All posts by Media Lens

Veneration Of Power Leading To Climate Catastrophe

In a recent media alert, we presented a few rules that journalists must follow if they are to be regarded as a safe pair of hands by editors and corporate media owners. One of these rules is that ‘we’ in the West are assumed to be ‘the good guys’. This seriously damaging narrative, flying in the face of historical evidence and endlessly crushing state policies, ensures that the public is kept ignorant and pacified. The consequences have been deadly for millions of the West’s victims around the world, and now mean climate catastrophe that could end human civilisation.

First, take the recent devout coverage following the death of George Herbert Walker Bush, US President from 1989-1993, and Vice-President under Ronald Reagan from 1981-1989. When a (former) Western leader dies, the raw propaganda is often at its most fawning and servile. On Bush’s death, ‘mainstream’ media outlets broadcast and published eulogies and fanciful words of praise, divorced from reality. For example, BBC News channelled former President Barack Obama:

George HW Bush’s life is a testament to the notion that public service is a noble, joyous calling. And he did tremendous good along the journey.

The Clintons – like the Bush dynasty, part of the US ruling class – added their own gushing propaganda tribute:

Few Americans have been – or will ever be – able to match President Bush’s record of service to the United States and the joy he took every day from it.

Referring to the massive US attack following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in the 1990-1991 Gulf War, ‘impartial’ BBC News launched into full-blown Orwellian newspeak:

The subsequent battle proved to be a triumph for American military expertise and a major boost for the nation’s morale.

Likewise, the Guardian‘s obituary described Bush Senior’s devastation of Iraq as ‘triumphant’; ‘the president did not put a foot wrong’; ‘his most impressive achievement’; ‘Bush’s masterly management of the first Iraq war’; and so on, in an elite-friendly script that was essentially a press release from the very centre of US power.

The cruel reality of Bush’s ‘most impressive achievement’, as we noted in a 2002 media alert, was that Iraq’s entire civilian infrastructure was targeted and largely destroyed under the rain of bombs. All of Iraq’s eleven major electrical power plants, as well as 119 substations, were destroyed. 90 per cent of electricity generation was out of service within hours; within days, all power generation in the country had ceased. Eight multi-purpose dams were repeatedly hit and destroyed, wrecking flood control, municipal and industrial water storage, irrigation and hydroelectric power. Four of Iraq’s seven major water pumping stations were destroyed. According to Eric Hoskins, a Canadian doctor and coordinator of a Harvard study team on Iraq, the allied bombardment:

effectively terminated everything vital to human survival in Iraq – electricity, water, sewage systems, agriculture, industry and health care.1

Under the 88,500 tons of bombs – the equivalent of seven Hiroshimas – that followed the launch of the air campaign on January 17, 1991, and the ground attack that followed, 150,000 Iraqi troops and 50,000 civilians were killed. The Guardian‘s glowing obituary omitted all of these brutal facts. The Observer, the Guardian‘s Sunday sister paper, sang from the same hymn sheet, describing the former head of the CIA and US president as:

an American patriot with a deep sense of duty.

The guff piece was written by serial propagandist Simon Tisdall who has variously been a foreign leader writer, foreign editor and US editor for the Guardian. Tisdall waxed that:

Bush set great store by civility in public life. As Republican candidate in 1988 he called for a “kinder, gentler nation”. He was, quintessentially, a decent man, with a taste for the lifestyle of an English country gentleman.

Bush’s ‘most admirable quality’, opined the Guardian man, was ‘his deep sense of public duty and service.’ That word ‘service’ again, repeated over and over like a mantra. But who was really being served by Bush’s violence?

The Guardian devoted a section of its website to Bush Sr, featuring headlines such as:

A different command”. How Bush’s war shaped his work for peace’

a man of the highest character’

The “dear dad” dedicated to faith, family and country’

Steady hand during collapse of communism’

“Dear Bill.” Clinton heralds letter from Bush as source of lasting friendship

When Official Enemies portray their Glorious Leaders in this way, western commentators routinely sneer with derision. Al Abunimah, editor of Electronic Intifada, highlighted the above litany of nonsense in a single tweet, and rightly scorned the Guardian as ‘a bastion of regime propaganda and sycophancy to powerful elites.’

Meanwhile, BBC News, like the rest of the corporate media, virtually canonised Bush as a saintly agent of Western benevolence. Even his ‘service dog’ Sully paid a ‘touching last tribute‘, sleeping beside the late President’s casket. We were to understand that Sully was heart-broken after long years spent devotedly serving his ‘master’. In fact, he had been assigned to assist Bush in the summer of 2018, just a few months ago.

By glaring contrast, a Morning Star editorial gave an honest assessment of Bush Sr’s contribution to the world, summed up as:

A lifetime in the service of imperialism.

Nathan Robinson, editor of Current Affairs, listed numerous appalling crimes and abuses of human rights carried out by Bush, almost entirely buried by sycophantic journalists on his death, and concluded:

Coverage of George H.W. Bush’s death proves that Noam Chomsky’s media theory is completely true.

‘Mainstream’ media professionals do not know, or do not care, what Bush actually did in his life. Perhaps they also assume that the public do not know or care either. Obedient journalists have simply buried the destruction and mass death wreaked on Iraq in the Gulf War. In his Bush obituary, Nick Bryant, the New York-based BBC News correspondent, brushed all this away and stuck to the standard deception of ‘mistakes were made’ in Iraq. By ‘mistakes’, Bryant meant that the US encouraged the Kurds and Shia-dominated south to revolt against Saddam Hussein, but then failed to offer sufficient backing. Under BBC ‘journalism’, Bush’s ‘mistakes’ do not include mass killing and destruction. That is simply unthinkable.

The truth is that the corporate media, the BBC very much included, do not care about the deadly effect of mass sanctions and infrastructure destruction on Iraq through the 1990s, up to the 2003 Iraq War. Unicef, the United Nations Children’s Fund, reported that 4,000 more children under five were dying every month in Iraq than would have died before Western sanctions were imposed. A total of half a million children under five died, amongst a total death toll of over one million Iraqis. There is clearly no need or desire for western corporate media to dwell on Bush Sr’s role in such horrors.

Nor do corporate journalists care about his service to death, torture, secret assassinations, and propping up of dictators in his role as head of the CIA. They do not care that, as Vice-President, Bush refused to apologise for the shooting down of Iran Air flight 655 over the Persian Gulf by the US warship Vincennes on July 3, 1988. All 290 people on board the plane were killed, including 66 children. Instead, he said callously:

I will never apologize for the United States — I don’t care what the facts are. … I’m not an apologize-for America kind of guy.

Clearly, most corporate journalists do not care that Bush shares responsibility for the multiple bloodbaths that soaked Latin America in the 1980s. They do not care that Bush was, as historian Greg Grandin notes, an ‘icon’ of ‘brutal US oppression in the Third World’. They do not care that Bush invaded Panama in 1989, in the biggest deployment of US force since the Vietnam War, ostensibly to capture former US ally Manuel Noriega on charges of drug trafficking. US planes heavily bombed populated areas, resulting in the estimated deaths of 3,000 Panamanians. Grandin says that the ‘lasting impact of the Panama invasion’ is the US wars that followed in subsequent decades. On Bush’s death, the corporate media did their job of whitewashing his blood-soaked legacy; just as they covered for his crimes when he was in power.

‘Climate Catastrophe Now Inevitable’

All this matters because the media’s veneration of Bush, and western leaders generally, is a glaring symptom of a deep truth about the corporate media: their primary function is to project a severely distorted view of world events, one that embodies state and corporate priorities rooted in power and short-term profit at any cost.

The public is perennially starved of rational facts about the real state of the planet, and the greed-driven policies that hold sway over electorates and even over global ecosystems. The appalling consequence is that we are now certainly headed for climate catastrophe. Even a few within the corporate media have started to admit as much. Science writer Robin McKie noted in the Guardian that:

Climate catastrophe is now looking inevitable.

McKie added that the US has produced around one third of the carbon dioxide responsible for global warming:

Yet it has essentially done nothing to check its annual rises in output. Lobbying by the fossil fuel industry has proved highly effective at blocking political change – a point most recently demonstrated by groups such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Heartland Institute, which helped persuade President Trump to pull out of the Paris agreement, thus dashing the planet’s last hope of ecological salvation.

He cited environmentalist Bill McKibben:

The coalition [fossil fuel lobby] used its power to slow us down precisely at the moment when we needed to speed up. As a result, the particular politics of one country for one half-century will have changed the geological history of the Earth.

Global carbon emissions reached a new high in 2018. In other words, nothing of real significance has been achieved in thirty years of supposedly trying to cut emissions – other than making the problem very much worse – and we now only have a decade to completely turn things around. The blocking effects by powerful industry lobbies and corporate-captured political ‘leaders’, hugely underreported by the corporate media, are a disaster for the human race. Stefan Rahmstorf, a senior scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, highlighted a new analysis of carbon emissions by the Carbon Research Project and said:

See how easily we could have solved the climate crisis if we had started in 2000! Only 4% reduction per year. Now we need 18% per year. You can thank climate deniers, lobby groups and cowardly politicians for this delay.

Kevin Anderson of the UK’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Research concurred:

Spot on by [Rahmstorf]. The academic community also take some responsibility for all too often remaining quiet about completely irresponsible decisions. Just listen to the roar of complicit silence over the UK’s shale gas plans, the new oil platform, airport & road expansion.

Renowned climate scientist Michael Mann declared:

We’ve got a LOT of work to do folks. After flat-lining for 3 years, CO2 emissions have now ticked up two years straight. This is no time for climate change denying/delaying politicians. We must vote them out & elect in their place politicians who will LEAD on climate.

He added:

It is no longer enough for politicians to just say the right things about climate change. They must demonstrate a commitment to meaningful actions & specific policies aimed at rapid reductions in carbon emissions. We are now officially starting to run out of time…

Julia Steinberger, Associate Professor of Ecological Economics at the University of Leeds, put the scale of the challenge succinctly:

If people had ANY idea of the harm and loss that is coming our way with #ClimateBreakdown, they would stop driving, flying, eating meat, overheating and overconsuming pretty much instantly, and work tirelessly to build new low carbon societies.

Instead, powerful industry lobbies are working tirelessly to block the radical action that is required.

A new Met Office study shows that the UK summer heatwave this year was made thirty times more likely by the human impact on climate. Met Office scientist Peter Stott issued a deadly warning:

Humanity just won’t be able to cope with the world we are heading for.

Last year, Arctic News editor Sam Carana pointed out the dangers of methane, a highly potent global warming gas:

As the temperature of the Arctic Ocean keeps rising, it seems inevitable that more and more methane will rise from its seafloor and enter the atmosphere, at first strongly warming up the atmosphere over the Arctic Ocean itself – thus causing further methane eruptions – and eventually warming up the atmosphere across the globe.

A giant ‘burp’ of methane gas could happen suddenly and increase global temperatures rapidly. If this sounds like a scare story, Harold Wanless, Professor of Geology and a specialist in sea level rise at the University of Miami, puts it in perspective:

Scientists tend to be pretty conservative. We don’t like to scare people, and we don’t like to step out of our little predictable boxes. But I suspect the situation is going to spin out of hand pretty quickly. If you look at the history of warming periods, things can move pretty fast, and when that happens that’s when you get extinction events.

I would not discount the possibility that it could happen in the next ten years.

In summary, scientists are calling for immediate large cuts in carbon emissions. Given the normally conservative pronouncements by overly cautious experts, such warnings should stop us all in our tracks. Climate scientists are virtually screaming at those running our political and economic systems to make drastic changes now.

However, at the start of a new UN climate conference in Poland, the follow-up to the 2015 Paris summit, a BBC News article observed starkly:

The gap between what countries say they are doing and what needs to be done has never been wider.

In other words, the dangers of rapid and cataclysmic global warming are now so glaring that some degree of urgency is being communicated occasionally, very occasionally, from within the corporate media. It would hurt establishment media credibility too much in the eyes of the public were that otherwise.

Safe ‘national treasure’ David Attenborough has become more outspoken of late. He addressed the UN conference:

We’re facing a man-made disaster of global scale. Our greatest threat in thousands of years. Climate change. If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.

He told the BBC:

All over the world there are people who are suffering as a consequence [of climate change] whose voices have not been heard.

Last week, the Daily Mirror went as far as putting Attenborough’s warning on its front page:

Time Is Running Out To Save Planet

But the daily diet of ‘news’ pumped out by the major news media is still a massive distraction from the huge widespread changes in society, politics and the economy that are needed immediately. Why is the climate crisis not a vital component, perhaps even the primary component, of news reporting on the economy, business, commerce, politics, and Parliament? Why is it usually restricted to science and environment ‘stories’? For instance, how often does the BBC’s business editor, Simon Jack, address the climate crisis in his reports? Never, if our occasional sampling is indicative. Nor does he ever respond to our polite challenges to do so. The same applied to the recently departed BBC economics editor, Kamal Ahmed. This is a gross dereliction of duty by the BBC to the public who pays for it.

Are we supposed to obsess over slight changes in interest rates, currency exchange rates, the FTSE 100 index, and the size of the UK economy, even while the planet’s natural resources are plundered, ecosystems collapse, and the mass loss of species accelerates? Why are these much latter, more crucial numbers and facts about the state of the planet not routinely cited in corporate media reporting on the state of business and the economy? Perhaps we are supposed to regard the number of rivets on the Titanic a reliable measure of the ship’s robustness, even as it plummets beneath the waves.

Just consider the US news media reporting on the appalling forest wildfires in California last month. Although scientists have stated clearly that climate change is a significant factor in these catastrophic wildfires, national US television networks made the link with climate in less than four per cent of their reports on the calamity. We are not aware of any similar study of UK television coverage. But it was certainly apparent that BBC News at Ten made very little mention of the links between global warming and the Californian wildfires, just as climate was glaringly absent from its coverage of this summer’s drought in the UK.

It is true that the burgeoning grassroots movement Extinction Rebellion, and the remarkable 15-year-old Swedish climate campaigner Greta Thunberg, are not entirely absent from news coverage. But, given the stakes, their activism and their urgent messages to society as a whole would be making headlines every day in a sane media system. Extinction Rebellion are calling for peaceful mass civil disobedience to demand:

an immediate reversal of climate-toxic policies, net-zero emissions by 2025 and the establishment of a citizen’s assembly to oversee the radical changes necessary to halt global warming.

During one recent climate protest that blocked five major bridges in central London, one protester said:

We have tried marching, and lobbying, and signing petitions. Nothing has brought about the change that is needed.

Extinction Rebellion issued a stark warning:

Our aims may be ambitious. But we are striving for nothing less than the fate of our planet.

The inspiring clip that goes along with these words depicts suffragettes, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and many others pushing for positive changes in the world. Thunberg has explained in very simple and powerful terms how and why she became so motivated to do something about climate change. It happened in school at the age of nine:

They [teachers] were always talking about how we should turn off lights, save water, not throw out food. I asked why and they explained about climate change. And I thought this was very strange. If humans could really change the climate, everyone would be talking about it and people wouldn’t be talking about anything else. But this wasn’t happening.

Now, at 15, her commitment to go on school strike to devote herself to climate activism is an inspiration to many around the world, including the Extinction Rebellion movement. She has a succinct riposte to those who accuse her of neglecting her education:

Some say I should be in school. But why should any young person be made to study for a future when no one is doing enough to save that future? What is the point of learning facts when the most important facts given by the finest scientists are ignored by our politicians?

The time has passed for the public to rely on political leaders taking the right steps to tackle the climate crisis. As Thunberg said in her speech to the UN climate conference:

So we have not come here to beg the world leaders to care for our future. They have ignored us in the past and they will ignore us again. We have come here to let them know that change is coming whether they like it or not.

As ever, it is up to each one of us to ensure that this change happens.

  1. Quoted Mark Curtis, The Ambiguities of Power, Zed Books, 1995.

Limits of Dissent

When we think of prisons, we tend to think of Alcatraz, Bang Kwang and Belmarsh with their guard towers, iron bars and concrete. But in his forthcoming book, 33 Myths of the System, Darren Allen invites us to imagine a prison with walls made entirely of vacuous guff:

Censorship is unnecessary in a system in which everyone can speak, but only those guaranteed not to say anything worth listening to can be heard.

Is this true? For example, how easy is it to encounter genuinely uncompromised analysis locating the Guardian within a propaganda system designed to filter news, views and voices to serve powerful interests?

