Monday, 30 January 2012

Letter to Heather Brooke (author of The Revolution Will Be Digitised) regarding the importance of professional journalism

Dear Heather,


Someone was kind enough to buy me 'The Revolution Will Be Digitised' for Christmas. Your comments about the importance of professional journalism in democratic societies remind me of the following Dalai Lama quote:

"When I talk to people of various professional backgrounds, particularly from the West, they seem to have a tremendous amount of attachment to their own profession. One could say that many people have an enormous personal investment in their profession, they identify with it, so much so that they feel as if their profession is so vital for the world's well-being that if it were to degenerate the whole world would suffer. This suggests to me that their level of attachment is inappropriate"(HH Dalai Lama, 'Transforming the Mind', 2000: 64-65).

You write:

"A statement isn't a fact. Even when the person making the statement is an authority he or she still needs to provide evidence or proof that what they say is the truth and a professional journalist should be asking for this proof and supplying it for public scrutiny"('The Revolution Will Be Digitised', 2011: 72).

I agree but sadly, as the media scholar Robert McChesney explains, this rarely happens because

"Journalists who question agreed-upon assumptions by the political elite stigmatize themselves as unprofessional and political. Most major U.S. wars over the past century have been sold to the public on dubious claims if not outright lies, yet professional journalism has failed to warn the public" (Robert McChesney, 'The Problems of the Media', 2004: 74).

You add:

"All this accumulating of statements, data and information which then has to be verified takes time. But this is the only thing a journalist does that marks him out as professional. It's the only reason anyone would choose a well-known newspaper's website over an unknown blog. The newspaper as a brand has built up, over time, a reputation for challenging the powerful and giving people meaningful, true information.

"The press is not like any other business and what it sells shouldn't just be rehashed press releases or celebrity gossip, but the civic information necessary for people to understand their society and participate in it. It is a check on political and financial power, or at least it should be"('The Revolution Will Be Digitised', 2011: 73).

In reality, the press is exactly like every other business because it's raison d’ĂȘtre is not to inform the public, but to make a profit. In their excellent book 'Guardians of Power' (2006) David Cromwell and David Edwards ask:

"Can a corporate media system be expected to tell the truth about a world dominated by corporations? Can newspapers, including the "liberal" Guardian and New York Times tell the truth about catastrophic climate change - about its roots in mass consumerism and corporate obstructionism - when they are themselves profit-orientated businesses dependent on advertisers for more than half of their revenue?"

Why did you choose not to explore these questions?

I look forward to your reply.

Tony
http://heatherbrooke.org/2011/article-journalisms-unique-selling-point-is-the-public-interest/comment-page-1/#comment-15740

Friday, 30 December 2011

Similarities between the funeral of Kim Jung Il and the funeral of Princess Diana: Exchange with ITN's Angus Walker

Dear Angus,

You keep using the words "powerful propaganda" to describe the recent scenes in North Korea. In contrast, ITV News always describes the royal wedding and other ostentatious displays of power and wealth that British people have to endure as "magnificent".

Please can you explain the reason for this anomaly?

I look forward to your reply.

Best wishes,
Tony Shenton.
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Dear Tony


I raised similar points with a News Editor on Wednesday. After all perhaps there are parallels to be drawn between any grand scale state event in any country. Could we not see some similarities between the funeral of Kim Jung Il and the funeral of Princess Diana?

The words I used '..powerful propaganda..', actually I only used those words together once in five days of reporting on the death of Kim Jung Il, were chosen deliberately as was the rest of my script.

The reason I used the word propaganda is because propaganda is the use of images or words to promote a particular political cause often deliberately excluding facts or images which may undermine that political movement. In this case, the new leader is untried, untested and under thirty. He has had little time to prepare for power and has been chosen not by free choice in a secret ballot but by interests of the elite of a country and because of his birth. That was not mentioned by State TV at all.

