By Tapani Lausti
David Edwards & David Cromwell, Propaganda Blitz: How the Corporate Media Distort Reality. Foreword by John Pilger. Pluto Press 2018.
The heated debate about fake news supposedly separates “real journalists” from writers who try to confuse people’s views about what is really happening in the world. If only it was that simple. The depressing truth is that much of the world of journalism has sunk into disability or unwillingness to offer readers and listeners material which helps them to achieve a rational world view.
In the British scene, The Guardian and the British Broadcasting Corporation pride themselves as guardians of truthful and unbiased reporting. In this new book by the British media critic duo, Media Lens ‘ David Edwards and David Cromwell, demolish this myth. The sad story is that both The Guardian and the BBC have slowly turned their backs on truthful reporting. In spite of this, both claim that they offer objective and a credible analysis of world affairs.
Critical American journalists use the concept of “group think”. Mainstream journalists get entangled in a world view which echoes the way the world elites impose on citizens’ minds narratives which they claim reflects reality. Questioning the elite-sanctioned “truths” is a quick way of losing one’s credibility in the corridors of power.
Journalists get very touchy about analyses which point out this captivity in elite-approved opinions. Edwards and Cromwell say that they are surprised at the aggressive attacks on their work. After all, they have only a few thousand regular readers. Meanwhile mainstrean media is full of distorted information which helps to instigate conflicts and wars and encourages consumer culture which helps to destroy the planet.
In his preface to this important book the excellent Australian-British journalist John Pilger puts Edwards’s and Cromwell’s book in historical perspective: “My impression is that they have shattered a silence about corporate journalism. Like Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky in Manufacturing Consent, they represent a Fifth Estate, questioning, deconstructing and ultimately demystifying the media’s monopoly.”
Prominent mainstream journalists often wax lyrical about their supposed independence. Head of BBC News, Helen Boaden, is quoted as saying: “I always think that impartiality is in our DNA – it’s part of the BBC’s genetic make-up.”
Media Lens has no difficulty in revealing Boaden’s unjournalistic behaviour when it comes to the invasion of Iraq , for example. In fact Edwards and Cromwell write how they “saw ever more clearly how the broadcaster was actually complicit in state crimes: Afghanistan , Iraq , Israel ‘s oppression of Palestinians, Libya , Syria , climate chaos. No wonder they respond to rational challenges with Kafkaesque confusion, or best of all, silence.”
Much of the mainstream media is under the illusion – or in a wilful state of mendacity – that the new and dangerous Cold War is the result of Russia’s aggression. A key piece of evidence in this story is what happened in Kiev in 2014. John Pilger has pointed out how the mainstream media, The Guardian and The New York Times included, have given a distorted view of what happened. Media Lens quotes Pilger: “All have misrepresented events in Ukraine as a malign act by Russia when, in fact, the coup in Ukraine in 2014 was the work of the United States , aided by Germany and NATO.”
Whatever problems Russian foreign policy causes to the world situation, Western media is unable to offer a balanced and credible analysis of the new Cold War. M edia Lens criticises journalists for crediting Western leaders with benign aims whilst in truth they attempt to subvert democracy around the world. In this new book Edwards and Cromwell offer glaring examples of how mainstream journalists are “nervous of expressing personal opinions when criticising the powerful .”
Edwards and Cromwell offer examples of how two prominent BBC journalists interpret impartiality. Let me quote a passage in full:
“The BBC’s Andrew Marr can’t call the Iraq War a ‘crime’, but he can say that the fall of Baghdad in April 2003 meant that Tony Blair ‘stands as a larger man and a stronger prime minister as a result.” Nick Robinson insists he must limit himself to reporting on the powerful, and yet he can report that ‘hundreds of [British] servicemen are risking their lives to bring peace and security in the streets of Iraq .’
Edwards and Cromwell conclude: “Journalists are allowed to lose their ‘objectivity’ this way, but not that way – not in a way that offends the powerful.”
As to The Guardian, the newspaper used to be seen as a quality mouthpiece for liberal left opinions. Even if it still employs some excellent journalists, more prominent writers, like John Pilger, have been denied access to the paper’s pages. Yet, Katharine Viner, the editor of the paper, can proudly write: “After working at the Guardian for two decades, I feel I know instinctively why it exists. Most of our journalists and our readers do, too – it’s something to do with holding power to account, and upholding liberal values.”
Edwards and Cromwell point out that during Viner’s editorship the paper has attacked the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, accusing him of promoting socialist ideas “that had long been dismissed,” Actually, The Guardian has been a leading force in actively dismissing those ideas.
In his preface, John Pilger writes: “One of the most telling chapters describes the smear campaigns mounted by journalists against dissenters, political mavericks and whistle-blowers. The Guardian ‘s campaign against the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is the most disturbing.”
Pilger describes the state of Western journalism like this: “Journalism students might well study this period to understand that the source of ‘fake news’ is not only the trollism, or the likes of Fox News, or Donald Trump, but a journalism self-anointed with a false respectability: a ‘liberal’ journalism that claims to challenge corrupt state power but, in reality, courts and protects it.”
David Edwards and David Cromwell, Guardians of Power: The Myth of the Liberal Media . Foreword by John Pilger. Pluto Press 2006.
David Edwards and David Cromwell, Newspeak in the 21st Century . Pluto Press 2009.
David Cromwell, Why Are We The Good Guys? Reclaiming Your Mind From the Delusions of Propaganda. Zero Books 2012.