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 
 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  on 18 March, the BBC’s Gabriel Gatehouse looks back at a revealing event  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:
 ‘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.
 ‘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 , though there has been plenty of tragedy during his 18 years in power.  It happened once, right at the start of his rule  — on 24 February 2000, at the funeral of Anatoly Sobchak.
 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.