BOOK REVIEW:  Guardians of Power (David Cromwell & David Edwards)

Stephen Lendman

Posted Jan 9, 2008      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
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BOOK REVIEW:  Guardians of Power (David Cromwell & David Edwards)

by Stephen Lendman

David Cromwell is a Scottish writer, activist and
oceanographer at the National Oceanography Centre in
Britain. David Edwards is also a UK writer who focuses
on human rights, the environment and the media.
Together they edit an extraordinary “UK-based
media-watch project” called Media Lens. It “offers
authoritative criticism of mainstream media bias and
censorship, as well as providing in-depth analysis,
quotes, media contact details and other resources.”

Today, the media is in crisis, and a free and open
society is at risk. Fiction substitutes for fact, news
is carefully filtered, dissent is marginalized, and
supporting the powerful substitutes for full and
accurate reporting. As a result, wars of aggression
are called liberating ones, civil liberties are
suppressed for our own good, and patriotism means
going along with governments that are lawless.

The authors challenge these views and those in the
mainstream who reflect them - the managers, editors
and journalists. Their aim in Media Lens and their
writing is to “raise public awareness” to see
“reality” as they do, free from the corrupting
influence of media corporations and their
single-minded pursuit of profit “in a society
dominated by corporate power” and governments acting
as their handmaiden. They note that Pravda was a state
propaganda organ so “why should we expect the
corporate press to tell the truth about corporate
power” and unfettered capitalism when they support it?
They don’t and never will.

The authors go further and say their “aim is to
increase rational awareness, critical thought and
compassion, and to decrease greed, hatred and
ignorance (and do it by) highlight(ing) significant
examples of systemic media distortion.” There are no
shortage of examples.

That objective is highlighted in their 2006 book,
“Guardians of Power: The Myth of the Liberal Media”
and subject of this review. It’s a work distinguished
author John Pilger calls “required reading” and “the
most important book about journalism (he) can
remember” since Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman’s
classic - “Manufacturing Dissent.” Cromwell and
Edwards “have done the job of true journalists: they
have set the record straight” in contrast to the
mainstream that distorts and corrupts it for the
powerful. Their book is must reading and will be
reviewed in-depth, chapter by chapter, to show why.
It’s also why no major broadsheet ever mentions it or
its important content. This review covers lots of it.

The Mass Media - Neutral, Honest, Psychopathic

Years ago, journalist and author AJ Liebling said “The
press is free only to those who own one.” He also
warned that “People everywhere confuse what they read
in newspapers with news.” “Guardians of Power” lifts
the confusion powerfully. It starts off noting that
the term media is “problematic.” It’s the plural of
medium suggesting something neutral, and news
organizations want us to believe “they transmit
information in a similarly neutral, natural way”
which, of course, they never do. Why? Because
corporate giants are dominant, and large corporate
entities control the media.

The authors thus argue that the entire corporate mass
media, including broadcasters like BBC and the
so-called mislabeled “liberal media,” function as a
“propaganda system for elite interests.” It’s
especially true for topics like “US-UK government
responsibility for genocide, vast corporate
criminality, (and) threats to the very existence of
human life - (they’re) distorted, suppressed,
marginalized or ignored.” Cromwell and Edwards present
documented forensic proof to set the record straight
and expose corporate media duplicity.

Doing it requires “understanding (that) curious
abstract entity - the corporation,” more specifically
publicly-owned ones. They’re required by law to
maximize shareholder equity and do it by increasing
revenue and profits. Corporate law prohibits boards of
directors and senior executives from being friends of
the earth, good community members or whatever else may
detract from that primary goal. Social responsibility
is off the table if it reduces profits, and executives
who ignore that mandate may be sued or fired for so

That led Canadian law professor Joel Bakan to call
corporations “psychopathic creatures” that can’t
recognize or act morally or avoid committing harm. It
shows up at home and in foreign wars of aggression
with Iraq as Exhibit A that’s the focus of three of
the book’s 13 chapters.

First, an explanation of what Chomsky and Herman
called the “propaganda model” in “Manufacturing
Dissent” and that Herman later wrote about in “The
Myth of the Liberal Media.” It works by focusing on
“the inequality of wealth and power” and how those
with it “filter out the news to print, marginalize
dissent (and assure) government and dominant private
interests” control all information the public gets.
It’s done through a set of “filters” that remove
what’s to be suppressed and “leav(es) only the
cleansed (acceptable) residue fit to print” or
broadcast on-air. The media is largely shaped by
market forces and bottom line considerations. They
also rely on advertisers for most of their revenue and
are pressured to assure content conforms to their

More generally, the dominant media serve wealth and
power interests that include their own as well as
other corporate giants. They thus rely on “official
sources” for news and information and ignore others
considered “unreliable.” More accurately, they ignore
the unempowered who have no say or whose views are out
of the “mainstream.”

