Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

When is an Aid Worker not an Aid Worker? Or the BBC’s use of language

March 13, 2011

“Cuba jails US aid worker Alan Gross” – thus runs a BBC headline on the fact that the Cubans have gaoled a US citizen in Cuba. I don’t know about anyone else, but when I hear the term aid worker, I think of someone working for a non-governmental organisation such as the Red Cross or Trócaire or Oxfam. What I don’t think of is someone undertaking illegal work as a contractor for a US governmental agency aimed at changing the political system of a country that the US has blockaded for 5 decades. It might just be me, but this language seems very much like an attempt to put as anti-Cuban a spin as possible on this story. Compare it to the description of the Miami Five who were engaged in anti-terrorism work here. Someone at the BBC – like the entire newsroom – needs to learn what objectivity is.

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You know the bourgeoisie are feeling the pinch…

August 27, 2010

when stories like this appear in the Telegraph.

Most Unexpected Sentence Ever?

January 28, 2010

Just spotted the following sentence in a column by Simon Jenkins in the Guardian for January 27th. I love it.

It was a typical Thatcher lurch into Leninism.

Profiteering from Death?

November 23, 2009

Interesting story in today’s Sunday Times about the price of death notices in newspapers. We all know that the newspaper industry is an industry in crisis, that ad revenues have been falling, and that many titles are struggling to survive. We also know that over much of Ireland there are many thousands of people for whom the death notices are the most important part of a newspaper – you only have to look at the Irish News or the Anderstown News to see how important. So there is something about this that leaves a very bad taste in the mouth, especially given the importance of death notices in working-class communities.

The cost of placing a death notice in Ireland’s national newspapers has increased by up to 17% in the past three years, more than five times the rate of inflation. Charges have also been introduced to view funeral arrangements online.

It’s hard to argue with the Consumers’ Association of Ireland.

Dermott Jewell, its chief executive, said: “This is an area where consumers don’t want to question prices. They are not in anything resembling a frame of mind to query costs.”

However, like everything else, it seems things are beginning to move with the times, with the emergence of the free website Rip.ie. I’m not saying newspapers shouldn’t charge for death notices, but 300 euro seems like a hell of a lot. The profit imperative as usual steamrollers human decency.

Griffin on Question Time

October 22, 2009

This is also over at Cedar Lounge Revolution.

I have to say I was never spectacularly exercised by this issue of the BNP’s leader Nick Griffin appearing Question Time. I think the British far left’s obsession with them is way over the top, and often has more to do with trying to give their own members something to do and to recruit new members than anything else. Having watched the show, the whole thing was a waste of time, and you would thiink that the only political issue of the week was the BNP – basically the whole show except for about 8 minutes on the Daily Mail on Stephen Gateley was about them, and even that became about them to an extent. Naturally the overwhelming majority of the audience and the other people on the panel, not to mention the BBC’s David Dimbleby, were all determined to show that they abhor the BNP. Tell me something I don’t know.

Having said that, there was one issue worthy of serious consideration for the left. During the inevitable debate on immigration, Griffin must have been sitting laughing to listen to the representatives of the mainstream parties vie with each other to sound opposed to immigration. I found Sayeeda Warsi, the Tory Shadow Minister for Community Cohesion, repeating the mantra of “we must have an honest debate about this” particularly nauseating. Jack Straw did make the point that he was having an honest debate. I thought that was an important point. The right tries to get round this issue by saying that anyone not calling for immigration to be effectively halted is being dishonest. That is in fact the most dishonest contribution possible to the discussion of immigration. It’s clear though that the left in Britain has some serious work to do on the issue of immigration. Serious work.

The last question was whether the programme represented an early Christmas present for the BNP. It’s hard to say. Griffin did not a bad job, trying to defuse things through laughter and referring to the other panelists by their first name as though he was just a normal panelist. He did though let the mask slip somewhat over homosexuality (although if I recall right Searchlight had some interesting things to say about Nick Griffin and this issue), and when he denounced the BBC as part of an ultra-leftist establishment. He also was exposed as effectively telling lies on several occasions. The Labour and Tory representatives were convinced they had exposed the BNP, and to an extent that is what happened, with some of Griffin’s more embarassing comments being displayed to the public. Having said that, there was quite a lot where Griffin appeared perfectly in line with the rest of the panel, and as I noted already, there can be no doubt that his party has succeeded in driving the immigration debate to the right.

So I think Griffin will be happy enough, but so will the other panelists. The real question it seems to me though is what happens when the BNP is on next time. Even if it’s only once a year, you can’t keep having the should they be part of the show in the first place debate. By its nature they are going to be normalised to some extent. But we cannot forget the reasons they are there in the first place. They have two European seats. So they already have quite a lot of credibility. Being on Question Time or not won’t change that. Only work on the ground, and possibly there own stupidity, will. I remember seeing an interview with Warren Mitchell, who played Alf Garnett. He said people would come up to him and praise him for sticking it to the black people. And so it is with Griffin – people will have seen what they wanted to see regardless.

Muslim Scare Story Spreads to Africa

September 21, 2009

I can just imagine the joy at the Daily Telegraph when they saw the recent statements from the new head of the Anglican church in Nigeria. He claims that Muslims are applying industrial techniques to procreation to vanquish Anglicanism.

That is the type of evangelism they are doing: mass-production, so if you have four wives, four children, sixteen children, very soon you will be a village.

This man should be embarassed. Especially when one of the criticisms of his church from pro-gay Anglicans was that they allowed polygamy. Oops.

Lying about Seán Garland

August 25, 2009

Here is the text of a thread I’ve started over on Politics.ie

Yesterday’s British Independent contained an article that contained a number of outright and ridiculous lies against Seán Garland, written by a journalist with a track record of writing stories that promote the discredited neo-con agenda. The lies contained in the article reveal the real truth about the attempt to extradite Seán Garland, and why we must oppose the Extradition.

The article claims that The Workers’ Party is a “far-left faction…that had never elected a single one of its members to any mainstream political body.”

This is a lie. In fact, The Workers’ Party at its height had 7 TDs and an MEP, as well asmany councillors north and south. It retains elected councillors to this day.

The article claims that “Garland was a lifelong terrorist who had personally engaged in deadly attacks on British soldiers and police in Northern Ireland since the 1950s, and whose exploits were said to have inspired Tom Clancy’s novel Patriot Games…in the 1990s, Garland…rejected the idea of a peace deal in favour of the continuation of bombings, bank robberies and other politically-motivated crimes.”

This is a lie. In fact, Garland was central to securing the (Official) IRA ceasefire in1972, and the transformation of the (Official) Republican Movement into a democratic socialist party. The Workers’ Party for decades has promoted Peace, Work, Democracy and Class Politics, and supported the Good Friday Agreement. Reverend Chris Hudson, the Chair of the campaign against the extradition and former organiser of the Peace Train movement, has stated that it is Garland’s long-term efforts to bring peace that persuaded him to become involved in the campaign.

The article claims that “Bills from the same series turned up a year later in Lebanon’s Bekka Valley, leading to suspicion that the supernote was being printed in the Islamic Republic of Iran, which needed foreign currency to fund an estimated $100 million a year in donations to Hezbollah and other terrorist organisations – who, as it happened, were being trained in bomb-making in Lebanon by Sean Garland. Intelligence analysts noted that Iran had taken delivery of two intaglio printing presses shortly before the fall of the Shah, who had sent a team of 20 master engravers to be trained by the Federal Bureau of Engraving in the US.”

This is a lie. In fact, Seán Garland is a revolutionary socialist. The Workers’ Party aims at the creation of a democratic, secular, socialist unitary state on the island of Ireland – a Republic. The Workers’ Party has been prominent in pushing for the secularisation of Irish society north and south. The idea that Seán Garland had any links to militant Islamists is laughable. And the idea that he was out in Lebanon teaching anyone how to make bombs is beneath contempt. The attempt to link Seán Garland to Islamism is designed to distract attention from a plausible alternative origin for the counterfeit notes that undercuts the neo-con case.

