The Guardian did not make a mistake in vilifying Assange without a shred of evidence. It did what it is designed to do, says Jonathan Cook.
By Jonathan Cook
It is welcome that finally there has been a little pushback, including from leading journalists, to The Guardian’s long-running vilification of Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks.
Reporter Luke Harding’s latest article, claiming that Donald Trump’s disgraced former campaign manager Paul Manafort secretly visited Assange in Ecuador’s embassy in London on three occasions, is so full of holes that even hardened opponents of Assange in the corporate media are struggling to stand by it.
Faced with the backlash, The Guardian quickly – and very quietly – rowed back its initial certainty that its story was based on verified facts. Instead, it amended the text, without acknowledging it had done so, to attribute the claims to unnamed, and uncheckable, “sources”.
The propaganda function of the piece is patent. It is intended to provide evidence for long-standing allegations that Assange conspired with Trump, and Trump’s supposed backers in the Kremlin, to damage Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential race.
The Guardian’s latest story provides a supposedly stronger foundation for an existing narrative: that Assange and Wikileaks knowingly published emails hacked by Russia from the Democratic party’s servers. In truth, there is no public evidence that the emails were hacked, or that Russia was involved. Central actors have suggested instead that the emails were leaked from within the Democratic party.
Nonetheless, this unverified allegation has been aggressively exploited by the Democratic leadership because it shifts attention away both from its failure to mount an effective electoral challenge to Trump and from the damaging contents of the emails. These show that party bureaucrats sought to rig the primaries to make sure Clinton’s challenger for the Democratic nomination, Bernie Sanders, lost.
To underscore the intended effect of the Guardian’s new claims, Harding even throws in a casual and unsubstantiated reference to “Russians” joining Manafort in supposedly meeting Assange.
Manafort has denied the Guardian’s claims, while Assange has threatened to sue The Guardian for libel.
‘Responsible for Trump’
The emotional impact ofThe Guardian is to suggest that Assange is responsible for four years or more of Trump rule. But more significantly, it bolsters the otherwise risible claim that Assange is not a publisher – and thereby entitled to the protections of a free press, as enjoyed by The Guardian or The New York Times – but the head of an organization engaged in espionage for a foreign power.
The intention is to deeply discredit Assange, and by extension the Wikileaks organization, in the eyes of right-thinking liberals. That, in turn, will make it much easier to silence Assange and the vital cause he represents: the use of new media to hold to account the old, corporate media and political elites through the imposition of far greater transparency.
The Guardian story will prepare public opinion for the moment when Ecuador’s rightwing government under President Lenin Moreno forces Assange out of the embassy, having already withdrawn most of his rights to use digital media.
It will soften opposition when the UK moves to arrest Assange on self-serving bail violation charges and extradites him to the US. And it will pave the way for the US legal system to lock Assange up for a very long time.
For the best part of a decade, any claims by Assange’s supporters that avoiding this fate was the reason Assange originally sought asylum in the embassy was ridiculed by corporate journalists, not least at the Guardian.
Even when a United Nations panel of experts in international law ruled in 2016 that Assange was being arbitrarily – and unlawfully – detained by the UK, Guardian writers led efforts to discredit the UN report. See here and here.
Now Assange and his supporters have been proved right once again. An administrative error this month revealed that the US justice department had secretly filed criminal charges against Assange.
The problem forThe Guardian, which should have been obvious to its editors from the outset, is that any visits by Manafort would be easily verifiable without relying on unnamed “sources”.
Glenn Greenwald is far from alone in noting that London is possibly the most surveilled city in the world, with CCTV cameras everywhere. The environs of the Ecuadorian embassy are monitored especially heavily, with continuous filming by the UK and Ecuadorian authorities and most likely by the US and other actors with an interest in Assange’s fate.
The idea that Manafort or “Russians” could have wandered into the embassy to meet Assange even once without their trail, entry and meeting being intimately scrutinized and recorded is simply preposterous.
According to Greenwald: “If Paul Manafort … visited Assange at the Embassy, there would be ample amounts of video and other photographic proof demonstrating that this happened. The Guardian provides none of that.”
Former British ambassador Craig Murray also points out the extensive security checks insisted on by the embassy to which any visitor to Assange must submit. Any visits by Manafort would have been logged.
In fact, The Guardian obtained the embassy’s logs in May, and has never made any mention of either Manafort or “Russians” being identified in them. It did not refer to the logs in its latest story.
The problem with this latest fabrication is that [Ecuador’s President] Moreno had already released the visitor logs to the Mueller inquiry. Neither Manafort nor these “Russians” are in the visitor logs … What possible motive would the Ecuadorean government have for facilitating secret unrecorded visits by Paul Manafort? Furthermore it is impossible that the intelligence agency – who were in charge of the security – would not know the identity of these alleged “Russians”.