Media expert, Robert McChesney, explains the dilemma
by saying publishers know their journalists must
appear neutral and unbiased when, in fact, that notion
is “entirely bogus” for three reasons:

—to appear neutral, journalists rely on “official
sources” as legitimate news and opinion when, in fact,
they’re not;

—a news “hook” or dramatic event is needed to
justify covering a story, but the power elite does the
selecting to serve its own interests; and

—advertisers apply pressure so content favors or at
least won’t offend them.

McChesney also explains that “balanced (journalism)
smuggles in values conducive to the commercial aims of
the owners and advertisers, as well as the political
aims of the owning class.” And as their power grows,
so does their control over what news and information
people get as well as a tsunami of sports and
entertainment to divert and distract from what matters

Iraq - The Sanctions of Mass Destruction

The authors cite British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s
“big bad lie” in making a “moral case for war” for
which there was none. Two years later, the Iraqi
Planning Ministry and UN reported that almost one
quarter of children aged five or under suffered from
malnutrition. That condition was even worse than the
appalling situation under economic sanctions and the
destruction of the country that began after Saddam
invaded Kuwait in August, 1990. Four days later,
Operation Desert Shield was launched. It began with
US-dictated economic sanctions, a large military
buildup in the region, and a sweeping PR campaign for
war that became Operation Desert Storm on January 17,

Before it ended on February 28, US forces committed
grievous war crimes that included gratuitous mass
killings as well as bombings to destroy essential to
life facilities of almost everything imaginable. The
dominant media ignored the human cost along with
removed power, clean water, sanitation, fuel,
transportation, medical facilities, adequate food,
schools, private dwellings and places of employment. A
defenseless nation was leveled by a ruthless
superpower. It was only the beginning.

Twelve years of crushing genocidal sanctions followed.
The results were predictable and devastating. Normal
life was impossible and became a daily struggle to
survive. By the mid-1990s, it was apparent many hadn’t
and wouldn’t going forward. The media ignored it and
instead blamed Saddam for what Washington and the West
caused. The authors note that in the face of ugly
facts, Tony Blair “once again employ(ed) his favoured
strategy - passionately ‘sincere’ truth-reversal.”

That and clear facts on the ground got two UN heads of
Iraqi humanitarian relief to resign in anger with
Dennis Halliday in 1998 saying he did so because he
“had been instructed to implement a policy that
satisfies the definition of genocide: a deliberate
policy that has effectively killed well over one
million individuals, children and adults” including
5000 Iraqi children monthly in his judgment. The media
was silent then and ever since in spite of appalling
evidence of war crimes in plain sight.

Consider the so-called Oil-for-Food program as well.
It was adopted under UN Resolution 986 in 1995 but was
hopelessly inadequate by design. An internal 1999 UN
report revealed it provided about 21 cents a day for
food and 4 cents more for medicines with vitally
needed items banned or in short supply. Everything
considered potentially “duel use” was blocked
including chlorine to purify water, vital medical
equipment, chemotherapy and pain-killing drugs,
ambulances and whatever else Washington wished to
withhold punitively. The consequences were horrific,
the media was silent, and instead supported Blair’s,
Clinton’s (and now Bush’s) “moral war.”

As the authors put it: “With the wholehearted
complicity of the media, the US and UK governments
were able to blame the Iraqi regime for the suffering”
it didn’t cause and could do nothing to prevent.
“Supported by a wave of propaganda, journalists were
able to pass over the West’s responsibility for vast
crimes against humanity.” Examples abound like BBC’s
John Simpson restricting his comments on “Western
responsibility for genocide” to 16 words in one
sentence in a November, 2002 on-air documentary.

The authors noted that nine months after Media Lens
was launched in 2001, they “began to realise the
extent to which even high-profile journalists were
unable to defend their arguments” in the face of
overwhelming evidence refuting them. They tried
nonetheless, still do and it keeps getting worse.

