Category Archives: UK media

After success against Corbyn, Israel lobby ousts UK scholar

Britain’s pro-Israel lobby gained another important scalp last week after a prolonged campaign of intimidation finally pushed a major UK university into firing one of its lecturers.

Bristol University dismissed David Miller, a political sociology professor, even though an official investigation had concluded that accusations of antisemitism against him were unfounded.

Research by Miller, a leading scholar on propaganda, had charted networks of influence in the UK in relation to Islamophobia that included the very pro-Israel lobby groups that worked to get him fired.

The decision is likely to prove a severe blow to academic freedoms in the UK that are already under growing threat from efforts to silence criticism of Israel in the wake of reports from Israeli and international human rights describing it as an apartheid state.

Bristol faced a similar campaign four years ago against another professor, Rebecca Gould, years after she wrote an article on how Israel used the memory of the Holocaust to “whitewash its crimes” against Palestinians. Despite demands that she be sacked, Gould survived, possibly in part because she is Jewish.

Lobby emboldened

But since that attack, an emboldened pro-Israel lobby has been increasingly successful in conflating criticism of Israel – and the activities of groups that seek to shield Israel from scrutiny – with antisemitism.

The lobby smelled blood with the success of its years-long campaign to vilify the previous leader of Britain’s opposition Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn, an outspoken supporter of Palestinian rights. They argued that he had presided over a plague of antisemitism in Labour. Corbyn stepped down as leader last year.

The evidence-free claims of an “antisemitism crisis” under Corbyn were amplified by the billionaire-owned media and Labour’s own right-wing bureaucracy, both of which wanted the socialist Corbyn gone.

In a sign of the lobby’s continuing hold on political discourse in the UK about Israel and antisemitism, Corbyn’s successor, Keir Starmer, has been purging the party of Corbyn’s supporters, including Jews, smearing them as antisemites.

At Labour’s party conference last month, however, Starmer faced a backlash. Delegates voted in favor of a motion declaring Israel an apartheid state. The motion also demanded sanctions against Israel’s illegal settlements on Palestinian land and an end to UK arms sale to Israel.

Islamophobia fomented

With Bristol’s sacking of Miller, the key battleground appears to be shifting to academia, where it is feared that the idea of Israel as an apartheid state may gain a foothold. The lobby has been noisily celebrating the professor’s dismissal, presumably in the hope that a clear message is sent to other academics to rein in their public criticisms of Israel.

The campaign against Miller started more than two years ago, after the professor published research on “five pillars of Islamophobia” in British society. One diagram illustrated the organizational ties between pro-Israel lobby groups in the UK and a set of what Israel terms “national institutions” in fomenting Islamophobia.

Miller was bringing to light the influence of this network of transnational institutions that in Israel’s view represent a global “Jewish nation” whose homeland is Israel.

(Paradoxically, the Zionist belief that Jews form a single people who need to organize globally through a complex network of transnational and local institutions to ward off antisemitism neatly mirrors antisemitic ideas of Jews being part of a global conspiracy.)

So-called “national institutions” such as the Jewish National Fund, the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency all enjoy quasi-state authority in Israel while establishing affiliated local organizations in most major western countries.

For example, the JNF oversees racist land allocation policies that privilege Jews over Palestinians on behalf of the Israeli state while also having active branches in Europe and North America. And the WZO, which has a dozen or so affiliated organizations operating around the world, runs arm’s length operations for the Israeli state settling Jews on Palestinian land in the occupied territory.

Miller’s work showed how these agencies, effectively acting as arms of the Israeli state, have deep institutional and funding ties to UK Zionist groups – the same groups that have pushed for the redefinition of antisemitism in ways designed to silence criticism of Israel and that led the campaign against Corbyn.

His research suggested that the lobby’s promotion of Islamophobia had played a part of those campaigns.

‘Civilisational divide’

Fear of Muslims and Islam has long bolstered a self-serving narrative that Israel stands with the Judeo-Christian west against a supposed Islamic barbarism and terrorism. Palestinians, despite the fact a significant proportion are Christian, have been presented as on the wrong side of that supposed civilizational divide.

Backed by establishment media, the Union of Jewish Students originally alleged that a lecture by Miller on Islamophobia had made two unnamed Bristol students “uncomfortable and intimidated”.

But far from representing all Jewish students, the UJS is an avowedly Zionist body, one affiliated through the World Union of Jewish Students to the World Zionist Organization, the “national institution” whose role includes directing Israel’s building of illegal Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian land.

The UJS has also played a critical role in pushing for the adoption of a new definition of antisemitism at universities that, far from protecting Jewish students from hatred, is – as we shall see – designed to shield Israel from scrutiny.

Antisemitism redefined

Miller was cleared of the lobby’s initial allegations, but that served only to intensify the campaign against him. He was subjected to a follow-up investigation by Bristol University earlier this year.

In response, some 200 scholars, including prominent figures such as Noam Chomsky and Judith Butler, both of them Jewish, petitioned the university. Their letter noted the “unrelenting and concerted efforts to publicly vilify” Miller.

The professor, they added, was “known internationally for exposing the role that powerful actors and well-resourced, coordinated networks play in manipulating and stage-managing public debates, including on racism.”

Miller’s sacking follows the lobby’s success in pressuring major institutions, including Bristol university, into adopting a controversial new definition of antisemitism promoted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

Of a set of 11 supposed examples of antisemitism posited by the IHRA, seven refer to Israel.

Even the lead author of the definition, a Jewish lawyer, Kenneth Stern, has urged public institutions against adopting it, warning that it has been “weaponized” to stop speech about Israel. His warnings have fallen on deaf ears.

The ruling Conservative party has joined the pressure campaign, celebrating last month the fact that the number of British universities adopting the IHRA definition had rocketed by 160 percent over the past year – from 30 to 80.

That may in part be explained by the fact that the government has threatened the funding of any universities that refuse to comply.

Paradoxically, at the same as Boris Johnson’s government has been seeking to silence criticism of Israel, it has also been demanding an end to what it calls “cancel culture” at universities – chiefly attempts by students to deny a platform to racist and transphobic speakers.

The campaign against Miller has won the backing of large numbers of politicians from all parties, even the sole Green legislator, Caroline Lucas. More than 100 members of parliament wrote to Bristol university in March, echoing the lobby groups’ claims that the professor was “inciting hatred against Jewish students”.

Cleared of antisemitism, fired anyway

Strangely, when Bristol launched its second investigation back in March, a government minister announced: “It is the responsibility of the University of Bristol to determine whether or not Prof Miller’s remarks constitute lawful free speech.”

In a statement on Miller’s dismissal last week, the university conceded that the senior lawyer it appointed had not found anything “unlawful” in Miller’s comments.

In fact, Miller told Mondoweiss, the university’s statement was itself misleading. Their lawyer’s report had, he said, “found that my comments were not antisemitic and that they did not in any way violate the Equality Act”.

Despite the lawyer finding in Miller’s favor, the university nonetheless sacked him. It said it had “a duty of care to all students and the wider University community” and that Miller had failed to “meet the standards of behaviour we expect from our staff”.

This appeared to be the university’s mealy-mouthed equivalent of “bringing the party into disrepute” – the UK Labour party’s justification for suspending and expelling members when it proved impossible to actually find evidence against them to support claims of antisemitism.

Miller has said he will appeal, either using the university’s own internal procedures or referring the case to an employment tribunal.

Bristol may have problems defending its actions. Its statement poses more questions than it answers.

Does the university not also have a duty of care to Miller himself, if nothing he did was found to be unlawful or antisemitic?

And as the university admits that “members of our community hold very different views from one another” on the issues at the heart of the investigation, does it not also have a duty of care to Palestinian, Arab, Muslim and left-wing students?

The university has sent a clear message to them that their concerns about Islamophobia, and how it is being promoted in the UK, are a very low priority – and that even academics who speak in solidarity with them risk losing their job.

And how is it possible to square the university’s claim that it is committed to preserving “the essential principles of academic freedom” when it has so flagrantly caved in to an unsubstantiated campaign of intimidation?

Miller’s sacking makes it all but impossible for any other academic to consider either research into Islamophobia or an examination of the role of an important UK lobby, leaving these fields effectively off-limits.

Causing offense

Miller’s research has proved to have predictive value – one of the yardsticks for measuring the plausibility of its thesis.

The very networks of influence he identified as seeking to silence criticism of Israel quickly got to work trumpeting their victory against Miller on social media, making sure that other academics would get the message.

ACT.IL, which if it were operating on behalf of Russia rather than Israel would be described as a troll factory, rallied its followers to denounce Miller online for “spouting antisemitism”.

The case has been similarly misrepresented in the British media, which has been leading the campaign against Miller, as it did against Corbyn.

A report in the supposedly liberal Guardian described Miller’s case as splitting “the campus between staff and students who accused him of spouting antisemitic tropes in lectures and online, and those who worried that sanctions would stifle sensitive research”.

The assumption in the Guardian and elsewhere was that Miller had indeed “spouted antisemitic tropes”, and that the only question was whether sacking him was too high a price – given the danger it might stifle research.

It never occurred to the Guardian or other media outlets that some staff and students – as well as the Queen’s Counsel investigating the case – did not actually believe Miller had “spouted antisemitic tropes”.

In truth, Miller’s research and his statements on the lobby and Islamophobia only appeared antisemitic in a new, highly politicized sense of the term – cultivated by the Israel lobby – that criticizing Israel and its lobbyists causes offense.

But that is inevitable when research challenges popular assumptions or questions systems of power. Universities either support academic research and where it leads, or they do not.

Miller noted that the lobby’s success would encourage it to “redouble it efforts” to campaign for other academics to be dismissed.

Despite its weasel statement, Bristol has shown it has absolutely no commitment to academic freedom. The danger now is that few other British universities will stand up for that principle either.

• First published in Mondoweiss

The post After success against Corbyn, Israel lobby ousts UK scholar first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Jewish Chronicle’s libel payouts were a small price to pay for smearing Corbyn and the left

The Jewish Chronicle, a weekly newspaper that was saved from liquidation last year by a consortium led by a former senior adviser to Theresa May, has been exposed as having a quite astonishing record of journalistic failings.

Over the past three years, the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), the misnamed and feeble “press regulator” created by the billionaire-owned corporate media, has found the paper to have breached its code of practice on at least 28 occasions. The weekly has also lost, or been forced to settle, at least four libel cases over the same period.

According to Brian Cathcart, a professor of journalism at Kingston University in London, that means one in every four or five editions of the Chronicle has broken either the law or the IPSO code. He describes that, rather generously, as a “collapse of journalistic standards” at the paper.

IPSO, led by Lord Edward Faulks, a former Conservative minister, has repeatedly failed to launch any kind of formal investigation into this long-term pattern of rule and law-breaking by the Jewish Chronicle. He has also dragged his feet in responding to calls from a group of nine individuals maligned by the paper that IPSO urgently needs to carry out an inquiry into the paper’s editorial standards.

Consequently, IPSO has left itself in no position to take action against the paper, even assuming it wished to. The “press regulator” has not fined the Chronicle – one of its powers – or imposed any other kind of sanction. It has not insisted on special training to end the Chronicle’s systematic editorial failings. And the paper’s editor, Stephen Pollard, has remained in place.

And here one needs to ask why.

Holding the line

Cathcart’s main explanation is that IPSO, as the creature of the billionaire press, is there to “handle” complaints – in the sense of making them go away – rather than seriously hold the media to account or punish its transgressions.

IPSO has never fined or sanctioned any of its member publications since it was created seven years ago by the owners of the corporate media to avoid the establishment of a proper regulatory body in the wake of the Levenson public inquiry into media abuses such as the phone hacking scandal.

The bar for launching an investigation by IPSO was intentionally set so high – failings must be shown to be “serious and systematic” – that the “press regulator” and its corporate media backers assumed they would plausibly be able to argue that no paper ever reached it.

The Chronicle has put even this sham form of regulation to the severest test.

Cathcart argues that IPSO’s job has been to hold the line. If it tackled the Jewish Chronicle for its serial deceptions and character assassinations, it would risk paving the way to similar sanctions being imposed on Rupert Murdoch’s titles.

Attack dog

But there is an additional reason why IPSO is so loath to crack down on the Chronicle’s systematic editorial failings. And that is because, from the point of view of the British establishment, those failings were necessary and encouraged.

It is important to highlight the context for the Chronicle’s egregious transgressions of the editors’ code of practice and libel laws. Those fabrications and deceptions were needed because they lay at the heart of the establishment’s campaign to be rid of former Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

The Jewish Chronicle served as the chief attack dog on Corbyn and the Labour left, in service of an establishment represented by the Conservative party and the long-dominant right wing of the Labour party.

Whereas the rest of the corporate media tried to discredit Corbyn and the Labour left with a range of early, lamentable claims – that he was scruffy, unpatriotic, sexist, a national security threat, a former Soviet spy – the Jewish Chronicle’s task was more complicated but far more effective.

The paper’s role was to breathe life into the claim that Corbyn and his supporters were anti-semites, and the paper managed it by maliciously conflating antisemitism and the left’s criticisms of Israel as a racist, apartheid state that oppresses Palestinians.

Confess or you’re guilty

The Chronicle’s job was to initiate the antisemitism libels and lies against Corbyn and his followers that served to feed and rationalise the fears of prominent sections of the Jewish community. Those fears could then be cited by the rest of the corporate media as evidence that Labour was riding roughshod over the Jewish community’s “sensitivities”. And in turn the Labour left’s supposed indifference to Jewish sensitivities could be attributed to its rampant antisemitism.

It culminated in the McCarthyite claim – now being enforced by Corbyn’s successor as Labour leader, Keir Starmer – that to deny Labour has some especial antisemitism problem, separate from that found more generally in British society, is itself proof of antisemitism. Once accused of antisemitism, as the Labour left endlessly is, one is guilty by definition – the choice is either to confess to antisemitism or be proven an antisemite by denying the accusation.

Like a victim caught in quicksand, the more vigorously the Labour left has rejected claims that the party is riddled with antisemitism the more it has sunk into the mire created by the Jewish Chronicle and others.

It is therefore hardly surprising that so many victims of the Chronicle’s libels and code violations are Corbyn supporters targeted in the antisemitism witch-hunt. Without these deceptions, the antisemitism claims against the Labour party would have looked even more preposterous than they did to anyone familiar with the evidence.

False accusations

For those interested, here are those four recent libel cases that went against the Chronicle:

September 2019: “The Jewish Chronicle has paid out £50,000 in libel damages to a UK charity [Interpal] that provides aid to Palestinians after wrongly linking it to terrorism.”

February 2020: “The libel settlement comes after a UK press regulator in December ruled that the paper’s four articles about [Labour activist Audrey] White had been ‘significantly misleading’ and that the paper had engaged in ‘unacceptable’ obstruction of their investigation.”

October 2020: “Nada al Sanjari, a school teacher and Labour councillor, was the subject of a number of articles published by the newspaper in 2019 that claimed she was one of several Momentum activists responsible for inviting another activist who the Jewish Chronicle characterised as anti-Semitic to a Labour Party event.”

July 2021: “The publication falsely accused [Marc] Wadsworth, in an article on its website in March, of being part of a group of current and ex-Labour members targeting Jewish activists in the party.”

It is not hard to spot the theme of all these smears, and many others, which suggest that those in solidarity with Palestinians under Israeli oppression, including Jews, are antisemites or guilty of supporting terrorism.

Saved from liquidation

Remember, the 28 IPSO code violations – media euphemism for fabrications and deceptions – are only the tip of the iceberg. It is almost certain that many of those maligned by the Chronicle did not have the time, energy or resources to pursue the weekly paper either through the pointless IPSO “regulation” process or through extremely costly law courts.

And remember too that IPSO found against the Chronicle for breaching its code at least 28 times, even though that code was designed to give IPSO’s member publications every possible benefit of the doubt. IPSO has no incentive to highlight its members’ failings, especially when it was set up to provide the government with a pretext for not creating a truly independent regulatory body.

The reality is that the 180-year-old Jewish Chronicle, or JC as it has remodelled itself, would have gone out of business some time ago had it not been twice saved from liquidation by powerful, establishment figures.

It avoided closure in 2019 after it was bailed out by “community-minded individuals, families and charitable trusts” following massive losses. The identities of those donors were not disclosed.

At the time Stephen Pollard highlighted his paper’s crucial role: “There’s certainly been a huge need for the journalism that the JC does in especially looking at the anti-Semitism in the Labour party and elsewhere.”

Consortium of investors

Then only a year later the Chronicle had to be rescued again, this time by a shadowy consortium of investors who promised to pump in millions to keep the paper afloat and reimburse those who had donated the previous year.

Why these financiers appear so committed to a paper with proven systematic editorial failings, and which continues to be headed by the same editor who has overseen those serious failings for years, was underscored at the time by Alan Jacobs, the paper’s departing chairman.

He observed that the donors who bailed out the paper in 2019 “can be proud that their combined generosity allowed the JC to survive long enough to help to see off Jeremy Corbyn and friends, one of the greatest threats to face British Jewry in the JC’s existence.”

Corbyn had lost the general election to a Conservative party led by Boris Johnson later that same year.

The public face of last year’s consortium was Sir Robbie Gibb, a former BBC executive and a longtime ally of figures on the Conservative right. He served as Theresa May’s spin doctor when she was prime minister. He was also an early adviser to GB News, a recent attempt to replicate the overtly right wing Fox News channel in the UK.

Other visible consortium members are associated with the antisemitism campaign against Corbyn. They include former right wing Labour MP John Woodcock, who cited antisemitism as his reason for quitting the party after it had begun investigating him for sending inappropriate messages to a female staff member.

Another is Jonathan Sacerdoti, a regular “analyst” on the BBC, ITV and Ch4 who previously served as a spokesperson for the Campaign Against Antisemitism, a lobby group set up back in 2014 specifically to discredit critics of Israel as antisemites.

And then there is John Ware, a former Sun journalist turned BBC reporter who fronted probably the single most damaging programme on Corbyn. An hour-long Panorama “special” accusing Labour of antisemitism was deeply flawed, misleading and failed to acknowledge that several unnamed figures it interviewed were also pro-Israel lobbyists.

It would probably be unwise for me to say more about Ware or his publicly stated views on Muslims, shared by the Jewish Chronicle, because he has recently become litigious. He apparently has deep pockets, helping to fund both the rescue of the Chronicle and law suits against critics.

Exceptional indulgence

But the exceptional indulgence of the Jewish Chronicle, both by IPSO and prominent figures in broadcasting, and the paper’s continuing credibility as a source of news for the wider corporate media, indicates how the antisemitism narrative about Labour served, and continues to serve, the British establishment.

