What is News?

Sunday 22nd April

We all watch the news; although a few watch only rarely (I once worked with a woman who NEVER watched the news and had no idea even who the Prime Minister was {maybe she was better informed than the rest of us…hahaha}).  But what are we watching really?  The most important job is that of the News Editor, who, just as a newspaper editor, decides what is news.

And not only what goes on the Front Page, where Celebrity rules for most of the Tabloids, but even what to report on, and which stories are to be told and which to be buried.  Unfortunately the TV News is even more controlled than the papers are. They follow closely the News Agenda set by the papers.  So, it is no surprise that more and more of us are resorting to the internet to get not only a different political slant, but actually completely ‘New’ News.  I recently spotted a link to a report by Robert Fisk, who writes for the Guardian.  Now, I read on-line the Guardian almost every day; although not every page.  But I do scan the ‘front page’ and follow up anything I am interested in.  This article must have been deeply buried somewhere in the paper, but the News Editor had not chosen to highlight or Headline it in any way at all.

Which is amazing, as it was the most revealing article about the recent Syrian adventure I had read.  Robert Fisk is a celebrated and incredibly careful journalist, specialising in the Middle East.  He speaks Arabic and has many friends in Lebanon, Israel, Egypt and even Syria.  He has written extensively and critically about both the Israeli’s and many of the Arab leaders.  I have read his articles for years; he seems to have a deeper understanding of the conflicts and history, both ancient and modern, of this troubled region.

He visited Duoma, the site of the recent ‘chemical’ atrocity four days afterwards, which the Western powers immediately blamed on Assad.  He spoke to several doctors who had treated ‘victims’ of the ‘gas’ attacks.  They laughed when he mentioned chemical weapons.  The people treated were suffering from oxygen deprivation.  The rebels had built a series of tunnels under the town where soldiers and civilians hid from the air-raids.  These had become smoke filled and people were choking.  A simple problem and a simple solution, the water being poured over them was not to wash chemicals from them but to cool them down.  He found no evidence of any deaths or anyone being ‘’gassed’.  That is not to say that the ‘chemical’ attacks did not happen.  This is only one journalist’s voice.  But I haven’t seen a single report from another journalist who was actually in Duoma.

But the wider question is why this different version of events was not more widely carried by the News Media generally.  or why the extensive use of gas in the Iran-iraq conflict of the Eighties is never mentioned. Or why the report of a senior American Colonel that in fact there were many uses of chemical weapons by Isis and other rebel groups all over Syria and Iraq before this one, which, real or not, so horrified the World that they had to teach Assad a lesson.  Or why the reports of Russia’s blocking of a UN resolution was not the only one vetoed; the American and us and the French also vetoed a Russian resolution because it would have had Russian observers witnessing the work of the weapons inspectors.

And we all blindly watch the News, believing the ‘official’ version of events, and not realising that many other versions may exist, or indeed completely other news which never gets reported.