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Two George Monbiots?  
Posted by Ken Farrell on December 19 2007, 13:21 » Uploaded 19/12/07 21:23  

The people at the Medialens website (not to be confused with Media Hell) are busy smearing George Monbiot again. Examples include the claim that Monbiot is "brainwashed" and that he "promotes mass murder".

Of all the journalists one could criticise over the Iraq war, they target Monbiot. Seems insane to me, as does the nature of their attacks. Monbiot "promoting mass murder"? What universe are these people living in?

The two who run Medialens wrote that Monbiot was "swept along in the wake of that propaganda" (ie the "establishment propaganda [that] made the need to take action to deal with Saddam Hussein’s regime seem real, urgent and important").

To come to this bizarre conclusion they must have completely disregarded most of Monbiot's writing on the Iraq war. The only other explanation is that there are two different George Monbiots, and that Medialens is not referring to the one I'm familiar with.

For example, to take a few quotes at random from Monbiot's articles:

"[T]his will be a war without even the flimsiest of pretexts: an unprovoked attack whose purpose is to enhance the wealth and power of an American kleptocracy. Far from promoting peace, it could be the first in a series of imperial wars."

No task is more urgent than to expose the two astonishing lies contained in George Bush’s radio address on Saturday, namely that “the United States does not desire military conflict, because we know the awful nature of war” and “we hope that Iraq complies with the world’s demands.” Mr Bush appears to have done everything in his power to prevent Iraq from complying with the world’s demands, while ensuring that military conflict becomes inevitable.

The United States, in other words, appears rapidly to be monopolising the world’s remaining oil. Every government knows this. Ours appears to have calculated that the only way it can obtain the energy required to permit the men and women of Middle England to stay in their cars is to appease the United States, whatever the cost may be. Britain’s role in the impending war is that of the egret in the crocodile’s mouth, picking the scraps of flesh from between its teeth.

The latest attack on Monbiot isn't an isolated occurrence. Medialens has previously written that Monbiot has a very poor record when it comes to criticising the liberal media. I illustrated what nonsense this is by posting a long list of examples of Monbiot criticising the Guardian, Observer, BBC and other ostensibly "liberal" outlets. (I posted this list at Medialens - it was my last post there, as I was immediately thereafter prevented from posting).

I think the reason that Medialens returns again and again to target Monbiot has nothing to do with rational argument. If being rational had anything to do with it, they'd concentrate their attention on the many others in the media more deserving of criticism.

At exactly the point when the antiwar movement (and the larger movement against the authoritarian takeover of our lives) most needs unity, along comes Medialens to sow the seeds of division. It's time to learn from the past. This kind of thing has always hurt the antiwar campaign.

COMMENTS Post comment


Comment 01 – Ken Farrell December 19 2007, 14:10

For reference, here's the list of Monbiot quotes which I posted to contradict the notion believed among Medialens readers (that Monbiot doesn't write "criticisms of the mainstream liberal media and why they behave as such")...

(Greasing up to Power, George Monbiot, Guardian, July 13, 2004)
But the failures of the British media, and in particular the BBC, require more explanation. Studies by the Cardiff School of Journalism and the Glasgow University Media Group suggest that there is a serious and systematic bias among British broadcasters in favour of the government and its allies. [...]

Of course, this problem is not confined to the broadcasters, or for that matter, the rightwing press. On Sunday the Guardian’s sister paper, the Observer, asked, “Why was the Prime Minister’s foreword [to the dodgy dossier] so unequivocal about the threat Saddam posed? Why was inconclusive evidence presented as fact?”(18) The same questions should be asked of the Observer, which took the government’s part in the invasion...

(Big Business, As Seen On TV, George Monbiot, Guardian, December 14, 2000)
Most newspapers expose only the misdemeanors of the powerless, while the central political issue of our age, the corporate takeover of public life, is left to tiny underfunded groups such as Corporatewatch to investigate. Almost every new commercial development is represented by the mainstream media as a “jobs boost”, even if, in reality, it is a job-destroying, self-serving monstrosity. And dumbing down and trivialisation are, in this increasingly complex world, the foremost enemies of radical analysis.

(Smoke Rings, George Monbiot, Guardian, February 7, 2006)
The Today programme gave David Warburton an uncontested interview in the prime spot – at 8.20am. He extolled the calming properties of cigarettes and poured scorn on public health messages(7). Arise has also featured three times in the Guardian. Coverage like this continued until October 2004, when the Times repeated Arise’s claim that we should stop “worrying about often ill-founded health scares” and “listen to our bodies, which naturally seek to protect themselves from disease by doing the things we enjoy.”(8) In hundreds of articles and transcripts covering its assertions, I have found just one instance of a journalist – Madeleine Bunting in the Guardian – questioning either Arise’s science or the motivation of the scientists.

