A Guardian editorial has welcomed back to public prominence none other than George W Bush. Even for the Blair-protecting, war-apologising Guardian, it's a landmark day of shame.
The deaths of 1 million Iraqis, and the staggering madness unleashed by Bush, is brushed aside by the Guardian editors as some historical aberration, another 'past and awkward' chapter in 'overseas adventurism'. Like Blair over Brexit, Bush is now being hailed by the Guardian as a 'welcome voice of reason' against Trump's irrationality.
Yet what kind of 'rational' mind, we must wonder, could write and approve an editorial proclaiming the 'virtues' of a man with so much blood on his hands? From Blair to Obama and now to Bush, note Media Lens, the Guardian are "faithfully providing a service for 'our' war criminals. Sympathetic coverage, endorsement, rehabilitation, gushing praise..."
The brave Iraqi journalist who hurled his shoes at Bush, as a statement of deepest Arab disrespect, has just had them, in effect, thrown back at the Iraqi people by the Guardian.
Guardian editor-in-chief Katherine Viner and whoever else oversaw this disgraceful piece are basically saying: you're suffering is not worthy of real recognition, it's excusable, its perpetrators are still 'ours', their actions must be treated differently. Was there ever a clearer example of craven liberal mitigation, of crawling apologetics for mass Western violence? One can only despair at such selectivity, crass insensitivity, and, yes, deep liberal racism.
And the reaction to this ugly editorial from the paper's keynote journalists? Heads down, squirming silence.
Viner should resign. She won't. The paper's crusading columnists, notably Owen Jones and George Monbiot, should denounce their employer. They won't. They will all say nothing, let it pass, ignore criticisms, dismiss challengers as vexatious trolls. Instead, they will continue peddling their righteous denunciations of Trump, urging on the 'resistance', polishing their 'radical' status, protecting their careers. There's nothing quite like watching the contracted left liberal go to ground when such awkwardness arises.
As is now increasingly evident over the reaction to Trump, this is not only default liberal conformity, but the alarming face of liberal extremism. From approving Deep State subversion to the championing of war criminals as 'rescuers of liberty', we have a 'vanguard' media utterly in thrall to corporate and warmongering authority.
Central to this is a mindset of denial, the rush to blame and scapegoat the 'devilish other', notably Russia and its 'apologists', rather than indict the system itself. For Glenn Greenwald, citing the past warnings of IF Stone, this is the very playbook of liberal McCarthyism.
Adam Johnson has also taken apart a New York Times editorial spluttering with liberal indignation over Trump's apparent 'moral equivalence' between the US and Russia. In recalling some of the genocidal crimes committed by the US, Johnson notes that:
the most important function of major editorial boards is to be gatekeepers of national security orthodoxy. And there is no more axiomatic orthodoxy than American. One can handwring over “mistakes,” even occasionally do harsh reporting on American war crimes—so long as one arrives back at the position of American moral superiority. “Yes, America has made mistakes,” the good liberal insists, “but at least we don’t do this other bad thing that is, unaccountably, uniquely disqualifying.”Even where liberals might 'acknowledge' some of the West's high crimes, they're still utterly beholden to fundamental notions of the 'good Western state'. Trump is deemed a unique threat and open racist. Yet, where was the great liberal crusade against Obama and Clinton when they were relentlessly bombing, droning and murdering so many foreign 'others'? While Yemen is being annihilated, the UK's vital part in those war crimes, notes Mark Curtis, goes unreported, "an amazing propaganda achievement in a 24/7 media society."
In objecting to Trump's UK visit, Guardian liberals uphold the narrative of 'our state's decency.' In disapproving Trump's right to a formal visit, they give undue legitimacy to a UK state itself dripping in blood, in multiple violation of international laws, "rendering it a rogue state." Again, the vital context of connected Western criminality is airbrushed and ignored.
In more progressive vein, people might actually 'welcome' such visits between mutually-supporting villains, allowing them to get on the street and shout down both criminal states simultaneously. It would also provide an opportunity for exposing our militarist monarchy's part in the great sham.
The Guardian could push to prosecute, rather than embrace, Bush, Blair et al. Both the US and UK could be urged to establish earnest truth commissions to confess their vast, historical crimes against humanity. Instead, guided by the liberal media, the public are in a state of angst over 'honourable state diplomacy', and the 'need to observe' royal protocols. That's pretty smart hegemony.
