All posts by Media Lens

Don’t Extradite Assange

Last Friday’s decision by UK Home Secretary Priti Patel to authorise the extradition of Julian Assange to the United States is both deeply shameful and unsurprising. Her action paves the way for Assange to be tried under the 1917 Espionage Act, introduced by the US government shortly after entering World War I, with a sentence of 175 years if found guilty. In essence, the US wishes to set a legal precedent for the prosecution of any publisher or journalist, anywhere in the world, who reports the truth about the US.

Despite all the warnings from human rights groups, advocates of press freedom, Nils Melzer (then UN Special Rapporteur on Torture), doctors, lawyers and many other people around the world, it has long been clear that Washington is determined to punish Assange and make an example of him as a warning to others. As always, US allies will go along with what the Mafia Godfather wants.

US political journalist Glenn Greenwald noted that Patel’s act ‘further highlights the utter sham of American and British sermons about freedom, democracy and a free press.’ Assange is being persecuted relentlessly because he and WikiLeaks have arguably done more than anyone else to expose the vast extent of the crimes of US empire.

Greenwald added:

Free speech and press freedoms do not exist in reality in the U.S. or the UK. They are merely rhetorical instruments to propagandize their domestic population and justify and ennoble the various wars and other forms of subversion they constantly wage in other countries in the name of upholding values they themselves do not support. The Julian Assange persecution is a great personal tragedy, a political travesty and a grave danger to basic civic freedoms. But it is also a bright and enduring monument to the fraud and deceit that lies at the heart of these two governments’ depictions of who and what they are.

Dissident Australian journalist Caitlin Johnstone made a similar point, that Assange’s ‘refusal to bow down and submit’ has:

exposed the lie that the so-called free democracies of the western world support the free press and defend human rights. The US, UK and Australia are colluding to extradite a journalist for exposing the truth even as they claim to oppose tyranny and autocracy, even as they claim to support world press freedoms, and even as they loudly decry the dangers of government-sponsored disinformation.

Peter Oborne, an all-too-rare example of a journalist speaking out on behalf of Assange, called Patel’s decision a ‘catastrophic blow’ to press freedom. But, he said, it was a blow that had been carried out with:

the silent assent of much of the mainstream press. Too many British newspapers and broadcasters have treated the Assange case as a dirty family secret. They have failed to grasp that the Assange hearing leading up to the Patel decision is the most important case involving free speech this century.

Not only was there ‘silent assent’, but much of the media actually cheered and applauded Assange’s arrest in the Ecuadorian Embassy in April 2019 ‘with undisguised glee’, as Alan MacLeod wrote at the time:

The Daily Mail’s front-page headline (4/12/19) read, “That’ll Wipe the Smile Off His Face,” and devoted four pages to the “downfall of a narcissist” who was removed from “inside his fetid lair” to finally “face justice.” The Daily Mirror (4/11/19) described him as “an unwanted guest who abused his hospitality,” while the Times of London (4/12/19) claimed “no one should feel sorry” for the “overdue eviction.”

The Mirror (4/13/19) also published an opinion piece from Labour member of Parliament Jess Phillips that began by stating, “Finally Julian Assange, everyone’s least favourite squatter, has been kicked out of the Ecuadorian embassy.” She described the 47-year-old Australian as a “grumpy, stroppy teenager.”

Oborne also noted that Patel’s decision:

turns investigative journalism into a criminal act, and licenses the United States to mercilessly hunt down offenders wherever they can be found, bring them to justice and punish them with maximum severity.

Andrew Neil, the right-wing journalist and broadcaster, reflexively listed Assange’s supposed faults (‘reckless’, ‘stupid’, ‘narcissist’) in a Daily Mail opinion piece. But he still made clear his opposition to Assange’s extradition:

It is thanks to Assange that we know many appalling things that America would prefer we didn’t know. He does not deserve to spend the rest of his life in some high-tech American hellhole for doing what should come naturally to all good journalists — exposing what powerful people don’t want to be exposed.

The BBC’s John Simpson and Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens have also been supportive of Assange.

But the few editorials that appeared in the British ‘mainstream’, while meekly and belatedly opposing extradition, were much less damning in their comments. According to our searches of the Lexis-Nexis newspaper database, the first edition of the Independent’s editorial was titled, ‘It’s time to release Assange – he has suffered enough’. By the time the editorial appeared online, the title had been watered down to:

Justice for Julian Assange should be tempered with mercy

And an extra line had been added:

The WikiLeaks founder is no hero but nor should he be a martyr

The paper’s praise for the vital work of Assange and Wikileaks was begrudging and limited, with the usual ‘mainstream’ caveats and distortions mixed in (see Johnstone’s powerful demolition of the multiple smears against Assange):

We were resolutely unsympathetic to Mr Assange’s claim to have been unfairly treated by the British and Swedish criminal justice systems. We urged him to face justice over the allegations of rape in Sweden, and considered his self-imprisonment in the Ecuadorian embassy in London to be a form of punishment for his refusal to do so.

The Guardian, which had benefited enormously from Assange’s ground-breaking work – with many of its journalists publishing numerous snide articles and disparaging remarks about him – described Patel’s decision, with pathetic understatement, as ‘a bad day for journalism’. Of course, there was no mention in the editorial of the Guardian’s own shameful role in helping to create the conditions for Assange’s persecution; not least their fake front-page ‘news’ story in November 2018 claiming that Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, supposedly held secret talks with Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

‘How Far Have We Sunk?’

As Nils Melzer packed up and moved on from his term as the UN Special Prosecutor on Torture, on the day that Patel announced Assange’s extradition, he said:

How far have we sunk if we prosecute people who expose war crimes for exposing war crimes?

How far have we sunk when we no longer prosecute our own war criminals because we identify more with them than we identify with the people that actually exposed these crimes?

What does that tell about us and about our governments?

How far have we sunk when telling the truth becomes a crime?

The questions were left hanging in the air. But anyone with basic standards of ethics and wisdom knows that a society which has sunk this low is being governed by so-called ‘leaders’ who:

  • are lacking in ethics and wisdom;
  • are driven by concerns shaped by power and profit;
  • will attempt to crush anyone who dares to expose their crimes;
  • spout deceptive rhetoric – faithfully amplified and propagated by state-corporate media – proclaiming the West’s supposed virtues and respect for ‘freedom’, ‘human rights’ and ‘democracy’.

The persecution of Julian Assange has brought all this to the fore.

Yes, there are tiny windows in the ‘MSM’ for eloquent expressions of the truth; such as Peter Oborne’s Guardian opinion piece cited above. But the general drift of the ‘Overton Window’ – the ‘acceptable’, tightly limited range of news and debate – has shifted towards the hard right, with journalists and commentators squeezed out for being deemed ‘toxic’, ‘radioactive’ or otherwise ‘dangerous’.

Thus, in 2018, John Pilger, one of the finest journalists who has ever appeared in the British media, observed that:

My written journalism is no longer welcome in the Guardian which, three years ago, got rid of people like me in pretty much a purge of those who really were saying what the Guardian no longer says any more.’

The Guardian is a prime stoker of revitalised Cold War rhetoric about the ‘threat’ of Russia and China, mirroring what is prevalent across the whole ‘spectrum’ of ‘mainstream’ news. Indeed, as revealed by Declassified UK, an independent investigative news website, the UK’s leading liberal newspaper has essentially been ‘neutralised’ by the UK security services. Mark Curtis, editor and co-founder of Declassified UK, observed that the paper’s:

limited coverage of British foreign and security policies gives a misleading picture of what the UK does in the world. The paper is in reality a defender of Anglo-American power and a key ideological pillar of the British establishment.

Selective Moral Outrage

In a recent interview, David Barsamian asked Noam Chomsky:

In the media, and among the political class in the United States, and probably in Europe, there’s much moral outrage about Russian barbarity, war crimes, and atrocities. No doubt they are occurring as they do in every war. Don’t you find that moral outrage a bit selective though?

Chomsky responded:

The moral outrage is quite in place. There should be moral outrage. But you go to the Global South, they just can’t believe what they’re seeing. They condemn the war, of course. It’s a deplorable crime of aggression. Then they look at the West and say: What are you guys talking about? This is what you do to us all the time.’

So, when the long-suffering people of the Global South encounter western news reports about Putin being the worst war criminal since Hitler:

They don’t know whether to crack up in laughter or ridicule. We have war criminals walking all over Washington. Actually, we know how to deal with our war criminals. In fact, it happened on the twentieth anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan. Remember, this was an entirely unprovoked invasion, strongly opposed by world opinion. There was an interview with the perpetrator, George W. Bush, who then went on to invade Iraq, a major war criminal, in the style section of the Washington Post — an interview with, as they described it, this lovable goofy grandpa who was playing with his grandchildren, making jokes, showing off the portraits he painted of famous people he’d met. Just a beautiful, friendly environment.’

In the UK, the war criminal Tony Blair – another key player in the post-9/11 ‘War on Terror’ that led to at least 1.3 million deaths in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan – was recently “honoured’ by the Queen. He became ‘a member of the Order of the Garter, the most senior royal order of chivalry’. This archaic nonsense is yet another symptom of the deeply-embedded, medieval stratification of British society, and the baubles that are handed out to preserve ‘order’ and ‘tradition’. This is revealing of the sickness at the heart of our society.

Chomsky gave another example of how the West’s war criminals are lauded:

Take probably the major war criminal of the modern period, Henry Kissinger. We deal with him not only politely, but with great admiration. This is the man after all who transmitted the order to the Air Force, saying that there should be massive bombing of Cambodia — “anything that flies on anything that moves” was his phrase. I don’t know of a comparable example in the archival record of a call for mass genocide. And it was implemented with very intensive bombing of Cambodia.

The ‘justification’ for the extreme violence meted out by the West towards the Middle East and the Global South is always couched in propaganda terms proclaiming the protection of ‘human rights’, ‘democracy’ and ‘global security’. But, noted Chomsky:

The security of the population is simply not a concern for policymakers. Security for the privileged, the rich, the corporate sector, arms manufacturers, yes, but not the rest of us. This doublethink is constant, sometimes conscious, sometimes not. It’s just what Orwell described, hyper-totalitarianism in a free society.

Chomsky concluded:

Meanwhile, we pour taxpayer funds into the pockets of the fossil-fuel producers so that they can continue to destroy the world as quickly as possible. That’s what we’re witnessing with the vast expansion of both fossil-fuel production and military expenditures. There are people who are happy about this. Go to the executive offices of Lockheed Martin, ExxonMobil, they’re ecstatic. It’s a bonanza for them. They’re even being given credit for it. Now, they’re being lauded for saving civilization by destroying the possibility for life on Earth. Forget the Global South. If you imagine some extraterrestrials, if they existed, they’d think we were all totally insane. And they’d be right.

The appalling treatment of Julian Assange, especially set beside the ‘honouring’ and eulogising of the West’s war criminals, is symptomatic of this insanity.

In a brave and eloquent interview, Stella Assange, Julian’s wife and mother of their two young children, declared that:

We’re going to fight.

An appeal to Britain’s High Court will be lodged within 14 days of Patel’s decision by Assange’s lawyers. As Stella Assange noted, one of the many unjust aspects of the US case against her husband is that, under the Trump administration, the CIA had plotted to assassinate Assange:

Extradition to the country that has plotted his assassination is just – I have no words. Obviously, this shouldn’t be happening. It can never happen.

She continued:

That is just the tip of the iceberg of the criminal activity that has gone on, on behalf of those putting Julian in prison. For example, inside the [Ecuadorian] Embassy his legal meetings – his confidential privileged legal conversations with his lawyers – were being recorded and shipped to the United States.

All these elements have come out since Julian’s arrest and incarceration. And we now know so much about the abuse and outright criminality that has been going on against Julian. There’s no chance of a fair trial.

She added:

‘And then you have the actual case. He’s charged under the Espionage Act. He faces 175 years. There is no public interest defence under the Espionage Act. It’s the first time it’s being repurposed; it’s being used against a publisher. It’s an Act that’s been repurposed in order to criminalise journalism, basically. And, of course, if you say that publishing information is a crime, then Julian’s guilty. He published information and he faces a lifetime in prison for it.

In conclusion, she said:

The case is a complete aberration. That’s why you have all these major press freedom organisations and human rights organisations saying that this has to be dropped.

We can take a significant step towards a saner society by shouting loudly for Julian Assange to be freed immediately. A good start would be to share widely this video from Double Down News in which Stella Assange describes the importance of the case and how we can all help.

Please also visit the Don’t Extradite Assange website to see what actions you can take now.

The post Don’t Extradite Assange first appeared on Dissident Voice.

“Damned Fun”: “Top Gun: Maverick” And The Military-Entertainment Complex

In 1990, Tom Cruise, star of the 1986 blockbuster, ‘Top Gun’, said:

Some people felt that “Top Gun” was a right-wing film to promote the Navy. And a lot of kids loved it. But I want the kids to know that’s not the way war is – that “Top Gun” was just an amusement park ride, a fun film with a PG-13 rating that was not supposed to be reality. That’s why I didn’t go on and make “Top Gun II” and “III” and “IV” and “V.” That would have been irresponsible.

It would indeed, and one can only admire Cruise’s honesty and selfless determination… in 1990…  not to mislead young people.

Why, then, 32 years later, would Cruise decide to appear in ‘Top Gun: Maverick’? The Daily Mail provides a clue:

The 59-year-old superstar was “only” paid $13million, although he will also earn a percentage of every dollar taken at the global box office. He made $100million for the original Mission: Impossible film – and could earn even more if Top Gun: Maverick is a box office smash.

Which it is already. Associated Press reports:

Top Gun: Maverick” has already grossed $548.6 million worldwide, making it easily one the biggest hits of Cruise’s career.

His earlier refusal to be ‘irresponsible’ was in response to claims that Cruise’s bright, shining film was, in reality, a propaganda fecalith expelled from the bowels of ‘the Military-Entertainment Complex’. Thus, director Oliver Stone, in 1998:

“Top Gun,” man – it was essentially a fascist movie. It sold the idea that war is clean, war can be won … nobody in the movie ever mentions that he just started World War Three!’

In 1986, Time magazine reported that for the cost of just $1.8 million, the US Department of Defense allowed the Top Gun producers ‘the use of Miramar Naval Air Station’ as well as ‘four aircraft carriers and about two dozen F-14 Tomcats, F-5 Tigers and A-4 Skyhawks, some flown by real-life Top Gun pilots’.

The Washington Post reports:

It’s unlikely the film could have gotten made without the Pentagon’s considerable support. A single F-14 Tomcat cost about $38 million. The total budget for “Top Gun” was $15 million.

It wasn’t Catch-22, but there was a catch: in exchange for this lavish military support, the producers agreed to let the US Department of Defense make changes to the script. The changes were substantial but trivial compared to the real issue missed by almost all ‘mainstream’ journalists; namely, that the US war machine would not have spent millions of dollars subsidising a movie unless the core themes of the story provided a powerful propaganda service to the US war machine. And such, indeed, was the case:

The film conquered the box office, as well as the hearts and minds of young Americans. Following its release, applications to become Naval Aviators reportedly jumped by 500 percent. To capitalize on the craze, some enterprising Navy recruiters even set up stands outside theaters.

Time summed it up:

The high-flying hardware turns Top Gun into a 110-minute commercial for the Navy – and it was the Navy’s cooperation that put the planes in the picture.

No surprise, then, as The Washington Post reported:

Top Gun” (1986), turned out to be so influential it set the blueprint for a new kind of corporate movie product fusing Hollywood star power with the U.S. military’s firepower. Think “Black Hawk Down,” “Transformers” or “American Sniper.”

Donald Baruch, the Pentagon’s special assistant for audio-visual media, commented that the US government ‘couldn’t buy the sort of publicity films give us’. In reality, they do, in effect, buy this publicity:

Before a producer receives military assistance for a TV or movie project, the screenplay is reviewed by officials at the Department of Defense and by each of the services involved. The Pentagon ends up rejecting many projects that come its way on the grounds that they distort military life and situations.

Movies critical of the military will be difficult to make,” says former Navy Lieut. John Semcken, who served as the liaison on Top Gun.

The War Zone website provides some details behind military backing for the new, follow-up film, ‘Top Gun: Maverick’:

The War Zone obtained the official production assistance agreements, 84 pages in total, in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Office of the Secretary of Defense…

The documents confirm that filming was conducted on location at Naval Base Coronado, Naval Air Station (NAS) Fallon, NAS Lemoore, Naval Air Facility (NAF) El Centro, Naval Air Weapons Station (NAWS) China Lake, and Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island. Fallon is home to the Navy’s real-life Topgun program.’

How many aircraft carriers were thrown in?

The Nimitz class aircraft carriers USS Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt were also made available. Some filming even took place inside Roosevelt’s Combat Direction Center, which is the ship’s nerve center.

The War Zone adds:

Two different agreements say that the Navy was expected to provide between four and 12 actual F/A-18 fighters for film, “dependent on availability of aircraft.” There is at least one scene in the trailers that have been released so far showing a row of these jets, including one wearing a special paint job created specifically for the movie.

In addition, the Navy was to “allow for the internal and external placement of the Production Company’s cameras on F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets and Navy helicopters with the approval of the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR).

And:

There are some details about set construction in various locations, including the complete transformation of a hangar and squadron spaces belonging to Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 30 (VRC-30) at NAS North Island, part of Naval Base Coronado, for the movie.

While the recent, 75th Cannes film festival banned any official delegations or reporters from Russia, ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ was massively promoted. The Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the gala opening of the festival on a huge screen via a video link from Kyiv. Drawing heavily on Charlie Chaplin’s classic film, The Great Dictator (1940), Zelensky said:

If there is a dictator, if there is a war for freedom, once again, everything depends on our unity. Can cinema stay outside of this unity?

Quoting directly from Chaplin’s anti-war speech at the end of the film, Zelensky said:

In the end, hatred will disappear and dictators will die.

On The World Socialist Website, Stefan Steinberg responded:

The Ukrainian president’s duplicitous speech was then given a standing ovation by the well-heeled audience of film celebrities, super-models, media figures and critics gathered at the festival’s Grand Théâtre Lumière…

Zelensky, whose government’s promotion of unfettered free market capitalism and extreme nationalism includes full support for the notorious fascist Azov battalion, and his US-NATO backers stand for everything that Chaplin abhorred. In fact, what would a Chaplin make out of the self-satisfied rubbish about “poor, defenseless little Ukraine,” armed to the hilt and financed by the biggest imperialist robbers on the planet?

The Independent reports that the ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ film has come at just the right time:

In April, state senators were told how the US army faced a “war for talent” amid shrinking battalion numbers, echoing admissions from air force officials that its own pool of qualified candidates had fallen by half since the beginning of Covid. Things haven’t looked rosy for the navy either, which declared in February that it was 5,000 to 6,000 sailors short at sea. ..

Little wonder, then, that Uncle Sam once again welcomed Paramount Pictures with open arms for Maverick, granting director Joseph Kosinski and his crew all-access passes to highly sensitive naval facilities, including a Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. World-class technicians provided cast members with top-level fighter pilot training right down to seat ejection…

Happily, press reports inform us:

The US Navy is [again] setting up “recruiting stations” in cinema foyers across America. After the first film there was a 50 per cent increase in applications to join the Navy’s fighter programme. A spokesman said: “Obviously we are hoping for the same outcome this time around.”

