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Established in 2001 with the aim of ‘correcting for the distorted vision of the corporate media’, MediaLens uses a ‘propaganda model’ analysis inspired by Noam Chomsky to argue that mainstream newspapers and broadcasters are systematically incapable of challenging business and state power. In his latest book, the website’s co-editor David Cromwell offers both a critique of the ways the powerful convey propaganda through the media and a personal memoir.
Cromwell addresses several topics, including Iraq, climate change and the financial crisis, highlighting the narrow scope of media debates that rarely question the assumption of a benevolent if fallible west. He intersperses this with several formative moments of his life and his development as an activist.
Sometimes eye-opening information is uncovered. Consideration of the post-second world war Marshall Plan reveals how it was used as a cold war weapon to dissuade the Attlee government from nationalising industries. Chapters on the Iraq war and Iran expose both the media’s dissimulation of bias and distortions and the selective amnesia and hand-waving of many journalists when confronted on it.
That said, the book has weaknesses and its view of the world does not escape the good/bad guy dichotomy, with certain self-styled anti-imperialists left unchallenged. Cromwell denounces ‘the British media’ for trying to ‘silence or vilify’ Wikileaks’ Julian Assange, but does not address the rape allegations against him.
The final two chapters are the weakest, unconvincingly merging together existentialism, Buddhism and psychology to set out a personal philosophy in which social change seems to derive more from individual enlightenment than collective struggle. The result is an eclectic romanticism, in which enlightened individuals who have freed themselves from selfish indifference to others use compassion to overcome the egotistical corruption of civilisation.
This offers little obvious guidance as to how people constrained not by ‘indifference’ but by oppression can emancipate themselves. And strategic considerations as to how journalists can work within the limits of the capitalist press to speak out against power and ensure audiences receive accurate information are sidelined. Sadly, given the useful information compiled elsewhere in the book, this leaves political strategy sidelined in favour of empty moralism.
The collapse of Carillion is only one small part of a larger story of decades of economic mismanagement
Laura McDonald writes that universities should not just be finishing schools for the wealthy or disciplinary institutions churning out docile workers.
A floundering alliance of Blairites is trying to reinvent itself for a Corbynite age. By Tom Costello.
Marienna Pope-Weidemann explains why decades of occupation and oppression have led some people to call Israel an apartheid state.
International Women's Day is set to be marked by strikes from "paid work in offices and factories, or unpaid domestic work in homes, communities and bedrooms."
Laurie Laybourn-Langton writes that measuring the economy is political - and economic measurement dominates politics.
David Scott argues that our prison system represents a human rights disaster, and reformist solutions can't tackle the root problems.
A deeper engagement with culture can strengthen our democracy, taking political projects beyond electoral impact and festival memes into a whole new world of radical, lasting change.
Ruth Tanner writes that revelations about Oxfam's behaviour in Haiti are shocking, but not surprising.
The actions of Oxfam officials are horrendous - but gutting foreign aid funding just puts more people at risk, writes Daniel Gibson.
Stormzy, Grenfell and what it means to be a ‘threat’
The artist is giving a vital platform to a new generation of voices pointing out the deep hypocrisy in which crimes get punished and which get rewarded, write Remi Joseph-Salisbury and Laura Connelly
For All, By All
The latest issue of Red Pepper asks - how do we invite, support and nurture greater public participation so that our cultural capabilities are empowered beyond the crushing logic of market fundamentalism?
‘We are hungry in three languages’: The forgotten promise of the Bosnian Spring
Ruth Tanner looks back at a wave of protests which swept through Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2014.
It’s time for a cultural renewal of the left
Andrew Dolan writes that we need to integrate art, music, films and poetry into our movement, creating spaces where political ideas are given further room to breathe.
Jeremy Hunt is poised to flog the last of the NHS
Peter Roderick sounds the alarm on an 'attack on the fundamental principles of the NHS'.
Viva Siva, 1923-2018
A. Sivanandan, who died this week, was a hugely important figure in the politics of race and class. As part of our tributes, Red Pepper is republishing this 2009 profile of him by Arun Kundnani
Sivanandan: When memory forgets a giant
Daniel Renwick calls for the whole movement to discover and remember the vital work of A. Sivanandan, who died this week
A master-work of graphic satire
American Jewish cartoonist Eli Valley’s comic commentary on America, the US Jewish diaspora and Israel is nothing if not near the knuckle, Richard Kuper writes