Crippling the Left

Whenever it truly matters, from Assange to Corbyn, this Guardian journalist aligns with the corporate media herd, writes Jonathan Cook. 

George Monbiot at a TED conference in 2013 in Edinburgh, Scotland. (TED Conference, James Duncan Davidson, Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0)

By Jonathan Cook

Guardian columnist George Monbiot is, by his own admission, a very busy man. Dedicated as he is to issues such as soil loss, he has yet to find the time to throw his weight behind the campaign to free Julian Assange.

When thousands of supporters poured into London from all over the world at the weekend to besiege the British Parliament, creating a human chain around it, Monbiot, like his newspaper The Guardian, ignored the event.

Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, has been rotting in a U.K. high-security prison for years, as the United States works through a series of lawfare strategies to extradite him and lock him up indefinitely in a maximum-security jail on the other side of the Atlantic.

Assange’s crime is doing real journalism: he published incontrovertible evidence of U.S. and British war crimes in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. That kind of journalism has now been reclassified by Washington as espionage and treason, even though Assange is not a U.S. citizen and did none of the work in the U.S. Plots by the C.I.A. to murder and kidnap Assange have also come to light.

Should his oppressors succeed, a very clear message will be sent to other journalists around the globe that the U.S. is ready to come after them too if they disclose its crimes. The chilling effect on investigative journalism is already palpable.

So, you might imagine, even a journalist like Monbiot — one primarily concerned about soil loss and other environmental concerns — should be worried by Assange’s fate. In the circumstances he might consider it worth publicising this threat to the most fundamental of our freedoms: the ability to know what our governments are up to and hold them to account.


After all, Monbiot’s columns exposing the threats to our soil will be all the poorer if investigative journalism of the kind Assange excelled in before his silencing continues to be snuffed out by the U.S. and U.K.’s joint terror campaign on whistleblowers and those who offer them a secure platform.

How will we ever know what is being done behind our backs by governments and major corporations, or how they are keeping us in the dark about their political and environmental crimes and misdeeds, if fighters for transparency like Assange can simply be disappeared?

But Monbiot is apparently not persuaded. He is yet to find the space or time for a column on this, the biggest threat to media freedom in our lifetime.

When The Guardian columnist did take a week off from writing about soil loss and related topics, Assange’s plight, sadly, was still considered of insufficient import. As I have noted before, Monbiot decided it was more important to fill his empty slot in the paper’s commentary pages with denunciations of journalists like John Pilger for failing to be vocal enough in condemning Russia for invading Ukraine.

Monbiot, it seems, felt he had to prioritise defending journalism from the menace posed by independent journalists on the left over any threat posed by the combined force of the U.S. and British national-security states.

But maybe the issue for Monbiot really is, as he has openly worried before, that he does not have anything sufficiently interesting to add to the topic because Assange’s persecution is already being detailed so fully by … a handful of independent journalists — those like John Pilger he wishes to bully into silence.

Monbiot apparently does not need to dedicate a column to Assange, one that might alert millions of Guardian readers to the continuing persecution of a Western journalist and the related assault on journalism, because independent leftwing writers — ones being algorithmed into oblivion by social media platforms – are covering the issue already.

Breaking the Rulebook

Those unsure whether Monbiot is arguing in good faith — and whether, aside from matters that touch directly on his environmental brief, he actually represents anything that can be seriously called “the left” — might consider his latest astounding tweet.
He issued this one at the weekend, presumably adding so much to the burden of work that he could not find time to express his support for the human chain trying desperately to draw attention to the endless procedural and legal abuses at the heart the Assange case.

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Nonetheless, we should celebrate the fact that Monbiot took time from his busy environmental schedule to watch the first of The Labour Files, Al Jazeera’s explosive four-part documentary. The programmes draw on a huge cache of leaked internal Labour Party files that show how the party’s rightwing bureaucracy broke Labour’s own rulebook — as well as the law – to surveil, smear, bully and expel members that were seen as leftwing or supporters of Corbyn.

Current leader Sir Keir Starmer appears to be colluding with, if not directing, this horror show.

