Sneer & Smear: a close look at the gentle craft of media manipulation

by Mark Doran

As an arm of the corporate state — yes, it pretends not to be; but we know better, don’t we? — the BBC is naturally charged with certain vital propaganda tasks in the service of Western elite power.

For example, there is the need for that Western elite power to seem at all times legitimate, accountable and well-intentioned: the sanctifying, magical word used for this purpose is ‘democratic’; and once it is deployed, no fundamental disagreement is possible.
Then there is the need for that Western elite’s murderous military violence to seem necessary, just and proportionate — allowing the expropriation of foreign wealth and the progress of elite careers to continue apace without any kind of revolt from the mere taxpayer. To achieve the kind of make-over miracle by which aggression is painted as a combination of victimhood and altruism, a whole battery of beautifying propaganda terms is required, including ‘defence’, ‘response’, ‘intervention’, ‘human rights’, and ‘international law’.
Even with these rousing words conveniently to hand, however, our state broadcaster might still struggle to whip up majority support for yet another massively destructive foreign action so clearly motivated by a mixture of neoimperial greed and military Keynesianism; therefore our propagandists have developed a ‘slow burn’ approach which, acting over years and even decades, engineers an emphatically Manichean division of the world by way of the sustained, insidious use of manipulative vocabulary, tone and topic.
Which is what I want to discuss here — by way of a paragraph-by-paragraph analysis of a recent BBC article that shows with outrageous clarity how it is that the BBC’s news-replacement services induce the public to think of the world in terms of ‘the international community’ on the one hand and ‘rogue states’ on the other; as a place where nations are controlled either by ‘governments’ (legitimate) or by ‘regimes’ (non-legitimate); and where leaders are either persons of talent, probity and gravitas who just want ‘what’s best for everyone’ … or murderous kleptocratic tyrants who are, by turns, terrifying and ludicrous.
How is it done? I’ll show you…


My text on this occasion is the long and disgraceful piece by BBC correspondent Gabriel Gatehouse that appeared on the ‘BBC News’ website on 5th March 2018. In the discussion that follows, I will present it one paragraph at a time, and then discuss my numbered objections in sequence. If you want to view the original excrescence in situ, you will find it here.)

Okay, here we go…

The day Putin cried [1]

[1] Yes, I’m starting with the article’s title. Before you accuse me of over-zealousness, remember that there is no quicker or more efficient way of getting a message across than by means of a manipulative title — not least because a non-trivial proportion of potential readers will see a title and not read beyond it: what good propagandist will want to waste the ‘drive-by’ viewer’s single moment of engagement…?
And what does this particular title achieve? Well, for a start, observe the elements of both wish-fulfilment and instruction. Since Russian President V. V. Putin is by some way the most enduring and successful non-compliant leader on the planet, the Western elites currently have no greater desire than to see him defeated, brought down, humbled, broken. He is, in short, a major hate-figure of Western power; this being so, anything at all that presents him in a state of sorrow, distress, misery or discomfiture will not only be pleasing to the elites, but also something they are happy for the public to share.
‘Crying’ is what we must all want Putin to do
[[Insert: Not many hours after I drafted that paragraph, Gabriel Gatehouse himself actually posted the following message on Twitter… Do I win a biscuit?]]

Moving on to the so-called ‘standfirst’ (UK journalism terminology):

As Russia prepares to elect Vladimir Putin for a fourth term as president [2] on 18 March, the BBC’s Gabriel Gatehouse looks back at a revealing event [3] that took place at the start of his Kremlin career — when he was Russia’s acting president, running in his first presidential election.

