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Gordon Campbell: Mainstream media, War in Yemen

Gordon Campbell on the mainstream media, and the expanding war in Yemen

Safe to say the mainstream media and the blogosphere do not hold particularly positive views of each other. Its like a family affair. In general, the MM treat the blogworld as some wild kid who is all fun and no responsibility, while bloggers treat the MM as a clueless older brother who wouldn’t last five minutes out on the street, but who is forever lecturing the blogosphere on how to behave.

The approach to the blogosphere being taken by the TVNZ current affairs show Q&A is a case in point. What Q&A wants to do is recruit bloggers to provide 30 second webcam spots for the show, and thereby – crucial point – offer contrasting opinions on the issues of the day. Time for two concise points, allegedly. What’s wrong with this idea? Just about everything.

One, it is based on treating an issue via competing soundbites – ie, the old ‘from the right and from the left’ hackery exemplified by CNN’s Crossfire show, which was dead on its feet even before Jon Stewart killed it off with his appearance on the show in 2004. Second, the idea is pretty patronising. It buys into the fuddy dud MM notion that the blogosphere is a self-cancelling forum of all heat, no light. Those crazy kids! Thirty seconds on a webcam.

The same arguments Stewart used in his devastating guest appearance on Crossfire – the transcript is here, and the video is here apply to Q&A’s bright idea. The conflict is bogus, does no service to viewers, and is based on false notions about the blogosphere – which, true enough, does have its share of lunatics fully comparable to the ones who appear daily on the op-ed pages of the Dom-Post and the NZ Herald. But increasingly, bloggers are also doing the news gathering and the analysis that is being overlooked by an under-resourced and – lets face it, bro – oftimes lazy and overpaid MM.

Hey, here’s an idea – why not pit Guyon Espiner against Duncan Garner in a 30 second, soundbite driven war of the webcams slot on Q&A.? Oh right, that’s been done. We get something like it every night on the 6pm network news.

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The Rodney & Heather Show

So Rodney Hide and Heather Roy have ended the week singing in harmony.

Not quite what Hide expected at week’s beginning, when Roy’s replacement on the ACT list was doing media interviews and Hide was asking Roy to consider her options. Which she did, and blindsided Hide by announcing on camera that (a) she was back and (b) was ready and willing to work constructively with the ACT leadership – thus leaving an outmanoeuvred Hide to consider HIS options. Initially, he chose to avoid the media but then threw in the towel, conceded she was a lot tougher than he thought, apologised to her and vowed to get on with business. As a case study in politcial mis-management this one should keep the pol science academy in clover for years.

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And Now, Yemen

The ever-expanding war against Islam now has a new prime focus : Yemen. In this excellent piece on Salon, Glenn Geenwald sums up the expansion of the war in Yemen, and its relationship to the ever-widening battle against Al Qaeda, which – allegedly – New Zealand troops are in Afghanistan to confront. Even though as Greenwald says, the CIA and most other intelligence agencies have made it clear they believe Al Qaeda no longer has a significant presence in Afghanistan.

So where is Al Qaeda now ? Yemen! This necessitating the usual array of cluster bombs and killer drones with the usual high casualty toll among innocent civilians, a hardening of attitudes against the US and its allies, and the fostering of a climate guaranteed to assist the Al Qaeda receruitment drive.

As Greenwald also noted in a previous column, the anti-Moslem sentiments being displayed in the so called “Ground Zero’ mosque affair in Manhattan also play right into jihadist hands – and serve to undermine General David Petraeus and his forces on the ground as they try to convince Afghans that the US is engaged in a war against terrorism, and is not at war against their religion. But then, the right in America is engaged in a holy war of its own against the socialist in the White House – and if the US military effort in Afghanistan has to be jeopardised for that noble cause, so be it.

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