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Mainstream journalists are failing to speak truth to power

THE NON-VIOLENT TACTIC of speaking truth to power was a focus of the 1950s struggle by Black Americans for equal rights and racial equality in the U.S. It was shortly thereafter adopted by journalists as their mantra and is now regarded, largely in the abstract it must be sadly noted, as their primary task.

In his commentary on the recent Federal Election, BBC journalist Nick Bryant described former Prime Minister Scott Morrison as our first post-truth leader. Given Morrison’s documented domestic and international mendacities, together with his exceptional talent for truth twisting, Bryant’s observation is definitely on the money.

However, what is absent from his analysis is the role of the media in enabling a post-truth climate that allows men such as Morrison, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and former U.S. President Donald Trump to gain high political office in the anglosphere. None of these men or their equally compromised colleagues would have flourished had it not been for legacy media, whose journalists are apparently easily overawed by shiny, noisy, blingy things entirely devoid of substance and with a dubious talent for gishing the gallop.

We have watched, frequently in stupefaction, as some of our senior journalists tied themselves in knots and destroyed their reputations attempting to convince us that these charlatans are really men and women of gravitas engaged in the noble pursuit of good governance. Remember The Woman who saved Australia by the Australian Financial Review’s Phillip Coorey? Oh, how we laughed!

Or the Sydney Morning Herald’s James Massola on the loveliness of Jenny Morrison and how everyone would vote for Scott if we could only just meet her, an article so cringingly bereft of intelligent thought that one could almost believe it really was written by monkeys infinitely swiping at random typewriter keys.

Rather than speaking truth to power, legacy media frequently opts for attempting to legitimise power, no matter how absurd journalists make themselves in the process. The fact that both Massola and Coorey can write adequately should they choose to suggests that they are as compromised as the politicians they all too frequently serve – rather than challenge – and just as untrustworthy and manipulative.

One of the most despicable narratives purveyed by the majority of Australian media during the election campaign was the notion that there is a moral equivalence between the Liberal National Party and the Australian Labor Party. This narrative attempted to erase almost a decade of documented L-NP malfeasance, nonfeasance and misfeasance, creating the myth of a morally level playing field on which moral equals would fight it out.



In the end, voters rejected this blatant attempt to erase history and memory by the very profession claiming to protect both. You cannot speak truth to power if you attempt to obliterate power’s dark record. We see you.

Mainstream media’s general willingness to overlook the serious harms inflicted on citizens individually and collectively by a brigade of post-moral L-NP politicians exposes the post-truth crater into which journalists themselves have fallen. If you doubt this assertion, may I direct you to this recent article by the SMH’s Jacqueline Maley, titled ‘Peter Dutton has the worldview of a Queensland cop. It’s in our interests to give him a go’.

This is Maley’s contribution to the current media effort to rebrand former Defence Minister Dutton, a baffling venture given Morrison’s failure to save the Liberal Party from a looming conflagration by giving similar undertakings in the last days before the Election.

Why on Earth media and politicians seem to think that outing someone as two-faced is some kind of character reference, I don’t know. But it isn’t. If you have to reassure the public that the perceived monster is really a softy, you are rather missing the point, which is that you are having to do this, stupid.

We have, in Australia, removed the senior post-truth politician from his leadership, but we haven’t removed them all. And we have come nowhere near defeating the media who enable and promote them. Legacy media is also two-faced and this mirrors those politicians. For example, you’ll find good journalism by competent writers “balanced” by propagandist tripe and one is tempted to conclude that as with the two-faced politician the “good’ is employed for the purposes of minimising and normalising the “bad.”

This tactic keeps the audience off-balance, which is where the L-NP like us. It’s a classic abuser’s strategy, one that can keep us miserably trapped forever and that is its goal.

We’ve confronted the politicians and escaped the trap, at least for the moment. Now we’re challenging the media because speaking truth to power is a tactic available to everyone.



This article was originally published on Independent Australia.


