Author of:A History Man’s Past
& Other Peoples’ Stories: A Shared Memoir.Part One: Other Peoples’ Wars, Brothers Part One: Gallipoli 1915, Singing Johnny Cash In The Cardiac Ward-A Personal Story of Heart Disease & Music, The Mountain City Murders
Following a week in which the words "heroes" and "heroism" bobbed on a tsunami of raw propaganda, a tribute is due to two unrecognised Australian heroes. The first is Ray Jackson, who died on April 23.
Ray spoke and fought for a truth which the powerful and bigoted hate to hear, see or read.
Ray spoke and fought for a truth which the powerful and bigoted hate to hear, see or read. He said this was a land not of brave Anzac "legacies", but of dirty secrets and enduring injustices that only a national cowardice could sustain. "Conformity is widely understood and obeyed in Australia," he wrote to me, "freedom is not."
Sacked over Twitter comments: Scott McIntyre.
I first met Ray in 2004 during the Indigenous uprising in Redfern, Sydney, that followed the violent death of a 17-year-old, Thomas Hickey. Known as "TJ", he was chased by a police car, lost control of his bike and was impaled on an iron fence. The police denied they had caused his death. Not a single Aboriginal person believed them, least of all Ray, whose campaign for justice will not go away.
A Wiradjuri man, Ray was stolen from his mother at the age of two and given to a white family. The experience taught him about Australian genocide. A lifelong socialist, his speciality was his unflagging investigations into police thuggery towards Aboriginal people, especially the multiple deaths in police and prison custody that routinely go unpunished. Australia incarcerates black Australians at a higher rate than that of apartheid South Africa.
When John Howard decimated Indigenous institutions and funding, Ray took his files and videos to his single-bedroom Housing Commission flat and founded the Indigenous Social Justice Association. He fought for the memory of young Kwementaye Briscoe, left to die in a police cell in Alice Springs, and Brazilian Roberto Curti, Tasered to death by police in Sydney. He was the champion of countless locked-up Iraqi, Iranian and Tamil refugees. "Never stop fighting for your freedom," he told them. Shaming official Australia, the French government awarded him one of its highest human rights laureates.
Ray loathed warmongering and would approve of my second hero. This is Scott McIntyre, the young SBS soccer journalist who, in four now famous tweets, set out to counter the authoritarian sludge that demands we celebrate the criminal waste of life in the British imperial invasion of Turkey a century ago, rather than recognise unpalatable truths about our past and present.
Opportunistic politicians and journalists have turned this melancholy event into a death cult. Federal governments have spent almost $400 million promoting it as a fake patriotism – more than Britain, France, Germany and Canada combined: countries that lost many more men in the 1914-18 bloodfest. Today, the military and venal militarism are virtually off limits for real public criticism.
Why? Australia, a nation without enemies, is spending $28billion a year on the military and war and armaments in order to fulfil a tragic, entirely colonial and obsequious role, as Washington's "deputy sheriff".
This much we know, perhaps have always known. But watching a contemporary version of crude Edwardian jingoism consume the nation's intellect and self-respect has been salutary, especially the cover provided by those paid ostensibly to keep the record straight. Tony Abbott, zealot, oaf and one of our cruellest prime ministers, "shone" at the Gallipoli Anzac service, according to Peter FitzSimons, whose tomes on the subject show no sign of abating. In the Murdoch press – augmented as ever to promote war after war – Paul Kelly echoes Abbott that remembrance is not enough; that the Anzac death cult "is now the essence of being Australian" .... indeed, "a quasi religious force".
Scott McIntyre drove the Twitter equivalent of a five-ton truck through such maudlin, cynical drivel. He tweeted the unsayable, much of it the truth; and all decent journalists – or dare I say, freedom-loving Australians – should be standing up for him. That Malcolm Turnbull, who made his name unctuously shouting about freedom of speech, should have been involved in the saga with McIntyre's employer, SBS, in whatever form, is a measure of the state of public and media life in Australia.
That a journalism professor of long standing, John Henningham, can tweet that "freedom of speech meant that journalists had the right to speak without breaking the law but did not have the right to keep their job when offending others" is a glimpse of the obstacles faced by aspiring young journalists as they navigate the university mills.
Many young people reject this, of course, and maintain their sense of the bogus, and McIntyre is one of them. He offended in the highest tradition of freedom of thought and speech. Knowing the personal consequences would be serious, he displayed moral courage. When his union – the MEAA – locates its spine and its responsibility, it must demand he is given his job back. I salute him.
John Pilger is a journalist, author and documentary maker.
"A petty reason perhaps why novelists more and more try to keep a distance from journalists is that novelists are trying to write the truth and journalists are trying to write fiction." Graham Greene
Guests I've had on Radio.
Russell Crowe, Amanda Dole and myself outside Radio Redfern, May Day 1989. Russell had just performed a few songs on my show, Radio Solidarity. Amanda is an organiser for the National Union of Workers.
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"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
"Every government is run by liars and nothing should be believed." I.F.Stone 1907-89
"I have made more friends for American culture than the State Department. Certainly I have made fewer enemies, but that isn't very difficult." Arthur Miler 1915-2005
"In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." George Orwell 1903-50
"It is not enough for journalists to see themselves as mere messengers without understandig the hidden agendas of the message that surrounds it." John Pilger
"Lots of people who complained about us receiving the MBE received theirs for heroism in the war - for killing people. We received ours for entertaining other people. I'd say we deserve ours more." Joesph Heller 1923-99
"Media is just a word that has come to mean bad journalism." Graham Greene 1904-91
"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
"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 first law of journalism-to confirm existing prejudice rather than contradict it." Alexander Cockburn
"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 a free market economy is that it requires so many policemen to make it work." Neal Ascherson, 1932- Games with the Shadows, Policing the Marketplace.
"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
"What is the crime of robbing a bank compared with the crime of founding one." Bertolt Brecht 1898-1956
"Who is more to be pitied, a writer bound and gagged by policemen or one living in perfect freedom who has nothing more to say?" Kurt Vonnegut 1922-2007
[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 don't respect the law; I have a total irreverence for anything connected with society except that which makes the roads safer, the beer stronger, the food cheaper and the old men and old women warmer in the winter and happier in the summer. Brendan Behan 1923-64
“I do what I do, and write what I write, without calculating what is worth what and so on. Fortunately, I am not a banker or an accountant. I feel that there is a time when a political statement needs to be made and I make it.” Arundhati Roy