The reason I used the word powerful was because there were roughly 1 million people on parade in the central square of Pyongyang, that's a powerful image and one calculated to provide the instant visual message that the armed forces back the new young leader. I have stood in that square and watched a parade to celebrate 65 years of the Worker's party of the DPRK in October 2010, it is huge and it is impressive when it is full of soldiers and when the ranks march past it is powerful. I was using the word powerful in the same way I would use impressive but it was powerful because the square was packed with soldiers; who in North Korea provide the power behind the throne. The Military backs the political leaders.

Note that Kim Jung Il's coffin was draped with the flag of the Worker's Party of the DPRK. The national symbol on the flag is a hammer, a hoe and a pen. The pen is there because Kim and his father before him knew the power of the pen. Especially when the strength of the leadership relies on a people accepting their leadership not because of their abilities but because of their intent to rule. Therefore all images in North Korea are designed to promote the leaders of the country. Every billboard, every newspaper, every TV news bulletin contains images of Kim Jung Il, his father and now that use of of the media will promote his son. There is no alternative, no free press, no internet, no free art culture or satire.

There was no independent commentary on the funeral, as there would be during any state funeral or event in the UK. No way of questioning the media, unless you wanted to risk arrest, as there is in the UK. No way of ignoring the peer pressure to mourn, you might be denounced to the state if you don't appear sad enough. No way of simply switching off and choosing to ignore the event as there would be in the UK. These reasons draw definite differences between the events in Pyongyang and state events in the UK.

So yesterday I was reflecting the Party's use of the image to promote its cause at the exclusion of all other messages and media. That surely must be the definition of propaganda.

Yours Sincerely,
Angus Walker
ITV News China Correspondent
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Dear Angus,

Thanks for taking the time to reply, I really appreciate it.


Yes, I think we can see striking similarities between the funeral of Kim Jung I1 and the funeral of Princess Diana. Why did you choose not to make this important point in your reports? What did the News Editor say?

Meaning is relational and the following binary oppositions can be found in your reports:

1. We are rational - they are fanatical.

2. We have pomp and circumstance - they have powerful propaganda.

3. Our soldiers are heroes - their soldiers are brainwashed.

4. Our leader is a benevolent statesman - their leader is an evil dictator.

5. We have a free press - they have censorship.

You say: "There was no independent commentary on the funeral, as there would be during any state funeral or event in the UK".

In reality, as David Cromwell and David Edwards point out: "These "national and state occasions" are, of course, unashamedly patriotic events - journalists commenting on them must be willing to set aside criticism and scepticism in respectful deference to custom, royalty and national pride" ('Media Alert: The Mythology of Mistakes', 05/10/04).

For example, Tom Bradby and Julie Etchingham et al did not express any outrage about the fact that anti-monarchy protesters were banned from the recent royal wedding by police. On the contrary, their coverage remained completely obsequious. Why?

I hope you can find the time to reply.

Best wishes,
Tony.
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Dear Tony


Thanks for your reply.

I think that News reports are subjective and there will be millions of individual interpretations of a news bulletin depending on the individual personal life experience and views.

For example, often any report we do on Israelis/Palestinians will result on complaints, as long as those complaints are roughly fifty percent saying we are showing bias to the Israelis and half suggesting we are showing bias to the Palestinians then we are probably doing our job.

Our job as broadcasters is to cover events with due impartiality.

There was no need to draw comparisons with any other state event. My report was not intending to do that. I was focussing, reflecting and reporting on events in Pyongyang. It was clearly a grand scale state event, that was obvious and in my view didn't need saying.

In my discussion with the News Editor we both agreed direct, note direct, comparisons with the funeral of Diana cannot be made as North Korea and the UK are very different states plus Diana was not the leader of the country. She had no power in the state structure. You could say that broadly speaking all state funerals are the same to some extent however I was not setting out to do a broad feature on state funerals. I had a more focussed task in hand.

Perhaps a broader feature on state funerals might be an idea you may suggest to my news editors.

