So when the New Statesman has some gongs to hand out, you’d hope it might be a little careful about choosing the recipients. Not so, unfortunately.
Last night the NS held its New Media Awards bash. The Advocacy award went to the Pressureworks website. Here’s the citation:-
Pressureworks, produced by Christian Aid, describes itself as "a website for a TV/consumer generation that's tired of being lied to". It aims to use "the tools of popular culture . . . to wake the world up". The site provides tools and tips on how to campaign for peace, economic justice, the root causes of poverty and basic rights for all. This is the ideal starting point for anyone wanting to make a difference, whether in the G8 summit protests, the Make Poverty History campaign, or more generally. Stylish, powerful and informative, it embraces new media - and the unique potential it offers - to bring its messages to a wider audience.
The tub-thumping populism of the stuff about the “generation that’s tired of being lied to” should put us on our guard straight away. Pressureworks knows exactly what the world’s problems are, and who is to blame for each of them. Here’s how it goes:
Problem: Third World debt. To blame: The West
Problem: unfair trade. To blame: The West
Problem: HIV/AIDS. To blame: The West
Problem: arms sales. To blame: The West
Problem: Palestinian poverty. To blame: Israel
Yes, that’s all there is to speak of. A search for “Mugabe” throws up no results at all. “Sudan” produces six hits, from which we learn that it’s one of the countries where HIV has been exacerbated by conflict; that there is a lot of oil, and greedy oil companies are to blame for most of the country’s problems; and that people are suffering because the government has to pay so much interest on its debts. Might the Sudanese government’s debts have anything to do with its conducting a genocidal civil war over two decades? That’s just being picky, and it’s all the oil companies’ fault anyway, plus our fault for selling them arms (OK, actually it’s the Chinese who sell them arms, but that’s being really, really picky).
“Palestine” produces 354 hits, and of course it’s the usual story. The Palestinians are poor because of the Occupation, and therefore it’s all Israel’s fault. They have got much poorer since the start of the second Intifada, and that’s still all Israel’s fault – nothing to do with militant/terrorist groups starting a campaign of murder and forcing Israel to step up its security.
A timeline of the conflict is a bit more subtle in its bias than most Christian Aid material. 1948 and 1967 are the litmus tests for evaluating this kind of production. It does concede that in 1948 the Arab states invaded Israel in an attempt to crush it. But to admit that they had exactly the same intention in 1967 would evidently be going too far. So we get the bland statement that “The Six Day War was the inevitable conclusion of years of tension between Israel and its Arab neighbours”.
The site advertises Christian Aid’s Retreat Conference later this month, at which they are “pleased to offer you the chance to learn and pray about Israel and The Occupied Palestinian Territories. No, I’m not joking, the anti-Israel propaganda doesn’t let up even when you go on retreat. When’s the Democratic Republic of the Congo retreat? Be serious.
So that is how Christian Aid seeks to win young hearts and minds with the money it raises from ordinary Christians. All in all, a superb choice for people who might fear that the media are controlled by a shadowy Zionist lobby. Whatever interest it’s serving, it certainly isn’t the truth. It’s time Christian Aid faced some pressure themselves.