Imposed Insanity – Royalty, Propaganda And The Coming Catastrophe

Wednesday, 14 September 2022 — Media Lens

If every single high-profile journalist, politician and priest is currently expressing heartfelt devotion to Britain’s deceased, 96-year-old monarch, it is not because she ‘served’ her country diligently in doing her ‘duty’ for 70 years. The powerful interests that determine Britain’s political and media agenda are not sentimentalists; they do not impose ‘managed democracy’ as a kind of game. Propaganda blitzes are always pragmatic.

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Emily Maitlis is right about BBC bias – but for the wrong reasons

Tuesday, 6 September 2022 — Jonathan Cook

Journalists aren’t too deferential and timid, as the ex-Newsnight presenter claims. They are only too ready to bare their teeth when it serves establishment interests

Jonathan Cook

Middle East Eye – 6 September 2022

It took no great powers of prognostication for Emily Maitlis to predict in her recent MacTaggart lecture to the Edinburgh Television Festival that critical comments about her former employer, the BBC, would plunge her into controversy. Maybe that was the point.

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OneWorld’s Response To Media Defamation: Sharing One’s Opinion Doesn’t Make Them A GRU Agent!

29 July 2020 — One World

Several Mainstream Media outlets, including the Associated Press and the New York Times, reached out to OneWorld after publishing their defamatory articles accusing our writers of working for the Russian military intelligence agency GRU. This is our official response, and we encourage everyone to share it widely.

Stuck In A Lift With John Pilger – ‘News And How To Use It’ by Alan Rusbridger

4 December 2020 — Media Lens

Noticing the way journalists seemed unable to resist commenting on our work, even if it was just to slag us off, Glenn Greenwald tweeted us in 2012:

‘You are really deeper in the heads of the British establishment-serving commentariat than anyone else – congrats.’ (Greenwald, Twitter, 12 September 2012)

If that was true then, our relationship with the commentariat now feels more like a case of out of sight, out of mind. We have been blocked en masse on Twitter, even by loveable liberals like Jeremy Bowen, Jon Snow, Mark Steel (yes, ‘radical’ Mark Steel!), Steve Bell, Frankie Boyle (the less said about that the better) and, of course, Owen Jones and George Monbiot.

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Media Lens: ‘The BBC Has Betrayed Its Own Rules Of Impartiality’: Yemen, Saudi Arabia And The General Election

5 June 2017 — Media Lens 

A key function of BBC propaganda is to present the perspective of ‘the West’ on the wars and conflicts of the world. Thus, in a recent online report, BBC News once again gave prominence to the Pentagon propaganda version of yet more US killings in Yemen. The headline stated:

‘US forces kill seven al-Qaeda militants in Yemen, says Pentagon’

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Media Lens: BBC still Ignoring Evidence of War Crimes in Iraq

24 May 2005 — Media Lens

BBC News Director Helen Boaden Responds

“Professional journalism relies heavily on official sources. Reporters have to talk to the PM’s official spokesperson, the White House press secretary, the business association, the army general. What those people say is news. Their perspectives are automatically legitimate… This is precisely the opposite of what a functioning democracy needs, which is a ruthless accounting of the powers that be.” (Robert McChesney, professor of communications, University of Illinois)

Scores of readers responded to our Media Alert, ‘BBC Silence on Fallujah’ (May 17, 2005), in which we highlighted the evasions of BBC news director Helen Boaden in her Newswatch article at:

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Media Lens: BBC Still Silent on Fallujah

17 May 2005 — Media Lens

The BBC Has Failed To Respond To Doubts About Its Claims On US Atrocities In Iraq

“The truth is replaced by silence, and the silence is a lie.” (Yevgeney Yevtushenko)

Last week, the editors of Media Lens wrote to the BBC’s director of news, Helen Boaden, about her failure to respond to public concerns over BBC misreporting from Iraq: Continue reading

Media Lens: Doubt Cast on BBC Claims Regarding Fallujah

18 April 2005 — Media Lens

The BBC has published an online Newswatch article entitled ‘Has the BBC ignored weapons claims?’ (April 14, 2005,

This is in response to a large number of emails generated by our March 30 Media Alert, ‘No Great Way to Die,’ (see under ‘Latest‘,

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Media Lens: “No Great Way to Die” – But the Generals Love Napalm

30 March 2005 — Media Lens

Exchange With the BBC’s Director of News

“These are the stories that will continue to emerge from the rubble of Fallujah for years. No, for generations…”
(Dahr Jamail, independent reporter in Iraq)

Heavily Conditioned Sensitivity

Traditionally, Western journalists give massive emphasis to acts of violence committed by official enemies of the West, while lightly passing over Western responsibility for often far more extreme violence. As Robert Fisk has noted: Continue reading

Media Lens: Email Reveals BBC Contempt For Public Complaints

19 February 2005 — Media Lens

“Oh god mike – do you take care of these sorts of things, or do we ignore them?”

