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Tag Archives: Murdoch media

I hope Rupert is happy

There was a time not so long ago when Australia’s future looked bright.

In 2008, Rudd apologised to the Stolen Generation and COAG agreed to a definitive strategy to close the gap in Indigenous disadvantage.

We had successfully negotiated the global financial crisis with continued growth and relatively low unemployment.

We were world leaders in putting a price on carbon. We were addressing water issues with the Murray-Darling buyback scheme and extending marine parks.  We had introduced water trigger legislation giving the federal government the right to oppose mining in sensitive areas.

We had expanded the Renewable Energy Target and established the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and Clean Energy Finance Corporation. Wind capacity trebled and Labor supported the installation of more than 1 million solar panels.

Needs based funding for school education was underway, tertiary education had been expanded, and we had an agreement with the states on hospital funding.

The rollout of a world class fast NBN was underway.

We had a mechanism for deriving some income from the mining of our natural resources which was just about to start earning some money as they moved into production phase and had used up their accelerated depreciation.

We had introduced paid parental leave and the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

There was a Royal Commission into child sex abuse instigated.

Our troops had finally come home from Afghanistan.

We had our first female Prime Minister who was admired around the world who looked on bemusedly at the vilification she received at home.

But Rupert Murdoch wasn’t happy.

We had a debt and deficit disaster, which is now much larger.

They were a dysfunctional illegitimate government who knifed their own leader, just like the Libs have done.

We had to get rid of the carbon and mining taxes to improve investment and employment, both of which have gone backwards after the repeal.

And Juliar told us there would be no carbon tax, just like Tony said there would be no cuts to health, education or the ABC.

So what do we have to look forward to now?

Another war in the Middle East.

Paying hundreds of billions for war toys.

Paying hundreds of millions for political witch hunts aka Royal Commissions designed to demonise Labor and the union movement.

Becoming a toxic dump for the world’s nuclear waste.

A great big new tax on everything you buy.

Paying billions to polluters.

Forking out millions to try and keep Telstra’s copper network working so we can have really slow broadband.

Lots of big new coal mines and CSG mines dotting our prime farmland.

Getting sued by global corporations if our laws interfere with their profits.

An influx of 457 visa workers.

Condemnation by the world for torturing asylum seekers.

The selling off of all our assets.

Working till we are 70.

The removal of penalty rates.

Being told that government spending on everything to do with society is unsustainable because we need more money for security.

I sure hope Rupert is happy because we have paid a hell of a price for him to get his way.

 

Bill Shorten takes climate change seriously, so guess who isn’t happy with him?

‘The frontline of climate change’ was the appealing subject of the email I received from Labor this morning. It read:

We often talk about what effects climate change will have on our economy, or on agricultural land, or how many more natural disasters we’re likely to suffer.

What we talk about less is how climate change is affecting some of our closest neighbours right now. And it’s devastating. The Papua New Guinea and island nations in the pacific are facing real, existential threats from climate change.

Bill Shorten, Tanya Plibersek and Richard Marles are visiting these islands this week and talking to people about life at the frontline of climate change.

This is an issue that isn’t going to go away – we’re likely to see and hear a lot more about it as the International Climate Change Conference in Paris approaches at the end of this month. We’ll keep you informed as much as we can.

Now you’d think that’d be a good thing. Here we have a group of politicians and a political party taking climate change seriously and placing it front and centre on the table. And added to that, they are engaging with counties that are most likely to be the first victims of rapid change.

In most countries this concern and their initiative would be applauded. But they might just happen to be countries where the Murdoch media doesn’t have the same influence as it does here. Instead of it being applauded, we see it derided. Andrew Bolt of The Herald Sun led the way:

LABOR leader Bill Shorten will test the honesty of journalists this week when he tours Pacific Islands he claims are drowning.

Will they dare report that most of the islands are in fact growing or stable? Or will they again prove they cannot be trusted to tell the truth about the global warming scare?

Shorten and deputy Tanya Plibersek plan to visit Kiribati and the Marshall Islands.

As the gullible Sydney Morning Herald announced: “Labor wants to put climate change at the centre of public debate in the run-up to a major United Nations summit in Paris later this year.

Sister paper The Daily Telegraph could only feature the story as one that will see ‘Bill Shorten . . . fly 16,000km on a private jet . . .’ and mock him with the image above with the caption ‘Labor overboard with private jet tour‘, while all that news.com.au wanted to tell us was that Bill Shorten danced awkwardly while in Kiribati with suggestions that it might give us a good reason to laugh at him.

One would think that the Murdoch media don’t like the idea of someone taking climate change seriously.

Personally, I’ve had it up to my teeth with the Murdoch media. How can any important issue or any non-Coalition politician get a fair run in this country while the Murdoch media has so much power and so many right-wing fanatics spreading the Murdoch gospel?

Squeaky Clean

Rat with a gold toothPutting aside the fact that Julia Gillard was treated as a back-stabbing-murderess after she replaced Kevin Rudd as PM. Putting aside that she was labelled ‘the illegitimate PM’ even after she went straight to an election to let the ‘people decide’ and then won, but for some reason was then even more ‘illegitimate’ presumably because she led a minority government and it suited Abbott’s Liberals and their mates in the media to paint this as unstable when really it was the most productive government Australia has ever had. Putting aside the grand hypocrisy of none of these labels ever being assigned to Malcolm Turnbull when he plotted and schemed and white anted and undermined and destabilized and finally got what we all knew he wanted because he was quite openly campaigning for it: Abbott’s job. Putting aside that he hasn’t gone straight to an election and is instead intent of pretending he was legitimately chosen by the people to be PM when he quite clearly was not. Putting aside all these things which really make me so mad I could lose my mind, except that I won’t because it’s all so predictable that the Liberals would have their own leadership spill and it goes completely unnoticed by the mainstream media like a massive ‘meh’, when Labor’s leadership spill was the only thing the media wanted to talk about. For 5 years. What I really want to discuss today is the fascinating situation of Turnbull’s Prime Ministership where he can do NO WRONG, according to the mainstream media, and anything that does go wrong in his government is, incredibly, coincidentally, conveniently, somehow painted as still the last guy’s problem. Still Abbott’s fault. Except Abbott isn’t the PM anymore. Turnbull is. How the hell does Turnbull get away with this bullshit? He reminds me of the classic quote from the classic movie, Shawshank Redemption, but replace ‘Andy Dufresne’ with ‘Malcolm Turnbull’: Malcolm Turnbull – who crawled through a river of shit and came out clean on the other side. How? How is Turnbull squeaky clean after all the crawling through shit he’s been up to?

Take, for instance, the horrific and tragic case of rape victim and asylum seeker, ‘Abyan’. Dutton is in a bit of hot water over this. That’s not to say Dutton is in as much hot water as an Immigration Minister should be who has denied an asylum seeker, a frightened young woman, the dignity and human rights any human being deserves, for political gain. But there is some criticism of the way Dutton has handled this situation, such as here, here and here. And you will notice in this Dutton-criticism, Turnbull is either given a cursory mention, or not mentioned at all. As if he’s somehow not involved in this situation. As if he’s floating situation, detached, uninvolved, an innocent bystander. As if somehow Dutton wasn’t chosen to continue in his evil role of Immigration Minister in the new Turnbull government, and therefore doesn’t report to Turnbull like an employee reports to an employer, where the employer is ultimately responsible for the decisions made by that employee and liable for any damage done by that employee. Why is Turnbull not being held liable? How is he coming out of this squeaky clean?

Another example is the news this week that the rolling ball which Abbott started rolling in his ideological quest to eat away at the public’s ownership of Medicare by privatising some parts of it, with the ultimate goal of privatising all of it, is still rolling forward. I’m really glad there are news outlets letting us know about this treachery because it’s a really seriously important news story that all Australians would be interested in. But I don’t understand why articles about this news story, such as this one, fail to even mention the word ‘Turnbull’. Turnbull, who we all knows likes to talk, and likes to explain, and is even well known for his particularly patronising ‘mansplaining’ tone, which he no doubt uses because he looks down on all of us since we’re all poorer than he is, is completely silent on this issue. He’s had plenty of time to comment and as far as I can tell he’s made no comment. It’s really not hard to guess why he’s made no comment. There are two reasons: a) because he doesn’t want to be splattered in the dirt of this issue, having to explain why his government is considering turning our universal health sector into a profit making machine for potentially international companies who would then ‘own’ our health records and eventually may own our entire health system. And b) Turnbull loves this idea, and hopes if he keeps his mouth shut it will more likely slip through unscrutinised. Which it possibly will. Turnbull loves this idea both for ideological reasons and perhaps because he has money invested in the companies who will make billions out of taking over Australia’s Medicare system, money which will be filtered through the Cayman Islands, un-taxed and back into Malcolm’s pocket which is bulging with cash. Of course there is a class-war, and Malcolm’s pocket is winning.

Long-time readers of my blog will recognise that the longer my sentences, the angrier I am. My keyboard will also tell you that the intensity of my fingers hitting the keyboard is a fair indication of the level of blood boil going on. So yes, I’m angry about this ‘Turnbull getting away with swimming in shit, yet still being treated like the beloved-shiny-sparkling-glistening-in-the-sun-squeeky-clean-brand-new Prime Minister who can do no wrong’. I’m terrified the squeaky cleanliness will get Turnbull another Liberal term of government and all the horrors of his political agenda will come about, unabated by any real scrutiny, just like the media did when they betrayed the country by giving Abbott such a free pass. It’s not just News Ltd this time either. It’s also Fairfax, the ABC and even, inexplicably, the Guardian. I’m not asking for these media outlets to do anything except their job and their job is not to let Turnbull get away with zero scrutiny on issues damaging to Australians. Just do your jobs people. For the love of dog, just do your jobs.

 

Two things I have trouble with involving the Abbott Government … all right, three!

Negativity-21OK, I know it’s obvious, but I want to know why Justice Heydon can say that there was absolutely no reason for him to disqualify himself for accepting an invitation to be the guest speaker because – as he points out in his sixty seven page justification – it doesn’t demonstrate that he agrees with the politics of the organisation where he’s going to speak.

So there’s no problem with him accepting the invitation. Got it! Except now the question is why he felt that he had to change his mind about speaking there. It might be perceived as bias. But now his ruling on apprehended bias is that a “rational” person wouldn’t see it as bias.

I guess, from that, one could infer from that as Heydon decided to change his mind about speaking then he isn’t a “rational” person.

