Bookbuster Book Review
Propaganda Blitz: How the Corporate Media Distort Reality
by David Edwards & David Cromwell
Published by Pluto, rrp £14.99
REVIEW BY TIM BARTON
In the search for reliable sources of news that are not polluted by the bias inherent in a news system owned by billionaires and, largely, edited and written by a publicly schooled elite, Media Lens has long been a reasonable place to spend some time (like all news sources, of course, to be read critically). The website was set up by the authors of this book, and has been running counter-narratives to some of the farcical lies we’re fed every day since 2001. Like most of us at HIP, neither authors are trained journalists.
The interesting thing about mainstream narratives on big issues of the day is that even the left-liberal or self-appointed ‘unbiased’ sources of news toe a clear party line, as if a D-Notice had been applied to them. There are, of course, differences between, say, The Daily Mail and The Guardian, but often these are confined to ‘comment’ and ‘opinion’, whilst the majority of the content is only barely different enough to maintain an illusion of argument and dissent. Reading between the lines, an alert and critical reader can often discern some hints of the truth, and this is more possible with The Guardian than the Mail (although the Mail Online is sometimes surprisingly at odds with its usual line). For example, anyone paying real attention knew with relative certainty, before a single shot was fired, that Iraq had NO ‘weapons of mass destruction’ (almost nothing ‘exposed’ in the hugely expensive Inquiry a decade later wasn’t already known before Blair took us into America’s little currency – the mid-East, and, increasingly, all of Europe, is still seeing the awful repercussions of this today). As Chomsky has long pointed out, a shouting match between a right-wing and centre-right-wing can look like free speech if they are loud enough about their cosmetic differences, whilst real alternative viewpoints are excluded and lambasted as ‘extreme’ and thus to be discounted.
This book doesn’t cover ‘Brexit’. I suspect they’d need at least a whole separate volume to even begin on the lies and misrepresentations foisted on us by a clique of rich and self-interested ‘leavers’. It does, however, cover the broadly similar litany of propaganda, bias, and lies peddled as objective truth and fair comment during the Scottish Referendum.
The book also looks at mainstream media control of a narrow spectrum of easily disproven fibs around subjects as wide-ranging as Julian Assange, Libya, Syria, Yemen, climate denialism, the ideological assault on the NHS, and the many biases inherent in BBC ‘news’.
John Pilger provides a great, if brief, introduction – ‘complex stories are reduced to a cult-like formula of bias, hearsay and omission’. He quotes General David Petraeus, who ‘described a “war of perception… conducted continuously using the news media” … the real enemy was, as always, an informed and sceptical public’. Although Petraeus is talking about Afghanistan, his comments describe the propaganda blitz we experience every day on every important subject. In the authors’ Preface they paraphrase a line from the Usual Suspects movie – ‘the greatest trick the corporate media ever pulled was convincing the world that corporate media bias doesn’t exist’.
Right now, with an election due in Venezuela, the press is taking great pains to give the CIA covering fire and upping the ante on a years long propaganda war against one of the more democratic South American regimes. The way these misrepresentations play out in the public perception is well illustrated by the vitriolic cartoon aggression it fosters on social media. We are also still in a media war against the leadership of the Labour Party, again full of outright lies, smears and exaggerations, from ‘Corbyn is far-Left’, through ‘so useless it’s a wonder he doesn’t soil his pants’ to the ‘anti-Semitism’ accusations. The ‘nasty party’ next door, full of bigots, and with considerable oligarchic influence over media chums is laughing its arse off.
The book finishes with a chapter on ‘Fake News’, and ‘objectivity’. It is interesting the degree to which popular ‘Lefty’ journos, such as George Monbiot or Owen Jones are outed as often entirely line-toeing establishment creeps. It is for this reason that the book spends more time attacking The Guardian and the BBC than the Telegraph or the Mail – after all, those who mistrust the media tend to already dismiss the latter as useful news sources. Too many people are so used to an extremely distorted reality that clarity looks ridiculous. Challenging how corporate media would have us believe a stick in water is bent, this very necessary book illustrates what the stick might really look like, and will aid a straighter view of world affairs.
• Available from Bookbusters, Queens Road & Printed Matter Books, Queens Road.
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