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Shorten Sweet: Bill Tells Murdoch to Walk The Plank

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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  1. Brad Black

    Good onya Bill. Next step, if the heavily biased press don’t successfully brain wash enough voters, is to change media ownership laws to rid this country of undemocratic interference in Australian politics – especially by the American paper boy.

  2. Andrew Smith

    Good for Shorten.

    UK general election under May (under of advice of Crosby) showed decline in influence of tabloids including NewsCorp; increase in other sources eg Google, for younger generations, same platforms now under attack from NewsCorp.

    This week NewsCorp leader Thompson attacking left/liberals for being nasty to conservatives.

    Strategy of NewsCorp is quite transparent, at minimum shoring up the conservative base.

  3. johnyperth

    What has happen to truth and balance reporting in the media?
    Also, what is ACMCA doing about this?

  4. Yvonne Robertson

    For some time I’ve tried to recollect if Gillard went to see the old rodent – he who will not die – but I don’t think so. Way to go though Bill – give him a double serving of foreign ownership, media restriction pie after the election.

  5. Alcibiades

    Dr Tim Jones,
    Some excellent incisive takes indeed.

    Anyone who follows reporters actual questions, as opposed to the selectively published responses to them, would be aware the crucial ‘framing’ of & aggressiveness & follow up of them, is predominantly blatantly partisan against Labor/Green/Independents & conversely soft peddles in favour of the Coalition …

    Shorten broke with this tradition … calling the ‘dishonest scare campaigns’ and ‘usual propaganda from News Corp’.

    What is more remarkable to me, is Fairfax published the article on it as they did. Have observed a hedging of coverage by them in 2019, including publishing some quite ‘stark’ one-liners against the Murdoch/LNP narrative.

    Murdoch media’s blatant LNP propaganda campaign is the strongest argument yet for legislation instituting greater diversity of media ownership.

    Anti-trust & Fairness Doctrine Laws, breakup the Murdochracy & corporate MSM, as well as corporate monopolies, more powerful, even worse than the Robber Baron monopolies of the late 1800’s.

    Murdoch … the guy who truly runs the country.

    One of the many reasons the public despises the LNP is because it is so clear they take their orders from the Australian Oligarchs.

    One small quibble, the Murdoch/IPA, are primarily supporting the objectives of foreign owned multi-national corporations, and their supposed ‘Independent Australian’ corporate subsidiaries. Same same with donations. True(?) Australian corporations, homegrown oligarchs, are a mere subset of the IPA, though aligned/complicit, no ?

    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.

    Would argue this has been known for decades, yet the combination of the blatant yet ineffective partisan Murdoch propaganda(See: recent VIC election, 2018 Super Saturday by-elections, etc), the almost daily venal dysfuntion of the last six years of the LNP, combined with the decline of print/partisan media influence, side by side with a global shift of citizens to seek out & utilize Social Media for news & to speak up, combined, have now created a ‘moment’, where the opportunity is assessed & calculated to exist, to successfully ‘Call a Spade a Spade’ ?

    This creates a potential cornerstone, raised publicly & explicitly, within the election campaign, to build upon & justify post election media/anti-trust laws, should the ALP win …

    On a related note, Channel Ten, now owned by US CBS, has permitted ‘The Project’ twice now, Aly Waleed re Morrison followed by the Project extended report last night re venality of Barnaby Joyce/Angus Taylor/LNP government, to at least partly oppose the corporate MSM propaganda, & especially ‘omission’, consensus ‘narrative’ … intriguing … grass shoots ?

    Observed In & out of hospitals & ‘Care’ over the past decade, often offered free newspapers, yet only Murdochs rags, even the co-located ‘internal convenience’ stores only sold Murdoch rubbish, or merely a very small sampling of alternates … free Murdoch trash at take-away outlets, etc. They’ve degenerated to having to give it away & hide behind paywalls, outside the captured ‘base’ & sole monopoly media zones …

    Yet, for example, voters in Abbott’s electorate of Warringah (‘Safe’ Blue Ribbon Liberal ?) have been complaining loudly & commenting derisively of unsolicited/unsubscribed free copies of the Daily Terrorgraph being delivered to their doorstep throughout Manly. Abbott’s electorate predominantly prefer the ‘Manly Daily’ or the Sydney Morning Herald. Anecdotally, Murdochs Limited News Corpse time approaching it’s end ? (Image)

  6. RomeoCharlie29

    As readerships of newspapers decline, and audience numbers fall for the ranters and ravers on radio and Sky after dark, their influence is waning. No doubt there are the rusted- on readers and listeners/viewers but having given up reading my local Murdoch rag ( and finding most are behind paywalls online) I am finding more doing the same. We find we don’t need, and certainly don’t want the LNP message shoved down our throats. I hope the election of a Labor Government will herald (sorry) the dawn of a new age of media diversity where the interests of the citizenry are put before those of the tax dodging individuals and companies of the 1%.

