Feedback – Pilger’s “leaked” emails August 16, 2011Posted by dissident93 in Medialens.
I received this comment on my previous entry, from someone posting under the name ‘William’:
I like how you conveniently left out the events leading up to the publication of Pilger’s email. Pilger isn’t the one being “divisive”.Monbiot branded Herman and Peterson “genocide deniers” , and then attacked Chomsky, Pilger and Media lens. ML was right to publish the email and its arguments are obvious in the context of the alert.
Thanks, William. Most of my readers are probably familiar with the preceding “events”, and I provided links for those who aren’t.
My point was straightforward:- reasonable discourse isn’t served by quoting emailed personal attacks which are devoid of argument – even if the emails are from respected figures such as Pilger.
You’ll note that Chomsky’s emails on this topic weren’t quoted – because he strongly disapproves of his emails being used in this way (Pilger should know better). I recently corresponded with Prof Chomsky (one fairly long discussion, plus one brief one). It’s clear that whatever disagreements he has with George Monbiot (and another Guardian journalist), he doesn’t want them aired in public in the form of published correspondence.
[UPDATE: In fact, the Monbiot-Chomsky correspondence was eventually published – and it doesn’t present Chomsky in a good light. Some background plus excerpts of the correspondence are given here, whilst the full correspondence was originally published here, as supporting material for Monbiot’s Guardian piece).
“Genocide”: a semantic quiz August 9, 2011Posted by dissident93 in Genocide, Medialens.
In today’s episode of Spot the Double Standard,
we quiz our readers over “genocide denial” & “smears”…
2. Herman & Peterson retaliated by calling Gerald Caplan a “genocide denier” and “genocide facilitator”. Is this a “smear”?
6. David Peterson coined the term “Bosnia Genocide Lobby” to refer to some of his critics? Is this a “smear”?
8. Noam Chomsky has reportedly stated “unequivocally” that “he presumes standard accounts of what happened at Srebrenica to be accurate”. Is Prof Chomsky “smearing” himself, or is he “smearing” Herman, Peterson & Medialens?
How did you do?
• If you answered correctly, try saying “smear” less often to avoid being an “asshole”.* (This applies also to me, except when I say the word in irony).
• If you answered any question incorrectly, shame on you.
• If you laughed at any point, double shame on you.
• Bonus points if you have any idea who David Peterson is.
* In the same way that Herman & Peterson put the term “Rwanda genocide” in inverted commas (supposedly to indicate that they are denying “only” the “standard model” of the genocide), I’m putting the word “asshole” in inverted commas, to distinguish it from the standard insult.
Final falsehoods from Medialens October 29, 2010Posted by dissident93 in Medialens.
(See my Comment Factory article for more on Medialens’s
dishonest attempts to discredit Iraq Body Count)
Before I discontinue Medialens-related content (I’ve exhausted the topic), let me record a comment made yesterday by Medialens:
My point is that Shone repeatedly misrepresents Dougherty as a “scientist”. He’s not; he’s a guitarist. (Medialens editors, Oct 28 2010)
This is either a malicious fabrication or the mistaken conclusion to some specious reasoning (see context below). It’s difficult to know which. Dougherty (Josh) is a researcher with IBC who has authored peer-reviewed scientific research, but who isn’t a “professional” scientist. Contrary to Medialens’s assertion, I’ve never once labelled Josh a “scientist” (never mind “repeatedly”).
(I emailed Medialens in response to their false claim, but they wouldn’t publish my email – contrary to their claim of guaranteeing “the right of a published reply” to their publicly-made accusations. So much for courtesy).
Context: What reason did the Medialens editors give for their assertion? Well, they pointed to my article, Scientists criticise Lancet 2006 study on Iraqi deaths, which compiled published material, mostly from scientists, including all the letters from a particular issue of the Lancet (one letter was by Josh). Nowhere in my article do I refer to Josh as a “scientist”, so I presume the sole “basis” for Medialens’s wild accusation is the article’s title. So: is it possible they’re that dimwitted, or were they maliciously fabricating?………………………………………………………………………
*Update (10 Nov 2010)
Medialens is currently prompting people to write to you: http://www.medialens.org/alerts/.
Here are some things they won’t want you to hear:
1. They comment on something you wrote (in the Guardian, 25/10) about the Wikileaks war logs:
We have seen many foolish comments from journalists over the years, but this truly numbs the mind […] the war logs record an unknown portion of violent deaths reported by US troops in the field […] They cannot conceivably be considered comprehensive, complete, or in any way scientific.
Foolish? In that case, Science journal must also have been foolish to publish this:
Taking the WikiLeaks data into account, IBC now estimates that at least 150,000 have died violently during the war, 80% of them civilians. That falls within the range produced by an Iraq household survey conducted by the World Health Organization – and further erodes the credibility of a 2006 study published in The Lancet that estimated over 600,000 violent deaths for the first 3 years of the war (Science, 18 January 2008, p. 273). [Clipping of Science article]
Science journal quotes an expert on conflict studies who worked with Wikileaks and IBC on the leaked data:
“…with such a huge overlap [between IBC and Wikileaks data], it does not seem very likely that there are a large number of civilian deaths missed by both sources”
2. Medialens’s attempt at “media analysis” was bizarre:
‘Wikileaks’: 103 mentions
‘Wikileaks’ and ‘Iraq Body Count’: 17
‘Wikileaks’ and ‘Lancet’: 0″ [etc]
Medialens want us to find this shocking, but it’s exactly what one would expect given that IBC worked with Wikileaks on the data, that IBC’s John Sloboda was on the panel at the Wikileaks press conference, that the Wikileaks data is at an individual level, like IBC’s, and that the Wikileaks data has nothing to do with epidemiological surveys (eg the Lancet-published studies).
3. Medialens frame the issue as a battle between the Lancet studies (“science”) and IBC (who they label as “amateurs”, etc) – but if they gave a full account (or even an accurate summary) of the science to date, it would completely undermine (in fact reverse) their argument. So they leave scientific research out of it, while claiming to be on the side of science. For example, they never once refer to the WHO survey (mentioned in the Science article quoted above).
