Many journalists become very defensive when you suggest to them that they are anything but impartial and objective. The problem with those words "impartiality" and "objectivity" is that they have lost their dictionary meaning. They've been taken over. "Impartiality" and "objectivity" now mean the establishment point of view.
We are beckoned to see the world through a one-way mirror, as if we are threatened and innocent and the rest of humanity is threatening, or wretched, or expendable. Our memory is struggling to rescue the truth that human rights were not handed down as privileges from a parliament, or a boardroom, or an institution, but that peace is only possible with justice and with information that gives us the power to act justly.
Since September 11, the Mirror has reached back to its roots, and decided, it seems, to be something of its old self again. I received a call asking if I would write for it again, which I've done. It's a pleasure to be able to do that. It's become an important antidote to a media that is, most of it, supportive of the establishment, some of it quite rabidly rightwing. The Mirror is breaking ranks, and that's good news.
When the invasion began, the British public was called upon to 'support' troops sent illegally and undemocratically to kill people with whom we had no quarrel. 'The ultimate test of our professionalism' is how Commander McKendrick describes an unprovoked attack on a nation with no submarines, no navy and no air force, and now with no clean water and no electricity and, in many hospitals, no anaesthetic with which to amputate small limbs shredded by shrapnel. I have seen elsewhere how this is done, with a gag in the patient's mouth.
If development was measured not by gross national product, but a society's success in meeting the basic needs of its people, Vietnam would have been a model. That was its real "threat." From the defeat of the French at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 to 1972, primary and secondary school enrollment in the North increased sevenfold, from 700,000 to almost five million. In 1980, UNESCO estimated a literacy rate of 90 percent and school enrollment among the highest in Asia and throughout the Third World.
Whenever a journalist says to me, "Oh, you don't understand, I'm impartial, I'm objective," I know what he's saying. I can decode it immediately. It means he channels the official truth. Almost always. That protestation means he speaks for a consensual view of the establishment. This is internalized.
In Western Australia, minerals are being dug up from Aboriginal land and shipped to China for a profit of a billion dollars a week. In this, the richest, 'booming' state, the prisons bulge with stricken Aboriginal people, including juveniles whose mothers stand at the prison gates, pleading for their release. The incarceration of black Australians here is eight times that of black South Africans during the last decade of apartheid.
Many journalists now are no more than channelers and echoers of what George Orwell called the 'official truth'. They simply cipher and transmit lies. It really grieves me that so many of my fellow journalists can be so manipulated that they become really what the French describe as 'functionaires', functionaries, not journalists.
The attack on Iraq has been long planned. There just hasn't been an excuse for it. Since George H.W. Bush didn't unseat Saddam in 1991, there's been a longing among the extreme right in the United States to finish the job. The war on terrorism has given them that opportunity. Even though the logic is convoluted and fraudulent, it appears they are going to go ahead and finish the job.
In the sublime days before 11 September 2001, when the powerful were routinely attacking and terrorising the weak, and those dying were black or brown-skinned non-people living in faraway places such as Zaire and Guatemala, there was no terrorism. When the weak attacked the powerful, spectacularly on 9/11, there was terrorism.
When governments and other vested interests attack me personally I usually regard it as a vindication, otherwise they would use facts. That's why I believe in the wonderful Claud Cockburn dictum, 'Never believe anything until it is officially denied.' It has certainly been my experience.
It's quite clear that Gore won most of the votes. I think the accurate description for them is a military plutocracy. Having lived and worked in the United States, I must add that I don't want to make too much of the distinction between the Bush regime and its predecessors. I don't see a great deal of difference.
This is total war. We are fighting a variety of enemies. There are lots of them out there. All this talk about first we are going to do Afghanistan, then we will do Iraq... this is entirely the wrong way to go about it. If we just let our vision of the world go forth, and we embrace it entirely and we dont try to piece together clever diplomacy, but just wage a total war... our children will sing great songs about us years from now.
Using the passive voice is always very helpful. Mind you, a lot of that propaganda English emanates from here. The British establishment has always used the passive voice. It's been a weapon of discourse so those who committed terrible acts in the old empire could not be identified.
Iraq has been successfully demonized as if everybody who lives there is Saddam Hussein. In the build-up to this attack on Iraq, journalists have almost universally excluded the prospect of civilian deaths, the numbers of people who would die, because those people don't matter.
The British Labour Party has always had a very strong "Atlanticist component," with an obsequiousness to American policies, and Blair represents this wing. He's clearly obsessed with Iraq. He has to be because the overwhelming majority of the people of Britain oppose a military action.
The major western democracies are moving towards corporatism. Democracy has become a business plan, with a bottom line for every human activity, every dream, every decency, every hope. The main parliamentary parties are now devoted to the same economic policies — socialism for the rich, capitalism for the poor — and the same foreign policy of servility to endless war. This is not democracy. It is to politics what McDonalds is to food.
Israel is the American watchdog in the Middle East, and that's why the Palestinians remain victims of one of the longest military occupations. They don't have oil. If they were the Saudis, they wouldn't be in the position they are now. But they have the power of being able to upset the imperial order in the Middle East.
Orwell is almost our litmus test. Some of his satirical writing looks like reality these days. When you have someone like Cheney who talks about "endless war" or war that might last fifty years, he could be Big Brother. You have Bush incessantly going on about the evil ones.
British establishment uses "the royal we," as in, "We think this." You hear a lot of that these days. It erroneously suggests that those who are making the decisions to bomb countries, to devastate economies, to take part in acts of international piracy involve all of us.
Rupert Murdoch gave up his Australian citizenship in order to buy television stations in the United States, which is symptomatic of the way Murdoch operates. Everything is for sale, including his birthright. The Mirror is not read by soccer hooligans. It's read by ordinary people of this country. That comment is simply patronizing. But to be criticized by the Moonies and Murdoch in one breath is really just a fine moment for me.
Who are these evil ones? In 1984, the evil one was called Goldstein. Orwell was writing a grim parody. But these people running the United States mean what they say. If I were a teacher, I would recommend that all my students very hurriedly read most of Orwell's books, especially 1984 and Animal Farm, because then they'd begin to understand the world we live in.
Journalists don't sit down and think, "I'm now going to speak for the establishment." Of course not. But they internalize a whole set of assumptions, and one of the most potent assumptions is that the world should be seen in terms of its usefulness to the West, not humanity. This leads journalists to make a distinction between people who matter and people who don't matter.
More terrorists are given training and sanctuary in the United States than anywhere on earth. They include mass murderers, torturers, former and future tyrants and assorted international criminals. This is virtually unknown to the American public, thanks to the freest media on earth.