The rest of the article offers no evidence against Seán Garland, and is based largely on the assertions of a man so dedicated to neo-con politics that he resigned from the Bush regime on the grounds that it had gone soft.

The neo-cons lied to us all to start the war in Iraq. And they are lying to us to try and frustrate efforts to secure a peaceful settlement and reconciliation on the Korean peninsula, and using lies against Seán Garland to further their agenda. We must remember that one of Condeleeza Rice’s last acts in the dying days of the Bush regime was to sign the extradition request against Seán Garland, knowing full well that it would raise tensions on the Korean peninsula, and make efforts at a peaceful settlement by the Koreans and the Obama regime more difficult. We must not be fooled by their lies.

The case against Seán Garland is non-existent – the neo-cons know that it would never stand up in an unbiased court. That is why they sought his extradition. Mention the words “Korea” and “Communism” in an American court, and a conviction is guaranteed. There is no chance of a fair trial. Garland is 75, and suffering several severe medical problems, including two forms of cancer. The attempt to extradite is a violation of natural justice.

That is why the campaign against the extradition has secured widespread support, from MEPs, TDs and Senators across the political spectrum, from FF, FG, Labour, SF and the SP. Garland has also secured the support of unionist politicians, as well as the trade unions, and prominent figures from the cultural sphere. The attempt to extradite Seán Garland is unjust. Add your voice to those opposing it. As we can see from this article, it is built on lies, and aimed solely at promoting the agenda of neo-cons whose lies have resulted in war before.

Click on the link to the Stop the Extradition of Seán Garland campaign to learn more, and sign the online petition against the extradition.

Muslim Europe: The Scare Story du jour

August 8, 2009

The day after I read this excellent article on the BBC website debunking an Islamicphobic YouTube video, along comes this load of nonsense from the Daily Telegraph (and an Editor’s Choice on its website no less). Serendipity or what?

Here are some of the crazy predictions from the YouTube video, taken from the BBC report

Of the video’s claims that 90% of Europe’s population growth since 1990 is due Islamic immigration, only a fragment is true. Immigration is the main driver of population growth according to EU statistics and in some exceptional years, 90% of population growth has been down to net inward migration.
But that includes all immigrants coming into the EU, not just Muslims.

In the Netherlands, according to the video, half of all newborns are Muslim, and in 15 years half the population will be Muslim.
But the Dutch office of statistics estimates that Muslims make up only 5% of the population. For Dutch Muslim women to produce half the nation’s babies, they would have to be giving birth at at least 14 times the rate of their non-Muslim neighbours.

But the video doesn’t just rely on statistics, it also uses an official Government statement. It quotes it as saying: “The fall in German population can no longer be stopped. Its downward spiral is no longer reversible. It will be a Muslim state by the year 2050.”

The statement in question was made by then vice-president of the Federal Statistics Office, Walter Radermacher, who is now chief statistician of the European Union. He says that while it is true he said Germany’s population was in decline, the last part of the quote [in italics] is just an invention. He said nothing about Germany becoming a Muslim state.

“The quotation which reads as if the German government believed that Germany will become a Muslim state is simply not true,” he says. “There is no source which can be quoted that the German government has published such an expression or opinion.”
The video also claims the German government believes the number of Muslims in Europe will double to 104 million.
Mr Radermacher adds: “That is not true. The German government does not believe that the Muslim population will double in the next 40 or 50 years. There are no reliable sources that give a proof for that assumption.”

So as we can see, the video is a mish-mash of misused statistics and outright lies. Can we say the same of the Daily Telegraph article? Well firstly we should note this (the article is headlined Muslim Europe: the demographic timebomb transforming our continent)

Britain and the rest of the European Union are ignoring a demographic time bomb: a recent rush into the EU by migrants, including millions of Muslims, will change the continent beyond recognition over the next two decades, and almost no policy-makers are talking about it.

There is a very disingenuous elision of Europe with the EU here, especially from a newspaper which has a far from glorious track record of complaing about immigration into Britain from countries that are now part of the EU and that aren’t Muslim. The misuse of statistics follows shortly afterwards

The numbers are startling. Only 3.2 per cent of Spain’s population was foreign-born in 1998. In 2007 it was 13.4 per cent. Europe’s Muslim population has more than doubled in the past 30 years and will have doubled again by 2015.

