Total fiction the norm in UK media

by on January 27, 2017 in Media Comment

This is a little example in today’s Daily Telegraph:

Mrs Merkel has been a strong supporter of the EU and US sanctions regime imposed on Russia following the annexation of Crimea and invasion of eastern Ukraine in 2014.

It appears in an article discussing a the phone calls between new US President Donald Trump and European and Russian leaders as well as a witty response in verse to Mrs May’s cold war era warnings about the need to beware of Russia.

This kind of outright lie is fed daily to the public by lazy and irresponsible journalists in the West. It is an example of the propaganda technique of narrative amplification. In this technique a ‘factoid’ is created. Once created (but never established as true by a detailed analysis) the factoid floats about and is re-inserted into a wide variety of articles which touch on the matter at all as if it were “the whole truth and nothing but the truth”. Readers of this sort of material are being “brainwashed”.

Crimea was annexed, if you like. But to mention this without also mentioning that there was a popular vote overwhelmingly in favour (a vote whose results have been confirmed by subsequent polling by Western polling organisations) [1] is to portray what was in fact a popular move approved of by the people as an act of aggression by Russia. As for “invasion of Eastern Ukraine” in 2014. No such event has taken place. Pure make believe. Something to do with Peter Pan. Yes; Russia is very likely running some kind of military intelligence operation in support of the residents of Donbass. But “invasion”. No. And; again; the lack of context is important here. As this web site has discussed frequently the Western media studiously avoids mentioning the historical and political context of the events in Eastern Ukraine. For example; it is a fact that people in Donbass are far far less interested in joining the EU and NATO than those in the West of Ukraine. At the same time the elected President who was deposed in the coup of February 2014 was most heavily supported by people in the East. That there should be resistance by these people, even without Russian support, to becoming part of a Western-leaning Ukraine is as rational as it was predictable.

This article in the Daily Telegraph is provable dishonest. If ‘dishonest’ means to create a false impression.  (That is, and this is entirely characteristic of this kind of propaganda material; it might be possible to defend statements about ‘annexation’ and ‘invasion’ against, say, defamation charges, by citing small items of evidence; e.g. evidence of a burnt-out Russian tank in Donbass, but the statements made loudly amplify only one side of reality, miss out the political and historical contexts and indeed any ‘evidence for the defence’ at all, and thus create a distorted and indeed false narrative). Yet people (in this case someone called Roland Oliphant) churn this material out day in day out. And call it journalism. Apart from any political considerations it is simply incredibly lazy to present only one side of a complex situation. It may be that one motivation is that this is what your sub-editor (on your newspaper owned by Western finance capital) wants to see. But that would be no excuse for someone who cared about journalism.

Update – more factual errors in the Daily Telegraph

This is another article by the same Roland Oliphant who claimed that Russia had “invaded” Eastern Ukraine. In this article he actually corrects the “invasion” line to a more defendable line about “military intervention”:

Those grievances [between Russia and the US] include Russia’s annexation of Crimea and military intervention in eastern Ukraine and Syria, the sanctions the US imposed in response, and the exchange of accusations of hacking following apparent Russian attempts to swing the US election in Mr Trump’s favour.

There is very very little tangible proof even for Russian “military intervention” in Eastern Ukraine. This line is simply repeated in the Western press as a truism. But there are very few serious articles which attempt to back it up with reporting or investigative journalism.  (This story by Reuters from October 2014 is a very rare exception to the rule. In this story there is tangible evidence of Russian military involvement. The case is somewhat circumstantial and could be contested. But at least it represents a serious attempt to back up the claims about Russian “military involvement” with real journalism; going there, taking pictures, getting the pictures reviewed by people who can be cited as experts etc. The story stands out as an exception. Usually the claim is just repeated, essentially, because that is what the US State Department said.) Anyway.

The factual error worth highlighting here is that US sanctions on Russia relate solely to Crimea and/or Eastern Ukraine. The US discussed sanctions on Russia in relation to Syria [2] back in October 2016 when the Syrian government and Russia were in the process of re-taking the Syrian city of Aleppo from Western backed “moderates” and Al-Qaeda. But they were not imposed. (Syria re-took Aleppo and the story moved on). The author says that the US sanctions on Russia are connected to Syria. They aren’t. That’s just wrong.  In terms of correctly understanding international affairs this is a significant error.  This kind of basic factual error is not all that uncommon in the Western press. It probably occurs because the basis on which they write is not reportage. (Facts and analysis based on facts). But phantasy. Narratives – issued by the liberal elites in power in Washington, Paris and London. Designed to make them look good and to rationalise whatever murderous project they are currently engaged on. And, when your job is repeating narratives, it is easy sometimes to get a bit adrift. After all, 90% of it is make-believe anyway so what does it matter if you get basic facts wrong?

(There were additional sanctions by Obama’s administration in relation to  claimed Russian hacking of the US Democratic Party and other figures in the US Democrats. [3]. Possibly this is the mistake. The author meant to refer to these and not to Syria. But if you are going to write about international affairs you might as well get it right).

Essentially the problem is that 95% of the time the Western media is not doing journalism. They are acting as the PR department for the Western liberal political/financial elites – spinning whatever stories suit them.

Update – more fake news in the Guardian

This is from a blog post about demonstrations in the UK against the US ban (temporary ban) on people from 7 listed countries (Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen) entering the US.

Other speakers linked Trump’s ban on refugees and Muslims from seven countries entering the US to the prime minister’s official visit to meet Trump in the US last week. Rhea Wolfson, a member of Labour’s national executive committee, said: “we say it loud and clear to Theresa May: you shame yourself and you shame your country.

“Muslims from 7 countries”. This isn’t true. It isn’t a mistake or partly not true or a spin which could be defended by a piece of sophistry. It is simply not true. As in “there is a cat on the mat” when the mat is utterly empty. The ban applies to anyone from those 7 countries – regardless of their religion. This blog is attributed to “Andrew Sparrow and Kevin Rawlinson”. Whoever wrote it they are just making it up. They seem to be more interested in stirring up unrest than in reporting facts.

That’s the main point; a straightforward piece of fake news. To critique the piece a little deeper we can also notice that, like much of reporting in the liberal press about Trump’s moves on immigration, they neglect to report a) the suspension of the US refugee programme is for 120 days not permanent – only the Syrian refugee programme has been permanently suspended, and b) the ban on entry to the US to people from 7 listed countries is limited to 90 days and is to (stated purpose) give the administration time to review security vetting procedures. Perhaps you can call yourself a journalist and distort the news by skipping the context and full facts. But to “report” that Trump has “banned Muslims from seven countries” is to move from journalism purely into the realms of writing incendiary propaganda.

That is; disagree with it on principle or at the level of tactics. But don’t just fake it. If you fake it it looks like you don’t care at all about the subject matter you apparently claim to care so much about.

Notes

1. New Obs

2. Independent. October 2016

3. CNN

Add to Favorites Print article