Media 99: Anti-semitism campaign a fabrication – Norman Finkelstein charges the British elite & its media
Richard House has drawn attention to the latest Media Lens report: ‘Suspending Chris Williamson – The Fury And The Fakery’ – which includes a comment in a forceful and eloquent video by American political scientist, activist, professor and author, Norman Finkelstein (right), whose mother survived the Warsaw Ghetto, the Majdanek concentration camp and two slave labour camps and whose father was a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto and the Auschwitz concentration camp. He writes:
‘Corbyn . . . did not present a threat only to Israel and Israel’s supporters, he posed a threat to the whole British elite. Across the board, from the Guardian to the Daily Mail, they all joined in the new anti-semitism campaign . . . this whole completely contrived, fabricated, absurd and obscene assault on this alleged Labour anti-semitism, of which there is exactly zero evidence, zero.’
Media Lens points out that more than 150 Labour MPs and peers – the “infamously pro-war, Blairite section of the party have added to the propaganda blitz by protesting against the decision to readmit Williamson in a statement led by the bitterly anti-Corbyn deputy leader Tom Watson”.
A recent blog on the Jewish Voices for Labour site also stated that a “hostile, personal campaign is being waged against Chris, who is a hard-working and diligent MP with great standing in his constituency and a strong record of anti-racist campaigning”.
It adds: “This country stands in desperate need of a Labour government under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, aiming to unite people around protection and promotion of hard won rights and services, the party needs the dedication and principled commitment of Chris Williamson and others like him”.
In 2018, Noam Chomsky commented on this campaign: ‘The charges of anti-Semitism against Corbyn are without merit, an underhanded contribution to the disgraceful efforts to fend off the threat that a political party might emerge that is led by an admirable and decent human being, a party that is actually committed to the interests and just demands of its popular constituency and the great majority of the population generally, while also authentically concerned with the rights of suffering and oppressed people throughout the world. Plainly an intolerable threat to order.’ (Chomsky, email to Media Lens, 9 September 2018).
He commented on these issues again this month in correspondence with journalist Matt Kennard:
‘The way charges of anti-Semitism are being used in Britain to undermine the Corbyn-led Labour Party is not only a disgrace, but also – to put it simply – an insult to the memory of the victims of the Holocaust. The charges against Chris Williamson (right) are a case in point. There is nothing even remotely anti-Semitic in his statement that Labour has “given too much ground” and “been too apologetic” in defending its record of addressing “the scourge of anti-Semitism” beyond that of any other party, as he himself had done, on public platforms and in the streets.’
Media Lens’ challenging conclusion asks what sanction the Labour Party should put on those politicians who personally voted to authorise illegal British and US wars in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria – acts which did not merely offend but killed, maimed and displaced millions of people, bringing whole countries to their knees.
Venezuela: Murdoch press publishes Pompeo’s Corbyn slur while the FT sheds a positive light on events
As other papers headline the US secretary of state’s strictures on China, Iran and UK, the Times reports a remark made by Mike Pompeo about Jeremy Corbyn’s “disgusting” support for the Maduro regime – his refusal to denounce the president of Venezuela and his praise of the socialist regime’s “effective and serious” efforts to reduce poverty.
Mainstream media rarely refers to the US’ economic warfare, its imposition of sanctions on this oil-rich country, which are leading to food shortages and civil unrest and still less to the damaging IMF austerity regime.
The US and around 50 other countries say Mr Maduro is clinging to power on the basis of bogus elections – despite the reports of international observers – see Media Lens’ evidence. As Ian MacLeod, in Manufacturing Consent in Venezuela: Media Misreporting of a Country, 1998–2014, published in December, finds:
Alan MacLeod, a member of Glasgow University’s respected Media Group, documented the bias throughout the Chavez era in his book, Bad News from Venezuela: Twenty years of fake news and misreporting.
Fair, an American media bias watch group, published a February article by Mark Cook, Venezuela Coverage Takes Us Back to Golden Age of Lying About Latin America. Mark, writing from his home in Caracas, effectively and entertainingly debunks the allegations of shortages of food and painkillers.
As many countries predict the imminent bankruptcy of the regime, the FT – which notes Washington’s ‘relentless social media campaign against the Maduro government’ – alone in mainstream media presents (rather reluctantly) some evidence challenging the totally negative picture presented.
It reports today that some substantial debts are being paid and that the Venezuelan people are tired of the conflict – no longer responding to Mr Guaidó’s calls to demonstrate.
Venezuela is paying debts
- State-owned oil company PDVSA, is paying holders of PDVSA’s bonds, due in 2020, the $71m in interest payments owed from late April.
- In mid-April, Russia’s Finance Minister announced the Maduro government had paid more than $100m to cover an interest payment due in March
- In the first quarter of this year, ConocoPhillips disclosed that it had received $147m from PDVSA as part of a settlement awarded by an ICC tribunal.