  7. Phil

    Go Bill Shorten and the ALP. Murdoch and his toadies can die in the proverbial print media ditch. Nice writing Tim J.

  8. andy56

    I too used to be an avid paper reader but now i have given up. Its all online. Paywall? You can keep it. Sure i see the merit of subscribing but i havent heard one good reason to do so. Same as everything else on the internet, your a mug if you pay. Paying just gives all your info to data bases. Imagine that, you pay and you give everything away, what a great business model, what a self deluded mob we are.
    As a muso, i hated the way bands had been ripped off on royalties and hate the way we get nothing for providing free content to youtube who now want to charge the punters. I give away my inspiration so youtube can make money? two words, F*CK OFF. Thats how i feel about paywalls. The australian has always been a hard read for me, just too IPA in its approach anyway. So i dont miss it one bit. Better to just read RT news.

  9. DrakeN

    if it should happen that the media do actually put the interests of the citizery first, it will be a first.

  10. Henry Rodrigues

    Go for the throat Bill, we’re with you. Kick the bastard where it hurts, in the balls. Apart from the coalition and their moronic supporters, and the big end of town and the greedy pricks who hate to pay tax and the others bastards who think its their god given right to live off the rest of the country, this sob doesn’t own the whole country. And as soon Labor wins the election, effective measures should be undertaken to introduce more diversity and impartiality in journalism.

    Its Time people, time for the crinkled scrote and his family to fck off. back to Trumps America.

  11. Florence Howarth

    I suspect Bill is sticking to a long well thought out plan. I suspect Bill didn’t make any missteps last week. He more than anyone has studied Murdoch & the Liberals for more than two decades. He knows exactly how they will react to whatever he does, His hardest job is to get the media’s attention onto Morrison, getting them to hold him to account. He has not held his tongue for six years for nothing.

  12. Aortic

    Well I remember a wonderful interview between Melvyn Bragg and the redoubtable Dennis Potter as Potter was on his last legs. When Bragg asked what Potter would do if he ever met Murdoch he said, ” I would shoot the bugger.” Shame they never crossed paths.

  13. Neville mc donald

    This could be the begining of the end for Murdoch ,if labor win I can see them getting out of labor sweet nothing and that would be a very good thing ,shorten showed a lot of guts in refusing to meet him but we must remember Murdoch thought so little of Australia he became a yank

  14. Miriam English

    If Labor gets into power and doesn’t take Murdoch’s media away from him, then they will never see power ever again. This is their last chance.

    Murdoch’s media has been declining for decades, but it has a long way to go before it’s dead. His empire can hold out for decades to come, and he, personally, won’t die so long as there are young virgins with fresh blood.

  15. Bert

    The easiest way to nobble mordock is truth in media laws ala Canada. Does anyone else note the similarities between the NZ and Canadian political landscape compared to Australia, UK and the US? Answer, IMHO, mordoch is present in the latter three’s media market.

  16. guest

    Remember when Julia Gillard told the media to stop writing crap? Of course, they didn’t, did they?

    The foreign proprietor continues to influence politics here in Oz because he has vested interests. He has said he does not tell us what to think, but what to think about. Which is the same thing, really, when one looks at the headings which say: “For the informed Australian” and “News brand of the year”.

    He allows his media to write denier misinformation about climate change, full of contradiction and ignorance.

    He lectures people on education because it is important to us all, but what he allows to be written is ancient stuff which poses as “traditional” Direct Instruction.

    He spruiks populist champions of instruction such as Jordan Peterson and Mark Bauerlein, Peterson with his lessons from lobsters and Bauerlein with his lectures on Western Civilisation, more specifically, Western Literature. Western Literature has been freely available for study in various forms for decades but has never been more available than now on line. Bauerlain is here at the invitation of the IPA to give exegesis of literature which he has been learning for years and years because the IPA refuses to believe that educators here in Oz are capable of teaching Western Literature, even though crib books and on line notes are freely available. Experts by the million. As well as fine teachers in schools and universities. It is the old cultural cringe: we need overseas experts and our kids are dumb (!)

    One can only wonder how many of these Ramsay Institute adherents have actually read very many of these “classics”.

    Then we have lectures on what to think about history (especially of war) and of religion. The latest sermon on the veracity of the resurrection of Jesus, and more on the “historical” Jesus. What the preacher is not able to do is to show how a physically resurrected person can enter a locked room, or be taken up into heaven to sit on the right hand of God!

    Then we have the demand that we should all support Israel in its treatment of Palestinians or risk being accused of being anti-Semites. Murdoch has his reasons. He has investments in shale oil in the Golan Heights taken from Syria by Israel in 1967 and supposedly annexed in 1981.

    The media keeps saying there are questions to be asked even when they cannot think of any at the time. So it is good to see Bill Shorten challenging the blatant propaganda from a foreign source.

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