Here too, we see things of significance placed at a prominent, preludial stage in the article’s structure:

Since human psychology tends to confuse ‘familiarity’ with ‘truth’, the essence of propaganda is repetition…


[2]As Russia prepares to elect Vladimir Putin for a fourth term as president…‘: is that not a strikingly odd way to refer to a forthcoming election? In our ‘normal’ reporting of Western politics, we might see a formulation like ‘As the US prepares to elect its 46th president…‘; but it would be impossible for a ‘mainstream’ media article to say ‘As the US prepares to elect John Q Puppet as president…‘, however strong that candidate’s position in the opinion polls. The reason, of course, is that a major part of the West’s electoral charade is the idea that ‘the important decisions’ are only made ‘on the day’ and ‘by the voters’ — and thus that not until ‘the will of the people’ is finally known will it be clear who will wield power. In reality, of course, this is twaddle (whoever may win the vote, power remains in the hands of the financial services sector); but the importance of the pretence can be divined from the way it is here withheld for purposes of manipulation: the standfirst’s opening line is meant to make you feel uneasy about Russia’s democracy — and to view a Putin election victory as illegitimate.
[3]A revealing event…’ As you will discover, it is nothing of the sort: these words are used to try and make you see things that aren’t there.
Now we move on to the text proper…

Russians rarely see their president cry [4], though there has been plenty of tragedy during his 18 years in power. [5] It happened once, right at the start of his rule [6] — on 24 February 2000, at the funeral of Anatoly Sobchak.

The president who bombed seven countries in six years — dropping 26,171 bombs in 2016 alone — somehow manages to cry during a speech about gun control…


[4] In reality, citizens of many countries rarely see their leaders cry: the attitude of those who possess or seek power tends to be that tearfulness is an indication of weakness. I say ‘tends to’ with a reason: exceptions exist, mostly in proudly ‘liberal’ contexts where signs of ‘sensitivity’ and ’empathy’ — especially in men — are a political selling-point. For example, US president Barack Obama was widely praised for the tears he shed in 2016 when speaking about the Sandy Hook school massacre — even though the display was absurd: anyone who believes that the episode showed Obama to be ‘a sensitive man, healthily in touch with his emotions’ needs to remember that this president’s expanded drone assassination programme was then killing nine innocent bystanders for every intended target, and with never a whiff of due process, either.

Read full article HERE


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Mikalina
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Mikalina

Connotation (the ideas and concepts associated with a word) is really important when influencing people’s thoughts and opinions. For example:
A white hat hacker is an individual who uses hacking skills to identify security vulnerabilities in hardware, software or networks. However, unlike black hat hackers, white hat hackers respect the rule of law as it applies to hacking.
http://searchsecurity.techtarget.com/definition/white-hat
In United States films of the Western genre between the 1920s and the 1940s, white hats were often worn by heroes and black hats by villains to symbolize the contrast in good versus evil
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_and_white_hat_symbolism_in_film
I guess ‘blue helmets’ wouldn’t have worked.

Schlüter
Reader

See:
“The Anti-Russia Show Must go on – Another Setup?!”: https://wipokuli.wordpress.com/2018/03/20/the-anti-russia-show-must-go-on-another-setup/
Regards

stevehayes13
Reader
stevehayes13

Jon Henley has an interesting piece over at the Guardian. Apparently he watched RT’s coverage of the Skripal case for twenty-four hours and saw propaganda. Here’s my comment:
http://viewsandstories.blogspot.co.uk/2018/03/the-guardian-examines-russian-propaganda.html
And here’s his article:
https://www.theguardian.com/media/2018/mar/16/how-rt-is-reporting-sergei-skripal-salisbury-spy-scandal-russia

MichaelK
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MichaelK

John Henley’s article in the Guardian is a bit odd. I can’t see the point of it, unless it’s a way to present the Russian view and criticise the British government’s version of events, whilst, all the time one is pretending to do the opposite, neat way to get past the Guardian’s censors. I simply can’t see why one would call the RT’s coverage… ‘propaganda.’ Unless merely disagreeing with the British government, by itself and not slavishly accepting their narrative about Salisbury, qualifies as… ‘propaganda’? That appears to be Henley’s position, yet, for obvious reasons he doesn’t say so openly,… Read more »