We also learn that Justice Heydon is famous for not reading emails.

Which seems a clear link to the Liberals who have a reluctance to read anything (as Kaye Lee pointed out in “Less Shovels And More Reading” a few days ago).

While not reading emails or anything going to their office has been a popular pastime for Liberals since Peter Reith and the children overboard fiasco, I suspect that it may become popular for unionists in the coming days.

“Sorry, Justice Heydon, but I’m well-known among my colleagues for not reading emails, opening letters, checking bank statements or anything else you wish to question me about. I wasn’t aware of any of this and I don’t see how any rational person would expect me to keep track of what I’ve been doing when – as a union leader – everyone knows that I’m a bludger who never does anything but wage war on those poor multinationals who are providing jobs for Australians as part of their charity program.”

But I’m more concerned about the Fairfax “jihad”.

Yep, that’s right. Minister for Not Reading Press Releases, Mr Peter Mutton told everyone that Fairfax were waging a “jihad” against the Abbott Government. Which if you look up almost any definition of the word, is a wee bit confusing. For a start, surely they need to be Muslims to wage a “jihad”. Although Waheed Aly does occasionally write a column for them, so perhaps he’s converted Amanda Vanstone and Peter Reith to the cause. And Paul Sheehan. None of those columnists ever show the Abbott Government in a positive light.

Yes, yes, I know. Allowing such people to give you their thoughts does make the Abbott Government look bad. Anyway, the Petester wasn’t finished, obviously concerned that he didn’t have anyone at “hello”. Or “jihad” for that matter.

PETER DUTTON: I think it would be helpful if some of the commentators in the area, in this space of politics, started reporting on the incidents, as opposed to being players themselves.

I think there’s a huge move by Fairfax at the moment to try and bring the Government down, that’s fair enough. But they aren’t, they aren’t….

They aren’t supposed to be political players, they’re supposed to be objective reporters of the news and I think many of them have morphed into frustrated politicians themselves.

Yes, they should get back to simple reporting of incidents the way the Murdoch Press does. Then we can see simple reporting of incidents like the fabulous: “We Need Tony” or “Kick This Mob Out”!

Although I seem to remember that we were told that News Limited were a private organisation and that they were allowed to be biased. Fairfax, on the other hand (sorry Andrew Hastie but that wasn’t directed at you!), should stick to reporting the facts because, well, they’re being “helped by the ABC” according to Pete the Insignificant.

But I find it strange that he thinks that “commentators” should stick to reporting “incidents”. I thought the whole idea of commentators was to commentate, but I’ve always been a bit funny about words and their meanings. You know, I’m one of those that thought that when Abbott said that there was no difference between him and Rudd on Education, I thought that meant that he was saying that he’d implement the same policy, not that they both had a university degree. Or that no cuts meant that he wasn’t going to reduce the funds to pensioners, not that he wasn’t going to take a knife to them.

Still to be fair, all our Minister for Operational Matters actually said was that “it’d be helpful” if they stuck to reporting incidents. Objectively. You know, factual reporting. Using last Friday’s events maybe he’d be happy with something like this appearing in Fairfax.

“Operation Fortitude was called off when a clumsy worded press release caused people to compare the Abbott Government with Hitler and Stalin and to make comparisons between the Border Force’s black uniform with the Nazi SS. The press release wasn’t read by the Minister’s Office because they don’t have anything to do with the day to day operational matters, so they didn’t think that it was worth reading something sent to them. The Prime Minister assured us that he knew nothing.”

Yeah, that should make him happy.

That, and a decision by the media to stop reporting that there’s disharmony in the Liberal Party, because it’s not really news. People leaking. As Dutton himself told us, people could have a pretty good idea who was doing the leaking, and they’re doing it for their own ambitions and they should be sacked. But there’s no disharmony, and any attempt to report disharmony is just due to the Labor/Green/ABC/Fairfax/socialist/Jewish/alien/Islam/foreign/World Trade Centre conspiracy to bring down the natural rulers by refusing to mention that all they think about is Jobs and Growth And Security, and if you think about something often enough, then it happens. We all know that, we’ve all seen “Field of Dreams” and we know that if we build it they will come.

Mm, perhaps I should apply for a job as Tony Abbott’s speechwriter.

 

If Dick Smith wants to take on Tony Abbott, he will have Murdoch to contend with

Social media went into meltdown with the news that popular entrepreneur Dick Smith is considering standing as a candidate in Tony Abbott’s Warringah electorate at the next federal election.

The excitement, of course, was that person to person Dick Smith could in all likelihood take the seat. It’s a delicious thought and one widely shared. For many (judging by the comments on Facebook and Twitter) the news provided a glimmer of sunshine in what had been a gloomy political week.

But Dick Smith would have to do battle not just against Tony Abbott and other candidates; his major opponent will be the Murdoch media. Dick isn’t afraid of the Murdoch media and he isn’t afraid of rightly voicing his disgust in their modus operandi. This will put him clearly offside and they will batter him from pillar to post should he decide to stand.

Dick had a ‘run-in’ with the Murdoch media in 2013 when he published Murdoch Censorship Gives the Lie to ‘Freedom of Speech’ Claims (which was republished on The AIMN) slamming Kim Williams, then CEO of News Limited in Australia after he said we do not need to worry about the domination of the Murdoch press because we now have digital media! “Let’s see if it works” asked Dick in a subsequent probing letter to Mr Williams.

It is worth publishing again.

* * *

Kim Williams AM
CEO and Managing Director
News Limited
2 Holt St, Surry Hills NSW 2010
Via Email

Dear Kim

Murdoch Censorship Gives the Lie to “Freedom of Speech” Claims

I believe your personal campaign against proposed government media reforms is hypocritical as it is your organisation that is largely responsible for this reaction by our politicians.

You claim, “We are in danger of limiting the full reign of freedom of speech which we cherish and keeps our democracy on its toes.” This is, to put it plainly, claptrap. Your organisation constantly limits freedom of speech and even censors paid announcements when it is in your commercial interests to do so.

You say we shouldn’t worry about your organisation’s dominance of the media as a diversity of opinion can now be had through digital media. Could you be referring to this type of opinion from a popular online site:

“The news industry is failing us; owned by self-interested corporate media barons who put profit before principle. Today’s news is more interested in generating sensationalism and controversy than fulfilling its historic mission of educating the public and our democracies are in danger as a result.”

Never have truer words been said, but where can we read them in print?

Personally, I would prefer that the government’s planned media reforms were not necessary, but I can see why they are being proposed. Many Australian politicians and leaders have told me they are scared of the power of your organisation, and so they should be.

I believe your threats of High Court action are a smokescreen to deflect criticism from the real issue: your organisation’s biased and intimidating reporting. You have one agenda only – the pursuit of ever-increasing profits for your shareholders. You have absolutely no interest in anything other than this and you should admit it, not make false claims implying your prime concerns are freedom of the press and democracy.

I hold the quaint belief it is incumbent on media owners to ensure their papers and broadcasting channels behave responsibly and in the public interest and show leadership on important issues that affect us. And while calling governments to account, they should not so intimidate politicians and public officials that they interfere with the process of rational debate and good policy. Your organisation has clearly failed this test.

I do not need to remind you of the corrupt and criminal activities of many of your proprietor’s employees and their associates in the UK. What is never mentioned is that this has come about as a result of the unwritten “Rupert Murdoch agenda” that if your people don’t achieve ever increasing circulation and profit growth they will lose their jobs.

I must make it clear that I do not blame your journalists; I have found most to be professional and fair-minded. It is obvious that they “self-censor” what they write knowing that if they ever reveal views that are in conflict with your proprietor, then their careers will be brief. This is at complete odds with your claims of ensuring free speech and being concerned about threats to democracy.

And I’m on to you. When friends ask me why your organisation runs such opposing views on climate change – from Fox News’ claims that it’s all bunkum to The Australian newspaper occasionally claiming it’s accepted science – I am able to say, “it’s simple. It’s all about making more money. They have worked out they will get more advertising and make more money on Fox News if climate change is debunked using sensationalism whilst they are likely to get greater circulation and more advertising dollars if The Australian shows a different view, so staff are directed accordingly”.

In effect, your organisation promotes views that meet the prejudices of your audience so as to maximise profits. This is not promoting free speech – it is abusing it.

And it sure works. Your organisation recently declared a 47% profit increase when the people you make most of your money from, the middle and lower income earners in the United States, are doing it tough with record unemployment levels and housing foreclosures. No wonder the “occupy” movement exists.

Of course, I know the pressure you are personally under. If you don’t keep sending ever increasing profits to New York you could suddenly be sacked – just like former Daily Telegraph Editor, Gary Linnell or Herald-Sun Editor, Simon Pristel.

It may not be so serious if your boss, who has so much influence in Australia, was respected and trusted by most Australians. The opposite is, in fact, the case. Just recently he was voted as one of the least trusted. He was placed number 97 on the Readers Digest “Who Do We Trust 2012” list. Only an errant footballer and a foul-mouthed shock-jock were held in lower esteem by the Australian people. Of course, you made sure there was no mention in the Murdoch media of this as all of your journalists worldwide “self-censored” on this issue. Once again, what about your “freedom of the press” claims?

And now to the subject which I am vitally concerned about and that your journalists have self-censored as it is at odds with your “grow profits at all costs” agenda.

That is the need for major debate and planning by our leaders on how to move to an economic system that does not require perpetual growth in population and the use of resources and energy. You are an educated and intelligent person and would know that our present economic system is not sustainable as the earth’s resources are finite and we are clearly heading for challenging times. Yet I have not once seen in a Murdoch publication an editorial which covers this important issue.

It’s even worse than this. Your organisation actively attempts to suppress coverage on the issue, and many politicians have also told me they are not game to mention that our present system of economic growth is unsustainable knowing they will be ruthlessly attacked by your organisation.

Because you fail to show responsibility in this important issue, I prepared a paid “announcement” (see attached) to run in the Daily Telegraph about my Wilberforce Award and the issue of growth and offered a $5,000 reward to a journalist who could get the issue covered in a Murdoch paper.

Almost predictably, the Daily Telegraph refused to run my paid announcement unless reference to the Murdoch press was deleted, and you supported this decision. This was clearly censorship. Of course it was all kept secret and the Australian public never got to hear of your actions. This is just one example of your suppression of ideas that challenge your corporate agenda. How many other views do you censor in order to meet your profit objectives?

