The Threat of a Murdoch Media

Over the last few decades, we have seen Australia changing, and not always for the better.

Perhaps, as November 2013, was the 30th anniversary of the floating of the Australian Dollar, we should start with that. To November 1983, Australia’s dollar was fixed, and like all fixed currencies of the day, not well traded, not thought of well, but was considered “solid”. There were a lot of positive issues with this arrangement but the negative meant that international investment in Australia was slowing. Why bother about the $(Au) when other currencies could be more profitable.

Coupled with the current Neo-Conservative perspectives, this event has proven a deadly threat to the Australian economy. Australia has joined the World Economy, we are told, like that was a good thing. There will be a “level playing field” and this has been rousingly supported in the Murdoch media. The reality is that every element that has made us stronger is under threat now. Manufacturing and Unionism, Primary producing and locally owned businesses and enterprises, single sales desks, like the Australian Wheat Board, corrupt as it was, are either already gone or in the process of being dismantled.

The Murdoch media has been, unsurprisingly, very shy of critical analysis of the many failures of this shift. For them, any person or group  who opposes these changes is derided as being from the “Loony-Left”. The simple precept that an economy is only sustainable by the amount that we add value with our deliberate action seems to escape the financial gurus of the Murdoch media. Their silence on this is deafening.

We are, however, berated with shouting banners of Murdoch media newspapers and frontline stories from their electronic media about how we are held back by Unions, by big government, by anyone who dares question the economic orthodoxy of the Neo-Cons. But how did the Murdoch media get into this position? This story starts in my home town of Adelaide, actually. That is where Rupert began his career, and from here, launched an assault to take over the world.

The Adelaide “News” was an afternoon tabloid that Rupert’s father, Sir Keith, owned and published, a position Rupert inherited. It was profitable enough for the nascent Murdoch empire to begin to spread. Once a foothold was gained, Rupert’s skills and growing power saw him launch himself onto the international stage. The times were right, deregulation, internationalization, the “global economy” was all the rage and Murdoch was welcomed with open arms.

Throughout all this, the Murdoch media has taken advantage and grown to be an octopus, stretching its tentacles to the furthest corners of the globe. They own major and minor newspapers around the world. They also own movie studios, cable TV networks, and who knows what else?  In Australia, News Corp owns a lot of daily newspapers, and in some places, the only daily newspaper. They also provide a cable TV network, in some places, the only cable TV network. I have not kept up with their interests but even with our still somewhat restrictive media ownership laws, it would not surprise me to learn they have their fingers in other media pies as well. The emergence of News Corp has been one of the massive success stories of the changes wrought by Friedmannite economics. The trouble is that this success has a down side, and that down side represents a threat to our future.

Such ownership requires great discretion in the exercise of the attendant power it generates. Unfortunately, News Corp newspapers look more like pale imitations of the Hearst and Pulitzer yellow journals of the late 1890’s and early 1900’s.

To suggest the Murdoch newspapers are biased is being very mild indeed. The writers regularly confuse fact with opinion, and opinion pieces are given much more credence than factual stories. Regular journalists are fawning on conservative politicians like never before. Their comments on non-Cons are dreadful. For example, Clive Palmer is not a person of my political views, but he obviously has something to offer. The hatchet job done on him in the wake of the 2013 Federal election was not comforting to watch, even if the conservatives are destroying one of their own. Besides, that sort of thing is always likely to turn around and bite back.

Palmer is, no doubt a “sharp” businessman, and has, I suspect, like any other such person before him, bent the rules to suit himself. I do not suggest he has broken any, not for me to say, but, no doubt, he would likely have played fast and loose with them when he stood to make money. In doing so, there could possibly be any number of ethical line-balls, which have been now labelled as being fouls by the Murdoch press. This is to paint Palmer as an untrustworthy, poorly socialized, lout who should not be in the position he now holds. If this was true, then I suggest he is not the only one, many of the nitwits in Canberra could likely be painted with the same brushes. (A few years ago, Palmer was a “good guy”, he was “one of us” but he eschewed the conservatives, to start his own political party, something the conservatives cannot abide and now he is “not a good guy”.) And he is but one of many.

In the first few months of this conservative government, they have shown little inclination towards ethical behaviour. There has been no concern with anything other than smearing the previous government, or worse, implementing dubious policy. Already they have indicated their Budget will be in response to the previous Government’s “inept handling of the economy” and “uncontrolled spending” and such other nonsense. All this will be accompanied with the resounding critical silence of the Murdoch Press. At the same time, the same journalists will be telling people that what the Government is doing is “the right thing” for the future of the country. Arguable, for sure, ethical journalistic practices, not on your life.

The Federal Minister of Education effectively announced that he has no interest in Public Education so cuts to the Education budget will only affect the States’ systems. Australia is only one of three countries that put public money into private education, so that funding to the private sector schools will be untouched. What sort of ethical behaviour is that? We can be sure though that the Murdoch Media will not be critical of that though. Their argument will be that the new Minister is being “responsible” by “cutting waste and duplicated effort” or some other such rubbish. This is just politics though, the support of a conservative view rather than a balanced, egalitarian view is a symptom of  the underlying problem.

The “boat people”, asylum seekers, have been a hot topic here since 1975 when the Vietnamese started fleeing the Communist takeover of South Vietnam. It is a political football of the worst kind. In the days of the previous Government, any boat approaching our shores was big news. Since the election, the Federal Government has militarised the whole question, refused to announce arrivals, used the Navy to turn back boats, and is refusing to answer questions about it. All that has been heard of the asylum seekers has been riots in detention centres, as they are poorly fed and bored out of their brains. The Murdoch media has taken the view that asylum seekers are ungrateful sods for being imprisoned. There has been no critical analysis of the policies pursued by the Federal Government, no examination of the implications of those policies, no mention of anything resembling factual stories by the Murdoch media. That lack of news is even more appalling and dangerous to us than any foreign threat.

