Marr just had another Noam Chomsky moment, live on TV

Andrew Marr on Sunday 13 September
Steve Topple

On the Sunday 13 September of the Andrew Marr Show the corporate media got a knock-out blow. Because an Irish politician inadvertently put the host in a similar position to one Noam Chomsky did several years ago. And it exposed a huge problem that persists with the corporate media.

A classic truth bomb

The infamous clip where Chomksy drops a truth bomb on Marr is well-known. He broke down the fact that corporate journalists are often inadvertently responsible for peddling establishment propaganda. As Chomsky noted, he didn’t think journalists like Marr “self-censor”. But that:

if you believed something different, you wouldn’t be sitting where you’re sitting.

Now, Marr was subject to a similar ‘light bulb moment’ thanks to an Irish politician.

Marr: busted

Ireland’s foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney was on Marr. He was discussing the chaos over Brexit and the internal market bill. As The Canary previously reported, the government is planning on breaking the law over it. It’s to do with the fact that it wants to renege on some of the original deal it signed with the EU. On Sunday 13 September, Labour said it would “not vote” for the bill if it broke the law.

Coveney was not happy with the UK government’s proposed actions. But he also made an interesting point about the media coverage of the issue. He said to Marr that:

Andrew, you’ve been following these negotiations for more than three years now, and you’re a pretty good detail person. And you know that that is a completely bogus argument.

He then laid out why the Tories’ argument is bogus. Marr repeatedly interrupted, putting the Tories’ side of the story across. But Coveney wasn’t happy with this. He said to Marr that:

You seem to be suggesting that there are two sides that are equal in this disagreement. There aren’t. There is one side that is breaking an agreement that was signed by both.

Marr ‘OK’d’ and ‘but’d’ his way through Coveney’s take down, going back to put the Tories’ side across again. And Guardian political commentator Peter Walker latched onto this.

A “conundrum”?

He tweeted that:

it’s a conundrum for UK journalists, as faced in US with Trump: how do you discuss what your leaders say when it it obviously, demonstrably not true?

And this is [the] case whatever side of the Brexit argument one is on: No 10’s argument that it’s EU suddenly threatening NI peace/moving the goalposts is not only untrue, but obviously so. Makes it tricky to present it with BBC-style “balance”/they said-you said. It’s a new world.

But Walker’s point that it’s a “conundrum” for journalists to say that political leaders are lying sums up the problem with the corporate press.

Wedded to the establishment

It’s what Chomsky previously called Marr out on. And it’s also what Media Lens highlighted in the ‘five stages of mainstream journalism’:

It’s that corporate journalists are essentially wedded to the establishment. They cannot bite the hand that feeds them. So instead they have to placate rather than agitate. Marr presenting the Brexit situation as a story with ‘two sides’ is a prime example of this. In the interests of ‘balance’, the truth is no longer relevant. Even if that ‘balance’ presents lies as fact or opinion.

Walker said that this is a “new world”. But it’s not. It’s the same one that has been operating for decades. It’s refreshing for a politician to effectively call it out, live on TV. But regardless of whether Marr ‘got it’ or not – him and the rest of the corporate press pack will continue with their subservient behaviour anyway.

Featured image via BBC iPlayer – screengrab

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  • Show Comments
    1. It is sad to say but Marr seemed a serious journalist in the immediate aftermath of his recovery from a stroke. As that recovery continued and he experienced a ‘return to some kind of normality’ his effective academic professionalism seems to have deteriorated. C’est la vie. I’ve jettisoned the BBC from my life and have therefore purified the atmoshpere in my immediate environment. Keep up the good work Steve.

    2. Top kudos for mentioning Media Lens and Chomsky!

      Of course, none of this will move the korporate media one inch, as IF they ever did honest self-criticism, they would quickly realise they were not journalists but ‘stenographers to power’. Instead, they like to believe they are Journalists like Assange – who they wouldn’t even dare to lift a pen to scribe in his defence.

    3. It’s not a matter of the psychology of journalists but of the nature of the institutions. Is Marr a good man? The question is absurd. What kind of culture do journalists operate in, that’s the matter. Take a look at the BBC. Most of its newsreaders were privately educated. Most privately educated people are more or less right-wing. The salaries put the top journalists in the highest ten percent bracket. It’s simply ludicrous to imagine that is going to get anything like objectivity. The egregious lies of the government may go further than they used to, but governments always lie. We have the media we have for historical reasons. The rich have controlled information for centuries. In the modern world, the deliberate creation of illusion is the stock in trade of journalism. The common folk have to be fooled. If they’re told the truth they’ll use their votes to change things. Debate is permitted within very narrow limits. How often do you hear anyone arguing for co-operative enterprise? Yet it’s obviously a sensible response to inequality. Humanity has taken a wrong turn. The belief that pursuit of material wealth will fulfil and liberate us is a delusion. It is destroying the planet, driving species to extinction and has alienated us from the best in ourselves. Yet debate is permitted to go no further than whether the rich should pay an extra one per cent or one and half percent in tax. Pathetic. The media ensure the debate we need to solve our urgent problems cannot be had. They do so because traditionally they have been the mouthpiece of the rich. What’s the answer? We have to rebel (non-violently) and radically change our economic and social arrangements first. We won’t get a responsible media until we do.

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