Venezuelans are tired of the conflict and no longer responding to Mr Guaidó’s calls to demonstrate
In another FT article, planning a Saturday march to win over the military, Mr Guaidó urged his followers to march to military installations and hand over copies of a letter in which he urged the armed forces to support a “peaceful transition”. But few people heeded the call and even Mr Guaidó, who had been expected to lead one of the marches, did not turn up.
State of play (FT)
Mr Guaidó has acknowledged that he does not yet command enough support within the military to force regime change.
Mr Maduro has accepted that his administration needs to “rectify mistakes”. To that end, he authorised thousands of popular “assemblies” over the weekend to discuss what needs to be changed.
Setting aside the ‘left-wing’ partisan views, two BBC insiders – former senior BBC figures – have disputed the frequently brandished depiction of BBC ‘impartiality’.
Media Lens quoted Greg Dyke, a former BBC director general, who believes, ‘The BBC is part of a “conspiracy” preventing the “radical changes” needed to UK democracy.’ He says that a parliamentary commission should look into the ‘whole political system’, adding that ‘I fear it will never happen because I fear the political class will stop it.’ And recalled the words of Sir Michael Lyons, former chairman of the BBC Trust, who said there had been ‘some quite extraordinary attacks’ on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn by the BBC.
Reading ML’s (Killing Corbyn) dissection of the role played by BBC News – in particular, its political editor Laura Kuenssberg ‘fed’ by two public relations companies – recalls the classic display given as she attempted to ‘down’ Jeremy Corbyn. A would-be demolition expert, Laura completely abandoned her regular target after a good performance in the last general election and avidly described the losses and distress of Theresa May
In December it was reported that Labour MP Chris Williamson was invited to appear on the BBC’s Daily Politics programme to discuss the mainstream media ‘blackout’ of the news about Jeremy Corbyn’s award from the International Peace Bureau.
That ‘blackout’ would almost certainly still be in place if the award had not ‘gone viral’ on social media and it was pointed out that the MSM had given extensive coverage to Theresa May putting a star on a Christmas tree and to William and Kate receiving a Blue Peter badge.
Of late Momentum has been firmly in its sights – an easier target than Corbyn
Failing to toe the policy line, Norman Smith, the BBC’s Assistant Political Editor ‘tells it like it is’ – and describes meeting a group of Momentum supporters in Brixton and finding no-one fitting the hard-left stereotype:
“What Steve, Samira, Nadine and Roland (and we add hundreds of thousands) have in common is an enthusiasm fired by Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaign. They are Corbyn’s foot soldiers. Steve – a self-confessed “middle aged, BBC Radio 4 addict”- says he joined the Labour Party ‘about 20 seconds’ after Mr Corbyn’s victory. Samira also joined after Mr Corbyn won. “For the first time”, she says, “I felt there was somebody I could stand behind and that I could trust”.
The latest issue: the BBC’s role in portraying opposition to gentrification profiting developers, evicting local residents, as a left-wing power grab
There is widespread opposition to the destruction of estates where thousands of families lived, small businesses trading for generations, in this case by a private fund, the Haringey Development Vehicle, owned jointly with the developer Lendlease. Read more here.
Last night the SKWAWKBOX published exclusive evidence showing a BBC journalist leaking sensitive information to an anti-Corbyn activist in the London borough of Haringey
It included the journalist’s personal opinions about the case and about statements made by the complainant against the councillor. It commented, “The leaking of the email and the information it contained raised serious questions about the ethics and appropriateness of sending it – and about the BBC’s impartiality in the way information and claims were presented”.
The identity of the journalist and councillor in question, along with details of the information and the untrue claim, will be released shortly in a separate Skwawkbox article.
In their latest post, Media Lens say that people on the political left embrace Bernie Sanders because he talks honestly about corporate control of society. We include a summary of their article here, believing that the British media is also, to varying degrees, an ‘arm of the ruling class’.
- Sanders talks about the causes of vast and shameful inequality in the world’s wealthiest country.
- He talks about corporate media bias rooted in advertiser funding.
- He talks about ‘whether or not we think it’s proper for the United States to go around overthrowing governments’.
They see Sanders’ recent discussion with Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks (TYT) show as an astonishing departure from standard, six-second soundbite politics. Imagine a high-profile UK politician talking like this about the media:
‘First of all, we’re talking about the corporate media, right?…We need to break through the fog of the corporate media, which does everything that they can to keep us entertained without addressing the real issues. I’m on the corporate media every single day and you don’t know how hard it is just to try to demand that we begin to talk about the real issues. They really do not want to. They talk about everything under the sun, but not the real issues.’
Sanders is not arguing that the corporate media is merely biased, or unbalanced, in reporting issues; he is arguing that it never talks about real issues.