Looking at any local Murdoch Media tabloid and they all carry the same kind of structure. On the front page is a human interest story, something that is usually bannered to create sympathy for the players and descrying the perpetrators, usually a Government Department, Health, Welfare, Education being the main targets and Unions at a pinch. In a smaller banner will be the lead story, often political, usually anti-State government (non-Conservative Centre Labor Party in my home State), or some serious issue that is being trivialized or some booster story for the Federal Government (Conservative Liberal Party). The HI story is telling readers that the paper is being “supportive” of local issues, in advertising the plight of “little people, the downtrodden” and so on. The overwhelmingly patronizing attitudes taken in these stories are buried in a welter of heart breaking details and judgemental opinions of the writer about the “perpetrators” of these evils. Readers are expected to agree with the “journalist’s” view, that is certainly politically correct.

My issue here is that for a few (three) of these stories, I have had contact with either the people named, their families, or close friends. (Six degrees in Adelaide can often be two, that is how small this place is.) In each of these stories, I learned, the “facts”presented are either not the full story, or are just “interpreted” to produce a particular outcome. In two of those stories, about two different teachers, the facts were so heavily “interpreted” they did not match the reality at all.  To make matters worse, the moral cowardice of the Education Department compounded the unethical presentation of those stories so as to make it appear the teachers were criminal in intent. Neither case has revealed any evidence of actual wrong doing or even intent of wrong doing by the teachers involved.

I know one of them, and his interest is in technology and giving his students sufficient understanding of how the technology can be used appropriately in the classroom. All that took to be undone was for an aggrieved parent with a relation who was a sergeant of Police. The media got hold of the story and it has snowballed into meaningless tripe and witch hunting. The other story is worse. That incident also involved an aggrieved parent, an “innocent” child and has made the front page twice. I understand the same allegations have been investigated three times by three different investigators and no evidence has turned up to support any allegation. Under that sort of scrutiny any cover up would be exposed, any malfeasance would come out, any reluctance to assist an investigator would be made public knowledge, particularly in a Government Department. Unlike television investigators, they are not interested in covering up anything and any suggestion of such to an investigator is likely to end in corruption charges being made by the investigator.  The media, led by the Murdoch media, does not tell that part of the story. In this case, the teacher in the middle has been hounded where ever he goes. Condemned without trial, no evidence against him and no support. The power of the Murdoch media.

These things are but indicators. They are, of themselves warning signs or symptoms of a larger problem, a greater malaise. The Murdoch media is expressing too narrow a view. Other media are not challenging that view, they cannot or will not.

That is the problem. One of the most vociferous opponents of non-Conservatives was once an editor of my local Murdoch paper. He was accused of publishing a string of editorials opposing the then non-Con Opposition that were biased in an extreme. One wag accused him of writing only what Murdoch told him to write. His response, somewhat unbelievably, was that he did not need Rupert to tell him what to write, but they agreed on so many points that he knew what Rupert would want him to write.  And the difference is..? A narrowing of opinion indeed.

Once that narrowing hits a particular point, then people lose trust in things. It is arguable that we have already past that point. The fundamentalist crazies are taking over. There are now cable TV shows dedicated to “doomsday preppers”. What? These people are so cynical about the future they see no hope, the Schadenfreud crowd are revisiting. We had so much hope in the 1960s, which became outrageous optimism in the early ’70s, but turning cynical by the early ’80s.  There was a brief spurt of optimism at the millenium, but that was squashed by an act of stupidity, a dimwitted President, an unscrupulous set of advisers and an uncritical Murdoch media. Now we are in deeper trouble than we ever were.

As there was no real evidence support of anything that “W” purported to be “truth” about weapons of mass destruction (even now, over a decade later). The “War on Terror” has been lost just as spectacularly as the “War on Drugs”, but the failure here is catastrophic. All that it has achieved is that there has been driven three rather large nails into the coffin of the West. Distrust of public officials and their stories of “truth”. Financial commitments are far beyond what can be sustained by the West, leading to financial pressures elsewhere in the world’s economies, and a distraction from what the regulators should have detected before the World’s economy imploded in 2008. A growing distrust of the impartiality of the media. This last part is enhanced by the Neo-Cons by maligning anyone who puts forward a balanced or impartial view, or any story that would remotely criticise a Neo-Con perspective – and such criticisms are widely reported in the Murdoch media as gospel.

In Australia, we had a minority Federal Government that was made to look it was in chaos for three years, but managed to keep our economy on an even keel when most of the world went into recession. We can now expect that we will join the rest of the world shortly in their ongoing recession. Where is the Murdoch media here? Extolling the virtues of Government initiatives to stimulate an economy? Not a chance. The Murdoch media is rousing in its support of the Neo-Cons and extreme economic action to reduce the size and activities of Government, but what happens when the promised economic miracle does not arrive? What then for the Murdoch media?

PS: Amazingly, the Neo-Cons do not learn from history, or rather, they only take what they want from it. Anything unpalatable or demonstrably different from their perspective is either a left-winged plot or portrays a narrow and selective, “black arm-band”, view. The irony is that this is precisely their own view. Doing what they are doing makes us vulnerable in ways we cannot imagine. If we make nothing here, import it all, then a well armed fleet of submarines will do exactly the same to us as the US did to Japan in WW2, starve it into submission. Seems the Neo-Cons do not read history books. And none of this is mentioned anywhere in the Murdoch media.

About colinfraser

I claim the title of educator, because I want to be more than "just" a teacher.
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