It is a key issue because the Guardian is the best ‘centre-left’ newspaper we have. If The Times and Telegraph define the limits of thinkable thought on the ‘mainstream’ right, then the Guardian does the same at the other end of the ‘spectrum’. In other words, the Guardian defines corporate media limits in accepting left views and voices. If it’s not in the Guardian, it’s not going to be anywhere else in the ‘mainstream’.

Are the Guardian‘s famous in-house dissidents willing and able to address this crucial issue? How about leftist firebrand Owen Jones? In November 2017, Jones lamented on Twitter:

I’m barred from criticising colleagues in my column. Weirdly this doesn’t seem to work the other way round.

Jones can tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about the corporate media, as long as he doesn’t dish the dirt on his employer. Ironies inevitably abound. Last April, Jones commented:

The main thing I’ve learned from working in the British media is that much of it is a cult. Afflicted by a suffocating groupthink, intolerant of critics, hounds internal dissenters, full of people who made it because of connections and/or personal background rather than merit.

Even as Jones was speaking out on this ‘suffocating groupthink’, his comment was being suffocated by his obligation to spare his colleagues’ blushes.

In December 2014, former Guardian journalist Jonathan Cook challenged George Monbiot:

@GeorgeMonbiot Guardian, your employer, is precisely part of media problem. Why this argument [on the need for structural reform] is far from waste of energy. It’s vital.

Monbiot brazenly stonewalled:

@Jonathan_K_Cook that’s your view. I don’t share it. Most of my work exposing corporate power has been through or with the Guardian.

The Guardian: ‘Solid And Reliable’

The first rule of Guardian club, then: you do not criticise the Guardian. The second rule of Guardian club… etc.

Far greater hope for the kind of serious criticism we have in mind seems to lie with renowned dissident Glenn Greenwald who worked for the Guardian for more than a year and who helped secure a Pulitzer prize for the paper’s reporting on the NSA story. After all, unlike Jones and Monbiot, Greenwald certainly is willing to criticise the Guardian.

The latest example is his response to the paper’s recent, front-page claim that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange met former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort at least three times in the Ecuadorian Embassy. The Guardian article, which appears to be a stellar example of ‘fake news’, was apparently intended to bolster claims that Assange had conspired with Trump, and with Trump’s supposed Russian allies, to fatally damage Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign to become US president. Greenwald commented:

The reason it will be so devastating to the Guardian if this story turns out false is because the Guardian has an institutional hatred for Assange. They’ve proven they’ll dispense with journalistic standards for it. And factions within Ecuador’s government know they can use them.

Speaking to The Canary, Fidel Narváez a former consul and first secretary at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, insisted that the Guardian‘s claims are entirely false:

It is impossible for any visitor to enter the embassy without going through very strict protocols and leaving a clear record: obtaining written approval from the ambassador, registering with security personnel, and leaving a copy of ID. The embassy is the most surveilled on Earth; not only are there cameras positioned on neighbouring buildings recording every visitor, but inside the building every movement is recorded with CCTV cameras, 24/7. In fact, security personnel have always spied on Julian and his visitors. It is simply not possible that Manafort visited the embassy.

The Washington Post reported this week:

One week after publication, the Guardian’s bombshell looks as though it could be a dud.

No other news organization has been able to corroborate the Guardian’s reporting to substantiate its central claim of a meeting. News organizations typically do such independent reporting to confirm important stories.

WaPo noted that the Guardian ‘has stood by the story, albeit somewhat halfheartedly. It has said little to defend itself amid mounting criticism’.

Indeed, the Guardian has so far merely commented:

This story relied on a number of sources. We put these allegations to both Paul Manafort and Julian Assange’s representatives prior to publication. Neither responded to deny the visits taking place. We have since updated the story to reflect their denials.

But in fact WikiLeaks did deny that the visits took place in a tweeted response to one of the Guardian authors of the article.

In an attempt to encourage a more serious response, Greenwald sent a series of excellent, challenging questions to Guardian editor Kath Viner and journalist Luke Harding. Greenwald has pointed to huge holes in the story and condemned the paper’s hatred of Assange. However, Greenwald has also commented that, apart from the issue of Assange, ‘the Guardian’ is ‘an otherwise solid and reliable paper’. He has repeatedly affirmed this view:

Like I said, I think the Guardian is a solid paper that has good journalists and does good work, and I wouldn’t derive any pleasure from seeing its reputation obliterated by a debacle of this magnitude, though I do think it’d be deserved if the story proves to be false.

He even said:

I think the Guardian is an important paper with great journalists. I hope the story turns out true. But the skepticism over this story is very widespread, including among Assange’s most devoted haters, because it’s so sketchy. If Manafort went there, there’s video. Let’s see it.

Former Guardian journalist Jonathan Cook responded:

And finally, in a bizarre tweet, Greenwald opined, “I hope the story [maligning Assange] turns out true” – apparently because maintenance of the Guardian’s reputation is more important than Assange’s fate and the right of journalists to dig up embarrassing secrets without fear of being imprisoned.

Cook indicated the clear limits of Greenwald’s dissent by providing the kind of rare, honest analysis that explains the Guardian‘s role within the propaganda system:

What this misses is that the Guardian’s attacks on Assange are not exceptional or motivated solely by personal animosity. They are entirely predictable and systematic. Rather than being the reason for the Guardian violating basic journalistic standards and ethics, the paper’s hatred of Assange is a symptom of a deeper malaise in the Guardian and the wider corporate media.

Even aside from its decade-long campaign against Assange, the Guardian is far from “solid and reliable”, as Greenwald claims. It has been at the forefront of the relentless, and unhinged, attacks on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for prioritising the rights of Palestinians over Israel’s right to continue its belligerent occupation. Over the past three years, the Guardian has injected credibility into the Israel lobby’s desperate efforts to tar Corbyn as an anti-semite. See here, here and here.

Similarly, the Guardian worked tirelessly to promote Clinton and undermine Sanders in the 2016 Democratic nomination process – another reason the paper has been so assiduous in promoting the idea that Assange, aided by Russia, was determined to promote Trump over Clinton for the presidency.

The Guardian’s coverage of Latin America, especially of populist leftwing governments that have rebelled against traditional and oppressive US hegemony in the region, has long grated with analysts and experts. Its especial venom has been reserved for leftwing figures like Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, democratically elected but official enemies of the US, rather than the region’s rightwing authoritarians beloved of Washington.

The Guardian has been vocal in the so-called “fake news” hysteria, decrying the influence of social media, the only place where leftwing dissidents have managed to find a small foothold to promote their politics and counter the corporate media narrative.

The Guardian has painted social media chiefly as a platform overrun by Russian trolls, arguing that this should justify ever-tighter restrictions that have so far curbed critical voices of the dissident left more than the right.

On November 29, we tweeted Greenwald:

Hi @ggreenwald, you have consistently soft-pedalled your criticism of your former colleagues at the Guardian, most recently describing the paper as “solid and reliable'” Will you respond to @Jonathan_K_Cook’s astute and rational criticism of your position?’

At time of writing the tweet has received 57 retweets and 82 likes. Greenwald has been tweeting and must have seen some of these responses and yet has chosen not to reply. We would guess that he finds himself in a pickle: if he attempts to defend his false claim that the Guardian is ‘solid and reliable’, he will be shot down in flames for the reasons described above by Cook. And if he agrees with Cook’s analysis, he risks alienating former colleagues and important allies on the paper.

The conclusion, then, is that Greenwald is following so many Guardian and other ‘mainstream’ journalists before him in simply blanking reasonable, rational questions.

Greenwald and the Progressive Left

Despite defending us against critics in the past, and despite the fact that we are writing from a similar political viewpoint inspired by Noam Chomsky, for whom he has expressed immense admiration, Greenwald has almost completely ignored our work. We cannot remember that he has ever retweeted our media alerts or retweeted any of our tweets (there may have been one or two exceptions). Our Twitter search ‘from:ggreenwald “medialens”‘ suggests very little interest or interaction from his side. We saw no point in sending him a review copy of our new book, Propaganda Blitz, about which Chomsky has said: ‘Great book. I have been recommending it.’ (Email to Media Lens, November 22, 2018) We, on the other hand, have cited, praised and tweeted Greenwald’s work many times.

One might certainly ask why Greenwald would bother with a two-man, tinpot operation? Who are we? But it does seem extraordinary to us that Greenwald comments so much on the UK press whilst apparently ignoring writers who are indisputably the most honest, important and popular critics of the UK press, and of the Guardian in particular.

John Pilger is arguably the finest political journalist of our time and certainly the most high-profile critic of UK corporate media, especially the Guardian. No-one else who has appeared regularly in ‘mainstream’ newspapers and on national TV comes close to matching the honesty and accuracy of Pilger’s criticism. As far as we are aware, Greenwald ignores Pilger’s work. Using the Twitter search engine, we checked for mentions of Pilger, ‘from:ggreenwald “pilger”‘, and found zero mentions in any of Greenwald’s 50,000 tweets. This is exactly like a UK dissident critically analysing US media without mentioning Chomsky or Edward Herman.

In 2011, Jonathan Cook won the prestigious Martha Gellhorn special award for journalism. We have cited above his powerful criticism of the Guardian, lent even more weight by the fact that he worked as a staff journalist at the paper for five years. Cook tells us he has never seen Greenwald mention or retweet anything he has written. In 2014, Greenwald did make a positive comment in response to criticism from Cook:

I’ve long been a fan of your work as well…

Curiously, this ‘fan’ does not even follow Cook on Twitter.

The British historian Mark Curtis is another rare, honest critic of corporate media. Chomsky commented on his book, Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam (Serpent’s Tail, 2010):

Unearthing this largely hidden history is a contribution of the highest significance, and could hardly be more timely.

Curtis is also highly critical of the Guardian. Last month, he tweeted:

All decent writers must now reflect: do you really want to contribute to an outlet producing utter fabrications in service of the state? Even retweeting G [Guardian] articles should stop, IMO.

Curtis told us he has never seen Greenwald mention or tweet his work.

By contrast, Greenwald can often be found applauding and retweeting Guardian journalists and commentators like Owen Jones and George Monbiot, and, of course, former New Statesman political editor and Guardian contributor, Mehdi Hasan, who now publishes in The Intercept alongside Greenwald. Is Greenwald so reluctant to alienate the Guardian that he is steering clear of UK media analysts who are strongly critical of the paper?

None of this is intended as condemnation of Greenwald.  Perhaps he is right to maintain friendly relations with powerful allies when facing so many heavyweight political enemies in the US. But it is a rare form of cognitive dissonance that praises both the Guardian and Chomsky.

The key point, for us, which has nothing to do with lefter-than-thou sniping, is that this indicates the extraordinary extent to which the best, supposedly ‘centre-left’ media are protected from rational criticism. Even a comparatively honest, Chomskyite journalist like Greenwald is either not willing or not able to tell the whole truth about a paper that has done enormous harm in supporting Blair (still now), attacking Corbyn, and in promoting Perpetual War with endless nonsense about ‘our’ supposed ‘responsibility to protect’ civilians in oil-rich countries like Iraq and Libya. The Guardian has, at last, begun responding to the climate extinction crisis with some urgency, but it has long downplayed the gravity of the crisis and the truth of corporate denialism, while simultaneously promoting high status consumerism and fossil fuel advertising.

And this is why the Guardian and other liberal media are held in such absurdly high regard: very few journalists indeed are willing to subject them to the serious criticism they deserve.

The Filter Bubble: Owen Jones And Con Coughlin

There is something dreamlike about the system of mass communication sometimes described as ‘mainstream media’. The self-described ‘rogue journalist’ and ‘guerrilla poet’ Caitlin Johnstone tweeted it well:

The Iraq invasion feels kind of like if your dad had stood up at the dinner table, cut off your sister’s head in front of everyone, gone right back to eating and never suffered any consequences, and everyone just kind of forgot about it and carried on life like it never happened.

In a dream, the common sense rules and rationality of everyday life are, of course, suspended – we float to the top of the stairs, a cat smiles, a person is beheaded at the dinner table and the vegetables are served.

In similar vein, Iraq was destroyed in a nakedly illegal oil grab, more than one million human beings were killed, and the ‘mainstream’ continued to treat the criminals responsible as respectable statespeople, and to take seriously their subsequent calls for ‘humanitarian intervention’ in oil-rich Libya. With Libya reduced to ruins, the same journalists dreamed on, treating the same criminals with the same respect as they sought yet one more regime change in Syria.

This nightmare version of ‘news’ is maintained by a corporate ‘filter bubble‘ that blocks facts, ideas and sources that challenge state-corporate control of politics, economics and culture. It is maintained by a mixture of ruthless high-level control and middle- and lower-level compromise, conformity and self-serving blindness.

It stands to reason that anyone seeking employment within this bubble will have to accept an unwritten agreement not to challenge the integrity of the bubble by which they are granted wealth and fame. Any ingrate deciding to renege is attacked, reviled and cast out; treated almost as sub-human, not entirely real. Politicians like George Galloway challenging the bubble can be beaten up in broad daylight and it is of no concern. Idealistic hippies like Russell Brand preaching love can be torn to shreds and silenced by the press pack – it doesn’t matter. Whistleblowing activists like Julian Assange can be trapped, threatened with life imprisonment and death, and it is a laughing matter. Whole countries can be destroyed – it doesn’t matter. The climate can be destroyed – it doesn’t matter. The filter bubble has its own dream logic, follows its own cosmic laws as if the real world was none of its concern.

It is fine for one corporate bubble-head to criticise another bubble-head’s take on current affairs – boisterous, jovial, intra-bubble gossip is welcome. Anything that challenges the integrity of the bubble is forbidden, hated; tolerated in tiny doses, perhaps, to keep up appearances. It is just understood.

So what happens when a high-profile political commentator breaks the rules and thrusts a pin of Truth at the filter bubble? What happens when a fellow journalist is exposed in a way that has negative implications for all newspapers, all media outlets? How will the rest of journalism respond?

Owen Jones on Con Coughlin

On October 11, Guardian columnist Owen Jones broke the usual rules in an attack on the Telegraph’s defence correspondent, Con Coughlin, who, Jones noted, had attended a party at the Saudi embassy in London:

Hi @concoughlin. You left tonight’s Saudi Embassy bash at the @NHM_London safe and well. That’s more than can be said for your fellow journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who allegedly was chopped into pieces in Turkey’s Saudi Consulate. Any pangs of conscience?’

The following day, Jones tweeted a thread exposing Coughlin that included these comments:

A thread. The Telegraph’s Defence Editor churns out Saudi propaganda after going to a Saudi party.

He is married to Katherine Bergen who worked for Meade Hall & Associates, paid lobbyists for Bahrain’s dictatorship, which was propped up by a 2011 Saudi invasion.

Katherine Bergen is a former journalist who wrote pro-Bahrain propaganda for publications ranging from The Daily Mail to Standpoint Magazine.

Con Coughlin himself has a history of churning out pro-Bahrain propaganda. In a now deleted Telegraph blog headlined “Why is Britain harbouring Bahrain’s dissidents?” (referred to in the book Oil States in the New Middle East) he fawns over Bahrain’s ruling dictator.

Con Coughlin’s output on Saudi Arabia is ludicrously Pravda-esque fawning. Scan through the articles he’s written here: it is beyond belief. Seriously, have a sickbag ready.

Here is a fawning interview Coughlin conducted with Saudi dictator Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud in March, who he describes as a “human dynamo”. He concludes: “With this young royal at the helm, Saudi Arabia’s future prospects clearly know no bounds.”

All Coughlin does is churn out Saudi propaganda and Saudi talking points. Check this out when Saudi Arabia and its allies clashed with Qatar. Is this news reporting, or a de facto press release Saudi Arabia might as well have written?

Having described Coughlin’s role in promoting Saudi propaganda, Jones turned to other areas:

A 2000 article reveals Coughlin was fed material by MI6 for years, which he then turned into Telegraph news articles. One false story fed to him by MI6 about Saif Gaddafi led to the Sunday Telegraph apologising for libel ( …)

Stories published by Con Coughlin include a front page splash: ‘TERRORIST BEHIND SEPTEMBER 11 STRIKE WAS TRAINED BY SADDAM’. It was based on a forged letter which had been fed to him.’

Con Coughlin went on NBC to tell viewers that the (forged) letter was “really concrete proof that al-Qaeda was working with Saddam”. This false claim was invaluable: it justified one of the Bush administration’s false pretexts for the invasion of Iraq.