He offers a jaw-dropping example: ‘Here’s the story. I have been mayor for eight years, Congressman for sixteen, a US Senator for nine years. Do you know how many times people in the media have said: “Bernie, what are you going to do to end poverty in America? This is an outrage! We have 47 million people in poverty, what are you going to do about it, Bernie?” The answer is zero. Not once.’
The remarkable result, as Sanders notes:
‘Concepts of income and wealth inequality, concepts of justice, learning what goes on around the rest of the world [are] never talked about in the corporate media.’
So what is going on? Why won’t corporate media discuss real issues?
Sanders explains: ‘I had to write a letter to the presidents of all of the networks to tell them that on their Sunday shows they never talk about climate change. Almost never talk about it. Why? Well, does it have to do with the fact that they get a lot of coal company and oil company money advertising? I think it does. They don’t talk about it.’
He is correct. The not-for-profit Media Matters for America reported that, despite ever-worsening warnings of the dangers and a long list of broken temperature and other records, media coverage actually declined in 2015. (Much more detail is given in the article, link below). He adds:
‘I want a vigorous effort to address climate change. I mean, I am very worried. I talk to these scientists. This planet is in serious danger. You can’t cuddle up to the fossil fuel industry; you’ve got to take them on.
‘The fact is that big business does not want the public to be alarmed about climate change because people will demand action that will cut into corporate profits’.
‘So the media is an arm of the ruling class of this country and they want to talk about everything in the world except the most important issues. Because if you talk about real issues, and people get educated on the real issues, you know what happens next? They actually may want to bring about change.
‘They are scared to death. They get scared to death of the idea that young people are actually getting involved in the political process and want real change. That working class people are saying, “You know what, we need to end establishment politics and economics, and move in a different direction.” That is their nightmare.’
After a passage about the press coverage shadow chancellor John McDonnell and Corbyn received during the leadership campaign Media Lens editors end:
Like most leftists, we support Sanders’ comments and reject the liberal commentariat for reasons to do with concern for the welfare of all citizens, not just the rich, and above all out of fear for the survival of our species and planet. Business as usual – with corporate power subordinating everything to profit – is now the greatest threat humanity has ever faced. As Klein says, and she is not overstating: ‘If the next president wastes any more time… the climate clock will run out, plain and simple.’
Read the Media Lens article here: http://medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2016/816-last-chance-president
David Edwards of Media Lens responds to a Guardian article by Polly Toynbee in which she suggests that voting for Jeremy Corbyn would amount to a ‘betrayal’ of the electorate by quoting Ian Sinclair’s argument that in fact it is Toynbee, not Corbyn, who is out of touch with public opinion.
Sinclair noted that Corbyn supports a publicly run NHS, a position supported by 84 per cent of the public, according to a November 2013 YouGov poll. In addition:
- ‘He supports the nationalisation of the railways, a position backed by 66 percent of the public, including a majority of Conservative voters, according to the same poll.
- ‘He supports the nationalisation of the energy companies, a position supported by 68 percent of the public, including a majority of Conservative voters, according to the same poll.
- ‘He believes the Royal Mail should be publicly owned, a position supported by 67 percent of the public, according to the same poll.
- ‘He supports rent controls, a position supported by 60% of the public, including 42% of Conservatives, according to an April 2015 YouGov poll.
- ‘He opposes the retention of Trident nuclear weapons, a position John Curtice, Professor of Politics at Strathclyde University, notes is supported by a “smallish plurality” in “the majority of polls”.
- ‘He strongly opposed the 2003 Iraq War, which was also opposed by the more than one million people who marched through London on 15 February 2003.
- ‘He has long pushed for the withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan, a position favoured by 82 per cent of the public, according to a May 2014 YouGov poll.’
Thus: ‘Corbyn’s key political positions are in actual fact supported by a majority of the British public.’
Edwards ends: “Like Blair and the rest of the establishment, the Guardian and other corporate media claim their motivation is to preserve Labour’s electability, rather than to attack any and all politics that stray off the ‘centrist’, ‘modernising’ path.
“In reality, it could hardly be more obvious that this collection of profit-seeking, corporate enterprises – grandly and laughably proclaiming themselves ‘the free press’ – is opposing a threat to their private and class interests”.
Media Lens’ ‘Amazing Litany’ Of BBC Bias summarised:
Coverage of the Scottish independence referendum, due to be held on September 18 this year, is a compelling example of the deep establishment bias of the corporate media. Some critics have characterised the BBC’s coverage, in particular, as though Scotland is merely a region or a county of the United Kingdom called ‘Scotlandshire‘.
Professor Robertson told Media Lens that there was also: ‘undue deference and the pretence of apolitical wisdom in [official] reports coming from London – the Office for Budget Responsibility and Institute for Fiscal Studies, for example; but, also, Treasury officials [were] presented as detached academic figures to be trusted.’ (Email, March 18, 2014) . . .
