23July2018

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‘A Suffocating Groupthink’: Sampling The Corporate Media On Israel, Iran, Syria And Russia

The gaping chasm between reality and unreality is exemplified by recent contrasting statements about journalism from two veteran reporters. On the one side we have Jeremy Bowen, the BBC's Middle East editor, who enjoys a public image of principled honesty and a supposedly fierce commitment to news balance and impartiality. But, when he was challenged recently on Twitter about the blatant bias in BBC News reporting, he responded just as one would expect of a well-rewarded, high-profile employee of the national broadcaster:

'We are the best source of decent, impartial reportage anywhere in the world.'

As Noam Chomsky has observed of elite power and allied corporate journalists:

'Heaven must be full to overflowing, if the masters of self-adulation are to be taken at their word.' (Chomsky, 'Year 501', Verso, 1993, p.20)

In reality, as hundreds of media alerts, and several of our books attest, and also the work of many others, Bowen's assertion could not be further from the truth.

By contrast, consider a recent interview with renowned journalist and documentary filmmaker John Pilger on 'mainstream' media coverage of Syria, Salisbury, Yemen and Korea. He said:

'I've never known journalism to be so distorted in order to serve this propaganda [...] What we're seeing is the most intense campaign of propaganda at least since the build-up to the Iraq war in 2003.'

Pilger often makes a specific point of including BBC News in his scathing criticism:

'Why has so much journalism succumbed to propaganda? Why are censorship and distortion standard practice? Why is the BBC so often a mouthpiece of rapacious power?'

In what follows, we itemise a range of important issues where current 'mainstream' reporting is not simply poor or weak; but systematically skewed in the interests of Western state-corporate power.

It is important to grasp that this is not about the so-called 'failure' of corporate journalism. Rather, this is a reminder that corporate journalism is performing exactly as it should. As Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky noted when introducing their propaganda model of the media in 'Manufacturing Consent', published thirty years ago:

'The mass media serve as a system for communicating messages and symbols to the general populace. It is their function to amuse, entertain, and inform, and to inculcate individuals with the values, beliefs, and codes of behavior that will integrate them into the institutional structures of the larger society. In a world of concentrated wealth and major conflicts of class interest, to fulfill this role requires systematic propaganda.' (Herman and Chomsky, 'Manufacturing Consent', Vintage, 1988/1994, p. 1; our emphasis)

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