bevin
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bevin

Good article in the Morning Star today https://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/article/mask-military-industrial-complex- “Lately another group has emerged, Doctors Under Fire. Coincidentally, as with the White Helmets, it was co-founded by a former British army officer, Colonel (rtd) Hamish de Bretton-Gordon. “Quoted daily by multiple media outlets on the Skripal case, de Bretton-Gordon has become a very public expert, relied upon for unbiased comment and analysis by the British and foreign media on chemical weapon threats from Salisbury to Syria. “He is a former assistant director of Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance Land Forces with the Ministry of Defence. Before that de Bretton-Gordon was commanding officer… Read more »

HotScot
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HotScot

bevin What disturbs me about your post is that de Bretton-Gordon is MD of a company selling gas masks, not guns. He is an expert in his field and is appointed MD of a company selling an entirely defensive product. Irrespective of his intelligence background, which might be considered entirely beneficial in the current terrorist dominated political climate, he is profiting from his experience and expertise. There is nothing wrong with that, I assume you do the same, yet your tax money is contributing to the UK’s (and I assume you are a UK taxpaying resident) own WMD’s. But I… Read more »

milosevic
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milosevic

Tick any boxes?
Yes, the one marked “conflict of interest”, you disinfo troll.
Return to your spook masters. Tell them that you have failed. Maybe you can get a job writing the scripts for these deep state psyops; stupidity seems to be no impediment.

Pablo
Reader
Pablo

Interesting analysis/suggestion from a commentator (FBaggins) on Zerohedge https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-03-18/russian-double-agent-reportedly-poisoned-through-bmw-air-vents-38-others-sickened “You are right. It is a false flag. Here are my reasons for judgment. If the Russians wanted Skripa dead, and did not want to take “credit” for the death, then they would not have used a weapon which could be used by the UK and the US to give them the blame. This is especially the case in a political climate with all the UK, US, Israeli hostility, false flags, fake news, and provocations against Russia, because of its support for Syria, its opposition to Rothschild-based globalism, and its opposition… Read more »

tutisicecream
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Yes, all false flags rely on heaps of ambiguity and suppression of any hard facts. The Skripal case fits this perfectly.

Alan
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Alan

Thank you for this. The BBC reflects government in that there is a public and private policy, wherein the latter drives action. When reading or viewing what is termed mainstream media, one has an uneasy feeling akin to buying a used car, I know I’m being conned but can’t always prove how. Those of a dramatic turn believe a concerted psy-ops war, I understand why they would think that.

intergenerationaltrauma
Reader

Excellent analysis. One cannot help but imagine that a good deal of the populace of the West is currently existing in some combination of existential bad-fait, doubt and distrust, and fear regarding the world situation. Some are clinging blindly and without critical analysis to the MSM lies referred to as “official narratives,” while others no doubt are beginning to wonder if anything MSM says can possibly be true while not knowing “what” to believe, while yet others must be asking themselves if it is official enemies like “Russia” or actually the collection of crazies ruling the Western empire that is… Read more »

MichaelK
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MichaelK

I listened to the BBC coverage of Putin’s landslide victory and couldn’t help but… smile. They were having a hard time of it because, on the one hand this wasn’t what they’d call a ‘fee and democratic’ election, but on the other hand millions of Russians had been allowed to vote and they had massively voted for the ‘wrong’ candidate! My smile broadened as they turned to the ‘main opposition leader’, whatsisname? Navalny? I expected them to talk about the leader of the Communist Party! How on earth can they label Navalny the main opposition leader when he only poles… Read more »

milosevic
Reader
milosevic

for the BBC guys, this seem a little to esoteric for their highly professional brains. I wonder why? Here’s an esoteric theory: because they’re functional idiots. They may not have originally been mental defectives, but have become so through constant practice and experience. Having a functioning brain is incompatible with maintaining their highly-paid careers, so they no longer do. But being aware of their own fundamental idiocy, or their having chosen it, would contradict their self-concept and cause them distress, so they aren’t. standard quotation follows. as before, let me know when it’s no longer relevant. To know and not… Read more »

