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Murdoch’s Zero Sum games: divisive propaganda meant to break us

The Murdoch media drives resentment with propaganda as constant as drums of war. The pounding message for its audience is that every development is a zero-sum game, one that only defrauds this “conservative” base.

The unspoken subtext for all these battles is the idea that everyone comes from a place of roughly equal opportunity. The concept that anyone might be disadvantaged (or advantaged) by decisions that we make as a society is anathema. The knowledge that history can trap people is inadmissible. Any attempt to mitigate harm so that we can all benefit is dismissed as social engineering, a slippery slope to socialism.

The poor, the welfare dependent, women, non-white people: any action to diminish barriers to their achievement is portrayed as theft. The idea that a society where most can flourish is a flourishing society is poison to this narrative. Equally, the benefits of upper/middle class birth are obscured: the successful achieve through grit and determination. Anyone can replicate this if they try, the story declaims. The default identity is middle-class, white man. Any other status is an “identity” to be deplored as divisive.[1]

Sometimes News Corp targets refugees, who are rarely depicted as the fellow builders of this nation that they have been. Instead, they are deplored as taking from us, either our wealth or our safety. The recent announcement that “boat” people can apply for family reunion in the years ahead (replacing the painfully destructive decade’s separation from vulnerable family) is presented as inviting people smugglers. Actually that “business model” is prevented by the boat turnback policy: the last decade of human rights abuse by the Coalition government was wanton cruelty.

The Voice to Parliament is now the primary front of the war. The Voice is in actuality little more than a token. The Discussion Paper outlines the intent: it will allow “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people [to] have more of a say on the laws, policies and services that impact their lives.” There is no power to compel government or ensure that advice is incorporated into the ways Indigenous lives are impacted by Canberra. It is incorporated into the constitution in order to recognise the weight of the fact that this land was theirs for over 65,000 years before we took it, unceded, over the last 200 years.

The Northern Territory intervention showed the worst ways that outside interference could impact groups traumatised by history: “any possible benefits to physical health [were] largely outweighed by negative impacts on psychological health, social health and well-being, and cultural integrity.” The idea is not that the Voice should replace concrete strategies, but that it should help tailor them to be more effective. The hope is that the damage done by the colonial project can be better mitigated by a more thoughtful and appropriate series of strategies achieved through consultation.

We have shown ourselves to have the capacity to continue hurting First Nations people more than any other population, from the beginning when we eliminated an estimated 90% of their population to this moment where we continue to attempt ham-fisted “solutions” to the problems born of poverty, intergenerational trauma and marginalisation. We owe them more thoughtful, consultative solutions.

Instead of the truth about this feather duster of a body, Murdoch’s audiences are told that it is “third” chamber in parliament and poses a dire threat to white Australia’s autonomy. Andrew Bolt described it as a “new apartheid” with just one “race” benefitting from the racism, equating it to the White Australia Policy.[2] He also labelled it an “undemocratic farce.”[3] He depicts many of the Indigenous Australians it will represent as “Fakes, frauds and rent-seekers,” in his repeated efforts to discredit the Aboriginality of claimants.[4] Henry Ergas describes the prospect as entrenching “racial separatism” and denying “political equality” to white Australia, akin to disenfranchisement of French Jews before 1789.[5] Albrechtson depicted it as “preferential privileges”[6] and “a radical shift in power.”[7] A typical letter-writer describes the Voice as singling out one group for “special treatment” and scuttling equality by putting them above the rest of the population.[8] Peta Credlin depicted it as a “trojan horse” to usher in “Aboriginal states.”[9]

Chris Kenny of all people warned Dutton in November, buried deep in a long column, not to risk being seen as a “a political anachronism, a flint-hearted curio” by pursing the smear campaign on the Voice, a body that can do “no significant harm to the nation but could provide considerable benefits.”[10] The Australian published the account of the nitpicking stress testing of the wording of the amendment by a mixed panel of constitutional heavy-weights from one of its members. George Williams makes clear that there is no veto power over parliament. There is no requirement that government listens to the Voice. There are no special rights conferred.[11] This is why some First Nations’ activists are dismissing the body as a sop.

Any other claim for inclusion is treated as a threat to the mainstream’s ownership too. Marriage equality took nothing from traditional” marriages and yet this was the framing that throbbed through News Corp. Janet Albrechtson recently expressed that JK Rowling ought to be woman of the year for her attacks on trans existence. Albrechtson performed horror that the word woman “is being erased.”