Iraq Disarmed - Burying the 1991-98 Weapons

To make its case for the March, 2003 invasion, Bush
and Blair promoted two “myth(s) of non-cooperation” -
that Saddam refused to cooperate with UNSCOM weapons
inspectors up to 1998 and had retained deadly WMD
stockpiles that threatened the region and western
interests. One big lie followed another like Saddam
expelled weapons inspectors in December, 1998. In
fact, he was remarkably cooperative in the face
abusive intrusions few nations would ever tolerate and
if demanded of the US would be impossible.

Making false claims was part of the scheme to attack
and occupy the country as Treasury Secretary Paul
O’Neill discovered in the earliest days of the
administration. He saw a secret memorandum preparing
for war and a Pentagon document that discussed
dividing up Iraq’s energy reserves among western Big
Oil giants. The road to war was launched with no
turning back even though Scott Ritter, UNSCOM’s chief
weapons inspector, confirmed the following: that Bill
Clinton ordered his team out of Iraq in December, 1998
on the eve of Operation Desert Fox, and the country
was fundamentally disarmed with 90 - 95% of its
(chemical and biological) WMDs “verifiably eliminated”
at the time. There was no nuclear program.

Further, whatever remained didn’t “constitute a
weapons program….only bits and pieces of useless
sludge” past their limited shelf life. Conclusion:
“Iraq cooperated in” its disarmament, but the US
nonetheless manufactured a conflict in December, 1998
that was a precursor for the big one ahead. It was
also learned that CIA spies operated with arms
inspectors to get information the Clinton
administration used for its attack. When it ended,
Saddam wouldn’t allow inspectors back in and
justifiably called them spies.

All along, the media reported the official line,
ignored the truth and were thus complicit in the
crimes of state they supported. The authors noted a
“remarkable feature of media performance - that large
numbers of individual journalists can come to move as
an obedient herd despite easily available evidence
contradicting the consensus view.” As it always is,
“This was standard right across the media” that never
lets facts conflict with their servility to power.

The authors also point to an “astonishing media
omission” they call “the sludge of mass destruction”
and cite CIA as the source. In a 1990 briefing, the
spy agency stated: “(Iraq’s) Botulinum toxin (its
biological weapons) is nonpersistent, degrading
rapidly in the environment” and only has a shelf life
of a year when stored below 27 degrees Celcius.
Further, Scott Ritter debunked Tony Blair’s specter of
an Iraq weaponized VX nerve agent. He confirmed UNSCOM
found and blew up a VX factory in 1996. Iraq no longer
could produce it and any amount remaining was
worthless sludge. Comments from the media - support
for Tony Blair and silence on the facts.

Iraq - Gunning for War and Burying the Dead

Throughout their book and with ample documentation,
the authors eloquently and persuasively make their
case. They conclusively prove without a doubt that
“the role of the media is merely to channel the view
of power (to allow it) to do as it pleases (so) the
public will (only) be told what the powerful believe
right, wrong, good and bad….all other views are
ignored as irrelevant….” That’s what passes for
mainstream journalism in the West without even a
hiccup of contradiction or hint of remorse. Doing
otherwise is viewed as “crusading journalism….no
matter how corrupt the interests and goals driving
war.” Noam Chomsky put it this way: “The basic
principle, rarely violated, is what conflicts with the
requirements of power and privilege does not exist.”

In the case of Iraq, the media fell right in line
leading up to the conflict and once it began. It
didn’t matter they were being used or that they were
callously indifferent to “the immorality of the US-UK
attack and the (appalling) suffering” it caused. The
little touched on above can only hint at the human
toll and plain fact that the “cradle of civilization”
was erased by design and reinvented as a free market
paradise for profit with the grand prize being Iraq’s
immense, mostly undeveloped oil reserves.

Then, there’s the body count with estimates from 1990
to March, 2003 ranging up to 1.5 million or more
deaths, two-thirds being children under age five.
Post-US/UK invasion, it’s even more staggering from
the highly respected Lancet, UK ORB polling firm,
UNICEF and other sources - up to two million deaths
with UNICEF data estimating 800,000 children under age

Slaughter on this scale is incontrovertible genocide
under the provisions of the Convention on the
Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. It
“means any (acts of this type mass-killing) committed
with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, the
national, ethnical, racial or religious group (by)
killing (its) members; causing (them) serious bodily
or mental harm; (or) deliberately inflicting (on them)
conditions (that may destroy them in whole or in
part).” By this standard alone, three US
administrations and two in Britain are criminally
liable. Additionally, there’s what the Nuremberg
Tribunal called “the supreme international crime”
against peace, and the level of culpability

