that he should seem to have them...' (Nicolò Machiavelli, 'The Prince,' 1513, Dover publications, 1992, p.46, our emphasis)

Gender and sexual rights are favoured because they can be presented as almost apolitical: a state-corporate executive can believe in gay marriage and bomb Iraq to smithereens; she can smash whole countries with bombing, invasion and ethnic cleansing, and support equality for women.

Writing on Clinton in June, senior Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee commented:

'This is a time to celebrate. At last, a woman leads a major US party to fight for the presidency.'


'Clinton is not some token woman who has inched into place by offending no one. All her life she has fought the feminist cause...'

Clinton, indeed, is 'a feminist with a long track record of standing up for the right causes'.

In September, Laurie Penny, contributing editor to the New Statesman, backed Clinton 'because she is a woman and a feminist, even if her feminism is unlike my own'. For Penny, Clinton is not just 'a proud feminist woman', she is a representative of something called 'centrist soft-liberal feminism'; a claim to which we will return.

Toynbee argued that: 'Rarely has any candidate so deserved their place.' Penny agreed:

'The presidency of the United States does not belong by right to anyone... If it did, though, it would belong to Hillary Clinton.'

Toynbee asked readers to carefully inspect their minds for traces of hidden gender bias:

'If you are naturally left of centre, especially if you are a woman, yet you find you instinctively dislike her, ask yourself why.'

Penny did the same:

'If you would truly prefer a Trump presidency to this... then you may want to take a look in the mirror and ask yourself, truly, if you might not be a little bit sexist.'

Toynbee emphasised Clinton's credentials:

'if she wins, what an added bonus that, as the first woman to enter the White House, she will also step through the door as by far the most qualified and experienced arrival there for generations... this first woman would also be the safest pair of hands in decades'.

So did Penny, noting that Clinton has 'a career whose length and breadth would make her the most qualified presidential candidate in history'.

]]> (Editor) Alerts 2016 Mon, 17 Oct 2016 11:53:58 +0000
Media Silence Over Deadly Sanctions: From Iraq To Syria

Awkward facts that erode the 'benign humanitarian' self-image of the West are routinely side-lined or buried by the corporate media. Consider, for example, the severe impact of sanctions imposed on Syria by the United States and the European Union.

An internal United Nations assessment, revealed on September 28 by Rania Khalek in The Intercept, makes clear that the sanctions are punishing ordinary Syrians and preventing vital aid, including medical supplies, from reaching those in dire need. Access has been denied for blood safety equipment, medicines, medical devices, food, fuel, water pumps and spare parts for power plants, amongst other items.

Khalek notes that the internal assessment, which was prepared for the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, describes:

'the U.S. and EU measures as "some of the most complicated and far-reaching sanctions regimes ever imposed." Detailing a complex system of "unpredictable and time-consuming" financial restrictions and licensing requirements, the report finds that U.S. sanctions are exceptionally harsh "regarding provision of humanitarian aid."'

US sanctions on Syrian banks have made the transfer of funds into Syria 'nearly impossible'. This has had a two-fold effect:

1. Aid groups have been unable to pay local staff and suppliers which has delayed or prevented aid from reaching those in need.

2. An unofficial and unregulated financial network has proliferated, making it easier for ISIS and al Qaeda to divert funds undetected.

Khalek also reports that a leaked email from 'a key UN official' blamed US and EU sanctions for contributing to food shortages and weakened health care. In particular:

'sanctions had contributed to a doubling in fuel prices in 18 months and a 40 percent drop in wheat production since 2010, causing the price of wheat flour to soar by 300 percent and rice by 650 percent.'

The UN official cited sanctions as a 'principal factor' in the erosion of Syria's health care system. Khalek adds:

'Medicine-producing factories that haven't been completely destroyed by the fighting have been forced to close because of sanctions-related restrictions on raw materials and foreign currency'.

The US first imposed sanctions on Syria in 1979, after designating its government 'a State Sponsor of Terrorism'. Over time, further sanctions were added with more extreme restrictions imposed in 2011 after it was claimed the Syrian government had initiated violence against peaceful protesters (a claim that has been contested). In 2013, sanctions were eased, but only in areas that opposed President Assad. As Khalek notes:

'Around the same time, the CIA began directly shipping weapons to armed insurgents at a colossal cost of nearly $1 billion a year, effectively adding fuel to the conflict while U.S. sanctions obstructed emergency assistance to civilians caught in the crossfire.'