This distortion of the facts is not freshly concocted by the columnist. It is a standard trope of the women’s right-wing space (even though not all declaring it realise the provenance). It emerges from the idea that various groups in the LGBTQI+ community have asked that language includes them. When a lesbian couple have a baby, one of them is the “birthing parent” since both will be mothers. Nobody is eliminating the term mother;” it is just that our language is able to open out to include other experience where relevant.

Leaving language open for professionals to address people as required is not an erasure of women’s existence. The controversial term “chestfeeding” has been devised purely to speak to people for whom breasts aren’t relevant. It is not a replacement for the term breastfeeding. The lesson is merely asking midwives to be thoughtful about the needs of the individual recipients of their instruction. Change is complicated and messy. We make mistakes. Solving the inherent problems is our task.

The result of this campaign is deadly violence.

The only recent battle where News Corp’s audience arguably does stand to lose something, rather than cowering in fear of manufactured monsters under the bed, is the tantrum over Jim Chalmers’ The Monthly essay. The opinion and letters page of The Australian[12] was filled with outrage over his “socialism” expressed in a work that asks, as Katherine Murphy puts it, “in conciliatory terms that capitalism should (brace yourselves readers) be tethered by values.” He continued the focus on economic growth as the solution to our ills, despite concern that this is a dangerous path.

In fact, the idea that these readers stand to lose in capitalism balanced with regulation and government programs is a myth created by the plutocrats who believe life truly is a zero sum game.

Robert Reich detailed in a February essay that the “free market” is a poisonous lie that has created massive inequality, dysfunction and disaster. There is no such thing as a free market, he points out: markets are designed by judges, legislators and government agencies for a party, either “to advance public purposes or monied interests.” As servants of the monied interests, our right-wing political parties have become circuses filled with clowns and jerks, or zombie parties, gutted by deceptive free market ideology. Nativist populist creeps and campaigns are winning and damaging countries in predictable ways. Britain is paralysed with rolling strikes after years of neoliberals starving infrastructure of funds. The “antiwork” movement represents workers’ growing disgust at the exploitation laid bare by the pandemic.

Murdoch’s Dog Line treats a request to be included in our societies as though the target is digging up the graves of our ancestors and stealing our inheritance. Politics based on this resentment and rage can only damage us. It is crucial that those who continue to follow Murdoch’s “news” do so in the full knowledge that his zero sum games are a dangerous distortion intended to distract us while the monied interests take everything.


[1] Sheridan, Greg “Identity politics the real risk in voice,” The Australian 7/2/2023

[2] Bolt, Andrew “Architects of new apartheid,” The Herald Sun 31/10/2022

[3] Bolt, Andrew “Giving voice to an undemocratic farce,” The Herald Sun 19/1/23

[4] Bolt, Andrew “Whose voice is being heard,” The Herald Sun 14/11/2022

[5] Ergas, Henry “Voice to entrench racial separatism,” The Australian 27/1/2023

[6] Albrechtson, Janet “Oratory is no substitute for cool, hard-headed analysis” The Australian 5-6/11/2022

[7] Albrechtson, Janet “Conventional approach to real debate in voice” The Australian 8/2/2023

[8] Needham, David “Terrible irony of attempt to right historical wrong,” The Australian 2/2/2023

[9] Credlin, Peta “Voice a Trojan horse,” The Herald Sun 12/2/2023

[10] Kenny, Chris “Sound the alarm, Mr Dutton” The Weekend Australian 26-7/11/2022

[11] Williams, George “Expert stress tests show the voice is not a threat” 23/12/2022

[12] Letters The Australian 1&2/2/23)

This was originally published in Pearls and Irritations as The Voice: News Corps dangerous zero sum games


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  1. Lucy Hamilton

    Apologies for the footnotes. Even if I was willing to pay to read Murdoch, which I’m not, you would just meet paywalls. I think there are too many quotes to stomach in-text citations.

  2. New England Cocky

    Lucy, do not apologise for the end-notes, that enable the reader to get on with their first scan before checking out the detailed sources. You identified the fact that Australian egalitarianism has passed into history without other comment, principally due to Little Johnnie Howard the great egotistical wrecker of ”The Lucky Country” aided and abetted by nine (9) years too long of since the last LABOR government.

  3. leefe

    No apologies necessary, Lucy. It’s an excellent article (as per usual).