4. It’s also rather dishonest of Medialens (given the “amateur” IBC sub-theme of their alert) to fail to point out that the critique of the ORB study (co-authored by IBC researcher Josh Dougherty) was peer-reviewed scientific research (published by Survey Research Methods  Vol.4, No.1). Medialens also failed to mention that this study’s findings were recently echoed by epidemiologist Francesco Checchi, who is a colleague of Lancet study author, Les Roberts. Checci stated in an interview with the BBC that he thinks the ORB figure was “implausible”, that the poll had a “major weakness” and that the Iraq death count is “likely to be between 200,000 and 500,000″ (BBC World Service, 27 Aug 2010).
This scepticism (or outright criticism) towards Medialens’s favourite studies (Lancet/ORB) is fairly typical of the views one hears among researchers in the field at present, due to a string of critical studies appearing in the scientific literature. But Medialens never reports these views, or studies, since they undermine Medialens’s ‘Lancet vs IBC-amateurs’ framing. Another example is researcher Patrick Ball, whom Medialens often quote approvingly (current Medialens ‘alert’ included). But Medialens forget to mention that Patrick Ball recently wrote the following on the Lancet 2006 study:
First, I want to be clear that I have no interest in defending the Burnham et al. [Lancet 2006] estimates. The flaws in that study are now well known. (Patrick Ball, 28/4/10)
Thanks for your time.
• Follow up email to Michael White (10 Nov 2010):
Medialens quotes this from John Tirman:
No war has produced more than about a 10 to 1 ratio of displaced to dead, and in most wars the ratio is about 5 to 1 or narrower. The 5 to 1 ratio would translate into at least 700,000 deaths in Iraq.
Completely false of course*. Does Medialens bother to check this stuff? I doubt it. As long as it fuels their anti-IBC smear campaign, they include it.
* Kosovo ratio: approx 75 to 1 (12,000 dead, 900,000 displaced)
Bosnia ratio: approx 25 to 1 (100,000 dead/missing, 2.5m displaced)
Darfur ratio: approx 33 to 1 (60,000 deaths due to violence, 2m displaced)
Applying the ratios for Bosnia and Darfur to the figure quoted by Medialens for Iraqi displaced (“between 3.5 and 5 million”) would give you figures very much in line with what IBC is saying (approx 150,000 violent deaths – civilian plus combatant). So much for Medialens’s “analysis”.
Quotes to cogitate on… October 17, 2010Posted by dissident93 in Medialens.
Or even to masticate over…
“If an instrument similar to a geiger-counter could be invented that counted moral judgements instead, we would learn to duck as people became increasingly ‘moral’, since lethal force is usually imminent. So far from moral fervour being an alternative to force, it is frequently the overture, the accompaniment and the memorial to it.” — Charles Hampden-Turner
“[The self-righteous person] presupposes his own moral values and his own righteousness as a condition of conversation. The effect of this is that anyone talking to a self-righteous person must either agree with his moral values and act equally self-righteous, or face being put in a morally inferior position in the discourse.” — George Lakoff (Moral Politics)
“Any interesting ideas or realisations I have had have originated in my heart” — David Edwards (Hallmark Greetings cards & Medialens )
“Only do what your heart tells you” — Princess Diana
“My friends, no matter how rough the road may be, we can and we will, never, never surrender to what is right” — Dan Quayle (former US Vice President)
“The totally convinced and the totally stupid have too much in common for the resemblance to be accidental” — Robert Anton Wilson
[Source of saccharine David Edwards quotes]
“I’m going to ask you to exercise glands you never knew existed.”
— J.R. “Bob” Dobbs
Feedback — just in:
Hey Robert, that’s funny. Were you aware that David Edwards’ cogitation is basically a rehash of Eckhart Tolle (a New Age “spiritual teacher”)? I actually saw Tolle speak live a few years ago he was quite impressive if you’re into that kind of talk. Edwards is eager to see “personality types” in his critics but slow to apply those insights to himself it appears. He talks about how people “come to identify so closely” with their ideas, but forgets about the dogma which defines him, and from which he will not deviate! But he’s got the Tolle bug alright. Whether it makes him more, or less, of a self-important fool remains to be seen. [Steve, via email]
Thanks, Steve – I’ve heard of Tolle. His books have apparently been mega-sellers due to promotion by Oprah (not that that’s necessarily a bad thing). As for Medialens, I think I’ve now exhausted the subject. It’s a pity they refuse to engage with what I (and many others, including journalists such as George Monbiot, etc) consider to be important points raised here (eg their errors/omissions over Iraq mortality studies, issues of censorship, hypocrisy, etc). The side of Medialens I’ve seen is not at all like the one presented in David Edwards’s “sweetness & light” piece. I see more of the narrowness, intolerance and childish polemic that’s been pointed out by Monbiot, Steven Poole, Stephen Soldz and others, as previously documented in this blog — RS.
Here are a few other comments I’ve received, published with permission of the correspondents…
Sadly, I think it’s diminishing returns with criticisms of the Davids, even funny ones. They’re always complaining that certain people “blank” them, but they don’t seem to realise that they themselves are doing a lot of the “blanking” (by only responding to criticisms when it suits them, and only in terms that negate the very possibility that they might be in the wrong). The Lakoff quote really is very apt … I’ve felt myself being “pushed” by force of rhetoric into that “morally inferior” position several times. [George]
“Thinking is of the ego, feeling is of the heart”? The old guru routine? He’d be better advised to stick with the institutional analysis – the ‘spiritual teacher’ scene is over-crowded and has a bad reputation. Nice RAW quote, btw. [BD]
I don’t understand the relevance of the “exercise glands” or Dan Quayle quotes, I’m afraid. I came here from the Cif link but I already knew about MediaLens. [Roz] [Nothing hugely relevant, Roz, they just seemed funny to me – RS]
Just to add to the comments you’ve already published…. that “cogitation” by Edwards just underlines the strangeness of Medialens. How quickly they flip from sniping at Monbiot to claiming they have the “answer” to the “dehumanising effect of excessive intellectuality” and other pomposities. Let’s just replay their latest intellectual joust with Monbiot, who had written of the government’s “cowardice” over the Green issue. Medialens replied that “the notion of government ‘cowardice’ is a classic liberal herring – the problem has always been the government +alliance+ with corporate power, not its ‘cowardice'”. But Medialens are so identified with their own intellectual games, that they don’t see the obvious: – that Monbiot was probably referring to the cowardice which *causes* the government to yield to corporate power. I really miss those discussions at Media Hell where this type of thing was gone over, and then Medialens (as “Woofles”) would attempt, unsuccessfully, to defend itself. 😉 [Greg]
[Links added by me – RS]
Medialens’s “silent” hypocrisy September 5, 2010Posted by dissident93 in Medialens.
