The Orchestration of Propaganda 32

I have just witnessed the most remarkable operation in orchestration of propaganda in the UK in my lifetime. As I posted yesterday, the leaked Guantanamo files revealed a remarkable amount – that most detainees were completely innocent, that many were plainly fitted up by informants for cash, that people will say anything under torture, that ludicrous assertions were made by the US military, eg the possession of a watch was a clear indicator of bomb-making, and above all that nothing whatsoever could be proved against the vast majority of those held.

Today, with a quite amazing unanimity the mainstream British broadcast media have decided that none of the above analyses exist and the only thing worth reporting in the files is the assertion that 35 suspects received terror training in the UK. Both the BBC and Sky News were leading their broadcasts with the assertion of this highly dubious fact: here it is in Rupert Murdoch’s super soaraway Sun.

Given that the much more obvious lesson from the files is that this kind of information is untrue and from torture, informants, ridiculous deductions and prejudice, it really is an extraordinary thing that the entire British mainstream media today decided on this absolutely uniform presentation of the information. Nor has any of the outlets gone on to point out that not a single one of these 35 has actually been convicted of anything, and that many of them, like Moazzam Begg and the Tipton Three are demosntrably innocent, and that the British government is going to be paying quite a few of them compensation.

In fact the British media has today decided to report in precisely the same terms the least plausible imaginable interpretation of the large amount of material released. The only possible explanation is that somebody has issued a central guidance as to how the catalogue of shame which is the Guantanamo files should be twisted instead to support the narrative of the War on Terror.

Of all the bad things I have lived through, to me this is the most chilling Orwellian development I have experienced in my country; it feels like a crucial tipping point in our movement away from meaningful democracy.

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32 thoughts on “The Orchestration of Propaganda

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  • kathz

    You may wish to link to Clive Stafford Smith’s live Q&A today on the Guardian website in which he addresses some of these questions from the basis of considerable knowledge. I haven’t read it all but he does engage with the same questions.

  • mary

    …’away from meaningful democracy’……

    I will repeat it again. Our ‘democracy’ is illusory.

  • mike cobley

    No surprise, seeing as how exactly the same measures are being carried out in the States by dingbat rightwing Republican state governors, most notably in Michigan.

  • deep green puddock

    I, too have been mytified on several occasion recently by what has the apppearance of some kind of collusion or ‘central command’. Most recently, there was a very sudden closing down of the reporting over Fukushima. Although there was a great deal of vacuous pontification, the suddenness of a change of policy throughout the mainstream media was a great surprise.
    this event was accompanied by an extraordinary plethora of what can only be described as ‘spoliers’- confusing and contradictory articles, sudden retractions and challenges of well-established perceptions (admittedly not always correct) about nuclear power and the dangers of it. It really was an extraordinary process.
    i think the damage done to the ‘idea’ of nuclear was countered by sowing confusion and uncertainty.

    It seems very depressing and alarming but I think it is also a possible sign of desperation. In the Soviet times, the population became incredibly adept at deconstructing the nonsense produced in official channels. It became a national sport. Maybe we will just have to go through the same process. You are, of course being read by many people who never make their presence felt.

    So don’t lose heart. But we do live in ‘interesting’ times.

  • mark_golding

    Collusion yes and the the most monstrous collusion is that of Britain, America, Saudi and the Bahrain royal family.


    Such is the genocide in Bahrain and Jamie Bowden pontificates while Sir Peter Ricketts warns of public discontent to Britain’s ‘dirty little secret in Bahrain’ and DISGUST at foreign royals attending Prince Williams wedding. Sir Ricketts had earlier conveyed a ‘special message’ (Royal) from agent Cameron advising intervention. Send in Gates – then – 2 days pass before several thousands-strong armed forces entered Bahrain across the 25-kilometre causeway connecting Saudi Arabia while Bahrain’s rulers declared martial law, beginning with a full military attack on peaceful, pro-democracy protesters camped at the capital’s Pearl Square. Why? – to restore the order and stability of the UK backed Al Khalifa Sunni dictatorship that had sat perilously on top of an oppressed Shia majority for decades.

