18 Aug. 2007

Reaching Back

Funny how the news cycle works, innit? The Murdoch press reaches back four years to make a story of Rudd's night at a strip club, and it becomes news. But just look at all the more important stories we've all "moved on" from!

For example, I was just reading this TPM post about how Bush ignored that August 2001 memo entitled "Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US". Now you all know I've read a lot about Bush, but I had never heard that he brushed off the CIA briefer who brought him that memo with the words: "All right. You've covered your ass, now."

As The Carpetbagger notes, Bush was on vacation in Crawford at the time. So no wonder he didn't jump at the news.
Top intelligence officials — George Tenet, Richard Clarke, and others — were running around with their “hair on fire,” warning that al Qaeda was about to unleash a major attack. Bush, tragically, treated his intelligence briefings about Osama bin Laden as perfunctory chores that he had to endure. Based on the “covered your ass” comment, it was almost as if the president was humoring the CIA briefer.
The "covered your ass" comment was apparently first reported by Ron Suskind in his 2006 book, "The One Percent Doctrine". The Washington post covered it... in a book review.

Now just imagine if all such facts about 9/11, which have seeped out ever so slowly and ever so silently in the past six years, were widely known just a week after the attacks. Bush would not just have lost his job, he would have had to flee the USA to escape Death Row.

Little wonder, then, that those in the media who hold the keys to public enlightenment should guard their gates so avidly.

Speaking of books, I am reading one called "Silencing Dissent", by Clive Hamilton and Sarah Maddison (thanks to a commenter for the tip). It compiles chapters written by experts in their fields to show how the Howard government has systematically repressed and controlled public information in a whole range of related areas:

- universities
- research
- NGOs
- the media
- the public service
- statutory authorities
- the military and intelligence services
- the Senate

Oddly enough, I find the book strangely reassuring because it explains of of my greatest grievances about the state of Australia, namely that the public are asleep to all that is being done in their name.
Over the past few years, many people have wondered aloud how it is that the government, and especially the Prime Minister, have escaped censure for creating a culture of political deception. We believe that the transformation of the democratic landscape as described in this book explains how and why the government has not been brought to account. Beyond the limited democracy afforded by the electoral process, there is now much tighter control over the flow of information that should help to keep citizens informed, there are fewer forums in which dissenting voices can be heard, and there is an increasingly rigid insistence that only those who have been anointed by the government should be heard at all. The longer term picture is even more worrying: authoritarianism can only flourish where democracy has been eroded.
Of course, we all know about many, if not most of these things, but reading them all carefully compiled between the pages of this book makes me realise just how thoroughly, how damned professionally, the job of dumbing-down Australia has been accomplished. Maybe I am a little too harsh on people sometimes.

Going back to that TPM post, a Bush spokesman (*) recently called a small-time US journo to let him know that Teh President was not impressed by his (extremely mild) criticism of Bush's wardrobe at the ranch. See, that's what it's all about: micro-managing the message. And, of course, FEAR.

* Actually it was Bush's top-class media whore, Dana Perino. No wonder Tony Snow is giving the game away - who can compete with Dana's sultry lies and surly contempt for reality?

UPDATE: Interesting thread on Naughty Kev's Big Adventure at LP. From the comments:
Milne’s wife works for Crosby/Textor and the “Revelation” was leaked today, when Newspoll are polling.
You can just imagine the Newspoll questions, can't you?
1. Were you aware that Mr Rudd frequents lewd establishments and drinks to excess?
2. Who are you planning to vote for?
UPDATE 2: Caroline Overington says of this new Rudd story:
It first came up when Col Allan was outed as a regular at Scores by a former employee of the New York Post, who was sacked by Allan.
Ironic if this all goes back to that dummy spit from a disgruntled Murdoch ex-employee, Ian Spiegelman. As I noted at the time, the most incendiary allegations from Spiegelman were about Murdoch's dodgy deals with Chinese leaders, For example:
In Fall 2001, I was ordered to kill a Page Six story about a Chinese diplomat and a strip club that would have angered the Communist regime and endangered [News Corp. Chairman Rupert] Murdoch's broadcasting privileges."
But there's more to it than that:
Spiegelman said: "Accepting freebies, graft and other favours was not only condoned by the company [News Ltd], but encouraged as a way to decrease the newspaper's out-of-pocket expenses."
I suspect Rudd was being offered his drinks (and chicks?) for free. If so, it's no wonder Rudd felt a bit "intimidated"!