David Miller (ed), 'Tell me lies: Propaganda and Media Distortion in the Attack on Iraq'

IssueJune - August 2004
Review by Sarah Irving

Tired of the tedious and pitifully one-dimensional debates on the Iraq war that dominate the mainstream media? Got a sneaking suspicion that Tony Bliar may not be being entirely honest with us over WMD? Or simply want your convictions backed up with a wide range of well-researched and diverse articles? Buy this book. Despite the admission at the start that it was “produced at some speed”, it really is a quality little number.

It kicks off (after a typically sarky foreword from comedian Mark Thomas and a trenchant intro by David Miller which does not hesitate to use the word “liar” with reference to the British government) with a series of brief articles by John Pilger commenting on the backsliding of the mainstream press, the glaring inaccuracies and the selective reporting of human rights abuses.

Once the factual framework is established, the reporting of the Iraq war is put into historical and political context by number of pieces by the likes of Mark Curtis and Stephen Dorril. Most of these are just a few pages long and deal with fairly tightly defined topics, making the book surprisingly readable for the informational punch it packs - you can dip into it for facts on a specific issue, and because of the format there is no lengthy theoretical exposition or point-making to wade through.

Having set the scene, another batch of articles deals with the horrible truths of the events of 2003, from the manipulation of the tale of “little Ali”, the Iraqi boy whose arms were lost to a Western attack and was then whisked away to be cared for by the doctors of the same side to the internal shenanigans at the BBC as experienced by a journalist of Arab origin.

To wind up, a last section looks at the alternatives - from Al-Jazeera to Indymedia - and where those seeking a less distorted view of their regimes' activities might go to get it.

Finally, I have to say that it is a great treat to be reviewing a really good book from Pluto. This publisher has a very important place in the availability of left-of-centre books on politics, history and similar topics in Britain, and I've been disappointed to have reviewed some real turkeys from them recently. Long may this return to form continue.

Topics: Iraq, Media
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