Reject the Media Narrative – It’s Undermining Our Democracy

11/05/2019

I still often see attacks on the ABC for being a ‘leftist rag’ and for being supportive of a ‘communist’ Labor-Greens government. Never mind the fact that Labor and the Greens aren’t the best of friends, nor in any context communist or socialist. Also never mind the fact that the ABC has had its budget cut drastically by the Coalition, with threats of privatisation, and that many of the ABC’s top positions are stacked with friends of the Liberal Party and/or private interests – Ita Buttrose comes to mind. But it’s not just the ABC – almost all of our media is rooting for the Coalition.

The Murdoch press, Fairfax, the commercial news stations, the ABC – all of them in their own ways are pushing relentlessly for a Coalition win. The Murdoch press and the commercial stations are not really worth delving into in great detail. The Daily Telegraph has been slammed for its recent piece about Shorten’s deceased mother and, when it’s not resorting to gutter tactics, simply goes for the throat on Labor policies.

“Death tax” they scream, as millions of dollars get passed down through families never to be recirculated into the economy in any meaningful way. “Job losses”, cry the writers as they deny climate change as a relevant talking point and pat their pet rock (coal). Despite the fact fossil fuels is a dying industry that is only surviving because of government subsidies, and that renewables (with proper investment) could become a booming export for our nation. “White men are under attack” shout angry white men with a platform to attack people.

Such absurdities have no place in mainstream discourse, yet Murdoch has such a damning stranglehold on our media and government we just have to acknowledge it wearily. We can always hope cooler heads prevail, but such calculated propaganda can be difficult to combat when it has influenced people for years, if not decades. Who knew environmental destruction and a feudal form of wealth generation and stockpiling could be so appealing?

One thing the Murdoch press can be half-heartedly praised for is that at least they discuss things of substance, even if the spectrum of debate is abysmal. The commercial stations, however, are just rolling fluff pieces interspersed with endless reruns of corporate advertising. I had the displeasure of watching Channel 7 News while having dinner visiting a friend’s place. The same five or six stories were recycled in various depth for about half an hour while ads for funeral insurance played on repeat – way to pick your target demographic.

When it comes to Fairfax (putting aside their merger with Nine as they’re different mediums) and the ABC, however, people seem to need more evidence to prove that they are in fact tools of the Coalition. It couldn’t exactly get any clearer that the Sydney Morning Herald supported Gladys Berejiklian in New South Wales when they straight up advertised for the Liberal Party and announced that the paper wanted her to win. They justified this by essentially saying “well they’ve been in for 2 terms already, may as well let them have a third to finish the job”. The job they had to finish was undefined, until their baffled journalists appeared to realise after the election that it was the complete annihilation of the State.

But, as I mentioned in the above piece, it was – and still is – interesting to contrast their reaction to Berejiklian’s first week back in power with the Federal Coalition’s campaign. At the time they were dumbfounded with the Department changes, they were emotionally invested in Scott Morrison’s crocodile tears for the Royal Commission into the abuse of disabled peoples – a Greens’ initiative put forth by Jordan Steele-John.

This morning they posted an opinion piece from Christine Forster, Tony Abbott’s sister, entitled: “A chance to re-elect the greatest political campaigner of his generation”. I can guarantee that the Sydney Morning Herald will not run a similar piece for Zali Steggall from her brother. Christine attacked Steggall as a Labor and GetUp! backed opportunist, comparing her to ‘hard-left’ Sydney Mayor Clover Moore. Maybe the Abbott family has trouble dealing with the word “independent”, so in case you need help – it means not affiliated with a particular entity, like another Party or big business, and instead representing your constituents properly. One can’t help but wonder how that article came to be – given Abbott’s handling of the same-sex marriage vote, he doesn’t deserve such loyalty from her.

As a quick aside, this is not to discredit all Fairfax reporting, or indeed the ABC’s in a moment. There are articles by each that are positive of Labor and the Greens, and there is worthwhile information buried behind what are usually hyped up headlines. But when it comes to overall coverage, approach, and management, there is a heavy swing towards the Coalition. If the Federal election fares as the NSW State election did, the coming week will be brutal for Labor.

As for the ABC, one need only watch and compare the interviews conducted by Leigh Sales with Morrison and Shorten. If you listen to the line of questioning and how the conversation flows, Sales is so timid when talking to Morrison. So many times, she moves to ask follow-up questions or to ask for clarification and, with Morrison on a (no pun intended) sales pitch, she simply backs off. In contrast, she interrupts Shorten multiple times with direct and absurd questions and talking points that the Coalition uses.

Where Morrison was allowed to ramble on with his lies regarding his Party’s commitment to the Kyoto and Paris Climate Agreements, Shorten was grilled relentlessly about the short-term economic impact of investing in renewables. While Morrison got to pluck numbers out of the air for his ‘tax reform’, Leigh basically accused Shorten of, god forbid, advocating for a mildly ‘socialist’ agenda of redistributing wealth. She ignored the fact that this ‘redistribution’ wasn’t about taxing the wealthy and funding the poor, it was about closing tax loopholes and making certain investments, like property and childcare, fairer for the average Australian.

Every time Shorten tried to make a valid criticism of the Coalition, Sales shut it down and said she wanted to focus on Labor, and yet many of the questions and answers with Morrison revolved around trash talking Labor and the Greens. Morrison said that Greens’ leader, Richard Di Natale, wanted to introduce a death tax, supported people ‘invading’ farms, and wanted to go to 100% renewables, which would (quote) “basically crash our economy”. Not only are those all misleading or false, but he was not called up on it or even stopped from parroting off those talking points.

Strikingly, Sales’ shorter interview with Di Natale was actually more akin to Morrison’s but much less awkward. She asked legitimate questions, Di Natale had a chance to answer extremely well, and she did not interrupt him throughout. The only fault I could pick up on was her insistence that renewables would be harmful to the economy, which Di Natale swiftly turned around by calling out the fact the coal industry is realistically dying. One could speculate as to why she went easier on the Greens’ leader, perhaps timing or the fact that, in our two-party preferred system, whatever the Greens say may not have all that much sway.

Her interviews in the lead up to the election, however, make it clear that the ABC is not only not ‘left-leaning’, but are hostile towards Labor and tepid towards the Coalition. It appeared to have worked against them, at least in the comments, however. Many people called out the lies of Morrison in his video, and many applauded Shorten’s handling of the interview despite the offensive interview style. If Sales had been just as pushy and straightforward with Morrison, it could have been forgiven – but that’s not how the threat of privatisation or job loss works.

This election rides on one core issue – climate change. No matter what media you consume, it is vital that you put petty party politics and personality aside and focus on the environment. As Shorten and Di Natale have said, the cost of refusing to take action will be much higher than the initial cost of transitioning to renewables now. When you have the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, saying that the disappearance of Arctic ice will be wonderful for trade, sanity must prevail elsewhere in the world to put an end to this injustice.

You, not the media, get to decide the future of our nation – vote accordingly.

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