Whistleblowers jailed as US and UK attack press freedom
Julian Assange is in jail in London and Ms Chelsea Manning, formerly Bradley Manning, is in jail in Alexandria, Virginia.
Assange is an Australian-born journalist and founder of Wikileaks while Private first class Manning is a transgender American soldier, turned whistleblower.
Together they blew the lid on the war crimes of the US military, its contractors and the CIA in Iraq and Afghanistan, showing the world the barbaric reality of the imperialist invasion, occupation and devastation of independent nations of the Middle East and Central Asia.
In the past few days, the jailing of Assange and Manning has flushed out the rats, sell-outs and apologists of the mainstream capitalist media. Editors, columnists, commentators and journalists are falling over themselves to reach a microphone – any microphone – to pledge their loyalty to, and support for, the ferocious state persecution of Assange and Manning.
It is “rat time” in the media. If called to testify against left-wing colleagues, they would do so. If asked to dob in “Mussie lovers” in their workplaces, they would do so. If asked to name colleagues who are “against the government”, they would do so. If truth be known, many of them have already sold their grubby souls and named names under the cowardly guise of supporting “national security”.
Hollywood actors, producers and directors formed a queue in the 1950s to turn informers. Now the same professional cowardice is rampant in newsrooms across the Western world as former upholders of “press freedom” become narks.
Instead of strikes, protests and demonstrations, celebrations broke out when Assange was dragged out of the Ecuadorean Embassy in London and Ms Manning was arrested and bundled off to jail just down the road from CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.
Excuses for professional treason
Journalists invented lies and hypocrisies in an attempt to justify their apostasy:
- Assange and Manning aren’t “real” journalists (and therefore, presumably, not worth defending);
- They had endangered the lives of servicemen and women (but their revelations have not resulted in a single casualty among service personnel; the only injury suffered has been to politicians, military chiefs and intelligence liars in the US, UK, Israel, UN and Australia);
- Britain and the US have the best court systems in the “free world”, so let the law take its course (the courts and their political-appointed judges have a grotesque record of miscarriages of justice and infamous trial management. At his first London appearance District Court Judge Michael Snow, not previously known for any expertise in psychology, labelled Assange a “narcissist who cannot get beyond his own selfish interests”. As intended, the judge’s quote made headlines around the world. Please note that Judge Snow’s outrageously prejudicial remark came even before a trial, witnesses or legal arguments!);
- Assange and Manning have wealthy backers with cash to hire the best lawyers in the land (so let them defend themselves; why should we raise our voices?);
- They are a pair of dysfunctional “narcissists” who only have themselves to blame for their predicament (the ultimate cop-out because it ignores the elaborate state planning to try these two men for treason and throw them in jail as an example to journalists in Europe, America, Australia and elsewhere. The lesson is this: journalists and whistleblowers can run but they can’t hide from the long arm of capitalism’s deep state.)
Treachery has many forms
There has been a different tone to the professional treachery in Britain, America and Australia, representing different political interests.
In Britain, for example, Prime Minister Theresa May’s announcement of Assange’s arrest was welcomed in the Commons by cheering, hand-clapping and baying Tories. Many on the Labour side were cheering too. They were the remnants of Tony Blair’s right-wing New Labour, the very people who took Britain to war in the Middle East on the phoney CIA/Israeli pretext of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs).
The mass media embraced the change in discourse from Brexit by filling pages and airwaves with barking mad “experts” to vilify Assange.
The “rape” charge resurfaced (he has never been charged with rape and the Swedish government officially withdrew sex charges against him in August 2015). One of the women involved in original investigation demanded he been returned to Stockholm to face “rape” charges. Why her 2019 change of heart?
Predictably, The Guardian whose hate-filled inventions against Assange are now legendary among serious-minded people, weighed in with a long article headlined: “Failure to extradite Assange to Sweden would endorse ‘rape culture’, say women’s groups.” (14 April 2019).
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair “raped” Iraq by ramming a pack of lies through the Cabinet, Parliament and the Press to kick-start George Bush’s war. Yet he lives in plutocratic luxury in mansions in four countries and regularly ponders aloud about returning to politics to be the “saviour” of either Britain or the European Union.
America’s lynch mob
In the US, the enemies of Assange and Manning are cut from a quite different cloth. They are mainly Donald Trump supporters who hate Manning because she is a transgender heroine from the military.
She received a pardon from former President Barrack Hussein Obama in January 2016 days before Trump moved into the White House. Neo-fascist Trumpeteers, many of them hard core gun-toting white supremacists, regard Obama as a “negro” and a Moslem with a forged birth certificate.
