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Mainstream media: journalism is dead

Mainstream media, journalism is dead  By John Pilger, via ConsortiumNews.com. 22 September 2018

So much of mainstream journalism has descended to the level of a cult-like formula of bias, hearsay and omission. Subjectivism is all; slogans and outrage are proof enough. What matters is ‘perception’…

The death of Robert Parry earlier this year felt like a farewell to the age of the reporter. Parry was “a trailblazer for independent journalism”, wrote Seymour Hersh, with whom he shared much in common.

Hersh revealed the My Lai massacre in Vietnam and the secret bombing of Cambodia, Parry exposed Iran-Contra, a drugs and gun-running conspiracy that led to the White House. In 2016, they separately produced compelling evidence that the Assad government in Syria had not used chemical weapons. They were not forgiven.

Driven from the “mainstream”, Hersh must publish his work outside the United States. Parry set up his own independent news website Consortium News, where, in a final piece following a stroke, he referred to journalism’s veneration of “approved opinions” while “unapproved evidence is brushed aside or disparaged regardless of its quality.”

Although journalism was always a loose extension of establishment power, something has changed in recent years. Dissent tolerated when I joined a national newspaper in Britain in the 1960s has regressed to a metaphoric underground as liberal capitalism moves towards a form of corporate dictatorship.

This is a seismic shift, with journalists policing the new “groupthink”, as Parry called it, dispensing its myths and distractions, pursuing its enemies.

Witness the witch-hunts against refugees and immigrants, the willful abandonment by the “MeToo” zealots of our oldest freedom, presumption of innocence, the anti-Russia racism and anti-Brexit hysteria, the growing anti-China campaign and the suppression of a warning of world war.

With many if not most independent journalists barred or ejected from the “mainstream”, a corner of the Internet has become a vital source of disclosure and evidence-based analysis: true journalism sites such as wikileaks.org, consortiumnews.com, wsws.org, truthdig.com, globalresearch.org, counterpunch.org and informationclearinghouse.com are required reading for those trying to make sense of a world in which science and technology advance wondrously while political and economic life in the fearful “democracies” regress behind a media facade of narcissistic spectacle.

Propaganda Blitz

In Britain, just one website offers consistently independent media criticism. This is the remarkable Media Lens — remarkable partly because its founders and editors as well as its only writers, David Edwards and David Cromwell, since 2001 have concentrated their gaze not on the usual suspects, the Tory press, but the paragons of reputable liberal journalism: the BBC, The Guardian, Channel 4 News.

 

Their method is simple. Meticulous in their research, they are respectful and polite when they ask why a journalist why he or she produced such a one-sided report, or failed to disclose essential facts or promoted discredited myths.

The replies they receive are often defensive, at times abusive; some are hysterical, as if they have pushed back a screen on a protected species.

I would say Media Lens has shattered a silence about corporate journalism. Like Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman in Manufacturing Consent, they represent a Fifth Estate that deconstructs and demystifies the media’s power.

What is especially interesting about them is that neither is a journalist. David Edwards is a former teacher, David Cromwell is an oceanographer. Yet, their understanding of the morality of journalism — a term rarely used; let’s call it true objectivity — is a bracing quality of their online Media Lens dispatches.

I think their work is heroic and I would place a copy of their just published book, Propaganda Blitz, in every journalism school that services the corporate system, as they all do.

Take the chapter, Dismantling the National Health Service, in which Edwards and Cromwell describe the critical part played by journalists in the crisis facing Britain’s pioneering health service.

The NHS crisis is the product of a political and media construct known as “austerity”, with its deceitful, weasel language of “efficiency savings”  (the BBC term for slashing public expenditure) and “hard choices” (the wilful destruction of the premises of civilized life in modern Britain).

“Austerity” is an invention. Britain is a rich country with a debt owed by its crooked banks, not its people. The resources that would comfortably fund the National Health Service have been stolen in broad daylight by the few allowed to avoid and evade billions in taxes.

Using a vocabulary of corporate euphemisms, the publicly-funded Health Service is being deliberately run down by free market fanatics, to justify its selling-off. The Labour Party of Jeremy Corbyn may appear to oppose this, but is it? The answer is very likely no. Little of any of this is alluded to in the media, let alone explained.

