Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

Objective fiction

Nathaniel Mehr reviews Newspeak in the 21st Century by David Edwards and David Cromwell (Pluto Press, 2009)

February 11, 2010
2 min read

‘Opinions are not facts,’ announced a condescending advertisement for the Guardian newspaper in March 2007. ‘What happened and how you feel about it are two different things. And people should know which is which.’ In this superb new book, David Edwards and David Cromwell – co-editors of the Media Lens website – expose the conceit of the mainstream media’s much-vaunted objectivity.

The liberal media, in hock to state or corporate sponsors as the case may be, find themselves structurally bound to follow an editorial line that tends towards sympathy with the political and economic status quo. This is reinforced on an individual level by an expectation that critical faculties should be suspended for the sake of personal career progression. The consequence is that what passes for balanced reporting on the ‘war on terror’ means allowing British and US leaders to ‘frame reality without challenge’.

For example, the standard media portrayal of the ongoing Iraqi insurgency centres on the involvement of dark external forces stirring up trouble for their own ends, although in actual fact the majority of insurgents are Iraqis – militias composed of ‘tailors, barbers, and car mechanics’. For the mainstream media to accept this would mean to accept by extension that the insurgency is a war of national resistance, and hence legitimate. Iranian involvement in Iraq, in negating the role of the Iraqis as actors in the drama, is therefore a critical component of how the US-led coalition constructs its mission; accordingly, the mainstream media, liberal and conservative alike, dutifully refrain from highlighting the primarily national character of the Iraqi resistance.

As well as a providing a well-researched indictment of the failure of the liberal media to live up to their own platitudes about objectivity, the authors also challenge the notion that objectivity per se is desirable in media reporting. They describe this as ‘the fiction that journalists can or should be disinterested technicians standing neutrally between murderers and their victims’. Linked to this is the politicisation of the very idea of journalistic style itself: why is it that the Pilgers and Chomskys of this world are regularly accused by their opponents of ‘ranting’, despite the serious and rational quality of their work?

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.

Labour Party laws are being used to quash dissent
Richard Kuper writes that Labour's authorities are more concerned with suppressing pro-Palestine activism than with actually tackling antisemitism

Catalan independence is not just ‘nationalism’ – it’s a rebellion against nationalism
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte argue that Catalonia's independence movement is driven by solidarity – and resistance to far-right Spanish nationalists

Tabloids do not represent the working class
The tabloid press claims to be an authentic voice of the working class - but it's run by and for the elites, writes Matt Thompson

As London City Airport turns 30, let’s imagine a world without it
London City Airport has faced resistance for its entire lifetime, writes Ali Tamlit – and some day soon we will win

The first world war sowed the seeds of the Russian revolution
An excerpt from 'October', China Mieville's book revisiting the story of the Russian Revolution

Academies run ‘on the basis of fear’
Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) was described in a damning report as an organisation run 'on the basis of fear'. Jon Trickett MP examines an education system in crisis.

‘There is no turning back to a time when there wasn’t migration to Britain’
David Renton reviews the Migration Museum's latest exhibition

#MeToo is necessary – but I’m sick of having to prove my humanity
Women are expected to reveal personal trauma to be taken seriously, writes Eleanor Penny

Meet the digital feminists
We're building new online tools to create a new feminist community and tackle sexism wherever we find it, writes Franziska Grobke

The Marikana women’s fight for justice, five years on
Marienna Pope-Weidemann meets Sikhala Sonke, a grassroots social justice group led by the women of Marikana

Forget ‘Columbus Day’ – this is the Day of Indigenous Resistance
By Leyli Horna, Marcela Terán and Sebastián Ordonez for Wretched of the Earth

Uber and the corporate capture of e-petitions
Steve Andrews looks at a profit-making petition platform's questionable relationship with the cab company

You might be a centrist if…
What does 'centrist' mean? Tom Walker identifies the key markers to help you spot centrism in the wild

Black Journalism Fund Open Editorial Meeting in Leeds
Friday 13th October, 5pm to 7pm, meeting inside the Laidlaw Library, Leeds University

This leadership contest can transform Scottish Labour
Martyn Cook argues that with a new left-wing leader the Scottish Labour Party can make a comeback

Review: No Is Not Enough
Samir Dathi reviews No Is Not Enough: Defeating the New Shock Politics, by Naomi Klein

Building Corbyn’s Labour from the ground up: How ‘the left’ won in Hackney South
Heather Mendick has gone from phone-banker at Corbyn for Leader to Hackney Momentum organiser to secretary of her local party. Here, she shares her top tips on transforming Labour from the bottom up

Five things to know about the independence movement in Catalonia
James O'Nions looks at the underlying dynamics of the Catalan independence movement

‘This building will be a library!’ From referendum to general strike in Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte report from the Catalan general strike, as the movements prepare to build a new republic

Chlorine chickens are just the start: Liam Fox’s Brexit trade free-for-all
A hard-right free marketer is now in charge of our trade policy. We urgently need to develop an alternative vision, writes Nick Dearden

There is no ‘cult of Corbyn’ – this is a movement preparing for power
The pundits still don’t understand that Labour’s new energy is about ‘we’ not ‘me’, writes Hilary Wainwright