Friday, April 18, 2014

April 18: Journalism and ethics

Yesterday, I gently disagreed with Norbert on the quality of BBC news; (he regarded it as a world leader.) Last night, by chance, I came across the BBC report on the Geneva talks on Ukraine.

It set the beginning of the crisis with the Russian annexation of Crimea. In fact, almost all the western press begins with that annexation. And that is propaganda and lying. The Russians annexed Ukraine for a reason. It was because highly organized street mobs had overthrown the elected government of Ukraine, replaced the government with, among others, neo-Naziis, and were planning to join Ukraine to NATO. And that would put western troops and nuclear rockets right on the Russian border.

Those street mobs, according to testimony in the US Senate, were organized, trained and equipped over a period of five years by the US government.

I've seen almost no western reports that mention that. And the BBC didn't mention it, either. Result? People have been led to believe Russia started it. It didn't.  This is the use of news as propaganda.

Then it said the Russian annexation of Crimea outraged the world? Oh? I doubt very much whether any world except North America and western Europe was outraged. And if they were outraged, then how did they feel about the American slaughters in Vietnam, Cambodia, Guatemala, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen and Pakistan (with drones) that indiscriminately killed by the millions?

So I'd like to know where the BBC got the information that the world was outraged. And, if so, why we have not heard reports of outrage over American attacks that were infinitely greater than Russia's.

Once again, this is pure propaganda.

Obama is then quoted as saying the peace talks are nice - but Russia might now use its power in a disruptive way. Isn't that a great way to welcome peace talks? In fact, all the quoted American comments carry threats There has  yet to be a single threat from Russia. But the BBC didn't notice that.

And Russia might use its power in a disruptive way? What the hell else has the US been using its power for in the last 50 years? But I have not seen any of the western media, including the BBC, say that.

And then there's this one - and it's really important. The BBC said there are reports of pro-Russian Ukrainians forcing Jews in one city to register as Jews. The reports are not verified, it said.

The reports aren't verified? Then why the hell is BBC reporting them?

And who are these reports coming from? I doubt that they're coming from Putin or from any Russian officials. That's the kind of report that would come from anti-Russian Ukrainians. But we don't know because the BBC doesn't even say where those reports come from. How could the BBC publish something as news when it doesn't even know if it happened? And how come it could do it without even telling us where the reports came from?

Because the BBC is publishing propaganda, not news. It knows that most people will read that, believe it, and say, "Oh, those terrible Russians."

Then there's the story that Russian paratroops "lost control" of their armoured vehicles when they were taken over by "pro-Russian rebels".  Other sources carried the whole truth on this one. The Ukrainian column of armoured vehicles switched sides, and went over to Russia.

A long time ago, I used to admire the BBC. But those days are long gone.

Over the years, I've had to learn to love and hate - according to rules set down by news media. I've had to learn to love Americans, British, Chinese (when the murderous drug-dealer Chiang, who was on our side, was in control), Russians (from 1941to 1945), and Japanese since 1950 or so.

 I had to learn to hate Chinese when they chased Chiang out, to hate Japanese from 1941 to the late 1940s, to hate Russians from 1945 on, to hate Syrians and Iranians.

We had to learn to hate Egyptians when they held democratic elections because they elected the wrong side. But now it's okay to love them because the military took over and has established a government more pleasing to the US.

And Cuba does terrible things. Castro established an excellent school system, medicare. And it isn't even democratic like the US. It was much better in the old days when Cuba had a murderous dictator supported by the US- and no schools and no medical care.

That BBC broadcast on Ukraine was designed as propaganda.  I'm not sure whether it was propaganda to make it appear the US  has won and to give it a graceful way out - or whether it's simply to stall for time while the US figures out what to do. But it's propaganda.

And that is what Norbert calls the best news source in the world. And, by his standards, I guess it is.

Will the peace hold? I doubt it.

The Ukraine is full of extreme groups like the Naziis who have now been trained and equipped by the US. They are very, very unlikely to disarm. It's a nation that really isn't a nation, full of ethnic groups at odds with each other. And, under its new, unelected government, it faces a horrible period of austerity.

So far, all we have is a patchwork response when we needed a full redesign of Ukraine according to the wishes of the Ukrainian people. But that ain't going to happen.

There's really nothing but fluff and chicken bones in most of the TandT today. So let's skip to editorial and op ed.

Alec Bruce has a column on government spending that's an important read. As he sees the provincial scene, New Brunswick ( like Canada as a whole,  right now) has no sense of long term planning, particularly on matters of spending. The rush is to sell resources now, get a few jobs, sell, don't think of the consequences, just sell.

That's very much the business model. There is no future. There is only now to the next election or to the next quarterly report.  He compares that to Norway, the wealthiest per capita country in the world because its governments plan for the future.

It's worth reading, perhaps a corrective for those who think the world will end if we don't get an events centre with lots of seats right now.

Speaking of planning for the future, Suzuki writes of a future without cars. Yes, it really is going to happen - and not just because of climate change. Cities need to plan for a layout that makes it possible for people to move about without cars. Unless Moncton has those changes planned and begun in the not-too-distant future, it's going to be one, awkward city to live in.

As for longer trips, most of us will live to regret the failure to spend the little that is needed to save railway traffic in this province.

The column is a bit rambling for Suzuki. But it's a good one to stir up some thinking.
There are a couple of letters to the editor which take the universities to task for not refunding students for classes cancelled in the recent strikes. I agree with them. But it goes much, much deeper.

Universities have to rethink what they are about. That is particularly true about the undergraduate level where courses are frequently a waste of time because of untrained teaching and, related to that, because so little thought has been given to the purpose of courses, especially introductory ones.

Universities need to seriously rethink the economics of teaching. If they don't, it will be done (badly) for them.

They need to rethink the wisdom of having boards loaded with businessmen,many of whom see the universities only as places that can be useful to them.

The modern university developed as a place for the children of the rich to go, often simply as a reward for finishing high school, a place to  have a good time. Most students today do not think of it like that - but the university often thinks of itself like that. That's why the school football team is so important. (There could be a whole book on that.)

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