Archive for the ‘‘Mainstream’ media’ Category

Pic: EPA/FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA

The following is the text of a talk delivered by veteran journalist and film-maker John Pilger at the British Library in London last Saturday (Dec 9).  His talk was part of a festival called “The Power of the Documentary” organised by the Library.  The festival was held to mark its acquisition of the archive of his written work.

by John Pilger

I first understood the power of the documentary during the editing of my first film, The Quiet Mutiny. In the commentary, I make reference to a chicken, which my crew and I encountered while on patrol with American soldiers in Vietnam.

“It must be a Vietcong chicken – a communist chicken,” said the sergeant. He wrote in his report: “enemy sighted”.

The chicken moment seemed to underline the farce of the war – so I included it in the film. That may have been unwise. The regulator of commercial television in Britain – then the Independent Television Authority or ITA – had demanded to see my script. What was my source for the political affiliation of the chicken? I was asked. Was it really a communist chicken, or could it have been a pro-American chicken?

Of course, this nonsense had a serious purpose; when The Quiet Mutiny was broadcast by ITV in 1970, the US ambassador to Britain, Walter Annenberg, a personal friend of President Richard Nixon, complained to the ITA. He complained not about the chicken but about the whole film. “I intend to inform the White House,” the ambassador wrote. Gosh.

The Quiet Mutiny had revealed that the US army in Vietnam was tearing (more…)

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Balcony Over Jerusalem: A Middle East Memoir by John Lyons with Sylvie Le Clezio, HarperCollins, (2017); reviewed by Rod Such

Of all the pillars that help hold up Israel’s special type of settler-colonialism and apartheid, one of the strongest remains the role of Western media in amplifying Israeli hasbara (propaganda). That pillar, however, is beginning to crack.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the reflections of prominent Australian journalist John Lyons in his book Balcony Over Jerusalem, an account of his and his filmmaker wife Sylvie Le Clezio’s six-year stint in the city, from 2009 to 2015. There, Lyons was based as the Middle East correspondent of The Australian, one of the country’s leading newspapers.

There is much that is noteworthy in this book, such as Lyons’ detailed analysis of Israel’s various attempts at “social engineering.” This includes the multilayered, bureaucratic permit regime designed to stifle Palestinian resistance to occupation and ongoing land theft, buttressed by closed military zones and other means of land confiscation that dwarf the West Bank settlements themselves.

But what ultimately stands out in Balcony Over Jerusalem is the (more…)

This year is the 50th anniversary of the partial liberalisation of anti-gay laws in Britain.  The reform applied to England and Wales, but not Scotalnd or the part of Ireland still incorporated in the ‘United Kingdom’ – nor to the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.  The reform also did not extend to the armed forces or the merchant navy.  In the article below, a longtime British marxist and former activist in the gay liberation movement looks at the significance of the law change – then and now.  

by Mike McNair

Under the 1967 Sexual Offences Act homosexuality between consenting adult males in private was no longer an offence. ‘Adult’ was defined as someone over the age of 21; and ‘in private’ was subsequently defined by the judiciary: homosexual acts were only permitted in private property and there had to be only two people present. In a public place like a hotel it would still be an offence. Given the limits of the 1967 act, I did not expect anything like the scale of celebration there has been around its 50th anniversary.

In addition we have had a brief rush of publicity around a group of LGBT anarchists forming a fighting unit alongside the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria against Islamic State. Rather startlingly, the Daily Mail on July 25 ran the headline, “These faggots kill fascists” – a photo showed them raising the rainbow flag in Raqqa.1

This story of a very small group of volunteers has been all over the mainstream media. There has been, I think, a valid argument, presented on Al Jazeera by a Syrian-Palestinian woman activist, that this group was in substance holding up the flag in favour of the general frame of western intervention in Syria, rather than having any realistic expectation that the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) will display strong and persistent solidarity with lesbian and gay rights.2

But the coverage demonstrates that this summer’s celebration of gay rights is very broad. The story is that our modern liberal society has liberated lesbians and gay men from the chains of medieval oppression. Alongside this celebration, LGBT issues, just like women’s issues, have been made into an instrument for the justification of dropping bombs on foreign countries.

In this context it is worth looking a little bit further at what has been celebrated: the 1967 Act, what followed it and what went before it. As I have said, it decriminalised homosexual conduct between consenting males over the age of 21. Even though the ‘age of majority’ was reduced to 18 in 1969, as far as homosexual acts were concerned, it remained at 21 until 2000.3

The 1967 Act had an interesting consequence, in that it initially led to a substantial increase in prosecutions! Roy Walmsley, a member of the Home Office Research Unit, reported in 1978 that offences for ‘indecency between males’ recorded by the police had doubled since 1967, and the number of persons prosecuted trebled between 1967 and 1971. Most of the additional prosecutions involved two males 21 or over, so it was not primarily about consent, but about the ‘in public’ issue. In 1978 there were wide variations between police areas in respect of this.4

This is by no means the only instance of law reform leading to an increase in prosecutions. The same was true of the reforms of street prostitution (introduced under the Street Offences Act 1959), of the 1959 Obscene Publications Act, and of the 1967 Abortion Act. Nearer to the core of criminal law, it was also true of the various offences under the Theft Act 1968. The replacement of laws which are understood to be ancient, unfair, technical and difficult to understand by new legislation incentivises the police to prosecute – and makes it easier for them to do so. And it makes it easier for magistrates and juries to convict.

