Reflecting on Twenty Years of Media Lens

We can hardly count ourselves lucky in the west and particularly Britain, given the level of media corruption and collusion with sites of power.  As Pulitzer Prize Winning journalist Glenn Greenwald put it…

The worst media in the democratic world is the British media, and it’s not even close.  I know it’s hard for people in other countries who hate their own media to believe, but whatever you hate about your country’s media, the UK media has in abundance and worse.

To all extents and purposes in the UK we have lost our mainstream democratic sphere.  But over the last 20 years we can count ourselves fortunate that we have had the work of Media Lens – staffed by David Cromwell and David Edwards – shining a spotlight on the enormous volume of journalistic and professional political caste abuses.

The two Davids have done some quite extraordinary work.  This year they have published two very different articles of great quality.  In Our Indifference To Ourselves’ – Beyond The ‘Virtue’ Of Self-Sacrifice – Part 1 David Edwards debunked the ideology of pro-war propagandists, by allowing readers to experience the horrors of conflict through the eyes of First World War veteran, actor and Playwright Arnold Ridley.  20 Years Of Media Lens: A Selection Of Remarkable Replies From Journalists is a meticulously catalogued historical list of abusive, aggressive, self-serving, self-aggrandising and misleading responses from corporate media journalists, furious at being asked to be held publicly accountable.  Here the two Davids allow the industry to critique itself.

But they haven’t suddenly hit a purple patch of publishing quality out of the blue, as the duos work critiquing the Iraq War and its aftermath demonstrated.  Some readers might recall a Harriet Harman appearance on BBC Question Time, where she repeated the misleading mantra “of course mistakes were made.”  This gives the impression neoliberals popped out to get a book of stamps, tripped on a loose paving stone, and accidentally at the head of an army, violated another country’s borders; facilitated a million civilian deaths, a generation of Iraqi babies born with birth defects, whose pregnant mothers were exposed to western invaders’ depleted uranium ammunition; plus inadvertently colluded with US torture practices.

This nonsense was firmly put to bed in articles such as The Mythology of Mistakes, Hiding Imperialism under a Cloak of ‘Benevolence’, The BBC Buries the Truth with the Dead in Iraq,  and The Liberated and the Dead.  Unsurprisingly, Media Lens count John Pilger and Noam Chomsky among their admirers.

The other facet to Media Lens’ work is that of solidarity.  They have done their utmost to keep Julian Assange’s name and plight in the public’s consciousness and done the same for Chelsea Manning.  They have defended the reputation of the late Robert Fisk.  They have similarly defended Jeremy Corbyn and the values he brought back to the Labour Party.

Their actions either scrutinising the media or defending victims of the new McCarthyism has brought them enemies.  Corporate media faux leftist Owen Jones has even blocked them on twitter.   In summer 2014 Israel bombarded Gaza with “6,000 airstrikes, 14,500 tank shells and 45,000 artillery shells unleashed between July 7 and Aug. 26”.   According to these UN figures, Israel killed 551 children out of a total victim death toll of 2,252 Palestinians.  The response by Owen Jones was to immediately do propaganda on behalf of those who supported the settler aggressors entitled Anti-Jewish hatred is rising- we must see it for what it is (August 2014).  A year later when there was a risk the indigenous victims might be commemorated, Jones’s article response was instead Antisemitism has no place on the left. It is time to confront it (August 2015).  By comparison Media Lens showed solidarity with the Palestinians writing ‘Disgustingly Biased’ – The Corporate Media On The Gaza Massacre and ‘Grievous Censorship’ By The Guardian: Israel, Gaza And The Termination Of Nafeez Ahmed’s Blog. They have via an evidence-based methodology continued to vigorously defend the Palestinians and those oppressed by the new pro-Israel corporate media McCarthyism.  No wonder Jones daren’t allow them on his twitter feed.

The solidarity of Media Lens is not just restricted to their writings.  On twitter and Facebook, Media Lens has championed countless number of activists, campaigners, young and new writers.  They are an important part of an important network.  Has it really been 20 years?

Gavin Lewis is a freelance Black-British mixed-race writer and academic. He has published in Australia, Britain, Canada, and the United States on film, media, politics, cultural theory, race, and representation. He has taught critical theory and film and cultural studies at a number of British universities. Read other articles by Gavin.