Blog archive

Popular Posts

Pageviews last month

Sunday, December 30, 2012

A History Talks issue 2,Vol 1 by John Tognolini

Jack Mundey being arrested during the Green Bans in The Rocks, Sydney 1973.
Inspired by The History Channel's The People Speak. I’ve decided to make a regular weekly selection of quotations. This series was inspired by the production of The American The People Speak. Quotes are the primary sources of history. They are the flesh and blood of history. The selection below are from my own research.  My quotes are not just on Australia but are from all over the world.

John Tognolini 30-12-12

Ecologists with a socialist perspective, and socialists with and ecologist perspective must form a coalition to tackle the wide-ranging problems relating to human survival. Such survival is based on a way of living in harmony with the rest of nature. My dream and that of hundreds of thousands, or millions, might then come true, a socialist world with a human face, an ecological heart and egalitarian body.
Jack Mundey Beyond the Green Bans, (Sydney 1981 page 148)

"Bread and work and love, the poor man’s trinity, and by all three needs they chain him down." Christina Stead 1902-1983 Seven Poor Men of Sydney

 "It is not enough for journalists to see themselves as mere messengers without understanding the hidden agendas of the message that surrounds it." John Pilger

"My experience in the First World War and now the Second World War [his son Barney was killed in the Battle of Singapore] changed my outlook on things. It is hard to believe that there is a God. I feel the Bible is a book written by man but for the purpose of preying on a person’s conscience, and to confuse him. Anyone who taken part in a bayonet charge (and I have) [Gallipoli], and has managed to retain his proper senses, must doubt the truth of the Bible and the powers of God, if one exists. And considering the many hundreds of different religions that there are in this world of ours, and the fact that many religions have caused terrible wars and hatreds throughout the world, and that many religions that have hoarded tremendous wealth and property while people inside and outside religion are starving , it is difficult to remain a believer. No Sir, there is no God, it is only a myth."
Albert Facey 1894-1982 A Fortunate Life
Noam Chomsky’s Australian Visit for East Timor in 1995
Noam Chomsky's press conference in Sydney. I covered it for Green Left Weekly and Radio Skid Row, Noam covered a range of topics. This is a full transcript of gathering. I asked the first question.
John/Togs Tognolini
“Noam Chomsky: The floor is yours.
Togs: I’ve got a question about the history of East Timor during World War Two and the Australian role in it. Do you think there is element of hypocrisy in it, with the Victory in the Pacific celebrations carried out this year, and is the role of East Timor going to be absent?
Noam: We are going to be seeing an orgy of hypocrisy this year as the whole history of the Pacific War is completely rewritten and reshaped to fit later needs. It's fair to predict you're not going to read much this year about what United States-Japanese relations actually were up until Pearl Harbour.
I'd be interested to see how much is publicised about US support for Japanese aggression all the way through. The business community supported it. Joseph Grew, the ambassador to Japan, an influential diplomat, was supporting Japanese aggressions-rather the way many people in Australia today are referring to the Indonesian aggression in East Timor: you know, it may not be very pretty, but it's good for business and ultimately the best thing.
This went on almost up to Pearl Harbour. The great atrocity at PearlHarbour, ``the day that will live in infamy'', was certainly a crime, in fact a war crime. But remember what it was.
It was an attack by the Japanese on two military bases in colonies the US had recently stolen from their inhabitants, in the case of the Philippines in extraordinarily brutal fashion, killing hundreds of thousands people; in the case of Hawaii just by deceit and power play.
Attacks on military bases in colonies that have been stolen from their inhabitants doubtless are crimes, but in the annals of crime in this century, they don't rank very high.

And the US was apparently willing to make a deal with Japan if Japan would allow the US the same kind of access in China that it was gaining. That's what it looks like from the diplomatic records.
Nor will you hear a lot about the decision of the British in 1932 to close off the empire, which included Australia at that time, to Japanese exports for the simple reason that Britain could no longer compete with the Japanese. So free market ideology was naturally thrown out the window: it's only OK when you're going to win. If you're going to lose, you call the game off. That was one of the factors that led to the war.
Japan's crimes, which were vicious, didn't arouse much opposition in the West. The same was true in Europe. Both the State Department and the British Foreign Office….we now have plenty of declassified records…. were rather ambivalent about Hitler, in fact rather supportive of him. Up until 1937, the US State Department, European division, described Hitler as a moderate whom we have to support. He stands between extremists of left and right, and unless we support Hitler, the masses might rise and try to steal what's not theirs….the same sort of thing you hear in support of every monster and killer and murderer in subsequent years.
The British were even worse. Lord Halifax went to Germany around 1937-1938. He explained to Hitler, We understand your moderate position; the British were coming around to approval of it and so forth. Even after the Battle of Britain, even after the British had been attacked and bombed by the Germans, in internal Foreign Office records the main critique of the Stalin-Hitler Pact was that it probably gives too much power to the Russians.