From the other side of the aisle, recently registered socialist-minded Democrats from the Bernie Sanders movement regard Chelsea Manning with semi-religious awe. She is their very own Joan of Arc, Mother Theresa and Eleanor Roosevelt all rolled into one.
Bernie’s battlers are Manning’s chief defenders on the Democratic side of the aisle. The Clinton power clique want the pair of them silenced and locked away.
The former Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton destroyed a reported 33,000 private emails from her IT gadgets but that has never been investigated. Assange and Manning released 750,000 military emails exposing war crimes of the US-led military and as a consequence they have been carted off to jail with the whole drama captured by prime time television (tipped off in advance).
Assange and Manning are not criminals but political prisoners. They have earned their status as political prisoners through their courageous actions to inform public opinion. The cost to them and their families has been enormous.
Australia’s lost values
In the midst of a Federal Election campaign, leading media and political figures from the so-called Left and Right have taken time off to support the jailing of fellow Australian Julian Assange.
Predictably, Peter Greste has been spruiking his venomous views of Assange. Greste, the former Al-Jazeera reporter arrested in Egypt as a “spy”, is the Coalition’s favourite pro-American and anti-Assange voice, and he was given amazing space in the Sydney Morning Herald to rubbish Assange and lead the media’s charge. Canberra officialdom gave Greste unlimited legal and financial support during his jailing; will the same apply to Assange? Hell No!
What about some old-fashioned even-handedness with a piece in the Herald and Age by Australian journalist John Pilger?
In Australia the plight of Chelsea Manning has been largely ignored because her transgender status is a subject that media people would prefer to ignore.
But Assange is an Australian citizen. The outpouring of hate directed at him is doubly disgraceful. In the past, such venom was directed at journalists Wilfred Burchett and Francis James when they dared to criticise Australia’s war policy in Vietnam and China. Both visited Hanoi during the war and were denounced. Scott Morrison and Julie Bishop were in the communist capital a few weeks ago and they were hailed.
Remarkably, the same people who condemned war atrocities during the Vietnam war are now happy to see Assange and Manning jailed in 2019. What has happened?
Australian media ownership is concentrated in fewer hands, hundreds of newspapers have been closed and thousands of jobs lost. Accompanying this concentration of influence has been the wholesale importation of American militarism, neo-liberalism and slush culture.
Politicians and their media enablers will do anything to divert attention from the US cultural, economic and military takeover. NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman captured headlines today with the “news” that Oliver and Charlotte are the most popular baby names in NSW for the fifth time since 2010. Is that “news”?
The US imperialist grip on the Australian media is so complete that one very senior journalist told me last week that it was now “impossible” to write a report detailing Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s struggle against Washington’s illegal plotting for regime change.
Bill Shorten faces a credibility gap
In an idle moment of pre-election rumination I thought that Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s budget-in-reply speech in Parliament was the best he had ever given. Then I realised: he didn’t write it. It was compiled by others and he simply read it out after making some minimal pencil changes.
Re-reading the speech, it is clear that it was compiled by a committee. Experts in various fields – health, education, economics, climate change, science, cancer research and the environment – all had a go and put in their penny’s worth.
I have no way of knowing the names of those involved but here’s an educated guess. They are all from the past history of Federal Labor – Gough Whitlam, Bill Hayden, Bob Hawke, Paul Keating, Kim Beazley and Kevin Rudd.
Their language is dated stuff with references to “light on the hill”, “it’s time”, “no child will live in poverty” and “the great moral challenge of our generation”.
These phrases and slogans excited voters in the past, but will they work in 2019? Judging from the reaction in some quarters, Shorten’s elegantly crafted appeal fell on many deaf ears.
The committee in charge of Shorten’s speech meant well and it was welcomed by loyalist ALP members. But “rusted on” supporters are a minority: they are going to vote Labor come what may.
But they are not in sufficient numbers to win a federal election. The mass of people – working class, middle class, professional class, elderly, middle-aged and young – need to be mobilised around a set of simple, direct and appealing propositions. Shorten’s budget-in-reply speech was filled with motherhood statements which have genuine appeal.
The question is this: will a Shorten government deliver as it promised in the election campaign?
Modern-day social democrats, particularly Hawke, Keating and Rudd, were married to the notion of a benevolent form of capitalism in which wage-cutting, pay freezes, privatisation and out-sourcing were used to hide a smug anti-union and anti-socialist agenda. The result? Things got much worse for all working people while the top end of town simply got richer and greedier.
