Tag: David Aaranovitch

The Imperial arrogance of the BBC

 

 

By Daniel Margrain

“I think the days of Britain having to apologize for our history are over….I think we should celebrate much of our [imperialist] past rather than apologize for it, and we should talk, rightly so, about British values.”

The above words were uttered not by Nigel Farage, Nick Griffin or Enoch Powell, but former New Labour Chancellor, Gordon Brown eleven years ago during the recording of a BBC ‘Newsnight’ film which explored Brown’s ideas about Britishness. The “values” supposedly specific to Britain that Brown was referring to were not made clear.

Four years later, in 2009, Brown as Prime Minister, became embroiled in the controversy that surrounded the appearance of the fascist Nick Griffin on the BBCs flagship political forum programme, Question Time. After much to-ing and fro-ing between the BBC hierarchy and Brown, it was the latter who finally decided that the responsibility to allow Griffin on to the programme rested with the former.

Although in principle the BBC Trust – which oversees the requirement of the organisation “to deliver duly impartial news by the Royal Charter and Agreement and to treat controversial subjects with due impartiality” – is able to intervene in cases like this, in practice the body never interferes in individual programme content prior to transmission.

The decision to allow the then leader of an openly fascist party on to the programme on the basis that not to have done so would have breached the corporations impartiality guidelines, is an illustration of the absurdity underpinning the BBC claim. The organization frequently breaches its guidelines in this area. This can be seen in terms of a) how little BBC journalists scrutinize and challenge fascists in interviews and political debating programmes (Andrew Marr’s treatment of French MEP, Marine Le Pen being an example), and b) the extent to which these journalists uncritically accept the views and pronouncements of those in political power.

Stenography

Another clear example of how the corporation breaches its impartiality guidelines was in 2007. The then North America editor for the BBC, Justin Webb, whose role could be said to be closer to that of a stenographer than a journalist, rejected the charge he was a propagandist for US power. Webb said:”Nobody ever tells me what to say about America or the attitude to take about the United States. And that is the case right across the board in television as well”

Webb began a radio programme from the Middle East as follows:

“June 2005. US Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice flies to Cairo and at the American University makes a speech that will go down in history”.

Reproducing Rice’s subsequent statement verbatim, Webb allowed her views to be aired without challenge or critique. Rice said, “For sixty years my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region, here in the Middle East, and we achieved neither”.

The former U.S Secretary of State added:

“Now we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people.”

Webb told his listeners in all seriousness:”I believe the Bush administration genuinely wanted that speech to be a new turning point; a new start”.

Nobody had to tell Webb to say these words; he genuinely believed them.

In March, 2009, BBC reporter Reeta Chakrabarti was asked why she had claimed that Tony Blair had “passionately believed” that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when all evidence suggested otherwise. Chakrabarti responded it was because he [Blair] had “consistently said so.”

When Media Lens challenged former BBC news director Helen Boaden on whether she thought these kinds of uncritical responses relating to U.S-UK intent compromised the BBC’s commitment to impartial reporting, she replied that “analysis of the underlying motivation of the coalition is borne out by many of the speeches and remarks of both Mr Bush and Mr Blair.”

Another clear illustration of how the BBC breaches its impartiality guidelines occurred in 1999. It was during this year that the corporation made the political decision to allow its own high-profile newsreader, Jill Dando, to present a DEC appeal for Kosovo at the height of NATO’s 78-day bombing campaign against Serbian “genocide” in Kosovo (the genocide claim has since been proven to have been false).

Shortly after broadcasting the appeal, the BBC reported:”Millions of pounds of donations have been flooding in to help the Kosovo refugees after a national television appeal for funds.”

In a linked article, Tony Blair was was quoted as saying:”This will be a daily pounding until he [the Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic] comes into line with the terms laid down by NATO”.

The Kosovo appeal contrasted with the BBC’s decision not to broadcast the Gaza Charity Appeal a decade later in response to Israel’s violent 22-day attack on Gaza as part of Operation Cast Lead.