As his “story” fell apart, Coughlin said: there’s “no way of verifying it. It’s our job as journalists to air these things and see what happens.” Errrrr.

A book by Pulizter-winning journalist Ron Suskind claims the Bush administration forged the evidence.

Jones unsubtly hinted at Coughlin’s true role:

According to Suskind, Coughlin was “a journalist whom the Bush administration thinks very highly of” and was “a favourite of neoconservatives in the U.S. government.” Suskind says Coughlin got the letter from the former CIA and MI6 agent, former Iraqi exile Ayad Allawi.

Remember the discredited 45 minute claim? Conveniently after the invasion of Iraq Coughlin went to Iraq and found a source who claimed it was “200 per cent accurate.” I’m sure that the scandal-hit British intelligence services were delighted.

In our media alert of November 4, 2004, we noted that, having worked hard to pave the propaganda way to war on Iraq, Coughlin later worked hard to justify this terrible crime. In June 2003, under the title, ‘So what if Saddam’s deadly arsenal is never found? The war was just,’ he wrote in the Telegraph:

Another day and another mass grave is unearthed in Iraq.

He added:

So many of these harrowing sites have been uncovered in the two months since Saddam’s overthrow that even the experts are starting to lose count of just how many atrocities were committed by the Iraqi dictator’s henchmen… If this were Kosovo, the Government would be under fire for not having acted sooner to prevent the genocide.

His conclusion:

Having just returned from three weeks in post-liberation Iraq, I find it almost perverse that anyone should question the wisdom of removing Saddam from power.1

Commenting on Coughlin’s ‘reliance on unnamed intelligence sources in several far-fetched articles about Iran,’ the Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran (CASMII) identified key features in reports filed by the Daily Telegraph’s then foreign editor:

Sources were unnamed or untraceable, often senior Western intelligence officials or senior Foreign Office officials.

Articles were published at sensitive and delicate times where there had been relatively positive diplomatic moves towards Iran.

Articles contained exclusive revelations about Iran combined with eye-catchingly controversial headlines.2

Jones emphasised the significance of his tweets:

Read through this thread, and bear this mind. Con Coughlin was Foreign Editor, and is now Defence Editor of one of Britain’s main broadsheet newspapers. He is treated as a respected journalist. What does this tell us about the British media?

As The Canary website noted, ‘After the revelations Con Coughlin had so little credibility left, he deleted his Twitter account.’

On October 17, Jones tweeted:

Con Coughlin has just had another load of shameless Saudi propaganda published by the @Telegraph, it is utterly remarkable

We responded:

Even more remarkable from ProQuest UK newspaper database, last 30 days:

“Your search for (Owen Jones) AND (Con Coughlin) found 0 results.”

Silence across the media “spectrum”.

In other words, no UK journalist anywhere had picked up on Jones’ damning comments on Coughlin. They had been ignored. In possibly Jones’ first ever positive response to us, he replied confidently, indicating that a Guardian article was on the way:

about to change this.

We retweeted this, taking Jones at his word. One week later, on October 24, he published an article in the Guardian titled, ‘Britain has sold its soul to the House of Saud. Shame on us’. So how much of Jones’ criticism of Coughlin had survived the attentions of the Guardian editors? The answer is contained in this single paragraph:

Con Coughlin, the Telegraph’s defence correspondent, attended the National History Museum bash [hosted by the Saudi embassy], posting the next day an article accompanied by the tweet: “Was Jamal Khashoggi a liberal or a Muslim Brotherhood lackey who reviled the west?” He has written fawning interviews with Bin Salman, describing him as a “human dynamo” under whose rule “Saudi Arabia’s future prospects clearly know no bounds”.

Attending the Saudi bash was the least of the sins exposed by Jones, and the ‘fawning interviews’ are rather less damning than Coughlin acting as a conduit for MI6 propaganda. We wrote to Jones:

Owen, we absolutely loved your thread exposing Con Coughlin. But what happened to the promised Guardian article on this? I’m asking because you told us you were writing something on Oct 17. The piece then came out a week later on Oct 24 with almost all the meat missing. Did you run into internal opposition at the Guardian?3

We received no reply. Jones, of course, is not about to reveal what happened to his article. Perhaps the Guardian editors simply published what he submitted. One thing is clear: somehow, at some point, the filter bubble worked its magic and prevented a damning expose of a senior UK journalist reaching the Guardian’s readers.

In a tweet, Jones asked of the Coughlin case: ‘What does this tell us about the British media?’ Without the filter bubble, journalists would surely be asking exactly that question of ‘defence’ and ‘diplomatic’ journalism more generally.

The problem was indicated by one of the great Freudian slips of our time, supplied by a Fox News anchor on March 24, 1999, as Nato was preparing to wage war on Yugoslavia:

Let’s bring in our Pentagon spokesman – excuse me, our Pentagon correspondent.

In 2002, Michael Evans, The Times’ defence correspondent, reported:

Saddam Hussein has ordered hundred of his officials to conceal weapons of mass destruction components in their homes to evade the prying eyes of the United Nations inspectors.

This was fake news – Iraq’s WMD had been dismantled and destroyed by December 1998. In a guest media alert, ‘Hacks And Spooks’, Professor Richard Keeble, then Professor of Journalism at the University of Lincoln, described Evans’ comments as an example of ‘disinformation… spread by dodgy intelligence sources via gullible journalists’.

On the April 12, 2005 edition of the BBC’s Newsnight programme, diplomatic editor Mark Urban discussed the significance of a lessening of Iraqi attacks on US forces since January:

It is indeed the first real evidence that President Bush’s grand design of toppling a dictator and forcing a democracy into the heart of the Middle East could work.4

The claim that Bush aimed to create a democracy in the Middle East clashed impossibly with his actual grand design of controlling Iraq’s oil.

In 2011, the Guardian’s diplomatic editor, Julian Borger, anticipated a new report on Iran by the International Atomic Energy Agency, with a piece titled ‘Iran “on threshold of nuclear weapon”‘. The accompanying photograph depicted a giant mushroom cloud from a nuclear weapons test. In fact, Iran had no nuclear weapons, nor even a nuclear weapons programme.

Why are defence editors, defence correspondents, diplomatic editors and the like so often biased in favour of the Western defence and diplomatic establishment they are covering? And why are they allowed to demonstrate this bias without anyone so much as commenting?

The filter bubble ensures that these questions can never be asked, much less answered.

  1. Con Coughlin, ‘So what if Saddam’s deadly arsenal is never found? The war was just,’ The Sunday Telegraph, June 1, 2003.
  2. Campaign Iran, ‘Press Watchdog slammed by “Dont Attack Iran” Campaigners,’ May 1, 2007.
  3. Direct message, Twitter, November 8, 2018.
  4. Urban, Newsnight, BBC2, April 12, 2005.

How to Be a Reliable “Mainstream” Journalist

There are certain rules you need to follow as a journalist if you are going to demonstrate to your editors, and the media owners who employ you, that you can be trusted.

For example, if you write about US-Iran relations, you need to ensure that your history book starts in 1979. That was the year Iranian students started a 444-day occupation of the US embassy in Tehran. This was the event that ‘led to four decades of mutual hostility’, according to BBC News. On no account should you dwell on the CIA-led coup in 1953 that overthrew the democratically-elected Iranian leader, Mohammad Mossadegh. Even better if you just omit any mention of this.

You should definitely not quote Noam Chomsky who said in 2013 that:

The crucial fact about Iran, which we should begin with, is that for the past 60 years, not a day has passed in which the U.S. has not been torturing Iranians. (Our emphasis)

As Chomsky notes, the US (with UK support) installed the Shah, a brutal dictator, described by Amnesty International as one of the worst, most extreme torturers in the world, year after year. That ordinary Iranians might harbour some kind of grievance towards Uncle Sam as a result should not be prominent in ‘responsible’ journalism. Nor should you note, as Chomsky does, that:

When he [the Shah] was overthrown in 1979, the U.S. almost immediately turned to supporting Saddam Hussein in an assault against Iran, which killed hundreds of thousands of Iranians, used extensive use of chemical weapons. Of course, at the same time, Saddam attacked his Kurdish population with horrible chemical weapons attacks. The U.S. supported all of that.’

As a ‘good’ journalist, you should refrain from referring to the US as the world’s most dangerous rogue state, or by making any Chomskyan comparison between the US and the Mafia:

We’re back to the Mafia principle. In 1979, Iranians carried out an illegitimate act: They overthrew a tyrant that the United States had imposed and supported, and moved on an independent path, not following U.S. orders. That conflicts with the Mafia doctrine, by which the world is pretty much ruled. Credibility must be maintained. The godfather cannot permit independence and successful defiances, in the case of Cuba. So, Iran has to be punished for that.

As a reliable journalist, there is also no need to dwell on the shooting down of Iran Air flight 655 over the Persian Gulf by the US warship Vincennes on July 3, 1988. All 290 people on board the plane were killed, including 66 children. President Ronald Reagan excused the mass killing as ‘a proper defensive action’. Vice-President George H.W. Bush said: ‘I will never apologize for the United States — I don’t care what the facts are. … I’m not an apologize-for America kind of guy.’

The US has never forgiven Iran for its endless ‘defiance’ in trying to shirk off Washington’s impositions. Harsh and punitive sanctions on Iran, that had been removed under the 2015 nuclear deal, have now been restored by President Donald Trump. Trump has also decided to pull out of the INF, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, with Russia. This is the landmark nuclear arms pact signed in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

But ‘balanced’ journalism need not focus on the enhanced threat of nuclear war, or the diplomatic options that the US has ignored or trampled upon. Instead, journalism is to be shaped by the narrative framework that it is the US that is behaving responsibly, and that Iran is the gravest threat to world peace. Thus, BBC News reports that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has:

warned that the US will exert “relentless” pressure on Iran unless it changes its “revolutionary course”.

BBC News adds:

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani earlier struck a defiant tone, saying the country will “continue selling oil”.

“We will proudly break the sanctions,” he told economic officials.

Good reporters know that Official Enemies resisting US imperialism must always be described as ‘defiant’. But the term is rarely, if ever, applied to the imperial power implementing oppressive measures.

BBC News dutifully reported Pompeo’s comments:

The Iranian regime has a choice: it can either do a 180-degree turn from its outlaw course of action and act like a normal country, or it can see its economy crumble.

A good reporter knows not to critically appraise, far less ridicule, the idea that the US is an exemplar of ‘a normal country’, rather than being an outlaw state that outrageously threatens to make another country’s economy ‘crumble’ for refusing to obey US orders.

Don’t Talk About The Israel Lobby

Another rule of corporate journalism is to downplay the influence of the Israel lobby in British politics; or just pretend it doesn’t exist. Moreover, you can boost your credentials by reporting from within the skewed, pro-Israel narrative that Jeremy Corbyn, a lifelong campaigner against racism, has succumbed to antisemitism. Even better if you can somehow link him to a horrific event, such as the recent murder of eleven worshippers at a Pittsburgh synagogue by a far-right white supremacist. That’s what Christina Patterson, a newspaper columnist, did on Sky News. She said:

I have to say in our own country, the Labour party has had a very heavy shadow of antisemitism hanging over it for much of this year… I know that Jeremy Corbyn and his colleagues have tried to say that it’s not a problem.

This was a blatant smear.

If you work for BBC News, it is especially important that stories have an appropriate headline and narrative framework: namely, one that promotes Israel’s perspective and also obscures the agency involved when Palestinians have been killed by Israelis. Thus, a story about three young Palestinians, aged 13 and 14, killed in an Israeli air attack should be titled:

Gaza youths “killed planting bomb”.

And definitely not:

Israel kills three Palestinian children

Otherwise, you – or more likely your superiors – are likely to receive a phone call from the Israeli embassy in London. As a senior BBC News producer once told Professor Greg Philo of the Glasgow Media Group:

We wait in fear for the telephone call from the Israelis.

This helps keep journalists in line.

It is also important not to watch, far less report, one recent film the Israel lobby doesn’t want the public to see. Titled, ‘The Lobby – USA’, it is a four-part undercover investigation by Al Jazeera into Israel’s covert influence in the United States. The film was completed in October 2017. However, it was not shown after Qatar, the gas-rich Gulf emirate that funds Al Jazeera, ‘came under intense Israel lobby pressure not to air the film.’ The Electronic Intifada website has obtained a copy of the film and has now published the episodes.

In Britain, an Al Jazeera undercover sting operation on key members of the Israel lobby last year revealed a £1 million plot by the Israeli government to undermine Corbyn. It’s best to look the other way, however, if you are an aspiring journalist in the ‘mainstream’. In particular, if you work for BBC News or the Guardian, you certainly do not wish to draw attention to a recent report by the Media Reform Coalition (MRC) about inaccuracies and distortions in media coverage of antisemitism and the Labour Party. The BBC and the Guardian were among the worst offenders.

Over one month after the damning report was published, Guardian editor Katharine Viner has still said nothing in public about it (as far as we are aware), despite being prompted by us, and many others, more than once. Perhaps unsurprisingly, not a single person at the Guardian has so much as mentioned it; including those columnists, notably Owen Jones and George Monbiot, the public is encouraged to regard as fearless radicals. Justin Schlosberg, the lead author of the report, has now published an open letter to the Guardian readers’ editor on behalf of the MRC. He wrote:

Both before and since publishing our research, which raised serious concerns about the Guardian‘s coverage of antisemitism within the Labour Party, we have made strident efforts to engage in constructive dialogue with both editorial and public affairs staff. Unfortunately, these efforts do not appear to have born any fruit to date. There has also been no reporting or commenting on our research, despite the significant public debate and controversy that it sparked. We nevertheless continue to hope and expect that a reflexive and considered response to the evidence will be forthcoming.

Respected media academics – including Robert McChesney, Greg Philo, James Curran, David Miller and many others – are clear that the MRC report on coverage of antisemitism and Labour is serious and requires addressing:

It is imperative that news institutions — especially the BBC and those newspapers who pride themselves on fair and accurate reporting — answer to these findings. It is not enough to simply dismiss the research on the basis of presumed bias without engaging constructively with the research, including the notably cautious approach adopted by the researchers.

The statement continued:

Silence or blanket dismissal will only speak volumes about the widely sensed malaise in our free press and public service media. A functioning democracy depends on a functioning fourth estate.

The academics’ statement went unheeded by the ‘mainstream’ media; thus highlighting the dearth of a functioning fourth estate, and the grievous lack of a functioning democracy.

Attack Julian Assange

As a ‘mainstream’ journalist, you also need to ensure that you treat WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange with the requisite amount of contempt and ridicule. Thus, ‘impartial’ BBC News featured a story on its website titled, ‘Julian Assange given feline ultimatum by Ecuador’. Assange, the BBC said, had:

been given a set of house rules at the Ecuadorean embassy in London that include cleaning his bathroom and taking better care of his cat.

The original version of the article even included a fake quote, ‘Save water, don’t shower’, from a parody Julian Assange Twitter account; possibly a symptom of an over-eager BBC reporter trying to make Assange look as ridiculous as possible.

In similar vein, The Times ran a piece titled, ‘Clean up after your cat or else, Ecuadorian embassy tells Julian Assange’, followed later by another article with the flippant headline, ‘Ecuadorian Embassy tires of Julian Assange’s kickabouts and skateboarding’. The Express went with ‘Feline fine? Assange’s cat needs Embassy assistance’ (October 17, 2018; article not found online). The Guardian, which benefited from an earlier collaboration with WikiLeaks and Assange, published a flippant piece titled, ‘How to get rid of an unwanted housemate’ which chuckled:

The Ecuadorians are fed up with their longtime lodger, Julian Assange. But many of us have had a nightmare flatmate. Here’s how to get them to leave.

By contrast, Italian journalist Stefania Maurizi, doing actual journalism, wrote:

While the media focused on Julian Assange’s cat rather than his continuing arbitrary detention, evidence shows that Britain worked hard to force his extradition to Sweden where Assange feared he could then be turned over to the U.S.

Maurizi pointed out that Sweden dropped its investigation in May 2017, after Swedish prosecutors had questioned Assange in London, as he had always asked. She added:

Although the Swedish probe was ultimately terminated, Assange remains confined. No matter that the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention established that the WikiLeaks founder has been arbitrarily detained since 2010, and that he should be freed and compensated. The UK, which encourages other states to respect international law, doesn’t care about the decision by this UN body whose opinions are respected by the European Court of Human Rights. After trying to appeal the UN decision and losing the appeal, Britain is simply ignoring it. There is no end in sight to Assange’s arbitrary detention.

