Media Lens


Media Lens
David Edwards and David Cromwell of Media Lens receive the Gandhi Foundation Peace Award, 2007

Media Lens is a British media analysis website established in 2001 by David Cromwell and David Edwards. Regular 'media alerts' are issued with the intention of exposing what the editors consider to be "serious examples of bias, omission or deception in British mainstream media", with a primary emphasis on media outlets legally obliged to be impartial (such as BBC News and Channel 4 News) or generally thought liberal (like The Guardian and The Independent). Jonathan Cook, a sympathetic journalist who covers the Middle East, has also contribute articles.[1]

The editors invite their readers to challenge the relevant journalists, editors and programme producers directly via email, though Cromwell and Edwards discourage abusive contact.[2] The website is maintained by webmaster Oliver Maw, and is financed through voluntary subscription and donations from grant-funding bodies.

Contents

History and methodology

David Edwards gradually came to the conclusion that a "media suppression of the truth about the effect of the sanctions" existed, and media indifference to climate change: "the media were still celebrating the idea that Britain might soon be blessed with a Mediterranean climate."[3] Cromwell and Edwards first met in 1999, and Edwards suggested beginning a collaborative website.[4]

The editors of Media Lens claim that "the corporate media is the source of some of the greatest, most lethal illusions of our age".[5] Central to Media Lens analyses is the 'Propaganda model' of Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky, which was developed in their book Manufacturing Consent (1988). This attempts to demonstrate systemic bias in the media in terms of structural economic causes proposing that news passes through five conceptual filters before publication. Chomsky himself has commended Media Lens, who have "performed a major public service by carrying out this task with energy, insight and care".[6] Edwards has also cited Erich Fromm, who thought "a society that subordinates people and planet to profit is inherently insane and toxic",[3] and his practice of Buddhism[7] as influences.

Cromwell and Edwards claim western government actions have followed "a historical pattern of deception that dates back to the days of the British empire and the founding of the United States of America".[5] According to them, journalists ventriloquize an "'official' version of events ... as Truth. The testimony of critical observers and participants - nongovernmental organisations, humanitarian and aid workers, prisoners, doctors, and especially those on the receiving end of Western firepower - are routinely marginalised, ignored and even ridiculed."[4] The editors though explicitly reject accusations that their arguments take the form of conspiracy theories.[8]

They argue that mainstream journalists gradually absorb an unquestioning corporate mindset an their careers progress, unwilling to question their own occupations or government claims, rather than practicing conscious lying.

"We all have a tendency to believe what best suits our purpose; highly paid, highly privileged editors and journalists are no exception. In any case, professionals whose attitudes and opinions most closely serve the needs of corporate power, whether in media institutions or elsewhere, are more likely to be filtered through to positions of authority within such institutions."[9]

Liberals are their target audience because Media Lens sees them as susceptible to "liberal propaganda persuading them of the "basic reasonableness and respectability of the US-UK government position".[10] The liberal wing of the mainsrtream media are gatekeepers "of acceptable debate from a left or Green perspective, 'thus far and no further.'"[11]

The BBC, viewed as subject to party political interference,[12] has journalists who "may stand neutrally between the range of views presented, [but] the range itself inevitably reflects their value judgements". They cite a rhetorical question posed by BBC correspondent Bridget Kendall in 2006 about whether the Iraq war was "justified" or a "disastrous miscalculation" as a demonstration of personal bias, which they see as being the "norm", rather than impartiality. They argue this excludes the opinions of the anti-war movement, and ex-UN secretary general Kofi Annan, who are considered to have seen the war as "an illegal war of aggression".[12]

They believe journalists regularly present inflated assessments of the accomplishments of western politicians. An example they regularly give are comments made by Andrew Marr in 2003, while the BBC's political editor, whom they consider overtly sympathetic to the former prime minister.[13] The Media Lens editors asserted in 2003 that "there never was an Iraqi threat" and "If Tony Blair and George W. Bush are not guilty of war crimes, who is?"[14] They contrast the positive comments the mainsrtream media make about western leaders with the epithets used to describe other politicians such as Hugo Chávez.[15]

