Bill Shorten has blasted the Murdoch media’s coverage of him and his party. This shows a spine lacking in previous Labor leaders. When it came to the Australian Montgomery Burns, previous Labor leaders attempted to bring him onside during their campaigns. Presumably since picking a fight with the media is rarely a winning endeavour since they always have the last word. Mr. Shorten broke with this tradition this week, blasting what the Sydney Morning Herald quoted him as calling the ‘dishonest scare campaigns’ and ‘usual propaganda from News Corp’.
Them’s Fightin’ Words
Mr. Shorten is perhaps a little late to the party on this one, but he is correct nevertheless. For years, the Murdoch press has been openly hostile to Labor governments and run interference for the LNP. This is presumably because those Labor leaders had the temerity to replace the Murdoch-ordained LNP toady in The Lodge. As examples of Murdoch’s media interference, there was the infamous ‘Kick This Mob Out’ headline from 2013 in reference to the then Labor government and the ‘Australia Needs Tony [Abbott]’ headline of 2010. Murdoch’s opinion is clear. While he is entitled to his opinion, it does not need to be the nation’s opinion. Murdoch media’s blatant LNP propaganda campaign is the strongest argument yet for legislation instituting greater diversity of media ownership.
Culmination of A Long-Term Trend
You may recall from a few months back Mr. Shorten declined to meet with Murdoch personally. This was a wise political calculation (or he actually believes it) since the optics of such a meeting are terrible. Given the influence over politics that Murdoch has, such a meeting would have looked like receiving your orders from the guy who truly runs the country. The present push-back against the Murdoch media empire is thus not only a response to their crap of the last however many decades, but it represents the destination that Mr. Shorten has needed to reach for some time: he is not a Murdoch toady. One of the many reasons the public despises the LNP is because it is so clear they take their orders from the Australian Oligarchs. It is in Mr. Shorten’s interests to present himself as the antithesis to that.
Push-Back: The Truth Exposed
One senior ALP source said it plainly: Murdoch and his media empire are ‘acting as a propaganda arm of the government’. This is not bellyaching over hostile coverage; the evidence shows this claim to be true. Consider a recent Murdoch headline about the budget. There were two road signs; one pointing to the Liberals saying ‘reward’ and the other pointing to Labor and saying ‘risk’. Ignore the pun on ‘risk-reward’ and focus on the bias in the headline. The implication is clear: Labor is bad with money and voting for them is a ‘risk’ rather than an inalienable right. The point here is to play into the myth (and it is a myth) that conservatives are better economic managers because shut up. This despite a Guardian report saying that recent Liberal governments have been the worst economic managers in decades.
An Alternative: Social Media
As newspapers decline in circulation and relevance, a new means of getting one’s message out has emerged: social media. This is far less monopolised; more of an open platform. While this has its drawbacks, it is a way of speaking directly to the people without the interference of a third party. The Labor party sees this as an alternative to the declining print media, and they may well have a point. While it is true that there are trolls on social media, if one observes political posts, we see many true comments coming to the fore. It is also true that the same hacks who strawman and otherwise advance terrible arguments have a social media platform, but the linked tweet shows the pushback.
Old Media ‘Responds’ to Shorten, Pt One: The Errorgraph
The editor of The Errorgraph, Ben English, had this to say about the alleged ramping up of the propaganda leading up to the election
It’s certainly not a considered strategy on our behalf to become more polemical or more strident one way or the other
That statement needs to be carefully parsed. Even if it were true that they are not becoming more polemical (which is highly dubious), what he does not say is more interesting. He did not say that they were not polemical, they are just not being more polemical. Nice unintentional showing of your hand there, Mr. English. He did say that he sees Mr. Shorten’s attitude to the conservative media (also known as the media) as a political tactic. In other words, this is a stunt and once he gets in he will fall in line. Time will tell; this would not be the first election campaign stunt. That said, I am inclined to believe Mr. Shorten since the evidence supports his claim.
Old Media ‘Responds’ to Shorten, Pr Two: The Un-Australian
Next came Chris Dore, editor of The Australian, who said
It’s a curious tactic one week into the campaign to question the motives of an inquisitive media who are simply asking questions
Just asking questions. We see this regularly in America: the media? We’re just asking questions! This is a way to be able to say what you like and have a ready-made response to any criticism. As an absurd example, consider this: does Barack Obama kill puppies? We are just asking questions. It is not clear if Obama kills puppies, so we are asking the question. Do you have a problem with the media asking questions? And there we have it: the media insulated from any criticism as they say any half-baked nonsense that serves their agenda. But back to the plot: inquisitive media? No. Inquisitive is designed to get to the truth. Mr. Dore and his paper are more adversarial, at least when it comes to Mr. Shorten.
Conclusion: Bill Sees the Light
Mr. Shorten has taken a large step in the right direction, and praise is due for this. He and his party finally seem to have realised that Murdoch and his media empire were going to be hostile to them no matter what they did. So they would gain nothing by trying to bring Murdoch and his hacks onside. Politically, the optics serve his purposes well also: he is presenting himself as a man of the people rather than a political sycophant going to daddy for permission to temporarily occupy the highest elected office in the land.
Keep it up, Bill. Forward.
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