Real journalists would be hugely concerned by the implications of someone publishing details of war crimes and corruption being targeted by a state and threatened with extradition and long-term imprisonment. But, as the Canadian writer Joe Emersberger says, the ‘Assange case shows support for free speech depends on who’s talking’.

Independent journalist Caitlin Johnstone notes that what ’empire loyalists’ in corporate media ‘are really saying when they bash Julian Assange’ is that they can be trusted to protect establishment interests. Of course, it is all the easier to attack Assange knowing that he has essentially been silenced in the Ecuadorean embassy. He is also at serious risk of deteriorating health if he is unable to leave the embassy soon without the risk of being extradited to the US.

At the time of writing, he still apparently has no access to the internet. His mother, Christine Assange, has just issued an urgent and impassioned plea to raise awareness of his plight:

This is not a drill. This is an emergency. The life of my son…is in immediate and critical danger.

She adds that:

A new, impossible, inhumane set of rules and protocols was implemented at the embassy to torture him to such a point that he will break and be forced to leave.

She warns that if her son leaves the embassy, he will be extradited to the US, given a ‘show trial’, face detention ‘in Guantanamo Bay, 45 years in a maximum-security prison, or even the death penalty.’

Meanwhile, as Johnstone adds, the message sent out by would-be careerists smearing and laughing at Assange is:

Hey! Look at me! You can count on me to advance whatever narratives get passed down from on high! I’ll cheer on all the wars! I’ll play up the misdeeds of our great nation’s rivals and ignore the misdeeds of our allies! […] I will be a reliable mouthpiece of the ruling class regardless of who is elected in our fake elections to our fake official government. […] I understand what you want me to do without your explicitly telling me to do it. […] Look, I’m even joining in the dog pile against a political prisoner who can’t defend himself.

Soft-Pedal Fascism

Another rule to abide by as a corporate journalist is to worship the global economy, excusing or even acclaiming the rise of extreme right-wing politicians because that leads to possible gains for big business. As Alan MacLeod, of the Glasgow University Media Group, observed in a recent piece for Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting, the financial press cheered the election of a fascist president in Brazil:

Jair Bolsonaro was an army officer during Brazil’s fascist military dictatorship (1964–85), which he defends, maintaining that its only error was not killing enough people.

He is set to apply ‘shock therapy’ to Brazil, initiating ‘a fire sale of state assets and an opening up of the country’s vast natural resources for foreign exploitation’, including the Amazon. Moreover, he has threatened to unleash a wave of violence on the working class, minorities and the left.

Bolsonaro stood against the centre-left Workers’ Party candidate Fernando Haddad. International markets, and therefore the financial press, clearly wanted Bolsonaro to win, observes MacLeod. Socialism is never popular with business and financial elites, after all.

MacLeod notes that Bolsonaro was elected with just 55.5 per cent of the vote after former leftist President Lula da Silva, by far the most popular candidate, had been jailed and barred from running on highly questionable charges. After being elected, Bolsonaro brazenly appointed the prosecutor who jailed Lula as Justice Minister in the new Brazilian government.

The Financial Times reported that the markets were ‘cheering’ Bolsonaro’s lead in the presidential race. The FT also noted surging stocks in weapons companies and a boost to the general economic as Bolsonaro’s performance ‘heartened investors.’

MacLeod concluded:

When it comes to opportunities for profits, all else is forgotten. After all, fascism is big business.

Of course, a ‘real’ journalist would never say something like that.

An opinion piece on the business-oriented Bloomberg website proclaimed:

Brazil’s Bolsonaro Completes a U.S. Sweep of South America.

Adding:

Other than Venezuela — and only for as long as Maduro holds on — the continent is now U.S.-friendly.

The piece was written by James Stavridis, a retired U.S. Navy admiral and former military commander of NATO.

As journalist Ben Norton summed up via Twitter:

I repeat for the umpteenth time: capitalism and imperialism infinitely prefer fascism over socialism. Capitalist imperialism wholeheartedly embraces fascists, while murdering socialists. This ex-commander of U.S. Southern Command is bragging about this.

‘Responsible’ journalism means providing a regular, amplified outlet for imperial-friendly ‘analysis’. As Jonathan Cook pointed out recently, Bolsonaro is ‘a monster engineered by our media’. In other words, in much the same way that the corporate media facilitated the rise of Donald Trump to become US president.

Bury UK Responsibility for Yemen’s Nightmare

There are always exceptions to the rules. Patrick Cockburn, a long-time foreign correspondent with The Independent, is an example of a journalist who questions established ‘truths’. For almost two years, the corporate media have cited a UN figure of 10,000 Yemenis who have been killed in the US-and UK-backed Saudi war. Recently, Cockburn pointed out that this figure grossly downplays the real, catastrophic death toll which is likely in the range 70,000-80,000.

Cockburn interviewed Andrea Carboni, a researcher with the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED). This is an independent group formerly associated with the University of Sussex. Carboni is focusing attention on the real casualty level in Yemen. He estimates the number killed between January 2016 and October 2018 to be 56,000 civilians and combatants. When he completes his research, Carboni told Cockburn that he expects to find a total of between 70,000 and 80,000 victims who have died since the start of the Saudi-led assault in the Yemen civil war in March 2015.

Cockburn adds:

The number is increasing by more than 2,000 per month as fighting intensifies around the Red Sea port of Hodeidah. It does not include those dying of malnutrition, or diseases such as cholera.

In fact, figures from UNICEF and Save the Children show that between January 2016 and November 2017, at least 113,000 Yemeni children died from preventable causes; mostly disease and malnutrition.

In an interview with Ben Norton on The Real News Network, Cockburn points out that, despite the horrendous scale of this suffering, it is being given minimal news coverage:

It’s horrific. And you know, it’s not- a point, actually, that the UN was making recently, I don’t think got picked up very much, was, you know, that famines are pretty uncommon. You know, there was a famine in Somalia some years ago. There was another smaller one in South Sudan. But a famine like this, as big as this, this is very uncommon. I mean, it’s entirely manmade. And one could say it’s been taking place in view of the whole world. But actually it isn’t, because the news of it isn’t being reported.

Cockburn also highlights a study by Professor Martha Mundy, titled ‘Strategies of the Coalition in the Yemen War: Aerial Bombardment and Food War’, concluding that the Saudi-led bombing campaign, which is supported by the US and the UK, deliberately targeted food production and storage facilities. (See also our media alert, ‘Yemen Vote – The Responsibility To Protect Profits’).

As a well-established veteran reporter of impressive credentials, Cockburn can report such uncomfortable truths without suffering career oblivion. But woe betide any young journalist trying to make their way in the ‘mainstream’ who tries to do likewise. Instead, they should follow the example of Patrick Wintour, the Guardian‘s diplomatic editor, who performs contortions to provide a fictitious ‘balance’ in a recent piece on Yemen. Wintour refers to mere ‘claims’ that the UK ‘is siding too much with the Saudis’. The Orwellian language continues with the description of Saudi Arabia as a ‘defence partner’ of Britain.

The sub-heading under the main title of Wintour’s article gives prominence to the perspective of the UK Defence Secretary:

Jeremy Hunt says cessation of hostilities could “alleviate suffering” of Yemeni people.

As the historian and foreign policy analyst Mark Curtis observed via Twitter:

This sub-heading is a microcosm of what a joke the Guardian is. After over 3 yrs of UK govt’s total backing of mass murder in Yemen, the paper has the temerity to equate UK policy with easing humanitarian suffering. The state could not ask for more.

Aspiring journalists should take note of the state-corporate requirement to bury the bloody reality of ‘defence’ and the huge profits that must be protected.

Curtis also recently highlighted an admission by the Ministry of Defence that has seemingly gone under the radar of the corporate media:

Oh, so Saudi pilots *are* being trained at RAF Valley in Wales (Anglesey).

It would also not do for those hoping for a career in journalism to examine the daily contortions and sleight-of-hand pronouncements emanating daily from government departments. Thank goodness, then, for Curtis who regularly highlights the distasteful deceits that are churned out by the UK state.

We tweeted BBC News about the buried truth that the UK is training Saudi pilots, even as Saudi Arabia commits war crimes in Yemen:

Hello @BBCNews. Perhaps you could devote a decent amount of coverage to this? Or would you rather keep the public in the dark about the extent of UK government complicity in #Yemen’s nightmare?

As ever, the BBC did not respond.

In short, being a reliable ‘mainstream’ journalist entails a number of basic rules including: propagating the myth that ‘we’ are the good guys; conforming to the requirements of wealth and power; keeping one’s head down and never challenging authority in any deep or sustained way; and refraining from any public discussion about these rules.

Caught In The Cross Hairs: Media Lens And The Mystery Of The Wikipedia Editor

In June, the BBC reported that someone operating under the name ‘Philip Cross’ had been extraordinarily active in editing Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit:

“Philip Cross” has made hundreds of thousands of edits to Wikipedia pages. But in the process he’s angered anti-war activists and critics of British and Western foreign policy, who claim he’s been biased against them.

Political analyst and former UK British ambassador Craig Murray described the scale of Cross’s activities:

“Philip Cross” has not had one single day off from editing Wikipedia in almost five years. “He” has edited every single day from 29 August 2013 to 14 May 2018. Including five Christmas Days. That’s 1,721 consecutive days of editing.

133,612 edits to Wikipedia have been made in the name of “Philip Cross” over 14 years. That’s over 30 edits per day, seven days a week. And I do not use that figuratively: Wikipedia edits are timed, and if you plot them, the timecard for “Philip Cross’s” Wikipedia activity is astonishing if it is one individual.

So who is Philip Cross? The BBC commented:

BBC Trending has been able to establish that he lives in England, and that Philip Cross is not the name he normally goes by outside of Wikipedia.

The excellent Five Filters website looked deeply into these issues and noted of the person writing as Cross:

After George Galloway, Media Lens is his second most edited article on the site. Cross is responsible for almost 80% of all content on the Media Lens entry.

This is deeply flattering for a two-man organisation run on donations facing some pretty heavyweight competition:

Cross calls his Wikipedia targets “goons”. The list includes anti-war politician George Galloway, former MP Matthew Gordon-Banks, historian, human rights activist and former UK ambassador Craig Murray, investigative journalist Dr Nafeez Ahmed, Edinburgh University professor Tim Hayward, Sheffield University professor Piers Robinson, and media analysis group Media Lens.

The Canary website reported of Media Lens:

Its Wikipedia page has had 851 edits by Cross (57.27% of page total) and is the editor’s second most active page.

The Canary has itself fallen under Cross’s cross hairs. The website’s Wikipedia page was created on 2 June 2016 at 11:41pm. Cross made his first edit at 8:55am the next morning.

Is Cross offering a neutral, impartial view of our work? In May 2018, he tweeted:

@medialens is two blokes called David who the mainstream usually ignore with good reason, but are of interest because they are so catastrophically wrongheaded. (Tweet, May 7, 2018; since deleted)

In the Sunday Herald, Ron McKay noted that Cross’s targets tend to have two characteristics in common:

You don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to see that there are common threads here. All of those [targeted] are… prominent campaigners on social media and in the mainstream media vigorously questioning our foreign policy. All have also clashed with Oliver Kamm, a former hedge-fund manager and now Times leader writer and columnist. All have been edited on Wikipedia by Andrew Philip Cross whom the complainants believe, without conclusive evidence, to be Kamm after dark. He denies it.

Professor Tim Hayward of Edinburgh University asked:

Does Oliver Kamm have Wikipedia editor Philip Cross doing his bidding in amplifying smears and vendettas? Evidence coming to light suggests serious questions concerning possible misuse of media influence and unethical conduct.’

Cross did not appreciate this and other interventions from Professor Hayward. Two weeks earlier, Cross had sent him this disturbing comment:

You may be having an uncomfortable conversation with one of your Associate Deans/Deans in the near future & his wife. Pity you blocked me before you had a close look at my followers. (Tweet, May 12, 2018; since deleted)

As part of its investigation, the BBC interviewed a highly experienced Wikipedia administrator known as Orange Mike, who specialises in dealing with conflicts of interest, asking him:

One of the people whose pages he [Cross] has been editing, and has edited over 1800 times, is George Galloway, and he says he knows that Philip Cross is being paid to do this. Do you think that’s likely?

Orange Mike replied:

I would not even be remotely surprised. The people who hate Galloway the most are often powerful and often rich. And the idea that they could find someone to use as their tool would not surprise me in the least. But I have no evidence to prove it and therefore would reserve judgement.

That is also our position. A tweeter, Malone (now called Read JFK), commented to us on the coincidence that Cross has often edited our Wikipedia page on the same day that Kamm has mentioned us on Twitter:

kamm’s tweets crossreferenced with cross’s medialens wiki edits. 82 edits on the exact same days kamm tweeted about you! at least 243 including surrounding days (243 is a severe underestimate).

We are not alone. Tweeter RLM noted the people Kamm has tweeted about on the same day Cross has edited their page:

Chris Hedges, Max Mosley, Mark Wadsworth, Peter Oborne, LabourLeave, David Ward, Ken Loach, Nick Timothy, Alex Salmond, Nafeez Ahmed, Owen Jones, Diane Abbott, Tim Hayward, Piers Robinson, Craig Murray, Alex Nunns, Glenn Greenwald, Media Lens, “Douma Chemical Attack”, Robert Fisk (edited a day before, not the same day), George Galloway, Jeremy Corbyn, Media Lens, Seumas Milne, Edward S. Herman, Paul Flynn, Afshin Rattansi, Mo Ansar, John Pilger, Andrew Murray, Jim Fetzer (tweeted the day before, not the same day).

Former UK ambassador Craig Murray described what happened to his Wikipedia entry after he strongly criticised Kamm:

The very next day, 8 February, my Wikipedia page came under obsessive attack from somebody called Philip Cross who made an astonishing 107 changes over the course of the next three days. Many were very minor, but the overall effect was undoubtedly derogatory. He even removed my photo on the extraordinary grounds that it was “not typical” of me.

We noted on Twitter:

The word “Kamm” appears in the @Wikipedia entry for Media Lens twelve times. “Media Lens” appears in Oliver Kamm’s entry… zero times.

The thoroughness of Cross’s campaign against us has been impressive. In 2005, then BBC Newsnight editor Peter Barron wrote of how Media Lens had ‘prolifically let us know what they think of our coverage, mainly on Iraq, George Bush and the Middle East, from a Chomskyist perspective’. He added graciously:

In fact I rather like them. David Cromwell and David Edwards, who run the site, are unfailingly polite, their points are well-argued and sometimes they’re plain right.

These were remarkable and important comments. A senior editor who had himself come under intense criticism from us and hundreds of our readers was nevertheless able to recognise that our points were reasonable and well-intentioned, that we were not nasty people pursuing some dark agenda. Quite reasonably, someone added Barron’s comments to our Wikipedia page. The addition was noticed by Cross, who replaced the quotation with this:

Peter Barron, the former editor of the BBC’s ”Newsnight” commented in November 2005 that although Cromwell and Edwards “are unfailingly polite”, he had received “hundreds of e-mails from sometimes less-than-polite hommes engages – they’re almost always men – most of whom don’t appear to have watched the programme” as a result of complaints instigated by Media Lens.

Notice that in editing the Newsnight editor’s quote, Cross had to carefully read through Barron’s original article to find less positive comments to patch in. This was meticulous work to remove a positive opinion about us, not a rush job.

The Five Filters website tweeted on a similar intervention:

This made me laugh. Cross, who is obsessed with Media Lens, removes David Edwards’ (Media Lens co-editor) book from Chomsky’s Wikipedia bibliography section because “obscure book by obscure writer” https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?diff=721546372 … Unbelievable! @medialens’

Tweeter Leftworks commented on edits made to the Wikipedia page for the Iraq Body Count (IBC) website:

Guess who’s been looking after the IBC page on Wikipedia and removing all references to @MediaLens? The one and only Philip Cross!

As some of our readers will know, we did a lot of work explaining how media favourite, Iraq Body Count, was recording perhaps ten per cent of the Iraqi death toll. Philip Cross has seen to it that our work on this issue has been completely erased from Wikipedia history.