With regard to Australia and East Timor, I hope that the Australians will be honest enough to describe what happened. Australia attacked Timor. It might have escaped the war if they hadn't. Macau, for example, was not [attacked by the Japanese]. Portugal was a fascist country and sort of a quasi-ally of the Japanese. They might have left Timor alone, as they left Macau alone.
But Australia attacked 10 days or so after Pearl Harbour, and that brought Timor into the war. Japan then invaded and there were a couple of hundred Australian commandos who fought a courageous battle and probably kept Japan from a possible attack on Australia. Michelle Turner's oral history on this came out recently, about Australians who were fighting there, and some of them point out frankly that if it hadn't been for the assistance of the Timorese, they would have been killed. Which means that Australia may have well been protected from invasion by the blood of Timorese.
The official Australian estimate is around 40,000 killed. Jim Dunn has looked into this intensively and estimates about 60,000 Timorese killed.
Most of them were killed after the Australians withdrew in 1943. At that point the Japanese really went wild and attacked what they called collaborators with the Australians, certainly tens of thousands of Timorese. You can decide how much that means to Australians. I would think it would mean something, and paying back this debt by supporting the Indonesian invasion is not one of the prettiest parts of modern history.”

 "Now take my case. I’m twenty-nine and have two brothers—one in the Liberal Party and one serving six years for rape and arson. My sister Peg is on the streets and Dad lives off her earnings. Mum is pregnant by the boarder and because of this Dad won’t marry her. Last night I got engaged to an ex-prostitute and I wish to be fair to her: should I tell her about my brother in the Liberal Party."
David Ireland 1927- The Unknown Industrial Prisoner

 "Prime Minster Howard I’ve heard You met George Bush and the Pope too, I understand, Oh I liked the Pope much better, I only had to kiss his hand."
L’Amour Denis Kevans 1939-2005

"The Labour Party [ALP], starting with a band of inspired Socialists, degenerated into a vast machine for capturing political power, but did not know how to use the power when attained except for the profit of individuals[...] Such is the history of all Labour organisations in Australia, and not because they are Australian , but because they are Labour..."
Victor Gordon Childe 1892-1957, How Labour Governs

"The trouble with America is that when the dollar only earns 6 percent over here, then it gets restless and goes overseas to get 100 percent. Then the flag follows the dollar and the soldiers follow the flag. I wouldn't go to war again as I have done to protect some lousy investment of the bankers. There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is simply a racket. There isn't a trick in the racketeering bag that the military gang is blind to. It has its "finger men" to point out enemies, its "muscle men" to destroy enemies, its "brain men" to plan war preparations, and a "Big Boss" Super-Nationalistic-Capitalism. It may seem odd for me, a military man to adopt such a comparison. Truthfulness compels me to. I spent thirty- three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country's most agile military force, the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major-General. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle- man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. "
Major General Smedley Butler,1881-1940

 [Battler]" a conscientious person working against many odds to make a living; one whose life is a constant struggle.’ Battlers maybe men or women; black or white. They rarely deal with racism (the negative side of our tradition) because they sympathise with anyone facing adversity or unfair criticism. The term ‘battler’ is a state of mind-a traditional attitude which goes back to the convict era, when the battler was on a flogging to nothing but fiddled around the rules and held his masters in contempt. The battlers are aware that they are being lied to by....politicians; and they suspect that Keating’s warning that Australia could become a banana republic is in fact, happening before their eyes."

Frank Hardy 1917-1994. Retreat Australia Fair 1990

 ”I may be a f--kwit but I’m not a liar, I was a believer.”

Jamie Packer, giving evidence under oath, about the failed One Tel’s ormer managing director Jodie Rich.
28-11-05 Sydney Morning Herald

“Australia where is it?”.

Brendan Behan 1923-1964
Sydney Morning Herald 29-11-58

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A History Talks by John Tognolini


Inspired by The History Channel's The People Speak. I’ve decided to make a regular weekly selection of quotations. Quotes are primary sources of history. The selection below are from the The People Speak. This series was inspired by the production of The American The People Speak. My future selections of quotes will not just be on Australia but internationally too.