If any readers notice any journalists asking Tom Cruise if he still wants ‘the kids to know that’s not the way war is’, that ‘Top Gun’ is just an amusement park ride’ that is ‘not supposed to be reality’, and that it would be ‘irresponsible’ to make ‘Top Gun III’ and ‘IV’ and ‘V’ – do let us know (gro.snelaidemnull@rotide).

The Guardian’s Mark Kermode – ‘I Give Up’

Given the military involvement in both ‘Top Gun’ films and the massive impact of the first film on US military recruitment, a natural concern for anyone reviewing the new film would seem to be the role of the US military since 1986.

A really salient fact about the world since the mid-eighties, as we all know – as our newspaper front pages, echoing ‘Top Gun’ heroics, never tire of telling us – is that the US has been relentlessly bombing countries like Serbia, Panama, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia and Pakistan ever since. In 2015, a study by Physicians for Global Responsibility reported:

The purpose of this investigation is to provide as realistic an estimate as possible of the total body count in the three main war zones Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan during 12 years of “war on terrorism”. An extensive review has been made of the major studies and data published on the numbers of victims in these countries… This investigation comes to the conclusion that the war has, directly or indirectly, killed around 1 million people in Iraq, 220,000 in Afghanistan and 80,000 in Pakistan, i.e. a total of around 1.3 million.

Of course, even these vast numbers omit the untold carnage inflicted by the US military between 1986-2001, and since 2015, but they do give an idea of what ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ and its admirers are actually celebrating.

In the Guardian, film critic Mark Kermode supplied a summary of the plot:

Maverick has in fact been called back to the Top Gun programme – not to fly, but to teach the “best of the best” how to blow up a uranium enrichment plant at face-melting velocity, a mission that will require not one but “two consecutive miracles”.’

As we know, ‘Real men go to Tehran’ – and Iran clearly is ‘the enemy’ here. The Independent acknowledged as much in noting that the US navy was given script approval:

This might also explain why Top Gun: Maverick never goes into detail about its villains – instead, audiences are simply informed that “the enemy” is a rogue state hellbent on uranium enrichment. Let’s assume it rhymes with “Diran”.

When Iran is bombed in real life, Westerners will cheer because they’ll think they’re watching their movie heroes annihilating The Bad Guys. When ‘the best of the best’ move on to trash the whole country, the public will have been so brainwashed, so desensitised, they will rate the ‘action’ on a par with something they saw on the silver screen. The same thing happened during the Gulf War that began in January 1991. One of us saw a spoof ‘Iraqi calendar’ behind the bar of an English pub, which showed the year ending for Iraq on January 16, the date the US-UK attack was launched.

When the state-corporate culture of a highly aggressive imperial power produces war films that deliberately blend fiction and reality, there are real-world consequences. Actual high-tech death and destruction are made to seem ‘cool’, ‘fun’ – an impact that no serious reviewer can ignore. Assuming, that is, we reject the idea that a review in a corporate viewspaper is mere ‘entertainment’ that has nothing to do with the real world it so clearly impacts. Assuming, further, that we reject the idea that we should function as passive, apolitical, amoral consumers manipulated by powerful elites who are not themselves passive or apolitical at all, but who work relentlessly to extend their influence, wealth and power.

As though spoofing, Kermode concluded his review:

Personally, I found myself powerless to resist; overawed by the “real flight” aeronautics and nail-biting sky dances, bludgeoned by the sugar-frosted glow of Cruise’s mercilessly engaging facial muscles, and shamefully brought to tears by moments of hate-yourself-for-going-with-it manipulation. In the immortal words of Abba’s Waterloo, “I was defeated, you won the war”. I give up.

Kermode gave up. In reality, the outcome of his personal ‘Waterloo’ was never in doubt. As Noam Chomsky famously told the BBC’s Andrew Marr:

… if you believed something different, you wouldn’t be sitting where you’re sitting.

Kermode’s review bowed down to an intellectually and morally castrated version of what it means to be a film critic, one that casually waves away the appalling, real-world impact of propaganda efforts like ‘Top Gun: Maverick’. It’s a version of film criticism that just happens – ‘My, my!’ – to align itself with the agenda of the consistently pro-war Guardian newspaper and wider corporate media system that makes him wealthy and famous for the back-breaking task of writing a few clever, filtered words every week.

In the Telegraph, Boris Starling managed to recall some military history:

Since then [“Top Gun”, 1986] we have had two wars in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, 9/11, Syria, and of course the current Russian invasion of Ukraine – all of which have, one way or another, dented the concept of unfettered American military might.’

Clearly, Nato’s devastation of Libya – executed with the assistance of more than a dozen US navy ships and a similar number of aircraft – never happened.

Starling’s distorted vision of history reminds us of the BBC’s unfortunate animated web article: ‘The Incredible Change The Queen Has Seen’. Reviewing major international political events since 1952, the BBC comments:

Russia invades Ukraine twice, bringing it into conflict with the West once again.

According to the BBC, then, no-one spread death and destruction in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Iraq, Libya, Syria… on and on. The BBC piece concludes:

Happy Jubilee Ma’am

The fact, as we have discussed, that the West got its hands on both Iraqi and Libyan oil challenges Starling’s idea that ‘unfettered American military might’ has been ‘dented’.

In a parallel universe, a film critic might have reflected on whether the vast death toll from US wars has ‘dented’ the ethical status of films like ‘Top Gun’ and ‘Top Gun: Maverick’. Instead, Starling noticed a different problem with the new film:

But at a time when a real conflict with unimaginable casualties and featuring medieval levels of brutality is taking place on NATO’s border – a conflict into which the US is still refusing to countenance direct military intervention – Top Gun: Maverick may be construed in certain quarters as borderline tasteless.

In other words, the problem with the ‘Top Gun’ franchise is not that the US military machine has been blitzing the world before and since 1986. The problem is that, after all that good work, it is refusing to ‘countenance direct military intervention’ in Ukraine – having merely sent $60 billion in ‘aid’, most of it military – making the latest ‘Top Gun’ heroics somewhat embarrassing. This is what passes for ‘mainstream’ ethical discussion in our high-tech, neon-lit dark age.

Another piece by the Telegraph’s chief film critic, Robbie Collin, notes:

The assignment involves neutralising a uranium enrichment plant somewhere overseas, though we’re told details about the enemy regime behind it are “scarce” – as they have to be these days when you’re trying to sell a blockbuster into as many overseas markets as possible.

Presumably, any Iranians wishing to see the film will be too dumb to realise what is blindingly obvious to everyone else:

Certain military details suggest it might be Iran, but it doesn’t matter either way: the film is low on militaristic swagger, and instead focuses on Maverick’s missionary-like determination to have these youngsters not just reach their potential but surpass it, with the help of their extraordinary aircraft.

Yes, who cares? We all know it’s Iran; so what if that background awareness makes it easier for the public to applaud when Iran receives a generous dose of ‘humanitarian intervention’? Collin concluded by heaping praise on ‘this absurdly entertaining film’.

And that’s all that matters – it’s ‘entertaining’. It’s also somehow ‘low on militaristic swagger’, despite being jam-packed with gleaming warplanes, aircraft carriers and military uniforms. Needless to say, it wouldn’t have mattered how ‘absurdly entertaining’ the film was, if it had depicted Iranian or Russian pilots heroically preparing to bomb the US.

In the Independent, Geoffrey Macnab’s article did manage to reference some history, but only in the sense suggested by the title: ‘Why Tom Cruise’s latest thrill ride is a take-off of traditional Hollywood flying movies’:

These films have a poetical dimension you don’t find in conventional earthbound war movies. Their protagonists are young and courageous, performing their own ethereal, Icarus-like dances with death. They’re fighting as much against the elements as against their enemies.

Again, no concern for the front-page carnage inflicted year after year.

Also in the Independent, Clarisse Loughrey supplied the standard, faux-feminist ‘dissent’, commenting on the new film’s compassionate treatment of its male characters :

The film, unfortunately, doesn’t extend as much of a loving hand toward the women of Top Gun – neither McGillis nor Meg Ryan, who played Rooster’s mother, make any kind of return.

But this shouldn’t be allowed to spoil the party:

Again, there’ll come a time when we need to talk about why Hollywood only accepts older women who look a certain way. Until then, who can be blamed for getting swept up by a film this damned fun?

In the Daily Mail, Jan Moir noted Cruise’s fearlessness in performing his own stunts, adding:

But there is one thing this Hollywood hero is scared of – old ladies! That’s where he draws the line – at the genuine and the realistic. And that is his biggest crime of all in my book… where are the women from the 1986 original? Excuse me. Simply nowhere to be seen. Vaporised by the Hollywood Age Patrol, the girls have somehow fallen off their perch and simply ceased to be.

There is one thing that Moir, like essentially all of corporate journalism, is scared of – the dead, injured, grieving and displaced victims of the West’s endless wars of aggression. The victims are not allowed to exist or matter. They’re not allowed to spoil the celebration of this ‘damned fun’, of the state-corporate fundamentalist faith that ‘we’ are The Good Guys.

But anyway, is it really such ‘damned fun’? Somehow managing to defy the corporate hypegeist, A.O. Scott of the New York Times writes of the new film’s characters: ‘the world they inhabit is textureless and generic’, ‘the dramatic stakes seem curiously low’, the movie is ‘bland and basic’. Scott’s conclusion:

Though you may hear otherwise, “Top Gun: Maverick” is not a great movie. It is a thin, over-strenuous and sometimes very enjoyable movie.

The post “Damned Fun”: “Top Gun: Maverick” And The Military-Entertainment Complex first appeared on Dissident Voice.

“There Is No Way To Fool Physics”: Climate Breakdown And State-Corporate Madness

In the terrifying opening to his 2020 novel, The Ministry for the Future, Kim Stanley Robinson depicts an intense heatwave in India. In an ‘ordinary town’ in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, people are struggling to cope with unbearable heat and humidity. It is the combination of the two, measured by the so-called ‘wet-bulb temperature’, that is potentially fatal. When it approaches the core body temperature of 36C, sweat cannot evaporate and humans can no longer cool themselves down. Dehydration rises to dangerous levels. Vital organs become seriously stressed, especially the heart. Unless the body temperature is reduced, death follows in a matter of hours.

In the novel’s opening scenes, there are shouts of:

‘Go to the lake! Get in the water!’

One man shakes his head:

‘That water is in the sun. It’s as hot as a bath. It’s worse than the air.’

Nevertheless, people jump in the lake, hoping it will help. But a catastrophe is unfolding.

‘People were dying faster than ever. There was no coolness to be had. All the children were dead, all the old people were dead. People murmured what should have been screams of grief; those who could still move shoved bodies out of the lake, or out toward the middle where they floated like logs, or sank.’

It is a nightmare vision of what may lie ahead for humanity in the very near future.

This month, an intense heatwave did indeed hit northern India with temperatures reaching a record high of 49.2C in parts of Delhi. This was the fifth heatwave in the Indian capital since March.

Last month was India’s hottest April in 122 years and Pakistan’s for 61 years. Jacobabad hit nearly 50C with night-time temperatures often staying above 30C. Exhausted and dehydrated birds fell from the sky, an apocalyptic portent if ever there was one. A UK Met Office study has concluded that global warming makes record-breaking heatwaves in northwest India and Pakistan 100 times more likely.

Meanwhile, the highest daily level of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere was recorded. On 11 May, the Scripps Institute of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, measured 421.37 parts per million of carbon dioxide. The previous record of 418.95 ppm was set in May 2021.

‘It is very concerning, extremely worrisome,’ Peter Tans, senior climate scientist at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, told the Financial Times.

‘This last decade, the rate of increase [of carbon emissions] has never been higher, and we are still on the same path. We’re going in the wrong direction at maximum speed.’

Scientists are warning that the 1.5C global heating limit set by governments is about to be breached. The probability of one of the next five years surpassing the limit is now 50 per cent. This is up from 20 per cent in 2020 and zero per cent in 2015.

A new report this week from the UN World Meteorological Organization revealed that 2021 was a record year for breaking critical global indicators of the climate crisis. These include rising sea levels and the amount of heat-trapping emissions in the atmosphere.

António Guterres, the secretary general of the UN, said:

‘Today’s State of the Climate report is a dismal litany of humanity’s failure to tackle climate disruption. Fossil fuels are a dead end – environmentally and economically.’

On top of all that, climate scientists recently reported that global warming could cause the most cataclysmic extinction of marine life in the past 250 million years.

Her Majesty’s ‘Opposition’

If the news media were not owned and run for the benefit of state-corporate elites, all this would be huge headline news – day after day, month after month. There would be vigorous debate across all the main media outlets, building pressure on governments to implement the urgent radical changes required to avert the worst consequences of the climate crisis.

But instead the general population is being held captive, caught in a tight death grip by powerful forces masquerading as our benefactors and protectors. As Jonathan Cook observed:

‘Corporate media is the glue holding our corrupt world together. They promote the Ukraine arms bonanza, helping the corporate war industries profit from mass death. Then they normalise profiteering from the resulting fuel crisis as “bumper” profits for the corporate energy sector.’

Is it any wonder we are in an era of climate breakdown when Business-As-Usual – characterised by short-term corporate greed, compliant mass media and careerist government politicians – is such a dominant factor in human ‘civilisation’?

For example, Corporate Europe Observatory, a non-profit research and campaign group which monitors and exposes corporate lobbying on EU policy making, recently warned that:

‘Fossil fuel giants are shaping the EU’s response to the energy crisis.’

Six big energy companies were named: Shell, BP, Total, ENI, E.ON and Vattenfall. Pascoe Sabido of Corporate Europe Observatory said:

‘The European Commission has been in bed with these corporations for decades. If we want to end our reliance on gas, Russian or otherwise, then we need to end the relationship between the fossil fuel industry and decision-makers, cutting fossil fuel interests out of our political system. In short, we need fossil free politics.’

There is little chance of that under the Tories. Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has just drafted in the former UK boss of BP to supposedly oversee the UK’s transition to ‘a low-carbon economy’. Would a former CEO of Big Tobacco be rewarded by leading a reform of the NHS? Would a former slave owner be put in charge of the abolition of slavery?

In the never-ending corporate quest for profit, even as the planet’s life support systems are failing, oil and gas corporations ‘are planning scores of vast projects that threaten to shatter the 1.5C climate goal.’ If governments allow the projects to proceed, these ‘carbon bombs’ will ‘trigger catastrophic climate breakdown.’

As mentioned above, the head of the UN has called for an end to new fossil fuel projects, warning that climate change poses ‘an existential threat to us all – to the whole world.’ Speaking at a recent press conference, António Guterres said:

‘Main emitters must drastically cut emissions, starting now. This means accelerating the end of our fossil fuel addiction and speeding up the deployment of clean renewable energy.’

The UN chief’s urgent comments align with the aims of campaign groups, such as Extinction Rebellion and Just Stop Oil, so often labelled by ‘mainstream’ media as ‘eco-zealots’, ‘eco maniacs’, ‘eco yobs’ or a ‘mob of environmentalists’. Indeed, on Twitter, Guterres effectively gave climate campaigners his support:

‘Climate activists are sometimes depicted as dangerous radicals. But the truly dangerous radicals are the countries that are increasing the production of fossil fuels. Investing in new fossil fuels infrastructure is moral and economic madness.’

In this country, the madness extends to all three of the main political parties – Labour, Liberal Democrats and Conservative – calling for climate protesters to be ‘cracked down on’ and for their rational demands to be rejected.

Last month, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer demonstrated yet again that he is a faithful ally of established power. Referring to Just Stop Oil protesters’ blockade of 11 fuel depots in southern England, Starmer tweeted:

‘The government must stop standing idly by and immediately impose injunctions to put an end to this disruption.’

He was later confronted publicly by Lauren MacDonald, a 21-year-old Scottish climate activist. According to one newspaper report, Starmer:

‘appear[ed] visibly flustered and fle[d] the scene without addressing the topic of the injunction.’

Fatima Ibrahim from campaign group Green New Deal Rising said:

‘We feel betrayed by Keir Starmer and the Labour Party for calling for more police powers to prevent young people worried about their future from peacefully protesting.

‘At a time when the country is desperate for a different vision of the future, the Labour Party could be calling for a massive shift towards renewables to bring down energy bills and deliver new jobs. Instead, they’ve relegated themselves to government cheerleaders.’

Starmer had shown once again how paper-thin are the differences between Her Majesty’s ‘Opposition’ and Her Majesty’s Government.

‘The Demise Of Civilisation Is Well And Truly In Sight’

Veteran climate scientist James Hansen, who warned the US Congress of the dangers of global warming as early as 1988, injected some reality missing from ‘mainstream’ reporting:

‘There is no indication that incumbent governments are even considering the fundamental actions that are needed to slow and reverse climate change.’

As we wrote at the time, last year’s UN Climate Summit in Glasgow was a greenwashing festival, full of empty rhetoric. Last month, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said it was ‘now or never’ to save humanity.

Climate scientist Simon Lewis observed of the most recent IPCC report:

‘the full 3,000-page report contains an astonishingly frank assessment of the organised efforts used to thwart climate action, noting: “opposition to climate action by carbon-connected industries is broad-based, highly organized, and matched with extensive lobbying”.’

Earth scientist Bill McGuire warned that:

‘it is now practically impossible to have any chance of staying this side of the 1.5C guardrail. The truth is that we can no longer sidestep dangerous, all-pervasive, climate breakdown.’

He added:

‘The demise of civilisation is well and truly in sight.’

These are remarkable and frightening statements from a senior scientist; in other words, the kind of sober, conservative, even ultra-cautious figure that the public has traditionally regarded as unwilling to speak out for fear of being seen to be too ‘political’.

McGuire also commented:

‘I have concluded that there will be no real pressure on governments to seriously tackle the #ClimateEmergency until we are all terrified. We are simply not sh*t scared enough – yet.’

In similar vein, Nasa climate scientist Peter Kalmus urged large-scale citizen action to pressure governments around the world. Last month, he wrote that:

‘Climate scientists are desperate: we’re crying, begging and getting arrested.’

He warned:

‘Earth breakdown is much worse than most people realize. The science indicates that as fossil fuels continue to heat our planet, everything we love is at risk.’

Kalmus continued:

‘Nothing has worked. It’s now the eleventh hour and I feel terrified for my kids, and terrified for humanity. I feel deep grief over the loss of forests and corals and diminishing biodiversity. But I’ll keep fighting as hard as I can for this Earth, no matter how bad it gets, because it can always get worse. And it will continue to get worse until we end the fossil fuel industry and the exponential quest for ever more profit at the expense of everything else. There is no way to fool physics.’

All this has motivated Kalmus to become involved in climate activism:

‘I’ve joined the ranks of those who selflessly risk their freedom and put their bodies on the line for the Earth, despite ridicule from the ignorant and punishment from a colonizing legal system designed to protect the planet-killing interests of the rich. It’s time we all join them. The feeling of solidarity is a wonderful balm.’

