It is nearly 20 years since I blew the whistle on British Government complicity in torture and the extraordinary rendition programme, under which thousands of people were deliberately tortured as a systematic act of government policy.
Many of them were killed.
I had, and I leaked, substantial documentary evidence to back my claims, of which this is but one example.
Yet the BBC never gave a spectacular, combat shot illustrated four and a half minute lead television news item to my revelations of official UK government involvement in mass torture, as they gave to junior Russian officer Konstantin Yefremov’s far less spectacular allegations.
My revelations were actually about the UK, not a foreign country. They came from a much more senior source than Lt Yefremov. They had undeniable supporting evidence. They revealed ministerially approved policy, not the possibly rogue behaviour detailed by Yefremov.
Yet to the BBC it was a much less important story.
Now I don’t actually doubt Yefremov’s modest testimony: he witnessed a single incident of torture and some looting. I am sorry to say I have no doubt, from close study, that torture and other crimes have always been committed by all armies in war.
Those who deny that Russian soldiers do it are as purblind and bigoted as those who deny that British or United States – or Ukrainian – soldiers do it.
But the massive propaganda punch given to Lt Yefremov’s testimony is in stark contrast to the treatment of domestic UK whistleblowers, or to the equally harrowing stories of the torture of Russian prisoners.
When have you ever seen Australian Major David McBride given four and a half minutes of BBC main news headline story to outline his allegations of widespread war crimes by allied forces in Afghanistan?
Of course you haven’t seen that. Such coverage would never happen.
How much prime time news coverage did the BBC allocate to the International Criminal Court’s listing of torture, rape and murder by British forces in Iraq?
On the other hand, when Public Interest Lawyers were closed down over irregularities in soliciting and pursuing the cases of victims of British atrocities in Iraq, the BBC gave that enormous coverage including on prime time news broadcasts, as though it proved no such atrocities ever occurred.
The BBC gives blanket coverage to a junior Russian officer, but gave almost none to New Zealand’s Operation Burnham, in which the Special Air Service killed a child, tortured an opponent and handed him over to further torture, and then systematically lied and covered up – all of which an official inquiry confirmed happened but declared “legal”.
Of course we know we live in an age of wall to wall propaganda. Of course we know that the BBC is an integral part of it. The really shocking thing about propaganda – as true of today’s BBC as it was of Goebbels – is that being massively unsubtle and obvious appears to magnify rather than diminish its power to sway public opinion.
The lesson of this current article is that it is not necessary to invent facts for propaganda. A completely false narrative can be built by extreme selectivity of what facts you amplify, and what facts you bury.
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