The BBC’s hall of mirrors By William Bowles

26 August 2007

“However, especially in the years since Hutton, we’ve come to focus on it [public trust or rather, lack of it] first and foremost in the context of journalism. Accuracy, impartiality, resolute defence of our editorial independence, a willingness to acknowledge mistakes when we make them: meeting all these expectations simultaneously is an immense challenge in these complex, disputatious times, but it is what the BBC has to do.”The BBC has squandered trust. But we will win it back Director General of the BBC, Mark Thompson, the Guardian, Friday August 24, 2007

Methinks ‘the lady doth protest’ just a little too much. More to the point, Thompson’s observations on the public’s lack of trust in the BBC uses the pathetic example of the furore over the promo on the Queen’s photo-shoot, not exactly at the cutting edge of BBC news and current affairs programming.

Continue reading

Media Lens: Giving The Climate Camp A Good Telling Off!

MEDIA LENS: Correcting for the distorted vision of the corporate media

August 23, 2007

Guardian Environment Editor Lambasts the Heathrow Climate Camp’s ‘Media Mismanagement’

Last week’s peaceful protests at the Heathrow Camp for Climate Action ( were a heartening sign of sanity in response to the huge climate threat facing us. Activists drew attention to the role of aviation in global warming, conducted seminars on climate science and undertook a series of nonviolent demonstrations. A mass siege even temporarily shut down the national headquarters of British Airports Authority (BAA), owners of Heathrow airport.

Continue reading

Backspin for War: The Convenience of Denial By Norman Solomon

The man who ran CNN’s news operation during the invasion of Iraq is now doing damage control in response to a new documentary’s evidence that he kowtowed to the Pentagon on behalf of the cable network. His current denial says a lot about how “liberal media” outlets remain deeply embedded in the mindsets of pro-military conformity.

Continue reading

Barbie bites back By William Bowles

Mattel’s double whammy

The toy company, Mattel has had to recall 18 million of its products (2 million of them in the UK), all manufactured in China, for various health and safety safety reasons including high levels of lead in the paint and magnets that come off.

Coincidentally, the New York Times ran a puff piece on Mattel, ‘Toymaking in China, Mattel’s Way’ on 26 Jul 2007[1]. In it they informed (the largely uninformed) reader that:

“[I]ndependent analysts, and even watchdog groups, say Mattel may be the best role model for how to operate prudently in China… Mattel, and many of the outside analysts, say the key is command and control”

“Command and control” eh. Bad timing by the NYT but then the “paper of record” is not well known for getting its facts straight or, apparently, on time.

Continue reading

No need to panic, let the market decide By William Bowles

14 August 2007

“We’ve got blind panic… and obviously a complete lack of confidence [in the market]” – Tony Craze,

It should be obvious to all and sundry by now that capitalism is in dire straights. Last week’s meltdown of the world’s major capital markets was only ‘rescued’ by the injection of literally hundreds of billions of dollars from by the European Central Bank, the Bank of Japan and the US Federal Reserve. So much for the magic of the ‘market’ which we are continuously told, solves all problems. And in fact, last week’s injection by the European Central bank of something like $100 billion dollars didn’t do the trick! More had to be ‘injected’ in order to stave off a total collapse of the world’s stock markets. The ‘injection’ is in reality a bail-out of the commercial banks.

Continue reading

The Anti-Empire Report #48: Read this or George W. Bush will be president the rest of your life by William Blum

August 10, 2007


Separation of oil and state

On several occasions I’ve been presented with the argument that contrary to widespread opinion in the anti-war movement and on the left, oil was not really a factor in the the United States invasion and occupation of Iraq. The argument’s key, perhaps sole, point is that the oil companies did not push for the war.

Responding to only this particular point: firstly, the executives of multinational corporations are not in the habit of making public statements concerning vital issues of American foreign policy, either for or against. And we don’t know what the oil company executives said in private to high Washington officials, although we do know that such executives have a lot more access to such officials than you or I, like at Cheney’s secret gatherings. More importantly, we have to distinguish between oil as a fuel and oil as a political weapon.

Continue reading

Media Lens: Facts are not sacred: Royal Tantrums And The Cold War Billions

August 9, 2007 — MEDIA LENS: Correcting for the distorted vision of the corporate media

When Royals Attack

The big media story of the last month has been the BBC apology to the Queen for showing footage that implied she had stormed out of a portrait session during a documentary. This followed the revelation that the clip of the Queen furiously marching out in fact showed her furiously marching into the photo-shoot. Photographer Annie Leibovitz recalled:

“She entered the room at a surprisingly fast pace, as fast as the regalia would allow her, and muttered, ‘Why am I wearing these heavy robes in the middle of the day?’ She doesn’t really want to get dressed up any more. She just couldn’t be bothered…” (Adam Sherwin, ‘“I’ve had enough of this,” said Queen as she snubbed bossy photographer,’ The Times, July 12, 2007)

Continue reading

Failing to make the right connections By William Bowles

7 August 2007

I’m torn, really torn between trying to keep up with the deceptions the corporate press keep feeding us and wanting to ignore the entire sorry mess completely, but well you know how it is, almost without exception, everyday there’s a story that grabs my attention because it represents all that’s wrong with the way events and their causes are reported.

