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August 6, 2014

Propaganda, the BBC and Gaza

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism, conflict, human rights — news_editor @ 4:00 pm

Richard Lance Keeble, Professor of Journalism at the University of Lincoln, takes a critical look at the BBC’s coverage of the current Gaza conflict

All journalism is propaganda, as George Orwell argued. And, paradoxically, those who claim neutrality and objectivity are likely to be the most propagandistic. Let’s take one random sample from the BBC’s coverage of the current Gaza crisis.

On 3 August 2014, it reported: ‘Missing Israeli soldier Hadar Goldin “dead”.’ There was a photograph of the 23-year-old and the accompanying video commentary highlighted Goldin’s ‘apparent kidnapping’ by the Palestinian group Hamas who were blamed for the collapse of the ceasefire (see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-28627888).

‘Kidnapping’ was the term deliberately used by the Israeli officials in their hyper-slick PR operation (see http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/israelgaza-conflict-the-secret-report-that-helps-israelis-to-hide-facts-9630765.html). Doesn’t this imply that Goldin was an innocent seized by opportunistic criminals rather than a member of one of the world’s most powerful militaries engaged in ‘the premeditated mass murder of civilians’, as described by the Asia Times journalist Pepe Escobar (see http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Others/Escobar.html). Did the BBC really need to mimic the Israeli deceit?

Moreover, the Western corporate media in general parroted the Israeli approach in blaming Hamas for breaching the ceasefire (thus leading to a stepping-up of the bombardment of Gaza and the deaths of many more children) when both sides were involved in the incident. Hamas was clearly responding to yet another attempt by Israeli troops to destroy a tunnel (see http://www.jonathan-cook.net/2014-08-03/how-a-kidnapped-soldier-illustrates-israels-deception/).

The BBC’s fourth paragraph reported: ‘Health officials in Gaza say 30 Palestinians died early on Sunday as Israeli air strikes continued.’ This is the cold, conventional language of militaryspeak that aims to convey the illusion of warfare. But this is no war: this is nothing short of a series of completely illegitimate massacres. There are no photographs of any of those 30 dead Palestinians.

Moreover, as I write (5 August 2014), I see no photographic galleries commemorating the 1,865 Palestinians killed and 9,400 others injured – most of them civilians. In the Western corporate media they are usually not even deemed worthy of being named. In contrast, the BBC report goes on to show an image of Goldin’s understandably grieving family speaking at a press conference after his death was announced. In fact, the whole of the report is framed within a dominant Israeli perspective. Thirteen of the story’s 23 paragraphs highlight the Israeli line: just five that of Hamas. Its denial of taking Goldin captive does not appear until par 10.

And how many homes, hospitals, schools, mosques have been destroyed as Israel’s ‘scorched earth’ policy eats up 44 per cent of Gaza’s territory; how many Gazans are now homeless or jobless, how many have been appallingly traumatised by the constant bombardment and the lack of basic facilities? On these crucial points the BBC’s report is silent.

Excellent photographs by the BBC’s Jon Donnison, in an accompanying feature under the title ‘Faces from Gaza’, are given captions – but no full names of the tragically suffering Gazans are provided: So we read of a ‘young girl and her mother’ sheltering in a UN school, ‘young boys giving victory salutes’ ‘three-year-old injured Aya’, ‘Ahmed’ being treated for burns, ‘Ali’ injured while playing outside his home, ‘a young girl picking fruit juice’, ‘a man in Beit Haroun’. And so on.

Too often, the BBC and the corporate media in its Gaza coverage has ‘balanced’ reports of Israeli bombardment with accounts of the Hamas missile attacks on Israeli – reinforcing the illusion of ‘warfare’. Yet the Israeli response (in which 64 soldiers and just three civilians have died) is totally disproportionate to the threat posed.