The BBC’s refusal to broadcast a national humanitarian appeal for Gaza, breached an agreement that dates back to 1963 and left “aid agencies with a potential shortfall of millions of pounds in donations.”

The BBCs support of the Kosovo appeal was consistent with the British states political and military imperial objectives in the region. By contrast, the notion of any support given to the Palestinian’s in Gaza run counter to these objectives. Apparently, the BBC had no concerns that this clear double-standard might damage its alleged reputation for impartiality.

The state broadcaster’s claims of impartiality are further compromised in relation to both the nature of their senior management appointments which are made by the government of the day, and by acts of cronyism of which there is clear evidence. For instance, at the time of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, both the BBC chairman, Gavyn Davies and his director-general, Gregg Dyke, were supporters of, and donors to, Blair’s New Labour government. Davies’s wife ran Gordon Brown’s office; his children served as pageboy and bridesmaid at the Brown wedding. Tony Blair has stayed at Davies’s holiday home.

Consider too, the establishment links of the members of the BBC Trust whose duty, to recall, is to uphold its public obligations, including impartiality. Are the general public seriously expected to believe that the unrepresentative demographic composition of the trustees, as reflected in their relatively narrow educational and professional backgrounds, are independent of the government that appointed them and of the elite corporate and other vested interests which they are deeply embedded?

Lord Reith, founder of the BBC, was honest in his assessment of the corporation and its relationship to the establishment: “They know they can trust us not to be really impartial”, he said.

Arguably, it’s the Iraq debacle more than any other event in recent history that has exposed the BBCs flagrant beaching of its Charter. BBC journalist, Andrew Gilligan lost his job after he revealed that the Blair regime had manipulated intelligence in relation to Saddam’s supposed possession of WMD.

Marr and full spectrum dominance

Probably no clearer illustration of BBC bias has existed as that which occurred outside 10 Downing Street on April 9, 2003. The BBCs political editor, Andrew Marr’s infamous piece to camera in which he described government ministers walking around Whitehall “with smiles like split watermelons” amounted to imperial hyperbole of the most obnoxious kind.

But it was his premature eulogizing of war criminal Tony Blair that will go down in history as one of the most blatant examples of pro-establishment propaganda ever witnessed. Marr, in overtones that echoed Churchill, and with a wry smirk and air of self-congratulatory righteousness, said of Blair and the coalition forces:

“He [Blair] said they [coalition forces] would be able to take Baghdad without a bloodbath, and in the end the Iraqi’s would be celebrating. And on both of those points he has been proved conclusively right. And it would be entirely ungracious even for his critics not to acknowledge that tonight he stands a larger man and a stronger prime minister as a result.”

With Iraq fast becoming an historical footnote, the latest Western-led imperialist wars of aggression in the middle east extended to Libya and latterly, Syria. However, unlike the former two countries, the government of president Bashar al Assad is proving to be a far stronger adversary than perhaps many U.S-UK strategists initially thought.

The BBCs propaganda offensive against Syria and its key regional Russian ally, is all-pervasive. John Pilger said, correctly, that “the first casualty of war is journalism.” What the public is witnessing, in other words, is a media propaganda war machine in ‘full spectrum dominance’ mode.

The BBCs deceptions and lies in relation to Syria – whether in terms of their uncritical stance to the role played by the White Helmets, their use of a fake BBC documentary film in an attempt to influence an important government vote in the House of Commons, or of their censorship by omission –  is so entrenched as to have become systemic and normalized in virtually all aspects of mainstream reportage emanating from that country.

RT & the demonization of Russia

The lies and deceptions also involves the BBCs demonizing of Russia. One way the media manages to achieve this is by instilling fear in the UK population. For instance, on the same day the head of Britain’s M15, Andrew Parker, was interviewed in the Guardian about the Russian “threat” – subsequently reported uncritically on the BBC – the CIA-financed Henry Jackson Society unveiled their new Manual of Russophobia.

