Ghost stories

Editorial by Bruce Wark

illustration Graham Pilsworth

“One cannot hope to bribe or twist/Thank god! The mainstream journalist,” runs an adaptation of Hillaire Belloc’s famous satirical verse. “But seeing what news hounds will do/Unbribed, there is no reason to!” Those lines sprang to mind last week as I perused Christie Blatchford’s teary rant in the Globe about spending her most meaningful Christmas ever, embedded in Afghanistan. “I felt, a little, that I had been a part of something bigger and more important than myself,” the unbribed Blatchford burbled. Less than two weeks earlier, Afghanistan’s president wept on national TV over his powerlessness to protect his people. The Financial Times of London reported that almost 4,000 Afghanis died in 2006, more than a quarter of them civilians. Yet for the most part, these Afghan victims remain faceless and nameless in the mainstream media. Instead, we hear repeatedly from the likes of Christie Blatchford about the noble aims of Canada’s “mission.”

It’s an example of the kind of biased and incomplete reporting documented every year for the last three decades by professors and their students at California’s Sonoma State University. Their “Project Censored” calls attention to stories that are ignored, suppressed or downplayed by the US corporate media. This year’s list points out, for example, that vice president Dick Cheney receives about $200,000 every year in pension payments from Halliburton, the giant US defence contractor that has reaped billions from the Bush/Cheney administration for untendered work in Iraq and Afghanistan. The US mainstream media often note that Cheney was once Halliburton’s CEO, but they routinely fail to mention that Halliburton made him filthy rich (he’s now worth $94 million) or that he continues to hold Halliburton stock valued at $9.2 million.

The Project Censored list is also a useful guide to under-reporting and bias in the Canadian corporate media. For example, did you know that the World Bank, now led by Bush’s neo-con crony Paul Wolfowitz, is pushing a scheme to exploit cheap Palestinian labour in the Israeli-occupied territories? Under the proposal, Palestinians cut off from their farmland by Israel’s 700 kilometre apartheid wall would be offered low-wage work in massive industrial zones built on Palestinian land. Project Censored points to a World Bank report that proposes constructing high-tech military gates and checkpoints along the wall allowing complete control over Palestinian workers. This in spite of the International Court of Justice ruling in 2004 that the wall itself is illegal. The ICJ called on Israel to dismantle the wall and compensate Palestinians who have lost their land and livelihoods because of it. Why aren’t the Canadian media demanding that Israel tear down the wall and withdraw from the Palestinian territories it occupied illegally 40 years ago? Why aren’t they investigating what the World Bank is up to? And why aren’t they calling on Israel to stop the daily killing of Palestinians, the destruction of homes and routine arrests and detention without trial? According to an Israeli human rights group, Israel’s military killed 660 Palestinians last year, three times more than in 2005.

If I were constructing my own Project Censored list for Canadian media, I’d be sure to include the systematic under-reporting of stories generated by experts in the country’s peace movement. Did you know, for example, that Canada joined with other NATO members in November to reaffirm the continuing need for nuclear weapons to defend the world’s richest countries? In a report last month, Ernie Regehr of Project Ploughshares pointed out that Canada signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, which calls for the elimination of all nuclear weapons. So why is Canada now declaring that British, American and French nukes are an essential part of NATO’s defence? Canadian editorial writers are wringing their hands over nuclear threats from North Korea and Iran, but the thousands of nukes in NATO’s arsenal are perfectly OK with these unbribed (but fearlessly compliant) scribes.

What stories from the past year should have received more ink? Email:

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