JOHN MENADUE – Our derivative white man’s media

Politicians are continually blamed for their failures but our media is also responsible for the state of public discussion on important issues. This downward  media spiral has been led by the Murdoch media’s abuse of power  in the three major English-speaking markets – Australia, UK and the US.  But other media, including the ABC is performing badly.

 In foreign and defence policies we are vassals of the US . Our media is an acolyte.

Take some recent examples.

Syria

Our media have accepted without examination the US military/intelligence view that President Assad was responsible for the awful gas attacks in Syria. He may have  been responsible.  But no  independent evidence has been produced. I have not seen any of our media attempt to examine this issue. Given the misinformation that the US has fed us from the Tonkin Gulf incident which led to the US direct intervention  in the  Vietnam war and Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction which triggered the invasion of Iraq, one would expect some caution from our media in accepting US and Western assessments. The US  commercial, military and intelligence complex  rolls on. We remain vassals.

But the real issue in Syria and Iraq is not really chemical weapons, as ghastly as they are. The real issue is how Bush, Blair and Howard got us all into the calamity in the Middle East. Our media scarcely ever goes to that fundamental issue. It focuses on symptoms rather than causes.. None of our media has seriously canvassed that we should get out of the Middle East as soon as possible and how do we avoid  repeating  our mistakes.

Trump

Our media, like most other media around the world has been highly skeptical of Donald Trump.  But as soon as Trump puts on his Commander in Chief uniform, we supinely follow and applaud his attacks in Syria and  a threatened attack on the DPRK.  The Daily Telegraph   tells us that Donald Trump is showing Malcolm Turnbull how to lead.

As Ramesh Thakur in this blog has asked ‘Do we seriously think that Trump is more credible, reliable and moral than Presidents Xi and Putin.  We have joined the good ship USS America and seem unwilling to admit that we have signed on to keep sailing with a very dangerous captain.

The US has a long and disturbing record of intervention in foreign countries with its powerful military  bases  spread all around the world. Putin and Xi  are autocratic. But where is the evidence from our media that they are more of a risk than Donald Trump. Our media avoids the issue when it rally matters.

Iraq and the consequences

Our media, without exception, supported the Iraq invasion and the disastrous consequences.  None of our media has admitted their mistake as major media groups have done in UK and US.  None of our media have called for an enquiry like Chilcot in the UK as to how we got involved in this disaster.  John Howard is never seriously questioned for his role in the appalling death and destruction in the Middle East that he helped trigger.  Perhaps he is allowed to run scot free because the media are implicated in our foolish ,illegal and immoral  invasion in the Middle East.

Our media consistently overstate the risk of terrorist attacks, but never asks the question ‘What is the relationship between these few terrorist attacks in Australia and our intervention in Iraq and Syria’.  Surely terrorists are over here because our troops are over there.  But that thought seldom occurs to our media.

In his Anzac Day visit to Iraq and Afghanistan Malcolm Turnbull  told our troops that they were there to  protect and promote our values. And to make Australia safe. What nonsense. Our intervention in the ME has helped trigger the ME  calamity and makes Australia more vulnerable. But there was not a word from our media to challenge the Turnbull propaganda.

Fallujah, Aleppo and Mosul

Our media ,dependent upon Western media sources, has provided enormous coverage of the sieges in Aleppo and Mosul from the Wests point of view.  But there has never been any examination in our mainstream media of the Australian role in the siege of Fallujah in 2004..  That siege was headed by an Australian General . who later advised our government on Operation Sovereign Borders. Chemical weapons, in this case phosphorus, were used.  In denouncing the use of chemical weapons in Fallujah The New York Times described  white phosphorous ‘packed into an artillery shell; it explodes over a battlefield in a white glare that can illuminate enemy positions’. US  Colonel Barry Venable told the UK’s Independent newspaper that ‘Yes(chemical weapons) was used as an incendiary weapon against enemy combatants.  Our media is yet to properly acknowledge our role in the ghastly siege of Fallujah.

Defence and Submarines

We are to spend over $50 b on new submarines. No strategic case has been made for this enormous expenditure. The rate of protection is 300 %.  As Hugh White in this blog has warned us ‘the acquisition strategy for the submarines almost guarantees a disaster, wherever it is built’. It is a boondoggle. The same is probably true of the F 35 Tactical Strike Fighter. But the military lobby gets it all waived through with scarcely a murmur from most of our media. It is all too hard. Our media is badly missing in action in defense acquisitions as well as operations.

Climate change

Large parts of our media and particularly the Murdoch media are highly skeptical about climate change.  They dispute the overwhelming science consensus  that our planet is entering into  a very dangerous place. It really is an existential threat.

Climate change and the invasion of Iraq are the most serious international  calamities  of the last two decades.  On both these issues, the Murdoch media has done a great disservice to the world and democracy.

Economic growth

Our media join the clamor of business and their supporters in supporting   economic growth, as an end in itself even though some of that ‘growth’  is threatening our planet.   Many in our media are also ignoring  growing economic and social inequality. To disguise and divert from their failure in these areas some like The Australian and Australian Financial Review take every opportunity to attack trade unions .

