November 3rd 2001

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Articles from this issue:

Cover Story: Afghanistan - Why the war on terrorism will be long and risky

Editorial: Why the ALP could win by default

TESTIMONIAL: A policy agenda for Australia's future prosperity

Election 2001: When will the parties support a new bank?

Defence: US Navy commissions Australian high speed catamaran

Canberra Observed: Nationals looking down the barrel

Straws in the Wind: Varieties of evil / Russian fears / My enemy's enemy is my friend

Law: Family Court redefines man

Government spokesmen confirm WTO threats

Media: Moral equivalence / Will they be invited back?

Letter: Settlement deaths

Letter: Beazley defended

Letter: Defence solution

Comment: The evil face of terrorism

Drugs: The case against medical cannabis

Obituary: Vale Phyllis Boyd

China: Can the Chinese Communist Party survive the market?

Books: 'John Maynard Keynes: Fighting for Britain 1937-46' by Robert Skidelsky

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Media: Moral equivalence / Will they be invited back?

by John Styles

News Weekly, November 3, 2001

Moral equivalence

One of the most outrageous by-products of September 11 has been the propensity of some sections of the media to paint Christianity with the brush of fanatical Islamic fundamentalism.

And one of the most willing media helpers in this attempted deception has been The Age.

On one level, the fact that the atrocities committed in the USA were the work of Muslim extremists is, no doubt, inconvenient for many sensitive Spencer Street media workers. One suspects that it sits uncomfortably with their new age lifestyles and their liberal left newspaper which, year after year, churns out glowing story after glowing story on the world's "alternative" religions. One gets the distinct impression that for these people any religion is preferable to the one upon which many of this country's institutions are based.

At another level, the terrorist attacks by Muslim fanatics have been seized upon in an attempt to blame all religion. The distinct anti-Christian body language of The Age has long been apparent. In the aftermath of September 11, this disposition was projected in a number of unanswered articles.

The first, by Pamela Bone, an associate editor of the newspaper, appeared on September 19. (You will remember that Bone once wrote that Mother Teresa "did nothing to make the world a better place in any lasting sense".)

Her article ran as an unlabelled opinion piece on page six, a kind of sidebar to the day's coverage of the "War on Terrorism".

In fact, it was a stream of consciousness, inspired by Bone's visit to her granddaughter's state school. There she observed the children finding ways to be especially nice to one another as a means of alleviating the distress of the week's events. What particularly moved Bone was the fact they managed to do this without reference to religious texts or teaching. This led Bone to reflect upon what a nice world it would be without religion, the Koran and the Catholic Catechism and, especially, without church schools.

Bone asked, "Does religion make good anyone who is not already good? It certainly makes some mad, or bad, who would otherwise not be."

She asserted that "all written religions have some terrible passages. Christians, in general, appear more able to ignore the bad bits than people of some other religions." What "bad bits"? Bone did not say. But she seemed to be implying some kind of moral equivalence between Christians and the Muslim zealots who took their holy war to America.

In Bone's secular paradise, schools that teach religion would not be publicly funded. Bone comments that children can be kind to each other "without invoking a god to tell us whom we should hate". If Bone knew as much about Christianity or the Bible as she would like people to think she knows, she would have to acknowledge that the Christian religion does not teach or incite hate.

The flaw in the argument of Bone and others like her is in the fact that we are living in an increasingly secular world. And it isn't working. The moral restraints of our traditional Judeo-Christian code are being legislated away as a supposedly more enlightened and more socially liberal society is ushered in.

Bone's article was one of three in The Age over a period of as many weeks that drew essentially the same conclusion. The others were by Richard Dawkins, the evolutionary biologist, and Professor Peter Singer.

However, in the atrocious events of September 11 there was a comparison to draw. Australian columnist Angela Shanahan recently wrote:

"In the West today we have declared that God is dead. It is rare to hear Western leaders invoking God. The Americans do - and we cringe. Bush does so, because it forms part of his nation's historical consciousness.

"... A post-Enlightenment God is part of the American political psyche. But even Americans cannot understand how the terrorists could commit suicide for the jihad.

"Interestingly, they do understand the motivation and the heroism of the people who deliberately ditched the plane rather than crash in Washington. Those who gave their lives did it for the best Christian reasons. They gave their lives to save others. Perhaps this means that deep in our psyche those precepts are not dead."

Will they ever be invited back?

An amusing aside to the "great debate" between John Howard and Kim Beazley was the use by The Age of two debating experts to determine the result of the contest.

The newspaper enlisted former world masters debating champion Ben Richards, and Ray D'Cruz, the author of the World Universities Debating Rules, to score the debate.

Their result?

They awarded the contest to John Howard. The PM achieved an overall score of 77, Kim Beazley 72.

That result, of course, flew in the face of the "worm" and most media pundits. One pundit, Age publisher Greg Hywood, actually declared Beazley the winner a good 10 hours or so before the debate took place.

On the ABC's Insiders, he said, "I think Kim Beazley has to win it. He will win it ... All he has to do is perform reasonably well to win the debate."

The bar for Beazley gets ever lower.

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