The Disappearance of Investigative and Critical Journalism – The Guardian’s ‘Slow Witted Viciousness’
The Disappearance of Investigative and Critical Journalism – The Guardian’s ‘Slow Witted Viciousness’
to Economics – Good Journalists are being replaced by Precocious Windbags & Puffed-up Pundits
You don’t hear too much
of John Pilger in the
media these days. There was a time when
his films, on the Ethiopian famine or Year
Zero about Pol Pot’s Cambodia or Death
of a Nation on the genocidal Indonesian occupation of East Timor were headline news but Pilger was
too honest and spoke the truth to power once too often.
Just a sample for the hundreds of Guardian articles attacking Jeremy Corbyn – for more try the excellent 5 Filters site – one of many bogus attacks on Corbyn – there has been no stampede though to apologise for getting it wrong though
Pilger won Britain’s Journalist
of the Year Award twice, in 1967 and again in 1979, but he has been slowly
frozen out of mainstream journalism – by the New Statesman in 2014 and The
Guardian in 2015. Both the New Statesman and The Guardian have moved to the right as part of the anti-Corbyn hegemony
in the bourgeois press, Pilger is a journalistic odd man out.
The Guardian, once the
beacon of the liberal left, has been the worst of all. It has in many ways led the anti-Corbyn movement. People expect no better from the Daily Mail or Sun, but they do expect better from The Guardian, whose raft of pundits and ‘journalists’
have sung one refrain – Corbyn is not up to it.
To be fair, he was hauled
over the coals by the Guardian’s Readers Editor but only because he described
his readers as ‘fucking fools’. Those who refused to give up their support
for Jeremy Corbyn were described thus by Cohen:
‘In my respectful opinion, your only honourable response will
be to stop being a fucking fool by changing your fucking mind.’ The idea that this idiot could
himself be wrong never occurred to him. So
full of self-righteousness was he, admittedly a Guardian journalist’s trait,
that Cohen had no doubts about the disaster that was Corbynism: It was he argued a ‘threat to democracy’
itself not having an opposition worthy of the name. He told us that:
John Pilger receiving the Journalism of the Year Award
have gone easy on Corbyn and his comrades to date for the transparently obvious
reason that they want to keep them in charge of Labour.
Suffice to say that the pitifully
mediocre Nick Cohen continues to scribble away for The Observer whilst a
journalist like John Pilger is left writing these days for the alternative
press. Britain’s journalists, almost
without exception, have become little more than their proprietors’ prostitutes.
September 20, 2018 “Information Clearing House“– 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
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 wilful
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, ZNet zcomm.org, wsws.org, truthdig.com,
globalresearch.org, counterpunch.org and informationclearinghouse.info 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
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
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 civilised 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
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 Blitz describes 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 US 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
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 patronising.”
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
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 US Agency of International Aid, the aim is to hoodwink the
Western public and speed the overthrow 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, Purpose, funds a
group known as the White Helmets, who claim falsely to be “Syria Civil
Defence” 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
organisations 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, from 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
When he was US 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 mesmerised 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
“Did that include the liberal, educated bourgeoisie?” I asked.
“Everyone,” she said. “Propaganda always wins, if you
Propaganda Blitz by David Edwards and David Cromwell is published by