Friday, 30 March 2007

The abuse of power by the Mass Media

Dear Friends,

I posted an article on here relating to the power of the mass media in "Manufacturing Consent" and posed the question what we as the wider community can do in effect to hold the Mass Media accountable. Now there are a lot people out there that believe they can not really do anything, because the Mass Media is way too powerful.

I would suggest that the wider community if determined enough could do something about the situation. If the community was to unite and pressure the politicians to change the laws making the Mass Media more accountable, it would actually happen. I am not talking about putting restrictions on freedom of speech but holding the Mass Media accountable for the lies, propaganda and bias that they publish for monetary and or other gains.

Have a look below at what a Senior Judge of the NSW Supreme Court had to say about the media.


A Sully serve for sullied media, law reformers
by Richard Ackland SMH
March 30, 2007

Talk about blowing a gasket. One of the state's senior trial judges, Justice Brian Sully of the NSW Supreme Court, retired last week with a finely honed tirade from the bench. He'd been on the court for 18 years and clearly there was a lot to unbottle on valedictory day. His targets: law reformers, bureaucrats and the vile media.

Here's a few of his slices about the rotten press: "The media, as we know, react with savage vindictiveness to any attempt to apply to them those standards of transparency and accountability that they are insistent on applying to other people … The media are not a constitutional arm of government … To suggest that [they are] is legal fiction, a political subversion and a moral absurdity. The media are major money-making cartels. They are not knights in shining armour. Their agenda is power. Their strategy is fear and their tactics are a combination of ridicule, sometimes of the most savage personal kind."

It got better. The media deal in lies and worse, "finely calibrated half-truths"; they fuse fact and opinion, and there's been a campaign in recent times in the Sydney metropolitan media "which in my time has never been surpassed for the persistent, wilful and vicious mendacity with which it has been conducted".

It's about time the Bar Association did something about it, the steaming judge declared. It should take the fight to the media by insisting they say not what they are against, but what they are for.

By the end of that week the bar took the fight to the enemy by presiding over a gala lunch for journalists at the Inter-Continental Hotel, at which one deserving reptile had money shovelled in his trousers as a reward for skilful reporting.

Which "campaign" Sully was referring to is not altogether clear, although it seems to be one in which some newspapers and radio demagogues are forever demanding more convictions and longer sentences.

More convictions, as the judge said, is a perfectly logical point of view, but what of the presumption of innocence? If those running this "campaign" want to do away with the presumption of innocence, then doubtless convictions will go up, but what will be the new criteria for judgement and who will administer it?

If it is not the presumption of innocence that is in the firing line, then there can be no hypothesis that there must be an increase in convictions.

It is true that there has been a very real, if unorchestrated, campaign for longer sentences, which of itself is not an affront to the presumption of innocence, and in any event the length of sentences handed out by judges has been tending upwards. That may be a result of political and media pressure.

What does offend judges are the puerile newspaper campaigns against judicial conferences in exotic locations. These are the sort of partly tax-deductible holidays that professional or industry groups indulge in, including journalists.

For the press to be lecturing anyone about perks, indulgences and the need for transparency is, frankly, a little rich.

There's also a deeply ingrained judicial doctrine that it is the duty of the media to maintain public "confidence in the courts". This is one of those ritualistic incantations the meaning of which is mysterious.

The slightest scrutiny of a judgement or a judge might be said to undermine confidence in the courts. Are judges who are caught in traffic infringements undermining the courts?

Maybe Justice Sully did a little bit of undermining when he came to another of his pet hates, law reformers.

He described them as people who have an "unwholesome ambition for personal power and aggrandisement or people who, to speak frankly, are occasionally, not to say floridly, unstable".

What's a judge with an overblown sentiment like that doing for confidence in the courts?

My view is that some people in the media regard judges and courts as soft targets. They can't respond adequately to criticism without getting their dignity besmirched. Once some of the more excitable newspaper people see blood in the water the attack can be unmerciful.

Not as unmercifully entertaining as the Murdoch newspapers in Britain. Last year The Sun had a headline "We put judges on trial" and then "named and shamed" 10 top judges as "guilty of being soft on killers, child sex beasts, rapists and other violent criminals". The paper wanted these "softie" judges sacked and to bring in "elected public prosecutors and community judges".

Clearly, this sort of newspaper has successfully fused "journalism" with the entertainment industry.

On Monday the NSW Court of Appeal overturned a defamation judgement by Justice Michael Adams in favour of a plaintiff, who was a barrister, against this newspaper. The court ordered a new trial, saying that the judge had made scathing and irrelevant criticism of journalists over their coverage of the bankrupt barristers scandal.

Personal pain lurks in the dark recesses of each judge. Adams opened his trap on the job and got done for apprehended bias. Sully was smart. He waited 18 years till speech day before he unloaded.