Thursday, December 16, 2010

It's Not the Fault of the Moncton Times and Transcript

Most news media lie or, at least, mislead a good deal of the time. They're perhaps at their worst in war reporting, an area that has been a minefield of lies and propaganda ever since the development of the mass circulation newspaper in the 1880's. In the 1890s, British investors wanted a war with the Dutch colonies now called South Africe - so they could get their hands on all that gold and diamonds. The press cooperated all the way. It painted the Boers as racist (this from a Britain that was as racist as any in the world at the time). and provocative. Then, when war began, it searched desperately for good news and a hero to keep the public behind the war.

The hero turned out to be an obscure British colonel who got bottled up for six months in an even more obscure town by Boer troops. His "British" grit and courage were praised in every issue. When a British army finally got through to raise the siege, all Britain went mad in a frenzy of celebration. Mafeking had been relieved. The hero of the hour was Colonel Baden-Powell.

The British military brass wasn't as enthusiastic. Baden-Powell wasn't suppposed to be in Mafeking. There was no point to defending it. And the only reason he lasted six months was because the Boer leader was even more imcompetent than he was. In the eyes of the general staff, that fool Baden-Powell had tied up the whole British army for six months trying to save him from his own idiocy. Some wanted him court-martialled.

But they couldn't. He was a hero, thanks to the press. So they had to promote him to general, instead. Yes, all you Boy Scouts. That's the truth about Baden-Powell.

The Moncton Times - Dec. 16, section C headline. "Canada pleased with Obama surge" This refers to the US increase of troops in Afghanistan. But the story is not really about Canada or Obama. In fact, neither Canadians nor Americans are pleased about the Afghanistan war. Nor should they be.

Afghanistan is a brutal war that has destroyed at least tens of thousands of people, and created tens of thousands more of widows and orphans and cripples, elderly, children and babies who in no way deserved this. Nor is it at all clear what would be won with a military victory since the only people of that country on the US side are corrupt war lords and drug dealers.

The "Canada pleased" bit means Canadian military officers and diplomats gave the reporter some proapaganda handouts saying they were pleased. It doesn't mean that even the generals are pleased. It just means this is what they want us to believe.

Nor would any war correspondent tell the truth even if he/she saw it. Most war correspondents have always been propagandists (liars) for the government and the gnenerals. "Embedding" them with the troops just tightens the screws by putting them officially under military command, and placing them under social pressure from the rest of the army. There's a good history of this, a book called "The First Casualty".

And, well, it's partly the fault of The Moncton Times and Transcript - and of most other papers in North America. They publish news from obviously biased news agencies such as Postmedia. (Significantly, the North American press has largely censored itself so it is not telling us much about the really bad parts of Wikileaks. The press has long since lost the habit of even trying to tell the truth.)

The best thing to do is to scan the web for papers and agencies like Britain's The Manchester Guardian or The Independent, Israel's El Haaretz, the Arab world's Al Jazeera....One can't guarantee honest reporting from any one source - but those four beat Postmedia, The Globe, and just about anything in North America by a mile.

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