Rupert Murdoch expands his empire (again) … British PM Theresa May in Murdoch’s pocket … Aleppo and Mosul: tale of two cities … Australia drawn deeper into Middle East quicksand … Phillip Knightley’s take on war correspondents …
Rupert Murdoch: local and global
This week Rupert Murdoch secured full ownership of my local paper, The Tweed Daily News. It is just the latest acquisition of a regional newspaper by Murdoch’s empire. While he is snapping up papers all over the country at bargain basement prices, Fairfax is flogging its newspaper assets and attempting to transform itself into a fully digitalised communications company, ending the print editions of The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and the Canberra Times.
The next step in Fairfax’s elaborate suicide plan is rumoured to be a merger with Channel Nine. It will be a case of two struggling companies falling into each other’s arms. Which one will come out on top? Anybody’s guess.
The century-old Tweed Daily News started as a family-owned broadsheet based in Murwillumbah. Its local, state, national and international coverage was exemplary: readers were offered articles from London, Moscow, New York and Beijing on the front page, sharing space with sugar, wool and wheat prices, weather reports and local sporting fixtures.
After successive overseas owners, including the O’Reilly family from Dublin, the paper has been ransacked and reduced to twice-weekly print editions and a daily digital service. It is kept alive by a very dedicated staff and a tireless editor, Nikki Todd. Murdoch’s posse of apparatchiks are on the way to Tweed Heads to “integrate” the newspaper into the Murdoch culture when it will be required to reprint the raving ideas of the mogul’s stable of crazy commentators. We’ll have to start calling it The Tweed Daily Bolt.
Murdoch’s Sky TV swoop
If your attention was diverted for a nano second, you would have missed Murdoch’s purchase of the Sky TV network in Britain described as the “bargain of a lifetime”.
When Murdoch’s UK empire was exposed in the phone-hacking scandal five years ago, his bid to grab Sky looked dead in the water and it was formally withdrawn. But a massive lobbying effort spearheaded by the Murdoch family and backed by several PR companies has persuaded Prime Minister Theresa May to approve the purchase.
The plummeting value of the pound following Brexit – which Murdoch supported – has lowered the purchasing price and given Murdoch ownership of Europe’s biggest and most lucrative pay TV business with 21 million subscribers.
He also owns two UK dailies – The Times and The Sun – and two Sunday papers – The Sunday Times and The Sunday Sun (replacing The News of the World) making News International the country’s most influential media empire.
To capture the 61% of Sky it didn’t already own, 21st Century Fox agreed to pay $19 billion (US) for the network. By not paying tax and with the wholehearted backing of the City of London and Wall Street, the cash won’t be hard to raise.
For Mrs May it is a deal made in heaven. She will be given highly favourable coverage in Murdoch-controlled media which she desperately needs if she is to survive 2017.
Aleppo and Mosul, two graveyards
Two humanitarian crises are unfolding in the neighbouring states of Syria and Iraq. One involves the retaking of Aleppo (Syria) and the other is the recapture of Mosul (Iraq).
In both war zones, the target is ISIS, but the media coverage couldn’t be more different. Smashing IS resistance in Mosul is a humanitarian campaign to save the civilian population while smashing IS resistance in Aleppo is savage brutality by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
According to orchestrated Western media coverage Aleppo has become “the biggest humanitarian crisis in the world” although fighting for control of the city has been taking place for more than 12 months.
It became a “humanitarian crisis” when the Syrian army backed by Russian ground forces and warplanes finally routed ISIS and drove them into surrender. On the surface IS’s defeat seemed a cause for celebration by all those who nominally support “the war on terror”. Instead, there was panic, fear and loathing in Washington, London, Riyadh, Tel Aviv and Canberra.
Why? Because the imperialist strategy of “regime change” – overthrowing Bashar al-Assad – had been routed when the Syrian army reclaimed the second most important city in the country and inflicted a bloody defeat on the Western-supported terrorist gangs including IS, al-Qaeda, al-Nusra Front and the so-called Free Syrian Army.
If Western leaders in Washington, London and Canberra are so devastated by Aleppo’s “humanitarian” crisis, I’m puzzled why they don’t organise a massive emergency airlift to take the refugees to the safety of the US, the UK and Australia.
But I know and so do you. Many of the Aleppo refugees are hard core IS terrorists who were paid, armed and trained to overthrow al-Assad. Now their paymasters in the CIA, MI6 and ASIS are throwing them under a bus. Will any become tomorrow’s Twin Towers bombers?
Catastrophe unfolds in Mosul
Meanwhile, just over the border, the Iraqi army backed by US and Australian special forces, Iranian field officers and the Kurdish Peshmerga are fighting to retake Mosul from IS terrorists. Predicted to be a two-week offensive, the battle is about to enter its third month and this war zone is an even bigger mess than Aleppo.
The Abbott and Turnbull Governments, with the full support of Labor, have committed Australian troops and warplanes to the Iraqi battlefields. Australian soldiers are fighting alongside the Iraqi army which was declared murderously unfit and disbanded by the CIA after the US-led invasion in 2003.