In regular 'Media Alerts', the two editors (and other contributors) highlight what they see as incidents of bias, encouraging email campaigns from their supporters. The editors frequently engage in dialogue with British journalists.[16] Media Lens hosts a message board and a discussion forum, used for political and media issues. Their media alerts are distributed without charge by email to a reported international readership of around 14,000 people.[17]

Media responses

Admirers

Media Lens has sometimes been complemented by the mainstream media. Peter Barron, former editor of the BBC's Newsnight, commented in 2005 on Media Lens lobbies over the programme's content. He added: "In fact I rather like them. David Cromwell and David Edwards, who run the site, are unfailingly polite, their points are well-argued and sometimes they're plain right."[18]

John Pilger has claimed Media Lens' "remarkable website"[19] has "had such an extraordinary influence since" their work began "that, without their meticulous and humane analysis, the full gravity of the debacles of Iraq and Afghanistan might have been consigned to bad journalism's first draft of bad history".[19] Media Lens though are critical of dissenting voices, like Pilger, who appear in the mainstream media. While considering the Australian-born journalist John Pilger as a "huge inspiration", they argue Pilger's "work is used to strengthen the propaganda system‘s false claims of honesty and openness",[4] a view Pilger shares.

The journalist Peter Wilby ("their basic critique is correct"[20]), who occasionally commissioned them while he was editor of the New Statesman lamented in a review of their book Guardians of Power (2006) that: "The Davids are virtually unknown; as leftist critics, they are marginalised."[20] Writing about the same work Pilger commented: "Not a single national newspaper reviewed the most important book about journalism I can remember."[19]

Critics

Media Lens is more often criticised. Peter Beaumont, foreign affairs editor of The Observer, considers them "controlling Politburo lefties who insist that the only acceptable version of the truth is theirs alone and that everybody else should march to the same step and sing the same (old party) song".[21] In Beaumont's opinion Media Lens does not engage in dialogue with their targets, rather they exploit the media to create a virtual soap box for their opinions. Beaumont accused the group of a campaign intended to silence John Sloboda and his Iraq Body Count project, because it produced a victim count lower than[22] the academic surveys on the casualties during the Iraq War published in The Lancet by academics from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.[23][24] In 2006, David Fuller, a journalist on Newsnight, covered their attacks on Sloboda and the IBC, and also summarised his findings on the BBC website.[25] The Media Lens editors considered Fuller's attack "the most distorted and damaging smear of our work" up to that point,[26] but the editors decision not to accept invitations to appear on Newsnight led Fuller to accuse them of "[refusing] to engage in any way that does not allow them total control of the interaction."[27] Sloboda himself believes Media Lens "are a pressure group that use[s] aggressive and emotionally destructive tactics".[24] In August 2009 Znet, a radical left-wing American website usually sympathetic to Media Lens, published an article which accused Media Lens of errors in its attack on the IBC, not least in its assumption that the IBC only used western media sources in counting the number of fatalities in Iraq.[28]

On 7 July 2008 Peter Wilby reported in The Guardian that The Times' legal manager Alastair Brett had asked the editors of Media Lens to remove emails received from Bronwen Maddox which they had incorporated into an article on her writings concerning Iran, which they then did. Brett added that Maddox had received "vexatious and threatening emails from visitors to Media Lens" and threatened an application for a high court injunction to prevent their users from contacting Maddox.[29] Wilby quoted Edwards asking "what world do these people live in that they have to be so protected from the rough and tumble of political debate?"[29][30]

