Saturday, 31 March 2012

Galloway - media slurs, as ever

George Galloway's amazing election victory in Bradford has been predictably trashed by the Westminster clique and its service media.

While talking party heads uttered automated excuses and dismissals - 'lessons learnt', 'must take notice', 'one-off win' etc - much of the liberal media derided Galloway's historic win as 'exploitation' of the Muslim community and an 'opportunist playing of the race card'.

The Guardian's Patrick Wintour was out early with a scurrilously-worded script full of cheap slurs on Galloway's 'Islamic-grounded' victory:
"It appeared that the seat's Muslim immigrant community had decamped from Labour en masse to Galloway's fundamentalist call for an immediate British troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and a fightback against the job crisis."
The piece, replete with racist insinuations, was quickly amended (after being flagged-up on the Media Lens board). Thankfully, the excellent News Sniffer site was alert to the Guardian's cover-up, recording, for useful posterity, the hasty edit.

Meanwhile, the BBC's Nick Robinson could only see:
"An extraordinary result but surely a one-off political coup by a political one-off. George Galloway has proved that he has the charisma, the celebrity and the message to appeal to the young, the disillusioned and the angry particularly in the Muslim community."
Not, of course, an appeal to the rational, the peace-seeking and the wider Bradford community looking for credible alternatives to the austerity-imposing, warmongering parties.

The strong inference across most reportage was that Iraq, Afghanistan and other imperialist wars are now 'only a real issue in places like Bradford'. Nor, on Galloway's supposed 'race card' politics, was there much mention that it was Labour who had put up the Muslim candidate, Imran Hussein.

Later, in a perniciously-loaded interview, Cathy Newman on Channel 4 News tried to browbeat Galloway with grudging, pedantic questions on 'previous notable swings' and 'undue comparisons' with the Arab Spring, an effort, as with previous media hatchet jobs ('Paxman video' here) duly seen-off by Galloway.

All of which reveals the darker nature of such self-esteemed reporters.

In contrast to Galloway's patient demeanour, the immediate instinct of the reporting herd is to move into hostile mocking mode. People like Galloway bring an effervescence, a colour, a charisma that seems both to fascinate and threaten the 'professional journalist'.

The liberal commentariat, in particular, appear intimidated by Galloway's populist politics and anti-war positions, a highly-sensible, rather than 'controversial', set of readings that sit uncomfortably with their own safely media-honed 'correspondence.'

And so, Galloway, misrepresented as ''one of the most divisive figures in Westminster politics", has again become the subject of every tortuous cliche, from the Big Brother 'cat performance' to the 'indefatigability' quote.

On cue, Galloway was also traduced across the media as a 'friend of dictators'. Yet, never do we hear similar discussion of Cameron, Obama and their like being loyal friends of dictators in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and other Middle East regimes, not to mention the special protection reserved for Netanyahu, the region's most murderous villain.

If only our 'vanguard-liberal' media would speak with probing honesty about the real controversial politicians and war criminals in our midst.


Update: some more Guardian smears.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Blackening Assad, whitening Cameron and Obama

David Cameron flies into Washington to discuss the 'three crucial issues' of Afghanistan, Iran and Syria.

We hear pious words about 'getting the job finished', of 'blocking a nuclear threat' and of 'helping to prevent a slaughter'.

The 'special relationship' is dutifully reaffirmed as Dave and Barack eat burgers together at the basketball game, both good fellas' upholding America's and Britain's common 'humanitarian values'.

And, on cue, British state media duly 'report' the script. 

Do Nick Robinson, Mark Mardell and their BBC associates even deserve the basic entitlement 'journalists'? What they say and convey is so routinely, so obediently, pro-establishment, so removed from any semblance of analytical integrity, it might reasonably shame Pravda.

From illegal invasions to proxy coups, here are two countries directly responsible for the worst warmongering catastrophes on the planet, two super-imperialist entities with not the slightest right to claim 'moral intervention'.

But, why might the 'BBC's finest', flying on the PM's plane, drag up such awkward, core realities when there's so many more 'diplomatic' things to say on the 'cool chemistry' between the Camerons and Obamas?

Sometimes, watching the fawning panoply that passes for 'foreign correspondence', the truly sobering thought occurs: how do they actually manage to maintain this staggering deception?

And so it is with the actual 'coverage' of the wider Western war agenda. All 'journalistic' veneer, no critical substance.

On the issue of Syria, the mainstream media is awash with atrocities committed by Assad. All fair reporting of regime-directed killing, one might reasonably say, particularly given the accompanying appeals from Amnesty and Human Rights Watch.

Yet, they, along with the Western mainstream media, have amplified a convenient headline narrative, failing to report the complexities of the conflict, the multi-competing forces, the manoeuvring of favoured regimes like Saudi Arabia and, above all, the West's own pernicious agenda.

Where amongst all the damning columns on the Assad regime is the key story of Nato's dark 'interventionist' intent? As Wikileaks-released emails from the Pentagon-linked Stratfor agency confirm, US/Nato forces have been operating inside Syria all along seeking to destabilise Assad.