  4. Phil Pryor

    Conservatives, and here the Murdoch maggots manifest their mischievous muck, are totally unacceptable people as claimants of intelligence, decency, honesty. Conservative shitheads always “win”, as they set out, by one and a half to a half, for if you are decent, honest, open, socially mature, you’ll concede half the space, conversation, argument, to the other who will give you none. And who will give you none? Adolf, Sheridan, Josef, Jack Howard, Peter Duckwit-Futton, Benito, Merde Dog the old fleafarm, Jose, Trump, Eduardo, LLEEYY, Juan, Angus Robber, Pol Pot, Canavan, Tojo, and many more dimwit, nasty, shutskulls of conservative solidity. So, actively insult, confront, oppose, ignore and shout down conservative closedminded brownbrained dogdropping savages. They concede nothing even if the whole rest of the world is RIGHT.

  5. The AIM Network

    Footnotes are fine, Lucy.

    I removed the hyperlink though, for they are only visible to people who subscribe to the media they are linked to, otherwise they appear here with lines through them.

    I made an executive decision. 🙂

  6. andy56

    no, Murdoch is a money man , first and foremost. He identified a niche of right wing nut jobs who could be harnessed as a demographic block. He plays to their wants. Thats his game. its a lucrative demographic that he exploits unmercifully.
    Any other meaning of his modis operandi is just giving him more than he is worth. Its cynical and narcisstic but its given him a few billion over the years. Tame and fearfull politicians means its easier to exploit the system. Murdoch is apolitical. A finer bastard to line up against a wall has never presented like this before. Its a fine example of why capitalism needs to be reigned in. Money doesnt care if we die in a climate change catastrophy. Money doesnt care if we dessend to the barbarity of Nazism. Money doesnt care about exploitation, of anything. Murdochs lap dogs all feed off the same demographic of feigned and manufactured indignation.
    If albanese had any real balls, he would demand some tax coin from murdoch rather than rubber stamp tax deductions.

  7. Brad Black

    Having his minions ‘dog whistle’ the less erudite and/or sympathetic is something murdoch makes a fortune doing! It, along with extreme political conservatism, has created generational division and the resulting civil unrest in at least 3 countries. A RC into the country’s media has never been more pressing.

  8. Terence Mills

    Look what the tide washed up :

  9. Michael Taylor

    Terry, it’s called a Coelacanth, thought to have gone extinct about 80 million years ago until one was caught in a net off Madagascar in 1938.

    Lucy, brilliant as always. You’re a legend.

  10. Andrew Smith

    Good overview, and one wonders about Murdoch’s family and schooling in Victoria, has it led to a chip on the shoulder or ‘resentment’ on various divisive issues of the nation?

    His father Keith Murdoch has been described hagiographically as a media mogul embedded in the Melbourne establishment, through owning some minor media assets, while being an executive employee of Herald & Weekly Times, then of the Baillieu family.

    Further, begs the question, why did Rupert go to GGS Geelong Grammar School and not one of the Melbourne schools, especially Presbyterian (Baillieu family would have been well connected)?

    Allegedly, GGS is where boys are sent if parental problems at home, for ‘toughening up’, expulsion from a Melbourne school or heaven forbid, not accepted by one of the latter? (Other alumni inc. King Charles, Alastair ‘Boris’ Johnson & of AFL media fame Sam Newman).

    Murdoch senior allegedly had it in for Sir John Monash, from sources

    ‘Although Murdoch pushed for the appointment of Major General Brudenell White as the new corps commander while denigrating Major General John Monash (who was of Jewish German ancestry)…Murdoch continued to lobby for Monash’s demotion by appealing directly to Australian Prime Minister Billy Hughes…Murdoch attempted again to convince Hughes that Monash should not control the repatriation of Australian troops’

    Just saying 🙂

  11. Paul Smith

    Charlie Pickering quips that he reads all the news so that we don’t have to. You expose yourself to and report on political pornography so that we can know about it without having to see it. Thank you for alerting us to the execrable mutations of malice that Murdock’s Morlocks conjure to protect white privilege. We regret the price you will pay in recurrent PTSD in the form of such spectres as a third chamber threatening autonomy; a new apartheid denying political equality; a radical shift in power gained through preferential privileges; special treatment that puts “them” above others; and trojan horses ushering in Aboriginal states. We fervently hope that you will be spared the awful realisation that these things are projections onto Blackfellas of what Whitefellas have been doing in this country since the first invasion day – that it’s a case of the pot calling the kettle… OMG… y’no… black ! ?

  12. LambsFry Simplex.

    I thought it was a good overview too. What I find doubly disturbing in the pervasive overthrow of alternative outlets, the latest involving Murdoch’s new friend, Musk, Twitter, and seems as determined to make Twitter as big a mess as Zuckerberg did with FB. As for computers, once their bait turned to switchand the internet lost its sheen.

