I spend a lot of time on this blog criticising the propaganda role of liberal media, including my former newspaper the Guardian
. Media critics like Noam Chomsky and Ed Herman have called it "brainwashing under freedom". Because of a long filtering process before they reach positions of influence, journalists working for the corporate media in free societies replicate many of the failings of journalists working for media in repressive and closed societies. There are differences. The propaganda in free societies is more subtle and insidious; the journalists are more likely to believe what they write; and a degree of pluralism is allowed, even while plausible and important voices are ignored or ridiculed. But propaganda it still is.
I highlight this long and prominent article
in the Guardian
on Putin's handling of Crimea and Ukraine because it is a master-class in brainwashing under freedom.
The paper's Moscow correspondent, Shaun Walker, is presumably well-acquainted with Russian society. He has full access to Russian media propaganda, so he knows full well Russia's side of the argument. And he has acres of space in which to set out all the various viewpoints. And yet, he never manages to give a proper hearing to Russia's side of the argument.
Even from a casual reading of a few dissident writers on Crimea, I know that Russian leaders have made two important points: one about western hypocrisy over Crimea, and the other about the threat posed to Russian interests by Nato (read: US) expansionism. So how does Walker deal with these two arguments in his long article?
One cannot quite say he entirely ignores them, but he certainly does not present the case either. If you search the article, you will not find a mention of the terms "Nato", "expansion" or "Iraq". But Walker does not regard himself as a paid propagandist, so he subtly alludes to these positions without ever directly dealing with them.
For if he did, we, the reader, might realise how significant or persuasive some of Putin's arguments are. At the same time, he exploits these allusions, not to highlight issues that would reflect badly on the US and its lapdog supporters but to further undermine Putin's credibility.