Left commentariat attacks same old targets
DO NOT DISTURB:
Is the media failing Australia?
Edited by Robert Manne
Black Inc. Agenda
Paperback: 232 pages
Yes, the media is failing Australia, but not for the left-liberal reasons given in this book. It is failing because, first, it does not entirely reflect the values of the majority of Australians and, second, a significant proportion of the journalists are self-appointed “agents of change”.
Many of the university courses in journalism in fact use such terminology. While change is necessary for society’s healthy development, it should not be imposed and it should be based on clearly enunciated principles, not the personal predilections of a narrow elite.
Former chairman of the Australian Press Council and Australian Broadcasting Authority, Professor David Flint, in his comprehensive book The Twilight of the Elites (Freedom Publishing, 2003), devoted a whole chapter to the elite’s agenda and how most of the media go about implementing it against the wishes of the majority of Australians. (Have you ever suffered the indignity of being asked, on official documents, whether your wife or husband should be called “partner”?)
Almost from the beginning of the book, political commentator and La Trobe University academic Robert Manne sets-up an Aunt Sally by disputing the extent of left-wing bias in the media.
The bias is not so much left-wing on a socialism/capitalism continuum but more against the core Australian values of family, patriotism and tradition.
The ABC is notorious for its sarcastic comments about marriage and the preservation of Australia as a Judeo-Christian nation. Compass is not really a religious program recording the success stories of millions of Australians who give money and themselves to the cause of religion, but rather a dreary recitation of every quirky other-worldly fashion.
Recently, in the middle of the abortion debate – which appears to be moving towards alternatives to abortion – it screened a one-sided attack on adoptions which many Australians seek, even if from overseas.
Former Sydney Morning Herald editor Eric Beecher in his chapter on “the decline of the quality press” has hit the nail on the head by quoting with approval comments that newspapers are becoming “porn publishers” and “turning into a sewer”. Andrew Bolt, Paddy McGuiness, Frank Devine and other so-called right-wing exponents are forever demanding higher moral standards from the media, while the liberal journalists push for more and more salacious writing.
Left-wing social commentator and co-editor of Arena magazine, Guy Rundle, is apoplectic about an attack on the Greens by Liberal Senator George Brandis. Anyone who has read Bob Brown would agree with Brandis.
Rundle is unhappy about the return to traditional values, but makes no mention of the negative aspects of feminist support for abortion, the conscription of mothers into the paid workforce, declining birth rates, the scourge of divorce and the resultant phenomenon of widespread fatherlessness. He seems not to have heard of Michael Medved’s Hollywood vs. America: Popular Culture and the War Against Traditional Values (1992), which indicts the pornographic material emanating from Hollywood.
Rupert Murdoch seems to be the bête noire of many contributors. He was challenged in Adelaide, at News Corporation’s last AGM on Australian soil, on the adverse impact of his Asian satellite business Star TV on Bhutan, but did not seem to be aware of what his journalists were doing. This could explain how Matt Price is able to pillory Tony Abbott (the “mad monk”), although Price himself comes from a Catholic background.
Rundle objects to the Murdoch media choosing to ignore alleged evidence that “professionalised child care does not lead to a higher rate of developmental problems”. He ignores the work in this area by Anne Manne (wife of the book’s editor), family therapist and parenting author Steven Biddulph, and Dr Peter Cook, particularly the latter’s study, Early Child Care: Infants and Nations at Risk (available from News Weekly Books), all pointing to the downside of institutionalised child care for children under three years of age.
His most unfounded slur is that Gerard Henderson, a one-time colleague of B.A Santamaria, had not reneged on the National Civic Council’s supposed support for “every grisly Latin America dictatorship”. In fact, News Weekly has never supported Latin American dictatorships. It has consistently opposed repressive régimes, not only of the right, but also of the left – including Fidel Castro’s communist dictatorship in Cuba and Salvador Allende’s disastrous Marxist experiment in Chile.
Rundle, Dennis Glover and David Marr speak of Australia’s refugee concentration camps and gulags. This is a gross exaggeration as well as an insult to the memory of victims of Nazism and communism.
Today’s inmates of Australia’s detention centres are at least provided with air-conditioning, mobile phones and halal food. The treatment of illegal refugees under Howard and Vanstone, be it noted, is far and away better than the treatment of Displaced Persons after the war who were settled in migrant camps, such as Northam in Western Australia and Bonegilla in Victoria. There, the inmates had to live in unheated, ex-army tin huts and feed on army fare.
David McKnight attempts to detect right-wing bias in the opinion pages of The Australian and in the publications of the free-market think-tank, the Institute of Public Affairs. He omits to mention that one of the IPA’s key contributors, Gary Johns, was a minister in the federal Labor government.
Robert Manne engages in a facile attack on The Australian‘s foreign affairs editor Greg Sheridan over America’s failure to find Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) in Iraq. A recent book, however, by Iraqi General Georges Sada (reviewed in News Weekly, March 4, 2006) documents how Saddam Hussein’s WMDs were smuggled into Syria on the eve of the US-led invasion of Iraq.
Quentin Dempster and Margaret Simons seek to defend the ABC and push hard for more funding. However, as is shown by the increasingly popular ABC talkback radio presenter Eoin Cameron, success is not so much a matter of funding as consideration for the need of ordinary people who do not wish to be snowed by wiseacre media identities.
Governments have repeatedly sought to reform the culture of the ABC. Prime Minister Fraser appointed Sydney University’s Professor Leonie Kramer and former national secretary of the moderate Federated Ironworkers’ Association Laurie Short to the board. John Howard appointed Donald McDonald as chairman. But none of these appointments has changed the ABC’s culture as the ABC’s journalists are immune to board directives.
Melbourne ABC radio presenter Jon Faine tries to analyse talk radio (as distinct from talkback radio in which the host interacts with callers) and makes a veiled reference to inappropriate relationships forged in Sydney and Perth. Former NSW premier Bob Carr and Sydney Radio 2GB host Alan Jones are mentioned, but nobody from Perth.
ALP adviser and speech-writer Dennis Glover seeks to prove the media is not pro-Labor by analysing newspaper editorials. Not many people read the editorials, therefore a better measure of bias are the reports written daily by the journalists.
Anyone they disagree with – say, morals campaigner Rev. Fred Nile – is automatically labelled right wing, ultra-conservative and fundamentalist, while, say, Greens leader Senator Bob Brown is respectfully referred to as a moderate.
This book’s collection of essays is something of a disappointment, and not the objective assessment of our all-pervasive media that this country needs.