Friday, December 21, 2012

Angry Old White Men

I read somewhere that I am an angry old white male. That's because I subscribe to The Australian. I've been reading The Australian since the 1970's, so it seems that I've been old and angry all my life. I read somewhere else that I'm an inner city Latte drinking pinko green watermelon because I read Green Left Weekly. Must have read that in The Australian newspaper. 

Elsewhere I am congratulated for my commitment to independent media by subscribing to New Matilda, excoriated as a climate change denier because I read the Herald-Sun,  exposed as a climate change alarmist because I raised a mild criticism about Andrew Bolt's  TV talk show,  reviled as anti Catholic because I support a Royal Commission on Child Abuse, a coconut because I read Tracker, a communist because I support community owned and operated Melbourne Community TV broadcaster Channel 31, a liberal pansy because I watch ABC TV,  a conservative hard liner because I write in support of broadcaster Alan Jones right to speak freely.

What can be labelled can be hated. But doesn't hating something only make it stronger?

This was on my mind as I read the latest spat between The Australian and the ABC. Andrew McIntyre, in an article for The Australian  titled  For Normal Viewing Lean Left, writes: many educated, generally mildly apolitical, well thinking middle class people with a regular diet of the ABC and Fairfax, simply are not aware that, for instance, the world has stopped warming for the past 16 years, that hurricanes and extreme weather events have declined and are not related to global warming, that Doha was a dismal failure, that the NBN has never had a cost benefit analysis, that Green jobs cost money ... and jobs, that growing the economic pie is not the same as redistributing tax revenue...

I'm not going to join in and contribute my own content analysis, a formal, often formulaic and sometimes fatuous and definitely old fashioned, quaint even, methodology for analysing mass media texts I have roundly criticised on these pages before. I have been especially critical of the so-called revelations of  bias in The Australian newspaper by media academics. 

McIntyre is basically calling for greater scrutiny and regulation of the ABC to eliminate bias. If we are not careful Australians are going to, quite scientifically and forensically and with the best of intentions, regulate free speech out of existence. Surely, if the market of ideas is truly robust and, as McIntyre writes: the US the population would, without the omnipresent media bias, score fully 20 percentage points further to the Right. If correct, this is very troubling...

then why doesn't the market  itself correct  bias? As it is, the ABC audience is as big as it ever has been. 

It just might be that Australia is a nation of individuals thinking for themselves and making up their own minds, free from the chafing yolk of censorship and state sponsored interference in the production and consumption of mass media objects. Watching, reading, and listening are all passive acts which precede the active and onerous business of forming an opinion.  Heaven help us if  we ever only allow those things that are agreeable to us, only read what accords with our prejudices, or only speak what we believe  is agreeable to others.

Happy Christmas to everyone, hope all your dreams come true. Whichever way you lean.


  1. I don't read newspapers, but I do watch ABC TV (and some commercial television, though try to avoid it). I've never listened to Alan Jones and only became mildly aware of him during the recent controversy. When I listen to the radio it is purely for the music. I guess I'm more of a TV gal. I'm all for free speech, but even in free speech we need to be aware of how our words can impact on other people. Words are a powerful tool that should be used wisely. I'm still thinking about your statement that 'hating something makes it stronger'! I think that those who are hated have to become stronger in order to ward off prejudice, discrimination, violence. Turning the other cheek doesn't work, maybe not even developing a thicker skin will work either. But I think the point you are making (and correct me if I am wrong) is that hate (of others, or of ideas) grows stronger in the person doing the hating?

  2. Emotion clouds reason so often hate leads to more/stronger hate I think. I don't believe that freedom is easy, only that is is better than being in chains. The classic test of offensive speech in our culture is on matters of religion. It seems to me that unfortunately there has been little progress on freedom of speech in other important areas like for example remarks that are construed as offensive by individuals, for whatever reason. Truth is often offensive, does that mean I should tell lies instead? There is a difference between living in a polite society and living in a civil society, I believe. Of course I could be totally wrong :)


    1. I think that truth is not only subjective but a shifting construct, what is considered ‘true’ to one person is not necessarily true to another and telling lies or being deceptive is one way of saving someone from a fact or actuality they may not want to hear or be ready to deal with and so in this sense a lie becomes a kindness or consideration. Both truth and lies, I think, should be dealt out in small doses. Some poisons are good for the body when administered in infinitesimal amounts. And, what of half-truths and half-lies? Fragmentation of information, which contains ‘truths’ can be destructive, for It is possible to reveal a truth about a person that may be perceived as negative without also revealing the ninety-nine percent of them that is positive and good. I think that this is one of the issues and challenges of media in which they sharpen their tools on what is sensational – a truth revealed, and do not provide enough background information to that the reader may form their own opinion. Offensive and nasty words or language can hurt people, because words are powerful and carry within them ideologies passed down for eons. They cut deep and that’s why people use particular words as weapons. We are, I think, moving more and more into an impolite society where people are not only selfish but disrespectful of the ideas and needs of others. Civility or behavior for the public good is overridden by a need for people to pursue only their own desires. Freedom of speech is complex for me, because I do believe in it, but I desire that those who are free to speak are responsible, knowing, understanding and generous in their application of words. This is not the case and the Internet is used these days to spread malicious ideas. Putting a powerful tool in the hands of the masses was bound to produce as many destructive ideas as beneficial ones.

  3. Oh PS my own take on the current tiff between The OZ and Auntie is the ABC shouldn't be running opinion programming outside of what is produced by the documentary division. Facts are the centre. Q&A, Insiders and other op/ed productions seem to bend the ABC charter to provide information. My 2c.