An exclusive feast of current affairs items: Global rallies for release of Julian Assange; Rupert Murdoch empire grows like virus; Murdoch goes after ABC Classic Radio; “Fatty O’Barrell” fits India perfectly; House of Lords savages rebirth of apartheid; The New Yorker morphs into Clinton-Obama-Biden tool; Rush Limbaugh unlocked
Julian Assange wins global support
On 24 February 2020, the first day of his extradition trial in London, a day of global demonstrations of solidarity with Julian Assange was marked by a rally in Sydney’s Martin Place with speeches by leading journalists, human rights activists and civil libertarians.
Similar events were held around Australia and across the world, including in London, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Edinburgh, Belfast, Dublin, Paris, Rome, Madrid and New York.
Speakers at the Sydney event, attended by hundreds of supporters, included former SBS presenter Mary Kostakidis. She chaired the meeting and gave a stirring opening speech in support of Assange, who is languishing in London’s notorious Belmarsh jail as the US regime seeks his extradition on trumped-up charges that threaten him with 175 years’ imprisonment.
Others speakers at the rally included fellow journalists Mark Davis of SBS Dateline, former ABC presenter Quentin Dempster, ABC investigative journalist Andrew Fowler, Professor Wendy Bacon and crusading expat John Pilger, as well as Sydney Peace Prize founder Professor Stuart Rees, Anglican priest Father Dave Smith, representatives of the NSW Civil Liberties Union and lawyer Greg Barns. A message of support was read from the journalists’ union, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance. Following the rally the speakers led a march to the UK Consulate at Circular Quay.
In his speech Mark Davis, a lawyer as well as a journalist, unmasked the lie that Assange had dumped thousands of unredacted US government emails and put lives at risk. Other speakers referred to the report vindicating him by UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer. Father Dave Smith from Dulwich Hill, known as Fighting Father Dave, appealed: “Don’t crucify the messenger.”
Loud applause greeted John Pilger, who said that the Morrison Government has a moral responsibility to bring Assange home and that popular pressure is needed to achieve this. Pilger, a recent visitor to Belmarsh prison, said he was deeply shocked by the conditions in which Assange is being held and the denial to him of due process and access to his lawyers. He concluded: “If Julian Assange is extradited, British justice is dead.”
That same evening, ex-Premier Bob Carr, a former Senator and Australian Foreign Minister, spoke of Assange’s plight at a public meeting at State Parliament on Macquarie Street. He urged the audience to stop Assange’s extradition to the US and to seek his return to his homeland and family.
Despite the prominent appearances at both events by some of Australia’s most distinguished journalists, mainstream media coverage was negligible. Predictably, Assange’s campaign for free speech was completely ignored by the Murdoch media, but not so predictably it was ignored by the newspapers formerly owned by Fairfax Media [Independent. Always!!!!] as well.
It was left to the Sydney Criminal Lawyers’ Association website to report on the speeches.
Rupert Murdoch’s evil empire unleashed
While the world has been wrestling with the coronavirus pandemic, the Murdoch media empire has been pro-active as well, particularly in Australia where the parent company is headquartered in Adelaide.
Without any notice, Australian Associated Press (AAP), Australia’s premier news service for 85 years, is to close. The biggest beneficiary? Murdoch. The biggest losers? Everyone who believes in media plurality.
AAP’s closure will deprive rural, regional and overseas media of a 24/7 media exchange with Australia. What will fill the vacuum? Murdoch’s news.com.
If it wants to stay competitive, the cash-strapped ABC will have to boost its site abc.net.au which is currently the best and most reliable online news service. Murdoch will then demand the closure or sale of abc.net.au so his news.com can have a monopoly of spreading “news” around Australia and overseas. Naturally, Murdoch will only gather “news” from his own News International sources.
One angry media executive tweeted: “Any reader of Australian media should have appreciated the enormous contribution of AAP to daily coverage but on the courts round in Sydney I was blessed with becoming acquainted with their industry, ethos and generosity. It’s a very sad day indeed.”
Another wrote: “The saddest day: AAP closes after 85 years of excellence in journalism. The AAP family will be sorely missed.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government will welcome AAP’s closure for two reasons – 1) it is a favour to Murdoch. The media tsar will return the favour by carrying acres of pro-Coalition coverage; and 2) it will harm the ABC whose continued existence is loathed by Liberal and National MPs.