It is worth noting it should be vitally important for a serious publication like The Guardian to ensure its claims are unassailably true – both because Assange’s personal fate rests on their veracity, and because, even more importantly, a fundamental right, the freedom of the press, is at stake.
Given this, one would have expected The Guardian’s editors to have insisted on the most stringent checks imaginable before going to press with Harding’s story. At a very minimum, they should have sought out a response from Assange and Manafort before publication. Neither precaution was taken.
I worked for The Guardian for a number of years, and know well the layers of checks that any highly sensitive story has to go through before publication. In that lengthy process, a variety of commissioning editors, lawyers, backbench editors and the editor herself, Kath Viner, would normally insist on cuts to anything that could not be rigorously defended and corroborated.
And yet this piece seems to have been casually waved through, given a green light even though its profound shortcomings were evident to a range of well-placed analysts and journalists from the outset.
That at the very least hints that The Guardian thought they had “insurance” on this story. And the only people who could have promised that kind of insurance are the security and intelligence services – presumably of Britain, the United States and / or Ecuador.
It appears The Guardian has simply taken this story, provided by spooks, at face value. Even if it later turns out that Manafort did visit Assange, The Guardian clearly had no compelling evidence for its claims when it published them. That is profoundly irresponsible journalism – fake news – that should be of the gravest concern to readers.
A Pattern, Not an Aberration
Despite all this, even analysts critical of The Guardian’s behavior have shown a glaring failure to understand that its latest coverage represents not an aberration by the paper but decisively fits with a pattern.
Glenn Greenwald, who once had an influential column in The Guardian until an apparent, though unacknowledged, falling out with his employer over the Edward Snowden revelations, wrote a series of baffling observations about The Guardian’s latest story.
First, he suggested it was simply evidence of The Guardian’s long-standing (and well-documented) hostility towards Assange.
“The Guardian, an otherwise solid and reliable paper, has such a pervasive and unprofessionally personal hatred for Julian Assange that it has frequently dispensed with all journalistic standards in order to malign him.”
It was also apparently evidence of the paper’s clickbait tendencies:
“They [Guardian editors] knew that publishing this story would cause partisan warriors to excitedly spread the story, and that cable news outlets would hyperventilate over it, and that they’d reap the rewards regardless of whether the story turned out to be true or false.”
And finally, in a bizarre tweet, Greenwald opined, “I hope the story [maligning Assange] turns out true” – apparently because maintenance of The Guardian’s reputation is more important than Assange’s fate and the right of journalists to dig up embarrassing secrets without fear of being imprisoned.
What this misses is that The Guardian’s attacks on Assange are not exceptional or motivated solely by personal animosity. They are entirely predictable and systematic. Rather than being the reason for The Guardian violating basic journalistic standards and ethics, the paper’s hatred of Assange is a symptom of a deeper malaise in The Guardian and the wider corporate media.
Even aside from its decade-long campaign against Assange, The Guardian is far from “solid and reliable”, as Greenwald claims. It has been at the forefront of the relentless, and unhinged, attacks on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for prioritizing the rights of Palestinians over Israel’s right to continue its belligerent occupation. Over the past three years, The Guardian has injected credibility into the Israel lobby’s desperate efforts to tar Corbyn as an anti-semite. See here, here and here.
Similarly, The Guardian worked tirelessly to promote Clinton and undermine Sanders in the 2016 Democratic nomination process – another reason the paper has been so assiduous in promoting the idea that Assange, aided by Russia, was determined to promote Trump over Clinton for the presidency.
The Guardian’s coverage of Latin America, especially of populist leftwing governments that have rebelled against traditional and oppressive U.S. hegemony in the region, has long grated with analysts and experts. Its especial venom has been reserved for leftwing figures like Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, democratically elected but official enemies of the U.S., rather than the region’s rightwing authoritarians beloved of Washington.
The Guardian has been vocal in the so-called “fake news” hysteria, decrying the influence of social media, the only place where leftwing dissidents have managed to find a small foothold to promote their politics and counter the corporate media narrative.
The Guardian has painted social media chiefly as a platform overrun by Russian trolls, arguing that this should justify ever-tighter restrictions that have so far curbed critical voices of the dissident left more than the right.
Heroes of the Neoliberal Order
Equally, The Guardian has made clear who its true heroes are. Certainly not Corbyn or Assange, who threaten to disrupt the entrenched neoliberal order that is hurtling us towards climate breakdown and economic collapse.
Its pages, however, are readily available to the latest effort to prop up the status quo from Tony Blair, the man who led Britain, on false pretenses, into the largest crime against humanity in living memory – the attack on Iraq.
That “humanitarian intervention” cost the lives of many hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and created a vacuum that destabilized much of the Middle East, sucked in Islamic jihadists like al-Qaeda and ISIS, and contributed to the migrant crisis in Europe that has fueled the resurgence of the far-right. None of that is discussed in The Guardian or considered grounds for disqualifying Blair as an arbiter of what is good for Britain and the world’s future.