A search of Medialens’s writings reveals that part of their MO is to accuse people of being “silent” over various matters. It’s a rhetorical device – in most cases the accused isn’t literally “silent”, but has responded in a way that Medialens finds inadequate (see examples below).
Curiously (and trivially), Medialens seemed very much affronted when Channel 4’s Alex Thomson wrote of their “total silence” in response to a question he’d asked. (Medialens weren’t literally silent; Thomson thought they’d “totally evaded” his question). Medialens said this was a “baseless smear” that was “particularly wretched“. But Thomson had simply used a word (“silence”) in the same way that Medialens has often used it – as the following examples indicate:
• Medialens wrote the following to George Monbiot (28 Oct 03):
“Your silence in response to our question about your views on the performance of the Guardian is remarkable. You say we betrayed your confidence. Even if true, that would hardly justify not speaking out honestly now on such an important issue.”
Had Monbiot really been “silent” in response to Medialens’s question? Negative. In fact he’d responded with the following:
Finally, you ask me “what is your view of the Guardian’s reporting on Iraq?” Last time I gave you my opinion on the Guardian’s coverage, I asked you to treat it in confidence. You betrayed that confidence.
That doesn’t sound like “remarkable silence” to me.
• One of Medialens’s articles (a petty, spiteful, error-riddled attack on Iraq Body Count) was titled: “IRAQ BODY COUNT REFUSES TO RESPOND” (their upper case). Of course, IBC hadn’t “refused to respond” – they just hadn’t responded in the way that Medialens wanted.
Silence also surrounds the plight of Iraq’s children who are dying in hospitals for lack of the most elementary equipment. Save the Children estimate that 59 in 1,000 newborn babies are dying in Iraq, one of the highest mortality rates in the world. Up to 260,000 children may have died since the 2003 invasion.
Where do these figures come from? Medialens helpfully provides the source, which is none other than the Independent newspaper, one of those newspapers that’s so “silent” on these issues. It’s surprising how often Medialens relies on facts that manifest out of “media silence”.
• Medialens has also written (1st March 05) that:
The notion of government and big business perpetrating climate crimes against humanity is simply off the news agenda. A collective madness of suffocating silence pervades the media, afflicting even those editors and journalists that we are supposed to regard as the best. (My bold emphasis – RS)
That sounds like an example of what Steven Poole (author of Unspeak) referred to as Medialens’s “childishly apocalyptic polemic“. But the point is that their claim of media “silence” on this issue is obviously false. The coverage may arguably be inadequate in various ways (of quality and quantity), but it’s hardly non-existent.
That’s just a handful of examples – there are plenty more. Medialens even wrote (in an article titled “SILENCE IS GREEN…“) that the “Green movement” is “silent” over the “disaster” that the corporate media system “represents”! Classic Medialens overgeneralising bullshit-rhetoric.
So, to conclude –
Alex Thomson evidently wasn’t guilty of a “particularly wretched” “baseless smear”. That’s just Medialens’s hysterical (and hypocritical) take on it. Nothing nettles them more, it seems, than being subjected to their own favourite rhetorical tricks (they even wrote a complaint to journalism.co.uk about Thomson’s remarks).
POSTSCRIPT (17 Oct 2010)
Just over a month after they accused Alex Thomson of “smearing” them, Medialens issued another article with the theme of media “silence” (titled: “DEATHLY SILENCE, OBAMA’S LETTER, NETANYAHU’S REJECTION AND THE MEDIA’S NON-RESPONSE” – their upper case). Lower down in the article, Medialens notes that the issue on which they claim the media was “deathly silent” was in fact mentioned more than once by the Guardian, and also by the Telegraph – and they’re not sure whether or not it was mentioned by the BBC. So, not exactly “silent”, then.
Medialens’s embarrassing archive (part 8) – CENSORSHIP January 4, 2010Posted by dissident93 in Medialens.
Medialens recently banned at least three people from their board/forum (over the course of a few days), to the consternation of some of their followers. One of the banned, former Reuters and New York Times correspondent, Daniel Simpson, documents what happened to him. Another was banned after posting a link to Daniel’s article on the Medialens message board (it was immediately deleted by the Medialens editors, leaving no trace). A third poster, ‘Max’, was quietly disappeared after a few days of polite, on-topic (but apparently off-message) posts.1
I was banned by Medialens a long time ago (June 2006). More recently, when George Monbiot asked why I was banned, Edwards and Cromwell (the Medialens editors) replied that, “One reason is that he has repeatedly accused us of lying”. To support this (false) claim, they linked to a Media Hell page containing one of a few specific cases in which I rightly accuse them of lying2 in October 2007, over a year after they banned me.
(In fact they’d banned me along with several other people who had challenged their attacks on Iraq Body Count. Their “official” reason at the time was that I was “bombarding” them with posts – another demonstrably false claim.3 “Bombarding” and “hounding” are the most common reasons that Medialens gives for banning people & deleting posts – see below for examples).
In addition to being “creative with the truth”, Medialens’s reply to Monbiot was revealing in other ways. They’ve never addressed their falsehood about IBC (mentioned in the Media Hell page they’d linked to) which I’d demonstrated was a knowing falsehood2 – nor have they denied it, apologised for it, or made any attempt to correct the damage done by it. Rather than addressing the matter of substance, they asked Monbiot: “Would you allow Shone to post this kind of thing about you on your website message board, if you had one?”
George Monbiot was probably unaware that the Medialens editors had posted at length (under the pseudonym “Woofles”) in the comments section of the Media Hell page which so offended their sensibilities. On this and a few other Media Hell pages (eg here, here and here) their arguments in the comments section are taken apart by other posters (including Daniel Simpson, aka Raoul) – something you don’t often see on the Medialens board, due to their face-saving censorship.