Judy Swallow, presenter of the BBC’s World Service Newshour, sent presumably to a BBC colleague concerning the letter reproduced below, sent by a listener to Ms Swallow about the BBC’s coverage (or lack thereof) of events in Fallujah

In a world of terrible suffering and injustice, many of us cling to the hope that journalists will have the integrity and compassion to report honestly. Above all, this means standing up for the defenceless and crushed against those who would rather we did not know and did not care.

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Media Lens: Priorities of Power – The Real Meaning Of Elections In Iraq

8 February 2005 — Media Lens

Introduction – At The ‘Mainstream’ Fringe

In truth it is quite wrong to describe the corporate media as ‘mainstream’. We wouldn’t describe Flat Earthism as mainstream geology, nor would we describe Mein Kampf as mainstream political philosophy. There isn’t a cultural or philosophical tradition on the planet that takes seriously the idea that truth-telling can be reconciled with greed. The idea that it can be reconciled with the unlimited greed of corporate profit-maximising is too ridiculous even to discuss. Or should be.

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Media Lens: BBC Apology on Iran

26 January 2005 — Media Lens

On January 21, we published a Rapid Response Media Alert, ‘Targeting Iran – The BBC Propaganda Begins,’ in which we noted that the BBC’s diplomatic correspondent, James Robbins, had reported that US relations with Iran were “looking very murky because of the nuclear threat”. (BBC1, 13:00 News, January 20, 2005)

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Media Lens: Targeting Iran – The BBC Propaganda Begins

21 January 2005 — Media Lens

Iran – The Last Hurrah

Writing in The New Yorker magazine this month, the renowned investigative journalist Seymour Hersh reported US plans for an attack on Iran. A former high-level intelligence official told Hersh:

“This is a war against terrorism, and Iraq is just one campaign. The Bush Administration is looking at this as a huge war zone. Next, we’re going to have the Iranian campaign. We’ve declared war and the bad guys, wherever they are, are the enemy. This is the last hurrah – we’ve got four years, and want to come out of this saying we won the war on terrorism.” (Seymour M. Hersh, ‘The coming wars’‚ The New Yorker, January 17, 2005)

Hersh added:

“In my interviews, I was repeatedly told that the next strategic target was Iran.”

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Media Lens: Protest the BBC on Thursday, December 2 – This is Why. Part 2

1 December 2004 — Media Lens


Tomorrow, December 2, the peace group A Call For Light is organising a peaceful vigil outside the BBC, Bush House, Aldwych, London, between 5:30pm and 7:00pm.

Like the rest of the mainstream media, the BBC did next to nothing to expose the devastating effects of US-UK war and sanctions on the civilian population of Iraq from 1990 onwards. Ahead of last year’s war, the BBC endlessly echoed and channelled UK government propaganda claims, almost never subjecting those claims to serious challenge.

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Media Lens: Protest the BBC on Thursday, December 2 – This is Why. Part 1

30 November 2004 — Media Lens

“There is not a single surgeon in Falluja. We had one ambulance hit by US fire and a doctor wounded. There are scores of injured civilians in their homes whom we can’t move. A 13-year-old child just died in my hands.” (Dr. Sami al-Jumaili, main Fallujah hospital, November 9, 2004)

“Do not avoid contact with suffering or close your eyes before suffering. Do not kill. Do not let others kill. Find whatever means possible to protect life and prevent war.” (Thich Nhat Than)

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Media Lens: Fallujah – The BBC’s Director of News Responds

26 November 2004 — Media Lens

On November 8 and 11 we published two Media Alerts: ‘Legitimising Mass Slaughter in Fallujah’‚ in which we commented on the bias and inhumanity of BBC and ITV News reporting on Fallujah.

These alerts generated a massive response from readers – one of the biggest we have seen – and contributed, we believe, to a short-lived improvement in both BBC and ITV reporting. As a flood of emails was being copied to us, the BBC in particular began paying attention to the plight of civilians in Fallujah in a way that it had conspicuously not done earlier in the week. This could of course have been a coincidence, but we doubt it. We suspect that BBC editors and journalists were shocked by the intensity and extent of public feeling, a suspicion strengthened by a response of unprecedented seriousness from the BBC’s director of news, Helen Boaden (see below).

