The state of play

At the time of writing I’ve noticed a significant decrease in reporting on Syria. This coincides with David Cameron giving a clear indication that Britain will not be supplying arms to the Syrian rebels. It also coincides with Obama’s plan to arm the rebels being challenged by Congress – with General Martin Dempsey, the top military officer in the United States, warning senators that each option under consideration would be “costly and uncertain”.

On Friday the 19th of July the Guardian also posted the following editorial;

Middle East: a wall of difficulties
Military solutions, whether arming the rebels in Syria or deterring the Iranians would, it is now more widely agreed, be madness

Many editorials during the Libya and Syria conflicts have been overtly aggressive – as noted in a previous blog post entitled “Editorials For War” – however this latest piece is the polar opposite.

What I find interesting about this obvious change in tone is that it coincides perfectly with UK foreign policy on the situation. As many Western leaders publicly step back from armed confrontation the media seemingly follows suit.

Also worth noting is this article in The Sunday Times. It was actually written in July 2012 but with recent developments regarding Lynton Crosby and the lobbying scandal I think it’s worth another look;

HE WON the nickname “the Wizard of Oz” for helping Boris Johnson to become mayor of London. Now Lynton Crosby, the political spin doctor, has turned his attention to lending the Syrian rebels a hand to win the propaganda war against President Bashar al-Assad.

A leaked document seen by The Sunday Times shows how CTF Partners, Crosby’s consultancy firm, offered to run a six-month public relations campaign for the Syrian National Council (SNC) — the biggest single coalition of anti-Assad groups — for a fee of £180,000.

It proposed opening an office in London to co-ordinate the “public image and statements” of the SNC.

“We believe that the SNC is not winning the important public relations and public affairs battle against the Assad regime in the international media,” the document states.

Another aspect worth baring in mind is the recent reporting on Egypt since the 2013 revolution/coup/unrest. Some readers (myself included) noticed a slight pro Morsi/pro Muslim Brotherhood slant to some of the articles. It’s something that I may write about in the near future. There also seems to be a real lack of criticism with regards to the Qatari and Saudi dictatorships fueling sectarian war in Syria. When one considers the Guardians stance on Libya, Syria and Egypt – and takes into account the lack of critical reporting on Qatar/Saudi foreign policy – it may raise the question of funding. Is the news organisation accepting money from either of these states? I have noticed several positive pieces highlighting the slow and minimal steps to reform that the Gulf States are taking. This would also add weight to my theory of partiality.

A look back at Libya

The 2011 armed conflict in Libya was fought between forces loyal to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and those seeking to oust his government. The war was preceded by skirmishes and protests in Benghazi beginning on Tuesday the 15th of February 2011.

Within days of the conflict beginning the Guardian began publishing pro interventionist and overtly aggressive editorials.

Libya: The urge to help – Thursday 24 February 2011

“The quicker Muammar Gaddafi falls, the better…….   a no-fly zone should become an option. Lord Owen was therefore right to say that military preparations should be made”

Libya: Limited options – Saturday 26 February 2011

“American and other western forces in the Mediterranean area, working with military units from Arab countries, could probably destroy the Gaddafi family’s ramshackle legions in about the same amount of time it took over 150 years ago. When sniper fire rakes crowds outside mosques and when ill-armed fighters face machine guns, the temptation to reach out for a quick military solution is strong.”

Libya: Narrowing the options – Tuesday 29 March 2011

“The emerging compromise may be that for a few more days the current rules of engagement, allowing ground attacks on military assets not directly or actively threatening civilians, will continue in force but then a narrower interpretation will prevail. That gives Nato planes a slender window to tip the military balance further against Gaddafi.”

During the conflict the Guardian also seemed very eager to report that Gaddafi was issuing Viagra to his soldiers so they could commit mass rape against his opponents.

Gaddafi ‘supplies troops with Viagra to encourage mass rape’, claims diplomat – Friday 29 April 2011

Libya mass rape claims: using Viagra would be a horrific first – Thursday 9 June 2011

Gaddafi faces new ICC charges for using rape as weapon in conflict – Thursday 9 June 2011

This ridiculous claim which lacked any evidence whatsoever was then refuted by major activist groups – as stated on Wikipedia.

Amnesty international, Human Rights Watch and Doctors Without Borders failed to find first-hand evidence that mass rapes were occurring, this was confirmed by the UN’s investigator, M. Cherif Bassiouni.

I cannot find any evidence that the Guardian bothered to report the findings of Amnesty international, Human Rights Watch, Doctors Without Borders and the UN investigator.

One of the major selling points of the Libyan intervention was the issue that Gaddafi used airstrikes on his population. This rumor was repeated over and over (like the claims of mass rape) by the mainstream media but I have yet to see any compelling evidence that it actually happened.  Please send me any information if I am mistaken. There is no video evidence anywhere online and until there is I have to keep an open mind. According to a Russian news network the Russian Military confirmed that “Airstrikes in Libya did not take place”. If airstrikes are such a deciding factor in whether or not a government decides to go to war – surely some evidence for the general public would be beneficial.

Another biased attribute of the Guardians reporting on Libya was the downplaying or ignoring of atrocities committed by the NATO backed rebels. As stated on a previous blog post…

“The UK Government and media outlets downplayed and largely ignored the brutalization of black communities during the Libyan conflict and in its aftermath reports of ethnic cleansing were conveniently swept under the carpet.”

The examples of propaganda and media bias during this bloody conflict are many. The action on the ground unfolded so quickly that before investigations into what was true and what was false could even begin – NATO had already started its bombing campaign and civilians were being killed in the name of ‘humanitarianism’.

