Category Archives: Journalism

Yvette Cooper Is Shadow Home Secretary? That’s News To Me!

Have a look at this Guardian headline.  Can you see anything wrong with it?

The subtitle says: “Colleagues show support after shadow home secretary criticises Theresa May for breaking snap election promise”. The thing is, Jeremy Corbyn attacked May for the same thing twenty minutes before Cooper rose to her feet. Here, Jessica Elgot,  by not mentioning Corbyn, is claiming that only Cooper “criticised” May (Dennis Skinner also put the boot in). That’s how bias works, folks, and Elgot is nothing if not transparent.

Elgot gushes:

Labour MPs heaped praise on Yvette Cooper’s performance at prime minister’s questions on Wednesday, during which the former shadow home secretary attacked Theresa May for breaking her promise not to hold a snap general election.

The whirlwind of supportive comments from Labour colleagues will fuel speculation the MP is already laying the ground for a second leadership bid, given the prevailing feeling in the parliamentary party that Labour should choose a woman as its next leader if Jeremy Corbyn loses on 8 June.

But when was Yvette Cooper appointed Shadow Home Secretary and does Diane Abbott know she’s taken her job?

Given The Guardian’s loathing of Jeremy Corbyn is this a subtle way of telling people who they’d prefer to lead the Labour Party in the event of a defeat?

Remember, in Britain it’s not the voters who decide who leads the Labour Party (or the country). That’s the self-appointed job of the corporate media.

You can read Elgot’s syrupy drivel in full here.

UPDATE 19/4/17 @ 1623

The Guardian have corrected their, erm, error. I have the screengrab and will be keeping an eye on the paper.

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Filed under allegations of bias, Free Press Myth, General Election 2017, Journalism, Media

The Crazy Upside Down World Of Helen Lewis

Helen Lewis is the deputy editor of the notionally left-wing journal The New Statesman.  Her views on Jeremy Corbyn are well known and she’s a regular on the BBC’s Sunday Politics.  Today, while Harriet Harman, Labour’s former interim leader appeared on the Andrew Marr Show, she issued this Tweet to her followers.

Come again? Harriet Harman did what?  Lewis has got this arse about face. Harman has stood up for the establishment, not “stood up against it” as she claims.  Indeed, she even ordered Labour MPs to vote for the government’s damaging Welfare Bill.  Weeks later, Harman changed her mind and told Southwark News that she’d “oppose it” – that’s after she ordered Labour MPs to vote for it.  And she’s thought of as leadership material?

In the last few weeks, the media has paraded a series of Orwellian neologisms like “post truth politics” before us.  Can we therefore regard Lewis’s Tweet as “post-reality”?  Let’s remember that Lewis herself comes from a privileged background and is, for all intents and purposes, like Harman, a member of the establishment.  So it’s unlikely that she possesses the ability to identify anti-establishmentarianism and is more likely to characterize it as something else.

Later on, and perhaps spurred on by the appearance of Harman,  Lewis went a little further and began banging the drum for Corbyn to quit.

So what was the reason for this?  Corbyn has ordered a three-line whip on the vote for Article 50, which triggers the Brexit process.  What hacks like Lewis and her colleagues in the anti-Corbyn media fail to understand (frankly odd for a political journalist) is that Article 50 is merely a Parliamentary mechanism.  The actual debate on the precise nature of Brexit takes place later.  Instead, the mass media has been misleading the public with the notion that Article 50 is the final stage in the process, thus they rely on the general public’s ignorance of Parliamentary procedures.  This is the same ignorance that was exploited during the referendum campaign itself.  It’s yet the latest stage in an ongoing attempt to remove Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party, and the likes of Lewis won’t rest until they see someone picked by them in the role.  That, friends, is not only contempt for the democratic process that elected Corbyn, but it is also contempt for ordinary party members.

Fake news?  You’ll get loads of it from Lewis and her fellow hacks.