A crucial component of the BBCs ‘demonization of Russia strategy’ relates to their attempts at discrediting the broadcaster, RT (also known as Russia Today). The BBCs Andrew Neil, for example, who post-satirist, Victor Lewis-Smith points out, hosts three political programmes on the station, while acting as chairman of the company that runs the Spectator and Telegraph, oversaw, on the Daily Politics programme, arguably one of the most repugnant pieces of anti-Russian propaganda ever witnessed on British television.

Launched in October, 2014, the RT channel is accused by its critics as essentially being a Putin propaganda mouthpiece. However, writer Glenn Greenwald proffers a far more nuanced (and accurate) evaluation. Writing about an anti-RT campaign in March, 2015, Greenwald said:

“The most vocal among the anti-RT crowd – on the ground that it spreads lies and propaganda — such as Nick Cohen and Oliver Kamm — were also the most aggressive peddlers of the pro-U.K.-government conspiracy theories and lies that led to the Iraq War. That people like this, with their histories of pro-government propaganda, are the ones demanding punishment of RT for ‘bias’, tells you all you need to know about what is really at play here”.

It’s also worth noting that another of the prominent liberal ‘leftist’ anti-Russia-RT brigade is David “those [Iraqi] weapons had better be there” Aaranovitch of the Times whose role for decades on the BBC appears to be to support just about every opportunity to wage war.

Journalists and broadcasters like Aaranovitch, Kamm and Cohen who are critical of RT, nevertheless tend to overstate the channel’s influence. The reality is RT’s global reach is far less than the BBCs, whose World Service is essentially funded by the organization who founded it – the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Meanwhile, the U.S spends hundreds of millions annually on outfits like RFE/RL in order to spread American values to the rest of the world in much the same way the BBC does in relation to its spreading of British values to a global market.

Apparently propaganda is only ‘evil’ when the broadcaster of the official enemy engages in promoting it, even though the impact of such propaganda is far less destructive than the propaganda emanating from the BBC.

The default position of the British state broadcaster appears to be that the nature of the liberal-democratic state in which they are embedded is such it confers them with certain entitlements – one of which is an unwritten rule allowing them to be selective in terms of their reportage. Thus, ignoring ‘our’ criminality is deemed to be acceptable based on the premise that elected politicians serve the people, and that it is the task of journalism to support, not undermine democracy.

However, democracy is dependent on a fair and impartial media to keep it in check. The realization that corporate lobbying money is becoming increasingly concentrated within the executive arm of the state, results in the subversion of democracy and a lack of honest media scrutiny of its actions. This explains why the mainstream’s demonization of official enemies like Russia and Syria is a given. As Media Lens put it:

“As a rule of thumb, we can be sure that the demonization of official enemies is a key requirement of all [mainstream] journalists in [influential positions]….It is simply understood.”

This structural bias also explains why Barack Obama, for example, continues to be depicted by the BBC as an almost saintly figure, while in truth his record of bombing seven countries is indicative of a warmongering psychopath. In Britain, the notion that the BBC is a propaganda organ of the British state that promotes imperialist war, is widely regarded as being outside the boundaries of acceptable discourse.

 

Liberal journalism feeds from the trough of intolerance, racism & hate

By Daniel Margrain

 

Those who have been following the career of the flamboyant political showman and president-elect Donald Trump, whose heavy-handed approach to demonstrators at his rallies and outrageously racist remarks many are familiar with, might be surprised to learn that similar comments, albeit hidden under the cover of liberal respectability, have gone largely unnoticed within media circles.

Nine years before the widespread condemnation of Trump’s remarks, Douglas Murray, associate director of the Henry Jackson Society, a neoconservative organisation financed by CIA money laundered through U.S supported private foundations and which has links to U.S and European far-right groups, echoed Trump when, in an admittedly less demagogic fashion, he argDouglasmurray.jpgued for the banning of Muslim immigration into Europe. Murray has also defended the use of torture by Western intelligence agencies.

