Reviewing David Cromwell and David Edwards’ “Guardians of Power”

David Cromwell is a Scottish writer, activist and oceanographer at the National Oceanography Centre in Britain. David Edwards is also a UK writer who focuses on human rights, the environment and the media. Together they edit an extraordinary "UK-based media-watch project" called Media Lens. It "offers authoritative criticism of mainstream media bias and censorship, as well as providing in-depth analysis, quotes, media contact details and other resources."


Today, the media is in crisis, and a free and open society is at risk. Fiction substitutes for fact, news is carefully filtered, dissent is marginalized, and supporting the powerful substitutes for full and accurate reporting. As a result, wars of aggression are called liberating ones, civil liberties are suppressed for our own good, and patriotism means going along with governments that are lawless.


The authors challenge these views and those in the mainstream who reflect them – the managers, editors and journalists. Their aim in Media Lens and their writing is to "raise public awareness" to see "reality" as they do, free from the corrupting influence of media corporations and their single-minded pursuit of profit "in a society dominated by corporate power" and governments acting as their handmaiden. They note that Pravda was a state propaganda organ so "why should we expect the corporate press to tell the truth about corporate power" and unfettered capitalism when they support it? They don’t and never will.


The authors go further and say their "aim is to increase rational awareness, critical thought and compassion, and to decrease greed, hatred and ignorance (and do it by) highlight(ing) significant examples of systemic media distortion." There are no shortage of examples.


That objective is highlighted in their 2006 book, "Guardians of Power: The Myth of the Liberal Media" and subject of this review. It’s a work distinguished author John Pilger calls "required reading" and "the most important book about journalism (he) can remember" since Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman’s classic – "Manufacturing Dissent." Cromwell and Edwards "have done the job of true journalists: they have set the record straight" in contrast to the mainstream that distorts and corrupts it for the powerful. Their book is must reading and will be reviewed in-depth, chapter by chapter, to show why. It’s also why no major broadsheet ever mentions it or its important content. This review covers lots of it.


The Mass Media – Neutral, Honest, Psychopathic


Years ago, journalist and author AJ Liebling said "The press is free only to those who own one." He also warned that "People everywhere confuse what they read in newspapers with news." "Guardians of Power" lifts the confusion powerfully. It starts off noting that the term media is "problematic." It’s the plural of medium suggesting something neutral, and news organizations want us to believe "they transmit information in a similarly neutral, natural way" which, of course, they never do. Why? Because corporate giants are dominant, and large corporate entities control the media.


The authors thus argue that the entire corporate mass media, including broadcasters like BBC and the so-called mislabeled "liberal media," function as a "propaganda system for elite interests." It’s especially true for topics like "US-UK government responsibility for genocide, vast corporate criminality, (and) threats to the very existence of human life – (they’re) distorted, suppressed, marginalized or ignored." Cromwell and Edwards present documented forensic proof to set the record straight and expose corporate media duplicity.


Doing it requires "understanding (that) curious abstract entity – the corporation," more specifically publicly-owned ones. They’re required by law to maximize shareholder equity and do it by increasing revenue and profits. Corporate law prohibits boards of directors and senior executives from being friends of the earth, good community members or whatever else may detract from that primary goal. Social responsibility is off the table if it reduces profits, and executives who ignore that mandate may be sued or fired for so doing.


That led Canadian law professor Joel Bakan to call corporations "psychopathic creatures" that can’t recognize or act morally or avoid committing harm. It shows up at home and in foreign wars of aggression with Iraq as Exhibit A that’s the focus of three of the book’s 13 chapters.


First, an explanation of what Chomsky and Herman called the "propaganda model" in "Manufacturing Dissent" and that Herman later wrote about in "The Myth of the Liberal Media." It works by focusing on "the inequality of wealth and power" and how those with it "filter out the news to print, marginalize dissent (and assure) government and dominant private interests" control all information the public gets. It’s done through a set of "filters" that remove what’s to be suppressed and "leav(es) only the cleansed (acceptable) residue fit to print" or broadcast on-air. The media is largely shaped by market forces and bottom line considerations. They also rely on advertisers for most of their revenue and are pressured to assure content conforms to their views.


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