John Tognolini 26-12-12
Bill Simon was ten years old when he was taken to the infamous Kinchela Boys’ Home on the north coast of New South Wales.
“It was winter 1957, seven o’clock in the morning. The sun was up and the sounds of birds drifted down into our small kitchen. My brother Lenny was sitting on the floor, eating toast; my brothers Murray and David and I, rubbing our eyes in a state of half sleep, were waiting for mum to smear Vegemite on our bread before we dressed for school. A routine day in the Simon household.
Someone rapped loudly on the door. My mother didn’t answer it. We hadn’t heard anyone come up the path. The knocking got louder, and finally my mother, who was reluctant to answer any callers when my father wasn’t home, opened the door and exchanged words with three people. We strained to hear what they were saying. Three men then entered the room.
A man in a suit ordered my mother to pick up Lenny and give him to me. My mother started to scream. One of the policemen bent down and picked up my brother and handed him to me. My mother screamed and sobbed hysterically but the men took no notice, and forced my brothers and me into a car.
My mother ran out onto the road, fell on her knees and belted her fists into the bitumen as she screamed. We looked back as the car drove off to see her hammering her fists into the road, the tears streaming down her face…”
Captain Major – The Gurindji Strike at Wave Hill
“I bin thinkin’ longa time about my people not having proper money or proper conditions. I been thinkin’ we got no one to help us, no one behind us. Then I bin hear about them white fellas talkin’ in that Court somewhere about equal wages.
When I first started I was working at Wave Hill. I was only a kid then. Wave Hill is my country. I am a proper Gurindji man.
…All around the Territory I bin working more than thirty year. And I bin thinking: white fella don’t treat native people proper, don’t give him proper wages or nothing. He never teach you to read, only to count, to keep tally when the cattle go in the yard….
Mesel’ I want to see my people get proper equal money, then I will go back to Wave Hill, and live in my own country with the Gurindji tribe.”
The Burnum Burnum Declaration of 26 January 1988
“I, Burnum Burnum, a noble man of ancient Australia,, do hereby take possession of England on behalf of the Aboriginal Crown of Australia.
In so doing we wish no harm to you natives, but assure you that we are here to bring you good manners, refinement and the opportunity to make ‘a fresh start’.
At the end of two hundred years, we will make a Treaty to signify occupation by peaceful means and not by conquest.
For the more intelligent we bring the complex language of the Pitjantjatjara, teach you how to have a spiritual relationship with the Earth and show you how to get bush tucker.
We do not intend to souvenir, pickle and preserve the heads of 2000 of your people, nor to publicly display the skeletal remains of your Royal Highness, as was done to our Queen Truganinni for 80 years. Neither do we intend to poison your water holes, lace your bread with strychnine or introduce you to highly toxic drugs.
We pledge not to sterilize your young women.
Finally, we give an absolute undertaking that you shall not be placed onto the mentality of government handouts for the next five generations but you will enjoy the full benefits of Aboriginal equality.”
Lowitja O’Donohue
“For over 50,000 years Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have called this great continent our home.
But for non-indigenous people to understand what this means you need to discard some of your cultural assumptions. You need to discard notions of real estate, titles and deeds. Forget about notions of ownership. Forget about land as a commodity to be bought and sold.
For indigenous people the land does not belong to us – we belong to the land.
The traditional spiritual relationship with the land – the Dreaming ­ refers to the journeys of the spirit ancestors across the land. As Bill Neidjie ­ a Kakadu man put it:
Our story is in the land …it is written in those sacred places …My children will look after those places, that’s the law.”
Robert Lyon – Speech at a public meeting in Guildford, June 1833.
“You are the aggressors…..They did not go to the British isles to make war upon you; but you came from the British isles to make war upon them. You are the invaders of their country – ye destroy the natural productions of the soil on which they live – ye devour their fish and their game – and ye drive them from the abodes of their ancestors…
They may stand to be slaughtered; but they must not throw a spear in their own defence, or attempt to bring their enemies to a sense of justice by the only means in their power – that of returning like for like.
If they do – if they dare to be guilty of an act which in other nations would be eulogized as the noblest of a patriot’s deeds – they are outlawed; a reward is set upon their heads; and they are ordered to be shot, as if they were so many mad dogs!
If ye have any feelings of compunction, before the die be cast, let the Aboriginal inhabitants of Australia live. Ye have taken from them all they had on earth.
Be content with this, and do not add to the crime of plundering them that of taking their lives.”
Charlie Teo’s Australia Day Address
January 24, 2012
I have not experienced overt racism since returning 11 years ago from the USA, but one of my visiting Indian neuro surgeons was spat on by an adult male as he was waiting at a traffic light.
It is incorrect and naive to say that there is no anti-Arab or no anti-Indian sentiment, just ask someone of Middle Eastern or Indian appearance. Unfortunately, racism still exists in Australian culture today. But if you think it’s bad, you would’ve cringed if you had heard some of the things my mum said about you “white devils”.
In my case, the lessons I learnt as a child, to never give-in without a fight, the strength that I gained in order to overcome the insecurity of being in a minority, and the overwhelming sense of fairness I acquired by experiencing such unfairness, would influence how I would react to similar challenges in my professional life years later.…
.. I would like to see this Australia Day as a turning point. I want my fellow Australians, those who were born here and those who have immigrated here, to pause and think of the lives that have been sacrificed for what we take for granted today. I want everyone who finds themselves angry and intolerant to think first about the misfortunes of those who are less fortunate.
George Black, State Labor MP, 1891
“I am a Republican because I see in that system all the possibilities of improvement, while under Monarchy I can see none; because I believe that all men are born free, and equal, entitled by the mere fact of their existence to certain rights which are inalienable, no matter what their capabilities, nor how menial their occupation. It is monstrous that animal succession, the mere accident of birth, should entitle anyone to lord it over his fellows.
Your king may be a babbling idiot, a monstrosity, may have broken every commandment, every law written and unwritten, what of it? He is your king, subject to the jurisdiction of no one, alike removed from the fear of punishment and the sound of reproach. ‘The King can do no wrong.’ How much longer will the people, by their apathy, their sluggish indifference, endorse this falsehood with their seeming approval?
Suppose for a moment that by some sudden calamity the English royal family – from the occupant of the throne to the latest candidate from the cradle were entirely blotted out from existence, do you imagine that it would have any affect on the condition of the country?
Well may we say God Save the Queen, because nothing will save the governor general.
The sun would rise and set, the laws would be administered, factory chimneys would smoke, dinners would be cooked and eaten, old folks would die, young folks marry, babes would be born, children educated and apprenticed, people would dance, laugh, sing, groan and weep;
Our hearts may be broken tonight, but our spirits are unbroken.
….the incubi never would be missed; the entire aspect of the country would remain unchanged.”
The Rugmaker of Mazar-e-sharif’. It’s the memoir of Najaf Mazari.
“I did not know that I could feel this much sorrow without a body to bury. How heartsick can I become before I break down and weep in front of everyone?
I wander about the camp with the blanket from my bed around my shoulders, searching for a spot where I can’t be seen and can’t be heard.
And where would that be?
I have been in the camp for three months. If such a spot exists, wouldn’t I have discovered it before this day?
…We who are watched and guarded, we who are questioned, probed, doubted – we are all illegals. We have come to Australia without invitation. We have jumped the queue. I had not heard an expression like that before I came to Australia – ‘jumping the queue’. It belongs to communities that place a very high value on orderliness, on due process.
It’s a good thing, of course, to value orderliness. The community of Afghanistan is only orderly now and again. But it was never my intention to jump this strange queue of which I had never heard. Most of us would never have qualified for a place in the long line to start with.