(The Alternative Media, George Monbiot, December 3, 2004)
When most of the media is controlled by people (the rich and powerful) who have an active interest in ensuring that the misdeeds of the rich and powerful are not exposed, the alternative media become critical to the survival of democracy. Rational political choices – who to vote for, which policies to support, which to oppose – are impossible if you don’t understand the implications, and the very information you need most is the information you are least likely to obtain.

(The Business of Power, George Monbiot, Guardian, February 5, 2002)
The gorilla at the head of the line is the media. Most of it belongs, of course, to major corporations, some of which also have substantial interests in other sectors. They rely for much of their income on corporate advertisers. The proprietors’ political project is to create a better world for corporations and multi-millionaires. [...]

Such is the institutional power of the corporations that the only people now in a position to hold them to account are other companies. When Amnesty International revealed that Indian police paid by Enron were beating and sexually abusing people living where it wanted to build a power plant, the news was received with horror by campaigners but ignored by almost everyone else. But when institutional shareholders lose their investments, the scandal dominates the headlines all over the world.

(How Britain Denies its Holocausts, George Monbiot, December 27, 2005)
As Mark Curtis points out, the dominant system of thought in Britain “promotes one key concept that underpins everything else – the idea of Britain’s basic benevolence. ... Criticism of foreign policies is certainly possible, and normal, but within narrow limits which show “exceptions” to, or “mistakes” in, promoting the rule of basic benevolence.”(13) This idea, I fear, is the true “sense of British cultural identity” whose alleged loss Max laments today. No judge or censor is required to enforce it. The men who own the papers simply commission the stories they want to read.

(Bringing Out the Dead, George Monbiot, Guardian, November 8, 2005)
In the US and the UK, the study was either ignored or torn to bits. The media described it as “inflated”, “overstated”, “politicised” and “out of proportion”(7). Just about every possible misunderstanding and distortion of its statistics was published, of which the most remarkable was the Observer’s claim that “The report’s authors admit it drew heavily on the rebel stronghold of Falluja, which has been plagued by fierce fighting. Strip out Falluja, as the study itself acknowledged, and the mortality rate is reduced dramatically.

(The Net Censors, George Monbiot, Guardian, September 13, 2005)
Over the past few months, reveals, both Morgan Stanley and BP have instructed newspapers and magazines that they must remove their adverts from any edition containing “objectionable editorial coverage”(16). Car, airline and tobacco companies have been doing the same thing(17). Most publications can’t afford to lose these accounts: they lose the offending articles instead. [...]

So instead of democracy, we get Baywatch. They are not the same thing [...] As a result of pressure from both ratings and advertisers, for example, between 1993 and 2003 environmental programmes were cleared from the schedules of BBC TV, ITV and Channel 4. Though three or four documentaries have slipped out since then, the ban has not yet been wholly lifted.

(The Lies of the Press, George Monbiot, Guardian, July 20, 2004)
The Independent, Independent on Sunday and the Guardian, which were the most sceptical about the claims made by the government and intelligence agencies, still got some important things wrong. Much of the problem here is that certain falsehoods have slipped into the political language. The Guardian, for example, has claimed on nine occasions that the weapons inspectors were expelled from Iraq in 1998. Embarrassingly, one of these claims was contained in an article called “Iraq: the myth and the reality”.

(Publish and Be Damned, George Monbiot, Guardian, April 29, 1999)
Our libel laws are crushing serious investigative journalism in Britain. They encourage our few surviving investigative strands to pursue petty con artists while leaving the Robert Maxwells to loot their pension funds in peace. They also subtly distort the news gathering operation. In February, BBC radio news reported that a protester at the Newbury bypass site may have attacked a guard with a hypodermic syringe. The incident, the report admitted, was unattestable and uncorroborated. Complainants were told that the BBC was even-handed – if protesters had made the same complaint about a security guard, the BBC would have given it the same treatment. This is obviously untrue. The guards belong to an incorporated organization, which could have sued the BBC. The protesters – unless they are named – have no such protection. Sensible journalists attend only to the shortcomings of the vulnerable.

(Bad News from Tesco, George Monbiot, Guardian, May 17, 2005)
try to picture a newspaper being sold beside the Tesco checkout with the headline “Tesco’s Bullying Tactics Exposed”. It is not hard to imagine a dreadful circularity developing. As Tesco’s market power increases, and its share of the news market rises, newspapers and magazines become ever more reluctant to challenge it, leaving it free to grow even bigger. [...]

“According to senior publishing industry sources,” the Observer reports, “Tesco has asked to see copies of covers prior to publication and asked for late changes on at least one occasion.”

(The Fossil Fools, George Monbiot, Guardian, April 27, 2004)
Hitchens, in turn, is an Einstein beside that famous climate scientist, Melanie Phillips. Writing in the Daily Mail in January, she dismissed the entire canon of climatology as “a global fraud” perpetrated by the “leftwing, anti-American, anti-West ideology which goes hand in hand with anti-globalisation and the belief that everything done by the industrialised world is wicked.

