What would peace look like in Ukraine?

I haven’t posted to this site for a while. This is partly due to lack of time. It is also because I have decided to focus the posts I write solely on questions of how the media works (in the West). In fact I have set myself a rule; I cannot post anything which I can’t categorize as being ‘media comment‘. One reason for this re-focus of the site is that I misread Russian moves prior to their actions in Ukraine. With hindsight I think I was in denial. Anyway – it seems to me better to write about what I have a real interest in – how the media works, rather than just opine about geo-political developments. I don’t really have the time to do that with the depth necessary to write anything useful.

So – the grounds for this post is that I am promoting a web article by dissident UK journalist Craig Murray. I wish to hell that there were more journalists like Craig Murray. It would make a huge difference. Not this insane and short-term promotion of the current war on Russia.

I agree with virtually all of this article, accept perhaps I don’t know for sure whether Russia could ‘win’ on the ground in Ukraine. Unfortunately I also agree with Craig’s assessment that a negotiated peace currently does not interest the partisans on either side or those in power and so we can expect the killing to continue.

Lab leak update

This is a useful article in Al Jazeera giving an update on the non investigations into the origins of Sars-Cov-2.

It continues to amaze me just how little interest Western political and media circles have shown in getting to the bottom of the question of where this virus, which upended the world (in fact much of the upending was due to misplaced government responses, but that is a different matter) came from. In the US the Democrats have blocked all Congressional enquiries. Extraordinary. As the MIT scientist interviewed by Al Jazeera says – there is unmistakably a cover-up.

Al Jazeera – doing balanced journalism – reports that there has been a slew of recent studies which claim to locate the origins in the Wet Market. (The Wuhan Wet Market seems to fall in and out of favour as the putative origin). What strikes me about this is that it is a fact (as reported e.g. by Colin Butler a Professor at Australian National University in Canberra and UN Contributor) that China has not supplied researchers with all the required data. Indeed, as the article reports, China has removed useful information about the genetic sequences of early cases from the Internet – and the actual Wuhan lab database was hidden back in September 2019. So – these researchers who are loudly proclaiming “Wuhan market” (and therefore it seems “not lab”) are doing so despite a deliberately controlled and restricted evidence base. This is hardly objective science. Indeed it is extraordinary. But the media is often (not in this case) using these studies to once again dismiss the lab-leak theory.

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Media focus – how it shapes public opinion

One of Chomsky’s arguments in Manufacturing Consent is that the media in the West shapes public opinion by what it includes and doesn’t. It doesn’t have to lie explicitly but it can shape public opinion by simply ignoring whole stories.

I haven’t looked at UK media for a while but last time I did look it was full of images of suffering Ukrainian civilians. I have no doubt there is a vast amount of suffering in Ukraine. A terrible tragedy.

I would assume UK media is still running with this story.

Meanwhile, there is another story. The humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan. Widespread malnutrition – people including babies dying of hunger. This crisis was caused a) by the US having created an artificial economy dependent on external cash injections suddenly withdrawing that and b) apparently by US and Western sanctions which are making it hard for aid organisations to move cash into the country. [1] According to Al Jazeera using Afghan figures 17,000 babies have died of malnutrition in 2022. Of course the figures, provided by the Taleban government may be exaggerated but then again perhaps not – there is no doubt at all that hunger and malnutrition is absolutely widespread in the country. As the article in Al Jazeera makes clear, citing aid agencies, this massive crisis is a result of economic and political decisions.

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Western media selectivity

The Western media uses a number of strategies to shape public opinion in the West, to “manufacture consent” in Chomsky’s words. One of these strategies is about weighting.

This is a good example. It is reported today that Saudi Arabia has just executed 81 people in a single day. Some of these people were executed for, it seems, simply expressing allegiance to a political-military group opposed to the Saudi regime. CNN reports this event in a short article. The article is without any editorial gloss, expressions of horror, or denunciations of the regime. The New York Times version does give voice to rights groups which are critical of this event but does not itself add any editorial gloss or judgement. Both articles are careful to include the neat explanation from the Saudi authorities that the condemned “were provided with the right to an attorney and were guaranteed their full rights under Saudi law”.

On the Guardian World News page today is a story about a dissident Saudi blogger being freed. Nothing about the 81 executions. I did a Google search for “site:theguardian.com 81 execution saudi arabia” and this turned up nothing. It appears they don’t consider this worthy of mention. The Independent covers the story. The piece does reference criticism from human rights groups but is quite “balanced”. For example; “The mass execution is likely to bring back attention to Saudi Arabia’s human rights record…”. The Independent also quotes the Saudi statement justifying the mass executions as being “according to Saudi law”.

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