The focus for me in the report yesterday was to reflect what message this State was trying to convey given that it banned all foreign and independent reporters. We are left trying to decipher what the choreography of large scale parades in North Korea actually mean because the state uses them as its way of sending signals to the rest of the world as well as to its own people. Many of whom would not have heard of Kim Jung Un before the end of last year. Again this was propaganda in the true sense of the word.

Lets go through the points you make:

1. We are rational - they are fanatical. - not something I said, this is your personal interpretation.

2. We have pomp and circumstance - they have powerful propaganda. True, in that we have alternative media outlets.

3. Our soldiers are heroes - their soldiers are brainwashed. Didn't say that or draw that comparison. I would never say that as it's not accurate. Again this is your interpretation which you are entitled to.

4. Our leader is a benevolent statesman - their leader is an evil dictator. Again didn't say that, nor would I. didn't use the word evil and never would. This is your interpretation.

5. We have a free press - they have censorship. True.

Bear in mind the only pictures we had access to was from State TV. Reporting was restricted to the showcase capital where only the party faithful are permitted to live and enjoy benefits that millions of other North Koreans are denied because of a failed economy. See World Food Programme reports for more details on the three and a half million facing food shortages and the thousands of children suffering advanced malnutrition. See Amnesty International for details on an estimated 300,000 in prison camps.

Kind Regards,
Angus Walker
ITV News China Correspondent
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Thanks again Angus,


The example you give is a prime example of the fallacy known as argumentum ad temperantiam. If you reported that 2+2=6 would it mean that you must be doing your job if you received 50 complaints stating that 2+2=5 and 50 from people stating that 2+2=4?

I agree that you should cover important events such as the conflict in the Middle East with due impartially. Unfortunately, this never happens - as Greg Philo et al have unequivocally revealed in their scholarly book, Bad News From Israel. Your coverage of the attacks on Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya also fails to adhere to your stated commitment to balance and impartiality. You simply take for granted that our leaders are sincerely trying to achieve their proclaimed noble goals.

Concomitantly, the reasons you give for choosing not to draw a comparison are rather weak. As I explained in my previous email, British media outlets are amazingly obsequious when covering state occasions. Surely you can acknowledge that this has a powerful impact on public opinion.

Best wishes,
Tony

Monday, 19 December 2011

Should Bush and Blair be brought to justice? An exchange with the Guardian’s Deborah Orr – “one of Britain's leading social and political commentators"

According to Deborah Orr, Bush and Blair lied when they told us that they had to bomb Iraq because Saddam had WMD and posed an imminent threat. She claims Blair's real (though unstated) motivation was to bring peace and democracy to the Middle East. In reality, he made it clear that Saddam could remain in power if he disarmed: "I detest his regime. But even now he can save it by complying with the UN's demand. Even now, we are prepared to go the extra step to achieve disarmament peacefully". He also made it clear that he had no desire to remove his brutal friends from power in Saudi Arabia:

Time magazine: Your wife chaired a press conference about the bad treatment of women in Afghanistan. What about Saudi Arabia? Do you approve of the way women are treated there?

Blair: I'm not going to get into the business of attacking the Saudi system.

Time magazine: But you do attack the Afghan system.

Blair: Yes, but we are in conflict with the Taliban regime. At the present time I don't think it is very helpful to tell the Saudis how they should live (10 December 2001).

'Our' leaders will continue to remain taciturn about the Saudi leaders' brutally as long as they remain subservient to the economic interests of Western elites. However, for the sake of argument, let's assume that Orr is correct. Why does she believe that Blair and Bush had the right to keep their real motivations for war secret from us?

