ICE blogs

January 12, 2018

Bumper Orwell journal issue focuses on teaching and Labour

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism, new books — news_editor @ 5:29 pm

A new, bumper, 148-page edition of George Orwell Studies has just been published featuring nine essays on ‘Orwell and teaching’ and ‘Orwell and the Labour Party’.

Tim Luckhurst and Lesley Phippen examine the 1944 controversy between Orwell and pacifist Vera Brittain in their chapter ‘Obliteration Bombing and the Tolerance in Wartime of Dissent in Weekly Political Publications’. Henk Vynckier explores the issues which arose when he dispensed with traditional textbooks and adopted e-texts and other online materials while teaching Orwell in Taiwan; Tim Crook investigates Orwell’s own experiences teaching; Jon Preston draws on his experience in the classroom to show how studying Animal Farm can help students discover their authentic voices; and Philip Palmer, in an article titled ‘The Rhetoric of Doublethink’, argues that Orwell was a visionary who attacked lies through a ‘plain’ prose that rang true in every phrase, yet he also used rhetorical strategies with skill and creative guile.

Finally, in this section, Sean Cubitt analyses how the theme of hate depicted in Nineteen Eighty-Four has been transformed in various representations – such as in the BBC’s live television production by Nigel Kneale and Rudolf Cartier in 1954 and in Ridley Scott’s commercial for Apple computers in 1984. He concludes: ‘The hate of today is not to be found on television, in advertising campaigns or festival documentaries but in Twitter storms and social media bullying.’ All these pieces follow on from the symposium held at Goldsmiths, University of London, in June 2017 on ‘Teaching Orwell’.

In the second special section, John Newsinger considers Orwell’s attitudes to the Labour Party and, in particular, the Atlee government; Philip Bounds looks in detail at Orwell’s assessments of Labour leaders Cripps, Bevan and Attlee while Paul Anderson asks: ‘So what kind of democratic socialist was Orwell?’

Completing the bumper issue, Oriol Quintana, in analysing Orwell’s Coming Up for Air (1939), asks whether it is a call for action or passive resistance and Harry Bark contributes a fascinating paper: ‘Death, Hegemony and Masks: Reimagining Theories of resistance Through the Writings of George Orwell.’

• George Orwell Studies, Vol. 2, No. 1; ISSN 2399-1267; details on subscriptions available at http://www.abramis.co.uk/george-orwell-studies/about.htm

December 15, 2017

Scandal of jailed journalists

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism, conflict, human rights — news_editor @ 5:15 pm

Some 262 journalists are currently in jails around the world – an increase on last year’s historical high of 259. Turkey is again the worst jailer, with 73 journalists imprisoned for their work.

China and Egypt again take the second and third spot, with 41 and 20 cases respectively. The worst three jailers are responsible for jailing 134– or 51 per cent– of the total. Nearly all the jailed journalists are local and the per centage of freelances is higher this year, accounting for 29 per cent of cases.

Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, commented: “In a just society, no journalist should ever be imprisoned for their work and reporting critically, but 262 are paying that price. It is shameful that for the second year in a row, a record number of journalists are behind bars. Countries that jail journalists for what they publish are violating international law and must be held accountable. The fact that repressive governments are not paying a price for throwing journalists in jail represents a failure of the international community.’

Other leading jailers of journalists in 2017 are Eritrea, with 15 cases, and Azerbaijan and Vietnam, with 10 cases each.

Two journalists jailed in China, including Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, died just weeks after being released on medical parole. In Egypt, CPJ found over half of the jailed journalists had health conditions.

The jail census accounts only for journalists in government custody and does not include those who have disappeared or are held captive by non-state groups, such as several Yemeni journalists CPJ believes to be held by the Ansar Allah movement, known as the Houthis. These cases are classified as ‘missing’ or ‘abducted’.

• See https://cpj.org/reports/2017/12/journalists-prison-jail-record-number-turkey-china-egypt.php.

December 12, 2017

How conflict is covered

T. J. Coles reviews Covering conflict: The making and unmaking of new militarism, by Richard Lance Keeble (Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, Abramis)

Richard Keeble has written a book about the anti-democratic, frequently deceptive ‘military/industrial/intelligence/media complex’ (p. 2) A second, updating edition of one of his previous books, Secret state, silent press (p. 1), the book is more a critique of the underlying structures of mass media and journalism than it is of individual journalists, many of whom do a fine job within the limits imposed upon them by the nature of the mass market and, of course, the secret state. By 1990, the UK had more than 100 laws prohibiting the disclosure of supposedly sensitive information, making it one of the most secretive states in the word (p. 23).

