- In Newspeak Reviews
- Post 25 September 2009
- Last Updated on 25 September 2009
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by Daniel Coysh
There is a fond belief among much of the British liberal left that, while the likes of the Daily Mail and the Sun are vile mouthpieces for far-right fat cats - and thus beneath contempt - they read the "left-wing" press.
Unfortunately, as our hallowed organ's unjust circulation figures attest, their idea of a left-wing newspaper is the Guardian or the Independent, and their idea of a "progressive" TV newsreader is Channel Four's John Snow. Even when challenged, they will argue that such media is, at least, "better" than the aforementioned tabloid shit-sheets.
The dedicated David Edwards and David Cromwell at Media Lens refute this cosy consensus. They have been pointing out the servility to power across the entirety of the mainstream media since 2001, and in this, their second book, they focus almost exclusively on the so-called "liberal media" to prove their point - that because of their phony status as "balanced," these are the most insidious mouthpieces of all for "government, business and war."
Media Lens operates by emailing "alerts" to its subscribers, forensically analysing media reports and contacting the writers and editors responsible to quiz them on the reasons for their decision to refer to the "liberation" of Iraq, rather than its "invasion," for example. This new book does a great job of showing how these journalists often respond with a startling degree of arrogant, ill-mannered truculence, often compounding their original sin by referring to Edwards's and Cromwell's polite inquiries as "rants," or Media Lens supporters as "thugs."
The writers first made their case in book form three years ago, with the powerful Guardians of Power, a volume that was unsurprisingly not reviewed by any national newspaper - even, it pains me to say it, the Morning Star, although I'm sure this was not due to the risk of upsetting our big business backers! - and Newspeak carries on where this left off, focusing more closely on particular big journalistic issues of the age, such as Iraq, Iran, climate change, the Bolivarian revolutions of Latin America and Israel-Palestine.
The authors painstakingly detail the distortions, government-spin-as-truth and downright lies of the Guardian, the Independent, Channel 4 News and the BBC, as well as the media responses collected by Media Lens when these institutions were challenged.
After introducing the reader to the basic operating principles of propaganda in a liberal democracy, Newspeak details the "Magnificent Fiction" of BBC "balance" and gives us the wryly informative "A-Z of BBC propaganda," which shows how the Beeb unthinkingly sucks up to the corporate state.
The life-or-death issue of climate change is dealt with impressively - Newspeak demonstrates how the "liberal" press has won undeserved kudos from its stance on "green" issues, while promoting the "business as usual" ethos of ever-expanding capitalist economy.
The chapters on how the liberal press responded to Downing Street's Iraq lies, the government-led smearing of the 2004 Lancet report into Iraq's civilian casualties, terrorist bombings, Israel and Palestine and Iran are similarly forensic in their detail and appalling in their conclusions.
Of particular interest to socialists is the authors' analysis of this media's attitude to left-wing leaders elsewhere in the world.
They point out that it is a matter of historical record that US interests have repeatedly meddled in Latin American affairs - to the detriment of democracy and with murderous results.
Yet the Chavez government of Venezuela is treated as a dangerous animal, with its leader referred to as a "firebrand" at best and subject to a remarkable hate campaign by "liberal left" journalists, who appear worryingly ill-informed about the numerous affronts to democracy and abuses of power by capital-friendly Latin American leaders.
As Newspeak puts it: "As usual, alleged concerns for democracy and human rights mask deeper priorities; protecting governments that toe the line dictated by Western power, and undermining those that do not."
Justice cannot be done to a work of such detail in a short review - only reading and absorbing the important lessons of this book can truly reflect the compassion, concern and commitment of its authors. It is a pity that those crusading liberal broadsheets will never let such sedition creep into their review pages.
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