Because of this, I have recently produced a magazine and I am printing 2.4 million copies to be inserted in daily newspapers. The magazine is entitled, “Dick Smith’s Magazine of Forbidden Ideas That You Won’t Read About in the Mainstream Media” – a copy of the front page is attached. The magazine is primarily intended to convey important messages that your journalists fear covering because they challenge your perpetual growth agenda.

As you control 70% of the print media in Australia, it’s obvious that 70% of my magazines will have to go in your newspapers. So will you reject my magazine as you did the original paid announcement? Let’s test your commitment to free speech.

Of course, I would normally write this letter to your boss, Rupert Murdoch, directly. However, in his last letter to me of 1 June 2011, he showed how sensitive he was to any criticism by rejecting further communication. This was because he was offended by my criticism of the Daily Telegraph for its front-page attack of Cate Blanchett when she dared to support the carbon tax. Isn’t it amazing – Rupert Murdoch tells people, “Climate change poses clear catastrophic risks” and claims he made News Limited carbon-neutral and he is treated like a hero by you and your colleagues, whereas Cate Blanchett is attacked so more papers could be sold and more profits made!

I am releasing this letter publicly, though I have been warned it is a high-risk strategy to criticise your organisation and that retribution will be swift. I wonder if you will instruct your reporters to come after me, just as News Limited did to its critics in the United Kingdom? But I think it is time to stand up to your bias and bullying and put your claims of “freedom of speech” to the test.

Yours faithfully
Dick Smith

Update: Here is the advertisement that the Murdoch media were too precious to publish:

Extra $5,000 reward for coverage of the Wilberforce Award in the Murdoch Press

The Murdoch press are absolutely paranoid about anyone mentioning that we can’t have constant growth in the use of material resources and energy.

What is even worse is the way our politicians appear to have been intimidated on this subject. Many politicians I speak to agree with the simple fact that we can’t always have growth and we need to move to a more stable system. However, a number of them have said to me ‘Dick, what you are saying is absolutely correct, but if I said it I would be crucified by the Murdoch press’.

I think everyone should be horrified at this. I think Rupert Murdoch himself would be horrified if he knew that free speech was being curtailed because people were frightened of his newspaper clout. My experience with Rupert is that he always wants both sides of an issue to be covered. It seems a pity that his Editors and Journalists in Australia don’t understand this.

The fact is we should be discussing all sides of the issue and acknowledging the fact that the growth we have had over the last thirty years cannot continue indefinitely. I am the first to admit that this growth has benefited people greatly, including Rupert Murdoch and myself. But it’s a simple fact that you don’t have to be a very good businessperson to be making more and more money in such a growth-fuelled environment – and we all know that one day there will be a limit to this growth.

It is very sad and also incredibly serious that we presently have a group of politicians, no matter how small, who agree with the important facts about this ‘growth reality’ but are not game to discuss it because they will be attacked.

Recently Barry O’Farrell, the Premier of New South Wales, stated that we would not have another airport in Sydney. He was attacked mercilessly by the Sydney Daily Telegraph. “How could someone doubt growth?” was basically the attitude of the Telegraph.

I have therefore decided on a special $5,000 prize for the first young person under the age of thirty who can get definitive coverage of the Wilberforce Award in the Murdoch press, including the fact that our present economic system, which requires perpetual growth in the use of resources and energy, is not sustainable.

So go for it! It must be possible. I am hoping that one day there will be a journalist working for the Murdoch press who is able to get the truth out and both sides of the argument will be fairly shown.

Remember, this is not a personal, emotive view of mine – it is a simple fact that we can’t always have perpetual growth in the use of material resources and energy in our finite world.

* * *

So before everyone gets too excited about the prospect of Dick Smith taking Tony Abbott’s seat of Warringah, ask yourself ‘just how much retribution will the Murdoch media have in store for Dick?’

They don’t like being stood up to. They don’t like being told what to do. They don’t like being threatened. They punish those who do. Dick Smith ticked all the boxes with this letter.

So if Dick Smith wants to take on Tony Abbott, he will now have the Murdoch media to contend with. They have long memories . . . and I’m sure they have remembered his attack.

 

The killing of the truth by the Murdoch media

Image by cnbc.com

Image by cnbc.com

Until recently I was in the habit of attending a writer’s forum every Monday. The group was made up of poets, short story writers, journalists, auto biographers and would be novelists. The conveyer of our group was a wise elderly lady who in terms of the written word, knew her stuff.

Primarily I am a creative writer of short stories and poetry. I have read my work at the national gallery and other places. And I have won a few writing competitions. In December if 2011 I was enticed, because of my interest in politics, into the world of the blogger.

Anyway, one day we had a group discussion on the current standard of journalism. We were asked to take a slip of paper with a journalist’s name on it and the newspaper they wrote for, from a box. Bingo, lo and behold, I had the name Bolt perched between thumb and forefinger.

We had to opine on the person we had taken from the box. So I gave my assessment.

“He is a writer of very little journalistic distinction” I said. “He is apt to write for an audience in a style suitable for the intelligence of 13 year olds. His writing is never challenging (not even his use of words) in a literary sense and his sentences usually carry the weight of invective untruth. He writes with little journalist flamboyance. Instead his words are calculated to offend his target and please his cohort of followers. Because truth and journalistic shrill are incompatible he relegates truth to unconscionable practice. In short, he writes with the venom of a snake but with this snake there seems to be no antidote”. I warmed to the task saying, “If a newspaper article is written in a manner to suggest objectivity but subjective words are scattered throughout it together with carefully phrased unsupported statements then dismiss the article as having no cogency”.
“He also writes for a tabloid newspaper, the Herald Sun. It’s a Murdoch publication One of those where the truth goes to die”.
And that was the end of my little rant.

I might add that it is the same style that Tony Abbott employs orally. You simply tell people what it is you think they want to hear. It’s what Abbott meant when after his “climate change is crap” comment he said, “I was speaking to an audience”.

In a democracy the right to free speech is given by the people through the parliament. Therefore, it should be incumbent on people to display decorum, moderation, truth, fact, balance, reason, tolerance, civility and respect for the other point of view.

Note that the Australian Constitution doesn’t guarantee free speech. It only implies it.

Andrew Bolt – one of the pin-up boys of the Murdoch media – has never thought highly of these ideals. He prefers provocative sensationalism.

After all, why should he? He is probably paid loads of money to do just that. Newspapers all over the world are fighting for survival and the Herald Sun is one of many. The Australian loses huge amounts each year but Murdoch props it up because of its political influence. It is the go to newspaper for conservatives. So how do you prop up circulation? You have writers like Bolt writing inflammatory titillating nonsense to a largely disengaged, uninformed audience with journalism that appeals to societies lowest values.

“It is said of pornography (and I am not expert in this field) that in order to maintain the viewer’s interest it needs to progressively become more outlandish – more tantalising – more seductive-more flirtatious-more provocative – more stunning and more enticing. And in their desire to maintain some dominance, that’s exactly what main stream media is doing. It has chosen to prostitute itself in the forlorn hope of remaining relevant “.

Recall Bolt’s not so long ago brush with the law. For me that judgment had little to do with free speech but more to do with the standard of journalism that the Herald Sun is responsible for. Justice Bromberg, wrote that Bolt’s use of language and structure:

“Is highly suggestive and designed to excite” His style was “not careful, precise or exact” and the language “not moderate or temperate but often strong and emphatic”. “There is a liberal use of sarcasm and mockery”. “Language of that kind has a heightened capacity to convey implications beyond the literal meaning of the words utilised. It is language, which invites the reader to not only read the lines, but to also read between the lines”.

During the London riots a few years back, Bolt in one of his pieces used the word ‘aped’ to describe the copycat behaviour of some people. The use of the word was legitimate in that sense until you appreciate that he was talking about black West Indians, and then the word took on a different connotation. That of a racist intent.

In 2002, Magistrate Jelena Popovic was awarded $246,000 damages for defamation after suing Bolt and the publishers of the Herald Sun over a 13 December 2000 column in which he claimed she had:

“Hugged two drug traffickers she let walk free”.

Popovic asserted she had in fact shaken their hands to congratulate them on having completed a rehabilitation program. The jury found that the article was not true, that it was not a faithful and accurate record of judicial proceedings and that it was not a fair comment on a matter of public import. A Court of Appeal later reversed some punitive damages, though it upheld the defamation finding, describing Bolt’s conduct as “at worst, dishonest and misleading and at best, grossly careless”.

Then there is his spat with Robert Manne about the Stolen Generation. If you have followed this ongoing argument, you cannot but be impressed with the lucidity of Robert Manne’s writing compared with Andrew Bolt’s simple meanderings. It is astonishing. You have to be impressed by Manne’s research. The way he takes you on a factual, believable journey full of insight and truth. Mann also some time ago analysed the poisonous influence of Rupert Murdoch’s News Limited in this country, particularly through the extremist editorial policy of The Australian Newspaper, where the truth is distorted and contrary views vilified. Manne followed up with a brilliantly written and researched “Quarterly Essay” concluding that “The Australian” is more a propaganda sheet than a newspaper.

Australians have had to put up with the rantings and ravings of populist main stream media for far too long, where extremist views are regularly presented on TV, radio, and particularly via the monopolistic media empire of Rupert Murdoch, the person ultimately responsible for the scandalous phone tapping scandal in Britain, which has earned him worldwide opprobrium.

When a conservative government was elected on September 7 in the year of our Lord 2013, a requiem mass for the death of truth in main stream media and government was held at old Parliament House Canberra. The service was conducted by Archbishop Murdoch and assisted by an Abbott. The eulogy was given by Andrew Bolt and prayers read by Piers Akerman and Alan Jones and numerous other right wing journalists.

Prayers were also offered for the death of the following by the leader of the opposition.

The National Disability Scheme.
A plebiscite for a republic.
The loss of school funding. The environment.
The mining tax.
The NBN.
Thousands of jobs.
Marriage equality.
Equality in education.
Policies unknown but sure to transpire.

Those who believed in the virtue of truth were not welcome. Women were directed toward the kitchen.

Let’s hope the bloggers can pick up the pieces.

For further reading on this subject you should read this.

The Murdochracy

Image courtesy of society6.com

Image courtesy of society6.com

Nicole Clark looks at that propaganda machine – the Murdoch media (‘affectionately’ known of late as the Murdochracy) – and how it is determined to discredit climate science.

