“You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.” That instruction to a war correspondent in Cuba attributed to William Randolph Hearst might have been apocryphal but he certainly knew how to make xenophobia sell newspapers. If Hearst did not actually start the Spanish American War over Cuba in 1898, he helped it along a bit with plenty of pictures of Spanish atrocities.

The great tradition of stirring up a dislike of foreigners to sell an extra paper or two lives on with the papers world-wide of Rupert Murdoch at the forefront. Who could forget that wonderful Gotcha headline from the London Sun as the Argentinian Belgrano was sent to the bottom of the Atlantic when nowhere near the Falklands war zone?

This month it is the turn of the Sydney Daily Telegraph to prove that yellow journalism (named after a comic strip in Heart’s original New York Morning Journal ) is alive and well with the Japanese cast as the cruel and heartless foreigners with barbaric habits. The Japanese crime is to have whale eaters among their population whose ugly appetites result in whaling boats sailing into Antarctic waters to harpoon these giants of the sea.

The Tele has taken up the anti-whaling cause with a passion. “Stop the Humpback Hunt” it has screamed for days now while bringing its readers such insights as:

  • Sea cops’ fight to the death: The battle to save humpback whales from Japanese hunters is intensifying on the high seas, with “sea cops” vowing to find whaling ships and “destroy them”.
  • Anti-whaling star faces arrest: Isabel Lucas is a wanted woman after Japanese police issued an arrest warrant for the role the former Home and Away star played in an anti-whaling protest.
  • Defiant after sea of blood swim: Former soapie starlet Isabel Lucas has joined The Daily Telegraph’s campaign to save the whales, urging the Japanese to drop their primitive policy.

My personal favourite from the anti-Japanese campaign is this picture provided by Greenpeace which is the Tele’s partner in whipping up the hysterical support for the whales:


You will note, I hope, that it is not just any whale being carved up to provide red meat sushi. Japan, we are told, kills “pregnant” whales.

So if you were wondering why it was that the Labor Government of Kevin Rudd has turned so militantly pro-whale and anti-Japan, now you know. How could Peter Garrett not come out defiant against those who butcher mothers and unborn babies?

The tabloid press can be as persuasive in the Australia of 2007 as it was in the United States more than a hundred years ago. But this time, thankfully, the Government is not sending real gun boats to deal with the dreaded and murderous foreign fiends. Australians are doing in to battle aboard a P&O vessel with customs men armed with nothing more lethal than video cameras.