The Times on 8 December provided such a classic example of the chief methods of Tory media distortion that it is worth analysing. It is in an article headlined ‘Stop the War forced into new retreat.’ Examining this story provides a general lesson for the left in how to reply to the habitual distortion of the Tory media.
It is of course not unknown for the media to simply invent things – as numerous examples from the ‘Zinoviev letter’ to the non-existent threatening picket of Stella Creasy MP’s home confirms. But it is not their main method of distorting reality.
The main method is to take some actual facts and totally distort their relative scale and significance.
Take for example this Times article on Stop the War. Stop the War was proved totally correct, as was Jeremy Corbyn, in opposing the invasion of Iraq, the bombing of Libya and other military actions in the Middle East.
The invasion of Iraq killed tens of thousands of Iraqis and transformed ISIS type forces from essentially powerless to controlling large areas of Iraq.
The bombing of Libya had the same effect. Previously powerless ‘jihadist’ forces now control large parts of Libya and are supplying large quantities of weapons to similar jihadists through large parts of Africa.
From these new bases for ISIS terrorist attacks such as in Paris and Mali are launched while the growing power of ISIS and other jihadists leads directly or indirectly to massacres such as San Bernardino.
In summary the invasion of Iraq and the bombing of Libya, by destabilising the entire situation in the Middle East, were catastrophes which have resulted by now in hundreds of thousands of deaths and have unleashed a terrorist hell in the world.
Therefore Stop the War has been proved totally correct while those who supported the invasion of Iraq and bombing of Libya were proved totally wrong. This situation in the Middle East is today one of the most important facts of geopolitics and directly dominates and blights the lives of hundreds of millions of people. Stop the War was proved totally correct.
But what is the key fact for The Times today? That Stop the War website contained two stupid articles one suggesting that the terrorist attacks on Paris were reaping the ‘whirlwind’ of US/EU policy in the Middle East and one that the activities of ISIS were somehow due to ‘internationalist’ approaches. You see, what is really important in the world is not the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, not the spreading of terror throughout the world, not the many deaths that are still to come as a result of the destabilisation of the entire Middle East by Bush and Blair’s Iraq invasion. No, the great issue facing humanity is two wrong articles on Stop the Wars website!
You understand the method? Did hundreds of thousands of deaths result from destabilisation of the Middle East through the Iraq invasion – yes, a huge fact. Have hundreds of people died through terrorist attacks by ISIS forces who were made powerful by the invasion of Iraq and bombing of Libya – yes a deadly fact. Did Stop the War publish two articles saying some stupid things – yes, a totally trivial fact compared to the previous two.
So the method of The Times is to attempt to reverse the proportions – to say that the relatively unimportant is really the big issue and not to discuss the really important. This method of the total reversal of the real relative weight and significance of matters is the method of distortion more often used by the Tory media than simple invention of facts.
What are the conclusions for the left? It is to understand what is the meaning of ‘agenda setting’. It means to focus on the really big and really imiportant. Not to be distracted into dealing with the relatively insignificant as set up by the Tory media. Because if one relatively insignificant fact is refuted the Tory media will just drag out a second… or a hundredth. Above all the Tory media wants to avoid discussing the really big issues.
The Times today therefore provides a lesson in studying the Tory media’s methods of distortion.
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This article by John Ross, on media distortion and falsification, was originally published on Facebook.