For too long an unholy alliance of North American and European media outlets, principally BBC, CNN, Fox News, but also their French, Spanish, Portuguese and German-language equivalents, ensured coverage of evolving world events reflected the message that NATO, the EU and the leading global corporations wanted us to hear.
Not only do they set the agenda, i.e. decide which news stories are worthy of our attention, they can choose how to present complex regional conflicts, exclude inconvenient voices and promote opinion leaders who support their version of events. Resource wars are portrayed as battles between outmoded dictatorships and enlightened progressives willing to participate in our globalised utopia.
The trouble is their changing stories have failed to convince everyone. Not all Europeans actually believed the Afghan and Iraq wars were really about women's rights or deposing evil dictators. Some politicians publicly disagreed with the US/UK occupation of Iraq, but then still did business with the same multinationals, banks and military alliances that pushed for war in the first place. The sad fact is to keep the illusion of democracy alive, the mass media could only convince the US and UK electorate to vote for parties that supported the war. As it happens opinion polls in the run up to the 2003 invasion show a clear majority of British voters opposed to military action, but this changed as Parliament approved military intervention. France and Germany stayed out, but only a few years later the French happily intervened in Haiti, Libya and Mali.
Now the European Union and NATO have set their eyes on further eastward expansion and have backed a coup in Ukraine, some of us are not quite buying the latest outburst of self-righteous propaganda. Why should we trust the same media pundits who sold us the Iraq occupation to promote freedom and democracy in a country whose tortuous history remains a mystery to outside observers. Why do they loathe Russia, yet fail to criticise Saudi Arabia or China responsible for human rights abuses on an infinitely greater scale? Did any BBC pundit explain how the oil-rich Saudi Arabian regime now has the world's 4th largest military budget (USD 67 billion a year ahead of the UK at 57.9 billion) and is the biggest client of UK-based arms dealer BAE Systems ?
The apparent evilness of Putin's Russia allegedly has something to do with limited free speech and gay rights. But despite a deceptively vast range of media outlets in the West, they all seem to promote the same basic set of ideas, i.e. we need more free trade, more economic growth and more social engineering to uproot us from our traditional mores.
However, the Russian Federation is now reasserting its independence, and learning to play the West's game. They have studied the techniques deployed by the BBC, CNN at al for decades and launched their own channel, Russia Today, to challenge BBC propaganda head-on. So whom should we trust? Neither, but now the BBC / CNN cabal have lost their monopoly on English-language news. On some issues Russia Today seems more balanced, but on the others as biased as the BBC. the global balance of power is clearly shifting away from the North Atlantic to vast expanses of resource rich Siberia and resource-hungry hyperactive China. I will be watching, but will trust no-one.