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Name: Antony Loewenstein
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Friday, July 01, 2005

Friends in high places

The Independent examines the role of lobbying in Washington and its ties to the top echelons of the Republican Party. This story has it all. Indians, friends of George W. Bush, fraud and corruption of the democratic process. As we're told: "Eventually in politics, money wins."

Back in Melbourne, Sushi Das discusses the role of government spin doctors. Key line: "...The government uses our taxes to pay media advisers to obscure the truth, block access to ministers and protect politicians from scrutiny. It keeps the public in the dark." These media advisors are unaccountable and paid by our tax dollars.

It's time - as suggested years ago by Margo Kingston at the Sydney Morning Herald but rejected by a senior editorial staffer - to name and shame individuals blocking the free flow of information. Journalists should reveal the source of their "scoops", if at all possible. Chances are they've received a call from a ministerial advisor offering an "exclusive". To not do so means reporters are complicit in the grand political game and trust in public institutions falls every further. Treasurer Peter Costello may say that the Liberals will be "very, very careful" with their newfound Senate power, but we aren't going to take his word for it, are we?


Anonymous michael said...

"It's time - as suggested years ago by Margo Kingston at the Sydney Morning Herald but rejected by a senior editorial staffer - to name and shame individuals blocking the free flow of information."

Hmm, that's interesting considering that she banned me from Webdiary for persistently trying to name Australian journos who were blocking information about corruption in the AFP, abuse in the NSW prison system and evidence manufacture by NSW police.

Seems to me that Margo is strongly committed to 'naming and shaming' people she doesn't like - ideological enemies, those working for the wrong corporate news outlet, the disempowered targets of Fairfax's faux investigative journos like Andrew Rule - but totally intolerant of any light shone on her or her colleagues.

Friday, July 01, 2005 2:31:00 pm  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

I ain't getting involved in that one. That's between you and her, though I remember you telling me this before.

Friday, July 01, 2005 2:39:00 pm  
Anonymous michael said...

Still, you've got to wonder about people who campaign for openess and honesty in public discourse without cleaning up their own acts first.

Seems to me that there are two really strong reasons for practicing what you preach regarding honesty.

One is that you can't really change anyone's views by countering the lies of your opponents with lies of your own - only degrade the whole discourse into empty rhetoric. This works if you are trying to maintain the status quo by inducing despair and apathy (witness the success of Coalition of the Willing propaganda in marginalising the anti-war movement even as their deceits and failures become increasingly undeniable) but not if you are promoting the sort of 'democratic renewal' that Webdiary gives lip service to.

But more importantly, it seems to me that you can only maintain dishonesty over the long term by internalising it to the point where - at some level - you believe it yourself. I think that has got to have a serious impact on your own ability to distinguish truth from bullshit and makes you more vulnerable to precisely the distortions you want to campaign against.

I just got another example of the problem listening to an interview with Debra Lipstadt, the historian who effectively nailed David Irving as a serial liar, racist and holocaust denier.

In the course of the interview she showed herself to be in the same class (if not league) as Irving by minimising the casualty estimates of the Dresden firestorm and claiming that it was not a war crime because there were valid strategic reasons for the bombing (Declassified RAF documents show that the real reasons for attacking Dresden were to demoralise the German population and to 'show the Soviets what the RAF could do'. The claim that it was an attempt to deny the Wehrmacht an important rail junction was always a furphy, as by 1945 the Allies were perfectly aware that the Germans could re-lay the tracks within a day or two).

So in the course of a 20 minute interview, Lipstadt went (in my eyes) from being a heroic defender of truth to just another partisan culture warrior whom I will probably not trouble myself to listen to again. All for the sake of scoring a trivial rhetorical point against a totally discredited serial liar.

Friday, July 01, 2005 5:51:00 pm  
Blogger Iqbal Khaldun said...

Well said Michael. Where do the Lipdstadts of the world disappear to when Indonesians deny their generals committed genocide in Timor? Or when Turkey denies the mass extermination of Armenians (with Israeli support I might add)? Morocco and the West Saharans. And so on...

Speaking of which, interesting thing about the Allied bombing of Europe during WWII. German industry eventually became more efficient after the bombing (especially from 1944 onwards), outstripping output from before the period of the heaviest bombing. Although it's unlikely Allied commanders were aware of this fact (maybe they were, it's just difficult to know for sure), it's self evident that military theorists have always overemphasised the importance of aerial bombardment as a war strategy. Cf Vietnam, and more recently Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Clearly the human (collateral) cost was far outweighed by the perceived benefit of aerial bombardment.

Saturday, July 02, 2005 8:58:00 pm  

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