The mainstream media continues to beat the drums of war while voices of truth and reason are being silenced, writes Dr William Briggs.
*Also listen to the audio version of this article on Spotify HERE.
The drive to war and the demonisation of China have seen many people speak up and speak out. That same manipulated media has muffled those voices and pushed dissent to the margins. Journals and websites like this one are increasingly becoming almost samizdat publications. The mainstream media has played an important role, not only in silencing dissident voices but in convincing the public that there is little effective opposition.
A glance at the anti-AUKUS website shows that over 1,000 individuals and more than 200 organisations have thus far lent their support for a rational and sane response to the rising threat of war with China and obscene military spending.
There are many important voices among the signatories but their voices are not regularly heard in our media. Their words do not appear in the major daily newspapers, regardless of how well-credentialed they might be. Our former Prime Minister, Paul Keating, has effectively been relegated to the sidelines for voicing a position that does not fit with the official line.
And, while the collective wisdom of so many is ignored, the war-mongers of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) are given free rein.
‘In so many ways, the product of ASPI is critically important, not only in informing the Australian public, but those of us in government who seek to play a role in this space.’
Marles states that the Australian public must be informed. He recognises this to be ‘critically important’ but there is an unhealthy degree of censorship that is impossible to ignore. The information that the public is allowed to see, hear and read is the information that is filtered. There is a strong sense of creeping authoritarianism in all of this.
In an article published in early May, John Pilger referred to the Congress of American Writers and its appeal to writers to speak about the ‘rapid crumbling of capitalism’ and the threat of war. Hundreds of the most important literary voices responded. Thousands more, ordinary men and women took heart from their call. It seemed to herald an awakening and a collective refusal to accept a vision of a world that was being dragged into poverty, inequality and war. That assembly took place in the mid-1930s.
Inevitably, war came and in its aftermath, a re-establishment of capitalism. What also came was cold war and McCarthyism. Radical alternatives, it was decided, could no longer be tolerated.
The wheel has turned. There is again evidence of a ‘rapid crumbling of capitalism’ and there is a very real drive to war. There is one real difference — the war that is now so close is not a defensive war against barbarity or tyranny. It will not be a war “for” anything but a war to protect the dominance of the U.S. and to seek to halt the further crumbling of capitalism.
There is another difference this time around. The intellectuals, essayists, poets and novelists that might speak up and speak out remain, either silent or silenced by the mainstream media. It is not that they are not there. It is not that many thousands of ordinary people do not share the view that things are terribly wrong. The media has played and is playing a bad role. It is media in name only. It has abandoned any semblance of independence. It is so hard to speak out if you are kept captive; if ideas are filtered and disinformation passes for truth.
Pilger rightly calls on those with a conscience to speak out. What needs to be remembered is that the marketplace for ideas has shrunk. Pilger is today read in the columns of online journals with limited circulation. He is one of the great journalists of the latter 20th Century and beyond and yet, he has been deliberately excised from public memory. His documentaries are screened in smaller venues. They remain as powerful and as important as ever they were, but propaganda has overtaken journalism. Truth has become the property of those who control the media.
Pilger has been sidelined. Film-maker David Bradbury, twice nominated for an Academy Award, is now touring his latest documentary, The Road to War, screening it wherever an audience can be found. Even so, its circulation and therefore its audience remains limited.
American vengefulness would see WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange die in prison. Successive Australian governments have behaved equally badly, but the USA calls the shots. Assange’s crime? To report the truth. The truth, however, is not what Richard Marles is thinking of when he talks of the ‘critical importance’ of informing the public.
In the period before WWII, hundreds of public intellectuals and thousands of ordinary working men and women in the United States recognised that it was the “crumbling” of capitalism that was at the heart of the problem. Such a truth cannot be permitted to become public knowledge, although it is abundantly clear that things are very bad. Domestically, the economy is on the brink. Poverty and insecurity stalk the land. The global economy is on the brink of catastrophe. War rages in Europe. The threat of war with China is constantly before us.
In the period before WWII, the pretence of a free media allowed for events such as the Congress of American Writers to be held and for its “manifesto” to be published for an attentive audience. That pretence is now a thing of the past. What is different today is that those same writers, workers, unionists, men and women must seek alternative ways of presenting alternative viewpoints.
Voices have been silenced. Dissent has become difficult. The road to war with China is both ideological and driven, as always, by the need to preserve capitalism. It might be an inconvenient truth, but a truth nevertheless.
John Pilger’s call, for us all to speak up, has never had more urgency. The decades since the end of WWII and the proclamation of the U.S.-inspired rules-based order have seen millions die in American-led wars.
As Pilger says:
‘If the current propagandists get their war with China, this will be a fraction of what is to come.’
*This article is also available on audio here:
Dr William Briggs is a political economist. His special areas of interest lie in political theory and international political economy. He has been, variously, a teacher, journalist and political activist.
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