Accusations of genocide denial

In June 2011 George Monbiot, a columnist for The Guardian, accused Media Lens of "maintain[ing] that [Edward S.] Herman and [David] Peterson were 'perfectly entitled' to talk down the numbers killed at Srebrenica".[31] (Media Lens editors had written in 2009: "[Herman and Peterson] also do not accept the figure cited by Kamm and others, but that they are perfectly entitled to do."[32]) Monbiot accused Herman, and by implication Media Lens, of taking "the unwarranted step of belittling the acts of genocide committed by opponents of the western powers".[31] Media Lens in turn accused Monbiot of making serious errors in quoting from the work of Herman and Peterson.[33]

Aside from Holocaust denial, which Media Lens finds particularly insidious "because of the extreme racism and hatred motivating the doubt in this particular instance",[32] they have written:

To be clear, we reject the right of any court, any government, indeed anyone, to apply labels like 'genocide' to historical events and then, not merely argue but demand that they be accepted. The assumption that human institutions are in possession of Absolute Truth belongs to the era of The Inquisition, not to serious debate.[33]

The Times commentator Oliver Kamm ("[o]ne of our most relentless critics",[32]) who considers the editors, and their supporters, to be "shrill malcontents".[34] has suggested that the denial of genocidal acts utilises the same methods used by Holocaust deniers such as David Irving. Media Lens have accused Monbiot of following Kamm's lead on this issue.[35]

Award

On 12 December 2007, Edwards and Cromwell were awarded the Gandhi International Peace Award. The award was presented by Denis Halliday, former United Nations Humanitarian Co-ordinator in Iraq and himself a recipient of the award in 2003.[36]