Edwards and Cromwell have dissected the 2012 Health and Social Care Act, whose innocuous title belies its dire consequences. Unknown to most of the population, the Act ends the legal obligation of British governments to provide universal free health care: the bedrock on which the NHS was set up following the Second World War. Private companies can now insinuate themselves into the NHS, piece by piece.

Where, asks Edwards and Cromwell, was the BBC while this momentous Bill was making its way through Parliament? With a statutory commitment to “providing a breadth of view” and to properly inform the public of “matters of public policy,” the BBC never spelt out the threat posed to one of the nation’s most cherished institutions. A BBC headline said: “Bill which gives power to GPs passes.” This was pure state propaganda.

Media and Iraq Invasion

 

There is a striking similarity with the BBC’s coverage of Prime Minister Tony Blair’s lawless invasion of Iraq in 2003, which left a million dead and many more dispossessed. A study by the University of Wales, Cardiff, found that the BBC reflected the government line “overwhelmingly” while relegating reports of civilian suffering. A Media Tenor study placed the BBC at the bottom of a league of western broadcasters in the time they gave to opponents of the invasion. The corporation’s much-vaunted “principle” of impartiality was never a consideration.

One of the most telling chapters in Propaganda Blitzdescribes the smear campaigns mounted by journalists against dissenters, political mavericks and whistleblowers.

The Guardian’s campaign against the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is the most disturbing. Assange, whose epic WikiLeaks disclosures brought fame, journalism prizes and largesse to The Guardian, was abandoned when he was no longer useful. He was then subjected to a vituperative – and cowardly — onslaught of a kind I have rarely known.

With not a penny going to WikiLeaks, a hyped Guardian book led to a lucrative Hollywood movie deal. The book’s authors, Luke Harding and David Leigh, gratuitously described Assange as a “damaged personality” and “callous.” They also disclosed the secret password he had given the paper in confidence, which was designed to protect a digital file containing the U.S. embassy cables.

With Assange now trapped in the Ecuadorean embassy, Harding, standing among the police outside, gloated on his blog that “Scotland Yard may get the last laugh.”

The Guardian columnist Suzanne Moore wrote, “I bet Assange is stuffing himself full of flattened guinea pigs. He really is the most massive turd.”

Moore, who describes herself as a feminist, later complained that, after attacking Assange, she had suffered “vile abuse.” Edwards and Cromwell wrote to her: “That’s a real shame, sorry to hear that. But how would you describe calling someone ‘the most massive turd’? Vile abuse?”

Moore replied that no, she would not, adding, “I would advise you to stop being so bloody patronizing.” Her former Guardian colleague James Ball wrote, “It’s difficult to imagine what Ecuador’s London embassy smells like more than five and a half years after Julian Assange moved in.”

Such slow-witted viciousness appeared in a newspaper described by its editor, Katharine Viner, as “thoughtful and progressive.” What is the root of this vindictiveness?  Is it jealousy, a perverse recognition that Assange has achieved more journalistic firsts than his snipers can claim in a lifetime? Is it that he refuses to be “one of us” and shames those who have long sold out the independence of journalism?

Journalism students should study this to understand that the source of “fake news” is not only 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, and colludes with it. The amorality of the years of Tony Blair, whom The Guardian has failed to rehabilitate, is its echo.

“[It is] an age in which people yearn for new ideas and fresh alternatives,” wrote Katharine Viner. Her political writer Jonathan Freedland dismissed the yearning of young people who supported the modest policies of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as “a form of narcissism.”

“How did this man ….,” brayed the Guardian‘s Zoe Williams, “get on the ballot in the first place?”  A choir of the paper’s precocious windbags joined in, thereafter queuing to fall on their blunt swords when Corbyn came close to winning the 2017 general election in spite of the media.

Complex stories are reported to a cult-like formula of bias, hearsay and omission: Brexit, Venezuela, Russia, Syria. On Syria, only the investigations of a group of independent journalists have countered this, revealing the network of Anglo-American backing of jihadists in Syria, including those related to ISIS.