When Khalek challenged the US State Department about the devastating impact of sanctions on war-torn Syria, where 13 million people are dependent on humanitarian assessment, she was fed a statement 'which recycled talking points that justified sanctions against Iraq in [the] 1990s':

'U.S. sanctions against [Syrian President Bashar al-Assad], his backers, and the regime deprive these actors of resources that could be used to further the bloody campaign Assad continues to wage against his own people'.

The same specious propaganda arguments were used by the West, notably the United States and Britain, to 'justify' barbaric sanctions against Iraq from 1990 to 2003, following the first Gulf War. Leading politicians and officials in the West claimed that the sanctions were aimed at punishing and containing Saddam. But the victims were the Iraqi people themselves. In 1999, the United Nations' Children's Fund (UNICEF) reported that the mortality rate for children under five in Iraq had doubled. In all, half a million young Iraqi children died as a result. Bill Clinton's Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, infamously declared that 'the price is worth it'.

Given the terrible consequences in Iraq under the crippling UN embargo, the United States government is no doubt perfectly aware of the impact of sanctions on the Syrian people. Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, observes:

'Sanctions have a terrible effect on the people more than the regime and Washington knows this from Iraq. But there's pressure in Washington to do something and sanctions look like you're doing something.'

Hans von Sponeck, who resigned from his post as the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Baghdad in 2000, accused Washington and London of 'knowingly maintaining conditions of misery' in Iraq under sanctions. (Hans von Sponeck, 'A Different Kind of War: The UN Sanctions Regime in Iraq', Berghahn, 2006, p. 27). We are not supposed to believe that 'our' governments would do such a heinous thing. And, indeed, von Sponeck's book was essentially ignored by the western media. It has never been reviewed by any major UK newspaper, and has literally been mentioned only once (by Robert Fisk in the Independent).

As well as the current punitive sanctions on Syria, Khalek also notes that:

'in cities controlled by ISIS, the U.S. has employed some of the same tactics it condemns. For example, U.S.-backed ground forces laid siege to Manbij, a city in northern Syria not far from Aleppo that is home to tens of thousands of civilians. U.S. airstrikes pounded the city over the summer, killing up to 125 civilians in a single attack. The U.S. also used airstrikes to drive ISIS out of Kobane, Ramadi, and Fallujah, leaving behind flattened neighborhoods. In Fallujah, residents resorted to eating soup made from grass and 140 people reportedly died from lack of food and medicine during the siege.'

An honest media would report all this with headline coverage and include much critical analysis in editorials and opinion pieces. They would also ask searching questions of the British Prime Minister and other leading politicians. Needless to say, this has not happened. Indeed, our searches have revealed just one newspaper article covering the report's assessment that US and EU sanctions are contributing to the terrible suffering of the Syrian people. Patrick Cockburn reported in the Independent:

'the US and EU sanctions are imposing an economic siege on Syria as a whole which may be killing more Syrians than die of illness and malnutrition in the sieges which EU and US leaders have described as war crimes. Over half the country's public hospitals have been damaged or destroyed.'

We found nothing on the BBC News website.

Even when the Guardian trumpeted an 'exclusive' on September 30 (two days after Rania Khalek's piece in The Intercept) that more than 80% of UN aid convoys in Syria had been blocked or delayed, there was nothing about the crippling effect on aid by US and EU sanctions. There was a single passing mention to these sanctions, but only in the context of heaping blame on the official enemy Assad:

'the UN has awarded contracts worth tens of millions of dollars to individuals closely associated with Assad, including businesspeople whose companies are under US and EU sanctions.'

We asked Nick Hopkins, the author of the Guardian article, to explain why his 'exclusive' had ignored criticism of US and EU sanctions (here and here). He did not respond. Hopkins, a former BBC journalist, had also remained silent when we challenged him in 2011 about a propaganda piece on Iran. Likewise, he ignored us in 2013 when we challenged him to justify misinforming Guardian readers that merely 'tens of thousands' had died in Iraq following the 2003 invasion by US-led forces.