“Hounding and Destructive”
We banned Raoul Djukanovic/Daniel Simpson from this board for incivility and hounding. (David Edwards, Medialens forum, 12/12/09)
The problem is when the criticism becomes hounding and destructive. (Medialens’s reply to poster ‘Max’, before banning him)
The “hounding and destructive” claim seems to be Medialens’s default justification for suppressing views and removing people. I’m reminded of the reasons that police give for removing campaigners from political conferences, etc.
If you read the censored material (before it’s deleted) you usually find that it’s no more “hounding” or “destructive” than most of what’s allowed. In fact the real “hounding” seems to come from those who support the Medialens editors by demonising those who have been banned or censored. For example, Daniel Simpson was likened to an “extremely obsessive & fanatical stalker“. Medialens’s disciples lined up to label the second recently banned poster (‘Max’) a “troll” and “liar“. One wrote: “I wish you would simply p+++ off.“)
All of this was allowed to stand by the Medialens editors. Occasionally a lone voice of reason would be ignored:
Branding people who disagree with you ‘trolls’ simply promotes ‘group think’ in my view (Medialens message board, 16/12/09)
It’s curious how a lot of the people who go against ML on some subject end up being characterized as “extremely obsessive & fanatical stalkers” – it’s so automatic, it’s practically a natural law around here. (Medialens message board, 1/12/09)
Around the time that Medialens were hyperventilating about my claim that they’d lied, their supporters had coalesced into a mob to attack me: “jumped up little amateurish twerp”, “shoddy and dishonest”, “dishonest and shoddy”, “careless and dishonest”, “a bad liar”, “a troll”, “the prototroll”, “a troll and a spoiler”, “an obvious troll with a grudge”, “a evil little wanker” (by email), “pathological”, “a questionable character”, “a deeply pathetic character”, “a neo-liberal fella (or being paid for by them)”, etc.
Presumably noticing that several long threads attacking me contained about 95% “hounding” and 5% “argument”, George Monbiot intervened with a post suggesting that the Medialens faithful actually read what I’d written (in a blog entry) rather than “simply dismissing or vilifying” me.
Edwards and Cromwell apparently found it neither “hounding” nor “destructive” for someone to be vilified in this way (without being able to respond) on their message board, since they appeared to allow all the insults and character assassinations to stand (with the exception of a few words edited out).
Incidentally, the Medialens editors wrote that they were surprised to see George Monbiot “boosting [my] cause” (whatever that means). More recently, they were happy to smear Monbiot in an article that ZNet refused to publish due to a passage which “implied that a very excellent journalist, George Monbiot, was protecting corporate interests” (in the words of ZNet editor, Michael Albert, who added that “We refuse to give silly and destructive claims and formulations credibility” (posted to Medialens messageboard, 16/7/09).
“Nobody is being censored”
The Medialens editors’ peculiar logic is that they aren’t really censoring anyone because there are “any number of sites” that would host the things that they delete. They’re not suppressing free speech, they assert, because free speech is available elsewhere, and because “virtually 100% free speech is literally a click away” on one of their other forums – unless, like Daniel Simpson or those who challenge Medialens’s attacks on IBC, etc, one happens to be banned from that forum as well.5
The argument that “not-quite-free speech is available at forum B” doesn’t help if you’re being accused in forum A (of, say, “aiding and abetting in war crimes”) – especially if forum A has a much larger audience for spreading the baseless accusations. If the mass media employed Medialens’s argument to rationalise suppression of dissident views, Medialens would no doubt be outraged, with a bad case of adjectivitis.
Edwards and Cromwell have a habit of failing to think through the consequences of their own “logic”. Nobody is ever really censored, since free speech is available somewhere else? So why, one wonders, did Medialens complain bitterly when the Guardian website removed their off-topic post (which was clearly intended to “hound” a Guardian journalist over an old issue). Why weren’t Edwards and Cromwell content to take their beef to their own “B” forum, with its “virtually 100% free speech” almost guaranteed?
Another outstanding piece of Medialens reasoning is that people who have no message-boards of their own shouldn’t criticise Medialens’s censorship:
If you check the websites for FAIR, Monbiot, Pilger and many others, you’ll find they don’t have a board like this allowing messages to be posted without prior approval (or they don’t have message boards at all). Nor do critics like Kamm, Bob Shone and Mike at Media Lens Watch who accuse us of not tolerating dissent. (Medialens message board, 11/12/09)
As for “gagging” you, I guess we could claim IBC are gagging everyone by not having a comparable message board. (Medialens’s reply to a banned poster who’d defended IBC)
Or, as Edwards/Cromwell childishly replied after their censorship and general ignorance on IBC-related matters were revealed in a debate with IBC’s Josh Dougherty: “Where’s your message board, Josh?”. (Here’s another example of such juvenile responses from the Medialens editors – it compares Josh to one of their old girlfriends). Perhaps Medialens’s plan is to save the planet with petty remarks and poor logic? (For an update on this, please see footnote 4).
Manufacture of (bogus) consensus
As noted above, Medialens sometimes (perhaps often?) prevents people from defending themselves against accusations made on an ostensibly open, public message board (which they claim is read by thousands, including influential media folk). They offer bizarre rationalisations, but only when the censorship is exposed – otherwise it happens unnannounced; posts and posters simply disappear.
I first noticed this in 2006 after a number of people had criticised Medialens’s attacks on Iraq Body Count. Before long I realised that at least four such people had been banned (plus another, the former BBC journalist, David Fuller, who was hounded off the board by sneering, personal attacks from compassionate, respectful Medialens disciples). Criticism of Medialens on this topic eventually dwindled because only one person was left to post it – presumably Medialens realised that banning IBC’s Josh Dougherty (the lone remaining dissenter) would be bad PR for them. Confronted with mob-like animosity and remarkable ignorance, Josh eventually stopped posting, and Medialens finally had their no-dissent “consensus”.
