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Name: Antony Loewenstein
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Friday, April 08, 2005

The real scare

"I don't believe this is the Third World War. Nor is it a "war on terror". Nor is it a "war of civilizations". But our own leaders are wilfully leading us into a period of appalling suffering because they will not address the causes of injustice in the Islamic world."

- Robert Fisk, journalist in the real world

Australian blogger Tim Blair likes being a friend of the powerful. He's fond of praising George W. Bush, serenading John Howard and saluting Tony Blair. Good on him. It's a free world. Far be it from me to suggest that a journalist's role is to question, challenge and monitor those in authority.

Today he accuses me of sapping the life out of scare-quotes. I can't live for a week without them, Blair charges. I'm fond (too fond?), to be sure. And for good reason. Since 9/11, our language has been twisted and turned to justify the unjustifiable. The word "terrorism" has become ubiquitous, used as a weapon against any action deemed inappropriate by the democratically elected and despot alike. During the 2003 election of Iraq, Robert Fisk commented on this increasing abuse of language:

"Why do we aid and abet the lies and propaganda of this filthy war? How come, for example, it's now BBC "style" to describe the Anglo-American invaders as the "coalition". This is a lie. The "coalition" that we're obviously supposed to remember is the one forged to drive Iraqi occupation troops from Kuwait in 1991, an alliance involving dozens of countries - almost all of whom now condemn President Bush Junior's adventure in Iraq. There are a few Australian special forces swanning about in the desert, courtesy of the country's eccentric Prime Minister, John Howard, but that's it."

"So, who at the BBC decreed this dishonest word "coalition"? True, there's a "coalition of the willing", to use Mr Bush's weird phrase, but this is a reference to those nations that have given overflying rights to the United States or have given political but not military support. So the phrase "coalition forces" remains a lie."

Fisk continues:

"We go on talking about an "air campaign" as if the Luftwaffe was taking off from Cap Gris Nez to bomb London, when not a single Iraqi aircraft has left the ground. So, it's "coalition forces", a war not an invasion, liberation rather than occupation, and the taking of cities that are "secured" rather than "captured", and when captured, are insecure."

"And all this for the dead of 11 September."

When George W. Bush called Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon a "man of peace" in 2002, the joke is on commentators naive enough to believe the rhetoric. Such a lover of democracy is Sharon that he recently announced his government plans making it increasingly difficult for non-Jews to gain citizenship. The idea, simply put, is to isolate and drive-out Arab citizens out of Israel; ethnic cleansing by another name.

Furthermore, labelling any and all acts of Palestinian resistance to an illegal Israeli occupation is "terrorism", claims Sharon and his cronies. Stealing yet more Palestinian land on occupied territory receives praise from Bush as an "historic and courageous act."

Alleged crimes at Guanatanamo Bay are hilarious, Blair claims. Charges of torture by Australian terror suspect David Hicks is a joke, Blair comments. Such bravery in the face of facts, Blair prefers treating human rights abuses by Australia, America and Britain as hilarity. After all, why let the truth get in the way of befriending governments or elite opinion-makers?


Anonymous Phil said...

Joining Blair in this kind of battle is a zero sum game Anthony, why bother, you have nothing to defend, he and his flying monkeys are complete tossers. His appeal is to the lowest common denominator, one populated by the usual suspects of shallow thought, flippancy and sociopathic tendencies. His blog is nothing more than a right wing version of New Idea, a fact free zone, filled with an infotainment version of 'news' and 'opinion'. Much like the Bully really.

Friday, April 08, 2005 1:37:00 pm  
Blogger Darp said...

I concur to a certain degree.

Though I feel it important to have a snoop around Tim Blair every now and again to check out some of the more extreme Boltisms that he comes up with.

Rob Corr is the undisputed champ in this regard.

Friday, April 08, 2005 2:08:00 pm  
Blogger Guy said...

I agree with Darp. When Blair (or anyone for that matter) says something injudicious or non-sensical, he should be attacked accordingly.

Friday, April 08, 2005 2:22:00 pm  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

Thanks. I agree with you both. Sometimes comment needs to be made though, on his slavish love of being close to the powerful and hilariously clueless.
I will not be doing so regularly. His form of 'journalism' needs to be critiqued, as quite frankly, most of the mainstream is increasingly inhabited by figures such as him. All praise little Johnny. Groan!
On to bigger and much better things. Like, say, writing my book...

Friday, April 08, 2005 2:30:00 pm  
Blogger Darp said...

It's a dicey thing.

You have to look at what can be achieved by dissecting Blair.

Nothing you say will ever change the minds of his Bat-winged Monkeys (incidentally, that is probably the Aussie Blogosphere's most recognised term).

Nothing you ever say about him will ever actually be with a relevant argument. You'll just cop something in regard to grammar or be fobbed off as another raving Commie-Islamo-Fascist.

I mean, YOU DO get a certain amount of smug self-satisfaction like the time Tim was laying into me on my blog whilst at the same time his webmistress Andrea Harris was banning me from his.

