Friday, November 18, 2016

Suppressing Dissent, Controlling Minds, Performing 180° Reversals

medialens |  The idea that journalism should offer a neutral 'spectrum' of views was unceremoniously dumped during the US presidential election. Hillary Clinton was endorsed by the 500 largest US newspapers and magazines; Trump by 20 of the smallest, with the most significant of these – something called the Las Vegas Review-Journal - reaching some 100,000 readers.

As with Jeremy Corbyn, from the moment Trump became a genuine contender, he was drenched in vitriol by virtually the entire US-UK corporate press. The smear campaign was epitomised by the baseless, Ian Fleming-like suggestion that Trump was in cahoots with the establishment's other great bête noire, Putin – a propaganda-perfect marriage of Evil and Pure Evil.

Ironically, Trump may well turn out to be the final nail in the coffin of the manifestly stalled human attempt to become civilised. As leading climate scientist Michael Mann has noted, Trump's stance on climate stability may mean 'game over' for it and us.

But elite media did not oppose Trump because of his climate views – no question was raised on the issue during the presidential debates and, as Noam Chomsky observes (below), the issue was of no interest to journalists. On the other hand, Edward Herman comments, a declared lack of enthusiasm for foreign conflict, notably with Russia, 'may help explain the intensity of media hostility to Trump'.
Inevitably, our drawing attention to the awesome level of media bias drew accusations that Media Lens was an unlikely 'apologist' for Trump's far-right declarations promoting racism, misogyny and climate denial. When we asked Guardian commentator Hadley Freeman why, in comparing Trump and Clinton, she mentioned Clinton's email server scandal but not her war crimes, she interpreted this as an endorsement of Trump:

The roots of the Clinton-Trump fiasco lie in decades of 'liberal' media refusal to challenge the increasing venality, violence and suicidal climate indifference at the supposedly rational end of the political spectrum. Virtually the entire 'liberal' journalistic community saw great hope in Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, while treating genuinely honest and compassionate political commentators like Chomsky, Edward Herman, John Pilger, Howard Zinn, Harold Pinter, Chris Hedges, Jonathan Cook and many others as quixotic freaks who may be mentioned in passing, published once in a supermoon, but otherwise ignored.

As Slavoj Zizek observed: 'The real catastrophe is the status quo.' When liberal journalism slams the door on reasoned arguments and authentic compassion, other doors swing wide for the likes of Trump.

The default corporate media excuse for ignoring 'our' crimes is that elected politicians have been chosen to serve by the people, and it is the task of journalism to support, not subvert, democracy. But of course democracy is profoundly subverted by a lack of honest media scrutiny. Structural media distortion is so extreme that, despite bombing seven countries, Barack Obama continues to be depicted and perceived as an almost saintly figure. 

Hillary Clinton was indisputably the preferred establishment candidate, backed by virtually the entire US-UK corporate press.

'Mainstream' media did not merely support Clinton, they declared propaganda war on Trump. As we have seen in this brief sample, even BBC journalists thought nothing of ridiculing Trump's 'narcissistic personality disorder' – unthinkable language from a BBC reporter describing an Obama, a Cameron, or indeed a Clinton.

The intensity of establishment support for Clinton meant that journalistic performance was filtered by host media and self-censorship. As the former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger told us in an interview:

    '[T]he whole thing works by a kind of osmosis. If you ask anybody who works in newspapers, they will quite rightly say, "Rupert Murdoch," or whoever, "never tells me what to write", which is beside the point: they don't have to be told what to write. It's understood.'

The moment the vote was cast, pressures filtering out criticisms of Clinton and less hysterical coverage of Trump were lifted. The result is a semblance of balance that allows stunningly extreme 'mainstream' media to enhance their ill-deserved reputation for 'fairness' and 'impartiality'.


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