Represented politically by the Conservative party and the Labour right, that establishment was able to reassert its cosy parliamentary duopoly by ousting any meaningful challenge from the Labour left. With Corbyn gone, the threat of real politics has disappeared. We are back to one-party, corporate rule under the guise of two parties.

Which is why IPSO cannot take any meaningful action against the Jewish Chronicle. To do so would pull the rug from under the antisemitism narrative that destroyed Corbyn and is now being used by his successor, Starmer, to purge Labour of the remnants of the left and to distance the party as far as possible from any lingering signs of Palestinian solidarity.

Exposure of the Jewish Chronicle as an editorial wrecking ball aimed at the left would show just how much the paper and the antisemitism narrative it bolstered were key to the Conservative party’s successful smearing of Corbyn that helped to keep him out of Number 10. It would highlight the enduring collusion between the corporate media and the political elite.

And it would indicate that corporate media is not really an exercise in capitalist, free-market economics, where profitable outlets drive out those that are unpopular. Rather loss-making corporate media such as the Jewish Chronicle are a price the establishment is only too happy to bear as long as those publications fulfil a more important purpose: ensuring that the political and economic climate remains favourable to the ruling class.

The Jewish Chronicle has played its part in destroying Corbyn and the left. Now it will continue that role by policing the public discourse and ensuring that no one like Corbyn ever gets near power again. Those libel payouts were a small price to pay.

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Craig Murray’s jailing is the latest move in a battle to snuff out independent journalism

Craig Murray, a former ambassador to Uzbekistan, the father of a newborn child, a man in very poor health and one who has no prior convictions, will have to hand himself over to the Scottish police on Sunday morning. He becomes the first person ever to be imprisoned on the obscure and vaguely defined charge of “jigsaw identification”.

Murray is also the first person to be jailed in Britain for contempt of court in half a century – a period when such different legal and moral values prevailed that the British establishment had only just ended the prosecution of “homosexuals” and the jailing of women for having abortions.

Murray’s imprisonment for eight months by Lady Dorrian, Scotland’s second most senior judge, is, of course, based entirely on a keen reading of Scottish law rather than evidence of the Scottish and London political establishments seeking revenge on the former diplomat. And the UK supreme court’s refusal on Thursday to hear Murray’s appeal despite many glaring legal anomalies in the case, thereby paving his path to jail, is equally rooted in a strict application of the law, and not influenced in any way by political considerations.

Murray’s jailing has nothing to do with the fact that he embarrassed the British state in the early 2000s by becoming that rarest of things: a whistleblowing diplomat. He exposed the British government’s collusion, along with the US, in Uzbekistan’s torture regime.

His jailing also has nothing to do with the fact that Murray has embarrassed the British state more recently by reporting the woeful and continuing legal abuses in a London courtroom as Washington seeks to extradite Wikileaks’ founder, Julian Assange, and lock him away for life in a maximum security prison. The US wants to make an example of Assange for exposing its war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan and for publishing leaked diplomatic cables that pulled the mask off Washington’s ugly foreign policy.

Murray’s jailing has nothing to do with the fact that the contempt proceedings against him allowed the Scottish court to deprive him of his passport so that he could not travel to Spain and testify in a related Assange case that is severely embarrassing Britain and the US. The Spanish hearing has been presented with reams of evidence that the US illegally spied on Assange inside the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where he sought political asylum to avoid extradition. Murray was due to testify that his own confidential conversations with Assange were filmed, as were Assange’s privileged meetings with his own lawyers. Such spying should have seen the case against Assange thrown out, had the judge in London actually been applying the law.

Similarly, Murray’s jailing has nothing to do with his embarrassing the Scottish political and legal establishments by reporting, almost single-handedly, the defence case in the trial of Scotland’s former First Minister, Alex Salmond. Unreported by the corporate media, the evidence submitted by Salmond’s lawyers led a jury dominated by women to acquit him of a raft of sexual assault charges. It is Murray’s reporting of Salmond’s defence that has been the source of his current troubles.

And most assuredly, Murray’s jailing has precisely nothing to do with his argument – one that might explain why the jury was so unconvinced by the prosecution case – that Salmond was actually the victim of a high-level plot by senior politicians at Holyrood to discredit him and prevent his return to the forefront of Scottish politics. The intention, says Murray, was to deny Salmond the chance to take on London and make a serious case for independence, and thereby expose the SNP’s increasing lip service to that cause.

Relentless attack

Murray has been a thorn in the side of the British establishment for nearly two decades. Now they have found a way to lock him up just as they have Assange, as well as tie Murray up potentially for years in legal battles that risk bankrupting him as he seeks to clear his name.

And given his extremely precarious health – documented in detail to the court – his imprisonment further risks turning eight months into a life sentence. Murray nearly died from a pulmonary embolism 17 years ago when he was last under such relentless attack from the British establishment. His health has not improved since.

At that time, in the early 2000s, in the run-up to, and early stages of, the invasion of Iraq, Murray effectively exposed the complicity of fellow British diplomats – their preference to turn a blind eye to the abuses sanctioned by their own government and its corrupt and corrupting alliance with the US.

Later, when Washington’s “extraordinary rendition” – state kidnapping – programme came to light, as well as its torture regime at places like Abu Ghraib, the spotlight should have turned to the failure of diplomats to speak out. Unlike Murray, they refused to turn whistleblower. They provided cover to the illegality and barbarism.

For his pains, Murray was smeared by Tony Blair’s government as, among other things, a sexual predator – charges a Foreign Office investigation eventually cleared him of. But the damage was done, with Murray forced out. A commitment to moral and legal probity was clearly incompatible with British foreign policy objectives.

Murray had to reinvent his career, and he did so through a popular blog. He has applied the same dedication to truth-telling and commitment to the protection of human rights in his journalism – and has again run up against equally fierce opposition from the British establishment.

Two-tier journalism

The most glaring, and disturbing, legal innovation in Lady Dorrian’s ruling against Murray – and the main reason he is heading to prison – is her decision to divide journalists into two classes: those who work for approved corporate media outlets, and those like Murray who are independent, often funded by readers rather than paid big salaries by billionaires or the state.

According to Lady Dorrian, licensed, corporate journalists are entitled to legal protections she denied to unofficial and independent journalists like Murray – the very journalists who are most likely to take on governments, criticise the legal system, and expose the hypocrisy and lies of the corporate media.

In finding Murray guilty of so-called “jigsaw identification”, Lady Dorrian did not make a distinction between what Murray wrote about the Salmond case and what approved, corporate journalists wrote.

That is for good reason. Two surveys have shown that most of those following the Salmond trial who believe they identified one or more of his accusers did so from the coverage of the corporate media, especially the BBC. Murray’s writings appear to have had very little impact on the identification of any of the accusers. Among named individual journalists, Dani Garavelli, who wrote about the trial for Scotland on Sunday and the London Review of Books, was cited 15 times more often by respondents than Murray as helping them to identify Salmond’s accusers.

Rather, Lady Dorrian’s distinction was between who gets protected when identification occurs. Write for the Times or the Guardian, or broadcast on the BBC, where the audience reach is enormous, and the courts will protect you from prosecution. Write about the same issues for a blog, and you risk being hounded into prison.

In fact, the legal basis of “jigsaw identification” – one could argue the whole point of it – is that it accrues dangerous powers to the state. It gives permission for the legal establishment to arbitrarily decide which piece of the supposed jigsaw is to be counted as identification. If the BBC’s Kirsty Wark includes a piece of the jigsaw, it does not count as identification in the eyes of the court. If Murray or another independent journalist offers a different piece of the jigsaw, it does count. The obvious ease with which this principle can be abused by the establishment to oppress and silence dissident journalists should not need underscoring.

And yet this is no longer Lady Dorrian’s ruling alone. In refusing to hear Murray’s appeal, the UK supreme court has offered its blessing to this same dangerous, two-tiered classification.

Credentialed by the state

What Lady Dorrian has done is to overturn traditional views of what constitutes journalism: that it is a practice that at its very best is designed to hold the powerful to account, and that anyone who engages in such work is doing journalism, whether or not they are typically thought of as a journalist.

That idea was obvious until quite recently. When social media took off, one of the gains trumpeted even by the corporate media was the emergence of a new kind of “citizen journalist”. At that stage, corporate media believed that these citizen journalists would become cheap fodder, providing on-the-ground, local stories they alone would have access to and that only the establishment media would be in a position to monetise. This was precisely the impetus for the Guardian’s “Comment is Free” section, which in its early incarnation allowed a varied selection of people with specialist knowledge or information to provide the paper with articles for free to increase the paper’s sales and advertising rates.

The establishment’s attitude to citizen journalists, and the Guardian’s to the “Comment is Free” model, only changed when these new journalists started to prove hard to control, and their work often highlighted, inadvertently or otherwise, the inadequacies, deceptions and double standards of the corporate media.

Now, Lady Dorrian has put the final nail in the coffin of citizen journalism. She has declared through her ruling that she and other judges will be the ones to decide who is considered a journalist and thereby who receives legal protections for their work. This is a barely concealed way for the state to license or “credentialise” journalists. It turns journalism into a professional guild with only official, corporate journalists safe from legal retribution by the state.

If you are an unapproved, uncredentialed journalist, you can be jailed, as Murray is being, on a similar legal basis to the imprisonment of someone who carries out a surgical operation without the necessary qualifications. But whereas the law against charlatan surgeons is there to protect the public, to stop unnecessary harm being inflicted on the sick, Lady Dorrian’s ruling will serve a very different purpose: to protect the state from the harm caused by the exposure of its secret or most malign practices by trouble-making, sceptical – and now largely independent – journalists.

Journalism is being corralled back into the exclusive control of the state and billionaire-owned corporations. It may not be surprising that corporate journalists, keen to hold on to their jobs, are consenting through their silence to this all-out assault on journalism and free speech. After all, this is a kind of protectionism – additional job security – for journalists employed by a corporate media that has no real intention to challenge the powerful.

But what is genuinely shocking is that this dangerous accretion of further power to the state and its allied corporate class is being backed implicitly by the journalists’ union, the NUJ. It has kept quiet over the many months of attacks on Murray and the widespread efforts to discredit him for his reporting. The NUJ has made no significant noise about Lady Dorrian’s creation of two classes of journalists – state-approved and unapproved – or about her jailing of Murray on these grounds.

But the NUJ has gone further. Its leaders have publicly washed their  hands of Murray by excluding him from membership of the union, even while its officials have conceded that he should qualify. The NUJ has become as complicit in the hounding of a journalist as Murray’s fellow diplomats once were for his hounding as an ambassador. This is a truly shameful episode in the NUJ’s history.

Free speech criminalised

But more dangerous still, Lady Dorrian’s ruling is part of a pattern in which the political, judicial and media establishments have colluded to narrow the definition of what counts as journalism, to exclude anything beyond the pap that usually passes for journalism in the corporate media.

Murray has been one of the few journalists to report in detail the arguments made by Assange’s legal team in his extradition hearings. Noticeably in both the Assange and Murray cases, the presiding judge has limited the free speech protections traditionally afforded to journalism and has done so by restricting who qualifies as a journalist. Both cases have been frontal assaults on the ability of certain kinds of journalists – those who are free from corporate or state pressure – to cover important political stories, effectively criminalising independent journalism. And all this has been achieved by sleight of hand.

In Assange’s case, Judge Vanessa Baraitser largely assented to US claims that what the Wikileaks founder had done was espionage rather than journalism. The Obama administration had held off prosecuting Assange because it could not find a distinction in law between his legal right to publish evidence of US war crimes and the New York Times and the Guardian’s right to publish the same evidence, provided to them by Wikileaks. If the US administration prosecuted Assange, it would also need to prosecute the editors of those papers.

Donald Trump’s officials bypassed that problem by creating a distinction between “proper” journalists, employed by corporate outlets that oversee and control what is published, and “bogus” journalists, those independents not subject to such oversight and pressures.

Trump’s officials denied Assange the status of journalist and publisher and instead treated him as a spy who colluded with and assisted whistleblowers. That supposedly voided the free speech protections he constitutionally enjoyed. But, of course, the US case against Assange was patent nonsense. It is central to the work of investigative journalists to “collude” with and assist whistleblowers. And spies squirrel away the information provided to them by such whistleblowers, they do not publicise it to the world, as Assange did.

Notice the parallels with Murray’s case.

Judge Baraitser’s approach to Assange echoed the US one: that only approved, credentialed journalists enjoy the protection of the law from prosecution; only approved, credentialed journalists have the right to free speech (should they choose to exercise it in newsrooms beholden to state or corporate interests). Free speech and the protection of the law, Baraitser implied, no longer chiefly relate to the legality of what is said, but to the legal status of who says it.

A similar methodology has been adopted by Lady Dorrian in Murray’s case. She has denied him the status of a journalist, and instead classified him as some kind of “improper” journalist, or blogger. As with Assange, there is an implication that “improper” or “bogus” journalists are such an exceptional threat to society that they must be stripped of the normal legal protections of free speech.

“Jigsaw identification” – especially when allied to sexual assault allegations, involving women’s rights and playing into the wider, current obsession with identity politics – is the perfect vehicle for winning widespread consent for the criminalisation of the free speech of critical journalists.

Corporate media shackles

There is an even bigger picture that should be hard to miss for any honest journalist, corporate or otherwise. What Lady Dorrian and Judge Baraitser – and the establishment behind them – are trying to do is put the genie back in the bottle. They are trying to reverse a trend that over more than a decade has seen a small but growing number of journalists use new technology and social media to liberate themselves from the shackles of the corporate media and tell truths audiences were never supposed to hear.

Don’t believe me? Consider the case of Guardian and Observer journalist Ed Vulliamy. In his book Flat Earth News, Vulliamy’s colleague at the Guardian, Nick Davies, tells the story of how Roger Alton, editor of the Observer at the time of the Iraq war, and a credentialed, licensed journalist if ever there was one, sat on one of the biggest stories in the paper’s history for months on end.

In late 2002, Vulliamy, a veteran and much trusted reporter, persuaded Mel Goodman, a former senior CIA official who still had security clearance at the agency, to go on record that the CIA knew there were no WMD in Iraq – the pretext for an imminent and illegal invasion of that country. As many suspected, the US and British governments had been telling lies to justify a coming war of aggression against Iraq, and Vulliamy had a key source to prove it.

But Alton spiked this earth-shattering story and then refused to publish another six versions written by an increasingly exasperated Vulliamy over the next few months, as war loomed. Alton was determined to keep the story out of the news. Back in 2002 it only took a handful of editors – all of whom had risen through the ranks for their discretion, nuance and careful “judgment” – to make sure some kinds of news never reached their readers.

Social media has changed such calculations. Vulliamy’s story could not be quashed so easily today. It would leak out, precisely through a high-profile independent journalist like Assange or Murray. Which is why such figures are so critically important to a healthy and informed society – and why they, and a few others like them, are gradually being disappeared. The cost of allowing independent journalists to operate freely, the establishment has understood, is far too high.

First, all independent, unlicensed journalism was lumped in as “fake news”. With that as the background, social media corporations were able to collude with so-called legacy media corporations to algorithm independent journalists into oblivion. And now independent journalists are being educated about what fate is likely to befall them should they try to emulate Assange or Murray.

Asleep at the wheel

In fact, while corporate journalists have been asleep at the wheel, the British establishment has been preparing to widen the net to criminalise all journalism that seeks to seriously hold power to account. A recent government consultation document calling for a more draconian crackdown on what is being deceptively termed “onward disclosure” – code for journalism – has won the backing of Home Secretary Priti Patel. The document implicitly categorises journalism as little different from espionage and whistleblowing.

In the wake of the consultation paper, the Home Office has called on parliament to consider “increased maximum sentences” for offenders – that is, journalists – and ending the distinction “between espionage and the most serious unauthorised disclosures”. The government’s argument is that “onward disclosures” can create “far more serious damage” than espionage and so should be treated similarly. If accepted, any public interest defence – the traditional safeguard for journalists – will be muted.

Anyone who followed the Assange hearings last summer – which excludes most journalists in the corporate media – will notice strong echoes of the arguments made by the US for extraditing Assange, arguments conflating journalism with espionage that were largely accepted by Judge Baraitser.

None of this has come out of the blue. As the online technology publication The Register noted back in 2017, the Law Commission was at the time considering “proposals in the UK for a swingeing new Espionage Act that could jail journalists as spies”. It said such an act was being “developed in haste by legal advisers”.

It is quite extraordinary that two investigative journalists – one a long-term, former member of staff at the Guardian – managed to write an entire article in that paper this month on the government consultation paper and not mention Assange once. The warning signs have been there for the best part of a decade but corporate journalists have refused to notice them. Similarly, it is no coincidence that Murray’s plight has also not registered on the corporate media’s radar.

Assange and Murray are the canaries in the coal mine for the growing crackdown on investigative journalism and on efforts to hold executive power to account. There is, of course, ever less of that being done by the corporate media, which may explain why corporate outlets appear not only relaxed about the mounting political and legal climate against free speech and transparency but have been all but cheering it on.

In the Assange and Murray cases, the British state is carving out for itself a space to define what counts as legitimate, authorised journalism – and journalists are colluding in this dangerous development, if only through their silence. That collusion tells us a great deal about the mutual interests of the corporate political and legal establishments, on the one hand, and the corporate media establishment on the other.

Assange and Murray are not only telling us troubling truths we are not supposed to hear. The fact that they are being denied solidarity by those who are their colleagues, those who may be next in the firing line, tells us everything we need to know about the so-called mainstream media: that the role of corporate journalists is to serve establishment interests, not challenge them.

The post Craig Murray’s jailing is the latest move in a battle to snuff out independent journalism first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The G7 and the Orwellian Twin Tropes Propagandising US Global Domination

During the recent G7 summit the corporate media went into pro-US propaganda overdrive.  The BBC’s Global News channel – or UK global propaganda outlet – has spent the years since the Iraq War spinning the US Military’s assault on the Black and Brown homelands of the world as ‘America spreading democracy’.  Media Lens has responded to the brutal consequences, condemning BBC Paul Wood’s misrepresentation “The coalition came to Iraq in the first place to bring democracy and human rights” (22 December 2005).  Previously, BBC defence Correspondent Jonathan Marcus also historically spun American Military aggression as “the promotion of democracy throughout the Muslim world” (5 December 2002).   In the near two decades since Iraq, consecutive BBC Political Editors Andrew Marr and Nick Robinson have also regularly spouted this propaganda position.  And this ongoing orthodoxy was parroted ad-infinitum during the summit by the rest of the corporate media.  The other trope repeatedly invoked was that of a supposed transatlantic ‘special relationship’.

Even leaving aside the death toll and victims of torture resulting from historically recent US militarism, for America to actually spread democracy it would have to be one itself.  Reflecting the genealogical critique of Philosopher-Historian Michel Foucault – that the mechanisms of power rarely disappear but instead evolve – the US reality is that much of its slavery-era anti-democratic oppressions are still intact, albeit in mutated form.