These Labour officials — who have been regularly termed “whistleblowers” by Monbiot’s employer, The Guardian – worked secretly to sabotage the 2017 election, including by helping to weaponise anti-Semitism to ensure Corbyn was unelectable, while at the same time demonstrating what looks suspiciously like a deep-seated racism in the treatment of black and Muslim party members, often because the BAME community were seen as stalwart allies of Corbyn, given his long-time activism against racism.

So how did Monbiot respond to his belated exposure to the Labour Files? He tweeted:

“I’ve just watched Al Jazeera’s The Labour Files: The Crisis, about the handling of anti-semitism allegations. I found it deeply shocking. But I’m very unsure of myself on this issue. Have there been any rebuttals? Is there substantive evidence countering its claims? Thank you.”

Very unsure of himself? What surprising modesty and reticence from a journalist more usually ready with an opinion on a diverse range of topics — many concerning issues where he appears not to have read further than the headlines of his paper, The Guardian.

Maybe it is too churlish to remember this 2011 Monbiot tweet on Assange, one that has fared badly with the passing of time: “Why does Assange still have so much uncritical support? Seems to me he’s acting like a tinpot dictator.”

Or how about his sudden and unexpected expertise in tripartite extradition law, between the U.S., Britain and Sweden? In 2012, he confidently observed: “Harder to extrad[ite] him [Assange] from Sweden than U.K., as U.S. wld then have to go through 2 jurisdictions, not one.”

In fact, as people who know a lot more than Monbiot about such matters pointed out at the time, this was nonsense. Nils Melzer, an international law professor and the former United Nations expert on torture, recently wrote a book that set out good reasons why his lawyers would have assessed he was likely to be in far greater jeopardy in Sweden, where the extradition process was even more politicised than in the U.K..

Similarly, Monbiot has regularly chosen to offer his uninformed opinions on events taking place in far-off lands, from Syria to Ukraine. Why then the sudden loss of confidence when it comes to a matter happening on his doorstep, one that played out over seven years on the front pages of the establishment media, including his own newspaper, and whose evidentiary basis had been aired well before The Labour Files, in a leaked Labour internal report and the Forde inquiry’s report into that leak.

Al Jazeera’s The Labour Files doesn’t cover much new ground. It deepens and enriches the evidence for abuses that were already in the public domain, including the collusion of newspapers like The Guardian with the Labour Party bureaucracy in smearing as anti-Semites Corbyn and his supporters in the party, including many Jewish members.

There has long been masses of information for Monbiot to get his teeth into, had he chosen to break with the enforced Guardian and media consensus and look into the matter. But like his colleagues, from The Daily Mail to The Guardian, he remained silent or amplified the lies rather than risk the career damage of challenging them as those independent journalists he so excoriates dared to do.

Following the Herd

In fact, Monbiot’s seeming good-faith request for more evidence to assess the Al Jazeera documentary is treachery of the worst kind. Had he really wished to be better informed, he could have spoken long ago to Jewish Labour Party members like Naomi Wimborne Idrissi who have been vilified and purged from Labour because they disputed the confected political and media narrative that Corbyn was an anti-Semite.

Rather than show solidarity with them, or question what was happening, Monbiot once again followed the corporate herd; once again he ensured there was no one defending, let alone representing the views of, the British left as it was being defamed in the establishment media; and once again he helped to provide the veneer a supposed bipartisan consensus that Corbyn and his supporters were beyond the pale.

In 2018, at the height of the anti-Semitism witch-hunt, Monbiot tweeted: “It dismays me to say it, as someone who has invested so much hope in the current Labour Party, but I think @shattenstone is right: Jeremy Corbyn’s 2013 comments about “Zionists” were antisemitic and unacceptable.”

There is a reason that Monbiot suddenly professes to be interested in questioning whether the rampant, evidence-free anti-Semitism claims against Corbyn and large swaths of the Labour Party were valid. Because, with the broadcasting of the Al-Jazeera documentary, he finds himself increasingly cornered. He looks ever more the charlatan, a journalist who withdrew from the struggle, standing silently by while the only chance to stop Britain’s endless political drift rightwards was eviscerated with lies promoted by the corporate media that pays his salary.

And he did so, of course, in tandem with the campaign cheerled by his own newspaper, The Guardian, to demonise the Labour left, as Al Jazeera documents.