Throughout it all, the media was unperturbed and
continues to back the most appalling crimes of war and
against humanity like they never happened. Consider
this audacious comment from BBC political editor,
Andrew Marr, from his 2004 book on British journalism:
Those in the trade “are employed to be studiously
neutral, expressing little emotion and certainly no
opinion; millions of people would say that news is the
conveying of fact, and nothing more.” The hypocrisy is

It continued as the media uniformly extolled the
transfer of “sovereignty” in June, 2004 without
mentioning that no legitimate government can exist
under occupation and certainly not one turned to
rubble. The authors quoted noted British journalist
Robert Fisk saying “Alice in Wonderland could not have
improved on this. The looking glass reflects all the
way from Baghdad to Washington” with a stopover in
London. Since it was formed, the “Iraqi government” is
impotent. All power is in Washington, liberation is an
illusion, and so is the notion of a free and
democratic Iraq that was never part of the plan.
Democracies are messy and the reason they’re not

Afghanistan - Let Them East Grass

The authors quote media expert Edward Herman on how
the major media and other experts “normalize the
unthinkable” by ignoring the most appalling
state-sponsored crimes, doubting their severity and
believing ends justify means. Bottom line - poor
people of color in developing nations don’t count, and
the “art of successful mainstream journalism is to
(convey this) without the public noticing.”

For the media on Afghanistan, the war largely ended
when Kabul fell on November 13, 2001, a scant five
weeks after it began on October 7. The bombing
continued, but “the war was suddenly yesterday’s
news,” and only Taliban crimes mattered. Ignored was
what John Pilger wrote in his newest book “Freedom
Next Time” - that “Through all the humanitarian crises
in living memory, no country has been abused and
suffered more, and none helped less than Afghanistan.”
He then described what was more like a moonscape than
a functioning nation. Little has changed since, but
the major media are uniformly silent. All that matters
is the “war on terrorism” that justifies occupation,
continued conflict, mass suffering and death.

The authors cited a surreal example - “In the land of
the blind, (a) one-eyed lion is news.” Against the
backdrop of mass human suffering and deaths, ITN
journalists reported on the plight of “Marjan” in
Kabul’s zoo, and that a team of vets flew in to help.
The network later mentioned that “Marjan” died as it
callously ignored conditions on the ground for
Afghanistan’s human population who remain unnamed and
matter less than a lion. Conditions for them are
appalling with humanitarian agencies reporting they
saw “people (without food) still eating grass” in
January 2002.

This contrasts with state-sponsored propaganda that
Afghanistan is now free from “fear, uncertainty and
chaos,” and the US and UK “act(ed) benignly, and
(the)humanitarian military assault is beneficial.”
Again, reality can’t deny the official message so
blamed for continuing conflict are the “meddlesome
Afghans (who) are undermining our good work.” Out of
sight and mind are the real motives behind the 9/11
attack and the price Afghans (and Iraqis) pay for it.

Also ignored is why we occupy their country. It has
nothing to do with terrorism, humanitarian
intervention or democracy. It has everything to do
with imperial gain. The result is an unimaginable
level of suffering that continues today under a puppet
government, a brutal occupation, and no end to either
in sight. Try getting that type report in the

Kosovo - Real Bombs, Fictional Genocide

No recent conflict in memory evoked more popular
support on the right and left than the 1990s Balkan
wars. They culminated in 1999 with a 78 day NATO air
assault on Serbia whose leader, Slobadon Milosevic,
was unfairly cast as the villain. The conflict lasted
from March 24 to June 10 on the pretext of protecting
Kosovo’s Albanian population. It was all a ruse.
Kosovo is a Serbian province. It still is, but it’s
under NATO occupation with plans to make it
independent and complete the “Balkanization” of

In the run-up to war, the propaganda was familiar.
Tony Blair called it “a battle between good and evil;
between civilization and barbarity; between democracy
and dictatorship.” British defence secretary, George
Robertson, was even worse saying intervention was
needed to stop “a regime which is bent on genocide,”
and Bill Clinton also raised the specter of
“genocide.” Each case was the equivalent of elevating
Bunker Hill to Mt. Everest or maybe the heavens.

So how did unreported facts on the ground refute the
official myth? The Balkan wars destroyed a country to
keep predatory capitalism on a roll for new markets,
valued resources and cheap exploitable labor. Slobadon
Milosevic was the fall guy and ended up in the Hague
where he was hung out to dry by the ICTY US-run court.
There he was effectively silenced, denied proper
medical care and forced in the end to take his secrets
to the grave with him.