These are just a tiny sample of the myriad examples that reveal the Guardian's role as a liberal gatekeeper of acceptable views in the 'mainstream'. Bear this in mind the next time you see an online Guardian advert pleading:

'Producing in-depth, thoughtful, well-reported journalism is difficult and expensive – but supporting us isn't. If you value the Guardian's international coverage, please help to fund our journalism by becoming a supporter.'

Support journalism that regularly buries Western crimes? Smears Jeremy Corbyn and the public movement behind him? And promotes a 'liberal' view of climate-wrecking capitalism? No thanks.



Update: October 10, 2016

A sentence has been changed to indicate that the claim the Syrian government initiated deadly violence against peaceful protesters is contested.

]]> (Editor) Alerts 2016 Mon, 10 Oct 2016 06:33:23 +0000
The Great Libya War Fraud

National newspapers were 'unimpressed by Jeremy Corbyn's victory' in the Labour leadership election, Roy Greenslade noted in the Guardian, surprising no-one. Corbyn secured almost 62% of the 506,000 votes cast, up from the 59% share he won in 2015, 'with virtually no press backing whatsoever'.

In reality, of course, Corbyn did not just lack press backing. He won in the face of more than one year of relentless corporate media campaigning to politically, ethically, professionally, psychologically and even sartorially discredit him. That Corbyn survived is impressive. That he won again, increased his vote-share, and took Labour Party membership from 200,000 to more than 500,000, is astonishing.

None of this moves journalists like the BBC's political editor, Laura Kuenssberg, who commented: 'there's been no big new idea or vision this week that Labour can suddenly rally round'.

Polly Toynbee explained: 'I and many Guardian colleagues can't just get behind Corbyn'. Why? 'Because Corbyn and McDonnell, burdened by their history, will never ever earn the trust of enough voters to make any plans happen.'

Toynbee fails to recognise the nature and scale of the problem. In supporting Corbyn, the public is attempting to shape a genuinely democratic choice out of the sham choices of corporate-owned politics. This awesome task begins with the public waking up to the anti-democratic role of the corporate media in defending, of course, corporate-owned politics. So-called 'mainstream media' are primarily conduits for power rather than information; they are political enforcers, not political communicators. To the extent that the public understands this, change is possible.

Supported by non-corporate, web-based media activism, Corbyn has already smoked out these media to an extent that is without precedent. Many people can see that he is a reasonable, compassionate, decent individual generating immense grassroots support. And they can see that all 'mainstream' media oppose him. It could hardly be more obvious that the corporate media speak as a single biased, elitist voice.

]]> (Editor) Alerts 2016 Mon, 03 Oct 2016 13:40:25 +0000
Menwith Menace: Britain’s Complicity In Saudi Arabia’s Terror Campaign Against Yemen

The 'mainstream' Western media is, almost by definition, the last place to consult for honest reporting of Western crimes. Consider the appalling case of Yemen which is consumed by war and an ongoing humanitarian catastrophe.

Since March 2015, a 'coalition' of Sunni Arab states led by Saudi Arabia, and supported by the US, Britain and France, has been dropping bombs on neighbouring Yemen. The scale of the bombing is indicated in a recent article by Felicity Arbuthnot - in one year, 330,000 homes, 648 mosques, 630 schools and institutes, and 250 health facilities were destroyed or damaged. The stated aim of Saudi Arabia's devastating assault on Yemen is to reinstate the Yemeni president, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, and to hold back Houthi rebels who are allied with the former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh. The Saudis assert that the Houthis, who control Yemen's capital, Sanaa, are 'proxies' for Iran: always a convenient propaganda claim to elicit Western backing and 'justify' intervention.

Philip Hammond, who was UK defence secretary when the Saudi bombing began in 2015, promised:

'We'll support the Saudis in every practical way short of engaging in combat.'

The British government has been true to its word; in this respect at least. Campaign Against Arms Trade says that UK sales to Saudi Arabia since the start of the attacks on Yemen include £2.2 billion of aircraft, helicopters and drones, £1.1 billion of missiles, bombs and grenades, and nearly half a million pounds of armoured vehicles and tanks. Just days ago, it was revealed that Britain is now the second biggest dealer of arms in the world. Is there any clearer sign of the corrupt nature of UK foreign policy?

Perhaps there is. Last month, Oxfam reported that in excess of 21 million people in Yemen, out of a total population of around 27 million, are in need of humanitarian aid, more than in any other country. Over 6,000 people have been killed, more than 3 million displaced and more than 14 million are suffering hunger and malnutrition.

