The media drumroll to Iran's invasion

In the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, not one single mainstream newspaper or TV news network in Britain actively opposed it. That’s pretty amazing don’t you think in a supposed democracy? Despite no evidence that Hussein had anything to do with 9-11 or that he had any Weapons of Mass Destruction, the media went along with Bush and Blair, terrified of seriously criticising them. It was only afterwards, when it was clear what a sham it had all been, that some of them started to gingerly question it. However, even to this day, virtually none of them will go the whole hog and face the fact that the atrocities Hussein committed were done with Western weapons and both government and media support i.e. silence.

Neil Clarke’s blog highlights an excellent piece by Peter Wilby in The Guardian’s Comment is Free section (incidentally one of the best bits of the paper which is not available in the newsstand copies) about how exactly the same thing is happening as regards invasion of Iran. He was writing after attending a conference of 250 media professionals who came to the same conclusion. Wilby points out how the mainstream media is now so entrenched in the Public Relations industry, that it cannot possibly hope to tell the truth.

I have a lot of respect for Wilby because I actually worked at The New Statesman during the month he stepped-down as editor in May 2005. Wilby was very supportive and encouraging of the ideas and suggestions I made. Unfortunately, he disappeared before any of them were taken further and John Kampfner took over who understandably at that time, had enough on his plate without dealing with me. Wilby is credited with moving The New Statesman back to the left after it lost its way a bit although a series of controversial cover stories and a fall-out with a Deputy Editor seem to have caused some problems. However, it’s still not clear to this day why Wilby resigned – I remember many of the staff were shocked that day and some found out first on the internet where the story had been leaked.

Anyway, it’s good to see that he still has not lost his critical eye even if he must be taking it a bit easier nowadays.


5 thoughts on “The media drumroll to Iran's invasion

  1. Could not agree with you more, but the only confusion I have is that now that I am sleeping with the enemy and am part of the government PR machine. The media I work with, which is most of the major outlets, will do all they can to knock government and will spin with the best of them and are often incorrect in their reporting. I am pretty disappointed with UK media as a whole. But then on the bigger foriegn policy decisions they seem or at least appear to support government.

  2. It’s interesting to hear someone like yourself with first hand insight into the government PR machine confirm what Wilby is saying. The thing is in Western media nowadays, there’s not much difference if you’re on the PR side or journalistic side so I can understand your confusion. At least you are acknowledging the situation and partipating in debates such as this in an attempt to understand what is happening.

  3. I think the main thing that is happening is alot of journalists are simply lazy and rely on government/union/ngo press releases and then get the compulsory quote from whoever they are attacking and then send it to their editor and get down the pub quick!!!! But on a serious note, I really do think that the lack of accountability that the media has it damaging and frustrating from my side of things. p.s dont you worry I am just learning how it all works..then will move on!!!

  4. Yes, I’m sure the lazy element is a big part of it. I wonder how much of it is due to the sheer power and size of the PR industry nowadays that spoon feeds journalists and how much of it is down to other factors. Personally, I think a lot of it is down to the fact that Journalism was probably once considered quite a “crusading” career where you strove to tell the truth. Nowadays, like many other professions that have been devalued by economic pressures, it’s just seen as a means-to-an-end to pay the mortgage and get down the pub. From this perspective, it’s logical that journalists do not care what they write or are told to write as long as they get paid, don’t have to think or do too much and get taken for a few PR lunches.

  5. I can say that I was in Tehran when the current President was elected. In fact my wife and I were staying 3 blocks off of the main square. In the days before the election, CNN was broadcasting “huge” riots of people burning American flags in the square midday. Funnily enough, we were having lunch there and spending our afternoon in a very nearby park and didn’t see anything…Odd???

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