Caitlin Johnstone: They Require Our Consent

There’s a reason the Australian corporate media is trumpeting the views of a few China hawks. If the rulers don’t make sure the public is propagandized they could have a revolution on their hands.

USS Wasp transits Port Jackson outside Sydney in 2019. (Daniel Barker/U.S. Navy, Public domain, Wikimedia Commons) 

By Caitlin Johnstone

Listen to a reading of this article.

Australian media are awash with reporting on the war-with-China propaganda series by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age that I’ve been writing about for the last few days. Which is really quite extraordinary, because it’s not an actual news story.

It really isn’t. The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age just asked five warmongering China hawks what they think about war with China, wrote down their very predictable answers saying Australia must prepare for war with China within three years and then passed it off as journalism. Obviously if you ask a bunch of China hawks if they think Australia should prepare for war with China, they’re going to say yes; that’s not news, that’s just you reporting that five random warmongers think warmongery thoughts.

Yet SMH and The Age stretched this ridiculous non-story into a multi-part series titled “Red Alert” — all without ever noting the massive conflict of interest posed by the extensive ties its “panel” of “experts” have to U.S.-aligned governments and the military industrial complex — and now it’s being covered as a real news story by the rest of Australian media.

TV news segments have filled the airwaves reporting on the opinions of the most wildly biased people you could possibly find on this subject, the most appalling of which appeared on the Australian government’s ABC.


Peter Hartcher, a Sydney Morning Herald editor who helped put together the “Red Alert” series, was given a fawning interview from the ABC’s Beverley O’Connor where everything he said was received as gospel truth and not a single critical question was asked. When former Prime Minister Paul Keating’s scathing criticism of Hartcher’s war propaganda was raised, Hartcher was permitted to call Keating a Chinese Communist Party crony, completely unchallenged.

Hartcher claimed that Keating’s criticisms were “talking points that I think the Beijing government would be pretty satisfied with,” adding that “in recent years Keating has emerged as the leading defender of, and apologist for, the Chinese Communist Party in Australia.”

This type of rhetoric is familiar to anyone who’s been following U.S. politics the last few years, where anyone who criticizes American foreign policy has been branded by empire loyalists as an apologist for the Kremlin. The fact that we are now seeing this mind virus take hold in mainstream Australian discourse with regard to China is both disgusting and disturbing.

The latest installment of the “Red Alert” series is titled “Australia has an urgent security problem. These confronting ideas can help solve it,” and it is the most incendiary of the bunch. The “experts” suggest rolling out mandatory national service to prepare Australians for war with China, as well as “basing U.S. long-range missiles armed with nuclear weapons on Australian territory.”

As has been the case for the last two “Red Alert” installments, this one again speaks of the need to psychologically shift Australians into support for war preparations, saying that “Australia’s critical threshold change must be psychological,” and that it must take place “across society.” They don’t say it directly, but what they are advocating here is copious amounts of domestic war propaganda.

After receiving a deluge of angry social media comments decrying the article, The Sydney Morning Herald took the extraordinary step of banning replies. On Facebook, the “Australia has an urgent security problem” article now has a notification which reads, “The Sydney Morning Herald limits who can reply to this post.”

None of the other articles on The Sydney Morning Herald’s Facebook page have this notice:

On Twitter, The Sydney Morning Herald shut off comments on the article and hid the replies people had made to it. To find the hidden replies you have to know to click on a small button on the bottom-right corner of the tweet, but if you do you can read through the many negative comments the article was getting before the SMH Twitter account shut them down.

Here is sampling:

“What is the SMH doing? Stop with this alarmist rubbish. Thought you guys were better than that.”

“Oh for the love of God. Just stop already. We know exactly what the SMH is doing, who’s behind it & what a great distraction it is.”

“Australia’s biggest security problem is that our government and media have been captured by the US military industrial complex.”

“China has absolutely no interest in Australia. We are so minor and unimportant that trading with us is enough. If you losers could stop creaming yourselves at the idea of war you’d understand that, you weird, weird losers.”

In response to this latest wave of war propaganda, Declassified Australia published an article  “Majority Oppose U.S. War On China,” which cites a 2022 poll by the Lowy Institute think tank saying that a 51 percent majority of those surveyed believe Australia should remain neutral in the event of a U.S. military conflict with China over Taiwan.

It’s a point that’s worth making, but Declassified also notes that the 51 percent majority is down from 57 percent the last time the Lowy Institute took that poll in 2020.

Why did 6 percent of the population change their minds about war with China in just two years? Well, it might have something to do with the fact that Australia has been slammed with propaganda about war with China during that time.

Propaganda works. If it didn’t, they wouldn’t pour so much energy into doing it. The empire churns out propaganda for the same reason advertising is on track to become a trillion-dollar industry in the next couple of years: because it is possible to manipulate people’s minds at mass scale using media.

They generate propaganda because it’s an effective way to manufacture consent for the agendas of the powerful and they manufacture consent because they have to. If our rulers just started acting directly against the will of the people without first psychologically pulling the wool over our eyes using propaganda, they’d have a revolution on their hands in short order.