My question is this: Will Labor’s Anthony Albanese oppose the closure of AAP and demand the restoration of adequate funding for the ABC? Don’t wait up ….
Murdoch goes all classical
The threatened closure of Classic FM, the ABC’s world-class classic music programme, has produced an outpouring of anger and disbelief from loyal listeners.
Five years ago Francis Merson, when editor of Limelight, the Australian monthly classical music and arts magazine, wrote a moving editorial on behalf of the loyal and inspiring supporters of classical music and those highly talented people who compose, play and produce it. It’s still relevant today.
Merson wrote: “One of the most depressing things about the proposed cuts to the ABC is the scant attention paid in the media to reductions at Classic FM. Broadsheet journalists have documented and discussed the announcements of cuts to regional radio, TV production in Adelaide, foreign bureaux… But nowhere, it seems, has anyone in the media mentioned what might result from slashing the country’s only national classical music station.
“The cruellest cut of all is to live broadcasts, which are being halved. And the ones who will lose out are the small ensembles and festivals. Big-hitters like the London Symphony at the Opera House are likely to survive; smaller local events like the Woodend Winter Arts Festival may not be so fortunate. Julian Day’s program New Music Up Late is apparently going under the knife, along with the notion that classical music might be something people create today.
“It’s hard to blame the ABC’s management for this; they have been forced to reduce costs across their departments, and Classic FM is only one of many to suffer. Yet it is chastening to observe how little Classic FM appears to mean to those in the media, given how much it means to all of us. As for what it means to those in power… enough said.”
Today the major beneficiary of Classic FM’s closure will be Rupert Murdoch’s media interests. No wonder his lieutenants are scouring the classical music community searching for people to host a planned new programme. Murdoch wants to steal as much of the ABC’s audience as possible and cripple its budget. What better way than to execute Classic FM and then start a similar programme on one of his own platforms?
Shouldn’t the board of the ABC and its management be condemned for allowing this act of cultural vandalism to be carried out? Some people argue that the ABC should not be criticised because “it’s all we’ve got”. What a cop out. It merely allows the “pragmatists” to bite their tongues while letting Scott Morrison’s disgraceful administration and its appointed board and management at the ABC to get away with blue murder.
Barry O’Farrell’s shift to India
In a previous Notebook I wondered about the suitability of former NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell, former CEO of Racing Australia, to become Australian High Commissioner to India. One of my loyal readers provided an immediate explanation.
“Do they gamble in India?” he wrote. “Of course they do. The first racecourse was established in Madras in 1777. Indian online bookmakers are to cricket like the coronavirus is to Wuhan. O’Farrell, a former director of the Sydney Cricket and Sports Ground Trust and a former Racing Australia CEO, will be in his element.”
Further research has revealed that O’Farrell flagged his diplomatic promotion by unexpectedly quitting Racing Australia on 8 November 2019. The formal announcement stated that for “professional reasons Mr O’Farrell is currently unable to disclose” he could no longer continue running Racing Australia. In other words, O’Farrell was planning his move to India about four months before it was officially announced.
Chatterboxes from online social media were quick to comment, saying that horseracing had become a “disgrace” with animal liberationists “landing all the punches”. His early departure was described as “dubious” which prompted a retort saying: “Nothing dubious, he is going to be ambassador to India.” That was in November last year! The horsey crowd knew about O’Farrell’s India appointment months before ordinary punters heard a whisper of it.
House of Lords savages Trump’s peace plan
Baroness Tonge, formerly Jenny Tonge, née Smith, an ex-Liberal Democrat MP for Richmond Park (1997-2005), has scored a minor victory in Britain’s House of Lords by initiating a serious debate on Palestine, Zionism, US President Donald Trump’s “deal of the century” and the death of the two-state policy.
Baroness Tonge currently sits as an independent in the Lords where her background in medicine (she is a trained doctor) and education (she was formerly the LibDem shadow minister for children) informs her stance.
At 4.30 pm on 27 February 2020 in what is known as “the graveyard slot” – after PM’s questions and before the dinner break – she gave a detailed account of the Israeli regime’s step-by-step creation of an apartheid state in which Palestinians have been relegated to a second-class status in their own land.