The role call of pro-war Blairites within the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) who sit on the Political Council of the Henry Jackson Society, include Margaret Beckett, Hazel Blears, Ben Bradshaw, Chris Bryant and Gisela Stuart, while the BBC regularly give air time to Murray and fellow liberal-left commentators like pro-war David Aaranovitch and Alistair Campbell on mainstream political discussion and debating programmes such as Question Time, This Week, Today and Daily Politics.

Another commentator the BBC likes to do business with on a regular basis, is columnist Melanie Phillips. An avowed Zionist who writes for immigrant baiting the Mail and Murdoch’s Times, Phillips, claimed in a recent article for the latter, that activists opposed to a man who appointed an antisemite, white supremacist and misogynist as one of his senior advisers, were the real racists.

Phillips has form in relation to her attempts to whip-up fears and divisions. After the previous U.S election, for example, former UK diplomat, Craig Murray quoted Phillip’s’ incitement to religious hatred:

“Romney lost”, Phillips said, “because, like Britain’s Conservative party, the Republicans just don’t understand that America and the west are being consumed by a culture war.”

Phillips continued:

“In their cowardice and moral confusion, they all attempt to appease the enemies within. And from without, the Islamic enemies of civilisation stand poised to occupy the void…With the re-election of Obama, American now threatens to lead the west into a terrifying darkness.”

One might think that leading figures within the political and media corporate establishments – particularly on the liberal-left of the spectrum – would be keen to distance themselves from the likes of Phillips and the Henry Jackson Society who talk up the Jihadi threat. On the contrary, both the hierarchy within the PLP who sit on the Political Council of the HJS as well as ostensibly liberal-left political commentators, are not remain silent in relation to Phillip’s and Murray’s casual racism, but they regularly cite the Henry Jackson Society when commenting on Islamic affairs, even though the organization acts as a front for the security services via the Quilliam Foundation.

The fact that among the elite, it is not seen as a conflict of interest that a stated impartial news broadcaster like the BBC regularly cites a think tank whose role, in return for tax payers money, is to publicly denounce Muslim organisations, is extremely revealing. That the Quilliam Foundation operates in collaboration with Pegida UK whose head is the infamous former English Defence League street-fighting fascist, Tommy Robinson, further undermines the credibility of the nations state broadcaster.

It’s also revealing that establishment figures within the hierarchy of the PLP, their Blairite wing Progress, and Labour friends of Israel – all of whom complain about the alleged infiltration of left wing elements within the party – are willing to align themselves with fascists and Islamophobes. Le Pen, Marine-9586.jpgBut as the general public have become increasingly wise to the bogus modus operandi of the British state and it’s liberal media echo-chambers who promote fear and hatred of Muslims, new fears and hatreds are needed to replace them. Hence, the current fear is Russia.

Russophobia & the normalization of fascism

With the recent publication of their Manual of Russophobiathe aim of the Henry Jackson Society is once again to brainwash the British public – this time into believing a revamped cold war narrative predicated on the myth that Russia poses a threat to Western civilization as the justification to keep the industrial-military complex rolling along. The HJS-produced hate manual – which will be cited by pro-war groups of Conservative and New Labour Progress MPs as a way of ramping-up military confrontation with Russia – was released on the same day the head of MI5 gave an interview to the Guardian about the “Russian threat”.

The unsubstantiated claims made against Russia and the covert form of racism of the likes of Murray and Phillips et al are rarely, if ever, challenged in mainstream and corporate media circles. To my knowledge, apart from Craig Murray, not a single prominent commentator has alluded to Phillips’ and Douglas Murray’s Islamophobia and racism. This, I suspect, is because they are widely seen by the metropolitan elite, of which they are a part, as commentators who espouse liberal-democratic values. By contrast, the working class and openly racist Robinson, is widely regarded as the unacceptable face of fascism which explains why his much less frequent media appearances have mainly been limited to radio broadcasts.  .

The format of debate and discussion programmes are such that hateful views are not properly debated or challenged by journalists and broadcasters. This was the case for example, when the  far-right fascist French MEP, Marine Le Pen appeared on the November 13 edition of the BBCs Marr programme, a decision that was presumably sanctioned by the BBCs incumbent Director General, Tony Hall.