Dear Deborah Orr,

I've included your views in my latest article. Hope you find it interesting:
http://orwellsmemoryhole-tony.blogspot.com/2011_12_01_archive.html

Best wishes,
Tony
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Nice piece. Though I can't forbear from pointing out that my own point was that Blair believed his own lies about himself, and still does.
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Thanks, Deborah. Do you think your piece would have been published without that caveat? It seems that only fig leafs like Pilger are willing to say that Bush and Blair invaded Iraq and Afghanistan for rapacious reasons.
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Blair and Bush, especially Blair, don't recognise their own reasons as rapacious. They think that what is good for them is good for everyone. That's why they felt that they could run countries in the first place, and also why accusations of rapaciousness are so easily withstood by them. They dismiss them because their own mistaken belief is that they are NOT acting out of self-interest, egged on by others with self-interest guiding them too. The fact that, lo and behold, it does benefit their military-industrial complex is to them just proof that they are right, and that good things come to good people. Their delusion is self-affirming. The Indie ran a number of "it's all about oil" pieces. If I'd wanted to argue that Blair himself knew it was all about oil and was lying about his messianic mission to spread "liberal democracy", they'd have let me. But it's not what I think, so I didn't want to write it.
---------------------------------------
So just to be clear, you believe that Blair attacked Iraq because he wanted to bring peace and democracy to the Middle East? Is there any evidence to support this position?
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Yes. His self-righteous inanity and insanity.
---------------------------------------------
You wouldn't be regularly writing for the mainstream media if you believed otherwise. That's the main point of my piece really.

Despite the lack of evidence, you present your controversial opinion as fact. Let's remind ourselves of the facts. Blair explicitly stated that Britain had to invade Iraq because Saddam had WMD and hence posed an imminent threat to our survival. When you claim the real reason Blair attacked Iraq was to spread peace and democracy, you are admitting that he lied to Parliament and the British public. Democracy promotion only became the main justification when the initial pretext for war collapsed. Do you think Blair should be punished for his mendacity?

In contrast to Jonathan Steele, you state that for Bush oil was "clearly a strong motivating factor". However, the threat Saddam posed was the sole reason given by Bush in his march to war. Oil was certainty not mentioned. You do not draw attention to this fact - you just go to the next paragraph. Why did you not call for Bush to be punished commensurately in some way?
I look forward to your measured reply.
Tony
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Oh, I suppose it's because I'm a craven puppet of the establishment, while you're a fearless truth and justice seeker. Eh?
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That's not my argument, Deborah. That's a red herring. Could you please answer my question: Do you think Bush and Blair should be punished for lying about why they invaded Iraq?
Best wishes,
Tony.
---------------------------------------------
No.
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It is now clear the lies Bush and Blair told to justify war caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people and yet you still don't believe they should be brought to justice. That's astonishing.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Do market pressures make the British media less propagandistic than the American Media?

"The only reliable, durable, and perpetual guarantee of independence is profit” – James Murdoch

In their scholarly book, 'Pockets of Resistance' (2010: 129), Piers Robinson et al assert:

"First, as a nationally-based press drawing readers from across the social spectrum, the British press is highly competitive in economic terms. This creates economic pressures for titles to differentiate themselves from one another. As we have seen, rival newspapers operating in the same segment of the market approached the [Iraq] war very differently (the Sun and the Mirror in the red-top market; The Times and the Telegraph as against the Guardian and the Independent in the broadsheet market). In markets elsewhere in the word that contain little direct competition, there is much less rivalry between newspapers and, consequently, much less pressure for them to differentiate themselves from one another".

Anthony Dimaggio makes the same point:

"Outside of tabloid and financial papers, London retains three major print newspapers: the Daily Telegraph, Times, and Independent (with major distribution of a fourth paper, the Guardian of Manchester), whereas New York only has one: The New York Times. The existence of four times as many major print newspapers may provide more space for a diversity of views" (Dimaggio, ‘When Media Goes to War’ (2009): 53) Thus, "Focusing on the question of withdrawal, I postulate that the British press is relatively less propagandistic than the American press in its reporting"(ibid. 31).

In reality, economic imperatives ensure that British and American media report imperial wars, including the attack on Iraq, from within an ideological framework. What Robinson et al perceive as "diversity of coverage" is merely surface appearance that conceals a standardised narrative. Thus they are wrong to claim: "We have found that British news media representation of the 2003 invasion of Iraq was not uniformly consistent with (Herman and Chomsky's propaganda) model" ( Robinson et al, ‘Pockets of Resistance’ (2010): 130).