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Filed under Free Press Myth, Journalism, Media, propaganda, Yellow journalism

How Polling Works

Following on from my critique of polls and polling companies, I have produced this flow chart that explains how opinion polling works.  Polls don’t exist to measure public opinion, they exist to shape it.  The media and the polling companies enjoy a symbiotic relationship in which each sustains the other.  One supplies a narrative and the other responds by producing a poll to support that narrative.  The media company then produces a story that reinforces the initial narrative,  which uses the poll as ‘evidence’.  You may need to click on the image to view it properly.

how-polls-workEven when polls are patently nonsensical or illogical,  their ‘findings’ are lauded by commentators and their followers, who cite them as evidence to support one narrative or another.  One such poll is the recent ComRes poll , which claimed that “most people” think the Tories would do a better job at running the National Health Service this winter than Labour.  The same poll also claimed that “most people” thought the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, was doing a “poor job”.  Make of that what you will.  In any case, the media’s commentators seized on it and cherry-picked its ‘findings’.  The negative narratives that had already been produced to put the Labour Party in a bad light were thus reinforced by this shoddy poll.

Wash, rinse and repeat: that’s how the process works.

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Filed under Journalism, Media, Opinion polls, propaganda

He Killed His Own People!

The Cat has always been bemused by the claim that so-and-so “has killed his own people”. This line of argument is usually deployed in advance of an invasion, air campaign or the implementation of a ‘no fly zone’. When one unpacks this argument, it is always found wanting and reveals the hypocrisy at the heart of the establishment’s rationale for military adventurism.  Sometimes the phrase “he’s another Hitler” will be added for dramatic effect.

In the run up to Gulf War I, we were told Saddam Hussein had “killed his own people”.  When Gulf War II rolled around, he also become “another Hitler”.  By his “own people”, the warmongers and the news media were referring specifically to the Kurds.  But Saddam Hussein didn’t see the Kurds as “his own people” and he wasn’t alone in this: it is a view that had been consistent in Baghdad throughout the history of Iraq, since it became nominally independent from Britain in 1932.

The Kurds (led by the powerful and corrupt Barzani clan) had constantly been in conflict with Baghdad since independence and had been waging a guerilla war in Northern Iraq for decades.  A full blown war between the Iraqi Kurds and the Iraqi government took place in 1961.  But this isn’t to say that Kurds didn’t participate in Iraqi politics or in government.  They did.  General Bakr Sidqi, for example, was the head of Iraq’s army.  He led the forces that participated in the Simele Massacre of 1933, which saw thousands of Assyrians slaughtered as they fled towards the Syrian border. Sidqi, King Ghazi and the Prime Minister Rashid Ali al-Gaylani, didn’t see the Assyrians as “their people” either.  Al-Gaylani would return as Prime Minister in a coup in 1941 and enter into a short-lived pact with Nazi Germany until he was overthrown by the British in the same year.

Western news media – especially British and American news media – have repeated ad infinitum the claim that Bashar al-Assad has “killed his own people” to rally public support for official military intervention and the eventual toppling of the Syrian president.  That Assad has killed his own people isn’t in doubt, but his forces have also killed people that the West ironically sees as its allies. Fighters from the al-Nusra Front, for example.

Britain and the United States have historically offered much support to national leaders that have “killed their own people”. Many of these leaders were military strongmen that were entertained by British and American governments because of their impeccable anti-communist credentials.  Below is a partial list.

  1. Nursultan Nazarbayev (current president of Kazakhstan)
  2. Islam Karimov (Uzbekistan, 1989 – 2016). His successor, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, is just as if not more violently repressive.
  3. Suharto (Indonesia, 1967 – 1998)
  4. Mobutu Sese Seko (Zaire, 1965 – 1997)
  5. General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte (Chile, 1973 – 1989)
  6. Generalissimo Francisco Franco Bahamonde (Spain, 1936 – 1975)
  7. The Greek Colonels (1967 – 1974)
  8. Air Chief Marshal Hosni Mubarak (Egypt, 1981 – 2011)
  9. Colonel Anwar Sadat (Egypt, 1970 – 1981)
  10. General Zia al-Haq (Pakistan, 1978 – 1988)
  11. Generalissimo Rafael Trujillo (Dominican Republic, 1942-1952)
  12. Jose Efrain Rios Montt (Guatemala, 1982 – 1983)
  13. Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (Iran, 1941 – 1979)

