Media in a Globalized World

Professor Oliver Boyd-Barrett 



Mainstream Media Monologues
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Paris Uncertainties

Posted on August 17, 2016 at 7:30 PM Comments comments (1)

Although the signature ceremony took place last April amid much fanfare, countries still have to formalize their participation in the agreement by depositing their instruments - i.e. their individually determined emissions targets and commitments to transparency. The agreement doesn't even begin to take effect until 55 countries have deposited their instruments and these must represent 50% (or is it 55%?) of the emissions reductions that are needed to yield us a cap of one and a half degrees Celsius over and above pre-industrial temperature levels. But so far only 20 countries have deposited and these represent only about 1% of the net emissions reductions that are necessary!

Many of the other countries (nearly 200 signed in Paris) are waiting to see what happens with the US elections in November: if Trump takes the US then nobody is going to sign up. So far as I know we are still waiting on the US, China, and India, among the biggest emissions sources, to deposit their instruments. The US and China would account for about 40% of the total. The saga principally begins in 1992 with the UN Climate Convention in Berlin - a senior party to the US negotiating team explained to me today on a non-attribution basis. The USA at that time, under Bush, was the only country to resist committing to a legally-binding overall cap on emissions. Developed countries did accept non-binding targets and more responsibilities for reporting on progress. They were listed as the Annex 1 countries. Developing countries were allowed "common but differentiated" responsibilities. Berlin was followed by the Kyoto Protocol in 1995.

The Clinton administration favored legally-binding targets, involving a longer period of time and more countries. Developing countries resisted and the US Senate passed a unanimous resolution against ratifying anything that did not include commitments from the developing countries and did not harm the US economy. The US did not ratify Kyoto. Kyoto was followed by the Copenhagen Accords in 2009. Obama insisted that China needed to be party to attempts to reduce emissions - "legal symmetry." In the end, China did participate but the targets were not legally binding. Paris is seeded in Copenhagen. Between Copenhagen and Paris was the Durban mandate of 2011 which paved the way (and removed the "common but differentiated" let-out clause for developing countries - some of which, like Singapore, are way more developed than many developed countries - and the distinction between Annex 1 and non-Annex countries has been junked) The targets are to be set by all individual countries (developed and developing) who are party to the agreement, and their commitments to transparency of reporting and methodology are legally-binding. The targets themselves are not legally-binding.

The overall goal is to cap at a one and a half degree Celsius increase (we are already almost at 1%). The Paris process is consensual (since the world could not agree to a voting procedure). The agreement will be on-going, subject to periodic reviews and updating of targets. What is legally-binding so far as international law is concerned? A very difficult question, relating only obliquely to real sanctions and as much a matter of relative power than anything else.

No News that is Real News

Posted on August 14, 2016 at 7:15 PM Comments comments (3)


One of the most newsworthy developments of the past few days - and therefore almost by definition passed over by many mainstream media - was Julian Assange's strong hint in a European broadcast interview that a recently murdered DNC staffer had been source for Wikileaks of the hacked DNC emails. The clear implication therefore being that not only was the DNC guilty of selectively supporting Hillary over Bernie (itself the subject of a lawsuit in which the murdered DNC staffer also played a role), but that someone in or close to the DNC machinery may have engaged in assassination as punishment for the hacking.

Not so surprising, perhaps, in a world where DNC supporters can publicly call for the assassination of one Julian Assange while an ex-Director of the CIA urges us to kill Russians and Syrians - relevant, of course, because Hillary and the political establishment a week ago thrilled the public with one of its silliest campaigns of recent history to the effect that it was the Russians - if not Vladimir Putin personally staying up late at night - who had hacked the emails (I still await more indications as to whether allegations of relationship between Putin and the ex-wife of Rupert Murdoch have any substance - he'd be one busy guy! - and whether Trump's team had a close relationship to Ukraine's Vanukovyich; I suspect the demonization propaganda machine is working beyond full steam and is about to blow). The content of the emails - corruption of the political machine - is evidently of no interest or concern to the little people once known as citizens. Never mind, of course, that the US surveillance machinery - of anyone's emails, anywhere - is far superior to anything the Russians, Chinese, or Germans have at their disposal or that, as Edward Snowden has pointed out, the NSA must have access to the relevant evidence.

So punitive political assassinations or their possibility are beyond the daily concourse of public outrage so far as MSM are concerned. Only outrage over non-existent threats is in order - e.g. Russian aggressive intent towards Ukraine (still no Russian invasion after two and a half years and even after another act of terrorist sabotage by Ukraine against Crimea) or Chinese aggressive intent against all South China Sea islands, whether natural or Chinese-built (nothing that China cannot fix with a dashing fishing deal over lunch with the new mass murdering president of the Philippines - another criminal apparently beyond the concourse of everyday outrage).

Certainly nothing about climate change to worry about so long as only 17% of Americans think it is real and requires urgent action and another 27% think it's real, manmade but nothing too urgent. Over 20% are sitting on the fence until it catches fire and the rest may be total morons.

The other most important piece of news over the summer, attracting suspiciously detached and evasive MSM coverage - grudging recognition that publication is the product of 15-years struggle by an important sector of the establishment - was release of the 28 censored pages of the 9/11 Commission Report concerning Saudi involvement (possibly involving the government itself or a faction within government perhaps - but there are strong indications of very high-level support) if not orchestration of the entire affair. The evidence is pretty alarming to any reasoning human being, especially those who might have noted in passing that most of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudis, and raises all manner of suspicions concerning the tight relationships between the Bush White House and the Saudi establishment, and between their respective intelligence services. Main outcome of 9/11 was the green light it provided for the US to stage an accelerated bid for global domination using as its pretext the hypocritical notion of a war on terror (hypocritical because by far the most damaging of terrorist acts are conducted by States).