“I do not apologise for mentioning the two words Bantustans and apartheid because today, as anyone who is a Guardian reader may have seen, there is a letter in it from 50 ex-ministers and leaders in Europe and across the world, describing the (Trump/Netanyahu) plan as similar to South African apartheid.”
Signatories to the letter included Lord Hain and Lord Patten as well as the former UK foreign secretary Jack Straw.
Baroness Tonge scorned the bloodstained Balfour Declaration upon which the Zionist leaders based their case for a homeland, after rejecting Uganda and Australia. She argued: “This whole terrible injustice is the responsibility of this country. We started it; we are responsible; they are our people and we should be looking after them. We have denied them any protection and we have also humiliated them by our neglect. The people of Palestine are not going to surrender. They are still there, waiting for justice, and there are many of them.”
Lord Oates, a Liberal Democrat, rubbished Trump’s “peace deal of the century” as “an unmitigated catastrophe… It is a plan for the permanent national humiliation of the Palestinian people. It would make Israel de facto ruler over millions of people who do not wish to be ruled by it. As a consequence, it guarantees insecurity and instability for Israel and the whole region for decades if not centuries to come.”
Can you imagine any current Australian senator of any political persuasion initiating a debate on Israeli Zionism?
From chic to propaganda sheet
The New Yorker, a weekly magazine published since 1925, is widely regarded as the height of cultural sophistication by America’s East Coast liberals. Its essays, journalism, poetry, reviews, fiction, columns and cartoons have attracted the cream of America’s inter-war and post-war writers.
Those who wrote for The New Yorker and struck fame and fortune included Truman Capote, John Cheever, Roald Dahl, Alice Munro, Dorothy Parker, SJ Perelman, James Thurber and John Updike.
Founder Harold Ross proclaimed the magazine’s eccentric radicalism when he wrote in the 1925 prospectus: “It has announced that it is not edited for the old lady of Dubuque.” It certainly wasn’t. It was written for the Big Apple’s radical chic with lots of good humour and literary arguments.
Ross dropped out of school at the age of 13 and ran away to take a job on the Denver Post. After graduating as a reporter in the then raunchy columns of East Coast journalism, he launched The New Yorker to capture the emerging literati who loved money, opinions, gossip and real estate news.
But that was in the last century. Today, as the 21st century unwinds, it has been captured by the Clinton/Obama/Biden wing of the Democratic Party. It is relentlessly partisan and its writers are humourless propagandists for the billionaire clique running the Democrats and New York State.
Harold Ross and his wife Jane Grant, an accomplished New York Times reporter, would spin in their graves if they saw a 2020 edition if their once-stylish magazine.
Reviewing a current production of the Greek classic Medea by Euripides starring our very own Rose Byrne, born in Balmain, and with an all-female cast, Vinson Cunningham should be awarded a Brass Grammy for pseudery. He writes of Bryne’s performance: “Hers is the kind of repertoire that is best picked up by a camera; it’s especially interesting to scrutinise her this way given the play’s underhum [sic] of unease about how women’s rage is often medicalised rather than intently engaged: it’s fine to watch her closely, but listening is optional. Unfortunately, the screen saps kinetic force from where it belongs, in the physical space onstage – attentive energy is zero-sum, no matter what the multitaskers tell you – and creates an awkward distance between two forms of acting, filmic and theatrical.”
His second review is of “Mac Beth” [not Shakespeare’s Macbeth but a dreadful caricature of it] which is performed by a group of schoolgirls in school uniforms engaged in a coldblooded murder. “When Lady Macbeth declares a need to ‘feel’ her child’s death ‘like a man’, we hear these as desires for yet more expressive range, as imagined extensions of what it means to act.”
In neither review does Mr Cunningham make clear whether the plays are any good and worth paying exorbitant prices to book a seat. That’s because Mr Cunningham is writing for himself and not the readership.
Quote of the Week
“It’s just the common cold, weaponised against Trump by the media and lefties.”
Rush Limbaugh, the far-right American commentator explaining the coronavirus epidemic which has claimed almost 4,000 lives in many countries around the world. Limbaugh received the Medal of Freedom from his friend President Trump during the State of the Union address to Congress. At a Centre for Disease Control (CDC) press conference this week Trump wore his “Keep America Great” re-election cap and boasted about his “natural ability” to handle the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, Trump’s only alleged link to transmittable human disease is syphilis.