In the aftermath of the Civil War, African-Americans were driven out of the public sphere by a violent campaign of lynching, torture and intimidation known as ‘disenfranchisement’.  This deliberate political exclusion persisted into the 1960s in the practice of murdering voter registration activists, some of which was fictionalised in the pro-federal establishment film Mississippi Burning (1988).  Currently, this agenda manifests itself in ‘Voter Suppression’ tactics.   Poll Stations are closed down in Black and Latino areas, resulting in reports of 6+ hour waits, to cast a ballot – as exampled in the infamous experience of 102 years-old Desline Victor.  Impediments to voting are also created by new regulations which refuse to recognise forms of ID common among Black and Latino groups, therefore blocking their attempts at voting.

In the academic publication The New Jim Crow (2010), Michele Alexander documents a similar oppressive continuity, recording that there are more Black Americans in the US penal apparatus than were held in slavery in the 1850s.  Given the privatisation of US Prisons, much of this captivity is for profit, and can also similarly involve prisoners being used as cheap labour.  In most US states prisoners lose the right to vote, so once again they can’t take democratic action, even against their own caged exploitation.

There is also the issue of taking Black lives with impunity of which the Black Lives Matter movement rightly complains.  Much of this begins with the historic lynching tradition.  Given often the complicity of authority figures – sheriffs, police officers, local judges, handing victims over to lynch mobs – this practice has historically been relabelled as supposedly respectable ‘extra-judicial killing’.  Building on this, in recent years many states have passed Stand Your Ground, Shoot First Laws’.  There have been attempts to excuse current killings of many Black youths such as, Trayvon Martin and Jordon Davis on just this legal provision.

Those wondering about the relevance of these practices for foreign policy need only reflect on why examples of the US historic lynching postcard resemble so closely the human trophy photography to come out of Abu Graib and Guantanamo Bay.  One of Guantanamo’s interrogators was “Lieutenant Richard Zuley, a Chicago police detective in the Navy Reserve… During his career with the Chicago Police Department, Zuley conducted police interrogations primarily on Black Chicagoans. These interrogations involved the use of torture techniques similar to those he would later use at Guantánamo Bay.”  Again echoing the issue of institutional continuity, the  American Military’s practice of assassinating those globally, whose arguments of US racist-imperialism it finds too inconvenient to put on trial, is similarly once again spun as merely ‘extra judicial killing’.

Neither claims of ‘America spreading democracy’ or the ‘special relationship’ stand much scrutiny, given that for generations Britain has been welcoming those seeking refuge from US racial and political oppression.   Therefore the real predominant special relationship that the British general public actually embraced has been with Americans, who were the US establishment’s victims.

The singer, actor and activist Paul Robeson enjoyed his time in the UK in the early 20th C, whereas in his own country he was subjected to racial and political persecution, predominantly by Federal authorities.

Post-war footage of African-American Rhythm-&-Blues performers freely plying their trade in Britain, shows the artists in occasional off-stage anxiety as this was the first time they’d been in un-segregated spaces, sharing train carriages and the like with white citizens.  Some of this footage can be found in the first episode of a previous BBC arts documentary Blues Britannia (2011), which demonstrates the ongoing self-conscious lengths the BBC’s Global News channel attempts in re-branding American establishment traditions as ‘democratic’.

Also, many American artists objecting to working-class exploitation and oppression came to Britain fleeing the political persecution of US McCarthyism.  The composer and harmonica player Larry Adler was one of these.  While here he produced the score for the popular UK film Genevieve (1953).  Two decades later he told the New York Times how even his foreign work was treated under McCarthyism.

Remember the film ‘Genevieve?’ I composed and played the music for that. Six weeks before it opened at the Sutton in New York a print was requested without my name. My music was nominated for an Oscar. As no composer’s name was on the credits they nominated Muir Mathieson, who conducted the orchestra. I made the fact known to the Academy but no correction was made and my name never restored.

The Adventures of Robin Hood was one of UK television’s most successful exports of the late 50’s and early 60’s.  However, its producer Hannah Weinstein and previously successful Hollywood writing team including Ring Lardner Jr. (a joint Oscar recipient), Ian Hunter, Robert Lees, Waldo Salt, Adrian Scott and Editor Howard Koch (another joint Oscar recipient), were fleeing the McCarthyite Black List.  In 1990 a fiction film – Fellow Traveller (1990) director Philip Saville, starring Ron Silver, Daniel J Travanti – was made largely inspired by their situation.  The production company back then was ‘Screen Two’ a division of the BBC.

While largely hated by large parts of America, in the 1960s and 70’s Muhammad Ali, similar to Robeson, enjoyed respite in the UK.  Part of Ali’s fondness for Britain was that when stripped of his World title by US authorities, a little known Oxfordshire based Irish former bareknuckle fighter Paddy Monaghan, put together a petition demanding his reinstatement.  Even though only publicised by a working-class, unknown, un-resourced figure, this petition got 22,224 signatures in the UK.  You’d hope given Ali’s relationship to Britain, and that images of the resulting friendship that occurred between the two men can be found in the BBC’s photo-archive, that this alongside the history of McCarthyism, would inform BBC News/Current-Affairs spin on US democracy.  Sadly not!

Significantly the UK has now gone from the country that used to welcome those seeking refuge and relief from American oppression, to one that on US government insistence imprisons and – according the UN’s Special Rapporteur Nils Melzer and medical journal The Lancet – tortures Julian Assange (Assange is now an absented non-person in corporate media coverage).  This turnaround has occurred due to the elitist subversion of Party democracy in the UK, and because the corporate news media – as demonstrated by BBC News output – is willing in the Orwellian manner of Winston Smith at the Ministry of Truth, to absent and rewrite, its own Arts, Historical, and Archive material.

The origins of the constructed ‘special relationship’ narrative, owes much to the correspondence and occasional friendship between a retired Winston Churchill and President Kennedy.  And also to the fact, that Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher launched their attacks on the post-war consensus in their countries, from largely shared agendas and at around the same time.  Actually UK Labour was historically to the Left of even US Democrats.   Labour’s 1960s Prime Minister Harold Wilson could not expect his Party to accept following America into Vietnam – so there was no all across the political spectrum ‘special relationship,’ and very few instances where Britain has ever been able to say to the US ‘don’t do x…”

The notion of a ‘special relationship’ was infamously remanufactured when Neoliberal New Labour Foreign Secretary Jack Straw tried to market the war on the Iraqi people on the basis of the heady days of world war alliances.  This was quite a reboot.   America aided Britain’s fight against the eugenicist Nazis by providing racially segregated regiments.  Historian Graham Smith (When Jim Crow met John Bull – 1987), notes than when American forces arrived in Britain they attempted – thankfully unsuccessfully in some cases – to impose segregation on the UK social spaces that GIs might visit.  Owners/landlords of pubs, dance halls and cafes were often appalled both by the racism and the threat of being posted off-limits to service personnel, at a time of great economic hardship, if they refused.  This was not new.  Smith cites similar diktats in WWI given to French Authorities about not ‘Spoiling the negroes” (Ibid., page 10).

Race issues also threatened the judicial independence of British sovereignty.  During the Second World War, 11 African-American GIs were executed for rape on UK soil. And rape was not a death penalty crime under British law.  It’s questionable how many – if any – of these soldiers committed this crime because American authorities of the time viewed relations between black men and white women as a sex crime in itself.  The case of Leroy Henry particularly incensed the British public. He’d been having a relationship with a local white woman before being arrested for rape and having a confession beaten out of him, resulting in a death sentence. Indicative of the British low opinion of American justice and the solidarity later to be shown Muhammad Ali decades later, the people of the city of Bath put together a 30,000-strong petition, which got his sentence commuted.

White Americans also brought racial violence and lynching practices to UK shores.  The wartime memory of many British Tommies is fighting in UK dance halls and elsewhere alongside Black GIs against White American racists.  Victims of violence also included British Colonial Servicemen and volunteer Colonial Technicians (recognition of this in some BBC archives does not impact on its ‘US spreading democracy’ news narrative).  West Indies cricketing legend Learie Constantine was in charge of the Caribbean technical volunteers, and was subsequently given a peerage for his war service and sporting achievements.  He wrote the following letter of complaint to the British government.

I cannot lay sufficient emphasis on the bitterness being created amongst the technicians by these attacks on coloured British subjects by white Americans … I am … loth to believe that coloured subjects of the Empire who are here on vital work could be attacked at random and at will and pleasure of these white American soldiers without the means of redress … I have lived in this country for a long time and claim many friends among the white population and I shiver to think that I am liable to attack by these men if I am seen in the company of my friends. I suggest something be done urgently, as I can foresee a crisis.

Corporate media apologists might question how much this experience was part of public consciousness.  However, the middle section of the film Yanks (1979, director John Schlesinger) features an attempted dance hall lynching of a Black GI who’d been seen dancing with a white woman.  And this film is primarily a wartime set romantic vehicle for Richard Gere, not a piece of political agit-prop.  There were also similar phenomena internationality, including the Battle of Manners Street, in New Zealand where white American servicemen attempted to violently segregate a Services Club to the exclusion of local Maoris.  Race and the US wartime presence were also believed to be contributing factors to the two days of rioting in Australia known as the Battle of Brisbane.

Post-war even in America it was impossible to sell in the cultural market place, the US establishment as a credible site of authority.  The Black figure offered as an idealised son-in-law of a middle-class white family in the film, Guess who’s coming to dinner (1967) is not a member of the US establishment but a doctor working for a UN based organisation.  Marvel Comics when starting the title Nick Fury, Agent of Shield, originally made Shield a UN based organisation, rather than US.  The central protagonist of The President’s Analyst (1967) is on the run from the world’s intelligence agencies, the worst of which are the CIA and FBI.  Indicative of the fear of oppression of US authorities the producers did not even feel safe in using the actual acronyms of US intelligence agencies.

When Tony Blair threw his weight behind America’s foreign wars, he did so flying in the face of this history and the cultural sensibilities it generated.  He also threw into reverse Britain’s position as a post-war decolonising power.  He subverted the Labour Party’s historical identity as a pro-workers organisation with a socialist agenda by aligning it with the right wing US Republican Party. He also subverted Labours’ historic anti-imperialist sensibility, which kept Britain under Harold Wilson’s Labour out of Vietnam.  Perhaps most shocking for older Labour traditionalists and Black Britons, he took the UK’s intelligence and military sectors and forced them into relations with the US security services, that had historically tried to break the Civil Rights Movement, drive Martin Luther King to suicide, fed details of his sex life to the right wing press, and which had an assassination programme of American Black Liberationists entitled COINTELPRO.

Blair chose to support America’s Iraq War 5 years after arguably the worst lynching in US history –  in 1998, James Byrd, “a Black man in Jasper, Texas was ‘lynched by dragging‘,” behind a pick-up truck until his body disintegrated.  Three years after the start of the Iraq War, in Jenna, Louisiana “whites responded to black students sitting under the ‘white tree’ at their school by hanging three nooses from the tree.”  And America’s post-war civil war Black Lives Matter crisis has still continued to manifest itself.  As for Presidential and federal authority, this was also 5 years since Bill Clinton bombed a medical manufacturer in Sudan.  9/11 resulted in 3000 American deaths and many more injured.  Clinton’s bombing is credited with “several tens of thousands of deaths” of Sudanese civilians caused by a medicine shortage” by German Ambassador Werner Daum and others.

Just as no one in the corporate media questions the death toll and torture of current US-led imperialism, no one also scrutinises the nature of just what has been unleashed on the world, or the massive ideological reboot needed to sustain it.  Instead, we get ‘America spreading democracy’ and the ‘special relationship.

The post The G7 and the Orwellian Twin Tropes Propagandising US Global Domination first appeared on Dissident Voice.

A Remarkable Silence: Media Blackout After Key Witness Against Assange Admits Lying

As we have pointed out since Media Lens began in 2001, a fundamental feature of corporate media is propaganda by omission. Over the past week, a stunning example has highlighted this core property once again.

A major witness in the US case against Julian Assange has just admitted fabricat­ing key accusati­ons in the indictment against the Wikileaks founder. These dramatic revelations emerged in an extensive article published on 26 June in Stundin, an Icelandic newspaper. The paper interviewed the witness, Sigurdur Ingi Thordarson, a former WikiLeaks volunteer, who admitted that he had made false allegations against Assange after being recruited by US authorities. Thordarson, who has several convictions for sexual abuse of minors and financial fraud, began working with the US Department of Justice and the FBI after receiving a promise of immunity from prosecution. He even admitted to continuing his crime spree while working with the US authorities.

Last summer, US officials had presented an updated version of their indictment against Assange to Magistrate Court Judge Vanessa Baraitser at the Old Bailey in London. Key to this update was the assertion that Assange had instructed Thordarson to commit computer intrusions or hacking in Iceland.

As the Stundin article reported:

‘The aim of this addition to the indictment was apparently to shore up and support the conspiracy charge against Assange in relation to his interactions with Chelsea Manning. Those occurred around the same time he resided in Iceland and the authors of the indictment felt they could strengthen their case by alleging he was involved in illegal activity there as well. This activity was said to include attempts to hack into the computers of members of [the Icelandic] parliament and record their conversations.

‘In fact, Thordarson now admits to Stundin that Assange never asked him to hack or access phone recordings of MPs.’

Judge Baraitser’s ruling on 4 January, 2021 was against extradition to the US. But she did so purely on humanitarian grounds concerning Assange’s health, suicide risk and the extreme conditions he would face in confinement in US prisons.

The Stundin article continued:

‘With regards to the actual accusations made in the indictment Baraitser sided with the arguments of the American legal team, including citing the specific samples from Iceland which are now seriously called into question.

‘Other misleading elements can be found in the indictment, and later reflected in the Magistrate’s judgement, based on Thordarson’s now admitted lies.’

The Stundin article further details Thordarson’s lies and deceptions, including mispresenting himself as an official representative of WikiLeaks while a volunteer in 2010-2011, even impersonating Assange, and embezzling more than $50,000 from the organisation.

By August 2011, Thordarson was being pursued by WikiLeaks staff trying to locate the missing funds. In fact, Thordarson had arranged for the money to be sent to his private bank account by forging an email in Assange’s name. That month, Thordarson sought a way out by contacting the US Embassy in Iceland, offering to be an informant in the case against Assange.

Stundin noted:

‘within 48 hrs a private jet landed in Reykjavik with around eight [US] agents who quickly set up meetings with Thordarson and with people from the Icelandic State Prosecutors office and the State Police Commissioner.’

But it turned out that the US officers did not have permission from the Icelandic government to operate in the country and Ögmundur Jónasson, then Iceland’s minister of interior, ordered them to leave. Meanwhile, the FBI were allegedly complicit in DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attacks on the websites of several Iceland government institutions. The FBI had then approached Icelandic authorities, promising to assist them in preventing any future such attacks. In reality, the approach was a ruse to fool Iceland into cooperation in an attempt to entrap Assange.

Jónasson said that the Americans:

‘were trying to use things here [in Iceland] and use people in our country to spin a web, a cobweb that would catch Julian Assange.’

The US officials left Iceland, flying to Denmark, but taking with them their new informant and ‘star witness’, Thordarson.

Stundin reported:

The meeting in Denmark was the first of a few where the FBI enthusiastically embraced the idea of co-operation with Thordarson. He says they wanted to know everything about WikiLeaks, including physical security of staff. They took material he had gathered, including data he had stolen from WikiLeaks employees and even planned to send him to England with a wire. Thordarson claimed in interviews he had refused that particular request. It was probably because he was not welcomed anymore as he knew WikiLeaks people had found out, or were about to firmly establish, that he had embezzled funds from the organization.’

However:

‘After months of collaboration the FBI seem to have lost interest. At about the same time charges were piling up against Thordarson with the Icelandic authorities for massive fraud, forgeries and theft on the one hand and for sexual violations against underage boys he had tricked or forced into sexual acts on the other.

‘After long investigations Thordarson was sentenced in 2013 and 2014 and received relatively lenient sentences as the judge took into account that he changed his plea at court and pleaded guilty to all counts.’

The article continued:

‘Incarceration did not seem to have an intended effect of stopping Thordarson from continuing his life of crime. It actually took off and expanded in extent and scope in 2019 when the Trump-era DoJ [Department of Justice] decided to revisit him, giving him a formal status as witness in the prosecution against Julian Assange and granting him immunity in return from any prosecution.’

A ‘Sociopath’ Who ‘Lied To Get Immunity’

Under President Obama, the US Department of Justice had decided against indicting Assange, despite devoting huge resources to building a case against him. The stumbling block was ‘The New York Times Problem’: the difficulty in distinguishing between WikiLeaks publications and NYT publications of the same material. In other words, prosecuting WikiLeaks would pose grave First Amendment risks for even ‘respectable’ media such as the NYT.

But this changed after Trump took office. Stundin explained:

‘President Donald Trump’s appointed Attorney general William Barr did not share these concerns, and neither did his Trump-appointed deputy Kellen S. Dwyer. Barr, who faced severe criticism for politicizing the DoJ on behalf of the president, got the ball rolling on the Assange case once again. Their argument was that if they could prove he was a criminal rather than a journalist the charges would stick, and that was where Thordarson’s testimony would be key.

‘In May 2019 Thordarson was offered an immunity deal, signed by Dwyer, that granted him immunity from prosecution based on any information on wrong doing they had on him. The deal, seen in writing by Stundin, also guarantees that the DoJ would not share any such information to other prosecutorial or law enforcement agencies. That would include Icelandic ones, meaning that the Americans will not share information on crimes he might have committed threatening Icelandic security interests – and the Americans apparently had plenty of those but had over the years failed to share them with their Icelandic counterparts.’

Thordarson’s offer of an immunity deal came the month following Assange’s forced removal from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, most likely with US connivance, and subsequent incarceration in the high-security Belmarsh prison.

It is not clear from the Stundin article why Thordarson has now decided to come clean. But the Stundin journalists noted that a psychiatric assessment that had been submitted to an Icelandic court before he was sentenced diagnosed him as a sociopath:

‘incapable of remorse but still criminally culpable for his actions. He was assessed to be able to understand the basic difference between right and wrong. He just did not seem to care.’

In a new blog piece discussing these revelations, Craig Murray, who had reported from the Old Bailey during the Assange extradition hearing, referred back to the final day of proceedings. Magistrate Baraitser had refused to accept an affidavit from Assange’s solicitor Gareth Peirce addressing the updated indictment on the grounds it was out of time:

‘The affidavit explained that the defence had been unable to respond to the new accusations in the United States government’s second superseding indictment, because these wholly new matters had been sprung on them just six weeks before the hearing resumed on 8 September 2020.

