“If we had all known then what we know now,” said the New York Times on 24 August, “the invasion [of Iraq] would have been stopped by a popular outcry.” The admission was saying, in effect, that powerful newspapers, like powerful broadcasting organisations, had betrayed their readers and viewers and listeners by not finding out – by amplifying the lies of Bush and Blair instead of challenging and exposing them. The direct consequences were a criminal invasion called “Shock and Awe” and the dehumanising of a whole nation.
“This remains largely an unspoken shame in Britain, especially at the BBC, which continues to boast about its rigour and objectivity while echoing a corrupt and lying government, as it did before the invasion. For evidence of this, there are two academic studies available – though the capitulation of broadcast journalism ought to be obvious to any discerning viewer, night after night, as “embedded” reporting justifies murderous attacks on Iraqi towns and villages as “rooting out insurgents” and swallows British army propaganda designed to distract from its disaster, while preparing us for attacks on Iran and Syria. Like the New York Times and most of the American media, had the BBC done its job, many thousands of innocent people almost certainly would be alive today.”
With noble exceptions, Australia’s ABC has been little better than the BBC. The obsession with spurious “balance” – allowing domestic debate over Iraq to be little better than a soundbite from John Howard and a response from a Labor politician – results in diminished democracy.
Pilger must have had the vast majority of mainstream Australian journalists in mind when he wrote this: “When will important journalists cease to be establishment managers and analyse and confront the critical part they play in the violence of rapacious governments?”
The risks involved in not playing the game are regarded as too great. After all, how many Australian journalists are fearless enough to investigate and report independently?
“Since the invasion of Iraq, I have spoken to a number of principled journalists working in the pro-war media, including the BBC, who say that they and many others “lie awake at night” and want to speak out and resume being real journalists. I suggest now is the time.”
The Sydney Morning Herald’s Paul McGeough is a notable exception. Read his “National Trust Heritage Lecture“, a world away from the good vs.evil paradigm served up by the usual suspects. But then, armchair commentators and generals risk so little by cosying up to establishment power.