Amnesty International reports that British-made cluster bombs have been used in deadly attacks on civilians. Children are among those who have been killed and maimed. The human rights organisation says that the UK should stop all arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Amnesty has also called for Saudi Arabia to be dropped from the United Nations Human Rights Council because of 'gross and systematic violations of human rights', both at home and abroad.

]]> (Editor) Alerts 2016 Tue, 13 Sep 2016 10:19:16 +0000
'Propagandising For War' - Gareth Porter Responds To The BBC Today Programme On Syria

A report published by the London School of Economics last month found extreme levels of bias in BBC reporting. The 'impartial' BBC's early evening news was almost five times more likely to depict Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in a negative light. In the time period studied (September 1 - November 1, 2015), no headlines on this key news programme presented Corbyn in a positive light.

But this is a mere drop in the ocean of the corporation's pro-establishment bias. It could hardly be more obvious that BBC news reports, comment pieces and discussions are overwhelmingly hostile to US-UK government enemies like Russia, Iran, Venezuela, North Korea and Syria, and overwhelmingly favourable to the United States and Israel. It has long been clear to us that BBC journalists perceive this, not as bias, but as an accurate depiction of a world that really is divided into well-intentioned Western 'good guys' and their enemies, the 'bad guys'.

On August 20, the BBC website featured a Radio 4 Today programme discussion hosted by former political editor Nick Robinson interviewing BBC World Affairs Editor John Cody Fidler-Simpson and Dr. Karin von Hippel, a former State Department official dealing with US strategy against Islamic State.

The discussion was introduced with the following written text, which was repeated in slightly altered form in Robinson's spoken introduction:

'Exactly five years ago President Obama called on the Syrian President Bashir-Al-Assad to step down but today he is still in power.'

The prominence and repetition of the observation of course conferred great significance. The implication: for the BBC, Obama is not just the leader of another country, he is a kind of World President with the authority to call on other leaders to 'step down'. In reality, Obama made his demand, not in the name of the United Nations, or of the Syrian people, but because, as President George H.W. Bush once declared: 'what we say goes'.

In his introduction, Robinson described a disturbing image that 'has gone viral on social media' of a Syrian child allegedly injured by Russian or Syrian bombing. The child, five-year-old Omran Daqneesh, is depicted sitting between Obama and Putin. Robinson noted that one of these images carried the sarcastic caption: 'Thank you for keeping me safe.' We have found the image but not that caption.

One reasonable interpretation of Robinson's introduction, then: five years ago, Obama called on Assad to go, but 'failed' to follow through in making that happen – 'little Omran', and numerous other Syrian civilians, are continuing to suffer as a result. Adam Johnson writes that the viral picture of Daqneesh has 'amped up calls for direct US intervention against the Syrian government' made by numerous 'laptop bombardiers' 'jumping from one outrage in urgent need of US bombs to the next'. The BBC's Today programme discussion can be understood as a further example of this media herd behaviour.

John Simpson agreed with Robinson that Obama had been keen to avoid 'the kind of dreadful errors' - he meant crimes - that George W. Bush had committed in Iraq, and so had 'wanted to stay out of things'. According to Simpson, Obama's failure to intervene in Syria has been a 'disaster'. After all, Russia recently 'managed to attack Syria with its planes from the airfields of Iran'. As investigative journalist Gareth Porter notes below, the Syrian government in fact invited Russian military support, so Russia can hardly be described as attacking Syria. Simpson, by contrast, argued that Russo-Iranian cooperation was 'a link up which would have caused absolute consternation in the United States, and worldwide, just a few years ago'. In other words, the world's sole superpower has proven powerless to stop the kind of military cooperation it practices the world over all the time – how awful!

Simpson's imperial sympathies have been aired before on the BBC, notably in October 2014:

'The world (well, most of it) wants an active, effective America to act as its policeman, sorting out the problems smaller countries can't face alone.'

]]> (Editor) Alerts 2016 Thu, 25 Aug 2016 11:30:38 +0000
Fifteen Years Of Media Lens - An Appeal For Support


Sci-Fi Surreal

Fifteen years ago this month we sent out our first media alert.

