Irish Blog Whacked

Friday, May 10, 2013

FREE MEDIA | Not an Order of Mates

Hold the Front Page! We Need Free Media, Not an Order of Mates
By John Pilger
May 09, 2013 - ICH - The other day, I stood outside the strangely silent building where I began life as a journalist. It is no longer the human warren that was Consolidated Press in Sydney, though ghosts still drink at the King's Head pub nearby. As a cadet reporter, I might have walked on to the set of Lewis Milestone's The Front Page. Men in red braces did shout, "Hold the front page", and tilt back their felt hats and talk rapidly with a roll-your-own attached indefinitely to their lower lip. You could feel the presses rumbling beneath and smell the ink.

This was the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph, where I learned to report crime, courts, sport, killer bees, Rotary meetings and the arrival of almost famous people from that mysterious land, "overseas". The proprietor was a former boxer, Frank Packer, immortalised in Cyril Pearl's Wild Men of Sydney, and knighted for his vendettas against anyone to the political left of Pontius Pilate.

"Sir Frank" was seen on the editorial floor on Saturday nights after the races. If his horse had lost, fear and loathing were a presence. Once, he cancelled all the late editions and exiled the production staff to the King's Head, where their necessary return was negotiated from a phone on the public bar.

My only encounter with Sir Frank was when I foolishly boarded a geriatric lift precariously filled with the corpulent proprietor and his two gargantuan sons, Clyde and Kerry. "Who the fuck are you?" said Kerry, later to find distinction as the money bags behind World Series cricket.

The training was superb. A style developed by a highly literate editor, Brian Penton, who had published poetry in the Telegraph, instilled a respect for English grammar and the value of informed simplicity. Words like "during" were banned; "in" was quite enough. The passive voice was considered lazy and banned, along with most clichés and adjectives - except those in the splenetic editorials demanding all Reds went to hell. When I boarded a rust-streaked Greek ship for Europe, I was sorry to leave; I had begun to learn about the craft of journalism and about those who controlled it and used it and why.

A lesson that endures is that when the rich and powerful and own the means of popular enlightenment and dress it up as a "free press", bestowing a false respectability called the "mainstream", the opposite is usually true. Sir Frank turned out to be a minnow compared compared with Rupert Murdoch.

Murdoch bought the Packer newspapers in 1972 and today controls 70 per cent of Australia's capital city press, along with dozens of local and regional newspapers. In Adelaide and Brisbane he owns almost everything. Two conglomerates dedicated to a doctrinaire, often extreme world view - Murdoch's News Limited and Fairfax Media - control 86 per cent of the Australian press.

This absence of choice and real dissent, let alone "balance", extends to the national broadcaster, the ABC, a progeny of the BBC run as a corporate hierarchy. There are honourable exceptions, of course, among them Philip Dorling, Kate McClymont and Quentin Dempster. Unlike the US and Britain, independent online journalism is rare. The result is a sameness that seems remarkable and demeaning in a first world, educated society.

Murdoch's augmented obsessions rule. The Labor government of Julia Gillard is loathed by his newspapers. This is inexplicable as Labor's policies are more or less those of the conservative coalition of Tony "Mad Monk" Abbott. When Communications Minister Stephen Conroy proposed timid post-Leveson regulation, he was depicted as Stalin in the fashion of the Sun in London. When Labor's prime minister in 2010, Kevin Rudd, announced a modest tax on the mega-profits of the mining companies, he was deposed by his own party following a propaganda campaign across the media, largely funded by the mining lobby.

Public perception of non-conformist minorities, especially Australia's indigenous people, is often taken from the media. These unique first people are seen as "bludgers" - spongers. This inverts a truth that is never news: a parasitical, lucrative white industry is effectively licensed by federal and state governments to exploit indigenous hardship.

Like America, Australia in its early colonial days had a vibrant press, a "medley of competing voices", wrote Edward Smith Hall, editor of the crusading Sydney Monitor. Journalists were "the voice of the people" and not of the "trade of authority". In the late 19th century, there were 143 independent newspapers in New South Wales alone. By 1988, the empires of Murdoch, Fairfax, Packer empires and Alan Bond, later imprisoned for the country's biggest corporate fraud, dominated the "mainstream" as an exclusive Order of Mates.

This is true across much of the democratic world. The medley of voices on the internet has dented monopoly media power, though the same monopolies are now consuming the web. "Social media" are largely introverted, a look-at-me peep show for the digitally besotted. As the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta approaches, hard-won rights such as the presumption of innocence are buried beneath the tentacular might of corporate systems.

Ironically, in the "information age", censorship by omission is a weapon of this power - the silencing of whistleblowers without whom journalism can never be free, and of a compliant, privileged "left". Militarised policing, displayed recently in Boston, consumes an America waging "perpetual war" and now threatening China. In Europe, a savage class war rages from Greece to Spain and Britain. It is no surprise that newspapers in thrall to this corrupt power are ailing.

Edmund Burke mythologised the press as a Fourth Estate. Today, we need a "fifth estate" right across the media and in journalism training and on the streets. We need those like Edward Smith Hall, who see themselves as agents of people not power.