But the army previously described as a bloodstained and homicidal force has since been “rehabilitated”. The same senior officers and soldiers who were sacked, interrogated, jailed and tortured in Abu Ghraib prison are now back in business, in uniform and on the American payroll and being sent into battle in Mosul alongside Australian forces. The pariahs of Saddam Hussein’s regime have become the military muscle of the new Baghdad regime.
Who else is fighting IS in the siege of Mosul apart from the official Iraqi army and Australian special forces? The backbone of the fighting is being conducted by the Kurdish national liberation army, the Peshmerga, which is high on the official list of “terror” organisations in the US, Britain and Australia.
Senior Peshmerga commanders have a clearcut war policy. They want to retake Mosul, clear out IS and turn the city into the capital of a new state of Kurdistan in northern Iraq. The Kurds have already claimed part of western Syria as “liberated” territory under Kurdish control and now they want part of Iraq as well.
Will the Baghdad regime, Turkey, Iran or Syria accept this plan? No, of course not. The imperialists will betray the Kurds – just as they have always done; when Peshmerga fighters have completed their missions against IS in Syria and Mosul, they will be thrown aside and their national ambitions dismissed.
One mindless “war correspondent” quoted a Peshmerga “general” saying that his first duty in IS-free Mosul would be to plant the Kurdish flag on top of the main government building.
Really? It will remain there for as long as it takes the local Iraqi Sunnis or the Iraqi army to shoot it down.
Where to now?
Because of current foreign policy, Australia is inflicting terrible pain and suffering on people in two Arab countries. Civilian casualties are rising and tens of thousands have joined the tidal wave of refugees with nowhere to work, study or live.
In these unwinnable conflicts, Australia’s good name is being dragged through the mud and its cherished national values trashed. The Australian economy is being drained of billions of dollars which would better be spent on direct foreign aid and urgently needed social projects at home.
The Liberals, Nationals and Labor are united in following the policies of Washington; they’re trashing Australia’s independence and the economy. Nations cannot carry out brutal, cruel and heinous crimes against other nations without being damaged themselves. As oppressor nations brutalise smaller nations, they become brutalised themselves. It is a law of humanity that is centuries old.
Phillip Knightley recalled
Sydney-born, London-based journalist Phillip Knightley, who died a week ago, debunked many legends surrounding war correspondents in his 1975 book, The First Casualty.
He took the title from the 1917 words of US Senator Hiram Johnson from California who said: “The first casualty when war comes is truth.”
After scouring through thousands of newspaper reports over centuries of conflict, Knightley concluded: “The age of war correspondent as hero appears to be over.” He elaborated on that thesis in a second edition of his book in which he included Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s war in the south Atlantic against Argentina’s sovereignty over the Malvinas (Falkland Islands), East Timor and Rhodesia.
During the past century, war correspondents from the mainstream media, newspapers, magazines and television in particular, have become a necessary arm of propaganda during military conflicts.
After the humiliating debacle in Vietnam, the US and its allies learnt that there was no use fighting an overseas war unless people at home supported you. Since then, selected “safe” war correspondents have been nominated by their proprietors and screened by the army and intelligence agencies and then “embedded” on the battlefield.
This operational technique was employed when Washington and its allies drove Iraqi troops out of Kuwait in “Desert Storm” and during the US-led invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria.
Where were the war correspondents when Israel’s military machine was destroying Gaza, killing hundreds of Palestinian civilians so that Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu could win re-election? War crimes, what war crimes?
Knightley’s book explosively debunked the hero status of many Western war correspondents and the late Ron Knowles wrote in admiration: “A fascinating, damning book. There may be many reputations left in tatters in Knightley’s wake.”
Knightley acknowledged the shining role of those foreign correspondents who stayed staunch to their journalistic integrity. I want to pay tribute to them too, because many were former Sunday Times colleagues.
However, most of the current crop of “embedded” war correspondents are following in the footsteps their deeply flawed predecessors by spreading lies and propaganda instead of providing news. Their reports are as reliable as the claims by George W Bush, Tony Blair and John Howard that Iraq had to be invaded, flattened and occupied in 2003 because Iraqi President Saddam Hussein possessed “weapons of mass destruction”.
The hacks who went along for the ride to Baghdad celebrated the slaughter of Operation Enduring Freedom. Remember it?
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Great Crashing Bores – 24*
Jeez, mate, I wish the bloody media would give Donald Trump a fair go. I’m telling everyone to give him a chance. He was forced to say some pretty crazy stuff during the election campaign; he had to do that to get elected. But when he gets into the White House, everything will settle down. You’ll see, he will become a bloody marvellous president. Already the US stock market has gone through the roof; the Dow Jones index soared to 19,911 points this week, almost 20,000; and Wall Street is back on its feet. He’s appointed a group of billionaires to his Cabinet and dropped all the ridiculous shit about helping the “forgotten working people of America”. I’m all the way with Donald J.
- FoDI and GCB are satirical fiction