Rather than take a stand against the McCarthyism occurring right under his nose, witch-hunts that destroyed the British left’s chances of making the Labour Party a meaningful alternative to the Conservatives’ “free market” zealotry, he focused his guns on leftwing journalists. He misrepresented as apologism for Russian President Vladimir Putin their critiques of Western hypocrisy and of NATO’s pursuit of a proxy war in Ukraine.

Monbiot is a bad-faith actor for a further reason. Here is a reminder of his faux-naïve questions about The Labour Files: “Have there been any rebuttals? Is there substantive evidence countering its claims?”

Have there been any rebuttals? Is there substantive evidence countering its claims?

These hollow concerns should stick in his craw. Monbiot is a journalist. He knows as well as I do that Al Jazeera lawyered its programmes over and over again until it was certain that every part of them could be stood up, knowing that otherwise they would attract law suits like flies to a carcass. The feeding frenzy would have crippled the station.

Monbiot knows, as I do, that if Al Jazeera had made a single solitary slip-up, the BBC, The Guardian and everyone else would be using it to discredit all the other claims in the four programmes. The noise would drown out every other issue raised in the programme.

Monbiot knows, as I do, that the blanket silence from a corporate media deeply implicated in the fabrication of the Labour anti-Semitism narrative is proof alone that Al Jazeera’s claims are true — as are the deceitful responses from senior Labour politicians who, when challenged, profess not to have watched, or in some cases even heard of, the documentary. One doesn’t need to be a veteran poker player to spot the tell in that conspiracy of silence.

Monbiot knows all of this. He is playing dumb, in the hope that his followers will fall for his act. In asking his questions, he is not trying to shed light on the Al Jazeera revelations. He is trying to keep those revelations obscured, in deep shadow, for a little longer.

CIA Talking Points

There is a pattern with Monbiot, one that he has been repeating for years. His position on every major issue, aside from his genuine passion for the environment, chimes precisely with that of his employer, The Guardian. He goes only as far as he is given licence to. He is not on the left, he is not a dissident, he is not even his own man. He is owned. He is a salary man. He is a corporate stooge.

Even his environmentalism, invaluable as it invariably is, has been cynically weaponised by The Guardian. It provides a hook to draw in leftists who might stray elsewhere — and thereby help fund genuinely independent outlets — were they not offered a sop to keep them loyal to The Guardian corporate brand. Monbiot is the media equivalent of a promotional line to keep a supermarket’s shoppers satisfied.

On foreign affairs, he promotes C.I.A. talking points, advancing Washington’s ever expanding, ever more lucrative war on terror — wars that ravage the environment he supposedly cares about and constantly deflect our energies and attention from doing anything to tackle the ever more urgent climate crisis.

He readily castigates anyone who tries to point this out as a Putin apologist, choking off the ability of the left — the one group equipped to challenge establishment propaganda — to air meaningful foreign policy debates.

At home, he has equivocated on the biggest, most vital issues of our times.

He indulged the Corbyn smears, even when it meant ushering in a fanatical rightwing government that is driving the destruction of the environment at break-neck speed. Even now, he professes doubts about the latest weighty evidence from Al Jazeera that confirms the earlier, equally weighty evidence that those smears were never rooted in any kind of reality.

He has whispered his support for Assange, while doing nothing to galvanise the left into fighting not only for Assange’s personal freedom but for the freedoms of other journalists and the whistleblowers they depend on. In doing so, he has stifled efforts to shine a light into the very darkest corners of the machinery of the security state so that the public can know what is being done in its name.

And further, in abandoning Assange he has abandoned the only journalist who had built a counter-weight, in WikiLeaks, to take on that machinery.

Far more is at stake here than simply griping about Monbiot’s failings. Just as Monbiot follows the company line set by The Guardian, never daring to stray far from the path laid down for him, so much of the left all too readily follows Monbiot, taking their cues from his take on events even though all too often he is simply regurgitating the consensus of the liberal wing of the establishment in which The Guardian is embedded.

Monbiot is treated by much of the left as a figurehead, one whose environmentalism earns him credibility and credit with the left on foreign policy issues, from Syria to Ukraine, in which he echoes the same talking points one hears from Keir Starmer to Primer Minister Liz Truss. While on matters at home, like Assange and Corbyn, he sucks the wind out of the left’s sails.