We began Media Lens, not because we believed high quality broadsheets were offset by a morally debased tabloid press; not because the 'left-leaning' liberal press was fine, but the Tory press was dreadful; not because the press as a whole was biased on some issues, or plagued by 'churnalism'. We started Media Lens because the deeper we looked into almost every issue, the more we found that the truth of corporate media performance was actually breath-taking, jaw-dropping, sci-fi surreal. We found that the entire system had evolved and been designed to systematically filter out, reject, marginalise, mock and ignore just about everything and everyone that threatened the elite-run, state-corporate status quo.

This doesn't mean that everything is filtered out – the system must incorporate small doses of diluted or specialised dissent: a Fisk, a Boyle, a Jones or two - to maintain the myth of a 'spectrum' catering for all, heroically defending democracy. And, particularly in the age of non-corporate, web-based whistleblowing, some truths simply cannot be denied.

Our point is that powerful tidal forces both within and without the corporate media are flowing relentlessly against threatening truths, and that this has been enough to stifle challenges to the status quo. These forces are generated by the demands of corporate profit, by state power promoting corporate profit, and by the exigencies of class war (the 1% keeping the 99% away from the levers of power).

If the response that initially drove us to start Media Lens in 2001 was a kind of stunned disbelief, nothing could have prepared us for what followed. For fifteen years we have found ourselves confronting the extraordinary phenomenon of otherwise sane, highly-educated, often amiable human beings commenting from inside a corporate media bubble that excludes almost everything that matters without their even noticing.

]]> (Editor) Alerts 2016 Mon, 25 Jul 2016 07:17:35 +0000
The Great Iraq War Fraud

Last week, seven years after the Iraq Inquiry was set up, Sir John Chilcot finally delivered his long-awaited report. Although it stopped short of declaring the Iraq war illegal, and although it failed to examine the real motives for war, the report was not quite the whitewash that had been feared by peace campaigners.

Lindsey German, convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, gave a succinct summary of the Chilcot report, listing four of the main findings (each followed by our own comment):

1. There was no imminent threat to Britain from Saddam Hussein, so war in March 2003 was unnecessary.

In reality: utterly devastated by war, bombing and 12 years of sanctions, Iraq posed no threat whatsoever towards Britain or the US. The idea that there was any kind of threat from this broken, impoverished country was simply a lie; a propaganda fabrication by warmongering cynics and corporate hangers-on eager for a piece of the pie.

2. The existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was presented with a certainty that was not justified. It was never 'beyond doubt' that the weapons existed. None have been found in the subsequent 13 years.

In reality: it was completely clear, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the whole 'weapons of mass destruction' issue was a propaganda fabrication; a way of suggesting a 'threat' where none existed. Iraq only ever possessed battlefield biological and chemical weapons that were of no conceivable threat to the West. Iraq didn't even use them when the West attacked the country in 1991. Not only that, but UN weapons inspectors had overseen the near-complete destruction of even these tinpot devices between 1991-1998; only 'sludge' remained: a known fact. Iraq was of no more threat to the West in 2002-2003 than Thailand or Iceland; that is all that needs to be said. Almost everything else is superfluous: cynical propaganda which was, and is, manipulated by violent Western leaderships that think nothing of smashing other countries to bits for whatever reason they declare 'necessary'.

3. There was a failure of democratic government and accountability, with Blair keeping most of his Cabinet in the dark. This meant that he avoided telling them things which they ought to have known.

In reality: The Americans decided to exploit the dead of September 11 to wage war in the name of power and profit. Blair decided to take part in the crime, come what may, from the start. His whole intention was to make that possible, to trap Iraq into war and to use the UN to apply a veneer of legality to the monstrous crime. One million people paid with their lives, and a whole country was destroyed in the process. Bush at least had an 'excuse'; he was, after all, a hard-right president operating out of a notoriously venal, violent and corrupt Republican 'party'. (As Noam Chomsky has noted, it is wrong to consider it a legitimate party. It is merely a collection of greedy vested interests, qualifying it as a candidate for 'for the most dangerous organization in human history'.) Blair, on the other hand, was prime minister on behalf of a supposedly left-leaning Labour party rooted in supposedly genuine ethical values. His rejection of democracy in the name of war was the perfect culmination of his coup transforming Labour into another power-serving Tory party.