Doing something huge like waging a war with China — with all the death, suffering, impoverishment and risk of nuclear annihilation that goes with it — without the consent of the people would quickly lose public trust in all the ruling institutions which keep us marching to the beat of the imperial drum.

They don’t work so hard to manufacture our consent because it’s fun for them, they work so hard to manufacture our consent because they require our consent. So it’s important that we don’t give it to them. It’s important that we forcefully oppose the global conflict the U.S.-centralized empire is pushing us all toward, and that we vocally decry the propaganda that’s being used to grease the wheels of that depraved agenda.

Ultimately the powerful have no answer to the problem that there are a whole lot more of us than there are of them and that there’s really nothing they can do if we decide not to be ruled by them anymore. All they have are little work-arounds for that problem that they have to continually use day in and day out, in the same way we’ve designed work-arounds for the problem of gravity so that we can temporarily fly through the air.

But gravity always wins, and sooner or later the giant that these monsters have been keeping in a propaganda-induced coma is going to start stirring. We’re going to have to wake up sooner or later, and because of the stakes involved it is very important that we do everything we can to try and make sure that it is sooner.

Caitlin Johnstone’s work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, following her on FacebookTwitterSoundcloudYouTube, or throwing some money into her tip jar on Ko-fiPatreon or Paypal. If you want to read more you can buy her books. The best way to make sure you see the stuff she publishes is to subscribe to the mailing list at her website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything she publishes.  For more info on who she is, where she stands and what she’s trying to do with her platform, click here. All works are co-authored with her American husband Tim Foley.

This article is from and re-published with permission.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

18 comments for “Caitlin Johnstone: They Require Our Consent

  1. D.H. Fabian
    March 15, 2023 at 11:30

    I don’t know how things are in the rest of the “western empire,” but in America, there will be no uprising, by any other name. This is because so many years of work went into pitting us against each other, middle class vs. poor, workers vs. those left jobless. This is something America’s remaining middle class can’t seem to grasp., but no matter. Even if we could come together, what difference would it make? As they say, we have the pitchforks, the government has the nuclear arsenal.

  2. Valerie
    March 15, 2023 at 05:15

    Add the former Australian PM:

    “Paul Keating labels Aukus submarine pact ‘worst deal in all history’ in attack on Albanese government

    Former Labor PM blasts ‘incompetence’ of his party for backing nuclear submarine agreement with US and UK”
    (Guardian 15 march)

  3. Marie-France Germain
    March 14, 2023 at 18:41

    How ironic. The movie, On The Beach,” is the story of Australia being the last country to succumb to the radioactivity produced by a nuclear war (I think USA vs. Russia of course). It would appear that the Australian government wishes to be the first to die of radiation poisoning. Maybe the Australian governments (and the rest of ours too) should take seriously Indonesia’s challenge to it in the form of the South Asian agreement to keep nukes off any of those countries which are situated there (including New Zealand which had already warned Australia when the AUKUS warmongering with nuclear subs started).

    • D.H.Fabian
      March 15, 2023 at 11:33

      I’m not sure3 why people ar5en’t grasping this, but the US has been alternating between provoking China and Russia, one then the other, then back again. Two of the three world nuclear superpowers.

  4. RomeoCharlie29
    March 14, 2023 at 18:22

    There is very little dissenting reporting on this insanity in the Australian media but there is some. Former Senator and submariner, Rex Patrick has a thoughtful piece in Michael West Media and Crikey has some critical stuff as does the Australian Independent Media Network. Sadly the once great Age and Sydney Morning Herald, now run by the Treasurer when Australia last entered a war as a USA ally, are just another arm of the pro-US propaganda machine which, with Murdoch dominating the rest, leaves little media room for critical thought. That it is a Labor government indulging in this sycophantic flight of fancy is particularly odious, especially at a time when we reportedly have half a million children without enough to eat. All of that said, I support Taiwanese independence.

    • Valerie
      March 15, 2023 at 05:13

      Add the former Australian PM:

      “Paul Keating labels Aukus submarine pact ‘worst deal in all history’ in attack on Albanese government

      Former Labor PM blasts ‘incompetence’ of his party for backing nuclear submarine agreement with US and UK”
      (Guardian 15 march)

  5. John Nicholas Manning
    March 14, 2023 at 16:35

    “They” do not need our consent. The propaganda you read about a China war is simply them practicing the best words to use to justify the war which we have been told will begin sometime in the next 4 years.

  6. SH
    March 14, 2023 at 16:01

    “They require our consent”
    And we keep giving it to them, year after year, decade after decade – every time we vote for a D/R in the US, we are giving our consent …

    • A Concerned Westerner
      March 14, 2023 at 22:28

      Strangely there are no options to remove that consent as all parties tow the same line on Foreign Policy. It’s not going to change without massive societal upheavals and sadly probably a civil war.

