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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

media diversity « Previous | |Next »
April 5, 2003

Like John Howard this weblog has been critical of the Australian media for its coverage of the Iraqi war. However, our reasons differ. John Howard thinks that the media has been too negative; too concentrated on civilian casualities. My reason is the Australian media has been caught up in the that Anglo-American perspective on the Iraqi war. The Australian has been over-the-top in its war enthusiasm; arguing the case as repetitiously as Howard and ridiculing dissenting voices. Instead of punctioning the over-blown advertising for war it regurgitated Howard's slippery emotional logic about world now being a dangerous place, and we will feel safer about international terrorism if Saddam is taken out.

The Australian media, including the browbeaten ABC has relied on the military briefings of the Anglo-American forces and the news from embedded journalists in the Coalition military machine. Apart from SBS, the Australian has refused to take the stark images of civilian deaths caused by the clean American smart bombs offered by Al Jazeerah.

The narrow horizons of the Australian media has been a big disappointment given the global village, the internet and global media flows. And the American media was little better. Is this the reason that people are turning to the Internet? for their information?

What was lacking in Australia was the various perspectives from commentators Arab countries in the region. How were they seeing the war? What was their understanding of the consequences of this conflict for the Middle East? How did they understand US geo-politics? How did they see the designs of the Bush administration on Iran and Syria?

So the effort and energy of this weblog went into hunting for diversity, and finding different Arab voices. You may not agree with the arguments presented by these commentators that we linked to, but they needed to be considered to make a judgement about the actions of the Australian Government in supporting the US position. Without these alternative Arabic voices there was no real debate.

it is good to report that the English version of Al Jazeerah is now online. So it is easier to access material, such as this pece which argues that Killing the few to liberate the many is a line most Iraqis reject. Or Jordan looks nervously west as well as east. Or this piece saying that War in Iraq shows first signs of destabilising Saudi Arabia.

This diversity of media enables us citizens to become more informed about the war. We need to do so because the Howard Government has consistently acted to deny this dimension of democracy. As the post Remembering on a heap of junk for code shows, the Howard Government has been more concerned to defend its stance by manipulating public opinion in the manner of publicity industry. The contradiction highlighted there shows that thsi conservative government has an elitist contempt for democratic citizenship. Our place is to shut up, to listen to the words of wisdom from our leaders and to go along with its course of action. Resignation to what is is what is required from us.

What the previously linked articles from the Arab media have shown is that the US has little credibility in the Middle East outside Israel. Its moral capital/authority earned from the Marshall Plan after WW2 has gone, and so liberating Iraqi people to make them an example of democracy, freedom and liberal civilization in the Middle East is view with wariness, suspicion and hostility.

The US is not trusted because it is using military instrument to achieve its political objectives of bringing democracy to Iraq. It is also not trusted because it is acting differently to its own values.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:26 AM | | Comments (5)


As an Anti-Saddamite of some conviction, I thought it was only my place to shut up, along with the rest of Europe, according to the wise counsel of the French. It was of course their ancestors in the form of Frankish knights who did such a good initial PR job for Western liberal democratic values, throughout the Middle East, during the start of the Crusades. I accept that we have been viewed with some distrust by the inhabitants ever since. Whether or not we can dispel a large part of that mistrust, will depend very largely on the longer term outcome in Iraq. As you rightly allude to, a successful Marshall Plan for Iraq, would no doubt go a long way to building good-will in the Middle East. As a pro War Anglophile, I have more faith in the values of my Govt. and indeed our society generally, that this will be the outcome. A peaceful, democratic, civil society in Iraq is the end game for me. I certainly dont underestimate the need for winning over the doubters, but Coalition forces are beginning the task, albeit at great personal risk to themselves. Also it is more likely that a future Iraq will not be united under one flag, but may become a peaceful Federation of States.

In the meantime, I will have to wear the approbation of the doubters, that war can achieve anything more than the slaughter of noble Iraqis defending their homeland, as well as fuelling more hatred of the West. At some time in the future, the supporters of inaction, will have to deal with the many unpleasantries of their stance(this includes other Arab states). I would suggest to them now, that the 200 skeletons in the closet of a Baath headquarters, are only the tip of the iceberg, that will increasingly emerge in a liberated Iraq. Sleep well for now you apologists for true tyranny and mind controllers. You will never have their blood on your inactive hands. No mindful trade-offs or messing of hands for you. Just the pure nobility of principled inaction and carping criticism.

re the remarks
"Sleep well .....carping criticism."
Who are you referring to? The remarks do not apply to public opinion without a great deal of distortion.

it defended greater containement of Iraq and the inspectors;

along with many Australians, it has defended military intevention in Iraq provided it was under UN authority.

it supports the self-determination of the Iraqi people against an oppressive regime; and a federated Democracy in Iraq based around lots of autonomy for different cultures/peoples.

it would also support a greater ie central role for the UN in nation-building, as in Timor; and it would support the Australian Government calling for this on the public stage.

Since there is no mention of the UN in what you say, I read your comments on the doubters and inaction as an attack on the UN.

Moreover the values of the Howard Govt are not the values of Australian society: they are the values of a bare majority at best.

So I read your comments as putting a lid on dissent because they are unAustralian.

Thats a strange way to see 49% of the Australian population in a liberal democracy.

Yoy may protest and say I never meant anything like that at all. "You are distorting my position" you'd say. Fair enough. I'll accept its a distortion of what you are arguing.

But note that you are distorting the views of this weblog.

I simply raise the point that not to choose regime removal is really to choose the status quo and has some similar unpleasantries attached to it, which the choosers will have to live with.

Of course the natural retreat from such unpleasantries of choice is the UN security blanket with their comfortable UK/US 'no fly' zones,etc. Well, I know some of you were very comfortable with the Anglos providing the UN Mortein to keep down the flies. What some of the UN hygienists didn't like, was being told that the fly problem would only be solved when Saddam's constant supply of dead bodies weren't around to attract them anymore. It's just a difference of opinion on the remedy to a rather serious human health problem if you get my metaphor.

I must confess I was starting to wonder if the UN hygienists are now giving some thought to the invidious position Hans Blix and his cohorts would be in now.

Hans-'Yes I know there are lots of suspicious coffins and bones in here Boris'
'What's that you say Pierre? Lots of desperately needed medicines in that Baath Party building over there'
'Now let me refer to my UN mandate again. No nothing in the manual about these matters comrades. We'd better get back to the hotel quick-smart and report no evidence of WMD, before these nasty flies carry us away. Thanks for your cooperation in showing us around Mahmoud'

The coffins have been reprted elsewhere to contain the recently repatriated remains of Iraqi soldiers killed during the Iraq/Iran War. Allow a couple of days for the spin to wear off, Observa.