Media Lens - Current Alert News analysis and media criticism http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2015.html Sat, 31 Jan 2015 12:54:37 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Feral Journalism - Rewilding Dissent http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2015/785-feral-journalism-rewilding-dissent.html http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2015/785-feral-journalism-rewilding-dissent.html

One of the weirdest features of contemporary culture is the way even the best corporate journalists write as though under enemy occupation.

Journalists admit, even in public, but particularly in private, that there is much they just cannot say. As Noam Chomsky has noted, the best investigative reporters 'regard the media as a sham' trying to 'play it like a violin: If they see a little opening they'll try to squeeze something in that ordinarily wouldn't make it through'.

Of course, the truth of the sham is one of the 'tunes' that doesn't get played. While not typically subject to Big Brother-style threats, journalists are keenly aware that they can be swiftly 'disappeared' by the grey, profit-oriented suits draped in hierarchical chains above them.

To his credit, George Monbiot is one of the better journalists who seriously wrestles with his conscience on these issues. The crisis apparent in his writing and in his reaction to criticism – Media Lens 'drives me bananas', he says - is characteristic of someone trying, and failing, to overcome the limits on free speech.

Writing in the Guardian, Monbiot rails against 'the rotten state of journalism' and confesses: 'I hadn't understood just how quickly standards are falling'.

It is a classic moment of semi-quixotic, Monbiotic dissent. The 'rotten state of journalism' could be a reference to the inherent contradictions of a corporate 'free press', the Guardian included. On the other hand, the article has been carefully titled, 'Our "impartial" broadcasters have become mouthpieces of the elite.' (Our emphasis)

And who is the target when Monbiot notes that 'those who are supposed to scrutinise the financial and political elite are embedded within it. Many belong to a service-sector aristocracy, wedded metaphorically (sometimes literally) to finance. Often unwittingly, they amplify the voices of the elite, while muffling those raised against it'?

These criticisms could also implicate the 'quality' liberal press. But Monbiot quickly scurries down to lower moral ground by supplying specific examples from, who else?, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and everyone's favourite media punch bag, the BBC. The Beeb, of course, is sufficiently different from the Guardian to spare the latter's blushes.

As Monbiot says, the BBC 'grovels to business leaders', supplying '"a Conservative, Eurosceptic, pro-business version of the world"'. And this, he notes archly, 'is where people turn when they don't trust the corporate press'. Again, this widens the target for a brief moment before Monbiot concludes:

'Those entrusted to challenge power are the loyalists of power. They rage against social media and people such as Russell Brand, without seeing that the popularity of alternatives is a response to their own failures'.

But he points away from his own employer:

'If even the public sector broadcasters parrot the talking points of the elite, what hope is there for informed democratic choice?'

The concluding comments are ironic indeed, for while the Guardian does host Brand's output, it has also led the ferocious liberal assault on his reputation, as we noted here. And it has performed the same role in attacking Julian Assange, Hugo Chavez, Noam Chomsky and many other dissidents.

On the face of it, Monbiot would appear to be rationally and ethically obliged to remind his readers that the paper hosting his condemnation of broadcast media is itself a prime example of the problem he is describing. We tweeted him:

'"Those entrusted to challenge power are the loyalists of power." Isn't that also true of Guardian/Independent journalists?'

And:

'Also true of journos who write, "Our broadcasters have become mouthpieces of the elite", without mentioning their own media?'

Monbiot did not respond. A fellow tweeter, however, chirruped back:

'undoubtedly true, but even GM [Monbiot] can't stop sea levels rise. Besides, no job no platform. He's an ally, even if works for Graun.'

And:

'GM written an article I am sure you agree with? Unrealistic to expect direct criticism of his employer. Be happy!'

This is pretty much what we receive every time we challenge a 'mainstream' dissident: they are doing their best within the constraints of the system; we should support rather than criticise them.

From this perspective, rational questions, even polite challenges, are viewed as a betrayal of 'solidarity'. This might be arguable if the world was making steady, positive progress rather than hurtling to hell in a climate-denying handcart. But anyway, as Glenn Greenwald writes:

'Few things are more dangerous than having someone with influence or power hear only praise or agreement.'

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editor@medialens.org (Editor) Alerts 2015 Thu, 29 Jan 2015 09:37:10 +0000
Death By A Thousand Cuts: Earth Enters The ‘Danger Zone’ http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2015/784-death-by-a-thousand-cuts-earth-enters-the-danger-zone.html http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2015/784-death-by-a-thousand-cuts-earth-enters-the-danger-zone.html

Last week, climate researchers at both NASA and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that 2014 was the planet's warmest year in the modern record, going all the way back to 1880. The ten warmest years have now occurred since 2000, with the sole exception of 1998 when there was a strong El Niño warming event in the Pacific Ocean.

Climate scientist Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University put the scale of global warming in stark perspective when she told Associated Press:

'The globe is warmer now than it has been in the last 100 years and more likely in at least 5,000 years.' (Our emphasis.)

Don Wuebbles, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Illinois, who has worked on reports for the UN Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change, said:

'We have a clear signal that our climate is changing, and when you look at the evidence it's because of human activities.

'The evidence is so strong I don't know why we are arguing any more. It's just crazy.'