Ultimately, everyone in the Aussie Blogosphere knows what to expect at Tim Blair. They know that dissent and alternate views to those of his lordship are not tolerated. They know that 70% of his regular visitors are ultra conservative Americans.

They know that no one other than Frank and Miranda Devine take what Tim Blair has to say seriously.

Friday, April 08, 2005 2:54:00 pm  
Blogger Darp said...

ever actually be MET with a relevant argument.

Friday, April 08, 2005 2:55:00 pm  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

Ok, fair points. As you say, it's hard not to respond, though I have no intention of getting caught into it. Journalism, or the best examples anyway, are people who question. Crazy thought, I know.
There are many Blairs in the world, especially the US. The yawn factor is high. Frankly, I'd rather disseminate interesting info on my blog. Oh, and discover that spelling errors, while evil, usually don't kill. Or do they?

Friday, April 08, 2005 3:08:00 pm  
Anonymous piginzen said...

Amusing as it can be to drop in on blogs such as Tim Blair's, it is ultimately a fruitless exercise.The same can be said for those writing from the far left of politics. I think it has to be accepted that there are some who are stuck in their thoughts and beliefs and will never be swayed. Any arguement will end at an impasse, with (generally) lots of abuse thrown in along the way. Why bother with it ?
Reasoned debate can be passionate, but it doesn't need to descend into childlike bickering and name calling. It is becoming an agonising labour these days to scroll through blogs looking for intelligent discourse. Sometimes I think it is just worth the old "mate, we are never going to agree so let's just drop it and never communicate again" than bother with trying to convert others. Tim Blair et al, keep your followers, have fun, enjoy the "me too-isms" I think I have had enough.
Antony, your talents would be wasted on trying to critique these guys. The people to focus attention on is not the commentators, be they Gerard Henderson or Mike Carlton, but the guys and gals who actually write the "news" articles. They are the people who need to be critiqued. Op-ed writers thrive on criticism, it's what proves their readership and worth as an employee. Sod 'em all, from Albrechtson to Ramsey....bin 'em. Let's get stuck into the folk who actually decide what is news, and leave the likes of Blair to their disciples.
And yes, spelling can kill, just ask any year four school student.

Friday, April 08, 2005 3:30:00 pm  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

Ok, I hear you. This is what I've been trying to do thus far and it shall continue. The odd diversion is forgiveable, and necessary, in my view, but nothing more. The people who decided the news and angles etc, are the main sources of my focus. I've got a major essay coming out on this next week. Will link to it once published.

Friday, April 08, 2005 3:41:00 pm  
Blogger Gerry said...

I have to agree with you antony (ghod this hurts). Your comments in defence of "scare quotes" is well made and valid. Which is why the likes of Blair like to invalidate their use. It's their way of undermining your fight to highlight the Newspeak.

And I still reckon you're running for cover and avoiding my incisive critique in that other thread. Coward! :-)

Friday, April 08, 2005 3:58:00 pm  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

Gerry, I ain't running, sunshine. I've heard your comments and I'll take 'em on board. You'd rather a hypocrite than mass murderers. Perhaps so. But when that hypocrite support many mass murderers, it's a little more confusing.
And, rapt you like my thoughts re "scare quotes". Never appropriate other's language, especially post 9/11.

Friday, April 08, 2005 4:13:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Real-world" journalist Fisk is quoted as saying "But our own leaders are wilfully leading us into a period of appalling suffering because they will not address the causes of injustice in the Islamic world."

The primary cause of injustice in the Islamic world is Islam itself, with its philosophy of gender apartheid condemning half the population of some Islamic countries to virtual slavery. So what should we do, Anthony - eliminate Islam in the region?

Friday, April 08, 2005 6:25:00 pm  
Blogger David Heidelberg said...

Blair's only weapon is his tedious critiques on spelling, sentence structure and general grammatical deficiencies.

I suggest that you ignore him...I do. He and his mutant followers will only lead you to an intellectual wasteland.

PS - I really love your new site.

Friday, April 08, 2005 6:51:00 pm  
Anonymous Craig UK said...

Anybody who thiks Robert Fisk is a journalist 'in the real world' must have some serious problems. Fisk is the man who bought 25 boxes of shit roll because he 'knew' that there would be a long siege of Baghdad. The Allies proved him wrong on that. He then claimed that the airport had not been taken. I think he was hoping for a double act with Comical Ali at that point. The man is a joke who is forced to write for Britain's most unpopular newspaper. Trust you naval-gazing intellecutals to think otherwise. Incidentally DH, what are your weapons? I won't be putting them on my shopping list.

Friday, April 08, 2005 11:51:00 pm  
Blogger mark bahnisch said...

I don't think trackback works on your blog, Antony, so I'm posting a comment to draw attention to something I've had to say about your argument with Tim at my place:

I'd be interested to hear what you think.