Further reading

See also

References

  1. ^ See for example Jonathan Cook "Kidnappeds by Israel - The British Media And The Invasion Of Gaza", Media Lens, 30 June 2011; "A Comparative Review Review of 'Flat Earth News' [by Nick Davies]<nowiki> and <nowiki>[Media Lens]Newspeak'", Media Lens, 20 November 2009 and "Guest Media Alert - Tilting Towards Israel", Media Lens, 4 January 2011
  2. ^ The editors close their alerts with the notice: "The goal of Media Lens is to promote rationality, compassion and respect for others. If you do write to journalists, we strongly urge you to maintain a polite, non-aggressive and non-abusive tone." See for example: Edwards and Cromwell "Three Little Words: WikiLeaks, Libya, Oil", Media Lens, 22 June 2011
  3. ^ a b Sam Walby "Interview with David Edwards from Media Lens", UK Indymedia, 10 May 2011.Interview also reproduced at "Interview with David Edwards", Now Then magazine, [June 2011]
  4. ^ a b c Joan Pedro "Interview with David Edwards and David Cromwell of Media Lens", alterzoom website, 6 October 2007
  5. ^ a b Quoted in Dan Raymond Barker "Rax Interview with Media Lens", New Internationalist blog, 12 January 2011
  6. ^ Cover of Guardians of Power, London: Pluto Press, 2006 and online at Omar Hayat. "Gandhi International Peace Award 2007 citation". http://gandhifoundation.org/2007/12/02/2007-peace-award-media-lens. .
  7. ^ See the last chapter of Newspeak in the 21st Century (London: Pluto, 2009) where Edwards explains this part of his life.
  8. ^ "[FAQ:] Are you saying that the mainstream media is some kind of a giant conspiracy to keep the public ignorant?" Media Lens, 27 September 2010
  9. ^ Media Lens, About Us, http://www.medialens.org/about/, retrieved 02 March 2010 
  10. ^ Matt Ford "Biased? Me? Liberal reporters get cross", The First Post, 27 June 2006, p.2
  11. ^ Ian Sinclair "All Eyes on Media Lens", Morning Star, 13 November 2006
  12. ^ a b David Cromwell and David Edwards "BBC controversy: Impartial, independent and trustworthy: Really? Try Looking at the Evidence", The First Post, 14 September 2009 (extract from Newspeak in the 21st Century, 2009)
  13. ^ Edwards and Cromwell "A Journey Unchallenged - Andrew Marr Interviews Tony Blair", Media Lens, 17 September 2010. Marr was one of their earliest critics, he described one argument they presented as "pernicious and anti-journalistic", see "The BBC's Political Editor Responds", Media Lens, 13 October 2001. For a hard copy version of this exchange see Edwards and Cromwell Guardians of Power, London: Pluto Press, 2006, p.105-8
  14. ^ Edwards and Cromwell "Adventures in Media Surreality - Part 1", Media Lens, 19 August 2003
  15. ^ Graham Barnfield "Newspeak in the 21st Century", Times Higher Education, 12 November 2009. For an article on this point see "Ridiculing Chavez - The Media Hit Their Stride - Part 1", Media Lens, 16 May 2006
  16. ^ See for example "The Balance of Power - Exchanges With BBC Journalists", Media Lens, 15 October 2009.
  17. ^ Judith Townend "Q&A: Media Lens - 'Our book will likely be more or less ignored, as other similar books have been'", Journalism (website), 2 December 2009
  18. ^ Barron, Peter (11 November 2005). "Could you do better?". BBC News. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/newsnight/4426334.stm. Retrieved 11 November 2005. 
  19. ^ a b c John Pilger "The cyber guardians of honest journalism", New Statesman, 29 November 2007
  20. ^ a b Peter Wilby "On the margins", New Statesman, 30 January 2006
  21. ^ Peter Beaumont "Microscope on Medialens", The Observer, 18 June 2006
  22. ^ "Microscope on Medialens". The Observer. 18 June 2006. http://observer.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1800328,00.html. Retrieved 5 June 2009. 
  23. ^ MediaLens (April 10, 2006). "Iraq Body Count - A Shame Becoming Shameful". http://www.medialens.org/alerts/06/060410_iraq_body_count.php. Retrieved 2009-10-03. 
  24. ^ a b transcript of an interview with David Fuller for Newsnight (2006), used for an item about Media Lens, criticises the sampling methods utilised by The Lancet study.
  25. ^ David Fuller "Virtual war follows Iraq conflict", BBC News, 28 April 2006
  26. ^ Edwards and Cromwell "Maelstrom of Vitriol - The BBC Smears Media Lens", Media Lens, 3 May 2006
  27. ^ David Fuller "A cracked lens", The Guardian, 6 June 2006. See also "Iraq Body Count - Media Lens responds", BBC Newsnight, 28 April 2006
  28. ^ Robert Shone "Media Lens's errors on Iraq Body Count", Znet/Z Communications, 14 August 2009
  29. ^ a b Peter Wilby "On the press: Publish and be damned", The Guardian, 7 July 2008
  30. ^ See also David Peterson, et al "Guest Media Alert: David Peterson Responds to Oliver Kamm", Media Lens, 26 June 2008
  31. ^ a b George Monbiot "Left and libertarian right cohabit in the weird world of the genocide belittlers", The Guardian, 13 June 2011
  32. ^ a b c David Edwards and David Cromwell "Dancing on a Mass Grave - Oliver Kamm of The Times Smears Media Lens", Media Lens, 25 November 2009
  33. ^ a b Edwards and Cromwell "A 'Malign Intellectual Subculture' - George Monbiot Smears Chomsky, Herman, Peterson, Pilger And Media Lens", Media Lens, 2 August 2011
  34. ^ Oliver Kamm "Howard Zinn: Accused of failing to research the claims he makes about Hiroshima", entry from Kamm's blog reproduced on the George Mason University History News Network website, 13 December 2006
  35. ^ Twitter exchange, 2:54pm Jun 7 2011. See also "Our response to Monbiot's June 13, 2011 article", Media Lens forum, 16 June 2011
  36. ^ Omar Hayat. "Gandhi International Peace Award 2007 citation". http://gandhifoundation.org/2007/12/02/2007-peace-award-media-lens. 
  37. ^ Guardians of Power, Media Lens, 12 November 2010
  38. ^ Newspeak In The 21st Century, Media Lens, 8 November 2010

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