Separate but Synonymous: The Media and the State By William Bowles

13 July 2004

“Lord Butler is to head off any attempt by Tony Blair to “spin” the conclusions of his report…by speaking live before the Prime Minister makes his statement to the House of Commons… In an attempt to stop Downing Street quoting selectively from the document, Lord Butler of Brockwell plans to seize the initiative by publishing his conclusions before Mr Blair has a chance to comment on the report publicly.”
Independent 12/7/04 P.5

There could be no clearer admission of the incestuous relationship between the media and the state than the subtext within this apparently ‘objective’ reportage on the impending release of the Butler report on the government‘s justification for the invasion of Iraq.

So what’s wrong with the Independent’s statement? Implicit in the reportage is the acceptance by the media that it will ‘report’ whatever the Prime Minister says without itself focusing in on what is really important (if anything) in the impending Butler report. Hence the ‘news’ is whatever the media decides it is. By accepting and leading with whatever ‘spin’ the government decides to put on the report, the media, far from being an objective (and importantly) analytic reporter of events is succumbing the state’s agenda. No matter that elsewhere, it may comment on the more important or salient aspects of the story, the damage is done, the headline says it all.

Obviously, the government will try to deflect any criticism through selectively quoting from the report, but what’s the media’s excuse? The onus is surely on the media to ‘cut through the crap’ and get to the ‘nitty-gritty’ of the report’s conclusions. To do otherwise is to fail at doing the job of providing the ‘news’.

And predictably, before the report has even appeared, it’s already been ‘deconstructed’ and the government’s ‘spin’ on the story gets reported. Is this another case of déjà vu again, and again and again…?

Hence comments like:

“A Number 10 source said the Butler report…would generate “choppy waters nothing more”.

The same piece quoting the same No. 10 unnamed ‘source’ goes on to say that:

“Obviously there are going to be some criticisms that we will have to address… The mood is not the same as it was pre-Hutton.”

Amazingly (or perhaps not) the story is headed “Butler acts to prevent Prime Minister “spinning” his report” but it’s not Butler who will do any prevention of spin but, if it’s doing its job, it will be the media! For like Blair, Butler is totally dependent on how the media decides to cover the story.

So on the one hand, there is a recognition that the government will not be able to get away with the same nonsense as it did with the Hutton ‘inquiry’, but there is still a fundamental acceptance of the reasoning behind the government’s actions. All that will change will be the media ‘challenging’ Blair over why he won’t plead guilty to “exaggeration”.

Further exemplifying the incestuous relationship between the media and the state is the following from the same ‘news’ report:

“Questions will also be raised in the report about why intelligence suggesting that Saddam had an arsenal of [WMD] was not suitably qualified with warnings and caveats.”

Again, the focus, incorrectly, is still on the ‘intelligence’, thus reinforcing the idea that it was the intelligence that was at fault rather than the policy, for the one question the Independent won’t ask (let alone the Butler report) is the fact that the invasion was a ‘done deal’ at least as far back as 1998:

“ROCKEFELLER: It was clear to all of us in this room who were watching that, and to many others, that they had made up their mind that they were going to go to war. And I believe to this day, and I always have and I‘ve said so publicly many times in regretting my vote, that there was a predetermination, even going back to 1998 in a letter to Bill Clinton, saying, ‘The time for diplomacy has ended and now is the time for the use of military force.‘”
Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) 9/7/04

The self-evident contradiction between “exaggeration” as the Independent reports it and the Senate report (”predetermination”) seems to have escaped the notice of the editors of the Independent. But then what else can we expect, for to ‘connect the dots’ would expose the complicit deceit of the media in presenting a war where ‘intelligence’ served the purpose of validating policy, not the other way around.

Delving into the concrete relationship between US and UK policy, a policy that is in total lockstep, would make a mockery of the ‘news’ story, hence the real relationship between the two is kept at arm’s length. It’s as if Blair and Bush inhabit parallel universes, where they conduct ‘separate but equal’ wars on two identical Iraqs.

Revealing any connection between the two, would undermine the entire polite dance between members of the corporate/state media and the state. References to the Senate Report are minimal and confined to the Independent’s editorial column:

“Events across the Atlantic also seem to be conspiring against Mr Blair. The Democratic team of John Kerry and John Edwards, emboldened by the Senate report‘s damning criticism of the CIA, has accused President Bush of misleading the American people over Iraqi WMD.”

And once more the editorial reinforces the lie of exaggeration when it tells us:

“…Mr Blair’s ill-fated decision to exaggerate the threat posed by Saddam Hussein returns to haunt him in the form of the Butler report on Wednesday.”

Maintaining the illusion of the state as legitimate is the primary objective, much better that Blair gets “haunted” for “exaggerating” than the entire edifice of the state gets exposed for lying.

And this complicit deceit has been maintained for the entire period, from the initial pre-war period where acres of dead trees were expended on presenting to the public an entirely false view, namely that the rationale for the war hinged on the existence or otherwise, of WMD as well as the role of the UN in putting the stamp of ‘world approval’ on the entire illegal adventure.

So inbetween now and when the entire disgusting mess was hatched, are acres of evidence of lies and dissembling that when assembled, destroy the myth of “exaggeration” or indeed of a “failure of intelligence” as reasons for why it all went so horribly wrong. Reportage of the kind the Independent continues to foist on us, conveniently omits anything that challenges the basic assumption for the real reasons for the invasion. Blair is presented to us as a basically honest man, vain perhaps and reluctant to admit that he can be wrong or “mistaken” but never a liar.

So when all’s said and done, the ‘comfortable’ relationship between the news media and the state, persists regardless, like a case of media-inspired mononucleosis, with the two lovers who when kissing (after ‘falling out’) re-infect each other in an endless, revolving relationship. The truth disappears and the reader is left with an illusion of objectivity based upon an entirely false set of assumptions about cause and effect.

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