Can this be true?Monbiot's posting was in response to an online article by the multiple aka blogger Bob Shone, alleging "hypocrisy" over the ML Editor's 'reluctance' to criticise the New Statesman (in their occasional pieces for that organ), while, at the same time, taking Monbiot to task for not seriously criticising the Guardian.
If so, I think I have reason to feel aggrieved.
I won't reprise the arguments against Mr Shone. Suffice to say, he has obsessive form for stalking Media Lens. What's more disappointing is George Monbiot's acknowledgement of Shone's "evidence" as a basis for challenging ML.
In response, ML issued an impressive Alert piece, 'Can this be true', comprehensively exposing Shone's fabrications, documenting their own difficult dealings with the NS and Guardian and talking of the systematic issues for journalists working within the corporate media. Implicit in this thoughtful critique was an invite for George Monbiot to answer previous questions put to him about the Guardian's positions on Iraq and climate change, as well as particular statements Monbiot had made about the 'threat' from Iran.
Again, disappointingly, Monbiot could only reply, thus:
I post a one-line question on the Medialens message board and receive an entire Media Alert, just for me, in response. Well I'm deeply honoured. But could it suggest just a tiny morsel of defensiveness on the editors' part?Following ML's admirable Alert, and many other thoughtful board comments, it seemed a surprising abrogation of the issues from such a respected campaigner, prompting my own further response:
Anyway, Happy Christmas and best wishes to you all,
I now count five short messages, mostly one liners, from George Monbiot here, not one of which:
1. Is concerned to address his questionable use of Bob Shone's site and 'evidence'.
2. Has dealt with ML's fine and compassionate Alert.
3. Has answered any of the questions put to him by ML about the Guardian's hypocrisies re the war and climate change.
Instead, George seems to think this kind of dismissal counts as a political point:
"Signing off now to fight a battle with a real enemy (one of the airline companies)."
Let's, for a moment, try to put this board discussion in its proper context. It's not about infighting. It's not about diverting attention from the "real enemy". It's about getting into the open the vital problem of the Guardian and other liberal media outlets which keep real forces for change, notably over war policy and the environment, safely checked and contained.
That's a crucial "battle with a real enemy." And, as a major campaigner and writer for the Guardian, George Monbiot has a significant stake in that issue.
So, let's dispense with this 'let's all move on to the real battle' stuff and recognise the pressing need to have this ongoing debate, the principal aim of which should be critical exposure of the Guardian and how it serves to pacify public opinion and neutralise dissent.
With a million-plus dead in Iraq, and the Guardian's disgusting apologetics for it, that's more pressing, in my opinion, than rushing-off to criticise airline companies.
What's really extraordinary is George Monbiot's apparent unwillingness to see and confront such concerns.
Besides the board responses to this and other facets of the discussion, I received this enquiry from Daniel Simpson:
Hi John (and Davids),In essence, this view is concerned about "being realistic". So, let's address the realities of the Guardian's role as a progressive force for change and the progressive function of those who work within it.
Are you saying George Monbiot ought to make himself unemployable at the Guardian, either by resigning, or by "confront[ing] such concerns" as your desire to see more "critical exposure of the Guardian and how it serves to pacify public opinion and neutralise dissent", perhaps by denouncing its "disgusting apologetics" in print, or proving he can't?
If not, what are you saying?
Isn't the "ongoing debate" for which there's a "pressing need" one about being realistic as well as demanding the impossible?
Either you think it's vital that dissidents inside the system move outside it (and sustain themselves by other means than salaries from corporate media), or you're prepared to acknowledge that there are calculations people have to make, in which case a bit more honesty/realism in the critique might achieve something more than eliciting comments from George Monbiot that dissatisfy you.
I'm copying this to the ML editors because I'd be interested in hearing their thoughts too.
With over one million souls dead in Iraq and Blair et al off the hook, did the Guardian act in any decisive way to help expose this systematic criminality? With the planet in a state of ticking-clock environmental crisis, has the Guardian's harbouring of fossil-fuel offenders and refusal to ban their advertising helped or hindered understanding of the eco-emergency? With all this and other gentlemanly canoodling of the elite in mind, are we seriously "being realistic" any more in believing that we can't do without the influence of 'insider journalists'?
What we have to be truly realistic about is the politics of co-optation which the incorporation of journalists serves.
The ML Editors have given valuable insights in their Alert on just how difficult it is to get a piece critical of the host media past their gateway editors. The constraints are much more obvious for those like Monbiot, directly employed by such media. Which, however much we see their presence there as relatively useful, still negates their ability, or willingness, to tackle the substantive problem of their media employers.
We can argue the pros and cons of whether journalists should actually resign their positions. I see this not as impossible, but improbable. What Monbiot and others do is a matter for their own consciences. But, given the critical role of the Guardian in subverting true discussion and action over the war and climate change, I think it's an option that should be given realistic consideration.
Consider, for instance, the effect of Monbiot resigning in principle over the Guardian's climate posturing. It would have two important effects. Firstly, it would alert much of the Guardian's own safe liberal readership to the truth of their paper's hypocrisy, thereby undermining an organ which acts as a key sop to the establishment. Secondly, it would encourage people towards an alternative media and information free from corporate manipulation.
The counter-argument is, again, obvious: better having good people in the tent than outside it. Yet, the prospects for serious change coming from within are rarely given realistic appraisal by such journalists. Why? The reasons are varied, ranging from career factors to delusional belief in their own capacities. Generally, they rationalise it as just being "realistic." What they rarely seek to be realistic about is the way in which the Guardian and its peers are the problem.
Better, I think, that we deal with that reality - and how it legitimises the 'reality' of war and eco-catastrophe - rather than the token space people like Monbiot are given to say their 'radical' bit. If we want to be "realistic" about challenging the system that lives by war, environmental abuse and other corporate destruction, we better start tackling, in new and realistic ways, the media that gives it all a protective gloss.