Jonathan Cook: the Blog from Nazareth - www.jonathan-cook.net

Ex-reporter: Media tool of misinformation

It takes a professional trauma, I suspect, for a journalist to awaken from the slumber that is their role as news entertainer. Then, like Neo in the Matrix finally seeing the binary code that is the basis of what he assumes to be reality, the reasons for the media’s dismal performance become unavoidably clear.

Andrew MacGregor Marshall has grounds to be disillusioned. Despite a long and successful career, including a stretch covering Iraq as bureau chief, he was abandoned by the Reuters news agency in 2011 when he took possession of classified documents about the Thai monarchy. Reuters showed what a news organisation does when one of its reporters provokes the fury of a US ally: it quickly loses its backbone and sides with the power elites against its own reporter.

Only a few journalists find themselves coming up against their news organisation in such dramatic fashion. And of those, an even smaller number decide to act on principle and resign. An even tinier number choose to speak out, based on their own experiences, about the failures of journalism. Doing so is likely to be a form of career suicide. So bravo to Marshall for this interview with RT that offers many great insights into the role of journalists.

Highlights:

I came to believe that what we’d done in Iraq had been fairly useless, because we covered the day-to-day bloodshed and killing, but we failed to give the proper context that would allow readers to understand what was going on. It was almost like bloodthirsty entertainment. It makes headlines, but I don’t think mainstream media coverage of these conflicts really produces understanding. In fact I say it does the opposite, it prevents understanding. There is a focus on blood and gore and there is no attempt to really explain what the geopolitical forces behind it are. …

Nobody ever told me that I should lie, and if they ever had I would refuse. I think most of my colleagues in the mainstream media are similar.

But what was interesting is that it’s more insidious than that. There is a certain discourse that becomes normalized, in which certain views are acceptable and others not. And if you make obvious statements, you know, like about the role of banks or global superpowers, and about the disaster that’s befallen the world in many areas in recent years, you are often marginalized as some sort of loony figure. And there is a “cult of moderation,” of being “neutral”’ in the media. Being neutral is normally held to be that if there is a crazy right-winger or left-winger, you are somewhere in the middle. But obviously, truth is not always in the middle. …

I think it is through this process that the mainstream media basically becomes a tool of misinforming people, rather than informing people. It’s not so much deliberate lies, although some clearly do engage in deliberate lies, but it’s just the sense that there are some things that are safe to say that we become conditioned that they are safe to say, and there are other things that we probably know them to be true, but if we say them we are mocked or delegitimised. …

We have seen Guantanamo, Abu-Ghraib and Bagram, and many other US detention centers. We have seen torture, and sexual torture became normalized. But when I was trying to report any story like this for Reuters, my editors would demand enormous evidence. I had to jump over innumerable hurdles to prove that my staff had been tortured. And I knew these men very well and I knew they were telling me the truth.

But if we wanted to report on atrocities by a militant group in Baqubah or Fallujah, we would just write “that it had been reported,” and there would be no attempt to ask us to prove what happened, because it was just assumed that this is what the militants do – they do bad things, and the Westerners do good things. …

I think that there is tendency for the Western media to claim that it is neutral and unbiased, when in fact it’s clearly propagating a one-sided, quiet nationalistic and selfish view of its own interventions in these countries. If I’d ever been told by any of my bosses to lie, I would have quit. And I ended up quitting, because I was told to lie about Thailand. But it’s done more subtly. If you want to accuse the US military of an atrocity, you have to make sure that every last element of your story is absolutely accurate, because if you make one mistake, you will be vilified and your career will be over. And we have seen that happen to some people in recent years. But if you want to say that some group of militants in Yemen or Afghanistan or Iraq have committed an atrocity, your story might be completely wrong, but nobody will vilify you and nobody will ever really check it out….

I think it is our responsibility to dig deeper and talk about causes. Why are these conflicts happening? So rather than focus on the froth and the atrocities, and the horror on the top, which are important, we have to also try and provide the framework that allows people to understand why this is happening.

http://rt.com/op-edge/185360-reuters-chief-iraq-useless/

(h/t Media Lens)

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