"Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons." Bertrand Russell

Friday, May 05, 2006

6 Days in the Fourth Estate

When an article about journalism begins with the sentence "Journalists are not the most important people in the world" you can be reasonably sure what follows will be equally worthless. On World Press Freedom Day the Irish Times took time out from it's job as the giant cog in the mechanism for successful democracy for a bit of self examination. However, what at the outset appeared interesting reading rapidly deteriorated into a random concoction of jargon. 'Citizen' journos?

The writer begins, "
When the media writes about itself ... it often seems to others that a sense of perspective is somehow temporarily mislaid" and this is the last reference to 'itself', no analysis of the Irish Times, the Irish media or even Western media is offered. So in order to to get that 'perspective' so lacking in this editorial here are 6 Days in the Fourth Estate.

In Monday's Irish Times an opinion piece outlines the consequences of a military solution to the latest fabricated crisis in the Middle East, "Military action by the US outside UN auspices would be a dangerous folly. It would precipitate regional turmoil, escalate anti-American terrorism, disrupt world oil supplies and therefore the international economy, and reinforce popular support for the Iranian radicals whose sources of power are uneven and precarious." The piece, as with every other, avoids predicting civilian casualties and 'most' importantly it steers clear of questioning the legality of such action.

Denis Staunton reports that former US secretary of state Colin Powell advised President George Bush to send more troops to Iraq to deal with the aftermath of the invasion. "The aftermath turned out to be much more difficult than anyone had anticipated. I don't think we had enough force there to impose order . . . The president's military advisers felt that the size of the force was adequate. They may still feel that years later. Some of us don't. I don't," he said. An unusual piece, considering Mr. Powell is rarely in the lime light these days, only popping up irregularly, disguised as some sort of misunderstood do gooder. Not the same Colin Powell who's colourful, yet forgotten, address to the UN was a critical factor in the initiation of the Iraq war.

"At the starting of the week. At summit talks you'll hear them speak. It's only Monday"

In Tuesday's Irish Times Samuel Loewenberg gives credit to the US and the EU for the €13 million in emergency aid given to Niger, where more than 1.8 million people are facing acute malnutrition. That's about 7 cents per starving person, from a group of countries that spends over $500 billion on their military each year.

While Denis Staunton gives up his column inches to a/another US senator, "A leading Democratic senator has called for Iraq to be partitioned into three largely autonomous states within a federation similar to that established in Bosnia a decade ago." Again, the analysis of this suggestion or the ramifications of its employment are conspicuously absent.

"Negotiations breaking down. See those leaders start to frown. It's sword and gun day."

In Wednesday's Irish Times Iran is characterised as a crazy recluse with paranoid delusions, "US 'evil' will lead to attack on Israel, Iran

threatened yesterday to attack Israel in response to any "evil" act by the US and said it had enriched uranium to a level close to the maximum compatible with civilian use in power stations." Thus is born a completely new kind of pre-emptive policy. An attack can now be justified by the enemy's commitment to retaliation in the event of attack.

A kindly opinion piece "
extolling the unique importance of [journalists] contribution to society" comically fails in its analysis of mainstream journalism and the views of those outside the loop. Typically, this was not a critical examination of the successes and failures of mainstream reporting, just another opportunity to dilute the term 'free press' of all meaning. "Where a free press does not exist (which, sadly, is most parts of the world), those who hold power, and those who seek to usurp it, understand this very well."

You could be sitting taking lunch. The news will hit you like a punch. It's only [Wednes]day."

In Thursday's Irish Times Angela Long nearly lost her job, but managed to reign in the truth before anyone important noticed. "The Americans seem to be looking admiringly at their friends in Israel, and the Kafkaesque wall which has been built, often +illegally+, to divide Palestinians from their land, though ostensibly to protect settlers from murderous attacks."

Ewen MacAskill in Washington earns his crust reciting the words of government verbatim, "Gholamreza Aghazadeh, head of Iran's nuclear industry, said Iran had enriched uranium to 4.8 per cent a month after the president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, revealed scientists had enriched it to 3.6 per cent. Uranium enrichment to much higher levels is essential for a nuclear weapons capability." How much higher Ewen, 80/90 per cent, you don't say. No, you don't.

"You never thought we'd go to war. After all the things we saw. It's April Fools' day."

In Friday's Irish Times an op ed piece regales the reader with a colourful story of Irish ties and Latvia's coldest winter on record. Unsurprisingly this travel documentary maker found it impossible to squeeze in anything about climate change in the measly fourteen paragraphs allotted to him. But that really isn't the place to read a few home truths, we couldn't have people associating travel with Global Warming could we.

David G Savage in Washington sums up the War on Terror, "The contradiction in Bush's fight against terrorism is that only the bit players are being put on trial." A courageous accusation indeed, however there are a few niggling issues of the War on Terror that bring to mind more important contradictions. There's the fact that the net quantity of 'Terror' has increased since the war began, there's the migration of the Salvador Option, there's the use of banned weapons, etc...

Meanwhile in London Frank Miller found only the kindest of words to describe the British Prime Minister responsible for countless deaths in the past number of years, "He is of course a terrible chancer. However, that doesn't mean he isn't sometimes justified." The old boy's club has never been so cosy. And all this with Kevin Myers absent.

"You hear a whistling overhead. Are you alive or are you dead? It's only [Fri]day."

Last Saturday's Irish Times in a break from the current norm printed only two articles about the Iranian threat, "The UN agency's report also found Iran had failed to answer questions intended to ascertain whether it was attempting to build nuclear weapons."

"You feel a shaking on the ground. A billion candles burn around. Is it your birthday?"

It seems quite clear, if "Every government is run by liars" and the views expressed in your daily newspaper do not diverge significantly from those of the government, it is completely reasonable to think "Nothing they say should be believed."

[Lyrics - DJ Shadow's '6 Days' from the album The Private Press]

This article is also posted at the Global Echo and Indymedia.ie

For related perspectives on the Irish Times' view of the Fourth Estate see Miriam Cotton's article here:


The Fourth Estate

Journalists are not the most important people in the world. When the media writes about itself - the functions it performs and the travails of those who work in it - it often seems to others that a sense of perspective is somehow temporarily mislaid.

The observation is at times well made: there are few things less edifying than the members of a profession or craft extolling the unique importance of their own contribution to society.

Full Article... The Irish Times