The Guardian also has an especial soft spot for blogger Elliot Higgins, who, aided by The Guardian, has shot to unlikely prominence as a self-styled “weapons expert”. Like Luke Harding, Higgins invariably seems ready to echo whatever the British and American security services need verifying “independently”.
Higgins and his well-staffed website Bellingcat have taken on for themselves the role of arbiters of truth on many foreign affairs issues, taking a prominent role in advocating for narratives that promote U.S. and NATO hegemony while demonizing Russia, especially in highly contested arenas such as Syria.
That clear partisanship should be no surprise, given that Higgins now enjoys an “academic” position at, and funding from, the Atlantic Council: a high-level, Washington-based think-tank founded to drum up support for NATO and justify its imperialist agenda.
Improbably, The Guardian has adopted Higgins as the poster-boy for a supposed citizen journalism it has sought to undermine as “fake news” whenever it occurs on social media without the endorsement of state-backed organizations.
The truth is The Guardian has not erred in this latest story attacking Assange, or in its much longer-running campaign to vilify him. With this story, it has done what it regularly does when supposedly vital western foreign policy interests are at stake – it simply regurgitates an elite-serving, western narrative.
Its job is to shore up a consensus on the left for attacks on leading threats to the existing, neoliberal order: whether they are a platform like WikiLeaks promoting whistle-blowing against a corrupt western elite; or a politician like Corbyn seeking to break apart the status quo on the rapacious financial industries or Israel-Palestine; a radical leader like Hugo Chavez who threatened to overturn damaging and exploitative U.S. dominance of “America’s backyard”; or social media dissidents, who’ve started to chip away at the elite-friendly narratives of corporate media, including The Guardian itself.
The Guardian did not make a mistake in vilifying Assange without a shred of evidence. It did what it is designed to do.
This article originally appeared on jonathan-cook.net. Republished with permission from the author.
Jonathan Cook is a freelance journalist based in Nazareth. He blogs at https://www.jonathan-cook.net/blog/.
Jimmy Dore provides an excellent video on the Guardian’s yellow journalism on Assange: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NGdl03jihe8&t=10s .
Surprised they didn’t link and quote some Bill Browder russaphobia in the piece. Maybe they did, I don’t read the splasg headers let alone the body.
Surely you were being sarcastic when you described Luke Harding as a reporter. He is a propagandist, right up there with Julius Streicher.
Its that funny farm fellow who has hi-jacked the thinking processes of the editors. Let’s call him FFF. Apparently the paper supposes he represents British Spookery so he gets carte blanche to say what he likes and Guardianistas pay for it.
This is another piece of evidence that the paper’s policies changed with its ownership after 2008. If we had proper regulation of the media it would have been required to change its name so the public might have had some warning.
This imaginative story feeds into the CIA’s creation of Guccifer to allege Assange spies for Russia and can be executed. It deserves the execration of all humanity.
NeoMcCarthyism propaganda a war on all things and people on the true left.
By which you mean….?
An enjoyable read.
I note that in 2011 the Guardian was named Newspaper of the Year at the Press Awards for its partnership with Wikileaks. Well that was then and now is now. Back then, the US had not decided that Julian Assange was the enemy of the people since back then free speech actually meant something.
Nowadays speech that goes against the US Administration is fake news. The truth is to be buried and in that the Guardian is certainly not alone.
Thank you Jonathan Cook.
Excellent essay. Regarding Greenwald, I also thought the “hope it’s true” quote was quite odd. He seems to have a complex opinion of Julian and WikiLeaks (and also sometimes makes the common error in assuming Julian is WikiLeaks); and this is because of Greenwald’s censorious opinion of WikiLeaks “dumps,” as opposed to the far more gradual release of the Snowden info. I guess the reasoning is along the lines of, “WikiLeaks should be more merhodical (read “redact more),” or something of that sort.
Furthermore, Greenwald may be attempting to maintain connections; after all, look what happened with James Risen (once a good investigative reporter, but now essentially a spokesperson for the intelligence elite).
All in all, Greenwald appears to be acting the part of Franklin’s political bird, the mugwump; balancing on the fence with his mug on one side, and his wump on the other.
MediaLens has a good take on this very matter. See its latese alert:
It looks increasingly likely that the current UK government will fall by Christmas. And that a Labour government, led by Corbyn, will be in office when Assange is kicked out of the Ecuadorian Embassy.
