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

a joke « Previous | |Next »
June 7, 2003

This editorial in The Australian should be read as a joke. If it is not a joke then its revisionism with a macabre touch give the way The Australian supported the neo-con view that America's military force should use its power early and often to advance its own interests and values.

The editorial starts off well enough.

"WHERE are Iraq's weapons of mass destruction? It is a fair question and one that this newspaper, in common with many people, both supporters and opponents of the war would like answered. The Australian supported military action against Iraqi president Saddam Hussein because we believed he was a dangerous dictator, "addicted" as former UN chief arms inspector Richard Butler puts it, "to weapons of mass destruction......But given the vehemence with which the governments of the US and Britain assured us all of the horrors in Saddam's armoury, they must either produce evidence the weapons existed or explain why they cannot."

What has happened to the Howard Government? Did it not too assure The Australian? Or does The Australian mean to imply that the Howard Government was just a camp follower?

Is there not some revisionism here? The Australian acted as the media extension of the military machine through the war. They had no doubts then. Those who doubted were fools and idiots; anti-American appeasers who sided with an oppressive Iraqi regime.

They were acting to shape public opinion. Is there anything wrong with that? Consider the classic strategy propaganda for shaping public opinion so that it is favourable to war. The Government tells the public that they are under attack and then denounces the pacificist for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.

Did not The Australian play its part in this campaign by stating that the threat posed by Saddam Hussein was linked to a the imminent attack by international terrorists using (unspecificed) weapons of mass destruction.

It is a classic strategy because you can just write communits for terrorist. The Australian acted to help frighten the electorate, and then it supported the national security state's line that there was no need to worry because a small but strong government would protect them.

Very little questioning on behalf of democracy there in the name of liberal values. Now consider this paragraph from the The Australian's editorial:

"But democracies are based on trust, and the governments of Britain, the US and Australia must demonstrate they had good reason to believe the intelligence reports circulated before the war. It is not a question of explaining why weapons of mass destruction have yet to be found, but of showing us that the three governments had compelling reasons to reasonably fear they existed before the shooting started."

None of the quality press beat the war drum more than The Australian did. It was loud.It was part of the war party. None denigrated the opponents of war with Iraq more than The Australian. They were mean in their distortions. None failed in their job of questioning the Howard Government's spin more than The Australian. They dumped their responsibility to democracy overboard. None refused to engage with the arguments of the critics of the Bush Administration more than The Australian. Their charges of appeaser welded like a sledgehammer acted to undermine the trust of the public sphere.

And now The Australian talks about trust and democracy and it implies that it is acting a watchdog defending democracy. Should not The Australian be looking at its own actions, considering the way it undermined democracy through cultivating an atmosphere of hostility, fear and suspicion.

Update

Here is an article that addresses how difficult it is for media organizations to admit they are wrong and to correct their mistakes. Most of the Australian media organizations deny they have a problem or that they are accountable to the public.

And Alexander Cockburn writes:

"Intelligence services invariably succumb in the face of political bullying. But it didn't matter that the CIA and DIA were cowed by the wild men in Rumsfeld's Department of Defense, who said Iraq was still bristling with WMDs. Any enterprising news editor could have found (and some did) plenty of solid evidence to support the claim that Saddam had destroyed his WMDs, that he had no alliance with Al Qaeda."

But they didn't at The Australian. Instead they, to paraphrase Cockburn, "delightedly hyped shoddy journalism that played a far greater role in the [Canberra] propaganda blitz than the bullying of the CIA and DIA." And they will not be called to account, nor will they apologize to public opinion. The Australian remains one of the hounds of war.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:25 AM | | Comments (11) | TrackBacks (1)
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Comments

Comments

From an Editor's perspective, even if you felt the war was justified and still think that way, it's both safe and makes a more interesting story to now be asking where the weapons are.
Besides, it helps convince more readers that you're unbiassed.

What else would you expect, Gary? speculation sells newspapers. besides, when you're ship starts to leak badly, what else can you do but bail like hell.

The Australian is still making it clear to the Howard Government that, until they deliver on cross-media ownership, they cannot rely on that organ to always support them. After they do, they will. It worked in the US.

The corporate media have become a law unto themselves. They say they are part of the estate but they are unwilling to be accountable to democracy.

Errr how would you define 'accountable to democracy'? What is this democracy if it is not the government?

Its a federal democracy based around checks and balances to prevent the centralisation of power eg., the government of the day. It is the constitutional system not the government that needs to be focused on.

The media as the fourth estate are part of the checks and balances--watchdogs.

So it is not just a matter of the ABC and its audience: it is the role played by the public media within a federal democracy to further the public interest.

They have a responsibility to call it as they see it- I think "the Australian" has done that.

The fact that they take a different point of view to you doesn't make their point of view any less valid.

NOPE,
They do not just call it as they ses it. That's where they start. Just like me.

But they are involved in a public conversation and have a s responsibility to take into account, and engage with the views, and arguments of others.(See bias as prejudgment entry on philosophy.com)

The Australian failed in that---badly. Yet it wants to also claim that it is part of the 4th estate.

I would say that they have engaged with the views of others rather more then other media organisations have.

'it's both safe and makes a more interesting story to now be asking where the weapons are.

Interesting.. that's what we need. Bugger truth.

Besides, it helps convince more readers that you're unbiassed.'

The bias itself being utterly irrelevant; the spin has become the thing. You're on fire today Norman.

'They have a responsibility to call it as they see it- I think "the Australian" has done that.'

LOL.

'The fact that they take a different point of view to you doesn't make their point of view any less valid.'

'A' different point of view? Try at least two or three different points of view, depending on what's expedient at the time. Do you think that all 175 of Murdoch's editors had a sudden and unprecedented attack of conformity before the war? Perhaps they are all like minded people, eh Scott?

BTW Gary, Butler himself has been guilty of the same arse-saving squirm that you finger the Oz for. He was on Richard Glover spreading the brown stuff so thick and fast he mae you dizzy. They don't call him the Black Prince for nothing.

I think that we should be there dont forget they have done so much evil things, the american's would help us we are justed helping them. when the time comes we will need there help!!!!!