We are fighting a war on Climate Change in Australia, we are fighting a war against the strong scientific inference of climate change. It is a sad fact, that the absolute significance to changes in the earth’s climatic cycles are not acknowledged to the broader society.

Transnational media has been allowed to access false information on false pretences to formally and informally describe scientific consensus that is neither true nor conclusive. We are living in an age where it is these pretences that lead to the revulsions in public discourse. They perpetuate evidence to the people that anthropogenic climate change does not exist. We can attribute the gradual process of capitalist change to be an overt perversion of scientific reverence. Intelligent and scientifically minded individuals resist in vain, for the conservative social stance is both triumphant and celebrated, but why?

We can look to these clues with changes in social discourse, by examining the News Limited media. By examining News Limited we can incorporate a corporate capitalist phenomena, where an innate power for financial profit has lead to a democratic override, and the winner takes all. We are living in a time where neither a strong evidential basis nor bi-partisan approach will evoke change significant to stop the transgression of the multi-faceted 70% power distributed, Murdoch media. The shocking reverence of the situation is this: what you read, what you see and what you hear is all a representation of interpretivist opinion backed up by sceptics and conglomerate news bodies who seek to mandate public discourse – without true mass media approaches. These approaches are misrepresentations of facts and figures and bias which divulge the ever condensing incorrect views of climate change. These revered and conversely public trusted tabloids are the ones that are perverting the social justice. The very same justice that leads to the dilution and unstructured social opinion that not only persuades but integrates societal ‘know how’.

For those who are aware, this is what we know: it is not just the configuration of society that controls these aspects, and the dissertation of opinion underlying strong scientific background- as well as the complete and utter reverence that science can and should uphold. It is also something else; it is the greater understanding of complex concepts that are not transcribed in a proper ‘user friendly’ way or if transcribed at all. It is the external factor, the foundations of knowledge and the complexity of interpreting this knowledge to the people. I suspect the underlying consideration that we must address is the ‘denial’ and current ignorance that surrounds corporate body structures such as News Limited and the current Liberal Government and one Tony Abbott and their stakeholders. We can only deduce from these observations, a conformist acquisition, one, where media owned adversaries seek to ignore the evidence of climate change science for, their own initiatives for the favouring of their own financial gain.

For this idea to uphold, we must take into consideration the influence that transnational media can and does have on the wider public opinion. We must transgress this idea further, and consider the elements of . . . dare I say it . . . propaganda. Yes, propaganda! Consider this: it is not without thought that we go so far as to say, political factions of propaganda are truly evident in mass media.

Propaganda, whilst alluding the attitudes of political opinion also eludes the values and emotional upheaval of individual opinion; take for instance Adolf Hitler’s approach. As far as we know, we can see these attitudes transgress to the audience through the author’s personal epitomes and consumerist views. That is, through short worded slogans and repeated headlines that seek to optimize emotional and social relevance- often termed invoking the climate of fear, for example ‘Climate change not caused by humans” and “With Climate scientists like this no wonder we doubt”. A tactic that invokes contextual wording to interpret things that tug at fear and make people go ‘wow’, ‘The media doesn’t agree with experts why?’ But, does this transgress (mass media approach) to influence and persuade individual opinion? Does this really pervert public discourse?

YES and here’s why. We have only to examine the structure of hierarchy in Australian society, to exude confidence that indeed capitalist opinion has strongly and forthright berated the notion of climate change science. How, you ask? By decreeing the factual publication that follows it, in exchange for the more effervescent emotionally charged ‘writing on the wall’ and these short worded slogans are the misperceptions that invoke the general climate of fear. The wall has become no longer responsible for initiating freethinking thought or providing factual and progressive knowledge for adequate exploration of external stimuli, that is, exploration that provokes progressions in critical thinking before one accepts new knowledge. In place we have this wall, a safe cove r- a mask if you will, one that seeks to perversely calm and elude individuals away from real danger, pushing an agenda that ignores the kind of investigative thought that brought about the uprise of modern society, modern economy and scientific progression.

Indeed News Limited has exceeded these prospects, and further constructed a consumerist approach that not only constrains the individual, but also eludes them to the incorrect information that will eventually decimate social, emotional, environmental and political/democratic structure. News Limited will elude their audience to a point of no return in which case, we will see more than a group of troubled individuals with no free thought -but a group of troubled individuals that will vote according to these allusions that have propagated in their mass media world. The result you ask? Well, it’s a group of right winged zombies who neither understand nor amend their thought as to why they voted in such a contentious (conservative) way.

For all to see, News Limited got their wish, for the first time, democracy has failed and for the first time, transnational media came, crushed, killed and decimated an audience of free thinkers. News Limited poisoned their right to execute free thought or one that would favour their way of life. For the first time ever we see ‘tradies’, ‘parents’, ’single mothers ‘, ‘pensioners’ and ‘low-income earners’, vote against subsequent benefits that aim to target the particular struggle their respective bracket represents. What has Murdoch Media done? They have allowed Tony Abbot and his pack of liberal dogs to come forth for the kill and bring about the inevitable crumble of social justice. The Murdochcracy has created a new breed in society, once and for all-this new breed has gone against their own rights, their own free will and their best interests at heart- for favour of liberal conservative factions that aim to destroy the very things they are voting against . . . sound familiar? So, the political factions that were once opposition (for good reason), are thrust into power and News Limited epitomise these views with each passing day, so now, for the first time ever – a corporate capitalist structure has finally decomposed the walls of democracy and laid foundations of misadventure to the democratic right of the people.

That is right – you heard that right! News Limited has succeeded in diluting the values of free thought, transgressing ignorance and interpretivist views that assist with the consumerist/conservative approach to financial gain. One that is not in the best interest of social discourse, the best interests of the people and… not in the best interest of scientific reverence. So . . . the bottom line – all of this is not in the best interest for exposing the truth of Australia’s Changing Climate and the struggles that are yet to come. Is it propaganda? Has the Marino Wool from our jackets been pulled over our eyes? Australia’s climate is changing, so why has News Limited and it’s Murdochcracy been allowed to decide our fate?

*Author’s note-when I say ‘climate change’ I am referring to ‘anthropogenic (human induced) climate change; therefore, the sceptics view is: denial of ‘human induced climate change’.

 

The political economy of climate change

I'm by 'I fking love science'

Image by ‘I fcking love science’

Environment writer and academic Nicole Clark looks at how climate change sceptics’ views are promoted in Australian print media, concluding that the content generally reflects the ideals and best interests of the elite.

In the mass media, the political economy perspective is centred around the principal notion that the media is owned and run by elites that seek to mandate the distribution and dissemination of media content, in accordance with their own ideological values. Most notably, those values that reflect a more right wing political sentiment (Herman and Chomsky, 2008). Therefore, political economy is synonymous with the view that corporate news structures own the right to media content and therefore own the right to the message. Under these pretences, corporate news bodies are able to frame content according to the best interest, concerns and needs of the elite (Herman, 2009).

Freedom to act and freedom to promote autonomous views provides news bodies the propensity to perpetuate and distort information of an untruthful nature (Herman, 2009). News bodies therefore, have the power to distort the public perception and promote views that consequently transcend the decision process of modern polity (Gamson et al, 2013). The production of media content, infers the beliefs that dominate state and private activity in society. The way the media is propagated, is central to society (Herman, 2009); therefore, the nature of media content informally legitimises political decision. In brief, the nature of media content holds an influence unlike any other and any information that is distributed from corporate news bodies truthful or not, will always influence a core component of political discourse.

Propaganda is a phenomenon that aims to influence the thinking and attitudes of individuals in a population or society. Propaganda is most consistently linked to events in history that are associated with war and religious freedom (Jowett and O’Donnell, 2011). The ways print media is a propagated and produced can more often than not, intervene with the political economy perspective and take on characteristics that demonstrate agenda setting properties reserved for propaganda delivery (Black, 1977).

Climate change is scientific fact and humans are to blame. Humans must act to reduce carbon emissions. Action requires injecting money into the global economy at all costs- to all financial and economic institutions, to prevent further damage to the earth (IPCC, 2011). In Australian 59% of the print media is owned by News Corp, the remaining 30% represent the independent channels (Bacon, 2011). Print media owned by News Corp include, The Daily Telegraph and The Herald Sun. In Australia, an unusually high concentration of sceptics’ views on climate change are routinely observed in print media, such content rivals that of scientific fact and most notably appears to reflect the views for the best interests and concerns of the elite (Bacon, 2011).

Herman and Chomsky, (1988) adhere to the views that the political economy of mass media holds a crucial function that links political economy to the media; where media owned adversaries construct their views in ways which can be attributed to propaganda techniques. This article examines the Australian media and draws parallels to an Australian context, for content that displays a sceptic’s view of climate change. It will examine content from a report published in 2011 entitled: ‘Sceptical Climate’ by the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism (Bacon, 2011) the report includes a highly detailed analysis, in which the study teased out inconsistencies that were noticeably reflective of the sceptics’ viewpoint of climate change in print media.

Using examples from the report by Bacon (2011), this article will determine whether suspected techniques of propaganda outlined by Herman and Chomsky (1988) are evident in the Australian print media. In order to establish how climate change sceptics’ views are published in the print media, it will draw parallels to sceptics’ views expressed, views of which may be strongly associated with propaganda phenomenon witnessed elsewhere in the world. It will examine the propaganda influence through three filters: ownership, news sourcing and convergence in the dominant ideology; as described by (Herman and Chomsky, 1988).

Ownership

  • Print media ownership in Australia is concentrated and News Corp owns 56% of the print media (Bacon, 2011). Ownership ranks very highly among those who reflect the liberal or right wing political stance (Gantzkow and Shapiro, 2010). This is not only reflective of the political economy principles described above but Boykoff, (2008) notes; this is synonymous with a content analysis of print media that was distributed from news corporations in the UK in 2008. Corporations, which were also owned by News Corp. Herman and Chomsky (2008), state, high concentrations of media ownership, tend to exhibit characteristics that represent propaganda tactics. This therefore, also confirms, (that) media ownership is a strong template for analysing content with suspected propaganda substance.

Print media example

  • Title: Climate Change Rebel Fights back – The Daily Telegraph, (2010); “I am writing to offer personal briefings on why “global warming” is a non-problem to you and other party leaders during my visit. You say I am one of “those who argue that any multilateral action is by definition evil”. On the contrary: my first question is whether any action at all is required, to which the objective economic and scientific answer is – no”– an example of interconnections with elite actors and the need to maximise profits and denial of climate change, to push an agenda for no-action which is in the best interests of elites.