‘Our Morality Must Catch Up With Our Intelligence’

Noam Chomsky has also urged widespread participation in climate actions:

‘What we face is the greatest imposition of suffering and injustice in the history of civilization…I support the actions of the Just Stop Oil coalition. It’s imperative for us all to do so.’

He added:

‘Brave humans from all walks of life have chosen to not give up. We are fighting back because it’s the fight for all life. It’s now or never. It’s time for action. We need you to join us. We need everyone, everywhere. Now. Just stop oil.’

It will take truly massive, sustained public activism – perhaps on a scale never seen before in human history – to shift course away from climate catastrophe. Meanwhile, governments and corporations will claim their destructive policies, actions and threats are intended to ensure ‘security’ of energy supplies, or ‘security’ of the general population in ‘defending’ the West against Official Enemies.

In a recent interview, aptly titled ‘To Tackle Climate, Our Morality Must Catch Up With Our Intelligence’, Chomsky identified such elite statements as propaganda:

‘Whatever is driving policy, it is not security — at least, security of the population. That is at best a marginal concern. That holds for existential threats as well. We have to look elsewhere.’

Chomsky suggested that to understand why this happens, one could start with ‘the best-established principle of international relations theory’. This dates back to the 18th century and economist Adam Smith’s observation that:

‘the “Masters of Mankind” — in his day the merchants and manufacturers of England — are the “principal architects of [state] policy.” They use their power to ensure that their own interests “are most peculiarly attended to” no matter how “grievous” the effects on others, including the people of England, but most brutally the victims of the “savage injustice of the Europeans.” His [Smith’s] particular target was British savagery in India, then in its early stages, already horrifying enough.’

But in an era of climate breakdown and mass extinction of species, including perhaps our own, surely this principle no longer applies? Chomsky disagrees:

‘Nothing much changes when the crises become existential. Short-term interests prevail. The logic is clear in competitive systems, like unregulated markets. Those who do not play the game are soon out of it. Competition among the “principal architects of policy” in the state system has somewhat similar properties, but we should bear in mind that security of the population is far from a guiding principle, as the record shows all too clearly.’

The historical record also shows that improvements in society are rarely, if ever, bestowed as gifts from above. Power typically only ever makes concessions when it is forced to do so by pressure from below.

Time is running out too rapidly to fundamentally reform society and create a real democracy that people deserve. The immediate priority is to exert insurmountable pressure on existing power structures, not least our own governments, to change course away from climate catastrophe. If we cannot do that, there will be no human civilisation to reform or restructure.

The post “There Is No Way To Fool Physics”: Climate Breakdown And State-Corporate Madness first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Price of “Selective Inattention”

Humanity’s great Achilles’ heel, the flaw that may well determine our fate, was summed up in a couple of lines in the classic Simon & Garfunkel song, ‘The Boxer’:

Still a man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest.

Women, too! Erich Fromm discussed this remarkable phenomenon of ‘selective inattention’: man’s capacity for ‘not observing what he does not want to observe; hence, that he may be sincere in denying a knowledge which he would have, if he wanted only to have it’. (Fromm, Beyond the Chains of Illusion, Abacus, 1989, p.94)

A key influence shaping the ‘selective inattention’ of corporate journalism was described by Lord Halifax:

A Man that should call every thing by its right Name, would hardly pass the Streets without being knock’d down as a common Enemy. (Lord Halifax, The Complete Works of George Savile Marquess of Halifax, Digital Library of India, 1912, p.246)

For example, the truth of the 2003 conquest of Iraq was so criminal, so brutal, so shameful, that a journalist who ‘should call everything by its right Name’ certainly risked being ‘knock’d down’ from his or her salaried perch. So what was the truth?

General John Abizaid, former commander of CENTCOM with responsibility for Iraq, commented:’Of course it’s about oil, it’s very much about oil, and we can’t really deny that.’

In 2007, US Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, said: ‘People say we’re not fighting for oil. Of course we are. They talk about America’s national interest. What the hell do you think they’re talking about? We’re not there for figs.’

This has always been pretty much obvious, but corporate journalists have never seriously discussed it, just as they have never discussed who eventually got their hands on Iraqi oil. You wouldn’t guess from the blanket silence that any casual reader can Google ‘BP and Iraq’ and immediately find this:

In 2009, bp became the first international oil company to return to Iraq after a period of 35 ‎years…

Today, bp, PetroChina and BOC are working in partnership to develop Rumaila, the ‎second-largest producing field in the world, estimated to have around 17 billion barrels of ‎recoverable oil remaining.‎

Or that anyone can Google ‘Exxon and Iraq’ and find this:

In January 2010, ExxonMobil Iraq Limited (EMIL), an affiliate of Exxon Mobil Corporation, signed an agreement with the South Oil Company of the Iraq Ministry of Oil to rehabilitate and redevelop the West Qurna I field in southern Iraq…

In October 2011, ExxonMobil signed six Production Sharing Contracts covering more than 848,000 acres in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

This week, while South Asia’s unprecedented heat wave ‘leaves a billion people in danger of related health problems’, the BBC and other media reported:

BP’s profits for the first three months of this year have more than doubled after oil and gas prices soared.

The energy giant reported an underlying profit of $6.2bn (£4.9bn) compared to $2.6bn in the same period last year – ahead of expectations.

Journalists are not stupid: they know they cannot call the lie-driven, mass-murdering, Iraq oil grab ‘by its right Name’. Instead, ‘a man hears what he wants to hear’ – ‘this’ career-friendly topic is ‘important’, ‘that’ career-hostile topic is… simply ignored. They select and avoid themes and emphases in a way that protects their salaries, security, prospects, careers. Thus, even on truly momentous issues like the destruction and robbery of Iraq at the cost of one million lives, all journalists, facing the same pressures, fall silent, everywhere.

Consider, also, the war in Ukraine. The overwhelming impression given by essentially all US-UK state-corporate media is that this is an almost biblical battle between Good and Evil, between David and Goliath, with Zelensky in a career-defining role as Che Guevara, complete with green combat T-shirt and fatigues. Zelensky (or Zelenskiy, or Zelenskyy) is presented as a latter-day saint to such an extent that journalists initially appeared terrified that they might misspell his name and be subject to politically corrective ‘cancellation’.

For fear of being lumped in with the ‘common Enemy’, almost no journalist is willing to offer the far more plausible assertion that this is, in fact, a battle between Goliath and Super Goliath; with the impoverished, powerless civilian population of Ukraine – exactly the kind of people traditionally viewed as ‘unpeople’ by the billionaire Western elites who stole the oil from Iraq’s ‘unpeople’ – being ruthlessly sacrificed by both sides in a classically inhuman Great Power struggle.

Journalists know that this cannot be discussed. The West has simply invested too many billions to control Ukrainian ‘democracy’, sent too many weapons ($20 billion more on the way); and, having defied the US in Syria, Putin is far too bitter an enemy. And so the typical editor and journalist believes, or claims to believe, what best suits them and their careers, and ‘disregards the rest’.

Not, it has to be said, without clear signs of self-awareness and embarrassment.

David Aaronovitch of The Times, for example, has had comparatively little to say about Ukraine. He knows that if he noisily condemns Russia’s war of aggression, critics will politely ask how Russia’s crime is worse than the US-UK wars of aggression he eagerly supported. He knows he has no answer. On the other hand, he has to say something. But what? In his column in The Times, Aaronovitch commented recently:

But ordinary people also invest, albeit more gently, in official lies. If you want to have a quiet life and not be complicit in crime, you square the circle by denying the criminality and backing the leader.

Astonishing comments for anyone who has read Aaronovitch over the last 30 years. But even this was topped by his critique of Russian media:

A genuinely independent media, uncontrolled and uncontrollable by government or politicians, operating to high standards of evidence and promoting debate, is a primary guarantee of our democracy.

Without it we are all – bar the bravest of us – in danger of becoming accomplices.

Wonderful sentiments. And published in Murdoch’s flagship viewspaper, The Times; the press equivalent of writing from an address that ends ‘Mount Doom, The Black Land of Mordor, Middle Earth’.

In the Guardian, Adam Tooze, professor of history at Columbia University, argues that the US position is:

If Russia has chosen to smash itself on the rock of Ukraine, if Ukraine is willing to fight, so be it.

And yet Tooze writes of US ‘aid’ to Ukraine: ‘The sums of money being contemplated in Washington are enormous – a total of $47bn, the equivalent of one third of Ukraine’s prewar GDP.’

Given this vast level of superpower investment, does anyone seriously believe that Ukraine has a choice on whether to keep fighting or not?

Learning to Say ‘Welcome’ in Ukrainian

On March 21, children’s author and poet Michael Rosen tweeted an appeal, short and sweet, to his readers:

We are learning how to say

welcome

in Ukrainian.

Could we learn to say it in

some other languages too?

In reality, it is not so much that we have been ‘learning’ to welcome Ukrainians. Rather, we have been taught, trained, all but commanded to care for them by a mega-tsunami of openly biased state-corporate propaganda rooted, not in sentiment, not in love, but in Great Power politics.

According to the authoritative Tyndall Report, in March, the evening news programmes of the three dominant US television networks devoted more coverage to the war in Ukraine than in any other month during all wars, including those in which the US military was directly engaged, since the 1991 Gulf War against Iraq:

Combined, the three networks — ABC, CBS, and NBC — devoted 562 minutes to the first full month of the war in Ukraine. That was more time than in the first month of the U.S. invasion of Panama in December 1989 (240 mins), its intervention in Somalia in 1992 (423 mins), and even the first month of its invasion of Afghanistan in November 2001 (306 minutes), according to a commentary published Thursday by Andrew Tyndall, who has monitored and coded the three networks’ nightly news each weekday since 1988.

Tyndall observed:

Astonishingly, the two peak months of coverage of the [2003] Iraq war each saw less saturated coverage than last month in Ukraine (414 minutes in March of 2003 and 455 minutes in April). The only three months of war coverage in the last 35 years that have been more intensive than last month were Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in August 1990 (1,208 minutes) and his subsequent removal in January and February 1991 (1,177 and 1,033 minutes respectively). (Our emphasis)

In March, these three broadcasters devoted about a third more time to foreign news than they have in recent years ‘when international news coverage has fallen to all-time lows’. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has, thus, ‘overturned all normal patterns of journalistic response’. Other stories received minimal attention: North Korean missile tests, the China East airliner crash, U.S.-China talks (which also focused on Ukraine), and Venezuela’s release of two US oil executives.

It is quite wrong to call this coverage ‘news’. As Glenn Greenwald tweeted:

The vast majority of claims and beliefs about Ukraine come from one of two sources:

1) corporate media using the anonymous “US officials said” framework to disseminate unverified claims;

2) think tank “scholars” funded by Western governments.

A tragicomic element is added by the fact that the same commentators unwilling to call the Ukraine war ‘by its right Name’ also have a track record of not calling the West’s record of war ‘by its right Name’.

The picture illustrating this media alert indicates a prime example: The Economist magazine supported US-UK wars of aggression in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Libya with gung-ho covers such as: ‘The case for war’ and ‘WHY WAR WOULD BE JUSTIFIED’. But in response to Russia’s war of aggression, The Economist’s stark, text-free cover depicted the Ukrainian flag dripping with blood.

Apparently inspired by Chaplin’s heart-rending anti-war speech in The Great Dictator, Arnold Schwarzenegger, former governor of California and star of the film Jingle All the Way, reached out to the Russian people:

The strength and the heart of the Russian people have always inspired me. That is why I hope that you will let me tell you the truth about the war in Ukraine.

‘Arnie’ pleaded with Russians to open their eyes and hearts, to see the propaganda for what it so clearly was:

This is an illegal war. Your lives, your limbs, your futures have been sacrificed for a senseless war condemned by the entire world.

In 2003, the same Gandhian peace activist visited US troops in Iraq to celebrate their invasion, commenting:

Congratulations for saying “hasta la vista, baby” to Saddam Hussein. I play the Terminator, but you guys are the true terminators.

True enough, the invasion eventually terminated more than one million Iraqi lives.

In 2004, as mass death engulfed Iraq, Schwarzenegger visited Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany, telling US troops:

Do you know how they translate “Ramstein” in the English language? It means, “We’re gonna kick some ass”.

Before being suspended from Twitter for Thought Crimes (as determined by a corporate ethical arbiter worth $44bn), former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter noted:

The assistant division commander of 1st Marine Division during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, John Kelly, expresses shock at Russia’s “unprovoked invasion of Ukraine”, noting that anyone who violates international law in such a manner is “a thug”.

In similar vein, Fox News host Harris Faulkner turned sagely to former US National Security Advisor and Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, and commented with regard to Putin: ‘When you invade a sovereign nation, that is a war crime.’

Rice nodded in solemn agreement. She, of course, had played a leading role in the US invasion of sovereign Iraq – one of history’s greatest war crimes, a classic war of aggression.

Unlimited examples of such surreal hypocrisy abound. In the Observer, Andrew Rawnsley fulminated: ‘A large and despotic power is hurling its military might at a smaller, democratic neighbour.’

Rawnsley continued:

The barbaric battering of Ukraine is the savage expression of a global contest for the soul of our planet. It is a struggle between the democracies and an axis of autocracies led by China and Russia who seek to impose their authoritarian systems not only on their own populations, but on people beyond their borders.

In the corner defending the ‘soul of our planet’, then, ‘the democracies’: the great, imperial US Rogue State and the vassal states that do its bidding (‘the international community’), the UK among them. Nothing at all has changed in the century and more since Mark Twain observed:

I bring you the stately matron named Christendom, returning bedraggled, besmirched and dishonoured from pirate-raids in Kiao-Chou, Manchuria, South Africa and the Philippines, with her soul full of meanness, her pocket full of boodle and her mouth full of pious hypocrisies. Give her the soap and a towel, but hide the looking-glass.’ (Quoted, Norman Solomon, ‘The Twain That Most Americans Never Meet,’ ZNet Commentary, 19 November 1999)

In 2011, Rawnsley responded to Nato’s overthrow of the Libyan government:

Libyans now have a chance to take the path of freedom, peace and prosperity, a chance they would have been denied were we to have walked on by when Muammar Gaddafi was planning his rivers of blood. Britain and her allies broadly got it right in Libya.

In reality, this was a clear example of powers ‘large and despotic’ imposing their ‘authoritarian systems… on people beyond their borders’. The threatened ‘rivers of blood’ were all fake. On 9 September 2016, even a UK foreign affairs committee reported:

‘the proposition that Gaddafi would have ordered the massacre of civilians in Benghazi was not supported by the available evidence’.

Libya currently produces around 1.2 million barrels of oil per day. Its main export markets are in southern Europe and China. In 2011, Real News interviewed Kevin G. Hall, the national economics correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers, who had studied WikiLeaked material on Libya. Hall said:

‘As a matter of fact, we went through 251,000 [leaked] documents… Of those, a full 10 percent of them, a full 10 percent of those documents, reference in some way, shape, or form oil.’ (‘WikiLeaks reveals US wanted to keep Russia out of Libyan oil,’ The Real News, 11 May 2011)

Hall concluded:

‘It is all about oil.’

In August 2020, Middle East correspondent, Bethan McKernan, wrote in the Guardian under the title, ‘Gaddafi’s prophecy comes true as foreign powers battle for Libya’s oil’.

McKernan noted that, in August 2011, two months before his murder, Gaddafi had delivered a speech calling on his supporters to defend the country from foreign invaders:

‘There is a conspiracy to control Libyan oil and to control Libyan land, to colonise Libya once again.’

Nine years on, McKernan commented, ‘Gaddafi’s proclamation is not far from the truth’ – ‘a constellation of emboldened regional powers has descended on Libya’, a ‘potential showdown over control of Libya’s oil wealth is looming’. At stake: ‘the largest oil reserves in the entire African continent. The majority of the country’s oilfields are in the Sirte basin, worth billions of dollars a year’.

This was a vanishingly rare ‘mainstream’ reference to the fate of Libyan oil.

In 2018, Frank Baker, UK Ambassador to Libya, penned an article titled: ‘Libya: UK leads the way as Libya re-opens for business’. Baker commented of a Libyan British Business Council [LBBC] event:

‘The LBBC event – themed, “Building Bridges Together” – brought together over 60 representatives of the UK oil and gas industry to meet more than 120 of their Libyan business counterparts. I am delighted to hear some of the leading British oil companies are gradually resuming their work in Libya to support the NOC’s [the Libyan National Oil Company] goal of increasing oil production to 2 million barrels a day by 2020… In 2017, trade between the UK and Libya more than doubled (up 138%).’

Also in 2018, Bloomberg reported:

‘In another sign the sector is stabilizing, Royal Dutch Shell Plc and BP Plc have agreed to annual deals to buy Libyan crude.’

Last November, Reuters reported that ‘Shell eyes return to Libya with oil, gas, solar investments’. This week, as the planet burns, the BBC supplied more happy news:

‘Energy giant Shell has reported its highest ever quarterly profits as oil and gas prices surge around the world.

‘Shell made $9.13bn (£7.3bn) in the first three months of the year, nearly triple its $3.2bn profit it announced for the same period last year.’

In the Guardian, Simon Tisdall observed:

‘In terms of democratic norms and human rights, the full or partial subjugation of Ukraine would spell disaster for the international rules-based order – and a triumph for autocrats everywhere.’

Compare with Tisdall on the invasion of Iraq. In 2005, two years into the bloody occupation, he was bursting with optimism:

‘Groundbreaking elections in Afghanistan, Ukraine, Palestine and Iraq, extolled in President Bush’s “dawn of freedom” inaugural address, have encouraged western hopes that democratic values are gaining universal acceptance.’ (Tisdall, ‘Bush’s democratic bandwagon hits a roadblock in Harare,’ The Guardian, February 16, 2005)

Tisdall later commented on Nato’s subjugation of Libya:

‘The Arab spring had claimed another infamous scalp. The risky western intervention had worked. And Libya was liberated at last.’

In 2018 Tisdall wrote:

‘It’s time for Britain and its allies to take concerted, sustained military action to curb Bashar al-Assad’s ability to murder Syria’s citizens at will.’

What did that mean?

‘It means destroying Assad’s combat planes, bombers, helicopters and ground facilities from the air. It means challenging Assad’s and Russia’s control of Syrian airspace. It means taking out Iranian military bases and batteries in Syria if they are used to prosecute the war.’

Sentiments surely being echoed now, word-for-word, by Tisdall’s Russian equivalents as they call for an escalation of Putin’s ‘disaster for the international rules-based order’.

Although Britain is not technically at war – certainly no one is bombing Britain or attacking UK armed forces – ‘man of the people’ and staunch Nato supporter, Paul Mason, was initially incandescent with rage that Russian media had not been censored:

‘Right now RT is telling blatant lies about Ukrainian fascists using Mariupol residents as human shields… with no evidence and over a looped generic shot of conflict damage. Why is it still on the air @ofcom? Why is it still on @YouTube?’

Mason’s wishes soon came to pass. Quite what the danger is, we don’t know: the British war effort cannot be undermined by Russian propaganda for the simple reason that ‘we’ are not at war.