  13. Lucy Hamilton

    Thanks, everyone. Interesting stuff. Thanks Michael for that huge compliment. No, Andy. To some extent, Murdoch is a believer. He was reputedly Left before encountering Ronald Reagan and diving wholeheartedly into that world. I think Lachlan is becoming more dangerous because he is more radical Right than his father, if not as Right as the messages Fox is pounding in.

  14. Lucy Hamilton

    And indeed, Paul, immersing myself in someone’s second hand Murdoch papers for the voluntary “Murdoch watch” role I was asked to fill is very bad for the blood pressure.

  15. Kathryn

    When will that appalling, callously inhumane, unconscionably depraved, wrinkled old right-wing extremist, Murdoch, do the world a HUGE favour and cark it? The ONLY thing that keeps that monstrous aberration, Rupert Murdoch, alive is pure hate! Murdoch – and his truly vile, diabolical dynasty – has survived by consistently peddling xenophobic racism, non-stop sneering misogyny, virulent rusted-on hate and by displaying an irrational and callous disregard for anyone who is poor or deprived and/or left-wing! Like most illogical, easily manipulated, dumbed down supporters of the depraved, totally corrupt, hateful political psychopaths, xenophobic racists and rusted-on misogynists in the far right-wing, Murdoch chooses to pander to the most corrupt, wealthiest and heartless members of the Top 1% without a glimmer of rational or factual reporting, not even one iota of the most basic levels of humanity and zero empathy for anyone who is, in any way, vulnerable. The truth is that the depraved and diabolical psychopath, Rupert Murdoch – and his army of reckless, talentless and sadistically cruel hacks – THRIVE on division, chaos and virulent hatred of anyone and everyone who does not agree with Murdoch’s elitist and very narrow, insular view of the world!

    Reading a second-rate, lying Murdoch rag is akin to dipping your head into an open sewer – the squalid filth, putrid racism and malignant misogyny that is pushed out in every appalling, trashy edition of a Z-rated, hateful Murdoch “garbage wrap” will only pollute the mind and reduce your IQ by about 20 points! By NOT throwing away around $3.50 of your hard-earned money on one of Murdoch’s warped, deceptive and totally right-wing biased trashy rags will be the BEST saving a person can ever make – reading a dictionary is far more enlightening and, most certainly, a LOT more interesting and educational!

  16. andy56

    no lucy, people with that amount of money are only interested in protecting it or making more. Murdoch is only after the money. He only believes in himself. The recent dominion revelations point in this direction.

  17. B Sullivan

    Andy 56, on Murdoch’s modus operandi.

    If Murdoch’s MO was cynical then he’d be renouncing his wealth not accumulating more. He would be content to be self-sufficient and self-reliant instead of dependent on skimming profits off the masses like a monster parasite and having to acquire, manipulate and exploit other people to do everything for him and above all he would be happy to restrict his possessions to only the basic necessities of life. if the purpose of his MO is to accumulate a few billion then it cannot logically be described as cynical as it is not resulting in him owning less than he has already got.

    My advice to everyone is to stop citing the word ‘cynical’ and instead use a different word that unambiguously expresses whatever it is that you all mistakenly think ‘cynical’ actually means. That way you will more effectively communicate what you really want to say without depriving the language of the true meaning of ‘cynical’ by this constant, popularly repeated misuse which only serves to spread the ignorance of the word’s real and valuable meaning to others, turning it instead into an uncommunicative weasel word which has all its true meaning sucked out of it.

    The very notion that Rupert Murdoch can in any way be considered cynical is the height of absurdity. Buddha cynically renounced a kingdom to find happiness and enlightenment in a life of impoverishment. Saint Francis cynically renounced the riches of his wealthy merchant father returning to him even the clothes he was wearing, stripping naked in the public square before commencing a monastic order of poverty in which he found happiness and salvation. Gandhi was cynical advocating self reliance, self sufficiency and simplicity. So was the prophet Jesus. Early Christianity was heavily influenced by cynicism. Think of the advice given by Jesus to the rich man to give his wealth to the poor if he truly wished to find salvation. That is what cynics do, they renounce materialism with its perpetual pursuit of more and more which is never ever enough. Would you liken Rupert Murdoch to people like that?

  18. LambsFry Simplex.

    Lucy Hamilton, the perversion of the language to induce directed conclusions in the reader at odd with factsi has seeped through at the IPABC.

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