On winners and losers by underground

Like the sadist I am, sometimes I like to watch Fox News, cheerleaders of religious conservatism, where the likes of O’Reilly and Hannity make the most ridiculous assertions. According to Hannity, Obama is a socialist because of the US’s increasing deficit, despite George W Bush’s efforts to plunge the surplus he inherited into the red. Yesterday, I enjoyed Hannity slating the network’s opposition for their criticism of the Fox-endorsed anti-Obama “tea party” protests. While I believe it is part of the media role to often advocate a cause, organising anti-government protests is hardly fair and unbiased. And who are the people protesting? They are not the millions who took to the streets objecting to Bush’s illegal war and the erosion of civil liberties. They are tens of thousands of people who voted for the guy that did not win a democratic election last year. They are the sorest of losers, who supported a failed president for eight years and have written off the guy who inherited his mess; a troubled economy and a fractured nation. They are Hannity and Co.’s rent-a-crowd.

In New Zealand, the Left have had to stomach a National Government for six months and, even more difficult, the realisation that John Key is not as bad as previously believed. Key’s empty rhetoric and lack of substance pre-election concerned many, but his inclusive, measured governance has caused a re-think from many. There are indications unpopular policy may be in the pipeline and their pre-Christmas rush and their 100-day inaction may have given opponents some amnunition, but for the time being it’s plain sailing for the Government. The losers of the last election will need to regroup and consider their moves for the future. Let’s not see the pathetic sore-loser response shown by the tea baggers across the Pacific.


The politics of fear is no laughing matter by underground

The New Yorker has attracted criticism from Barack Obama’s campaign team for the cover on its July 21 issue. The image is a cartoon drawn by Barry Blitt and depicts Obama in traditional Muslim dress, “fist bumping” his wife Michell, who is wearing camo pants and has a machine gun slung over her shoulder. In the background is a picture of Osama bin Laden framed on the wall and an American flag lies discarded in the fire place. Campaign spokesman Bill Burton criticised the cartoon saying, “The New Yorker may think… that their cover is a satirical lampoon of the caricature Senator Obama’s right-wing critics have tried to create, but most readers will see it as tasteless and offensive. And we agree”. Never wanting to be left out of the fun, John McCain’s spokesman has also criticised the cartoon. The magazine defended the cover, entitled “The politics of fear”, in a statement:

“The burning flag, the nationalist-radical and Islamic outfits, the fist-bump, the portrait on the wall? All of them echo one attack or another. Satire is part of what we do, and it is meant to bring things out into the open, to hold up a mirror to prejudice, the hateful, and the absurd. And that’s the spirit of this cover.”

The New Yorker magazine also said the cartoon “combines a number of fantastical images about the Obamas and shows them for the obvious distortions they are”. And I endorse this message! Continue reading

Quality of news and subjectivity of views by underground

The next time someone claims that Fox news is a legitimate source of news, refer them to today. Whilst the BBC and CNN went live to the breaking story about the Israeli bulldozer rampage, Fox persisted with a story about cool advertisements during the 1980’s and something about Barack Obama being so right wing that his election could be considered an extension of George Bush’s presidency. Unless of course different countries get different Fox broadcasts, Fox’s credibility and quality have once again been shown to be lacking. Come to think of it, does Fox have news?

Of course the Jeruselum bulldozer rampage was a great tragedy and hopefully the death toll of the incident does not rise any further. At the time of writing three (including driver) are understood to be dead, with dozen injured, seven critically.

However, I did find it disconcerting that both CNN and BBC said the Israeli police are considering the attack to be a an act of “terrorism”. The term is of course so manipulated in its usage rendering it meaningless, but I can only see their decision to use the term as political and irresponcible. Firstly, on what grounds was the attack by definition terrorism? If it is because the perpetrator was an Arab or Palestinian, than this is clearly racist. If the perpetrator was of another race would it be terrorism? Was it the weapon he choose to use? Considering the Israelis devastating use of bulldozers against the Palestinian people, it is hypocritical for the Israelis to deem this attack as terrorism, regardless of the perpetrators actions, which I of course do not condone. Even foreign peace activists have been the victims of the Israeli bulldozer attacks. Was that terrorism? As of yet no one can clearly ascertain as to whether the perpetrators motives were political, or whether he was aligned to particular Palestinian group. Can it really not be ruled out that the attack was non-political (hard to imagine I know and understandably unlikely, yet still plausible)?

To me it appears that the haste in which the Israelis have used this term is politically motivated. As talks resume and cease fires are discussed, diplomacy could be potentially derailed by violence by either side. As it stands, Israeli “security” operations are still taking place in the Gaza strip. It appears each side is eager to resume full on conflict. The will of the civilians are, as always, ignored.

War, Propaganda and the Media by underground

War, Propaganda and the Media

How can the media be used to peddle propaganda in a liberal democracy?

The notorious Nazi Party Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, once said, “it is the absolute right of the State to supervise the formation of public opinion” (1948). He also likened the press to a “great keyboard on which the government can play.” Goebbels was a master of manipulation and is largely credited with selling the Nazi cause to the German populace.

In her 2007 book A Russian Diary, Anna Politkovskaya wrote of the overwhelming influence President Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin had over all aspects of Russian society, from business, to individual lives, to the media. A journalist writing for the Russian newspaper Novaya gazeta, Politkovskaya described the pro-Putin stance of the media: “As election day approaches, the television news bulletins increasingly resemble heartening dispatches on Putin’s achievements”(2007, p. 67). She recalls occasions of press censorship, threats from political leaders and an occasion where journalists were even detained for filming an anti-Putin demonstration. Those in the media that do not apply self-censorship and question the Kremlin risk losing their jobs. “Where freedom is, there is low pay, irregularly paid. The big time is the mass media that play ball with the Kremlin”(2007 p.154). Politkovskaya made a name for herself as a journalist who would tell the truth no matter what, reporting on the situation in Chechnya and the Caucasus, and the truth behind scandals such as the Dubrovka theatre siege in 2002 and the Beslan school siege in 2005 (2007, p. 44-45). Refusing to be silenced ultimately took her life; Politkovskaya was murdered outside her Moscow apartment in October 2006.

However, in liberal democracies the overt propaganda of the sort Goebbels used to great effect in Germany, or the political pressure placed on journalists like Politkovskaya in Russia would not be possible. But it would naïve to believe democratic governments are unable to use the media to sell their policies to the voting masses. And as we have seen in recent years with the “War on Terror” and the Iraq War, the media can be as complicit as their governments in deceiving the public. Continue reading

Issues of balance and fairness in war reporting by underground

The following article was an assignment for a Public Affairs Reporting paper as part of my graduate diploma in Journalism. It is a commentary on the challenge of maintaining impartiality when reporting on conflict.

The first casualty of war is truth.

Issues of balance and fairness in war reporting

By Paul Harper

Objectivity as a goal has largely been dismissed by journalists as unrealistic, if not impossible. Impartiality, however, is regarded by many to be attainable. It is an ideal that journalists strive for.

But in wartime the game changes. The constraints of commercial interests ensure the packaged news is palatable to their audience and to advertisers. There are things audiences do not want to see and hear. When a nation is at war the media files in behind the troops, another cog in the war machine, patriotically flying flags, they become the cheerleaders repeating the official line.

Impartiality, balance and fairness go out the window. Continue reading