Thomas Prentice
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Thomas Prentice

I haven’t rented TV programming via cable or satellite since Barack Obama tried to destroy Social Security and the US social contract on the altar of “deficit reduction” in 2011 to rapturous coverage rave media reviews so I am usually – and thankfully — out of THAT loop. However, Saturday evening at a friend’s home in Dallas – an elderly women whom I look in on from time to time — we watched NBC Nightly News before going back to basketball. The presenter looked so botoxed and made up that I thought I was watching a performing corpse, eyes moving… Read more »

Binra (@onemindinmany)
Reader

Yes BBC is a tool of mind-shaping and mind-capture. And such ‘media’ operate weapons of stealth in framing and setting the narrative terms in which a filtered and distorted thinking supports a perception and experience of its world – indeed its Cosmology too. But don’t stop at the BBC et al as if a causal agent or power in and of itself. The pattern of self-justification as a narrative control or ‘continuity’, is of masking of hiding both to its self and from its self, which uses the presentation to others – and accuses or interprets the same IN others.… Read more »

vexarb
Reader

@Binra. For sure Putin is a realist, as is Dr.Assad. And for sure their shrewd realism is tempered with respect for the necessarily selfish aims of others who have “entered this human world”. Hence Putin’s much criticised rhetoric of “Our Partners in the West” and Dr.Assad’s equally controversial policy of Amnesty and Reconciliation: both men recognize that other people may have different aims, and the necessity to work toward a common objective reality. Whereas the Beeb, as you say, is a tool for mind control, demonising the Other for for one’s own self-centred reasons, and denying the very existence of… Read more »

milosevic
Reader
milosevic

as you say Actually, they didn’t. The discourses of the entity known as “Binra” are a textual Rorschach test; any perceived content is supplied by your own imagination, rather than being inherent in the stimulus in any measurable or reproducible way. What purpose this project might serve, and for who, is a matter for speculation. The image below could be creatively interpreted as saying “Insofar as we (individually or collectively) reflect, we are giving focus to various facets of our existence within the movement of desire and attention that is that intent. The seeming war of conflicting facets of identified… Read more »

Admin
Reader

There are plenty of breaking and significant issues to discuss here and your contributions are always welcome, so let’s not waste time on discussing the condition of reality of other commenters. It’s unprovable, and therefore unimportant at the moment.

milosevic
Reader
milosevic

The paragraph that I quoted is clearly completely meaningless (it’s not even grammatical), so the question of why such things keep being posted here is surely, as I said, “a matter for speculation”.
As for the entity’s “condition of reality”, it is, as you say, unprovable. It may very well be a cyborg, a human/cybernetic hybrid, with the machine generating the content-free text, and the human directing its efforts in accordance with their masters’ agenda.
https://www.rt.com/usa/415609-us-army-ai-language-bot/

Fair dinkum
Reader
Fair dinkum

BBC.
Bigger Bullshit Coming.
‘John Q Puppet’ ?
Which President was he ?
🕔🕖🕘🕙 Oh, he was ALL of them 😉

mr rory hayes
Reader
mr rory hayes

Why all the unnecessary verbosity? Is it a desire to sound grand and superior?
So many people in the British part of the world are in love with how they sound but really , is it worth a damn?

