How does political censorship work in liberal societies? When my film, Year Zero: the Silent Death of Cambodia, was banned in the United States in 1980, the broadcaster PBS cut all contact. Negotiations were ended abruptly; phone calls were not returned. Something had happened. But what? Year Zero had already alerted much of the world to the horrors of Pol Pot, but it also investigated the critical role of the Nixon administration in the tyrant’s rise to power and the devastation of Cambodia.
Remembrance Day, on November 11, was celebrated again this year in the Australian media with pictures of red poppies and flag-draped coffins and historic photos of Australian soldiers who gave “the ultimate sacrifice” from the human-made wasteland of Flanders to the stony deserts of Afghanistan. Paying tribute to the ten soldiers killed this year in the long war in Afghanistan, Governor-General Quentin Bryce said that Australians were good at remembering: “We seem to know what we ought to hold onto and what is best let go.”
Climate deniers love banging on about media bias. It’s a favourite theme. They claim media outlets suppress the debate, peddle global warming hysteria and refuse to give deniers an equal hearing. Indeed, the evidence (always a knotty issue for deniers) shows that there is a glaring bias in the way the Australian media covers climate change. But it’s a bias for climate denier propaganda, not against it. Take the Rupert Murdoch-owned media empire: Australia’s largest. The editorial line of its flagship broadsheet, the Australian, is notorious for its climate denial.
World renowned novelist and global justice activist Arundhati Roy is facing escalating threats of violence in India because of her support for justice in Kashmir — the disputed region partitioned between India and Pakistan and occupied by military forces in the area India controls. Roy faced sedition charges for comments she made about Kashmir at a public meeting in October. The government has since indicated it would not pursue the charge.
BBC services were severely disrupted after a 48-hour walkout on November 5 and 6 by thousands of media workers. MorningStarOnline.co.uk said on November 5 the workers were fighting the corporation’s “pensions robbery”, which would result in payouts being dramatically reduced. The corporation’s director general Mark Thompson claimed the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) strike had no impact, but viewers and listeners tuned into BBC radio and TV channels to find the flagship program off air.
When US director Danny Schechter’s 2006 film In Debt We Trust predicted a huge financial crisis was coming, he was laughed at. It turned out he was right. His latest film, Plunder: The Crime of Our Time shows how the crisis was created by Wall Street bankers breaking the law to manipulate the markets — and suggests a bigger crisis is on the way.
On September 28, a British Guardian reporter who interviewed me by phone published an article on the September 26 Venezuelan National Assembly elections titled “Opposition Gains Loosen Chavez’s Grip on Power.” According to the article, I said the electoral results “suggested the government should try to modify its radical discourse and accommodate the opposition, as long as it accepted the government’s legitimacy”.
Britain is said to be approaching its Berlusconi Moment. That is to say, if Rupert Murdoch wins control of Sky, he will command half Britain’s television and newspaper market and threaten what is known as public service broadcasting. Although the alarm is ringing, it is unlikely that any government will stop him while his court is packed with politicians of all parties. The problem with this and other Murdoch scares is that, while one cannot doubt their gravity, they deflect from an unrecognised and more insidious threat to honest information.
As if straight out of a Cold War era movie, US corporate media outlets such as the Miami Herald ran headlines on September 18 claiming scientists from Albuquerque “tried to sell classified nuclear data to Venezuela”. Readers were no doubt shocked to read in the Miami Herald that “an elderly maverick scientist who battled the scientific community for decades over laser fusion was indicted Friday in New Mexico, charged with trying to sell classified nuclear weapons data to Venezuela”.
Misunderstandings over Cuba run very deep — and not just among the enemies of socialism or those who have had little contact with the country. Naturally, people are influenced by the corporate media, which wages a ferocious and relentless propaganda campaign against the little independent island. As former Chilean president Salvador Allende, whose elected government was overthrown in a US military backed coup on September 11, 1973, told the Chilean Senate in 1960: “Day by day and minute by minute … [the corporate media monopolies] misrepresent what is happening in Cuba.”
As Venezuela’s September 26 National Assembly election time approaches, international media have increased negative coverage of the South American nation. The bombardment of negative, false, distorted and manipulated news about Venezuela in US media has increased in volume and intensity during the last few days. Venezuela is subjected to this every time an election nears. This international media campaign against the left-wing government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez appears to have a clear and coordinated objective: removing the Chavez from power.
After a record high vote for the Greens in the August 21 federal election, it did not take long for the corporate media to get its claws out. In particular, Rupert Murdoch-owned News Ltd’s flagship newspaper The Australian has been called out for its string of critical stories and headlines targeting the Greens. In a September 9 editorial, the paper responded to Greens Senator Bob Brown's criticism that the paper was openly attacking the Greens-Labor deal, saying the Greens “are bad for the nation; and ... should be destroyed at the ballot box”.
Edward Bernays, the US nephew of Sigmund Freud, is said to have invented modern propaganda. During the World War I, he was one of a group of influential liberals who mounted a secret government campaign to persuade reluctant Americans to send an army to the bloodbath in Europe. In his 1928 book Propaganda, Bernays said the “intelligent manipulation of the organised habits and opinions of the masses was an important element in democratic society” and that the manipulators “constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power in our country“.
A 2006 episode of the ABC’s Lateline program led directly to the greatest human rights abuse in the past half century, said founder and former editor of the National Indigenous Times Chris Graham, at a public forum of 150 people in Sydney on September 3.
Two of the central figures in a major media and government scandal that erupted in the lead-up to the launch of the Northern Territory intervention will speak in Sydney on September 3, in their first public engagement together. Tjanara Goreng Goreng, a former Howard Coalition government official-turned-whistleblower, and Chris Graham, the founding editor of the National Indigenous Times, will speak address a public forum, at the University of Technology, Sydney, hosted by the Stop the Intervention Collective Sydney (STICS).
Recent moves by the Venezuelan government, which now claims almost 50% of the shares in a pro-coup TV station and revoked the concession of another, represent new steps towards reclaim the media for the people. The moves came as US-Venezuelan writer Eva Golinger revealed on July 15 in a Chavezcode.com post that recently declassified documents showed the US State Department has funded opposition media to the tune of more than US$4 million.