Journalism is Rotting Away
by John Pilger
8 April, newspapers around the world carried a dispatch from a Reuters correspondent, "embedded" with the
to Reuters, children were "apparently" being used as "fighters
or more often as scouts and weapons collectors.
read in the Observer last Sunday that "
There is something deeply corrupt consuming this craft of mine. It is not a recent phenomenon; look back on the "coverage" of the First World War by journalists who were subsequently knighted for their services to the concealment of the truth of that great slaughter.
What makes the difference today is the technology that produces an avalanche of repetitive information, which in the United States has been the source of arguably the most vociferous brainwashing in that country's history.
war that was hardly a war, that was so one-sided it ought to be dispatched with
shame in the military annals, was reported like a Formula One race, as we
watched the home teams speed to the chequered flag in Baghdad's Firdos Square, where a statue of the dictator created and
sustained by "us" was pulled down in a ceremony that was as close to
fakery as you could get. There was the CIA's man, an Iraqi fixer of the
American stooge Ahmad Chalabi, orchestrating that
joyous media moment of "liberation", attended by "hundreds"
- or was it "dozens"? - of cheering people,
with three American tanks neatly guarding the entrances to the media stage.
"Thanks, guys," said a marine to the BBC's
The honourable exceptions are few and famous. Of course, no one doubts that it is difficult for journalists in the field. There is dust and deadlines and danger, and a dependent relationship on an alien military system. It is unfathomable which of these constraints contributed to the Reuters travesty described above. None, I suspect; for what it represented was the essence of propaganda. The protection of and apologising for "our" side is voluntary; it comes, it seems, with mother's milk. The "others" are simply not the same as "us".
the terror of a mother, cowering with her children on the road as the
"softly spoken 21-year-olds" decide whether to kill them, or kill the
old man failing to stop his car? The children are clearly "scouts";
the old man is, well, who knows and who cares? Now imagine that happening in a
British high street during an invasion of this country. Absurd?
That only happens in countries like
The corruption of journalism is most vivid back in the commentary booth, far from the dust and death. "Yes, too many died in the war," wrote Andrew Rawnsley in the Observer. "Too many people always die in war. War is nasty and brutish, but at least this conflict was mercifully short. The death toll has been nothing like as high as had been widely feared. Thousands have died in the war, millions have died at the hands of Saddam."
Mark his logic, for it is at the heart of what is dispensed day after day, night after night. The clear implication is that it is all right to have killed thousands of people in the invasion of their homeland, because "millions" died at the hands of their dictator. The lazy language, the idle dismissal of human life - each life part of so many other lives - is striking. Saddam Hussein killed a great many people, but "millions"? - the league of Stalin and Hitler? David Edwards of MediaLens asked Amnesty International about this. Amnesty produced a catalogue of Saddam's killings that amounted mostly to hundreds every year, not millions. It is an appalling record that does not require the exaggeration of state-inspired propaganda - propaganda whose aim, in Rawnsley's case, is to protect Tony Blair from the grave charges of which many people all over the world believe he is guilty.
is, for example, not a single mention by Rawnsley of
the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who died as a direct result of the 12-year,
medieval siege of
protectors of Blair regard the entirely predictable crushing of a third-world
minnow by the world's superpower as a "vindication". The great
Israeli journalist and internationalist Uri Avnery
wrote recently about this corruption of intellect and morality. "Let's
pose the question in the most provocative manner," he wrote on 18 April.
"What would have happened if Adolph Hitler had triumphed in World War Two?
Would this have turned his war into a just one? Let's assume that Hitler would
have indicted his enemies at the
John Pilger is a renowned investigative journalist and documentary filmmaker. His latest book is The New Rulers of the World (Verso, 2002). Visit John Pilgerís website at: http://www.johnpilger.com