Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Journalism and 'the words of power'

Robert Fisk, The Independent newspaper's Middle East correspondent, gave the following address to the fifth Al Jazeera annual forum on May 23.

By Robert Fisk

"Power and the media are not just about cosy relationships between journalists and political leaders, between editors and presidents. They are not just about the parasitic-osmotic relationship between supposedly honourable reporters and the nexus of power that runs between White House and state department and Pentagon, between Downing Street and the foreign office and the ministry of defence [may I add between Fisk and the late Hariri?]. In the western context, power and the media is about words - and the use of words. It is about semantics.

It is about the employment of phrases and clauses and their origins. And it is about the misuse of history; and about our ignorance of history.

More and more today, we journalists have become prisoners of the language of power.....

Al Jazeera is giving good coverage to the flotilla - the convoy of boats setting off for Gaza. I don't think they are a bunch of anti-Israelis. I think the international convoy is on its way because people aboard these ships - from all over the world - are trying to do what our supposedly humanitarian leaders have failed to do. They are bringing food and fuel and hospital equipment to those who suffer. In any other context, the Obamas and the Sarkozys and the Camerons would be competing to land US Marines and the Royal Navy and French forces with humanitarian aid - as Clinton did in Somalia. Didn't the God-like Blair believe in humanitarian 'intervention' in Kosovo and Sierra Leone?

In normal circumstances, Blair might even have put a foot over the border.

But no. We dare not offend the Israelis. And so ordinary people are trying to do what their leaders have culpably failed to do. Their leaders have failed them.

Have the media? Are we showing documentary footage of the Berlin airlift today? Or of Clinton's attempt to rescue the starving people of Somalia, of Blair's humanitarian 'intervention' in the Balkans, just to remind our viewers and readers - and the people on those boats - that this is about hypocrisy on a massive scale?

The hell we are! We prefer 'competing narratives'. Few politicians want the Gaza voyage to reach its destination - be its end successful, farcical or tragic. We believe in the 'peace process', the 'road map'. Keep the 'fence' around the Palestinians. Let the 'key players' sort it out....."

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