‘The defence had not only to gather evidence from Iceland, but had virtually no access to Assange to take his evidence and instructions, as he was effectively in solitary confinement in Belmarsh. The defence had requested an adjournment to give them time to address the new accusations, but this adjournment had been refused by Baraitser.

‘She now refused to accept Gareth Peirce’s affidavit setting out these facts.’

Even before the Stundin article was published five days ago, Thordarson’s testimony should have already been recognised as suspect, to say the least. As WikiLeaks noted last year:

‘The “Star Witness” of the new superseding indictment is a diagnosed sociopath/ convicted conman/ child abuser/ FBI informant who was found guilty in Iceland of impersonating #Assange

The recent Stundin revelations that the updated US indictment against Assange rests on now-admitted lies means that the FBI case is demonstrably a travesty.

US policy analyst Gareth Porter noted:

‘It’s now clearer than ever before that the U.S. indictment of #Assange is based on fraud. A key accuser admits he lied to the help set up Assange. How much evidence does the Justice Department need stop this criminal abuse of power?’

As the famous US whistleblower Edward Snowden tweeted:

‘This is the end of the case against Julian Assange.’

Or, as journalist Glenn Greenwald followed up, more realistically:

‘It should be.’

Jennifer Robinson, a human rights attorney who has been advising Assange and WikiLeaks since 2010, told Democracy Now:

‘The factual basis for this case has completely fallen apart.’

Robinson pointed out:

‘the evidence from Thordarson that was given to the United States and formed the basis of the second, superseding indictment, including allegations of hacking, has now been, on his own admission, demonstrated to have been fabricated [our emphasis]. Not only did he misrepresent his access to Julian Assange and to WikiLeaks and his association with Julian Assange, he has now admitted that he made up and falsely misrepresented to the United States that there was any association with WikiLeaks and any association with hacking.

‘So, this is just the latest revelation to demonstrate why the U.S. case should be dropped.’

Robinson expanded:

‘it’s significant that the initial indictment for Julian Assange related only to the publications back in 2010, 2011, the Chelsea Manning publications. It was a second, superseding indictment, introduced by the Trump administration, which was based upon Thordarson’s evidence [our emphasis]. Now, any lawyer and even any layperson would be looking at evidence from a convicted felon, who had been convicted of forgery, fraud and sexual abuse allegations associated with minors. That is a problematic source. Now we have him admitting that he lied to the FBI about that evidence. This raises serious concerns about the integrity of this investigation and the integrity of this criminal prosecution, and serious questions ought to be being asked within the Department of Justice about this prosecution and the fact that it is continuing at all.’

The headline of the article accompanying Robinson’s interview put it succinctly:

‘U.S. Case Against Julian Assange Falls Apart, as Key Witness Says He Lied to Get Immunity’

Tumbleweed In The ‘MSM’

But all of this is seemingly of no interest to the ‘mainstream’ media. We have not found a single report by any ‘serious’ UK broadcaster or newspaper. Journalist Matt Kennard, head of investigations at Declassified UK, observed fully two days after the story broke:

‘I don’t think one US or UK newspaper has reported this. The free press is incredible.’

Several days on, the ‘mainstream’ media silence is truly remarkable. As we remarked via Twitter:

‘The discipline, or blindness, to ignore awkward facts is a reliable feature of corporate “journalism”’

Of course, it is possible that we have missed something, somewhere in the ‘MSM’; perhaps a brief item at 3am on the BBC World Service. But in a sane world, Stundin’s revelations about a key Assange witness – that Thordarson lied in exchange for immunity from prosecution – would have been headline news everywhere, with extensive media coverage on BBC News at Six and Ten, ITV News, Channel 4 News, front-page stories in the Times, Telegraph, the Guardian and more. The silence is quite extraordinary; and disturbing. Caitlin Johnstone described it as a ‘weird, creepy media blackout’:

‘not one major western media outlet outside of Iceland has reported on this massive and entirely legitimate news story. A search brings up coverage by Icelandic media, by Russian media, and by smaller western outlets like Democracy NowWorld Socialist WebsiteConsortium NewsZero Hedge and some others, but as of this writing this story has been completely ignored by all major outlets who are ostensibly responsible for informing the public in the western world.’

Johnstone continued:

‘It’s not that those outlets have been ignoring Assange altogether these last few days either. Reuters recently published an interview with Assange’s fiance Stella Moris. Evening Standard has a recent article out on Assange’s plans to marry Moris in Belmarsh, as does Deutsche Welle. It’s just this one story in particular that they’ve been blacking out completely.’

She offered an explanation for the silence across the media:

‘they’re all generally following the lead of just a handful of top-tier publications like The New York TimesThe Washington PostThe Wall Street Journal and The Guardian. If just those few outlets decide to ignore a major news story that’s inconvenient for the powerful (either by persuasion, infiltration or by their own initiative), then no one else will either. As far as the media-consuming public is concerned, it’s like the major news story never happened at all.’

More fundamentally:

‘Western mass media outlets are propaganda. They are owned and controlled by wealthy people in coordination with the secretive government agencies tasked with preserving the world order upon which the media-owning plutocrats have built their kingdoms, and their purpose is to manipulate the way the mainstream public thinks, acts and votes into alignment with the agendas of the ruling class.

‘You see this propaganda in the way things are reported, but you also see it in the way things are not reported. Entire news stories can be completely redacted from mainstream attention if they are sufficiently inconvenient for the mechanisms of empire, or only allowed in via platforms like Tucker Carlson Tonight and thereby tainted and spun as ridiculous right-wing conspiracy theories.’

Our polite challenges to Paul Royall, editor of BBC News at Six and Ten, and Katharine Viner, editor of the Guardian, went unanswered, despite multiple retweets and follow-up queries by other Twitter users. Of course, this is the standard non-response of even the ‘best’ state-corporate media to uncomfortable questions.

As we have often observed, the establishment media relentlessly warn of the insidious nature of ‘fake news’: a claim that does have a seed of validity. But it is the state-corporate media themselves who are the primary purveyors of fake news. As Tim Coles, author of ‘Real Fake News’, commented:

‘Whenever people in power tell you that fake news is undermining democracy, they really mean that alternative sources of information are challenging their grip on power.’

In fact, the most dangerous component of ‘MSM’ fake news is arguably propaganda by omission. In ostensible ‘democracies’, the public cannot make informed decisions, and take appropriate action, when the crimes of ruling elites are kept hidden by a complicit media.

The post A Remarkable Silence: Media Blackout After Key Witness Against Assange Admits Lying first appeared on Dissident Voice.

What happened to Glenn Greenwald? Trump happened and put the left’s priorities to the test

There’s been a new public fracturing of the intellectual left, typified by an essay last week from Nathan J Robinson, editor of the small, independent, socialist magazine Current Affairs, accusing Glenn Greenwald and Matt Taibbi of bolstering the right’s arguments. He is the more reasonable face of what seems to be a new industry arguing that Greenwald is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, setting the right’s agenda for it.

Under the title “How to end up serving the right”, Robinson claims that Greenwald and Taibbi, once his intellectual heroes, are – inadvertently or otherwise – shoring up the right’s positions and weakening the left. He accuses them of reckless indifference to the consequences of criticising a “liberal” establishment and making common cause with the right’s similar agenda. Both writers, argues Robinson, have ignored the fact that the right wields the greatest power in our societies.

This appears to be a continuation of a fight Robinson picked last year with Krystal Ball, the leftwing, former co-host of a popular online politics show called The Rising. Robinson attacked her for sharing her platform with the conservative pundit Saagar Enjeti. Ball and Enjeti have since struck out on their own, recently launching a show called Breaking Points.

Notably, Greenwald invited Robinson on to his own YouTube channel to discuss these criticisms of Ball when Robinson first made them. In my opinion, Robinson emerged from that exchange looking more than a little bruised.

As with his clash with Ball, there are problems with Robinson’s fuzzy political definitions.

Somewhat ludicrously in his earlier tussle, he lumped together Enjeti, a thoughtful right wing populist, with figures like Donald Trump and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, both of them narcissists and authoritarians (of varying degrees of competence) that have donned the garb of populism, as authoritarians tend to do.

Similarly, Robinson’s current disagreements with Greenwald and Taibbi stem in part from a vague formulation – one he seems partially to concede – of what constitutes the “left”. Greenwald has always struck me more as a progressive libertarian than a clearcut socialist like Robinson. Differences of political emphasis and priorities are inevitable. They are also healthy.

And much of Robinson’s essay is dedicated to cherrypicking a handful of tweets from Greenwald and Taibbi to make his case. Greenwald, in particular, is a prolific tweeter. And given the combative and polarising arena of Twitter, it would be quite astonishing had he not occasionally advanced his arguments without the nuance demanded by Robinson.

Overall, Robinson’s case against both Greenwald and Taibbi is far less persuasive than he appears to imagine.

Stifling coverage

But the reason I think it worth examining his essay is because it demonstrates a more fundamental split on what – for the sake of convenience – I shall treat as a broader intellectual left that includes Robinson, Greenwald and Taibbi.

Robinson tries to prop up his argument that Greenwald, in particular, is betraying the left and legitimising the right with an argument from authority, citing some of the left’s biggest icons.

Two, Naomi Klein and Jeremy Scahill, are former journalist colleagues of Greenwald’s at the Intercept, the billionaire-financed online news publication that he co-founded and eventually split from after it broke an editorial promise not to censor his articles.

Greenwald fell out with the editors in spectacularly public fashion late last year after they stifled his attempts to write about the way Silicon Valley and liberal corporate media outlets – not unlike the Intercept – were colluding to stifle negative coverage of Joe Biden in the run-up to the presidential election, in a desperate bid to ensure he beat Trump.

Greenwald’s public statements about his reasons for leaving the Intercept exposed what were effectively institutional failings there – and implicated those like Scahill and Klein who had actively or passively colluded in the editorial censorship of its co-founder. Klein and Scahill are hardly dispassionate commentators on Greenwald when they accuse him of “losing the plot” and “promoting smears”. They have skin in the game.

But Robinson may think his trump (sic) card is an even bigger left icon, Noam Chomsky, who is quoted saying of Greenwald: “He’s a friend, has done wonderful things, I don’t understand what is happening now… I hope it will pass.”

The problem with this way of presenting Greenwald is that the tables can be easily turned. Over the past few years, my feeds – and I am sure others’ – have been filled with followers asking versions of “What happened to Chomsky?” or “What happened to Amy Goodman and Democracy Now?”

The answer to these very reductive questions – what happened to Greenwald and what happened to Chomsky – is the same. Trump happened. And their different responses are illustrative of the way the left polarised during the Trump presidency and how it continues to divide in the post-Trump era.

Authoritarian thinking

Robinson treats the Trump factor – what we might term Post-Traumatic Trump Disorder – as though it is irrelevant to his analysis of Greenwald and Taibbi. And yet it lies at the heart of the current tensions on the left. In its simplest terms, the split boils down to the question of how dangerous Trump really was and is, and what that means for the left in terms of its political responses.

Unlike Robinson, I don’t think it is helpful to personalise this. Instead, we should try to understand what has happened to left politics more generally in the Trump and post-Trump era.

Parts of the left joined liberals in becoming fixated on Trump as a uniquely evil and dangerous presence in US politics. Robinson notes that Trump posed an especial and immediate threat to our species’ survival through his denial of climate change, and on these grounds alone every effort had to be made to remove him.

Others on the left recoil from this approach. They warn that, by fixating on Trump, elements of the left have drifted into worryingly authoritarian ways of thinking – sometimes openly, more often implicitly – as a bulwark against the return of Trump or anyone like him.

The apotheosis of such tendencies was the obsession, shared alike by liberals and some on the left, with Russiagate. This supposed scandal highlighted in stark fashion the extreme dangers of focusing on a single figure, in Trump, rather than addressing the wider, corrupt political structures that produced him.

It was not just the massive waste of time and energy that went into trying to prove the unprovable claims of Trump’s collusion with the Kremlin – resources that would have been far better invested in addressing Trump’s real crimes, which were being committed out in the open.

It was that the politically tribal Trump-Russia narrative engulfed and subverted a meaningful politics of resistance. It snared those like Wikileaks founder Julian Assange who had been trying to break open the black box of western politics. It fortified the US security services after they had been exposed by Edward Snowden’s revelations as secretly and illegally conducting mass spying on the public’s communications. It breathed a dangerous credibility into the corrupt Democratic party machine after its embarrassment over engineering Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy. And it revived the fortunes of an increasingly discredited liberal media that quickly won large ratings by promoting fabulists like Rachel Maddow.

Those on the left who tried to challenge Russiagate in order to focus on real political issues were stigmatised as Putin’s puppets, their arguments were labelled “fake news”, and they were gradually algorithmed into social media purdah.

Under the Russiagate banner, parts of the left were soon rallying, however reluctantly, behind corporate champions of the planet-destroying status quo.

But it was even worse than that. The fixation on the obviously hollow Russiagate narrative by the Democratic Party, the corporate media, Silicon Valley, and the US intelligence agencies served to prove to wide swaths of conservative America that Trump was right when he berated a “liberal” establishment for being invested only in its own self-preservation and not caring about ordinary Americans.

Russiagate did not just divide the left, it dramatically strengthened the right.

Free speech dangers

Robinson knows all this, at least intellectually, but perhaps because Trump looms so large in his thinking he does not weigh the significance in the same terms as Greenwald and Taibbi.

The problem with characterising Trump as a supremely evil figure is that all sorts of authoritarian political conclusions flow from that characterisation – precisely the political conclusions we have seen parts of the left adopting. Robinson may not expressly share these conclusions but, unlike Greenwald and Taibbi, he has largely ignored or downplayed the threat they present.

If Trump poses a unique danger to democracy, then to avoid any recurrence:

  • We are obligated to rally uncritically, or at least very much less critically, behind whoever was selected to be his opponent. Following Trump’s defeat, we are dutybound to restrain our criticisms of the winner, Joe Biden, however poor his performance, in case it opens the door to Trump, or someone like Trump, standing for the presidency in four years’ time.
  • We must curb free speech and limit the free-for-all of social media in case it contributed to the original surge of support for Trump, or created the more febrile political environment in which Trump flourished.
  • We must eradicate all signs of populism, whether on the right or the left, because we cannot be sure that in a battle of populisms the left will defeat the right, or that left wing populism cannot be easily flipped into right wing populism.
  • And most importantly, we must learn to distrust “the masses” – those who elected Trump – because they have demonstrated that they are too easily swayed by emotion, prejudice and charisma. Instead, we must think in more traditional liberal terms, of rule by technocrats and “experts” who can be trusted to run our societies largely in secret but provide a stability that should keep any Trumps out of power.

Greenwald and Taibbi have been focusing precisely on this kind of political fallout from the Trump presidency. And it looks suspiciously like this, as much as anything else, is what is antagonising Robinson and others.

Greenwald’s own experiences at the Intercept underline his concerns. It was not just that Greenwald was forced out over his efforts late last year to talk about the documents found on Hunter Biden’s laptop and the questions they raised about his father, the man who was about to become US president. It was that the Intercept stopped Greenwald from talking about how the entire liberal corporate media and all of Silicon Valley were actively conspiring to crush any attempt to talk about those documents and their significance – and not on the basis of whether they were genuine or not.

Greenwald walked away from what amounted to a very well-paid sinecure at the Intercept to highlight this all-out assault on democratic discourse and the election process – an assault whose purpose was not the search for truth but to prevent any danger of Trump being re-elected. By contrast, in a tweet thread that has not aged well, Robinson along with many others quibbled about the specifics of Greenwald’s case and whether it amounted to censorship, very much ignoring the wood for the trees.

Greenwald and Taibbi talk so much about the role of the traditional media and Silicon Valley because they understand that the media’s professed liberalism – claims to be protecting the rights of women, ethnic minorities and the trans community – is a very effective way of prettifying corporate authoritarianism, an authoritarianism the left claims to be fighting but has readily endorsed once it has been given a liberal makeover.

It is not that the “liberal” establishment – the corporate media, Silicon Valley, the intelligence services – is actually liberal. It is that liberals have come increasingly to identify with that establishment as sharing their values.

For this reason, Robinson obscures the real nature of the divide on the left when he discusses the power of the Supreme Court. He criticises Greenwald and Taibbi for ignoring the fact that the right exercises absolute power through its packing of the court with rightwing judges. He accuses them of instead unfairly emphasising the power exercised by this “liberal” establishment.

But despite Robinson’s claims, the Supreme Court very obviously doesn’t wield “all the power”, even with its veto over legislation and actions of the administration. Because an even greater power is invested in those institutions that can control the public’s ability to access and interpret information; to find out what is being done in the shadows; and to make choices based on that information, including about who should represent them.

Information control and narrative management are the deepest forms of power because they shape our ability to think critically, to resist propaganda, to engage in dialogue and to forge alliances that might turn the tide against a profoundly corrupt establishment that includes both the Supreme Court and Silicon Valley. Robinson ignores this point in his essay, even though it is fundamental to assessing “What happened to Greenwald and Taibbi?”. A commitment to keeping channels of information open and ensuring dialogue continues, even in the post-Trump era, is what happened to them.

Hard drives smashed

The crux of Robinson’s argument is that Greenwald and Taibbi have made a pact with the devil, gradually chaining their more progressive credentials to a Trumpian rightwing populism to defeat the “liberal” establishment. That, Robinson suggests, will only strengthen and embolden the right, and ensure the return of a Trump.

The evidence Robinson and others adduce for Greenwald’s betrayal, in particular, are his now regular appearances on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show, where Greenwald and Carlson often find common ground against the authoritarian excesses of that same “liberal” establishment.

That should not surprise us. Carlson and the right have an interest in the break-up of Silicon Valley’s tech monopolies that favour a Democratic Party authoritarianism over their own Republican Party authoritarianism. Greenwald has an interest in the break-up of Silicon Valley’s tech monopolies too but for a very different reason: because he is against monopolies designed to keep the public propagandised and manipulated.

Opposing them both is an authoritarian “liberal” establishment – the Democratic Party, traditional corporate media, Silicon Valley, the intelligence services – that have every interest in perpetuating their control over the tech monopolies.

Robinson contrasts Greenwald’s behaviour to his own clean hands as the editor of the small socialist magazine, Current Affairs.

But we should note that Robinson has compromised himself far more than he cares to admit. For several years he used the liberal corporate outlet of the Guardian as a platform from which to present a watered-down version of his own socialist politics. To do so, he had to ignore the paper’s appalling record of warmongering abroad and of subverting socialists like Jeremy Corbyn at home.

Robinson finally came unstuck when a Guardian editor effectively fired him for writing a satirical tweet about the huge sums of aid given by the US to Israel each year to kill and maim Palestinians under occupation and destroy their infrastructure.

