Media Lens: The Guardian, Climate And Advertising – An Open Email To George Monbiot

15 June, 2009 – MEDIA LENS: Correcting for the distorted vision of the corporate media

Dear George,

In a recent blog you rightly insist that: ‘Newspapers must stop taking advertising from environmental villains.’ (

On July 2, 2007 we wrote to you suggesting a possible first step:

“Could newspapers begin by refusing the worst fossil fuel advertising – SUVs [sports utility vehicles], for example?” (

In your blog, you call for similar action:

“What I am asking is for the newspapers to refine their view of which advertisements are and are not acceptable. Specifically, I am calling on them in the first instance to drop ads for cars which produce more than 150g of CO2/km, and to drop direct advertising for flights, on the grounds that both these products cause unequivocal and unnecessary harm to the environment.”

To even raise this possibility is an achievement in the current corporate media context. But that context is important. In his film, The Corporation, Canadian lawyer Joel Bakan assessed the corporate ‘personality’ using diagnostic criteria of the World Health Organisation. Bakan’s conclusion:

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Scary movie by William Bowles

15 June 2009

Somewhat in the manner of a scary fairground ride or horror movie it would appear that the media in cahoots of course with the ruling political classes of the major Western powers, are determined to keep us constantly distracted, on edge and in a constant state of fear about the future.

Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Russia, ‘Swine Flu’, China, ‘al-Qu’eda’, terrorism, crooked MPs, there’s no shortage of suitable subjects with which to scare the kids. The headlines come and the headlines go in an endless parade of impending doom and threats that the end of ‘civilization’ is just around the corner. The ‘threats’ wash over us 24/7 and before we have a chance to absorb and make sense of one ‘threat’, we are assaulted by the next. The effect of this incessant barrage of propaganda is two-fold:

1. We are put into a permanent state of uncertainty about our future that makes even the awful present acceptable; 2. Commensurately, we become desensitized to the real threats that confront us. After all, how much stress can an individual take before either breaking down or withdrawing completely from reality?

Not surprisingly, the net effect of this paradox is on the one hand, confusion and on the other, a withdrawal from the political process. Living in a world that appears as a bizarre, collective schizophrenia about cause and effect, is disastrous. We not only lose the ability to apply critical analysis to events and their causes, even worse, we become completely disconnected from them.

After all, if the world is presented to us as nothing more than an endless series of (unavoidable) crises punctuated by mass collective ‘celebrations’ eg, the Olympics or Big Brother, eventually we accept this state of affairs as normal, or at the very least, enter into a state of total resignation. Life becomes a series of exhilarating highs and scary lows with each high preparing us as it were for the next low.

The affair of the crooked MPs is a perfect example of this process in action. Already rocked back on our heels by the crisis of Capital and the resultant disaster for millions of working people around the planet, along comes another ‘crisis’ and just in time too. But there’s something fundamentally wrong with this picture of an outraged corporate/state media going to town on ‘our’ parliamentary representatives. MPs have been ripping us off for centuries without too many complaints from the press, so why the sudden ‘moral outrage?’

It’s a variation of Obama’s “change we can believe in” hype, for clearly an electorate that no longer believes in the political process not only has to be convinced that by tossing out a few crooks, all will be well with our ‘democracy’, but also has to be ‘kept onboard’ when it comes to the hypocritical statements our ruling elite make about all those ‘enemies of civilization’ they are always going on about.

A measure of the total panic that the ruling political classis in can be judged by the complete lack of judgement involved when it came to the summary dismissal/resignation of so many MPs without so much as a by-your-leave. The question of their actual guilt or innocence was conveniently forgotten in the rush to judgement. What is important is that the ruling elite is seen to be putting its house back into some kind of order.

The MPs involved have been sacrificed and by and large, without a single dissenting voice. Clearly, the ‘line’ had been laid down by their political masters, ‘sorry boys (and girls), but you’re going to have to go, sacrifices have to be made if we going to have a chance of surviving this crisis’. And go they went without so much as a murmur. Amazing when you think on it when compared to the illegal invasion and destruction of a country called Iraq, which was also a ‘regrettable’ error of judgment caused by ‘faulty intelligence’ (as opposed to ‘faulty bookkeeping’), but unlike the money stolen from the public purse, there was no paying back the Iraqi people all that we had destroyed/taken from them.