How Socrates could save your life

by Sylvia Thompson

Greek philosophy may be ancient, but it’s a razor-sharp tool for dealing with modern life, says author Jules Evans, who used philosophy as a path out of depression

It’s a sunny Saturday in May and up to 60 people have gathered to hear an academic philosopher, an existential analyst and a journalist/writer share their insights into the human condition.
London-based writer Jules Evans begins by telling people about his mental-health decline in his late teens. “About 15 years ago, my friends and I experimented with hash and grass and then with LSD, Ecstasy and amphetamines. We had some great times – spiritually interesting and challenging – but it had bad effects on my friends, triggering a psychotic breakdown in one who was later diagnosed as schizophrenic, and bipolar disorder in another.”
Evans says it didn’t seem to affect him until a few years later, when he was a first-year student studying English literature at Oxford University. “The drugs caught up with me and I started to get panic attacks. It frightened and confused me, and undermined my confidence and I found myself depressed for days and then weeks.” All the way through university, he became increasingly withdrawn and upon graduation had “a mini breakdown”.
Now 34, Evans says his turning point came when he attended a social-anxiety support group in London, which followed a 10-week course in cognitive-behaviour therapy. Not only did it bolster his confidence, it gave him a whole new subject to research as a journalist and writer.
Evans is in Dublin to promote a new edition of his book Philosophy for Life and Other Dangerous Situations (Rider Books, €8.99) and to speak at a day-long Socrates seminar in the United Arts Club. With his open and friendly demeanour, he describes his so-called “street philosophy”, examining how the “four noble truths” of the ancient Greek philosophers can help you to know yourself, change yourself, and create new habits of thinking, feeling and acting so as to have a more flourishing life.

Building character“The idea of Greek philosophy is to build a character that is morally consistent in different situations at home and at work,” says Evans. He emphasises the importance of creating habits: repeating helpful maxims to yourself aloud, writing a journal to track your progress, putting yourself in new situations, having role models.
The book is the result of five years of autodidactic study into Greek philosophy and how it influenced modern psychology – in particular, cognitive-behaviour therapy (CBT). Evans researched the philosophy of Socrates, Plato, Epictetus, Diogenes, Seneca, Pythagoras and others. He interviewed psychologists, such as Albert Ellis and Aaron Beck, and a range of modern-day characters (an American soldier, an astronaut, a policeman, Occupy London and Climate Camp activists) who drew inspiration from the ancient Greeks to help them through dangerous situations.
“Originally I was just interested in stoics,” he says. “The stoic philosopher Epictetus said that it is not by events but opinions of events that we are formed. The serenity prayer used in Alcoholic Anonymous meetings is similar to the idea of Epictetus’s idea of staying strong. The stoics saw all adversity as training.
“The core idea of Greek philosophy is that our emotions are caused by our beliefs and interpretations, and we can learn to examine how we see the world by bringing our unconscious beliefs and attitudes to consciousness. This is very similar to CBT, which engages us in dialogue about our beliefs using the Socratic method.”
The Irish Times

21st Century City of London Naked Excreta


Jim McIlmurray, spokesperson for Martin Corey

At 4:50 pm yesterday, May 2, 2013, I received  the news that the High Court  had overruled the application to take Martin’s case to the Supreme Court in London.

This devastating news came without warning. Martin's legal team has spent months building his case with such strong conviction that I feel it would have ensured his immediate release under the European Convention on Human Rights.

In July 2012, a Belfast High Court judge ordered Martin’s immediate release, which was overturned within hours by the then unelected Secretary of State, Owen Paterson.

This decision was challenged in the High Court and the case concluded unsuccessfully in December 2012 with the three-man panel of judges upholding the directive of Owen Paterson.  At that stage, an application was made to appeal the High Court's decision in the highest court in the country, the Supreme Court in London.

I spoke with Martin this evening and informed him of the news. Martin has come to expect little, and often accept less, when it comes to the justice system in the North of Ireland.

Our attendance at the Supreme Court in London would have given us the opportunity to expose many aspects of this case which I feel would not be found acceptable in any English court. The fact that the Secretary of State could hand out directives, dismissing decisions by High Court judges, would have been highlighted in the Supreme Court in London, exposing the fact that politicians in the north of Ireland rule the judiciary.

The biggest disappointment has to be the fact that had we not received justice in the Supreme Court in London, we would have had the opening to bring Martin’s case to the European Court of Human Rights. This is an avenue we can still explore, but without having exhausted every domestic court in the country due to our denial to attend the Supreme Court, it will be somewhat harder to achieve a hearing within a realistic timescale.

Martin has now been in Maghaberry Prison for over three years. The course of the law states, as I understand it, if you have committed a crime, you are: questioned, charged, tried in court, sentenced, and then imprisoned. Within the past three years, Martin hasnever been questioned, charged, or sentenced. He has served what amounts to a six year sentence.

We are currently awaiting a confirmed date for a parole hearing. Martin is entitled to an annual Parole Board Review. In February of this year the European Court of Human Rights stated that 13 months was an unacceptable period of time for a prisoner to wait for a parole hearing. Martin has now waited 19 months without a parole review.

Today’s announcement of the High Court ruling has been a bitter blow to the campaign for his release, but it will not undermine my determination in seeking his release. If anything, it will harden my resolve for justice.

We need to expose this continuing tyranny. British government officials are quick enough to state that the world’s worst human rights abusers are Burma, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Libya, North Korea, and Sudan. Over the past three years I have witnessed first hand everything these officials have done to Martin and I feel the British government is making a mockery of truth by not including its own name on the list above.