News or Propaganda
Kevin Rudd is not right on everything, but in describing the Murdoch Press and News Limited as a cancer on democracy, ceasing to be a news masthead, but morphing into a propaganda machine, he is absolutely correct.
Anecdotal examples are too numerous to cover. Most recently, following the results of the New Zealand election, the Australian proffered the view that Jacinda Ardern is populist and incompetent. Was this statement based upon the fact she is female, or a Labor leader? What gratuitous arrogance! In the view of many, inside her native New Zealand and throughout the world, she is recognised as one of few national figures to offer genuine leadership. Why? Because she has the skills to galvanise nationhood on the basis of ethical values: service, compassion, justice, equality, common good. The drivel emanating from the likes of Alan Jones, Rowan Dean, and Andrew Bolt is like water off a duck’s back to her. Qualities necessary in leadership are commitment to justice and common good, compassion, capacity to unify through diversity, strength and wisdom in the face of trauma and crisis, clear rejection of partisan self-interest and trustworthiness. She has these qualities in spades, it is hard to find sufficient other world leaders with the same qualities to cover the fingers of a single hand.
In a recent opinion piece supporting the return of Donald Trump, Greg Sheridan, the Australian’s foreign editor, suggested the reader should be afraid of a Biden presidency for a variety of reasons, one of them being his stated intention to enact legislation which would require the US to set a zero carbon emissions target within a timeframe set neither by politics nor neoliberal economic theory, but by science. Ridiculing or contradicting climate science has long been the mission of the Murdoch press, with undue weight given to ‘scientists’ promoted by the mining industry and charlatans such as Lord Monckton.
The Murdoch legacy will prove far more costly to future generations than economic damage left by the Covid pandemic. For far too long, Murdoch and his stable have sought to foster doubt about the science that lies behind the call for environmental responsibility in light of global warming. It has refused to accept the human footprint is the primary contributor to escalating climate change. Murdoch and his empire have successfully prevented the development of appropriate energy and environmental policy for two decades, through its championing of the extreme right-wing of Australian political life. The consequences of this reprehensibility are already obvious: loss of species diversity, uninsurable real estate, greater health risks, lost agricultural production, inadequate investment in green technologies, a power grid that is no longer fit for purpose, more intense weather events, etc.
Even minor figures do not escape the ire of this ideologically driven, rather than fact driven, masthead. In 2009, while living in the UK, I preached at a memorial service in Westminster Abbey to mark the terrible losses incurred by the Victorian bushfires. In the sermon I noted the obvious, the intensity of these fires indicated the growing threat of climate change through the escalation of severe ‘natural’ events. I was lambasted in the next day’s edition of the Australian and accused of hypocrisy by flying from Australia to the UK to preach. That I was then living in the UK was pointed out, but this did not extract an apology. The ideological convictions of the paper are always presented regardless of facts to the contrary.
Democracy should never be assumed as a given. It needs to be nurtured in every generation and renewed at every general election. The media plays a crucial role in this process. The strengths and weaknesses of all sides of politics need to be laid bare and policies scrutinised. The Murdoch press is ideologically committed to a neoliberal economic agenda and opposed to Keynesian intervention. For ten years the Murdoch press lambasted Labour for its ‘socialist’ intervention in the global meltdown of 2008, blaming it for consecutive budget deficits and giving absolutely no credit to the truth that this action saved Australia and Australians from recession and escalating unemployment. In the wake of the Covid pandemic, where the conservative coalition has been forced to intervene on an infinitely grander scale, the same critique is not applied.
The promotion not only of the Coalition but the far right of the Conservative Coalition is quite shameless. The headlines carried by the Murdoch press following the recent by-election in the seat of Eden Monaro would indicate that Scott Morrison had pulled off a stunning victory and wiped Labor from the map, in fact Labor won.
Democracy requires facts to be presented and possibilities weighed.
It is to his absolute credit that James Murdoch has parted from the family company because of these issues.
Scott Morrison loves to speak of the ‘Canberra bubble’. In this reference he appears to mean interest in, or examination shown, by commentators of agendas that do not correlate with his own. But I would ask, who lives in such a bubble, is the boot not on the other foot? Until Covid struck, I was a reasonably regular visitor to the Australian parliament. TV screens are ubiquitously present in public spaces as well as private offices. One might, not unreasonably, expect these screens to be tuned into the national broadcaster. Not a bit of it. They are invariably tuned to Sky News. Sky News has a miniscule public audience and yet it is the channel of choice of our political representatives as they seek to be better informed. Who is living in what bubble?
Murdoch, and his followers in the far right of parliament, are doing their best to destroy the effectiveness and independence of the ABC. All of this, not in the public interest, but in the interest of total dominance being given to the propaganda machine of a particular ideology. Should we be worried for the ABC? Yes, we most certainly should, but even more concerning, should these subversive and self-interested forces have their way, we should be deeply alarmed for the future of democratic processes in Australian public life.
Let the bells of truth ring out. The dominant news outlet in Australia has ceased to be a news outlet, it is a politically, ideologically driven, propaganda machine.