The concept of ideology is difficult to define succinctly, but the sociologist Michael Billig ('Talking of the Royal Family' (1992): 13) identifies two of its most important features:

"First, ideology refers to what passes for common-sense within a particular society. Often, ideology refers to those assumptions which are so taken-for-granted that they are not even considered to be worthy of attention. Second, ideology is seen to have a particular social function. It refers to beliefs which confirm the powerful in their position of power and which settle down the powerless into their respective positions of powerlessness. Thus, ideology denotes ways of talking and thinking which render ordinary people unrebellious..."

One assumption the media present to the public as indubitable is the claim that Western leaders are committed to bringing democracy and peace to the Middle East. There were vociferous disputes about whether George Bush and Tony Blair could achieve their proclaimed noble goals, but there was little dispute about whether their proclaimed goals were their real goals. As David Miller puts it, one is free to accuse them of being "foolish or misguided...but to advance the proposition that they are calculating liars in full consciousness of the outcomes of their policies is beyond the pale. Thus discussions of propaganda strategy and deliberate deception remain rare" (Miller (ed), 'Tell Me Lies' (2004): 1). Indeed they do, even in the 'anti-war' press. When Blair announced that Bombs would soon be raining down on the Iraqi people, the editors of the Independent and Mirror felt the need to express their admiration:

"Even those who most disagree with war on Iraq have to salute the leadership qualities of the man who is about to commit British forces to it"(‘Whatever the anxieties over this conflict, Mr Blair has shown himself to be a leader for troubled times’, the Independent, March 19, 2003).

"Even though the Mirror disagrees strongly with Tony Blair over his determination to wage war on Iraq, we do not question his belief in the rightness of what he is doing"(‘We're sold short on scruples’, the Mirror, March 19, 2003).

Eminent figures such as Alan Greenspan - the former Chairman of the US Federal Reserve - now acknowledge that "the Iraq war is largely about oil" (Greenspan, 'The Age of Turbulence' (2007): 463). However, despite all of the available evidence, the mainstream media rarely mention this, let alone present it to the public as axiomatic. The Guardian's Deborah Orr and Jonathan Steele are just two of the many journalists who continue promote the lie that thousands of innocent people have died for noble reasons:

“For Blair, the motivation was much more gobsmacking. He really believed he had the moral power and endless resources to make the world a better, more Blair-like place” (Deborah Orr, ‘Manningham-Buller was right about the Iraq war’, the Guardian, July 22, 2010).

“(The neocons') hopes of making Iraq a democratic model for the Middle East have been tipped on their head." (Jonathan Steele, ‘'The Iraq War is finally over. And it marks a complete neocon defeat', the Guardian, October 23, 2011).

"Why”, asks Noam Chomsky (‘Radical Priorities’ (2004): 69), “such efforts to conceal the real history with fables about the awesome nobility of our (leaders’) intentions, flawed only by blunders arising from (their) naivete and simpleminded goodness? I think there is a good reason why the propaganda system works that way. It recognizes that the public will not support the actual policies”

Robinson et al ignore this crucial point. They choose instead to praise the British media for reporting the war in ways that render ordinary people unrebellious.

Some critics of the propaganda model argue that "it does tend to see the world as a sort of top-down conspiracy theory at the expense of journalistic practices as they operate on the ground" (Philip M. Taylor, 'Munitions of the Mind' (2003): 322-323). Those who believe this completely misunderstand Herman and Chomsky's analysis. Under capitalism ideology is not surreptitiously manufactured by editors and journalists in smoke-filled rooms. Media corporations are no different from other corporations. Their raison d’ĂȘtre is to make a profit and what we watch on television and read in newspapers about Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Iran, climate change and the economy etc. is primarily determined by market forces.