Any Labour government co-operating with the US by allowing the extradition of Assange would demoralise its mass membership immediately. There is a very good chance that Julian will be able to walk out without needing to fear being delivered into the maw of America’s parody of a Justice system. I very much hope so. And that his release is celebrated by a Peace march passing by the Embassy en route to Trafalgar Square
Nice article. The guardian like msnbc in the US is kind of the fox fornews for “liberals”. Their lqck of independent thinking make them dangerous (I am talking mainly about the Clinton’s followers). My xife is a US citizen and progressive by choice (the xord liberql has so much ben gutted of uts meaning that it has fir many a negative connotation) and, paradoxically, in my opinion, considered Assange as a traitor (him being not a US citizen does not seem to matter). This concept is pushed insidiously by the “liberal” medias (Colbert, Mahher, msnbc,…) and accepted by this people. They have no idea about whet Assange/Wikileaks do, that they do not concentrate exflusively on the USA. Assange, the demon, is no more a human. As a result, they do not consider that he has been in pridon in the consulate for several years, that this force incarceration ha a negative impact on Assange the guest and the consulate’s members. In the best case scenario, you would expect frictions between the two parties, after a while. The fact that they are under constant watch by the English service must had more tension. The media (right and so-called left) report Assange as a man with pootr hygiene that is suing, with a show of poor gratitude, the consulate on the use og the Interner. What an ingrat? But they have no idea that the change of goverment in Ecuador (time about which you start hearing these rumors to my knowledge) affected the relationships at the consulate, that the “free”world agencies are trying to silence Wikileaks by silencing Assange (no access to the net means No Assange for the outside world). I know that mist readers of consortiomnews are already aware of this facts, but the “liberals” tgat consumme news from the guardian and the likes, with the best sovial intentions I would add, are not particularly aware of what hapoened in Honduras under Clinton, the problem with sarkozy, clinton again in Lybia,… Our problem is that we are aware about Assange’s predicaments; but in the court of the liberals’ opinion Assange is already guilty and condemned. The very people that could influence the situation in the US has already been manipulated toward a negative outcome.
The Guardian Executive Board
Neil Berkitt – a former banker (Lloyds, St George Bank) who then helped vulture capitalist Richard Branson with Virgin Media.
David Pemsel – Former head of marketing at ITV.
Nick Backhouse – On the board of the bank of Queensland, formerly with Barings Bank.
Ronan Dunne – On the Telefónica Europe plc board, Chairman of Tesco Mobile. He has also worked at Banque Nationale de Paris plc.
Judy Gibbons – Judy is currently a non-executive director of retail property kings Hammerson, previously with O2, Microsoft, Accel Partners (venture capital), Apple and Hewlett Packard.
Jennifer Duvalier – Previously in management consultancy and banking.
Brent Hoberman – Old Etonian with fingers in various venture capital pies including car rental firm EasyCar.
Nigel Morris – chairman of network digital marketing giants Aegis Media.
John Paton – CEO of Digital First Media – a very large media conglomerate which was sued successfully in the U.S. for rigging advertising rates.
Katherine Viner – Startlingly not a banker, in marketing or venture capital. She is I gather (gulp) a journalist.
Darren Singer – formerly with BSkyB, the BBC and Price Waterhouse Coopers.
the only remaining guy is the secretary Philip Tranter – but don’t worry, he is a proper sort from some posh law firms in London.
If any of the members of the Guardian Media Group get bored they can surely get a slot with the BBC Trust which is also stuffed full of bankers and establishment big wigs.
Herewith some more …
The Guardian is owned by GMG Hazel Acquisition 1 Limited, which is based in the Cayman Islands.
That in turn is owned by the Scott Trust Limited, which is chaired by investment bankers and other ultra-rich individuals. In 2008, GMG Hazel paid no capital gains tax at all on a £307 million in profit
The Scott Trust Limited: 2008–present
In October 2008 it was announced that the trust was being wound up and its assets transferred to a new limited company named The Scott Trust Limited. The core purpose of the Trust was enshrined in the constitution of the Limited company and “cannot be altered or amended.” The new company is barred from paying dividends, and “its constitution has been carefully drafted to ensure that no individual can ever personally benefit from the arrangements.”
In February 2010, the company announced the sale of its GMG Regional Media arm and its regional print titles to the Trinity Mirror Group. The regional titles comprised the Manchester Evening News and 31 others in the North West and South of England. The sale was finalised on 28 March 2010 and ended the Scott Trust’s association with regional newspapers.
Guardian News and Media, a subsidiary of the Scott Trust Limited, reported a loss of £30.9 million for the year to the end of April 2013.
The company via the Guardian Media Group (GMG, a subsidiary company) completed the sale for £619 million of its 50.1% stake in Auto Trader on 4 March 2014. Apax Partners, a venture capital firm, increased its share to become the sole shareholder in the business. The £619 million earned from the sale of Auto Trader adds to the £253.7 million of cash and investments which GMG published in its 2013 annual report. This leaves an investment fund which is likely to be in excess of £850 million to underwrite Guardian losses.
In December 2014, it was announced that Alan Rusbridger, then Guardian editor-in-chief, would succeed Forgan as the Chairman of the company in 2016 but he unexpectedly announced on 13 May 2014 his resignation as a director.]
As of January 2016 the company’s funds were £740m, down from £838.3m in July 2015.
I think we can infer what precisely the politics of the Guardian amount to given this information. Pro-EU, Pro-NATO, Pro-American, Pro-Globalization, Russophobic, Neo-liberal, Neo-conservative would be my guess.