The conflict in Syria, like that in Iraq has been subject to the most deceitful, one-sided coverage with the siege and aerial bombardment of Aleppo becoming the focus of some pretty blatant propaganda. In short, we’re getting a raw deal from our news providers. Patrick Cockburn in today’s Independent writes:

The dominance of propaganda over news in coverage of the war in Syria has many negative consequences. It is a genuine civil war and the exclusive focus of on the atrocities committed by the Syrian armed forces on an unarmed civilian population gives a skewed picture of what is happening. These atrocities are often true and the UN says that 82 civilians may have been summarily executed in east Aleppo last month. But, bad though this is, it is a gross exaggeration to compare what has happened in Aleppo to genocide in Rwanda in 1994 or the massacre in Srebrenica the following year.

In the same paper Robert Fisk writes:

But it’s time to tell the other truth: that many of the “rebels” whom we in the West have been supporting – and which our preposterous Prime Minister Theresa May indirectly blessed when she grovelled to the Gulf head-choppers last week – are among the cruellest and most ruthless of fighters in the Middle East. And while we have been tut-tutting at the frightfulness of Isis during the siege of Mosul (an event all too similar to Aleppo, although you wouldn’t think so from reading our narrative of the story), we have been willfully ignoring the behaviour of the rebels of Aleppo.

Our leaders, though they may claim otherwise, have also “killed their own people” and we don’t need to cast our minds back that far.  The brutal regime of cuts to social security by the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition (2010-15) drove people to commit suicide, and although these people died by their own hand, it was the government’s policies that were ultimately responsible for their deaths.   Why?  Because this is a feature of what Pierre Bourdieu and Loic Wacquant called “symbolic violence”, which gets the victim to carry out acts of violence against themselves, thus obviating the need for actual physical violence from the state.  It’s a pretty clever trick.  No?

Governments are more than happy to kill their own people, even in so-called ‘democracies’. It isn’t confined solely to certain Middle Eastern countries.

Reference

Bourdieu, P., & Wacquant, L.J.D. (2003). Symbolic violence. na. Available at: http://cges.umn.edu/docs/Bourdieu_and_Wacquant.Symbolic_Violence.pdf  Accessed 29/2/16

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Filed under Free Press Myth, Ideologies, Iraq, Journalism, Media, Middle East, propaganda, Syria, Yellow journalism

Corbyn And The Media (Part 3)

Yesterday, the mass media was agog at the spectacle of Peter Tatchell disrupting Jeremy Corbyn’s speech to mark the occasion of the United Nations general assembly signing the declaration on human rights in 1948. Tatchell, a man whose career since 1983 has been characterized by its use of stunts, claims he was highlighting Corbyn’s silence on Russian bombing of Aleppo. Leaving aside the lack of objectivity in news coverage of the Syrian conflict, Tatchell’s choice of moment for his latest stunt could not have been better timed.  He knew that this would provide excuse for the mainstream media to launch another round of attacks on the beleaguered Labour leader.  And attack him they did.  The Guardian even took the time to remind us that St Tony had “condemned” Corbyn over the bombing of Syria. This is the man whose eagerness to bomb Iraq has led directly to the current conflicts in the Middle East. This is the man whose supporters in the Commons voted to bomb Syria.  One of those MPs was Hilary Benn, who was applauded by the Tories for his “barnstorming speech” and grandstanding ignorance of the historical actualité.

It is no surprise that news providers covered the Tatchell stunt but not the actual event at which Corbyn was speaking.  The media created its narrative through the magic of digital video editing, in which only those moments of Tatchell’s stunt were broadcast. However, The Cat has seen additional footage that tells a rather different story:  it is one in which Corybn, though under attack, gives a clam and measured response to Tatchell.  He wasn’t manhandled or harangued.  The Tory press would have loved that.  Can you imagine what would have happened if he’d pitched up to a UKIP meeting and had done the same thing? Can you imagine what would have happened if he’d done that when Blair was leader?

