Death in the Desert (of Journalism)

There is an undeniable linkage between western institutional interests and the behaviour of media outlets in those countries, to a degree that makes what we like to think of a ‘free press’ little more than a conduit for policy makers to place their agenda before the people.

The straight media – albeit not universally – acts as the agent of government and Establishment organisations in getting a message out to the population without whose tacit approval, or more likely blank indifference, they cannot operate effectively and certainly not with the cloak of impunity that the ‘democratic mandate’ affords them.

Be it government ministers or departments, joint defence pacts as in NATO or bilateral self-interest relations as with the United States, they collectively have an access to and an unwritten control over the media – that’s the media we like to think of as neutral, scrutinising and fearless from which it claims its place as a pillar of democracy.

Media executives learn to ‘manage up’ to powerful outside interests and work to placate them and are drawn into collusion with them against the interests of consumers and often of staff. They become part of the governing elite their media organisations exist to challenge on the peoples’ behalf. Through internal corporate osmosis, a predilection for ‘respectful’ reporting and ‘sensible’ narrative is established as the norm and consolidated by peer pressure from colleagues who learn to ‘read’ the meanings of attitudes displayed by the management.

In coverage of military activities, noticeably, the human inclination to admire those whose job is to risk their lives for country is closely allied to operational policy so that once a decision to commit forces is made, criticism is automatically curtailed.

Executive decision-making in newsrooms is shaped by a need not to ‘betray’ the cause when ‘patriotism’ is needed and voices of dissent are treated like traitors rather than objecting democrats.

The theme is well described by Medialens and reprinted here at Bella

However, in recent weeks it has also become apparent that, in a seemingly contradictory fashion, Britain’s (and other western) media have simultaneously become willing propaganda agents for the ‘enemy’ western governments are intent on destroying.

What other explanation is there for the repeated prominent publicity given to staged execution images presented for this very purpose by so-called ISIS thugs? If ISIS really is the enemy and if the media often does act in effect as a front for western governing interests, why would editors play the opposition’s game by helping them to terrorise society? The constant appearance of captured white men in jump suits on their knees in the desert at the moment of beheading – assuming that is accurate – is designed by the murdering gangsters as a weapon of psychological warfare. But that only works if the people it targets – us – see the images and hear often enough the chilling detail. Denied regular access to it, we can keep it in perspective both in our own lives and in the theatre of current affairs where, however tragic, it is merely one of millions of news threads worldwide. We are being bombarded by the instruments of insurgency the jihadists wish us to consume and they are coming through the medium of broadcast news and Press which is supposed to disseminate intelligently on our behalf and which, at other times, is a faithful friend of western military influence.

The ISIS killers are also proficient in social media and are reaching out through professional production techniques to a worldwide audience, a number of whom, inevitably, are seduced by the message. But in Britain that message is the incorporated into our daily news diet almost like the weather forecast, a conveyor belt of horror and leaves us frustrated and resentful. And more inclined to bomb the perpetrators?

The question must be asked because I find there is a dubious moral judgment at the heart of editorial decision-making. For instance, there is a protocol in journalism that suicides are treated with deliberate care because it is a recognisable phenomenon that if, say, a jumper is publicised, there is a strong possibility of a copycat event. Deaths are reported as accidents or go unexplained when the advice is that they may have been acts of suicide.

The precise forensic details of how a murder was committed or a rape performed are often obscured out of concern for public distaste. A judgement is made about the appropriateness of the information for general public consumption.

In this case it may be the journalists have been swept up in the momentum of the story and allowed a wider public responsibility to recede. It may be they know or suspect their competitors will publish and assume they must too. There is no question that evidence of a concerted programme of ritual killing of western hostages is news and must be relayed to the world. The question is more one of weight of prominence and repetition and whether a point is reached when the form of publicity surpasses the need to inform and becomes part of the propaganda operation.

ISIS, however strong, isn’t nearly as powerful as it pretends or as successful as its publicity blitz would have us imagine. By keeping it front-of-house our own mainstream media is inculcating a fear far greater than the actual threat and is coincidentally reaching British sympathisers who are drawn to its support.