Saturday, April 09, 2005 12:56:00 pm  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

Here's my response to the above post and question:

Suffice to say, I agree with your thoughts that ‘Blairs of the world are actually reproducing in the Blogosphere the subservience of journalism to power and profit that now characterises much of the mainstream media?’ To suggest, as Evil Pundit does, that the Sydney Morning Herald is like the Green Left Weekly, shows how deluded these people are. Does he actually understand that questioning authority, however rarely the SMH does this, is what journalists are supposed to do? Being against, say, the Iraq war and Guantanamo Bay, is actually the position of many thinking people around the world. To defend these actions blindly is sadder still.

I do feel that blogging arises because the mainstream media is increasingly subservient to the corporate interest. Sadly, many bloggers, on the left and right, including Blair, are happy to continue this tradition. Good on them. As Blair said last year with some happiness, he received a Xmas card from Alexander Downer. What a thrill! What an honour! Alex likes Tim. Blair is doing something wrong as a journalist if he’s chummy with anyone in power, from the left or right.

Saturday, April 09, 2005 1:17:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excerpts from Counterspin.


Clive Hamilton articulates the (selfish) face of Australia in 2004:

"The Coalition victory reflects nothing more than the narrow-mindedness and preoccupation with self that characterises modern Australia...[bla bla bla]."

Alan Ramsey articulated the feeling of many today with his wonderfully acerbic piece:

"For almost nine years this Government [bla bla bla]... This time we've really buggered things.

"The list of the Coalition's transgressions is too long to mention..."

Tim Dunlop has posted the most eloquent editorial of the campaign.


Therefore, I predict a Coalition win by five seats OR an ALP landslide.

1 day to go and the knives are out. It's game on and polling indicators suggest a returned Coalition government. But it ain't over yet.

The Australian continues to be a defender of the working timber man. Hold the laughter.

Yes, do.


Hackwatch takes Glenn Milne and Andrew Bolt to task. The former for being "Australia's most shameless pro-Liberal hack" and the latter for misrepresenting environmental data.


"Sadly, many bloggers, on the left and right, including Blair, are happy to continue this [corporate] tradition. Good on them."

Anthony, you could have run your own blog last year, but you ran one for the corporate man.

Weren't you in fact "reproducing in the Blogosphere the subservience of journalism to power and profit"?

Just askin'.

Hoping your Loewenstein flying monkeys don't attack me for questioning the consensus.

Saturday, April 09, 2005 1:45:00 pm  
Blogger Jozef Imrich, Esq. said...

"Journalists belong in the gutter becase that is where the ruling classes throw their guilty secrets."
- Gerald Priestland, British broadcaster. BBC Radio, 19 May 1988.

By the way, Antony, there is a thought-provoking discussion about the role of the powerless citizen journalist in the current climate on Jay Rosen blog this week ...

Saturday, April 09, 2005 1:52:00 pm  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

During last year's election campaign, I was working for Fairfax producing Counterspin. I was given free reign to comment or criticise the Fairfax press or any other. Were there constraints? Not spoken ones, but undoubtedly. I've now left Fairfax, for many reasons, namely to write a book on the Israel/Palestine conflict. Besides, during Counterspin, people who read me knew my political leanings, I wasn't trying to hide it. I was trying to critique what I saw as the overly pro-Howard agenda of most mainstream journalism.
I've been writing over the years about journalism and the increase of corporate influence. I tried to influence from within, and hey, got a number of pieces published that maybe, just maybe, had some impact. Now, I've left and am trying to forge an independent agenda. I'm writing freelance for Fairfax and others, but this blog is my own space, no issues there.
Made a few issues clearer?

Saturday, April 09, 2005 2:31:00 pm  
Blogger weezil said...

Antony, do correct me if I'm wrong, but Counterspin was identified in the SMH as opinion material. Thusly, I'm kinda wondering about CL's attempts to pin standards for informational reporting to the column.

Or perhaps I'm just a flying monkey. :D


Saturday, April 09, 2005 9:11:00 pm  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

Yep. Counterspin was CLEARLY opinion, and yet people still expected it to be straight news. Ho hum.
Isn't it tiring? ANYWAY, back to spreading the good word, he he...

Sunday, April 10, 2005 5:05:00 pm  
Blogger Gregory said...

Well, I want to know how I can get a piece of the $250 Blair's offering you or Shelly-on-the-Telly.

Monday, April 11, 2005 2:24:00 pm  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

Keep reading would be a good start.

Monday, April 11, 2005 3:05:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

give yourself an 'uppercut' 'tony' you miserable excuse for a 'man'.(ooh! i forgot to type some meaningless crap in brackets just like they taught me at university).

Tuesday, April 12, 2005 1:07:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

...Namely to write a book on the Israel/Palestine conflict.

What relevant credentials can you speak of that would convince readers that your perspective of the conflict is both rooted in a deep understanding of the relevant history, and mature in an objective sense?

Tuesday, April 12, 2005 11:56:00 pm  

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