 

Supported by a “psyops” campaign funded by the British Foreign Office and the U.S. Agency for International Development, the aim is to hoodwink the Western public and speed the overthrow of the government in Damascus, regardless of the medieval alternative and the risk of war with Russia.

The Syria Campaign, set up by a New York PR agency called Purpose, funds a group known as the White Helmets, who claim falsely to be “Syria Civil Defense” and are seen uncritically on TV news and social media, apparently rescuing the victims of bombing, which they film and edit themselves, though viewers are unlikely to be told this. George Clooney is a fan.

The White Helmets are appendages to the jihadists with whom they share addresses. Their media-smart uniforms and equipment are supplied by their Western paymasters. That their exploits are not questioned by major news organizations is an indication of how deep the influence of state-backed PR now runs in the media. As Robert Fisk noted recently, no “mainstream” reporter reports Syria.

In what is known as a hatchet job, a Guardian reporter based in San Francisco, Olivia Solon, who has never visited Syria, was allowed to smear the substantiated investigative work of journalists Vanessa Beeley and Eva Bartlett on the White Helmets as “propagated online by a network of anti-imperialist activists, conspiracy theorists and trolls with the support of the Russian government.”

This abuse was published without permitting a single correction, let alone a right-of-reply. The Guardian Comment page was blocked, as Edwards and Cromwell document.  I saw the list of questions Solon sent to Beeley, which reads like a McCarthyite charge sheet — “Have you ever been invited to North Korea?”

So much of the mainstream has descended to this level. Subjectivism is all; slogans and outrage are proof enough. What matters is the “perception.”

When he was U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus declared what he called “a war of perception… conducted continuously using the news media.” What really mattered was not the facts but the way the story played in the United States. The undeclared enemy was, as always, an informed and critical public at home.

Nothing has changed. In the 1970s, I met Leni Riefenstahl, Hitler’s film-maker, whose propaganda mesmerized the German public.

She told me the “messages” of her films were dependent not on “orders from above”, but on the “submissive void” of an uninformed public.

“Did that include the liberal, educated bourgeoisie?” I asked.

“Everyone,” she said. “Propaganda always wins, if you allow it.”

Propaganda Blitz by David Edwards and David Cromwell is published by Pluto Press.

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Norway Officials Admit They Knew Nothing About Libya But Joined Regime Change Efforts Anyway

Norway Officials Admit They Knew Nothing About Libya But Joined Regime Change Efforts Anyway From Zerohedge, 20 September 2018

A new official report produced by the Norwegian government illustrates the continuing absurdity of NATO expansion and foreign adventurism in places very far away from the “North Atlantic” explicit in the name North Atlantic Treaty Organization — places like Afghanistan, Libya, Ukraine or Syria.

Top Norwegian officials have now admitted they “had very limited knowledge” of events unfolding in Libya during 2010 and 2011, prior to NATO’s military intervention on behalf of anti-Gaddafi rebels — a war that resulted in regime change and a failed state ruled by competing governments and extremist militias to this day. Norway enthusiastically joined the US, UK, and French led bombing of the country initiated in March 2011 even knowing full well its military knew next to nothing of what was unfolding on the ground.

But what did decision-makers have to go on? Consider this absurd admission from the official report“In such situations, decision-makers often rely on information from media and other countries,” the report reads.

Battle for Sirte, Libya after it was bombed by NATO jets. Via EPA

The commission that produced the report was chaired by former Foreign Minister Jan Petersen, and ultimately concluded that politicians in Oslo dragged the nation into the US-led bombing campaign with no regard for what could come next.

The commission report states that there were “no written sources” that so much as attempted to assess the nature of the conflict Norway was about to join. The officials failed to “assess the type of conflict Norway was taking part in” it finds.

NATO’s name for the operation was the US code name ‘Operation Odyssey Dawn,’ and Norway flew 596 strike missions during the first five months of the NATO intervention, dropping 588 bombs on Libyan targets, according to the report. Norway had provided six F-16 fighter jets and its pilots were reported to have conducted 10 percent of all coalition strikes against pro-Gaddafi forces.

 

Norway’s former Center Party leader Liv Signe Navarsete said of the final report: “When you look at what happened next, with Libya becoming a hotspot of terrorism, this is not a decision to be proud of.”