As the saying goes, if Monbiot did not exist, the establishment would have had to invent him. Their dirty work looks so much cleaner with him onboard.

 Jonathan Cook is an award-winning British journalist. He was based in Nazareth, Israel, for 20 years. He returned to the U.K. in 2021.He is the author of three books on the Israel-Palestine conflict: Blood and Religion: The Unmasking of the Jewish State (2006), Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (2008) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair (2008). If you appreciate his articles, please consider offering your financial support.

This article is from his blog Jonathan 

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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26 comments for “Crippling the Left

  1. Henry Smith
    October 14, 2022 at 08:30

    The Guardian is just one of the septic tanks that the establishment dumps their sewage in, and Monbiot is one of the many turds that surface there. I wouldn’t give it the oxygen of publicity, it needs to be purged clean or closed down.

  2. firstpersoninfinite
    October 13, 2022 at 23:48

    Monbiot is just another Thomas Friedman. He has expertise in everything except just why it it that anyone cares what he has to say. Of course, 80% of all Guardian articles are either about other people’s orgasms or other people’s celebrity status. I’m not sure there’s a difference between the two since they are both flaccid subjects. What can anyone do in a static, sterile society such as our own besides grabbing the greasiest palm you can reach? Of course, you might stand for something greater than the always predictable status-quo, instead of standing tall for nothing else. I’m guessing that Monbiot has never read Camus’ “The Rebel.” The shadows now falling around us are destined to light the only way forward.

  3. Eric
    October 13, 2022 at 23:11

    Thanks for writing this. Self-professed ‘liberals’ and social democrats around the world should read it.

  4. WillD
    October 13, 2022 at 22:27

    Monbiot’s latest ‘spare time’ venture has been to post a video on Double Down News, discrediting himself even further by following the tired old evidence-free official narratives about Putin and the Ukraine war.

    He has got it wrong at every turn, and sounds and looks tired and weary, not convincing at all. Here’s the link: hxxps://

  5. Hank
    October 13, 2022 at 21:22

    Thank you so much. Oh this is such a satisfying read. At least I know I am not a crazy person for being disgusted by this imposter, this shill for the empire.

  6. October 13, 2022 at 19:07

    Monbiot and the Guardian have a lot of company: Rachael Maddow and the rest of the MSNBC circus who are faithfully joined by the crews at National Propaganda Radio (NPR) and the Propaganda Broadcast Station (PBS).

  7. Tarrasque
    October 13, 2022 at 18:59

    Other than the environment, he’s a very stupid and ignorant person. It’s baffling why he feels he has the capability of opining on subjects he clearly knows very little about, and also baffling why anyone would care at all what he thinks about them. His opinion should have zero weight and he should be given zero columns to express it (if the Guardian is interested in writers who have a clue about their subject, but they apparently aren’t).

  8. Daniel
    October 13, 2022 at 18:19

    One of Mr. Cook’s very best (and that is saying something!) I was glad he made clear how this is more than a personal criticism of Mr. Monbiot. I wholeheartedly agree.

    That said, if Monbiot is a stooge on most matters (and God knows he is,) why assume he isn’t one on the environment, as well? What use is any of his truthful reporting on the subject if he isn’t willing to challenge the elite power structure who work day-in and day-out to negate any good his reporting might do?

    But I suspect that is the point of the thousands of Monbiots working in corporate “news” today. They may report on niche issues – even large ones – and produce good journalism. But they know who pays them, and their journalism consists solely of the approved variety. In effect, they waste column inches – even with good journalism – based on a selfish motive: achieving status within a corrupt system.

    None who are allergic to reality on one subject should be trusted on another. For me, it’s that simple. You’re either a journalist or a propagandist. There’s no in between.

  9. Sara K.
    October 13, 2022 at 17:13

    Perhaps, company man Monbiot should apply for USian-USer citizenship, he would fit right in.

    A typical hu$tler, huckster, imperialistic war monger. Anything for a pound to sell institutional/organizational propaganda to the imbecilic masses.