All I wanted to do was to stand up on the soil of a land where rockets did not land on my house in the middle of the night and hold my arms wide and say, ‘Here I am. My name is Najaf Mazari. Do you have a use for me in this country?”
Mary Lee on women’s rights
“…in our own Parliament the Dog Licence Bill, the Sparrows Destruction Bill, a road or railway, a bridge or well, anything and everything is allowed precedence of the Women’s Suffrage Bill and the women’s petitions for suffrage.
The suffrage is the right of all women, just as it is the right of all men, and although the immediate need may not be felt by the happy and prosperous- by women with kind husbands and comfortable homes- we insist on it on behalf of the solitary, the hard- pressed and the wronged; we insist on liberty that all may share the blessings of liberty.”
“Nineteenth century civilisation has accorded to women the same political status as to the idiot and the criminal.
“Let husbands, brothers, fathers be kept in mind that it is the duty of every free man to leave his daughters as free as his sons.”
“By and by there was a result, and I think it may be called the finest thing in Australasian history. It was a revolution — small in size; but great politically; it was a strike for liberty, a struggle for principle, a stand against injustice and oppression….It is another instance of a victory won by a lost battle.
It adds an honorable page to history; the people know it and are proud of it. They keep green the memory of the men who fell at the Eureka stockade, and Peter Lalor has his monument.”
Jack Mundy on the Green Bans
“What’s the good of getting higher wages and better conditions if we live in cities devoid of parks and denuded of trees?”
“Yes, we want to build. However, we prefer to build urgently-required hospitals, schools, other public utilities, high-quality flats, units and houses, provided they are designed with adequate concern for the environment, than to build ugly unimaginative architecturally-bankrupt blocks of concrete and glass offices…Though we want all our members employed, we will not just become robots directed by developer-builders who value the dollar at the expense of the environment.
More and more, we are going to determine which buildings we will build …The environmental interests of three million people are at stake and cannot be left to developers and building employers whose main concern is making profit.”
Rodney Croome – Gay Rights Activist
“A year ago today I watched with grief and horror from the public gallery of federal parliament as our national leaders passed a law denying same-sex couples the right to marry in Australia.
One of the most appalling features of the same-sex marriage ban debate was how speaker after bigoted speaker declared that allowing same-sex couples to wed would be a threat to the institution of marriage. But not one speaker ever bothered explaining why. Today I challenge this country’s legislators to explain themselves.
I want them to tell us how the marriage of these two loving, committed same-sex couples devalues the love and commitment that exists between heterosexual married couples?
I want them to tell us how giving equal rights, respect and recognition to families headed by same-sex couples demeans other families?
Of course they will never explain, because it’s not lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people who are destroying marriage. Heterosexuals are doing an excellent job of that themselves.
Not so long ago wedlock turned women into their husband’s property and was used to stigmatise inter-racial relationships. By draining the love out of marriage and making it, instead, a marker of hate, the federal same-sex marriage ban returns us to these dark days.
One day we will dance in the streets and raise our voices in a land where nothing matters more than freedom, equality and love. One day, we will truly belong.”
Charles Jardine Don, 1855 On the Eight Hour working Day
“Look upon the toiling millions of the world, who lay the foundations of all physical, intellectual and moral prosperity. What scheme should be left untried to raise up the industrial masses of this and every other country? And what scheme stands so great a chance of success as the Eight Hours’ movement? Political economy starts with the proposition, that labour is the source of all wealth – that to labour we owe the food, clothes and shelter necessary to man.
Look around and see the mighty deeds that labour has accomplished, from the time earth was a wilderness until now, when the vine and myrtle have replaced the thistle and the briar.
Look at the towns and cities of the earth, at the mercantile navies breasting the billows of every sea; view the works that labour has done, and I think you will agree with me that, after all, the labourer is the only being worth caring about. If ever in any country proofs existed of his value, it is in this one.
 “Women represent the most oppressed class of life-contracted unpaid worker, for whom slaves is not too melodramatic a description.
They are the only true proletariat left, and they are by a tiny margin the majority of the population, so what’s stopping them?
The answer must be made, that their very oppression stands in the way of their combining to for many kind of solid group which can challenge the masters.
But man made one grave mistake: in answer to vaguely reformist and humanitarian agitation he admitted women to politics and the professions. The conservatives who saw this as the undermining of our civilization and the end of the state and marriage were right after all; it is time for the demolition to begin.
We need not challenge anyone to open battle, for the most effective method is simply to withdraw our cooperation in building up a system which oppresses us, the valid withdrawal of our labour.”
Lieutenant J.A.Rawes – An Australian Solider in World War One France.
“…nothing but a churned mass of debris with bricks, stones and girders, and bodies pounded to nothing. And forest! There are not even tree trunks left, not a leaf or a twig. All is buried and churned up again and buried again. The sad part is that one can see no end of this. If we live tonight, we have to go through tomorrow night, and next week and next month.
Poor wounded devils you meet on the stretchers are laughing with glee. One cannot blame them – they are getting out of this…we are lousy, stinking, ragged, unshaven, sleepless…I have one puttee, a dead man’s helmet, another dead man’s gas protector, a dead man’s bayonet.
My tunic is rotten with other men’s blood and partly splattered with a comrade’s brains. I have had much luck and kept my nerve so far. The awful difficulty is to keep it. The bravest of all often lose it – one becomes a gibbering maniac. Only the men you would have trusted and believed in before proved equal to it.”
Poet Kate Jennings Front Lawn speech
“Watch out! You may meet a real castrating female or You’ll say I’m a man hating bran burning lesbian member of the castration penis envy brigade which I am I would like to speak. I would like to give a tubthumping, tablebanging emotional rap AND be listened to, not laughed at.
You don’t laugh at what your comrade brothers say, you wouldn’t laugh at the negroes, or the black panthers. Many women are beginning to feel the necessity to speak for themselves, for their sisters. I feel the necessity now.
We’ve heard you loud and clear before, brothershits, we know we have to work towards the Revolution and then join the ladies liberation auxiliary if we have any time left over. I’ve worked my priorities out, I will work towards what I know about, what I feel, and I feel because I am told ad infinitum that I’m a woman, I’m a second class citizen, and I should shut up right now because my mind’s between my legs. I say you think with your pricks. We should all get our priorities straight and organize around our own injustices, our own condition.
There are a lot of people here who feel strongly about the Vietnam war. But how many of you, who can see so clearly the suffering and misery in Vietnam, how many of you can see at the end of your piggy noses the women who can’t get abortions, how many of you would get off your fat piggy assess and protest against the killing and victimization of women in your own county. Go check the figures, how many Australian men have died in Vietnam, and how many women have died from backyard abortions.
You, by your silence, apathy and laughter sanction the legislators, the pig parliamentarians, the same men who sanction the war in Vietnam. All power to women!”
Joyce Golgerth on anti-conscription
“Mothers resist all sorts of pressure to bring up their children as useful citizens, to look forward to useful careers and to be of service to the community. Then suddenly their lives are disrupted.
After six months training these boys could be sent overseas for 4 1/2 years war service. They could come home maimed or blinded or die in a war which has been described as a bottomless pit of violence and horror.
One of the basic laws of our society establishes the authority and responsibility of the parent until a minor attains the age of 21. Such boys must have their parents consent to marry, to buy a car or a house, to join the navy or obtain a passport for overseas travel.
Yet here we have the complete denial of this right, where minors are conscripted without any reference to, much less consideration of, the parental attitude. Morally there can be no justification whatever for the forcing of young men to take life.”
Ned Kelly – 10 February 1879