The war had been sold to the European public on “humanitarian” grounds and included sensational atrocity stories, many which were later proven false, painting Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi as an irrational homicidal maniac.

One notable story explicitly promoted by the State Department as well as US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice was the Viagra-fueled mass rape story, which claimed that Gaddafi had supposedly supplied his troops with Viagra in order to unleash sexual terrorism on the civilian population. Amnesty International and other human rights investigators later the proved the story completely false.

Some Norwegian politicians now claim the country was hoodwinked into another US-led regime change operation similar to the toppling of Saddam Hussein in 2003. However, considering European leaders had the glaringly obvious example of Iraq and the lies it was built on so recent in history, this appears yet more excuse making designed to evade public responsibility.

Libya has long been forgotten in Western mainstream media, but has come back into headlines as a small civil war has lately erupted within areas under control of the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli. Since Gaddafi’s overthrow the country has been fought over by three (and at times up to four) competing governments while the streets are ruled by Islamist militias, including in some areas ISIS terrorists.

According to a CNN report last year, open air slave markets have since come into existence as Libya remains largely lawless and as a once stable national infrastructure and economy has crumbled.

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Serena, that cartoon, and the truth about bigotry

Serena, that cartoon, and the truth about bigotryBy Brendan O’Neill, Spikes Online, 15 September 2018

Very often today bigotry comes in the guise of anti-bigotry. In their rage against the bigotry of the millions of voters who were allegedly hoodwinked by demagogues into voting for Brexit, Remainers reveal their own bigoted attitude towards what they clearly view as a dim electorate. In their efforts to shout down the ‘bigots’ who criticise their ideology, trans activists expose their own bigoted intolerance of dissenting opinion. (Bigotry, after all, literally means ‘intolerance to those who hold different opinions from oneself’.) And in their promiscuous branding as bigots any Christian or older person who thinks marriage should be between a man and a woman, supposedly sophisticated urban elites provide a glimpse into their own bigoted disdain for traditionalist sections of society.

And so it has been with the controversy over that Australian cartoon of Serena Williams flipping out at the US Open. I hope it isn’t racist to accuse Serena of flipping out. It probably is. Judging from the commentary of the past week, any criticism of this great sportsperson is racist, and probably misogynistic too. So no sooner had Mark Knight’s Herald Sun cartoon showing Serena jumping on her racket rolled off the printing presses than he and the whole of Australia were being labelled ‘bigoted’. There it was again: the expression of bigotry – in this case against the sun-burned, convict-descended ignoramuses of Australia – under the cover of anti-bigotry.

Serena’s legion defenders, including the entire ‘social justice’ machine, which has bizarrely turned her into a Christ-like figure suffering the slings and arrows of the ignorant public’s backward attitudes, spoke a great deal about the ‘racist tropes’ in Knight’s cartoon. But the only caricaturing tropes on display in this controversy concerned Australia and its inhabitants. This cartoon exposes ‘Australia’s ignorance on race’, judged one commentator. This country clearly lacks ‘racial literacy’, she said. The cartoon spoke not only to one man’s alleged bigotry, but to a sickness across all of ‘white Australia’. A writer for CNN said the cartoon shows Australia is a ‘racist country’. White Australians suffer from ‘blindness to privilege’, apparently, ‘without realising [that they are] doing so’. Forgive them, they know not what they do, these infants of the global order. The cartoon springs from ‘Australia’s ugliness’, said one editor.

The irony here is striking: the very people who rushed to accuse Knight of caricaturing black people thought nothing of caricaturing an entire nation and its people (its white people, at least). Knight merely accentuated the characteristics of one woman, and, as he and his newspaper illustrated in depth, he always accentuates people’s characteristics. It was his critics who engaged in national and racial caricaturing. They extrapolated from his cartoon in order to brand an entire nation as a hotbed of ignorance, and one particular group of people – white Australians – as racially illiterate. It is a stretch to see bigotry in Knight’s cartoon, but much of the reaction to it unquestionably smacks of anti-Australian bigotry.