Earlier, however, war raged in his country for 78
mercilessly days as a sort of earlier version of
“shock and awe.” NATO bombing killed 500 civilians,
caused an estimated $100 billion in damage, and
according to Amnesty International (AI), was
responsible for “serious violations of the laws of war
leading in a number of cases to the unlawful killing
of civilians.” Translated in language AI rarely uses -
NATO committed war crimes, but only its victims were
punished. They were carried out on the pretext of
averting a humanitarian crisis that didn’t exist so
NATO invented one.

Here are facts unreported in the mainstream. One month
before the bombing, the German Foreign Office stated
that a “feared humanitarian catastrophe threatening
the Albanian civil population had been averted (and)
public life (in larger cities) returned to relative
normality.” Instead of genocide, NATO reported after
the war that 2000 people were killed in Kosovo on all
sides in the year prior to the bombing, and the
US-backed Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) did most of it.

NATO’s attack was the culprit. It caused a
humanitarian crisis, and the flood of refugees
occurred when the bombing began. So did lootings,
killings, rape, kidnappings and pillage according to
an OSCE study. The media response was breathtaking. It
“exactly reverse(d) cause and effect suggesting that
bombing was justified (to halt) the flood of refugees
it had in fact created.” Once again, the lies were

The authors note that like for the Iraq conflict, this
war “was made possible by audacious government
manipulation of a public denied access to the truth by
an incompetent and structurally corrupt media. Every
British paper (and American ones, of course) except
one took a pro-war line” editorially, and journalists
“proudly proclaimed their role in supporting the
‘humanitarian intervention’ ” when there was none.

The authors also note that “Editors and journalists do
not drop bombs or pull triggers, but without their
servility to power the public would not be fooled and
the slaughter would have to end” or would never have
begun. No nominally democratic government can stand up
against the majority will of its people - provided
they know about “the complicity of the corporate mass
media in mass murder.” Another alternative also works
against which they’re defenseless - ignore them,
denounce them and seek reliable independent news and
information sources like Media Lens, this web site and
many other reliable ones.

East Timor - The Practical Limits of Crusading

Give credit where it’s due. Tiny impoverished East
Timor is hardly a match for Indonesia with its 200
million population backed by Washington for what both
countries gain from each other. Nonetheless and after
“months of murderous intimidation” by
Indonesian-backed militias, the East Timorese
overwhelmingly voted for independence by a near four
to one margin. It was courageous but costly, and it
came in the form of “a horrendous bloodbath” against
pro-independence backers.

The US held off responding for 10 days intentionally
and only did so under great public pressure. The delay
allowed 70% of all public buildings and private
residences to be destroyed and three-fourths of the
population to be “herded across the border to West
Timor, where hostage taking, killings and sexual
assault were a daily occurrence.” BBC’s Matt Frei was
indifferent like his fellow correspondents generally
are. He described it as a “moral crusade,” but UN
commissioner for human rights, Mary Robinson, had
different view with “thousands pay(ing) with their
lives for the world’s slow response.”

BBC practically choked before casually admitting our
Indonesian allies were behind the massacres. Never
admitted on-air was that its military-run country is a
major Western ally and business partner. For BBC and
others in the dominant media, “news ceases to be news
when it seriously damages establishment interests.”

East Timor gained independence on May 20, 2002. At the
time, reports mentioned that around 200,000 East
Timorese (or one-third of the population) were
massacred or starved to death in 1975 after the Ford
administration condoned Indonesia’s takeover of the
territory and supplied the Surharto government with
lists of communist sympathizers to round up and
eliminate. Back then, it got little attention in the
mainstream and quickly faded from view after

Why so? Indonesia is mineral-rich while East Timor
hardly matters. The authors cited the “Golden Rule of
media reporting - the tendency to overlook horrors
committed by the West and its allies.” They also call
this “The calculations of realpolitik.” Mineral wealth
trumps concern for an impoverished people whose only
worth is the sweat they supply at the lowest possible
cost - everywhere.

Haiti - The Hidden Logic of Exploitation

Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas and one
of its most exploited. That’s saying a lot in a region
dismissively called America’s “backyard” and
ruthlessly exploited by Washington for decades. The
country is small (around three times the size of Los
Angeles) and has a population of around eight million.
Since European settlers arrived 500 years ago, it
experienced an almost unparalleled legacy of colonial
violence and exploitation. Even when it gained
independence from France on January 1, 1804, it lay in
ruins. It was short-lived as France regained control
and kept it until America took over later and
solidified its hold when Woodrow Wilson sent in
Marines in 1915 to protect US investments.