I might add that the ‘gross indecency’ offence, which had previously been triable by jury, became, as a result of the Act, triable before magistrates. That increased the number of prosecutions, as magistrates have always been more willing to convict than juries.

Resistance

This is not the whole story, however. There has also been a good deal of judicial and prosecutorial resistance to (more…)

by Don Franks

I don’t care what anyone thinks, I’ve had enough of all the talk about child poverty.  Some of the talk is well-intentioned, but much of it’s actually bullshit

Phrases roll off the tongue but what does poverty mean in New Zealand today?

The Ministry of Social Development works from the level of income set at  60% of median household disposable income after housing costs. This is deemed a reasonable level to protect people from the worst effects of poverty.

Source: Stats NZ 2016

In these terms it’s calculated that the poverty line after deducting housing costs for a household with two adults and two children lies at $600 per week or $31,200 annually in 2016 dollars. For a sole parent with one child it is $385 per week or $20,200 annually in 2016 dollars. Inadequate amounts of money for a decent life and, by such reckoning, there are around 682,50 people in poverty in this country, or one in seven households.

New Zealand is a far more unequal country than it was a generation back. Over the past three decades, under both National- and Labour-led governments, New Zealand has gone from being one of the most equal to one of the most unequal nations in the wealthy OECD countries.  In those 30 years, incomes for the average of the top 10% income earners roughly doubled while lower and middle incomes barely increased. Let’s compare two reports, almost a decade apart.

The 2007 Statistics Department study Wealth and disparities in New Zealand revealed that the top 10% of wealthy New Zealand individuals owned over half of New Zealand’s total net worth, and nearly one fifth of total net worth was owned by the top one percent of wealthy individuals. At the halfway mark, the bottom half of the population collectively owned a mere 5 percent of total net worth.

The most recent available information is a 2016 Statistics Department study Household Net Worth Statistics: Year ended June 2015 (published 2016).  It reveals that the (more…)

by Don Franks (Rewrite of Blind Alfred Reed song)

There was never a time when everything was cheap
But these days the cost of living is so steep
If you’re stuck on a benefit
You just know that you’ll be hit
Tell me – how can the poor folks stand such times and live?

Meritia used her platform for the poor
Like Oliver Twist, please sir, we want some more
The bourgeoisie wouldn’t let that ride
She was duly crucified
Tell me – how can the poor folks stand such times and live?

Not so long ago , Labour was little lead
Now everywhere you look is blazing red
Well, you can believe the dazzling spin
Just remember what class you’re in
Tell me – how can the poor folks stand such times and live?

Now in a few more days, we all get to vote
They say that means we’re all in the same boat
parliaments for the smug well dressed
Its not there for the dispossessed
Tell me – how can the poor folks stand such times and live?

 

by Daphna Whitmore

For Labour’s 34 MPs the odds of becoming leader are quite high. Yesterday, for the fifth time in nine years, the party dipped into its talent puddle to present a new saviour. It was Jacinda Ardern’s turn to work some magic. Jacinda

In the press gallery expectations were not high as Jacinda stepped up for her first press conference as leader. The reporters seemed genuinely amazed when Jacinda showed she could speak fluently about nothing much, and could even inject humour into the void.

Four months ago she was elected to be Labour’s shiny new deputy leader. With her face beaming down from the hoardings alongside the last leader, what’s-his-name, she was to bring some X-factor. Somehow the magic didn’t happen and the polls fell further. That was yesterday; today Labour is optimistic.

Labour is the most optimistic (more…)

by Phil Duncan

Well, according to the media – and there seems to be quite a consensus – the answer to the question above is a resounding ‘yes’.  According to Tim Murphy, co-editor of Newsroom, policies adopted at last weekend’s Green Party AGM have “placed the Greens on the risky side of radical. Probably just where they want to be.”

According to TV1 political editor Corin Dann, the Greens have made “a bold statement on social justice”.  On Spin-Off, Simon Wilson suggested, “For the left, which was looking like it was going to watch another election slide by, it was the most impressive statement of the year.”  Columnist Stacey Kirk argues, Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei, is “counting on New Zealanders to not only voice concern over inequality, but to collectively do something about it that may go against the nature of their very core.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, the most hyperbolic response has come from (more…)