Very grateful for those revelations. I have been looking for that information and here you have provided it.
Rollcall: Visitors to London embassy of ECUADOR: Pamela Anderson famous Hollywood actress; Nigel Farage former UKIP leader and leading exponent of BREXIT in 2016 UK referendum with help from Cambridge Analytica; Daniel Ellsberg of the PENTAGON PAPERS revealing US deception on the Vietnam war ending in 1974. Reports Yoko Ono widow of John Lennon BEATLE peace activist also visited JULIAN ASSANGE the Australian WIKILEAKS journalist. His source: US Bradley Manning given Presidential pardon by OBAMA.
Great article from a real repòrter, thanks. I have one quibble, though. You said the Grauniad was a serious newspaper, it is not, it is a pure propaganda rag for the deep state.
The Washington Post finally said something about Harding’s fairy tale a week later.
Democracy Dies in Darkness. Important News Skepticism Dies in the Style section. The Irony.
“…and contributed to the migrant crisis in Europe that has fueled the resurgence of the far-right.” This is an informative piece, but I do wish we would stop referring to the European crisis (or our own border crisis) as a “migrant” crisis. These people are refugees driven from homes by the murderous violence spawned by our own war mongers. Just my two cents. I am the lightweight on this board.
Good point, and one that needed making. I’m sure the majority of these folks would have preferred to stay home and live in peace.
I just have to say how wonderful it is to read such a thoughtful and well informed discussion expounding the non conformist perspective. The mainstream optics repeated perpetually by “news” sources, political pundits and comedians is obviously propaganda and incredibly boring yet apparently effective since so many are willing to swallow the narrative.
Assange is a wonderful casus to use for explaining the machinations of our “free world”. Just seeing how it works… It makes all those banana republics look like total wannabe’s. Infants.
Those wannabe rulers face kickback everyday because the people living there know they are being oppressed. The seeming total lack of awareness of just being cattle is what stands in between any kickback and our supposed leaders in our “free world”. It is a situation that requires constant maintenance, but I am absolutely in awe over how good our supposed leaders and institutions are at it.
I don’t want to sound like a fatalist here, I just have no solution. Millions of whatever currency are devoted to figuring out how humans work and improving mass manipulation techniques… Not preventing war, bringing us all together for the good of mankind, and/or making us love one another… Nope, more innovative ways of exploiting and controlling the human mind for the benefit of the very few.
Assange has done everything in his power to have us see this reality. And now he’s being “neutralized” for it, without “us” even giving a fuck. They can probably even make a good portion of the people cheer it, if they want to.
I’m paraphrasing some dead but smart guy here: “If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hate the people who are your friends, and loving the people who are your foes.”
There should be nothing short of a standing army of “us”, breaking that guy out. But we don’t do that, because “we” are spoiled ignorant idiots.
Repeat after me: “I am free”.
P.S: I’d love to fix this. Someone who has a plan? Preferably one that does not end up in us being in some weird made up diplomatic limbo that is effectively prison.
Malcolm X, the smart dead guy
I really enjoyed this, though I cringed at the bald statement that the attack of Iraq was the “largest crime against humanity in living memory.” Certainly it was among the largest, but the USA’s war in Vietnam was seared into living memory for many of us, as was the genocide in Cambodia that is one of the results. And there are still people alive who remember the Holocaust. Obviously this was tangential to the main thrust of this excellent article, but I did find it distracting.
I listened to the same PBS smear as well. The PBS reporter stating that the Russians hacked into the DNC, again an allegation reported as fact, and passed it on to Assange. Silent from the former Guardian editor.
I just got done listening to a hit piece on Assange and Snowden on the NPR program “Fresh Air”. It could have been worse but they no doubt did indoctrinate their “liberal” listeners adequately. What a shame it has come to this.
I remember when I switched from TV to NPR because TV had become infotainment, basically a mixture of propaganda and nonsense. A few years ago I gave up on NPR as well, and found CN. Now I’m here with my morning coffee, and getting the best dose of “truth” ever. Thank you Robert Parry!
Very good. Spot on, as ever.
Part of the model of critical thinking that many of us were taught in the 20th Century has broken. This is because the 20th Century business model of publication and particularly news publication and dissemination has broken.
News publications published information from sources and to capture the attention of an audience and sell that attention to advertisers. Academics insisted that a “good source” was a large institution because it had a vested interest in maintaining a reputation for veracity. The system never approached perfection because news institutions and personnel also had a vested interest in pleasing sources, advertisers, and owners. But it worked to some extent, enough that Daniel Ellsberg was able to more or less corner the industry into publishing The Pentagon Papers. The motive was simple. Each company had to publish because were any to publish, the others would lose the reputation for truth that allowed them to capture the audience to sell to the advertisers to pay the bills.