The media exposure is also justifying a new bombing campaign in Iraq which, however it hammers ISIS, has already killed civilians and will kill more, creating in turn, more radicalised jihadis – surely the ultimate aim of ISIS. They desire not just to form their own medieval Caliphate but to unsettle the wider world in the hope of spreading their bastardised version of Islam.

Do editors really never take account of the implications of the news they transmit when they know it is part of an Establishment-backed narrative aimed at military action? Shouldn’t correspondents raise the question in their reports? Are we being used in a digital war between the West and Islam?

The irresponsibility of the mainstream media has been epically displayed throughout the referendum process and is illustrated again this week when one of its titans, the Sunday Times, lost its case against the McCanns. What editorial thought process led to accusations that parents who live a nightmare may have connived to block the investigation into their daughter’s disappearance?

No matter how much outcry there is, nor matter the vilification they suffer, the old media and its certainties carry on oblivious. Like governments, the Press and broadcasters used to live by public approval or at least grudging respect. I fear for many of us that has all but disappeared leaving a void yet to be filled.

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53 thoughts on “Death in the Desert (of Journalism)

  1. The “hawks” in western governments and the whole military industrial complex are content for these images to be displayed. they will use them to drive up arms spending just as ISIS will use images of families killed by drones to recruit.

  2. I could not agree more. I now view any MSM through the Referendum Lens and I make myself ask the questions British media does not, e.g. are these airstrikes sanctioned by the UN? Are these airstrikes sanctioned by the people? Are these airstrikes legal? Is it right to call this ‘a war’ when there is no possibility that Scotland, England, Wales or N Ireland are going to suffer similar airstrikes and the Iraqis show no desire to invade our countries? Why do people want to join IS? Can we afford to go to war when the UK has a national debt of 2.2 trillion (adding the money it paid to bail out the banks which has not been repaid and seems never will be repaid)? Can we afford to bomb Iraq when our own people live in poverty and rely on foodbanks? What are the links between the tory govt and the arms industry? How much will the arms industry make out of this 3rd Iraq war in 25 years and how much money has the arms industry donated to the Tory party in recent years. My list of questions NOT asked by the BBC and MSM is endless.

    • For me, the media coverage of indyref was somewhat like an optical illusion – once you see the young woman’s head (or whaetever) you can’t unsee it. Similarly, I now, like you, ask all sorts of questions when I read/hear any story in the MSM. The scales have fallen from my eyes, and I hope they never to return.

    • Does anyone remember how the ” peace dividend ” was lauded at the end of the Cold War and how the money spent on armaments would be redirected into social goods ?

      I think this lasted a couple of years !

  3. Katrine Paterson

    The reports of these killings should not be thrown at the people as the have been. There are bound to be children and many others, badly affected by hearing such brutal reports, with no prior warning. There is no need to go beyond using ‘murded’ to describe such events. These killers should be denied publicity.

  4. The ‘public’ need to be given an enemy to hate. They might start looking for the real enemy otherwise.

    • 1984, with perpetual fear and war.

      The bastards are using it as a blueprint.

    • Indeed. One of DR. Lawrence Britts’ 14 characteristics of a fascist state is the creation of “an enemy” as a unifying cause around which a population can coalesce. This can be an external enemy, e.g. “Communism”, or it can be internal as the Nazi party did with Jews, Roma and other “unworthies”, or indeed characterised by the descriptions (especially online) given to Alex Salmond and the SNP during the referendum campaign. (Other features we can recognise are the Control of mass media and the Protection of corporate power).

      The need to have an enemy enables the state to mislead the public and to enact legislation and restrictions that no one would tolerate otherwise. The confidence trick the USA/UK intelligence and military complex has pulled on their respective citizens is the “war on terror”. The creation of a phantom enemy who can never be eliminated, ensures that their own terrorism of their own citizens is excused. The media play a critical role in reinforcing this propaganda that these terrorists are everywhere and potentially your next door neighbour.

      To quote once again the arch-propagandist. “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.” Joseph Goebbels

  5. How true Juteman, and how scary!! Although we, in Scotland, are quite clear who our real enemies are….

  6. Derek, one thing’s for sure, the UK media machine is alive and well and continues at propaganda alert levels hitherto unsurpassed.

