Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Are Australians the Cultural Plebs of the World?

Are Australians the Cultural Plebs of the World?

The Australian newspaper seems to think so.  This week’s cracker of an editorial from the Australian (“It is Enough to Makes Us Cringe, 16 Feb) bears repeating. According to the Editor: “ The cargo-cult mentality... has not been eradicated from ABC, where producers still insist on giving star billing to disgruntled expatriates with little useful contribution to make to the national debate. Watching the ABC fawn over John Pilger and others who admonish us for what they think is wrong with the nation they left half a century ago is amusing on one level but betrays a troubling cultural insecurity at the highest levels of the national broadcaster”.

The editorial was a reaction to Pilger's appearance on the popular ABC show Q and A.

Rather than portraying a cultural insecurity by the ABC, it points to an inexplicable insecurity by The Australian about anybody who dares to present a world-view which differs from its own. John Pilger’s views resonate with millions of people fighting for justice and freedom around the world.  Everywhere he goes he commands considerable respect for his fearless and honest journalism.  He is certainly one of Australia’s leading journalists and documentary filmmakers.

The editorial goes on to say that “Pilger's shallow arguments were easily exposed by Egyptian Middle Eastern politics analyst Lydia Khalil, who countered the anti-American rhetoric with measured, factual debate”.  Khalil is an intelligent analyst, but her arguments were often contradictory and pandered to the accepted official narrative in the United States and Australia. However, that is not a criticism. It is important to be offered a wide-range of views and to encourage this sort of debate in the interests of strengthening public understanding of issues that are already a lively part of discourse in Europe, the Middle East and the United States.  (I hope Khalil, as a credible analyst, is not fooled by this flattery into the trap of feeding the Murdoch machine with one-sided analysis in the future. Many before her have been bewitched and co-opted in this fashion and have become cynical, faithful apologists and sounding boards for the accepted wisdom of the day in the paper's editorial pages).

The Australian editorial reflects a parochialism that continues to plague the media and Australia’s understanding of world events. John Pilger, Germaine Greer and Jeffrey Robertson are intellectual exports of which we should be proud. We should not cringe when confronted with their sophisticated analysis of issues to which they have shown life-long commitment.

Regrettably, the Australian press has become difficult to read.  Analysis that is full of sloganeering and bashing of the left and anyone who demonstrates some passion for a cause merely confirms Pilger's longstanding view that the concentration of media in Australia has been to the detriment of thoughtful, honest, evidence-based reporting. I used to look to these papers for a range of views.  Instead, I find my  views (based on hours of meticulous reading of journals, opinions on blogs, scholarly articles and official comment) are often slammed and ridiculed.  Like many, I have turned to blogs and alternative media for my news.  I don't mind my views being challenged by others. It is the bullying disguised as serious journalism that concerns me the most.
The revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia and protests elsewhere in the Middle East point to an unstoppable trend of people sharing information in spite of the flood of Government and mainstream dribble.

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