Of course, Mason would never say anything comparable of the BBC, the Guardian, The Times, or the Telegraph. But why not? After all, who told us that Saddam had lethal weapons of mass destruction, that they could be fired within 45 mins, that Gaddafi was planning a massacre in Benghazi and ordering Viagra-fuelled mass rape?

In 2017, Mason wrote:

‘David Cameron was right to take military action to stop Gaddafi massacring his own people during the Libyan uprising of 2011: the action was sanctioned by the UN, proportionate, had no chance of escalating into an occupation.’

As we have seen, this was fake news.

With Russian tennis players – including a favourite for the men’s singles title – banned from competing at Wimbledon, we wonder if the All England Lawn Tennis Club will be cancelling the trophy won by Scotsman Andy Murray in 2013, shortly after Britain wrecked Libya in the process of liberating its oil. To his credit, Murray has refused to support the Wimbledon ban, but should he be allowed to play, given Britain’s criminal role in Saudi Arabia’s devastation of famine-stricken Yemen?

In the Guardian, Jonathan Freedland implored his readers:

‘This, then, is the choice. Do we want to live in the world described by Zelenskiy, where democratic states are protected by an international system of rules, however flawed and inconsistent that system might be? Or do we want to live in Putin’s world, governed by the law of the jungle and where the only right is might?’

Freedland emoted:

‘We think we know which side we’re on. We want to stand with those bleary-eyed children, clutching their colouring books as they bed down in a Kyiv subway station. We tell ourselves we stand with them and against Putin and his war of aggression.’

In 2011, writing from the dark heart of the same lawless jungle he affects to deplore, Freedland was more upbeat:

‘Though the risks are very real, the case for intervention remains strong – Not to respond to Gaddafi’s chilling threats would leave us morally culpable, but action in Libya is fraught with danger’

Alas, there was no ‘international system of rules’ to protect the Libyan people from the catastrophe inflicted by Nato and the oil-hungry corporations it was serving. Freedland continued:

‘The grimmer prospect is that Putin understands something about the 21st century few of us want to face: that this is an age of impunity, especially for those who have a vast and deadly arsenal but no shame.’

Remembering the Nuremberg tribunals, and being himself one of the beneficiaries in this ‘age of impunity’, we can only say: You said it, Jonathan!

Lindsay Hilsum, Channel 4’s international news editor, tweeted a comment from Rossiya 1, Russia’s most popular TV channel:

‘Today Russia has begun a special military operation aimed at protecting people who for the last eight years have been subjected to abuse and genocide by the regime in Kyiv.’

Hilsum’s horrified comment:

‘The false Russian narrative that Russian-speakers in Ukraine were being persecuted. This is what Russians are being told.’

We tried to imagine Hilsum reality-checking the false narratives supplied by Freedland, Mason and Rawnsley above:

‘The false NATO narrative that civilians in Benghazi faced a massacre. This is what Britons are being told.’

Repeatedly deploying graphic emoticons to indicate his copious vomiting, ‘eco columnist’ at the Russian oligarch-owned Independent, Donnachadh McCarthy, commented:

‘Insightful that both @medialens on left and @Nigel_Farage on right, both oppose E European democracies from freely choosing collective security, kow-towing 2 Putin. 😥🤮

‘So easy from their privileged safe beds on western fringe of Europe.’

Beds? We replied:

‘The priority of the US-UK-NATO countries that attacked Iraq, Libya and Syria, taking their oil – and that respond with “Blah, blah, blah” to climate change – is profit, not democracy, not collective security, and not even human survival.’

Conclusion – ‘We’re Going To Lose Everything’

The Independent recently reported that NASA climate scientist, Peter Kalmus, was among a group of scientists arrested after they chained themselves to a JPMorgan Chase building in Los Angeles in protest at the bank’s financing of fossil fuels.

A video contained dramatic footage of Kalmus breaking down in tears as he pleaded with the world to listen. He commented:

‘We’re going to lose everything. And we’re not joking, we’re not lying, we’re not exaggerating.’

Civil disobedience is essential, Kalmus said, because if someone casually mentions that ‘the house is on fire’ before returning to their coffee, ‘they’ll think you’re joking, they won’t take you seriously’.

But that is the whole problem for anyone relying on corporate newspapers like the Independent – they read that ‘the house is on fire’ and then turn to an advert for coffee, or for long-haul flights, or to the latest news from the Kardashians. Corporate journalism is all about encouraging us to believe what powerful interests want us to believe – that ‘normal’ is still normal – while it ‘disregards the rest’.

Journalists are all about believing whatever gets them what they want – everything is compromised; almost no-one speaks honestly and openly from the heart. Corporate means plastic, filtered, denuded of human honesty, integrity and truth. Everything is for sale. Souls are bought and sold like social media companies selling ‘free speech’.

And readers barely even read that ‘the house is on fire’. The Independent’s ‘cautious’ (but actually insanely reckless) summary of Kalmus’s position is indicative:

‘Dr Kalmus says that he wants the public to understand the climate crisis is an emergency caused primarily by burning fossil fuels – and that he wants leaders to stop claiming to listen to scientists, and actually do so.’

In 2022, with the world on the absolute brink of disaster, this does not in any way capture the truth of what Kalmus is trying to communicate. As the article itself acknowledges, Kalmus is saying: ‘We’re going to lose everything’.

But why would we expect an appropriate level of alarm and outrage from journalists who have been selected for their ‘selective inattention’, for their willingness not ‘to call everything by its right Name’?

The truth is that billionaire-owned, profit-maximising, advert-dependent corporate media are an integral part of the corporate pathology that is leading to disaster. Corporate journalists know full-well that the system of which they are a part has deep investments in endless profits, endless growth, and has much to lose from an overly-alarmed population.

On Twitter, Kalmus tweeted a photograph of a tiny comment buried in an unidentified ‘mainstream’ newspaper. The comment:

‘Earth on track to be “unlivable”

‘Global warming will pass tipping point

‘Unless greenhouse gas emissions fall fast,

‘a report says. WORLD, A3’

Kalmus’s despairing response:

‘Earth on track to be unlivable. Story, page 3.

‘You can’t make this up’

You can’t make it up, but the relegation of the end of the world to page 3 of a corporate newspaper does sum it up.

People puzzled that we have been bizarrely hammering away at what they perceive as a niche issue for two decades, will soon be waking up to the price – literally unimaginable – of allowing the corporate control of ‘news’ to go unchallenged.

The post The Price of “Selective Inattention” first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Burying “An Atlas of Human Suffering”

As the US economist and media analyst Edward Herman rightly noted in the aftermath of the mass slaughter of the first Gulf War:

It is the function of defense intellectuals and other experts, and the mainstream media, to normalize the unthinkable for the general public.

Examples include:

  • The appalling deaths of over one million Iraqis under UN sanctions from 1990-2003, including half a million children under the age of five. When asked in a US television interview about this horror of mass child deaths, the recently deceased Madeleine Albright, former US Secretary of State, infamously responded: ‘the price is worth it’;
  • The ‘Shock and Awe’ of the US-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, with over one million dead;
  • The current death toll of 377,000 in Yemen through direct and indirect causes of bombing by a Saudi-led ‘coalition’, with the active participation of the UK.

In a normal, healthy, open society, the mass media would present these terrible events with appropriate levels of outrage, identifying responsibility where it lies – so often Washington and London – rather than attempt to justify them, or shrug them off as ‘that’s just the way things are.’

‘Normalisation’ also extends to making palatable the inactions of governments. The most glaring example is the climate crisis that is now engulfing humanity amidst the utter madness of corporate-driven neoliberal economics. The UN Climate Summit in Glasgow last year was an appalling abdication of duty by those in leading positions in government, industry and finance. As we noted in our media alert last November, COP26 was a ‘greenwash festival’ and its lack of decisive actions a ‘crime against humanity’.

Meanwhile, not even the climate crisis is permitted to interfere with the untrammelled might of the military machines of the US/Nato/EU, Russia, and any other heavily-armed nations around the globe, should they wish to pursue aggressive wars under the guise of ‘protecting’ their ‘sovereignty,’ ‘defending democracy’ and maintaining a ‘secure’ international ‘order.’

The US military, in particular, is a significant contributor to climate change. If it were a nation state, it would be the 47th largest emitter in the world. As Jangira Lewis, a Hong Kong-based teacher, observed in a piece for the website, Earth.org:

Their negligence, nuclear testing and disregard for human life has come at a huge environmental cost.

Military emissions do not even need to be reported to the UN. Researchers Doug Weir, Benjamin Neimark and Oliver Belcher observe that:

The US can take the credit for that. In 1997, its negotiating team won a blanket military exemption under the Kyoto climate accord. Speaking in the Senate the following year, the now special presidential envoy for climate, John Kerry, hailed it as “a terrific job.”

The UK-based Scientists for Global Responsibility have done vital work on the military sector and its climate-destabilising carbon emissions. But the issue is notable by its virtual absence from ‘mainstream’ reporting.

Also off the agenda of state-corporate media is any rational discussion of the real interests pursued by the globe’s most powerful nations when deploying their armed forces and state-of-the-art weaponry. As historian and foreign policy analyst Mark Curtis noted in his seminal work, Web of Deceit: Britain’s Real Role in the World:

‘upholding “international order” means preserving the privileged position of Anglo-American power and ensuring that key countries and regions remain under their overall control.’ (Vintage, 2003; p. 14)

Since Media Lens began in 2001, we have documented numerous examples of how state-corporate media enable and promote this Western dominance. This applies especially to coverage of the US which is regarded and presented by starstruck BBC journalists in Washington, in particular, as ‘the shining city on the hill;’ a supposed paragon of ‘freedom’, opportunity and human rights. Meanwhile, under the US’s self-appointed watch as ‘the world’s policeman’, the planet continues to overheat dangerously.

‘An Atlas of Human Suffering’

Scientists are now reporting incredible extremes of Antarctic and Arctic temperatures 40C above normal. Alarmed climate researchers have warned that these temperature extremes are ‘historic’, ‘unprecedented’ and ‘dramatic’.

Mark Maslin, professor of earth system science at University College London, said:

I and colleagues were shocked by the number and severity of the extreme weather events in 2021 – which were unexpected at a warming of 1.2C. Now we have record temperatures in the Arctic which, for me, show we have entered a new extreme phase of climate change much earlier than we had expected.

These astonishing polar heatwaves are yet another sign of dangerous climate disruption by humans. Melting ice at both poles could even trigger a cascade of events that would accelerate climate breakdown.

James Hansen, the leading US climate scientist who warned Congress of the dangers of global warming as early as 1988, notes:

Reduced sea ice cover increases the planetary energy imbalance, as a dark ocean reflects less sunlight than sea ice does.

More starkly put, this is but one climatic effect that could initiate irreversible runaway global warming.

All this comes hot on the heels of the ‘bleakest warning yet’ on climate breakdown last month by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

António Guterres, the UN secretary general, said:

‘I have seen many scientific reports in my time, but nothing like this. Today’s IPCC report is an atlas of human suffering and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership.’

Many of the impacts of global warming are now simply ‘irreversible’ and there is only ‘a brief window of time to avoid the very worst.’

A BBC summary by environment correspondent Matt McGrath, ‘Climate change: Five things we’ve learned from the IPCC report’, had at the top of its list:
‘Things are way worse than we thought.’

McGrath continued:

From the melting of the Greenland ice sheet to the destruction of coral reefs, climate related impacts are hitting the world at the high end of what modellers once expected. And much more quickly than previously assessed by the IPCC.

Right now, as the new report makes clear, around 40% of the world’s population is “highly vulnerable” to the impacts of climate change.

But the burden is falling mainly on those who did the least to cause the problem.

The IPCC study is the second part of their latest assessment report, and it focuses on the impacts of climate breakdown. It took seven years to prepare, based on the peer-reviewed work of thousands of researchers. The first part, on the science of climate change, was published last August in the run-up to COP26 in Glasgow. That report had already been declared a ‘red code for humanity’ by Guterres.

Guardian environment editor Damian Carrington addressed the latest IPCC findings in a stark piece titled: ‘This climate crisis report asks: what is at stake? In short, everything.’

He noted:

tackling climate impacts alone will not work. The IPCC sets out in the strongest terms to date that the climate crisis is inseparable from the biodiversity crisis and the poverty and inequality suffered by billions of people.

He continued:

Given this scope, and with a liveable future on the line, the assessment could be seen as one of the most important in human history.

The ‘Old Loon’ and the Bitter Ex-BBC Functionary

Despite a few headlines, and good reporting of the latest IPCC warnings in the environment sections of the Guardian, BBC News and other ‘serious’ news outlets, it was swiftly swamped by the pro-Nato propaganda blitz devoted to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Fiona Harvey, Guardian environment correspondent, had a piece the week after the IPCC report came out, asking: ‘Has the IPCC’s bleak warning of climate breakdown been heard?’

She answered:

the report has been overshadowed, understandably, by the war in Ukraine, and has received less policymaker and media attention than it deserved.

There was, of course, no hint of the corporate media’s structural biases, leading it to bury or marginalise uncomfortable truths about the world; not least the primary responsibility of corporate-captured governments for the climate crisis.

But, as we have long noted, knowledge of Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky’s propaganda model of the media, or even a willingness to mention it, is completely lacking in ‘mainstream’ circles. Or, on the rare occasion when Chomsky’s name is raised, he may be dismissed as an ‘old loon.’ Those were the words of Andrew Marr, the former BBC political editor. In making such an unkind, ageist remark, readers may surmise that Marr still feels the pain of being bested by Chomsky in a famous 1996 BBC interview in which the linguist and political activist told the befuddled journalist that:

If you believed anything different, you wouldn’t be sitting where you’re sitting.

Harvey continued:

That does not mean the IPCC report will be ignored. Governments are working on their responses to the scientists’ warnings, and later this year at the next UN climate summit, Cop27, they are obliged to lay out their plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions to limit global heating to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

But this bland statement obscures the reality: governments have been working non-stop since the IPCC was set up in 1988 to avoid taking the necessary action to address the climate crisis. Instead, they have pumped out a never-ending stream of PR propaganda, selling the myth that they can be trusted to do the right thing.

As the Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg famously observed, it’s all: ‘Blah, blah, blah.’

So, when governments deliver ‘their responses to the scientists’ warnings’, expect a familiar litany of political rhetoric and weasel words: vows, pledges, promises, commitments, sign up, phase out, green investment, innovation, transition, progress, scaling up, carbon credits, bending the emissions curve, net zero, 2050, 2070.

Mutually Assured Destruction

Although the ‘better’ state-corporate media outlets do publish responsible accounts of the latest findings in climate science, any in-depth discussion is generally limited to the environment sections and rigidly confined within ‘acceptable’ political limits. In particular, there is a dearth of serious discussion or analysis of the profit-driven corporate economic system that is driving humanity towards the climate abyss and possible extinction.

It can be tragicomic to observe. For example, one part of BBC News reported the UN Secretary General saying that the rush to use fossil fuels because of the war in Ukraine is ‘madness’ and threatens global climate targets: ‘Addiction to fossil fuels is mutually assured destruction.’

Elsewhere, Faisal Islam, the BBC economics editor, prepared the ground in advance of Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak’s ‘Spring Statement’, delivered on 23 March.

The excuses were rolled out by the BBC man: ‘The instinct of the chancellor, is that he can only do so much.’

And: ‘Rishi Sunak does not want expanded government spending to define his tenure at Number 11.’

In short, as the headline said: ‘Don’t expect much from Rishi Sunak’s Spring Statement’

In line with its establishment role, the BBC was doing its bit to dampen public expectations that the Chancellor should act, heaven forbid, in the public interest.

There was not a single mention of climate in the BBC article: the single most important and pressing issue facing humanity.

The Tory government issued its latest economic ‘update’ as if the climate emergency had magically vanished. BBC News did not hold them to account; not even by joining the dots in their own reporting, such as it is. The remarkable headline at the top of the BBC News website the following morning was a Tory-friendly bullet point: ‘Rishi Sunak seeks to combat cost-of-living squeeze’

Thus, the state broadcaster led with the bizarre notion that the Tory Chancellor’s economic statement was some kind of ‘helping hand’ for the British public. There was a solitary, brief mention of climate in its leading story:

And the Green Party criticised him for not mentioning climate issues. Its co-leader Adrian Ramsay accused Mr Sunak of “[looking] after the interests of fossil fuel companies”.

A search of UK newspapers in the Lexis-Nexis database using the search terms ‘Rishi Sunak’ and ‘Spring Statement’ for the period 19-24 March yielded 5,307 hits. Out of this total, just 259 included the word ‘climate’: a mere 4.9 per cent of the total.

Moreover, browsing through these results indicated that climate was given short shrift. Typically, in a preview of Sunak’s announcement, the ‘Soaraway’ Sun referred to climate dismissively as a ‘costly’ policy to tackle. The headline was classic, Jeremy Clarkson-style, pro-car rejoicing:

 ‘AT LAST! 5p OFF A LITRE; CHANCELLOR’S BUDGET CUT ON FUEL Rishi to step in and help motorists’

After Sunak delivered his update, Carbon Brief, a UK-based website specialising in climate science and policy, observed that:

climate change is not a priority in the spring statement, with “net-zero” mentioned just once in the 52-page document, and “climate” mentioned three times.

The BBC News website had an article titled, ‘Spring Statement: Key points at a glance’. Climate was not even mentioned, which says it all.

Alice Bell, co-director at the climate change charity Possible and author of ‘Our Biggest Experiment: A History of the Climate Crisis’, credited Sunak for explicitly referencing energy efficiency, and cutting VAT to zero on energy-saving measures such as loft insulation. But it was ‘nowhere near enough’: a contender for understatement of the year.

Elsewhere, Sunak was ‘slammed‘ for axing VAT on items such as solar panels and heat pumps which only the better-off can afford, while doing virtually nothing to help the vast majority of people who are struggling to pay exorbitant energy bills.

Mike Foster, CEO of the Energy and Utilities Alliance, said:

The Chancellor has clearly not heard the outcry over rocketing energy bills faced by millions…Frankly, consumers waiting to hear good news on their energy bills will be left asking, ‘is that it Chancellor?

The Mirror noted a backlash to Sunak on Twitter, with someone making the crucial point:

Not sure how many of those struggling to buy food will be buying solar panels. Sunak woefully out of touch.

As for the backdrop of an ever-mounting climate crisis, Bell concluded:

once again, climate and energy policy is stuck in the waiting room. In the meantime, more and more people are being pulled into fuel poverty. Earth’s polar regions are heating up. We don’t have time to wait.

As discussed earlier, catastrophic climate impacts are mounting up, ensuring that the planet is quickly becoming uninhabitable for vast swathes of humanity. Despite some opposition to Sunak’s statement being reported, state-corporate media are continuing to normalise the unthinkable: that tinkering with the economy, blatantly favouring the rich, is rational behaviour while the planet burns. By contrast, a huge mobilisation of human and natural resources is urgently needed as part of a wholesale restructuring of the economy towards a sustainable way of life.