Today’s Labor leaders have changed the conversation to talk about “fairness” and “equality”. No wonder people feel disenchanted and cheated: they were sold a myth and now they are being asked to vote for another set of myths. An apology might help or even a simple statement that “in the past we got it wrong”.
Many voters are so fed up with politicians’ speeches they either don’t believe them or they have switched off. Either way, it makes the Federal Election scheduled for May 18 very difficult to call.
Labor is clearly the favourite. In March the ALP recorded its 50th consecutive win over the Coalition in two-party preferred polling. Normally, that is a put-away-your-glasses result. No government in Australia has survived such a relentless assault in the polls.
One thing going for Labor is that Morrison and the Coalition are buried in the past. They look like it and they sound like like it too: white blokes, white shirts, blue ties and black shoes.
They are still trying to sell “trickle down” economics involving tax cuts for the rich to help them create wealth and jobs for the rest of us. Experience tells us that the top 1% or 10% trouser the tax cuts for themselves, increase bonuses for senior executives or give any corporate wealth to their shareholders and not their employees.
As one keen political observer told me last week: “The only thing that can stop Bill Shorten becoming the next prime minister is a photograph of him chock-a-block up a choir boy on the altar of his local cathedral.”
Not my choice of words, but the meaning is clear enough.
“Arfur” Daley’s disaster campaign
Among friends and neighbours there was widespread disappointment when Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s ghastly Coalition was re-elected on 23 March for another four years.
I shared their gloom but I was slightly cheered by the fact that the pollsters and commentators all got it hopelessly wrong – again! They put their support behind clueless Opposition Leader Michael Daley, a right-wing urger from Randwick Labor Club.
But Labor’s electoral failure started to make sense when Daley gave his concession speech on election night. He made specific mention of two members of his campaign team – Ms Kris Neil and Bruce Hawker, old lags from the Bob Carr era.
No wonder Daley was saddled with a vague and non-committal manifesto, no wonder he delivered speeches filled with bullet points and “sound bytes” and no wonder TV footage was found at the last minute of a speech he had given in the Blue Mountains scapegoating the Chinese community.
It was the kind of racist dog-whistling we’d heard before. It was instantly deniable but it sent a clear xenophobic message to the electorate in the hope of stealing the votes of Aussie red necks i.e. the types who go to New Zealand to shoot Moslems at prayer in their mosques.
This may not have been Daley’s intention but is certainly where he ended up.
Gladys makes power grab
Premier Berejiklian has wasted no time in establishing a centralised, bureaucratic, anti-democratic oligarchy.
Its purpose is to run NSW on behalf of private vested interests – real estate agents, property developers, investment banks, gaming, wagering and sporting industries and the pub and club industries.
The casino and poker machine bloodsuckers are rubbing their hands with glee. Champagne corks are popping in boardrooms all over Sydney.
Under Project Gladys, the role of parliament will be greatly diminished. It will become a mere talking shop for a couple of weeks each year as real power is transferred to unaccountable and faceless quangos such as Destinations NSW, Infrastucture NSW and Service NSW.
She has shrunk Cabinet into a handful of senior ministers and bundled portfolios into super-ministries. Don Harwin, one of the great drongos of the Cabinet, has been promoted with extra portfolios: Special Minister of State (marginal seat campaigns and candidate selection), Minister for the Public Service and Employee Relations (jobs for the boys and girls, while frontline staff are cut), Aboriginal Affairs (hand out crumbs to corrupt Uncle Toms and Aunty Violets), Minister for the Arts (tickets for first nights at the opera and theatre), Vice-President of the Executive Council (buttering up the cops, the military and the CEOs), Leader of Government Business in the Legislative Council (schmoozing Mark Latham of One Nation and the reward of limo and chauffeur).
Melinda Pavey is now Minister for Water, Property and Housing and Stuart Ayes is Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney.
The ambitious Anthony Roberts, friend of both John Howard and radio ham Alan Jones, has lost the crucial Planning portfolio and been handed the tomfoolery of Counter-Terrorism and Corrections. This represents a major demotion for Roberts to clear the decks for the elevation of Treasurer Dominic Perrottet to the premiership.
Big business dash for cash
The money to be made by private corporations in NSW over the next couple of years is stupendous. Lashings of taxpayers’ money will be spent on projects to satisfy the grand vision of Sydney becoming a “global city”. Residents, school students and elderly citizens can “go to hell” in the mad dash for cash.
Projects will be approved on the basis of politics and whether they assist the Coalition to hold certain seats and not on the basis of social need.
