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9 April, 2010  
Massaging the message

Governments know how to pull the levers when it comes to news story manipulation … There’s a compliant media ready to be drip fed … Frequently it’s the Murdoch machine that is so obliging … Or is Procrustes just an old conspiracy theorist?

Two examples of exquisite timing in the message management business.

Shake a leg sheik

The sheik Leghaei case has been dragging on for 13 years since ASIO first declared him a security risk.

imageBits and pieces of unclear allegations have leaked out, including that he’s an Iranian spy. Nothing solid that the sheik is allowed to challenge

Dr Leghaei (pic) has been denied permanent residence on the basis of this assessment. ASIO says it’s all right for him to remain at large while he winds-up his affairs, so they’re not anticipating an imminent risky outburst.

It’s now up to the Minister for Immigration, Chris Evans, to decide whether Leghaei can stay on humanitarian grounds. Another possibility is a confidential administrative review of his case.

He’s been given a visa till April 19.

Someone has tried to embarrass Attorney General Robert McClelland for his role in this murky business.

Twelve or more years ago, when kindly Bobby was snugly in Opposition, he supplied a couple of references to the sheik to assist him with his tribulations.

On July 19 last The Australian whacked the AG on page one for having penned these generous words for the leader of the flock at Imam Husain Islamic Centre in Sydney’s Earlwood.

The references were based on McClelland’s own observations when he knew, at least at the time of his recidivist second reference, that ASIO had insisted the sheik was a security risk.

While we still don’t know why the inter-faith loving sheik, who has been wandering around the wide brown land for 16 years, is a threat to our security, we do know that the scoop about McClelland’s references appeared in The Oz on the day the attorney was to deliver the keynote address on the prospects for a Bill or Charter of Rights to the Castan Centre in Melbourne.

What the basket weavers got from the attorney was a limp homily about the wonders of the common law in protecting human rights.

Why on earth does every other common law jurisdiction of consequence in the world bother with a Bill of Rights if the common law is all you need?

But the message was clear:: ASIO and the other clandestine services do not want a Bill of Rights.

Heaving the sheik out of the country without a courtroom confrontation over allegations against him would be so much more difficult with a Bill.

What delicious irony that ASIO used the very example of the sheik, a case they are determined to win, to exert leverage on the AG and to turn him soft on the rights agenda.

Terror to the rescue

imageGovernments can exhibit the finesse of hippos performing the Dance of the Hours when it comes to getting the media onside for a particular project.

Your correspondent is chuffed to see that David Penberthy (pic) is now slogging away at Rupert’s free online opinion factory The Punch.

In 2002 he was scribbling stuff for The Daily Terror.

On December 17 that year the paper devoted not just page one, but four of the first five pages to the lush conditions that refugee applicants enjoyed at Baxter Detention Centre, outside Port Augusta.

Apparently there was a pool, a soccer pitch and every amenity for children.

It was Penbo who described these luxuries in loving detail.

Why this sudden surge of interest by the Terror?

Penberthy later had the grace to publish a recantation after a do-gooder dragged him around Villawood in the Sydney suburbs.

Procrustes merely notes that the spurious splurge on detention centre luxury arrived on the morning that the Bakhtiyari children, attempting to escape the sybaritic surrounds of Baxter (ungrateful little hounds), were appealing to a Full Family Court in Sydney – one that was presided over by then Family Court CJ Alastair Nicholson, a thorn in the Howard Government’s side.

There is an obvious and heavy presumption that the then government had served-up buckets of drivel to Penbo on detention centre conditions, which was published on a timetable pleasing to the regime.

Procrustes loves a Punchy free press.