Saturday, November 24, 2012

John Pilger: As Gaza is savaged again, understanding the BBC's historical role is vital

In Peter Watkins' remarkable BBC film, The War Game, which foresaw the aftermath of an attack on London with a one-megaton nuclear bomb, the narrator says: "On almost the entire subject of thermo-clear weapons, there is now practically total silence in the press, official publications and on TV. Is there hope to be found in this silence?"

The truth of this statement was equal to its irony. On 24 November, 1965, the BBC banned The War Game as "too horrifying for the medium of broadcasting". This was false. The real reason was spelt out by the chairman of the BBC Board of Governors, Lord Normanbrook, in a secret letter to the Secretary to the Cabinet, Sir Burke Trend.

"[The War Game] is not designed as propaganda," he wrote, "it is intended as a purely factual statement and is based on careful research into official material... But the showing of the film on television might have a significant effect on public attitudes towards the policy of the nuclear deterrent." Following a screening attended by senior Whitehall officials, the film was banned because it told an intolerable truth. Sixteen years later, the then BBC director-general, Sir Ian Trethowan, renewed the ban, saying that he feared for the film's effect on people of "limited mental intelligence". Watkins' brilliant work was eventually shown in 1985 to a late-night minority audience. It was introduced by Ludovic Kennedy who repeated the official lie.

What happened to The War Game is the function of the state broadcaster as a cornerstone of Britain's ruling elite. With its outstanding production values, often fine popular drama, natural history and sporting coverage, the BBC enjoys wide appeal and, according to its managers and beneficiaries, "trust". This "trust" may well apply to Springwatch and Sir David Attenborough, but there is no demonstrable basis for it in much of the news and so-called current affairs that claim to make sense of the world, especially the machinations of rampant power. There are honourable individual exceptions, but watch how these are tamed the longer they remain in the institution: a "defenestration", as one senior BBC journalist describes it. 

This is notably true in the Middle East where the Israeli state has successfully intimidated the BBC into presenting the theft of Palestinian land and the caging, torturing and killing of its people as an intractable "conflict" between equals. Standing in the rubble from an Israeli attack, one BBC journalist went further and referred to "Gaza's strong culture of martyrdom". So great is this distortion that young viewers of BBC News have told Glasgow University researchers they are left with the impression that Palestinians are the illegal colonisers of their own country. The current BBC "coverage" of Gaza's genocidal misery reinforces this.

The BBC's "Reithian values" of impartiality and independence are almost scriptural in their mythology. Soon after the corporation was founded in the 1920s by Lord John Reith, Britain was consumed by the General Strike. "Reith emerged as a kind of hero," wrote the historian Patrick Renshaw, "who had acted responsibly and yet preserved the precious independence of the BBC. But though this myth persisted it has little basis in reality... the price of that independence was in fact doing what the government wanted done. [Prime Minister Stanley] Baldwin... saw that if they preserved the BBC's independence, it would be much easier for them to get their way on important questions and use it to broadcast Government propaganda."