One can debate whether it is wise for the left to use essentially hostile corporate platforms – liberal or conservative – to advance its arguments. But that is not the debate Robinson is trying to provoke. And for obvious reasons: because in piggybacking on the Guardian, Robinson did what Greenwald has done in piggybacking on Tucker Carlson. Both have used the reach of a larger corporate outlet to build their audience and expand the number of people exposed to their more progressive ideas.

There is an apparent difference, though. In Robinson’s case, he has admitted with impressive frankness that he would have been willing to self-censor on Israel had he been told by the Guardian beforehand that speaking out was likely to cost him his job. That sets his own position apart from Greenwald, who decided to walk from the Intercept rather than allow his work to be censored.

Nonetheless, it is far from clear, as Robinson assumes, that liberal corporate outlets are a safer bet for the left to ally with than rightwing corporate outlets.

Greenwald, remember, was eased out of the “liberal” Guardian many years before Robinson’s sacking after he brought the paper the glory associated with the Snowden revelations while also incurring the intelligence services’ wrath. Those revelations exposed the dark underbelly of the US national security state under the “liberal” presidency of Barack Obama, not Trump. And years later, Greenwald was again pushed out, this time from the supposedly even more “liberal” Intercept as part of its efforts to protect Biden, Obama’s Democratic party successor.

Greenwald wasn’t dispatched from these publications for being too righ-twing. Tensions escalated at the Guardian over the security service backlash to Greenwald’s unwavering commitment to free speech and transparency – just as the Guardian earlier fell out with Assange faced with the security services’ retaliation for Wikileaks’ exposure of western war crimes.

The Guardian’s own commitment to transparency was surrendered with its agreement to carry out the UK security services’ demand that it smash hard drives packed with Snowden’s secrets. The destruction of those files may have been largely symbolic (there were copies in the possession of the New York Times) but the message it sent to the left and to the UK intelligence agencies was clear enough: from now on, the Guardian was resolutely going to be a team player.

What these experiences with the Guardian and the Intercept doubtless demonstrated to Greenwald was that his most fundamental political principles were essentially incompatible with those of the “liberal” media – and all the more so in the Trump era. The priority for liberal publications was not truth-telling or hosting all sides of the debate but frantically shoring up the authority of a “moderate” technocratic elite, one that would ensure a stable neoliberal environment in which it could continue its wealth extraction and accumulation.

Robinson implies that Greenwald has been embittered by these experiences, and is petulantly hitting back against the “liberal” establishment without regard to the consequences. But a fairer reading would be that Greenwald is fighting against kneejerk, authoritarian instincts wherever they are found in our societies – on the right, the centre and the left.

The irony is that he appears to be getting a better hearing on Tucker Carlson than he does at the Guardian or the Intercept. Contrary to Robinson’s claim, that says more about the Guardian and the so-called liberal media than it does about Greenwald.

Captured by wokeness

Robinson also misrepresents what Greenwald and Taibbi are trying to do when they appear on rightwing media.

First, he gives every impression of arguing that, by appearing on the Tucker Carlson show, Greenwald naively hopes to persuade Carlson to switch allegiance from a right wing to left wing populism. But Greenwald doesn’t go on the Tucker Carlson show to turn its host into a leftist. He appears on the show to reach and influence Carlson’s millions of viewers, who do not have the same investment in neoliberalism’s continuing success as the multi-millionaire Carlson does.

Is Greenwald’s calculation any more unreasonable than Robinson’s belief while writing for the Guardian that he might succeed in turning the Guardian’s liberal readers into socialists? Is Robinson right to assume that liberals are any less committed to their selfish political worldview than the right? Or that – when their side is losing – liberal readers of the Guardian are any less susceptible to authoritarianism than rightwing viewers of Fox News?

Robinson also wrongly accuses Greenwald and Taibbi of suggesting that the CIA and major corporations have, in Robinson’s words, “become captured by culturally left ‘woke’ ideology”. But neither writer appears to believe that Black Lives Matter or #MeToo is dictating policy to the establishment. The pair are arguing instead that the CIA and the corporations are exploiting and manipulating “woke” ideology to advance their own authoritarian agendas.

Their point is not that the establishment is liberal but rather that it can more credibly market itself as liberal or progressive when a Trump is in power or when it is feared that a Trump might return to power. And that perception weakens truly progressive politics. By donning the garb of liberalism, elites are able to twist the values and objectives of social movements in ways designed to damage them and foster greater social divisions.

A feminism that celebrates women taking all the top jobs at the big arms manufacturers – the corporations whose business is the murder of men, women and children – is not really feminism. It is a perversion of feminism. Similarly, establishment claims to “wokeness” provide cover as western elites internally divide their own societies and dominate or destroy foreign ones.

“Woke authoritarianism”, as Robinson mockingly terms it, is not an attribute of wokeness. It is a description of one specific incarnation of authoritarianism that is currently favoured by an establishment that, in the post-Trump era, has managed more successfully to cast itself as liberal.

Mask turn-off

The central issue here – the one Robinson raises but avoids discussing – is what political conditions are most likely to foster authoritarianism in the US and other western states, and what can be done to reverse those conditions.

For Robinson, the answer is reassuringly straightforward. Trump and his rightwing populism pose the biggest threat, and the Democratic party – however dismal its leaders – is the only available vehicle for countering that menace. Therefore, left journalists have a duty to steer clear of arguments or associations that might confer legitimacy on the right.

For Greenwald and Taibbi, the picture looks far more complicated, treacherous and potentially bleak.

Trump fundamentally divided the US. For a significant section of the public, he answered their deep-seated and intensifying disenchantment with a political system that appears to be rigged against their interests after its wholesale takeover by corporate elites decades ago. He offered hope, however false.

For others, Trump threatened to topple the liberal facade the corporate elites had erected to sanctify their rule. He dispensed with the liberal pieties that had so effectively served to conceal US imperialism abroad and to maintain the fiction of democracy at home. His election tore the mask off everything that was already deeply ugly about the US political system.

Did that glimpse into the abyss fuel the sense of urgency among liberals and parts of the left to be rid of Trump at all costs – and the current desperation to prevent him or someone like him from returning to the Oval Office, even if it means further trashing free speech and transparency?

In essence, the dilemma the left now faces is this:

To work with the Democrats, with liberals, who are desperate to put the mask back on the system, to shore up its deceptions, so that political stability can be restored – a stability that is waging war around the globe, that is escalating the threat of super-power tensions and nuclear annihilation, and that is destroying the planet.

Or to keep the mask off, and work with those elements of the populist left and right that share a commitment to free speech and transparency, in the hope that through open debate we can expose the current rule by an unaccountable, authoritarian technocratic class and its corporate patrons masquerading as “liberals”.

The truth is we may be caught between a rock and hard place. Even as the warning signs mount, liberals may stick with the comfort blanket of rule by self-professed experts to the bitter end, to the point of economic and ecological collapse. And conservatives may, at the end of the day, prove that their commitment to free speech and disdain for corporate elites is far weaker than their susceptibility to narcissist strongmen.

Robinson no more has a crystal ball to see the future than Greenwald. Both are making decisions in the dark. For that reason, Robinson and his allies on the left would be better advised to stop claiming they hold the moral high ground.

The post What happened to Glenn Greenwald? Trump happened and put the left’s priorities to the test first appeared on Dissident Voice.

“That Is Actually Bollocks”: 20 Propaganda Horrors From 20 Years of Media Lens (Part 2)


11. The BBC On The Saintly Motives For Waging War On Iraq And Libya

In focusing on the grim future in April, US vice president, Kamala Harris, surely revealed far more than she intended about the grim past:

‘For years and generations, wars have been fought over oil. In a short matter of time, they will be fought over water.’

A remarkable statement. Our search of the ProQuest media database found no mention of it in any UK corporate newspaper.

Four months before the invasion of Iraq, the minutes of a meeting at the Foreign Office on 6 November 2002 began thus:

‘Iraq is the big oil prospect. BP are desperate to get in there.’1

Iraq, said BP’s Richard Paniguian, was ‘vitally important – more important than anything we’ve seen for a long time’. (p. 24)

In an earlier meeting with oil company executives on 31 October 2002, Minister of Trade Baroness Symons said:

‘…it would be difficult to justify British companies losing out in Iraq… if the UK had itself been a conspicuous supporter of the US government throughout the crisis’. (p. 24)

Difficult, unless the invasion supported so conspicuously by Britain resulted in a calamity that consumed the lives of one million Iraqis. That would presumably make it easy to justify British companies ‘losing out’.

In the event, as noted in Part 1, Rumaila oilfield, currently operated by BP, is the largest oilfield in Iraq and the third largest in the world. It produces about 1.5 million barrels a day, 40 per cent of Iraq’s output. US oil giant ExxonMobil operates Iraq’s West Qurna I oilfield.

In 2005, oil bosses must have chuckled when the BBC’s Paul Wood read from the Downing Street/White House script on the News at Ten:

‘The coalition came to Iraq in the first place to bring democracy and human rights.’ (22 December 2005)

Similarly ‘naive’ conceits informed John Humphrys’ question on the BBC when he asked of NATO’s catastrophic 2011 war on Libya:

‘What apart from a sort of moral glow… have we got out of it?’2

It may well be that obviously crucial questions like ‘Who got Libya’s oil?’ and ‘Who got Iraq’s oil?’ have never been asked by any US or UK journalist. Certainly, we have never seen a serious discussion. Occasional glimpses of the truth are available, though. 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.’

Also 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%).’

In April 2019, the Telegraph reported a hyena-like tussle between two of the NATO states responsible for overthrowing Gaddafi:

‘Italy and France are at daggers drawn, pitted on opposite sides in an escalating battle for control of Libya and the oilfields of the upper Sahara.’

At stake: the African continent’s largest oil reserves, worth billions of dollars a year. Not quite the picture painted by our completely free and impartial media trapped in their corporate worldview. In 2011, Simon Tisdall, for example, commented in the Guardian viewspaper:

‘The risky western intervention had worked. And Libya was liberated at last.’

12. Helen Boaden’s ‘Proof’ Of US-UK Benevolence

When the BBC’s director of news, Helen Boaden, was asked if she thought Paul Wood’s benevolent version of US-UK intent in Iraq perhaps compromised the BBC’s commitment to impartial reporting, her answer was deeply embarrassing:

‘Paul Wood’s analysis of the underlying motivation of the coalition is borne out by many speeches and remarks made by both Mr Bush and Mr Blair.’ 3

So, they claimed benevolent intent, therefore it was fine for a BBC reporter to assert the claim as fact (rather than as claimed fact) on national TV! Digging deeper, not in a good way, Boaden actually sent us six pages of quotes from Bush and Blair as ‘proof’.

Presumably realising she had made a complete fool of herself, Boaden dodged further embarrassment by changing her email address and never communicating with us again.

13. Emma Brockes’ ‘Scurrilous’ Comments on Chomsky on Srebrenica

On 31 October 2005, the Guardian published an interview with Noam Chomsky by Emma Brockes, titled ‘The greatest intellectual?’

The article was ostensibly in response to the fact that Chomsky had just been voted the world’s top public intellectual by Prospect magazine. The headline introduction to the article was:

‘Q: Do you regret supporting those who say the Srebrenica massacre was exaggerated?

‘A: My only regret is that I didn’t do it strongly enough.’

Remarkably, this answer attributed to Chomsky was actually in response to a different question posed during the interview. In a letter to the editor published in the Guardian on November 2, Chomsky explained:

‘I did express my regret: namely, that I did not support Diana Johnstone’s right to publish strongly enough when her book was withdrawn by the publisher after dishonest press attacks, which I reviewed in an open letter that any reporter could have easily discovered. The remainder of Brockes’ report continues in the same vein. Even when the words attributed to me have some resemblance to accuracy, I take no responsibility for them, because of the invented contexts in which they appear.

‘As for her personal opinions, interpretations and distortions, she is of course free to publish them, and I would, of course, support her right to do so, on grounds that she makes quite clear she does not understand. Noam Chomsky.’ (‘Falling out over Srebrenica,’ The Guardian, 2 November 2005)

The discussion in Brockes’ article made a nonsense of the headline:

‘Does he [Chomsky] regret signing it [a letter in support of Johnstone‘s work]?

‘“No,” he says indignantly. “It is outstanding. My only regret is that I didn’t do it strongly enough. It may be wrong; but it is very careful and outstanding work.”’

As far as we can tell, this scandal had no impact whatever on Brockes’ career. Some 16 years later, she remains a high-profile Guardian commentator.

14. Mark Urban On US-UK Invaders Turning ‘The Tide Of Violence’

On the 14 May 2007 edition of Newsnight, the BBC’s Mark Urban reported from Iraq that the US troop ‘surge’ was an attempt to ‘turn the tide of violence’ in Baghdad. This was a fascinating, weasel-worded work of propaganda art.

Urban did not mean that the US was attempting to turn the tide of violence in America’s favour against its enemies. He meant that the imperial power that had blasted its way into the country and smashed any attempts at resistance with great brutality was trying to end violence per se and bring peace. As if the illegal invasion and occupation were not themselves structurally violent, maintained by fear and violence. Urban was rehearsing the media myth that the Americans were fighting for ‘security‘, ’stability’ and ‘peace’, rather than for control and oil (prohibited as a crazed conspiracy theory, then and now).

Urban made his opinion clear, referring to ‘Baghdad’s sectarian nightmare’ and to the ‘American struggle to stop its [Baghdad’s] descent into mayhem’. Imagine arguing, after the fall of France in June 1940, as Nazi forces battled the French resistance, that there was a German struggle to prevent a ‘descent into mayhem’. Quite obviously, the US invasion was itself the ultimate ‘descent into mayhem’!

15. The BBC’s Jon Sopel – The ‘Mistaken’ Bombing

On the night of 3 October 2015, a United States Air Force AC-130 gunship repeatedly attacked a Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan. Forty-two people were killed and dozens wounded. The US gunship had conducted five strafing runs over the course of more than an hour despite MSF pleas to Afghan, US and Nato officials to call off the attack.

As we reported, MSF were unequivocal in their condemnation of the American raid. The hospital was ‘intentionally targeted’ in ‘a premeditated massacre’; it was a ‘war crime’.

On BBC News at Ten on 15 October 2015, BBC North America correspondent Jon Sopel told viewers over footage of the ravaged Kunduz hospital that it had been ‘mistakenly bombed by the Americans’. BBC News were thereby adopting the Pentagon perspective presented by General John Campbell, the US senior commander in Afghanistan, when he claimed that:

‘A hospital was mistakenly struck. We would never intentionally target a protected medical facility’.

Our repeated challenges on Twitter to Sopel and his BBC News editor Paul Royall were ignored. However, one of our readers emailed Sopel and did extract this extraordinary response from him on 17 October 2015:

‘At this stage whether the bombing of the hospital in Kunduz was deliberate or accidental is the subject of an investigation – and I know there are doubts about the independence of the inquiry – but what it most certainly WAS was [sic] mistaken. Given the outrage the bombing has provoked, the humiliating apology it has forced the US into, the PR disaster it has undoubtedly been, how can anyone describe it as anything other than mistaken? If I had used the word accidentally you might have had a point.’ (our emphasis)

Like Andrew Marr’s attempted whitewash (see point 10, in Part 1), this was actually bollocks. Everyone hearing Sopel saying that the hospital had been ‘mistakenly bombed by the Americans’, would have understood that he meant the Americans had not intended to bomb the hospital, rather than that the bombing of the hospital was a really bad idea.

16. Channel 4’s Jonathan Rugman On ‘Strongman’ Chavez

On Channel 4 News, a film by Jonathan Rugman showed footage of Hugo Chávez with Fidel Castro, Saddam Hussein and Qadaffi. The film repeatedly depicted Chávez as a dictatorial menace, referring to his ‘personality cult’ and to factories run as ‘Soviet-style collectives’. Rugman asked:

‘Is Chávez on the way to becoming a dictator?’

If so, what species of monster might we be contemplating?

‘He’s no Saddam, but what’s happening here does feel eerily familiar. A strongman buoyed up by oil defying the United States, using oil wealth to rearm and consolidate his own power. Setting off alarm bells in Washington where securing energy is a key foreign policy goal. A petro-state heading for a showdown with its northern neighbour.’

In reality, the Venezuelan ‘strongman’ and his programme of change had been ratified by the Venezuelan electorate in no less than eight elections and referenda. Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting noted that, notwithstanding the fact that recent polls had indicated Chávez’s domestic approval rating was above 70 per cent, ‘almost all [US] commentaries about Venezuela represent the views of a small minority of the country, led by a traditional economic elite that has repeatedly attempted to overthrow the government in clearly anti-democratic ways’.

Similarly, in Britain, the Independent smeared ‘the Venezuelan strongman, Hugo Chávez’ (Rupert Cornwell, ‘The 5-minute briefing: South America’s struggle towards democracy,’ 4  and The Financial Times wrote of how ‘the populist militaristic strongman has irked Washington with his anti-US rhetoric’. (Andy Webb-Vidal, ‘US softens its stance on Venezuela in belief Chávez will hang on to power,’ 5

John Pilger sent a letter to Channel 4 News complaining of Rugman’s report:

‘This was a piece seemingly written by the US State Department, although Channel 4’s Washington correspondent, Jonathan Rugman, appeared on screen. It was one of the worst, most distorted pieces of journalism I have ever seen, qualifying as crude propaganda. I have been in Venezuela lately and almost nothing in Rugman’s rant coincides with reality. Factories are like “Soviet collectives”; a dictatorship is on the rise; Chávez is like Hitler (Rumsfeld); and the media is under government attack.

‘The inversion of the truth throughout this travesty is demonstrated in the “coverage” of a cowed media. Venezuela is a country in which 95 per cent of the press and TV and radio are owned by the far-right, who mount unrelenting daily attacks on the government unhindered. The Latin American Murdoch, Cisneros, unfettered, controls much of it. Indeed, it is probably the most concentrated, reactionary media on earth – but that was not worthy of a single word from Rugman.’ 6

17. The Guardian – ‘Free From Commercial And Political Influence’?

When Trump triumphed in the US election in November 2016, Lee Glendinning, the editor of Guardian US, hit the panic button and pleaded to readers:

‘Never has the world needed independent journalism more. […] Now is the time to support journalism that is both fearless and free.’

Glendinning held up a sublime vision:

‘Because the Guardian is not beholden to profit-seeking shareholders or a billionaire owner, we can pursue stories without fear of where they might take us, free from commercial and political influence.’

As we have shown in thousands of examples over 20 years, this is fringepuddle fancy.

Just last week, blithely ignoring the US devastation of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen, and the long list of tyrants armed and protected by the US, a Guardian leader observed:

‘Mr Biden is looking for allies in his mission to ensure that the world remains conducive to a liberal, democratic way of life.’

