by Alan Johnston, Pottsville NSW, Australia
In my late twenties I gained a degree in Biological Science and a Diploma in Secondary Education. Thirty years later, halfway through a degree in photography, I switched into a Master of Visual Arts. As part of my social documentary photography studies I was on the editorial team of the Australian Photojournalist Magazine (APJ).
At the time, David Hicks was the villain ‘du jour’ for the Australian media and I wrote an analytical article for the APJ on how the media, particularly the tabloid Murdoch press like the Herald Sun and the Courier Mail, were portraying David Hicks, who was then still incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay.
From the outset, attached to many stories about David Hicks’ capture in Afghanistan, next to headlines like ‘True Blue Terrorist’, was an infamous photograph of him holding a rocket propelled grenade launcher. This photograph had nothing to do with Afghanistan – it was taken in Albania three years earlier, and, as I wrote then:
‘In 1998 David Hicks signs up to train with (the KLA in Albania) a US-backed group, gets snapped posing ineptly with an unloaded, borrowed weapon on his first day, never gets anywhere near a fight, and is back home in South Australia six weeks after he left.’
But this photo was used to damning effect after being cropped to take out other young men who were also waiting for a pictorial souvenir. Its juxtaposition next to articles on Hicks’ exploits in Afghanistan was completely manipulative and spurious.
There you have it, tabloids shaping of the facts – even photographs – to fit biases and prevailing prejudices that editors and journalists know will play to their readership.
With respect then to the recent appalling article on Serge Benhayon and Universal Medicine in the Courier Mail, titled “New age ‘medicine’ of Serge Benhayon leaves trail of broken families”, nothing has changed one iota. And why would it? In the tabloid world it seems almost impossible for a journalist to even approach the truth.
Josh Robertson, the Courier Mail’s ‘Confidential’ journalist and his co-contributor Liam Walsh, have just continued the dishonourable tradition of innuendo, distortion, snide implications, unattributed quotations et al.
Here in a stream are all of the loaded words and words in quotation marks they utilised:
… ‘controversial’ ‘new-age’ ‘bankrupt’ ‘breast massage’ ‘followers’ ‘million’ ‘negative energy’ ‘relationship workshops’ ‘Svengali-like’ ‘breakdown’ ‘radical changes’ ‘cult’ ‘sect’ ‘Serge said’ ‘reincarnated’ ‘holistic’ ‘boasts’ ‘supporters’ ‘sexual behaviour’ ‘more millions’ ‘blamed’ ‘mainly female’ ‘concerned’ ‘on drugs’ ‘influence’ ‘breakdowns’ ‘devastating’ ‘sub-sects’ ‘catastrophic’ ‘battling’ ‘lack endorsement’ ……
Doesn’t feel like Fox News’ (also Murdoch owned) ‘fair and balanced’ approach to me.
In contrast, from Serge, I have always felt the absolute fairness of it always being my choice, not the slightest imposition – ever.