Carlo's Corner: The Australian is right, no debate is allowed on Syria while Green Left Weekly calls the shots

September 11, 2015
Syrian refugees
'No debate allowed' on Syrian refugees while a media gang including Green Left Weekly call the shots.

Reading Rupert Murdoch's Australian is always educational. For instance, Maurice Newman's September 11 op-ed exposed a media gang that represent “by far the major media presence in Australia and, from their bully pulpits, they present a common position on most social, economic and political issues”.

The logical response to this is “well yeah, that's what happens when a monopolising bastard like Murdoch controls most of your newspaper distribution”. But it turns out Newman was actually referring to “the philosophical disposition of the ABC, SBS and the Fairfax organisation, along with The Guardian, Crikey, The Conversation, The Monthly, New Matilda, The Saturday Paper, Green Left Weekly and sundry others”.

Wow. This is great news for us at Green Left Weekly. To discover we are actually part of the “major media presence in Australia” helping set a “common position on most social, economic and political issues”. To be honest, I thought being part of a bullying media monopoly would pay better, but I suppose I should just be happy to have a role in terrifying would-be dissenters into silence.

For as Newman explained: “This makes it difficult for any dissenting voice, let alone a government, that fails to conform immediately to the approved collective narrative. Take Syrian migration, an open-and-shut case. No debate allowed.”

Yes, if there is one thing that we have seen it is a total absence of debate over the question of what Newman rather coyly calls “Syrian migration”, but which others might perhaps call “a grave humanitarian catastrophe requiring significant assistance”.

That was what was seen with the thousands of people who turned out to GetUp!'s candlelight vigil on September 7. They weren't engaged in an emotional intervention into the debate to collectively demand action, but merely celebrating the “open-and-shut case” of the official position as set out by us here at Green Left Weekly, in collusion with our comrades at the ABC, SBS, Fairfax, The Guardian et al.

There has been no debate whatsoever on Syria, which is why the response from the government has been so consistent, uncontroversial and thoroughly in line with Green Left Weekly's editorial position.

Give or take, of course, the debate generated by Tony Abbott's initial attempt to refuse to take any extra refugees at all, the debate generated by government calls to prioritise Christian refugees, the debate caused by the government's refusal to accept the Syrian asylum seekers rotting in its prison hellholes on Nauru and Manus Island, and the debate generated by the whole “bombing Syria” thing.

The “bombing Syria to stop refugees” plan has, after all, proven a little controversial among ... well, anyone with a functioning brain and no vested interest in exploiting warmongering and “security” paranoia in a cynical bid to arrest sliding poll numbers and distract attention from your savage, anti-poor agenda of destroying the social safety net while shifting even more wealth to your rich mates.

I don't want to silence the poor government or anything, but bombing Syria to stop refugee flows would seem a bit like trying to stop a raging fire with petrol-filled buckets.

Of course, there are a few dissenting voices that can be heard on the margins. For instance, that of minor, mostly unknown conservative commentator Andrew Bolt, who said on his Herald Sun blog about drowned toddler Aylan Kurdi on September 8: “Aylan was not in 'harm’s way'. He was not a refugee. His family was not fleeing danger …”

But you know, Bolt merely writes columns in Australia's most widely circulated newspaper and hosts a weekly nationally broadcast TV show, so it is really just one barely heard voice in the wilderness.

He does have a unique position, you have to give Bolt that, in suggesting Aylan Kurdi and his family were not actually refugees. I mean, what with their hometown of Kobane being almost totally destroyed by a devastating months-long siege by ISIS.

But Bolt explains that Kurdi's family “had actually been living in safety in Turkey for three years”. This is an an interesting definition of “safety”, seeing as the Turkish state severely represses Kurds and, in what I am sure is a total coincidence, had begun drastically escalating such repression in the weeks before Aylan and his family took that desperate, fatal boat trip.

But facts are not the point here. The point is Bolt seems to think he can just break the “approved collective narrative” willy nilly. So I hereby offer Andrew Bolt a friendly piece of advice: Son, if you want to keep working in this industry, you better learn to start toeing the Green Left Weekly line. Consider yourself warned.

[Carlo Sands will help enforce the “approved collective narrative” at Green Left Weekly's fundraising comedy debate “That Team Australia Should Be Disqualified” in Sydney on October 17. You can book tickets here.]

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