Ignoring the awesome chaos inflicted on the world by US wars, by US pedal-to-the-metal capitalism, and by crazed US resistance to meaningful action on climate change, the Guardian continued:

‘The world does not govern itself, and leading powers cannot abdicate their role in shaping international institutions – and mobilising others to defend them. If the world’s democracies were to turn away, then either others would step in or the world risks a descent into chaos as it did in the 1930s.’

This is pretty standard for the profit-maximising company that calls itself the Guardian Media Group (GMG). Four days before the illegal invasion of Iraq, a leader in the Observer commented:

‘Mr Blair’s doughty battle to keep pressure focused on Saddam Hussein and to ensure that any action taken has the widest support possible is the correct stance. He is risking his premiership on his vision of an international order that is just and legitimate… Even his critics should acknowledge the remarkable leadership he is exhibiting.’7

At the end of the Guardian’s latest empire-friendly propaganda, the paper added:

‘… we have a small favour to ask. Through these turbulent and challenging times, millions rely on the Guardian for independent journalism that stands for truth and integrity…

‘Support the Guardian from as little as £1 – it only takes a minute.’

There is not a trace of truth or integrity, nor of independent journalism, in the claim that Biden is seeking ‘to ensure that the world remains conducive to a liberal, democratic way of life’. Nobody should be paying, much less donating, for this empire-friendly, ‘White Man’s Burden’ obfuscation.

18. Ignoring Oborne

On March 18, journalist Peter Oborne commented on his essential book, ‘The Assault On Truth’, exposing Boris Johnson’s mendacity aided and abetted by the corporate media:

‘Six weeks on from publication day and still no review of Assault on Truth from Murdoch Press, Associated Newspapers or Telegraph Group. So a big thank you to Media Lens!

Three months later, Oborne tells us: ‘Still nothing from Murdoch, Associated, Telegraph.’ (Oborne, direct message, Twitter, 9 June 2021)

We include this example because, increasingly, it is a fate shared by books containing dangerous truth. Such books are mostly accepted in the first place by small, radical publishers (as a high-profile media insider, Oborne is an exception). These publishers find it almost impossible to find space in the few large bookshop chains. Even if they make it, the books are not reviewed by corporate media. As the Soviet dissident Yevgeny Yevtushenko once said:

‘When truth is replaced by silence, the silence is a lie.’

19. Another Goat On A Trampoline

Despite appearances, corporate journalism doesn’t and can’t do depth. They can talk Brexit, but not the real motivations of the people who founded the European Union in the first place. They can talk electoral interference, but not the implications for their own, billionaire-owned role in reporting elections. When you’re defending an exploitative system founded on illusions, you’d do well to keep it superficial, to skate across the surface and hope people don’t notice the absence of substance in what you’re saying.

No surprise, then, that the corporate media’s understanding of spiritual issues extends as far as the idea that religion is about believing in, or rejecting, the idea of a Cosmic Father Figure (CFF) – a rather obvious human projection – which should be tolerated up to the point it becomes dangerous.

In fact, obsession with a CFF is a red herring, a corruption of what Erich Fromm called ‘power religion’. ‘Humanistic religion’ is not concerned with the CFF at all. Rather, it is concerned with the discovery that human awareness cluttered with thought is inherently miserable, while human awareness uncluttered with thought is limitlessly blissful and unconditionally loving.

What we in the West call ‘meditation’ is not meditation at all; it is a relaxed redirecting of attention away from thinking (from following chains of thought) to sense perceptions and feelings. This attentional shift causes thought to subside, which allows the innate bliss and love of awareness to be felt as the obscuring clouds of thought dissipate. This inner bliss is like a subtle music; thinking is like a roaring jet engine. Countless millions of meditators have experienced this phenomenon over many millennia.

For corporate journalism, this experience, certainly the most important discovery in human history, does not exist. Indicatively, in the Guardian, political reporter Simon Hoggart wrote:

‘all religion is bonkers and irrational. If it wasn’t bonkers and irrational, everyone in the world would believe it, and it would be called common sense’.8

The comment was itself bonkers and irrational on many levels.

In arguing for his thesis that ‘most people, deep down, are pretty decent’, historian and author Rutger Bregman writes in his book, Humankind:

‘To be honest, I gave meditating a shot, but it hasn’t been a huge success so far. For some reason there’s always another email, another tweet or another video of a goat on a trampoline demanding immediate attention.’9

It certainly was honest. It tells us that, like most other intellectuals, Bregman is so addicted to thinking that he is unable to experiment with the one tried-and-tested method for clearing the head of thoughts and revealing the inherently blissful, loving nature of human being.

20. The ‘Mystery’ Of BBC Silence on the Corporate Dismantling of the NHS

On 20 March, 2012, MPs passed the Health and Social Care Bill (commonly called ‘the NHS bill’) into law. Fundamentally, the new Act removed the formal commitment of the Secretary of State for Health to provide healthcare for every man, woman and child in England (so far, at least, it does not apply elsewhere in the UK). In effect, this removed the founding principle of the NHS, set up in 1948. It meant that one of the finest health services anywhere, created by the British people in the wake of WW2, had just been primed to be carved open for exploitation by private interests.

Virtually every major professional medical body had fought against it, and there were numerous public protests. But the opposition was given scant media coverage. In 2012, science writer Marcus Chown highlighted a shocking email that he received from a BBC employee. The email read:

‘The BBC under/non-reporting of the opposition to the bill is even more of a mystery after I’ve read over the BBC news briefs myself (I don’t work in news, but anyone can see the news briefs). There are pages and pages of text on the opposition to the bill. Someone, or some people have clearly gone to a great deal of effort enumerating the objections, documents that have existed for over a month, and there is a long and comprehensive (and regularly updated list) outlining the latest views of all the professional bodies.  All the fact checking and detail anyone needs to run a detailed story on the opposition to the bill is there, and there are no official restrictions on reporting it, but somehow it still isn’t happening. I can’t make sense of it.’10

We emailed Nick Robinson, the BBC’s political editor, on 17 April 2012. He had previously written to us to say he was investigating ‘BBC impartiality’ on related issues. We reminded him of this and asked:

‘Presumably, then, you will examine the evidence that the BBC failed to report impartially on the Health and Social Care Bill?

‘There are many serious and reputable sources that you could ask, not least the 27 professional medical bodies in this country who opposed the Bill, such as the Royal College of GPs, the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Nurses.

‘You could also approach Dorothy Bishop, professor of developmental neuropsychology at Oxford University. She has challenged the BBC about its supposed “extensive coverage” of the NHS bill. She describes “a remarkable disconnect between what was being reported on BBC News outlets and what was concerning many members of the public”.

‘Or Liz Panton, a speech and language therapist who has worked for the NHS for over 30 years, who says:

‘“The BBC seems completely out of touch with the general mood of public opinion and widespread fear and anxiety about the changes to our way of life as a result of the NHS Bill.”

‘And what about apparent conflicts of interest at the BBC? Will you investigate the evidence?

‘For example:

‘“BBC chief Lord Patten of Barnes, Bridgepoint and the Conflicts of Interest”

‘“Why did the BBC ignore the NHS Bill?”

‘When you have a moment, could you possibly give us your response, please? Many thanks.’

As so often, we received the familiar BBC response of no-response.

Part 1 is available here.

  1. Quoted Greg Muttitt, Fuel On The Fire – Oil and Politics in Occupied Iraq, Vintage, 2012, e-book version, p. 24.
  2. BBC Radio 4 Today, 21 October 2011.
  3. Email, 5 January 2006.
  4. The Independent, 22 April 2005.
  5. Financial Times, 6 August 2004.
  6. Email to Channel 4 News, copied to Media Lens, 27 March 2006.
  7. Leader, ‘Diplomacy is still the best weapon – UN unity can still be achieved’, The Observer, 16 March 2003.
  8. Hoggart, ‘Bad karma from Vlad the Impaler,’ Guardian, 2 February 1999.
  9. Bregman, ‘Humankind – A Hopeful History’, Bloomsbury, 2019, p. 2 and p. 388.
  10. Email to Marcus Chown, Twitter, 23 March 2012.
The post “That Is Actually Bollocks”: 20 Propaganda Horrors From 20 Years of Media Lens (Part 2) first appeared on Dissident Voice.

“That Is Actually Bollocks”: 20 Propaganda Horrors From 20 Years of Media Lens (Part 1)

After 20 years of Media Lens, it seems only natural that we should look back in gratitude at the support we’ve received. In response to one of our early pieces, a kindly columnist at the Observer commented:

‘Dear David,

‘Thank you very much for sending me a copy of your piece, which strikes me as spot on.

‘Yrs,

‘Nick Cohen’

A Guardian columnist responded with even more effusive praise:

‘This article is brilliant and fascinating David, as ever.’ (George Monbiot)

Alas, our ethical integrity declined precipitously after we subjected our interlocutors to criticism, with Cohen addressing us as ‘Dear Serviles’, signing off with ‘Viva Joe Stalin’ (Cohen, email, 15 March 2002). Monbiot went on to write an article titled, ‘Media Cleanse’. He described our organisation as ‘an apologist for genocidaires and ethnic cleansers’ – Guardianspeak for ‘critics who embarrass apologists for Western foreign policy’. Both Cohen and Monbiot have long since blocked us on Twitter.

More seriously, beyond the corporate fringepuddle, we were initially astonished by the level of public support we received. A reader commented early on:

‘Dear MediaLens, I feel like crying with the gratitude I feel to you people for the immense amount of work that must go into writing incredibly detailed, researched synopses like that we have just received from you on Iraq.’

Last month, a reader emailed:

‘My sister and I have followed your work for many years and really I don’t have the words to describe the value of the service you provide to a global community.’

We once asked Harold Pinter what he thought of the media claim that ‘people are completely indifferent to everything that’s going on and couldn’t care less’. In his inimitable style, Pinter replied:

‘That is actually bollocks.’

We sometimes feel genuinely embarrassed by the praise we receive because it has always seemed to us that we are involved in a kind of turkey shoot.

The fact is that, like other corporate employees, on pain of career cancellation, media workers simply cannot expose truths that discomfit their owners, parent companies, editors, advertisers, colleagues, and allied powerful interests. It is child’s play to demonstrate that this is the case.

Even as we were editing this alert, Jack Slater, an ostensibly impartial, objective senior BBC broadcast journalist covering Joe Biden’s first visit to the UK as president, tweeted:

‘Always special to film POTUS [President of the United States].’

Nobody noticed. If Slater tweeted, ‘Always special to film Assad’, or, ‘Always special to film Putin’, he would be guilty of ‘bias’ contravening the BBC charter and out of a job. Likewise, if he tweeted, ‘Always uncomfortable to film the head of US imperial power.’

Because journalists are also not free to discuss what it is they are not free to discuss, we often have the last word (Slater, of course, ignored our tweet, above). This also makes us look great!

The point is that we don’t have direct bosses – owners, managers, editors, parent companies. And we also don’t have indirect bosses – advertisers, wealthy philanthropists, supportive charitable foundations, organisational allegiances, and so on. This is the one advantage of being a tinpot outfit run on a shoestring.

The Chinese mystic Chuang Tzu once said: ‘Easy is right.’ Media criticism is easy if you’re willing to burn your media bridges at both ends. We have found that it often produces a lovely light.

Below, we discuss 20 corporate media horrors from the last 20 years that have remained stuck in our minds and craws, and that are ‘actually bollocks’.

1. The 30mm M230 Chain-Driven Autocannon ‘Stitching The Fabric Of A Nation Together’

It couldn’t have been more perfect. On 17 November 2010, BBC News at Ten presenter George Alagiah spoke from the British base, Camp Bastion, in Afghanistan:

‘I’ve been here a week now and it’s been long enough to see some of the small but real steps of progress. But it’s also clear how much further there is to go. And it’s not just about women’s rights or more clinics and schools. It’s about stitching the fabric of a nation together.’

Future historians will write learned dissertations on how gender rights in our time have been commandeered and weaponised by a fathomless cultural arrogance (the polite term) in the service of imperial violence.

For these fine words were spoken in front of an Apache attack helicopter. The gunship’s 30mm, M230 chain-driven autocannon, fresh from ‘stitching the fabric of a nation together’, was clearly visible. This was the same weapon type seen blowing apart a dozen or more Iraqi civilians, including two Reuters journalists, in the 2007 WikiLeaks ‘Collateral Murder’ video. And this is the same aircraft type in which (then) Prince Harry had flown as co-pilot and gunner. Now an ardent anti-racism campaigner, when asked if he had killed people as part of the illegal, racist war on brown-skinned Afghans, Harry answered:

‘Yeah, so, lots of people have… If there’s people trying to do bad stuff to our guys, then we’ll take them out of the game, I suppose.’

Talk of a majority white alliance ‘taking out’ brown-skinned people from ‘the game’ (‘The Great Game’?) would perhaps fail Harry’s own refurbished standards of political correctness now.

2. The Independent on Sunday – ‘Travel Neroists’

Like everyone else, the billionaire-owned, profit-maximising, ad-dependent corporation calling itself the Independent on Sunday now claims to hold a bright candle for the radical climate action required to address the devastation wrought by… (wait for it!)… the billionaire-owned, profit-maximising, ad-dependent corporate system.

In 2016, environment editor Geoffrey Lean lavished praise on himself and his employer:

‘this has been a newspaper that has long been black and white and green all over, winning many awards’.

As Noam Chomsky said:

‘Heaven must be full to overflowing, if the masters of self-adulation are to be taken at their word.’ 1

In 2007 – fully 20 years after scientists had blown a loud whistle on the looming threat of climate collapse – the February 4 cover story of the Independent on Sunday’s Review supplement was almost beyond belief. The words on the cover:

‘Time is running out… Ski resorts are melting… Paradise islands are vanishing… So what are you waiting for?’

Did they mean: what are we waiting for before taking radical action? No, this, after all, was a corporate newspaper and business is business:

‘30 places you need to visit while you still can – A 64-page Travel Special…’

From the depths of depraved corporate cynicism, Marcus Fairs wrote:

‘I am changing my travel plans this year. Alarmed by global warming, shocked by the imminent mass extinction of species and distraught at the environmental damage wreaked by mass tourism, I have decided to act before it is too late. Yes, carbon-neutral travel can wait. I’m off to see polar bears, tigers and low-lying Pacific atolls while they’re still there… In the spirit of Nero – the Roman emperor who sang to the beauty of the flames while Rome burned to the ground – we are determined to enjoy the final days of our beautiful Earth. We are aware that mass tourism damages the very things we are going to see, but this only increases our urgency. We are aware that we will soon have to act more sustainably, which gives us all the more reason to be irresponsible while we still can.

‘Not for us the angsty despair of the eco-worriers, nor the stay-home moralising of the greenhouse gasbags. For we are the travel Neroists, and we have spotted a window of opportunity.’ 2

Fourteen years later, everything has changed, of course. Well, profit-maximising corporate media now at least pretend they care. In April, Greta Thunberg accurately summed up the reality of these heroic businesses that are ‘black and white and green all over’:

‘The climate crisis doesn’t exist in the public debate today. And since it doesn’t really exist… the general level of awareness is so absurdly low…’

For the corporate system, radical change means finding radical new deceptions to allow them to continue maximising profits at any cost.

3. Simon Kelner – Corbyn’s ‘Threatening’ Pronunciation

By the time Jeremy Corbyn stood for the leadership of the Labour Party in May 2015, he had been a Labour MP for 32 years. As a leading anti-war voice, he had received plenty of attention and abuse from corporate politics and media.

We searched the ProQuest media database for national UK newspaper articles containing mentions of ‘Corbyn’ and ‘anti-semitism’ before 1 May 2015. The search found 18 articles, none of which accused Corbyn of anti-semitism. Then, in November 2019, the month before the last general election, we searched for mentions of ‘Corbyn’ and ‘anti-semitism’ after 1 May 2015. We got 15,857 hits. The figure currently stands at 21,919.

This represents a truly awesome, in fact, unprecedented, propaganda assault on a democratic politician. In fact, it closely resembles the campaigns used to demonise leaders of Official Enemy states like Iraq, Iran, Libya and Venezuela, conducted by many of the same journalists in the same media organisations. That’s a gentle way of saying the anti-Corbyn propaganda blitz was a serious attack on democracy, a kind of fascism.

As one would expect during a McCarthyite-style frenzy of this kind, in finding a herd to follow many corporate media workers lost their minds.

A small but telling example was provided in the i newspaper by former Independent editor Simon Kelner, who focused on the way Corbyn had ‘mispronounced’ the name of the sex criminal Jeffrey Epstein. Kelner noted of Corbyn’s contribution to a TV debate: ‘He called him “Ep–Schtine.”’

In attacking Corbyn, along with other journalists like ITV political editor Robert Peston, Kelner did not merely dispense with the usual affectation of journalistic objectivity, he emphasised his subjectivity:

‘My reaction was a visceral one: it’s not something I can explain easily, or even rationally, but a Jewish person does know when there is something that sounds wrong, or perjorative [sic], or even threatening. It was as if he was saying: “Are you aware this man is Jewish?”’

The idea, then, was that Corbyn – who had been subjected to relentless, highly damaging attacks of this kind for several years, and who had done everything he could to distance himself from anti-semitism, taking a very tough line on the suspension of allies like Ken Livingstone and Chris Williamson from the Labour Party – was emphasising Epstein’s Jewishness in a deliberate – or, worse – unconscious effort to smear Jews.

Of course, only a crazed racist would be unable to resist such a patently self-destructive impulse on national TV. And yet, as discussed, Corbyn managed to prevent journalists and politicians from observing his right arm shooting skywards for 32 years. In November 2019, the outgoing Speaker of the House of Commons, former Conservative MP, John Bercow, who is Jewish, said in an interview:

‘I myself have never experienced anti-semitism from a member of the Labour Party, point one. And point two, though there is a big issue and it has to be addressed, I do not myself believe Jeremy Corbyn is anti-semitic.

‘I’ve known him for the 22 years I’ve been in Parliament. Even, actually, when I was a right-winger we got on pretty well… I’ve never detected so much as a whiff of anti-semitism [from him].’

Our search of the ProQuest media database found no mention of Bercow’s comments in any UK national newspaper. Kelner’s comments belong with the most crazed and paranoid effusions of US McCarthyism, where beds were widely believed to be the preferred hiding place for ‘reds’.

4. The BBC’s Missing History Of Iran

The BBC has a long, inglorious history of shortening its historical attention span to suit powerful interests. A key establishment embarrassment was the US-UK’s coup to overthrow the democratically elected Musaddiq government of Iran in 1953.

It truly is embarrassing that the CIA supplied the weapons and money, that the BBC helped green-light the coup, and above all the fact that the goal was oil.

