Book review

5:   Guardians of Power – the myth of the liberal media

David Edwards & David Cromwell – Medialens Pluto Press, 2006 ISBN 0 7453 2482 7

For those who do not know of Medialens, I should explain that the two Davids have been running this web project, assisted by a webmaster, since 2001. Its website is, which gives access to its current and archive of past ‘media alerts’, and the option to subscribe to these weekly emailed alerts.

These alerts analyse the news coverage of the supposedly ‘liberal’ media – mainly the Guardian, the Observer, the Independent, and the BBC – to show up their establishment-friendly bias due to their existence as psychopathic Corporations, as analysed in Joel Bakan’s book and film, The Corporation. Using a variety of quoted sources, they relate the ‘other side’ of the news items, and ask their readers to email their own, polite responses to the reporters/presenters/editors of the paper or TV channel concerned. They then report the responses, and their own further correspondence with the reporter/presenter/editor concerned. Often, they consult Chomsky, Pilger and other radicals and report their responses on particular points.

Their aim, as they insist, is not to attack the media staff, but to make them aware of their effective, though largely unconscious role as filters of the news; and for the authors themselves to act as a source of uncensored news.

The first chapters of the book, after an introductory chapter explaining its purpose and structure, expose the biased views conveyed by the mass media on the issues of the Iraq war, its aftermath and the build-up to it, and the preceding period of sanctions; Afghanistan, Kosovo, East Timor, Haiti; then the dishonest recent idolatry of Reagan and Clinton; and climate change. Each is illustrated by extracts from their archive of media alerts, giving the contrasting, unreported facts.

The final chapters analyse the ways that operate to select the personnel for news reporting who will, without overt persuasion or conscious effort, report the official news versions unchallenged; and the biases this involves: ‘West is Best’, ‘enemy’ groups’ ‘freedom fighters’ are ‘terrorists’, ‘our boys’ always fight for ‘freedom and democracy’, regardless of the truth!

They then look to the future, and the potential of the ‘net’ to produce a viable alternative source of news to the establishment media – as their own service is becoming. Another example they cite is that of the OhmyNews service in South Korea, where 70% of households have broadband connection. It relies on ordinary readers to input its material. Around the time of the elections in 2002, it registered 20 million page-views per day, and resulted in the election of an ‘outsider’ to the presidency.

Finally, to quote from the book:


Corporate interests need us to pursue a version of human happiness that serves profits but not people. The results include individual depression, global environmental collapse, and wars for control of natural resources. Thus, much modern suffering is inherent neither to ourselves as individuals, nor to the human condition, but is often rooted in a dominant political-economic system which subordinates human and environmental well-being to profit. The result is that we tend to be exposed to ideas about ourselves and society that satisfy the needs of mass consumer culture, but not our needs as human beings."

They contrast this with the potential of a world freed from these distorting pressures, as exampled by the Ladakhis as experienced by Helena Norberg-Hodge when she first visited Ladakh, before they became subjected to Western ‘civilisation’; she found them happy and content, ‘totally lacking in what we would call pride’, but having a deep-seated self-respect.

Essential to happiness, the authors argue, is compassion. They work for ‘full human dissent’ from the culture of greed and subservience. The book ends with a wide sample of websites ‘that provide useful news, analysis and/or commentary’. I can wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone not already on the Medialens mailing list – as I can also recommend that they should get themselves on to it!

Brian Leslie