Washington remains in control, and the authors explain
its logic to keep Haitians and other developing world
people in line. Their “dreams of a better life must be
crushed by violence and grinding poverty so extreme
that local people will accept any work at any rate,
and abandon all notions of improving their lot.” It’s
the reason why western elites use “death squads,
tyrants and economic oppression” as their methods of
choice and why ordinary people are no match against

Hope for Haitians arose in 1990 when a Catholic priest
named Jean-Bertrand Aristide gained prominence. He ran
for President and shocked Washington by getting
two-thirds of the vote to become Haiti’s first ever
democratically elected leader. A September, 1991
US-backed military coup cut short his tenure, however.
It removed him, reestablished harsh rule, and
“stamp(ed) out (the beginnings of a) vibrant civil
society” that began to take root. A bloodbath followed
with CIA paramilitaries behind it.

Aristide regained nominal power in 1994 after he
agreed to Washington’s neoliberal terms. Haiti’s
constitutional rule was restored, and he was allowed
to return as President along with 20,000 US
“peacekeepers” to assure IMF demands were observed.

The authors noted the “free press” version of events
from when Aristide was first elected. Like always, it
glossed over facts and ignored “the long, documented
history of US support for mass murderers attacking
Aristide’s democratic government and killing his
supporters….the hidden agenda behind (his return) to
power (and) the limits imposed on his range of options
by the superpower protecting its business interests.”
There was barely a mention of US commercial interests
in Haiti or how brutally Haitians are exploited for

Against all obstacles, however, Aristide was
overwhelmingly popular. It showed in November, 2000
when he was reelected President with 92% of the vote,
and his Lavalas party dominated parliament from the
earlier May election. Their control lasted four years,
then ended abruptly on February 29, 2004. In the
middle of the night, a US Marine contingent forcibly
removed the Haitian leader because he defied the rules
of imperial management, governed like a democrat and
was committed to helping Haiti’s poor. Ever since, the
country has been a killing field under US control with
a paramilitary “peacekeeper” contingent as enforcers.
They were sent illegally for the first time ever to
support a coup d’etat against a democratically elected
President instead of backing his right to return to
the office he won freely and fairly.

The media ignored the facts and portrayed the US as an
“honest broker.” They supported the scheme that
Aristide “had to go” because his people no longer
supported him nor did the international community.
“Forget the democratic process. Forget the landslide
victories.” Forget the successive US-backed bloodbaths
following Aristide’s rise to power in 1990. Forget any
hope Haiti might emerge from its nightmarish 500 year
history. All that mattered was power and where most of
it lay. No need to point a finger. A great need to
denounce the media that turns a blind eye to it.   

Idolatry Ink - Reagan, the ‘Cheerful Conservative’ and
‘Chubby Bubba’ Clinton

Few US presidents did more harm yet got more praise
than Ronald Reagan, and Mark Hertsgaard wrote about it
in his book,“On Bended Knee: The Press and the Reagan
Presidency.” The authors here review his record and
cover some of the adulatory avalanche following his
death on June 5, 2004. It was a painful week to recall
and one that abandoned any measure of truth to portray
a man and his “extraordinary successful presidency.”
It was indeed for the power elite and the way he
served them at the expense of the public good.

Out of sight and mind were a few minor things that
happened during his tenure. The Iran-Contra scandal
for one that would have sunk Nixon faster than
Watergate had he been the culprit. But there was much
more, and the authors cover some of it to set the
record straight on a man only corporatists and
friendly tyrants could love.

Reagan earned his bona fides on two issues -
supporting big business and claiming he was hawkishly
anti-communist. The two were, in fact, the same with
the authors saying “the real motive behind the
American slaughter in the Third World - profits, not
fear of the Soviet Union - is indicated by patterns of
investment” that rose dramatically under US friendly
regimes. Examples were in Chile under Pinochet, Iran
under the Shah, Brazil under the generals, Guatemala
after its democracy died, and many other client
countries around the world. Excluded from investment
and targeted for regime change are states run
independently that place their sovereignty above our
right to control it.

The authors give examples of leaders who tried in
Central America and paid dearly for their effort. They
put it this way: “Reagan’s eight years in office
(1981-1989) produced a vast bloodbath as Washington
funnelled money, weapons and supplies to client
dictators and right-wing death squads battling
independent nationalism across Central America.”
Central Asia, Africa and wherever else an independent
leader arose followed a similar pattern.