    So Sir Ricketts – Why does a Knight of the Garter do nothing against genocide nothing in support of direct values, lofty rhetoric and platitudes about democracy and human rights. Why? Because YOU Sir were complicit to the ‘green light’ given to the Saudi-led invasion that’s why.

    Why have so many doctors disappeared – I will tell you from a reliable source – because banned illegal nerve toxins have been identified in Bahrain by those same doctors.

    It points to Western government complicity at the highest level in crimes against humanity.

    The British press have been told to concentrate on Western humanitarian concern in Libya – Bollocks – Print the directive I dare you – All this while thousands of US military personnel are stationed only kilometers from the scenes of appalling violence.

    And the Royal wedding? – A distraction!

  • Tom Welsh

    “Freedom of the press in Britain means freedom to print such of the proprietor’s prejudices as the advertisers don’t object to”.

    – Hannen Swaffer (journalist) 1928

    It seems that several proprietors share the same prejudices. (Of course, some proprietors give orders to many different media outlets).

  • YugoStiglitz

    On what basis do you state that the majority of the detainees were “completely innocent”? Did you just make that up?

  • glenn_uk

    Listen to the Mike Malloy show by podcast, because he certainly could do with the support.
    He ALWAYS covers this sort of thing, and has done so for the past 30-odd years. But he struggles to stay on the air, his show is syndicated by only a handful of stations, and the main broadcasters (ClearChannel etc.) wouldn’t dream of going near it. Meanwhile, hate-filled blather by Rush “pig-man” Limbaugh can be heard coast to coast, on several frequencies at any given time, and repeated throughout the day, touting the corporate line and damning liberals, unions, blacks, Muslims etc. etc. as the entire cause of societal problems – and gets very rich doing so. Limbaugh’s contract is worth $400 million, a reward for telling lies that benefit the super-rich. Malloy struggles to keep going at all, with 1000 times the talent, because he tells the truth.
    Looks like he’ll be covering this new business about Guantanamo on tonight’s show. But he’ll also talk about the rottenness at the heart of The Establishment, the savage treatment of the Palestinians, and so on – all the things we’d never hear unless perhaps if we bought some John Pilger documentaries.
    if nobody supports him, we have no business complaining that the mainstream media does such a horrible job and acts as establishment stooges.

  • Ivan K.

    “In fact the British media has today decided to report in precisely the same terms the least plausible imaginable interpretation of the large amount of material released. The only possible explanation is that somebody has issued a central guidance as to how the catalogue of shame which is the Guantanamo files should be twisted instead to support the narrative of the War on Terror.”

    I’m fairly sure it has nothing to do with orchestration (presuming orchestration implies something deliberate and self-conscious). Rather, the phenomenon seems akin to a mutual synchronisation of movements such as we can see in flocks of birds and fish.

    The comparison with animals isn’t meant to suggest that what is taking place is simple; on the contrary, the underlying mechanisms are complex, and deserve serious study and public attention. The possibility of this kind of thing is likely never to leave us. There is another thing I’m reminded of – the behaviour of the crowd immediately before Christ’s crucifixion.

  • Art Hawke

    Earlier this week Tim Minchen, the comedian, appeared on The Wright Stuff morning show. The discussion was about AV but Tim’s comment was for me insightful. He said, Ignore what the media and the politicians are saying and research the subject for yourself. I read most of the online newspapers (I don’t watch TV, especially BBC News) but also visit the many blogs, most of them based in the U.S. For Americans, this is now their only source of unbiased news on politics, environment, GMOs, Fukushima and the disastrous wars started by Bush Jnr. If our media has been ‘got at’ as we suspect, are they unaware of these other sources of news? A good example is Russia Today.

  • conjunction

    I agree with the point Craig is making, but to me this is not a new departure. Many times over the last year or so I have checked with various national newspaper websites to see if they have reported either various Wikileaks disclosures or alternatively a number of stories the Guardian has posted regarding Guantanomo detainees, or other stories about awareness of British involvment in torture.

    Routinely I have discovered a complete lack of interest in same.

  • John L

    Just one more reason while I no longer buy a newspaper these days…

    Was the time I wouldn’t have wrapped my chips in them … good old days.