    I for one will never again waste a penny piece on either the press or the BBC and will go out of my way to encourage others to do likewise.

    I care not, that the press barons and their lackey employed couldn’t give a fig about me or mine and though my indifference is no more than just a tiny pinprick, it’s on par with the little Brazilian butterfly that beats its wings and creates a storm elsewhere on this planet.

    So, you guess who’s winning in my wee world.

  7. the film “wag the dog” comes to mind

    I remember the political broadcast before iraq war showing the empty dirty bombed street of london

    oh what a tangled web we weave

    also remember the picture in the newspaper of the soldier holding a young iraqi girl in his arms – as long as I live I will never forget his expression of despair and horror at what was going on around him

    after iraq – in order to make us compliant to this next war we require to be bombarded into fear – if nothing else the referendum should have taught us how powerful the press are – but then also in decline

    maybe the decline makes them even more outrageous to grab our attention and make us buy

    best of a bad bunch seems to be i the wee indipendant

  8. The MSM is a propaganda machine which we are subjected to, if we tune in. To get real information we have to go online and be selective. There are very few real journalists out there (present company excepted).
    it is liberating giving up BBC in all its forms, the press (except the Sunday Herald) and the corporations which threatened or bullied us during the referendum campaign. I am now considering how much further I can take this process. The petro-chemical industries for whose sake these wars are fought? Plastics, fertilisers, fuel etc ?
    I’m waiting for Bateman Broadcasting and the other online media to take off. Willing to subscribe to real journalism which holds those in power to account.

  9. I hate being manipulated, deceived and downright lied to by what is screechingly called “Media”. No more will I take at face value what they impart.

    The clock is ticking louder every day……

  10. Further illustration of the duplicity of “journalists” from Craig’s post.
    Perhaps we should have a new name for these people. I think in one novel Muriel Spark refers to them as a “pissoir de copie”.

  11. Actually I suspect the populace is becoming numbed to the beheadings.

  12. The decisions to give Media carpet coverage to the ISIS, or should it be ISIL- as they are now being called( nice little title change as this includes the Levant and the region of SYRIA i.e the real target for OIL grabbing occupation)- is so that the next not so subtle development will be having to chase these pick-ups and motorcyclists that are being targeted by million pound aircraft to the ends of the desert -or Syria’s Oil Fields-as it will come to be known.
    The premise that’s missing from these actions are Legality,though that won’t be front page news,and being invited to do so by ‘their’ guy on the ground doesn’t make it right.
    That’s why the puppet masters( BRIT NASTY) of the media are pushing these beheading video’s-to justify their bombing campaign.
    How they must crow when their expensive missiles are launched,another nice little earner,makes me almost physically sick,and there seems no culpability for any of them,because apart from killing the group they themselves instigated,as usual innocents are already joining that convenient statistic known as collateral damage.And by these same actions the recruitment figures for ISIL multiply.
    No good having lots of bombs and military with nowhere to use them is it?
    And as Cuilean mentioned above,who is gaining from these billion pound activities,and I don’t think it’s limited to the Tories.
    This situation gets more Orwellian by the hour!
    Not enough is stated about the forming of the same band of insurgents,that have now turned into ISIL, by US and partners-Saudi Arabia among many,though I see none of their 350 aircraft are involved in the ‘war’ on their own doorstep
    They had been recently bankrolled and trained by the very allies who are now bombing them!,talk about letting the dogs off the leash-deary me! bit of a situation Mr President?
    While the British State propaganda circus has had it’s self serving properties re-inforced twice over from the realisation that they can be, and increasingly are becoming almost untouchable in anything they choose to do.There comes a time surely when this mismanagement becomes wholly unacceptable and today might be that day!
    How can David Cameron and his Media brainwashing machine tell me that the Iraq ‘SORTIES,’ for want of a better word ,are going to last for years-and we’re just supposed to go ‘Alright,no probs Dave!

