Wednesday, December 6, 2017

'Acceptable Opinion': The China Lobby

I love word association games, don't you? Imagine you're engaged in one with an Australian journalist and you said, 'lobby'. What's he/she going to say?

Why, 'China' of course:

"In a 2015 interview with the China Economic Net website... Senator Dastyari is quoted as extending his 'warm congratulations' to the Chinese people on the anniversary of the 'Chinese People's War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression and the World Anti-Fascist War'. Swinburne University China expert John Fitzgerald said the phrase... was a 'loaded term'. Dr Fitzgerald claimed Senator Dastyari... must be speaking from dot points drafted by someone with close links to the Chinese communist party or government - a minder or go-between'... " (Dastyari under pressure as Chinese interview surfaces, James Massola & Nick McKenzie, Sydney Morning Herald, 5/12/17)

Apparently, the hordes of Labor and Liberal politicians who flock to Israel lobby-organised 'Independence Day' gigs and there declare their undying love for all things Israel simply aren't on our journalists' radar. Presumably, that's because, when it comes to Israel, no Israel lobby-generated PR dot points are required as our politicians always speak straight from the heart!

Now, surprise, surprise here's another piece on China - same paper, same edition:

"As New Zealand sinologist Anne-Marie Brady of Canterbury University has written: 'The Chinese government's foreign influence activities have accelerated under Xi. The focus of media attention has been on Australia, but the People's Republic of China's attempts to guide, buy, or coerce political influence abroad are widespread.' But why?... 'At its core,' says an American expert on China's influence operations, Peter Mattis, 'to survive, the party has to manipulate the ideas around it. What questions are asked, what's on the spectrum of acceptable opinion, there's a consistent effort to shape that." (Hexing Beijing's 'magic weapon', Peter Hartcher, Sydney Morning Herald, 5/12/17)

Of course, the Israel lobby doesn't have to put quite the same effort into manipulating the ideas around it - what questions are asked, what's on the acceptable spectrum of opinion etc, etc. And that's because it's got journalists like Hartcher (rambammed 2010) parroting their lines and/or avoiding altogether the kind of in-depth discussion he devotes here to Chinese influence. (And this despite the fact that he once quoted an "Australian official" who told him that it wouldn't matter who Australia's prime minister was because the Israelis had us "by the balls... partly because of the strength of the Israel lobby.")*

Silly me - I would have thought that if a foreign power could be described by a government insider as having us by the balls the matter would be deserving of some journalistic scrutiny, but then that's why I'm not the Herald's international editor, right?

[*See my 22/6/10 post The Best Israel Policy Money Can Buy.]

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