Unknown to the public, Reith had been the prime minister's speech writer.  Ambitious to become Viceroy of India, he ensured the BBC became an evangelist of imperial power, with "impartiality" duly suspended whenever that power was threatened. This "principle" has applied to the BBC's coverage of every colonial war of the modern era: from the covered-up genocide in Indonesia and suppression of eyewitness film of the American bombing of North Vietnam to support for the illegal Blair/Bush invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the now familiar echo of Israeli propaganda whenever that lawless state abuses its captive, Palestine. This reached a nadir in 2009 when, terrified of Israeli reaction, the BBC refused to broadcast a combined charities appeal for the people of Gaza, half of whom are children, most of them malnourished and traumatised by Israeli attacks. The United Nations Rapporteur, Richard Falk, has likened Israel's blockade of Gaza to the Warsaw Ghetto under siege by the Nazis. Yet, to the BBC, Gaza - like the 2010 humanitarian relief flotilla murderously attacked by Israeli commandos - largely presents a public relations problem for Israel and its US sponsor.

Mark Regev, Israel's chief propagandist, seemingly has a place reserved for him near the top of BBC news bulletins. In 2010, when I pointed this out to Fran Unsworth, now elevated to director of news, she strongly objected to the description of Regev as a propagandist, adding, "It's not our job to go out and appoint the Palestinean spokesperson".

With similar logic, Unsworth's predecessor, Helen Boaden, described the BBC's reporting of the criminal carnage in Iraq as based on the "fact that Bush has tried to export democracy and human rights to Iraq". To prove her point, Boaden supplied six A4 pages of verifiable lies from Bush and Tony Blair. That ventriloquism is not journalism seemed not to occur to either woman.

What has changed at the BBC is the arrival of the cult of the corporate manager. George Entwistle, the briefly-appointed director general who said he knew nothing about Newsnight's false accusations of child abuse against a Tory grandee, is to receive £450,000 of public money for agreeing to resign before he was sacked: the corporate way. This and the preceding Jimmy Savile scandal might have been scripted for the Daily Mail and the Murdoch press whose self-serving hatred of the BBC has long provided the corporation with its "embattled" façade as the guardian of "public service broadcasting". Understanding the BBC as a pre-eminent state propagandist and censor by omission - more often than not in tune with its right-wing enemies - is on no public agenda and it ought to be.

22 November 2012

Friday, October 26, 2012

John Pilger:Making the world a more dangerous place - the eager role of Julia Gillard

The Australian parliament building reeks of floor polish. The wooden floors shine so virtuously they reflect the cartoon-like portraits of prime ministers, bewigged judges and viceroys. Along the gleaming white, hushed corridors, the walls are hung with Aboriginal art: one painting after another as in a monolithic gallery, divorced from their origins, the irony brutal. The poorest, sickest, most incarcerated people on earth provide a façade for those who oversee the theft of their land and its plunder.

Australia has 40% of the world's uranium, all of it on indigenous land. Prime Minister Julia Gillard has just been to India to sell uranium to a government that refuses to sign the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and whose enemy, Pakistan, is also a non-signatory. The threat of nuclear war between them is constant. Uranium is an essential ingredient of nuclear weapons. Gillard's deal in Delhi formally ends the Australian Labor Party's long-standing policy of denying uranium to countries that reject the NPT's obligation "to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament".

Like the people of Japan, Australian Aborigines have experienced the horror of nuclear weapons. During the 1950s, the British government tested atomic bombs at Maralinga in South Australia. The Aboriginal population was not consulted and received scant or no warning, and still suffer the effects. Yami Lester was a boy when he saw the nuclear flash and subsequently went blind. The enduring struggle of Aboriginal people for recognition as human beings has been a fight not only for their land but for what lies beneath it. Since they were granted a status higher than that of sheep - up to 1971, unlike the sheep, they were not counted - many of their modest land rights have been subverted or diminished by governments in Canberra.

In 2007, prime minister John Howard used the army to launch an "emergency intervention" in Aboriginal communities in the resource-rich Northern Territory. Lurid and fraudulent stories of paedophile rings were the cover; indigenous people were told they would not receive basic services if they did not surrender the leasehold of their land. Gillard's minister of indigenous affairs has since given this the Orwellian title of "Stronger Futures".

The tactics include driving people into "hub towns" and denying decent housing to those forced to live up to a dozen in one room. The removal of Aboriginal children has reached the level of the infamous "Stolen Generation" of the last century. Many may never see their families again.

Once the "intervention" had got under way, hundreds of licences were granted to companies exploring for minerals, including uranium. Contemporary politics in Australia is often defined by the power of the mining companies. When the previous Labor prime minister, Kevin Rudd, proposed a tax on record mining profits, he was deposed by a backroom party cabal, including Gillard, who reduced the tax. Diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks reveal that two of the plotters against Rudd were informants of the US embassy, which Rudd had angered by not following to the letter US plans to encircle China and to release uranium for sale to US clients such as India.

Gillard has since returned Australia to its historic relationship with Washington, similar to that of an east European satellite of the Soviet Union. The day before Barack Obama arrived in Canberra last year to declare China the new enemy of the "free world", Gillard announced the end of her party's ban on uranium sales.

