by Mary W Maxwell
One hears that the media are “doing us in.” Or that the media control the Parliament. One hears, from writers including myself, that the media deliberately design our culture. Let’s ask if any of their operations break any laws in Australia.
Consider the MH17 affair. Gumshoe editor Dee McLachlan has published numerous articles showing how the media pushed us into believing, from Day One, that the force behind that plane crash was “pik-pik-pik Putin.”
Dee also immediately tied this to a general media line pushing for war between NATO and non-NATO. (Certainly there is such a push.)
Ah, we used to have a neat name for non-NATO: “the Warsaw Pact.” But now media prefer us to be in the dark as to whom we must fight. Just “the axis of evil” or “that sinister Russian leader,” or whatever. They say: “Remember not to engage your cerebrum, Ladies and Gentlemen. Let us do it for you.”
Media employed various means of giving us a general impression that Russia was responsible for the death of dozens of Australians when Malaysian Airlines flight 17 crashed in the Ukraine, in mid-2014.
This is not to ignore the role of the Australian government in pushing the story. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop signed an agreement with the Netherlands that “none of us” will reveal the findings about the crash.
How’s that for amazing? I mean how’s that for conditioning? We’re now supposed to think we have a parliament that represents the people but parliament is to act in secret. And this is acceptable? Hello?
What name shall we use for the category of lies that this (possible) lie belongs in? Gumshoe News already uses the term “killer bee story” for something that never happened. But that does not seem to suit this topic. For the moment I’ll call it an incitement lie.
Is It a Crime?
Was any crime committed by the media here? Conceivably there could be a crime involved: incitement to violence. That is, the media is feeding us misinformation about Russia in hopes that we will support any NATO moves against Russia (as is the case presently in Syria).
Is incitement a crime? To find out about crimes in Australia you can look at the commonwealth’s Model Criminal Code, as a quick guide. (No, it’s not a code for model criminals, although I wouldn’t rule that out.) But to know what each state criminalizes, you have to go to its law.
TAS, QLD, and WA accepted the model by agreeing to the Criminal Code Act (1995), and the territories have it, too. The three southeastern mainland states did not adopt it. The laggards, NSW, SA, and VIC (yay, laggardism!) still rely on common law, plus any enactments and amendments thereto.
Let’s have a look as SA’s lingeringly laggard criminal law. You can visit austlii.edu.au. That is a national repository of law, both of cases (jurisprudence) and legislation. But it’s a complicated website that uses Boolean search. Better to start at Google if you don’t know the exact item you are looking for.
Ask for “SA criminal law,” and the crime you are researching. Then click on an offering that has “austlii.edu.au” as its URL, which will bring you right to the door. (Sort of like valet parking!) So now you’ll come to The Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 for South Australia. It has a general rule that says, in Section 267 (with my emphasis):
“A person who aids, abets, counsels, or procures an offence is liable to be prosecuted and punished as a principal offender.”
Hmm, not exactly about incitement, but I guess we could say the Herald “counseled” us indirectly by beating the war drums. Humans do take in lot of their counseling sub-rationally — which is no doubt why our ancestors invented war drums!
Listen to the beat: Russia killed Aussies. Russia Killed Aussies. NATO, get Russia! NATO, get Russia! Go, go, go.
Note: the maximum penalty for aiding and abetting is not listed in Section 267, as it is tied into the particular crime. A person who aids and abets a robbery for which the penalty is 5 years, also gets 5 years.
Frankly I doubt that inciting folks to war is a crime. Going to war is usually just dandy. Going to a false war? Ah, let’s turn to the dishonesty section of the SA Criminal Law. That’ll be Section 139.
“A person who deceives another, and by doing so
(a) dishonestly benefits himself or a third person,
(b) dishonestly causes a detriment to the person is guilty of an offense. Maximum penalty, imprisonment 10 years.”
Note: You may wonder why you don’t hear of that crime very often. I think it may be because there is also a tort of fraud: you can sue in a civil action if a person’s deceit has caused you a loss. As with medical malpractice, the doctor is much more likely to be sued than prosecuted, as the patient will be compensated monetarily.
What about the Crime of Assault?
Media told lies about the 2013 Boston Marathon. It said there was a major shootout in which Tamerlan Tsarnaev was bullet-wounded, one cop was wounded in friendly fire, and Jahar Tsarnaev rode over his brother.