Josh Burke, a Senior Policy Fellow at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, cites the example of the Second World War:

Only structural change to institutions and economies will deliver a low-carbon world. Viewed through this lens, tackling climate change is more analogous with the “war effort”. WWII is the only historical event that conveys the need for rapid reallocation of capital and raw materials, new supply chains and innovative technologies. As such it may provide lessons for how economies can be transformed to meet the challenges of climate change, and for the role governments should play.

Unless there is a mass awakening and large-scale public revolt, the tiny elite now running human affairs will be the last to cling on to the vestiges of what remains of a liveable Earth. The majority of the population, on whom the elite rely for exploitation of labour and resources, will have already disappeared, victims of the corporate pathway to extinction.

If all this seems irredeemably bleak, bear in mind the words of Dutch historian Rutger Bregman in his bestseller, Humankind: A Hopeful History:

Catastrophes bring out the best in people. I know of no other sociological finding that’s backed by so much solid evidence that’s so blithely ignored. The picture we’re fed by the media is consistently the opposite of what happens when disaster strikes. (Bloomsbury, 2020; p. 6)

The climate crisis is the ultimate test for humankind.

The post Burying “An Atlas of Human Suffering” first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Doubling Down On Double Standards: The Ukraine Propaganda Blitz

The American population was bombarded the way the Iraqi population was bombarded. It was a war against us, a war of lies and disinformation and omission of history. That kind of war, overwhelming and devastating, waged here in the US while the Gulf War was waged over there.’ ((Howard Zinn, ‘Power, History and Warfare’, Open Magazine Pamphlet Series, No. 8, 1991, p. 12.))

What a strange feeling it was to know that the cruise missile shown descending towards an airport and erupting in a ball of flame was not fired by US or British forces.

Millions of Westerners raised to admire the ultimate spectacle of high-tech, robotic power, must have quickly suppressed their awe at the shock – this was Russia’s war of aggression, not ‘ours’. This was not an approved orgy of destruction and emphatically not to be celebrated.

Rewind to April 2017: over video footage of Trump’s cruise missiles launching at targets in Syria in response to completely unproven claims that Syria had just used chemical weapons, MSNBC anchor Brian Williams felt a song coming on:

‘We see these beautiful pictures at night from the decks of these two US navy vessels in the eastern Mediterranean – I am tempted to quote the great Leonard Cohen: “I’m guided by the beauty of our weapons” – and they are beautiful pictures of fearsome armaments making what is, for them, a brief flight…’

TV and newspaper editors feel the same way. Every time US-UK-NATO launches a war of aggression on Iraq, Libya, Syria – whoever, wherever – our TV screens and front pages fill with ‘beautiful pictures’ of missiles blazing in pure white light from ships. This is ‘Shock And Awe’ – we even imagine our victims ‘awed’ by our power.

In 1991, the ‘white heat’ of our robotic weaponry was ‘beautiful’ because it meant that ‘we’ were so sophisticated, so civilised, so compassionate, that only Saddam’s palaces and government buildings were being ‘surgically’ removed, not human beings. This was keyhole killing. The BBC’s national treasure, David Dimbleby, basked in the glory on live TV:

‘Isn’t it in fact true that America, by dint of the very accuracy of the weapons we’ve seen, is the only potential world policeman?’1

Might makes right! This seemed real to Dimbleby, as it did to many people. In fact, it was fake news. Under the 88,500 tons of bombs 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. Just 7 per cent of the ordnance consisted of so called ‘smart bombs’.

By contrast, the morning after Russia launched its war of aggression on Ukraine, front pages were covered, not in tech, but in the blood of wounded civilians and the rubble of wrecked civilian buildings. A BBC media review explained:

‘A number of front pages feature a picture of a Ukrainian woman – a teacher named Helena – with blood on her face and bandages around her head after a block of flats was hit in a Russian airstrike.

‘“Her blood on his hands” says the Daily Mirror; the Sun chooses the same headline.’

‘Our’ wars are not greeted by such headlines, nor by BBC headlines of this kind:

‘In pictures: Destruction and fear as war hits Ukraine’

The fear and destruction ‘we’ cause are not ‘our’ focus.

Former Guardian journalist Jonathan Cook noted:

‘Wow! Radical change of policy at BBC News at Ten. It excitedly reports young women – the resistance – making improvised bombs against Russia’s advance. Presumably Palestinians resisting Israel can now expect similar celebratory coverage from BBC reporters’

A BBC video report was titled:

‘Ukraine conflict: The women making Molotov cocktails to defend their city’

Hard to believe, but the text beneath read:

‘The BBC’s Sarah Rainsford spoke to a group of women who were making Molotov cocktails in the park.’

For the entire morning of March 2, the BBC home page featured a Ukrainian civilian throwing a lit Molotov cocktail. The adjacent headline:

‘Russian paratroopers and rockets attack Kharkiv – Ukraine’

In other words, civilians armed with homemade weapons were facing heavily-armed elite troops. Imagine the response if, in the first days of an invasion, the BBC had headlined a picture of a civilian in Baghdad or Kabul heroically resisting US-UK forces in the same way.

Another front-page BBC article asked:

‘Ukraine invasion: Are Russia’s attacks war crimes?’

The answer is ‘yes,’ of course – Russia’s attack is a textbook example of ‘the supreme crime’, the waging of a war of aggression. So, too, was the 2003 US-UK invasion and occupation of Iraq. But, of course, the idea that such an article might have appeared in the first week of that invasion is completely unthinkable.

Generating The Propaganda Schwerpunkt

On 27 February, the first 26 stories on the BBC’s home page were devoted to the Russian attack on Ukraine. The BBC website even typically features half a dozen stories on Ukraine at the top of its sports section.

On 28 February, the Guardian’s website led with the conflict, followed by 20 additional links to articles about the Ukraine crisis. A similar pattern is found in all ‘mainstream’ news media.

The inevitable result of this level of media bombardment on many people: Conflict in Ukraine is ‘our’ war – ‘I stand with Ukraine!’

Political analyst Ben Norton commented:

‘Russia’s intervention in Ukraine has gotten much more coverage, and condemnation, in just 24 hours than the US-Saudi war on Yemen has gotten since it started nearly 7 years ago… US-backed Saudi bombing now is the worst since 2018’

This is no small matter. Norton added:

‘An estimated 377,000 Yemenis have died in the US-Saudi war on their country, and roughly 70% of deaths were children under age 5’

Some 15.6 million Yemenis live in extreme poverty, and 8.6 million suffer from under-nutrition. A recent United Nations report warned:

‘If war in Yemen continues through 2030, we estimate that 1.3 million people will die as a result.’

Over half of Saudi Arabia’s combat aircraft used for the bombing raids on Yemen are UK-supplied. UK-made equipment includes Typhoon and Tornado aircraft, Paveway bombs, Brimstone and Stormshadow missiles, and cluster munitions. Campaign Against the Arms Trade reports:

‘Researchers on the grounds have discovered weapons fragments that demonstrate the use of UK-made weapons in attacks on civilian targets.’

Despite the immensity of the catastrophe and Britain’s clear legal and moral responsibility, in 2017, the Independent reported:

‘More than half of British people are unaware of the “forgotten war” underway in Yemen, despite the Government’s support for a military coalition accused of killing thousands of civilians.

‘A YouGov poll seen exclusively by The Independent showed 49 per cent of people knew of the country’s ongoing civil war, which has killed more than 10,000 people, displaced three million more and left 14 million facing starvation.

‘The figure was even lower for the 18 to 24 age group, where only 37 per cent were aware of the Yemen conflict as it enters its third year of bloodshed.’

The Independent added:

‘At least 75 people are estimated to be killed or injured every day in the conflict, which has pushed the country to the brink of famine as 14 million people lack a stable access to food.’

On Twitter, Dr Robert Allan made the point that matters:

‘We as tax paying citizens and as a nation are directly responsible for our actions. Not the actions of others. Of course we can and should highlight crimes of nations and act appropriately and benevolently (the UK record here is horrific). 1st – us, NATO, our motives and actions.’

We can be sure that Instagram, YouTube and Tik Tok will never be awash with the sentiment: ‘I stand with Yemen!’

As if the whole world belongs to ‘us’, our righteous rage on Ukraine is such that we apparently forget that we are not actually under attack, not being bombed; our soldiers and civilians are not being killed. Nevertheless, RT (formerly Russia Today), Going Underground and Sputnik have been shut down on YouTube and Google as though the US and UK were under direct attack, facing an existential threat.

Certainly, we at Media Lens welcome the idea that powerful state-corporate media should be prevented from promoting state violence. It is absurd that individuals are arrested and imprisoned for threatening or inciting violence, while journalists regularly call for massive, even genocidal, violence against whole countries with zero consequences (career advancement aside). But banning media promoting state violence means banning, not just Russian TV, but literally all US-UK broadcasters and newspapers.

Confirming the hypocrisy, The Intercept reported:

‘Facebook will temporarily allow its billions of users to praise the Azov Battalion, a Ukrainian neo-Nazi military unit previously banned from being freely discussed under the company’s Dangerous Individuals and Organizations policy, The Intercept has learned.’

In 2014, the Guardian’s central and eastern Europe correspondent, Shaun Walker, wrote:

‘The Azov, one of many volunteer brigades to fight alongside the Ukrainian army in the east of the country, has developed a reputation for fearlessness in battle.

‘But there is an increasing worry that while the Azov and other volunteer battalions might be Ukraine’s most potent and reliable force on the battlefield against the separatists, they also pose the most serious threat to the Ukrainian government, and perhaps even the state, when the conflict in the east is over. The Azov causes particular concern due to the far right, even neo-Nazi, leanings of many of its members.’

The report continued:

‘Many of its members have links with neo-Nazi groups, and even those who laughed off the idea that they are neo-Nazis did not give the most convincing denials.’

Perhaps the hundreds of journalists who attacked Jeremy Corbyn for questioning the removal of an allegedly anti-semitic mural – which depicted a mixture of famous historical and identifiable Jewish and non-Jewish bankers – with the single word, ‘Why?’, would care to comment?

According to our ProQuest search, the Guardian has made no mention of the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion in the last week – as it most certainly would have, if Ukraine were an Official Enemy of the West. ProQuest finds a grand total of three mentions of the Azov Battalion in the entire UK national press – two in passing, with a single substantial piece in the Daily Star – in the last seven days. ‘Impressive discipline’, as Noam Chomsky likes to say.

‘Russia Must Be Broken’

Britain and the US have been waging so much war, so ruthlessly, for so long, that Western journalists and commentators have lost all sense of proportion and restraint. Neil Mackay, former editor of the Sunday Herald (2015-2018), wrote in the Herald:

‘Russia must be broken, in the hope that by breaking the regime economically and rendering it a pariah state on the world’s stage, brave and decent Russian people will rise up and drag Putin from power.’

If nothing else, Mackay’s comment indicated just how little impact was made by the deaths of 500,000 children under five when the US and Britain saw to it that the Iraq economy was ‘broken’ by 13 years of genocidal sanctions.

For describing his comment as ‘obscene’, Mackay instantly blocked us on Twitter. His brutal demand reminded us of the comment made by columnist Thomas Friedman in the New York Times:

‘Like it or not, we are at war with the Serbian nation… and the stakes have to be very clear: Every week you ravage Kosovo is another decade we will set your country back by pulverising you. You want 1950? We can do 1950. You want 1389? We can do 1389 too.’

We can enjoy the ‘shock and awe’ of that comment, if we have no sense at all that Serbian people are real human beings capable of suffering, love, loss and death exactly as profound as our own.

On Britain’s Channel 5, BBC stalwart Jeremy Vine told a caller, Bill, from Manchester:

‘Bill, Bill, the brutal reality is, if you put on a uniform for Putin and you go and fight his war, you probably deserve to die, don’t you?’

Unlike his celebrated interviewer, Bill, clearly no fan of Putin, had retained his humanity:

Do you?! Do kids deserve to die, 18, 20 – called up, conscripted – who don’t understand it, who don’t grasp the issues?’

Vine’s sage reply:

‘That’s life! That’s the way it goes!’

We all know what would have happened to Vine if he had said anything remotely comparable of the US-UK forces that illegally invaded Iraq.

MSNBC commentator Clint Watts observed:

‘Strangest thing – entire world watching a massive Russian armor formation plow towards Kyiv, we cheer on Ukraine, but we’re holding ourselves back. NATO Air Force could end this in 48 hrs. Understand handwringing about what Putin would do, but we can see what’s coming’

The strangest thing is media commentators reflexively imagining that US-UK-NATO can lay any moral or legal claim to act as an ultra-violent World Police.

Professor Michael McFaul of Stanford University, also serving with the media’s 101st Chairborne Division, appeared to be experiencing multiple wargasms when he tweeted:

‘More Stingers to Ukraine! More javelins! More drones!’

Two hours later:

‘More NLAWs [anti-tank missiles], Stingers (the best ones), and Javelins for Ukraine! Now!’

Echoing Mackay, McFaul raved (and later deleted):

‘There are no more “innocent” “neutral” Russians anymore. Everyone has to make a choice— support or oppose this war. The only way to end this war is if 100,000s, not thousands, protest against this senseless war. Putin can’t arrest you all!’

Courageous words indeed from his Ivy League office. Disturbing to note that McFaul was ambassador to Russia under Barack Obama, widely considered to be a saint.

‘Shockingly Arrogant Meddling’ – The Missing History

So how did we get here? State-corporate news coverage has some glaring omissions.

In February 2014, after three months of violent, US-aided protests, much of it involving neo-Nazi anti-government militias, the president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, fled Kiev for Russia. Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) provide some context:

‘On February 6, 2014, as the anti-government protests were intensifying, an anonymous party (assumed by many to be Russia) leaked a call between Assistant Secretary of State [Victoria] Nuland and US ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt. The two officials discussed which opposition officials would staff a prospective new government, agreeing that Arseniy Yatsenyuk — Nuland referred to him by the nickname “Yats” — should be in charge. It was also agreed that someone “high profile” be brought in to push things along. That someone was Joe Biden.’

The BBC reported Nuland picking the new Ukrainian leader:

‘I think “Yats” is the guy who’s got the economic experience, the governing experience.’

FAIR continues:

‘Weeks later, on February 22, after a massacre by suspicious snipers brought tensions to a head, the Ukrainian parliament quickly removed Yanukovych from office in a constitutionally questionable maneuver. Yanukovych then fled the country, calling the overthrow a coup. On February 27, Yatsenyuk became prime minister.’

We can read between the lines when Nuland described how the US had invested ‘over $5 billion’ to ‘ensure a secure and prosperous and democratic Ukraine’.

In a rare example of dissent in the Guardian, Ted Galen Carpenter, senior fellow for defence and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute, wrote this week:

‘The Obama administration’s shockingly arrogant meddling in Ukraine’s internal political affairs in 2013 and 2014 to help demonstrators overthrow Ukraine’s elected, pro‐​Russia president was the single most brazen provocation, and it caused tensions to spike. Moscow immediately responded by seizing and annexing Crimea, and a new cold war was underway with a vengeance…’

Carpenter concluded:

‘Washington’s attempt to make Ukraine a Nato political and military pawn (even absent the country’s formal membership in the alliance) may end up costing the Ukrainian people dearly.

‘History will show that Washington’s treatment of Russia in the decades following the demise of the Soviet Union was a policy blunder of epic proportions. It was entirely predictable that Nato expansion would ultimately lead to a tragic, perhaps violent, breach of relations with Moscow. Perceptive analysts warned of the likely consequences, but those warnings went unheeded. We are now paying the price for the US foreign policy establishment’s myopia and arrogance.’

Within days of the 2014 coup, troops loyal to Russia took control of the Crimea peninsula in the south of Ukraine. As Jonathan Steele, a former Moscow correspondent for the Guardian, recently explained:

‘NATO’s stance over membership for Ukraine was what sparked Russia’s takeover of Crimea in 2014. Putin feared the port of Sevastopol, home of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, would soon belong to the Americans.’

The New Yorker magazine describes political scientist John Mearsheimer as ‘one of the most famous critics of American foreign policy since the end of the Cold War’:

‘For years, Mearsheimer has argued that the U.S., in pushing to expand NATO eastward and establishing friendly relations with Ukraine, has increased the likelihood of war between nuclear-armed powers and laid the groundwork for Vladimir Putin’s aggressive position toward Ukraine. Indeed, in 2014, after Russia annexed Crimea, Mearsheimer wrote that “the United States and its European allies share most of the responsibility for this crisis.”’

Mearsheimer argues that Russia views the expansion of NATO to its border with Ukraine as ‘an existential threat’:

‘If Ukraine becomes a pro-American liberal democracy, and a member of NATO, and a member of the E.U., the Russians will consider that categorically unacceptable. If there were no NATO expansion and no E.U. expansion, and Ukraine just became a liberal democracy and was friendly with the United States and the West more generally, it could probably get away with that.’

Mearsheimer adds:

‘I think the evidence is clear that we did not think he [Putin] was an aggressor before February 22, 2014. This is a story that we invented so that we could blame him. My argument is that the West, especially the United States, is principally responsible for this disaster. But no American policymaker, and hardly anywhere in the American foreign-policy establishment, is going to want to acknowledge that line of argument…’

In 2014, then US Secretary of State John Kerry had the gall to proclaim of Russia’s takeover of Crimea:

‘You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pretext.’

Senior BBC correspondents somehow managed to report such remarks from Kerry and others, without making any reference to the West’s invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

The pattern persists today. When Fox News recently spoke about the Russia-Ukraine crisis with former US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, one of the key perpetrators of the illegal invasion-occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, she nodded her head in solemn agreement when the presenter said:

‘When you invade a sovereign nation, that is a war crime.’

The cognitive dissonance required to engage in this discussion and pass it off as serious analysis is truly remarkable.

Noam Chomsky highlights one obvious omission in Western media coverage of Ukraine, or any other crisis involving NATO:

‘The question we ought to be asking ourselves is why did NATO even exist after 1990? If NATO was to stop Communism, why is it now expanding to Russia?’

It is sobering to read the dissenting arguments above and recall Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer’s warning to MPs last week:

‘Let me be very clear – There will be no place in this party for false equivalence between the actions of Russia and the actions of Nato.’

The Independent reported that Starmer’s warning came ‘after leading left-wingers – including key shadow cabinet members during the Jeremy Corbyn-era key, John McDonnell and Diane Abbott – were threatened with the removal of the whip if their names were not taken off a Stop the War letter that had accused the UK government of “aggressive posturing”, and said that Nato “should call a halt to its eastward expansion”’.

Starmer had previously waxed Churchillian on Twitter:

‘There will be dark days ahead. But Putin will learn the same lesson as Europe’s tyrants of the last century: that the resolve of the world is harder than he imagines and the desire for liberty burns stronger than ever. The light will prevail.’

Clearly, that liberty does not extend to elected Labour MPs criticising NATO.

In the Guardian, George Monbiot contributed to the witch-hunt, noting ominously that comments made by John Pilger ‘seemed to echo Putin’s speech the previous night’. By way of further evidence:

‘The BBC reports that Pilger’s claims have been widely shared by accounts spreading Russian propaganda.’

Remarkably, Monbiot offered no counter-arguments to ‘Pilger’s claims’, no facts, relying entirely on smear by association. This was not journalism; it was sinister, hit and run, McCarthy-style propaganda.