Moreover, the mainstream media has largely failed to indicate the massive global opposition to the Israeli action and its seven-year economic siege of Gaza. Go then to sites such as www.counterpunch.org, www.globalresearch.ca; www.wsws.org; www.boilingfrogspost.org; coldtype.net; www.johnpilger.com (supported by the University of Lincoln); www.zerohedge.com; http://peacenews.info/; antiwar.com; www.washingtonsblog.com and see some searching analyses and investigative reports on the conflict and the protests. They can only inspire further protest action against Israel’s criminal military aggression.

August 4, 2014

The slaughter of the innocents 1914-2014

Filed under: Blogroll, News, Headlines, journalism, conflict — news_editor @ 10:26 pm

If war is to be reported ethically it must be shown it in all its brutality including the bodies of dead children and traumatised parents, argues Barry Turner

As the centenary of the Great War is now upon us the attention of the world’s press is drawn to the thousands of monuments to the fallen all over Europe and the rest of the world. Towns and villages across the combatant countries are almost without exception home to a war memorial to an event that is often said to have wiped out a generation. Now these monuments will be the solemn focal points for many pieces to camera over the next few months for local, national and international media.

The war memorials are often embellished with words such as ‘Our Glorious Dead’, ‘Pro Patria Mori’ and similar sentiments in all the languages of the combatants. They often feature heroic figures of soldiers and occasionally scenes of the fighting, as if commemorating those was as important as remembering the millions who died.

Apart from the haunting lists of names of people from the towns and villages that speak out from the stones there is often little sense of the loss or the suffering. One notable exception is the work by Kathe Kollwitz at the Roggevelde War Cemetery in Vladslo, Belgium. This has no inscription and shows no ‘heroic’ soldiers: just two figures in abject despair, the father with his arms crossed, shoulders hunched and the mother in total grief with her head held down. There is no ‘glory’ in the statues, no sense of a gallant falling for King and Country. Peter Kollwitz, Kathe’s son, died in the ‘Kindermord bei Ypern’, a reference to the biblical slaughter of the innocents. The parents received no consolation in it being for ‘Gott und Vaterland’.

We are now seeing the tragedy, captured so moving in the statue, played out on our TV screens every night as parents despair at the deaths of their children in a number of wars across the globe (such as Ukraine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya). There are now ethical debates about whether the broadcast media should show dead and injured children being dug out of their ruined homes and laid out forlornly in ramshackle hospitals. This is an absurd echo of the Great War censors themselves who thought it ‘improper’ to show the bodies of British soldiers killed in the fighting.

Our press still glorify war, images of tanks racing across the desert and princes in combat gear sell newspapers and draw audiences. The flag-draped coffins of ‘our glorious dead’ men and women are still paraded around our streets. It is quite remarkable that a century after the start of a war that was to ‘end all wars’ and during a 21st century slaughter of the innocents, in the very land where the biblical one took place, we still discuss the ethics of showing the consequences of war while the corporate media too often celebrate it.

The graphic and repeated images of Gazan children is not only ethical but essential. The images of the dead of flight MH17 and the haunting images of the toys of children killed in that horrible consequence of war need to be shown to us. That is what war is: our media is often too keen to show it in terms of what one side says followed by the other side’s version. War is not about TV interviews on who has a ‘right’ to defend themselves; it is about dead children, despairing parents and destroyed homes. We need to see those images far more than we need to hear politicians and the military justifying what they are doing.

As we enter this prolonged period of remembrance of World War One it is the consequences of that war that need to be reflected upon. In the Middle East just about every modern conflict today is a direct consequence of the imperialism that started the Great War. Our media should pause as it enters its period of mourning for the dead of a century ago to consider that tomorrow the slaughter of the innocents will continue there.

Perhaps if we (and, in particular, our leaders) had reflected more on the images of Kathe Kollwitz as a remembrance of war instead of triumphant monuments to militarism and our ‘glorious dead’ the Great War really would have been the war to end all wars.

Barry Turner is senior lecturer in law at the Lincoln School of Journalism, the University of Lincoln

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