Hating or mocking Australians is all the rage in certain circles in the Anglosphere. Especially in Britain, where looking down on Down Under has been acceptable and even fashionable for a great many years. Very often, the things that Britain’s cosmopolitan pseudo-liberals feel they can no longer say about the less well-educated sections of their own society – that they are vulgar and ignorant – they say about Australians instead. In these PC times, when you can’t just go about calling working-class Britons savages, sneering at Australia sometimes becomes a substitute for that old elitist disgust for the lower orders. Anti-Australian bigotry is the methadone to yesteryear’s smack of insulting Britain’s own proletariat.

It helps, of course, that some Australians are descended from British convicts: our worst people cast out to procreate in a strange land, as many elitists in the UK have seen it. These days, Australia is typically fretted over for its ‘crimes’ against correct-think as defined by the new cultural elites. It is slammed for its lingering masculinity; its climate of anti-political correctness; its stubborn and huge coal industry when the rest of us are going renewable; its whiteness. ‘The ugly face of Oz’, was the title of an essay in the Guardian a few years back. It charged Aussies with being sexist and racist. Australian men are the ‘most unreconstructed’ in the world apparently. There is also a cult of ‘extreme anti-science’ and a disease of ‘unwitting racism’ Down Under, British observers inform us. You’re stupid and prejudiced – that’s always the message.

In some ways this anti-Australian bigotry echoes the outlook of older Western elites who viewed that faraway land as teeming with vulgar men and Ned Kelly-type psychopaths – hence the continued critique of Australian masculinity. But there are new prejudices too. Australia’s greatest offence today is to dare to hold out against certain PC orthodoxies. Climate-change scepticism is strong there; many Australians are uncomfortable with speech-policing; there is a pronounced critique of mass immigration. These are thoughtcrimes in the eyes of the new elites. The speed with which Knight’s cartoon generated rebukes of all of Australia, of its ugliness and blindness, is testament to the position it already held as ‘problematic nation’ in the PC worldview.

The Serena cartoon controversy is important because it confirms that in our identitarian era, anti-racism is less about fighting for genuine autonomy and equality for all people than it is about demonstrating your own ‘racial literacy’ in contrast with those lesser people who lack such literacy. Anti-racism has become a moral pose, an expression of superiority, a means of showing that, unlike the vulgar and uneducated, you are ‘aware’. You understand the pain of black people and the privilege of your own white history. This is why criticism of the Serena cartoon so quickly morphed into expressions of bigotry against Australians and white people: because it is now largely through the issue of race, and of racial etiquette, that the new elites express their moral elevation over other people and even, in a neocolonial manner, over entire nations: racist Hungary, racist America, racist Australia. Again with the irony: it used to be racism that allowed the elites to demonstrate how much better they were than inferior peoples; now ‘anti-racism’ plays a similar role.

Brendan O’Neill is editor of spiked

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About Peter Senior

I'm a very experienced and pragmatic management consultant. I've reviewed and led the restructuring of many organisations - large and small corporations and Government Departments, much of the time as President of the New Zealand Institute of Management Consultants. Before that I was General Manager of a major NZ newspaper; earlier, an analyst for IBM UK. I gained an honours degree in engineering at London University, and studied management at Cambridge University. This wide range of experience has left me frustrated: I continue to see too many examples of really bad management. Sometimes small easily fixed issues; sometimes fundamental faults; and sometimes really tricky problems. Mostly these issues can be fixed using a mixture of common sense, 'management 101' and applying lessons from years of management experience. Unfortunately, all too often, politics, bureaucracy and daft government regulations get in the way; internal factors such as poor culture and out-of-date strategies are often evident. So what's gone wrong, and why, and most importantly, how to fix 'it'? I hope there are like-minded people 'out there' who will share their thoughts enabling 'us' to improve some significant management failures that affect the general public. If you just accept bad management, you don't have the right to complain! If you'd like to share thoughts on any aspects of management, send me an email to petersenior42@gmail.com . My latest project has the interim title 'You’ve been conned. Much of what you were taught and read is largely irrelevant, misleading or plain wrong – this is the REAL story of life: past, present and our possible future.' The working paper so far comprises 105 pages, many listing references and interim conclusions. The main problem is finding sufficient credible evidence, and realising the more Iearn, the more I realise I don't know!
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