To elaborate, capitalism's survival depends on the continuation of wants. We will only buy more if we want more and media corporations have evolved not to inform the public, but to sell the public to advertisers – their primary source of income. What is advertising? "Advertising", explains Stephen Leacock, "maybe described as the science of arresting human intelligence long enough to get money from it" (Cited in Kathleen Taylor, 'Brainwashing: The Science of Thought Control' (2004): 50). Advertisers promise us that buying their product will enrich our lives. When we are provided with information about the world that challenges our intellects, the less susceptible we are to their powers of persuasion.

Thus, we are fed fables about our white knights spreading democracy and fighting terrorism. The liberal media (in order to attract a more affluent audience) employ a less jingoistic and more ‘professional’ tone. However, the ideological parameters are set by the ‘primary definers’ (e.g. military spokespeople and government officials) who provide a constant flow of news at low cost; fact-checking can be expensive and time consuming, but information provided by elites is considered veracious and newsworthy because of the source.

Herman and Chomsky use the term 'Flak' to describe how elites police the parameters of respectable debate. Lawsuits and strident letters are just two of the measures that are used to discipline outlets that shine a bright light on the rapacious activities of big business and the state. British journalists are not "subject to the rigid socialization of American journalism schools, which require to conforming to journalistic norms of "objective" reporting"(Dimaggio, ‘When Media Goes to War’ (2009): 53-54). Most are, however, already under the illusions of ideology long before they enter newsrooms and, like the prisoners in Foucault's 'Panopticon', they use self-surveillance to avoid ‘flak’.

In conclusion, the 'free market' ensures that that media are not merely the puppet of dominant elites. It serves their interests by creating an ideological prism within which all further coverage and debate takes place. The argument that debate is more lively in Britain seems to be correct, but it does not follow that the British media is less propagandistic the American press. Thus, the propaganda model remains completely intact.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

I am an idiot, but not a complete idiot

I'm at the library reading The Complete Idiot's Guide to Understanding Iraq (2004) by Joseph Tragert. The author of the foreword, W. Thomas Smith Jr., asserts:

"Whether a high school or college student, a member of the armed forces, a Ph.D. historian searching for elusive facts and figures, a print or broadcast reporter, or anyone else interested in broadening their knowledge of the Middle East, Tragert's The complete Idiot's Guide to Understanding Iraq, Second Edition, will no doubt become the reference of choice".

By the time you get to page four, however, you realise that this book should not be your reference of choice if you want to understand why Iraq was invaded. According to Tragert, "Once George W. Bush took office in 2000, his administration became increasingly preoccupied with Iraq and Saddam Hussein. Government officials were +convinced+ that Hussein still possessed weapons of mass destruction and they were determined to remove that threat to +U.S vital interests+" (my emphasis).

How does Tragert know that Bush and his collaborators were convinced that Saddam Hussein still possessed weapons of mass destruction? They may have +claimed+ they were convinced that he still possessed them, but shortly before Iraq was bombed, they also stated that Saddam "has not developed any significant capabilities with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbours". To be fair, in contrast to Helen Boaden and Jonathan Steele et al, Tragert does hint at the truth. The neocons were actually preoccupied with the threat that Saddam posed to "U.S vital interests" long before they came to power.

In January 1998 U.S. Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, wrote a letter to President Bill Clinton. In it, he asserts that Clinton should "aim, above all, at the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime from power" because if Saddam is allowed to remain in power then "a significant portion of the world's supply of oil will be put at hazard". As Neil Mackay explains in his book The War on Truth (2006):

"Saddam wasn't targeted by a White House full of jitters about rogue states linked to terror groups and building deadly piles of doomsday machines. He was targeted by a White House full of jitters that Saddam, a lunatic who hated the United States and its allies with the passion of a Beelezebub, was sitting on top of the world's second biggest oil reserve".

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Why was Iraq invaded? Letter to the Guardian's Jonathan Steele

"Dear Mr Steele,

Your article 'The Iraq War is finally over. And it marks a complete neocon defeat' (23 October) is a shocking piece of propaganda. You claim: The Neocons' "hopes of making Iraq a democratic model for the Middle East have been tipped on their head." In reality, we were told that Iraq had to be invaded because Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction and posed an imminent threat. We were also told that Saddam had links to the 9-11 hijackers and Al Qaeda. Bush's desire to export democracy to the Middle East was only used as the main justification for the invasion when these pretexts collapsed. As for democratization of the Middle East as a whole, America's major allies in the region are all authoritarian regimes.