The Independent on 4 August ‘07 had a major story on bottled water titled ‘Bottled Out’ about a campaign currently being waged in New York and other US cities to ban the bloody things, the rationale being the amount of energy taken to produce and ship the plastic bottles the H20 comes in (bottled water is more expensive than petrol). With revenues totaling $11 billion in 2006, it’s really big business (especially for the two major distributors and marketers, Pepsico and of course, Coca Cola).

Continue reading

Blogopopsicles of the world unite! by William Bowles

3 August 2007

The Web has opened a veritable can of worms as far as the mainstream media are concerned, even so-called liberal journalists seem to feel threatened by the emergence of a global, independent media, the latest one to emerge being Robert Fisk (who I referred to in my last piece). Now whether, as fellow blogopopsicle Chris Cook, publisher of Pacific Free Press opined, it’s because he’s afraid of the technology or, as I offered, because he sees his privileged position challenged by what he obviously thinks of as a bunch of opinionated, jumped up ‘amateurs’ invading his patch, is debatable. I obviously lean toward the latter.

Continue reading

Media Lens: Bush-Brown Summit – The Media Deception Continues

August 2, 2007 — MEDIA LENS: Correcting for the distorted vision of the corporate media

The Obvious Interpretation

In our July 23 alert, ‘From Blair to Brown – The Killing Will Continue,’ we described how the media were working hard to defend the status quo by attempting to distance new prime minister Gordon Brown from Tony Blair and his war crimes.

Continue reading

Letter from a far-off galaxy by William Bowles

1 August 2007

“I despise the internet. It’s irresponsible and, often, a net of hate. And I don’t have time for Blogopops. But here’s a tale of two gutless newspapers which explains why more and more people are Googling rather than turning pages.” — Robert Fisk: “No wonder the bloggers are winning”, Published in the London Independent, 21 July 2007

I read an awful lot of articles and essays from the independent media every day, trying to keep up with events, and receive far more than I can ever get to read and no doubt miss a lot of really excellent content. The sheer volume of writing (and for the most part of an extremely high quality) is enough to overwhelm all but the most obsessive of news junkies”.

But if nothing else, it blows away the myth that only “professional” journalists write the “right” stuff, and there are just too many of them to name here. In addition I have also point to the role that online publishers (why call them “aggregators”?) play in the process.

One of the finest examples I can think of is “GI Special”. Assembled and edited by Thom Barton, he puts out a daily bulletin (in PDF and Webpage formats) aimed principally at serving men and women in the US armed forces. Obviously decidedly anti the occupation of Iraq (and Afghanistan and Palestine), it successfully delivers a powerful anti-war/anti-capitalist message but does it in a way that personalises the issues. This is committed journalism and every bit as valid as any other kind despite all the pretensions they may have.

The likes of Robert Fisk regarded by many as progressive doesn”t like us, derogatorily referring to us as “Blogopops”, but then we are not bad copies of his style and context but we are busy building our own culture and one that is more valid and more truthful than the world he inhabits.

Robert Fisk”s rant about the “blogopops” being nothing if not typical of the snobbish and elitist attitude many in the world of corporate media have concerning us “citizen journalists” (a designation by the way that originates with the corporate media, not us).

Kudos goes to Fisk for taking on the LA Times and the Toronto Globe and Mail (the Globe and Mail ripped off one Fisk”s pieces without paying for it and changed some key words) but his blanket condemnation on us “citizen journalists” is simply not true and reveals the gulf that exists between those whose livelihood depends on the corporate media and the rest of us fortunate enough to have the skills and access to the resources needed to produce our own and hopefully more accurate version of reality.

Fisk”s piece by the way is about two articles, one on the genocide of Armenians by the Turkish government at the beginning of the 20th century and the other on multiple murders that took place in Canada.[1] He rightly condemns the racism and the twisting of the facts that occurs in the articles but Fisk is also guilty of the same thing:

“Arabs have never been squeamish about death” Robert Fisk, the Independent 29/07/03


“During the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war, Iraqis became anaesthetised to death.” (ibid)[2]

Fisk makes much of his time in the Middle East, as if this somehow automatically gives him some unique insight into events and their causes but the reality is that Fisk is not immune to the blinkered vision of the Western intellectual and just because he sees the racism someplace else, doesn”t mean that he is not guilty of the same.

But one thing strikes me above all else; that the independent media might as well be writing about events on a planet in some far-off galaxy, and this is what separates the world according to Fisk from our own; in actuality, it’s the mainstream media that”s stuck on that alien world, busily rewriting events to fit the worldview of the ruling elite, notwithstanding Fisk’s sympathies for the Arab, who is apparently, according to Fisk anyway, some kind of sub-species of Homo Sapiens.

The point here is that regardless of the quality of the writing or indeed the experience of the writer, neither of which are under question here, the fact remains that journalists like Fisk live in one reality ‘the world according to Capital’ and the rest of us in another, the one that Capital has created for us to live in.

Given the centrality of the media in maintaining the very status quo that Fisk claims to be exposing, it verges on the obscene for a journalist like Fisk to say such things, but hey, whaddoIknow, I”m just a “Blogopop” stranded on an alien planet trying to make sense of things from another perspective than that of power and privilege.


1. See “A blogger’s criticism of Robert Fisk” by redpill8. You”ll find links to the LA Times and Globe and Mail stories, I think.

2. For more on this and the newspaper he writes for, see “The bizarre mind of the white liberal“, William Bowles, 25 July 2003.