    These days I wouldn’t wipe my backside with a UK newspaper in case I caught something.

  • evgueni

    Hmm.. what meaningful democracy? It was ever a meaningless deception, we just never knew the half of it before WL and the internet. This is a curious sentiment I hear repeated often – that our democracy somehow used to be better. Perhaps ignorance was bliss, as for the Cypher character in the Matrix.

    That the media comment often appears to be orchestrated centrally may be down to a mechanism that was described in Manufacturing Consent. In for-profit organisations cost-cutting opportunities are rarely overlooked. Government agency press releases are ‘trust-worthy’ and handed out for free, enabling a leaner research staff. Could it be that simple?

  • Cedric

    This is hardly new.
    An even wider alignment of international mass media to spread the least credible interpretation of facts was already easily observable right after 9/11 and again for invasion of Irak.

    I don’t believe in orchestration, though.
    I rather think that in such situations journalists fear to be caught alone criticizing the authorities.

  • glenn_uk

    Jeez – this isn’t optimistic, but it is worth reading in its entirety – seriously – through to the end. This isn’t one of those skim-references, it deserves to be read properly.

    The ‘take-home’ quote for me was this, out of that excellent article:
    “The citizen’s highest hope finally becomes to be secure and left alone.” – Chris Hedges

    We’re screwed. Hope is for those that feel they need it in order to function.

  • Brendan

    But we also saw the same orchestration over Libya, previously Iraq, doubtless Iran when the time comes. It’s perfectly obvious that a collusion of Big Business and our glorious spooks has a hand in this propaganda. Twas ever thus; they are on the same side.

    I was particularly taken, over Libya, at how many ‘under the line’ commenters were full of support for our ‘intervention’. I meet almost nobody in the actual, real world who thinks liberal intervention is anything other than total lunacy. But the online trolls were all over it – on almost every newssheet I read. Again, fairly obvious stuff, but I was still a little surprised, I have to say.

  • Tom Welsh

    Last night I watched John Pilger’s “The War against Democarcy” again, and I was struck by the parallel between the orchestrated revolution against Huge Chavez in Venezuela and the revolution against Gadafi in Libya. In both cases the revolution was apparently led by a small minority against the wishes of most of the people; and in both cases Washington immediately weighed in with propaganda supporting the coup. In Venezuela, as we know, the majority reacted promptly and kicked the revolutionaries out, freeing the president and restoring the constitution. The situation in Libya seems more complicated, if only because NATO is fighting on the side of the rebels.

  • ingo

    The least plausible imagination is applied to most issues, it seems, by commentators who do not know their stuff. yesterday the BBC’s Look East political correspondent Andrew Sinclair came out with the gushing sentence that ‘this is the only chance we get to change the hundred year old electoral system’. he was all,over himself to support this vote. I had to ring in and ask them to take it off their bulletin news, that it is some sixty years, the 1950’s, when Britain changed its hotch potch voting system, thats the quality of reporting these days.

    Haigs insistence that we are in for the long haul in Lybia, whilst doing nothing for Syria, must have something to do with oil. The slow speed of fighting and the grinding misery that is Misrata is also time for oil to be exported, no doubt, at a ‘special’ premium.

  • mary


    Craig Murray – The Orchestration of Propaganda
    Posted by fugazi on April 26, 2011, 7:03 pm

    The Orchestration of Propaganda
    Craig Murray – The Guardian Conundrum
    Posted by fugazi on April 26, 2011, 7:04 pm, in reply to “Craig Murray – The Orchestration of Propaganda”

    Actually the next post down on his blog is also worth reading.
    Re: Craig Murray – The Guardian Conundrum
    Posted by Keith-264 on April 26, 2011, 7:56 pm, in reply to “Craig Murray – The Guardian Conundrum”

    The Guardian; the paper of principle, the paper of the ethical left, the paper that grassed Sarah Tisdall.
    Wonder if Craig knows about the Herman/Chomsky Propaganda Model —
    Posted by Rhisiart Gwilym on April 27, 2011, 7:46 am, in reply to “Craig Murray – The Orchestration of Propaganda”

    — He’s supposing a central ‘news’-directing conspiracy here, which as the Model suggests is an unnecessary hypothesis to explain these striking displays of unanimity amongst the ‘news’ hawkers.

