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David Cromwell and David Edwards, 'Newspeak in the 21st Century'

Pluto, 2009; ISBN 978 0 745 328 93 5; 304pp; £16.99

Since setting up the Media Lens website (www.medialens.org) in 2002, David Edwards and David Cromwell have been publishing regular media alerts “correcting for the distorted vision of the corporate media”, encouraging readers to write directly to individual journalists to take them to task.

Largely made up of edited versions of these alerts, Newspeak in the 21st Century’s central thesis is that there is “a profound, consistent bias favouring powerful interests stretching right across the media spectrum” – including the “liberal media” such as the Guardian, BBC and Channel Four News.

Influenced by Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky’s “Propaganda Model”, the authors are keen to point out this isn’t the result of a conspiracy, but rather the predictable outcome of free-market forces (ownership, advertising, education and selection of employees, sources quoted, etc).

The book analyses the mainstream media’s coverage of Iraq, Iran, climate change, and includes a marvellous A-Z of BBC propaganda. Particularly shocking are the sections highlighting the government-friendly media coverage of the 2004 and 2006 Lancet reports on Iraqi deaths, and of Hugo Chavez’s decade-long tenure as the president of Venezuela.

Best – and most entertaining – of all are the replies Edwards and Cromwell elicit from journalists. Often bemused and intellectually muddled, sometimes angry and rude, these exchanges offer a fascinating insight into the sheer ignorance and ideological blindness of those said to write the first draft of history.

Peace News readers might also welcome the thought-provoking exploration of Buddhist teachings on happiness, compassion and activism in the closing chapter. Scrupulously footnoted, persuasively argued and very accessible, along with the first Media Lens book Guardians of Power, Newspeak in the 21st Century is an essential addition to every activist’s bookshelf.

Topics: Media