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Media Lens: Legitimising Mass Slaughter in Fallujah – Part 2

11 November 2004 — Media Lens

“We’ll unleash the dogs of hell, we’ll unleash ’em… They don’t even know what’s coming – hell is coming. If there are civilians in there, they’re in the wrong place at the wrong time.” (Sergeant Sam Mortimer, US marines, Channel 4 News, November 8, 2004)

The Face Of Raw Power

Sometimes media choices are beyond all rational comprehension. On November 10, the BBC’s 18:00 news began with a report of Sudanese government actions against refugees in the Darfur region of the country. The conflict, the BBC reported, “is thought to have killed more than 70,000 people in a little over a year – nearly two million people have been forced from their homes into refugee camps.”

BBC foreign correspondent, Feargal Keane, reported that refugee shelters had been torn down by police. Video footage showed a village elder being kicked and beaten by police, tear gas was fired at women and children, a plastic bullet was fired at the BBC team. As police attempted to forcibly move the refugees, Keane noted that this represented “a clear breach of international law”.

Keane concluded:

“This was a day when the Sudanese government showed the face of raw power. When the international community was left powerless, and the most vulnerable, defenceless.” (BBC 18:00 News, November 10, 2004)

This did indeed represent an appalling abuse of defenceless people. But whereas the British media and public are not morally responsible for the abuses of the Sudanese government, we +are+ responsible when our own government shows “the face of raw power” to “the most vulnerable”. Can we imagine Keane, or any other BBC journalist, using similar language to describe our government’s actions?

Moreover, whereas the British public can do little to influence the actions of the Sudanese government, we have a very real ability to influence our own government through elections, protest and civil disobedience. In other words, by any sane moral standard, the actions of our government represent an incomparably +more+ important focus than the actions of the Sudanese government.

And whereas 70,000 people are estimated to have been killed in the Sudanese conflict in little more than a year, 100,000 civilians are estimated to have died as a result of our own government’s invasion of Iraq since March 2003. Whereas 2 million people are said to have been displaced in the Sudan, a quarter of a million people are estimated to have been displaced from Fallujah in just the last few weeks.

There is, readers will recall, one further difference. Whereas the Sudanese police were shown tear-gassing civilians in Keane’s report, US-UK forces are currently waging full-scale war on Iraqi civilian areas with main battle tanks, airburst firebombs, artillery barrages and helicopter gunships.

Which issue, then, should be prioritised in BBC news reporting?

And yet the BBC’s late news on November 10 began by devoting eight minutes to the Sudan story, followed by five minutes on Fallujah.

ITV – The Three Words

Over on ITV (November 10, 18:30), it is Cartoon Time as anchors Nick Owen and Andrea Catherwood stroll down the catwalk to bring us the latest news from Fallujah. This was explained with the help of computer animation: cartoon Humvees trundled along streets and cartoon tanks blasted snipers in cartoon buildings.

An outraged friend of ours asked this simple question, a question that is all but unthinkable to the media:

“What +right+ have they got to do what they’re doing to that city? What right?!”

It’s an interesting question. There were no WMDs, no links to al Qaeda, the civilian population was not being massacred by Saddam Hussein in the year prior to the war. So what actually +is+ our justification for waging full-scale war on Iraqi cities? Who are we to do it? How is it that we are helping the people we are destroying?

It is indeed like a cartoon – the US and UK governments keep running in mid-air, though any pretence of legal and moral justification has long since fallen away. But they do not fall because we have no democracy, no political opposition to establishment control, and no freedom of speech.

Our friend’s question does not exist for the elite media. For highly-trained, highly professional journalists the issue is more complex – there are caveats, nuances. But in truth, in their minds, this is just another campaign in the West’s permanent Just War. There are different units, different campaigns, different enemies – but it’s basically always the same righteous, liberating Just War.

So, for our media, Fallujah is on a par with the Battle for Normandy, it is another phase of Operation Desert Storm. We may be illegally attacking Third World residential areas housing thousands of helpless civilians, and a ragtag army of the people we came ‘to liberate’, but for our media it is the same Just War. Thus, anchorwoman Andrea Catherwood spoke over a map that might just as well have been of Arnhem:

“The US marines made steady progress… army chiefs say they have control of 70 percent of the city, including the strategically important Highway 10.”

But why is Highway 10 strategically important? What are US forces doing there? What right do they have to be demolishing this Third World city that has never threatened America or Britain?