Increasingly, after the last couple years of the 1990s, Web development coding allowed for two-way communications–the sort of thing that we are doing here, as well as the sorts of thing that happen in Facebook and on Twitter. Static print publications and non-responsive “push” multimedia had been losing market share, and began to lose it drastically.
For a few years, we read cries from the news industry that investigative reporting was to die because it required the investment of money by large institutions, and people had become unwilling to pay for a copy of the Times when the free information was there–and, later, because it was better. Then, the cries stopped.
The industry had largely found a solution. Granted, the solution had existed at least since the first Gulf War, when CNN created an industry precedent by “embedding” reporters with US troops in and around the Persian Gulf. These reporters went where the military told them to go and wrote and broadcast glowing reports about American soldiers and officers, generally with no perspective whatsoever about the plights of local people or any problems that the soldiers might have. CNN had found a relatively low cost way to get a popular and often exclusive scoop; the government had found a way to turn a potential source of criticism into a propaganda asset.
By 2002, at least some of the conversion had already been made at the NYT–which even Noam Chomsky, in what may be partly a nod to social reality, calls “the paper of record”–when Judith Miller took particular care to champion the destruction of Iraq over the patently fraudulent claims of active and effective WMDs in Saddam Hussein’s hands. These reports took on every characteristic of deliberate falsehood, since extensive inspections had conclusively demonstrated that these did not exist, and because this matter was very much part of the public record outside of the Times.
As of 1999, my students still complained that I demanded that they type essays. They still complained that I demanded that at least one source in a research project be online. Some still complained that new rules commanded that they not smoke outside in the hallways of class during breaks. By 2010, I had to require that at least one source come out of a hardcopy publication. A couple years later, I had to quit allowing notebooks in class during tests because the campus had installed a wifi system, and I found myself policing desks for phones during class after one student apparently copied by hand an entire essay from her phone. This is hardly a formal poll, but it is also far from a subtle point: over a few years, readership and research had moved from paid subscription or library copy hardbacks onto the Internet, and away from large established institutions to smaller organizations, some with notably less dependence on the people about whom they reported.
I used to enjoy poring over a copy of the Times with a good cup of coffee myself. I was doing that day after day when the paper lied itself into uselessness over the Iraq War. But regardless of anyone’s sentiments, this cannot go back. The Times is no longer the paper of record nor particularly a paper of record. Neither is any other similar institution, since these have all passed through the same process. Consequently, the best news-related writing has changed some, and we need to read critically a bit differently than the ways most of us were taught. We need to quit teaching people to go to the “good source” in that sense, or at least to quit judging sources in the ways that we did.
People need to know their reporting and commenting individuals to recognize the inevitable subjectivities involved in any piece. And we need to make extensive and repeated comparisons. This is somewhat in concordance with certain elements of scientific method, where identical or similar experiments administrated by different experimenters are compared, and results are respected only if they can be repeated.
It’s not going to be perfect. But that only suggests more cross-checking.
Relating to this, the “fake news”-obsessed fact-check types have never really been able to come up with a definition of “credible media.” They have tried and tried, but mostly fall back on recommendations that people read the New York Times, Washington Post or the Guardian. The recent Julian Assange article snafu is just proof that the “quality press” is based on flimflam. The papers I worked on as a university student had higher levels of editorial checks and requirements than that article went through. The Establishment is panicking and telling readers to stay away from Alternative Media in response to their outlets being exposed as held up by brand-name alone. Alternative Media is not perfect and is often saturated with rumour, but evidently, so is the “quality press.”
Excellent comment about the history of the downfall of the NYT and the rest of the MSM. One of the best courses I had in college was “Introduction to Logic.” After forty years I have forgotten the finer points, but that course gave me a good nose for BS. I think it could actually be taught at the senior high school level, and wish it was required in our public schools. I still have the text book on my bookshelf, and as entertainment this winter I intend to re-read it.
Superb analysis, bardamu.
Thank you for this comment.
I hope that you might comment here, often, as your perspective is much appreciated.
Who gives a s#@! what the Guardian says. It’s all fake corporate “news”.
wow mike k . Here is some news that is true. I spent the entire day with my dad at our local VA. All those vets don’t care about your ideas or politics, they just want health care. Kind of puts in perspective, They just opened a new wing for IRAQ and AFGHANISTAN vets and a wing for the PTSD and suicidal vets. Mike K , I wish you were more understanding. I gave my dad a copy of the Guardian, And he liked it. And my dad is old school.
As shown in this article, America’s Deep State has long had designs to destroy WikiLeaks:
So much for presenting the truth to the unwashed masses.
do you realize WikiLeaks was created by a bunch of people from all over including americans? so are you positing that the usa wants to destroy their own creation?
