Best-selling journalist Antony Loewenstein trav­els across Afghanistan, Pakistan, Haiti, Papua New Guinea, the United States, Britain, Greece, and Australia to witness the reality of disaster capitalism. He discovers how companies such as G4S, Serco, and Halliburton cash in on or­ganized misery in a hidden world of privatized detention centers, militarized private security, aid profiteering, and destructive mining.

Disaster has become big business. Talking to immigrants stuck in limbo in Britain or visiting immigration centers in America, Loewenstein maps the secret networks formed to help cor­porations bleed what profits they can from economic crisis. He debates with Western contractors in Afghanistan, meets the locals in post-earthquake Haiti, and in Greece finds a country at the mercy of vulture profiteers. In Papua New Guinea, he sees a local commu­nity forced to rebel against predatory resource companies and NGOs.

What emerges through Loewenstein’s re­porting is a dark history of multinational corpo­rations that, with the aid of media and political elites, have grown more powerful than national governments. In the twenty-first century, the vulnerable have become the world’s most valu­able commodity. Disaster Capitalism is published by Verso in 2015 and in paperback in January 2017.

Profits_of_doom_cover_350Vulture capitalism has seen the corporation become more powerful than the state, and yet its work is often done by stealth, supported by political and media elites. The result is privatised wars and outsourced detention centres, mining companies pillaging precious land in developing countries and struggling nations invaded by NGOs and the corporate dollar. Best-selling journalist Antony Loewenstein travels to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Haiti, Papua New Guinea and across Australia to witness the reality of this largely hidden world of privatised detention centres, outsourced aid, destructive resource wars and militarized private security. Who is involved and why? Can it be stopped? What are the alternatives in a globalised world? Profits of Doom, published in 2013 and released in an updated edition in 2014, challenges the fundamentals of our unsustainable way of life and the money-making imperatives driving it. It is released in an updated edition in 2014.
forgodssakecover Four Australian thinkers come together to ask and answer the big questions, such as: What is the nature of the universe? Doesn't religion cause most of the conflict in the world? And Where do we find hope?   We are introduced to different belief systems – Judaism, Christianity, Islam – and to the argument that atheism, like organised religion, has its own compelling logic. And we gain insight into the life events that led each author to their current position.   Jane Caro flirted briefly with spiritual belief, inspired by 19th century literary heroines such as Elizabeth Gaskell and the Bronte sisters. Antony Loewenstein is proudly culturally, yet unconventionally, Jewish. Simon Smart is firmly and resolutely a Christian, but one who has had some of his most profound spiritual moments while surfing. Rachel Woodlock grew up in the alternative embrace of Baha'i belief but became entranced by its older parent religion, Islam.   Provocative, informative and passionately argued, For God's Sakepublished in 2013, encourages us to accept religious differences, but to also challenge more vigorously the beliefs that create discord.  
After Zionism, published in 2012 and 2013 with co-editor Ahmed Moor, brings together some of the world s leading thinkers on the Middle East question to dissect the century-long conflict between Zionism and the Palestinians, and to explore possible forms of a one-state solution. Time has run out for the two-state solution because of the unending and permanent Jewish colonization of Palestinian land. Although deep mistrust exists on both sides of the conflict, growing numbers of Palestinians and Israelis, Jews and Arabs are working together to forge a different, unified future. Progressive and realist ideas are at last gaining a foothold in the discourse, while those influenced by the colonial era have been discredited or abandoned. Whatever the political solution may be, Palestinian and Israeli lives are intertwined, enmeshed, irrevocably. This daring and timely collection includes essays by Omar Barghouti, Jonathan Cook, Joseph Dana, Jeremiah Haber, Jeff Halper, Ghada Karmi, Antony Loewenstein, Saree Makdisi, John Mearsheimer, Ahmed Moor, Ilan Pappe, Sara Roy and Phil Weiss.
The 2008 financial crisis opened the door for a bold, progressive social movement. But despite widespread revulsion at economic inequity and political opportunism, after the crash very little has changed. Has the Left failed? What agenda should progressives pursue? And what alternatives do they dare to imagine? Left Turn, published by Melbourne University Press in 2012 and co-edited with Jeff Sparrow, is aimed at the many Australians disillusioned with the political process. It includes passionate and challenging contributions by a diverse range of writers, thinkers and politicians, from Larissa Berendht and Christos Tsiolkas to Guy Rundle and Lee Rhiannon. These essays offer perspectives largely excluded from the mainstream. They offer possibilities for resistance and for a renewed struggle for change.
The Blogging Revolution, released by Melbourne University Press in 2008, is a colourful and revelatory account of bloggers around the globe why live and write under repressive regimes - many of them risking their lives in doing so. Antony Loewenstein's travels take him to private parties in Iran and Egypt, internet cafes in Saudi Arabia and Damascus, to the homes of Cuban dissidents and into newspaper offices in Beijing, where he discovers the ways in which the internet is threatening the ruld of governments. Through first-hand investigations, he reveals the complicity of Western multinationals in assisting the restriction of information in these countries and how bloggers are leading the charge for change. The blogging revolution is a superb examination about the nature of repression in the twenty-first century and the power of brave individuals to overcome it. It was released in an updated edition in 2011, post the Arab revolutions, and an updated Indian print version in 2011.
The best-selling book on the Israel/Palestine conflict, My Israel Question - on Jewish identity, the Zionist lobby, reporting from Palestine and future Middle East directions - was released by Melbourne University Press in 2006. A new, updated edition was released in 2007 (and reprinted again in 2008). The book was short-listed for the 2007 NSW Premier's Literary Award. Another fully updated, third edition was published in 2009. It was released in all e-book formats in 2011. An updated and translated edition was published in Arabic in 2012.