‘Absolutely No Evidence’

Apart from Cross, in the 17 years we have been working on Media Lens, only one other person has subjected us to a relentlessly negative campaign that is in any way comparable. Almost ten years ago, we documented how Oliver Kamm had been pursuing us relentlessly across the internet – writing blogs about us, posting grisly comments about our genocide ‘denial’ under online interviews with us, and often warning journalists who mentioned our work – or who, god forbid, praised our work – or who interacted with us in any way, that we were blood-drenched ‘genocide deniers’ and/or seedy ‘misogynists’.

In 2013, Mehdi Hasan, formerly senior political editor at the New Statesman, now a columnist with The Intercept, commented to Kamm on Twitter:

I cant help but be amused at the way you swoop down in at any mention of MediaLens. Got ’em on an alert?

Despite continuing to seek out and attack us online, Kamm has shown admirable restraint in not extending his campaign to Wikipedia. We are not aware that he has added a single edit to either of our individual pages, nor to our Media Lens page. It seems that, for Kamm, when it comes to Wikipedia, it is always the Christmas truce.

And by the way, we have never edited Kamm’s page on Wikipedia. In fact, we have never made any political edits on Wikipedia at all.

Daniel Finkelstein, Baron Finkelstein of Pinner, Kamm’s colleague and friend at The Times, sent a flurry of tweets strongly rejecting the idea that anyone was using Cross to target political enemies:

But literally so far there is absolutely no evidence. My ears are wide open. My fingers aren’t in my ears. I am ready, waiting, willing to see or hear this evidence. But there isn’t any. Just a bloke called Philip Cross making some edits.

When Five Filters responded by sending serious evidence relating to Cross’s edits, Lord Finkelstein replied:

I appreciate your interest but really I just haven’t got time for studying some blokes Wikipedia edits.

Blanket Silence: Corporate Media Ignore New Report Exposing Distorted And Misleading Coverage of Corbyn

If there’s one thing we’ve learned in the 17 years since Media Lens began, it’s that media professionals generally hate being challenged, critiqued or criticised. This fierce antipathetical belligerence underlies the corporate media’s total refusal to mention, far less discuss, a recent damning report on how the corporate media have been misreporting Labour and its supposed ‘problem’ with antisemitism.

The report was published last week by the Media Reform Coalition (MRC), set up in 2011 in the wake of the News International phone hacking scandal, to promote debate about the media and democracy. The MRC coordinates effective action by civil society groups, academics and media campaigners, and is currently chaired by Natalie Fenton, Professor of Communication and Media at Goldsmiths, University of London.

The urgent need for such a media initiative is highlighted by the disturbing reality that Britain has one of the most concentrated media environments in the world, with just three companies in control of 71% of national newspaper circulation and five companies running 81% of local newspaper titles.

In the careful MRC study, articles and news segments on Labour and antisemitism from the largest UK news providers, both online and television, were subjected to in-depth analysis. The research was undertaken by Dr Justin Schlosberg, Senior Lecturer in Journalism and Media at Birkbeck, University of London, together with Laura Laker, an experienced freelance journalist.

In their study, Schlosberg and Laker identified:

myriad inaccuracies and distortions in online and television news including marked skews in sourcing, omission of essential context or right of reply, misquotation, and false assertions made either by journalists themselves or sources whose contentious claims were neither challenged nor countered. Overall, our findings were consistent with a disinformation paradigm.

In other words, the corporate media have been pumping out reams of ‘fake news’ promoting a narrative that Corbyn and Labour are mired in an ‘antisemitism crisis’.

Out of over 250 articles and news pieces examined by Schlosberg and Laker, fully 95 examples were found of misleading or inaccurate reporting. In particular, there were (our emphasis):

• 29 examples of false statements or claims, several of them made by news presenters or correspondents themselves, six of them on BBC television news programmes, and eight on the Guardian website.

• A further 66 clear instances of misleading or distorted coverage including misquotations, reliance on single -source accounts, omission of essential facts or right of reply, and repeated value-based assumptions made by broadcasters without evidence or qualification. In total, a quarter of the sample contained at least one documented inaccuracy or distortion.

Overwhelming source imbalance, especially on television news where voices critical of Labour’s code of conduct on antisemitism were regularly given an unchallenged and exclusive platform, outnumbering those defending Labour by nearly 4 to 1. Nearly half of Guardian reports on the controversy surrounding Labour’s code of conduct featured no quoted sources defending the party or leadership.

This is, to say the least, totally unacceptable from any supposedly responsible news outlet. It is even more galling when it comes from the Guardian and BBC News, both with large global audiences, who constantly proclaim their credentials for ‘honest and balanced reporting’.

Much recent corporate media coverage has focused on the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of ‘antisemitism’. Corporate media across the spectrum have argued that in refusing to accept the IHRA definition in total, with all of its accompanying examples, Corbyn has promoted antisemitism, alienated Britain’s Jewish community and divided his own party.

Philip Collins wrote in The Times of Corbyn (our emphasis):

He has, for some reason he cannot articulate, insisted that the Labour Party should be just about the only institution that does not accept the definition of antisemitism approved by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

In July, a Times editorial stated of Labour’s National Executive Committee (our emphasis):

Instead of adopting a standard definition of antisemitism formulated by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, and endorsed by governments around the world, the NEC has amended it in unacceptable ways… Let there be no doubt: these are unconscionable and antisemitic accusations.

In September, another Times leader opined (our emphasis):

Labour’s national executive committee will vote today on whether to adopt the internationally recognised definition of antisemitism. It is essential that it does. Governments and organisations worldwide have adopted the carefully worded text developed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. Jeremy Corbyn’s hamfisted attempt to rewrite it, without consultation and with the apparent aim of protecting certain activists, shames his party.

The Times added:

British Jews are well placed to define what constitutes racism towards them, just as any minority deserves the last word in the debate as it applies to them. Gordon Brown has called for Labour to “unanimously, unequivocally and immediately” adopt all the examples. Anything less would mark a dark day indeed for the party.

Noting that three leading British Jewish newspapers had declared that a Corbyn-led government would pose ‘an existential threat to Jewish life in this country’, senior Guardian columnist and former comment editor Jonathan Freedland asked:

How on earth has it come to this?

Part, but not all, of the problem, Freedland suggested, was (our emphasis):

Labour’s failure to adopt the full text of the near universally accepted International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, including all its illustrative examples.

He added:

When Jews hear that the IHRA is not good enough, they wonder: what exactly is it that Labour wants to say about us?

And yet, as the MRC report [pdf] makes clear, although the IHRA is an international body with representatives from 31 countries, only six of those countries have, to date, formally adopted the definition themselves. Several high-profile bodies have rejected or distanced themselves from the working definition, including the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency – a successor to the body that drafted the original wording on which the definition is based – and academic institutions including the London School of Economics and School of Oriental and African Studies. Moreover, academic and legal opinion has been overwhelmingly critical of the IHRA definition, including formal opinions produced by four leading UK barristers.

But, note Schlosberg and Laker:

Virtually none of this essential context found its way into news reports of the controversy. Instead, the Labour Party was routinely portrayed by both sources and correspondents as beyond the pale of conventional thinking on the IHRA definition.

Nearly 50% of Guardian reports failed to include any quotes from those critiquing the IHRA definition or defending Labour’s code of conduct on antisemitism. In fact, media reporting (our emphasis):

effectively gave those attacking Labour’s revised code and championing the IHRA definition a virtually exclusive and unchallenged platform to air their views. By comparison, their detractors – including a number of Jewish organisations and representatives of other affected minorities – were systematically marginalized from the coverage. Furthermore, Labour MPs adopting even moderate positions defending the code were subjected to far more aggressive questioning from interviewers than those adopting extreme positions attacking it.

In a calm, methodical and rigorous manner, the MRC has exposed to public view the blatant anti-Corbyn bias of even the ‘best’ media outlets: the BBC and the Guardian.

Response to the Media Reform Coalition Report

Our searches using the ProQuest newspaper database reveal that there has not been a single news article or editorial published about the report. This is a remarkable symptom of the glaring tendency of the media to reject, or simply blank, reasoned, well-researched criticism.

When The Canary website published an article about the MRC report, they approached both the Guardian and the BBC for comment. The Guardian‘s response was boilerplate rhetoric – ‘The Guardian has featured a wide range of voices in this debate’, etc – that failed to acknowledge the paper’s unambiguous distortions and omissions. The BBC did not even provide a comment.

The sole newspaper mention to date is a letter in the Guardian which may only have been published because Noam Chomsky is one of the signatories, along with high-profile figures such as Brian Eno, Yanis Varoufakis, Ken Loach and a number of media academics. They make a crucial point that relates to criticism of the Guardian itself (mentioned earlier):

‘In relation to the IHRA definition of antisemitism that was at the heart of the dispute, the research found evidence of “overwhelming source imbalance” in which critics of Labour’s code of conduct dominated coverage, with nearly 50% of Guardian reports, for example, failing to include any quotes from those defending the code or critiquing the IHRA definition.’

The letter also notes the MRC researchers’ conclusion that media distortions and inaccuracies:

were not occasional lapses in judgment but “systematic reporting failures” that served to weaken the Labour leadership and to bolster its opponents within and outside of the party.

Chomsky and his co-signatories add:

In covering the allegations that Labour is now “institutionally antisemitic”, there have been inaccuracies, clear distortions and revealing omissions across our most popular media platforms. We believe that significant parts of the UK media have failed their audiences by producing flawed reports that have contributed to an undeserved witch-hunt against the Labour leader and misdirected public attention away from antisemitism elsewhere, including on the far right, which is ascendant in much of Europe.

Given the Guardian‘s appalling record of boosting fake news of a Labour ‘antisemitism crisis’, and given its vehement opposition to Corbyn’s brand of moderate socialism, it is no wonder that #DumpTheGuardian and #BoycottTheGuardian were trending in the UK last Friday as part of a dedicated Twitter campaign.

Pro-Corbyn Labour MP Chris Williamson tweeted his support in response to the MRC report:

My reference to McCarthyism vindicated by this report. The Guardian newspaper’s deplorable contribution explains why so many people are saying #BoycottTheGuardian

Last Wednesday, Jeremy Corbyn gave a speech to the Labour Party conference in which he dared to criticise the British corporate media who have been gunning for him ever since he became the party’s leader:

It turns out that the billionaires who own the bulk of the British press don’t like us one little bit.

Now it could be because we’re going to clamp down on tax dodging. Or it may be because we don’t fawn over them at white tie dinners and cocktail parties.

He added:

We must, and we will, protect the freedom of the press to challenge unaccountable power.

Journalists from Turkey to Myanmar and Colombia are being imprisoned, harassed or sometimes killed by authoritarian governments and powerful corporate interests just for doing their job.

But here, a free press has far too often meant the freedom to spread lies and half-truths, and to smear the powerless, not take on the powerful.

You challenge their propaganda of privilege by using the mass media of the 21st century: social media.

Pippa Crerar, Guardian deputy political editor, responded with the standard kneejerk conflation of Corbyn’s reasoned comments with the idiotic ‘fake news’ mantra of Trump. She tweeted:

Corbyn criticises some parts of British media, claiming they “smear the powerless, not take on the powerful”. As a journalist, makes me very uncomfortable to hear him leading attack on our free press. Dangerous, Trumpian territory.

We responded:

Honest, rational criticism is not an “attack”, and it is not “dangerous”. A corporate press that refuses to listen or respond to this kind of reasonable criticism is itself dangerous. If anyone has a right to criticise media smears, it is @jeremycorbyn.

The level of popular support for this view is indicated by the fact that our tweet has so far received 518 retweets and 1,222 likes; a massive response by our standards.

To her credit, Crerar did engage with us reasonably, unlike the vast majority of her media colleagues over many years:

Totally agree media has to reflect/listen. Not for a minute saying we’re perfect (some elements extremely *imperfect*). But orgs also do invaluable work eg Windrush, grooming scandal, MPs expenses so just not true to say we don’t hold power to account.

We answered:

Thanks for replying, Pippa, very much appreciated. Glad you agree “media has to reflect/listen”. Doesn’t that mean taking Corbyn’s thoughtful, reasoned criticism seriously, rather than lumping it in with Trump’s awful tub-thumping? Corbyn and Milne really aren’t “dangerous”.

Her follow-up:

I’ve sat back today & watched pile-on. I’d always rather engage but not when abusive. Like I said, media far from perfect, but I fear JC’s comments ignored excellent journalism that does exist & undermined journalists who produce it. Of course, nowhere near as extreme as Trump.

And our reply:

Our response generated nearly 800 [now 1,700] likes and retweets – that gives an idea of the strength of feeling. Like other media, the Guardian‘s smearing of Corbyn has gone way too far. It’s time to start listening to your readers @KathViner.

To date, there has been no further exchange; and certainly not a peep out of Guardian editor, Katharine Viner; which is typical for this extraordinarily unresponsive media professional.

Justin Schlosberg, lead author of the MRC report, told The Canary:

Neither the Guardian nor the BBC have acknowledged or even directly responded to the myriad reporting failures highlighted in our research. It is completely inadequate to offer blanket dismissals or simply kick into the long grass of their respective complaints procedures.

Schlosberg pointed out:

The failure to answer to these allegations is even more serious than the reporting failures themselves.

Conclusion

As a further, related example of bias, consider the corporate media’s stunning indifference to the bomb threat that interrupted the screening of a new film, The Political Lynching of Jackie Walker, in Liverpool on September 25. Walker is a former Momentum Vice-Chair who was suspended from the Labour party as part of a propaganda blitz attempting to silence critics of Israel. The screening was organised by Jewish Voice for Labour which has been supportive of Jeremy Corbyn.

If the corporate media were genuinely motivated by concerns about alleged rising antisemitism, this shocking threat would have generated headline coverage. Instead it was met by a blanket of silence. A brief online Guardian piece was, to say the least, ambiguous in its narrative. Ex-Guardian journalist Jonathan Cook noted:

Another “fake news” master-class from the Guardian. A bomb hoax to stop Corbyn-supporting, Jewish Labour members screening a film about how Labour’s “anti-semitism crisis” has been manufactured is framed as *more* evidence of Jew hatred in the party!

According to our ProQuest database search, the only mentions in the print press have been in the Liverpool Echo and The Times of Israel. Where are all the editorials and major comment pieces in the Guardian, The Times and elsewhere?

As for the Media Reform Coalition report itself, it is no surprise that the BBC, the Guardian and the rest of the corporate media should brush away detailed reasoned criticism of their biased reporting, or pretend such clear evidence does not exist. These media outlets sell themselves as publicly accountable; or, at least, as defenders of the public interest; a valiant fourth estate standing up for the truth and honest, neutral news coverage. And yet, when the alternative media makes a mistake, or says ‘the wrong thing’, there are angry howls and screaming mockery from the corporate commentariat. The hypocrisy is staggering, and, again, entirely predictable.

• Authors’ Note:  Propaganda Blitz, the new Media Lens book, has just been published by Pluto Press

Guest Media Alert by John Pilger: “Hold the Front Page. The Reporters are Missing”

Note From Media Lens

This is a slightly amended version of the foreword to the new Media Lens book, Propaganda Blitz – How The Corporate Media Distort Reality, published today by Pluto Press. Warm thanks to John Pilger for contributing this superb piece to our book.

*****

The death of Robert Parry earlier this year felt like a farewell to the age of the reporter. Parry was “a trailblazer for independent journalism”, wrote Seymour Hersh, with whom he shared much in common.

Hersh revealed the My Lai massacre in Vietnam and the secret bombing of Cambodia, Parry exposed Iran-Contra, a drugs and gun-running conspiracy that led to the White House. In 2016, they separately produced compelling evidence that the Assad government in Syria had not used chemical weapons. They were not forgiven.

Driven from the “mainstream”, Hersh must publish his work outside the United States. Parry set up his own independent news website Consortium News, where, in a final piece following a stroke, he referred to journalism’s veneration of “approved opinions” while “unapproved evidence is brushed aside or disparaged regardless of its quality.”

Although journalism was always a loose extension of establishment power, something has changed in recent years. Dissent tolerated when I joined a national newspaper in Britain in the 1960s has regressed to a metaphoric underground as liberal capitalism moves towards a form of corporate dictatorship. This is a seismic shift, with journalists policing the new “groupthink”, as Parry called it, dispensing its myths and distractions, pursuing its enemies.

Witness the witch-hunts against refugees and immigrants, the willful abandonment by the “MeToo” zealots of our oldest freedom, presumption of innocence, the anti-Russia racism and anti-Brexit hysteria, the growing anti-China campaign and the suppression of a warning of world war.

