From under the linoleum
Old newspapers show Mussolini's imperialism looked a lot like today's

I sat on the floor and picked through the tragedy of the country we now call Ethiopia laid out on the yellowing pages. It was eerily reminiscent of the current Iraq adventure.

A tale for our times
The December 1934 assassination of Sergei Kirov

Seventy years on, the killing of Sergei Kirov casts an eerie light on the events of 11 September 2001, the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the “war on Terror” and the state-sponsored hysteria surrounding the shadowy figures of Osama bin Ladin and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Ninety-three years of bombing the Arabs
It was the Italians, hell-bent on acquiring an African empire, who got the ball rolling. In 1911 the Libyan Arab tribes opposed an Italian invasion. Their civilians were the first people in the world to be bombed from the air.

Dispossessed all over again
After spending nearly two months in the West Bank the pull towards my village was growing stronger, especially after being detained twice and threatened with deportation … an Australian Palestinian returns to her ancestral home.

The tragic inevitability of a forlorn hope
Australia slides further into the Iraq quagmire
Cabinet documents recently released under the 50-year rule show that, in 1954, Liberal (conservative) Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, and key figures in his Cabinet were extremely gloomy about the prospects for success in an American war against nationalists in Indochina. But eventually they went to the Vietnam War anyway.

Bombing King David
One man’s freedom fighter is another’s terrorist

Some historians date the beginning of modern terrorism from the 1946 bombing by Zionist terrorists of the British military HQ in Jerusalem.

Don’t loiter near the exit
Military debacle and economic decline haunt the Bush regime

When I was just a young possum in the school cadet corps there was a hoary old war story that we all knew. It was almost certainly apocryphal, but it ruefully expressed a nasty historic truth about the US role in the demise of the British Empire.

 


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Brushtail Graphics

The best broadcasters money can buy

28 July 1999

It had not been a good week for the pundits of Sydney. Some of their best and brightest stood accused of selling editorial opinion to the highest bidder and many of the rich and powerful were running for cover or fighting desperate rearguard actions.

Commercial radio was exposed as a place where pleasant authoritative voices – voices oozing evident sincerity – command a very high price indeed and even voices redolent of querulous bitchiness and mean thuggery can score in six figures from time to time.

Even Little Johnny Howard managed a pretty good semblance of shock and dismay but the man from the Australian Bankers Association could only bring itself to be "embarrassed" about the Laws deal and couldn't actually get his mouth round words like "wrong" or "unethical", no matter how many times he was asked. The only crime the banks really felt guilty of was to have been caught in the act.

The radio in the Brushtail Café is usually turned on only for wars and stock market disasters, but Joadja got constant requests to tune in to John Laws on 2UE, and his stablemate Mike Carlton. I could hear the sounds of near hysterical laughter in my office on the other side of the lane, where I was again confined to bed by a nasty relapse of Possum Creek Fever, which clogged my sinuses with mucus and paralysed the muscles in my tail.

"Mike Carlton usually pretends he's one of us – a sort of Alan Jones of the Left – but he rushed to the defence of Lawsie with the bullshit argument that they're even doing it at the ABC. Oh boy, has he blown his cover", Joadja chucked, when she came up at midnight with a pack of Panadol and a six-pack of cider.

"And all he could come up with was that Peter Thompson got money off a couple of corporations for media advice or something, and somebody else wrote advertising jingles in his spare time – hardly equivalent to changing your opinion about the behaviour of the banks for $1.2 million. Maybe Peter Thompson ought to resign from the ABC or give up consultancy, but as a journalist he's head and shoulders above the 2UE boys", she said as she twisted the top off a bottle and handed it to me.

By a strange coincidence David Ogilvy, one of the great geniuses of advertising, died last week. The author of Confessions of an Advertising Man, was a figure from another age, an age when advertising executives and PR types were a trendy set at the forefront of capitalist expansion and could tell each other they had scruples.

One could go too far, Ogilvy believed. He hated billboards cluttering up the countryside and didn't believe that agencies should work for political parties.

He never did much copy for radio, which was widely thought to be dying after the advent of TV, but he described it as the "Cinderella of advertising media".

That was in 1963. Sometime in the seventies a Fairy Godmother arrived and transformed the pumpkin into a Mercedes convertible and Cinderella's rags into Versace gown. But something went wrong and at midnight Cinderella was transmuted into a ghastly approximation of Imelda Marcos with a limitless appetite for gold, and, in fact, anything of value that wasn't screwed down.

Next time we hear the freebooters of talk-back radio ranting on, anyone who isn't forensically stupid will wonder "Is he being paid for this, or will he be paid to stop it?"

It was all a beautiful thing, I reflected.