No News Is Slow News
The news that doesn't make the front pages or the BBC bulletins
is 'slow news'. For example, the resistance to foreign power by
the Palestinians, ordinary Iraqis and Afghans is 'slow news'
while the internecine machinations of Bush and Blair is 'regular
By John Pilger
Clearing House" -- -- When I began working as a journalist, there
was something called "slow news". We would refer to "slow news
days" when "nothing happened" – apart from, that is, triumphs
and tragedies in faraway places where most of humanity lived.
These were rarely reported, or the tragedies were dismissed as
acts of nature, regardless of evidence to the contrary. The news
value of whole societies was measured by their relationship with
"us" in the west and their degree of compliance with, or
hostility to, our authority. If they didn't measure up, they
were slow news.
Few of these assumptions have changed. To sustain them, millions
of people remain invisible, and expendable. On 11 September
2001, while the world lamented the deaths of almost 3,000 people
in the United States, the United Nations Food and Agriculture
Organisation reported that more than 36,000 children had died
from the effects of extreme poverty. They were very slow news.
Let's take a few recent examples and compare each with the
regular news as seen on the BBC and elsewhere. Keep in mind that
Palestinians are chronically slow news and that Israelis are
Regular news: Charles Clarke, a spokesman for Tony Blair,
"revives the battle of Downing Street" and calls Gordon Brown
"stupid, stupid" and a "control freak". He disapproves of the
way Brown smiles. This is given saturation coverage.
Slow news: "A genocide is taking place in Gaza," warns Ilan
Pappe, one of Israel's leading historians. "This morning...
another three citizens of Gaza were killed and a whole family
wounded. This is the morning reap; before the end of the day
many more will be massacred."
Regular news: Blair visits the West Bank and Lebanon as a
"peacemaker" and a "broker" between the Israeli prime minister
and the "moderate" Palestinian president. Keeping a straight
face, he warns against "grandstanding" and "apportioning blame".
Slow news: When the Israeli army attacked the West Bank in 2002,
flattening homes, killing civilians and trashing homes and
museums, Blair was forewarned and gave "the green light". He was
also warned about the recent Israeli attack on Gaza and on
Regular news: Blair tells Iran to heed the UN Security Council
on "not going forward with a nuclear programme".
Slow news: The Israeli attack on Lebanon was part of a sequence
of carefully planned military operations, of which the next is
Iran. US forces are ready to destroy 10,000 targets. The US and
Israel contemplate the use of tactical nuclear weapons against
Iran, even though Iran's nuclear weapons programme is
Regular news: "We have been making real progress in areas where
the insurgency has been strongest," says a US military spokesman
Slow news: The US military has lost all control over al-Anbar
Province, west of Baghdad, including the towns of Fallujah and
Ramadi, which are now in the hands of the resistance. This means
the US has lost control of much of Iraq.
Regular news: "It is quite clear that real progress has been
made [in Afghanistan]," says the Foreign Office.
Slow news: Nato pilots kill 13 Afghan civilians, including nine
children, during an attack to "provide cover" for British troops
based at Musa Kala in Helmand Province.
Regular news: Blair is Labour's most successful prime minister,
winning three landslide election victories in a row.
Slow news: In 1997, Tony Blair won fewer popular votes than John
Major's Tories in 1992. In 2001, Blair won fewer popular votes
than Neil Kinnock's Labour in 1992. In 2005, Blair won fewer
popular votes than the Tories in 1997. The past two elections
have produced the lowest turnouts since the franchise. Blair has
the support of little over a fifth of the eligible British
Regular news: In the age of Blair "ideology has surrendered
entirely to 'values'... there are no sacred cows [and] no
fossilised limits to the ground over which the mind might range
in search of a better Britain", wrote Hugo Young, the Guardian,
Slow news: "Nuremberg declared that aggressive war is the
supreme international crime. They [Bush and Blair] should be
tried along with Saddam Hussein," says Benjamin Ferencz, chief
prosecutor of Nazi crimes at Nuremberg.
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