Book review: Newspeak in the 21st Century by David Edwards and David Cromwell


Since setting up the Media Lens website (www.medialens.org) in 2002, David Edwards and David Cromwell have been publishing regular ‘media alerts’ “correcting for the distorted vision of the corporate media”, encouraging readers to write directly to individual journalists to take them to task.

Largely made up of edited previously written media alerts, Newspeak in the 21st Centurys central thesis is that there is “a profound, consistent bias favouring powerful interests stretching right across the media spectrum.” So while it is widely understood that the right-wing media has a detrimental effect on political debate in the UK, Edwards and Cromwell go one step further, arguing the ’liberal media’ such as the Guardian, BBC and Channel Four news play a central role in the “deceptive and highly destructive sham” that is “modern corporate journalism.”
 
Influenced by Edward Herman’s and Noam Chomsky’s Propaganda Model, the authors are keen to point out this isn’t the result of a conspiracy, but rather the predictable outcome of free-market forces (ownership, advertising, education and selection of employees, sources quoted etc). 
 
The book analyses the mainstream media’s coverage of Iraq, Iran, climate change, and includes a marvellous A-Z of BBC propaganda. Peace News readers may also welcome the thought-provoking exploration of Buddhist teachings on happiness, compassion and activism in the closing chapter. Particularly shocking are the sections highlighting the Government-friendly media coverage of the 2004 and 2006 Lancet reports on Iraqi deaths and Hugo Chavez‘s decade-long tenure as the president of Venezuela. Both examples suggest a level of intellectual conformity among our supposedly free media on a par with Soviet-era Pravda journalists.
 
Best – and most entertaining – of all are the replies Edwards and Cromwell elicit from journalists. Often bemused and intellectually muddled, sometimes angry and rude, these exchanges offer a fascinating insight in to sheer ignorance and ideological blindness of those said to write the first draft of history. For example, when asked to justify a reporter’s claim the US and UK “came to Iraq in the first place to bring democracy and human rights”, the BBC’s Head of News says this “analysis of the underlying motivation of the coalition is borne out in the many speeches and remarks made by both Mr Bush and Mr Blair.” In short, Our Dear Leaders have spoken.
 
Scrupulously footnoted, persuasively argued and very accessible, along with the first Media Lens’ book Guardians of Power, Newspeak in the 21st Century is an essential addition to every activist’s bookshelf.
 
Newspeak in the 21st Century by David Edwards and David Cromwell is published by Pluto Press, priced £16.99.
 

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