20 April 2016 — Media Lens
While ‘social media’ like Facebook and Twitter are forms of corporate media, it is unarguable that they and other web-based outlets have helped empower a serious challenge to traditional print and broadcast journalism. For the first time in history, uncompromised non-corporate voices are able to instantly challenge the filtered ‘mainstream’ version of events. This certainly helps explain the rise of Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, Podemos in Spain, and now Bernie Sanders in the US.
A key lesson learned by many people over the last few years is that supposedly neutral corporate media in fact have an unlimited capacity for finding fault with the actions and opinions of perceived enemies of elite power, just as they have an unlimited capacity for pardoning loyal servants.
The point was emphasised by an April 12 article in the Telegraph titled:
‘Jeremy Corbyn’s £3million state-funded salary and pension revealed.’
Telegraph journalists Kate McCann and Steven Swinford found great and damning significance in the fact that:
‘Jeremy Corbyn has made more than £3million from the state in the past 30 years, according to official records. The Labour leader has made more than £1.5million in salary as an MP and will benefit from a generous £1.6million pension when he retires.’
The Telegraph quoted ‘A senior backbench Labour MP’, who said the scale of his earnings ‘was “remarkable” in the wake of Mr Corbyn’s criticism of David Cameron over his own tax affairs’.
In fact, Corbyn had earned the equivalent of a £45,000 a year salary. This, we were to believe, was a scandal. Former Guardian journalist Jonathan Cook commented:
‘In other words, this is a complete non-story. He’s an MP and he received the benefits due an MP. If there’s a problem with that, then the Telegraph ought to be campaigning against MPs’ salaries.’
As Cook noted, the Telegraph thereby revealed ‘it is just a propaganda sheet for the business class’:
‘The only scandal here is that the Telegraph can write a story like this and still be considered a newspaper rather than a muck-raking comic. This example may be extreme, but behind it lie the same motives of class-interest that have driven the hundreds of other hatchet jobs on Corbyn over the past year, published in every British newspaper including supposedly liberal publications like the Guardian.’
The good news is that this ‘mainstream’ backlash – Sanders has received identical treatment in the US press – has also been exposed by media activists, further demolishing corporate media credibility.
The Lawyer Who Tried To Halt The Iraq War
While Corbyn is smeared for everything he does and does not do, Tony Blair continues to be presented as a respectable source on Iraq, Libya and Syria, and indeed on Corbyn. Guardian assistant editor, Michael White, wrote last week:
‘Top military/civilian brass will share Chilcot’s blame for Iraq failures, as I have warned Blair baiters for years’
We asked White what he meant by ‘Blair baiters’. He replied:
‘”What’s a Blair baiter?” You could start by reading a blog, by chance it has the same name as yours. Then try Murdoch press’
As White’s comment suggests, Blair apologism remains a fixture at the Guardian where ‘Teflon Tony’ has long been revered as a hero. Last summer, the Guardian repeatedly gave him space to attack Corbyn. Blair wrote:
‘The party is walking eyes shut, arms outstretched, over the cliff’s edge to the jagged rocks below. This is not a moment to refrain from disturbing the serenity of the walk on the basis it causes “disunity”. It is a moment for a rugby tackle if that were possible.’
The significance of the Guardian’s efforts to rehabilitate Blair is emphasised by an April 14 piece in the Financial Times titled: ‘Sarosh Zaiwalla, the lawyer who tried to halt the war in Iraq.’
Zaiwalla’s CV is sprinkled with famous names: Tony Blair and Saddam Hussein among them. The FT reports:
‘With the second  Iraq war brewing, Zaiwalla might have played a pivotal role in scotching it. “We had a good chance of saving a million lives and almost $3.5tn,” he says.’
It might seem remarkable to see a one million death toll offered so casually, without challenge, in the FT. But then as Noam Chomsky has noted, readers of the business press can’t afford the illusions indulged by papers like the Guardian and Independent – the FT’s readers need to know what is really happening in the world.
Zaiwalla says he ‘was given a message for Tony Blair: his clients [the Iraqi government] were “prepared to sit down with Britain and discuss resolution of the situation. All options were open.”‘ These included:
‘”Getting rid of Saddam Hussein…?They knew the war was coming and they knew they had no chance.” In the lawyer’s view, a deal should have been struck: send Saddam “to one of the islands with a few million dollars”, and be done with it.’
‘Tony Blair told me to write to him and I wrote to him and I got a letter back: “Forget it” [to paraphrase]… He had already made up his mind.’
The claim rings true and is supported by an exchange of letters, published by the FT, between Zaiwalla and Downing Street from April 2002. We also know from the Downing Street memos that Bush and Blair were determined to fight, that UN ‘diplomacy’ was a sham intended to provide a pretext or cover for war.
And yet this dramatic and damning story – credible testimony that Iraqi peace overtures that could have saved one million lives were dismissed out of hand – has been completely ignored by the rest of the ‘mainstream’. The Nexis media database reports zero mentions anywhere else in the UK or US press.
While the non-story of Corbyn’s ‘millions’ was big news across the corporate media, this further confirmation of the truth of Blair’s millions – that millions of Iraqis were needlessly killed, injured and displaced by his and George Bush’s criminal war of aggression – was deemed unnewsworthy.
If journalists are looking for a ‘hook’ to justify mentioning Zaiwalla’s claims, they might link to a brand new BBC story:
‘Iraqi families sell organs to overcome poverty.’
‘Grinding poverty has made the trafficking of kidneys and other organs a phenomenon’, the BBC reports, in a country where 22.5% of the population of 30 million live in ‘abject poverty’, according to World Bank figures. A human rights lawyer commented:
‘The phenomenon is so widespread that authorities are not capable of fighting it.’
According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, prior to the imposition of UN sanctions in August 1990, the Iraqi welfare state was ‘among the most comprehensive and generous in the Arab world’. In 1999, the Red Cross reported: ‘Just a decade earlier, Iraq boasted one of the most modern infrastructures and highest standards of living in the Middle East’, with a ‘modern, complex health care system’. According to the Centre for Economic and Social Rights, ‘Over 90% of the population had access to primary health-care.’
The organ trafficking story could even be mentioned alongside recent news that Blair ‘used a secret trust to manage his multi-million pound fortune’. But perhaps that would be ‘Blair baiting’.
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The first Media Lens book, ‘Guardians of Power: The Myth of the Liberal Media’, was published in 2005 by Pluto Press.
The second Media Lens book, ‘NEWSPEAK in the 21st Century’, was published in 2009, also by Pluto Press.
In 2012, Zero Books published ‘Why Are We The Good Guys?’ by David Cromwell.
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