Double-plus ungood


In these Orwellian times, it is hard to know what to believe. The mainstream media presents front page articles describing events which are later declared to have not happened. Various "experts" speculate while the politicians and military are allowed to pontificate about almost anything without challenge. Embedded journalists (often dressed like soldiers) are considered objective sources while even the most transparent government spin on civilian deaths is repeated like it was news.

Welcome to 21st Century war reporting.

Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair's director of communications, seems particularly adept at doublethink. On March 31st, he suggested that news channels such as al-Jazeera were, in some cases, spinning "complete fiction".

Obviously the fact that al-Jezeera seemed to be the only news channel which reported accurately on the "popular uprising" in Basra while the UK media printed "complete fiction" has been placed into the Memory Hole.

Campbell gave as an example a story that suggested British soldiers had executed Iraqi prisoners. Obviously the fact that Tony Blair, eagerly followed by most of the media, stated that Iraqi soldiers had executed British soldiers and then retracted it has also been placed into the Memory Hole.

Campbell considers it a major problem that the Arab media is not reporting what the UK/US government wants it to report. This explains why Arab popular opinion was so against the war. "When you look at some of the output from not just al-Jazeera," he argued, "but some of the other Arab media, we have got a huge uphill battle on our hands and we have got to engage in it." That this media is accurately showing the civilian deaths caused by this immoral war is obviously not an issue. Nor is the possibility that Arabs are not stupid, that they see right through the "coalition" propaganda, considered. If only they watched Fox, then they would be on our side!

Campbell also bemoaned the sort of PR opportunities available to dictators such as Saddam Hussein. They are able to lie and not be subject to the sort of scrutiny that a Western regime was liable to get, he argued. Yet the "scrutiny" of most of the mainstream media is non-existent. They have, in the main, repeated government lies without question. Whether it was in the run up to the war or during the war itself, the media has repeated lie upon lie. But what do you expect from the master of spin?

He was at pains to state he was "not suggesting . . . we should be telling lies," yet that is what the state has been doing for months. It is particularly galling for him to imply that the "coalition" has not been lying given over a week of assertions and extractions.

This ability to lie gives the dictators "an advantage in the way this thing is prosecuted," he argues. He then blames the western media: "Saddam Hussein can go up and do a broadcast, and how many of our media then stand up and say what an amazing propaganda coup that was." Obviously he must be discussing a different media that the one the rest of us see. Those which question are in a small minority.

He then stated that dictatorships "exploit in their eyes the weaknesses of our democracy, the weaknesses of our media systems, they exploit them to their own advantage and I think sometimes our media allows them to do that."

What does that mean? That the western media not report events in Iraq? That they refuse to even pay lip service to objectivity? That they simply report government opinion as if it were the truth? Given that a few do exactly that now, what is Campbell complaining about? That this subservience to state power is not 100%?

And the obvious implication is that the west must eliminate its "weaknesses." How can this be done without the western media totally becoming simply a tool of state propaganda, as in a dictatorship? And how, exactly, do you eliminate the "weaknesses of our democracy" without getting rid of democracy as such?

Apparently, just as we must destroy Iraq to save it, we must undermine democracy at home in order to export it.


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