Which begs related questions of a media with so much nuanced information at its disposal. Why isn't the conflict reported as an effective civil war? Who is arming the opposition? Who, beyond the Free Syrian Army, are the opposition? Why are the media only citing selective opposition 'sources'? What responsibility does the FSA bear for the killing and casualties? Do the majority of Syrians, even those not supporting Assad, really want regime change?

Fair presentation of those questions would be in the public interest, but it wouldn't suit the Manichean, black-and-white view the West wants promoted.

Also, what's the true reason for vilifying Russia and China? For all their own vested interests, both are still rightly resisting any Security Council mandate that facilitates Western force.

Only rare, yet still marginal, voices within the liberal media like Jonathan Steele are helping to separate fact from stylised fiction.

Meanwhile, the Guardian, in its sanctimonious proselytising for the 'liberal West', is running a series of stories on the leaked Assad emails. If authentic, they cast Assad and his wife in no great light. But why, one wonders, is the Guardian making such a splash about such innocuous details? What kind of tabloid-type message is it sending with stories like The Assads at war: killing and shopping?

Imagine a similar headline on the PM and his wife in Washington: 'The Camerons at war: killing and entertaining'.

Only the Assads and other Western enemies, it seems, are capable of living lavishly, indifferent to their war crimes, while 'our' criminality, in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Palestine and elsewhere is treated as 'intervention' and 'conflict management', the state executives of those high crimes, from Blair to Cameron, deferred to as political celebrities.

All of which - as with the fatuous Kony 2012 production, drawing-in eager Congressmen and celebs - lends itself to a glossed-up, simplified line on 'Western-good-guys-needed-to-oust-bad-guy-despots'.

As Sharmine Narwani asks:
"“Hollywood” in Syria? Oh yes. Scene-setting the likes of which we have not yet seen outside of celluloid fiction. Delivering lines to a rapt audience that seems incapable of questioning the plot. Some of what transpires in Syria in the future will depend on this: Do people want to go behind the velvet curtain and see the strings – or are they content to be simply led by the entertainment." 
But that again would require proper media insight and courage, the depressing vacuousness of which is pressed home in Narwani's scathing letter Dear Western journalist.

Assad's repressions should be fairly reported and condemned, those personal indulgences noted. But his crimes and abuses are minuscule - and calculatingly exaggerated - compared with those committed by the US/UK.

Instead of sycophantic spin on the 'special relationship' and US/UK plans for 'ethical assistance', any serious reporting of Syria, Afghanistan, Iran and other sites of imperialist interest would relate, as standard truth, the reminder that Obama and Cameron are themselves proven warmongers, that their states are responsible for mass crimes against humanity and that the 'moral concerns' they gushingly express from the White House lawn should be treated by the media and public alike as warnings of further subterfuge, war and killing to come.            


The 'lone crazy' in Afghanistan

Emerging reports from Afghanistan are now contesting the official claim that a single 'rogue' US soldier carried out the massacre of over sixteen Afghan civilians in Kandahar.

Whatever evidence does eventually come to light, we can dispense with the easy notion that this and many other such atrocities can be put down to the actions of one errant individual, or that such killings are just 'highly-regrettable' incidents in an otherwise 'difficult-but-necessary' war.

As Seumas Milne so concisely puts it:

"Massacres are common in wars, but they flow from the very nature of foreign occupations. Brutalised soldiers, pumped up with racial and cultural superiority, sent on imperial missions to subdue people they don't understand, take revenge for resistance, real or imagined, with terror and savagery."

As established at Nuremberg, the highest guilt and complicity rests at the senior political and military levels. 

The real 'lone crazy' here is Nato.


Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Bombing Iran - the media's war calendar

On Channel 4 News (March 2), Matt Frei, reporting from Washington, and Jon Snow, back in the studio, exchanged almost jocular words on the likelihood of Israel or/and the US bombing Iran.

The tone was one of  'convivial chat', akin to neighbours speculating across the garden wall on whether or not we'll get a good summer.

This 'will-they-won't-they', wager-type narrative is typical media fare, treating Iran, Iranians, as something distantly abstract, an un-people, the discussion stripped of all immediate consideration for the carnage that may soon be visited on them and their society.

Imagine a similar kind of correspondents' exchange asking whether Iran will opt for a spring or autumn strike on Tel Aviv. 

The same fascinated gaze into the diplomacy game is evident in Jonathan Freedland's latest calendaresque assessment, pondering the 'best political opportunity' for a strike.

Here we get more of the same close dissection on the 'timing issue', set against the evident personal tensions between Obama and Netanyahu. 

And that, in itself, becomes 'the story', the ready 'context' for understanding the 'problem of how to deal with Iran'.

It's a reporting which also indulges David Cameron's facile claim of an impending nuclear threat to the UK.  

All of which diversionary spin helps play-down the actual illegality of any such strike. 