It corresponds with the dismal truth that a substantial section of the British public still view the British Empire in a positive light. According to a recent YouGov poll, no less than 44% expressed pride in the history of British colonialism. As historian Mark Curtis observes, that's a:
stupendous propaganda success for the UK elite; an indication of extent of both media disinformation and, I would say, mainstream academiaThis helps explain why Trump is seen as a 'particular assault' on 'democratic decency'. Trump is presented as the crisis, rather than explained in the fuller context of systematic power and its deepening crisis. It's remarkable, in this regard, how the Guardian's own lauding of Bush will be ignored, or just seen as unremarkable, by most other liberal media.
Some liberal-minded observers give dutiful nods to this bigger picture. In a recent piece, noting a past exchange, Bella Caledonia wrote:
Whilst the game of Trump-bashing must be forged into an actual resistance – and in Scotland a resistance to contagion – there is another problem, as critics of Bella like John Hilley point out. If we focus solely on Trump’s exceptionalism we miss the continuity of raw US military imperial power and give a free pass to the Obama regime clouded over by a mist of Black Liberal Schmaltz. I’ll buy some of that, US foreign policy didn’t arrive out of the ether, but equally the danger of stressing continuity can be disabling if it just tricks us into thinking “nothing new here”, it’s just the same old USA just with a Lunatic Goofball in charge.But, as previously argued, continuity doesn't just mean "nothing new here", or that Trump is 'just the same' as Obama. The point is that Trump is the latest manifestation of pernicious US corporate, imperialist power. It's to understand Trump as a product of that system; its inevitable progeny.
In denial of this continuity, patriotic liberals avert their eyes from 'home-grown Trump'. As Adam Johnson points out, rather than the incessant media demonology comparing Trump to the usual panoply of foreign foe dictators, he's actually "a distinctly American phenomenon":
Trump’s agenda is largely the same as the broader Republican Party; his rise, moreover, was the logical manifestation of the xenophobic, “insurgent” tea party movement — funded and supported not by foreign governments, but by entirely domestic billionaires. There’s a reason why Republican senators from John McCain to Marco Rubio have voted to confirm Trump’s nominees: They basically agree with him. How strange, then, that we have zero hot takes drawing parallels between Trump and McCain or Trump and Rubio, and dozens of hot takes drawing parallels between Trump and Latin American leftists. The foreign leader comparison prioritizes style over policy, personality over material effect.Meanwhile, Obama luxuriates in hallowed liberal light. For the fawning Guardian, he's now even more the world's undisputed Mr Cool. Again, this is the liberal media's rearguard role in maintaining the cultural and political narrative of 'our always decent and benign' leaders. As the same Guardian cabal, like John Harris and Jonathan Freedland, intensify their assault on Jeremy Corbyn, we see how they act as vital protectors of neoliberal 'reality'.
Brexit provides a similar example of how we've been led by elite narratives framed by a righteous liberal commentariat. As Ken Loach argues, this has been a distracting storyline for many leftists, deliberating over how to oppose a neoliberal EU, while showing solidarity with workers, migrants and refugees. Again, it's about seeing through the liberal packaging, as a way of bolstering real movement politics.
Encouragingly, affiliation with socialist groups in the US is growing on the back of the Trump protests. As elected city councillor in Seattle, Kshama Sawant of the Socialist Alternative insists: "Our movement cannot be limited to what's acceptable to the Democratic Party establishment."
Yet, as the smearing of Keith Ellison and securing of Tom Perez as new DNC chairman shows, the liberal establishment will always fight against any form of radical overhaul. Typically, there's been no Guardian editorial lamenting this dire continuation of power.
Whatever the fallout from Trump, the moment has, at least, helped shine a damning new light on our quisling liberal media. As independent journalist Matt Kennard observes, we've come to quite a point when a 'leading left liberal' outlet can castigate Jeremy Corbyn, while championing George W Bush:
Guardian: hates democratically elected socialist leader of Labour Party. Loves Republican war criminal tyrantIt's high time real journalists and radical others stood up and exposed this paper's shameful duplicity.