Freedom wanes

Attacks on public broadcasters around the world have increased in the last years. Murdoch has been a longtime critic of the BBC, ABC and PBS. His media cheerleaders talk about ingrained left-wing bias and lack of accountability in these institutions but their true aim is more sinister – the eradication of any credible competition to the corporate agenda. Who can forget Murdoch crony Tony Ball talking about the public’s supposed dissatisfaction with the BBC? His plan, of course, was to split up the national broadcaster and lessen its overall reach across Britain and the world. It matters little to Murdoch and his ilk that in survey and survey the public express strong support in the independence of the BBC. Likewise with the ABC in Australia.

Take this 2003 survey conducted by British public relations company Weber Shandwick in relation to Iraq’s WMD. The results speak for themselves: “The public is two times more likely to trust the BBC over the Government on the issue of weapons of mass destruction. More than half (54%) of the respondents are much more likely (28%) or somewhat more likely (26%) to believe the BBC on the issue of WMDs. Only one in five (21%) are much more likely (9%) or somewhat more likely (12%) to believe the government.

The European Federation of Journalists reports that journalists across Europe are banding together to voice their concern over the crisis in public broadcasting. Arne König, the Chairman of the EFJ, says that aside from worker’s rights being questioned, political pressure is attempting to silence dissenting viewpoints. “More than ever, these values need to be defended,” says König.

The state of Australia’s public broadcasters, ABC and SBS, is worrying. Governmental pressure is resulting in increasingly reluctant staff tackling the hard issues or asking the tough questions. We now have to rely on comedy to provide the most incisive political comment:

INTERVIEWER: Mr Howard, I wondered if the meaning of Anzac Day has somehow changed?

JOHN HOWARD: Anzac Day is a day of great importance in the Australian calendar, Graham.

INTERVIEWER: What do you think that importance is?

JOHN HOWARD: Well, I think the essential lessons and characters of Anzac Day are as they have always been, Bryan.

INTERVIEWER: And what are they?

JOHN HOWARD: Well, it celebrates that very important time when the Australian Government made a very significant decision, Bryan to

INTERVIEWER: To do as it was told by an imperial power.

JOHN HOWARD: — to assemble a very, very impressive body of young men, very talented, very resourceful young men and to send them away to

INTERVIEWER: Invade another country.

JOHN HOWARD: — to defend Britain.

INTERVIEWER: By invading Turkey.

***

The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) is holding the annual Orwell Awards – “the gong for the annual tongue-in-cheek anti-press freedom awards.” Aimed at those in power who actively discourage press freedom, including the majority of the ministers in the Howard government. One note of advice to the MEAA. Holding an Inaugural World Press Freedom Dinner tomorrow night is a noble idea, and speakers include shit-stirrers David Marr, Richard Neville and John Birmingham. But how the hell did the NSW Premier Bob Carr score an invitation? He has more press secretaries than John Howard and is the master of spin. His press secretary Walt Secord won an award in 2003 for best spinner in the state.

***

A final warning to those who believe in retaining the current state of affairs regarding Australian defamation laws. This report by the University of Melbourne proves that our freedom of speech, compared to the US, is being seriously eroded:

“This article reports on a comparative content analysis of more than 1,400 Australian and US newspaper articles. The study suggests that in the US – where defamation plaintiffs face much heavier burdens than under Australian law – defamatory allegations are made more frequently against both political and corporate actors than in Australia. The US articles contained apparently defamatory allegations at nearly three times the rate of the Australian sample. In particular, the Australian media appeared to be less comfortable making allegations in relation to corporate affairs than its US counterpart. In addition, some US articles included far more extreme commentary than the Australian sample, which suggests a less restrained style of public debate may be fostered under US law. Through introducing comparative content analysis to Australian media law research, the article supports the idea that Anglo-Australian defamation law has a chilling effect media speech.”