With many if not most independent journalists barred or ejected from the “mainstream”, a corner of the Internet has become a vital source of disclosure and evidence-based analysis: true journalism. Sites such as wikileaks.org, consortiumnews.com, wsws.org, truthdig.com, globalresearch.org, counterpunch.org and informationclearinghouse.com are required reading for those trying to make sense of a world in which science and technology advance wondrously while political and economic life in the fearful “democracies” regress behind a media facade of narcissistic spectacle.

In Britain, just one website offers consistently independent media criticism. This is the remarkable Media Lens — remarkable partly because its founders and editors as well as its only writers, David Edwards and David Cromwell, since 2001 have concentrated their gaze not on the usual suspects, the Tory press, but the paragons of reputable liberal journalism: the BBC, the Guardian, Channel 4 News.

Their method is simple. Meticulous in their research, they are respectful and polite when they ask a journalist why he or she produced such a one-sided report, or failed to disclose essential facts or promoted discredited myths.

The replies they receive are often defensive, at times abusive; some are hysterical, as if they have pushed back a screen on a protected species.

I would say Media Lens has shattered a silence about corporate journalism. Like Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman in Manufacturing Consent, they represent a Fifth Estate that deconstructs and demystifies the media’s power.

What is especially interesting about them is that neither is a journalist. David Edwards was a teacher, David Cromwell is a former scientist. Yet, their understanding of the morality of journalism — a term rarely used; let’s call it true objectivity — is a bracing quality of their online Media Lens dispatches.

I think their work is heroic and I would place a copy of their just published book, Propaganda Blitz, in every journalism school that services the corporate system, as they all do.

Take the chapter, Dismantling the National Health Service, in which Edwards and Cromwell describe the critical part played by journalists in the crisis facing Britain’s pioneering health service.

The NHS crisis is the product of a political and media construct known as “austerity”, with its deceitful, weasel language of “efficiency savings” (the BBC term for slashing public expenditure) and “hard choices” (the willful destruction of the premises of civilised life in modern Britain).

“Austerity” is an invention. Britain is a rich country with a debt owed by its crooked banks, not its people. The resources that would comfortably fund the National Health Service have been stolen in broad daylight by the few allowed to avoid and evade billions in taxes.

Using a vocabulary of corporate euphemisms, the publicly-funded Health Service is being deliberately run down by free market fanatics, to justify its selling-off. The Labour Party of Jeremy Corbyn may appear to oppose this, but does it? The answer is very likely no. Little of any of this is alluded to in the media, let alone explained.

Edwards and Cromwell have dissected the 2012 Health and Social Care Act, whose innocuous title belies its dire consequences. Unknown to most of the population, the Act ends the legal obligation of British governments to provide universal free health care: the bedrock on which the NHS was set up following the Second World War. Private companies can now insinuate themselves into the NHS, piece by piece.

Where, asks Edwards and Cromwell, was the BBC while this momentous Bill was making its way through Parliament? With a statutory commitment to “providing a breadth of view” and to properly inform the public of “matters of public policy”, the BBC never spelt out the threat posed to one of the nation’s most cherished institutions. A BBC headline said: “Bill which gives power to GPs passes.” This was pure state propaganda.

There is a striking similarity with the BBC’s coverage of Prime Minister Tony Blair’s lawless invasion of Iraq in 2003, which left a million dead and many more dispossessed. A study by Cardiff University, Wales, found that the BBC reflected the government line “overwhelmingly” while relegating reports of civilian suffering. A Media Tenor study placed the BBC at the bottom of a league of western broadcasters in the time they gave to opponents of the invasion. The corporation’s much-vaunted “principle” of impartiality was never a consideration.

One of the most telling chapters in Propaganda Blitz describes the smear campaigns mounted by journalists against dissenters, political mavericks and whistleblowers. The Guardian’s campaign against the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is the most disturbing.

Assange, whose epic WikiLeaks disclosures brought fame, journalism prizes and largesse to the Guardian, was abandoned when he was no longer useful. He was then subjected to a vituperative – and cowardly — onslaught of a kind I have rarely known.

With not a penny going to WikiLeaks, a hyped Guardian book led to a lucrative Hollywood movie deal. The book’s authors, Luke Harding and David Leigh, gratuitously described Assange as a “damaged personality” and “callous”. They also disclosed the secret password he had given the paper in confidence, which was designed to protect a digital file containing the US embassy cables.

With Assange now trapped in the Ecuadorean embassy, Harding, standing among the police outside, gloated on his blog that “Scotland Yard may get the last laugh”.

The Guardian columnist Suzanne Moore wrote, “I bet Assange is stuffing himself full of flattened guinea pigs. He really is the most massive turd.”

Moore, who describes herself as a feminist, later complained that, after attacking Assange, she had suffered “vile abuse”. Edwards and Cromwell wrote to her: “That’s a real shame, sorry to hear that. But how would you describe calling someone ‘the most massive turd’? Vile abuse?”

Moore replied that no, she would not, adding, “I would advise you to stop being so bloody patronising.”

Her former Guardian colleague James Ball wrote, “It’s difficult to imagine what Ecuador’s London embassy smells like more than five and a half years after Julian Assange moved in.”

Such slow-witted viciousness appeared in a newspaper described by its editor, Katharine Viner, as “thoughtful and progressive”. What is the root of this vindictiveness? Is it jealousy, a perverse recognition that Assange has achieved more journalistic firsts than his snipers can claim in a lifetime? Is it that he refuses to be “one of us” and shames those who have long sold out the independence of journalism?

Journalism students should study this to understand that the source of “fake news” is not only trollism, or the likes of Fox news, or Donald Trump, but a journalism self-anointed with a false respectability: a liberal journalism that claims to challenge corrupt state power but, in reality, courts and protects it, and colludes with it. The amorality of the years of Tony Blair, whom the Guardian has failed to rehabilitate, is its echo.

“[It is] an age in which people yearn for new ideas and fresh alternatives,” wrote Katharine Viner. Her political writer Jonathan Freedland dismissed the yearning of young people who supported the modest policies of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as “a form of narcissism”.

“How did this man ….,” brayed the Guardian’s Zoe Williams, “get on the ballot in the first place?” A choir of the paper’s precocious windbags joined in, thereafter queuing to fall on their blunt swords when Corbyn came close to winning the 2017 general election in spite of the media.

Complex stories are reported to a cult-like formula of bias, hearsay and omission: Brexit, Venezuela, Russia, Syria. On Syria, only the investigations of a group of independent journalists have countered this, revealing the network of Anglo-American backing of jihadists in Syria, including those related to ISIS.

Supported by a “psyops” campaign funded by the British Foreign Office and the US Agency of International Aid, the aim is to hoodwink the Western public and speed the overthrow of the government in Damascus, regardless of the medieval alternative and the risk of war with Russia.

The Syria Campaign, set up by a New York PR agency, Purpose, funds a group known as the White Helmets, who claim falsely to be “Syria Civil Defence” and are seen uncritically on TV news and social media, apparently rescuing the victims of bombing, which they film and edit themselves, though viewers are unlikely to be told this. George Clooney is a fan.

The White Helmets are appendages to the jihadists with whom they share addresses. Their media-smart uniforms and equipment are supplied by their Western paymasters. That their exploits are not questioned by major news organisations is an indication of how deep the influence of state-backed PR now runs in the media. As Robert Fisk noted recently, no “mainstream” reporter reports Syria, from Syria.

In what is known as a hatchet job, a Guardian reporter based in San Francisco, Olivia Solon, who has never visited Syria, was allowed to smear the substantiated investigative work of journalists Vanessa Beeley and Eva Bartlett on the White Helmets as “propagated online by a network of anti-imperialist activists, conspiracy theorists and trolls with the support of the Russian government”.

This abuse was published without permitting a single correction, let alone a right-of-reply. The Guardian Comment page was blocked, as Edwards and Cromwell document. I saw the list of questions Solon sent to Beeley, which reads like a McCarthyite charge sheet — “Have you ever been invited to North Korea?”

So much of the mainstream has descended to this level. Subjectivism is all; slogans and outrage are proof enough. What matters is the “perception”.

When he was US commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus declared what he called “a war of perception… conducted continuously using the news media”. What really mattered was not the facts but the way the story played in the United States. The undeclared enemy was, as always, an informed and critical public at home.

Nothing has changed. In the 1970s, I met Leni Riefenstahl, Hitler’s film-maker, whose propaganda mesmerised the German public.

She told me the “messages” of her films were dependent not on “orders from above”, but on the “submissive void” of an uninformed public.

“Did that include the liberal, educated bourgeoisie?” I asked.

“Everyone,” she said. “Propaganda always wins, if you allow it.”

Charges “Without Merit”: Jeremy Corbyn, Antisemitism, Norman Finkelstein and Noam Chomsky

Last week, Peter Brookes tweeted his latest cartoon for The Times, commenting:

#Novichok not the only poison being spread around Britain. #LabourAntisemitism #Corbyn.

Referencing allegations that two Russian agents had been responsible for the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury on March 4, the cartoon depicted a British policeman holding up mugshots of a menacing, bug-eyed ‘Jeremy Korbynski’ (wearing an ‘I Love Hamas’ badge) and a vampiric, evil-looking ‘Seumasov Milne’ (wearing a ‘Down With Israel’ badge), with the policeman saying:

THESE TWO MEN ARE SUSPECTED OF SPREADING POISON AROUND BRITAIN…

As Brookes made clear in his tweet, the alleged ‘poison’ Corbyn and Milne, Labour’s director of communications, are supposedly spreading is, of course, antisemitism.

We have always been struck by the sense of complete unreality surrounding this debate and decided to check when and how often Corbyn has been accused of antisemitism since first being elected as an MP in 1983.

Labour was defeated in the general election of May 7, 2015, causing leader Ed Miliband to resign. On June 3, the BBC reported that Corbyn had joined the contest to replace him. We monitored this period closely and it is simply unarguable that Corbyn was portrayed by journalists, and even party political foes, as a basically decent person. He was depicted as a left relic, certainly – irrelevant and ridiculous – but also as sincere and well-intentioned. There was no sense whatever in ‘mainstream’ media coverage that Corbyn was a malign individual.

In July, we conducted a ProQuest newspaper database search, which found the following hits for UK press articles mentioning:

‘Jeremy Corbyn’ and ‘antisemitism’ before May 2015 = 18 hits

‘Jeremy Corbyn’ and ‘antisemitism’ after May 2015 = 6,133 hits

None of the 18 mentions before May 2015 included any accusation that Corbyn was antisemitic. And it was not, as some people have claimed, that Corbyn, a leading anti-war MP, was unknown or unworthy of attention. ProQuest found 3,659 hits for ‘Jeremy Corbyn’ before May 2015.

Writing for the Medium website last month, Patrick Elliot described his own research confirming these results. Elliot noted that the first story ever to be published in a UK national newspaper with the words ‘Corbyn’ and ‘antisemitism’ in the same sentence appeared in the Guardian on August 13, 2015, reporting an accusation the previous day in The Jewish Chronicle. The voting process for the Labour leadership election began one day later, on August 14. Elliot wrote:

During the three years of Corbyn’s Labour leadership, the association of antisemitism with the Labour Party has been a relentless media narrative. The 2,087 articles published in that time have come at an average of nearly two per day.

Yet in more than six and a half years prior to his election, just 178 articles were published associating the Party with antisemitism, at an average of one every fortnight. Is antisemitism 25 times more prevalent in the Party now?

Freedland’s ‘Game Changer’

In the Guardian, Jonathan Freedland – now into his fourth year of relentlessly attacking Corbyn – highlighted the Labour leader’s ‘2013 attack on a group of “Zionists” he’d encountered’. In fact, Corbyn did not ‘attack’ them; they had berated the Palestinian ambassador after he delivered a speech at a meeting in Parliament. Freedland noted that Corbyn said of these activists that despite ‘having lived in this country for a very long time, probably all their lives, they don’t understand English irony’. Freedland explained the significance:

The implication of that remark is clear – and it has nothing to do with defending Palestinians. It’s that Corbyn sees Jews as fundamentally alien, foreigners who might live here a long time, might even be born here, but are still essentially other. People who will never be truly English.

Political analyst Alex Nunns had already exposed the fallacy of the same argument made in an article by Guardian columnist Simon Hattenstone, to which Freedland linked with the comment:

For many, including some [like Hattenstone] who’d long defended the Labour leader, that was a game changer.

Nunns pointed out the absurdity of Hattenstone’s logic:

This is an inversion of what Corbyn said. He compared a group of pro-Israel activists to the Palestinian ambassador whose talk they attended, saying the latter had a better grasp of irony. That only makes any sense if he was saying the activists WERE actually “properly English.”

Nunns spelled it out:

In clearer language, the point Corbyn made was: “Despite being English, these particular pro-Israel activists have a poorer sense of irony than the Palestinian ambassador whose speech they attended”.

Corbyn was making a wry comment about a non-native English speaker understanding nuances in the language better than native English speakers – the exact opposite of what Hattenstone/Freedland were suggesting.

The Guardian’s George Monbiot tweeted a response to Hattenstone’s piece:

It dismays me to say it, as someone who has invested so much hope in the current Labour Party, but I think @shattenstone is right: Jeremy Corbyn’s 2013 comments about “Zionists” were antisemitic and unacceptable.

This reminded us strongly of Monbiot’s investigation into a ‘malign intellectual subculture’ on the left, comprised of Edward Herman, John Pilger, Media Lens and others who were guilty of ‘belittling the acts of genocide committed by opponents of the western powers’. Monbiot was again dismayed:

And, to my great distress, as I rate him very highly, #NoamChomsky doesn’t come out of it too well either.

Monbiot confidently denounced Corbyn’s ‘antisemitic’ comments in several tweets. One day later, having learned of Alex Nunns’ analysis, Monbiot tweeted:

For fairness, here is another explanation of what Jeremy Corbyn said, which casts it in a very different light.

Was this Monbiot performing another of his famous U-turns? It’s difficult to say. Responding to the suggestion that he perhaps should have highlighted Nunns’ analysis, not Hattenstone’s, Monbiot responded with sarcasm.

Freedland went on:

Similar was the mural of hooked-nose bankers, counting their money on the backs of the poor. The artist himself said he had depicted Jews, but when Corbyn heard it was to be removed his response was “Why?” He literally could not see anything wrong with it. Again, that’s nothing to do with opposing Israel. That’s just old school antisemitism.

The key comment here: ‘The artist himself said he had depicted Jews.’

The deceptiveness of this version of events becomes clear when we look a little closer. Former Guardian journalist Jonathan Cook wrote in March:

Not that anyone is listening now, but the artist himself, Kalen Ockerman, has said that the group in his mural comprised historical figures closely associated with banking. His mural, he says, was about “class and privilege”, and the figures depicted included both “Jewish and white Anglos”. The fact that he included famous bankers like the Rothschilds (Jewish) and the Rockefellers (not Jewish) does not, on the face of it, seem to confirm anti-semitism. They are simply the most prominent of the banking dynasties most people, myself included, could name. These families are about as closely identified with capitalism as it is possible to be.

In his outstanding essay, ‘The chimera of British anti-Semitism (and how not to fight it if it were real)’, Norman Finkelstein, Jewish author of The Holocaust Industry and the son of Holocaust survivors, comments:

The degree of anti-Semitism infecting British society has been the subject of numerous polls over a sustained period of time. These surveys have uniformly, consistently, and unambiguously concluded that anti-Semitism (1) has long been a marginal phenomenon in British society, infecting under 10 percent of the population, (2) is far less salient than hostility to other British minorities, and (3) is less pronounced in the UK than almost anywhere else in Europe.

Finkelstein argues that Jews have considerable power within British society. Indeed, the intensity and longevity of the campaign targeting Corbyn’s ‘antisemitism’ in part reflect that influence:

Jews are incomparably organized as they have created a plethora of interlocking, overlapping, and mutually reinforcing communal and defense organizations that operate in both the domestic and international arenas. In many countries, not least the US and the UK, Jews occupy strategic positions in the entertainment industry, the arts, publishing, journals of opinion, the academy, the legal profession, and government. “Jews are represented in Britain in numbers that are many times their proportion of the population,” British-Israeli journalist Anshel Pfeffer notes, “in both Houses of Parliament, on the Sunday Times Rich List, in media, academia, professions, and just about every walk of public life.”

