is time for George Monbiot’s legion of supporters to call him out.
Not only is he a hypocrite, but he is becoming an increasingly
a blind eye to his behaviour, or worse excusing it, as too often
happens, has only encouraged him to intensify his attacks on
dissident writers, those who – whether right or wrong on any
specific issue – are slowly helping us all to develop more critical
perspectives on western foreign policy goals than has ever been
do not lightly use such strong language against Monbiot, someone I
once admired. But his column this week drips with hypocrisy as he
accuses the rightwing media of being the real villains when it comes
to “no-platforming”. Monbiot writes:
perhaps the real discomfort is that the worst no-platforming of all
takes place within our newspapers. In the publications most obsessed
with student silliness, there is no platform for socialism, no
platform for environmentalism, no platform for those who might offend
the interests of the proprietors. …
believe that a healthy media organisation, like a healthy university,
should admit a diversity of opinion. I want the other newspapers to
keep publishing views with which I fiercely disagree. But they –
and we – should also seek opposing views and publish them too,
however uncomfortable this might be.
free speech advocate would disagree with that. Except it is Monbiot
himself who has been using his prominent platforms, at the Guardian
and on social media, to discredit critical thinkers on the left –
not with reasoned arguments, but by impugning their integrity.
started with his unsubstantiated claim that scholars like Noam
Chomsky and the late Ed Herman, as well as the acclaimed journalist
John Pilger, were “genocide deniers and belittlers”. It now
focuses on childish insinuations that those who question the
corporate media’s simplistic narrative on Syria are Assad
apologists or in Vladimir Putin’s pay.
worse than this, Monbiot is also conspiring – either actively or
through his silence – to deny critics of his and the Guardian’s
position on Syria the chance to set out their evidence in its pages.
Guardian’s anti-democratic stance does not surprise me, as someone
who worked there for many years. I found myself repeatedly
no-platformed by the paper – even while on its staff – after I
started taking an interest in the Israel-Palestine conflict and
writing about the discomforting issue of what a Jewish state entails.
My treatment is far from unique.
the paper is denying a platform to those who question simplistic and
self-serving western narratives on Syria. And Monbiot is backing his
employer to the hilt, even as he professes his commitment to the
publication of views he fiercely disagrees with. That’s the
dictionary definition of hypocrisy.
latest instalment of the Guardian and Monbiot’s long-running battle
to silence Syria dissidents arrived last month when Olivia Solon, the
paper’s technology writer living in San Francisco, developed a
sudden and unexpected expertise in a controversial Syrian group
called the White Helmets.
the western corporate media narrative, the White Helmets are a group
of dedicated and selfless rescue workers. They are supposedly the
humanitarians on whose behalf a western intervention in Syria would
have been justified – before, that is, Syrian leader Bashar Assad
queered their pitch by inviting in Russia.
there are problems with the White Helmets. They operate only in rebel
– read: mainly al-Qaeda and ISIS-held – areas of Syria, and
plenty of evidence shows that they are funded by the UK and US to
advance both countries’ far-from-humanitarian policy objectives in
are also strong indications that members of the White Helmets have
been involved in war crimes, and that they have staged rescue
operations as a part of a propaganda offensive designed to assist
Islamic extremists trying to oust Assad. (Solon discounts this last
claim. In doing so, she ignores several examples of such behaviour,
concentrating instead on an improbable “mannequin challenge”,
when the White Helmets supposedly froze their emergency operations,
in the midst of rescue efforts, apparently as part of a peculiar
side one takes in this debate, one would imagine that Monbiot should
have a clear agenda in support of hearing evidence from all sides.
One might also imagine that he would want to distance himself from
Solon’s efforts to tie criticism of the White Helmets to a supposed
“fake news” crisis and paint those critical of the group as
Putin-bots. According to Solon:
way the Russian propaganda machine has targeted the White Helmets is
a neat case study in the prevailing information wars. It exposes just
how rumours, conspiracy theories and half-truths bubble to the top of
YouTube, Google and Twitter search algorithms.
are the same algorithms that have been changed in recent months to
make sure that prominent leftist websites are increasingly difficult
to find on internet searches and their writers’ views effectively
Monbiot has been using social media to promote Solon’s cheerleading
of the White Helmets and her hatchet job against on-the-ground
journalists who have taken a far more critical view of the group.
set out by Prof Tim Hayward, the Guardian’s response to criticism
of Solon’s piece has been typical. The comments section below the
article was hastily closed after many criticisms were voiced by
readers. The journalists who were singled out for attack by Solon
were denied a right of reply. A group of concerned academics led by
Hayward who submitted their own article, which detailed publicly
available evidence to counter Solon’s simplistic account of the
White Helmets, were ignored. Meanwhile, the Guardian’s editors and
the reader’s editor have ignored all efforts by these parties to
his claim to be an uncompromising defender of free speech and a
fierce advocate of providing platforms to those who can back up their
arguments with evidence, however discomforting, one might have
assumed that Monbiot would at the very least have lobbied on behalf
of Hayward and his fellow scholars. But not a bit of it. Yet again he
has joined the dogs of the corporate media baying for blood. Instead
he turned to Twitter to claim Hayward and Piers Robinson, an expert
on propaganda, had “disgraced” themselves.
many tens of thousands of leftists who defend Monbiot, or turn a
blind eye to his hypocrisy, largely do so because of his record on
the environment. But in practice they are enabling not only his
increasingly overt incitement against critical thinkers, but also
undermining the very cause his supporters believe he champions.
breakdown is a global concern. Rewilding, bike-riding, protecting
bees and polar bears, and developing new sustainable technologies are
all vitally important. But such actions will amount to little if we
fail to turn a highly sceptical eye on the activities of a western
military-industrial complex ravaging the planet’s poorest regions.
war industries fill their coffers by using weapons indiscriminately
on “enemy” populations, spawning new and fiercer enemies –
while often propping them up too – to generate endless wars. The
consequences include massive displacements of these populations who
then destabilise other regions, spreading the effect and creating new
opportunities for the arms manufacturers, homeland security
industries, and the financial industries that feed off them.
true environmentalist has to look as critically at western policies
in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Ukraine, Venezuela and many other areas of the
globe as he does at UK policy in the Welsh hills and the Lake
indications are that Monbiot lacks the experience, knowledge and
skills to unravel the deceptions being perpetrated in the west’s
proxy and not-so-proxy wars overseas. That is fair enough. What is
not reasonable is that he should use his platforms to smear precisely
those who can speak with a degree of authority and independence –
and then conspire in denying them a platform to respond. That is the
behaviour not only of a hypocrite, but of a bully too.