Major media ignored official Reagan administration
policy - to “terrorize impoverished people into
accepting a status quo that condemned them to lives of
profitable misery.” It doesn’t matter how many tens of
thousands die or how impoverished we condemn the
living. Instead, typical media comments about Reagan
were like the one from the London Guardian saying
he’ll be “chiefly remembered now for….his tax
cutting economic policies, his role in (ending) the
cold war and his ability to make America feel so good
about itself after the turmoil of Vietnam, civil
rights and Watergate.”

Bill Clinton is still living, but he’s also well
treated, aside from his personal peccadillos in office
now forgotten. As usual, the media ignores his dark
side that caused great harm at home and an
overwhelming amount abroad. As the authors observe,
it’s because demeaning a president is “disrespectful,
even irresponsible.” So the worst of his record was
unreported with plenty of choices to choose from such
as eight harsh years of Iraq sanctions that caused
around 1.5 million deaths with two-thirds of them
children under age five. This and more go unmentioned
because the media defer to power, and presidents and
prime ministers get “unlimited respect bordering on
reverence.” Want the truth? Independent journalism
provides what’s absent in the mainstream everywhere.

Ultimate Change - The Ultimate Media Betrayal

The issue here is the danger that the planet may
become uninhabitable because of climate change alone,
and the authors cite evidence to show it. In each
case, the conclusion is the same - global warming is
real, threatening, and serious efforts are urgently
needed to remediate it.

Enter the media with the authors saying although they
“do report the latest disasters and dramatic warnings,
there are few serious attempts to explore the identity
and motives of corporate opponents to action” on this
vital issue. Why? Because of powerful business
opposition that includes the corporate press. The
silence is deafening, and the authors state it’s “the
mother of all silences, because the fossil fuel
economy is the mother of all vested interests.”

It hardly matters that the London-based Global Commons
Institute predicts over two million deaths worldwide
in the next 10 years from climate-related disasters,
and we see lesser amounts happening now every year. It
gets worse with the prestigious journal Nature
publishing a four-year research study by scientists
from eight countries. They predict over one million
species will be extinct by 2050, and they describe
their findings as “terrifying.”

How does the oil industry respond? According to oil
and gas industry consultant, Bob Williams, it must
“put the environmental lobby out of business.” How
does the media respond? Silence in the face of “much
of life on earth threatened by mass death….” The
authors say “the corporate media occasionally laments
the destruction of our world in editorials, but it is
not in the business of doing anything about it. In
fact, literally the reverse is true.” In their
advertising and content, they promote a lifestyle of
excessive fossil fuel consumption - gas-guzzling cars,
air travel and a whole array of other high energy
consuming products most of which are unessential and
do little to enhance our lives.

The authors wonder if readers may question their view
on how the media approach climate issues and answer
this way: “....we believe our lives, the lives of our
children, indeed much of animal and plant life on this
planet, are in great danger. We believe, further, that
the means of mobilizing popular support for action to
prevent this catastrophe - the mass media - is fatally
compromised by its very structure, nature and goals.
This is no joke,” and unless we expose and challenge
the status quo “there may well be no future for any of
us.” What greater motivation is there than that.

Disciplined Media - Professional Conformity to Power

Key here is that nations or people committing
destructive acts don’t usually act out of ingrained
cruelty and hatred. As the authors put it: “In
reality, evil is not merely banal. It is often free of
any sense of being evil - there may be no sense of
moral responsibility for suffering at all.” A typical
response when asked is: “I’m just doing what I’m paid
to do (or) I’m just doing my job.” It’s as true of
torturers as businessmen who must do as they’re told
and know what comes with the job. Perform or find
another one, and the same obligation holds for
journalists. “Like military personnel, (they) also
sign themselves over to authority” and that requires
prioritizing their employers’ welfare “in everything
they say and do.”

The result is always the same. Official enemies are
demonized, government crimes are ignored or
“prettified,” and corporate greed is overlooked along
with the common good. The authors refer to this as the
“gushing phenomenon” that led western journalists to
“gush” over the fall of Baghdad and later the transfer
of “sovereignty” in the country’s “first democratic
elections in 50 years in January, 2005.” Never mind
the absence of democracy, the myth that there is any,
and the fact that the country’s “sovereignty” resides
in Washington and is enforced from its branch office
inside the heavily fortified Green Zone.