Washington's other post-cold war obsessions demand the services of Australia. These include the intimidation of Iran and destruction of that country's independence, the undermining of the NPT and prevention of nuclear-free zones that threaten the nuclear-armed dominance of the US and Israel. Unlike Iran, a founding signatory of the NPT and supporter of a nuclear-free zone Middle East, the US and Israel ban independent inspections. And both are currently threatening to attack Iran which, as the combined agencies of US intelligence confirmed, has no nuclear weapons.

The necessary inversion of reality and double standard require a "carefully orchestrated process", the US embassy is assured by an Australian official quoted by WikiLeaks. According to the US cables, there are enthusiastic "Australian ideas" for "dredging up" information to help discredit Mohamad El Baradei who, as director of the International Atomic Energy Agency from 1997 to 2009, repeatedly refuted US claims that Iran was building a nuclear weapon. The Director of the Australian Arms Control office is portrayed as a US watchdog, warning against "a slippery slope" of governments "exercising independent judgement" on nuclear matters. A senior Australian official, one Patrick Suckling, is reporting as telling the US that "Australia wants the most robust, intrusive and debilitating sanctions possible" against Iran. Suckling's victims are today mostly ordinary men, women and children.

On 5 October, the Australian Nuclear Free Alliance, which includes Aboriginal groups from across the country, gathered in Alice Springs. They called for a moratorium on all uranium mining and sales. Indigenous women made a special plea to Gillard, recently ordained by the white media as a feminist hero. No response was expected.

On 17 October, all the testaments of obedience and servility to the mighty patron finally paid off when Australia was rewarded with a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council, known in Canberra as "the top table". The timing is striking. An attack by Nato on Syria or Iran, or both, has never been closer. A world war beckons as 50 years are marked since "the world stood still", wrote the historian Sheldon Stern. This was the 1962 Cuba missile crisis when the US and the Soviet Union came within an ace of nuclear war. Declassified files disclose that President John F. Kennedy authorised "NATO aircraft with Turkish pilots... to take off for Moscow and drop a bomb."

The echo today could not be clearer.

25 October 2012

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

John Pilger:Australia's Julia Gillard is no feminist hero

The Guardian's description of Australia's opposition leader Tony Abbott as "neanderthal" is not unreasonable. Misogyny is an Australian blight and a craven reality in political life. But for so many commentators around the world to describe Julia Gillard's attack on Abbott as a "turning point for Australian women" is absurd. Promoted by glass-ceiling feminists with scant interest in the actual politics and actions of their hero, Gillard is the embodiment of the Australian Labor Party machine - a numbers-crunching machine long bereft of principle that has betrayed Australia's most vulnerable people, especially women.

Shortly before Gillard's lauded rant against Abbott, her government forced through legislation that stripped A$100 from the poorest single parents - almost all of them women. Even Labor's own caucus reportedly regarded this as "cruel". But that is nothing compared with Gillard's attacks on Aboriginal people, who remain Australia's dirty secret, suffering preventable diseases such as trachoma (blindness in children), which has been eliminated in much of the developing world, and scourges that hark back to Dickensian England, such as rheumatic heart disease, even leprosy. I have seen Aboriginal homes in which 30 people are forced to live, because the government refuses to build public housing for them. Indigenous young people are incarcerated in Australian prisons at five times the rate of black South Africans during the apartheid era.

Gillard has continued with gusto the authoritarian and mendacious 2007 "emergency intervention" designed to push Aboriginal Australians off their valuable land and box them into "hub centres": a version of apartheid. She and her indigenous affairs minister Jenny Macklin have implemented this inhumanity in defiance of international law. In a speech last year, Gillard, like most of her predecessors, blamed the victims of Australia's unresolved rapacious past and present. I have just spent several months in Aboriginal Australia; and the views I have gathered from remarkable, despairing, eloquent indigenous women of Gillard and her "feminism" are mostly unknown or ignored or dismissed in this country. Watching Gillard address the United Nations last month and claim that Australia embraced "the highest ideals" of human rights law was satirical, to say the least. Australia has been repeatedly condemned by the UN for its racism.

Gillard came to power by plotting secretly with an all-male cabal to depose the elected prime minister. Kevin Rudd. Two of her conspirators, according to diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, sought inspiration in the US embassy where Gillard enjoyed an unusually high approval rating. This was understandable.

Her views on aggressive war might be described as neanderthal if they were not Victorian; referring to the dispatch of Australian colonial troops to Sudan in 1885 to avenge a popular uprising against the British, she described the forgotten bloody farce as "not only a test of wartime courage, but a test of character that has helped define our nation and create the sense of who we are." Invariably flanked by flags, she uses such guff to justify sending more young Australians to die in faraway places such as Afghanistan, essentially as American mercenaries -- more soldiers have died under her watch than that of any recent prime minister. Her true feminist distinction, perversely, is her removal of gender discrimination in combat roles in the Australian army. Thanks to her, women are now liberated to kill Afghans and others who offer no threat to Australia. One Sydney feminist commentator was beside herself. "Australia will again lead the world in a major reform", she wrote. A passionate supporter of the Israeli state, Gillard in 2009 went on a junket to Israel arranged by the Australian Israel Cultural Exchange during which she refused to condemn Israel's blood-fresh massacre of 1400 mostly women and children in Gaza.

With political trickery reminiscent of the former arch-conservative prime minister John Howard, Gillard has sought to circumvent Australian law in order to send refugees who arrive by boat to an impoverished hell on isolated Pacific islands, such as Nauru. According to the UN High Commission for Refugees, these people are "90 per cent genuine refugees". They include children who, as government studies show, go insane in such confinement.