4. George Bush and Blair worked to undermine the authority of the UN.

In reality: Bush and Blair sought to exploit the good name of the UN to provide a cover for their crime. The intention was to use the appearance of diplomacy as propaganda justifying war. If Saddam could be trapped into appearing intransigent in the face of UN resolutions, so much the better for war. Diplomacy was only ever perceived as a means to achieve war, not peace. The whole 'weapons of mass destruction' fraud had been concocted by conspirators intent on war. Why would those same fraudsters attempt to work through the UN to achieve peace? That was the last outcome they wanted.

In an already infamous phrase, Blair told Bush that:

'I will be with you, whatever'.

Those words will haunt Blair to his grave.There is no doubt that his reputation is now in tatters, even in 'mainstream' circles. There have been follow-up calls for him to be punished by being thrown out of the Queen's Privy Council, impeached and put on trial for misleading Parliament, and charged with war crimes.

Unusually for the 'mainstream' press, Andrew Buncombe of the Independent wrote a piece focusing on the death toll in Iraq. As he notes, a study conducted by Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health, published in the prestigious journal The Lancet in 2006, estimated the number of Iraqi dead at around 650,000. Even worse, a report (pdf) last year by Physicians for Social Responsibility estimated the Iraq death toll as around one million. Added to this ghastly pyramid of corpses, the Bush-Blair 'War on Terror' has led to 220,000 dead in Afghanistan and 80,000 in Pakistan. These appalling figures hardly ever appear in the 'mainstream' media. As Les Roberts, one of the Lancet authors, observes, the media is guilty of 'failing to report on uncomfortable truths.'

]]> (Editor) Alerts 2016 Tue, 12 Jul 2016 23:50:10 +0000
Killing Corbyn

The 'Brexit' referendum vote, split 52% to 48% in favour of leaving the European Union, has been exploited by the 'mainstream' media to launch yet another assault on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. 'Impartial' BBC News, directed by former Murdoch editor James Harding, has been one of the worst culprits.

Consider the wave of resignations of Labour shadow ministers which was heavily promoted in advance on the front page of the BBC News website: ' "Half" of Labour top team set to resign...the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg understands'. When the Labour resignations started to roll in, Kuenssberg could be heard virtually gloating over Corbyn's predicament:

'A bad day at the office. A very bad day.' (BBC Weekend News, BBC1, June 26, 2016)

She wrote on the BBC website:

'There have been concerns about Jeremy Corbyn's performance for months and months. But it was his role, or lack of role, in the campaign to keep the UK in the EU, and his sacking of Hilary Benn in the middle of the night, that has given members of the shadow cabinet the final reasons to quit.'

The laughably biased reference to 'months and months' and 'final reasons to quit' were intended to portray Labour MPs as exasperated and understandably at the end of their tether. Clearly reaching for some kind of 'smoking gun' to finish Corbyn, Kuenssberg added:

'documents passed to the BBC suggest Jeremy Corbyn's office sought to delay and water down the Labour Remain campaign. Sources suggest that they are evidence of "deliberate sabotage".'

But, as Carlyn Harvey wrote on The Canary website, the 'evidence' – a sparse selection of leaked emails that the BBC deigned not to show to the public - was bogus:

'The emails themselves are not sent from Corbyn's office and are not published in the BBC article. The broadcaster merely handpicks a few select quotes from them, and allows Kuenssberg to let rip in her analysis of the cache.'

Harvey summarised: 'Is this the level of analysis we should tolerate from the BBC?'

Kuenssberg concluded her attempted hit piece by observing that Corbyn 'has had persuasive and vehement backing from the party's members':

'But as the Labour Party reels from Thursday's result, it is not clear that support will be as solid as it was. MPs report that some of their members are contacting them to say they've changed their minds about Mr Corbyn. We'll see. It's possible that within days, both of our two main political parties will be looking for a new leader.'

These anonymous 'MPs' were the same Blairite coup plotters, of course. No balance was included in the original article, no response to the damning allegations, no recognition that these were indeed cynical Blairite plotters seeking any excuse to be rid of Corbyn. Indeed the word 'Blairite' does not appear in Kuenssberg's piece, just as it didn't in a supposedly impartial Observer analysis. Honest commentators, of course, understand that the word 'Blairite' is crucial for anyone trying to make sense of the relentless attacks on Corbyn. Thus, former Guardian journalist Jonathan Cook:

'Corbyn and his supporters want to revive Labour as a party of social justice... This is nothing more than a class war to pave the way for a return of the Blairites to lead Labour.'