Mainstream journalists ignore this and are compliant
because they have to be or find other work. They
perform “in the absence of any conspiracy, with
minimal self-censorship, and with even less outright
lying.” Psychologist Eric Fromm explained the
phenomenon that the authors expressed their way: that
“all modern individuals are socialised to perceive
themselves as morally empty vessels willing to accept
whatever is demanded of them.” They’re “commodities to
be bought and sold for employment” - to do their job
and not question their employers. Journalists aren’t
paid to lie. They simply “subordinate their capacity
for critical thought to a professional standard
(knowing this is) just how things are done.”

In a nominally free society, control isn’t maintained
by violence but “by deception, self-deception, and by
a mass willingness to subordinate our own thoughts and
feelings to notions of professionalism and
objectivity.” It’s sadly ironic that people who make
an evil and violent world possible aren’t that way
themselves. Nonetheless, it must be wondered how
often, if ever, they consider the consequences of
their actions or inactions.

Toward a Compassionate Media

The authors note that the dominant media’s “subliminal
message is that our rulers are superior, transcendent,
benign (so they must) be afforded respect, even awe,
as the loftiest stratum of a proudly meritocratic
political system” that places all other people and
their leaders on lower rungs. It shouldn’t surprise
that many journalists view western values and
sophistication as “intellectually, culturally and
morally superior to the less developed societies of
the impoverished South.” In a word, “West is best” in
their minds so it follows our lives have greater

Enter Media Lens and its mission. The authors state to
the best of their knowledge it’s “the first serious
attempt to provide a regular, radical response to
mainstream propaganda in the UK.” If corporate-paid
journalists did it, their careers would end so they
can’t, won’t and don’t ever except around the edges
where it hardly matters or is barely noticed. Media
Lens, in the authors’ words, does “much more than talk
about practical solutions.” It is “a practical

The dominant media depends on uncriticized
“self-delusions” while the role of the alternative
media is to challenge them. With an expanding
internet, it can be done by reaching a mass audience
with minimal cost. The authors refer to “citizen
reporters” and their growing role in providing real
news and information unavailable in the mainstream.
They hope this will lead to a greater public awareness
and “power to impose a news agenda on the mainstream”
or replace it altogether as a reliable source. Even
more, they hope to “motivate large popular movements”
that may be able to “reform media structures to
restrict the influence of corporate interests” where
the bottom-line priority is their “bottom line.”

The authors go further as well and say an “honest
media” require “truth telling (that) should be
motivated by compassion for suffering rather than
greed for wealth, status and privilege.” In their
judgment, that’s incentive enough to seek real causes
of problems and workable solutions to them. Their goal
is an “honest, compassionate, non-corporate” media
because a model based on profit and growing
shareholder equity can’t possibly allow sentiment and
compassion to be a consideration. It doesn’t flow to
the bottom line.

Great goals begin with noble ideas backed by action,
but the authors admit that vision is a long way off.
For now, their “energies (are) spent….in joining,
forming, funding and supporting real democratic media
initiatives…. through Internet websites and blogs.”
The mainstream can be challenged, they believe, and
success depends on believing in three things: the
benefits of ending others’ suffering; a compassionate
media is worth working for; and acting to achieve it.

Full Human Dissent

Corporations today manipulate society and our lives by
harming the greater good for profits. Consider the
cost: “individual depression, global environmental
collapse, wars for control of natural resources” and
global dominion. It happens because we’re saturated in
a “mass consumer culture” that ignores “our needs as
human beings.” To counteract this, we need “to find
more humanly productive answers” mainstream culture
calls “dissident” or “absurd,” but the authors believe
are possible and vital.

Approaches to “individual and social well-being (are)
practiced in many traditional cultures (but have been)
filtered out” of ours because they conflict with
corporate goals already explained. The authors once
worked for corporate employers and described their
condition as “unrelieved boredom and
stress….work….of no intrinsic interest (and)
simply a means to the end of material acquisition.”
They concluded that life centered around money and
status “becomes a depressing dead end, a kind of
emotional wasteland.”

They contrast that experience to their involvement
today in “unpaid human rights and environmental work”
that includes their Media Lens efforts. Compassionate
dissent holds promise as a motivating force - “for
media activism, peace activism, human and animal
rights activism, and environmental activism.” It’s
also “profoundly conducive to our own well-being.” The
authors end by stating political dissent must be
combined with human dissent. The combination can be
powerfully self-liberating and “all the motivation we
need to act for the welfare of the world.” Isn’t that
a goal worth working for? Isn’t it what what we want
for ourselves?

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
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