Australian feminism has a proud past. With New Zealanders, Australian women led the world in winning the vote and were at the forefront of the struggle for equal pay. During the slaughter of the First World War, Australian women mounted a uniquely successful campaign against a vote for conscription - known as "the blood vote". On polling day, a majority of Australians followed the women. That is feminism.

16 October 2012

Friday, October 05, 2012

John Pilger:The life and death of an Australian hero, whose skin was the wrong colour

Arthur Murray died the other day. I turned to Google Australia for tributes, and there was a 1991 obituary of an American ballroom instructor of the same name. There was nothing in the Australian media. The Australian newspaper published a large, rictal image of its proprietor, Rupert Murdoch, handing out awards to his employees. Arthur would have understood the silence.

I first met Arthur a generation ago and knew he was the best kind of trouble. He objected to the cruelty and hypocrisy of white society in a country where his people had lived longer than human beings had lived anywhere. In 1969, he and Leila had brought their family to the town of Wee Waa in outback New South Wales and camped beside the Namoi River. Arthur worked in the cotton fields for a flat rate of A$1.12 an hour. Only "itinerant blackfellas" were recruited for such a pittance; only whites had unions in the land of "fair go". Having not long been granted the vote, the First Australians were still not counted in the national census - unlike the sheep.

Working conditions in the cotton fields were primitive and dangerous. "The crop-sprayers used to fly so low," Arthur told me, "we had to lie face down in the mud or our heads would've been chopped off. The insecticide was dumped on us, and for days we'd be coughing and chucking it up." In 1973, a Sydney University study reported its "astounded" finding of fish floating dead on the surface of the Namoi River, poisoned by the "utterly mad, uncontrolled" level of spraying, which continued.

Arthur and the cotton-chippers made history. They went on strike, and more than 500 of them marched through Wee Waa. The Wee Waa Echo called them "radicals and professional troublemakers", adding that "it is not fanciful to see the Aboriginal problem as the powder keg for Communist aggression in Australia". Abused as "boongs" and "niggers", the Murrays' riverside camp was attacked and the workers' tents smashed or burned down.

Although food was collected for the strikers, hunger united their families. Leila would wake before sunrise to light a wood fire that cooked the little food they had and to heat a 44-gallon drum, cut in half lengthways, and filled with water that the children brought in buckets from the river for their morning bath. With her ancient flat iron she pressed their clothes, so that they went to school "spotless", as she would say.

The enemies Arthur and his comrades made were the Australian equivalent of those standing in the way of Martin Luther King's civil rights campaigners in the United States. They were the police, local politicians, the media. "Who in the town was with you?" I asked Arthur. He thought for a while. "There was a chemist," he said. "who was kind to Aboriginal people. Mostly we were on our own." Soon after the cotton workers won an hourly rate of A$1.45, Arthur was arrested for trespassing in the grounds of the Returned Servicemen's Club. His defence shocked the town; it was land rights. All of Australia was Aboriginal land, he said.

On 12 June, 1981, Arthur and Leila's son, Eddie, aged 21, was drinking with some friends in a park in Wee Waa. He was a star footballer confident he would be selected to tour New Zealand with the Redfern All Blacks Rugby League team. At 1.45 pm he was picked up by the police for nothing but drunkenness. Within an hour he was dead in a cell, with a blanket tried round his neck. At the inquest, the coroner described police evidence as "highly suspicious" and their records were found to have been falsified. Eddie, he said, had died "by his own hand or by the hand of a person or persons unknown". It was a craven finding familiar to Aboriginal Australians.  Everyone knew Eddie had too much to live for.

Arthur and Leila set out on an extraordinary journey for justice for their son and their people. They endured the ignorance and indifference of white society and its multi-layered political and judicial bureaucracies. They won a royal commission, only to see the royal commissioner, a judge, suddenly appointed to a top government administrative job in the critical final stages of the hearing. They eventually won the right to exhume Eddie's body, and suffered terribly in the process, in order to prove the true cause of death, and they proved it; his sternum had been crushed by a blow while he was alive. And they reaffirmed how common their story was. "They're killing Aboriginal people," Leila told me. "... just killing us."  Today, Aborigines are imprisoned at five times the rate of blacks in apartheid South Africa, and their death and suffering in custody is widespread.

In 2000, the New South Wales Police Minister, Paul Whelan, met Arthur and Leila in his office in Sydney and ordered an investigation by a specialist unit, the Police Integrity Commission. He promised them that this "would not be the end of the road".  There was no serious inquiry and the minister retired to his stud farm. He has returned none of my calls.

Leila could not read, yet this remarkable woman memorised almost every document and judgement. She died in 2004, broken hearted. Incredibly, Arthur reached the age of 70 when most Aboriginal men are dead by the age of 45. In a typical case this year, CCTV footage in Alice Springs police station showed a policewoman cleaning blood off the floor while a stricken Aboriginal man was left to die. Australia, said Prime Minister Julia Gillard on 26 September, deserves a seat at the top table of the United Nations because it "embraces the high ideals" of the UN. No country since apartheid South Africa has been more condemned by the UN for its racism than Australia.

When I last saw Arthur, we walked down to the Namoi riverbank and he told me how the police in Wee Waa were still frightened to go into the cell where Eddie had died and had pleaded with him  to "smoke out" Eddie's spirit. "No bloody way!" Arthur told them.

Peace to all their spirits; justice to all their people.

With thanks to Simon Luckhurst, Roderic Pitty & Robert Cavanagh

4 October 2012