ITV tells us simply that this is “a prime example of urban warfare” – of the kind we often see in our endless Just War.

What other truths do we need to know about this urban war? More cartoons: “The marines can call on some of the latest technology, like The Buffalo, that can locate and destroy mines and booby troops using a robot arm.”

A cartoon Buffalo is shown approaching a cartoon car, which explodes as the Buffalo’s extendable arm touches it. There’s more:

“They’ve also got the Packbot. It’s a small remote-controlled robot fitted with a camera which can climb stairs and even open cupboards to search houses and other buildings for explosives.”

A black and silver cartoon robot is shown climbing a block on a roof and touching it with a probe. This feels like an outtake from a programme on space exploration. But what is being explored here is a different moral universe – one inhabited by professional executives working for the ITV subsidiary of The Corporation.

Finally we are told: “Paul Davies reports on a day of urban warfare.”

We see footage of a marine in action. The marine turns and growls to camera:

“We’re going in, we’re taking the city this time.”

This is a classic moment from Hollywood versions of the Just War. This is John Wayne, Richard Widmark, Tom Hanks – we recognise this dialogue, we recognise this figure.

Davies repeats the marine’s tough-guy promise, savours it, adding: “It’s no idle boast, but it’s been achieved the hard way.” This, also, is straight out of Hollywood.

We see grainy shots of marines firing: “These remarkable images sent back over shaky video phones tell a story just about as far away from the clinical, long-range warfare the Americans would prefer to wage as it’s possible to be.”

Yes, how ironic for the US forces – they would surely prefer long-range combat and “clinical” killing. It’s an interesting point, isn’t it, as the superpower wages a war of colonial conquest on impoverished Third World streets? Davies continues:

“But the swift progress of this operation has been at a cost. Even before today’s street battles, ten American soldiers had been killed, more than 40 marines and their Iraqi allies wounded. There are no accurate figures on the number of militants dead, or civilian casualties.”

Throughout the whole report, these are the words we have been waiting for, and there are three of them: “or civilian casualties”. Nothing more was said on the matter.

Are we to understand, then, that because there are no +accurate+ figures, the issue need not be discussed at all? Are we to understand that it is enough to drool over Buffalos, Packbots, tank attacks on Highway 10, how the marines are “going in”, without discussing the fate of the innocent human beings being slaughtered in this city? Is this a human response to the assault on Fallujah? Is this even sane? Has there been any sense in TV reporting that this killing is, in fact, illegal?

After seeing ITV’s earlier lunchtime news, we had written to the editor and director of the programme on the same day. This is what we sent:

Dear Nick Rabin and Jane Thompson

Paul Davies’ claim on today’s ITV lunchtime news that “there is no word yet of civilian casualties” in Fallujah is incorrect. The UN’s IRIN agency [United Nations Integrated Regional Information Network] channelled this report from Red Crescent today:

IRAQ: Medical needs massive in Fallujah – Red Crescent

FALLUJAH, 10 November (IRIN) – Twenty doctors along with dozen of Iraqis were killed by a US air strike on a government clinic on Tuesday in the centre of Fallujah, 60 km west of Baghdad according to Dr Sami al-Jumaili, who survived the strike.

“In the early morning the US attacked the clinic, a place that we were using for treating the injured people in the city. A girl and ten-year-old boy, I really don’t know if they want to tackle the insurgents or the innocent civilians from the city,” al-Jumaili told IRIN.

According to the health worker, the building was one of three community clinics that had been receiving civilians wounded since the assault on the city by US and Iraqi troops to destroy insurgents began on Monday. He said that the clinic was already running out from medicines and the only ambulance that was left in the city had also been hit by US fire.

People in the town say that hundred of houses have also been destroyed and other says that they are running out water and food, adding that shops and markets have been closed and there is no place to source food. Civilians are fearful that if they go out they could be targeted by US troops, now controlling much of the north and centre of the city.

Water and electricity had also been cut off since Sunday, and doctors say that together with the chronic lack of supplies, there is not a single surgeon in the city. Without electricity medical staff cannot keep blood refrigerated. Communication has also difficult, with telephones working only sporadically.”

Not a word of this, or material like it, appeared on ITV on November 10.

ITV’s evening news (18:30) continued to limit itself to the three words: “or civilian casualties”. The late news (22:30) included additional combat footage, but the three words remained.


The goal of Media Lens is to promote rationality, compassion and respect for others. In writing letters to journalists, we strongly urge readers to maintain a polite, non-aggressive and non-abusive tone.

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Write to Andrea Catherwood

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Write to Helen Boaden, director of BBC News

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