The degree of corruption involved is made all the more apparent by the former ‘moral high ground’ held by these MPs, cabinet ministers, ministers, parliamentary secretaries et al, who had, days, weeks or months before, been passing laws that judged us, threw us in jail for thought crimes, rounded us up and penned us in when we exercised our (once) lawful right to demonstrate.

Not surprisingly, once the fuss has died down/relegated to page 6, and before we could even take a deep breath and regain our composure, we were presented with the next ‘crisis’, North Korea and its dud nuclear weapons to be followed closely by the demons in Tehran, who have, just like us, voted in a right-wing anti-working classneo-liberal government once again.

But of what relevance is the election in Iran (fixed or otherwise) to us? Why should we be concerned about North Korea’s alleged attempts at building nuclear weapons? Neither of these countries is any kind of threat to us. North Korea is not about to bomb us nor is Iran about to vapourise occupied Palestine even if it could.

You can read the headlines everywhere, but here’s a couple I filched from Bill Blum’s latest Anti-Empire Report:

‘The United States is ‘facing a nuclear threat in Iran’ — Chicago Tribune , May 26

‘the growing missile threat from North Korea and Iran’ — Washington Post, May 26

‘Iran’s threat transcends religion. Regardless of sectarian bent, Muslim communities need to oppose the attempts by Iran … to extend Shia extremism and influence throughout the world.’ — op-ed article in Boston Globe, May 27

‘A Festering Evil. Doing nothing is not an option in handling the threat from Iran’ — headline in Investor’s Business Daily, May 27, 2009

The corporate/state media has become monster even more dangerous and damaging than an entire host of WMDs (imagined or otherwise), the long-term effects of which are unfortunately not apparent, yet the global media onslaught determines what happens to the lives of millions.

How else could the ruling elites carry on as they do without the direct complicity of this vast machine of illusion makers? The real issue confronting us is how to break this awesome power and its shaping of our perceptions? And the ‘news’ is only one facet of the process, indeed can it be done without challenging the very existence of the medium of television, the major vehicle for shaping public ‘opinion’, at least as long as it remains in the hands of the state and big business?

The problem is made all the more complex and difficult by the loss/destruction of our left culture that was intimately connected to the trade union movement and the working class(as it then was). Cut off from our past and without organic connections to the present, we struggle in vain-glorious isolation, the Internet notwithstanding.

The ‘Net promised us a degree of autonomy and access probably not seen since the 19th century when we first started to organize on a mass scale. But clearly in spite of the ‘Blogosphere’ we have taken the proverbial one step forward – several steps backwards in the intervening decades.

Increasingly however, countries such the one I live in, the UK, are taking on the appearance of being stuck in some other universe, desperately clinging to illusions of Empire even as it collapses under its own contradictions.

Is it any wonder therefore, that the leading voice of the English Establishment, the Daily Telegraph, blew the gaff on our corrupt and inept ruling political class? Desperate times demand desperate measures, even trashing the most hallowed of institutions, the ‘Mother of all Parliaments’, no doubt considering that ending the careers of some careerists a small price to pay if the rule of capital is to be maintained.

South African Political Power Balance Shifts Left – Though Not Yet Enough to Quell Grassroots Anger By Patrick Bond

15 June, 2009 – The Bullet – A Socialist Project e-bulletin No. 22

With high-volume class strife heard in the rumbling of wage demands and the friction of township ‘service delivery protests,’ rhetorical and real conflicts are bursting open in every nook and cranny of South Africa.

The big splits in the society are clearer now. Distracting internecine rivalries within the main left bloc – which saw off the main trade union federation’s president and the South African Communist Party (SACP) treasurer last year – have subsided. From 2005-09, the ruling party’s huge wedge between camps allied to Thabo Mbeki and to the new president, Jacob Zuma, cleaved the African National Congress (ANC) in two, but the latter’s troops have mostly flushed out the former’s from the state and party.