As Finkelstein says, ‘it cannot be right to deny (or suppress) critical socioeconomic facts’ of this kind. Noting them has nothing to do with ugly, racist fantasies about Jews controlling the world. He adds:

Jeremy Corbyn is the democratically elected head of the Labour Party. His ascendancy vastly expanded and galvanized the party’s ranks. Corbyn has devoted a lifetime to fighting racism; like eponymous labor organizer Joe Hill, where workers strike and organize, it’s there you’ll find Jeremy Corbyn. By British and even global leadership standards, he cuts a saintly figure. On the opposite side, mostly unelected Jewish bodies have dragged Corbyn’s name through the mud, slandering and defaming him. They have refused to meet with Corbyn, even as he has repeatedly extended olive branches and offered substantive compromises. Instead they issue take-it-or-leave-it ultimatums.

Finkelstein summarises accurately:

The transparent motive behind this cynical campaign is to demonize Corbyn, not because he’s a “fucking anti-Semite,” [the words of former Labour minister Margaret Hodge] but because he’s a principled champion of Palestinian rights’, although ‘a broad array of powerful entrenched social forces, acting on not-so-hidden agendas of their own’ are all seeking to destroy Corbyn.

Indeed, no rational observer can see this as anything other than an extension of the relentless establishment attack on Corbyn, the mild socialist threatening to let democracy loose from its box.

The objective of the antisemitism moral panic is obvious, writes Lindsey German of Stop the War:

removing Corbyn from the Labour leadership and his replacement with someone much more amenable to the needs of British capital, whether in the arena of foreign policy or in terms of domestic policies.

David Hearst, a former Middle East editor at the Guardian, concurs:

The Labour leader’s opponents don’t care about anti-Semitism. They’ll just do anything to remove Corbyn.

Hearst argues that Corbyn’s opponents are using:

the tactics of fascists – smearing, libelling, intimidating.

Unable to put up a candidate capable of defeating him by democratic means, at the ballot box, unable to attack him on his polices for which there is majority support in the country, Corbyn’s detractors have methodically and consistently set about the task of character assassination.

We asked Noam Chomsky for his view on these issues. He replied:

The charges of anti-Semitism against Corbyn are without merit, an underhanded contribution to the disgraceful efforts to fend off the threat that a political party might emerge that is led by an admirable and decent human being, a party that is actually committed to the interests and just demands of its popular constituency and the great majority of the population generally, while also authentically concerned with the rights of suffering and oppressed people throughout the world. Plainly an intolerable threat to order.1

The Lobby

While much of the media focuses on alleged Russian attempts to undermine Western democracy, Asa Winstanley, an investigative journalist with Electronic Intifada, recently reported evidence that Israel is running a campaign to undermine Corbyn. Human rights activists have now lodged a freedom of information request under Israeli law, seeking to release documents about the campaign. Last year, Al Jazeera broadcast a four-part investigation titled ‘The Lobby’ into the Israel lobby’s activities in the UK. It revealed that Israeli embassy spy Shai Masot was working with front organizations in Labour to smear critics of Israel as ‘antisemitic’. Masot worked closely with two important pro-Israel groups in Labour, the Jewish Labour Movement and Labour Friends of Israel. The latter includes 80 Labour MPs. He has since returned to Israel.

In ‘The Lobby USA’, a follow-up to ‘The Lobby’, Al Jazeera also investigated the activities of the Israeli lobby in the US where it has been instrumental in smearing and silencing pro-Palestinian voices. However, the film was suppressed after strong Israeli pressure on Qatar, the state owners of Al Jazeera, and has never been shown. Electronic Intifada has now obtained leaked excerpts of the film. As Winstanley notes:

The film has been censored even though it addresses matters of considerable public interest, including covert efforts on behalf of a foreign state to spy on, harass or prevent Americans from engaging in activities protected by the First Amendment.

The corporate media are playing a major role in this insidious campaign to stifle democratic choice. It is no surprise that Corbyn and his advisers are calling for big changes to the ‘free press’. In his recent Alternative Mactaggart Lecture on the state of the media, Corbyn noted that:

We must break the stranglehold of elite power and billionaire domination over large parts of our media. Just three companies control 71% of national newspaper circulation and 5 companies control 81% of local newspaper circulation.

He added:

For all the worry about new forms of fake news, most people think our newspapers churn out fake news day in, day out. It’s hardly a surprise in the last 4 years one political earthquake after another has been missed by most of our media.

In summary:

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.

Conclusion: Very, Very Serious Problems

Finkelstein accepts that Jews are subject to racial prejudice, but questions whether this ‘ranks a “very, very serious problem” in the UK’, as claimed. He places the prejudice in context:

Yes, Jews must endure the reputation of being stingy, pushy, and clannish—but Muslims are profiled as terrorists and misogynists, Blacks are despised as chronically lazy and genetically stupid, and Roma/Sinti are loathed as dirty beggars and thieves.

It really is remarkable that Corbyn’s speeches and off-the-cuff comments are being scoured far into the past in search of signs of racism when a far more lethal form of prejudice is clearly informing current US-UK foreign policy devastating entire countries. It is a prejudice that views the lives of brown-skinned people in Afghanistan Iraq, Iran, Libya, Palestine, Syria, Venezuela and elsewhere as far less important than the lives of white, European and US people.

In his book, A Different Kind Of War – The UN Sanctions Regime In Iraq, Hans von Sponeck, former UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, wrote that during ‘phase V’ of the Oil-For-Food programme, from November 1998 to May 1999, each Iraqi citizen received a food allocation worth $49, or 27 cents per day. Von Sponeck commented that ‘the UN was more humane with its dogs than with the Iraqi people’: $160 was allocated for food for each UN dog over the same period.2

As a result, 500,000 Iraqi children lost their lives. The price was deemed to be ‘worth it’ by Madeleine Albright, Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State. But what is really telling is just how little impact this mass death had on Western politics and journalism. The same is true of the one million Iraqis who died as a result of the 2003 invasion. It is true of the Afghan civilians forced to eat grass to survive in the wake of 9/11, when US threats to bomb Afghanistan, and then the invasion itself, shut down aid convoys. It is true of the horrendous impact of sanctions on Iran, renewed and worsened under Trump. It is true of the ongoing destruction of Palestinian society along with regular massacres, the destruction of Libyan society, the destruction of Syrian society, and so on…

The fact that none of this matters, that it puts not the slightest dent in the political-media enthusiasm for war, that it is not even considered relevant in a national discussion on racism, is itself the result of a deeply toxic racism. It is a form of cultural arrogance and contempt for human lives quite obviously deemed far less important, far less valuable.

The mostly fraudulent, politically expedient nature of the endless expressions of concern about antisemitism in the Labour party is indicated by the striking lack of interest in asking exactly what can be done about this kind of prejudice. It seems clear that stifling free speech, expelling party members and castigating the guilty does little to address the real causes of hatred and bias in the human heart and deluded mind.

Deeper answers lie, firstly, in understanding that racist prejudice is ultimately a function of individual and collective egotism – the desire to raise oneself above others, to perceive oneself as ‘special‘. An antidote to this illusion lies in recognising that happiness and suffering are equal – ‘my’ happiness simply cannot be deemed more important than ‘your’ happiness. Likewise, the welfare of ‘this’ group of people versus the welfare of ‘that’ group of people. The self-evident logic of this assertion can help equalise our perception of others – ‘their’ happiness is not worth less than ‘ours’, no matter how different from us they may appear to be.

We can also reflect on evidence indicating that treating others with generosity, kindness and compassion is extremely positive for our own welfare. This is not mere wishful thinking, modern science is catching up on the ancient assertion that caring for others is the basis and cause of genuine happiness. It turns out that happiness truly is not found in cynical selfishness, in viewing women, Jews, blacks, LGBT people, Muslims and so on as ‘lesser’ people. To view others this way is to burden ourselves with a closed, shrunken, miserable heart.

No-one should take any of this on trust, which is why a meaningful response to prejudice involves verifying the truth of these observations through introspection and meditation. It quickly becomes clear, for example, that thoughts of hostility and contempt for others are absolutely poisonous to our sense of well-being.

  1. Noam Chomsky, email to Media Lens, September 9, 2018.
  2. Hans von Sponeck, A Different Kind of War, Bergahn Books, 2006, p. 38.

Empire Journalism: Venezuela, the US and John McCain

The US political commentator Michael Parenti once observed that:

Bias in favor of the orthodox is frequently mistaken for “objectivity”. Departures from this ideological orthodoxy are themselves dismissed as ideological.

Once you understand the truth of that remark, seeing the daily biases and distortions of the corporate media becomes obvious. Thus, there is plenty of space on the BBC News website, and plenty of time on the BBC’s airwaves, to discuss the Venezuela migrant crisis, hyper-inflation and food shortages. Rob Young, a BBC News business correspondent, wrote:

Venezuela, now in its fourth year of recession, has joined a sad list of other countries whose economies imploded as hyperinflation tore through them.

Young quoted a senior official of the International Monetary Fund:

The situation in Venezuela is similar to that in Germany in 1923 or Zimbabwe in the late 2000s.

A BBC News clip headlined, ‘Begging for food in Venezuela’, emphasised:

Food has become so scarce in Venezuela after the economy collapsed that people are getting desperate.

Likewise, there has been ample heart-wrenching coverage of Venezuelans fleeing to other countries. But you will struggle to find any substantive analysis of the severe US sanctions and long-standing threats to bring about a US-friendly government in Caracas, including an attempted coup in 2002 to remove Hugo Chávez, Venezuela’s then president.

On August 19, BBC South America correspondent Katy Watson reported for BBC News at Ten:

President Nicolas Maduro is doing little to stop his country’s economic freefall. Last week, he announced plans to devalue the country’s currency; an attempt to rein in inflation that the International Monetary Fund says could hit one million per cent by the end of the year.

But there was next to no context. BBC viewers were led to believe that the blame for the crisis in Venezuela lay squarely at Maduro’s door.

By contrast, consider the analysis of Gabriel Hetland, an expert academic on Latin America. He stated that the Venezuelan government’s actions – and inactions – have made the crisis ‘far worse’. But crucially:

The government has not acted in a vacuum, but in a hostile domestic and international environment. The opposition has openly and repeatedly pushed for regime change by any means necessary.

On August 4, there was even an attempt to assassinate President Maduro, with responsibility claimed by a clandestine opposition group made up of members of the Venezuelan military.

Hetland continued:

The US government has not only cheered, and funded, these anti-democratic actions. By absurdly declaring that Venezuela is an “unusual and extraordinary threat” to US national security and pressuring investors and bankers to steer clear of the Maduro administration, the White House has prevented Venezuela from obtaining much-needed foreign financing and investment.

The Morning Star’s Tim Young pointed out that:

Sanctions now form a key part of what is a strategic plan by the US to ruin the Venezuelan economy.

These US sanctions have even impacted Venezuela’s health programme, with the country’s vaccination schemes disrupted, dialysis supplies blocked and cancer drugs refused. Young added:

It is clear that the US sanctions — illegal under international law — are part of an overall strategy to bring about what the US calls “regime change.”

Its aim is to undermine and topple the elected government of President Nicolas Maduro and secure control of Venezuela’s vast oil reserves and other natural resources and wealth.

In a news report in the Independent last year, Andrew Buncombe quoted remarks by Mike Pompeo, then head of the CIA, suggesting that:

The agency is working to change the elected government of Venezuela and is collaborating with two countries [Mexico and Colombia] in the region to do so.

As Buncombe observed:

The US has a long and bloody history of meddling in Latin America’s affairs.

That is an accurate and truthful headline you are very unlikely to see on BBC News.

To realise how incomplete and distorted is BBC News coverage, you only have to listen to the superb independent journalist Abby Martin, who has risked her life to report what the corporate media is not telling you about Venezuela. It is little wonder that, as she discusses, her important news programme, ‘Empire Files‘, is currently off-air as a result of US sanctions against left-leaning TeleSUR, the Venezuela-based television network.

A report by media analyst Gregory Shupak for US-based media watchdog FAIR, notes the repeated usage of the word ‘regime’ to describe Venezuela by the US corporate media. As Shupak observes, a ‘regime’ is, by definition, a government that opposes the US empire. He goes on:

Interestingly, the US itself meets many of the criteria for being a “regime”: It can be seen as an oligarchy rather than a democracy, imprisons people at a higher rate than any other country, has grotesque levels of inequality and bombs another country every 12 minutes. Yet there’s no widespread tendency for the corporate media to describe the US state as a “regime.”

In short, if you rely on the corporate media, not least the BBC, for what’s going on in Venezuela, you will get the US-friendly version of events, downplaying or simply ignoring the crippling effects of US sanctions and threats.

On Venezuela, as with so many other issues, BBC News regularly violates its own stated ‘Editorial Values‘:

Accuracy is not simply a matter of getting facts right; when necessary, we will weigh relevant facts and information to get at the truth.

The notion that BBC News journalists perform a balancing act, sifting through ‘facts and information’ to present ‘the truth’ to the public is simply pure fiction, as the ample evidence presented in our forthcoming book, ‘Propaganda Blitz‘, makes clear.

‘A Human Landmark; an American Hero’

Consider coverage of the recent death of US politician John McCain. McCain was the Republican nominee in the 2008 US presidential election which he lost to Barack Obama. In 1967, during the Vietnam War, he was shot down while on a bombing mission over Hanoi and was seriously injured. Captured by the North Vietnamese, he was tortured during his incarceration, before being released in 1973. In later years, the media would call him a ‘war hero’ and depict him as a political ‘maverick’ in not always supporting Republican Party policy on certain issues.

Theresa May declared:

John McCain was a great statesman, who embodied the idea of service over self. It was an honour to call him a friend of the UK.

Con Coughlin, the Telegraph’s defence editor and chief foreign affairs columnist, echoed the mantra that McCain was a ‘war hero’.

In similar vein, ‘neutral’ and ‘impartial’ Nick Bryant, the BBC’s New York correspondent, intoned loftily on BBC News at Ten on August 27:

Washington without John McCain is a lesser place. He was a human landmark; an American hero whose broken body personified the Land of the Brave.

Senior reporters from Channel 4 News and ITV News added their own eulogies to warmonger McCain, dubbed ‘McNasty’ by people who had observed his ‘inexplicable angry outbursts’. C4 News political correspondent Michael Crick said via Twitter:

I’ll always be grateful to John McCain. When I was #C4News Washington Correspondent in the late ’80s, he was one of the few senators happy to do interviews with us, and always very friendly & accommodating.

Robert Moore, ITV News Washington Correspondent responded:

Agreed. And that continued almost until the end – for the foreign press, McCain was the single most accessible political figure in Washington. He always had time for an interview, and a joke – including teasing me for my choice of ties.

Other Twitter users put things in stark perspective:

My thoughts are entirely with his victims and their families.

And:

How hard did you grill him about the decisions he made that killed innocent civilians in hundreds of thousands?

It would be hard to find an exchange on Twitter that better exemplifies the divide between sycophantic journalists fawning before power, and members of the public refusing to whitewash a politician’s ugly record.

Patrick Martin, writing for the World Socialist Website, makes a vital point:

The overriding feature of McCain’s career […] was his reflexive hawkishness on foreign policy. He supported war after war, intervention after intervention, always promoting the use of force as the primary feature of American foreign policy, and always advocating the maximum allocation of resources to fuel the Pentagon.

Peace activist Medea Benjamin told Amy Goodman in a Democracy Now! interview:

We had constantly been lobbying John McCain to not support all these wars. Amy, I think it’s so horrible to be calling somebody a war hero because he participated in the bombing of Vietnam. I just spent the last weekend with Veterans for Peace, people who are atoning for their sins in Vietnam by trying to stop new wars. John McCain hasn’t done that. With his life, what he did was support wars from not only Iraq, but also Libya.

Benjamin founded Code Pink: Women for Peace, a grassroots peace and justice movement that McCain once disparaged as “low-life scum“.

She continued:

He called John Kerry delusional for trying to make a nuclear deal with Iran, and threw his lot in with the MEK, the extremist group in Iran. He also was a good friend of Mohammad bin Salman and the Saudis. There was a gala for the Saudis in May when the crown prince was visiting, and they had a special award for John McCain. He supported the Saudi bombing in Yemen that has been so catastrophic. And I think we have to think that those who have participated in war are really heroes if they spend the rest of their lives trying to stop war, not like John McCain, who spent the rest of his life supporting war.

