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).
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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/
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