In 1952, the British ambassador commented that ‘Persian [Iranian] public opinion is unanimous in rejecting the [British] offer’ of a deal on oil. But Britain did ‘not consider that a deal on acceptable terms can ever be made with’ Musaddiq. 3

Colonel Wheeler, an adviser at the British embassy, explained that ‘combined Anglo-American action could, of course, have removed [Musaddiq] at any time during the past six months… Given a united Anglo-American front, a change of government could almost certainly be effected without difficulty or disturbance’. (p. 91)

This neatly captures the traditional US-UK ‘respect’ for democracy and human rights (see point 17 in Part 2).

In a memorandum in August 1952 discussing this ‘change of government’, Sam Falle, a UK embassy official in Iran, suggested that:

‘We should leave the name-suggesting to the Americans… It should not be difficult to bring the American’s candidate… to power.’ (p. 92)

The British preference was ‘for a non-communist coup d’etat preferably in the name of the Shah. This would mean an authoritarian regime,’ the embassy in Teheran noted ominously. (p. 91)

According to then CIA agent Richard Cottam, ‘…that mob that came into north Teheran and was decisive in the overthrow was a mercenary mob. It had no ideology. That mob was paid for by American dollars and the amount of money that was used has to have been very large’. (p. 93)

A US general later testified that ‘the guns they had in their hands, the trucks they rode in, the armoured cars that they drove through the streets, and the radio communications that permitted their control, were all furnished through the [US] military defence assistance program’. (p. 93)

Of this period of history, a recent BBC report observed merely:

‘The UK owes the money for failing to deliver tanks Iran bought in the 1970s.’

Between 1971 and 1976, the UK sold the Shah 1,500 state-of-the-art Chieftain main battle tanks and 250 repair vehicles costing £650 million. Thatcher praised the Shah as ‘one of the world’s most far-sighted statesmen, whose experience is unrivaled’. She added:

‘No other world leader has given his country more dynamic leadership. He is leading Iran through a twentieth century renaissance.’

Curiously, the BBC made no mention of the fact that the tanks had been sent to prop up a dictator installed by the US-UK alliance to steal Iranian oil.

Amnesty International reported of Iran under the Shah that it had the ‘highest rate of death penalties in the world, no valid system of civilian courts and a history of torture’ which was ‘beyond belief’. It was a society in which ‘the entire population was subjected to a constant, all-pervasive terror’.4

None of this exists for BBC media workers.

US Iran specialist Eric Hoogland commented of the Shah:

‘The more dictatorial his regime became, the closer the US-Iran relationship became.’

5. Iranian ‘Showdown’ – The Guardian’s Front-Page Farce

In 2007, a front-page Guardian piece by Simon Tisdall claimed that Iran had secret plans to do nothing less than wage war on, and defeat, American forces in Iraq by August of that year.

Iran, it seemed, was ‘forging ties with al-Qaida elements and Sunni Arab militias in Iraq in preparation for a summer showdown with coalition forces intended to tip a wavering US Congress into voting for full military withdrawal’.

The claim was based almost entirely on unsupported assertions made by anonymous US officials. Indeed 22 of the 23 paragraphs in the story relayed official US claims: over 95 per cent of the story. The compilation below indicates the levels of balance and objectivity:

‘US officials say’; ‘a senior US official in Baghdad warned’; ‘The official said’; ‘the official said’; ‘the official said’; ‘US officials now say’; ‘the senior official in Baghdad said’ ‘he [the senior official in Baghdad] added’; ‘the official said’; ‘the official said’; ‘he [the official] indicated’; ‘he [the official] cited’; ‘a senior administration official in Washington said’; ‘The administration official also claimed; ‘he [the administration official] said’; ‘US officials say’; ‘the senior official in Baghdad said’; ‘he [the senior official in Baghdad] said’; ‘the senior administration official said’; ‘he [the senior administration official] said’; ‘the official claimed’; ‘he [the official] said’; ‘Gen Petraeus’s report to the White House and Congress’; ‘a former Bush administration official said’; ‘A senior adviser to Gen Petraeus reported’; ‘the adviser admitted’.

No less than 26 references to official pronouncements formed the basis for a Guardian story presented with no scrutiny, no balance, no counter-evidence – nothing. Remove the verbiage described above and a Guardian front page news report becomes a straight Pentagon press release.

6. The Observer’s Missing War On Syria

The Iraq war catastrophe was a genuine wake-up call for Western governments and media. Something had to change. In retrospect, the answer was obvious: if wars destroying whole countries for oil and other resources were damaging the credibility of Western ‘democracies’, why not just pretend that the West isn’t involved? Thus, Western responsibility for the destruction of Libya barely exists for Western media. Thus, also, this Observer editorial on Syrian president Assad:

‘Many other factors have kept his regime in power. One is the refusal of the western powers to forcibly intervene… Fearful of another disaster like Iraq, MPs rejected UK military intervention. Days later, Barack Obama and the US Congress followed suit. The then Labour leader, Ed Miliband, said the Commons had spoken “for the people of Britain”. Perhaps.’ (Our emphasis)

In reality, the West, directly and via regional allies, has played a massive role in the violence. The New York Times reported that the US had been embroiled in a dirty war in Syria that constituted ‘one of the costliest covert action programs in the history of the C.I.A’, running to ‘more than $1 billion over the life of the program’. The aim was to support a vast ‘rebel’ army created and armed by the US, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey to overthrow the Syrian government.

In 2013, it was reported that the US had supplied no less than 15,000 high-tech, anti-tank missiles to ‘rebels’ via Saudi Arabia.

In 2014, Joe Biden said of Syria that US allies ‘poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens… thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad. Except that the people who were being supplied were… Al-Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis’.

7. Warmonger David Aaronovitch’s Regretful Musings On The Inherent Tragedy of Life

Responding to the latest ‘conflict’ (some have gone so far as to call it ‘a war’) between souped-up Palestinian fireworks and US-supplied, state-of-the-art, high-tech ordnance, Times columnist and chateau general commanding the corporate media’s 101st Chairborne Division, David Aaronovitch, sighed wistfully on May 12, 2021:

‘It’s not the Hamas leadership or the Netanyahus who are dying. It’s the people who always die.’

If that sounded empathetic and balanced, it was, in fact, a perfect illustration of a point made by Herman and Chomsky 33 years ago on how ‘worthy’ victims – people Western journalists care about – and ‘unworthy victims’ are treated. In their book, Manufacturing Consent, they wrote of one paired example:

‘While the coverage of the worthy victim was generous with gory details and quoted expressions of outrage and demands for justice, the coverage of the unworthy victims was low-keyed, designed to keep the lid on emotions and evoking regretful and philosophical generalities on the omnipresence of violence and the inherent tragedy of human life.’5

It could hardly be more noticeable that when Israel blitzes Gaza every few years, Aaronovitch’s Twitter account does not erupt – he has little to say, finding other things to tweet about. There’s no outrage, no demands for action and ‘intervention’. The same is true of many of the corporate fringepuddle’s habitual warmongers.

By contrast, in Aaronovitch’s support for NATO’s war on Serbia, allegedly in defence of the people of Kosovo, ‘expressions of outrage and demands for justice’ were to the fore. He famously wrote:

‘Is this cause, the cause of the Kosovar Albanians, a cause that is worth suffering for? … Would I fight, or (more realistically) would I countenance the possibility that members of my family might die?’

His answer: ‘I think so.’

But, hold on, ‘It’s the people who always die’, right?

In supporting war on Iraq in January 2003, Aaronovitch wrote of Saddam Hussein:

‘I want him out, for the sake of the region (and therefore, eventually, for our sakes), but most particularly for the sake of the Iraqi people who cannot lift this yoke on their own.’ 6

But isn’t it the people who always die, not the leaders? (Actually, of course, Official Enemies generally do die – they are lynched, buggered with knives, shot in the head, hanged, found dead in jail, buried alive in jail, and so on) So why not let the UN weapons inspectors continue to find nothing?

You can see our book, Propaganda Blitz, (pp. 129-131), for further details of how Aaronovitch generally dispenses with wistful philosophising in supporting wars against Official Enemies.

8. ‘Advertisements For Myself’ – Mehdi Hasan Hawking Left Criticism Of The Left

Mehdi Hasan of the New Statesman, The Intercept and al-Jazeera, is a prime example of a self-identified ‘leftist’ who fiercely attacks left positions on key issues. For example, Hasan wrote in the New Statesman in 2011:

‘The innocent people of Benghazi deserve protection from Gaddafi’s murderous wrath.’

In fact, the ‘threat’ of a massacre in Benghazi was an Iraqi WMD-style propaganda fiction.

Later, Hasan wrote an impassioned open letter addressed to ‘those of you on the anti-war far left who have a soft spot for the dictator in Damascus: Have you lost your minds? Or have you no shame?’

In fact, dissidents who had no ‘soft spot’ for Assad at all, were raising rational questions about more claims that resembled the Iraqi WMD deception.

And again, Hasan commented:

‘I’m no expert on Venezuela but I’m pretty sure you can think Maduro is a horrible/bad/authoritarian president *and* also think it’s bad for the US to back coups or regime change there.’

As media analyst Adam Johnson tweeted:

‘I love this thing where nominal leftists run the propaganda ball for bombing a country 99 yards then stop at the one yard and insist they don’t support scoring goals, that they in fact oppose war.’

How to explain Hasan’s comments? No need to speculate. Hasan explained his approach in a letter to Paul Dacre, the editor of the l:Daily Mail:

‘Dear Mr Dacre,

‘My name is Mehdi Hasan and I’m the New Statesman’s senior political editor. My good friend Peter Oborne suggested I drop you a line as I’m very keen to write for the Daily Mail.’

Hasan continued:

‘Although I am on the left of the political spectrum, and disagree with the Mail’s editorial line on a range of issues, I have always admired the paper’s passion, rigour, boldness and, of course, news values.

‘For the record, I am not a Labour tribalist and am often ultra-critical of the left – especially on social and moral issues, where my fellow leftists and liberals have lost touch with their own traditions and with the great British public…’

A key section of the letter read:

‘I could therefore write pieces for the Mail critical of Labour and the left, from “inside” Labour and the left (as the senior political editor at the New Statesman).’

This, again, should be noted by aspiring career journalists – nothing is more welcome in the corporate fringepuddle than an ostensible leftist attacking the left.

9. The BBC’s Bridget Kendall – Limiting The Spectrum

Noam Chomsky is a James Randi-style master at exposing the sleights of hand and (forked) tongue of the propaganda prestidigitators:

‘The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum – even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there’s free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.’

Cue Bridget Kendall, the BBC’s diplomatic correspondent, who declared on BBC News at Six in 2006:

‘There’s still bitter disagreement over invading Iraq. Was it justified or a disastrous miscalculation?’7

As Chomsky says, this gives the sense of a free-thinking debate. But an honest, fact-based selection of choices would look rather different:

There’s still bitter disagreement over invading Iraq. Was it an illegal war of aggression for Iraqi oil that disastrously miscalculated the impact on the civilian population, or was it an illegal war of aggression for Iraqi oil that relegated calculations on the likely human consequences for the war- and sanctions-wrecked country to the point of invisibility?

Media discussion is forbidden, but the stark fact is that Rumaila oilfield – the largest oilfield in Iraq and the third largest in the world – is currently operated by Britain’s BP. West Qurna I oilfield is operated by the US oil giant ExxonMobil. Does the Iraq war look like any kind of ‘disastrous miscalculation’ to BP and ExxonMobil?8

10. ‘It Was Rubbish’ – Andrew Marr, National Treasure

BBC interviewer and national treasure Andrew Marr once claimed:

‘When I joined the BBC, my Organs of Opinion were formally removed.’9

This is impossible, of course – Organs of Opinion cannot be surgically removed. But consciences can be.

Recall, the state-corporate media system is a demeritocracy – journalists are rewarded for doing a bad job in a good way for powerful interests. Marr is a striking example of that phenomenon. He pretty much guaranteed himself a job for life when he delivered this propaganda speech as ‘analysis’ and ‘news’ outside Downing Street as Baghdad ‘fell’ to US tanks on 9 April 2003:

‘Frankly, the main mood [in Downing Street] is of unbridled relief. I’ve been watching ministers wander around with smiles like split watermelons.’ 10

Marr continued:

‘Well, I think this does one thing – it draws a line under what, before the war, had been a period of… well, a faint air of pointlessness, almost, was hanging over Downing Street. There were all these slightly tawdry arguments and scandals. That is now history. Mr Blair is well aware that all his critics out there in the party and beyond aren’t going to thank him – because they’re only human – for being right when they’ve been wrong. And he knows that there might be trouble ahead, as I said. But I think this is very, very important for him. It gives him a new freedom and a new self-confidence. He confronted many critics…

‘He said that they would be able to take Baghdad without a bloodbath, and that in the end the Iraqis would be celebrating. And on both of those points he has been proved conclusively right. And it would be entirely ungracious, even for his critics, not to acknowledge that tonight he stands as a larger man and a stronger prime minister as a result.’11

This was an outrageous declaration that Blair had been completely vindicated. In reality, nothing that US tanks did in Baghdad changed the fact that this was an outright war of aggression for oil, an example of ‘the supreme war crime’.

Later, we asked Marr for his thoughts on his speech vindicating Blair. He, of course, ignored us. However, he did respond to someone else who asked. Marr said of his April 9 speech:

‘…it was rubbish but it came after weeks when I’d been predicting Baghdad bloodbath – the Iraqi army gave up’.

Ah, so Marr had all along been a fiery contrarian, predicting disaster in Baghdad! He had been too critical of the government, hence his surprised over-reaction! Having watched almost everything Marr said in the months leading up to the war, we can confidently assert: ‘That is actually bollocks.’

  1. Chomsky, ‘Year 501’, Verso, 1993, p. 20.
  2. Marcus Fairs, ‘Travel special: Roman holidays,’ Independent on Sunday, 4 February 2007, our emphasis.
  3. Quoted, Mark Curtis, ‘The Ambiguities of Power, Zed Books, 1995, p. 89.
  4. Martin Ennals, Secretary General of Amnesty International, cited in an Amnesty publication, Matchbox, Autumn 1976.
  5. Herman and Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent, Pantheon, 1988, p. 39.
  6. Aaronovitch, ‘Why the Left must tackle the crimes of Saddam: With or without a second UN resolution, I will not oppose action against Iraq,’ Observer, 2 February 2003.
  7. BBC1, 20 March 2006.
  8. For details, see Greg Muttitt, ‘Fuel On The Fire – Oil and Politics in Occupied Iraq’, Vintage, 2012.
  9. Marr, Daily Telegraph, 10 January 2001.
  10. BBC News At Ten, 9 April 2003.
  11. Marr, BBC 1, News At Ten, 9 April 2003.
The post “That Is Actually Bollocks”: 20 Propaganda Horrors From 20 Years of Media Lens (Part 1) first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Thomas Friedman’s last gasp

Thomas Friedman’s recent column in the New York Times reflecting on Israel’s 11-day destruction of Gaza is a showcase for the delusions of liberal Zionism: a constellation of thought that has never looked so threadbare. It seems that every liberal newspaper needs a Thomas Friedman – the UK’s Guardian has Jonathan Freedland – whose role is to keep readers from considering realistic strategies for Israel-Palestine, however often and catastrophically the established ones have failed. In this case, Friedman’s plea for Joe Biden to preserve the ‘potential of a two-state solution’ barely conceals his real goal: resuscitating the discourse of an illusory ‘peace process’ from which everyone except liberal Zionists has moved on. His fear is that the debate is quietly shifting outside this framework – towards the recognition that Israel is a belligerent apartheid regime, and the conclusion that one democratic state for Palestinians and Jews is now the only viable solution.

For more than five decades, the two-state solution – of a large, ultra-militarized state for Israel, and a much smaller, demilitarized one for Palestinians – has been the sole paradigm of the Western political and media class. During these years, a Palestinian state failed to materialize despite (or more likely because of) various US-backed ‘peace processes’. While Americans and Europeans have consoled themselves with such fantasies, Israel has only paid them lip-service, enforcing a de facto one-state solution premised on Jewish supremacy over Palestinians, and consolidating its control over the entire territory.

But in recent years, Israel’s naked settler-colonial actions have imperiled that Western paradigm. It has become increasingly evident that Israel is incapable of making peace with the Palestinians because its state ideology – Zionism – is based on their removal or eradication. What history has taught us is that the only just and lasting way to end a ‘conflict’ between a native population and a settler-colonial movement is decolonization, plus the establishment of a single, shared, democratic state. Otherwise, the settlers continue to pursue their replacement strategies – which invariably include ethnic cleansing, communal segregation and genocide. These were precisely the tactics adopted by European colonists in the Americas, Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Friedman’s function in the Western media – conscious or not – is to obfuscate these historical lessons, tapping into a long legacy of unthinking colonial racism.

One of the central pillars of that legacy is an abiding fear of the native and his supposedly natural savagery. This has always been the unspoken assumption behind the interminable two-state ‘peace process’. A civilized and civilizing West tries to broker a ‘peace deal’ to protect Israel from the Palestinian hordes next door. But the Palestinians continuously ‘reject’ these peace overtures because of their savage nature – which is in turn presented as the reason why Israel must ethnically cleanse them and herd them into reservations, or Bantustans, away from Jewish settlers. Occasionally, Israel is forced to ‘retaliate’ – or defend itself from this savagery – in what becomes an endless ‘cycle of violence’. The West supports Israel with military aid and preferential trade, while watching with exasperation as the Palestinian leadership fails to discipline its people.

Friedman is an expert at exploiting this colonial mentality. He often avoids taking direct responsibility for his racist assumptions, attributing them to ‘centrist Democrats’ or other right-minded observers. Coded language is his stock in trade, serving to heighten the unease felt by western audiences as the natives try to regain a measure of control over their future. In some cases the prejudicial framing is overt, as with his concern about the threat of an ascendant Hamas to women’s and LGBTQ rights, couched in an identity politics he knows will resonate with NYT readers. But more often his framing is insidious, with terms like ‘decimate’ and ‘blow up’ deployed to cast Palestinians’ desire for self-determination as violent and menacing.

Friedman’s promotion of the two-state model offers a three-layered deception. First, he writes that the two-state solution would bring ‘peace’, without acknowledging that the condition for that peace is the Palestinians’ permanent ghettoization and subjugation. Second, he blames the Palestinians for rejecting just such ‘peace plans’, even though they have never been seriously offered by Israel. And finally, he has the chutzpah to imply that it was the Palestinians’ failure to negotiate a two-state solution that ‘decimated’ the Israeli ‘peace camp’.