Keeble’s book is as much, perhaps more, about omission in mainstream media as it is about content: for instance, the lack of the coverage of underlying causes of war and of civilian casualties. This creates a framework in which power is unaccountable and government decisions are undemocratic.

In Chapter One, Keeble argues that the ‘old’ militarism was conscription-based. But, with the triumph of the Labour Party after World War Two, and, perhaps more importantly, the acquisition of nuclear weapons by the UK and US, a ‘new’ militarism gradually emerged. Private media, linked in various ways to the deep state, smeared any moves from sectors of the public and the Labour Party (then under Michael Foot) towards unilateral nuclear disarmament (p. 19).

As British institutions appeared to become more democratic, the military, particularly in light of its new high-tech developments putting humans increasingly out of the loop, became more secretive. Parallel to these developments was the evolution in media of war as a spectacle. Perhaps the most important development was the manufacturing via institutional structures of faux audience participation. By this, Keeble (pp 7-8) refers to the ‘live’ nature of war coverage thanks to satellite television, as pioneered during the coverage of the Gulf War 1991. As secrecy intensified, commercial secrecy in the international arms trade, where Britain was and remains a big player, also grew (pp 18-19). Keeble argues that the state ‘was seen as vulnerable to threat from technological advances within the media. In the event, the US invasions of the 1980s culminating in the attack on Iraq, showed that the new media technologies were, in fact, highly vulnerable to manipulation by the state’ (p. 14).

Chapter Two concerns journalists and the secret state. In this chapter, Keeble, careful to emphasise that the security state is not monolithic, reviews the deep state nexus, documenting the incestuous connections of the police, military police forces, special forces, foreign intelligence agencies and the infrastructure that holds them together. Keeble then goes on to discuss those journalists who are connected in one way or the other to the intelligence services. Keeble’s subchapter on what he calls the ‘conspiracy theory conundrum’ (p. 65) argues that the entire military-industrial-media complex operates to a significant extent on conspiracy. Yet when researchers ‘highlight its significance [they are] accused of lacking academic rigour and promoting “conspiracy theory”’. Keeble concludes, cautiously, that ‘conspiratorial elements have to be acknowledged’ at times, when discussing media and war reporting.

Chapter Three concerns what Keeble calls an emergence of a new militarist consensus. There was a near-consensus against war in the US among the general public but, as Keeble notes, the public has become increasingly alienated from the workings of the state, due in part to the media. By the time of the Gulf War 1991, coverage had changed to distance audiences at home from the horror of carpet bombing (or ‘precision bombing’ in the propaganda nomenclature) abroad. In the UK, the Labour government under Jim Callaghan had prepared for an invasion of the Falklands Islands/Malvinas by Argentina (which claims the islands as its rightful, post-colonial territory) as early as 1977. The Falklands War of 1982 ‘set a hugely significant precedent’, says Keeble (p. 93), helping in the creation of a ‘permanent war economy’ (p. 95). Photographs, film and reports were deliberately delayed by the military, correspondents were embedded in heavily controlled pools with the armed forces while other journalists were blacklisted.

In Chapter Four, Keeble studies the cases of the US’s Grenada invasion of 1983 and the ‘Irangate’ scandal of 1985-1987. The idea that instant global communication allows unprecedented, uncensored access to war coverage is a myth, he suggests. In Grenada, a carefully managed media campaign succeeded in covering up the number of casualties, presenting the invasion as an instant response to alleged transgressions, exaggerating the threat of Grenada to US interests and selling the war to the American public with a 71 per cent approval rating. ‘Irangate’ or the Iran-Contra Affair, involved elements of the US military illegally selling arms, via conduits in Israel, to Iran, one of America’s official enemies, to fund its illegal activities in Nicaragua. The Pentagon-led media strategy over so-called Low Intensity Conflict ‘prioritised covert warfare’ (p. 121), making journalistic investigations very difficult. Interestingly, no significant investigation, both at the media or governmental levels, followed the revelations of the foreign editor of Hearst newspapers, John Wallach, concerning ‘Irangate’ in June 1985. It was only after a Lebanese newspaper reported on the events in November 1986 that the international media chased the story.

