Amnesia rules

It is now two days since Seymour Hersh published his stunning report in the New Yorker about Iraq’s rigged January election. As yet, the Australian media has completely ignored the revelations. We shouldn’t be surprised. While Prime Minister John Howard is in Washington and the media focuses on back-slapping and delusions over Iraq, a new study indicates that around 25,000 Iraqis have been killed since the 2003 invasion, more than a third caused by US forces.

These figures, if correct, rather make a mockery of Howard’s calls to “stay the distance in Iraq [and] we won’t go until the job is finished.” How many deaths are justified as “liberation?” And when exactly will the job be done?

The mainstream media’s amnesia on matters of reality in Iraq is today examined by Tom Dispatch. American Mark Danner has written extensively about the failure of the US media to highlight the growing amount of disastrous news emerging from Iraq. When the now infamous Downing Street Memo was released, much of the US press ignored it. Michael Kinsley, editorial and opinion editor for the Los Angeles Times, “wrote a piece typical of this mainstream moment in the Washington Post, (No Smoking Gun), discounting the importance of the Downing Street Memos as, among other things, no more than “an encouraging sign of the revival of the left. Developing a paranoid theory and promoting it to the very edge of national respectability takes a certain amount of ideological self-confidence.””

Danner rightly says that a growing number of Americans – and I would argue Australians, too – now see a “the widening gap between what [Americans] are told and what they see – a gap that, when it comes to the Iraq war, is becoming harder and harder to ignore.”

Jay Rosen’s Pressthink profiles the increasing role of the White House – and his theories can be equally attributed to Canberra and the weak-willed Press Gallery – in “roll[ing] back the press as a player within the executive branch, to make it less important in running the White House and governing the country.”

“Lying to the press—though a serious thing—is what all Administrations do”, Rosen says and this fact is routinely dismissed in Australian media. When will journalists learn that the state lies routinely? Rather than expressing scepticism towards the general public, reporters should get behind government spin and “out” lying politicians, media advisers or spin doctors. Cynicism should be directed their way, rather than a “gullible” public.

The aim of numerous governments around the world can be explained thus (courtesy of US journalist Ron Suskind): “That’s the whole idea, to somehow sweep away the community of honest brokers in America – both Republicans and Democrats and members of the mainstream press – sweep them away so we’ll be left with a culture and public dialogue based on assertion rather than authenticity, on claim rather than fact.”

Instead, we’re treated to a story such as this in today’s Melbourne Age: “Janette Howard has kept a low profile since arriving in Washington at the weekend with Prime Minister John Howard, but a $20,000 diamond drew her into the public spotlight yesterday. She presented a glittering 2.09 carat cognac-coloured diamond to Washington’s Smithsonian Museum on behalf of Sydney jeweller Nicola Cerrone and Rio Tinto’s Argyle diamond mine in Western Australia.”

Until journalists see themselves as outsiders rather than privileged insiders being fed the scraps offered by all-too-willing politicians and PR agents, our democracy will remain in a parlous state. ABC TV’s Insiders program personifies this problem. Why does the national broadcaster think that the general public is interested in hearing opinions from reporters and politicians who spend their lives in the incestousness world of sanctioned leaks?

UPDATE: Seymour Hersh explains his current thesis on Democracy Now.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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