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  1. ajogrady

    Australians need to start paying attention. Our democracy is under threat and it not from a invading marauding nation. Its from within. Our democracy is being stolen right under our noses by billionaire media barons and mining magnates fulfilling their own self interests that do not benefit the majority of the Australian people. That is not how a true and proper democracy works. Its not what those who made the ultimate sacrifice fought for. We are a lesser people and a corrupted nation for this interference. While politics can be boiled down to the integrity and character of the parties, perhaps it is not just the integrity and character of the political parties that are in question. It is also the integrity and character of main stream media journalists reporting on those political parties that is also in question. Biased, prejudicial and suspect journalism is undermining our democracy. Journalists are not ment to make partisan political statements dressed up as questions or make unbalanced subjective reports across media outlets.
    Democracy is being gamed by influential right wing legacy media that is also manipulating social media played to benefit big business. Those of us engaged in the civic debate don’t pay attention to the hermetically sealed information sphere of the radicalising Right. We don’t understand that there is a borderless global nation sharing panic and fear and unhinged theories to the gullible.This is the group of people who brought Trump flags and wrote appeals to US constitutional Amendments on their Australian posters.Their civic education is formed in international Facebook or Telegram echo chamber chat rooms that are being manipulated by the likes of Murdoch and Palmer that only benefit Murdoch and Palmer and their business interests. If businesses pay large amounts of money to “influencers” to gain advantage over their competition then how much is the influence of the L/NP turd polishing media outlets of Murdoch, 7 , 9, the once was “our ABC” and money from billionaires like Palmer worth to the L/NP? The Main Stream Media are a life support system and cheer squad for a side of politics that has decimated Democracy. The MSM is the problem not the solution. Advertising with these media outlets should be counted as political donations to the L/NP.

    Worst debt blow-out in the developed world refutes Coalition claims of economic competence

    Zombie Doctrine: belief in Coalition as “super economic managers” sticks, despite proof otherwise

  2. Terence Mills

    Australia’s largest-ever parliamentary e-petition, which calls for a royal commission into media diversity and has more than 500,000 signatures, has been submitted to the House of Representatives.
    Key points:

    Half a million people have signed a petition calling for a royal commission into media diversity in Australia
    Labor MP Andrew Leigh has tabled the petition in Parliament
    Set up by former PM Kevin Rudd, it is Australia's largest e-petition and third largest petition overall

    “The bottom line is the lifeblood of our democracies depends on a fair, balanced, independent, free media which separates out two things: the reporting of facts and the expression of opinion,” Rudd told CNN.

    Time to revive the petition which was dismissed by the Morrison government – probably after they checked with Rupert.

  3. leefe

    It’s not just NewsCoropse and Co. The ABC – and even the Grauniad – still have a decidedly ‘talk up the libs, talk down ALP’ flavour. The ABC needs its backside kicked right back to real balance.

  4. totaram

    Terence: Very important! This along with Federal ICAC, RC into Robodebt etc. are paramount for keeping the crooks on their toes. These and other very legal techniques should keep them busy so that they don’t have the time and energy to spend on blocking and disrupting decent legislation, the way Tony Abbott and his cronies did. Sadly, those tactics worked at that time, with enthusiastic support of the Murdoch media. Now that it appears that the population of Australia has broken free of the Murdoch stranglehold on “truth”, it is time to finally kill this stranglehold as nearly as possible. Some investigation into how News Ltd. pays almost no tax and then gets “gifted” 30 million to “encourage women’s sports” needs to be examined. The role of Turdball in this saga needs to be examined.
    It is all very well for Albo to talk of a kinder politics, but that does not imply letting these criminals go scot free.

  5. Albos Elbow

    The rise of the Teal Independents and Australian Greens has helped to shatter the main 2 party duopoly and weakened the hold of the biased right wing media. The so called “outsiders” have re-shaped Australia’s election landscape with a real promise of a greener, brighter future for all Australians. Even fat, greedy, billionaire bastards and their children and grandchildren will get to share the benefits of a cleaner, healthier carbon free world, even though they are the least to deserve it.

    Labor’s phobia of alienating voters in the mining and resources sector is a concern and may mean the transition to 100% renewable energy Australia wide will take longer than it rightly should, but optimism must be maintained, along with the hope of a concerted group political and social effort to right the wrongs of the past decade or more, to truly bring Australians together.

    The power of the pre-historic climate denying media will continue to wane as revenues fall and the number of believers of lies and deception will continue to drop, as they die off one by one, leaving their wealthy homes to their slightly greener and smarter children and grandchildren.

  6. wam

    Opinion is the current truth:
    a view or judgement formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge.
    “that, in my opinion, is right”
    The purpose of the paper is to get advertising and people to buy it?
    The advertisers are conservatives and do not like labor ideals.
    The perceived labor buyers are encouraged by controversial headlines in the sports section.
    Truth is relative and its use varies with its controversy.
    The bottom line shows truth is neither necessary nor important to an article.
    But is occasionally visible in editorials. The NT News editorial just days before the ballot was directing readers to vote labor.
    the big truth for Albo is to destroy the lib myth of economic superiority.
    He should start now with the debt and ^@%@^^-all to show for the cash??
    $440m to the reef???

  7. Lambchop Simnel

    The Murdoch cancer has almost murdered Democracy. Either metaphorically we kill it or it kills us.

  8. LambsFry Simplex.

    Yes, I hope Labor at last has the will to take on and get rid of Murdoch.

    Has a single individual done more harm?

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