So what about Tatchell’s point?  Has Corbyn done enough to condemn Russian bombing?  As always, it depends on who’s asking the question.   If the BBC, ITV, Sky or Tatchell himself is asking the question, then it comes with the added demand that if Corbyn is ‘guilty’ in their eyes, then he should do the decent thing by donning sackcloth and sleeping with a stone for a pillow.  Nothing less will do.  This is, at least, the subtext of Andrew Neil’s Twitter exchange with former Labour MP, Chris Williamson.  Click on the images to access the conversation.

Neil is joined by what The Cat assumes are a number of Labour right-wingers (the names are real giveaways) and Tories,  all of whom are flatulent with their own sense of self-importance and entitlement.

For his part, Tatchell is continuing to churn out his excuses.

That’s great, Peter, but you’ve chosen the wrong politician to attack.  That reminds me, for a gay man, you don’t seem that bothered by Daesh, who continue to throw gay men from tall buildings.  These are the people whom the mass media refers to as “the rebels”, while next door in Iraq, they’re called ‘Daesh’.  Funny that.

What about Corbyn’s “silence” over Russian bombing?  Well, Corbyn has condemned all sides in the conflict.  I mean, aren’t all sides guilty of atrocities?  Yet this is not enough for Andrew Neil, Peter Tatchell or our notionally free press. The hidden discourse to their claims is that Corbyn quietly supports ISIS/IS/ISIL/Daesh.  But there is nothing on record to even remotely suggest that he does.  This statement issued in the aftermath of the Paris attacks earlier this year attacks all parties involved in the conflict.

This article from Left Foot Forward published in October, repeats the demand that Corbyn “must break his silence on Assad and Russian bombings”.  These things are gifts to the Tory press, the Tory Party and the Labour Right.  But whatever Corbyn does or doesn’t say, you can be assured that a story will be assembled from a lot hearsay, speculation and lobby tittle-tattle.

Remember, the ‘news’ is just a collection of stories that have a beginning, middle and end.  In stories, simplistic themes of good versus evil are crucial in driving the narrative’s plot.  If you’re looking for impartiality or objectivity in the news, forget it.  Go and read some critical theory instead.

 

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Filed under Ideologies, Journalism, Media, propaganda

Fake News?

I was somewhat amused to read that Tom Watson, Labour’s Deputy Leader, was going to “investigate” fake news sites. I was even more amused when I discovered that he’d appointed Michael Dugher, a man who has already penned articles for The S*n to lead the, er, inquiry.

Like many other Twitter users, I asked Watson if his investigation was going to look at the production of fake news stories in The S*n, The Daily Mail and the Daily Express. I have yet to receive a reply.

So what is ‘fake news’? Doesn’t the British press publish fake news stories on a daily basis? Apparently the first focus of this ‘investigation’ is The Canary, a site whose business model is essentially based on clickbait-style headlines. Many of The Canary’s articles tend to be drawn from other stories that are arranged to produce a particular narrative (a lot of bloggers do it). It’s mostly comment.

It is also claimed that The Canary carries links to conspiracy theories but after a quick look around the site, I have failed to find any. However, it would be fair to say that The Canary is rather pro-Corbyn. Perhaps this is what Watson hates the most about the site. But being pro-Corbyn doesn’t mean The Canary is guilty of producing ‘fake news’ stories. Yet, this question of informational fakeness begs the question regarding the conspiracy sites run by Alex Jones. These include Prison Planet and Infowars. What about them? Aren’t they guilty of producing ‘fake news’? Watson and Dugher may find it harder to pursue Jones because he lives in the United States. The Canary is based in Britain.

So what about the fake news produced by official news outlets? The BBC has also produced fake news stories. Take the Battle of Orgreave, the BBC stitched together footage to give viewers the impression that the militarised police were being charged by a violent mob of miners. The reverse was true.

