The state has lost its mind

John Pilger writes in the New Statesman of the failures of mainstream media during the recent British election campaign.

“Omission is how it works. Between 1 and 15 April, the Media Tenor Institute analysed the content of television evening news. Foreign politics, including Iraq, accounted for less than 2 per cent. Search the post-election comments of the most important people in journalism for anything about the greatest political scandal in memory – the unprovoked bloodbath in Iraq – and you will find nothing. The Goldsmith affair was an aberration, forced on to the election agenda not by a journalist but by an insider; and no connection was then made with the suffering and grief in Iraq.”

Pilger’s point, well argued, is that establishment journalists are wary of asking the tough questions to political figures or opinion makers. Too risky, too uncomfortable, too likely people like Blair may never come on their program again (though, with a media tart like Blair, a threat is likely all he’ll issue.)

Pilger’s suggestion that Blair’s likely successor, Gordon Brown, is “the same ideologue” reminds one of Australia, and the tussle between John Howard and Treasurer Peter Costello. You’d be more likely to spot the difference blindfolded.

And then the greatest taboo of all, imperialism, cloaked in the language of humanitarianism:

“”We should be proud . . . of the empire,” Gordon Brown said last September. “The days of Britain having to apologise for its colonial history are over,” he told the Daily Mail. These views touch the nostalgic heart of the British establishment, which, under Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair, has recovered from its long disorientation after Hitler gave all imperial plunderers a bad name. This and the appeasement of British imperialists is rarely mentioned in the endless anniversaries of the Second World War, whose triumphalism in politics and popular culture has bred imperial wars, such as Iraq.”

We are badly served in Australia. Murdoch’s Australian, obsessed with the culture wars and defending the glories of capitalism and conquest, today reminds readers of the folly of questioning the world order dictated by Bush, Blair and Howard. It’s as if to even suggest that policies dictated by the First World are negatively affecting the developing world – not least of which is the wholesome privatisation of Iraqi infrastructure, painfully related by Naomi Klein – is to admit defeat. When the Murdoch press is programmed to repeat official propaganda, it doesn’t just look pathetic, but insular. And once again, they attack the dissenters:

“…Writers, such as Tariq Ali and John Pilger, [who] dress up al-Qa’ida and its ilk as freedom fighters [as] a means of denying that capitalism and the right of all people to chose their rulers have triumphed on the battlefield of ideas.”

Neither Ali nor Pilger have expressed support for al-Qa’ida or its supporters, but why let facts get in the way of a hearty ideological rant? If the Murdoch minions emerged from their cosy editorial office and stopped attending black-tie cocktail parties in the centres of power with the “charming” Condoleezza Rice, they’d realise that much of the world does indeed resent America and its neo-liberal agenda, not least the countries whose democracies have been subverted by the world’s only superpower.

America has a long history of playing the democracy card in the Middle East but in countries such as Syria, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Jordan and Egypt, American definitions of freedom ring hollow. And let’s not forget the economic policies implemented by US-led financial institutions such as the World Bank. Pushing water privatisation is often one of the plans insisted upon, despite the fact that this natural resource is frequently priced out of the reach of average citizens. Aid Watch explains the contempt for democracy such activity breeds:

“Privatising advantages those who can pay – it forces people to choose between necessities such as water or health care, education or food.”

“Democratic and community involvement in water management decisions is essential. World Bank agreements, however, are considered to be “intellectual property” and therefore the public has no access to the terms or details of Bank projects that affect their lives. The IMF and the World Bank are not appropriate institutions to be making decisions about water management as they are not democratic, accountable or transparent institutions.”

If the Australian thinks that uncontrolled capitalism is the answer to the world’s problems, perhaps they should spend some time away from their official tour group and speak to real people.

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

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