Let’s be clear about this. The hardworking staff at The Post normally avoid the output of the Murdoch media with the same diligence that Scott Morrison avoids answering questions about boat arrivals.
In fact when we ran out of supplies for the Brasco the other day, it sparked an office debate about whether to use an old copy of the Herald-Sun that our economics columnist Con Trapositive had found on a park bench, or whether to send the work experience kid next door to Bunnings to buy a couple of sheets of wet & dry sand paper.
Ideology won out and we sent the kid to Bunnings.
At the age of 83, Rupert has surely heard the chimes at midnight. The Post however has an uneasy feeling that he wants most of mankind to accompany him on the journey.
Over the last month, there has been a steady stream of articles in Rupert’s on-line publications The Telegraph, The Daily Mail, News.com, raising speculation that the world might be ( and this is the operative phrase) on the brink of WW III.
This speculation arises from a recent essay by British academic Margret McMillian, for the Brookings Institute in which she draws parallels between the world in 1914 and the world in 2014.
While McMillan draws some interesting comparisons, she peppers her argument with the usual caveats;
“The situation in Syria nearly precipitated a US air-strike.” ‘Globalization which we tend to think of as a modern phenomena, was also characteristic of that era.”
In fairness to McMillan who is an historian and not a foreign policy analyst, the thrust of her discourse centers around the lessons of 1914 and the resultant slaughter in the trenches through the willful blindness of generals who fought the campaign through the use of 19th century military tactics against the killing efficiency of 20th century weaponry.
While McMillan parallels yesteryear’s bomb throwing anarchists with today’s terrorist organizations, the reaction to both resulted in repression and loss of civil liberties ( the Red Scare in the US) in the first instance, and military action and the loss of civil liberties (the Bush administration’s War on Terror) in the second.
McMillan rightfully concludes that it is dialogue and diplomacy not diatribe and demagoguery which prevent conflict.
Never one to let the facts get in the way of a good scare campaign, in early January, the Murdoch media published a series of articles in The Telegraph, The Daily Mail, and News.com all featuring sensationalist headlines:
‘Battle Stations – Navy scrambles to intercept Russian warship!’ and ‘Are we on the brink of war?’ shrieked The Daily Mail, while The Telegraph somberly informed its readers that 2013 was ‘ The year in which we stepped a little closer to the Apocalypse.’
The article with most emotive fervor was from The Mail online which posed the hair raising question ‘Is WWW III about to start – by accident?’
The article in best yellow sheet tradition, was liberally sprinkled with photographs of steely eyed Asian soldiers holding the latest weaponry, while other photos of tanks, aircraft and amphibian vessels replete with grim jawed squaddies jostled for copy space.
The simple fact is that since the end of WWII in 1945, the world has teetered on the brink of actual nuclear warfare only twice: Once in 1958 with the Quemoy or Second Taiwan Strait incident, and the second time in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Other points of conflagration have been the Berlin Blockade, the Korean War, the Malaysia crisis, Borneo, Vietnam, the Falklands, and more recently, Afghanistan and Iraq , to mention a only a few.
None of these conflicts triggered global warfare.
Naturally, the articles pointed to North Korea with China coming a close second as the most likely instigators of a third world war, and The Post could not help being reminded of the by Orson Welles in the film Citizen Kane – “You supply the photographs – I’ll supply the war.”
The realpolitik of the source of the scare campaign – the current tension between China and Japan over sovereignty of the Diaoyu Islands – is that neither side wants initiate military conflict.
For all his nationalist bluster, Japan’s Shinzo Abe is well aware that government’s which live on small islands are most unwise to become militarily bellicose in the nuclear age.
China for its part is determined not to countenance Japan or South Korea flying drones and military aircraft within 230 miles of its territorial airspace and is prepared to express its displeasure with a display of naval strength, but the chances of actual conflict are remote as both sides realize that this would lead to a no-win situation.
There are far cooler heads in Tokyo and Beijing than suggested by the Murdoch media, and in all likelihood they don’t read his newspapers either.
As for scare campaigns, The Post would argue that the dangers of a global pandemic as a result of environmental degradation and spread through air travel are a far more likely scenario than a slide into conventional war which in turn escalates to nuclear attack.
As for Mr. Murdoch and his attempts to fan the flames of hysteria into actual conflict and therefore giving his declining media empire a chance to boost sales by reporting the Apocalypse, The Post wishes him ‘Godspeed’ on his journey to the great beyond -whenever that may be – but we have no desire to join him.