    One of Craig’s commenters seems to get it, likening the behaviour of corpohacks to the flocking manoeuvres of fish or birds, which seem to be centrally orchestrated, yet have no known organising principle beyond the participants watching each other’s moves and responding with great speed to do likewise; plus of course, in the case of the corpohack flock, having their lips permanently glued to the fundaments of the powerful. With that kind of docile, career-protecting conformability, who needs to organise formal news-managing conspiracies?

    This phenomenon amongst Western ‘free’ media is pretty well observed by now, and likely to be a correct explanation. When every key decision-makers in a country’s mainstream ‘news’ media has been put thoroughly through the filtration system on her/his way up the greasy pole, you can expect them to be people who have the ‘right’ ideas naturally, and ultra-keen antennae for what all the others are doing. No survival as ‘news’ hawks without that capacity.

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  • evgueni

    Good point. So, Craig – have you read Manufacturing Consent? AFAIK, this is still by far the most convincing model of the media’s inner workings. If I were allowed to keep only one book by Chomsky, it would be this one.

  • Herbie

    Looks like Blair hasn’t been invited to the royal wedding:

    I suspect that Blair hasn’t been invited on security grounds and the risk that he’d attract distracting protests. Remember what happened when he tried to have his book signing in Dublin and the extent of the protests against him even there forced him to cancel his British book signing engagements. I’d imagine Brown wasn’t invited to lessen the obviousness of the Blair snub.

    It is refreshing though that Blair is such an outcast in his own country that he can’t take part in this event. I’m sure both he and Shree are disappointed and indeed humiliated that this is their fate.

    Perhaps not the justice many of us wished, but a kind of natural justice it would be churlish to ignore.

    Unless of course he and Shree will just be sneaking in the back door unannounced, like rats in the night…


    Dear Craig,

    Some months ago I remember reading an article in the Independent that said something about convivial lunches that newspaper editors routinely have with MI6. I cannot find the article now but it seemed moderately written and well informed. In fact reading it I got the impression the writer knew more than he was able to say. I do not have the time to track the article down but one of your respondents might.

  • deep green puddock

    Interesting thoughts here amnd the ‘flocking bird and shoaling fish’ is probably a good simile, however one must suspect that such a mechanism exists alongside more formal and informal arrangements, such as actual directives and meetings, and journalists who have long been a covert part of the intelligence system, and genuine ‘appropriate’ measures which are intended to control growing anxiety and prevent mass panic or hysterical behaviour.

    The whole Fukushima discussion was at one point, going well out of control, where many commenters did not have means of assessing the technicalities of the argument and becoming almost hysterical in some quarters, and rational thinking and comment was being drowned out. The authoritarian response is to simply slam the lid down ‘in the public interest’ and exclude all comment, both legitimate criticism,informative, and the hysterical.

    Thus, when order is established, authority can hide behind a convenient few slender leaves of a legitimate public interest argument, but then massage and control any continuing discourse.
    of course the subtlety of this process makes all suspicion of manipulation seem like paranoia or conspiracy theorising because such comment inevitably reflects the hyper-anxious, stressed mentality. (Just because it is a conspiracy theory doesn’t mean it isn’t true.)

  • mark_golding

    MERCOURIS – Quite right – since John Major avowed the existence of MI6 to the House of Commons, every so often an unnamed or sometimes a ‘John Doe’ from MI6/SIS have tea, normally eclairs and Darjeeling, with reliable chaps from the media.

    Every national paper and broadcasting outlet has one – and usually, only one – reporter to whom each agency MI5/6 will speak, provided they observe the niceties; remember all spooks have ‘plausible confutation’ a quality needed for those who shadow the prime minister’s spokesperson at lobby meetings.

    Many of Frank Gardner’s briefs buy time and fear without ever revealing the source and it is this daily life secrecy that has become objectionable. Unfortunately our own main media has been spun into submission and there lies a problem. According to my contact the rumour is, “let Bahrain be – concentrate on Syria.”

    Thank’s to ‘Rob’ for contributing to this post – my taste for Darjeeling has developed.

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