In Chapter Five, Keeble argues that the new militarism, being contingent on public ignorance of Third World dynamics, sought to portray Saddam Hussein, the dictator of Iraq, as a villain in a simplistic struggle between good and evil. When Saddam was an ally of the US and Great Britain during the 1980s, media coverage of his atrocities was ‘restrained’ (p. 128). Keeble gives the example of Halabja 1988, when 5,000 Kurds were slaughtered. ‘Little blame was levelled personally at Saddam Hussein in the press’ (ibid). When Saddam became the enemy, he was rapidly labelled ‘Hitler’ (p. 134).

Chapter Six highlights the lack of media questioning concerning the motives for supporting dictators and arms sales, and in waging war. Sticking with the example of the Gulf War 1991, Keeble notes that few reports of the period asked what the war was really all about. The veneer painted by the media was that of Saddam raving against Kuwait for stealing Iraq’s oil and blaming US allies for driving down oil prices. A deeper context is imperialism, particularly British, given the UK’s role in the war. Keeble goes on to note ‘secret’ wars (i.e., those ignored or marginalised in the corporate media) in the decades leading up to the Gulf War. These include Oman (1968-1977) and the inevitable collusion with the expanding US empire.

In Chapter Seven, Keeble argues that the media shaped public opinion about war in several ways. After Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, ‘Most of the press had no time for talk – they wanted war and right now’ (p. 165). The tabloids’ warmongering was predictable. But what were the motivations of the so-called left-leaning press? Keeble quotes the Guardian’s then-principal feature writer, Martin Woollacott, who says that his colleagues were divided over how to cover the war, referring to diplomacy versus military action. By the end of August 1990, however, the majority of Independent articles supported war. Keeble then goes on to document how newspapers sought to exclude critical voices. On the manipulation of public opinion, the supposedly more liberal media constructed polls as to avoid the option of peace negotiations and even asked the public if they would support assassinating Saddam (p. 176).

Chapter Eight concerns the modes of censorship employed by the Ministry of Defence and the media itself in (mis)reporting the war. Correspondents were ‘pooled’ in hotels and carefully managed by the US military. ‘The highest contingents in the press corps’ were American and British (p. 184). The non-pooled journalists were expected to stay in hotels. Learning their lessons of embedding in the Falklands War, direct censorship was not needed because journalists had ‘bonded’ (p. 191) with their military counterparts and were thus less likely to write critically about them.

Returning to the theme of high-tech war, as ushered in by the nuclear age, Chapter Nine traces the history of ‘nukespeak’ (Chilton quoted on p. 198) to the development of so-called high-precision weapons as used in the Gulf War 1991. Coupled with the other factors analysed in previous chapters, the media’s handling of high-tech weapons further sought to dehumanise Iraqis.

Chapter Ten argues that the casualty disparity between the allied forces and the Iraqi forces was so large that it was not really a ‘war’: more a series of massacres of a largely defenceless ‘enemy’. On the occasion that civilian atrocity stories did make it to print or television, the mantra was to blame Saddam Hussein.

Chapter Eleven moves on from the Middle East and into Somalia and Yugoslavia. As the United States launched Operation Restore Hope in 1992, supposedly to end a famine which was ending anyway, the US government ensured its business relations with US energy giants operating in the country remained secure. In Serbia in 1999, NATO launched a supposed humanitarian war to save Kosovar Albanians, some of whom (such as the Kosovo Liberation Army) were linked to al-Qaeda and trained by US and British forces. In defence of the KLA, the US-led NATO bombed Serbia, preparing the way for the independence of Kosovo nearly a decade later in 2008. Just as the US blamed Saddam for US-led atrocities in Iraq, Serbia’s President Milošević was blamed for what NATO did to his country.

In Chapter Twelve, Keeble argues that the Gulf War of 2003 was a ‘myth’ (p. 265): the threat posed by Saddam and his supposed Weapons of Mass Destruction was almost entirely a fabrication, the Iraqi armed forces collapsed quickly, and massive fire-power (‘shock and awe’) quickly destroyed the civilian infrastructure. Media management was essentially a repeat of the Gulf War 1991 and Serbia 1999: the Pentagon devised a large-scale (dis)information campaign, the secret state operated without public or media oversight and, disturbingly, the number of Western journalists killed in the war reached 15.