  7. Susan Siens
    March 14, 2023 at 15:16

    And what Australians need to grasp is that the U.S. will use YOUR young men and women to fight the U.S. war. You, too, can fight OUR war as OUR proxies!

    • Graeme
      March 14, 2023 at 20:07

      John Lander – who worked in the China section of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and was deputy ambassador in Beijing 1974-76 – recently wrote that
      “The United States is not preparing to go to war against China.
      The United States is preparing Australia to go to war against China.”

      Lander went on to state that
      “US determination to pursue the Wolfowitz doctrine of preventing the rise of any power that could challenge US global supremacy (neither Russia, nor Europe, nor China) has not diminished, but has morphed into a strategy of fighting its adversaries by proxy.”

      If ever there was any doubt as to what extent so-called elected leaders represented their constituents the Aukus con-job only adds to one’s cynicism; especially considering that
      “… the latest CSIS computer modelling, like previous modelling by the Rand Corporation, indicates that all involved in a Sino-US war would lose.”

      US financial interests in Australia – which far outweigh Chinese interests – deeply influence Australian foreign and defense policies to such an extent that many Australians refer to their nation as the 53rd state.

      Lander again:
      “the steady growth of American presence in Australia, to the point that it pervades every aspect of Australian political, economic, financial, social and cultural life.
      Australians fret about China “buying up the country”, but American investment is ten times the size.
      [Australians] are unaware or uncaring that almost every major Australian company across the resources, food, retail, mass media, entertainment, banking and finance sectors has majority American ownership.
      Right now US corporations eclipse everyone else in their ability to influence our politics through their investment in Australian stocks.”

      One shadow that overhangs Australian politics is The Dismissal of the Whitlam government (11 Nov 1975) and the extent of the role that the USA played in the ousting of a democratically elected government.
      John Pilger has unswervingly maintained the rage and his conviction that outside CIA influence was involved in Whitlam’s sacking.
      US involvement in The Dismissal is rarely mentioned in corporate press, but I’d wager that it is never far from the minds of PMs as they ponder their relationship with D.C.

      Every time I read of governments’ blatant attempts to poetry bullshit as incontrovertible truth I am reminded of the opening salvo of Edward Bernays Propaganda (1928):
      “THE conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in Democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.
      We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized.”


    • Eddy Schmid
      March 14, 2023 at 23:09

      Absoluetly right Susan. As a Vietnam vet, I ask myself nearly every day, for what did my fellow soldiers die for in Vietnam ?????????
      Australians need to refresh themselves of that shameful period, and if they were’nt alive then, do the research. Australia does not need to involve it’self in another pointless war.

  8. Evan J
    March 14, 2023 at 14:22

    The Sydney Morning Herald has long engaged in censorship. Its opinion pages only very very rarely allow dissident commentary to its established wisdom on global affairs (criticism of Israel has long been verboten). In addition, dissident letters to the editor and dissident online comments to articles don’t make the cut. The paper’s claimed ‘fierce spirit of independence’ (James Chessell, SMH, 18 April 2021) and its ‘Independent. Always’ masthead is a sham.

    • A Boyles
      March 14, 2023 at 22:26

      Canada is the same as Australia. It’s become a totalitarian state pretending to be a democracy.

  9. A Boyles
    March 14, 2023 at 14:02

    Time and again, journalists refer to Chomsky and his seminal work “Manufacturing Consent “, because it is the ultimate truth about the how and why the public are being manipulated by governments. Caitlin is absolutely correct in her analysis of the madness of the war fever that is sweeping across the West. And the reason for it is the governments of the West know they are losing their power, they are losing their wars, and they aren’t really in control of the earth anymore. That responsibility has passed to China, Russia, India, Iran, Saudi Arabia and many other nations who want to be part of the SCO and/or BRICS. These nations don’t want to spread war to dominate, they want peace and trade and better lives for thier people. They are strong nations (much stronger than the West in military and economic capacity) and they have much more credibility with the rest of the world. The USA let so-called West has lost its hegemony and nothing they do, especially in spreading even more war, will ever bring that back. As citizens of the West we should be uniting against their agendas of war and dominance and supporting the approach of the SCO & BRICS nations. It’s the path of improved standards of living for the majority of the citizens of the West, but will result in the billionaires of the Military Industrial Complex losing much of their wealth an influence. Bring it on! We the citizens of the West also want peace and prosperity and a stop to all these heinous wars started by the West.

    • SH
      March 14, 2023 at 20:41

      To do that,we the people have to put people in office who will pursue those policies – and we don’t seem to be willing to do that …

  10. fulvio margoni
    March 14, 2023 at 13:45

    great as always!
    thank you journalism lady

  11. Carolyn L Zaremba
    March 14, 2023 at 13:32

    Thanks for this one and the previous one with the Mearsheimer quotations. The incitement to violence by the United States really must be stopped. I keep thinking about the ape with the club in 2001: A Space Odyssey. The United States is the ape. We are all in great danger. Thanks for all you do.

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