What do media which actually work for peace look like?

Conference of the “Geneva International Peace Research Institute” (GIPRI) in Solothurn (Switzerland)

by Peter Küpfer

“Media play an important role in the ongoing wars. This conference focuses on disinformation by corporate media, serving the interests of corporate elites against countries who oppose the foreign policies of the governments of the globalist North and the hegemonial claims of NATO. It shows how media terrorism functions and how independent, community-based media may be established that serve the people and peace”.

With these calm but meaningful words Gabriel Galice outlined the aim at the start of the conference, who is the president of the “Geneva International Peace Research Institute (GIPRI)”, which participated in the organisation of the event. It took place on 15/16 October 2022 in Solothurn, supported also by the Swiss Peace Council and two other organisers, “ALBA Suiza” and the “Committee Switzerland-Cuba”. It demonstrated as a matter of fact that a majority of the Western media establishment do promote war rather than peace.
  On Saturday, all seats were taken in the spacious conference hall in the traditional venue of the meeting (co-operative Kreuz) and on Sunday additional chairs had to be provided. The theme of the threatened peace in this one world of ours and the media’s great share of the responsibility for this was right in the air. It is commonplace that the great media corporations play a key role for the question of war and peace in today’s world. Also, that this role is not played in a way so that the cause of peace is strengthened. Many aspects of the question posed by the conference – which mechanisms drive the great paradox of war – were answered, and the term “media terrorism” was not introduced by some rabble-rousers but by sincere professionals with years of experience in the field. GIPRI president Gabriel Galice made it clear in his opening remarks that media actors, who apply their cognitive potentials towards disinformation rather than information of the people, to direct their basic instincts towards a fabricated image of the Enemy and towards destruction of the inherent strive for solidarity with their fellow human beings (which is based on compassion rather than hatred), so that they are eager to attack “the enemy” – those actors are actively engaged in sabotaging a human right.
  The right to live in peace is a human right which may, or even must be called for especially in today’s world of media-driven fear – and warmongering, as Galice emphasised. It is a special blend of terror that destroys people’s cognitive capabilities by intimidation. This makes sense even with mere logic. When they illustrated their point in more detail though, the speakers, who had various different backgrounds, could no longer maintain their cool distance. Once demonstrated, those professional mechanisms of constantly swamping our minds lead to justified outrage. Step by step the picture got sharper. With each intervention the problem became more urgent: What should peace-promoting media look like, how should they function and what kind of people should run them? And promoting peace is what they need to do. Only that way they can fulfil the one thing that citizens rightfully demand from their states (which justifies the states’ existence in the first place): to secure the lives of their citizens in peace in liberty. Active warmongering as it is pursued by many big Swiss media outlets, even those owned by the public hand, is unconstitutional even though the Swiss federal government seems to encourage it by their public statements. Their main actors in politics and public-service broadcasting should be surveyed by the domestic intelligence agency, if not jailed for protection (protection of us citizens from their activities, that is). Alternatively, they should be taken to court as Christian Müller explained in his speech later. For that to happen we would have to establish this court though, for right now there is none which will deal with crimes against the internationally recognised common prohibition of war (as laid down in the United Nations Charter) under all circumstances. Not only if it pleases the so-called winners.

Bullying people into absolute solidarity with power blocs

The very first speaker, Alan MacLeod (UK) who is working with “Mint Press News” today, mentioned an important factor contributing to the unlimited power of today’s media corporations. Their front actors like Rupert Murdoch in the USA and Axel Springer in Germany are still mistakenly perceived by many to impersonate the “self-made-man” narrative. However, today’s heavily interconnected key industries, such as the energy sector and mainly the arms manufacturers in the Western world, keep their worldview on a programmed track towards neo-capitalism and neo-liberalism. And their influence has long ceased to be concentrated on money alone. The oligarchs (note: not all oligarchs are Russian) have learned a lot from the left (when they still deserved the name): citing Noam Chomsky and Antonio Gramsci MacLeod put the mechanisms in the centre of his talk by which our opinions are directed not only by financial means but by a manipulative consciousness industry. This may at first be achieved by rather unsophisticated coercion, as the speaker explained. All 15,000 employees of the German Axel Springer consortium for-instance, with its more than 150 publishing houses, must have signed a memorandum which obliges them never to write anything critical of either the European Union or the state of Israel in their journalistic career. MacLeod is not so optimistic about the common argument that the decline in the number of print media costumers meant more autonomy in the use of internet media via the personal mobile phone. This has been and still is mistakenly imagined by many as a “liberating stroke” to free the minds of the people. Be cautious, says MacLeod. The top few have everything under control in this area too and the so-called independent information is channelled by algorithms and news filters. The aim is no longer to cash in money with information as a commodity. It’s all about access to people’s minds. This is by definition a totalitarian approach. Once the subjects do indeed think as it pleases their masters then their hegemony is secured for generations to come, inherently so-to-speak. Wikipedia is anything but a “free encyclopaedia”. In the background legions of so-called correctors are busy restricting the amount of accessible information, mainly the meaningful of-course, in an ideologically “correct” way, in most instances by suppressing important facts or deleting them form the internet. One can lie by omission, MacLeod says. What can be done? MacLeod spells out at least the goal: strengthening media competence in the “users”. Considering the decade-long systematic Americanisation of our schools and universities, pursued against all warnings of competent teachers and professors worldwide, one might ask how this could ever succeed.