The BBC later added balancing comments, after receiving complaints.

The following morning, BBC News misinformed the public that Tom Watson, deputy leader of the Labour Party, had told Corbyn that he must resign. This was false. BBC News quietly retracted the claim without admitting their error. Indeed, as captured by a Labour activist, BBC News had three significantly different headlines in just twenty minutes.

'Labour's Watson tells Corbyn to quit'


'Tom Watson tells Jeremy Corbyn to consider his position'

which became:

'Tom Watson tells Jeremy Corbyn he faces leadership challenge'

It looked as though the BBC's desire to be rid of Corbyn had raced ahead of the facts.

A couple of days earlier, in common with other corporate news media, the BBC pushed a manufactured story about Corbyn being heckled at Gay Pride. The staged incident was also given significant coverage on ITN and Sky News, and even front-page treatment in the Guardian. In fact, as Craig Murray observed, the 'heckler' turned out to be Tom Mauchline who works for the public relations firm Portland Communications. Mauchline had also previously worked on the Liz Kendall campaign for the Labour leadership. Portland's 'strategic counsel' is the notorious Alastair Campbell, Blair's former media chief who helped to sell the illegal invasion-occupation of Iraq. None of this was spelled out in the Guardian report by Heather Stewart, the paper's political editor. Instead, there was a single cryptic line that concealed more than it delivered:

'Allies of the Labour leader said the confrontation at Pride had been staged by anti-Corbyn activists who were attempting to undermine the leader's position'.

There was no further explanation or context. When challenged on Twitter, Stewart responded:

'Story makes clear it was regarded as staged by Corbyn backers; but if part of plot to destabilise him it's news.'

This was a facile reply. Craig Murray himself then asked her:

'1) why does it not make clear that Mauchline is a PR man for Portland Comms? 2) How did you become aware of the story?'

As far as we can see, the Guardian's political editor simply ignored the awkward questions.

Meanwhile, BBC News ran a live feed on their home page with the headline, 'Corbyn crisis and Brexit'. Brexit was almost an afterthought; it certainly seemed to be playing second fiddle to the 'Corbyn crisis'. Anyone seeing this could be forgiven for asking about the BBC News editorial agenda and its setting of priorities. It was as though we were to forget that Prime Minister David Cameron had announced his resignation three days earlier; and that Cameron and the Tory party had led the country into a referendum that had resulted in the FTSE 100 index falling more than 8%, and the pound falling against the dollar by 10%; and that a number of Tories were scrambling to become the new leader, including the warmongering, climate-denying Boris Johnson. But, true to form, BBC News was happy to hammer on about the 'Corbyn crisis'; this despite the fact that 'Labour persuaded two-thirds of its supporters to vote remain'.

It was actually surreal to read a post-Brexit BBC article on June 28, 'Conservative leader: Who might succeed David Cameron?', reminding readers of Johnson's 'unique brand of charisma making him a household name... he is regarded as being an electoral asset', while Michael Gove was 'reforming, if controversial' and 'is still respected on both the Remain and Leave wings of the party'. No serious criticism of either politician was included, despite their deep responsibility for the Brexit crisis. By contrast, as we saw above, the BBC was only too happy to include damning judgements of Corbyn.

Perhaps the worst example of an anti-Corbyn attack, post-Brexit, was in the Mail on Sunday. A piece by Dan Hodges was illustrated by a Photoshopped image of a malevolent vampiric Corbyn in a coffin with the despicable headline, 'Labour MUST kill vampire Jezza'. That this should appear just ten days after Labour MP Jo Cox was brutally murdered is almost beyond belief.

When challenged by readers, Hodges responded with the standard cop-out:

'Sorry, but I don't write the headlines.'

It is true that sub-editors write newspaper headlines. But Hodges could still have indicated that he recognised the callousness and irresponsibility of the headline and photo.

One reader fired off this rational follow-up challenge:

'But are you condoning the headline? Do you agree with it? Or is just no comment from you?'

