I always try to consider the possibility that I may be wrong. In 1975, I was one of the few students to say that Malcolm Fraser believed the sacking the Whitlam Government was the “right thing to do”. When someone said that it was part of his “born to rule” mentality, I tried to argue that it wasn’t that simple, that Fraser genuinely believed that the country was being destroyed by Whitlam. Of course, the “country” that Fraser believed in was different from Whitlam’s idea of Australia. Many of Whitlam’s initiatives survived Fraser. It’s possible to argue that the best survived while the worst disappeared, but I suspect that’s a little simplistic. (Ironically, these days Fraser seems to have more in common with many of the people who protested against him than he does with the Liberal party.)
So every time time the media do something like their “Kick this Mob Out” front page, I try to imagine what I’d do if I had that sort of power. The first thing that occurs to me is that I wouldn’t be as bloody obvious. Fairfax, for example, claims to be neutral while using a disproportionate number of regular columnists from the right: Amanda Vanstone (she DOES have sex appeal), Paul Sheehan, the “feisty” Nicole Flint (I presume that’s ok to say?) and Peter Costello. I can’t think of a regular left leaning writer to counter these, although I’m sure that someone will point out that Wayne Swan wrote a number of articles or that some “the market isn’t ALWAYS perfect” economist writes every second Shrove Tuesday.
I like to think that if I was controlling the media, I’d give both sides a “fair go” – I’m Australian, after all – with the arguments themselves promoting the correct course of action. I’d employ Andrew Bolt – on an exclusive contract – and make him remove any part of his argument that was emotive or abusive. (All right, that would reduce his column to “I’m Andrew Bolt and I think blah, blah for reasons I can’t tell you, but I would give him a front page where he could legitimately complain about his lack of free speech!)
And I guess it’s that notion of a “fair go” that’s been so lacking in the Murdoch Press. Everything that has happened has been portrayed as the Government’s fault. Pink Batts catch fire due to dodgy insulation, blame the Rudd Government. Someone thinks the builders charged too much for a school building, blame the Rudd Government. The Liberals refuse to back a reduction in company tax, blame the Gillard Government. High Court decision goes against them, blame the Gillard Government. Ford shuts down, blame the Gillard Government and the Carbon Tax. Boat capsizes and people drown, blame the people smugglers or the “queue jumpers” themselves? No, blame the Gillard AND Rudd Governments.
Compare this to some of the events under Howard. The inability to find the WMDs – “Our intelligence was misleading”! The closure of Ansett – “Rescuing Ansett will be our first priority after the election”. Children overboard – “The doctored picture was confusing.” Just about anything Howard or a minister didn’t know about – “Nobody passed that on to me.” The AWB bribes – “We heard rumours, so we went and asked AWB are you illegally bribing people and they said no, so what more could we do?”
I’m sure that if Labor had been in power, they’d have been blamed for all these things and quite possibly the September 11th attack would have been something they should have forseen.
So what’s the answer?
Should we all band together and purchase Fairfax? I’m sure there must be enough people out there prepared to buy up $500 worth of shares that we’d at least make Gina increase her holdings when we announced our takeover bid. Then we could sell them at a profit. But it probably wouldn’t be enough to counter Murdoch.
Should we just continue to complain in the hope that this raises the awareness of people who didn’t realize that a front-page headline saying “We Need Tony” was an opinion and not merely a presentation of some objective fact?
Or should we just hope that newspapers really are becoming less relevant – that Murdoch and Rinehart are wasting their money in a foolish power display – and that social media and smaller independent internet sites will be the way of the future – “Crikey” – for example? With the downsizing and centralization of news organization, there’s bound to be plenty of unemployed journalists out there.
Whatever, I’m going to conclude by giving both sides a “fair go”. When casting your vote this Saturday, this is what each of the two major parties would like you to think about:
”If you’ve got doubts about that, don’t vote for him. If you’re worried about funding to your local hospital, because he has cut a billion dollars worth of funding to hospitals before, then don’t vote for him,” Mr Rudd told Channel Nine on Monday.”If you’ve got doubts about what happens to the future of your schools given he’s going to take $8 billion out of the Better Schools plan then don’t vote for him. If you’re uncertain about what Mr Abbott’s putting out there, then I think listen to your instincts and don’t vote for him.”
“If you want to know who to vote for, I’m the guy with the not bad looking daughters,” said Mr Abbott.
There now. No-one can accuse me of lacking balance!
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