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Media Alert: Points Scoring Over Syria

A round-up of the hottest takes from the best UK Indy Media


The Weeks Big Stories

Essential new from the frontlines of media politics

 Points Scoring Over Syria Risks Obscuring Humanitarian Catastrophes

Before and after the recent attacks on Syria by the US, UK, and France, a predictable spectrum emerged. At one end it was argued that the attacks would risk stepping up a conflagration leading to World War 3. The other side held that intervention wasn’t just a moral necessity, but that it might be part of finally “dealing with Assad” (as usual, a clear plan was lacking for the kind of administration that would replace him).

In typical binary fashion, the social media flame wars gravitated away from the middle of this spectrum, characterizing people as stooges for either Assad or Western imperialism. Syria is an issue where everybody can be wrong at the same time as saying how wrong everyone else is. The risk is that the humanitarian catastrophe gets crowded out during this points-scoring and that the hugely complex context gets sidelined.

New Internationalist portrayed such realities on the ground earlier this month, covering what daily life is now like Damascus, Aleppo, and Homs.

Intellectual Witch Hunt

In the meantime, sections of the media aligned to billionaires and conservatism have generally done their best to prop up the idea that responsibility for the recent chemical attacks was a 100% certainty, despite having been caught out on comparable issues in the recent (Novichock) and less recent (Saddam’s WMDs) past.

A key propaganda push was to publish lots of pictures of Theresa May looking gritty and determined, in contrast to peacenik Corbyn.

Media Alert has already discussed some glaring hypocrisies in this simplistic approach. Such flagrant double standards are spelled out in greater detail in this piece from Aaron Bastani in Novara Media.

The article covers broader issues pertaining to the refugee crisis, Yemen, Turkey, Palestine, Egypt, Iran and more.

While these issues get some coverage on the insides of liberal newspapers and in longer form pieces on TV they’re swamped by the deluge of war propaganda that generally drives mainline narratives.

The idea that questioning such propaganda is a stock0in-trade of “Assad apologists” was promoted by the front page of Murdoch’s Sunday Times this week. It’s part of a general ongoing attack on academia (anti-intellectualism being a popular theme of authoritarianism, providing a chance to attack liberalism, providing a chance to attack liberalism while invoking faux-populism).

As detailed in this response from Open Democracy, The Sunday Times accusations were highly disingenuous.

Points Scoring has Obscured The Humanitarian Disaster.

In the aftermath of the air strikes, seemingly limited out of a degree of political judiciousness, a third possibility has emerged. Separately from the “Stop World War 3” vs. “Deal with Monster Assad” narrative.

With the fast-moving news agenda, much of this could be forgotten fairly quickly as we move on to other things, the whole Syria matter becoming a “tin can” – perpetually kicked down the road because no one really knows what to do. At the time of writing (lunchtime 18 April), BBC News 24 carried six headlines in its top-of-hour bulletin. Not one of them was Syria-related. Within a few days, UK military action is already less news-worthy than the upcoming Windsor family wedding and the death of Barbara Bush.

Meanwhile, issues such as the refugee crisis, cholera in Yemen, terrorist links to Nato countries, superpower relations and other complex geopolitics, can revert to being almost solely covered in liberal broadsheets, occasional segments on the likes of Channel 4 News, foreign propaganda such as RT and generally progressive independent media: yet another reason why it’s urgent to support and promote the likes of Novara, Open Democracy, and New Internationalist.


Freelancers’ Fair 2018: hot topics & more in London.

If you work in film or TV, then you’re invited to join the production community at the Freelancers Fair on Friday 27 April in the heart of London.

Organised by the industry trade union BECTU, and now in its 12th year, this feel-good event gives you the opportunity to discuss current production challenges with leading industry figures and to take advantage of a range of advice.

This years seminar programme includes a special session on #TimesUP and the UK industry’s approach to the need to deliver respect at work for all. BECTU is delighted too to be hosting their first ever discussion on Virtual Reality and is pleased that Inition will be encouraging visitors to get hands-on. ARRI will also be delivering the popular technical area.

Lively discussions about producing for online, using archive, making money through online distribution, authentic storytelling, boosting the range of content for audiences and working with development labs will also be on offer. There’ll also be a bonus Your Question Time session where visitors can out their question to our panel. The fair exhibition will also be well stocked with advisors on issues of interest to the production community including tax, insurance, training and much more. Get along early and you can book a one-to-one.

The Freelancers’ Fair is for everyone, from the new entrant to the more established professional. Go alone or in a group, and the welcome will be warm at the beautiful Royal Institution, off Piccadilly close to Green Park on Friday 27 April 2018 from 9am – 6pm. BECTU members attend for free; other visitors pay just £13.31. All tickers including a complimentary drink at the networking social which will close the day. Full programme information is set out here and booking is via Eventbrite at


Picks of the Week

Our hand-picked selections from some of the best independent journalism around

Short-Changing Londoners On Efficiency Savings – Alexandra Heal, DeSmog UK

Nearly a third of London planning authorities have never collected any carbon offset payments from housing developers, despite having powers to do so for seven years. Is profit for landlords a higher concern?

Find DeSmog UK on Twitter @DeSmogUK

Surveillance Capitalism – Real Media

Professor Bev Skeggs in conversation with Kam Sandhu about the increasing rise of surveillance using technology. This is often sold to us under the guise of improving health, environment, workplace efficiency and the natural appeal of gimmicky. But the implications of our rights can be terrifying

Find Real Media on Twitter @RealMediaGB

UK Plans to Build Nigerian Prison Wings  – Corporate Watch

Foreign aid is constantly attacked by the right-wing press, despite much of it going to British companies anyway. Corporate Watch uncover an instance of the branching out of such funds into a prison industrial complex, an incarnation of neo-colonialism

Find Corporate Watch on Twitter @CorpWatchUK


Media Alert is a weekly bulletin discussing issues impacting on the UK independent media and highlighting some of the best recent work from the sector.

It’s brought to you by The Media Fund, a co-operative of over 30 partners seeking to raise funds and advocate for quality independent journalism.

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