Indeed. The world is undergoing a radical transformation that will unseat the old masters of the universe, i.e. the colonial powers of “The West”, and usher something else in. I don’t know what that will be but it won’t be the order we have today based on the values and controls of a bunch of viscous, violent, and greedy people in Europe and the US. Unfortunately, the news media that we have today for the most part only dispenses the conventional wisdom that has kept this crew in power for the last umpteen centuries. The longer that it takes to unseat the masters of the universe the more violent it will be. The tiny group of elites that are running the show now will ultimately be run out of town by the vastly larger group known as everybody else. The news media could make this transition much easier by publishing the truth instead of what the masters want.
It is deeply saddening that we live within this current disinformation bubble. At least we have sites like this one which was founded on accurate reporting and still continues that tradition.
Too, Off Guardian has proved itself worthy of an accurate counter narrative as can been seen by its last several articles. I’ll link here to one, but all of them are important.
This is a thoughtful piece and I thank you for giving it a platform.
The manner in which the mainstream liberal media either chooses to abandon Assange, or to actively participate in undermining his efforts at publishing the truth, is something that cannot be allowed to pass unnoticed and unremarked.
Thanks to Jonathan Cook for spelling this out in such a clear and concise manner. It’s obvious to any thinking person what’s going on but sadly, the corporate media has mesmerized the masses to the point that they don’t see what is happening before our eyes.
In case anyone failed to notice, so called “main-stream” media , is anything but that. It is irrelevant to anyone under 50; they are simply ignored.
No one believes much of what they say, except for sports scores or restaurant reviews. All the constant worry about veracity by so many media critics is a waste of effort. Why give them any attention at all? It simply perpetuates the myth of relevance.
(Ful disclosure – I’m 71 – and tired of all the constant carping by other oldies who can’t believe that the mainstream media – who were never any good to begin with – have somehow slipped from some imagined glorious height. They are dying and good riddance. Real reporting is available online, until they find a way to lock down the internet. Good luck with that impossible job :)
Anyone ever read “manufacturing consent” ? it’s only 30+years old.
I agree. The problem is the pervasiveness of the false narratives that are everywhere, including the internet (facebook, etc.). The truth is available on sites like this but the average person is not aware of them. Sadly, most of our fellow citizens are not looking for truth, just sports, weather and entertainment. That’s the tragedy of it all.
Although I agree that “it was ever thus”, I think it is worse than ever nowadays. Robert Parry was challenged, but still published by the MSM, in his revealing of the Iran-Contra scandal. I doubt that a story like that would get any play at all in today’s MSM. In the past couple of decades consolidation, infiltration by the CIA, and pressure from advertisers has stopped all major truth-telling. We now live in an Orwellian nightmare except for the internet, and they are working on fixing that “little problem”.
Oh this just gets so tedious: Assange (whistleblower) conspired with Trump (Economic Nationalist embracing the Elected State) and Trump’s Kremlin handlers (Putin; Economic Nationalist embracing the Elected State) to damage Hillary Clinton (Economic Globalist embracing the rogue, self-serving, CRIMINAL, Deep State). Duh. This is War, a Cold Civil War, World-wide, to win back the Nation-State for the people, the 99%ers. If you can’t see that, then you are just willfully blind. Many thousands of arrests to follow soon…for treason and crimes against humanity.
Who reads the guardian anymore?
Johnathan Cook is a wonderful writer.
In America, attributing Hillary Clinton ‘s downfall to anyone – WikiLeaks, James Comedy, Vlad the Impaler Putin, etc – other than Clinton and the Democratic party itself is “common sense.”
The thing is, even if one believes these scapegoat narratives, it is still in all our best interests if Assange is allowed to continue to publish the truth. How else are we going to learn what’s really going on behind the scenes?
Here’s another excellent take:
All in all a veritable melange serving a hidden agenda to justify the shameful illegal
imprisonment of JULIAN ASSANGE in London for his alleged “spying” activities.
The day will come when he walks out of Ecuadorian embassy despatched to Cuba.
The Clinton campaign manager Podesta emails revealed he considered that his
employer had poor judgement; as with Libya? After the 2014 coup d’état in Kiev
the Russians probably considered the Clintons were not really their first choice.
Hence Russian vilification of her on RT showing her laughing at the death of
the Libyan leader. We no longer get “all the news fit to print” from NYT or Guardian.
WIKILEAKS a pressure valve revealing facts into the open; for their eyes only.
Yes, indeed, but this is what the contemporary Guardian does.
It is a hate sheet posing as a newspaper. And its hate is always focussed on opponents of the American empire. It is a closet neocon publication, trying to keep its old liberal, labor-oriented appearance with truckloads of flouncy, feel-good stuff of absolutely no depth about minorities and the gay community and women.
This stuff is like a daily whitewash of walls literally seeping raw sewerage.
Look at its witch hunt against Jeremy Corbyn, and in this case the term “witch hunt” is no exaggeration. There was iteration after iteration, month after month after month, often featuring nothing more than “So-and-So said such-and-such.”