It speaks volumes that the ongoing violence in Libya is now barely reported by the Guardian. During the conflict, major incidents were treated to rolling news coverage and headlines on the home page but ever since the forced regime change the faux concern has shifted to the citizens of Syria, almost as if to imply – job done – on to the next.

It is very important to note that there were some articles on the Guardian website opposing intervention in Libya but the pro interventionist propaganda had already begun. By promoting a conversation on the positives and negatives of war – war itself becomes rationalized, when the very idea of such carnage should be opposed at every single level. We live in an apathetic world where powerful, Western Governments have been able to destroy entire countries based on deceit and a complete lack of accountability. For every anti war campaigner working against the tide there seems to be a well paid war apologist with column inches to fill. We must hold our mainstream media to account whenever it prints pro war commentary and any form of propaganda.

For further reading on mainstream media propaganda during the Libyan conflict, please visit the following links >

 Libya One Year On (Part 3): The Propaganda and the Law

Libya: NTC concocts mass grave story in brazen propaganda piece

Good extremists/Bad extremists

It’s hard to contemplate the audacity of the Guardian in their feigning concern for the victims of extremism in Mali as 2 years ago they were cheering on almost identical extremists in the very same region. 

The UK Government and media outlets downplayed and largely ignored the brutalization of black communities during the Libyan conflict and in its aftermath reports of ethnic cleansing were conveniently swept under the carpetThe extremists who were committing these atrocities and war crimes were subjected to the least amount of scrutiny possible as they were essentially fighting on behalf of Western interests and were backed up militarily by NATO. Compare this to the current situation in Mali. A near autonomous/highly ungoverned region in the North of the country is this time directly threatening Western interests so miraculously its all systems go with regards to rigorous reporting and faux outrage.

What does this duplicity tell us about government policy and the news reports that shamelessly support it?

It tells us that human rights and democracy play little to no part in the decision to promote and pursue wars. The Guardian can, and do, propagandize a cause based solely on the Governments financial interests.

Ignoring facts to fit the propaganda model

The Guardian is as guilty as almost every other mainstream news outlet in the UK with regards to its heavily biased coverage of the Libyan & Syrian conflicts. If picking sides in a civil war was classed as a crime then the Guardians online editorial team would be found guilty on several counts.

This propaganda technique is one of the most effective ways of ‘managing consent’ and shaping a narrative whilst at the same time being one of the hardest to highlight to those who do not see a problem. Outright lies and misinformation can easily be brought to the attention of people with the use of source material but when uncomfortable facts/incidents are blatantly ignored it can be harder to illustrate. Facts that are ominously omitted by media outlets can be simply excused as either not news worthy or the omission put down to human error. This propaganda technique is especially effective in the early days of a conflict (see Libya & Syria) as readers opinions are usually formed in the opening days and weeks of following a story.

Please bear in mind that this blog is not trying to support or berate any particular side in the conflicts mentioned. This is about propaganda and media bias.

Using the reporting on Syria as an example of the propaganda technique mentioned above I have highlighted 3 key points;

1. Video footage and reports of Syrian rebels committing war crimes do not paint the opposition in a good light and there have been many documented occasions when certain incidents have gone unreported. Here is an extract from “The Angry Arab” blog which highlights one specific case;

“Al-Quds Al-`Arabi, which is a Qatari-funded newspaper that staunchly supports the opposition to the Asad regime had a front page article yesterday an IN PASSING reference to a “armed men” storming into a housing complex in rural Homs and shooting at Christians and `Alawites, and killing 16 and injuring others. Even the Syrian Observatory for Qatari Human Rights acknowledged the massacre but tried to obfuscate by adding that some Sunnis were also hit. Did any Western media report on this massacre? Any? At all?”

2. Interviews with Syrian residents who do not support the Syrian rebels offer readers an alternative viewpoint to a very complex situation. Despite hundreds of these people voicing their opinions online (YouTube/Twitter) mainstream media very rarely (if ever) gives these people a platform by talking to them and in turn helps paint a simplified, black and white/good vs bad narrative.

3. Influx of foreign fighters and Al Jazeera bias: Very early on in the conflict, staff members of Al Jazeera decided to resign in protest at the stations biased coverage. One ex employee of the Qatari owned news network called Ali Hashem, also went on record as seeing foreign fighters entering Syria only weeks after the conflict began. The claims of media bias at Al Jazeera and the eye-witness accounts of foreign fighters was completely ignored by The Guardian. Once again it was left to independent media to investigate the story by interviewing Ali Hashem.

I’ll add more links which back up these claims in the near future. To conclude this blog post I’ll leave you with a comment from a regular Guardian reader that was left in response to a Guardian contributor;

philbobaggins1
24 January 2013 12:31pm (link to comment)
@PaulOwen: “Come on Paul, thats a shocking rebuttal, i think what upsets most people, including me is that this newspaper is given the title of “the flagship of liberal media” around the world. Whatever that means.

In all honesty i dont think for one minute either you, Chulov, Borger or anyone else cannot see the skewed and one sided narrative the Guardian has been following since the Syrian conflict started, granted the tone has changed somewhat since the now unmissable emergence of large numbers of undersirable groups have swelled the ranks of the opposition but this newspapers lack of ability or willingness to look at this conflict from an objective point of view has been obvious to say the least.

In reality when it comes to foreign policy you follow the government line, that is a fact, you have controlled dissidence and debate but it goes no further than that. Your undeniable support and stenography of the opposition in the Syrian conflict and constant attempts to portray one side as the “goodies” and the other as the “baddies” is just a symptom of this newspapers unwillingness or inability to go against govt foreign policy”