Earlier, Monbiot had tweeted acerbically:

‘Never let @johnpilger persuade you that he has a principled objection to occupation and invasion. He appears to be fine with them, as long as the aggressor is Russia, not Israel, the US or the UK.’

In fact, for years, Pilger reported – often secretly and at great risk – from the Soviet Union and its European satellites. A chapter of his book, ‘Heroes’, is devoted to his secret meetings with and support for Soviet dissidents (See: John Pilger, ‘Heroes’, Pan, 1987, pp.431-440). In his 1977 undercover film on Czechoslovakia, ‘A Faraway Country’, he described the country’s oppressors as ‘fascists’. He commented:

‘The people I interview in this film know they are taking great risks just by talking to me, but they insist on speaking out. Such is their courage and their commitment to freedom in Czechoslovakia.’

Three days before Monbiot’s article was published in the Guardian, Pilger had tweeted of Ukraine:

‘The invasion of a sovereign state is lawless and wrong. A failure to understand the cynical forces that provoked the invasion of Ukraine insults the victims.’

Pilger is one of the most respected journalists of our time precisely because he has taken a principled and consistent stand against all forms of imperialism, including Soviet imperialism, Chinese imperialism (particularly its underpinning of Pol Pot), Indonesian imperialism (its invasion of East Timor), and so on.

Conclusion – ‘Whataboutism’ Or ‘Wearenobetterism’?

Regardless of the history and context of what came before, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a major international crime and the consequences are hugely serious.

Our essential point for over 20 years has been that the public is bombarded with the crimes of Official Enemies by ‘mainstream’ media, while ‘our’ crimes are ignored, or downplayed, or ‘justified’. A genuinely free and independent media would be exactly as tough and challenging on US-UK-NATO actions and policies as they are on Russian actions and policies.

To point out this glaring double standard is not to ‘carry water for Putin’; any more than pointing out state-corporate deceptions over Iraq, Libya and Syria meant we held any kind of candle for Saddam, Gaddafi or Assad.

As Chomsky has frequently pointed out, it is easy to condemn the crimes of Official Enemies. But it is a basic ethical principle that, first and foremost, we should hold to account those governments for which we share direct political and moral responsibility. This is why we focus so intensively on the crimes of our own government and its leading allies.

We have condemned Putin’s war of aggression and supported demands for an immediate withdrawal. We are not remotely pro-Russian government – we revile Putin’s tyranny and state violence exactly as much as we revile the West’s tyrannical, imperial violence. We have repeatedly made clear that we oppose all war, killing and hate. Our guiding belief is that these horrors become less likely when journalism drops its double standards and challenges ‘our’ crimes in the same way it challenges ‘theirs’.

Chomsky explained:

‘Suppose I criticise Iran. What impact does that have? The only impact it has is in fortifying those who want to carry out policies I don’t agree with, like bombing.’

Our adding a tiny drop of criticism to the tsunami of Western global, billion-dollar-funded, 24/7 loathing of Putin achieves nothing beyond the outcome identified by Chomsky. If we have any hope of positively impacting the world, it lies in countering the illusions and violence of the government for which we are morally accountable.

But why speak up now, in particular? Shouldn’t we just shut up and ‘get on board’ in a time of crisis? No, because war is a time when propaganda messages are hammered home with great force: ‘We’re the Good Guys standing up for democracy.’ It is a vital time to examine and challenge these claims.

What critics dismiss as ‘Whataboutism’ is actually ‘Wearenobetterism’. If ‘we’ are no better, or if ‘we’ are actually worse, then where does that leave ‘our’ righteous moral outrage? Can ‘compassion’ rooted in deep hypocrisy be deeply felt?

Critics dismissing evidence of double standards as ‘whataboutery’, are promoting the view that ‘their’ crimes should be wholly condemned, but not those committed by ‘Us’ and ‘Our’ allies. The actions of Official Enemies are to be judged by a different standard than that by which we judge ourselves.

As we pointed out via Twitter:

Spot all the high-profile commentators who condemn Russia’s aggression against Ukraine…

…and who remain silent about or support:

* Invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq

* NATO’s destruction of Libya

* Saudi-led coalition bombing of Yemen

* Apartheid Israel’s crushing of Palestinians

The question has to be asked: Is the impassioned public response to another media bombardment of the type described by Howard Zinn at the top of this alert a manifestation of the power of human compassion, or is it a manifestation of power?

Are we witnessing genuine human concern, or the ability of global state-corporate interests to sell essentially the same story over and over again? The same bad guy: Milosevic, Bin Laden, Saddam, Gaddafi, Assad and Putin; the same Good Guys: US, UK, NATO and ‘our’ obedient clients; the same alleged noble cause: freedom, democracy, human rights; the same means: confrontation, violence, a flood of bombs and missiles (‘the best ones’). And the same results: control of whole countries, massively increased arms budgets, and control of natural resources.

Ultimately, we are being asked to believe that the state-corporate system that has illegally bombed, droned, invaded, occupied and sanctioned so many countries over the last few decades – a system that responds even to the threat of human extinction from climate change with ‘Blah, blah, blah!’ – is motivated by compassion for the suffering of Ukrainian civilians. As Erich Fromm wrote:

‘To be naive and easily deceived is impermissible, today more than ever, when the prevailing untruths may lead to a catastrophe because they blind people to real dangers and real possibilities.’2

  1. Quoted, John Pilger, Hidden Agendas, Vintage, 1998, p.45.
  2. Fromm, The Art Of Being, Continuum, 1992, p. 19.
The post Doubling Down On Double Standards: The Ukraine Propaganda Blitz first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Save The BBC? In Whose Interests?

There has been much gnashing of ‘liberal’ teeth and pulling out of ‘centrist’ hair following the Tory government’s announcement that the BBC licence fee will be abolished in 2027.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries declared via Twitter, with a dash of right-wing relish:

‘This licence fee announcement will be the last. The days of the elderly being threatened with prison sentences and bailiffs knocking on doors are over. Time now to discuss and debate new ways of funding, supporting and selling great British content.’

A Guardian news piece reported:

‘The government has repeatedly criticised the corporation’s news output, claiming it is biased against the government and linking negative coverage of the prime minister to the licence fee negotiations.

‘The BBC has faced repeated deep real-terms spending cuts since the start of the Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition government in 2010, with the Conservatives forcing the broadcaster to pay for free licences for the over-75s – then blaming it when they took the benefit away.’

Like millions of others, we have long enjoyed many BBC programmes, including quality drama, nature and science documentaries, sports coverage, music on television and radio, and more. As we wrote in our book, Newspeak (Pluto Press, London, 2009):

‘We grew up with the BBC, or “Auntie Beeb”. We watched Watch With Mother with our mothers; we walked the walk and talked the talk with Bill and Ben the Flower Pot Men. The excitement of childhood at Christmas is forever linked in our minds with the lighting of advent candles on Blue Peter, or the Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show. And then there was Top of the Pops, Tomorrow’s World, The Sky At Night. These were more like old friends than TV programmes. Even the BBC voiceovers were a source of comfort – calm, reassuring (if conspicuously well-spoken), gently guiding us between programmes.’

But when it comes to BBC News, it is time we all grew up and rejected the absurd fiction of BBC ‘balance’ and ‘impartiality’. Over the past two decades, we have provided endless examples of deep BBC bias, distortions and omissions. On our 20th anniversary last year, BBC News featured heavily in our round-up of ‘propaganda horrors’: see Part 1 and Part 2.

Time and time again, we have shone a light on the nonsensical BBC claim that ‘we don’t do propaganda‘; on the arrogance and ignorant boasts of BBC News; and on the serial propaganda by omission in BBC News coverage, covering for the crimes of ‘our’ governments.

Somehow we are supposed to overlook all this, or see it as just occasional ‘mistakes’.

A tweet from actor Phil Davis was typical of this blinkered mindset:

‘Nadine Dorris [sic] is an idiot. The BBC is a national treasure. Something we can be proud of despite its mistakes and missteps. To scupper it like this is cultural vandalism. Disgraceful.’

A BBC promo video from the 1980s, extolling the Beeb’s supposed virtues, has gone viral on social media. It features John Cleese in a busy pub, asking indignantly, ‘What has the BBC ever done for us?’. Cleese then encounters numerous celebrity BBC presenters giving examples of ‘What the BBC has done for us’ across sport, science, nature, comedy and BBC News. Of course, this was a revamped version of the scene in the Monty Python film, The Life of Brian, where Cleese plays the role of an anti-Roman dissident demanding, ‘What have the Romans ever done for us?’.

Football presenter Gary Lineker highlighted the clip with this remark:

‘The BBC is revered, respected and envied around the world. It should be the most treasured of National treasures. Something true patriots of our country should be proud of. It should never be a voice for those in government whoever is in power.’

We have often admired Lineker’s willingness to speak out on issues that matter to him – it is rare, because risky, for a high-profile broadcaster to step repeatedly into the political arena as he does. But it is ugly indeed to see him slavishly praise the organisation from which he has received a salary measured in the millions. His comment reheats the classic British conceit, a kind of imperial hangover: ‘we’ have the best broadcaster (the BBC), ‘we’ have the best democracy (the Westminster parliament), ‘we’ have the best writer (Shakespeare), ‘we’ have the best pop group (The Beatles), and so on.

Lineker’s comments are a close cousin of the view expressed in 2000 by senior Guardian commentator Polly Toynbee in an article titled, ‘The West really is the best’:

In our political and social culture we have a democratic way of life which we know, without any doubt at all, is far better than any other in the history of humanity. Even if we don’t like to admit it, we are all missionaries and believers that our own way is the best when it comes to the things that really matter.1

Three years later, Western ‘missionaries’ invaded Iraq in an illegal war of aggression that cost the lives of around one million people. Perhaps good karma explains ‘our’ acquisition of Rumaila oilfield – the largest oilfield in Iraq and the third largest in the world – currently operated by BP. Similarly, US ‘believers’ took hold of Iraq’s West Qurna I oilfield, currently operated by the US oil giant ExxonMobil.

What kind of ‘political and social culture’ and ‘democratic way of life’ allows all of this to happen without a single US or UK politician paying any kind of price, and without journalists even noticing or discussing who ended up with Iraq’s oil? Needless to say, Lineker’s beloved BBC has played a key role in making this possible on ‘our’ side of the propaganda pond.

Leaving himself badly exposed at the back, Lineker defended BBC News, in particular, against accusations of bias:

‘Quick reminder: the BBC has tens of thousands of people that work for It, with a huge cross section of views. The corporation doesn’t think as one. There’s no political criteria from above other than impartiality in news & current affairs. Any perceived bias is probably your own.’

Talking of bias, Upton Sinclair supplied the perfect response to this preposterous assertion:

It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it. 2

Even (then) Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger understood the obvious problem with Lineker’s argument when he told one of us in an interview:

‘If you ask anybody who works in newspapers, they will quite rightly say, “Rupert Murdoch”, or whoever, “never tells me what to write”, which is beside the point: they don’t have to be told what to write… It’s understood.’

Comedian and BBC regular Dara Ó Briain also heroically spoke up for his corporate benefactor:

‘If people want to complain to me about bias in BBC news please remember to include which bias it is. It’s fun to watch you cancel each other out.’

The childish argument: if accusations of both ‘left-wing’ and ‘right-wing’ bias are made against BBC News, then the truth must lie somewhere in the middle. As if propaganda supplied by big money state-corporate think tanks and front groups is comparable to criticism rooted in compassion for the victims of state-corporate power. In the real world, arguments must be assessed on their merits, rooted in evidence and rational analysis; not lazy sweeping assertions and career-friendly unthink.

As Twitter user @docrussjackson responded:

‘For all those denying any #BBCBias on @BBCNews & @BBCPolitics shows, here’s some of the formal “corrections & clarifications” to “mistakes” made by the @BBC in 2019, which all *completely coincidentally* helped the Tories by damaging @UKLabour‘s reputation.’

A lengthy thread followed of which the most damning item was the incessant amplification by the BBC of supposed deep-rooted antisemitism within the Labour party under Jeremy Corbyn. The BBC played a central role in the propaganda blitz that demolished the prospect of moderate socialism under a Corbyn-led Labour government.

This often descended into outright farce; not least that ‘incredible moment’, noted one Twitter user, when BBC Newsnight ‘jumped the editorialising shark and gave us #Corbyn as Voldemort’. The Newsnight editor responsible for depicting Corbyn as Harry Potter’s demonic arch-enemy was Ian Katz. Readers who have been following us for far too long will recall that Katz was editor of the Guardian G2 section which published a notorious interview by Emma Brockes depicting Noam Chomsky as a commie-friendly, Voldemort-style demon in 2005. As Chomsky commented at the time:

‘It is an impressive piece of work, and, as I said, provides a useful model for studies of defamation exercises, or for those who practice the craft. And also, perhaps, provides a useful lesson for those who may be approached for interviews by this journal.’

Katz is currently the ‘chief content officer’ at Channel 4. His career path sums up the ‘liberal’ media in a nutshell.

The concerted effort to destroy Corbyn’s mild version of socialism was McCarthyism on steroids right across the supposed corporate media ‘spectrum’, with no exceptions. Meanwhile, inside the plush offices of BBC News, senior editors and journalists seemingly never had the tiniest doubt that they were being objective and impartial in working so blatantly to limit democratic choice.

If readers are tempted to dismiss us as ‘wild men on the wings’, consider that a senior BBC executive has actually gone further than us in challenging the BBC’s supposed ‘impartiality’. In 2009, no less a figure than Greg Dyke, a former BBC director-general, openly declared that the BBC was part of an anti-democratic ‘Westminster conspiracy’. A BBC article quoting Dyke, who resigned as director-general in 2004 in the wake of the Hutton report, began:

‘The BBC is part of a “conspiracy” preventing the “radical changes” needed to UK democracy, the corporation’s former director general has said.’

Dyke commented:

‘I tried and failed to get the problem properly discussed when I was at the BBC and I was stopped, interestingly, by a combination of the politicos on the board of governors… the cabinet interestingly – the Labour cabinet – who decided to have a meeting, only about what we were trying to discuss, and the political journalists at the BBC.

‘Why? Because, collectively, they are all part of the problem. They are part of one Westminster conspiracy. They don’t want anything to change. It’s not in their interests.’

Dyke called for a parliamentary commission to look into the ‘whole political system’, adding that:

‘I fear it will never happen because I fear the political class will stop it.’

They did, of course – Dyke’s comments were ignored and instantly buried out of sight.

In 2016, Sir Michael Lyons, former chairman of the BBC Trust, said that there had been ‘some quite extraordinary attacks’ on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn by the BBC. Lyons’ comments were also swept under the carpet, never to be mentioned publicly by senior BBC figures.

As for Lineker’s remark denying systemic BBC News bias, Canadian political analyst Joe Emersberger noted:

‘A BBC employee dismisses idea that the BBC has any bias. If you denounce the BBC’s promotion’s of the UK’s barbaric foreign policy, and that it keeps the UK public mired in ignorance about it, that’s just your bias at work’

Lineker is not, in fact, a BBC employee; rather a freelancer with a lucrative BBC contract. However, the distinction is a moot point here.

Emersberger provided a salutary example of how BBC News has helped to keep the public in the dark about the consequences of UK foreign policy:

‘There are ways to objectively test exactly how much ignorance the big UK media like the BBC impose on the public about their own government’s role in the world’

He then cited a nationwide sample of UK citizens asked to estimate the death toll from the Iraq war. According to 59% of the respondents, fewer than 10,000 Iraqis died as a result of the war.  The actual death toll is far, far greater: around one million. The results of this crowdfunded survey were shocking and, as Emersberger observed, ‘a searing indictment of the British media.’

This has long been standard for the BBC when it comes to burying the West’s crimes of state. John Pilger put it succinctly:

‘The BBC has the most brilliant production values, it produces the most extraordinary natural history and drama series. But the BBC is, and has long been, the most refined propaganda service in the world.’

Saint David

While BBC nature documentaries are indeed world-renowned, they have long ignored the deepest political and economic forces destroying the natural world. David Attenborough only recently started shining a light on the climate crisis, and he is still pulling his punches when it comes to identifying those responsible.

In 2018, a Guardian article by George Monbiot criticising Attenborough’s output was subtitled:

‘By downplaying our environmental crisis, the presenter’s BBC films have generated complacency, confusion and ignorance’

Monbiot added:

‘His new series, Dynasties, will mention the pressures affecting wildlife, but Attenborough makes it clear that it will play them down. To do otherwise, he suggests, would be “proselytising” and “alarmist”. His series will be “a great relief from the political landscape which otherwise dominates our thoughts”. In light of the astonishing rate of collapse of the animal populations he features, alongside most of the rest of the world’s living systems – and when broadcasting as a whole has disgracefully failed to represent such truths – I don’t think such escapism is appropriate or justifiable.’

His conclusion:

‘If you ask me whether the BBC or ExxonMobil has done more to frustrate environmental action in this country, I would say the BBC.’

There has certainly never been a proper analysis in any nature documentary, or in any BBC programme, of the global system of state-corporate power that has dragged humanity to the brink of climate collapse and a sixth mass extinction in Earth’s history. We actually stand at the precipice of human extinction.

Perhaps unhappy to find himself wheeled out to defend the BBC with a 40-year old promo clip, John Cleese said on Twitter:

‘The BBC’s decline began a long time ago, with the installation of the nerdy John Birt His “philosophy” destroyed the BBC at a time when it was giving us the best TV in the world’

But, in terms of being a public service broadcaster, the BBC has been ‘in decline’ for much longer. In fact, it has been staunchly pro-establishment from its very inception under Lord Reith. As we have pointed out repeatedly, Reith confided in his diary during the 1926 General Strike:

‘They [the government] know they can trust us not to be really impartial.’3

As just one example of BBC News being trusted by the government not to be impartial, who can forget the BBC’s refusal to broadcast the Gaza Aid Appeal in 2009 after yet another murderous assault by Israel? This refusal was memorably exposed and challenged live on-air by Tony Benn. It was a rare and admirable example of the myth of BBC ‘impartiality’ being held up to public scrutiny across the globe.

BBC News: ‘Unwatchable, State Propaganda’

Nils Melzer, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, has been outspoken in his defence of Julian Assange, WikiLeaks and the public’s right to know what governments are doing. In particular, he is blunt about:

‘the BBC’s failure to expose the gross arbitrariness of Assange’s judicial persecution in the UK.’

He expanded:

‘We cannot have states that have unchecked power. […] branches of government tend to collude with each other if we don’t supervise them and that’s why we have the free press that’s tasked to do that. But the press that doesn’t do that isn’t free. It’s not the press at all. It is just the public relations departments of those governments.’

Melzer continued:

‘And that’s why the emergence of Wikileaks is just a natural consequence of the media failing to do their job. Because someone needs to inform and empower the public’.

In fact, the state-corporate media is not ‘failing to do their job’. Because their ‘job’ – their primary function and responsibility – is to promote and protect state-corporate interests; not the interests of the public.

In an extensive analysis of the BBC, political analyst Gavin Lewis gave ample evidence that the BBC has long been:

‘a full-blown corporate state broadcaster and propagandist.’