Another example was the sympathetic treatment the BBC afforded to the former BNP president, Nick Griffin. In 2009, Griffin appeared on the BBC’s flagship political discussion programme, Question Time even though a) the Standards Board for England’s description in 2005 that the BNP is Nazi was “within the normal and acceptable limits of political debate”, and b) that the European Parliament’s Committee on racism and xenophobia described the BNP as an “openly Nazi party”. When asked in 1993 if the party was racist, its then deputy leader Richard Edmonds, who has been convicted for racist violence, said, “We are one-hundred per cent racist, yes.”

Prior to his appearance on the programme, Griffin expressed delight with the decision of the BBC to have granted him a major political platform with which to air his party’s views. These views went largely unchallenged by the other guests on the show that included Labour’s Jack Straw. It’s worth remembering that Straw insisted that female Muslim constituents visiting his constituency office in Blackburn remove their veils. He also claimed that Pakistani men saw white girls as “easy meat”.

At the time of Griffin’s appearance on Question Time, the BBC attracted an audience of almost 8 million viewers, three times its average. Following the publicity generated by Griffin’s appearance, the Daily Telegraph revealed the resultsNick griffin bnp from flickr user britishnationalism (cropped).jpg of a UK Gov opinion poll which indicated that 22 percent of British people would “seriously consider” voting for the BNP and that 9,000 people applied to join the party after the programme aired. Two years before the Question Time appearance, Griffin had generated a significant amount of publicity following the controversy surrounding Oxford universities decision to allow him a public platform to address students at the universities campus.

These examples counter the notion that it’s a legitimate course of action for racists and fascists to be given a media platform to air their views on the spurious grounds that not to do so would impinge on their right to free speech. By allowing these kinds of views to go unchallenged in the manner described, effectively gives confidence to racists and fascists everywhere. As one commentator on Twitter succinctly put it in relation to Andrew Marr’s approach to Le Pen:

You let a racist say they’re not racist without a proper challenge, you let a million racists watching think they are also not racist

The appearance on the BBC of Oxbridge-educated Griffin was presumably sanctioned by the then BBC Director General, Mark Thompson who was himself educated at one of two of Britain’s elite educational establishments – Oxford and Cambridge. Griffin, who graduated in law, told the Guardian that he admired Thompson’s “personal courage” by inviting him. Nicholas Kroll, then director of the BBC Trust – an organization that supposedly represents the interests of the viewing public – was also educated at Oxford. At the time of writing, at least three of the 12 members of the government-appointed trustees, were educated at either Oxford or Cambridge and the majority have corporate, banking and finance backgrounds.

Despite the unrepresentative nature of the BBC and the media and the political elites attempts at normalizing fascism, the notion that fascist sympathies are rooted within the British establishment has not been widely recognized by the general public, even though last July, British royalty were shown giving Nazi salutes as part of a home movie, or that Prince Harry dressed up as a Nazi two weeks before Holocaust Memorial Day. The problem for the elites is not that these relationships exist, rather the concern is the possibility that dissidents within the media will shine a light on them. As Craig Murray put it:

“It says a huge amount about the confidence of the royal family, that they feel able to respond to their Nazi home movie with nothing other than outrage that anybody should see it…. The royal family is of course only the tip of the iceberg of whitewashed fascist support.”

Fascist political-media culture

Fascist ideology is the bedrock on which our political and media culture is based. The reality is liberal-establishment organisations and think-tanks like the Henry Jackson Society, Quilliam Foundation and MigrationWatch UK in alliance with the media, give political expression to the largest established political parties. It’s the right-wing elements within these parties who use neoliberalism as a cover for racist-based justifications for arguing either for British withdrawal from the EU on the one hand, or on the other, for the implementation of greater neoliberal reforms dekas a precondition for maintaining the countries continued membership within it.