A bogus “consensus” is a more serious matter than a biased “alert” (or blog entry, etc). In the latter case, the reader makes an allowance for individual viewpoint (or “bias”). An ostensibly “free”, “open” “consensus” is more comparable to a poll result – it’s seen as more significant than one individual’s opinion. This seems far from trivial in terms of influencing wider debate (see, for example, the Spiral of Silence communication theory). Anyone who witnessed the extension of Medialens’s bogus consensus (eg over IBC) from their message board to other, similar, forums might see a similarity to the kind of group-think encouraged by mass-media hysteria-rags. The real problem occurs when a “consensus” becomes resistant to facts. (In the Medialens/IBC context, some of the resisted facts are listed here and here).
‘New media’ censorship – stupid analogies
Medialens once gave the analogy of a “living room” for their message board. Why should they allow disruptive types into their living room, they asked. Someone pointed out that when Medialens put signs in their “living room” window accusing antiwar campaigners of “actively aiding and abetting in war crimes“, they should expect their polite “living room” ambience to be “disrupted” by demands that they remove their false accusations. (The person who pointed this out was banned at some point).
They no longer appear to use the ‘living room’ analogy. Instead they’ve opted for the ‘meeting hall’:
You couldn’t really have a climate denial fanatic at a Greenpeace meeting organising a climate change campaign endlessly insiting (sic) that the whole basis of the campaign was wrong. […] You’d find a way to stop the disruption. (Medialens message board, 18/12/09)
Of course, “disruption” in meeting places suggests something physical: chairs kicked over, objects thrown, shouting, a concrete obstacle to proceedings, etc. One might question how this is analogous to someone simply posting a link to an article which Medialens disapprove of. (Medialens have deleted such posts and banned posters – on more than one occasion – for such harmless “disruptions”).
Note also Medialens’s use of the term “fanatic”. (They once banned someone with the “explanation” that he was “a fanatical defender of IBC“). “Fanatics” might be easy to spot in meeting halls (or at least security personnel at Labour/Tory Party conferences seem to think so, even though these “fanatics” may appear, to the rest of us, to be harmless pensioners who happen to disagree with Jack Straw, etc) – but it’s difficult to judge whether a poster to a message board is a “fanatic” if one can’t read his posts because they’ve been deleted without trace.
To delete or not to delete? As Tony Blair would say, it’s a tough decision. And as the Medialens editors do in fact say, “It’s very difficult and fraught”. Centuries of real struggle towards free speech weighed against the need to protect a web message-board from… “disruption”.
Control freaks & dogmas
I’m as optimistic about the democratic potential of “new media” as Medialens claim to be. But there’s a flip side to it – a control-freak’s delight, which Medialens seem to be taking advantage of. For example, by preventing someone from participating in a debate by secretly changing his password, while stating that he remained a “registered user” (with the false implication that he was able to participate – see footnote here). What kind of scenario in a real meeting hall would be analogous to that?
In 2002, George Monbiot wrote the following to Medialens (after being attacked by them):
Rather than offering a clear, objective analysis of why the media works the way it does, who pulls the strings, how journalists are manipulated, knowingly or otherwise, you appear to have decided instead to use your platform merely to attack those who do not accept your narrow and particular doctrine. […] You appear to me to be confronting one form of bias and intolerance with another.
And that seems to be the main problem with Medialens. The more invested they are in a “narrow and particular doctrine”, the more likely they’ll have a protective instinct which makes censorship of “disruptions” to it seem appealing and easily rationalised.
Meanwhile, if Edwards and Cromwell are ever interested in hosting a real meeting in a real meeting place, I’d be happy to contribute some non-disruptive views. You might like to ponder how the following meeting of campaigners would play out on a Medialens-style message board:
1. Here and here are a few of the posts typical of the banned poster, ‘Max’, which apparently caused a “disruption” for Medialens. A lone Medialens supporter commented in favour of the banned poster, but this was ignored or quickly forgotten.
(Stop press: As I write I see that Medialens have just deleted another post. Unusually, they’ve notified the poster, David Sketchley, of the deletion – perhaps because he’s been a loyal supporter. Edwards/Cromwell explain that they’re “not keen on posts that accuse journalists of lying”. But apparently they’re happy enough to see the above banned poster, ‘Max’, accused of being a “little liar”.)
2. I don’t make such accusations lightly; this was an unambiguous, clearly documented lie. As I’ve explained in both the Media Hell page mentioned and in this ZNet article, Medialens wrote (in Oct 2007): “In the past, IBC’s response to the suggestion that violence prevents journalists from capturing many deaths has been, in effect, ‘Prove it!'” As Medialens know, IBC have always stated the exact reverse: “it is likely that many if not most civilian casualties will go unreported by the media”. How can we be sure that Medialens knew about this? Because they had quoted IBC’s statement in an earlier “alert“. (They still have not corrected their falsehood – or indeed any of the others I documented at ZNet.)
3. The Medialens editors’ “official” reason for banning me was provided in their email to me (18 June 2006). They accused me of “swamping” and “bombarding” their message board. When I’d pointed out that only 1 in 40 posts on their board was mine, and that mine were “mostly direct, concise responses to attacks on IBC”, I received no reply.
In stark contrast to the Medialens editors’ version of events, here’s one of Medialens’s supporters from that time, SueC, writing (20 June 2006) about me and the banning: “he was unfailingly courteous on the board and is a committed media activist writing excellent letters and emails to journalists and broadcasters; his only crime as far as I could see was in being a bit too good in argument”.
4. ‘Sean M’ has contacted me to ask: “Interesting blog but what do you say to Medialens’ argument that websites without a message board (e.g. yours, IBC’s) are in effect censoring ‘everyone’?”.
To use Medialens’s analogy of a meeting hall, which of the following would you say constitutes censorship:
a) Noam Chomsky gives a televised lecture, but is pressed for time, so there’s no Q&A period.
b) Noam Chomsky gives a televised lecture with a Q&A period, but the organisers have gagged those sympathic to his views.
Is Chomsky “gagging everyone” by allowing no Q&A in the first case?
Incidentally, I allow full reply from anyone I’ve criticised, posted underneath my blog entry if they request it (see also footnote 5). Would Medialens publish a reply from IBC directly under their original IBC “alerts”, or email it to the recipients of those alerts? Obviously not. (They won’t even allow me to respond on their message board to their ‘alert‘ attacking me).