In fact, any rational argument about whether dangerous climate change is real, and whether humans are largely responsible, is long-settled. What is needed now is urgent action to cut carbon emissions based on the climate justice principles of precaution and equity.

The stakes could not be higher. In a recent in-depth piece, Dahr Jamail interviewed several scientists, including Professor Paul Beckwith of the University of Ottawa in Canada, a researcher in abrupt climate change. Beckwith warned:

'It is my view that our climate system is in early stages of abrupt climate change that, unchecked, will lead to a temperature rise of 5 to 6 degrees Celsius within a decade or two. Obviously, such a large change in the climate system will have unprecedented effects on the health and well-being of every plant and animal on our planet.'

Professor John Schellnhuber, one of the world's leading climate scientists, says that 'the difference between two degrees and four degrees' of warming 'is human civilisation.'

Jamail noted that a study in Nature in 2013 warned that a 50-gigaton 'burp' of methane from thawing Arctic permafrost beneath the East Siberian sea is 'highly possible at anytime.' Because methane is a much more powerful global-warming gas than carbon dioxide, this methane 'burp' would be the equivalent of at least 1,000 gigatons of carbon dioxide. (For comparison, humans have released a total of around 1,475 gigatons of carbon dioxide since the year 1850.)

Human stress on the Earth's environment has become so severe that the planet has entered the 'danger zone', making it much less hospitable to our continued existence. Researchers warn that life support systems around the globe are being eaten away 'at a rate unseen in the past 10,000 years'. It is 'a death by a thousand cuts', shifting the world to 'a warmer state, 5-6C warmer, with no ice caps'.

Professor Will Steffen, of the Australian National University and the Stockholm Resilience Centre, is the lead author of two new studies on 'planetary boundaries' being breached by human activity around the globe. He warns that although there would still be life on Earth, it would be disastrous for large mammals such as humans:

'Some people say we can adapt due to technology, but that's a belief system, it's not based on fact. There is no convincing evidence that a large mammal, with a core body temperature of 37C, will be able to evolve that quickly. Insects can, but humans can't and that's a problem.'

He added ominously:

'It's clear the economic system is driving us towards an unsustainable future and people of my daughter's generation will find it increasingly hard to survive. History has shown that civilisations have risen, stuck to their core values and then collapsed because they didn't change. That's where we are today.'

Climate expert Jørgen Randers, who co-authored the classic book The Limits to Growth in 1972, is similarly scathing about the current system of economics:

'It is cost-effective to postpone global climate action. It is profitable to let the world go to hell.'

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editor@medialens.org (Editor) Alerts 2015 Thu, 22 Jan 2015 08:35:29 +0000
Charlie Hebdo And The War For Civilisation http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2015/783-charlie-hebdo-and-the-war-for-civilisation.html http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2015/783-charlie-hebdo-and-the-war-for-civilisation.html

In 2003, a top security expert told filmmaker Michael Moore, 'there is no one in America other than President Bush who is in more danger than you'. (Michael Moore, 'Here Comes Trouble – Stories From My Life,' Allen Lane, 2011, p.4)

Moore was attacked with a knife, a blunt object and stalked by a man with a gun. Scalding coffee was thrown at his face, punches were thrown in broad daylight. The verbal abuse was ceaseless, including numerous death threats. In his book, 'Here Comes Trouble', Moore writes:

'I could no longer go out in public without an incident happening.' (p.20)

A security company, which compiled a list of more than 440 credible threats against Moore, told him:

'We need to tell you that the police have in custody a man who was planning to blow up your house. You're in no danger now.' (p.23)

But why was Moore a target? Had he published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad?

The problem had begun in the first week of the 2003 Iraq war when Moore's film 'Bowling For Columbine' won the Oscar for best documentary. At the March 23 Academy Awards ceremony, Moore told a global audience:

'I've invited my fellow documentary nominees on the stage with us. They are here in solidarity with me because we like nonfiction. We like nonfiction, yet we live in fictitious times. We live in a time where we have fictitious election results that elect a fictitious president. We live in a time where we have a man sending us to war for fictitious reasons. Whether it's the fiction of duct tape or the fiction of orange alerts: we are against this war, Mr. Bush. Shame on you, Mr. Bush. Shame on you! And anytime you've got the Pope and the Dixie Chicks against you, your time is up! Thank you very much.' (p.5-6)

About halfway through these remarks, Moore reports, 'all hell broke loose'. On arriving home from the ceremony, he found three truckloads of horse manure dumped waist-high in his driveway. That night, Moore witnessed for himself the extent to which US corporate journalism defends the right to offend:

'...as I flipped between the channels, I listened to one pundit after another question my sanity, criticise my speech, and say, over and over, in essence: "I don't know what got into him!" "He sure won't have an easy time in this town after that stunt!" "Who does he think will make another movie with him now?" "Talk about career suicide!" After an hour of this, I turned off the TV and went online – where there was more of the same, only worse – from all over America.' (pp.9-10)

This is the reality of respect for free speech in the United States. If, on Oscar night, he had held up a cartoon depicting President Bush naked on all fours, buttocks raised to a pornographic filmmaker, would Moore still be alive today?

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editor@medialens.org (Editor) Alerts 2015 Thu, 15 Jan 2015 08:41:23 +0000