Berejiklian won’t be premier at the next State Election in March 2023. She’s getting out. She has already anointed her successor to be Dominic Perrottet, current Treasurer (helping the Big End of Town) and Minister for Industrial Relations (crushing the unions, penalty rates and wages).
The handover from Berejiklian to Perrottet is timed for 2021 which will give “Dom” two years to sell his corny messages of “new leader”, “fresh blood”, “let’s finish the job” and “don’t trust Labor”.
I’m placing my faith in Robbie Burns, the indomitable Scottish poet, who wrote, “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft agley.”
Translated it means: The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. No matter how carefully a project is planned, something may still go wrong with it.
Feather duster post mortem
Tribal headquarters of NSW Labor in Sussex Street, Chinatown, has announced a post mortem of the State Election campaign and what went wrong. Members and trade union chiefs are demanding to know why Labor didn’t assemble more votes despite the fact that Gladys Berejiklian’s Coalition was loathed right across NSW.
If serious, a post mortem of this order requires a knife, blowtorch, tomahawk and thumbscrews. Instead the appointed pathologists are equipped with feather dusters, aromatherapy oil and colonic irrigation kits. Yet another cover-up and whitewash is underway.
In charge of the post mortem is right-wing apologist Michael Lee, a do-nothing communications minister in the Keating government. Another panel member is safe-as-houses Evan Moorhead, former general secretary of the Queensland ALP while the only “independent” surgeon is Kirsten Andrews who was an accomplished backroom adviser to previous Labor governments in NSW.
Publication of the report will be delayed long enough to allow Kaila Murnain, NSW general secretary, to grab a $200,000-a-year seat in the Senate, the rest and recreation home for former general secretaries Graham Richardson, Stephen Loosley, Mark Arbib, Karl Bitar, Matt Thistlethwaite and Sam Dastyari.
The handful of people still supporting NSW Labor’s grubby machine which lives off the backs of working people are called “true believers”. In what? I ask.
Geoffrey Rush wins famous victory
The big question in the wake of actor Geoffrey Rush’s libel victory was: how would it be covered in Rupert Murdoch’s massive media conglomerate?
Chris Merritt, the “legal” galah at The Australian, put the house argument with a straight face: “There is something rotten at the heart of the law of defamation and it was very clear yesterday by the Federal Court. The court decided that the damage inflicted on the reputation of a world famous actor is worth almost twice as much as the damage inflicted on a factory worker who might lose a leg.”
Suddenly, Merritt had placed News Ltd at the forefront of campaigning for the rights of injured workers. This was entirely new territory for the billionaire publisher and his hirelings.
Normally, Murdoch papers are frothingly mad about “greedy” trade unionists and their “privileges”. They are condemned as “scroungers” and “bullies” who promote “picket line violence”.
I’m looking forward to the change of step at Kippax Street in Surry Hills and a campaign in support of health and safety rights for trade unionists. By the way, if you see any pigs flying over News Ltd HQ, please let me know.
Over the years I have opposed the defamation courts claiming remedies from the media. The system is rigged against the plaintiff, the legal costs are exorbitant and the lengthy ordeal is life-changing. However, I made an exception with the marvellous Geoffrey Rush whose career had been trashed by worthless and mindless morons from Planet Murdoch.
I hope that the Murdoch empire will make an honourable settlement with Rush’s accuser actress Eryn Jean Norvill. She suffered too. Perhaps News Corp could guarantee her leading roles in future TV shows made in Sydney, New York or London.
Truth about White Australia
All sides in the Australian Federal Parliament condemned Brenton Tarrant, the white supremacist from Grafton, who killed 50 Moslems at prayer in two mosques in Christchurch, NZ. The chief theme was that Tarrant’s white supremacist views had no place in the Australia Parliament.
That’s not correct. The views not only emanate from the Federal Parliament, they adorn the pages of its history.
For example, Australia’s first Prime Minister, Edmund Barton, tabled the Immigration Restriction Act as soon as the first Commonwealth Parliament assembled.
The Act introduced the White Australia policy. He said: “All men who come to these shores with a clean record who leave behind a memory of class distinctions and religious differences of the old world are Australians. No nigger, no Chinaman, no lascar, no Kanaka, no purveyor of cheap coloured labour is an Australian.”
White Australia laws were only amended 50 years later and abolished by Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in 1972. Media proprietors and editors were complicit in this organised racism. The front-page strapline on the cover of The Bulletin magazine, “Australia for the White Man”, was only removed at editor Donald Horne’s insistence during his second editorship from 1967-1972.