More Monbiot and the Left Wing Genocide Belittlers
By Joe Emersberger at Jun 17, 2011
Hopeless response from @medialens to today's column. They seem not to grasp the implications of what they're defending.
Here is full the Medialens response which Monbiot called "hopeless".
Hope you’re well. In your June 13 Guardian article, ‘Left and libertarian right cohabit in the weird world of the genocide belittlers,’ you chose to associate our name, among others, with a ‘malign intellectual subculture that seeks to excuse savagery by denying the facts’. This is a wonderfully Orwellian inversion of what we have been doing for the last ten years in challenging liberal journalism, including your own employer. You commented:
‘The leftwing website Media Lens maintained that Herman and Peterson were "perfectly entitled" to talk down the numbers killed at Srebrenica.’ (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jun/13/left-and-libertarian-right)
This is what we actually wrote:
‘Herman and Peterson, then, are not denying that mass killings took place at Srebrenica. They also do not accept the figure cited by Kamm and others, but that they are perfectly entitled to do.’ (http://www.medialens.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=585:dancing-on-a-mass-grave-oliver-kamm-of-the-times-smears-media-lens&catid=23:alerts-2009&Itemid=9)
Arguing that someone was entitled to debate the facts is not the same as arguing that they were entitled to falsify, mislead, dishonestly belittle, or whatever ‘talk down’ was intended to suggest. You could have written: ‘Media Lens maintained that Herman and Peterson were "perfectly entitled" to debate the facts.’
As you know, we have not written about the Srebrenica massacre – which took place six years before we set up Media Lens - other than to affirm that it was a massacre. The whole emphasis of our November 4, 2005 alert, for example, was to show that Noam Chomsky had affirmed, and not denied, as the Guardian claimed, that there had been a massacre at Srebrenica. (http://www.medialens.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=419:smearing-chomsky-the-guardian-in-the-gutter&catid=19:alerts-2005&Itemid=9)
On Herman and Peterson, we checked our archives - after ten years of work on Media Lens, we found a grand total of two articles by them discussing Srebrenica posted on our website (a third mentions it in passing. See: http://www.medialens.org/forum/search.php?mode=results)
Were we wrong to post these two articles? Should we delete them? If so, what threat do you feel Herman and Peterson’s work poses, as compared to the threat posed to political freedom of suppressing it? After all, if taken seriously, could not accusations of ‘genocide denial’ be extended in order to suppress other unpopular views? ZNet, to which you contribute, has dozens of articles by Herman and Peterson mentioning Srebrenica (http://www.zcommunications.org/zsearch/keyword?key_word=srebrenica). Should ZNet remove these articles or burn their back copies of Z Magazine?
On Twitter last week, you accused us of ‘genocide denial’ (http://twitter.com/#!/GeorgeMonbiot/status/78066032748670976) Thanks to you, we now have people like BosnianGenocide and Srebrenicahaven writing to us, and you, declaring: ‘George Monbiot People behind medialens are Srebrenica genocide deniers and distortionists - a group of online “crack pots.”’(http://twitter.com/#!/srebrenicahaven/status/81263466769416192) and ‘George Monbiot Why are you wasting time arguing with Bosnian genocide deniers who run medialens website? They are irrelevant Islamophobes.’ (http://twitter.com/#!/JewsandBosniaks/status/81264811786252288)
We are not ‘genocide deniers’, but we do reject the right of any court, any government, indeed anyone, to apply labels like ‘genocide’ to historical events and then, not merely argue but demand that they be accepted. The assumption that human institutions are in possession of Absolute Truth belongs to the era of The Inquisition, not to serious debate.
There are rare cases when hate speech motivated by racism and likely to lead to violence can be condemned. Presumably you are not suggesting that Edward Herman, David Peterson, Noam Chomsky, John Pilger or we at Media Lens are promoting hatred and violence?
Finally, you wrote:
'What makes this all the more remarkable is that Media Lens has waged a long and fierce campaign against Iraq Body Count for underestimating the number killed in that country.'