Comment 02 – Peter December 19 2007, 22:15

Medialens claim to "respect" and "admire" Monbiot, but they encourage their readers to smear him by posting attacks such as this (my emphasis):

Dear Mr Monbiot

Having read the current Media Lens` Media Alert, leaves me with a profound sense of disappointement, not in the ML report, which is excellent and factual, but rather in your role as a mouthpiece for `mainstream` rhetoric and `official` views. Having read one or two of your books and articles, I equated you, somewhat naively, as it turns out, with John Pilger. No more.
Your silence speaks volumes, as an admission of charges levelled at you by Media Lens, who are really very kind to you, suggesting that it`s really your desire to be `relevant` and to be `heard` that is at play here. It`s not just personal cowardice in admitting that you were wrong, as in the case of Ms Phillips mentioned in the report, but the wider implication that your expressed views, as someone with a `high profile` matter in maintaining and reinforcing the current propaganda and the `received wisdom`. In the case of Iraq, now with it`s millions of refugees, over a million killed violently, a genocide that dares not speak it`s name, and countless number of men, womwn and children maimed and deseased, the social fabric of that country destroyed, a disastrous situation that you bear part of the responsibility and guilt, Mr. Monbiot..
At present, there is a media and political chorus of demonisation and condemnation of Iran for it`s `nuclear ambitions` and `meddling in Iraq`; never mind the facts.It seems that you have joiner that chorus, Mr. Monbiot. A cynical case of déjà vu of 2002/3:

Kindest regards,

Mirek Szychowski

It's interesting that out of all the emails they receive, Medialens posted this one, a particularly unpleasant collection of smears. If they really "respected" Monbiot so much, you would think they might think twice about posting attacks like this.

But, actually, that's their MO. They keep to polite "suggestions" in their own writings, then they post a selection of more outspoken "responses" (ie attacks against the chosen target) from their readers. The latter are posted without comment by the Medialens editors, and reveal the true Medialens message. Then, later, they have deniability - "those smears weren't from us - we're always polite and respectful".

It's about getting others to do your dirty work. And there's no shortage of malevolent fools ready and willing to attack Monbiot on behalf of Medialens.

Comment 03 – Peter December 19 2007, 22:40

Also, Medialens are highly selective over which criticism (of themselves) they post to their website. The examples they post are those which can easily be dealt with. A recent example was from a certain "Peter" (not me) who writes: "You would learn that in democracies leaders generally try and improve the world...".

Now, that's clearly code for "I'm an apologist for western power elites" - and so Medialens have their easy reply.

What you don't see (because they don't post them) are the criticisms they can't dismiss so easily. So, on Professor Marc Herold correcting their errors, and objecting to their misuse of his quote, they were silent - until they were forced to deal with it by someone raising it on their board.

I think they're quick to ban people due to an insecurity about having their arguments dissected by capable people.

Comment 04 – Benoit December 20 2007, 00:18

I wouldn't worry, as media lens are jsst hurting themselves when they write that monbiot is swept away by establishment propaganda.

The people who do swallow this _deserve_ medialens, and vice versa.

Comment 05 – Several Famous Epidemiologists December 20 2007, 10:46

If "getting your own back" on people who snub you is rational, then our studies show that Medialens are among the world's leading rationalists.

We've demonstrated the correlation between snubbing Medialens and being targeted by Medialens. Examples include Monbiot, Iraq Body Count, Seumas Milne, etc - each of whom snubbed Medialens, and each of whom experienced the "compassionate" wrath of Medialens as a result. It's very enlightened.

Comment 06 – Daniel Simpson December 20 2007, 12:18

Email to Media Lens (cc George Monbiot):

Date: 18 December 2007 12:12:43 GMT
Subject: Three quick questions

Dear David and David,

1) What is the basis for your implied belief that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad +isn't+ "'opposed to the existence of Israel'?" If, however, you don't actually believe this, why are you wasting George Monbiot's time by asking him why he doesn't?

2) What is the basis for asserting that "the simplest way for the West to bring its 'war on terror' to a successful conclusion would be for it to stop waging war and to renounce terrorism"? If you're relying on Bin Laden's words as a guide, what is the evidence that he controls the many-headed hydra of bearded Guys With Guns (and other ammo)?

3) What is your source for a death toll of 100,000 in Sudan and why is that figure most credible in your view? Moreover, on what basis do you assert as fact that 1 million have died in Iraq?

I note that you chastise George Monbiot for not responding to emails he presumably regards as vexatious. Since you are also providing influential commentary to an impressionable audience, I trust you won't regard yourselves as being subject to different obligations.

In other words, I look forward to your response.

Best wishes,

Daniel Simpson


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