British newspapers routinely make up news stories and some are more guilty of this than others. This infamous front page appeared in The Sunday Sport in 1988.

 

The Daily Express is best known for its front page health scare stories and its slavish devotion to the Cult of Diana. It also supports UKIP and frequently prints hate stories about “loony lefties” and “luvvies”. This June, it published its Top 10 of ‘barmy’ EU decisions. They were either fake or sensible decisions.

One of the most persistent myths served up as a truth is the ‘straight banana’ story produced by Boris Johnson, a man who regards the £200, 000 for each article he writes as “chicken feed”.

Two years ago, The Daily Express published a fake news story that claimed that “half of all British Muslims supported ISIS”. The story was later pulled from its website. In 2011, its sister paper, The Sunday Express claimed that the EU wanted to “merge the UK and France”.  This prompted Roy Greenslade to write in his Guardian column that “nothing could be done” about these stories. Why not? Aren’t these papers equally as guilty of misinforming the public as the supposedly fake news sites?

Like the Daily Express, The Daily Mail is a tireless publisher of hate stories and has spent the best part of its history stirring up hatred of minorities. Last year, it printed a story that claimed Ralph Miliband “hated” Britain. There was no evidence to support this claim and even in the face of criticism from many quarters, it was unrepentant and even went so far as to repeat its spurious claims.

It would also appear that some people are unable to tell the difference between satire and fake news.  The Daily Mash, Newsthump, The Onion, Waterford Whispers and other sites produce satirical stories that resemble news stories. There is a point to this:  to satirize the so-called ‘free press’ one needs to adopt its motifs and ridicule them. Will Watson and Dugher pursue them too?

Media Studies is often derided by its critics as an “easy subject” that permits students to “ponce about with video cameras”. The real reason its detractors in the press and the political world hate the subject so much is because it provides students with the tools to analyse and critique the media. The last thing these two groups of powerful people wants is a media savvy public that calls out bullshit when they see it.

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Filed under Free Press Myth, Journalism, Media, propaganda, Society & culture

The Wintour Of Discontent

In recent years, The Guardian, once presumed to be the paper of choice for Britain’s left, has shown itself to be just as antagonistic to the Labour Party and now, Jeremy Corbyn, as its right-wing counterparts on Fleet Street. Leading The Graun’s anti-Corbyn charge is the paper’s political editor, Patrick Wintour, who has been knocking out daily hatchet pieces since Corbyn announced his candidacy this summer. Wintour’s attacks on Corbyn have been relentless and often based on little more than a fingernail scraping of a story around which he constructs a massive edifice of guff, tittle-tattle and drivel.

Today, Wintour tells his readers:

Corbyn adviser ‘backed non-Labour candidates at least three times’

This headline relates to the ongoing hoo-ha over Corbyn’s appointment of Andrew Fisher as one of his advisers. Apparently, Fisher tweeted support for his local Class War candidate during the General Election rather than Emily Benn, the less-than-left-wing Labour candidate for Croydon South. So what?

Now I don’t know if Fisher was a member of the Labour Party when he sent these tweets, but was he not entitled to register his disgust with a party that was trapped in the misguided belief that emulating the Tories was the best way forward? I certainly did.

Fisher also called for Tony Blair to be tried for war crimes. Good. So do I. The real issue that Fleet Street’s hacks have with the appointment of Fisher and Seumas Milne is that they’re not Blairites or right-wing hacks. They are avowedly left-wing. I mean, was Corbyn supposed to hire Kelvin Mackenzie as his press secretary? Get real.

I spotted this inaccuracy in Wintour’s article.

In 2008, Fisher was reported as attending a Left Unity meeting as a member of the LRC, where he was reported as saying “a growing number of members believed that Labour was now dead”.

Left Unity didn’t exist in 2008 and only became a political party a little under two years ago. How do I know this? I’m a founding member.

Next time, Patrick, check your facts before going off half-cocked..

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Filed under Journalism, Media, The Guardian