Written 618 pm Jan 22, 1991 by pegtribune in cdpmideast.forum THE MEDIA WAR By Jan McKemmi
Written 6:18 pm Jan 22, 1991 by peg:tribune in cdp:mideast.forum
THE MEDIA WAR
By Jan McKemmish
The old cliche that the first casualty of war is truth has
been done the rounds in the current Gulf crisis.
Australian journalists have been refused positions on the
naval ships in the Gulf, on the grounds that there is no
room for them and they have not been trained in chemical
After pressure from the media Senator Robert Ray, Minister
for Defence, said Australian journalists could reboard ships
if the Navy approved.
Senator Ray denied that he was using censorship but admitted
in the Sydney Morning Herald that "we have the ability to
censor anything that comes [off the ships]."
Meanwhile on Australian TV screens each night a ratings war
is taking place. Brian Henderson has been recalled from
holidays to front Channel 9 news in this crucial hour.
Channels 7 and 10 are advertising their Gulf coverage.
Channel 2 has given over the Seven Thirty Report to The Gulf
The first of these publicly funded programs went to air on
January 15, the same day large anti-war rallies took place
around the country. So what `news' did Channel 2 give us?
First a specialist in Arab affairs told us negotiations
would not work. Then a somewhat bemused Chris Masters, prize
winning journalist with a reputation for getting to the
heart of things, moved a pointer over a map of the Middle
East, telling us how the war will happen.
Then there was a military type who had one of those dinky
models of the Middle East, also expounding on how the war
will happen. Apart from Chris Masters' one sentence
conclusion that we must not forget that war is about people
dying, the whole program looked and sounded like propaganda
for the American war machine.
The anti-war rallies did not get a mention.
There was no argument against the war and no analysis of the
relationship between war, diplomacy, propaganda and news.
There seemed to be a studied effort not to discuss
Australia's military and diplomatic commitment. Nowhere was
it being said that Australian warships will attack Kuwait/Iraq
or that the first strike would be a US/British operation.
For this sort of information you had to go to SBS and the radio.
There was something obscene about the TV media's gung-ho
fixation on weapons and scenarios. The `news' consisted more
and more of speculation, will it be a long or short war; how
many casualties will there be; who has the superior air
power, the most tanks, soldiers, rounds of ammunition, and
the best technology. With radar and satellites and lasers
the US forces know when an Iraqi soldier moves. Stealth
The tone and style of these `discussions' is reminiscent of
the newsreels of the 1940s. And there is a mechanical
repetition of the argument that appeasement does not work
(look at what happened with Hitler). The result is a closed
case to the whole media presentation of the crisis and war.
By the end of the week the Australian media had started to
change its focus. A Channel 7 phone-in poll on Thursday
evening elicited over 60,000 responses with 63% voting
against the war.
And public and political calls for the recall of parliament
escalated. The Network for Peace and the Conflict Resolution
Network presented a 10,000 signature petition to acting
Foreign Affairs Minister Neil Blewett. asking for the recall
Opposition Leader John Hewson and National Party member Ian
Sinclair took up the call and on Thursday morning Senator
Ray, Minister for Defence, supported the recall of
parliament. Perhaps he knew what was going to happen as he
spoke. Within an hour the Pentagon had officially
acknowledged that air attacks on Kuwait and Baghdad had
Bob Hawke announced the recall of Parliament for two days,
it is in session as Tribune goes to press.
The media has got its war, let us hope that the debate on
Australia's role and the campaigns for peace in the Gulf,
only just begun, do not go unreported or become silenced by
the live-to-air excitement of people dying.
Spokesperson Bob Boughton said last week that the people of
Alice Springs are particularly concerned, "not only do we
have a military personnel in the Gulf, but perhaps more
importantly, the US controlled spy bases at Pine Gap,
Nurrungar and North West Cape are playing a vital role in
the US war plans. Pine Gap is just out of our town, it will
be assisting commanders in the Gulf to kill many people
through the provision of battlefield intelligence. This
makes a mockery of previous statements by the Australian
government that the functions of these bases are to preserve
Women Against War
In Sydney last Friday women and children dumped two
containers of bones on the second floor on the UN offices as
a protest against the UN decisison to use force to resolve
the Gulf crisis.
In support of their action Women against War said: "The UN
opposed the invasion of East Time by Indonesia and did
nothing. The UN opposed the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and
the West Bank and did nothing. The UN opposed the US
invasions of Granada and Panama and did nothing. The UN
found the US guilty of breaking Nicaragiuan sovreignty and
Greens (WA) Senator Jo Vallentine has called for an
immediate ceasefire in the Middle East and demanded that
End of text from cdp:mideast.forum
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