|Issue No 110||07 September 2001|
Fear and Loathing at the Tele
We welcome back our old friend Piers to the shed this week, a man whose narrow view of the world has launched a thousand diatribes, who after all these years continues to take our breath away with his ignorant self-belief.
Since our last skirmish, Piers Akerman's star has continued its inexplicable rise. He's one of the new token right-wingers brought into the ABC at the behest of its Tory board. Another of the ABC's recent initiative is to give a couple of right-wing newspaper columnists their own radio show. As an aside, I'm still trying to work out the logic of this shift to the Right. Given the ABC's charter is to full gaps in the media, and given the mainstream media is dominated by right-wing talking jocks (witness the past two weeks), it seems an intriguing exercise in editorial diversity. Regardless, it's good to see us taxpayers giving a battler like Piers a push along.
Which brings us to Piers work over the past few weeks. The Tampa dispute brought on the best in many of the media commentators, who actually tried to grasp the complexity of the issue, reconciling the domestic fears with our international obligations. The Telegraph's stablemate, The Australian, for instance, has been close to breath-taking, the analysis of Kelly, Sheridan and their leader writers, pointing out the dangers of placing domestic political considerations above international diplomacy. For mine, the Oz came of age as a national newspaper of real substance over the past fortnight.
But like Howard, Piers saw the Tampa dispute as an opportunity to spread fear and loathing. Piers brought the Howard line hook and sinker: the 'illegals' were wealthy queue jumpers who were bullying their way into Australia, one of the most 'generous' countries on earth. It is only from this position that the Australian reaction can come even close to being justified and justify it Piers did.
But as has emerged as the saga grew on, the facts are a little more complex. The asylum seekers are in fact the victims of both a breakdown in law and order in Afghanastan and the total breakdown of the UN refugee vetting process. These twin geopolitical failures have created an environment for people smugglers to thrive and exploit these desperate people. On every count they are victims - yet Piers views than as aggressors.
Witness one of this more offensive lines from the past week: "There was no crisis at Christmas Island, but there is globally as young men, in the main, desert their nations, leaving no-one to fight their intellectually or physically, for change and strip them of the muscle needed to rebuild." Ignore the fact that they are leaving a nation ravaged by the failure of US Cold War policy, they are not only queue-jumpers, they are traitors.
But if Piers' analysis of the Tampa crisis is facile, his attempt to geopolitics is laughable. Take this gem: "As for relations with Indonesia, so what? They will always be difficult". It gets worse, monstering Norway, throwing some choice barbs such as: "They gave the world the word Quisling an epithet now hurled at those who betray their countrymen"; he also throws some bombs for their treatment of indigenous people (an irony from Piers, surely) and their treatment of whales (a metamorphisis into a greenie of convenience). If mainstream Australia is as xenophobic as the opinion polls suggest, then Piers can take pride in helping set the environment.
We've said it before, but Piers' efforts beg a restatement. The Daily Telegraph is a paper of immense influence. At it's best, it synthesizes the news in an informative and sometimes, enlightening, way. At it's worse it breeds prejudice and dislocation by inflaming issues with misinformation. None more so than as the Tampa lay off Christmas Island.
At the end of the day there are facts and then there is context. The problem all Piers' critics fall into is to attack Piers of the detail. This can be an involved but ultimately futile effort. All post modernists know that all truth is relative, an argument can be constructed for most positions. What can't be constructed is a soul - and this is where Piers always betrays himself. If the choice is to open the mind or open the heart or close it up, he'll slam it shut. Just like the door of the Tool Shed.
Interview: Cast Adrift
Ethnic Communities Council chair Salvatore Scevola gives his take on the Tampa saga and the underlying attitudes driving the debate.
Workplace: Coming to Australia
Jagath Banderra recounts his own experience as a new arrival in Australia entering the workforce.
Human Rights: Long Road to Nowhere
Iraqi refugees travel the same tortuous road as Afghans. The refugees on the Tampa have almost certainly endured a similar ordeal.
Immigration: Experience Required
Veronica Apap looks at the many difficulties migrants face in having their skills recognised in Australia.
International: Why Economic Rationalism Isn't
The CFMEUs Phil Davey surveys the wreckage after 10 years of Brazil's Government doing what the free marketeers want.
History: Johnny's Naruan Wet Dream
Rowan Cahill looks at how Australia's preferred refugee dumping ground's history is indelibly linked with our own.
Unions: Getting the Message Out
Caroline Alcorso argues the integration of immigrant workers into the trade union movement has been a central issue in Australia’s post-war labor history.
Work/Time/Life: Driven To The Edge
In the ACTU’S groundbreaking Fifty Families report there is one particularly sobering story. Frank tells how the modern workplace is driving some people to the fatal edge.
Review: Whose Party?
NSW Labor’s century of successes began in 1910, as did the “middle classing” of Labor policy.
Satire: Ethnic Wog Gangs Rape Everyone
People who are white in colour are being raped by people who are not white, an exclusive Chaser investigation found last week.
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Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005