  10. Henry
    October 13, 2022 at 16:56

    I saw Monbiot on Democracy Now trying to shill for nuclear power and getting repeatedly slapped down by Helen Caldicott who wasn’t having it. She showed him for what he is, and Jonathan has done a superb job here of not having it either.

  11. Gypsy
    October 13, 2022 at 15:59

    Jonathan, this was as fine an article as I’ve read in an eternity. Thank you.

  12. Lois Gagnon
    October 13, 2022 at 14:36

    Monbiot is typical of the authoritarian liberals who have revealed their true nature ever since November, 2016. I can’t even have a rational conversation with these people anymore. They are firmly in the camp of the Western intelligence apparatus. Shallow opportunism is not a good look for the virtue signaling faux left. That they fully expect not to be called out for their hypocrisy is proof of their lack of self-awareness.

  13. ks
    October 13, 2022 at 13:15

    Good point that if journalists with integrity are censored, Monbiot will find pressing the case for his own environmental concerns impossible. Push come to shove, whose side is a compromised media going to come down on – regenerative agriculture proponents or powerful players like Bayer and Cargill?

  14. Edward Q
    October 13, 2022 at 12:56

    Monbiot has a choice: enjoy a comfortable, well-paid life as a compromised journalist, peddling establishment orthodoxies, or speak the forbidden truths and live as a journalistic exile as Robert parry did. Monbiot chose the former.

    I think fundamentally the corporate/state media and Assange are enemies. On the surface they have appeared to work together publishing Wikileaks documents. However, the establishment press was basically forced to do this by Assange; what excuse could they provide for not publishing Assange’s information? On the other hand, Assange embarrasses and threatens the press by publishing the taboo news they censor. This raises questions about their legitimacy and credibility and threatens their news monopoly.

    I also wonder if the Guardian has been taken over by British government agents, or perhaps private actors with a similar agenda. In the prelude to the Iraq invasion, both the Independent and the Guardian, unlike the U.S. press, debunked the lies about Iraq used to justify the war. Millions of Americans started reading these publications. In the aftermath of the invasion, the American and British elites may have resolved to ensure this never happens again and quietly undertaken a program to infiltrate these organizations with their agents.

    • Caroline
      October 13, 2022 at 16:53

      Good points Edward. I agree entirely.

    • ks
      October 14, 2022 at 12:26

      The Guardian was already heading in a Blairite direction, but quality plummeted after the appointment of Katharine Viner as editor-in-chief. I found this interesting passage in her Wikipedia page:

      ‘It has been suggested by author and former Guardian columnist Michael Wolff that another of Viner’s rivals to succeed Rusbridger, Janine Gibson, suffered because of internal disquiet over the internal impact on The Guardian of the Edward Snowden revelations which Gibson edited in New York. Wolff said Gibson aligned herself with Snowden, promising more of the same, while Viner “pitched decidedly against Gibson and, in a sense, against Snowden”.[32] Peter Wilby, writing in the New Statesman, preferred a different explanation: “Viner is a more charming, more inclusive and less threatening figure than Janine Gibson, who started as the bookies’ and Rusbridger’s favourite.”‘

      “Less threatening” to the powers-that-be is not what you want in a newspaper editor.

  15. Francis Ingledew
    October 13, 2022 at 12:48

    [I wanted to re-post here my comment on this article as I posted it on Jonathan Cooke’s Substack page, because I think George Monbiot is an important journalist, and the issue Cook raises is something of a litmus test about left-right issues these days.]

    This article is a public service. It’s difficult to do a denunciation piece without its losing its footing in rancor or losing its balance in its emotions or in a personal agenda. And it’s incredibly difficult to accuse someone of bad faith convincingly, since others’ motives are usually out of our reach. But you do both. You crystallize something that hadn’t fully come into focus for me, that Monbiot is properly radical, by which I mean sees to the heart of things, only in the one area with which the Guardian some years ago decided to brand itself, the issue of climate change. So as you say, he is a perfect commodified instrument for them, bringing in readers for whom he is a Trojan horse (he betrays them on all other subjects in line with the Guardian’s betrayals of them). I’m especially glad you did bring up that last and most difficult matter, and argue that he is acting in bad faith . I don’t know for sure that he is. but as things darken, bad faith is becoming a more convincing explanation for why the wheels are coming off everywhere we look. The most profound bad faith in US administrations of both parties, for example (see every video you can get your hands on by Jeffrey Sachs, starting with hxxps://, hxxps://, and hxxps:// /watch?v=g57ViSqmRFM).