The principal beneficiary of 9/11 appears to have been the US Deep State and its allies - I cannot see evidence that many other people have benefited - possibly working in cahoots with the intelligence service of one or more of its principal allies (incl. Saudi Arabia). Saudi Arabia arguably has benefited in relation to US policies on Syria, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Yemen and even Turkey that have sustained US-allied regimes of Saudi Arabia and Israel as Middle East kingpins even as the rest of the region is fragmented and slaughtered.

The thought that the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, in effect still continuing to this day, was totally unnecessary, misdirected, fought on false pretext and at immense cost of life and suffering, - while OBL, the supposed enemy, was given shelter or at least protective custody by US ally Pakistan's ISI from no later than 2006 (as suggested by the findings of Seymour Hersh) until his convenient assassination in the oddest of odd circumstances in 2011 - cannot be entertained in US mainstream media nor in the mainstream media of pretty much anywhere else. Pakistan is also a Saudi ally; both Saudi and US intelligence, I believe, are consulted as to who gets appointed leader of ISI. Worldwide, mainstream media may be locally owned and controlled in their majority, but in their majority they buy in too uncritically to US-sourced narratives (propaganda)(many countries depend on US and allied news sources for their supposedly "raw" information as to what is happening in the world) as to how the world works and should be thought about - i.e. through the lens of a neoliberal philosophy. Just as anti-communism was an ideological decoy in the cold war serving to distract from the real nature of the war that was being fought - the north against the south - this one may distract from the reality that the system it supports is based on the systematic creation of indebtedness of most nations on a few nations (I'm influenced by the thinking of "economic hit man" Perkins here) or, rather on the leading financial institutions of those few nations. The USA, paradoxically, is in a position to pull so many levers to its own advantage by using the dollar's role in oil trade that it depends on Chinese, Japanese and other purchasers of its own debt - though it is US investors who buy most of it).

The (still redacted) release of the 28 pages can be allowed only light attention - just another day in the history of US empire - to be passed quickly over with little if anything by way of critical reflection and certainly not calling on the bothersome and costly resources available to our diminished corps of investigative journalists, whose members also seems to have escaped the call of duty with respect to the hacked DNC emails and the murder of a DNC staffer. They doubtless have much better things to do, though I'm not sure what those could be

Were Media Responsible for the Iraq War?

Posted on August 11, 2016 at 6:30 PM Comments comments (0)
I caught the second half of a presentation by James W. Grimaldi (Wall Street Journal) at CSU Channel Islands yesterday. In a throw-away comment towards the end of his otherwise informative lecture, Grimaldi sounded generally tired of people blaming the media and cited criticism of press coverage of the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq in particular. How could the media be responsible, if they don't have the power to declare war - seemed to be the gist of his argument - and, anyway, on the question of weapons of mass destruction, it's apparently very difficult for media to "prove a negative." This is the kind of question I would advise senior journalists, Murdoch employees or otherwise, to really think through before breezily dismissing the thought of media responsibility (and accountability). The narrative of the invasion of Iraq doesn't start in 2003, of course, but it is an important milestone on a trajectory that encompasses the tragedies not just of Iraq, but of the destabilizations of Syria and Libya, the formation of ISIS, the interminable Western hostility towards Iran, the current crisis in Turkey, and even more appalling, the beating of NATO drums in preparation for (potentially nuclear) war against Russia. All on false pretext. The cost in human lives is barely imaginable. The Lancet study based on the most reliable methodology for assessing loss of life in Iraq (and steadfastly ignored for that reason by mainstream media, in favor of less shocking statistics) was already in excess of half a million only a few years after the war and the killing has continued in one way or another ever since - always attributable back to the fateful and reckless Bush invasion. By now we are talking way more than a million, with millions more wounded, and displaced. The stream of refugees to Europe and the construction of Fort Europe is just one of the most recent unpleasant aspects of blow-back for Western crimes, especially of the US and Britain. Grimaldi is a relatively young man, so if he is representative of how journalists of his generation who have made it to prestigious corporate mainstream media, think about the role of the media and its responsibilities, we are indeed in deep trouble. But I think we knew that already. Perhaps we need to blame clueless technicians who have commandeered the curricula of too many journalism schools. Grimaldi might do worse than study John Pilger's documentaries (e.g. The War We Cannot See"). Perhaps he has not read, or is even unaware of the abject apologia for their miserable performance that the New York Times and Washington Post, among others, published after the invasion. The most egregious concerns have to do with the failure of mainstream media to critique the false - deliberatively falsified - claims of their elite sources in the White House, State Department and Pentagon, even though there were countless expert sources of alternative evidence available to them at lower levels of power. They have to do with the unprofessional but widespread use of unattributed sources, sources that were highly problematic and controversial. Most fundamentally, the issue has to do with a profound weakness of critical sensibility that has stricken a profession. The media are not government, it is true, even if they regularly collude with power (The CIA's Frank Wisner once described the media as the "Mighty Wurlitzer" available to be played as he wished) but they are an absolutely essential part of the political process in liberal democracies and that is why they are the targets of relentless propaganda from the most important centers of power in society, and in turn that is why we absolutely need media that will courageously and firmly resist being scammed, that will do everything in their power to expose the nefarious policies of warmongers who are answerable primarily to corporate interests. We do not now have nor have had for a very long time a mainstream media system of this caliber. Grimaldi is apparently of the view that the market will resolve all such issues, the kind of simplistic neoliberal ideology that is at the root of our current decay. Distressing to hear it from a member of the vanguard of US investigative reporting.