Those Magnificent Men and their (F)lying Machines

Newspaper owners and editors up and down the country are scratching their heads and wondering why newspaper sales have plummeted. No doubt some comfort themselves, and each other, by blaming the internet. They would be partly right – but probably not for the reasons they might give. It’s difficult to know how many of them will learn the important lessons of the recent furor that revealed some of the deceit, bribery and corruption that is standard practice behind much of our so-called ‘news’.

Some might think the scandal is confined to the national papers. Not a bit of it. The Guardian’s George Monbiot reported1 that Sir Ray Tindle, who once controlled about 230 newspapers, including such giants as the Totnes Times, ordered his editors at the outbreak of the Iraq War in 2003 “to ensure that nothing appears in your newspapers which attacks the decision to conduct the war.”

Most British newspapers have always supported war and continue to do so to this day. It’s because war is very good for business, which matters far more to the Rupert Murdochs and Ray Tindles of this world than the shattered bodies of innocent and defenceless civilians (who are seldom even counted – let alone reported).

A piece of typically shabby war-loving propaganda appeared last Friday (22 July) in the Grantham Journal. An article bearing the title “Airman Rob is helping to defend the skies over Libya” displayed a nice photograph of a pleasantly harmless-looking chap who, apart from the fact he’s wearing military uniform, could be mistaken for an accountant, or a banker. The article tells us about ‘Airman Rob’s many important duties, such as supporting construction and catering “and even medical services.” Ahhh – he sounds a bit like a social worker really, or a comic-book superhero. But curiously enough, helping to overthrow foreign governments, dispatch tens of thousands of defenceless civilians to eternity, and plunder whoever’s left behind – which is the real purpose of ‘Airman Rob’s employers – doesn’t get a mention.

The words “helping to defend the skies over Libya” in the title are almost too ridiculous to comment on; “helping to steal Libyan oil,” although only part of the story would at least have been more accurate.

No doubt Airman Rob is a thoroughly decent chap with a loving family and human weaknesses just like all the rest of us; and is quite possibly as oblivious of the cynicism of his work as Nazi concentration camp guards were seventy years ago – a natural consequence of enduring similar brainwashing; but what is the media’s excuse? What is the media’s excuse for calling the plundering and murder of innocent civilians thousands of miles away from Britain ‘defending the skies’?

A friend of mine who once worked at the Grantham Journal told me that it was editorial policy that all articles appearing in the paper should be written for Earlsfield Man (Earlsfield is the part of Grantham with the highest social deprivation). It’s the sort of thing I could imagine Rupert Murdoch or Ray Tindle saying. It’s a line of thinking that proposes that the newspaper in general and its articles in particular should be composed in such a way as to appeal to what the newspaper editors consider the dullest mind. Well, a surprising number of these purportedly dull minds know exactly what’s going on in spite of the best propaganda efforts of the media. So if more and more people are turning to foreign internet sites and the likes of Al Jazeera and Russia Today for their news it’s hardly surprising. Although these sources are, of course, also rich in propaganda at least they tell us some of the hard truths about our own government – truths our own media should be supplying.

  1. See Monbiot.com, 9.11.09, ‘Champions of the Overdog.’ []

John Andrews is a writer whose latest book is The People's Constitution. He can be contacted through his website. Read other articles by John.