News sourcing

  • Journalistic professionalism in the Australian print media influences public policy. Whether journalists in the media exclude some sources in favour of others, or they simply forego the inclusion of other any sources at all, they are likely to display one dimensional characteristics (Bacon, 2011). Such characteristics were also found in the Gulf of Persia, (Nohrstedt, et al 2000). Herman (2009) states, such characteristics also demonstrate a strong tendency towards propaganda tactics commonly attributed to instances where media is both owned and run by the elites; rendering it synonymous with the political economy of mass media perspective.

Print media example

  • Title: Climate change not caused by humans: academia – The Sydney Morning Herald, (2007); “In these circumstances it is incredible that some leaders of scientific societies and academies have tried to use their authority to demand acceptance of the IPCC report.”– example of using the role of experts and intellectuals in an opinion piece from a one dimensional perspective of a journalist to construct a sceptic’s view of climate change.

Convergence in the dominant ideology

  • Reinforcement of views and ideas, using the anti-factor; that are in the best interest of the elites positions and interests is also a phenomenon that is displayed in the Australian media. High paid journalist Andrew Bolt, also an elite and climate change sceptic, published more opinion pieces on carbon pricing in Australia than any other (Bacon, 2011). Antilla, (2005) also notes the framing of climate change sceptics’ views to be a theme in the USA and demonstrates, that it was also a predominant notion that was shown in the US media over and over again. Good (2008) through extensive content analysis- discovered that, reinforcing elite views was a prominent theme and also attributes these characteristics to reflect tactics that show distinct similarities towards propaganda.

Print media example

  • Title: With Climate scientists like this no wonder we doubt – The Herald Sun, Andrew Bolt (2014); “It’s farce like that which helps explain why the CSIRO reported last week only 47 per cent of Australians buy its spin that the climate is changing and we’re to blame”. An example of how elite journalist Andrew Bolt, is reinforcing a sceptic’s opinion of climate change toward existing sceptics and those individuals who have not yet formed an opinion on the matter to invoke fear and the anti-factor, implying a government institution is the enemy-in order to push an elite agenda.

Conclusion

In Australia, by the virtue of autonomy, print media in Australia has been allowed to produce false information on false pretences to formally and informally describe scientific consensus on climate change that is neither true nor conclusive. The absolute truth of climate change has been masked. Through the wrongful disclosure of media sectors, the facts of scientifically diagnosed climate change, are wilfully and wrongfully promoted from a sceptic’s viewpoint.

Since print media, is owned by elites, it is clear climate change action is not in their best interest. In high concentrations in print media, content reflects the opinions and interests of the elites and hence the truth is subject to improper representations that inherently reflect propaganda techniques. Most of the sceptics’ viewpoint on climate change were sourced from Australia’s most powerful media body, News Corp. The techniques of propaganda present in content evidently coincide with media ownership and propaganda filtration from media ownership, news sourcing and convergence in the dominant ideology.

Most, or all content, reflects the ideals and best interests of the elite which exist in conjunction with media owned adversaries, who spread their own message, of un-truthful claims, and henceforth are clear signs of propaganda initiatives. These messages are constructed in the context that is congruently linked to the political economy perspective and reveals a sceptic’s view of climate change in the media is therefore, right wing slanted; un-moderated and freely distributed at will for the purpose of influencing political discourse.

References

Andrew Bolt, The Herald Sun (2014) http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/index.php/heraldsun/comments/column_with_climate_scientists_like_this_no_wonder_we_doubt/

Antilla, L. (2005). Climate of scepticism: US newspaper coverage of the science of climate change. Global environmental change15(4), 338-352.

Bacon, W. (2011). A SCEPTICAL CLIMATE Media coverage of climate change in Australia 2011.

Black, J. (1977). Another perspective on mass media propaganda. General Semantics Bulletin44(45), 92-104.

Boykoff, M. T. (2008). The cultural politics of climate change discourse in UK tabloids. Political geography27(5), 549-569.

Gamson, W. A., Croteau, D., Hoynes, W., & Sasson, T. (1992). Media images and the social construction of reality. Annual review of sociology18(1), 373-393.

Gentzkow, M., & Shapiro, J. M. (2010). What drives media slant? Evidence from US daily newspapers. Econometrica78(1), 35-71.

Good, J. E. (2008). The framing of climate change in Canadian, American, and international newspapers: A media propaganda model analysis. Canadian Journal of Communication33(2), 233.

Herman, E. S. (2009). The propaganda model after 20 years: Interview with Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky. Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture6(2), 12-22.

HERMAN, E. Y. C., & Chomsky, N. N. 1988 Manufacturing consent: the political economy of the mass media. New York: Pantheon.

Herman, E. S., & Chomsky, N. (2008). Manufacturing consent: The political economy of the mass media. Random House.

Jowett, G. S., & O’Donnell, V. (Eds.). (2011). Propaganda & persuasion. Sage.

Mitigation, C. C. (2011). IPCC special report on renewable energy sources and climate change mitigation.

Nohrstedt, S. A., Kaitatzi-Whitlock, S., Ottosen, R., & Riegert, K. (2000). From the Persian Gulf to Kosovo—War journalism and propaganda. European Journal of Communication15(3), 383-404.

 

In the Clash of Ideologies, Language Wins the War

Image courtesy of the australian.com.au

Image courtesy of the australian.com.au

Jim Morrison famously and prophetically said, “Whoever controls the media, controls the minds”. 

This is certainly the case in Australia.

In this guest post Loz Lawrey looks at how the media – the Murdoch media in particular – shape out attitudes and opinions.

In 1988, Professor Noam Chomsky reminded us that the media “serve, and propagandise on behalf of, the powerful societal interests that control and finance them” (1). Never has this fact been more blatantly obvious than it is today.

The glaring anti-Labor/Greens bias on display by the Murdoch-owned news media during the term of the Gillard Government exaggerated Labor’s dysfunction and gave credibility to a Liberal/National opposition devoid of policies or ideas, other than a plan to hand decision-making over to commercial vested interests.

Today much of the mainstream media’s energy is spent fulfilling the roles of apologist and spin doctor for a right-wing conservative government which serves the wishes of a global oligarchy.

Selective coverage of current affairs events, skewed “opinion” pieces disguised as news reportage, simplified “black or white” presentation which avoids all nuance – the mainstream media has an endless supply of tools for the manipulation of public perception.

There is, however, more to the message than what is essentially the delivery system, or the means of presentation. The TV or radio program, the article in the print media or even the political billboard are simply what the megaphone is to the voice – the means of imparting the message. It’s in the language that real power and control resides.

Political forces use language as the weapon of choice on the field of public debate – what some refer to as the battlefield of ideas. In this arena, the army with the sharpest, most evocative language will prevail. There is little need for true logic or reason to underpin one’s arguments, only that a perception of reasoned lucidity is created by the language used.

While all sides of politics strive for control of any public debate through their use of language, conservative forces in our society have become masters of what is known as weasel language, or weasel words. The terms come from the reputation of weasels for sucking eggs and leaving an empty shell – at first glance weasel words create an impression of real meaning supported by research-based evidence or expert advice, which upon closer inspection is found to be hollow and devoid of substance.

This mastery of language, together with the recent structural disarray in evidence on the left of the political spectrum, goes a long way to explain the survival of conservatism around the globe, despite its continuing assault on the public interest, both nationally and globally.

The work of bodies such as the right wing Institute of Public Affairs is as much about formulating the language used to justify its ideologically-based policies as it is in formulating the policies themselves.

Words such as “free” and “freedom” are tacked onto the labelling language used to define and create a perception of a proposal or idea. Hence we get “free market”, “free speech” and “freedom of choice”. Once you insert a word such as “free”, a benign impression is created of harmless intent.

So it is that when a spokesperson for the IPA argues that people should be “given the right” to work for less that $16 per hour, they are claiming that working for less than the established and agreed minimum is a freedom. In this way, shifting employment conditions closer to the slavery end of the spectrum is made to sound like a positive, liberating move. It will hardly be a liberating experience for those workers who endure it, however, when they find themselves working longer and harder for less or very little, unable to meet their own living needs.

The term “free market” creates an image of happy global business, unfettered by tariffs and protectionist regulations, with goods moving freely about, resulting in best outcomes for both business, workers and consumers. The fact that tariffs were developed as a means to counteract trade imbalance and injustice is swept aside, because who wouldn’t want “freedom” in the marketplace?

Now business regulation designed to level the playing field and increase real fairness in trade is labelled by conservative governments as “red tape”, an evil to be done away with. Environmental regulation intended to protect our natural heritage landscapes and control resource extraction is now dismissed as “green tape”.

These terms belie the fact that such regulation has been developed over many years in response to the perceived need to maintain balance and sustainability in all things into the future.

Even the term “sustainability” itself has been highjacked by the weasel-worders. When the term is used in the context of economic debate, any cuts to spending or public funding are easily justified. Old-age pensions? Unsustainable. A living-wage pay rise for child-care workers? Again, unsustainable.

The rhetoric of conservative ideology is cleverly employed over time to erode the positive public perception of ideas and institutions which are seen as contrary to the the right-wing world-view.

A gradual sanding-down of the public’s acknowledgment and appreciation of the workplace rights and entitlements won over years of union organising and picketing has been achieved by the repeated portrayal of unions as hotbeds of thuggery and corruption.

Dismissive rhetoric about “the left” ignores the fact that leftist political values are based upon social justice, inclusion and concepts of decency and fairness. The ongoing message is that an empathetic worldview is “loony” and that to embrace a cynical philosophy of “winners and losers” is to dwell in the “real world”.

In this way a political message has been delivered into the public sub-consciousness: that leftist views are “crazy” and “loony” in their consideration of the public good, and that right-wing extremist views which can only benefit a minority elite are “sensible”, “rational” and “economically sound”.

Somewhere, somehow, logic and reason lie bleeding and forgotten by the masses, while weasel words and tabloid headlines are regurgitated as valid arguments in the arena of public discussion.

(1)  Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (1988)
     by Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman

 

If you want my vote

Image courtesy of facebook.com

Image courtesy of facebook.com

In this guest post contriteshadow tells us why she participated in the March in March. More than just being one of the tens of thousands who marched simply to express a dislike of the Abbott Government, she marched because of the the social and community issues that concern her. They are issues worth voting for.