The concluding Chapter Thirteen is unusual in that it criticises the pretext for war in Afghanistan in 2001: something that many scholars, including those critical of the invasion of Iraq 2003, failed to do. The war script – a deadly enemy, precision weapons, etc – was rehashed, this time to more effect than in previous conflicts due to the then-recent 9/11 atrocities which convinced most Britons and Americans that al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, together with their Taliban sponsors, must be destroyed. As the US-British occupation continued, the enemy used ever-deadly methods of resistance, or terrorism as Western media called it. These included suicide bombings and improvised explosive devices. In 2010, Britain and France signed a defence cooperation treaty. Within a year, both countries joined the US via NATO in destroying Libya. Keeble also deals with the 2013 war, led by France, against elements operating in Mali.

In the Conclusion, Keeble summarises the grim reality of war: civilian casualties, soldier casualties, and financial expenditure, which could have been invested in more progressive programmes at home. The high-tech, highly-controlled informational nature of the so-called new militarism has morphed into ‘disaster militarism’ (p. 315).

Keeble’s book balances accessibility with scholarly rigour. It is an important contribution to the literature concerning media coverage of conflict and the growth of an increasingly out-of-control security state.

Dr T. J. Coles is a guest of the School of Art and Humanities at the University of Plymouth, UK, and the author of several books, including Britain’s secret wars and Fire and fury (both Clairview Books). His latest, Human wrongs (Iff Books), is due to be published in 2018.

September 19, 2017

‘Fake news has been around for over a century’

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism — news_editor @ 11:59 am

The current focus on ‘fake news’ belies the fact that the manipulation of beliefs through propaganda has been a persistent feature of the political landscape for over a century, Professor Piers Robinson, of the University of Sheffield, said recently in a talk accompanying the exhibition, After the Fact. Propaganda in the 21st Century, at the Lenbachhaus, in Munich. Below follows an article written by Professor Robinson summarising his talk.

Political debate today is frequently dominated by controversy over ‘fake news’ and we are regularly informed that various actors, from the ‘alt right’ to the ‘alt left’ and Russia, are targeting Western publics with this form of manipulated and distorted information. The focus of the fake news debate, however, belies the fact that the manipulation of beliefs through propaganda has been a persistent feature of the political landscape for over a century. In fact, the art of propaganda was widely debated in the first part of the 20th century with key thinkers such as Edward Bernays, Walter Lippman and Harold Lasswell openly advocating its use in order to shape public beliefs, behaviours and to manufacture consent (Lippman).

Since then, however, new terms have come into circulation to describe propaganda. As Bernays explained, ‘propaganda got to be a bad word because of the Germans … using it [during World War One]. So what I did was to … find some other words. So we found the words Counsel on Public Relations’. Today a euphemism industry abounds and terms such as strategic communication, perception management, public diplomacy, political marketing, advertising, information operations and psychological operations (psy ops) have been added to public relations. In short, propaganda has been successfully rebranded and our awareness of the extent to which we are all subject to it has been blunted.

Propaganda can have huge consequences. A now seminal example of contemporary propaganda was the campaign waged by the US and UK governments to persuade everyone that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). It is now well documented that the US and UK governments manipulated intelligence in order to present Iraq as much more threatening than it actually was. Sir John Chilcot, Chair of the recently published six-year-long Iraq War Inquiry, stated to the BBC that Prime Minister Tony Blair had not been ‘straight’ with the British public. The war in Iraq has killed hundreds of thousands of people, perhaps more, and the conflict continues to this day. But it now appears likely that a much larger deception has been at work. Chilcot’s report revealed damning indicative evidence that, from the start, a plan to attack multiple countries was put into play immediately following 9/11. Chilcot’s report published Bush-Blair communications from the immediate aftermath of 9/11 which discussed phases one and two of the ‘war on terror’ and indicated debate over when to ‘hit’ countries unconnected with Al Qaeda, such as Iraq, Syria and Iran.

Remarkably, Chilcot also reported a British embassy cable issued just days after 9/11 which stated ‘the “regime-change hawks” in Washington are arguing that a coalition put together for one purpose (against international terrorism) could be used to clear up other problems in the region’. By releasing these documents, Chilcot corroborated former Supreme Allied Commander Wesley Clark’s claim that he was informed immediately after 9/11 that seven countries, including Syria and Iran, were to be taken out in five years. All of this evidence provides powerful initial confirmation that the so-called ‘war on terror’, sold to Western publics as a fight against Al Qaeda-linked terrorism, was actually about pursuing geo-strategic interests via a ‘regime change’ strategy. Moreover, there are reasons to believe that the current wars in Libya, Syria and Yemen are linked, relatively directly, with this same strategy. As such, it appears increasingly likely that the ‘war on terror’ narrative has performed significantly, perhaps mainly, as a propaganda strategy designed to mobilise Western publics to support regime change wars that have little to do with the terrorism associated with 9/11. This, potentially, is a major deception and millions have died as a result.