BBC News, he continued:

‘in no way achieves any ideal of a discursive space free from market motives. Instead it repeats and mirrors existing institutional power dynamics. Formally, the channel is a twin of Rupert Murdoch’s Sky News. Its editorial values are so identical that viewers get exactly the same hierarchy of news stories, at the same time of day, and predominantly from the same ideological viewpoint.’

Lewis concluded:

‘If it now finds itself increasingly irrelevant to its social base and at risk of extinction, then it only has itself to blame. Without a genuine, representative sociological and intellectual connection to the society it purportedly serves, it is not really public service broadcasting, but corporate propaganda, and in the long run, who will care if that survives?’

Matt Kennard of Declassified UK, a news service that does actually serve the public interest, believes that:

‘BBC News is closest we have in UK to straight state propaganda. Sky News + ITV are not great, but I find BBC News, like CNN, actually unwatchable. You can feel it eroding your brain as you watch. Fact we have to pay for pleasure of being propagandised by it makes it farcical.’

Des Freedman, Professor of Media and Communication Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London, concurred:

‘Amazing how little this is understood by people outside the UK who are so enraged by their own propaganda systems (whether state or commercial) that they imagine BBC News MUST necessarily be better and therefore see it as a desirable model for their own news systems’

All too many BBC luvvies and their supporters are currently wringing their hands at the prospect of Rupert Murdoch, or some other neafarious billionaire, getting their hand on the BBC. We are now all supposed to come to the aid of the state broadcaster. Kerry-Anne Mendoza, founder of left-wing news website The Canary, noted the irony:

‘BBC pundits pleading with the left to back them after a half decade campaign smearing us as antisemites’

The worst example of the role of BBC News in the propaganda system is enabling the criminal lack of effective government action to tackle the threat of runaway climate instability and the real risk of human extinction. BBC News is, and has long been, a crucial component in the network of establishment power that has helped to create and accelerate this catastrophe.

Climate activist Ben See highlighted the latest examples of dangerous global warming from around the world, and he observed via Twitter:

‘CLIMATE-EXTINCTION CRISIS

We’re heading for 2°C in the 2030s, or the 2040s.

The global food system is shifting into high risk territory. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. Billions of people will soon face intolerable risk.

Corporate media editors?

Sitting tight.

Assessing.’

This, of course, was a reference to the recent Netflix movie, Don’t Look Up, which, with deeply black humour, exposed the political and media ‘response’ to the climate crisis.

If the BBC is to be ‘saved’, it needs to be rebuilt from the ground up as a truly public service broadcaster. And, more importantly, if the human species is to be saved, we need full and unfettered access to information about how governments and corporations are destroying our planet. Crucially, while we are waiting for an unlikely transformation of the BBC to take place, we should focus on demanding the large-scale government action that is required now to forestall the looming climate catastrophe.

  1. Toynbee, The Observer, 5 March 2000.
  2. Sinclair, ‘I, Candidate for Governor, and How I Got Licked,  11 December 1934.
  3. ‘The Reith Diaries’, edited by Charles Stewart, Collins, 1975; entry for 11 May, 1926.
The post Save The BBC? In Whose Interests? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Media Lens Book Of Obituaries: Deleting Tutu’s Criticism Of Israel

If we didn’t have better things to do, it would be a simple matter to produce The Media Lens Book of Obituaries.

The cover might feature grim Death shrouded in tattered newsprint carrying a five-bladed scythe with ‘Ownership’, ‘Advertising’, ‘Sources’, ‘Flak’ and ‘Patriotism’ printed on the blades in reference to the famous five filters of Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky’s ‘propaganda model’ – the filters by which the lives and deaths of famous people are forever sliced and diced to suit the ghoulish needs of power.

Following his death in 2004, we described how Ronald Reagan’s eight years as US President (1981-89) had resulted in a vast bloodbath as Washington poured money and weapons into client dictatorships and right-wing death squads across Central America. The death toll: more than 70,000 political killings in El Salvador, more than 100,000 in Guatemala, and 30,000 killed in the US Contra war waged against Nicaragua. Journalist Allan Nairn described the latter as ‘One of the most intensive campaigns of mass murder in recent history.’1

On the BBC’s flagship Newsnight programme, Gavin Esler said of Reagan:

‘Many people believe that he restored faith in American military action after Vietnam through his willingness to use force, if necessary, in defence of American interests.’ 2

At the liberal-left extreme, a Guardian editorial opined:

‘What is beyond doubt is that Mr Reagan made America feel good about itself again. He was, to quote Mr Wills again, “the first truly cheerful conservative”. He gave American conservatism a humanity and hope that it never had in the Goldwater or Nixon eras, but which endures today because of him, to the frustration of many more ideological conservatives. Unlike them, Mr Reagan was a congenital optimist, “hardwired for courtesy”, as his former speechwriter Peggy Noonan puts it.’ 3

The basic rule: Official Friends of State are greeted by ostensibly independent corporate media with a wry, knowing, ultimately approving smile. Official Enemies of State are greeted with a sneer or a snarl.

In the immediate aftermath of Margaret Thatcher’s death on 8 April 2013, we found 461 UK national newspaper articles mentioning the word ‘Thatcher’. Of these, 29 articles mentioned ‘Thatcher’ and ‘Saddam’. None mentioned that Thatcher had armed and financed the Iraqi dictator. Links to torture and mass murder that would have been front and centre in reviewing the life of any Official Enemy were airbrushed from history.

Just five months after Iraq’s infamous March 1988 gas attack killing between 3-5,000 civilians in the Kurdish town of Halabja, Geoffrey Howe, Thatcher’s foreign secretary, noted in a secret report that ‘opportunities for sales of defence equipment to Iran and Iraq will be considerable’. 4

In October 1989, foreign office minister William Waldegrave wrote of Iraq:

‘I doubt if there is any future market of such a scale anywhere where the UK is potentially so well-placed’ and that ‘the priority of Iraq in our policy should be very high.’5

The British government spent fully £1bn propping up Saddam’s government with arms and other support; a figure that, of course, went absent without leave from media reporting in the lead up to the 2003 war.

An Observer leader on Thatcher at least reassured us that we hadn’t imagined all of this:

‘the moral compass she deployed surveying the USSR and its client states served her less well on other international journeys. Among those she admired and supported were a number of men distinguished only by the craven brutality they showed in domestic affairs. Dictators such as General Zia-ul-Haq of Pakistan, Pol Pot of Cambodia and Chile’s Augusto Pinochet’.

Thatcher’s ‘moral compass’ merely ‘served her less well’, we were to believe. In fact, there was no ‘moral compass’; there was state support for corporate profit at any human cost. Here, as everywhere else in the ‘mainstream’, readers were spared the details of UK crimes against humanity that were as readily available as they were damning.

Also in 2013, following the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Craig Murray, former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, commented:

‘He applied the huge increase in revenues to massively successful poverty alleviation via social programmes, housing and education… There are millions of people in Venezuela whose hard lives are a bit better and have hope for the future because of Chávez. There are billionaires in London and New York who have a few hundred million less each because of Chávez. Nobody can deny the truth of both those statements.’

The corporate media version of events was nutshelled by an editorial in the Independent titled:

‘Hugo Chávez – an era of grand political illusion comes to an end’

This of a leader who had reduced poverty by half, having sparked a regional move towards greater independence from the ruthless superpower to the North. The editorial continued:

‘Mr Chávez was no run-of-the-mill dictator. His offences were far from the excesses of a Colonel Gaddafi, say. What he was, more than anything, was an illusionist – a showman who used his prodigious powers of persuasion to present a corrupt autocracy fuelled by petrodollars as a socialist utopia in the making. The show now over, he leaves a hollowed-out country crippled by poverty, violence and crime. So much for the revolution.’

For the oligarch-owned Independent, then, Chávez – who had won 15 democratic elections, including four presidential elections – was a ‘dictator’.

By contrast, the Independent’s April 2013 Thatcher obituary contained no mention of Pol Pot, Zia-ul-Haq, Pinochet, or Saddam. Her role in bolstering some of the world’s bloodiest tyrants through the arms trade was not mentioned.

Desmond Tutu – A ‘Rampant Antisemite And Bigot’

A further example of five-scythe filtering was provided by recent media coverage following the death of Desmond Tutu, the former Archbishop of Cape Town and chairman of South Africa’s truth and reconciliation commission. Tutu was one of the great leaders of the anti-apartheid movement, but he protested many other forms of oppression. In 2002, the Guardian published an opinion piece in which Tutu commented:

‘I’ve been very deeply distressed in my visit to the Holy Land; it reminded me so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa. I have seen the humiliation of the Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks, suffering like us when young white police officers prevented us from moving about.’

Deemed an unforgivable Thought Crime now, Tutu drew comparisons between the fate suffered by Jews in the Holocaust to that suffered by Palestinians under Israeli occupation:

‘Have our Jewish sisters and brothers forgotten their humiliation? Have they forgotten the collective punishment, the home demolitions, in their own history so soon? Have they turned their backs on their profound and noble religious traditions? Have they forgotten that God cares deeply about the downtrodden?

‘Israel will never get true security and safety through oppressing another people. A true peace can ultimately be built only on justice. We condemn the violence of suicide bombers, and we condemn the corruption of young minds taught hatred; but we also condemn the violence of military incursions in the occupied lands, and the inhumanity that won’t let ambulances reach the injured.’

Tutu even drew attention to the power of the pro-Israel lobby in smearing criticism of Israel as ‘anti-semitism’:

‘to criticise it is to be immediately dubbed anti-semitic, as if the Palestinians were not semitic. I am not even anti-white, despite the madness of that group. And how did it come about that Israel was collaborating with the apartheid government on security measures?’

He would not have been at all surprised by this comment from Alan Dershowitz — lawyer for Donald Trump, Harvey Weinstein and Jeffrey Epstein – after Tutu’s death:

‘Can I remind the world that… the man was a rampant antisemite and bigot?’

Elsewhere, Tutu wrote:

‘The withdrawal of trade with South Africa… was ultimately one of the key levers that brought the apartheid state – bloodlessly – to its knees… Those who continue to do business with Israel, who contribute to a sense of “normalcy” in Israeli society, are doing the people of Israel and Palestine a disservice.’

In December 2020, Tutu added:

‘Apartheid was horrible in South Africa and it’s horrible when Israel practises its own form of apartheid against the Palestinians, with checkpoints and a system of oppressive policies. Indeed another US statute, the Leahy law, prohibits US military aid to governments that systematically violate human rights.’

In a stirring example of just how low the Guardian has sunk under the editorship of Katharine Viner, the same newspaper that published Tutu’s comments made no mention whatever of Palestinians or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in its obituary on 6 December 2021.

In response, a Change.org petition, signed by more than 3,250 people, sent a searing open letter to Viner:

‘Tutu’s repeated criticism of Israeli apartheid policies, and his commitment to the cause of the Palestinian people, are all simply omitted.’

The petition added:

‘Astonishingly, your editorial team has now demonstrated that this was not an oversight but deliberate policy. We have been told by the authors of a series of posts to your obituary page, which pointed out this glaring omission, that the posts were systematically deleted by your staff within minutes because they “didn’t abide by our community standards”. We can only assume that The Guardian is now saying that any reference to the apartheid character of Israeli policies is antisemitic. The logic is inescapable: the editorial view of The Guardian newspaper is now that Desmond Tutu, who held that Israeli oppression of the Palestinians was worse than South African Apartheid (as he wrote for your newspaper in 2002), was an antisemite.’

As the Palestine Solidarity Campaign noted:

‘After correspondence from PSC and others, including some who had had their posts removed, the Guardian has now reposted all of the deleted comments… We are also pleased that the Guardian has now published a piece that addresses Tutu’s support for Palestinian rights…’

An obituary in The Times managed two tiny mentions in passing on Tutu’s criticism:

‘In characteristically robust language he condemned the war in Iraq, President Mugabe’s repression in Zimbabwe and Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.’

And:

‘He condemned President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the official capital of Israel in 2017 as “inflammatory and discriminatory”.’

A Telegraph obituary noted merely of Tutu:

‘… in 2019 he condemned Donald Trump’s decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem despite Palestinian opposition’.

The Independent also managed a tiny reference in passing:

‘Mr Tutu also strived to draw awareness to a wide range of issues – including Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories, LGBT+ rights, and climate change…’

In four substantial pieces on Tutu, the BBC managed a total of two sentences in one article:

‘Later he angered the Israelis when, during a Christmas pilgrimage to the Holy Land, he compared black South Africans with the Arabs in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.

‘He said he could not understand how people who had suffered as the Jews had, could inflict such suffering on the Palestinians.’

The BBC made no mention of the issue here, here and here.

In the US, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting reviewed US state-corporate press performance:

‘The New York Times (12/26/21) obituary reduced [Tutu’s] Palestine advocacy to one incident in 2010 when “he unsuccessfully urged a touring Cape Town opera company” to not perform in the country, quoting his urging the company to postpone its production of Porgy and Bess “until both Israeli and Palestinian opera lovers of the region have equal opportunity and unfettered access to attend performances”.

‘The AP obituary (12/26/21) ignored this issue entirely, as did obituaries in USA Today (12/26/21), the BBC (12/26/21) and NPR (12/26/21). The Washington Post (12/26/21) did the issue some justice, saying that Tutu “repeatedly compared Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza to South Africa during the apartheid regime.” While CNN‘s initial obituary (12/26/21) devoted only part of a sentence to his call for a boycott of Israel in 2014, a follow-up piece explored his broad range of activism: “As South Africa Mourns Desmond Tutu, So Do LGBTQ Groups, Palestinians and Climate Activists” (11/27/21).’

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer responded to the death of Tutu:

‘Desmond Tutu was a tower of a man, and a leader of moral activism. He dedicated his life to tackling injustice and standing up for the oppressed. His impact on the world crosses borders and echoes through generations. May he rest in peace.’

As the website Skwawkbox noted accurately in response:

‘But if Tutu had been a Labour member, Starmer would probably have expelled him, at least if he had the spine to do it, for comments in support of Palestinians and of boycotts and sanctions against Israel…’

Clearly, our media guardians of power were keen to say as little as possible about Tutu’s criticism of Israel without exposing themselves as outright totalitarians by blanking the issue 100% – 99% is a much better look, especially when reviewing the life of a courageous anti-fascist.

Needless to say, anyone reading the above corporate obituaries will have been left none the wiser about the true extent of the criticism of Israel expressed by Tutu, a widely-revered, world-famous peacemaker. That matters – tiny gestures in the direction of truth, easily missed, help to ensure serious, pointed criticism of Israel can continue to be portrayed as the reserve of ‘racists’ and ‘crazies’, of ‘nobodies’ haunting the margins of civilised society and discourse.

  1. Democracy Now, 8 June 2004.
  2. Newsnight, 9 June 2004.
  3. ‘A rose-tinted president’, The Guardian, 7 June 2004.
  4. Quoted, Mark Curtis, Web of Deceit, Vintage, 2003, p. 37.
  5. Ibid, p. 37.
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A Christmas Tale: The Downing Street Party, Laughter And Bigger State Crimes

Huge media coverage has been devoted to allegations, and now serious evidence, that a Christmas party was held at 10 Downing Street on 18 December 2020. London was then in a strict lockdown with social events banned, including parties.

In leaked footage obtained by ITV News, senior Downing Street staff are shown four days later, laughing and joking about the party being a ‘business meeting’ with ‘cheese and wine’. Allegra Stratton, then Boris Johnson’s press secretary, was leading a mock televised press briefing and, through laughter, said there had been ‘definitely no social distancing.’

The original story was broken on 30 November by Pippa Crerar, the Daily Mirror political editor.  When pressed at Prime Minister’s Questions, Johnson refused to deny three times that a ‘boozy party’ had taken place at 10 Downing Street when such events were banned.

One source who was aware of the party in Downing Street told ITV News:

‘We all know someone who died from Covid and after seeing this all in the papers I couldn’t not say anything. I’m so angry about it all, the way it is being denied.’

Understandably, there is much public anger, though perhaps little surprise, that the Tory government under Johnson has once again been found to have broken rules and then attempted to deceive the public about it. That anger is felt most keenly by those who suffered the unimaginable pain and grief of not being allowed to be with loved ones who were dying of Covid.

Even BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg, who has spent much of her latter career shielding Johnson, began her BBC News website piece on the latest revelations with condemnations from Tory MPs: ‘Indefensible’, ‘catastrophic’ and ‘astonishing’.

She added:

‘Expect to hear plenty of the charge of “one rule for us, one rule for them” in the next few days.

‘On the back of Downing Street’s attempt to change the rules on MPs’ behaviour after former minister Owen Paterson broke them, even some senior Conservatives are making that claim tonight.’

It is possible that this is yet another nail in the coffin for Johnson’s leadership of the Tory party. There will surely come a time, if it has not already, when the Conservatives will assess that he has become an electoral liability and that he must be replaced to ‘steady the ship’ in order to continue promoting elite interests. After all, financial capital and the establishment require a ‘respectable’ figure at the helm.

While public anger is justified and entirely understandable, with the ‘mainstream’ media judging that the scandal deserves laser-like focus and intensity, the bigger picture is that the government has committed much greater crimes that have not received the same level of scrutiny.

A Surreptitious Parade Of Parliamentary Bills

Just one example is the Health and Care Bill that was being passed while the furore over the Downing Street Christmas party was erupting. As John Pilger observed:

‘The US assault on the National Health Service, legislated by the Johnson govt, is now relentless – but always by “stealth”, as Thatcher planned.’

Pilger, whose 2019 documentary, The Dirty War on the NHS, is a must-watch, urged everyone to read ‘a rare explanatory piece’ on this assault, largely ignored by corporate media including the BBC. The article, by policy analyst Stewart Player and GP Bob Gill, warned that the ‘Health and Care Bill making its way through official channels simply reinforces’ the ‘penetration of the healthcare system’ by private interests; in particular, the giant U.S. insurer UnitedHealth.

Player and Gill explained that the bill’s centrepiece is a national scheme of Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) across all 42 health regions of England. This network of ICSs ‘is being effectively designed and fast-tracked by the private UnitedHealth’.

They continued:

‘The Health and Care Bill will essentially provide legislative lock-in for the changes already embedded throughout the NHS. Patients will be denied care to generate profits for the ICS, over which their family physician or hospital specialist will have no influence, while the growing unmet patient need will have to be serviced either through out-of-pocket payments, top-up private insurance, or not at all.’

Player and Gill warned:

‘The NHS will, in the immediate future, resemble “Medicare Advantage” or “Medicaid Managed Care”, a basic, publicly funded, privately controlled and delivered corporate cash cow repurposed to make profit, though in time the full range of the organizational options found in the U.S. will follow.

‘All this will increase the total cost of healthcare, deliver less, harm thousands, enrich foreign corporations and destroy what was once Britain’s national pride.’

Where is the in-depth scrutiny and across-the-board coverage of this scandal?

Likewise, where is the large-scale, non-stop ‘mainstream’ media outrage over the Tory government’s Nationality and Border Bill to be voted on this week? Home Secretary Priti Patel said the Bill would tackle ‘illegal’ immigration and the ‘underlying pull factors into the UK’s asylum system’.

