After the invitation to stage Claudia Jones memorial lecture, part of London’s Black History Month, was effectively pulled by those at the Guardian, ostensibly because the speaker was to be Kerry-Anne Mendoza of the Canary, some in and around the Fourth Estate began to get a little bit ahead of themselves. The result has been less than edifying.
Typical of the tendency to establishment righteousness has been an article by Adam Barnett titled “The Canary is not journalism - it's a government mouthpiece in waiting”, in which he makes more than one wrong turn. The first of these comes, to no surprise, in his revisiting the Max Blumenthal article that has already caused to much trouble.
“Last week the Canary republished an article strongly implying that a reporter named Carl David Goette-Luciak, who was covering anti-government protests in Nicaragua for the Guardian and the Washington Post, was effectively doing regime change work for the CIA … The piece came during what the Committee to Protect Journalists called ‘a targeted online harassment campaign’ against Goette-Luciak, whose address was shared online”.
Well, whoever doxxed Goette-Luciak, it wasn’t Blumenthal, as BuzzFeed readers discovered when the site backed down over its coverage. Barnett then makes another mis-step as he claims “That made even the NUJ (of which I am a member) wake up and pull the event [the Claudia Jones memorial lecture]”. Except they haven’t.
The NUJ has explained “all that has happened is that the booking of the room at the Guardian’s premises on 11 October has been cancelled” and stated “The whole of October is Black History Month. The Claudia Jones Lecture does not have to take place on a specific date and it can be held at any time this month. The invitation to Ms Mendoza has not been withdrawn”. So has Barnett stopped and thought? Seemingly not.
He’s gone on to say this: “So far from improving on the media's factual errors and political bias, outlets like the Canary seem to be trying to outdo them on falsehood and partisanship, with a few sinister quirks added in. The mess this week cuts through these websites' unique selling-point and reveals their true nature.” Do go on.
“These sites are not a plucky alternative to the mainstream press. They are the aspirant state media for a future autocracy. If they will help governments defame journalists in other countries, and shrug when those journalists are arrested, imagine what they would do to people here who they actually know and dislike”. So why doesn’t he complain?
I’m being serious here. The Canary is regulated via independent press regulator IMPRESS. If it’s such a shocking site, he should assemble some specifics and go to that regulator about them. He isn’t doing? Isn’t anyone in the established part of the press and broadcast media which has come out in such a froth about the Canary?
And if going after Ms Mendoza because she stood behind Blumenthal’s article - well, it was OK for the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre to stand behind the Daily Mail’s viciously anti-Semitic assault on the memory of Ralph Miliband, wasn’t it? That was all fine and dandy. The Vagina Monologue didn’t cop any righteous industry flak over that one.
As for endangering individuals, which it is suggested Blumenthal did, what about the Murdoch Times outing of the then anonymous Police blogger NightJack? Totally pointless and improper. Improper behaviour followed by publishing a story full of lies? That would be the Daily Mail, whose reporter bribed her way into the hospital room of journalist Mark Covell, beaten within an inch of his life by an out-of-control Italian Police force during the G8 protests in Genoa in 2001. The Mail then ran a story claiming Covell had masterminded the riots. It took the paper four years to apologise.
Barnett must have missed those. But he does tell “The Canary already attacks BBC journalists who need police protection from zealous Corbynites”. That would be BBC journalist singular, and would require an authoritative citation to back it up (the assertion that political editor Laura Kuenssberg needed security at last year’s Labour Party Conference was never conclusively established, and nor was it explicitly denied).
The established press, as Nick Davies’ excellent go-to book on their machinations, Flat Earth News, shows, and a litany of case studies from campaigning group Hacked Off merely reinforces, has shown itself capable of doing things far worse than what the Canary and other New Left Media sites stand accused of. Remember Muslim Fostering? The Telegraph putting anti-Semitic dog-whistle claims on its front page? The Sun inventing a “Stasi File” for Jeremy Corbyn and accusing him of being a Czech spy?
Compared to this level of professional falsehood and misinformation provision, the Canary is in the lower amateur leagues. It is, therefore, a pity to see established and respected journalists joining the pile-in against New Left Media (hello Nick Cohen and Ian Dunt).
Sorry, establishment hangers-on, but you’ve tolerated worse than this for years and done nothing about it. It’s a bit rich to start kicking the Canary after letting all that go.
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