By Stephen Gowans
It’s easy to rail against The Times of London, The Telegraph, Canada’s The National Post and scores of US equivalents for being the worst kind of purveyors of right-wing propaganda. These advocates of all that is backward, with their philosophy of unremitting indulgence for the rich and limitless harshness for the poor, wear their reactionary, jingoist attitudes on their sleeves. They strive to be “in your face” – and are. But because they make no secret of their right-wing prejudices, their propaganda value in the larger population is approximately zero. These newspapers consciously cater to a right-wing constituency. There’s no need to worry about stumbling into ideological mine fields here; the mine field has been conveniently fenced off and bright warning signs have been deployed along the periphery.
More dangerous, like a mine field cleverly concealed beneath an inviting patch of turf sporting signs reading: “Please walk on the grass” are the respectable, seemingly balanced, quality newspapers. They share the same right-wing prejudices, but skillfully disguise them and package them to be palatable to those who aren’t inclined to spout right-wing shibboleths. Chomsky, Herman and others have been dissecting the reporting of these newspapers – the New York Times in particular – to show that the biases of so-called liberal media tilt just as strongly toward ruling class interests as their unabashedly right-wing counterparts do. The genius of the liberal media lies in reproducing ruling class ideology without seeming to – the deception aided by their being starkly different on the surface from their conspicuously right-wing cousins.
The same can be said of progressive and radical sources of information. In societies dominated by hereditary capitalist families and corporate wealth there are few places hived off from the influence of those who own the society’s productive assets. One way in which the corporate ruling class extends its influence to the progressive and radical communities is through buffer organizations. Buffer organizations include foundations, as well as government agencies that have names that appeal to traditional progressive concerns about peace and democracy. The United States Institute for Peace, for example, sounds like it might engage in the kind of work progressives can applaud, but is a buffer organization of the US State Department and Pentagon. The National Endowment for Democracy, which claims to promote democratization around the world, appears to be engaged in praiseworthy work, but works to destabilize foreign countries whose economic policies are not conducive to the interests of US investment banks and corporations.
It is through these buffer organizations that wealthy individuals like billionaire financier George Soros and former Michael Milken right-hand man Peter Ackerman, hereditary capitalist families like the Fords, Rockefellers and Carnegies, and the governments they dominate, connect with the progressive community. These connections reach into sources of progressive and radical news and analysis.
Consider two recent examples. Last March, Z-Net published an article on Zimbabwe by a founding member of the Movement for Democratic Change, a coalition of foreign-funded civil society organizations that came together in 2000 to oppose Zimbabwe’s Zanu-PF government as it was about to embark on a program of fast-track land reform. The leader of the MDC, Morgan Tsvangirai, acknowledged in 2002 that the MDC is funded by the British government and European corporations. Both Washington and London have since openly admitted to bankrolling Zimbabwe’s opposition and its civil society adjuncts. The author of the piece, Grace Kwinjeh, who has traveled to Washington on George Soros’ tab to confer with Washington’s regime changers on how to get rid of the Mugabe government, failed to acknowledge her MDC credentials, passing herself off as an independent journalist (kind of like Donald Rumsfeld writing commentary on US elections for a Zimbabwean audience while pretending to be an independent US journalist.) To give the article a radical feel, Patrick Bond added his name as co-author. Bond had assured progressives in a Counterpunch article last year that the Western funded Zimbabwean underground movements Zvakwana and Sokwanele, which count among their number “a conservative white businessman expressing a passion for freedom, tradition, polite manners and the British Royals” represent an “independent” left. In Bond’s and Kwinjeh’s lexicon, “US/British funded fifth columnist” equals “independent.”
In April, MRZine published an article titled “China still a small player in Africa,” by Firoze Manji, the director of Fahamu and editor of Pambazuka News. Pambazuka News operates on grants from the Ford Foundation and George Soros. Fahamu is backed by the US Congress-funded Media Institute of Southern Africa, the European Union, and the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office. (You can read Bond on Pambazuka News, too.)
How far does Grace Kwinjeh stray from the views of the MDC when she’s masquerading as an independent journalist, and how far do the views of the MDC stray from its regime change underwriters in Washington and London? Are Manji’s views independent of the corporate foundations, wealthy individuals and imperialist governments who allow Pambazuka News and Fahamu to operate, and provide him a remunerative and interesting job?
You don’t have to log onto Z-Net to find out what the MDC’s views are and you don’t need to read MRZine to discover what the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, George Soros and the Ford Foundation think about Africa. But if you go to these sources directly, you know what you’re getting into. Not so if you go to Z-Net and MRZine; you might think you’re getting an “independent” left view, but you could be getting a ruling class view, repackaged to be leftist-friendly. This mine field doesn’t come with warning signs.
8 thoughts on “Ideological Mine Fields”
Yeah, Bond. I work at IPS but it doesn’t make me mince words regarding revolutionary principles. Blood brothers my ass. You’re a neo-racists, settler colonialist while I work to build revolutionary Pan-Africanism. Even my work at SALSA-IPS reflects it. Besides, working at IPS doesn’t define me or my politics like your dishonest intellectual work does you. But since you don’t know me at all you wouldn’t know that.
The fact which Michael Barker quotes me on you would never point out. Because you have no heart. I don’t take offense to what Barker points out. He’s absolutely correct but you “need” to obscure and discredit the point to suit your elitist world view.
You make absurd arguments that people paying taxes corrupts them, when in reality the government robs people for taxes, theatening imprisonment. You’re too dishonest to admit that, to call a spade a spade. You try to blur the lines between principles versus strategies and tactics.
I was referring specifically to MRZine.
Steve, I see that there is a link to MRZine at the Monthly Review site (I assume that “MR” stands for Monthly Review). I’ve always understood Monthly Review to be a reputable and credible socialist magazine for many years. Would you say that MR is indirectly complicit in this “mine field without warning signs?”
The essentially pro-imperialist nature of the left in Britain is by now completely obvious. Your analysis resonates with our own. I keep posting your stuff on our website- hope you approve.
Keep up the great work!
The pseudo-left is a Trojan horse inside the anti-imperialist and communist movement and you are doing a fine job exposing them.
Netfa, as Michael Barker points out in his feverish network analysis on globalresearch.ca (footnote 22), your funders at IPS – where I worked too (as a volunteer, 1988-89) – make us blood-brothers in dirty-money-grubbing, I hate to confess. Join the corrupted crowd. By the way, do you pay taxes to the US government, and hence fund the CIA? Damn, I’m infected talking to you too now; I just hope Gowans doesn’t learn about this, he’ll never let you off the hook.
Ouch! Hit’em hard, Steve. Hit’em hard. These so-called progressives want us to believe their motives are based purely on a desire for social justice, as if they’re immune from any influence by the hands that feed them. Live they’d advocate such things even if they were contrary to the interest of benefactors
As if any of us could be funded by the same sources with the analyses we assert, truly anti-imperialists analysis and not pseudo anti-imperialist. The so-called progressives can only act/talk against imperialist to the extent that they are not fundamentally challenged; that is only speaking select truths to power and not complete, unconditional truth to power.