We know for sure that that is nonsense. (Possibly the cop got shot in an unrelated shoot-out?) We know from the Podstava video that Tamerlan, unwounded, was taken into FBI custody. Although he subsequently died, there was no damage to his body suggesting car tracks.
Another media-reported event concerns Tamerlan confessing to a carjackee that he had done the Marathon bombing. That is preposterous. Indeed the idea of the brothers, who had a car, adding to their woes by stealing an additional car, is crazy.
Ransacking the criminal law for a possible charge here, I am thinking of assault. These lies about the Marathon led to a martial-law order by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. That in itself was terrifying to many people. Of course the lies about two youths having done a bombing also caused terror.
Under common law, the crime of assault includes hurting a person by scaring them. No visible damage to the body is required. There is physical damage but it is to one’s physiology.
The legal dictionary of TheFreeDictonary.com offers this definition of assault:
“an intentional act by one person that creates an apprehension in another of an imminent harmful or offensive contact. An assault is carried out by a threat of bodily harm coupled with an apparent, present ability to cause the harm. It is both a crime and a tort.”
Would you put up with a neighbor terrorizing you? You could sue him (a tort) or “press charges” to prosecute. I think we need to get serious about pressing charges.
Have a look at what The Boston Globe purveyed, in regard to the famous carjacking incident:
“Carjack Victim Recounts His Harrowing Night,”
by Eric Moskowitz, Globe Staff, April 25, 2013
The 26-year-old Chinese entrepreneur had just pulled his new Mercedes to the curb on Brighton Avenue to answer a text when an old sedan swerved behind him, slamming on the brakes. A man got out and approached the passenger window. It was nearly 11 p.m. last Thursday.
The man rapped on the glass. Danny [Dun Meng], unable to hear him, lowered the window — and the man reached an arm through, unlocked the door, and climbed in, brandishing a silver handgun.
“Don’t be stupid,” he told Danny. He asked if he had followed the news about Monday’s bombings. Danny had. “I did that,” “And I just killed a policeman in Cambridge.” He ordered Danny to drive.
Danny described 90 harrowing minutes … where they openly discussed driving to New York, though Danny could not make out if they were planning another attack. …
[Danny’s cell phone rang.] “If you say a single word in Chinese, I will kill you right now,” Tamerlan said. Danny understood. His roommate’s boyfriend was on the other end, speaking Mandarin. “I’m sleeping in my friend’s home tonight,” Danny replied in English. “I have to go.”
“Good boy,” Tamerlan said. “Good job.”
No, seriously, can you imagine Tamerlan talking like that? Globe reporter Eric Moscowitz continues:
When the younger brother, Dzhokhar, was forced to go inside the Shell Food Mart to pay, older brother Tamerlan put his gun in the door pocket to fiddle with a navigation device — letting his guard down briefly after a night on the run.
In a flash, [Danny] unbuckled his seat belt, opened the door, and sprinted off at an angle that would be a hard shot for any marksman. “F—!” he heard Tamerlan say, feeling the rush of a near-miss grab at his back, but the man did not follow. Danny reached the haven of a Mobil station across the street …
His quick-thinking escape, authorities say, allowed police to swiftly track down the Mercedes, abating a possible attack by the brothers on New York City [!] and precipitating a wild shootout in Watertown that would seriously wound one officer, kill Tamerlan, and leave a severely injured Dzhokhar hiding in the neighborhood.
So did the writer of the false carjacking story, Eric Moscowitz, commit the crime of assaulting anyone? I doubt it, as the element of the crime necessary for a conviction is that the person intended to cause fear (and the threatened attack has to be ‘imminent’).
Nevertheless, the planners of the Marathon event, like the planners of many violent attacks, did have in mind to cause fear. That was a main goal of the whole affair. I think Kevin Cullen, editor of the Boston Globe, must have been involved in the planning of the Marathon bombing, judging by how quickly his newspaper played up “all the right” aspects of it.
To Be Continued
In this article, which is Part 1 of a series on media’s crimes, I looked at media inciting us to war, a false war. I referenced South Australia’s law against deception.
In regard to the Globe’s report about the putative (verrry putative) carjacking of Dun Meng’s car by the Brothers Tsarnaev, I referenced the common law crime of assault.
Part 2 will inquire whether media commit the crime of perverting the course of justice. I’d appreciate comments regarding any ways you can think of for us to hold the media accountable for harming society. Feel free to go way out on a limb!
— Mary Maxwell, PhD, LLB, is the author of Fraud Upon the Court. She can be reached at her website ProsecutionForTreason.com.