Dr Goebbels would be proud

On Sunday the Hong Kong authorities announced that Edward Snowden had left their territory. Shortly after, it was discovered that Snowden was on an Aeroflot flight bound for Moscow. The world’s media (and no doubt lots of spooks) all descended on Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, and while waiting for Snowden’s flight to arrive it was revealed that he was booked on an Aeroflot flight to Cuba the following day, Monday. The Cuba flight had lots of spare seats, which were immediately snapped-up by the media (and no doubt the spooks). Also on Sunday it was discovered that Snowden was seeking political asylum in Ecuador (the previous year the Ecuadoreans had granted political asylum to Julian Assange). When the flight from Hong Kong arrived in Moscow there was no sign of Snowden and it was assumed that he had been secretely taken off the plane, and was spending the night in the transit part of the airport terminal. The next day the Cuba flight left Sheremetyevo airport. Within a short time the media bods on board confirmed that the seat Snowden had booked was empty and he didn’t seem to be on the plane. The media and the spooks then had to endure a fruitless and dry 13 hour flight to Cuba (Aeroflot don’t serve booze on this route).

Throughout all this the Americans had been sternly warning the Chinese and Russians not to aid Snowden, and the next morning, Tuesday, the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, announced that “Snowden never crossed the border into Russia”, creating frenzied speculation about where Snowden might have gone to from Hong Kong. Also on Tuesday the Chinese government (via the People’s Daily) praised Snowden and accused the US government of being hypocrites. Later that day Russian president Putin also praised both Snowden and Assange and confirmed that Snowden was indeed still in the transit area of Sheremetyevo airport.

Now, you may or may not have been following the delicious twists and turns of the Snowden escape (which has detracted from what he has revealed about mass suveillance being conducted by the US and UK; but don’t worry folks, there’s more revelations to come). I’m relating it all again here to make the point that not so many years ago the media would have been all over such a story like a rash. But not now, not in the US and UK, and as I’ve said before, the Snowden saga is not only about what our governments have become, it’s also about what our media has become. The mainstream media are reporting the Snowden saga (they could hardly ignore one of the biggest stories of the decade), but they’re not giving it much prominence and they’re not presenting it in context. For instance, I got hold of a print copy of yesterday’s Daily Mail. Bear in mind that this went to press whilst everything I’ve related above was going on. The Snowden saga gets a small mention on page 11, under the heading US calls for Russia help as CIA spy ‘disappears’. Ok, you don’t expect much else from rags like the Daily Mail, but the likes of the Times and Telegraph are covering it in exactly the same way. In fact today’s online Daily Telegraph had this as its top headline…

Spy agencies win millions more to fight terror threat

… and the first paragraph reads: MI6, MI5 and Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) will see an inflation-busting increase in their combined £1.9 billion budget, underlining the Government’s concern over the growing terrorist threat following the Woolwich attack.

Anyone reading the above without laughing has obviously not listened to what Edward Snowden has actually said (and obviously doesn’t know about swingeing cuts to social security payments in the UK); and it’s a similar, if not worse, situation on the other side of the Atlantic. Methinks that Snowden also leaked the PRISM story to the Washington Post in an attempt to show his fellow citizens just how muzzled and cowering the American press have become. The only newspapers giving it quality coverage are in the UK, and they are the Guardian and the Independent (although the Independent doesn’t have massive resources, and so its coverage is limited). The Guardian, of course, is working closely with Edward Snowden and are breaking most of the stories (you can find the full Guardian coverage here). By comparison, the BBC’s coverage of Snowden looks like Whitehouse press releases. You know, Dr Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda minister, once famously said that he could “play the popular will like a piano, leading the masses wherever he wanted them to go”.

This brings me on to the Ecuadorean angle:- when President Rafael Correa granted political asylum to Julian Assange last year, the corporate controlled media did what was expected of them. Here’s the Daily Mail’s demolition job…

Welcome to Ecuador, Mr Assange… it’s the world’s biggest banana grower. But it’s also a hotbed of corruption, extortion and repression

(you can find a more balanced take here)

The fact is that the press in Ecuador used to mostly be corporate controlled propaganda machines (just like the press in the UK and USA now is), and were swaying elections in favour of right wing candidates. President Correa came down hard on the press to try and correct the balance. I’m not saying that Correa is perfect (Ecuador is still a developing country, after all), but he has been elected president three times now, gaining more than 50% of the popular vote in elections that were deemed by the UN to be safe and fair. In another one of those “you couldn’t make it up” moments, Julian Assange interviewed Correa early in 2012, as part of Assange’s series of interviews on RT, called The World Tomorrow. This interview was done one month before Assange ended-up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London. It’s interesting not only because Assange asks Correa some hard questions about press freedoms in Ecuador, but also because it gives an interesting insight into the relationship between these two men, and why the Ecuadoreans are now taking Edward Snowden under their wing…

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