  13. Dave & Co needed a *war* just as Maggie did They tried hard last year but were thwarted so they had to have another go .The enemy last year would now seem to be their friend Funny world and not ha,ha funny

  14. A further, delayed, effect of contrived hostility will be the inevitable harvest of damaged humanity – formerly called heroes while their pitiful plight served propaganda objectives – ultimately deposited in homeless, on-street, living conditions.

    No longer photogenic, their matted greying beards now arousing revulsion rather than sympathy, they will live out the balance of their blighted life spans in awful oblivion.

    The pretty, the good, the important and the self-seekers will disdainfully step over them muttering ‘something should be done about this debris’ but it will continue again and again.

  15. unfortunately we live in a world controlled by the bottom line,which no amount of rhetoric will change one iota till we vote with our feet personally i cancelled my bbc “licence” and dont buy newspapers as my roku wifi gives me everything i need and social media keeps my interest alive in politics,guy fawkes missed a golden opportunity,but hopefully the snp can bring about change ,but i hope its soon

  16. As the government’s mates want to sell weapons to both sides, the last thing these people want is any form of peaceful resolution of any conflict. I suppose it’s not beyond the bound of possibility that the arms dealers would enlist the help of their friends in government to make sure the country is right behind any action.

    As far as the MSM are concerned, I’ve pretty much given up on them. I’ve cancelled my licence and I don’t buy newspapers, with the occasional exception of the Sunday Herald. If everyone stopped buying them, they may change their editorial policy, but somehow, I doubt it.

  17. smiling vulture

    A reporter from Cypress let it be know British planes were returning with full weaponry pay loads.

    Low an behold the next day, a truck was hit,to save the embarrassing questions

  18. It’s a very short step (unfortunately,far too short) from the playing fields of Eton to the killing fields of the Middle East and elsewhere.
    Perhaps the history teachers at these establishments must have missed out the part about the end of the British empire.
    Those of us who voted No have a responsibility for the public school boys being allowed to continue in a way which they have long been accustomed to.
    We need a “free” press in Scotland which is not in thrall to the London establishment and will tell it how it is rather than just regurgitating British state propaganda.

  19. once upon a time I believed every word of what Martin Bell or John Simpson or Brian Hanrahan or anyone else at the BBC told me.

    Then I found myself in Libya for the year leading up to their revolution. I got out easily I’m pleased to say but I spent the next few weeks sitting at home shouting at the TV.

    Suddenly I was in the position to compare the BBC ( and other MSM ) coverage with some firsthand knowledge and they came up wanting. Cheerleaders for badly thought-out knee-jerk military action when almost nobody really knew what was going on in that unfortunate country.

    I’ve spent most of the period since in Cairo and have long since stopped watching BBC as Lyce Doucet and her ilk parachute in, with a detailed expertise gained during a chat in the limo on the way from the airport to their 5 star hotel. Tahrir Sq ( iconic ) has effectively been treated like a sporting event – even the main news anchors have been wheeled-in to present their bulletins and interview their VERY OWN correspondents.

    And while we are on the subject, this isn’t only a UK phenomenon. Al Jazeera International does have the look of being at least sympathetic to Qatar’s foreign policy….

    And then there was our very own referendum……

    Even after what I’ve mentioned above I still never thought I’d see it happening at home. A bit like the hobbits getting home at the end of the book to find the shire in uproar.

    Well I couldn’t possibly use a Harry Potter analogy, could I ?

