Lies, damned lies, and the liberal media

It’s common to think that the liberal media like the ABC and Fairfax press (publisher of the Age and the Sydney Morning Herald) are a cut above the Murdoch media and crude racists like Jacqui Lambie. It’s not true.

The respectable voices have spread lies (with or without retractions), half truths and slanderous innuendo to add to the frenzy of hatred and suspicion towards Muslims currently being whipped up by the government.

The ABC’s Lateline program has got form peddling lies in the service of racism. Who can forget its role in 2007 in whipping up hysteria about non-existent paedophile rings in Northern Territory Aboriginal communities to justify the Howard government’s military intervention?

This time round, it was Fairfax Media that had to apologise for publishing a photo of 18-year-old Abu Bakhar Alam on the front pages of the Age, the Canberra Times and the Sydney Morning Herald on 25 September.

In language indistinguishable from the tabloids, the papers ran the photo with headlines including “Teenage Terrorist”, “Teen Jihad” and “Teen Takes Terror to the Suburbs”, dubbing him a “schoolboy turned fanatic” who “set terror trap for police”.

The boy they mistook him for, Abdul Numan Haider, was shot dead by police. Thanks to Fairfax, Abu Bakhar Alam is now afraid to leave his house.

Another outright lie, created by the police and reinforced by every media outlet without apology, is the claim that Numan Haider unfurled an ISIS banner in a shopping centre. In fact, the flag was one symbolising the Shahadah or profession of faith, a common creed recited by Muslims.

Just as all Muslims apparently look alike to the liberal media, so do their flags full of squiggles, even to the cosmopolitans of the ABC and Fairfax. Really, how can the liberal media be expected to get it right, if Muslims won’t write things in English?

Then there’s innuendo. It’s more insidious, and the respectable media are probably better at it than the tabloids (perhaps they learn it in their elite private schools and clubs).

Both the ABC and Fairfax Media have been relentless in their demands that Muslims in Australia dissociate themselves from and condemn any and all acts of terrorism, whether proven or not.

The never-ending demand for Muslim apologies presumes guilt by association. No one else is asked to make these “not in my name” professions. And failure to do so is used as a smear to imply that you are somehow condoning terrorism.

Hence the media outcry against the Islamic Council of Victoria. A statement of fact became an accusation in the Age: “The Islamic Council of Victoria has refused to condemn the actions of a man who was fatally shot after stabbing two anti-terrorism police.” How terrible, the ICV were insisting on the presumption of innocence until proven guilty!

The question ought to be, why weren’t the liberal media doing the same?

What’s going on here? It’s not just that none of them got the memo that the word “alleged” could still be used when the suspects were Muslim.

The media are, after all, capitalist enterprises, although ones with substantial benefits for the whole system. They are not there to question the system but to reinforce it. And the liberal media do this with as much gusto as the Murdochs of the world.

They use their respectable status to help normalise things that ought to be questioned. Not one of them could recognise what was wrong with what Jacqui Lambie says about Muslims, i.e. that she’s an appalling racist.

But they had a million things to say about how she expressed her views. It’s OK to be a racist, just don’t be embarrassing! The ABC described the interview in which she revealed her ignorance of sharia law as a “train wreck”, while the Sydney Morning Herald bemoaned her lack of knowledge of the constitution and her “stumbles” and being “tongue-tied”. Articulate racists who’ve been to uni are apparently so much better.

In a week when billions of dollars of tax avoidance by the top listed companies on the ASX received minor coverage compared to non-existent threats from burqa-clad women, the respectable media are just as complicit in peddling Islamophobia as any other media outlet. Read with care.