    • Donald Duck
      October 14, 2022 at 05:09

      You may be interested to know that the Guardian and more broadly the Guardian Media Group was outed by a UK journalist about the G’s decamping to the Cayman Islands, purely for tax reasons you understand.

  16. Alex Cox
    October 13, 2022 at 12:06

    Monbiot is a total fake who has been promoting nuclear power for many years. Outside the walled garden of The Guardian he has no presence at all.

  17. JonnyJames
    October 13, 2022 at 11:31

    Sorry to be crude but Monbiot and the crew at the Guardian are little more than arrogant, narcissistic propaganda pushers and rank hypocrites who crawl on their knees to support the interests of their paymasters. These so-called journalists are paid quite well, I understand. I think John Pilger suggested some years ago that the Guardian is connected with MI6 (similar to the Bezos/CIA owned Washington Post). If not, it might as well be as they parrot the official narrative almost verbatim.

    As noted, they have betrayed Julian Assange and others, while attempting to distract their readers with emotionally manipulative, tabloid-like BS.

    Just check the Guardian site on any day: free publicity for Donald Trump almost every single day (whether on the UK or US editions); ridiculous war propaganda and Russophobia; one-sided support for the right-wing authoritarian status-quo (the so-called Labour Party in the UK and the so-called Democratic Party in the US).

    The CIA’s own website boasts that they employ journalists, academics, business leaders etc. The CIA/MI6 control of the Unified Hegemonic Narrative is on full display.

  18. Drew Hunkins
    October 13, 2022 at 10:59

    What’s crippling the left is its irrational and paranoid fear over a robust nationalist populism.

    I’m not talking about racist garbage and hatred, or absurd patriotic flag-waving over the next war for Israel and the MIC. No.

    I’m talking about a nationalist populism grounded in anti-imperialism and turning the swords, fighter jets, aircraft carriers, and missiles into plowshares and domestic renewal. A national populism that looks at the term “isolationism” with highly positive connotations and views it as a healthy and moral thing.

    A nationalist populism that protects our borders and uses the vast wealth of our nation-state to help our working class and middle class Chicano US citizens, African-American US citizens, Native Am US citizens (however you want to define that), Asian-Am US citizens and White US citizens (all these groups only make up 93% of the U.S.); a nationalist populism that forbids the top fraction of 1% to own and control more wealth than the bottom half of the population; a nationalist populism obsessed with keeping industrialized jobs here in America and allows our citizens to free strong and democratic labor unions; a populism committed to national-single payer healthcare coverage for all CITIZENS; and finally a nationalist populism that stresses a truly free and independent media where people aren’t cancelled, deplatformed, or smeared for critical thinking.

    Yesterday Tulsi Gabbard spearheaded moves towards what I’ve outlined above in her denouncing the Wall St warmongering Dems.

  19. John Puma
    October 13, 2022 at 10:30

    Well that painfully evident truth of, it seems, two decades has finally gone public!!!

  20. Elial
    October 13, 2022 at 10:15

    Perhaps Monbiot best stick to writing about soil loss. Taking on real issues which confront the establishment takes courage. We wouldn’t want him to soil himself.

  21. Tony
    October 13, 2022 at 09:49

    In the most recent edition of the Observer, the newspaper made no effort to conceal its joy at the destruction of that bridge from Russia to the Ukraine. The level of pollution was significant.

    And the US pipeline sabotage has also caused much pollution.

    It really is time to bring about a negotiated settlement to this conflict.

    One factor that might come into play here is the fact that Donald Trump has made such a call. Fear of being outflanked by Trump might lead to Biden having to agree to such a course of action.

  22. Jeff Harrison
    October 13, 2022 at 09:10

    I read Monbiot when I was reading the Guardian. He’s an idiot.

  23. Carolyn Zaremba
    October 13, 2022 at 06:20

    Thank you for this, Jonathan Cook. I have long considered Monbiot to be a smarmy charlatan. Thanks for reminding us why he is.

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