It’s The Jewel In The Mud Award
This issue's gems from the media mire
Squall 14, Autumn 1996, pg. 64.
The Western Mail
‘DICTATOR’S PILOTS TRAINED IN WALES’ thundered The Western Mail - the Welsh national newspaper - on its front page on August 2nd.
Journalists Hannah Cleaver and Andrew Buncombe uncovered evidence that Indonesian pilots were trained in the use of Hawk jets by the RAF in Anglesey last year.
Their story ran three days after the acquittal of four women who disabled a Hawk jet at a British Aerospace base in Preston using hammers:
“A senior RAF source told The Western Mail that pilots were trained at (RAF) Valley…. He said the personnel were trained in use of the Hawk, a jet aircraft for which British Aerospace has won two supply contracts from the Indonesian Government over the last 15 years…. Independent witnesses have reported seeing Hawks used to bomb and strafe civilians in East Timor….
“….the RAF source said: ‘We do train people from all sorts of countries and recently we have trained Indonesian military personnel’.”
Page five of the same edition carries a further article by Andrew Buncombe, headed “The worst case of genocide of all time”, explaining the background to Indonesia’s invasion of East Timor:
“Human rights observers believe up to 200,000 people have been killed since the invasion (of East Timor) more than 20 years ago…. The invasion, which resulted in the immediate deaths of 60,000 Timorese, had the tacit approval of the Australians and the Americans…. Today Dili (capital of East Timor) remains a tense and frightened city…. The Indonesian army is supplied by a range of Western countries including Britain.”
At the height of the BSE scare, on August 21st, Andrew Penman wrote an investigative article in the Daily Mirror about the state of factory farming in Britain. It is stunning to find such truth in a tabloid:
Under a picture of a strange looking cow runs the caption: ‘Cow that proves we’ve got mad farming disease.’
“This is what cattle looked like before man packed them into intensive farms, filled them with drugs and played God with their genes…. Unless you stick to organic food you will be eating 40 different pesticide residues everyday…. Modern dairy and beef cattle are man-made creations…. A ‘man-made’ dairy cow may produce 150 pints of milk a day…. the over stretched udders are prone to infections…. 17 million shots of antibiotics are pumped in cow teats every year…. After five or six years a typical dairy cow is a broken animal.”
These facts are compared to the pictured cow - from the only wild herd in Britain. It is a cow that does not need drugs, lives for 16 or 17 years and is healthy.
Penman posits organic farming as a solution. He is honest about the drawbacks. Organic farms need 20 per cent more space and the food is more expensive to produce.
But he also points out that Europe produces a surplus of food; and that organic farms are not heavily subsidised by Europe.
“We could do nothing,” Penman writes, “or we could admit that intensive farming has abused nature beyond endurance.”
Selected extracts from a Guardian Society article by prominent gay rights activist, Peter Tatchell, printed on August 29th.
“All the key aspects of homophobic discrimination that existed in 1971 remain on the statute books in 1996, including the bans on gay marriage and gays in the military, and the lack of legal protection against anti-homosexual discrimination in housing and employment. Queer human rights are, self-evidently, far from won. Yet the dominant mood in the gay community nowadays is complacency and apathy….
“The last two years have been a turning point in gay history, marked by a fundamental shift in values and attitudes.
“The idealism, solidarity and activism that was so significant in the first 25 years of the post-Stonewall gay psyche is now being superseded by a new gay Zeitgeist of consumerism, hedonism, and lifestylism. This shallow, vain, frivolous, amoral, self-obsessed, commercialised trend in gay culture is not a pretty sight, and no amount of glamorous beefcake in Calvin Klein underwear can disguise its essential ugliness….
“Given the institutionalised homophobia, the gay community has every right to expect its press to be crusading and campaigning. Instead, some of the pink papers seem more interested in promoting the latest porn video. This sums up the mind shift that has taken place in recent years. Consumerism is the new gay zeitgeist. Entrepreneurs are exploiting the success of activists in making it easier for queers to come out. This greater visibility of gay people has meant we can be more readily identified and targeted as consumers. Big business is cashing in on coming out….
“Too bad if you’re poor. If you haven’t got the lifestyle, you aren’t a proper gay. The pink pound is proving to be a pink tyranny, resulting in exclusion and alienation.
“Commercialism calls the shots, not civil rights. The gay community is being hijacked by the gay market. Consumption has become more important than citizenship. The dominant values are no longer an altruistic concern about the collective welfare of gay people, but rampant materialism. This isn’t freedom. It is a new form of enslavement compounding legal discrimination with economic exploitation. Where will it end? While it has been possible in the past to unite much of the diverse gay community around our common interest in winning human rights, it is impossible to build any sort of sustainable coalition around consumerism.
“This is likely to lead to the fragmentation and demise of the gay community. That would leave us more or less defenceless. Perhaps that’s what some people want - passive, gullible, queer consumers?
“It was bound to happen. After years in the too hard basket, corporations are now scrambling to promote themselves to gay and lesbian consumers - a market estimated to be worth over $40 billion annually.”
Ads International - Summer ‘96
Jewel in the Mud Award - Channel 4's 'Dispatches' programme on the shooting of WPC Yvonne Fletcher & John Pilger on dissenting journalism. Squall 13, Summer 1996.