Looking At The Devil

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"Let them fade from view" read the front page of the 10 November edition of the Daily Telegraph. "Them" of course are the Bali bombers, or rather were, since they’d been executed the day before.

The Tele then went on to illustrate its desire for them to fade from view by dedicating seven full pages to their deaths, eight if you combine the letters page and Piers Ackerman’s column calling on Indonesians to provide "recognition" of the fact that Australia contributes $462 million in aid every year.

Ackerman was not, of course, demanding that they give back all the cash. "It would be easy to call for a cancellation of this aid program but it would be short-sighted. What would be welcome is some Indonesian recognition that they value our charity," he wrote. "We are grateful for Indonesia’s crackdown on people smugglers. But it would make a greater impact on more Australians if Australians felt that Indonesians were concerned about the safety of Australian tourists."

There hasn’t been a bombing since the second Bali attacks in October 2005, and Indonesian de-radicalisation programs are going great guns. But Indonesian efforts to tackle terrorism are seemingly not enough. Is Ackerman hoping for a thankyou card from the residents of the archipelago? Some flowers? A box of chocolates? (Any Indonesians contemplating sending a box of Cadbury Favourites to Australia can do so via me. I will eat them on behalf of my country.)

Ackerman also ignores the fact that among the things Australian aid money pays for in Indonesia are moderate Islamic religious schools, or madrassa. You can see this in one of the comments from his blog, printed alongside his column in the hard copy edition of the paper:

"Don’t hold your breath waiting for the Rudd Government to do anything to stem the indoctrination of Indonesian children," said "Proud Aussie" on 5 November. This was not corrected by Ackerman.

I am being a little unfair. His last sentence — "Merely standing by as the hate-mongers capitalise on the inevitable emotions aroused by the evil bombers’ execution is not only not enough, it is an insult to the 88 murdered Australians and a harsh blow to survivors still seeking some closure" — has some merit in it, even if it does omit the 114 other people killed in 2002. The amount of access granted to Amrozi, Imam Samudra and Mukhlas in the lead up to their executions was slightly bizarre, and included television interviews, one with CNN.

Turning to the other dailies we see that… Oh dear. How embarrassing. It would appear that AFP photographer Bay Ismoyo was the only person to get a decent shot of the coffin of Imam Samudra arriving in the dead man’s hometown of Serang. The same photo appeared on the front page of the Daily Telegraph, The Australian and the Sydney Morning Herald. All three papers’ leads were filed from Tenggulun, where Amrozi and his brother Mukhlas were from.

The Australian dedicated most of its front page to the story, but was a little more restrained than its stable-mate, settling for a double page spread inside (for those keeping track at home, combined with letters and the editorial, that’s about six tabloid pages, putting it in third place for quantity of coverage).

Stephen Fitzpatrick’s piece "Deluded to the End" attempted to address the full weight of the day, addressing the feelings of residents of Tenggulun, the legal background to the case, the potential for other attacks, reasons against executing them and ending with a nod to the future for the Bali Nine. It also included interviews with members of the Islam Defenders Front (FPI), a hardline group known for smashing bars and harassing nightclub singers. But not every member of the FPI thought the Bali bombers were martyrs and their comments illustrated the pointlessness of painting all fundamentalist types as fellow travellers of Amrozi and friends. This piece was notable because shades of grey are not often found in discussions of Islamist politics in Australia.

"Torrent of Rage" read the Herald‘s front-page splash, really out-doing the Tele‘s call for calm, although at least it was being honest. Oh wait, that’s Muslim rage, not the Herald readers’. The paper dedicated about four pages all up, or eight tabloid pages, putting it on a par with the Tele.

The Herald subs went for a somewhat peculiar James Bond reference in its headline for Mark Forbes’ piece. Bond is not exactly known for his Islamic lifestyle, but "Die another day: martyrs live on" discussed the spread of the bombers’ words through the black market and reflected concerns that their deaths could spur new attacks, with comment from Sidney Jones of the International Crisis Group as well as reformed jihadist Nasir Abbas — who believes the executions will encourage extremists — and Ismail Yusanto, Indonesian spokesman for caliphate group Hizb Ut Tahrir, who trotted out the old line about the bombs being the work of the CIA.

Every paper of course noted the stance of the Department of Foreign Affairs, which reckons you should NOT under any circumstances go to Bali — except they won’t actually upgrade the country status to "do not travel" so good luck on getting a refund on those schoolies tickets.

But God bless school-leaver Simon Moloney, grabbed by the Tele as he prepared to jet off to spend a few days soaking up the sun in a Hotbed of Islamic Terrorism. Why did DFAT’s warning not stop him from getting on the plane to Bali?

"It’s so much cheaper than going to Queensland."

Did you hear that Piers? Until the Queensland Government shows that it appreciates the tourism dollars of Central Coast HSC students, it does not deserve our support.

New Matilda

New Matilda is independent journalism at its finest. The site has been publishing intelligent coverage of Australian and international politics, media and culture since 2004.

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