The domination of Murdoch
For 50 years Rupert Murdoch, directly and by race-to-the-bottom influence, has poisoned the epistemological covenant between Western voters and the governments we elect (Karen Middleton, “Rudd calls for News Corp inquiry”, November 18-24). The distorting results have been plain to see for decades. Without Murdoch, no Thatcher untempered, no Reagan unexamined, no absolutist neoliberal spiral today into ruinously unsustainable electoral inequality. No George W. Bush, no Blair, no Iraq catastrophe. No Brexit, no Trump, no serially contrived Hansonite populism, no mythical “silent majority” driving unrepresentative reactionary policy, no selective discrediting of “elite” policy expertise, no burgeoning disconnect between “news” and truth. Grand global conspiracy? Hardly. Just sustained workaday acquiescence from generations of politicians and journalists who should never have yielded the public playing field of ideas to an overamplified bully whose driving ambition was never more substantial than simply to destroy anyone who said, “No, Rupert.”
– Jack Robertson, Birchgrove, NSW
A media inquiry is needed
A royal commission into Australia’s media is a priority issue for any new federal government, if it has the crazy-brave courage needed. The history of News Corporation and its media spinoffs are replete with phone-hacking scandals in Britain, accusations of pushing “fake news”, and influencing elections in Britain, Australia and the United States. Hillary Clinton, in a recent Four Corners interview, articulately dismissed Fox News as having a “bad influence on our [US] politics” and “they’re an advocacy outfit; they’re not journalism anymore”. News Corp’s Sydney Daily Telegraph, similarly, lost any legitimacy because its journalists haven’t learnt the fundamental difference between objective news reporting and opinion, instead they fuse both into a simplistic mash for their preferred position of political advocacy. Unfortunately, Australia doesn’t have the multiplicity of independent media outlets of the US. Julia Gillard’s endeavours to have a media inquiry in 2011 were derided by the pious and the self-righteous, inclusive of the then opposition leader Tony Abbott. News Corp’s The Australian led with predictably emotive cliche’s of “freedom of the press” and “Gillard tries to censure free media”. Australia desperately needs a royal commission into all aspects of the media but the dark forces arrayed against such a process are immense.
– Bob Barnes, Wedderburn, NSW
Rudd’s past comes back to bite
How ironic that Kevin Rudd calls for a royal commission into the impact of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation on democracy and the Australian political scene.
It was Rudd as foreign minister who in 2010 for unexplained reasons put the Australia Network up for tender and was poised to deliver it to Sky News – at the time one-third owned by News Corp. It is to the credit of Julia Gillard that at the eleventh-hour responsibility for the tender process was taken from the Department of Foreign Affairs and given to the Communications Department. The tender was then aborted and the Australia Network remained with the ABC. Sky News and Murdoch were enraged and have excoriated Labor ever since. Rudd’s royal commission could investigate the reason for embarking on this misconceived scheme.
– Peter Bennett, Clifton Hill, Vic
Calling out the bullshitters
Guy Rundle has shown how political interpretation per se cannot help us understand prime ministers who are not real (“Character actors”, November 18-24). The philosopher Harry Frankfurt warned us that, “The realms of advertising and of public relations, and the nowadays closely related realm of politics, are replete with instances of bullshit so unmitigated that they can serve among the most indisputable and classic paradigms of the concept.” The essence of bullshit is the lack of any concern for truth. Frankfurt distinguishes the fakery of bullshit from the falsity of a lie. The liar rejects the authority of truth. The bullshitter pays no attention to whether what is said is true or false. The liar acknowledges the existence of truth by denial. Hence bullshit is seen by Frankfurt as a greater enemy of truth than the lie. We need to call out the bullshitter as phoney; whatever purpose is being misrepresented. Waffle needs to be dismissed, not taken seriously. We can only do this if we recognise it for what it is.
– Mark Porter, New Lambton, NSW
Held to account on racism
The Week column (November 11-17) condemns Pauline Hanson for likening Sam Dastyari to Mr Bean. It also suggests Andrew Bolt could use some more legal discipline for a further foray into light-complexioned Aboriginal people. However, Geoff Pryor’s cartoon depicts Tony Abbott as a chimpanzee, a metaphorical monkey on the prime minister’s back. If racial references are taboo, why is ridiculing one’s God-given simian looks also not verboten?
– Andrew Trezise, Greensborough, Vic
What about The Mix?
Good criticism helps you to tease out and understand why you don’t like something. It gives your gut reaction intellectual teeth. Helen Razer absolutely nails it in her brilliant piece on the ABC’s deplorable Screen Time (“Critical morass”, November 11-17). Perhaps she could now turn her attention to that equally uninspiring program The Mix. People complain about lack of trust in politicians, but when one can no longer trust the ABC to deal intelligently with the arts and entertainment, things have come to a pretty pass.
– Ian Robinson, Cowes, Vic
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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Nov 25, 2017. Subscribe here.