Propaganda, then, is not something from the distant past, or something that is the sole preserve of political extremists or the latest ‘official enemy’. It is alive and well right in the heart of our own democracies. What needs to be done? Within academia, the disciplines of political science, sociology and communication studies need once again to take propaganda seriously, and start to determine the extent to which the very functioning of contemporary liberal democracy has been undermined by it. More generally, we all need to think critically about the information we receive. In practical terms this means that we should not blindly accept what we are told by powerful political actors. Just because we are told by our governments that Russia is threatening our security and interfering in our elections does not necessarily mean that it is true. We also need to learn to move across different information sources, including mainstream/corporate media and alternative/independent media, and to develop the media literacy skills necessary to help discern the difference between manipulated information and that which can help us understand better a particular issue. Neither mainstream/corporate news media, which is so frequently a conduit for the propaganda campaigns initiated by powerful political actors, nor alternative/independent news media, hold a monopoly on the truth. They are all, to varying degrees, potentially useful sources of information and all should be consulted.

Most of all, we need to use our intelligence and develop confidence in our own judgments. But it should not just be down to us, the public, to fight our way through the propaganda. Powerful actors, and in the West this usually means governments and big business, need to be pushed to improve the quality of their communication strategies so that there is far less deception and so-called ‘spin’ than there is today: higher ethical standards need to be campaigned for.

Finally, the fight against propaganda needs to be understood for what it is. It is a struggle against manipulation by powerful actors and a battle for democracy and accountability. Of the major challenges facing us all in the 21st century, from war through to climate change and poverty, accurate information is essential to informed and open democratic debate. To achieve that, we must learn to navigate the highly propagandised information environment that now exists, and start to challenge the institutions and organisations that have become so reliant on propaganda in order to manipulate our beliefs and order our conduct. This is a huge challenge, but it is an essential and urgent one.

• Professor Piers Robinson is Chair in Politics, Society and Political Journalism in the Department of Journalism Studies at the University of Sheffield (UK). Previously, he was Senior Lecturer in International Politics at the University of Manchester (2005-2011) as well as Lecturer in Political Communication at the University of Liverpool (1999-2005). His research focus is the nexus of communication, media and world politics with particular attention on areas and strategies of conflict and war. For this talk see http://www.artnews.com/2017/06/21/after-the-fact-propaganda-in-the-21st-century-at-lenbachhaus-munich/.

July 12, 2017

Sports Journalism: ethical vacuum or ethical minefield?

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism, conferences — news_editor @ 10:05 am

Institute of Communication Ethics Annual Conference

27 October 2017, Frontline Club, 13 Norfolk Place, London W2 1QJ

Keynote Speaker: Andy Cairns, Executive Editor, Sky Sports News

This year, we have an excellent selection of papers exploring a range of ethical issues in sports communications. They include the latest research by Professor Suzanne Franks on women in sports journalism, Jonathan Cable on the impact of clickbait in football reporting and Tracie Edmundson on the digital sports media landscape in Australian sport.

In addition, there will be papers on diversity in sports journalism and sports media relations. Simon McEnnis will discuss how the ethical codes of sports journalism intersect with a hyper-commercialised environment and Tom Bradshaw considers the ethics of self censorship in sport journalism.

Daragh Minogue will wrap up the conference by hosting a round table discussion with a panel of sports journalists. Join us for a day of lively academic debate and post ‘match’ drinks at the Frontline Club for what we think is the first academic conference in the UK dedicated to ethics in sports journalism.

To join us please complete the attached registration form and email it to f.thompson287@gmail.com or f.thompson@yorksj.ac.uk or post it to the address below.

Payment rates
The delegate rate for the conference is:

£60.00 (£5.00 for registered students) - the cost includes a sandwich lunch.

Payment can be made in two ways:

Cheque payable to ‘Institute of Communication Ethics’ and sent to the address below

Bank transfer:
HSBC - Sort code: 40-28-15 - Account no: 71321536
Account name: The Institute of Communication Ethics Limited

For international transactions: International bank ac number – GB95MIDL40281571321536. Branch identifier code MIDLGB2138D

Please can you make sure it is clear from the bank transfer who the payment is from and that it is for the conference!

I am afraid that, currently, it isn’t possible to pay by creditcard. Any queries about the conference or how to pay please email as above.

Any queries please let me know.

