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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

What is news?

"Professional journalism relies heavily on official sources. Reporters have to talk to the PM's official spokesperson, the White House press secretary, the business association, the army general. What those people say is news. Their perspectives are automatically legitimate...This is precisely the opposite of what a functioning democracy needs, which is a ruthless accounting of the powers that be."

(Robert McChesney, professor of communications, University of Illinois)


Anonymous michael said...

MediaLens are right to take the Beeb to task for their sycophantic failures in Iraq war reporting, but Daves Cromwell and Edwards aren't doing themselves any favours with their ill-founded assumptions about what constitutes a banned weapon.

Cluster bombs are not specifically banned by any convention - even when used in civilian areas (although the US military falsely claims it does not do so). Some interpreters of the Ottawa Treaty contend that their 10%+ failure rate makes them banned aerially sown mines, but as the US did not sign at Ottawa the point is moot.

Napalm was banned by a 1980 UN convention which the US has never ratified. However it did change the formulation of its napalm and claims it is no longer napalm and therefore not covered by the convention anyway. Incendiary bombs remain legal if they are not 'napalm'.

According to the Geneva Convention, white phosphorous munitions cannot be used as an anti-personnel weapon, due to the charming habit the fragments have of bursting into flame when removed from the body - frying surgical teams and burning down medical facilities. But due to a technicality, that aspect of the convention has never been enforceable.

Geneva signatories are permitted to use white phosphorous to lay down smoke screens and nothing in the convention says that you can't call down a smoke screen directly on enemy or civilian positions - as long as you don't intend to inflict casualties that way (nod, nod, wink, wink).

Anyone who is relying on law to stop atrocities committed in war is barking up the wrong tree. The victors always get to say what was legal.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005 2:25:00 am  

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