The Tears of the Mighty * Emperor's Clothes

by Jared Israel (3-16-00)

A grim miscarriage of justice has just occurred in Britain.

Living Marxism, the iconoclastic magazine edited by Mike Hume, was found guilty of libel against ITN, the British news station.

Living Marxism has been ordered to pay $580,000 U.S. This punishment is an attempt to crush the Living Marxism (LM) journalists for doing their job. In this article, I'll discuss the background of the case and take a look at a truly amazing Reuters dispatch about the verdict.

First, some background

In 1992, ITN, the British news station, sent a film team to Bosnia. It was led by Penny Marshall. The ITN people came back with what was supposedly a film of a Serbian concentration camp. A death camp, if you will.

Or will you? A death camp? What is wrong with this story? First off, how did Penny Marshall and an entire film crew get into a Serbian death camp and shoot a film? Didn't somebody have to transport the crew members plus a mountain of equipment? Didn't somebody have to show them around, feed them? The crew needed time to set up their cameras and so on. How did they do all this without getting caught? Did they parachute out of the sky? I mean seriously, didn't they need the cooperation of the administration of the so-called death camp?

They did.

But why would the Serbian authorities want to help? Were they morons? Didn't they know the West was hostile to the Bosnian Serbs? Weren't they attacked every day in the British press? Wasn't the Islamist leader, Izetbegovic, treated as a hero? Knowing ITN was probably anti-Serb, why would the Serbs let an ITN crew in to film - a death camp?

Could it be that the place they filmed was not a death camp? That the Bosnian Serbs let in Penny Marshall and her film crew precisely because they had nothing ugly to hide.

A lucky break...

Fortunately we don't have to speculate. By coincidence, a group of Serbian filmmakers accompanied the ITN crew that day. The Serbs shot a movie - that's right, they literally shot a movie - of Penny Marshall and company shooting their movie. The Serbian film can be viewed on a standard VCR. I have watched it several times. In other words, I have seen a movie that shows every move Penny Marshall made that day.

I know that the ITN crew shot at two locations. I know that the first was a detention center at Omarska; the second was a refugee center at Trnopolje.

The Omarska detention center: not ready for prime time...

The Omarska detention center was a modern facility, pleasant, not at all like a jail. Before the war it had been a mining company's administrative center. There, prisoners of war, captured from the Bosnian Islamist army, were held. The men were not shackled; they were not behind bars. Rather, they lounged in a cafeteria area. They looked well fed. The Serbian guards were casual. A Serbian administrator (later shot dead by NATO troops while fishing with his son) made a little speech. He explained that the Serbs viewed most of the prisoners as good people who had been suckered into supporting 'the rebellion', the secessionist revolt against Yugoslavia. He said only a small group was hard core. The Serbs wanted to keep the hard core in jail but let the others go.

So here was a real, live Serbian detention center. But Penny Marshall didn't use any of this footage.


Because it didn't have the look she was looking for.

Feeding refugees and other atrocities...

The ITN crew moved on to the refugee center at Trnopolje. They set up their camera equipment inside a small barbed wire enclosure. The barbed wire was old, falling apart in places. It surrounded a storage shed, a wheelbarrow and other construction equipment. Outside the enclosure, refugees milled about, curious.

Filming from inside the barbed wire, Marshall asked if anyone spoke English. One man replied, Yes. Marshall spoke to him. Are you a prisoner? No, said the man; we're refugees. Marshall was clearly impatient. She pressed the man to criticize the Serbian officials. The man insisted: the Serbs treat us well; they give us food; the only problem is the weather is too hot. Much too hot.

Then Marshall spotted a tall, emaciated man. What is wrong with that man, she asked. The Bosnian refugee shrugged, said something about it being personal. (In fact the emaciated man's appearance resulted from having had Tuberculosis as a child.)

Editing to make a statement

None of this conversation was used by ITN. Why not? Was it because it showed the Bosnian Serbs in a humane light?

Instead, ITN produced film clips and stills that made it look like the emaciated man and the other refugees were being held behind barbed wire - inside an enclosure. These pictures were sent around the world. Many newspapers ran them in montage with old Nazi concentration camp photos, using captions like: "Serb Death Camps!"

Millions were fooled. They believed they had been shown pictorial evidence of a new Nazism in Europe. This helped swing Western public opinion behind Alija Izetbegovic, the Bosnian Islamic extremist whose model of tolerance was the Iran of Ayatollah Khomeini.