I am an Australian voter.

Other than that, I don’t think there is anything extraordinary about me. I didn’t finish college. I am not rich, by this country’s standards, and do not seek fame. I have an ordinary job, and been with the same employer since 1989. I’ve (with my husband) raised two kids to adults that I’m proud to claim as part of my loving family. I’ve been married, for almost thirty years, to the only man I’ve ever been in love with; the best man I know. I’m not suffering. I have, of course, but that was so long ago it’s no longer even a painful memory. I’m not religious, but don’t have a problem if you are, so long as you offer me the same courtesy. Though I always vote, I’m not affiliated with any party, and would be shocked to hear the word “political” used to describe me…mostly “nice”, I suspect. I have a good life; economically, emotionally, physically, spiritually. Seriously, I have no complaints. I’m happy. And the last time I publicly protested anything, I was a minor.

So, if I’m not suffering and have spent a lifetime avoiding the spotlight, why did I “MarchInMarch”? My reasons are, in no particular order:

EDUCATION: Though I haven’t bothered to achieve a tertiary education, I want every single child in this country to have that chance; not just the ones who have money to spare or live near a major city. If children (some of them made their own protest placards) can work out that decent, affordable education is a necessity that should be a right in this country, surely the rest of us can, too?

ASYLUM SEEKERS: Though I will never, I sincerely hope, know the horror of war, famine or violent persecution, I would never refuse to help someone who has. Yes, quarantine asylum seekers while their needs and refugee status are assessed, but do so with compassion, not cruelty. And, in the name of common decency, do so for a finite period of time. You know things are bad when China (globally infamous for human rights violations) has criticized this country, my “lucky” country, for their treatment of refugees. Just do it better; that’s all I’m asking. Oh, if you approved of “Stop the boats”, look into how much extra it’s costing to have them processed overseas; you’re paying for it.

HOMELESS: Though I’ve never been homeless, I know that fellow countrymen—yes; women and children, too—endure such hardship, because I occasionally see them living near my house. If you stop to chat with them, you might meet me; I’m the one bringing them food, clothing and bedding. Not because a god is compelling me, or a government paying me, but because I cannot do otherwise. None of the few displaced people I’ve met have chosen that life (as our Prime Minister once suggested), and they gratefully accept the first opportunity to get out of that desperate situation.

MARRIAGE EQUALITY: Though I’m not gay, I am furious and mystified by the fact that, in this century, homosexuals (and the relevant initials) still do not have the same rights as other voters; refused (by law) permission to marry or adopt. And, no matter how else they’ve conducted themselves throughout their lives, being gay is enough that, in the twilight of their years, they might (again, legally) be refused aged care. This one is particularly painful for me, because one of my brothers is gay and just about the sweetest guy you could ever meet. Yes, he marched; for “equal rights”. Look at those words. Does it seem like a lot to ask?

CLIMATE CHANGE: Though I am not a scientist, I can read. So, when I learn that an overwhelming majority of the entire world’s scientists believe climate change is the biggest problem facing this planet, and that humans can reduce the severity of it, I paid attention. Apparently, our elected leader doesn’t agree. That doesn’t bother you? You don’t have children, who might have children, who will almost (a little skepticism is a good thing) certainly inherit the disastrous consequences of our reckless actions? It scares the shit out of me, and I’m not often afraid.

INDIGENOUS RIGHTS: (My sincere apologies, that I neglected to add this to my placard. The fact that you’re used to being ignored does not excuse my oversight.) Though most of my ancestors are buried in a different country, I respect and admire our indigenous population; not all of them, obviously. That would be folly. But many of them set an example I’m proud to emulate, and I’m glad they received an official apology from our elected representative. I’m just ashamed that they continue to suffer; marginalized in their own homeland. Yes; shame. That’s what I feel about his subject. I’m not used to that feeling, but perhaps I should get used to it.

MILITARY FAMILIES: Though I have not fought in a war, and never intend to, I am proud of our armed forces; competently doing what they can to protect me, my country and the idea of democratic freedom. They deserve our respect and, as a small token of that respect, they deserve money from our pockets. Here’s that shame feeling again when I remember that children of fallen soldiers are now getting less compensation for that staggering loss, for which there can be no real compensating. Moving on, before I weep . . .

NATIONAL BROADBAND NETWORK (NBN): Though I have fast, affordable internet, not every Australian does. It’s 2014, right? Yet in a first (?) world country like Australia, access to fast, affordable internet is at least partly determined by geography. In remote areas (of course, most of this country), the only option for many is the foreign owned Foxtel. Would you want your access to information determined by those who don’t even live here? I sure as hell wouldn’t, and I don’t expect anyone else to have to put up with it, either.

HEALTHCARE: Though I am healthy—rarely even visiting my GP—I know that some voters struggle with illness or injury for extended periods of time; some their entire life. Of course money is going to determine your level of health care; not an easy fact to face, but a fact nonetheless. And I’m realistic enough to accept that. But, at the very least, every single Australian—impoverished and wealthy—should…no, must have access to adequate care. No cuts to healthcare, as promised; that’s all I’m asking.

AUSTRALIAN MINING, AUSTRALIAN BROADCASTING CORPORATION (ABC), AUSTRALIA POST, TRANS PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP (TPP): I know; a lot of titles, and I did some serious pruning to limit it to these few. And they basically boils down to one concern; how much of Australian’s businesses are now, or will become, foreign owned and/or influenced. I, personally, don’t have a problem with the incredibly wealthy. I’m doing quite well, thank you, and don’t fear becoming poor. I’ve been there and it wasn’t so bad. And I’m all for diversity and global trade; genuinely believe we’d be worse off without it. However, I have a big problem with someone sitting in another country having a say in what happens here. You think they don’t? Then you haven’t been paying attention. There are other concerns within this one, about the dangers of privatizing businesses that, by their very nature, need to serve the average Australian. But, given how things are going, I’m not sure the average Australian cares.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS: I was quiet while the current government (either deliberately or obliviously; both are sins when you run a country) damaged relations with our nearest (geographically speaking) neighbours. But it was a young friend of mine in Canada who made me realize how bad things have become, via a throwaway comment about Australia becoming a worldwide joke. With, at the time what I thought was justified national pride, I retaliated . . . also with gentleness and humor; see above, “nice”. But she’s right, and things have deteriorated since then. Perhaps my concern for asylum seekers will soon become redundant; if we upset enough foreign leaders, maybe no one will bother trying to seek refuge here.

ANIMAL WELFARE: Though I don’t expect any fellow human to put the welfare of other (yes, we’re animals, too) animals above that of men, women and children, I ask only that you not treat the creatures you eat with barbaric cruelty while they’re alive. If we must have live animal export (and I still don’t understand why), please do so with compassion. In case you’re wondering, I’m a vegetarian, partly on compassionate grounds, but don’t expect or even ask anyone to follow my example. I’ll even cook you a lamb roast if you visit. Improvements have been made on this issue. But, as my brother often reminds me, just because things could be worse, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be better.

WOMEN: I’m not ostentatiously feminine or feminist. When I was ordered, at the age of ten, to never play footy with my (male) classmates again, I—though mystified—calmly accepted that decision. After all, I was a child, and one raised to believe that an adult’s word is law . . . though I’m not sure it was, even then. When I was declared ineligible to join my small (very small) town’s cricket team, on the grounds that one of the men might get hit in the groin and be embarrassed if a young woman was on the field, I smiled and took on the challenge of tallying the score for them instead. Every time a colleague is overtly sexist, I quietly and politely (perhaps a mistake) call them on it, and they apologise; it’s been working pretty well for me. But when the elected leader of our country says—actually says—that women are inherently incapable of achieving the same as a man, that “withholding sex” is a right that needs to be moderated, visibly and actively supports a blatantly sexist campaign against an opponent, and is now in charge of whether or not I get an abortion, it becomes an issue worthy of space on a protest placard. Again, in case you’re wondering on this polarizing issue, I cannot imagine a scenario in which I’d choose an abortion, but I would brave the barricades with you if you made that choice.

ENVIRONMENT: You’re curious what that one other protest was against? The Franklin Dam project in Tasmania. I know, even though I was not yet old enough to vote at the time, some will read that and think “another left-wing radical”. But I’m just as likely to vote right-wing, if their campaign sways me…though I liked the old Liberal Party more than this Coalition Party, but I understand why they did that. Anyway, my simplified point on this issue is that, if we don’t think before destroying vast swathes of old growth forest, this wide, brown land will get browner. I almost went with “I can’t believe we’re still protesting this shit” as my placard, but there are fresh issues exclusive to our current government that urgently need addressing . . . even so, I can’t believe we’re still protesting this shit. Just like with most of these issues, there’s heaps more to be said on this subject, but a couple of minutes and a browser window will find people better qualified to do so.

MEDIA BIAS: This one is a new concern of mine; since I marched, in fact. Of course I’ve heard this cry for—to be completely honest—decades. But, until I marched with tens of thousands of other voters, didn’t know that this particular “whinge” was justified. And the frustrating thing is, now that I know about it, what can I do with that information? If you were at the marches, you’d already know what I’m talking about. And, if you weren’t, and miraculously heard about them anyway, there’s no way you’d believe me . . . I didn’t, until I saw it with my own eyes. Has it always been this bad, though; journalists using colleagues’ coverage as their only apparent source of information? They’re in the business, so they must know that a report is rarely the whole truth. I’m not ashamed about this, I’m embarrassed; of them and for them. Anyway, enough on that; we no longer need them.

So now you know some of the domestic issues that concern this ordinary Australian. I cannot give you one issue I care about the most, because I care about them all. And I am (as accused by several dissenters) asking for a handout, but not for myself, just for those who need it. And I acknowledge (as did my extremely polite placard, which never made it into any news report) that not all of our many problems can be laid at the feet of our current government; they’re just not helping, and (I believe) actually making things worse . . . and don’t they seem in a bloody big hurry to do so? That’s why I joined my second ever protest march, only months into this current government’s reign; they’re clearly trying very hard to quickly achieve an agenda that was kept from us at the last election.

And I’m not suggesting that you vote for the only other real option in a two party political system . . . research that term, if you haven’t already. I’m just asking you, begging you, to remember that the only real power we have is at the polling booth. Think, read, ask (“How?” and “Why?” are excellent places to start) and, above all, insist that your (because it’s no one else’s choice) candidate is worthy of your vote. And don’t stop doing so, even if it seems like you’re not making a difference. This is a democracy; only you can make a difference.