However, as Labour activist Mish Rahman noted via Twitter:

‘While ppl are focused on the video of the govt laughing at us a year ago and a Downing Street Party – the government, with the minimum of media coverage are getting the Nationality & Borders bill passed which will allow them to strip ppl like me of my citizenship without notice’

A report by the New Statesman found that almost six million people from ethnic minority backgrounds in England and Wales could have their British citizenship in jeopardy. Al Jazeera noted that:

‘The bill also aims to rule as inadmissible asylum claims made by undocumented people as well as criminalise them and anyone taking part in refugee rescue missions in the English Channel.’

But, as Jonathan Cook, pointed out: ‘Britain helped create the refugees it now wants to keep out’, adding:

‘Those making perilous journeys for asylum in Europe have been displaced by wars and droughts, for which the West is largely to blame.’

The bill is being pushed through shortly after the appalling tragedy of 27 people losing their lives at sea while attempting a Channel crossing from France to England. Compounding the tragedy:

‘Barely noted by the media was the fact that the only two survivors separately said British and French coastguards ignored their phone calls for help as their boat began to sink.’

Cook summarised his analysis:

‘Europe is preparing to make its borders impregnable to the victims of its colonial interference, its wars and the climate crisis that its consumption-driven economies have generated.’

Meanwhile, yet another bill endangering life and liberty is being pushed by the government. Patel has just added an extra 18-page amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. George Monbiot warned:

‘It looks like a deliberate ploy to avoid effective parliamentary scrutiny. Yet in most of the media there’s a resounding silence.’

The bill seeks to add to the existing plethora of legislation, together with sinister undercover police and surveillance operations, that obstruct and criminalise protest and dissent. Monbiot noted that, if the bill passes, it will become:

‘a criminal offence to obstruct in any way major transport works from being carried out, again with a maximum sentence of 51 weeks. This looks like an attempt to end meaningful protest against road-building and airport expansion. Other amendments would greatly expand police stop and search powers.’

He added:

‘Protest is an essential corrective to the mistakes of government. Had it not been for the tactics Patel now seeks to ban, the pointless and destructive road-building programme the government began in the early 1990s would have continued: eventually John Major’s government conceded it was a mistake, and dropped it. Now governments are making the greatest mistake in human history – driving us towards systemic environmental collapse – and Boris Johnson’s administration is seeking to ensure that there is nothing we can do to stop it.’

Unscrutinised UK Foreign Policy

While corporate news coverage continues to delve into the 2020 Downing Street Christmas party, the humanitarian disaster in Yemen, fuelled in significant part by UK foreign policy, barely gets a mention. Cook rightly observed:

‘Britain and others have aided Saudi Arabia in its prolonged, near-genocidal bombing campaigns and blockade against Yemen. Recent reports have suggested that as many as 300 Yemeni children are dying each day as a result. And yet, after decades of waging economic warfare on these Middle Eastern countries, western states have the gall to decry those fleeing the collapse of their societies as “economic migrants”.’

We wrote in a recent media alert that Matt Kennard and Phil Miller of Declassified UK had investigated the largely-hidden role of a factory owned by arms exporter BAE Systems in the Lancashire village of Warton. The factory supplies military equipment to the Saudi Arabian regime, enabling it to continue its devastating attacks on Yemen.

Kennard and Miller reported that:

‘Boris Johnson recently visited Warton and claimed the BAE site was part of his “levelling up agenda”. No journalist covering the visit seems to have reported the factory’s role in a war.’

In fact, you could take just about any article published on the exemplary Declassified UK website and compare its quality journalism with the omission-ridden, power-friendly output of ‘respectable’ media. Here is a recent sample:

  • Anne Cadwallader on the UK government’s attempt to rewrite the history of British policy in Northern Ireland. Meanwhile, the UK government is actually ‘censoring numerous files showing British army complicity in the deaths of civilians, depriving bereaved families of access to the truth.’ See also Michael Oswald’s documentary film, ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’, about Colin Wallace, an intelligence officer in Northern Ireland who became a whistleblower and was framed for murder, likely by UK intelligence. Declassified UK published a review of this important film, describing it as ‘essential viewing for anyone who seeks to hold power to account, who seeks to understand the dark links between state intelligence and the media apparatus.’
  • An article by Richard Norton-Taylor, the former Guardian security editor, titled, ‘Manchester bombing: What are the security agencies hiding?’. He wrote: ‘We need to know why MI5 and MI6 appear to have placed their involvement in power struggles in Libya, and Britain’s commercial interests there, above those of the safety of its own citizens.’
  • Matt Kennard and Mark Curtis reported that Lord Chief Justice Ian Burnett, the judge that will soon decide Julian Assange’s fate, is a close personal friend of Sir Alan Duncan who once described Assange in Parliament as a ‘miserable little worm’. When Duncan was the UK foreign minister, he arranged Assange’s eviction from the Ecuadorian embassy.
  • Israeli historian Ilan Pappé wrote that ‘Britain is ensuring the death of a Palestinian state’. His piece explained that: ‘The UK claims to support a “two-state” solution in Israel-Palestine but the body of a Palestinian state has long been in the morgue, although nobody dares to have a funeral. As long as Britain and other states continue to superficially endorse a two-state solution, Israel will become entrenched as a full-blown apartheid state with international blessing.’

Any one of these topics, and many more on the Declassified UK website, would be a major item on ‘mainstream’ news if there was a functioning ‘Fourth Estate’ to scrutinise power and hold it to account. In particular, Israel is continually given a free pass by the ‘free press’.

Israeli journalist Gideon Levy – a rare example of a journalist who regularly reports and comments on Israel’s serious crimes – published a recent piece, ‘A Brief History of Killing Children’. He wrote:

‘Soldiers and pilots have killed 2,171 children and teenagers, and not one of these cases shocked anyone here, or sparked a real investigation or led to a trial. More than 2,000 children in 20 years – 100 children, three classrooms a year. And all of them, down to the last, were found guilty of their own death.’

Needless to say, these facts are hidden, or at best glossed over, by ‘responsible’ news outlets. As we pointed out last month on Twitter after Israel had dropped bombs on Syria’s capital Damascus – the fourth Israeli attack on Syria in three weeks:

‘Hello @BBCNews

‘Seen this? Of course you have. But most likely you’ll ignore Israel’s latest breaking of international law. Or, at best, you’ll mention it briefly at 3am on  @bbcworldservice

‘You are indeed the world’s most refined propaganda service, as @johnpilger says.’

The ‘mainstream’ media has almost entirely ignored major reports by two human rights groups – B’Tselem and Human Rights Watch – classing Israel as an apartheid state. Cook observed that, despite this, ‘the Labour and Tory parties are now competing to be its best friend’. Commenting on a ‘shameful speech’ by Labour leader Keir Starmer that uncritically supported Israel, Cook added:

‘Israel’s apartheid character, its vigorous lobby and support for a boycott are all off the table. But worse, Labour, like the Conservative party, is once again reluctant even to criticise the occupation.’

Near-silence also greeted human rights groups’ condemnation of the UK government’s announcement of a new 10-year trade and defence deal with Israel. The Morning Star was virtually alone in giving ample space to critical voices, such as Katie Fallon of Campaign Against the Arms Trade:

‘The evidence that Israeli spyware has been used against journalists, human rights defenders and lawyers in the UK continues to pile up. This agreement signals that the government prioritises trade deals to the degree that they are willing to jeopardise the security of people in the UK who are most at risk of illegal surveillance — totally at odds with their stated foreign policy priority to protect and support human rights defenders.’

War on War’s senior campaigner for militarism and security, Chi-Chi Shi said:

‘If the UK government observed its duty to uphold human rights and international law, it would end the UK-Israel arms trade.

‘Instead, it is actively enabling grave human rights abuses and Israel’s occupation and apartheid regime against the Palestinian people.’

But full, accurate and critical coverage of anything to do with Israel is essentially out of bounds for ‘mainstream’ news media.

So, too, is anything that truly exposes the role of corporate and financial power in driving humanity to the point of extinction: a vital point which we have repeatedly emphasised since Media Lens began in 2001.

Following the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, the esteemed climate scientist James Hansen summarised that ‘COP meetings are actually Conferences of the Pretenders’ 1.

He continued:

‘Political leaders make statements that they know – or should know – are blatant nonsense. COPs can produce numerous minor accomplishments, which is sufficient reason to continue with the meetings.’

In typically blunt fashion, Hansen stated:

‘Why is nobody telling young people the truth? “We preserved the chance at COP26 to keep global warming below 1.5°C.” What bullshit! “Solar panels are now cheaper than fossil fuels, so all we are missing is political will.” What horse manure! “If we would just agree to consume less, the climate problem could be solved.” More nonsense!’

‘Young people, I am sorry to say that – although the path to a bright future exists and is straightforward – it will not happen without your understanding and involvement in the political process.’

Noam Chomsky, who recently turned 93, concurs. Asked what is the greatest obstacle to solving the climate crisis, he responded:

‘There are two major obstacles. One is, of course, the fossil fuel companies. Second is the governments of the world, including Europe and the United States.’

Ending the climate crisis, says Chomsky, ‘has to come from mass popular action’, not politicians.

While corporate news media are content to expose the galling, but comparatively minor crime of holding a Christmas party at 10 Downing Street during lockdown, they remain essentially silent about much bigger state crimes.

  1. ‘A Realistic Path to a Bright Future’, newsletter [pdf], 3 December 2021
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“A Crime Against Humanity”: The “Greenwash Festival” Of COP26

One of the most damning assessments of COP26, the UN climate conference being held in Glasgow, came from Greta Thunberg, the Swedish climate activist:

‘#COP26  has been named the must excluding COP ever.
This is no longer a climate conference.
This is a Global North greenwash festival.
A two week celebration of business as usual and blah blah blah.’

And, indeed, if you scour news reports from COP26 they yield a familiar litany of political rhetoric and weasel words: vows, pledges, promises, commitments, sign up, phase out, green investment, innovation, transition, progress, scaling up, carbon credits, bending the emissions curve, net zero, 2050, 2070.

To quote from King Crimson’s  ‘Elephant Talk‘:

‘Arguments, agreements… articulate announcements…Brouhaha, balderdash, ballyhoo…It’s only talk…cheap talk…double talk.’

Juice Media, the campaign group who ‘make honest Government ads’, exposed the dangerous and misleading nonsense behind ‘Net Zero by 2050’:

‘There’s a huge gap between our promises and where we need to be. We don’t talk about that gap coz that would entail a complex process called “Being Honest”. Being Honest would mean admitting that we’re failing. And we can’t do that coz then we’d have to stop failing. That would mean ending fossil-fuel subsidies and banning all new gas, coal and oil projects.’

The satirical government ad continued:

‘So being honest isn’t an option for us. Which is why we’ve come up with the next best alternative: Net Zero by 2050…which risks setting off irreversible chain reactions beyond our control.’

Nature, the leading science journal, reported last week that top climate scientists – co-authors of a report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – are sceptical that nations will rein in global warming. Moreover:

‘Six in ten of the respondents [climate scientists] said that they expect the world to warm by at least 3 °C by the end of the century, compared with what conditions were like before the Industrial Revolution. That is far beyond the Paris agreement’s goal to limit warming to 1.5-2 °C.’

The news report added:

‘Most of the survey’s respondents – 88% – said they think global warming constitutes a “crisis”, and nearly as many said they expect to see catastrophic impacts of climate change in their lifetimes. Just under half said that global warming has caused them to reconsider major life decisions, such as where to live and whether to have children. More than 60% said that they experience anxiety, grief or other distress because of concerns over climate change.’

‘An Orchestrated PR Scam’

A powerful thread on Twitter by conservationist Stephen Barlow echoed our own experiences and insights from observing climate conferences over three decades:

‘I’m starting to get the impression of COP26 as a contrived stitch up. Where world leaders get to present their inadequate action as fixing the problem. This really is dangerous stuff. You see I remember the 1992 Rio Earth Summit well.’

Barlow expanded:

‘After the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, political leaders, fossil fuel companies and general vested interest gave the impression the problem was fixed, that there was no need for people to turn to green politics, because mainstream politics had fixed the problem.

‘In the following years, in the 1990s, we had oil companies taking out big full page adverts in BBC Wildlife Magazine, National Geographic, etc, saying how they were switching their business model to renewables.

‘Politicians presented all these rosy views of green growth, all sorts of carbon trading schemes and generally giving off the impression that the problem was fixed, and the future was green.’

He rightly concluded:

‘The problem is, unlike the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, where it took nearly 30 years to find out everything we were promised was a scam and it just kept on getting worse – in 30 years time (in fact far less) we are going to be in serious trouble.

‘This is as evil as it gets. This is an orchestrated PR scam to carry on with business as usual. Where various elements like politicians, the mainstream media, billionaires, royalty and vested interests, combine to maintain business as usual, with fraudulent presentation.’

Investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed, who has repeatedly exposed the reality of UK foreign policy, recently reported that the British government is seeking trade deals with carbon-lobbying countries who have attempted to weaken a scientific assessment report being prepared by the IPCC. The countries include Saudi Arabia and the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, along with Brazil, Argentina, Japan, Norway and India. Indeed, the UK is actively seeking to promote increased fossil fuel production in nearly all those countries, including Saudi Arabia – the world’s second largest oil producer.

Ahmed noted that last month, on the eve of COP26, foreign secretary Liz Truss flew to Saudi Arabia and Qatar to explore a potential trade deal with the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

He added:

According to the UK Department for International Trade’s Exporting Guide to Saudi Arabia, some of the biggest opportunities for UK investment are in expanding the kingdom’s fossil fuel sector.’

The export guide proudly states:

‘There are significant opportunities in Saudi Arabia’s energy market for UK businesses, especially in oil and natural gas.’

Ahmed continued:

‘Increasing the kingdom’s natural gas production is a particularly lucrative area for UK industry. The DIT notes that Saudi Aramco, the kingdom’s giant oil producer, is exploiting natural gas reserves off the Red Sea coast to support increased domestic demand, which will involve using deep water technologies for drilling below 1,000 metres.’

He summed up:

‘Britain’s intent to ramp up fossil fuel production in partnership with some of the world’s biggest obstructers of climate action raises urgent questions about its role at COP26.’

That is an understatement. Then again, who believes that a corrupt Tory government – led by a shambling, elitist, racist, serial twister of the truth – would ever actually take the serious actions required to tackle the climate emergency?

‘Systematically Corrupted By Vested Interests’

The climate campaign group Insulate Britain, who have blockaded several roads in multiple actions in recent weeks, said:

‘As will become clear after COP26, our government has no intention of taking the necessary action to protect its people. It has broken the social contract – the unwritten agreement in which we agree to obey the government’s laws and in return it will protect us.’

In particular, Insulate Britain:

‘have exposed the government’s refusal to act on home insulation as cowardly and vindictive and their refusal to protect our country and our children from the climate crisis as genocidal and treasonous.’

Those are strong words. But climate campaigners from Extinction Rebellion (XR) also made clear that:

‘Nothing on the table in the run up to COP26 has resembled a compassionate and functional response to the crisis. The Climate and Ecological Emergency is a Crime Against Humanity perpetrated by the rich and powerful, and the COP process is systematically corrupted by vested interests – national, corporate and financial.’

The environmentalist group Global Witness assessed that there are more fossil fuel lobbyists present at COP26 than even the largest delegation from any country. They reported:

‘At least 503 fossil fuel lobbyists, affiliated with some of the world’s biggest polluting oil and gas giants, have been granted access to COP26, flooding the Glasgow conference with corporate influence.’

Moreover, reported Global Witness:

  • If the fossil fuel lobby were a country delegation at COP it would be the largest with 503 delegates – two dozen more than the largest country delegation [Brazil].
  • Over 100 fossil fuel companies are represented at COP with 30 trade associations and membership organisations also present.
  • Fossil fuel lobbyists dwarf the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s official indigenous constituency by around two to one.
  • The fossil fuel lobby at COP is larger than the combined total of the eight delegations from the countries worst affected by climate change in the last two decades – Puerto Rico, Myanmar, Haiti, Philippines, Mozambique, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Pakistan.
  • 27 official country delegations registered fossil fuel lobbyists, including Canada, Russia and Brazil.

On day 1 of the conference, XR had already declared that COP26 was a ‘failure’ and the conference itself ‘a crime against humanity’. XR spokesperson Jon Fuller pointed out the responsibility of the media to:

‘form an analysis of the situation, delving beyond presenting the views of different parties to the reality of what has been achieved and what the consequences are for ordinary people. If they fail to do so they continue to be guilty of the same crimes against humanity as the world leaders who have gathered at 25 previous COPs, claiming progress in spite of a complete failure to stop emissions rising.’

Of course, as Media Lens has demonstrated over the past two decades, the state-corporate media, including BBC News, are indeed complicit in crimes against humanity.

Last year, the BBC took £300,000 in advertising revenue from Saudi Arabia’s national oil company, Aramco. The BBC does not carry advertising in the UK, but it does so abroad where much of its output is supported by commercials.

Jim Waterson, the Guardian’s media editor, reported that:

‘Big fossil fuel companies have spent approximately $660,000 (£483,000) with the BBC on US-focused digital adverts since 2018, according to projections produced by the advertising data firm MediaRadar. Most of this came from the national Saudi oil company – although BP, Exelon and Phillips 66 are among the other fossil fuel business[es] estimated to have spent five-figure sums advertising on the BBC’s digital outlets.’

He added:

‘The real figure for how much the BBC is making from large fossil fuel companies could be much higher when other forms of advertising are taken into account.’

Meanwhile, BBC News programmes and high-profile BBC journalists continue to channel government propaganda on climate, with minimal scrutiny or genuinely countervailing voices. An extended appearance by Greta Thunberg on the Sunday morning Andrew Marr show on 31 October was a rare exception.

More typical was Laura Kuenssberg’s relentless tweeting of government talking points:

‘PM says score in the match btw humanity and climate change is now, 5-2, or 5-3, not 5-1 at half time, which was his assessment a few days ago – if you hate the metaphor, let’s say, progress, but not yet enough’

This tweet from the BBC political editor managed to capture both:

1. the pathetic state of the ‘democracy‘ that ‘elected’ Boris Johnson as Prime Minister.

2. the crass, subservient nature of much of BBC News.

As US journalist Glenn Greenwald once observed:

‘The worst media in the democratic world is the British media, and it’s not even close.

‘I know it’s hard for people in other countries who hate their own media to believe, but whatever you hate about your country’s media, the UK media has in abundance and worse.’

The pathetic state of much of what passes for ‘journalism’ in the UK was summed up by investigative journalist Matt Kennard’s recent observation:

‘The British Journalism Awards [are] sponsored by Starling Bank, Gilead pharma, Google, Ovo Energy. The capture of our political, media and cultural systems by corporations is absolute and the root of problem. Rejecting + replacing corporate media is prerequisite to real democracy.’

And real democracy is a prerequisite for tackling the climate emergency before it threatens to engulf humanity, driving us towards extinction.

The post “A Crime Against Humanity”: The “Greenwash Festival” Of COP26 first appeared on Dissident Voice.