The title of the editorial said it all:
‘The Guardian view on George W Bush: a welcome return’
In a tongue-in-cheek, almost jovial, piece the Guardian unsubtly rehabilitated a man responsible for crimes that are among the most egregious in all history.
Bush was responsible for the destruction of an entire country, the killing of one million Iraqis, the wounding and displacement of countless millions more. The car bombs, the suicide bombs, the mass executions, the dead-of-night disappearances, the blow torch and electric drill tortures, the bombs in London and Madrid, the rise of Islamic State, and much, much more – they all began with George W. Bush.
But the Guardian japed:
‘During his time in the White House, George W Bush was regarded as a warmonger and hardline conservative. As president he did an awful lot to polarise the country and was viewed as such a threat to world peace that when he left office the Nobel committee handed his successor the peace prize – for not being him.’
The piece continued:
‘It says a lot about the United States that Mr Bush can be seen now as a paragon of virtue. He sounds a lot better out of office than in it.’
And so ‘the 43rd US president should be applauded’.
Not a single syllable was uttered about his literally millions of victims.
It is unthinkable, of course, that the Guardian would ‘welcome’ the return of an Assad, or a Putin, or any Official Enemy, in this way. But it is ‘normal’ for a newspaper that tirelessly attempts to rehabilitate Bush’s great partner in war crime, Tony Blair. One of the foundations of the ‘mainstream’s’ Grand Propaganda Narrative is that some people are simply, somehow, permanent members of The Club – respectable, well-intentioned, fundamentally decent – where others are beyond the pale, to be reviled, abused, hunted and killed, if possible.
Historian Mark Curtis tweeted a link to the editorial:
‘Perhaps a single article can define a newspaper. The Sun: Gotcha. The Mail: Migrant Scroungers. The Guardian: this…’
So how did the Guardian’s progressive journalists respond?
‘I don’t agree with it.’
In June 2011, Monbiot was rather more forthright in using his Guardian column to identify and damn a ‘malign intellectual subculture that seeks to excuse savagery by denying the facts’ of the genocides in Bosnia and Rwanda.
To a global audience, Monbiot named and shamed Noam Chomsky, Edward Herman, David Peterson, John Pilger, and Media Lens as political commentators who ‘take the unwarranted step of belittling… acts of genocide’.
In a stirring conclusion, Monbiot wrote:
‘The rest of us should stand up for the victims, whoever they are, and confront those trying to make them disappear.’
See our discussion of these claims here.
We asked Monbiot about the need to ‘confront’ the Guardian now as it disappeared the victims of George Bush. He replied:
‘You plainly believe there’s no difference between not mentioning something and actively airbrushing it, as Herman/Peterson did.’
But in 2011, Monbiot of course made no such specious distinction when he insisted on the need to ‘confront those trying to make’ victims ‘disappear’. As former Guardian journalist Jonathan Cook commented on Twitter:
‘Man of principle @GeorgeMonbiot suddenly lost for words as @guardian – his employer – glosses over Bush’s crimes against humanity in Iraq’
A prime example of the kind of activist Monbiot was urging to ‘confront’ injustice and denial is his colleague at the Guardian, Owen Jones. In a rousing series of tweets in November 2014, Jones reported from a train carriage on what it means to walk the talk:
‘Just told man to take his racism + get out of (packed) carriage after he threatened to “end” Indian bloke for disrespecting in “my” country’
How did the perp respond to the Guardian columnist’s order to vacate the carriage?
‘He legged it to the toilet. When he emerged he yelled “I’m not a racist by the way”, and the carriage laughed’
What a fool! And what a contrast Jones paints to his own heroic actions. How did fellow passengers react?
‘murmurs of “well said” to be fair. Wasn’t bowled over though’
Alas, only the author came out of the incident with real credit – according to the author.
‘John McDonnell [Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer] was right to swiftly force Naz Shah’s resignation – but now the party has to suspend her.’
One day later, Jones added:
‘Ken Livingstone has to be suspended from the Labour Party. Preferably before I pass out from punching myself in the face.’
Jones’s response to the Guardian’s rehabilitation of George Bush was rather different:
‘The Trump calamity doesn’t mean rehabilitating George W Bush, a man chiefly responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths and other horror’
There were no calls for the comment editor to be suspended, or for the editor to resign. In fact Jones made no mention of his employer and did not link to the editorial. Happily for the Guardian, many of his Twitter followers will have had no idea what he was on about.
The truth is that Guardian, Independent and BBC regulars never criticise their employers. But they do celebrate and defend them. Last December, former Guardian journalist Jonathan Cook challenged Monbiot on Twitter:
‘Guardian, your employer, is precisely part of media problem. Why this argument is far from waste of energy. It’s vital.’
‘that’s your view. I don’t share it. Most of my work exposing corporate power has been through or with the Guardian.’
In March 2015, Jones tweeted:
‘Incredible news that @KathViner is new Guardian editor! Nearly whooped in the quiet carriage. That’s how excited I am.’
Spare a thought for Jones’s fellow passengers. He certainly spared a thought for his outgoing boss:
‘Like so many others, owe so much to Alan Rusbridger. The Guardian is a global force, and that’s so much down to him. Surreal he’s gone’
‘Surreal he’s going, that is. He’s still the boss!’
After 18 months of turning a blind eye to the Guardian’s relentless attack on Corbyn, both Jones and Monbiot have publicly dumped him. Jones told the Evening Standard last month:
‘The Left has failed badly. I’d find it hard to vote for Corbyn.’
More recently, Jones plunged the knife in to the hilt.
Having completely ignored the media’s anti-Corbyn campaign, Monbiot commented on Twitter:
‘I was thrilled when Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour Party, but it has been one fiasco after another. I have now lost all faith.’
‘I hoped Corbyn would be effective in fighting the government and articulating a positive alternative vision. Neither hope has materialised.’
Conclusion – Status From Silence
The truth is that the ‘free press’ does not tolerate authentic dissent. In the final analysis, high-profile dissidents are salaried corporate employees. They can speak no more honestly about their employers, other potential employers, or the industry in general, than someone selling cars, computers or mobile phones.
The exalted status of our most famous ‘left-leaning’ media corporations is based on de facto censorship rather than truth-telling. After all, why would the public doubt the honesty of the Guardian or the Independent when they are essentially never subject to serious criticism? This matters because the role of the corporate media is not just one issue among many – it is the key issue determining how all other issues are communicated to a mass audience.
The result is devastating – empowered by their ill-deserved reputations, ‘left-leaning’ media in fact relentlessly agitate for wars in countries like Libya and Syria, relentlessly attack progressive voices challenging power and, worst of all, literally sell the high-tech, climate killing, corporate-led status quo as ‘normal’.
Are we suggesting that writers of principle should resign from corporate media? Yes, it is time to stop pretending anything will ever be achieved by publishing radical journalism that will be used to draw readers into a moral and intellectual killing zone serving big business.
There are other alternatives now – it’s time to boycott the corporate media, dump them in the dustbin of history, and build alternatives that will allow democracy and people to breathe.