This articled was first published on contriteshadow’s  blog as “Why did I MarchinMarch?”

Centre for Right-wing Apologist Politics (CRAP)

IPA logo (Photo: atlasnetwork.org)

IPA logo (Photo: atlasnetwork.org)

Inspired by Shane Maloney’s Brunswick Institute –‘one of Australia’s leading independent sources of opinion’, ‘conveniently located in the shed in the back yard of Shane Maloney’s residence,’ and funded by his wife – I’ve often wondered if I should start my own institute. Perhaps a Centre for Right-wing Apologist Politics that analyses Liberal policy. Then maybe I’d get invited to contribute to the ABC’s Drum as often as Kevin Donnelly, Director of the one-man Educational Standards Institute.  That’s 52 times between 16 Dec 2009 and 28 June 2013. My favourites amongst his posts are 4 July 2012: Don’t let class envy wreck school choice and 21 December 2011: Tertiary institutions discriminating against the middle class. But make no mistake: Kevin is still sure that the ‘Cultural-left is dominant in areas like the ABC, the Fairfax Press, most of our universities and amongst our so-called public intellectuals.’ ‘Listen to the news, read the papers or follow public debates and it soon becomes obvious that the consensus on most issues champions a Cultural-left perspective.’ Really? Does he live in a parallel universe, or just not subscribe to the Murdoch press? I wonder who funds his Institute.

A closer look at Donnelly’s views suggest that he isn’t really interested in education as such. Sure, he wants more religion in the syllabus, and quite likely agrees with Christopher Pyne that kids should know more about Gallipoli (which version, I wonder?). But what he’s really interested in is making education a market commodity. It’s about the parents, not the children. Here’s his view of what education policy is all about: ‘Whether introducing vouchers (or tax credits) to enable more parents to choose Catholic and independent schools, establishing community schools free from government control (known as charter schools in the U.S.) or allowing schools to develop an alternative to a state mandated curriculum, there is an alternative [to free public education].’ ‘Let the market work.’  No surprises that he’s a member of the IPA, whose wish-list for the Abbott government includes ’12: Repeal the National Curriculum’ and ’13: Introduce competing private secondary school curriculums’. Of course he’s going to tell the Abbott government what they want to hear.

Frightening as this is, my point isn’t just about Dr Donnelly. It’s about where the Abbott government gets all its so-called expert advice. Clearly not from experts. Having an evidence-based expert view on something is apparently a disqualification for giving advice to the Abbott government.

Their first-line resource is the Murdoch press. In a Quadrant article (where else?) announcing the formation of his Institute, Donnelly can only find The Australian and commentators like Andrew Bolt to stand as spokespersons for a conservative perspective. Journalists writing for the Murdoch press – including Bolt – are at best commentators, with little more claim to expertise than I have. Their role is to fuel the culture wars. Andrew Bolt’s conviction under section18C of the Racial Discrimination Act is surely the reason why Attorney General Brandis wants to repeal it. There’s probably a number of pet culture war projects of commentators like Bolt that the Abbott government will obligingly undertake. These are the frontline skirmishes in the culture wars.

Other straws in the wind include the appointment of Business Council of Australia president Tony Shephard to head the National Commission of Audit. He’s a business lobbyist – nothing impartial about him. Then on a rather different note, Abbott would rather take the advice of celebrity overseas-adoption advocate Deborra-Lee Furness, than that of the National Intercountry Adoption Advisory Group which he abolished only weeks before.

But the main source of LNP advice looks like being the rash of conservative think tanks that have appeared over the last few years. The main one appears to be the IPA (actually much older, founded in the 1940s), whose funding is at best opaque, but believed to include mining and tobacco interests. A number of key points of their agenda have already been accepted by Abbott. Those working or writing for the IPA, such as Donnelly himself, Chris Berg, Tim Wilson or Bob Carter may or may not have some expertise in their areas – one might question what Tim Wilson knows about climate change – yes, before the new job on the Human Rights Commission he was director of climate change policy for the IPA – or what Bob Carter, Science policy advisor knows about it either. The point is that they are openly partisan. The Menzies Research Centre – the name does give it away – is another local conservative operation, whose executive director Dr Don Markwell, has been appointed Senior Adviser on Higher Education to Christopher Pyne. The Menzies Research Centre is run by a board of business men (well there’s one woman out of seven members) and ex Liberal politicians, and is openly supported by big business like AMP and Deloitte. No prizes for guessing their agenda.

Then there’s network of interlinked climate change denial organisations, including the IPA, the Global Warming Policy Foundation, the Australian Environment Foundation, the Australian Climate Science Coalition, the Lavoisier Group and various other overseas groups like the Heritage Institute and the Heartland Institute. They are the fronts for propagating opinions of deniers like Ian Plimer, whose views are apparently shared by Tony Abbott. Though he hasn’t actually read Plimer’s book, Abbott says that he ‘is a highly credible scientist and he has written what seems like a very well-argued book refuting most of the claims of the climate catastrophists.’ This is partisan advocacy gone mad. But having disbanded the Australian Climate Commission, disparaged the CSIRO and the public service, who else is there to ask?

It seems to me that what we are seeing is a nasty mixture of anti-intellectualism, cronyism and pig ignorance, where ideology trumps any rational assessment of the facts. Of course I agree that all intellectual positions are based on values. And that governments seek the advice they want to hear. But this egregious reliance on those who are blatantly partisan and lacking in expertise is a recipe for disastrous policy outcomes. These are not the failings of a government taking time to find its way; they are the habits of mind of right-wing ideologues, whose decision making is only likely to get worse. My Centre for Right-wing Apologist Politics is looking good.

An Open Letter to Journalists at News Ltd

KickthisMobOutDear News Ltd Journalists,

I’m writing you this letter on behalf of all Australians. That includes everyone who can vote in the upcoming election, as well as those too young to have a say in their own future. I wanted to let you know that your behaviour throughout the election campaign has been appalling. I know you know as well as I do that it’s not the role of a journalist to campaign for a political party. Journalists often justify their bias by saying that opinion pieces can be whatever they want them to be – whether or not they’re biased, unbalanced, untrue, or part of a conspiracy on behalf of your boss to get rid of the NBN, which threatens his business interests. But you’re not just contributing opinion pieces and amateur PhotoShopped front page images, denigrating the target of your smear campaign. You’re also contributing news articles, designed to bring about a certain result, a result you’ve allegedly been instructed to manufacture to help your boss make money. Doesn’t this make you feel dirty? Doesn’t the 17 year old aspiring journalist in you feel even a little bit sad about finding their middle-aged-self behaving in this unethical way? Don’t you care about the impact your work has on the country you live in?

I’m sure many of you justify your blind obedience in the ‘get Rudd’ campaign to the fact that you need a job. You have to do what you’re told so you can keep working as a journalist. I know there’s not many jobs out there for journalists, but this doesn’t justify you doing the wrong thing. There are hundreds of examples throughout history of ‘employees’ doing the wrong thing on behalf of their bosses, and justifying this wrongness by saying they were instructed to do it. That doesn’t make it OK. If Murdoch told you to hit your wife, would you do that too? Where exactly is the line that you wouldn’t cross, no matter what your boss wanted? Is there a line? When you write puff pieces about Tony Abbott, when you do glamorous photo shoots of Tony Abbott’s daughters but don’t actually ask them a question, when you choose not to scrutinise Abbott, and omit news that is damaging to him, when you support Mal Brough’s campaign to destroy Slipper and then ignore the news that you were part of the Ashbygate conspiracy which a Federal Court Judge has revealed, when you cover your front page with blatant propaganda to help Abbott win government, but don’t tell your readers what his real plans are, when you give a candidate a free run and create the misleading impression that the Labor government is unsuccessful, you are failing Australia. Your job is not more important than your responsibility as a journalist. How are you ever going to get another job with this sort of behaviour in your background?

I actually think it’s an absolute outrage that not one of you has resigned in protest during this election campaign. Not one of you has stood up for journalistic integrity and said ‘enough’. Not one of you has said your pay cheque isn’t more important to you than your ethics. And what about all the jobs your readers will lose because of your campaign? You know Tony Abbott has proudly announced that he’ll sack 12,000 public servants. These are people doing important work in our communities. They help people. They support the disadvantaged in society. How is your job more important than their jobs?

No doubt many of you are Liberals yourself, having been hand-picked by your boss to make sure you’re on his side. But even if you think Tony Abbott deserves to win the election, and even if you like his policies and are completely in favour of his plans for this country (assuming you know what these are), don’t you think the Australian people have a right to hear both sides of the story before making up their own minds? Don’t you think it sounds a little bit like Fascism for your boss to decide that he wants an Abbott win, and then for you, his minions, to do his dirty work in the most blatantly dishonourable and immoral media campaign this country has ever seen?

Perhaps you read letters like this, and you are so hardened to the world that you let it roll over you, like water off a duck’s back. But I just hope that somewhere, deep down inside you, there’s a little voice reminding you that you’re doing the wrong thing. If you even have the ability to feel guilty, to feel ashamed, even if it’s just at 3:00am in the morning when you can’t sleep, I hope you feel awful.

It’s also important for you to know that we won’t forget what you’ve done. If your boss gets his way, and you do manage to deliver Australia the most conservative, austerity obsessed, downright mean and selfish government we’ve ever had, it’s very likely most of your readers, especially those in areas like western Sydney who’ve you’ve conned most successfully, will not be very impressed with you. They might ask why on earth Abbott is cutting spending on services they need, like health and education, when they didn’t hear about it before the election. They might be disappointed to hear their work rights are being undermined by the same front bench who came up with Work Choices. And they might be really pissed off when the surplus they’ve been promised is actually a gigantic $30 billion dollar black hole. No doubt you’ll do your best to blame all these woes on Labor, as this is your unthinking knee-jerk reaction to everything. But how long can this work? I know you like your readers dumb, but don’t underestimate how quickly people work out that they’ve been screwed over. I hope your precious job is worth it then. I would have thought your entire industry was in enough trouble without you putting another dozen nails in its coffin through your own arrogance and incompetence.

Abbott loves Murdoch: a reminder

Within hours of my post “Murdoch hates Rudd: a reminder”, where I predicted that the Murdoch media would turn even more feral towards the Government as the election nears, this front page from the Daily Telegraph is splashed across the internet:

Courtesy of the Daily Telegraph

Is this typical of the Murdoch media?