As Chris Hedges asks:
"Where is Israel’s U.N. resolution authorizing it to strike Iran? Why isn’t anyone demanding that Israel seek one? Why does the only discussion in the media and among political elites center around the questions of “Will Israel attack Iran?” “Can it successfully carry out an attack?” “What will happen if there is an attack?” The essential question is left unasked. Does Israel have the right to attack Iran? And here the answer is very, very clear. It does not. "
It's not just the blatant omission of Israel's and America's joint aggressions over Iran, it's the way in which the reader/viewer is drawn into the agenda-setting 'issue' of when and how rather than why and by what right.

To BBC's Jonathan Marcus

A letter to BBC correspondent Jonathan Marcus following the latest Media Lens Alert, Bombing Osirak, Burying Resolution 487, and Marcus's second assessment of the issues in How Iran might respond to Israeli attack.

Dear Jonathan

Allow me to comment on some of your exchanges with Media Lens, followed by some observations on your latest [updated]piece, How Iran might respond to Israeli attack.

You note in regard to the first article:

"Well that I suppose sounds an incisive point but when I am asked by my editors to write a military assessment of Israel's capacities to carry out such a mission, I speak to the air power experts and write the piece."

Might it occur that your own editorial-designated task of assessing Israel's military 'task' is informed by a similar kind of technically-absorbed mindset?

I wonder if you're able to see how the cold task you undertake here, in presenting Israel's capacities and consulting those "air power experts", helps sanitise the murderous task that may about to be undertaken?

You continue:

"Your implication is that the piece is in some sense "war-mongering" which I entirely disagree with - for all I know you may be a battle-scarred recipient of the VC - but I have in the past seen some fighting reasonably close-up. It is not pleasant. But I know what wars are about and - if I may speak personally for a moment - have no enthusiasm for them."

It's encouraging to see BBC journalists say openly what they really feel - the notion of journalistic 'objectivity' really is a false trope, don't you think? Moreover, a person's relative proximity to warfare doesn't necessarily bestow upon them any greater insight in such matters.

Again, I wonder if you're able to see how this kind of clinical assessment, largely detached from the actual human consequences, does, indeed, lend itself to a warmongering narrative?

So much is hidden in terms like "task" and "mission", with their ready connotations of 'challenging assignment' and the military 'doing their job'. Where in your substantive piece is there any serious, sympathetic calculation as to the human cost, the actual loss of life, resulting from such 'tasks'?

You conclude:

"You should be glorying in the fact that we have a BBC and especially the World Service - celebrating its 80th birthday this year), rather than always carping and complaining. But you are of course entitled to your opinion, as I am to provide my informed assessment."

"Glorying" that we have an institutionally state-serving media which, according to respected studies, has taken a leading role in excusing Britain's illegal wars, in consistently misreporting Israel-Palestine and is now playing a vital part in demonising Iran?

It's so very revealing that you describe ML's substantial work in challenging all that as "carping and complaining." Their words are merely "opinions" against your "informed assessments". Might those bald conclusions indicate some of your own institutional conditioning?

I've also just read your latest piece assessing Iran's military capabilities.

While this will likely be cited as evidence of 'balance' and 'redress', it still paints an overall picture of Iran as the 'problem to be contained'. There's nothing here about the menacing threat posed to Iran from the US-Nato/Israeli axis.

Why no mention of the mass proliferation of US bases surrounding Tehran? Why no discussion of the fear Iran harbours of another Iraq? Shouldn't this essential context be substantially noted?

Likewise, where is the central acknowledgement, confirmed by the Western intelligence field, that Iran poses no actual nuclear weapons threat?

The section on international law does go some way to specifying the illegality of any such strike, but why wasn't it made clear in the preceding piece where it mattered just as much, if not more so, to the reader?

Across the two articles, there's no intimation whatsoever of Israel acting as a rogue state bent on imposing its own nuclear domination in the region. Nor, again, is the context of US blame for this situation, vis-à-vis its resilient backing of Israel, mentioned.

Media Lens have just provided a very timely reminder of the international outrage over Israel's illegal bombing of Iraqi nuclear facilities in 1981. I wonder why you didn't mention this in your second piece?

The article's paragraph on civilian casualties is also cursory - "it is hard to determine potential casualty figures" - lacking any serious consideration of the potential human disaster.

Trita Parsi's warnings of an Iranian rush to nuclear weaponry should they be bombed also confirms the obvious. As you put it:

"It all suggests a stark conclusion - even a militarily successful attack from Israel's point of view will only delay Iran's nuclear programme for a few years."

But where in your conclusion is the suggestion that Iran doesn't actually want a nuclear bomb - that, for both strategic and religious reasons - as recently stated by Ayatollah Khamenei - Iran, unlike Israel, rejects the nuclear weapons option? Or are the claims of Iranian leaders automatically viewed as more suspect than their US or Israeli counterparts?

I'd be interested in hearing your further thoughts on these points.

Kind regards
John Hilley