5. Update (13/1/10). David Edwards’s response to this blog entry was to republish it whole (but with the links missing, a picture caption misplaced as a subheading, ruined formatting, etc) on the Medialens forum, without my permission. But it wasn’t just a careless copy-n-paste job. He’d edited it slightly so that the automatically-generated WordPress caption “comments closed” stood out, as if it were a separate heading. Above it, he writes: “Bob Shone doesn’t allow +any+ comments on his website – and yet he accuses us of censorship!”
In fact I allow full reply from anyone I’ve criticised, posted directly underneath my original blog entry if they wish. I’ll even allow them to be impolite and disrespectful. David Edwards has never bothered to check with me. Consequently his claim is false. So, I registered with the Medialens forum to correct his error (I’ve never posted there before), but they refuse to activate my account. So: banned from their “virtually 100% free speech” forum before I’ve even posted a word.
As for Edwards’s warped logic, one can do it justice only with spoof screen-caps (note the “logic” of the heading):
“Shameful” double standards: Medialens on Monbiot & Pilger October 29, 2009Posted by dissident93 in Medialens.
“the Mirror, along with the other anti-war daily newspaper in Britain, the Independent, was vindicated” — John Pilger (on Iraq coverage)
George Monbiot writes in the Guardian that Tony Blair is a “mass murderer”, “contemptuous of democracy” who “greases up to wealth and power and lets the poor go to hell”. Medialens responded by criticising Monbiot: “This type of dissent is one of the bars on our prison cell”. When John Pilger (a friend of the Medialens editors) writes similar things in the corporate media about Blair, Medialens praise him (endlessly).
Medialens have done us a favour by encapsulating much of the idiocy (and double standards) of their own approach in a brief few paragraphs. Let’s see if we can peel away their rhetoric to reveal the illogic. On the subject of George Monbiot, Naomi Klein and Mark Thomas appearing in the Guardian, they write:
Their appearances stifle the idea that there is a need to turn elsewhere, to develop new forms of media. The more dramatic the better, from the media’s perspective – arrest Blair! Marvellous! This is just what they want to see – tiny doses of high-profile dissent keeping us all in our corporate media consumer boxes. This is actually a disaster for progressive change. (Medialens editors, 27/10/09)
So, their appearances “stifle” ideas? How does that work? Monbiot writes in the Guardian that Blair is a mass murderer, and this “stifles” the idea that “new forms of media” are necessary? But new forms of media are already here, and readers are probably using them to access Monbiot’s article (since most will probably read it on the web, where it’ll be posted and linked to in innumerable forums, message boards, alternative media sites, etc).
When Pilger writes in the mass media that Blair is a war criminal, Medialens celebrate his dissent as hard-hitting and uncompromising – an important and necessary piece of truth among the lies. But when Monbiot writes that Blair is a mass murderer, Medialens want us to see it as a “tiny dose” of “high-profile dissent” that’s cynically used by the media to keep us all in our “corporate media consumer boxes”.
So what is the difference here between Monbiot and Pilger? (Apart from the presumably irrelevant fact that Monbiot has criticised Medialens, whereas Pilger has praised them to such a degree that you might suspect nepotism). Is it that Monbiot’s dissent in the Guardian comes in “tiny doses”, whereas Pilger’s dissent in corporate newspapers is more extensive?
Actually, no. Monbiot’s anti-corporate dissent appears regularly in the Guardian; Pilger’s appears in tinier (or less frequent) doses in various newspapers. Is Pilger’s language more uncompromising than Monbiot’s? Again, no. Monbiot, to repeat, writes that Blair is “one of the two greatest living mass murderers on earth”. Ultimately it doesn’t matter how “hard-hitting” Monbiot is – he can’t win when measured against Medialens’s double standards. The standard applied to Monbiot is: “The more dramatic the better, from the media’s perspective – arrest Blair! Marvellous!” That’s certainly not the standard they apply to Pilger when he uses dramatic language to denounce Blair in the “liberal” media. The first few lines of one of Medialens’s “alerts” provide a typical example of how dramatic language apparently “matters” when it’s Pilger talking:
Writing in the New Statesman last month, John Pilger made the point that matters:
“By voting for Blair, you will walk over the corpses of at least 100,000 people, most of them innocent women and children and the elderly, slaughtered by rapacious forces sent by Blair and Bush…” (Medialens Alert, 3/5/05)
We could compare Pilger and Monbiot on the volume of their criticism specifically of corporate media, but why would we want to conduct such a pointless academic exercise when we could be spending our time exposing, say, the ostensibly respectable Daily Mail framing which spreads hate-filled bigotry like a virus to millions every day? The answer of course is that Medialens’s followers prefer to point the finger of blame at dissenters like Monbiot. One of them, for example, writes: “as the Editors say, Monbiot has nothing to say about the complicity of the mainstream media”. This kind of ignorant claim has been refuted several times on the Medialens message board. One poster to the board provided a long list of examples of Monbiot criticising the media (only to find himself immediately – but no doubt coincidentally – prevented by the Medialens editors from posting anything further. See footnote for further details*).
Although the Medialens editors claim that the appearance of dissenters in the ‘liberal’ press “stifles” the idea that we need something better (ie non-corporate), this didn’t stop them from making an appearance in the mainstream:
We, ourselves, write an occasional column for the New Statesman. We do so on the condition, agreed with the editor, that we are free to criticise the press generally and his magazine in particular. And there is much to criticise. (Medialens Alert, 25/6/03)
Indeed there was “much to criticise” in the New Statesman. Alas, the Medialens editors “bent the rules” (their description, referring to their own “rules”) and wrote fewer words criticising the NS in their entire run of columns than Monbiot wrote criticising the Guardian in a single Guardian article. I’ve written about this at length in a previous post. Medialens’s response was to argue that the NS was only “small beer”, that they had “bigger” targets – in contradiction to their previously stated intention (see quote above) that they wanted the freedom to criticise the New Statesman “in particular”. (It’s worth noting that Medialens wrote more words criticising me – a mere nobody – in one of their ‘Alerts‘ than they wrote criticising the NS in their entire run of columns).