Tony Abbott was quick to kick it along:

For his part, Opposition Leader Abbott, speaking just minutes later, pointed to our “robust and diverse media culture” and said some would be in his corner, some wouldn’t, and one had to “take the rough with the smooth.”

Was he smirking at the time, I wonder? After all, we all know who’s in his corner. Someone he loves deeply, apparently. Thanks to AIMN reader Kaye Lee, here’s a reminder of how deep that love is:

TONY ABBOTT’S ADDRESS TO THE IPA APRIL 5 2013

“John Howard has said that Rupert Murdoch has been by far Australia’s most influential international businessman; but I would like to go a little further. Along with Sir John Monash, the Commander of the First AIF which saved Paris and helped to win the First World War, and Lord Florey a one-time provost of my old Oxford College, the co-inventor of penicillin that literally saved millions of lives, Rupert Murdoch is probably the Australian who has most shaped the world through the 45 million newspapers that News Corp sells each week and the one billion subscribers to News-linked programming.

Rupert Murdoch has sometimes changed his political allegiance but he’s never changed his fundamental principles. At least since the mid-70’s, those have been greater personal responsibility, smaller government, fewer regulations and support for open societies that don’t build walls against the world.

For our guest of honour, as for anyone deeply steeped in reporting, experience trumps theory and facts trump speculation. His publications have borne his ideals but never his fingerprints. They’ve been skeptical, stoical, curious, adventurous, opinionated yet broad minded. He’s influenced them, but he’s never dictated to them – as I happily discovered myself in 1989 while writing editorials in favour of the pilots who were trying to ground the airline that he then half owned. As a transgression, this turned out to be far less serious than spelling his late great mother, Dame Elisabeth’s name with a ‘z’ rather than with an ‘s’!

Rupert Murdoch is a corporate citizen of many countries, but above all else, he’s one of us. Most especially, tonight, he’s a long-serving director of the IPA, as was his distinguished and celebrated father, Sir Keith.”

Political brown-nosing of the highest order, don’t you think?

 

The march of opinion

In this recent piece in The Australian Laurie Oakes laments the decline of traditional journalism as it faces the rise of independent journalism. The article leads off with:

Press gallery veteran Laurie Oakes has warned how new media technologies are challenging political journalists with “implications for the health of our political system”.

He is rueful that what he calls fact-based journalism is now confronted by what he calls the march of opinion. It is interesting that he blames new media technologies and fresh opinions as the threat to traditional journalism. I would blame the decline in mainstream media standards, which I will return to later.

The Oakes story was repeated a few days later in the National Times of The Age where he continued his lament:

I want to be optimistic about the future of political journalism and the press gallery, if for no other reason than that its past shows that it really matters. But I have to say I’m not as optimistic as I’d like to be.

For 111 years Australia’s federal politicians and members of the Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery have been matching wits. The politicians have used every trick they know to try to control what the journalists report and how they report it. Gallery members have used every trick they know to get behind the spin and try to dig out things the politicians want to keep hidden.

But in an internet era that is fragmenting the media as we’ve known it, and making new communications technology easily and cheaply available to anyone, the press gallery’s role seems set to decline, which obviously has implications for the health of our political system.

If one looks at this opinion, the implication is that by making communications technology available to anyone will, as a natural consequence result in a decline in standards. The involvement of these “anyones” has previously been lamented by professional journalists. Is it that only those directly employed by a major newspaper or who gets behind a microphone, or in front of a television camera has a valid opinion? Is an anyone aka a nobody, aka an ordinary citizen not permitted to voice an opinion; not have an opinion worthy of note?

One need to look no further than Letters to the Editor for example, and especially those in the Murdoch press, or attempt to have an opinion published on a Murdoch blog for it to become obvious that not just anyone and especially those with a contra opinion, is permitted to voice that opinion.

Oakes’ suggestion is that the internet era is set to cause a decline in journalism by fragmenting the media and as a consequence has obvious implications “for the health of our political system”. The logic of this argument escapes me.

I would suggest that the decline is more likely due to what he refers to as fact-based journalism being dead and buried, right under his nose. The march of opinion will of course be the driving force of the independent media but they will be marching alongside the Press Gallery who replaced fact-based journalism with biased opinion, seemingly, when Howard lost government in 2007.

Ad astra at The Politic Sword in his fine article “The Canberra Press Gallery stumbles – yet again” succinctly summed up the Press Gallery with the astuteness that Laurie Oakes is oblivious to:

Journalists hate being wrong, being wrong-footed. Political journalists regard themselves as the insiders, privy to the labyrinthine goings-on in the corridors of power. They yearn for the scoop, one that places them a cut above their colleagues. Being out of the loop is anathema to them. They foster contacts, their ‘sources’, from whom they suck whispers, or speculation, or information, which sometimes turns out to be misinformation, accidentally purveyed or deliberately so by Machiavellian operators. Although at times it must be hard for them to know what to believe, that does not seem to inhibit most of them from rushing into print with their ‘exclusives’, so long as it makes for a good story, and trumps their fellow journalists in the process.

Ad astra discusses many instances where the Press Gallery have failed to apply the fact-based journalism that Oakes proudly boasts is the hallmark of the gallery. And more recently we can add Ashbygate – or the absence of it in the media – to the list. In an earlier piece “The Canberra Press Gallery will decide who governs this country” Ad astra also recognises the dismantling of and replacement of fact-based journalism with the marching opinion that apparently only the new media is guilty of:

Blatant political bias: This is the most contentious framework ‘bias’ of all. It is one that I wrestled with defining specifically because I could not decide, as I have never spoken to any of the protagonists about it, how fully invested politically are some journalists in defining the stories they write based upon their own political prejudices? It is probably fair to say that some are guilty of this bias. Yet others may only be playing to the audience that the proprietor instructs them to write for.

Today’s article by Gay Alcorn in the National Times kicks the stuffing out of Oakes’ blind faith.

Federal Parliament resumes in a fortnight. Are you looking forward to it? Can’t wait to tune in for question time? Hanging out for an election this year?

As a journalist for more than 20 years, and an editor for seven, I’m surprised at how much I’m dreading it. Already, press gallery journalists have pronounced that politics will be more bitter, more personal, more toxic this year and that – groan – the election will be about “trust and character”.

Well, what if it wasn’t? Specifically, what if the media decided it wasn’t going to be? The 2010 election – “Real Julia”, a gate-crashing Mark Latham, Tony Abbott’s “stop the boats!” – was pilloried by politicians and journalists as the most woeful in memory. Journalists complained about the politicians, but this time the rise of online commentary meant that feedback about our own performance was out of our control.

Two weeks into the campaign, blogger Greg Jericho was listening to Abbott announce the Liberals’ disability education policy. As he recounts in his book, The Rise of the Fifth Estate, as a father of a daughter with Down syndrome, he – and presumably others affected by disability – was interested and, “like a naive fool”, waited for questions. But reporters asked nothing at all about the policy, instead grilling Abbott on whether he believed Latham when he accused Kevin Rudd of leaking to Channel Nine’s Laurie Oakes.

A frustrated Jericho blogged that news directors should “bring home your journalists” because they were wasting money and delivering little. He still thinks that if you weigh up who was most at fault for that campaign – the politicians or the media – “a greater level of blame should be directed towards the media”.

It might surprise Jericho to know that many in the established media, where most Australians still get their political news, agree with him. We limped to the end exhausted and chastened. Why didn’t those journos ask about policy? Because their head offices weren’t much interested. Because the assumption is that policies – apart from a few the parties want to talk about – are dull compared with personalities. And because once it starts, a campaign has one big narrative: who’s going to win? The polls are the story, and how they go week to week dictates whether the leaders are judged harshly or kindly.

At last, a journalist who recognises that something is clearly wrong with the traditional media.

As I earlier wrote, those of the new media believe they are better suited to provide the diversity that today’s democracies need, yet which are often ignored by traditional journalists, or in Oakes’ case, the rise of which is lamented. New, independent media advances the opportunity to expose doctored or omitted facts from mainstream media and point out the bias – referred to above by Ad astra – by particular reporters who do not provide such opportunity for his/her readership to give voice to alternate opinions.

The new media also encourages readers to think objectively and ask the probing questions that might often be avoided by the mainstream media (MSM), particularly if they are working to a different (or hidden) agenda. Further, through independent media, people have the opportunity to analyse and disseminate the news and opinions thrown at them from the established media; the blogosphere, for example, is awash with a more objective and factual analysis.

Independent media has exploded, not because they are the echo of dissenting voices, but because the MSM has created an arena for them to enter. If the MSM was objective, impartial and committed to providing a quality service then in a modern democracy there may not be any citizen journalists, or for that matter, the dozens of independent media sites that exist purely to fill in the gaps exposed by the mainstream media empires.

Welcome to the march of opinion. Only now might it be laced with fact.

 

Welcome to The Australian Independent Media Network

The idea of The Australian Independent Media Network sprung up overnight in response partly to this quote from the Under the radar article on the Café Whispers blog:

Isn’t it a great pity that excellent articles are being written in the Fifth Estate that slip under the radar into oblivion? Isn’t it also a great pity that this will continue to happen? Isn’t it also a greater pity that such hard-hitting, truth-telling articles will forever be drowned out by our hysterical, manipulative, dishonest, sensationalist, gutless, unfair and unbalanced media in this country?

Has there ever been a greater need for the Fifth Estate to join forces? If we don’t, a lot of what we write will continue to slip under the radar.

And capped off with this comment under the blog topic:

One fears that it will not be an evidence-based election, but there is plenty of evidence that it will be a fear-based one. Our strategies for getting the message across needs lots of thought and discussion like this post provides.

The idea of a representative body for Australian bloggers has been tossed around for a couple of years but it had never really taken hold. Tim Dunlop’s article in The Drum last October titled Media pass: citizen journalists need an industry body emphasised the need for something to be done. The introduction to the article reads:

Australian bloggers have a lot to offer in public debate, but an independent body is needed to establish the credibility and increase the exposure of our citizen journalists.

We are now at that point.

Over the coming days and weeks you’ll see this site take shape and the network develop, followed by what we endeavour to be quality, unbiased, balanced, independent journalism. Goodness knows this country needs some.

The Australian Independent Media Network: Build it and they will come.

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