Hodges did not reply; understandably enough. In March, a tragi-comic announcement was issued: 'Britain's best political columnist DAN HODGES joins the Mail on Sunday.' A lucrative contract for Hodges, to be sure, and one he would be reluctant to jeopardise by criticising his paymasters. 'It's hard to make the sums add up when you are kicking the people who write the cheques', as the BBC's Andrew Marr once observed. (Andrew Marr, 'My Trade - A Short History Of British Journalism', Macmillan, 2004, p.112)

In a blog piece, Craig Murray rightly noted:

'The demonstrable public contempt of the public for the political class has been mirrored these last few days by the demonstrable contempt of the political class for the public. This has been obvious in the response to the Brexit vote, and in the Labour parliamentary party's move against Corbyn. Both are evidence that the political class feel that they should not be directed by a wider public.'

This explains why the corporate media have avoided mentioning that Corbyn won last year's leadership election by a 'landslide', winning 60% of the vote, more than all the rest of the candidates combined. Despite noting that Angela Eagle is the likely leadership contender, the media have also ignored a February YouGov poll that found that 60% of Labour members would vote for Corbyn in a new leadership race, with 15% supporting Hilary Benn and just 6% supporting Angela Eagle.

Murray continued:

'Everybody knows that the Labour parliamentary party is well to the right of both the membership and the trade unions, and has been itching to get rid of Corbyn from day one. For those who have constantly stabbed him in the back for a year to criticise his effectiveness in fighting their opponents is ridiculous.'

Investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed points out that:

'The latest coup attempt against Jeremy Corbyn within the Labour Party is being led by an elitist Blairite network who have always seen his sudden rise to leadership as a threat to their waning control of the party.'

One significant figure in this Blairite network is Will Straw who set up Left Foot Forward Ltd, a company that runs the country's 'No. 1 left-wing blog' of the same name. Straw is the son of Jack Straw who served as Home Secretary and Foreign Secretary under Tony Blair. Ahmed notes that Will Straw is:

'among a network of longtime Blairite stalwarts trying to "re-found" the Labour Party – a project demolished by Jeremy Corbyn's landslide victory in the Labour leadership elections in September 2015.'

The independent journalist Steve Topple highlights the links between coordinated attacks on Corbyn and a network of Labour figures with direct links to the PR company, Portland Communications (mentioned above). The PR firm was set up in 2001 by a former adviser to Blair. Its clients include the World Economic Forum, the EU, the UK government, Barclays Bank and large companies, including Morrisons and Nestle.

Two weeks ago, the Daily Telegraph reported that:

'Labour rebels hope to topple Jeremy Corbyn in 24-hour blitz after EU referendum'.

The article continued:

'By fanning the flames with front bench resignations and public criticism they think the signatures needed to trigger a leadership race can be gathered within a day.'

BBC News - in particular, its political editor Laura Kuenssberg - continues to play a disreputable role in fanning these flames. In a BBC News article on Tuesday, Kuenssberg pointed to two more Labour figures who have called on Corbyn to resign as 'signs that his backing away from Parliament could be starting to fray.' Extrapolating wildly, she concluded:

'The wave of enthusiasm he built outside Parliament may be starting to recede.'

This is all part of a bigger picture of how the BBC has put 'its full weight behind the Corbyn coup', as Carlyn Harvey notes. Readers may recall that Kuenssberg helped to orchestrate the on-air resignation of a shadow Labour minister earlier this year: another attempt to undermine Corbyn's leadership.

The 'Guardian view' is that the 'Corbyn experiment is effectively over at Westminster'. This casual dismissal comes from the 'liberal' paper which opposed Corbyn from the start, and which makes no mention of the relentless media wrecking campaign against him, including its own ugly role. The 'Corbyn experiment' is an experiment in real democracy; something which the Guardian has sought to destroy. A responsible newspaper would relentlessly expose the truth about society; namely, that 'politics is the shadow cast on society by big business', as the American philosopher John Dewey said.

Nobody should be surprised at the shameful performance of the corporate media, especially BBC News. Any threat to the 'natural order' of power brings the schism between private interests and public interests into sharp focus. The heightened, almost farcical, attacks on Corbyn are thus entirely predictable. Rather than feeling anguished at this state of affairs, we can regard it as a sign of how nervous and vulnerable the establishment is when an awakened public challenges elite power.

DC and DE



In our original alert we wrote that 'Attempts to unseat Corbyn have been supported by Left Foot Forward Ltd'. We haven't been able to substantiate this assertion and so have withdrawn it.

July 21, 2016

]]> (Editor) Alerts 2016 Wed, 29 Jun 2016 02:13:36 +0000
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