Given Medialens’s hypocritical performance with regard to their NS column, they’re in no position to be taking score here. Nor are they in a position to lecture Monbiot about unwittingly supporting the Guardian’s “propaganda system for power” role (as Medialens put it), when their own idea of a shining example, John Pilger, openly praised the Mirror, Independent and (to a lesser extent) Guardian for not promoting establishment propaganda over Iraq.
The quote from Pilger at the top of this blog entry is from Pilger’s own website, johnpilger.com [Nov 2010 note: link is to an archived version of the original Pilger site, as it moved away from its ITV host a year after this blog entry was written]. Actually, it’s not clear if this is really Pilger’s own site or an ITV site – each html page title begins “ITV”, and there appears to be an ITV logo on every page. (An interesting sidenote here: Medialens once publicly emailed Naomi Klein to interrogate – sorry, politely question – her about the Guardian logo on her own website).
Where does ITV fit into Medialens’s theology? Angel or demon? Well, it’s obviously part of the same “propaganda system for power” that Monbiot is allegedly supporting via his dramatic anti-Blair dissent in the Guardian.
If Pilger’s own website is hosted by corporate power and advertises corporate power (which it seems to), where does Pilger fit into Medialens’s suggested scheme for non-corporate “new media”? Could Pilger not move his website somewhere else? [As of Nov 2010, it appears he has – perhaps he eventually took the hint]. Somewhere less associated with the bloody mass slaughter of millions? Have Medialens publicly queried Pilger about this (in the same way that they queried Naomi Klein)? Not to my knowledge.
As you may have guessed by now, I’m subjecting Medialens’s approach to the absurdio** treatment. Where does their “logic” take us when applied (consistently) to John Pilger?
As well as praising the Mirror and Independent (and Guardian to a lesser extent) over their Iraq coverage, Pilger has described the Independent as an “anti-war” paper. And, of course, he has written for each of these papers – he’s provided “tiny doses” of dramatic dissent (just what the “propaganda system for power” requires, according to Medialens). Medialens are in fact aware of this. They’ve written:
we reported how two honest commentators with the power to expose the destructiveness of corporate domination – Noam Chomsky and John Pilger – have been treated by The Guardian and The Observer. Again, they have both appeared in your papers, giving the superficial appearance that the Guardian is a friend of freedom. (Medialens Alert, 6/8/02)
But as Medialens put it here, the problem is the way Chomsky and Pilger have been “treated by” the media. It’s not their fault that their dissent is being cynically used to present a “superficial appearance”. But it’s the fault of Monbiot when it happens to him. Otherwise why would the Medialens editors repeatedly and very publicly challenge him over his Guardian “appearances” (even to the extent of asking if he’d considered resigning from his column over the Guardian’s Iraq coverage. Medialens, it should be noted, didn’t ditch their own NS column over the NS’s “shameful” Iraq coverage).
Why read anything but the Mirror? After all, Pilger wrote headline antiwar pieces in it and heaped praise on its (then) editor, Piers Morgan. Does that not “stifle” any idea that “there is a need to turn elsewhere” for the truth?
Piers Morgan was editor of the Mirror when it published a front-page picture of Greg Palast, under the headline “THE LIAR” (see picture above). Presumably this was a favour from Morgan to someone in the New Labour government (Palast’s investigative journalism at this time, published, ironically, in the Observer, was damaging and humiliating for Blair, Brown and Mandelson). Let’s apply one of Medialens’s favourite rhetorical devices here: “imagine if”. Imagine if the Mirror had done to Chomsky what it did to Palast. Would Pilger have later bathed Piers Morgan and the Mirror in praise (as he did here)?
There’s really no way around it. Here’s the email that the Medialens editors haven’t yet sent to John Pilger:
You know how much we respect you and admire your work. We must, however, put the following to you, as we’ve been making similar (and very public) criticisms of George Monbiot and others for similar reasons for a long time now. We personally prefer your work to Monbiot’s in many ways, but if we’re really honest with ourselves, many of the criticisms we make of Monbiot could equally apply to you… (snipped)
David & David
Write to the Medialens editors to ask them why they apply double standards when it comes to Monbiot and Pilger.
* Ken Farrell from mediahell.org posted a long list of examples of Monbiot criticising the mainstream media (including the Guardian). He was stopped by the Medialens editors from posting any further. Someone on the Medialens board queried the Medialens editors about it. It took them 9 hours to reply with some BS about Farrell still being a “registered user” (they didn’t say whether he could post or not). It turned out (from someone who knew how these boardhost boards work), that what Medialens had done was prevent Farrell from posting by changing his password, while leaving him still a “registered user”. But the game was up by the next morning and the Medialens editors (as if to reinforce their previous misleading version of events) said they were now deregistering him.
** “Reductio ad absurdum treatment” would sound a bit pompous.
# This post, though making a few serious points, is intended as a tongue-in-cheek parody of a Medialens ‘Alert’.
Evidence-based BS October 18, 2009Posted by dissident93 in Medialens.
BS stands for Belief System(s). Ideologues often claim that their BS is based on evidence, and it usually is. With enough ingenuity you can find evidence to support even the most absurd claims. But the real test is in addressing the evidence against a given claim. That’s where ideologues show themselves to be little more than BS-merchants.
Take my favourite example, Medialens. They assert that “professional rigour” in the Western media “does not exist”. And in their writings they provide evidence in support of this claim – eg cases where “professional” journalism has been “biased in favour of powerful vested interests” (to quote Medialens). So far, so good. But what about the cases which do appear to meet reasonable standards of “professional rigour”? Well, in the Medialens universe such cases don’t really exist – they only appear to. You see, the “Western” media excels at creating “appearances” which serve power interests, and any evidence which seems to refute Medialens’s claim is just such an appearance. This is the kind of BS which is “logically” set up so that it cannot be refuted. It’s closed BS, circular reasoning – ie worthless in a “scientific” sense.