  20. We are now but Westminster’s plaything. On the day the Yes campaign was launched, as my wife and I signed up, she said to me,” Do you really think that they,(the establishment), will let us become an independent country when all they are interested in doing is plundering our wealth as they have been doing for centuries”. Perhaps somewhat naively, I actually believed that we could succeed, but through fair means, or more likely foul, although I stress I don’t have any hard evidence to that end, except for the M.S.M collusion with the unionists to spread misinformation and downright lies, we lost. I must admit that I didn’t have a plan B, as I was absolutely convinced that we would win, that no true Scot woul;d not want to take full responsibility for their own affairs, govern themselves, and to benefit all Scottish people. I think it was Stuart Campbell who said just before the referendum date that if there was a No vote then we would be at “war” in Iraq within a week. Well, given a few days he was absolutely correct, and predictably, the “sheep” in the House of Commons, urged on by a compliant media, endorsed the Cameron policy to bomb more brown people. Yep, I know that all our S.N.P M.Ps voted against this course of action, but, at the moment, they are too small in number to make any difference to Westminster Government policy. While I don’t listen to, or watch, or read any of the M.S.M output, I realise I am still in a minority, albeit one that is growing, day by day. And in any future independence campaign, and more immediately, in the run-up to next year’s General Election, we will once again be faced with a hostile media, aided and abetted by the Westminster “elite”, who will tell any lies in their bid to stop more independence minded M.Ps being elected. And I see today “Better Together” didn’t last too long with the LibDems at their conference in Glasgow, no, me neither, attacking the tories for their policies on the young and vulnerable. All this along with the “Vow” promises fast disappearing over the horizon, I wonder what any reasonably minded No voter will think in the coming months and years ahead. Just one last point to finish, according to the statistics, it was the older generation, over 55s, who were the strongest for the No vote. Now I am in this category, by a good few years, and as one who heard all the false promises in 79′, I am at a loss as to why these same people would be taken-in by the lies spouted by the No camapign in the run-up to the Referendum? Surely they couldn’t be that stupid?

  21. The media coverage of ISIL atrocities or alleged atrocities reminds me I’d the ‘Death Wish’ movies. What the vigilante character sets out to do is wholesale murder. In order to numb the viewing audience to the enormity of this, the crime which provokes his action (usually murder and rape) is depicted quite graphically.

    Many American revenge-themed movies follow the same plot model: they teach us that dreadful deeds legitimise violent responses. It seems to be a propaganda model that we are inured to through cinema so that we will accept it when played out in reality. I wonder who produced and directed 9/11?

  22. Scotland’s most dangerous and deadly enemies are the one’s who were born here…

    • “A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear.”

      ― Marcus Tullius Cicero


    Saudi Arabia beheads at least 70 people per year – we hear nothing in the media of this.

    • Just reading on Kindle a short essay by Smedley Butler, the most decorated Soldier in the US, who ended up a Major General in the US Marine Corps.

      He wrote this between the two World Wars and says simple that “war is a racket.”

      Me details how major US companies increased their profits up to ten times just by making war products.

      Examples include the purchase of enough leather boots to last 30 years and enough saddles for ever. As the Americans did not use cavalry outside the USA in WW 1. That and buggies which were never ever used.

      His solution was before conscripting the soldiers in they should conscript the company Presidents and Accountants first, of the munitions and other benefiting industries..

      Interestingly the overseas wars that the US fought can be corelated with the growth in the US defecit, but nowhere the profits of the big corporations.

      Excellent and only €4.00.

      I am going to follow this up with Propaganda by Edward Bernays and Goebbels on the Power of Propaganda.

      I need to get inside the head of my enemy.

      • Keep us posted please!

        • With pleasure

          the 3 books on Kindle were £8.83

          There are a load of classics on Kindle for free, Dostoyevsky, Dickens, Steig Larrsson (I don’t think he registered the copyright before his death or by dying first his estate lost that?), Chekov, Chaucer, Adam Smith, G K Chesterton, Machiavelli and others at a couple of Quid from new authors who just want to test the water.

      • there’s a book, called ‘Techniques of Persuasion, From Propoganda to Brainwashing’ by J. A. C. Brown. published 1963 I was reading snippets today on the train. The idea of brainwashing goes much further back than any notion of psychotherapy type stuff it seems. The book is available for 1p on amazon. Might be worth a look at?

      • BTP – great, keep us up to date with your reading and provide choice quotes like the pne above. ta

  24. The void is there for you and other like minded persons to occupy with the truth.

    I’ve spent the last two years – but on a one to one basis – telling people about the grid charges, the definition of deficit and debt, oil and gas resources, the Uk’s propensity to wage war against whoever,etc etc.

