Has there been a more disgusting public spectacle in modern
Australian life than the Packer memorial service? asks Cameron Horn in The Age. And how did we “come to the conclusion that a life spent turning
an inherited fortune into an astronomically bigger one is a life
well lived?” We didn’t. Rather, as Orwell showed in 1984,
those who control the means of communication control the language
itself, and can assert, and have a large enough number of people
actually believe, that freedom is slavery, war is peace, or that a
life spent gorging oneself, squandering amounts on blackjack tables
that could help solve, say, the global malaria epidemic, avoiding
one’s civic duties and speaking to everybody with barely concealed
contempt, is a life of generosity and grace.

Terrorism was an Italian trait back in the 1960s;
the kind that, as far as integration into Australian society was
concerned, rendered Italian migrants an intractable, insoluble problem, says Waleed Aly in The Australian.
This week, Prime Minister John Howard spoke of “a fragment” of
Muslim Australia that militates against successful integration because
it “is utterly antagonistic to our kind of society”. This, he insisted,
is unique in the history of Australian immigration: “You can’t find any
equivalent in Italian or Greek or [presumably non-Muslim] Lebanese or
Chinese or Baltic immigration to Australia. There is no equivalent of
raving on about jihad, but that is the major problem.” Welcome to the doctrine of Muslim exceptionalism. And yet, “we have
seen this all before.”

As we approach the third anniversary of the onset of the Iraq war, it seems
unlikely that history will judge the intervention or the ideas animating it
kindly. And more than any other group, it was the neoconservatives inside and
outside the Bush administration who pushed for democratising Iraq and the Middle
East, writes Francis Fukuyama in The Guardian.
But were the US to retreat from the world stage, following a drawdown
in Iraq, it would be a huge tragedy, “because American power and
influence have been critical to the maintenance of an open and
increasingly democratic order around the world.” The problem with
neoconservatism’s agenda lies not in its ends, “but in the
overmilitarised means by which it has sought to accomplish them.”
Neocons would not have taken this turn but for the peculiar
way the Cold War ended. Why not? For one, it seems to have created
an expectation that all totalitarian regimes were “hollow and would
crumble with a small push from outside.”

Few foreign correspondents are
particularly well-educated. Most go from one posting to another and rarely stay
at any for more than a few years. “They usually arrive in a country with only a
cursory knowledge of its history; rent living quarters in an expensive and far
from typical neighbourhood in its capital; never learn to speak its language or
languages with any proficiency; and socialise heavily among themselves.” At the
same time, says Hillel Halkin in Commentary, they are expected to present themselves as highly knowledgeable
about the place they are reporting from and to file daily stories beginning the
moment they arrive. “Moreover, these stories must compete for space and
prominence with others filed from elsewhere and must satisfy an editorial staff
in a home office that worries it is being outdone by rival media.” And
if this is true generally, it is even truer of journalists writing about Israel
and the Palestinians.

Worth reading Highly recommended

Peter Fray

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