So we don’t just “bathe everything” in mad polemic. We recognise exactly how extreme these claims may seem and invite readers to consider serious evidence that they can be justified. (Medialens editors, 10/10/09)
The “extreme”-sounding claims (which Poole had criticised) were from Medialens’s book, Newspeak in the 21st Century:
the BBC is part of a system of thought control complicit in the deaths of millions of people abroad, in severe political oppression at home, and in the possible termination of human life on this planet
How would you “justify” these claims with “serious evidence”? Well, you’d first have to understand how a “system of thought control” can be “complicit” in anything. We’ve got a “war on terror” – perhaps we’ll soon have juries finding “systems” guilty of crimes against humanity?
If the BBC is part of a “system of thought control”, what do we mean by BBC? Do we mean each and every BBC employee, or are we referring to a more abstract BBC “culture”? If the former, does a BBC employee remain complicit in “the possible termination of human life” at weekends? And if the latter, are we talking of an institutional culture which is part of a larger system which is in some way complicit in crimes against humanity? Could we be any more abstract in our claims? Is there anyone on the planet who isn’t a part of this “system of thought control” in some sense, and if so, how would we know for sure? How would I, or David Edwards or David Cromwell or Gandhi, Jesus, Buddha or Noam Chomsky go about demonstrating, with serious evidence, that we’re not, on some level, part of the system which is “complicit” in the deaths of millions?
Steven Poole found Medialens’s response to his criticism “ridiculous“.
“Childishly apocalyptic polemic” October 7, 2009Posted by dissident93 in Medialens.
[Medialens] claim that “the BBC is part of a system of thought control complicit in the deaths of millions of people abroad, in severe political oppression at home, and in the possible termination of human life on this planet”. So runs their counterproductive tendency to bathe everything in childishly apocalyptic polemic; they also affect to know what is going on “unconsciously” in journalists’ minds, and seem unaware that their own preferred descriptions of events are often just as rhetorically framed as the versions of the “psychopathic corporate media” (on which they nonetheless rely for factual reference).
Who knows what Medialens’s disciples will make of that. Perhaps they’ll see Poole as an unwitting “servant of Power”, or something. Anything but allow that he might have a point. I’ve read Poole’s book, Unspeak – it’s full of useful observations, and although it owes something to George Lakoff’s approach, it struck me as being original and “radical”. Which is more than can be said of Medialens’s output.
Poole is smart enough to immediately home in on Medialens’s own special “rhetorical framing”, which creates its own forms of “newspeak” and “thoughtcrime”. I imagine Orwell spinning in his grave over Medialens’s inappropriate and/or unintentionally ironic book title.
Postscript: other reviews
In addition to Steven Poole’s Guardian piece (see above), there are a couple of other reviews of Newspeak that I found perceptive:
Les Roberts’s new study September 21, 2009Posted by dissident93 in Iraq mortality, Medialens.
“Our data suggests that the (March 2003) shock-and-awe campaign was very careful, that a lot of the targets were genuine military targets.”
(Les Roberts, explaining Lancet 2006 findings)
Les Roberts’s new* study, ‘Media Coverage of Violent Deaths in Iraq‘, sort of attempts to evaluate the completeness of IBC’s database. The pre-publication references to the study, from Roberts himself (see note below) and his supporters, Medialens, were made in the context of bashing Iraq Body Count, and were incorrect – they stated that the study “found that the majority of violent deaths in a phone sample from Baghdad were not recorded by IBC”. In fact, the study finds that IBC may’ve captured 62% of the violent deaths (or rather that 38% are “absolutely not” in the IBC database). Given that Medialens regularly promoted Roberts’s old claim that IBC capture only 5-10% of deaths, it’s not surprising that they haven’t been shouting from the rooftops about Roberts’s new study.
The study interviewed mainly Baghdad residents (“Seventeen out of 18 primary interviewees resided in Baghdad, although some interviewees described deaths of neighbors that occurred while the neighbors were elsewhere”), and perhaps I was imagining things, but I thought it sounded pretty desperate when it continued with the following statement (after the 38%/62% coverage thing): “Evidence from past studies suggests that IBC reporting is far more complete, and perhaps five times more complete, in Baghdad than in the remainder of the country”. With this claim (which isn’t supported or referenced in the study, as far as I can see) it’s as if Roberts et al are saying: “Well, we’re evaluating what we regard as IBC at its best, covering Baghdad – just wait until you see IBC at its worst, even though we’re not showing you that here, and even though we’re not providing anything at all to substantiate this distinction we’re making”.
Another reason for Medialens (and co.) to stay quiet about the study is the type of “rigour” on display. Here’s an example:
The proportion of deaths [that we] matched in the IBC dataset seemed to increase for shorter recall periods: 22% of deaths were matched in the dataset in 2004, compared to 56% matched in 2007. It cannot be determined whether this is because of changing completeness on the part of IBC, because the interviewers gave less accurate information with longer recalls, or because of some other unseen factor.
Incorrect pre-publication descriptions from Roberts (et al) and Medialens
Roberts (and/or his JHU colleagues) wrote the following incorrect (as explained above) advance description of Roberts’s study (without identifying Roberts as a co-author) in ‘Answers to Questions About Iraq Mortality Surveys’, originally on the JHU website (no longer available, cached version here):
A review of Iraq deaths reported by 4 major U.S. newspapers found that IBC missed more than 1 of every 10 deaths reported by the news media. The separate and soon to be published study from Columbia University researchers also found that the majority of violent deaths in a phone sample from Baghdad were not recorded by IBC. (Siegler A. et al. has been accepted by the journal Prehospital and Disaster Medicine. It is slated for publication in the September 2008.)
Medialens reproduced the incorrect statement almost word for word in their “Alert” of January 22, 2008:
In fact there is no longer any excuse for this innocent reliance on Iraq Body Count (IBC). A review of Iraq deaths reported by four major US newspapers found that IBC missed more than one of every ten deaths reported by the news media. A separate study soon to be published by Columbia University found that the majority of violent deaths in a phone sample from Baghdad were not recorded by IBC.
Notice how Medialens dismiss “innocent reliance on Iraq Body Count” on the basis of an incorrect statement about the findings of a weak study which they hadn’t even seen. Incidentally, the first study mentioned in the above references (“separate” from the Columbia University study) appears to be part of the same study (co-authored by Roberts). There only appears to be one published study.
* It was actually published in 2008, but it’s probably “new” to most readers.