It was ghastly, often right on the level with drunken old Senator McCarthy’s waving clenched sheets of paper supposedly containing the names of Communists in the State Department or some other place. Here’s just some of their massive output I’ve treated:
Or look at its rabid, mad-dog campaign against Russia. They literally cannot say enough that is belittling or pejorative. Some of what they publish about Russia is so poorly contrived and so obvious and spiteful that it should embarrass any serious journalist working for the paper, but perhaps there are none left.
Here I have treated my favorite dumb effort by them, but there have been many:
Glenn Greenwald – “The Guardian, an otherwise solid and reliable paper. . . ” – other than for reporting on Assange.
Sorry Glenn, but the Guardian is “solid and reliable” in roughly the same sense that the latest war mongering anti-Russian, anti-Iranian, anti-Chinese, anti-Corbyn, slap-stick Skripnal carnival, fabricated black-propaganda released from MI6, the CIA, or the State Department is “solid and reliable.”
If fact one could make a solid argument that “the voice” of the Guardian and “the voice” of the Western intelligence services equate to essentially one and the same thing – rendering the Guardian, I dare say, completely lacking in anything resembling “solid” reporting, and by definition making it completely “unreliable.”
Indeed, Greenwald himself is a very mixed bag, as they used to say, not a dependable and consistent critic of affairs.
With him and other writers at TI I would swear they are sometimes not aware of their own indoctrination and biases.
Scahill and Hassan seem aware and transparent about their politics. King also.
Definitely a left leaning fix the Democrats view over there. Their frustration being clearly evident.
It’s depressing… lol. The Intercept? The Stormcrow more likely. Don’t tell them the Democrats just suffered a yuge mid-term loss.
I concur with Gary Weglarz’s comment and your reply.
Greenwald is, or has become, an ambiguous figure.
I followed him closely for a while during his “Salon” tenure, c. 2005. He began as a centrist small-L libertarian type– a self-proclaimed “patriot”– who’d been awakened (or “woke”, as they now say) by the authoritarian policies and practices of the Bush II regime. GG became a worthwhile political and media critic– essentially, a civil-liberties reformist advocating that the corrupt US government resume honoring the Constitutional principles, and its commitment to international law, that it had shamelessly flouted and abandoned during this century.
But Greenwald parlayed his dubious role as the sole and exclusive curator, or manager, of Edward Snowden’s surreptitiously liberated trove of classified US intelligence documents into a lucrative career niche. His collaboration with the reactionary plutocrat Omidyar seems very much a “deal with the devil”.
FWIW, even though I have no animus or grudge towards Greenwald, I absolutely do not trust his stewardship of the Snowden material; I’m convinced that, either willingly or as a result of “persuasion”, his publication of (alleged) Snowden documents is fully overseen and determined by US/Western state-security services.
Apart from “The Intercept”‘s qualified, reformist support for the Democratic Party, Greenwald and Omidyar have turned the Snowden trove into a commercialized “modified limited hangout”.
Completely agree. When a news paper is unreliable and does not correct its mistakes, all trust is gone. Either/Or.
Upon a brief survey of media history it seems as though that was always the case.
The only other insight of note was actually the premise. All reporting is highly biased, political, emotional and goal oriented.
Like in other sciences, journalistic methodology is a fragile thing. You really want to embrace truth and introspection as an extremist ideology to counter that.
Why aren’t these Newspaper organisations not sanctioned, fined or punished in any way for slandering & printing false & fake information?? They need to be made accountable & be financially punished, sued & publicly shamed then forced to make retractions & the Journlists sacked & charged for character defamation! Huge compensation & apologies to the affected person that they have slandered such as Assange would then be a given? These hacks & Media Companies seem to be able to print whatever they like without any consequences & it needs to stop & these news organisations need to be held accountable for printing this garbage!
Who will sanction them? Also: it costs a lot of money to get a lawyer and sue them.
All that needs to be said about the Guardian is that it no longer employs the brilliant Jonathan Cook, Glenn Greenwald, and Seumas Milne (though the latter left voluntarily) but continues to provide a platform for retrograde Euston Manifesto-era fake-left neocons such as Nick Cohen. The only reason the paper even has the left wing reputation it does as opposed to the neo-liberal one it deserves is because of Milne’s tenure as comments editor and influence in allowing WikiLeaks, Palestine Papers, etc into the outlet. They continue to host a few truly good columnists like George Monbiot and Owen Jones so socialists won’t leave in droves in disgust at the M15/NATO bootlicking “news” section. There is a campaign right now to boycott the Guardian and those interested in reality-based media should check out the Five Filters tips on how to get the few articles you want without paying into their coffers. https://theguardian.fivefilters.org/how-to-share/
Agreed. When I see Guardian headlines and stories plucked by other sites as some authoritative breaking story, I can be almost certain the slanted deceitful reporting is convenient to the desired narrative–truth be damned.
They are struggling with finances. Yet, like other propaganda papers, they somehow survive in this harsh globalized economy.
And its obvious why: Donations (corruption) by NGOs/”philanthropic” billionaires and neoliberal governments.