Of course, no mention of what proportion of that foreign-born population is Muslim. And definitely no mention of what proportion of that population is made of ex-patriot British people. Quite a high proportion I suspect.

In Brussels, the top seven baby boys’ names recently were Mohamed, Adam, Rayan, Ayoub, Mehdi, Amine and Hamza.

But let’s put that in perspective from the BBC report

Is 25% of the Belgian population Muslim, as the video asserts? No. The Belgian office of statistics points to a 2008 study which suggests the real figure is just 6%.

And so on. The Telegraph article mentions the fact that the US Air Force commissioned a study to examine the possible implications of Muslim population growth within Europe. It estimated in 2006 that there were 15 million Muslims in Europe, maybe as many as 23 million. To put that in persepective, the EU population in 2005 was over 450 million. So Muslims are considerably less than 10% of the population, 5% at most. The fact that the US Air Force commissioned a study is presented as significant, as opposed to the standard type of analysis and planning that goes on by every military. It means nothing. As for the report commissioned by the US Air Force itself, the contradictory nature of the following sentence gives an indication of how seriously we should take it.

“Faced with rapidly growing, disenfranchised and increasingly politically empowered Muslim populations within the borders of some of its oldest and strongest allies, the US could be faced with ever stronger challenges to its Middle East foreign policies.”

I’m no fan of political Islam. Or mixing politics with any other type of religion. Any mixing of religion and politics is inherently reactionary, although the extreme forms of political Islam are among the most reactionary politics in the world today. However, as far as I am aware, there are no Islamists anywhere in Parliament in any European Union country. There is no Islamist bloc in the European Parliament. And there are certainly no Islamist parties acting as partners in government. We cannot, however, say the same of the extreme right who are seeking to exploit fears of Muslims with the type of video referred to in the BBC report. If there is a threat to European norms and values today, it comes from that source, not from political Islam, and certainly not from Muslims in general.

In other words then, a Muslim Europe is pure fantasy, the fear-cum-pornography of the extreme right. Nothing more and nothing less. We must expose it for what it is.

UPDATE: This thread from P.ie has a lot of useful links about the same issue.

How History and Myth are created: An Example

June 2, 2009

Lalkar 1

As we all know, 1989 saw the collapse of the socialist states in eastern Europe, as well as the Chinese state not collapsing but employing military force against a challenge to its authority. These events are popularly know as the Tiananmen Square massacre, and the memory in the west, based on reporting at the time, is of tanks rolling over and shooting students in the Square. The image above, taken from Lalkar for May/June 2009 (the paper has its own website if anyone wants to follow it up and read the whole thing), is of an article from its August/September 1989 edition that challenged this narrative, accusing the western media of fabrication, and which unambiguously supported the Chinese government. It comes, effectively, from the CPGB (M-L), whose main figure is Harpal Brar, formerly resident in Dublin and of whom more can be read in the Left Archive.

I have posted the above image only because of this story from the BBC’s Beijing correspondent of the time, James Miles. Miles openly states that he and the other western journalists are responsible for the creation of a myth of a massacre in the Square, based on false testimony from locals. He does however state that they got the story generally right. This is on the grounds that violence did take place elsewhere in the city, and that their description of the aims of the protestors were correct.

The whole thing is an interesting insight into the nature of journalism, political progaganda, and the formation of public opinion and memory. Worth thinking about for our own island when we see so much history being falsified and adjusted to current political concerns, especially in the north. At one level, this is fairly harmless, such as when Gerry Adams mistakenly recollects singing a song in gaol that had not yet been released while he was there. At another level, it is a lot more harmful, such as when the discriminatory practices of the unionist regime are whitewashed or when state brutality is covered up or the sectarian realities of many murders and bombings are denied, either by politicians or academics. Competing versions of Irish history will always exist, but they don’t have to be a poison sickening the body politic.

The Irish Right at War

February 27, 2009

I’ve just put this up over on Cedar Lounge, but I’m sticking it up here too. Because I can.