Such arguments are not only based on Friedman’s dehumanizing view of Arabs. They are also tied to his domestic political concerns. He fears that if Joe Biden were to acknowledge the reality that Israel has sabotaged the two-state solution, then the President might disengage once and for all from the ‘peace process’. Of course, most Palestinians would welcome such an end to US interference: the billions of dollars funnelled annually to the Israeli military, the US diplomatic cover for Israel, and the arm-twisting of other states to silently accept its atrocities. But, Friedman argues, this withdrawal would carry a heavy price at home, setting off a civil war within Biden’s own party and within Jewish organizations across the US. God forbid, it might ‘even lead to bans on arms sales’ to Israel.

Friedman reminds us of Israeli businessman Gidi Grinstein’s warning that in the absence of a ‘potential’ two-state solution, US support for Israel could morph ‘from a bipartisan issue to a wedge issue’. The columnist writes that preserving the two-state ‘peace process’, however endless and hopeless, is ‘about our national security interests in the Middle East’. How does Friedman define these interests? They are reducible, he says, to ‘the political future of the centrist faction of the Democratic Party.’ A ‘peace process’ once designed to salve the consciences of Americans while enabling the dispossession of Palestinians has now been redefined as a vital US national security issue – because, for Friedman, its survival is necessary to preserve the dominance of foreign policy hawks in the Democratic machine. The argument echoes Biden’s extraordinarily frank admission made back in 1986 that ‘were there not an Israel the United States of America would have to invent an Israel to protect her interests in the region’.

Friedman then concludes his article with a set of proposals that unwittingly expose the true consequences of a two-state settlement. He insists that Biden build on his predecessor’s much ridiculed ‘peace plan’, which gave US blessing to Israel’s illegal settlements on vast swaths of the occupied West Bank, penning Palestinians into their Bantustans indefinitely. Trump’s plan also sought to entrench Israel’s control over occupied East Jerusalem, remake Gaza as a permanent battlefield on which rivalries between Fatah and Hamas would intensify, and turn the wealth of the theocratic Gulf states into a weapon, fully integrating Israel into the region’s economy while making the Palestinians even more dependent on foreign aid. Polite NYT opinionators now want Biden to sell these measures as a re-engagement with the ‘peace process’.

The US, writes Friedman, should follow Trump in stripping the Palestinians of a capital in East Jerusalem – the economic, religious and historic heart of Palestine. Arab states should reinforce this dispossession by moving their embassies from Tel Aviv to West Jerusalem. Neighbouring countries are encouraged to pressure the Palestinian Authority, via aid payments, to accede even more cravenly to Israel’s demands. (Of course, Friedman does not think it worth mentioning that Palestine is aid-dependent because Israel has either stolen or seized control of all its major resources.)

Once this subordinate position is guaranteed, divisions within the Palestinian national movement can be inflamed by making Hamas – plus the two million Palestinians in Gaza – dependent on the PA’s patronage. Friedman wants the Fatah-led PA to decide whether to send aid to the Gaza Strip or join Israel in besieging the enclave to weaken Hamas. For good measure, he also urges the Gulf states to cut off support to the United Nations aid agencies, like UNRWA, which have kept millions of Palestinian refugees fed and cared for since 1948. The international community’s already feeble commitment to the rights of Palestinian refugees will thus be broken, and the diaspora will be forcibly absorbed into their host countries.

Such proposals are the last gasp of a discredited liberal Zionism. Friedman visibly flounders as he tries to put the emperor’s clothes back on a two-state solution which stands before us in all its ugliness. The Western model of ‘peace-making’ was always about preserving Jewish supremacy. Now, at least, the illusions are gone.

• First published in New Left Review

The post Thomas Friedman’s last gasp first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Two Centuries Of ‘The Imperialist, Warmongering, Hate-Filled Guardian’

In contrast to Media Lens modestly marking a mere two decades in July, the Guardian has been deluging itself with praise on reaching two centuries this year. Not that we would expect otherwise. As editor Katherine Viner proclaimed in a long, celebratory essay:

‘The Guardian is not the only newspaper to declare that it has a higher purpose than transmitting the day’s events in order to make a profit. But it might be unique in having held on to that sense of purpose for two centuries.’

From her editor’s throne, Viner portrayed the paper as a kind of collective enterprise rooted in a socially-aware commune:

‘journalists must be part of the social fabric of the world they report on. The Guardian is a community of journalists and readers, all of us equal citizens of that community.’

It is difficult to square such pious words with the reality that Guardian moderators prowl the online comments on the Guardian website, ready to instantly delete critical remarks posted by the public. As one Guardian reader noted recently on Twitter:

‘My comment comparing the detention of the journalist in Belarus with what is being done to Craig Murray and Julian Assange in the UK has been deleted by the mods at The Guardian within seconds.’

For Viner, awkward readers like this are simply ostracised and no longer deemed part of the ‘Guardian’s community’. They are not allowed to besmirch her shining vision that the Guardian is:

‘a newspaper built on facts and guided by its values, a newspaper with a moral as well as a material existence.’

Throughout her essay, the rhetoric flooded out:

‘Our mission is based on a moral conviction: that people long to understand the world they are in, and to create a better one. To use our clarity and imagination to build hope.’

Yet more purple prose gushed forth:

‘we have roots, we have principles, we have philosophy, we have values.’

It takes a certain blinkered mindset, honed through faithful service to the Guardian bubble and ideological navel-gazing, to believe this guff. In almost 6,000 words, there was no hint of critical self-reflection by Viner. There was certainly no mention of Julian Assange, the courageous WikiLeaks co-founder and publisher of copious evidence of US war crimes whom the Guardian exploited, discarded and smeared.

Guardian Smearing Of Chomsky And Assange

Assange and WikiLeaks did, however, make it into a 64-page supplement, ‘We were there: The 200 moments that made the Guardian’, included with the print version of the newspaper on Saturday, 8 May. The piece was written by Ian Katz, a former Guardian deputy editor who left to become editor of BBC Newsnight in 2013, and is now Director of Programmes at Channel 4. This is pretty much the full set of prized media destinations in the career of a successful liberal journalist. The fact that his career was not derailed by an infamous media episode in 2005, during his Guardian years, speaks volumes.

Katz was then the Guardian editor responsible for the G2 section of the paper which published a notorious interview by Emma Brockes smearing Noam Chomsky. Addressing the Balkan Wars in the former Yugoslavia and, in particular, the Srebrenica massacre, Brockes had written of Chomsky’s view as: ‘witheringly teenage; like, Srebrenica was so not a massacre.’ As we discussed at the time, this was a deceitful distortion of the truth: Chomsky has never denied that a massacre took place in Srebrenica. In an open letter, Chomsky himself described the Guardian piece as ‘a scurrilous piece of journalism’. The paper was flooded with readers’ complaints, the readers’ editor investigated the case, an apology of sorts was issued, and the interview subsequently taken down. No Guardian editor or journalist has made reference to this disgraceful and deeply embarrassing episode in any of their valedictory retrospective accounts.

In Katz’s piece on WikiLeaks (only available in print, and not online), he repeated an outrageous quote attributed to Julian Assange by David Leigh, the former Guardian investigations editor. In 2010, Guardian staff and Assange were working together in a Guardian ‘bunker’ on hundreds of thousands of US military records and US embassy cables. Katz gave the official Guardian version of events:

‘Our biggest disagreement blew up over the question of whether confidential sources identified in the documents deserved protection. All the traditional journalists involved in the project took it as read that we would redact the names of any informants who could be put at risk by our publishing the documents. Assange saw it differently. “They’re informants,’ he told Leigh. “So if they get killed they’ve got it coming to them.”’

This account, to put it politely, is disputed. In fact, Assange has stated that the quote is ‘completely fabricated’. John Goetz, a journalist from Der Spiegel, was present at the dinner in a London restaurant where Leigh claimed Assange made the remark. Goetz has affirmed that Assange made no such remark. Moreover, Mark Davis, a multi-award winning Australian journalist who was present in the ‘bunker’ with Assange throughout the preparation of the Afghan War Logs, has exposed the shameful role of the Guardian in its dealings with Assange, accusing them of ‘slanders’ and  ‘lies’ (further details and quotes are here).

As the progressive website Consortium News reported:

‘Most shocking in these revelations is Mark Davis’s account of how the Guardian journalists neglected and appeared to care little about redacting the documents. They had a “graveyard humour” about people being harmed and no one, he stated emphatically, expressed concern about civilian casualties except Julian Assange…Assange had subsequently requested that the release of the Afghan War Logs be delayed for the purpose of redaction, but the Guardian not only insisted on the agreed date, they abandoned him to redact 10,000 documents alone.’

Katz included none of this in his account. And Viner’s silence on Assange is telling. As is her seeming refusal ever to discuss, far less apologise for, the fake front-page ‘news’ story the paper published 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. It was another fabricated story about the WikiLeaks publisher. And all part of a smear-based propaganda campaign that led to him being forcibly removed from the Embassy and locked away in the high-security Belmarsh prison, at risk of being extradited to the US to face life imprisonment. Recall that Nils Melzer, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, has declared unequivocally that Assange is a victim of torture. Melzer has demanded, along with many other lawyers, human rights organisations and members of the public, that Assange be freed.

Guardian Distortion ‘Beggars Belief’

Likewise, an essay in the New York Review by Alan Rusbridger, Viner’s predecessor in the editor’s chair, was long on Guardian mythology and short on critical self-analysis. Towards the end, a few tokenistic references were made to chapters that had pulled their punches in a new book about the Guardian’s history, ‘Capitalism’s Conscience’, edited by media academic Des Freedman and put under the microscope in a recent media alert. In fact, as we suspected would happen, Rusbridger leaned on the book to boost the paper’s supposed bona fides:

‘Capitalism’s Conscience does acknowledge remarkably positive and progressive aspects of The Guardian’s more recent history, including in-depth coverage of the developing world, a better-than-some track record on diversity, a commitment to investigative reporting, and a balanced approach to Brexit.’

But Rusbridger avoided any observations by the book’s more hard-hitting contributors. For example, Alan MacLeod had noted of the paper’s coverage of Latin America:

‘far from embracing the “Pink Tide” [the grassroots progressive movements across Latin America], the Guardian has, for the most part, chosen to side with Western governments and reject it, often displaying a shocking lack of understanding of the continent. Indeed, the distortion with which it presents Latin America is so startling it often beggars belief.’

MacLeod added that the Guardian’s ‘tone and outlook [are] often so conservative that it is indistinguishable from the Daily Telegraph in its reporting of the continent.’

He directly implicated the current editor:

‘Katharine Viner describes the newspaper’s mission as “holding the powerful to account” and “upholding liberal values”. Yet when it comes to Latin America, it has attacked progressive movements attempting to further those values, while often failing to hold the region’s right-wing rulers to the same standard. It has been necessary to do this, lest British readers are inspired, like Corbyn was, to try the same thing at home.’

Moreover, in their chapter on ‘The Guardian and Surveillance’, Matt Kennard and Mark Curtis note what happened after the paper revealed secret US government documents leaked by National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. Security services and the Ministry of Defence were so concerned by the revelations that, on 20 July 2013, GCHQ officials entered the Guardian’s offices at King’s Cross in London. At the request of the government and security services, Guardian deputy editor Paul Johnson and two colleagues spent three hours destroying the laptops containing the Snowden documents.

Afterwards, the Defence and Security Media Advisory Committee, known as the D-Notice Committee, increasingly placed pressure on the Guardian to refrain from publishing information that would ‘jeopardise both national security and possibly UK personnel’. A combined charm and threat offensive to make the Guardian play ball ultimately paid off when Paul Johnson accepted an invitation to sit on the D-Notice Committee. He attended his first meeting in May 2014 and remained on the committee until October 2018. As Kennard and Curtis observed:

‘The Guardian’s deputy editor went directly from the corporation’s basement with an angle-grinder to sitting on the D-Notice Committee alongside the security service officials who had tried to stop his paper publishing the Snowden material.’

The authors give some credit to Rusbridger who ‘withstood intense pressure not to publish some of Snowden’s revelations’, but note that things changed when Viner was appointed editor in March 2015. Critical coverage of UK intelligence services thereafter dropped dramatically. Moreover, soft-pedalling ‘exclusives’ appeared with senior intelligence and counter-terrorism chiefs highlighting the supposed ‘threat’ of foreign states, notably Russia.

Kennard and Curtis wrote:

‘While some articles critical of the security services still appear in the paper, its “scoops” have increasingly focused on issues more acceptable to them. In the years since the Snowden affair, the Guardian does not appear to have published any articles based on intelligence or security services sources that were not so to speak “officially sanctioned”.’

In a recent piece with the apt title, ‘Like billionaire-controlled media, The Guardian misinforms its readers on the UK’s role in world’, Curtis pointed out that:

‘while it sometimes exposes how the British establishment works, it acts largely in support of it – and that in recent years it has largely shredded the capacity it once had to do more independent, investigative reporting.

‘The paper’s political positioning, on the right wing of Labour and mainstream of the US Democratic Party, always suggested it would act to stave off more fundamental change when the time came. With Corbyn, this was clearly borne out.’

Behind The Façade Of Guardian ‘Liberalism’

Long-time readers of Media Lens will be well aware that we have written several books and hundreds of media alerts exposing the Guardian’s propaganda role in shoring up the status quo. But nothing of this mountain of evidence, nor the examples cited earlier in this alert, disturbed the haughty, self-satisfied triumphalism of Viner and Rusbridger.

Also notably lacking from the Guardian’s numerous retrospectives, including a fashion piece on ‘200 years of newsroom style: what journalists wear to work’, was the consistent Guardian protection of establishment power for two centuries. This uncomfortable truth was superbly exposed in an historical overview, titled ‘50,000 editions of the imperialist, warmongering, hate-filled Guardian newspaper’, first published by author Murray McDonald in 2007 when the paper celebrated its 50,000th issue.

A crucial component of the haloed Guardian mythology, featuring prominently in both Rusbridger’s and Viner’s accounts, is its founding in Manchester in 1821 by John Taylor as a supposed radical paper championing the victims of the Peterloo Massacre. In 1819, eighteen people died when cavalry charged into a crowd of around 60,000 people who had gathered in St Peter’s Field, Manchester, to demand the reform of parliamentary representation.

McDonald wrote:

‘What the Guardian forgot to say was that Taylor launched his paper to undermine the working class leaders of the reform movement; or that Taylor refused to use either word “Peterloo” or “Massacre”, thinking them too inflammatory.’

The paper has never been a reliable supporter of popular opposition to establishment power. In fact, worse than that, the Guardian:

‘has been deeply hostile to the working class, especially when they have taken matters into their own hands.’

As just one early example:

‘When Women Suffragettes fought for the vote, Guardian editor C.P. Scott denounced them as fanatics, just as the Manchester Guardian opposed giving the working classes the vote before.’

Historically, the Guardian actually derided movements against British imperialism and colonialism:

‘Over the years, much of the newspaper’s venom has been reserved for opposition movements. The Guardian had a particular contempt for anti-imperialist movement[s], pouring scorn on Third World nationalists like [Patrice] Lumumba [of Congo] and [Gamal] Nasser [of Egypt], advocating military intervention across the globe.’

McDonald added:

‘And when Abraham Lincoln fought a Civil War against slavery, the Manchester Guardian rallied to defend the southern Slave-Owners.’

In more modern times, the Guardian – apart from mild criticism here and there towards the end of Tony Blair’s time in Downing Street – has been a stalwart cheerleader for the former Prime Minister. This bizarre nostalgic longing for the New Labour era continues to this day, even though Blair’s hands are steeped in the blood of over one million dead people in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Arguments for ‘humanitarian intervention’ were honed by the Guardian in its reporting of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, as McDonald noted, ‘demonising the enemy, talking up the humanitarian crisis, and pushing for military action’.

Viner and Rusbridger airbrush all of this from their glowing ideological narratives of the paper. But reading closely between the lines is instructive and hints at the grim truth. Consider Rusbridger’s curiously-worded claim that ‘the paper can disappoint the left and anger the right.’ He gave this example:

‘The most recent disappointment for those on the left was the paper’s failure—as they saw it—to wholeheartedly embrace Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party.’

This is truly outrageous spin. In fact, the Guardian played a key role in the propaganda blitz that scuppered Corbyn’s chances of becoming Prime Minister and making any move towards a more equal society that the Guardian supposedly champions.

Keyvan Minoukadeh of the website fivefilters.org diligently monitored the relentless Guardian attacks on Corbyn over the two-year period from 2015-2017.  He observed that there was a slight let-up towards the end of this period, perhaps because Guardian editors were worried that they had alienated too many readers. But then:

‘After a short pause, the paper continued and intensified its attacks, this time spreading spurious and damaging claims of anti-semitism.’

In short, the paper failed to ‘wholeheartedly embrace Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership’ in much the same way that a kestrel fails to wholeheartedly embrace a mouse when swooping down for its prey.

The late Tony Benn had it right:

‘The Guardian represents a whole batch of journalists…who, broadly speaking, like the status quo…are very critical of the left…They just are the Establishment. It is a society that suits them well.’

As we saw above, Viner’s florid account of her beloved paper overflowed with worthy words about principles, values, roots, morals, and a ‘mission based on a moral conviction’ to ‘create a better’ society and ‘to build hope’. These claims are cruel deceptions because the reality is far different. In truth, the Guardian has long played a liberal gatekeeper role, corralling and deflecting the threat of real public opposition to elite power.

A newspaper predicated on ‘liberal values’ has a crucial role to play in the propaganda system. As Noam Chomsky has long observed, such a paper delimits the ‘acceptable’ limits of news reporting and commentary: ‘Thus far, and no further’. To be truly effective, the ‘mainstream’ media must appear to be relatively free and open. For this reason, added Chomsky:

‘liberal bias is extremely important in a sophisticated system of propaganda.’

The Guardian epitomises this vital function.

Jonathan Cook, a former Guardian reporter who is now an independent, reader-supported journalist, put it this way:

‘The role of corporate media is to serve as a figurative sheep-dog, herding journalists each day into an ideological pen – the publication they write for. There are minor differences of opinion and emphasis between conservative publications and liberal ones, but they all ultimately serve the same corporate, business-friendly, colonial, war-mongering agenda.’

Just consider one salient fact. Absent from the Guardian – and the entire ‘mainstream’ media – is any sustained, substantive reporting about the economic system that is driving climate breakdown and mass extinction of species. A recent video titled, ‘Why Capitalism Can’t Handle Climate Change’, from Second Thought, an educational YouTube channel presenting analysis of current events from a Leftist perspective, encapsulates the most pressing crisis today:

‘If we want to ensure a liveable future for the human race, we must move past capitalism. Capitalism is incapable of solving the problems it creates. It is entirely beholden to the profit motive, and no amount of flowery language, greenwashing or reform will ever change that.

Sweep aside the paper’s lofty rhetoric, and it is clear that the Guardian has long been a component of power that is currently driving humanity towards extinction.

The post Two Centuries Of ‘The Imperialist, Warmongering, Hate-Filled Guardian’ first appeared on Dissident Voice.