Saturday, 16 March 2019

Brenton Tarrant, the corporate media and censorship

Brenton Tarrant shot and killed forty-nine people on Friday in Christchurch. The corporate media love this story. News programmes have been dominated by the story. However, it is not the facts of the case that they are particularly concerned to report. Rather, their interest is in the narratives they can spin.

Brenton Tarrant is, according to the corporate media's so called journalists, a white supremacist. He live-streamed his attack. He had published a manifesto on the Internet prior to the attack. He used rifles for his attack. He was influenced by things he had read on the Internet. These few characteristics make the story endlessly fascinating for the corporate media. These details allow them to push their propaganda against freedom of expression, especially on social media. These details allow them to push their propaganda against dissenting views. These details allow them to push their propaganda against citizens having the right to bear arms. These details allow them to push their propaganda against any criticism of Islam. These details allow them to push their propaganda against Donald Trump and all the politicians they characterise as populists.

The use of this tragic event for propaganda purposes is not an aberration: this is normal practice for the corporate media. Exploiting tragic events is their stock in trade; their standard operating procedure.

In all the noise and emoting around this story, one theme is central: their fear of freedom of expression, especially on the Internet. Journalists, pundits, politicians and various forms of experts are rolled out demanding censorship of the Internet. Within hours, video of the attack was taken down. Within a day, Tarrant's manifesto was taken down.

The censorship of the manifesto is significant. It was his rationale for his actions, in his own words. And that is precisely what the corporate media did not want anyone to know. The last thing they want is someone else being able to define the narrative. In their view there is only one legitimate narrative: and it is theirs. The idea that people should have access to primary sources and be able to make up their own minds on the basis of the facts is something the whole of the elite agree should never happen. When WikiLeaks published Democratic Party documents Chris Cuomo told CNN's viewers that it was illegal for them to look at the documents and they could only know about them from the media. Bare-faced lying is also a norm in the media.

I read Tarrant's manifesto before it was taken down. There is nothing in it to justify the corporate media's assertion that he is a white supremacist. It would be more accurate to characterise him as a segregationist. His concern is with mass migration of Muslims into lands occupied by Europeans and people of European descent. His fear is that such migration will inevitably result in the host society having its culture and traditions undermined and eventually replaced. His fear is that the newly arrived will destroy the indigenous culture (apparently the irony of an Australian of European descent holding this view is lost on Tarrant).

Tarrant's manifesto contains other material that would fit uncomfortably with the corporate media's narrative. For example, he claims Candace Owens as a source of inspiration. She is what in the corporate media's racist world view is called black; an unlikely hero for a white supremacist. Tarrant also compared himself with Nelson Mandela. He did this in acknowledgement that his attack would be an act of terrorism. The point he was making was that now that the ANC's struggle has been won, Mandela is no longer regarded as a terrorist. The notion that terrorists are only terrorists when they are the losers but are heroes and emancipators when they are the victors is not a discussion the media wish to see discussed: it would raise far too many uncomfortable issues. No in the media wants to talk about Jewish terrorism, for instance.

The major problem for the corporate media with Tarrant's manifesto is simply that it sounds far to reasonable, too rational, too dispassionate. This is, of course, the exact opposite of the corporate media portrayal. Clarissa Ward (who infamously pushed jihadi propaganda for CNN) has appeared on television, waving the manifesto, claiming it is a deranged, hate-filled rant. There are many criticisms would could make of the manifesto, but deranged and rant are so far off the mark as to render the language meaningless.

The corporate media are afraid of Tarrant. They do not want anyone to hear his voice, his narrative. And so they immediately demanded that his words be removed from the Internet. And this is what they do to anyone who expresses a competing narrative. They describe themselves as liberals in favour of freedom of speech, but their consistent practice is to push for ever more censorship. They not only regret the passing of the days when they were the gatekeepers of public discourse, they are determined to re-establish that hegemony.

I am reminded of Pastor Neimoller's words. "First they came for the Communists, And I did not speak out, because I was not a Communist." Today they censor Brenton Tarrant, and they know you will not speak out. Yet if the right to freedom of expression means anything, it means the right to say things that are disagreed with.

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