Reform is essential, as online magazine Crikey have been saying for years.

6 comments ↪
  • Anonymous

    Meanwhile the Beeb extorts – under pain of jail (er, sorry, "gaol") – a licensing fee for the simple privilige of watching any TV, and goes out handing mics to people to heckle the conservative candidate. "Public" broadcasting is nothing more than taxpayer-financed propaganda, and is a holdover from the Soviet Union.

  • Glenn Condell

    Busy little nameless bee, aren't we? Up til late and then at sparrowfart, casting your McCarthy-ite gaze over Antony's musings, just bursting to jump in and ignore the common sense on offer in favour of an agenda you're only dimly aware of carrying water for. It would be fascinating to watch and ponder on the Pavlovian responses involved if you had the stomach for it, or the time.There's a team of mice over at Surfdom doing the same thing. Beaten senseless in every encounter, on they trundle like robots, doing their unquestioning duty, unnoticed by their principals but sufficiently warmed by belonging to continue cheerfully on. I don't know whether there's several of you anonymii, or if it's just the one. It's impossible to tell.

  • michael

    I think Chris Dent and Andrew Kenyon have taken too much of what Australian reporters tell them on faith when they finger the defamation laws for the amazing gutlessness of the Australian media.While there is probably *some* truth to the suggestion that the media is sometimes intimidated by defamation laws I think that they are all too often used as a figleaf by the press for their own lack of courage in the face of their corporate paymasters and political chookfeeders.The Lange case established a solid precedent for qualified privilege as a defence against defamation when reporting in good faith on matters of public interest. But rather than use that precedent – or try to build on it to include public figures in business and the media as well as politics – the Aus media have become even more sycophantic and cowardly in their reporting.When they do show a bit of 'courage' – by attacking the powerless, such as dead victims of police shootings or chases, black bureaucrats, working class Muslims, etc – the press also invoke defamation laws as justification for their own bastardry (i.e. "if the reporting was unfair or untrue they can sue us"). As John Marsden discovered, even the most legally empowered members of our society seeking redress for an open and shut case of false reporting face an uphill battle trying to sue the media (he was eventually successful – at great personal cost).If the media is really concerned about defamation laws, why don't they do something about them. They are in an excellent position to seek public support for law reform and they could also come together to mount test cases to extend the Lange decision.I think I know why. Because the defamation laws are just a too convenient excuse for covering up their own failures as journalists.

  • michael

    Checking the Crikey webpage linked here tends to prove my point.In the early 1980s it seemed that everyone in Sydney had a story about Peter Abeles and corruption. After the National Times named Costigan's 'Goanna' as Kerry Packer a friend of mine who worked in TNT and the TWU claimed that the fact Abeles was never named in the media was proof of how effectively he deployed bribery and threats.But Abeles is now dead. He cannot bring defamation suits. Yet the Sydney media has still kept mum on his decades of corruption and criminality.So its not the defamation laws that stops the Aus media from doing its job. Its something even less savoury.Stephen Mayne is the exception that proves the rule. He was successfully sued – by an Australian journalist of course – but continued to stick his neck out until someone came along with a big cheque and a suggestion that he should retire. Sort of 'cash for no comment'. He wasn't gagged by an unhappy judge but by a happy bank manager.Funny about the timing too. Crikey was the only one reporting on the way Fairfax editors (particularly Michael Gawenda) had been heavied by the ownership to refuse to back the ALP in the last Federal election. Not even MediaWatch would touch the story. And who bought Crikey? A former Fairfax editor.Apart from Antony's excellent – if belated – piece in Online Opinion there are still no Australian journos with the guts to touch that story, even though it goes right to the heart of the standard of journalism in this country.Oh well, the next time you hear a Fairfax journo demanding support for their 'independent' outlet against weakened cross-media ownership laws and the depredations of Rupert Murdoch you can just have a little laugh and send them on their way.

  • Antony Loewenstein

    Sadly, I agree. The deafening silence of the mainstream media, especially Fairfax journos, on the current state of gutlessness in our media, is sickening. And mark my words. The cross media will change soon enough post July 1 and journos will wonder how it all happened. Wanting to keep a job is a legitimate concern, especially if you've got family, mortgage etc, but why the hell aren't people talking about that infamous election stuff come last year, as just one example?As for Crikey, I'm gonna wait and see what happens. Eric Beecher being the new owner inspires little faith, but thus far post takeover, it's still been ok. So far, mind you…

  • mobias

    I agree the defo laws are in dire need of reform but I'm concerned that we could end up with an amalgam of the worst of the state laws, rather than the best. It appears that Ruddock is going to insist on giving corporations the right to sue for defamation for example. Which means we could see more cases like this.