Stirring up support for a total war,
unimaginable even a few years ago!

Thoughtfully but strictly fact-based the Swiss journalist Christian Müller took the stage in this commendable conference. With the content of his platform globalbridge.ch which is entirely edited by him personally he testifies for his independence and uncorrupted judgement. His career represents a whole era. Like his francophone colleague Guy Mettan who is quite similar to him Christian Müller has worked in various Swiss press outlets, learned the business from bottom up and practiced it to the best of his knowledge and abilities. Truthfulness, objectivity and listening-to-the-other-side are no mere words for him but standards that need to be fulfilled for the sake of professionalism. He still maintains the idea that good journalism is dedicated to the truth rather than entertainment, mere effects and the piped-up “ultimate story”. With this guideline Müller advanced in the hierarchy up to the post of chief editor of the “Luzerner Neuesten Nachrichten”. However, the anxieties of journalists due to increasing competition in a shrinking press environment as well as their ever-stronger instrumentalization by neo-liberal agendas has changed the media landscape completely. Together with the technological development (fast sequences of pictures and texts, instant video reporting by users via mobile phone etc.) all this has contributed to more superficiality and streamlining. Serious journalism as Müller understood it was less and less appreciated. Therefore, Müller dedicates all his efforts to his own independent internet platform with authentic information content only (www.globalbridge.ch).

Catastrophic consequences of decreasing intimacy with historical facts

Having a PhD in history himself Müller notes a deleterious ignorance about historical facts in many of his younger colleagues. Especially in politics events cannot be understood without knowledge of their history. Müller insists on this and provides evidence of historical ignorance in otherwise well-trained journalists leading to misjudgements today. One needs to know its genesis in-order to understand the true meaning of anything. Together with their financial dependence (need to sell your story!) and the strive for “coolness” among young journalists this inevitably promotes a rather superficial contact to people and circumstances which in turn leads to superficial judgements, which get broadcast as wrong information and are systematically exploited for propaganda in the end, as in the case of warmongering. One example is the alleged but to this day unproven claim, Putin had uttered threats of using nuclear weapons against the West. Müller is enraged by the russophobic onslaught in Western media (practiced as a new kind of racism in our “high-quality media” by legions of self-declared anti-racists) since 24 February 2022. As an example, he quotes the lead article of the current chief editor of the “Neuen Zürcher Zeitung”. On page 1 of its Saturday issue, the very day of the conference start, this was the lead article of a once well-respected newspaper that used to uphold the democratic ideals of our diverse Switzerland as their programme. On this Saturday chief editor Eric Gujer was all but frantically beating the war drum. This included a whole array of unproven allegations such as the above-mentioned claim of Putin’s nuclear threat to the West or his plan to illegally conquer the former Czarist provinces. Although never backed up by a single verifiable citation all big media outlets in the Western world keep hammering this message home. Why this distortion? In Gujer’s case, too, this comes with an appeal for “total war”, reminiscent of Goebbels in his infamous hate speech which had been greeted with cheers by the well-organised enthusiasm of his fellow warmongers at the Berlin sports palace. It’s the battle field cry and Müller puts it bluntly – it’s a war crime in that it incites war and violence. What has become of neutral Switzerland whose army serves strictly defence purposes only but never a warmongering superpower? Müller is right: such unconstitutional behaviour should be liable under law. Before which court, though? As Müller admits, the International Criminal Court which is recognised by Switzerland should be the one – should be, but unfortunately is not. This court has put up with the USA and NATO dictating to them whom to prosecute for war crimes and crimes against humanity and whom to let go free, to this day. This is an invitation for more war and more war crimes around the world – actively supported by Switzerland? Perpetrators acting from their desks are still perpetrators, only more cowardly ones! If chief editors of lead media outlets keep hammering home to their readers that this war can and should be won on the battlefield – in the still neutral Switzerland with their strictly defensive army and the attitude to serve as reliable mediators in international conflicts – the final goal to militarily and politically weaken Russia, then a lot is out of balance. Normal human behaviour would be to call for a cease-fire to avoid further suffering – on both side, that is.
  “I have heard a good metaphor from different private sides: Picture two boys, 16 and 8 years old in a fight. In comes their mother– what will she do? She approaches them, tries to separate them and says: ‘Stop fighting!’ No mother and in fact nobody else wither would provide a knife or even an axe to the smaller boy to enable him to beat or even kill the bigger and stronger boy. But this is exactly what the Western countries are busy doing right now: They ship weapons – and how deadly ones! – and ammunition to the weaker one, Ukraine, for them to be able to inflict more damage and suffering to the stronger one! They call for war with tens or even hundreds of thousands of victims, in the military and also civilians. This is an absolutely inhumane behaviour!” (quote from Christian Müller’s talk at Solothurn, see https://globalbridge.ch/so-rufen-schweizer-medien-zu-noch-mehrkrieg-auf/)
  All this has detrimental consequences for our mental health. Müller puts it bluntly. Paying attention to those warmongering media products non-stop will blur people’s natural reactions so that they no longer respond with the normal empathic outcry: The killing has to stop immediately! – but their artificially manufactured hatred will be directed against the alleged solitary “perpetrator”, pleasing the Western arms producers.