Best wishes

Fiona

For the registration form please see the document attached ICE_Conference_Registration_2017.docx

June 30, 2017

Call for papers: ICE annual conference

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism, conferences — news_editor @ 1:02 pm

Papers are invited for the annual conference of the Institute of Communication Ethics, ‘Sports Journalism: Ethical vacuum or ethical minefield?’, to be held on 27 October 2017 at the Frontline Club, London W2 1QJ. The keynote speaker is Andy Cairns, executive editor, of Sky Sports News.

Sports content is a crucial aspect of many media organisations’ output. But while the ethical issues surrounding news journalism are closely scrutinised, the ethical dilemmas facing sports journalism are often neglected, or even unacknowledged. Issues of media regulation remain highly contentious in the UK, but how does sports output fit into this debate? Is the balance of power between sports journalists and sports media relations executives shifting decisively in favour of the latter? How have sports journalists responded to the issues arising from the digital revolution? And how can students be best prepared to tackle the many ethical issues involved in sports reporting?

The conference aims to provide a space for analysis and discussion on the varied ethical issues confronting sports journalists. Topics might then include:

• Too cosy a relationship? Sports journalists and sports PR managers
• Does sports journalism need a separate industry code?
• Taking the (click)bait: are website visitor targets undermining high-quality sports journalism?
• Covering diversity in sports – issues of representation in sports coverage
• Using social media as a sports journalist: the ethical issues
• Sports journalism and ‘entrapment’: the ethical issues involved in an undercover investigation
• Branded content – is it in danger of killing independent sports journalism?
• ‘Fans with typewriters’. How prepared are sports journalists to cover ‘hard’ news on top of the regular diet of press conferences and matches?
• How should ethics and regulation be taught to sports journalists, both in industry and on training courses?
• Fan sites: when citizen sports journos challenge the news values of corporate media’s sports coverage
• Sports celebrities – and the ‘human interest’ bias of the media
• Local sports coverage – the necessary manufacture of ‘imagined communities’?

These issues – and more – will be of interest to academics, journalists, sports media relations practitioners and students working in the field of sports communications.

Please send 200-word abstracts to Dr Daragh Minogue (daragh.minogue@stmarys.ac.uk) and Tom Bradshaw (tbradshaw@glos.ac.uk) by 1 July 2017

Fake news inquiry

Filed under: News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism, ethics training — news_editor @ 1:01 pm

In January 2017, parliament’s culture, media and sport committee set up an inquiry to investigate ‘the growing phenomenon of widespread dissemination, through social media and the internet, and acceptance as fact of stories of uncertain provenance or accuracy’. It followed the public outcry over deception in political campaigning during the UK’s EU Referendum and the USA’s presidential election in 2016.
A detailed analysis of the submissions to the inquiry by Vian Bakir and Andrew McStay, of Bangor University, can be accessed at

http://www.meccsa.org.uk/news/three-d-issue-28-combatting-fake-news-analysis-of-submissions-to-the-fake-news-inquiry/.

May 23, 2017

Surveillance – and the general election

Filed under: News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism, human rights — news_editor @ 9:50 am

Concerns over the growing powers of the surveillance state significantly secure no mention in either the Conservative or Labour Party manifestos in the run-up to the general election on 8 June.

Recently, a leak from the Home Office revealed that the government aimed to be able to access anyone’s communications within 24 hours under the Investigatory Powers Act (IPA) of December 2016 and halt people’s ability to encrypt messages. The Act was condemned by the Open Democracy group as the ‘most sweeping surveillance powers ever seen, not just in the UK, but in any Western European nation or in the United States’.

Under the new plans, companies would be legally required to introduce a backdoor to their systems so that authorities could read all communications if required. And in a section of the Conservative manifesto headed ‘Strengthening the police and security services’, the party says: ‘We will continue to invest in our world-leading security services and maintain and develop our counter-terrorism strategy to protect us from terrorism at home and abroad.’

The Labour Party makes no mention of surveillance or the powers of intelligence and the secret state in their manifesto: the party offered only token opposition to the IPA, dubbed, the ‘Snoopers’ Charter’.

In contrast, the Liberal Democrats have pledged to end the ‘Orwellian nightmare’ of mass surveillance. The party’s manifesto also commits to opposing Tory attempts to erode citizens’ powers of encryption.