Harry Stotle
Reader
Harry Stotle

If there is a better precis of how, and why the media re-frame imperial violence in order to keep the masses on-side, or at least sufficiently ill-informed to negate stronger resistance can you point me towards it? Mark Doran is absolutely spot on when he says “To achieve the kind of make-over miracle by which aggression is painted as a combination of victimhood and altruism, a whole battery of beautifying propaganda terms is required, including ‘defence’, ‘response’, ‘intervention’, ‘human rights’, and ‘international law’.” But not just beautifying terms – the media is also very quick to demonise any public figure… Read more »

vexarb
Reader

Meanwhile, headlines in a distant imaginary Universe somewhat parallel to the Beeb’s: President Hilary Clinton on State visit to India.
She falls again

Clinton’s medic reiterating POTUS fit for duty.
President Putin laughing.

hamishish
Reader
hamishish

The RT remastered version is better if you can stick it up?

vexarb
Reader

@hamish. Thanks but I prefered an undoctored video for the benefit of “those that have ears to hear and eyes to see”. And minds to remember video clips from the campaign.

avenir
Reader
avenir

This is also a remarkably odd story from the BBC Russian spy: UK government response going to plan so far john pienaar Among senior ministers and officials, there’s quiet satisfaction that the Russia crisis seems to be going according to plan. Maybe even better. According to one senior government source, “it’s gone at least as well as we’d hoped”. He didn’t add, “…so far, anyway”. But then he hardly needed to. As Britain ponders its new post-Brexit role in the world, we’re now witnessing the start of a new and defining phase. Judging the high and the low politics of… Read more »

milosevic
Reader
milosevic

Gone as well as we hoped???
Surely the critical phrase is “going according to plan”.
That’s a highly telling admission.

bevin
Reader
bevin

Great post-great comment!

avenir
Reader
avenir

The Guardian was complaing about press freedom in Russia yesterday in relation to RT as a “propaganda” channel rather forgetting our own “reporters without borders” rating, we’re at number 40 in the rankings and going down A worrying trend A heavy-handed approach towards the press – often in the name of national security – has resulted in the UK slipping down the World Press Freedom Index. Parliament adopted the most extreme surveillance legislation in UK history, the Investigatory Powers Act, with insufficient protection mechanisms for whistleblowers, journalists, and their sources, posing a serious threat to investigative journalism. Even more alarming,… Read more »

Harry Stotle
Reader
Harry Stotle

Small moan but I was immediately memory-holed at the Guardian for linking to an RT item illustrating Corbyn’s support for the Kurds.
Hard to say what they are most frightened about – RT, Corbyn, the Kurds, or most likely just simple truths?
Honestly, the level of paranoia has gone through the roof.
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/mar/19/anna-campbell-death-syria-futile-britain-kurds#comments

MichaelK
Reader
MichaelK

Western political coverage of elections is soaked in bias, ideology and deep-seated dogmas about what constitutes real democracy. These ideas and positions are rarely, if ever, examined. I remember still the horror at University when I argued that the UK itself was a ‘challenged’ and ‘flawed’ form of ‘democracy.’ I couldn’t get my head around the position of the unelected House of Lords, a unique institution in western democracies. Then there was the electoral system that massively favoured the Tory Party and massively exaggerated their support, repeatedly handing them substantial majorities over all the other parties put together and supposedly… Read more »

Harry Law
Reader
Harry Law

MichaelK, How dare you say the US electoral system is ‘rigged’, in my opinion it is the best system money can buy.

tutisicecream
Reader

One of the false lines of direction about Russia is how the media is either all “state controlled/funded” or “controlled/funded by the Kremlin”. The BBC ironically often goes out of its way to stress this. However this is not true, the reality is in Russia there are many independent media and all in competition with each other, whether news, entertainment film or whatever. The state TV channels are Russia 1 and Channel 1 all others are either part funded by the government or independent. There are many independent media outlets in Russia funded by advertising. RT is state funded but… Read more »

vexarb
Reader

A good point, illustrating how wearisome life becomes when one cannot rely on a public news service to obey the simple commandment, Thou shalt not Lie. One is forced to read between the lines, become a Sherlock alert to the dog that does not bark in the night as well as to the poodle that yaps in the day, to shades of tone in the yapping, to tones of “smear and sneer” as the author says. The British with their famous U and non-U are past masters of the art of sneer, but the practice can be traced back to… Read more »

kayaboosha
Reader
kayaboosha

Another absolutely nailed on article. Thank you.