The Neocons invaded Iraq because they wanted to Protect U.S oil interests. They make this clear in documents headed: 'The Project for the New American Century.' In a tome titled: 'Rebuilding American Defense Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century', PNAC asserts: The maintenance 'of America's global leadership' relies on 'the preservation of a favourable balance of power in the Middle East and surrounding energy-producing region'. John Bolton, a member of PNAC, reasserted this point in a recent interview, which you can watch here

Please can you explain why you continue to parrot the claim that Bush invaded Iraq because he wanted to bring democracy to the Middle East?

I look forward to your reply,
Tony Shenton."

Here is Jonathan Steele's response:


"Dear Mr Shenton,


Thank you for your comment. The following is a passage from a speech Bush made at the Pentagon on May 10 2004:

"We have great respect for the people of Iraq and for all Arab peoples — respect for their culture and for their history and for the contribution they can make to the world. We believe that democracy will allow these gifts to flourish. But freedom is the answer to hopelessness and terror; that a free Iraq will lead the way to a new and better Middle East; and that a free Iraq will make our country more secure".

You can get the full text of the speech at http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/white_house/jan-june04/bush_05-10-04.html

With a little bit of work on Google I'm sure you can find similar sentiments from Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith and other neocons.

Regards,
Jonathan Steele"

Mr Steele didn't seem to understand my argument, so I tried to be more precise.

"Dear Mr Steele,


Thanks for your expeditious reply. So you know Bush and his collaborators wanted to export democracy to the Middle East because they say so and that proves it. Throughout history leaders have used noble rhetoric to conceal their rapacious goals. As Noam Chomsky explains:

"The French were carrying out a "civilizing mission", Mussolini was nobly uplifting the Ethiopians. If we had the records from Genghis Khan when he was massacring tens of millions of people, he probably also had a "noble vision". See if you can find an exception" ('Imperial Ambitions' P.118).

The assumption that 'our' leaders really are committed to exporting democracy is so taken for granted that you do not consider it to be worthy of serious attention. Please can you explain why? Do you accept that exporting democracy became the main justification when the other pretexts for the invasion - WMD, links between Saddam and Al Qaeda - collapsed?

I hope to hear from you again soon.

Best wishes,
Tony Shenton."


Astonishingly, even perspicacious mainstream journalists, such as Steele, fail to understand that 'our' leaders might not be telling the truth about why they bomb and invade other countries. Thus, they always marginalise or exclude completely, the very credible claim that millions of people have been killed for oil, power and profit.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Alex Thomson (Chief Correspondent at Channel 4 News) and the parameters of debate

Dear Mr Thomson,

I hope you are well. Your email to David Cromwell and David Edwards in response to their latest Media Lens Alert reinforces Noam Chomsky's argument about the parameters of debate. You write:

"Media coverage of Afghanistan has been - in many aspects propagandist bilge - run on the assumption that anyone who doesn't want to try to turn Helmand into Surrey is mad.

"Clueless - particularly for those who actually know the place and its people".

So, basically there are two positions that are presented to the public. There are those such as Andrew Marr and Tom Bradby et al who uncritically parrot the claim that our leaders want to spread democracy. Your comments represent the other side of the spectrum. As Chomsky explains:

"(T)he Critics say that the vision is noble, inspiring, but we must understand that (Afghans) and others in the Middle East may not be able to rise to the heights that we have planned for them".

The notion that 'our' leaders are genuinely trying to turn the Middle East into a place like Surrey is so taken for granted that you do not even consider it to be worthy of serious criticism. Thus, you continue to exclude the very credible claim that Britain and America invade other countries for rapacious reasons. Will you change?

I look forward to your reply.

Best wishes,
Tony