One of the Lib Dems’ nine MPs, Alistair Carmichael, told the website, the Register, that the IPA prepared the way for a ‘full frontal assault’ on privacy and civil liberties. ‘The security services need to be able to keep people safe, but these powers are straight out of an Orwellian nightmare. They have no place in an open and democratic society, will cost billions of taxpayers’ money and simply will not work. Instead of spying on the entire population’s web histories and undermining the encryption that, for example, allows us to bank online safely, Liberal Democrats would put money back into community policing and concentrate on intelligence-led, targeted surveillance.’

• See https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/05/15/lib_dems_manifesto_pledge_to_end_snooping/; and http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/05/20/encr-m20.html

Richard Lance Keeble

May 22, 2017

Whistleblower Manning finally released

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism, human rights — news_editor @ 12:11 pm

Chelsea Manning, the military intelligence analyst turned whistleblower who revealed US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, was released from military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, on 17 May after completing over seven years in jail.

She was arrested by the army in 2010 after providing WikiLeaks with hundreds of thousands of internal army ‘incident logs’ and about 250,000 diplomatic cables from American embassies around the world. In August 2013, she was jailed for 35 years, a sentence 10 times longer than any previous punishment imposed on a federal employee, military or civilian, for leaking classified information.

Among the crimes exposed by Manning was the American helicopter attack on civilians in Baghdad that killed 16 people, including two Reuters journalists. Other documents published by WikiLeaks proved that civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan were far higher than officially reported while dossiers on Guantanamo Bay prisoners suggested that many of them had no significant role in terrorist operations.

As Genevieve Leigh comments: ‘Despite the massive evidence provided, not a single person was jailed, arrested, or even charged for any of the documented crimes. Instead, the military brass together with the Obama administration ruthlessly persecuted Manning for what is a far greater “crime” in the eyes of the ruling class: exposing the murderous nature of the US war machine.’

Following the revelations, Manning was held in an outdoor cage in a bid to break her psychologically. From July 2010 to April 2011, she was held in Virginia, much of the time stripped naked as a ‘security’ measure. As Leigh continues: ‘All told, she spent almost a year-and-a-half in solitary confinement, 23 hours a day, a form of detention classified as torture by human rights groups.’

In prison, Manning made two attempts to take her own life, for which she faced even more severe treatment.

President Obama commuted Manning’s sentence to just over seven years, in one of his final actions before leaving office in January. Yet her sentence under the Espionage Act remains in force. A fundraising drive to help Manning maintain her appeal has been launched by the Courage Foundation with the German branch of Reporters Without Borders and the Wau Holland Foundation.

Moreover, Obama and Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state, in particular, led moves to muzzle Manning and other whistleblowers. In fact, more whistleblowers were prosecuted during the Obama years than in all other administrations combined.

The Trump administration is currently stepping up the campaign against whistleblowers, US attorney general, Jeff Sessions, said recently that the arrest of Julian Assange, WikiLeaks’ founder, was a ‘priority’ for the US.

After being sentenced to jail, Manning (previously known as Bradley) announced she was transgendered and took the name Chelsea. She later began hormone therapy and requested gender reassignment surgery, which the army repeatedly denied.

• See http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/05/17/mann-m17.html

Richard Lance Keeble, joint editor of Ethical Space: The International Journal of Communication Ethics.

April 21, 2017

Moab: How the media humanise the horror

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism, human rights — news_editor @ 1:59 pm

One of the main functions of the dominant media is to naturalise and humanise the horror of contemporary warfare. As Edward Herman comments: ‘Doing terrible things in an organised and systematic way rests on “normalisation”. This is the process whereby ugly, degrading, murderous and unspeakable acts become routine and are accepted as “the way things are done”. … It is the function of the defense intellectuals and other experts and the mainstream media to normalise the unthinkable for the general public.’

This process was particularly evident in the recent coverage of the deployment by the US military of its most powerful, non-nuclear bomb against IS fighters in Achin District, Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan. Significantly, the missile (the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast) was dubbed ‘the Mother of All Bombs’ and the acronym ‘Moab’ quickly – and unproblematically – entered the lexicon of media/military jargon.

The nickname, Moab, clearly appropriates and updates the rhetoric of Saddam Hussein, former President of Iraq, who called the 1991 Desert Storm conflict ‘the Mother of All Battles’. In the end, up to 250,000 Iraqis were to be slaughtered by the US-led forces during those 42 days in which one massacre followed another.

