15 October, 2009 — MEDIA LENS: Correcting for the distorted vision of the corporate media
In our previous alert (‘The Westminster Conspiracy,’ October 8; www.medialens.org/alerts/archive.php) we described how the media’s insistence that journalists be ’balanced’, that they keep their personal opinions to themselves, is used as a tool of thought control.
Journalists who criticise powerful interests can be attacked for their ‘bias’, for revealing their prejudices. On the other hand, as we will see in the examples below, almost no-one protests, or even notices, the lack of balance in patriotic articles reporting on the experience of British troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, on the credibility of British and American elections, or on claims that the West is spreading democracy across the Third World. Then, notions of patriotism, loyalty, the need to support ‘our boys’, make ‘balance’ seem disloyal, disrespectful; an indication, in fact, that a journalist is ‘biased.’
The media provide copious coverage of state-sponsored memorials commemorating the 50th, 60th, 65th anniversaries of D-Day, the Battle of Britain, the Battle of Arnhem, the retreat from Dunkirk, the Battle of the Atlantic, the 25th anniversary of the Falklands War, and so on. Even the 200th anniversary of The Battle of Trafalgar was a major news item. Remembrance Sunday, Trooping The Colour, Beating The Retreat, the Fleet Review are all media fixtures. The military is of course happy to supply large numbers of troops and machines for these dramatic flypasts, parades and reviews.
On June 11, 2005, senior BBC news presenter, Huw Edwards, provided the commentary for Britain’s Trooping The Colour military parade, describing it as “a great credit to the Irish Guards”. Imagine if Edwards had added:
“While one can only be impressed by the discipline and skill on show in these parades, critics have of course warned against the promotion of patriotic militarism. The Russian novelist Tolstoy, for one, observed:
“’The ruling classes have in their hands the army, money, the schools, the churches and the press. In the schools they kindle patriotism in the children by means of histories describing their own people as the best of all peoples and always in the right. Among adults they kindle it by spectacles, jubilees, monuments, and by a lying patriotic press.’” (Tolstoy, Government is Violence – Essays on Anarchism and Pacifism, Phoenix Press, 1990, p.82)
Edwards would not have been applauded for providing this ‘balance’. He would have been condemned far and wide as a crusading crackpot, and hauled before senior BBC management.
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