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.

When politicians and journalists dance incestuously

My following book review appeared in yesterday’s Sydney Sun Herald newspaper:

Sideshow
Lindsay Tanner
(Scribe, $32.95)

“Australia and its people deserve much better than the carefully scripted play-acting that now dominates our nation’s politics.” So begins former ALP minister Lindsay Tanner’s timely examination of the toxic relationship between corporatised media and its political cousins. Politics is about the art of the possible, as long as it’s short, entertaining and doesn’t offend any major interests; Tanner laments these undeniable modern facts.

Of course, Tanner is hardly a disinterested observer and he (perhaps too lightly) critiques himself and the Labor Party for their various sins of omission, avoidance of tough decisions and obsessing over the 24/7 news cycle.

Tanner targets the Murdoch press, Fairfax empire and ABC for often ignoring policy details and instead running with humorous commentary. Such frivolous writings (like seemingly endless panel shows on TV) are relatively cheap to produce, take little effort apart from witty insights and contribute to the carnival feeling of modern politics. It’s no wonder so few members of the public express respect for the mainstream media or politicians; elite incestuousness results in an unhealthy cosiness between political advisers and press gallery reporters.

“Exclusives” are often simply sanctioned leaks to push the day’s agenda. Tanner is right to despair at this kind of debasement of democracy.

And yet so few politicians take on the corporate press, afraid of the penalty. When Greens leader Bob Brown, during a press conference on May 19, challenged the Murdoch papers on their vigorous campaign against the proposed carbon tax, News Limited journalists reacted with comical defensiveness. Tanner would surely congratulate Brown for having the temerity to push back against an agenda that solely favours business interests at the expense of average voters (not that it’s framed that way).

Tanner worries that “civil sensibility” is dying with the rise of “infotainment” but it’s a potentially dangerous argument. Before the internet age, the mainstream media solely decided which voices were heard and which perspectives shunned. In the new media age, ideas and thoughts can be transmitted often without the filter of the mainstream and gatekeepers worry they can no longer entirely control the message. Tanner seems ambivalent about this development but real civil society proponents would welcome it.

The former politician is on firmer ground when he critiques and condemns the horse-race nature of modern politics. Who’s up and who’s down in the polls is a constant headline of front-page stories and lead news on ABC radio. It’s arguable whether such information really contributes anything significant to public debate except meaningless questions by journalists to a prime minister and opposition leader about their feelings over the latest numbers. Tanner wonders if many in the media are “simply lazy and cynical”, led by the agenda of a corporate boss. With Australia having the most tightly controlled print media environment in the Western world, he clearly has a point.

“After decades of amateurism, politics is rapidly catching up with the advertising industry,” Tanner writes. “The manipulation of our psychological characteristics that has been central to advertising for decades is now coming to the fore in politics.” Naturally, politics has always been about selling a message, person or legal bribe, and at least in the 21st century most people can both see past the spin and don’t accept what they’re told by journalists or politicians. That is surely a blessing in disguise.

This book isn’t full of possible solutions to the sideshow problem. Tanner wonders if compulsory voting should be abolished (he’s a reluctant supporter) and about the removal of journalists from Canberra’s press gallery (he believes the media’s myopia would change little) and increased government funding for quality media (he argues this could bring more diverse perspectives to the fore).

Overall, Tanner’s thesis is dire. He has little faith in his former parliamentary colleagues being interested or willing to break out of a system that rewards sound bites over substance. He sees little appetite in the corporate press for reform; it is, after all, press conferences where journalists routinely ask politicians for their views on any issue of the day, whether it’s relevant for a prime minister to comment or not. But a quote is sought and usually given.

If Tanner’s intention behind this book is to highlight the growing disparity between rhetoric and reality in the Australian political landscape and the contempt shown by media elites towards the general public, he has mostly succeeded.

2 comments ↪
  • paul walter

    This is like Gillard here. and now Baillieu here. The slightest whiff of grapeshot from the Lobby and they scurry off like frightened mice.

  • paul walter

    I dont underestimate his proposition that infotainment is part of dumbing down of "civil sensibility" and a civil society, the tabloid guff undermines cognitive processes,cant be underestimated.