David takes on Goliath

LM, a brave little British magazine, exposed this fraud. A link to that exposť is posted below. Amazingly, they were sued by ITN for slander. A news station slanders the Bosnian Serbs and then sues a muckraking magazine for slander? I thought news stations were supposed to protect us from establishment lies? I thought they were the ones who got sued for libel - that they opposed such law suits on principle…

Not in this brave new world.

Today we learned that ITN has won. Apparently, instead of focusing on the real evidence - the uncut footage of the film - the trial was dominated by the testimony of a witness who claimed the Serbs beat people at this "concentration camp." Alas, false witness is a commodity in the free marketplace of our brave new world, especially when one has the resources of the giant corporations that control the media in the NATO countries. Money buys lies. Moreover, LM was prevented from presenting expert witnesses. And in his final comments, the judge apparently sided with ITN.

Compounding a lie

Below I've posted a link to the Reuters story covering this verdict. You will notice that Reuters never mentions what was said in the Living Marxism exposť. It never mentions that ITN shot pictures from inside a barbed wire enclosure and then claimed the people in the film were "behind barbed wire." Instead it simply asserts that Trnopolje was a concentration camp as if that assertion were a proven fact.

So then, ITN sues to silence freedom of speech - freedom of speech which was here used in the most honorable way, to challenge the lies of the mighty. ITN wins. LM is crushed for telling the truth.

And what does Reuters do? It uses the occasion to once again broadcast the very lie that Living Marxism got sued for disproving! Truly beyond belief.

Playing for effect

One final point. In the new journalism, emotions are shamelessly exploited for political effect. Consider this from the Reuters story:

  • "Marshall, wiping tears from her eyes, said the judgment was 'important for the people who were in the camp.'" (Reuters, 3/14/00)

This is a crass emotional lie. Consider: Marshall, in reality the representative of great power, is presented as frail, in need of protection (the weeping woman). By focusing our attention on her tears (vulnerability) Reuters engages our emotions and suspends our disbelief. Penny Marshall has been made real to us precisely the way a fictional character is made real - we identify with her emotions. Having identified with her, having suspended disbelief, we tend to receive with scant skepticism her comment that:

  • " the judgment was 'important for the people who were in the camp."

How clever! A fiction within a fiction. Reuters has made up a weak, defenseless Penny Marshall that we can believe in - the real P. Marshall is backed by the most powerful forces in Britain - and likewise Marshall has her own little fictional characters. For she has invented the Bosnian victims in that non-existent 'death camp' where refugees came for food and where the only complaint was 'the weather is too hot.' Now she weeps for her own creations.

No similar emotional pitch is made for the LM people. Marshall comes alive whereas they lie obediently flat. And LM, which dared defend the victims of Ms. Marshall's lies - LM that has been crushed under an impossible financial burden - LM comes off as - the bully!


Let's stop beating around the bush, shall we?

Why didn't Britain just launch a missile attack on the LM offices like the one where they blew apart those dangerous reporters and 23 year old makeup girls at Serbian TV, and get it over with? Afterwards, the media could repeat, like a mantra, that the LM people were lying propagandists who had accidentally died as collateral damage in a revenge attack for which the finger of responsibility must in the end point to... Slobodan Milosevich.

Lady's and gentlemen, this is Jared Israel signing off, and that's show business.

What, Ms. Marshall is still weeping? Well of course Ms. Marshall is still weeping. All the way to the bank. Let's hope there's a Hell.


Further reading on the Libel case...

* 'English Libel law, a Disgrace to Democracy' by Mike Hume, editor of LM magazine. Mr. Hume remains defiant, and is looking for a job. Also, for those near London, details of an after-the-trial party, March 18th.

"The Truth vs. ITN - And Reuters" Includes the original LM article, over which ITN sued, and the Reuters article on the trial. If you look at the pictures shown on this page, pictures that were produced by ITN and that are reproduced here from the front pages of newspapers - if you look carefully at these pictures and you are at all familiar with barbed wire, you will be able to tell that the men are on the outside of the enclosure.


If you find emperors-clothes useful, we can use your help...

We rely on volunteer labor, and on donations to pay our necessary expenses. These include: Internet fees and Lexis, the media search engine we use for research, phone bills and so on.

Emperors clothes articles are read by literally hundreds of thousands of people every month. Every donation helps us accomplish more.

To use our secure server , please go to .
Or mail a check to
Emperor's Clothes
P.O. Box 610-321
Newton, MA 02461-0321. (USA) [emperors-clothes]