Why remarkable? The ‘fierce campaign’ has in fact involved our marshalling serious evidence exposing how the same political and media forces that hyped Iraq’s WMD ‘threat’, inevitably, have suppressed the catastrophic consequences of the invasion for the civilian population.
What would be remarkable is if, with virtually zero resources, we were able to challenge the mainstream media goliath on US-UK crimes of this kind while in-depth researching every subject covered in every article we post or link to by some of the world’s most highly-regarded political analysts.
David Edwards and David Cromwell . :
“The first thing that strikes me is what you leave out: namely the sentences immediately preceding your comment about what Herman and Peterson were 'perfectly entitled' to do, in discussing the massacre at Srebrenica. You quoted them as saying the following:
‘There is a good case to be made that, while there were surely hundreds of executions, and possibly as many as a thousand or more, the 8,000 figure is a political construct and eminently challengeable.’
Given that 6,500 of the victims have already been exhumed and identified, and that there is very strong evidence (as there has been for years) to suggest that a further 1,500 or so await discovery, this statement is demonstrably wrong and without justification. To describe it as 'talking down' the number of deaths is in fact an understatement: it amounts to the outright disavowal of cast-iron evidence. But you comment as follows: “
Obviously, the key word in the Herman and Peterson quote above is “executions”. The Srebrenica massacre happened over a period of about two weeks while there was major combat going on. The uncertainties, especially as to who died in combat and who was executed, would be significant even if you assume (incredibly) that there was negligible bias, dishonesty and incompetence in the Western controlled institutions that did the investigating and the prosecuting.
You appear to want Medialens (but not Znet for some odd reason) to declare Herman and Peterson guilty of “gross misrepresentation” without Medialens having looked very carefully into their work. That could be justified if what Herman and Perterson were saying was completely outlandish at a macro level – like, for example, saying that Saddam Hussein posed a military threat to the West – but that isn’t the case. The war in Iraq, among numerous other examples, has exposed the West as capable of tremendous political bias, dishonesty and incompetence. The kind of denunciation you demand of Medialens would have to be supported by a detailed look at Herman and Perterson’s work. Medialens hasn’t done that. You obviously haven’t.
You added in your letter to Medialens
"Media Lens is a campaigning organisation, devoted to exposing the double standards of the media on questions such as the killing of foreigners by allies of the Western powers versus the killing of foreigners by opponents of the Western powers. So it jumps out when you display the same double standards. You find it totally unacceptable for Iraq Body Count to underestimate the number of people killed in Iraq. "
Medialens DID take a detailed look at the way Iraq Body Count’s work has been used by the corporate press, and the way that has contrasted with the treatment received by peer-reviewed scientific surveys in the Lancet Medical journal. At no time did Medialens say the IBC was not entitled to its opinion. If Medialens believed that, then they would not have hosted months of detailed debate with IBC staff and supporters on their site.
It is not a double standard to concern yourself more with crimes you feel most responsible for and in a position to do something about. It is not a double standard to express a strong opinion on a topic you’ve looked into closely but suspend judgment on one which you haven’t.
It is worth noting, that in the case of the war in Iraq, where, unlike Srebrenica to my knowledge, we have peer-reviewed scientific mortality studies, estimates of the death toll from violence (up to 2006) have varied from 150,000 to 600,000.  The TOTAL death toll (from all causes as of 2006) have been closer 400,000 compared to 650,000. If science can be imprecise on these matters, it is hardly outlandish to suspect that Western prosecutors and investigators may not possess “cast-iron evidence” or conclusions that cannot be reasonably challenged.
Herman and Peterson may be wrong (I don't claim to know) and the official versions they dispute may be accurate. However, there is nothing in what you have written to justify your campaign of vilification of Herman and Peterson, much less of “supporters” whom you named (Chomsky, Medialens, and Pilger) and disgracefully accused of “belittling acts of genocide.”