The media on David Hicks
Katherine Stuart writes: Re. “David Hicks freezeframed in the media’s perpetual present” (Friday). The kind of media amnesia that Bernard Keane so clearly evinces in his article is indeed of grave concern — for democracy, in which rigorous journalism plays a pivotal role. When serious journalism is reduced to what amounts to the latest gossip, or whatever old gossips fits the line you find it expedient to push, it is wide open to serious manipulation for political purposes.
Recently, David Hicks was persuaded to come to Bellingen in northern NSW to speak to a paying audience (under the umbrella of the Free University of Bellingen), answering questions in interview style. Hearing him tell his story of systematic torture by the interrogators at Guantanamo Bay was so nauseating and confronting that I almost had to leave the auditorium. Newly appointed editor of the local rag Mark Dodd attended too, and in both his questions to Hicks and his subsequent write-up of the event in the Bellingen Courier Sun, he chose to push the same old line that Hicks must be guilty of something.
Dodd ignored any of the claims by Hicks at the event referring to the lack of application of any actual law to his case, and of the alleged deal struck between John Howard and Dick Cheney for his release prior to the 2007 elections. These were claims that would have been interesting to have verified or refuted by a journalist, since Hicks and his wife on a number of occasions claimed that these matters were now “on the public record”.
Dodd’s article resulted in a torrent of letters of protest from those who had attended. Dodd countered with a reply even more devoid of rational argument than his original article. If this is what we are served up as journalism on stories of significant interest to the safeguarding of democracy and the rule of law, we are indeed being poorly served by the profession we have come to rely on for providing accurate and unbiased reporting of the facts.
What’s wrong with the EU?
Glen Frost writes: Re. “Rundle: send in the clowns of UK politics” (Friday). I like Guy Rundle’s observations on Britain; they are witty and he picks the stereotypes very well. His economic observations are often wrong, however; Thatcher didn’t shut down northern industries like coal and shipbuilding; she did remove state subsidies to those sectors, banned secondary picketing, and introduced legislation to ensure union voting on strikes was more democratic; the good and the profitable businesses survived, the rest didn’t. A lesson I’m sure Australia’s car manufacturers are busy trying to ignore. Manufacturing in UK in the 1980s couldn’t compete with Asia, because of lower costs, better technology and/or their government subsidies. I have two words for Rundle about the economics of shipbuilding: South Korea.
To the main point of the article –the rise of UKIP.
Rundle’s analysis of UKIP’s supporters is entertaining, but doesn’t explain for an Aussie audience. Let me explain. There are a large number of Brits who never liked Europe, but in the past 20 years this group has grown as they have seen Brussels take their sovereignty and make a giant mess of a supposed monetary and political union. These folk feel the EU is fundamentally flawed — and recent events in Greece, etc, have proved them right. They feel history is on their side.
What was originally a post-war trading block to help boost economies and create an open market (i.e. the EEC) gradually became a bureaucratic and undemocratic superstate that couldn’t, or wouldn’t, control the irresponsible, the lazy and the corrupt countries. I would also point out that the numerous treaties and referendums, which many countries reject, have often only been passed with slim majorities; this both confuses and alienates many Brits. Surely matters of such national significance as giving up sovereignty or your currency would require a referendum majority of 80%, not 51% (and they don’t have compulsory voting).
UK Labor is in love with the idea of Europe, as are many of the Liberals and Conservatives. The issue of Europe has often split the Conservative Party. UKIP taps into this.