Norman Solomon, executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, made clear his empathy for McCain for having suffered through brain cancer. But he castigated the corporate media phenomenon of ‘obit omit—obituaries that are flagrantly in conflict with the real historical record.’

He told Goodman:

We really have to fault the mass media of the United States, not just for the last few days, but the last decades, pretending that somehow, by implication, almost that John McCain was doing the people of North Vietnam a favor as he flew over them and dropped bombs. You would think, in the hagiography that we’ve been getting about his role in a squadron flying over North Vietnam, that he was dropping, you know, flowers or marshmallows or something. He was shot down during his 23rd mission dropping bombs on massive numbers of human beings, in a totally illegal and immoral war.

As Branko Marcetic noted in an accurate assessment of McCain’s political legacy:

John McCain’s greatest achievement was convincing the world through charming banter and occasional opposition to his party’s agenda that he was anything other than a reactionary, bloodthirsty war hawk.

In a recent article, Joe Emersberger, an insightful writer on foreign affairs, notes that corporate media coverage of both Venezuela and John McCain illustrates two main features:

  1. The uniformity of empire-friendly reporting across the corporate media.
  2. The complicity of major human rights groups in this empire-friendly ‘journalism’.

As an example:

Amnesty International has refused to oppose US economic sanctions on Venezuela, and has also refused to denounce flagrant efforts by US officials to incite a military coup.

Emersberger also points to a statement on John McCain’s death from Human Rights Watch:

Senator McCain was for decades a compassionate voice for US foreign and national security policy.

For anyone able to think critically and speak openly, such statements are risible. Brutal imperialism will continue for as long as empire-friendly journalism and tame public opposition exist.

Israel Is The Real Problem

Elite power cannot abide a serious challenge to its established position. And that is what Labour under Jeremy Corbyn represents to the Tory government, the corporate, financial and banking sectors, and the ‘mainstream’ media. The manufactured ‘antisemitism crisis’ is the last throw of the dice for those desperate to prevent a progressive politician taking power in the UK: someone who supports Palestinians and genuine peace in the Middle East, a strong National Health Service and a secure Welfare State, a properly-funded education system, and an economy in which people matter; someone who rejects endless war and complicity with oppressive, war criminal ‘allies’, such as the United States, Saudi Arabia and Israel.

In a thoroughly-researched article, writer and academic Gavin Lewis has mapped a deliberate pro-Israel campaign to create a ‘moral panic’ around the issue of antisemitism. The strategy can be traced all the way back to the horrendous Israeli bombardment of Gaza in the summer of 2014. A UN report estimated that 2,252 Palestinians were killed, around 65 per cent of them civilians. The death toll included 551 children. There was global public revulsion at Israel’s war crimes and empathy with their Palestinian victims. Support rose for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement (BDS) which campaigns ‘to end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law’.

As Lewis observes, BDS came to be regarded more and more as a ‘strategic threat’ by Israel, and a campaign was initiated in which Israel and its supporters would be presented as the world’s real victims. In the UK, the Campaign Against Antisemitism was established during the final month of Israel’s 2014 bombardment of Gaza. Pro-Israel pressure groups began to bombard media organisations with supposed statistics about an ‘antisemitism crisis’, with few news organisations scrutinising the claims.

In particular, as we noted in a media alert in April, antisemitism has been ‘weaponised’ to attack Corbyn and any prospect of a progressive UK government critical of Israel. Around this time in Gaza, there were weekly ‘Great March of Return’ protests, with people demanding the right to reclaim ancestral homes in Israel. Many were mown down by Israeli snipers on the border firing into Gaza, with several victims shot in the back as they tried to flee. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, a total of 155 Palestinians were killed in the protests, including 23 children and 3 women. This is part of the brutal ongoing reality for Palestinians.

Recently, much media attention has focused laser-like on the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, including 11 associated examples. Labour adopted 7 of these examples, but dropped 4 because of their implication that criticism of Israel was antisemitic. As George Wilmers noted in a piece for Jewish Voice for Labour, Kenneth Stern, the US Attorney who drafted the IHRA wording, has spoken out about the misuse of the definition. It had:

originally been designed as a “working definition” for the purpose of trying to standardise data collection about the incidence of antisemitic hate crime in different countries. It had never been intended that it be used as legal or regulatory device to curb academic or political free speech. Yet that is how it has now come to be used.

Examples of the curbing of free speech cited by Stern in written testimony to the US Congress include Manchester and Bristol universities.

In an interview on Sky News last weekend, one pro-Israeli commentator stated openly that the aim is to push Corbyn out of public life. As The Canary observed, Jonathan Sacerdoti, a former spokesperson for the Campaign Against Antisemitism (mentioned above) was:

clear that his motivation for wanting Corbyn gone is, in part, opposition to his position on Israel.

Lindsey German, national convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, reminds us of something crucial that the corporate media has been happy to downplay or bury:

We should not forget either that the Israeli embassy was implicated in interfering in British politics last year when one of its diplomats was recorded as saying that he wanted to “bring down” a pro-Palestine Tory MP, Alan Duncan. While he was sent back to Israel in disgrace, the matter went no further – disgracefully given that this was blatant interference in the British political system.

In 2017, an Al Jazeera undercover sting operation on key members of the Israel lobby in Britain had revealed a £1,000,000 plot by the Israeli government to undermine Corbyn.

German continued:

Are we seriously supposed to imagine that this was a maverick operation, or that there is no other attempt to influence British politics, especially when both Labour and Conservative Friends of Israel organisations have strong links with the embassy? The present ambassador is Mark Regev, the man who was press spokesman in 2009 when he defended the killing of Palestinians through Operation Cast Lead, and who has defended the recent killings of Gazan Palestinians by Israeli forces.

For shared elite interests in Israel and the UK, there is much at stake. Historian and foreign policy analyst Mark Curtis highlights ‘the raw truth’ rarely touched by the corporate news media:

The UK’s relationship with Israel is special in at least nine areas, including arms sales, air force, nuclear deployment, navy, intelligence and trade, to name but a few.

Indeed, arms exports and trade are increasingly profitable to British corporations doing business with Israel. Moreover, senior government ministers have emphasised that the UK-Israel relationship is the ‘cornerstone of so much of what we do in the Middle East’ and that ‘Israel is an important strategic partner for the UK’. As Curtis notes:

The Palestinians are the expendable unpeople in this deepening special relationship.

A Shameful Outburst

Unsurprisingly, then, the Israeli lobby have been trawling through Corbyn’s life, trying to find past incidents they can highlight as ‘support’ for the ludicrous and cynical claim that he is ‘soft’ on antisemitism or even himself antisemitic. Hence the manufactured controversy of Corbyn hosting an event in 2010 during which Auschwitz survivor Hajo Meyer compared Israel’s behaviour to that of Nazi Germany.

An Independent editorial, titled ‘Corbyn has been found wanting on antisemitism – now he must act’, asserted that he was ‘a fool to lend his name to this stunt’. It was:
such an egregious error of judgement that Jeremy Corbyn, an extraordinarily stubborn man, has had to apologise for it.’

Under a photograph of Corbyn sitting at the 2010 meeting with Meyer, Times political correspondent Henry Zeffman said that:

Corbyn has led Labour into a nightmare of his own making. The veteran left-winger will never recant the views on Israel that he formed over decades in the political wilderness.

In the Daily Mail, the caption to the same 2010 photograph of Corbyn sitting with Meyer led with the word, ‘Offensive’.

And on and on it went in the ‘mainstream’ media.

Adri Nieuwhof, a Netherlands-based human rights advocate and former anti-apartheid activist, was a friend of Meyer, who died in 2014. In an article for Electronic Intifada, she wrote:

The 2010 Holocaust Memorial Day event took place the year after an Israeli assault on Gaza [Operation Cast Lead] that killed more than 1,400 Palestinians and injured thousands more.

Meyer was very upset by the assault because Palestinians were trapped in Gaza due to the blockade on the territory that Israel imposed starting in 2007.

He could not help but compare the situation of Palestinians trapped under Israeli occupation and bombardment with Jews caged by the Nazis in ghettos like the Warsaw Ghetto.’

She added:

Those attacking Corbyn today have no restraint and no shame. They will even call a man who survived Auschwitz and lost his parents in the Holocaust an anti-Semite if they believe that is what it takes to shield Israel from consequences for its crimes.

Nasty abuse flung at the Labour leader has even come from supposed colleagues. Last month, right wing Labour MP Margaret Hodge called Jeremy Corbyn ‘a fucking anti-Semite and a racist’. The corporate media gleefully lapped up her outburst – the Guardian moved swiftly to grant her space to declare Labour ‘a hostile environment for Jews’ – and stoked the ‘Labour antisemitism row‘  for weeks afterwards, with over 500 articles to date according to our ProQuest newspaper database search.

Two days ago, Jewish Voice for Labour delivered a letter of complaint to the BBC, condemning a ‘lack of impartiality and inaccuracies’ in its reporting of Hodge’s allegations against Corbyn. Her accusations were ‘repeated numerous times without denial or opposing views’ by BBC News. Moreover, Hodge’s assertion that she represents the entire ‘Jewish community’ has been allowed to pass unchallenged.

Trashing a Dedicated Anti-Racist

Last month, the UK’s leading Jewish papers – Jewish News, Jewish Chronicle and Jewish Telegraph – all carried the same front page on ‘the community’s anger over Labour’s anti-Semitism row’. They had taken this unprecedented step because of:

the existential threat to Jewish life in this country that would be posed by a Jeremy Corbyn-led government. We do so because the party that was, until recently, the natural home for our community has seen its values and integrity eroded by Corbynite contempt for Jews and Israel.

These outrageous claims were rejected by Stephen Oryszczuk, foreign editor of Jewish News. He told The Canary:

It’s repulsive. This is a dedicated anti-racist we’re trashing. I just don’t buy into it at all.

He made three vital points:

1) Jeremy Corbyn is not an antisemite, and the Labour Party does not represent an ‘existential threat’ to Jewish people
2) The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism threatens free speech, and Labour was right to make amendments
3) The ‘mainstream’ Jewish media is failing to represent the diversity of Jewish opinion

The corporate news media itself is undoubtedly ‘failing to represent the diversity of Jewish opinion’. Worse, it has, in fact, been a willing accomplice in promoting and amplifying the pro-Israel narrative of a ‘Labour antisemitism crisis’. Consider a recent powerful piece by Manchester Jewish Action for Palestine, published in Mondoweiss:

As Jewish people in Manchester, England, we resent the despicable racism shown towards the Palestinians by Guardian stalwarts such as Jonathan Freedland, Polly Toynbee, Jessica Elgott, Eddie Izzard, Nick Cohen, Marina Hyde and Gaby Hinsliff among others, all saturating comment sections on mainstream news websites with attacks designed to bring down the UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, and to protect Israel from accountability.

They added:

UK commentators take the morally defunct option of backing right wing mainstream Zionist organisations’ outrageous cries of “anti-Semitism” the moment Corbyn’s Labour get ahead in the polls, or the moment there is a risk of serious public condemnation of Israel’s horrific crimes against the Palestinians.

The article continued:

Why were Palestinians not consulted on the whole debate about Israel and anti-Semitism, when they are the people being slowly squeezed out of existence by Israel? Where are the Palestinian voices in the Guardian?

Where indeed?

We, as Jews, will not mindlessly pretend that protecting the Jewish people and protecting Israel are the same thing, on the hopeless say-so of a crew of establishment hacks at the Guardian.

The Manchester-based Jewish group singled out one prominent Guardian columnist, and former comment editor, for particularly heavy criticism:

‘Jonathan Freedland, one of the UK’s most effective propagandists for Israel, while giving Palestinians occasional lip service so he and the other liberal elitists can make doubtful claims to “impartiality”, has been the most relentless in his attacks on Corbyn. Freedland routinely uses his opinion editorial position in the Guardian to do more than most to “strong-arm” the Labour Party into backing the whole IHRA definition, flawed examples and all. It is unsurprising that he would push for the guideline, “claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour” to be included as anti-Semitic trope, given he is on record excusing the crime against humanity that was Israel’s foundational act – the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian population in 1947/1948.

One of Freedland’s Guardian articles that the group must have had in mind was published last month under the title, ‘Yes, Jews are angry – because Labour hasn’t listened or shown any empathy’. Leon Rosselson, a children’s author and singer-songwriter whose Jewish parents were refugees from Tsarist Russia, argued that the article:

is a devious, dissembling, dishonest piece of special pleading that shames both Freedland and the Guardian.

Earlier this month, Corbyn himself had a piece in the Guardian in which he wrote:

I do acknowledge there is a real problem [of antisemitism] that Labour is working to overcome. […] We were too slow in processing disciplinary cases of antisemitic abuse, mostly online, by party members. And we haven’t done enough to foster deeper understanding of antisemitism among members.

A Telegraph editorial typified the corporate media’s reaction to Corbyn’s article:

he respond[ed] with Soviet-esque institutional lethargy… just the latest in a long line of obfuscations that betray a central fact: Labour’s leader is unhealthily obsessed with Israel, and tainted by association with fanatics.

Corbyn cannot do anything right in the eyes of the corporate media. As Rosselson said:

Corbyn concedes and Corbyn apologises and the more he concedes and the more he apologises the weaker his position becomes and still the pressure grows and the attacks continue because this is not really about antisemitism and definitions but about getting rid of Corbyn or undermining him to the point where he is powerless.

Sadly, the Labour leader has failed to properly address this relentless and vicious campaign, focusing instead on trying to fend off accusations of antisemitism. By sticking within this narrative framework set up by the powerful Israeli lobby, a twisted framework that can only be maintained with corporate media connivance, he and his colleagues have made a serious mistake. Asa Winstanley put it bluntly back in March:

Jeremy Corbyn must stop pandering to Labour’s Israel lobby.

Winstanley pointed out that the campaign has been going on for years, and he expanded:

Too many on the left seem to think: if we throw them a bone by sacrificing a few token “extremists,” the anti-Semitism story will die down and we can move on to the real business of electing a Labour government.

But years later, Labour is still being beaten with the same stick.

Any close observer of Israel and its lobby groups knows this: they cannot be appeased.

Other commentators have made the same point. An OffGuardian article in April, titled ‘Corbyn should learn his lesson: compromise with the devil is not an option’, observed:

Corbyn seems to think a few little compromises will get him accepted in the mainstream media. It pains me to say it, but this is fundamentally untrue. You can’t compromise with someone who wants nothing but your total destruction. Hopefully Corbyn has learned this lesson by now.

Sadly not, it appears. A Morning Star editorial correctly observes that Corbyn and his advisers:

fail to appreciate the ruthlessness of his opponents or the unrelenting nature of their goals.

Earlier this week, Winstanley published an article revealing yet another element of Israel’s intense campaign against Corbyn: the use of an app to promote propaganda messages via social media accusing Corbyn of antisemitism. The app is a product of Israel’s strategic affairs ministry which ‘directs Israel’s covert efforts to sabotage the Palestine solidarity movement around the world.’

As Jonathan Cook cogently explains on his website:

Labour is not suffering from an “anti-semitism crisis”; it is mired in an “Israel crisis”.

To those who bemoan that Corbyn and his team are not sufficiently ‘media-savvy’, that he has not done enough to present himself as ‘PM material’ via the press and television, David Traynier has written a strong rebuttal. Two essential facts need to be understood, he says: first, the corporate media ‘filter’ and distort the news as described by Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky in their ‘propaganda model‘ of the media, introduced in Manufacturing Consent. Second, journalists and editors are themselves subjected to a ‘filtering’ process as they rise up the career ladder. They are selected for positions of ever-increasing responsibility only if they have demonstrated to corporate media owners, managers and senior editors that they can be trusted to say and do the ‘right’ things; even think the ‘right thoughts’. As Chomsky famously said to Andrew Marr, then the young political editor of the Independent and now with the BBC:

I’m sure you believe everything you’re saying. But what I’m saying is that if you believed something different, you wouldn’t be sitting where you’re sitting.

In short, says Traynier:

the idea that a socialist party simply needs to manage the press better is a nonsense. The corporate media is not there to be won over, it can’t be “managed” into giving Corbyn a fair hearing. In fact, once one understands how the media works, the burden of proof would rest with anyone those who claimed that it wouldn’t be biased against Corbyn.

Despite the intense campaign against Corbyn – and perhaps, in part, because of its obviously cynical and manipulative nature – many people are perceptive enough to see what is going on. Israel is the real problem.