No answers on MH17

Alex Romanoff writes: Re. “Let’s put aside conspiracy theories” (Thursday). I agree with Neil James in so far as it is distressing to the families of MH17 victims to have this issue raised again. So when a clutch of our local political mediocrities began to play it as a political football to raise their ratings in the polls, I was incensed enough to submit a short reminder that there are ulterior motives in political discourse, as well as other opinions in regard to the tragedy itself.

Neil James’ diatribe in response contains so many factual errors that it is not worth responding to point by point. Other correspondents have already done so in the past. Suffice to say there is a vast body of reports, analyses, opinions and contrary views on the net of which only the wilfully blind would not be aware. So, being dogmatically opinionated but factually vacuous, Neil James plays the losers gambits of ridicule (tin foil hats, Elvis on the grassy knoll), and slander (crank, Russian propaganda dupe, idiot).

In regard to his slander, I submit that as Neil James is an Australian citizen of (I assume) Anglo-Irish parentage, so I am an Australian citizen of Russo-Ukrainian parentage. This background as well as my life experiences have given me a far broader world view than that which Neil James sees through his narrow ideological slot. These experiences include being a skinny, stressed-out kid with a Russian surname living in North America during and after the McCarthy witch-hunt era.  The bullying and abuse scarred me for life, but then I was too small and too weak to defend myself.  I am now old enough, big enough and ugly enough to speak out when crypto-fascist neo-McCarthyism raises its ugly head, in this time and place and elsewhere.  And speak out, by God, I shall!

Meanwhile, in Paranoid Fantasy Land where Neil James lives, Elvis may be preparing the next assassination.  With his vast knowledge of killing machines, perhaps Neil James can give him a hand.

Serge Galitsky writes: I hope Neil James does better at representing Australian service personnel than he does at spinning for Uncle Sam. Australians have a real concern to learn the facts behind the downing of Flight MH17. (We also need to ask why the hell it was allowed to fly, in fact was steered over, a war zone: but our shirt-fronting prime minister seems reticent in raising this with Ukraine.) Neil James is persuaded that MH17 was shot down by a Russian supplied SAM.

As both Russia and Ukraine drew upon the arsenal of the USSR, that says little of the actual firing of the supposed rocket. A Ukrainian defence official is recently quoted by Russia Today as identifying shrapnel marks as coming from a superseded BUK system no longer employed by Russia, but still used by by Ukraine. No doubt this will be corrected. I do not know whether there is sufficient evidence to conclude whether the plane was downed by a SAM, airborne missile or even by machine gun fire (or combination thereof).

It seems to me that James’ appeal to the supposed consensus among unidentified “international analysts” is meaningless in the absence of the reconstruction of the aircraft. James makes a circular argument against the supposition the aircraft was struck by an airborne missile fired from a “supposed” trailing aircraft. He reasons the actual damage “strongly and probably unequivocally” points to an SAM fired head on and supports this with the suggestion “no doubt the classified ELINT evidence backs this up.” Well if you have the electronic surveillance evidence, you’re home and hosed. But where is the evidence?

Social media chat (thoughtfully edited by Ukrainian, or was it US authorities, with photos of the supposed “terrorists”,some in full dress uniform, with captions and inaccurate translations) is cute. But equivocal. I don’t know if this is what James dignifies with the military acronym COMINT. Neither do we know whether the photograph of a BUK launcher supposedly being repatriated to Russia was the shot taken in Krasnoarmeisk (as seen in the street sign in the photo) a town that had fallen to the Ukrainian army.

All of this though is beside the point. Whatever the means of destruction, who was it who caused it and for what reason? Neil James propounds the theory it was a separatist cock-up followed by denial. Plausible. Equally so, a Ukrainian cock-up. Or worse, deliberate killing to blacken your opponent. Absolutely vile. We will not know without full investigation. The picture is all the more murky when you take into account that in Ukraine there are “volunteers” militia financed by oligarchs composed of people with extreme fascist ideation, sporting nazi insignia and with possibly little oversight by Kievian authorities.

I might record my own dissatisfaction at the level of reporting in Australia and the absence of any analysis. Australian reportage is a shallow reflection of the New York Times and Washington Post. America has more to offer, and if you did into the quality commentaries (let alone the blogosphere) you get to see a lot more. You don’t get to see it in Fairfax or even our ABC.

On Fairfax’s cuts to regional newspapers

Jason Richardson writes: Re. “Who needs subs? Fairfax turns to reporter-only model” (Thursday). I’ve been reading The Irrigator since moving to southwestern NSW five years ago and it’s a shame to see Fairfax proposing cuts to local newspapers. No doubt there’s money to be saved by centralising operations in Wagga Wagga because these newspapers are loved by their communities.

A Facebook page called Hands Off The Irrigator was created early last week. As of Friday morning there are 1347 followers, which is more than 10% of Leeton Shire’s population. This community relies heavily on The Irrigator for information about the region. Television news has been broadcast from Wagga Wagga since it left Griffith. Wagga is also where the closest ABC reporters are located. When I moved to Leeton to work as communications manager for Leeton Shire Council I quickly learned to value of The Irrigator in reaching residents. I also saw evidence of a short-lived competitor and, seeing how neighbouring Narrandera continues to have an independent newspaper, can’t help thinking this could be a foolish decision for the Fairfax-owned Riverina Media Group.

Peter Fray

Get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for $12.

Without subscribers, Crikey can’t do what it does. Fortunately, our support base is growing.

Every day, Crikey aims to bring new and challenging insights into politics, business, national affairs, media and society. We lift up the rocks that other news media largely ignore. Without your support, more of those rocks – and the secrets beneath them — will remain lodged in the dirt.

Join today and get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for just $12.

 

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW