The Australian media cries wolf

Mar 15, 2023
Australian news, press and journalism concept.

The major Australian media, SMH and The Age, are crying wolf again. Whether they will lose their credibility depends on whether Australians’ rationale prevails over their prejudices.

The SMH and The Age’s narrative about Australia’s complacency about a war with China over Taiwan is clearly designed to sell newspapers. For this, I quote Bruce Dover ‘Does it explain the strident climate change scepticism, the frenzied anti-China rhetoric, the pro-Coalition, anti-Labor bias, vehement ABC criticism, the anti-union, pro capitalist free market stance and all the other associated right wing grievances? Do those views actually reflect Lachlan’s own? Maybe – but for the Murdochs, it is seemingly “not personal, it’s just business”’. As for the expert contributions of the “gang of five” by Greg Barns, they reek of a call for greater funding for their defence advisory organisations and more money for those organisations’ sponsors, the military industrial complex.

The poignancy of this call for defence preparation is the attempt to exploit the naivety of the Australian public. In doing so, the perpetrators are also walking a thin line. As the Australian electorate has proven recently, the cost of false narratives taken too far by a government is a loss of office. Certainly, the Australian electorate demands more credibility from the government than the mainstream media. Nevertheless, even for a tolerant community, there comes a point when the rational over-rules the emotive, at which point the disseminator loses credibility.

Immediately after reading the hyperbole about imminent war breaking out over Taiwan within the next three years, I went onto Taiwan News for more information at the coalface and was struck by one of the headlines: “China does not want military conflict over Taiwan: US Intelligence chiefs”. (Taipei News, Jono Thomson, 10/03/2023). To cite a relevant section: ‘“It’s not our assessment that China wants to go to war,” the U.S. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said on Thursday (March 9), adding that “we continue to assess that even with respect to Taiwan, that they would prefer to achieve unification through peaceful means, other than through a use of force.”’ The whole saga begs disbelief. If the acolytes of the US cannot read the minds of their own high priest, it is highly unlikely that they could ever get anywhere close to what the PRC (China) or even the RC (Taiwan) thinks.

The gambit of mind-reading, or the reading of intentions, has been used too often in the propaganda war against the enemy, presently Russia and China. These two countries do not need defending because they are powerful nuclear armed nations. What should be of concern is the participation by Australians in such shameful tactics. It diminishes us as an honest and forthright people.

A good example is the recent accusations against China of supplying Russia with armaments. The opening sentence on PBS news (19/02/2023) titled “U.S. warns China not to supply Russia with weapons for Ukraine war” says: ‘“U.S. intelligence suggests China is considering providing arms and ammunition to Russia, an involvement in the Kremlin’s war effort that would be a “serious problem,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.’

Such an accusation is based on not one but two suppositions used in sequence within the same sentence: “suggests” and “considering”. Can a person be accused of wrongdoing because the accuser “suggests” that the accused is “considering” robbing Paul or arming him? Why don’t the US and NATO come right out with the warning to China not to supply Russia with weapons. Does doing so make it look too much like bullying? Even if it does, one can understand that if China were to supply Russia with arms, it might tip the scales in favour of Russia considering the ample suggestions that both sides are running out of arms and munitions.

The method used by Peter Hartcher of SMH to arouse the public’s insecurity and passionate impulse about a serious threat has been used in a number of incidents that resulted in tragedy. A headline like “Red Alert: Australia Unprepared for war with China within three years” epitomises the lack of responsibility. Such a genie, once let out of the bottle, is impossible to control. It brings to mind the McCarthy era which ruined the lives and careers of many innocent people in the US. A greater tragedy occurred in Indonesia between October 1965 to March 1966 when the overthrow of the Sukarno government was engineered by arousing the insecurity of the Indonesian armed forces against a communist threat. It resulted in the brutal murder of an estimated 500,000 to 1,000,000 Indonesians.

Any talk of being prepared for and winning a war against China is nothing more than chicanery. China depends on trade around the world for its continued economic, social and political wellbeing; which in turn depends on a peaceful world. No one wins in a war today. The Ukraine war has made it very obvious that the best that one can hope for is an end to the war by one side overwhelming the other without setting off a nuclear holocaust. So much death and devastation would have been committed that only the uninformed and irresponsible will think in terms of any side “winning”. China is not an Iraq, Afghanistan or even Vietnam.

It is now a contest between Joseph Goebbels’ “If you say a lie frequently enough, people will believe it” and “The boy who cried wolf” so often that people will stop believing him. I hope the latter wins.

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