There has already been some mention here of the remarkable ten minute televisual feast that was Junior Finance Minister Martin Mansergh and Margaret Ward of the Irish Times debating the southern economy on Hearts and Minds last night. Available to us all thanks to Pete Baker at Sluggerotoole. Without him some of us may have been denied the opportunity to see Mansergh demonstrating that he is not cut out for the cut and thrust of frontline politics by nearly losing it. Noel Thompson’s introduction pulled no punches, describing the Celtic Tiger as “toothless tabby” and the south set to be the worst performing developed economy in the EU, as well as raising the issue of a European bailout. Margaret Ward has offered her account of the debate, and I want to pick up on some of what she said, and how it relates to the emerging discourse of crisis we discussed here.

So what was Ward saying? She accused the government of fiddling while Rome burned, arguing that its inaction was itself a form of action. Here is her own paraphrase of what she said

Paraphrasing it I basically said this was an emergency and that we were at war for our economic survial. It was
time for unity. The time for party politics is over. We all need to come together, start talking to the social partners and make cuts
across the board. Why isn’t the Financial Regulator organisation in the dustbin? All senior bank management still not gone?
People are frightened – they’re losing their jobs, emigrating, huge numbers of small businesses are failing with banks refusing to
make loans…They need some hope.” I asked him loads of questions and asked him what they were doing about it. Why weren’t
they asking for help from the extraordinarily intelligent experts we have in this country? Why weren’t they communicating a plan to
the people?

As with Eoghan Harris, John Gormley and others, Margaret Ward is convinced that there is something rotten in the state of the Irish economy, and that we are now fighting for our very life. Engaged in a war no less. I’ll come back to the implications of this argument at the end. However, unlike them she believes that the corruption scandals have hurt the Irish economy in the eyes of the world.

If you are not extremely angry about what is going on then you should be. Ireland will be bankrupt in about 12 months. We are burning through about €1 billion or so a week. Internationally, Ireland Inc. is viewed as corrupt country where cronyism is rife and that’s accurate. Are you happy with that reputation? I’m not. It’s embarrassing. We ALL have to inform ourselves about the FACTS and then take action – quickly.

She was more explicit on Sluggerotoole

No one wants to lend to us because we are seen as corrupt fraudsters. As a result, we pay more to borrow money than other countries.

The other half of her argument was that the government was not ensuring that enough money was getting to private enterprise from the banks, and that a new bank should be created by the state to loan to small business. No arguments from me about the need for a new bank, about the need to ensure that businesses do not go to the wall where possible, but of course we also need to expand this to individuals, and especially to their mortgages.

It’s fair to say that Mansergh was not best pleased with her attitude and arguments. It’s also fair to say that I find myself in the unpleasant and unexpected position of being on his side of the argument. Mansergh made the point that the government was not going to clobber the people all at once. Ward’s response was an outraged and repeated “Why not?” The implications of her question are remarkable. While trying to appear as the voice of the man on the street, alone, abandoned and ignored by government, the actual consequences of her policies being adopted are simple. She said the government needed to talk to the people, to communicate with it. That is all well and good. But what does it seem she thinks the government should actually be saying? We are cutting your wages, your benefits, your public services, your schools, your hospitals, and our commitments to you and to social welfare. Instead we are going to concentrate on ensuring that we give money to business so that if you are lucky some of this will trickle down to you (because there was no mention of helping individuals out, just businesses). This is her version of offering the people hope. Spare us.

As I’ve noted already, this argument is being made by a range of government and media figures in the language of war. Ward in fact argued that there was a danger of being “economically colonised” by Europe. Yet it never seems to dawn on any of them to ask what governments do during times of war. Do they cut public spending? Do they reduce their activity? Do they downsize their role in the economy and in the lives of the citizens? Of course not. In order to win a war, the government takes into its own hands the direction of the entire economy. It creates new factories and new jobs. It suspends political ideology in favour of the efficiency offered by the collective energies of the people harnessed by the state. Perhaps when they meditate a little more on that, Ward and co might rethink their use of the terminology, or even the supposed solutions they are offering to the crisis.