But the application of the word ‘Mother’ draws on a long tradition in which the language of domesticity serves to strangely humanise the horrific. Horror, in this way, becomes a familiar part of our normal everyday lives. Mothers are normally associated with love, compassion and the creation of life. Here, the bomb delivers death and destruction. In the same way, the Hiroshima bomb was called ‘Little Boy’, the plutonium bomb dropped on Nagasaki ‘Fat Man’. Edward Teller is known as the ‘father’ of the H-Bomb.

Brian Easlea, in his seminal, feminist history Fathering the unthinkable, of 1983, highlights the creation of nuclear weapons in the context of the masculinity of science. He sees the development of science as a process of domination over both nature and women. According to Easlea, men create science and weapons to compensate for their lack of the ‘magical power’ of mothering. In other words, the distorted psyche at the heart of masculinity and the ‘technical, phallic rationality’ it promotes gives birth not to life but death. Easlea quotes a note slipped to Truman at the Potsdam conference on 17 July 1945 after a successful test of the plutonium bomb that said simply: ‘Babies successfully born.’ And the President knew precisely what it meant.

In an exultant profile of the B52 bombers during the Gulf conflict of 1991 in the Sun of 24 January, a Major Cole is quoted as saying: ‘The devastation underneath these babies is incredible.’ In other words, the mass deaths to be inflicted by these bombers is to be a source of celebration, wonder even. Men again have given birth to massacres. A major general is quoted: ‘The B52 has a mystique about it. Because of its destructive power it has a sense of awesomeness.’

Following Hiroshima and Nagasaki, later generations (note that word) of nuclear weapons were given military status and a patriotic role. They were called ‘Corporal’ and ‘Sergeant’. ‘Honest John’ appeared later in the European theatre (another ‘humanising’ term). The devastating ‘Minuteman’ missile drew on the name of the heroic militiamen of the American revolutionary war who were trained to turn out at a minute’s notice. So in this way the missile takes its proud place in national folklore. Or they have been given names of classical gods: such as Polaris, Skybolt, Jupiter, Titan, Poseidon, Trident. In these various ways weapons of mass destruction have been assimilated into our culture to appear ‘natural’ and ‘civilised’.

During the Cold War, Paul Chilton (1983), drawing on George Orwell’s notion of newspeak, coined the term nukespeak. In this way, he was making three main claims. Firstly, there existed a specialised vocabulary for talking about nuclear weapons together with habitual metaphors. Secondly, that this variety of English was neither neutral nor purely descriptive but ideologically loaded in favour of the nuclear culture. And finally, that nukespeak was massively important since it affected how people thought about the subject and largely determined the ideas they exchanged about it.

But there was no massive conspiracy to inject this vocabulary into the culture: there were no Orwellian grammarians munching their sandwiches at the Ministry of Truth and rewriting the English language. The atomic bombs which fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 were, indeed, weapons of mass destruction. Their deployment represented, according to Chilton, a revolutionary jump in military strategy. And inevitably it heralded a new order of experience in science, politics and the everyday. Chilton commented: ‘The language used to talk about the new weapons of mass extermination was partly an attempt to slot the new reality into the old paradigms of our culture. It was also no doubt a language that served the purpose of those who were concerned to perpetuate nuclear weapons development and deployment.’

Nukespeak then, as a specific linguistic register, drew on deep patterns of symbolic thought, on myths, religious beliefs, symbols, stereotypes and metaphors which we use to organise and normalise our everyday experiences. In August 1945, politicians together with the mainstream press spoke of the bomb mainly in terms of religious awe. For instance, while Truman was meeting Churchill and Stalin at Potsdam, an official report on the Hiroshima explosion was rushed to him. It said: ‘It was the beauty the great poets dream about. … Then came the strong, sustained, awesome roar which warned of doomsday and made us feel that we puny things were blasphemous to dare to tamper with the forces heretofore reserved to the Almighty.’. The Times reported eye-witnesses: ‘The whole thing was tremendous and awe-inspiring,’ said a Captain Parsons of the US Navy.

Central to the manufacture of the myth of ‘humanitarian’ warfare over recent decades has been the constant propaganda focus on precise, clean weapons. War is a civilised, humanitarian business – that’s the essential message. Significantly, to justify the use of the GBU-43/B, on 13 April 2017, the American military afterwards said 94 IS militants had been killed in the ‘precise’ strike. There were no civilian casualties, they claimed.

- Richard Lance Keeble is Professor of Journalism at the University of Lincoln and Visiting Professor at Liverpool Hope University, His analysis of war coverage since 1945, Covering Conflict: The Making and Unmaking of New Militarism, is shortly to be published by Abramis, of Bury St Edmunds.

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