These factors explain why the establishment give far-right groups and their intellectual liberal mouthpieces of the likes of David Aaranovitch, Melanie Phillips and Douglas Murray the oxygen of publicity they need to promulgate war and racism and thereby to perpetuate and legitimize the agendas of the British security services and, by extension, the military arm of the state.

The role played by the liberal commentariate is an essential part of the functioning of the modern liberal democratic state which transcends party political lines. Both the ‘left’ and ‘right’ are prepared to use false and contradictory racist-based arguments in order to whip up divisions within society for crude, opportunistic short-term electoral gain. Under the New Labour government of Tony Blair, for example, Gordon Brown opened up the UK labour market to potentially millions of workers from the Accession 8 (A8) countries that comprised the former Soviet Bloc as the basis for restoring Britain’s economic status against a backdrop of sustained industrial decline.

British jobs for British workers

Brown did this to address Britain’s demographic problems in terms of its ageing population as well as to fill existing skills gaps. However, by the time he had taken over the reigns of power from Blair, he began using the racist language of division by emphasizing the need to secure “British jobs for British workers”. This was after oil refinery workers in 2009 protested against their replacement by foreign workers that he – Brown – encouraged. Short-term electoral interests encourage politician’s to play the race card which does not necessarily correspond with those of their paymasters in the boardrooms of the corporations whose primary concern is to secure the most plentiful, skilled and cheap workers possible.

In pure economic terms, immigrants make a positive contribution, not least because the state has been spared the considerable expense of educating and training them. Political leaders know this and that is precisely why the shrill talk deployed at elections is invariably at odds with the policies they actually implement when in office. That, in turn, is why it is so easy for the bigots within racist parties like UKIP and the BNP to expose the hypocrisy of the mainstream parties while also providing organisations like the Henry Jackson Society and MigrationWatch UK with the cover for pursuing a racist agenda of their own.

Exploiting voters concerns

Too readily, those at the top are quick to exploit voters concerns about the supposed threat that immigration poses in terms of undermining ‘social cohesion’. But they do this so as to engender a sense of division to make it easier for them to rule over everybody. When tensions arise from time to time, it’s those at the bottom who are routinely condemned by the media for their prejudice and bigotry, whereas the more significant racism which emanates from the policies of those at the top who foment it, goes virtually unnoticed.

It’s not my intention to absolve working class racists of their actions, but rather to point out that the more significant forms of racism is formed in the corporate and media boardrooms, think-tanks and elite political sphere indicative of ruling class power. Although this racism is given political expression in the form of scare stories almost daily in the gutter press of the Sun, Daily Mail and Daily Express that perpetuate them, it’s not restricted to these tabloids. The Chair of MigrationWatch UK, Sir Andrew Green, for example, is regularly granted a media platform in order to push an anti-immigrant agenda, albeit a subtle one.

Similarly, the likes of Douglas Murray, David Aaranovitch, Melanie Phillips and Toby Young who newspaper proprietors and TV executives consistently employ to espouse their views, do a great deal to distill the more overt expressions of racist scare stories so as to appeal to the realms of their middle and upper middle class viewers and readers. It’s deemed irrelevant by corporate executives that the ‘journalists’ they employ proffer spurious and deliberately misleading information, simply that they give their demographic what they think they want to hear and read to increase their customer base and so boost their profits in order to satisfy the demands placed on them by their advertisers.

And that, I submit, is hardly the foundation on which to build a civilized, multi-cultural and inclusive society. The liberal media and political Guardian commentariate who claim to be in favour of this kind of society and who were in a state of incredulous denial following Trump’s election victory, continue to blame the result on everybody and everything but their own complicity.

Whether it’s the perceived stupidity of white racists, misogynists, misguided women, or any other form of identity politics, the notion that the success of Trump was a symptom of the metropolitan elites inability to report honestly on the relevant issues the electorate faced, is simply regarded by the liberal media herd as inconceivable. Donald Trump may be an oaf and a racist, but fundamentally are his values really much different to a corporate-media-political elite that attempts to shape how we think and act on a daily basis resulting from a systematic culture of false propaganda, misrepresentations and lies?