Firm support for the truth and the people
who lost their roots due to the war

The German Middle East reporter Karin Leukefeld gave an impressive example. Modestly, almost restrained in her demeanour she nailed the problems of today’s journalism in her talk. All her arguments were backed up by personal experience. Leukefeld, too, painted a grim picture of the professionalism of her young colleagues who like to be referred to as “specialists” for the countries they happen to be assigned to by their “quality media” employers. Often they spend their time in Westernised hotel resorts where they collect Western media products about “their” respective country. Usually, these articles contain the content provided by Western intelligence and distributed by the dominating news agencies (AFP, AP, Reuters und dpa) for worldwide consumption – while differing content from Al-Jazeera or similar “untrustworthy” sources get ignored by the “specialists”. It is for a reason that Karin Leukefeld, who started as a young and hopeful correspondent specialising in the Middle East, eager to get acquainted with the lives and cultures of people in these countries, had to develop into a war correspondent instead. Libanon, Iraq, Syria – all these centres of amazing cultural wealth were turned into battlegrounds and heaps of rubble in recent years, where the surviving inhabitants try to make a living for their families in increasing desperation. It is mainly the cold indifference of “the world” which causes them to despair rather than their own suffering.1 One of Leukefeld’s examples was the narrative of a chemical weapons attack on the Syrian city of Duma in 2018, allegedly carried out by the Syrian government. The UN commission who investigated the incident concluded that there was no evidence supporting this narrative. However, this report was rejected as “untrustworthy” and replaced by a manipulated substitute. Apparently, the US administration was instrumental in this correction. Two members of the commission who insisted on the original findings were replaced as well. The global public swallowed the lies thanks to their dominant news networks. Similar examples can be found in Iraq and Afghanistan, where 20 years of horrific wars just ended recently with no obvious result whatsoever.
  Leukefeld presented her own codex of journalistic conduct, which is informed by “outdated” rules which serious journalists like Guy Mettan and Christian Müller adhere to as well, such as: Always report on both sides of a conflict. Always investigate the sources of a “story” carefully. Separate content from commentaries. And so on. Karin Leukefeld’s talk at the conference can be uploaded on globalbridge.ch.

Only true independence will recover journalism

This and other top-class speakers, among them Jacques Baud and the former editor of Le Monde Diplomatique, Maurice Lemoine (he highlighted the shameful role played by the Western media in the propaganda war against Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela), led to the question of how the media should be structured in order to be able to disseminate authentic, truthful and thus reliable news.
  This was demonstrated on Saturday evening with a film from the work of committed journalists in an emerging country like Venezuela (“Nostalgic Women of the Future”) and further deepened on Sunday afternoon with more examples (Thierry Deronne on the “terra tv” project in Venezuela). The work of journalists engaged in this field reverses the usual focus. Here, the population is not the addressee to whom the media instance communicates “news” and how it is to be classified. Here, the population itself addresses its fellow human beings “out in the world” via the medium (videos or entire television programmes).
  The journalists involved here are not concerned with planting filtered and processed snippets of consciousness into the audience, but that they (and with them the audience) listen to the people and understand what is bothering them. This includes the work of the team to empower them to communicate their concerns in their own language and to handle the communication technology needed for dissemination themselves. This is very different from mass propaganda. It is the amplification, through technical means, of voices that would otherwise go unheard.
  It also involves a way of working that makes itself independent and thus uncorruptible. This starts with technology (paper printing is less susceptible to manipulation than internet technology), legal form (cooperative structures are more transparent than private companies) and distribution (door-to-door advertising and distribution is more personal, sustainable and cheaper). How such insights can be put into practice was shown by the example of the “Women’s Press Collective” in New York, where dedicated professionals have been providing news, language lessons, education, participation in self-help groups and thus, above all, hope and perspectives to people with an emigration background in the less advantaged neighbourhoods of the big city for many years.
  The conference gave strong impetus. In a world war with the aim of an American-style globalisation (of a part of Americans), media play a decisive role. They are handled by human beings. They only serve humanity if they also work humanly. This includes not only the mind (and the wallet), but also the heart.  •


1 This feeling is shared by brave Westerners like Julian Assange who would have loved to join the conference in Solothurn but had to stay in his 2 times 3m² cell in Belmarsh prison instead.

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