He added that: ‘the conflation of the First Minister’s wishes with the YES campaign seems a classic case of undermining ideas by association with clownish portrayal of leading actors [in the campaign]’.
This media performance was, he said, reminiscent of past corporate media demonisation of former miners’ leader Arthur Scargill and Labour leaders Neil Kinnock and Michael Foot. The Scotsman also wrote an article in this vein.
Finally, Professor Robertson noted that there was a strong ‘tendency to begin [news] reports with bad economic news for the Yes campaign […]. Reports leading off with bad news or warnings against voting Yes were more common than the opposite by a ratio of 22:4 on Reporting Scotland (BBC) and a ratio of 20:7 on STV.’
So how did BBC Scotland respond to Professor Robertson’s documented evidence of clear bias in its coverage of the Scottish independence referendum?
Amazingly, BBC Scotland sent a 6,000-word letter to Professor Robertson in an attempt to demolish his study and undermine his credibility, copying it to the professor’s principal at the University of West Scotland. This unprecedented move seemed deliberately calculated to intimidate the researcher. In a careful and detailed response, Robertson rebutted the BBC criticism of his one-year study, and he concluded:
‘I think I’ve answered all the questions needed to contest these conclusions. […] The BBC response is a remarkably heavy-handed reaction. Why did they not report the research, let their experts critique it on air and then ask me to defend it? Instead we see a bullying email to my employer and a blanket suppression across the mainstream media in the UK. I’m shocked.’
Following Prof. Robertson’s solo appearance before the Parliamentary Committee, BBC Scotland put up a four-man panel to counter him. Prof. Robertson hailed the Committee Chairman’s ‘dogged extraction of the fact that the BBC had never mounted such a campaign against a piece of research before, ever.’ Prof. Robertson also noted that the Committee had exposed the BBC’s ‘failure to record and organise criticism of their performance’.
We asked Prof. Robertson to expand on what had been the response to his study from academia, including his own colleagues and management. He told us that at his institution, the University of West Scotland, there had been: ‘strong support for me at all levels, including the Principal, for my right to expression of intellectual ideas. Otherwise, a disturbing silence with no leading academic in politics, history, media theory prepared to protest the suppression of my report.
The Telegraph reports that a BBC spokesman said: “The BBC’s coverage of the Scottish referendum debate has been fair and balanced and we will continue to report on the story without fear or favour.”
David Edwards concludes a detailed and searing analysis of the way in which Blair’s 2003 “obvious web of deceit” was greeted, not even with whispers of dissent, but “with thunderous applause and praise by the political-media ‘club’ ”, by writing:
“For any rational viewer or reader, the cynicism, and the silence about that cynicism, was jaw-dropping. . .
“Much has been made of different newspapers being ‘for’ and ‘against’ the war in Iraq. But in fact all newspapers and broadcasters failed to raise even the most obvious objections to the case for believing the war was necessary, legal or moral. In March 2003, the way journalists feign fierce dissent while tossing feeble challenges for political executives, fellow ‘club’ members, to swat away, had never been more obvious.
“The Iraq war showed how the ‘free press’ is structurally hard-wired not to obstruct US and UK regimes bent on war. The corporate media – entrenched in the irrational and dangerous assumption that it should accept frameworks of debate laid down by ‘mainstream’ political parties – took key illusions seriously. As a result, the fraudulent discussion about Iraqi WMD raged on and on with the real world left far behind.
“And this was no passive media ‘failure’; it was an active, resilient determination to promote ‘the view from Downing Street’ and Washington. In 2002 and 2003, hundreds of Media Lens readers and other media activists – including journalists, academics, lawyers and authors – sent many hundreds of rational, referenced emails to newspapers and TV stations. Time and again, their crucial evidence and sources were simply ignored. The idea that coverage of the Iraq war represented a terrible ‘failure’ for the corporate media is an exact reversal of the truth. Iraq was a good example of how these media consistently excel in their structural role as defenders of powerful interests.
“The real ‘failure’ was the emergence of undeniable evidence that the media had all along been boosting Bush-Blair lies. But even this would have mattered little in the absence of Iraqi resistance and the vast death toll generated by the US determination to divide and conquer that resistance. If Iraqis had quietly accepted the conquest, the talk would not have been of ‘media failure’ but of ‘humanitarian success’, with all criticism dismissed as ‘carping’. This was indicated very clearly by the BBC’s then political editor Andrew Marr in April 2003, when he commented that the quick ‘fall’ of Baghdad, with Iraqis ‘celebrating’, had put an end to all ‘these slightly tawdry arguments and scandals. That is now history’. (Marr, BBC 1 News at Ten, April 9, 2003)