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The fenced-in home of UK democracy

The fenced-in home of UK democracy

Government to serve or control ?

Government to serve or control ?

The watchers watch us as HMG peeps into our emails

The watchers watch us as HMG peeps into our emails

[The following is copied from an internet service that comments on mainstream media which I urge you to read through.

The visit of President Bush to London sets up strange vistas on our democratic apparatus: the most powerful man in the world wrapped in layer upon layer of protection. How strong is that ? And how democratic ?]

Following the killing of 27 people including 19 Italian troops in Nassiriya on November 12, Channel 4 News presenter, Jon Snow, asked Labour MP Ann Clwyd:

"Are we now losing the Shias? That would be a tragedy."

We asked Snow to explain the meaning of this question:

“Did you mean to suggest that you view yourself as a member of ‘the coalition’, of the British government, or both?” (David Edwards, email to Jon Snow, November 12, 2003)

Snow responded almost immediately:

“NO WE AS HUMAN BEINGS I SHD THINK ... FORGET THE COALITION..ANYONE GIVING UP ON PEACEFUL ACTIVITY IN FAVOUR OF VIOLENCE IS BOUND TO BE A TRADGEDY [sic] ISNT IT?..OR MAYBE THAT'S A CONTROVERSIAL VIEW!"

We wrote again on November 12:

“How can Clwyd, as a representative of a British government that waged war on Iraq and is now ruling the country by force of arms, be included among ‘we as human beings’ who have not given up on ‘peaceful activity in favour of violence'?"

We received no reply. We wonder if, in the 1980s, Snow would have asked a Soviet politician at the time of the Red Army’s invasion of Afghanistan:

“Are we now losing the people in the Kunar region? That would be a tragedy."

Would it still have been reasonable to argue that the "we" referred to 'us' as peace-loving human beings, the Soviet government included?

A week earlier, another Channel 4 news anchor referred to killings resulting from a "terrorist insurgency" in Iraq. We asked Channel 4 to explain why they had not also talked in terms of a "terrorist occupation". We received this reply from deputy editor, Martin Fewell:

”Agree with your point. We always try to be careful when using the word 'terrorist' or describing an event as 'an act of terrorism' on Channel Four News. I don't think we got it right this time, and we told the team that on Friday night. It's the Pentagon, and specifically Donald Rumsfeld, who use words like 'terrorist' and 'insurgency' to describe what's happening in Iraq. We should have ascribed this comment to them, not repeated it as a
statement of fact.” (Email to Media Lens, November 10, 2003)

Two days later, Channel 4’s Jonathan Rugman declared:

"Yes, the Americans want democracy here [Iraq], but they don't want to die for it." (Channel 4 News, November 12, 2003)

Moments later, Rugman noted that, if they "democratise too quickly", the Americans risk handing power over to Shia clerics. It appeared not to be an attempt at irony.

Channel 4, the BBC, ITN – all are busy reporting that the Americans are working “to democratise” Iraq. And all are instantly contradicting themselves by pointing out that the Americans are trying not to “rush the
process” in order to secure the democracy they “hoped for”. (BBC 1 News at Ten, November 13, 2003)

The media forever try to convince us of the fundamental benevolence of Western power in this way. Reinforcement is provided by encouraging viewers and readers to believe that, together with our leaders, we form a united and benevolent “us”.

As a result it is easy to lose sight of the actual policymakers selected out of the oil and arms industries - George Bush, Condaleeza Rice, Dick Cheney – and fierce hawks like Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle. We may begin to actually think in terms of a benign “us” led by individuals who
somehow act independently of their backgrounds, their declared intentions,
and the greedy vested interests of which they are a part.

Writing in the Independent on Sunday, Robert Fisk told the truth about the lie that America and Britain are passionate supporters of democracy:

“We supported the Egyptian generals (aka Gamal Abdul Nasser) when they originally kicked out King Farouk. We - the Brits - created the Hashemite Kingdom in Jordan. We - the Brits - put a Hashemite King on the throne of Iraq. And when the Baath party took over from the monarchy in Baghdad, the CIA obligingly handed Saddam's mates the names of all senior communist party
members so they could be liquidated.

“The Brits created all those worthy sheikhdoms in the Gulf. Kuwait was our
doing; Saudi Arabia was ultimately a joint Anglo-US project, the United Arab Emirates (formerly the Trucial State) etc. But when Iran decided in the 1950s that it preferred Mohammed Mossadeq's democratic rule to the Shah's, the CIA's Kim Roosevelt, with Colonel "Monty" Woodhouse of MI6, overthrew
democracy in Iran. Now President Bush demands the same "democracy" in
present-day Iran.” (Fisk, ‘How we denied democracy to the Middle’, The Independent on Sunday, November 9, 2003)