    I’m much encouraged by the 45% vote for independence and my view is that the result was stolen from us by the unchallenged incorrect practises of the Uk elite and media. Instance Wee Ruthie’s viewing of postal votes “We were much encouraged by the sampling” and the resultant(?) barrage of independence negativity put out by the media, and bullshit by Rt Hon Gordon Brown.

    How in any faintly democratic process can it be that competing parties are allowed to view postal votes before close out of the election?

    • Sampling the votes in a postal ballot is illegal and carries a jail sentence. Possibly that goes for those who are willing accessories such as Ms Davidson. Somehow I think that whatever the outcome of the enquiry by the police (who are of course scrupulously impartial) Ms Davidson will not see the inside of a cell.
      Over the years the legal view has been that “be you ever so high the Law is above you”, but we now see frequent examples that show that this is no longer so.

  25. There is some truth in the old saying that the public get the government they deserve. The same could be said of the media. It is easy to blame the journalists and their editors, but are most of the public interested in the truth? The success of the Daily Mail suggests that their readers are much more interested in reading stories that pander to their prejudices. How many readers of this website would come back on a regular basis if they didn’t share Derek’s enthusiasm for Scottish Independence? That is certainly what draws me back and induced me to join the wine club.

  26. Oil is a major driver of these wars as well as the arms industry. All the war theatres are in oil producing countries (and we can add Scotland to that list). After Syria comes Iran. NATO is moving tanks into Poland and the US is sending “advisers” to Ukraine. Why? Well Russia continues to be a major producer of oil and gas.
    The entire Western economy is dependent on oil and oil products. No oil means no food, clothes, transport, plastics, telecomms, medicines, weapons, fertilisers etc etc.
    Russia, Brazil and China have set up an alternative World bank system and could dump the dollar any time soon.
    The smart hedge fund managers in the Wall Street and the City can’t make oil and can’t save the dollar if it is no longer the currency for trading oil.

  27. Derek, this report on Lampooning Power by Al Jazeera is well worth watching. I wonder if you may like to share it with your readers?

  28. Cag-does-thinking

    Slightly off topic but related is the rather odd story that appeared last week about Top Gear getting run out of Argentina. Those terrible Argies ehh? It seemed they took great offence to the registration on one of the Top Gear cars which was H982FKL. The invasion of the Falkland Islands having taken place in 1982 it was obviously a very insulting registration to the Argentinian people. According to the BBC the Top Gear team had no idea how of all the cars in the world they could have had they picked one with a highly offensive registration ended up touring Argentina.

    Now this is where I despair of mainstream journalism. A simple check would find something interesting about that registration. H982FKL is indeed a Porsche 928. But there isn’t and hasn’t been an H981FKL or even an H983FKL. Why? Well it was from a sequence that wasn’t completed. There are about 300 numbers issued back in 1991 in what was primarily a motorcycle sequence H-FKL. So somebody had to buy the plate from the DVLA as a selected registration. Somebody who wanted to remind themselves of the Falklands War perhaps. Wouldn’t it be funny if that person turned out to be the BBC ehh?

  29. First, dehumanise your enemy, then it becomes acceptable to obliterate them. Yes, beheading hostages is pretty unpleasant, but so is dropping bombs knowing that there are bound to be thousands of civilian casualties. Double standards. They are sub-human, we are heroes of democracy.

    You can see the same thinking at work in UK politician’s rhetoric: the “enemy” are the unemployed, the poor, the disabled, immigrants (does this grouping remind you of anything?) – all these non-productive citizens are a drag on the system. The heroes are the hard-working families (if I hear that obnoxious cliche again I’ll not be responsible for my actions), the entrepreneurs, the wealth creators. The first lot need their benefits cut to incentivise them, while the other lot deserve greater rewards.

    Clearly, we’re better together with UK politicians looking after us.

  30. I have said it from the begining when I first became aware of the extremists actions. They should never have been aforded the airtime and in particular all references to being a State or Caliphate should be removed and they should be referred to as terrorists.

    The media will continue to feed young muslim minds with a new State which simply gives credence to a terrorist organisation.

    This will never go away and will only grow the more airtime we give them.

  31. Came across this chilling piece while on Michael Moore’s web site.

    Another angle to be considered regarding Westminster’s thirst for war

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