The failed war on drugs

Our media joins the chorus line time and time again.  We see it regularly in TV and print about another record drug haul with the police and border force all dressed up in their uniforms for the media event.  The media supports this diversionary spin about the success of drug policies. Yet we know that the drug problem is worsening every year with deaths, overdoses, ruined lives, corruption and widespread crime.  When we get our next media beat-up about another record drug bust, will anyone in our media ask the fundamental question ‘Are our drug policies working?’ The media told us about the large increase in funding for the AFP in the recent budget but did not bother to ask if all that money would be of any value in combatting the scourge of drugs in Australia or that perhaps our drug policies were dismally failing

Terrorism

Our media, like other media around the world, is instantly excited about another terrorist attack.  Partly because of the media, terrorism, a highly vivid event  attracts attention.  But the risk is low compared with other risks.  Every year  nearly  6500 women and children  in Australia  are admitted to hospital as a result of domestic violence. Many are killed. Yet only three people have died of terrorist related causes in Australia in the last 20 years.  Polls here and around the world indicate that people are very fearful of terrorism.  Has anyone in the media attempted to explain that the risk is low?  Our media has become part of a broad  military, political and intelligence  interest group  that  exaggerates the terrorist threat.

Our region

I have often said, an outsider studying our media would assume that we are an island continent anchored off New York or London.  So much of our news and views are derived from US and UK sources. Our media representation in  our region is scant.  We have had an avalanche of news on the French elections with the UK and German elections to come. There was a far more important Presidential election in ROK this week but it was treated like a footnote by our media.

The ABC used to be conscious of its important role in our region, but it is increasingly failing in its responsibility.  The Insiders program on the ABC is invariably about domestic politics and largely ignores  relations with our region.   We have regional Prime Ministers and Presidents visiting Australia,..Abe,Jokowi and li Keqiang  but I have never heard or seen an Asian specialist invited to appear on the panel of Insiders.  Q and A and 7.30 have the same domestic preoccupation.

The Murdoch media has clearly led the media rout in Australia.  US journalist, Carl Bernstein speaks of ‘Murdoch’s destructive march across the democratic landscape’.  No person has done more to damage democracy and civil  institutions in the English speaking world than Rupert Murdoch and his loyal and docile lieutenants.

What a tragedy it is that a young newspaper proprietor who offered so much  in his early years has been able to wreak so much damage on the media which he professes to love.

But the problem goes well beyond Murdoch.

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7 Responses to JOHN MENADUE – Our derivative white man’s media

  1. michael lacey says:

    Excellent insight John!

  2. bushwalker says:

    Your quoting of Carl Bernstein is quite interesting:” US journalist, Carl Bernstein speaks of ‘Murdoch’s destructive march across the democratic landscape’”.

    Said Bernstein used to appear quite regularly on Bill O’Reilly’s program on FoxNews about once per month. So the despised Rupert wasn’t sufficiently upset by Bernstein’s comment to blackball him from Fox.

  3. Jim KABLE says:

    Thanks, John – I’ll be forwarding this on to a number of friends. You write what so many of us know but can find in very little “mainstream” press – and certainly not for much longer – even that little hint of scepticism – from Fairfax!

  4. Greg Bailey says:

    This is a strong piece of comment which shows how destructive Rupert Murdoch’s influence has really been. To what John says I think we can add two more aspects of the change of the media over the past decade. Firstly, is the large number of television programs depicting police or border officials locating people who are either driving when drunk or importing small amounts of illegal drugs. In all cases these people are from an uneducated background, and their offences are usually minor, even if they are offences. There are no programs involving the fraud squad or ASIC chasing down white collar criminals. The class differential is stark. Secondly, is the saturation of commercial (and ABC/SBS) with (hyper-) reality programs. These are cheap to produce but function as very effective ideological vehicles for some aspects of neoliberal ideology: individualism, competition, superficial representation of self and other, and a strongly materialistic drive. Nothing about anthropogenic climate change or large-scale economic inequality.

    Both types of program are cheap to produce and attractive to advertisers, but, equally, they are very effective in diverting audiences way from the real issues that John has noted are increasingly absent from the printed media. To this we could add the dumbing-down effect of Face Book, but that is for another day.

  5. An Observer says:

    Rupert Murdoch is one Australian that I am ashamed to be known as coming from the same country.

    His newspaper in the UK hacked a dead girl’s mobile to print gossips in order to make more money for his family.

    His puppet Tony Abbott crippled the future NBN in Australia so he could rip off Australians with Foxtel.

    His media employed executive whose carnal desire exceeds their ability to behave morally. His star performer did the same. He kept employing them until the dollar affected him.

    His media is totally biased while pretending to be balanced.

    That’s how much moral and ethics the former Australian have:.

  6. Ian Webster says:

    Dear John,

    Thank you for a timely, acute and powerful critique. Our derivative media can only worsen as media organisations cannibalise their journalists and analytic staff and we are fed celebrity and entertainment.

    Disappointing that you were unable to influence that ‘young newspaper proprietor who offered so much’ so many years ago to the values you espouse.

  7. Robin Wingrove says:

    I agree with all the above and would like to add a little more. Murdoch is on the advisory board of a company, Genie Energy, that stands to make Israel completely energy self sufficient through the large oil and gas deposits found in the Syrian owned part of the Israeli occupied portion of the Golan Heights. As a result he has a small ownership portion along with Dick Cheney and Jacob Rothschild among others. See the links below for the full list.

    (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genie_Energy
    https://www.nationofchange.org/2017/01/15/cheney-rothschild-fox-news-murdoch-drill-oil-syria-violating-international-law/). – among many others on the net. Google ‘rupert murdoch genie energy’ for more.

    As a result, his media organisations have not, to my knowledge, ever admitted the nexus between this large hydrocarbon deposit and his desire for war against Syria. Do you remember when, at the start of the Iraq war Murdoch was touting that oil would be $10/barrel? It never got there of course but he tried to buy us off with the promise of cheap fuel. The fuel was never cheap but he certainly is and his media organisations mirror this.

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