So the bigger story now is the deep-rooted economic crisis. Government fiddling at the margins with Keynesian policies is not having any discernable impact. A lower interest rate – down 4.5% from last year’s peak (to around 10% prime with around 8% inflation) – and a probable 5% state deficit/GDP ratio (last year’s was a 0.5% surplus) are not nearly enough tinkering to stave off a serious depression.

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41 U.S. Counter-Terrorism and Intelligence Agency Veterans Challenge the Official Account of 9/11

14 June, 2009 –

Photo: The Pentagon after the collapse of the impacted wall.

Following in the footsteps of well over 1,000 scientists and other professional groups who have already gone on record questioning the official theory, more than 40 U.S. Counter-Terrorism and Intelligence Agency veterans have come forward to challenge the Government’s rendition of the September 11, 2001 attacks. Their behind-the-scenes knowledge and experience of sensitive and classified issues places them in a uniquely authoritative position. In this sense, their critical stance is all the more damning for the government. Conspicuously absent from the landscape are the mainstream media professionals, as they continue to provide cover for the government’s totally bankrupt theory and fail to report on landmark developments such as this.

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Team Obama/Cult Obama By Bill Blum

15 June 2009 — William Blum

The praise heaped on President Obama for his speech to the Muslim world by writers on the left, both here and abroad, is disturbing.  I’m referring to people who I think should know better, who’ve taken Politics 101 and can easily see the many hypocrisies in Obama‘s talk, as well as the distortions, omissions, and contradictions, the true but irrelevant observations, the lies, the optimistic words without any matching action, the insensitivities to victims.  Yet, these commentators are impressed, in many cases very impressed.  In the world at large, this frame of mind borders on a cult.

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William Blum: Anti-Empire Report, Number 70 The great, international, demonic, truly frightening Iranian threat

5 June, 2009 – William Blum: Anti-Empire Report, Number 70

The <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>United States is ‘facing a nuclear threat in Iran’ — article in Chicago Tribune and other major newspapers, May 26

‘the growing missile threat from North Korea and Iran’ — article in the Washington Post and other major newspapers, May 26

‘Iran’s threat transcends religion. Regardless of sectarian bent, Muslim communities need to oppose the attempts by Iran … to extend Shia extremism and influence throughout the world.’ — op-ed article in Boston Globe, May 27

‘A Festering Evil. Doing nothing is not an option in handling the threat from Iran’ — headline in Investor’s Business Daily, May 27, 2009

This is a very small sample from American newspapers covering but two days.

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New Profile: Israel – Investigating the Investigation

15 June, 2009

In this newest post from New Profile, we see once again the extraordinary creativity and energy of this unique and important organization. They are currently under investigation by the Israeli government (see here for the latest JPN report on the investigation: ion-and.html), but have decided to turn the tables and do some investigating and reporting of their own.

To paraphrase Rela Mazali’s introduction below, the power that the government bodies are exerting on New Profile in the investigation doesn’t just come down from above as a great force to which New Profile is subject. Rather, that power acts onto New Profile but is met by New Profile’s own structure and character, meaning that this power that the state wields works through its interaction with the members of New Profile. An active participant in this process, New Profile can reclaim their own authority in this investigation by discussing it, reporting on it and thus adding their definition to what the “investigation” actually is. This project, in which articulated thoughts lay claim to political power, is an act of resistance. Moreover, it identifies other possible sites of resistance. As Rela says, “the routes along which power is exercised always pass, of necessity, through intersections that present potential sites of resistance.”

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Video ‘Inside Iraq’: Lessons from Iraq’s nuclear quest

Iran’s nuclear programme may be of concern to much of the international community today, but what can world leaders learn from Iraq’s quest to acquire nuclear weapons?

Imad Khadduri, one of the few Iraqi nuclear scientists to witness the rise and fall of Saddam Hussein’s nuclear programme, joins the show.

Khadduri tells Inside Iraq who helped Iraq in its nuclear efforts, how a country can secretly develop the technology to build the bomb and what lessons learnt from Iraq can be applied to Iran.

This episode of Inside Iraq aired from Friday, June 12, 2009.