Book review. Propaganda Blitz: How the Corporate Media Distort Reality by David Edwards and David Cromwell
by Ian Sinclair
11 February 2019
Named Collins Dictionary’s Word of the Year in 2017, “Fake News”, along with Russian interference in Western political systems, has become an obsession for the UK and US media and political classes.
David Edwards and David Cromwell – co-editors of media analysis website Media Lens – don’t buy into this convenient, self-serving framing. “That fake news is a systematic feature of BBC coverage, and the rest of Western mainstream media, is virtually an unthinkable thought for corporate journalists”, they noted recently.
The corporate media “fundamentally distort every significant issue they touch”, they argue in their brilliant new book. “Exposing the fraudulence of the ‘free press’ is therefore highly efficient for positive change.”
Based on their Media Alerts – timely critiques of news reporting they have been publishing regularly since starting Media Lens in 2001 – they look at how the media provides state and corporate-friendly coverage of Western foreign policy, climate change, NHS privatisation and the Scottish independence referendum. Compared to their previous books there are fewer illuminating exchanges with journalists – the truthtellers in the newsrooms seem less willing to engage with the authors than they used to. However, their correspondence with Guardian cartoonist Martin Rowson and ITV News’s Bill Neely regarding the definition of terrorism are both surreal and revealing. As ex-Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald tweeted: “I’ve never encountered any group more driven by group think and rank-closing than British journalism.”
The Guardian plays a key role in this corporate news ecosystem, sharply defining and defending the bounds of acceptable debate. From Jeremy Corbyn’s rise to the Labour leadership to Julian Assange seeking asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy and Russell Brand’s political awakening, Edwards and Cromwell highlight how the UK’s supposedly most left-wing mainstream newspaper sides with the status quo and assails those trying to create significant progressive change.
Best of all is their Anatomy of a Propaganda Blitz, a six-step model for how the media attack and discredit enemies, preparing the way for (Western) intervention. The 2002-3 media-assisted propaganda onslaught in advance of the invasion of Iraq is a good example of this kind of campaign, as is the 2018 antisemitism controversy and the current Venezuelan crisis. Like Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky’s Propaganda Model and Stanley Cohen’s theory of Moral Panics, this should be required reading on every university journalism and media studies course.
Essentially a £14.99 course in intellectual self-defence against thought control in a democratic society, Propaganda Blitz is an indispensable read for anyone who consumes the news.
Propaganda Blitz is published by Pluto Press, priced £14.99.