PAUL MALONE. Australia’s American view of the world

Feb 11, 2020

The Australian media’s view of the world is dictated by the US

The Aussie tradie set to star in the world’s biggest sporting spectacular,” Channel Seven’s evening news gushed on Sunday 2 February.

Maintaining the American-dominated perspective of so many Australian reporters Amelia Brace went on to tell us: “It’s the biggest show on turf.” Australian Mitch Wishnowsky will be punter for the San Francisco 49ers “in sport’s biggest stage.”

Well I’ve got news for her. The Super Bowl may be the most watched sporting event in North America but its audience is a mere fraction of that for the World Cup, where in 2018 an estimated 3.57 billion viewers tuned in to watch football’s showcase event.

When will Australian reporters wake-up and discover that the United States is not The World and we Australians are not Americans?

It will shock Americans, but in recent years the final of their local game has attracted a world audience of at most a couple of hundred million, or about one fifth of the over one billion people who, for example, watched the 2011 India versus Pakistan one-day World Cup cricket match.

It would not matter too much if the American perspective was confined to sporting events. But unfortunately it is everywhere throughout the news: the reporting of conflicts in the Middle East; the coverage of world trade and the economy; commentary on China, Russia, Eastern Europe; technology; and culture.

Knowledge of World War II in Australia seems to be set by Hollywood movies rather than from a reading of history. Stalingrad and the battle of Kursk were the major turning points in the war in Europe, not Hollywood’s Battle of the Bulge or the Normandy landings.

American terms are repeatedly used to describe conflict situations. Take for example, the disputes over rights in the South China Sea. Reporters and commentators regularly trot out the term “Freedom of Navigation”, implicitly suggesting that China is hindering the movement of ships across the region. But hindering merchant trade in the region is the last thing China would want. After all most of the trade is going to and from China.

What the Americans and the Australian politicians really mean when the call for “Freedom of Navigation” is free movement for US and Australian warships. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea is the international agreement that defines the right to Freedom of Navigation but what journalists who report such matters rarely mention is that the United States has not ratified the conventions. The US wants to use the right to enter other countries’ coastal territory but would not accept those countries using such a right to sail off its coast.

Everywhere we see this sort of double standard.

Take for example the persecution of Australian citizen Julian Assange.

The United States is currently seeking Assange’s extradition from the UK for 17 alleged breaches of the US Espionage Act. The charges relate to WikiLeaks publication of material on the US war in Iraq, including a video revealing the war crime of a US Apache helicopter firing on and killing civilians.

Through WikiLeaks, Assange has a long history of exposing untoward activities ranging from corporate corruption, to bribery and war crimes. WikiLeaks has published documents on Scientology’s affairs; internal emails between climate change scientists and uploaded videos on civil unrest in Tibet. There should be no question about Assange’s media credentials.

And we all know that the US Constitution’s first amendment guarantees press freedom.

But it seems the US prosecutors do not see this freedom extending to publisher, Assange.

The Australian government bows to every American dictate, accepting for example, the US directive not to have Huawei involved in the provision of our 5G network on the pretext that our security would be threatened if we allowed Huawei in.

The British Government — which would have all the negative intelligence the Americans could possibly provide – is not so supine. Former Conservative UK Prime Minister, David Cameron told 7.30’s Leigh Sales on 29 January that British security and intelligence services had looked into the security issue and cleared Huawei.

Sales asked Cameron why the UK would make a different call to that of Australia. Cameron responded that the British intelligence and security services, together with all the relevant ministers – Home Office, International Development and Foreign Office – and heads of the armed forces had been brought in to discuss these issues. He said his clear recollection was that the intelligence and security services had concluded that there was a safe way of allowing Huawei to invest.

Current UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, agrees.

US threats to solely advance US interests are applied worldwide – in trade with China (Where are the Australian calls for the application of World Trade Organisation rules?); in breaking nuclear agreements with Iran (again where is the condemnation of the US for breaking the agreement on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action?); and in the application of sanctions anywhere in the world that the US deems fit.

And when the Australian media chooses to discuss such matters, who do they turn to?

Why an American at one of the American think tanks, or universities, of course; or one of their Australian based mouthpieces such as the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

Paul Malone is a journalist with over 30 years of experience having worked
for the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Australian Financial  Review and
the Canberra Times, where he was Political Correspondent for five years and
wrote a weekly column until late 2017.

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