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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

media corruption « Previous | |Next »
May 4, 2006

Richard Flanagan gave a speech on the media when launching the new online version of the Tasmanian Times. The question he asks is: 'Why is it that our media has become so captive to power and money?' Though his argument refers to the corruption of the media---corporate and public--- in Tasmanian, his argument has relevance across Bass Strait.

Flanagan says that the exception is the Tasmanian Times, as it ' has been the one consistent, courageous voice raised in determined questioning of the deals, the relationships, the curious path of big money in Tasmania; the only vehicle trying to report not only what is happening in Tasmania, but also seeking to discover why it is happening.'

What of Murdoch's tabloid The Mercury? Despite my interest in Tasmania , this is one of the corporate media I don't bother to read because of its lack of online editorial commentary.

What Flanagan describes is corruption that is deeper than The Advertiser being on the Rann Government's drip feed. He says:

the Pravda-like grovelling of the Mercury to the Lennon government in recent weeks. Hardly a day seems to pass without another large profile on yet one more gifted, hard working and highly intelligent Tasmanian cabinet minister. One wonders at such riches: not one moustache-bordered jowl waiting for another free dinner to dribble down its puffy declines belongs to other than that of a horny handed son of the people who understands the ordinary Tasmanian; not one dull eyed, guppy mouthed woman on the Labor benches can be described by the Mercury as anything other than ‘a rising star’ and ‘possible future premier’. If the Mercury is to be believed, not since Churchill assembled his war cabinet has such brilliance graced a Westminster parliament.

The Mercury is part of the corporate state In such a state the Tasmanian media happily plays the part of a Greek chorus: repeating lies, deriding truth, denouncing critics of power. Flanagan says:
It is no secret that in a climate of fear and intimidation where the government now seems to exist only as a client and standover man for big business, the Tasmanian media has been both cowed and duchessed to kill some stories and to run puff pieces in their place. But like any beggar at the gate they enjoy their occasional proximity with power and confuse it with shared knowledge and commonality of interest. For the Tasmanian media not only celebrate the powerbrokers but crave intimacy with them and their opinions; they laud rather than question their projects; they join with them in mocking any voice raised in questioning. Their record is beyond pitiful.

In consequence, almost every major story about Tasmania is broken not in Tasmania’s mainstream media but either on Tasmanian Times or in the mainland media. Thank heavens for the Tasmanian Times.

This article--- Mind Games --- by Daniel Schulman places this media corruption in wider perspective of the war on terrorism. It shows how the media was used as a tool in the information wars conducted by the military.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:25 AM | | Comments (10)
Comments

Comments

I don't read the Mercury because it a cross-subsidised anti-competitive snail of deception and lies.

Meika,
At least you have the Tasmanian Times. We just have the Independent Weekly in Adelaide

So that sustained Mercury (and ABC) barrage on the whole Richard Butler affair (stop the presses, "Governor is arrogant, rude and pompous!"), the harassment of Ken Bacon masquerading as journalism and rather pathetic beat up on Lennon's brother equates to a totalitarian state, does it? If that’s the case, I don’t know what Amnesty International complain about, it’s rather nice down here.

Richard Flanagan needs to get his hand off it, and realise that just because there are people out there that don't agree with him does not mean mass conspiracy.

The Mercury is a crap newspaper, you’ll get no argument from me, but it’s got nothing to do with a ‘corporate state’, and more to do with poor journalists.

Clumsyk,
It is nice in Tasmania I agree. You are also very fortunate to have such a wonderful place and so many citizens who deeply care for it.

A corporate state is one in which big business and the government work together in the sense of there being a merging of the corporate interests with those of the state.

The Lennon ALP and Gunns Ltd are hand in glove on development, Tasmanian forests etc, so much so that you have the state ALP and the unions working against the federal ALP and on behalf of the Liberal Party.

Some in the federal ALP call what the state ALP Government did around forests treacheryin the 2004 election --it recalls Billy Hughes. I call it corporatism. The social and political arrangements in Tasmania are dominated by tri-partite bargaining between unions, the private sector (capital), and government.

Authoritarism would refer to the democracy deficit in a corporate state

Concur wholeheartedly with above.
In addition, a shift has been created through the dumbing down of the ABC and sections of broadsheet press. The sources people used to rely on for palliative releif to Murdochian Goebbelsianism, particularly in one-paper cites like Adelaide, have been decimated.
Last week, tucked away on SBS late news, was a story about the collapse of the training regime for Iraqi troops. Nowhere on commercial TV or the ABC was the spectacular story featured.
What was passed of elewhere as "news" amounted largely to drivel about fashion models and sport, along with the usual mandatory rave from Bush about the bogey-people in Iran and specious "war of terrorism" nonsense.

The state ALP supported Latham in 2004. I'm not sure where the myth of 'treachery' began, but if you care to look, Lennon pretty much said "I don't agree with the forest policy, but that is merely one policy among many". The party line – which Lennon himself pushed hard – was that on IR, health, education, tax etc, Labour was infinitely preferable and should form the next government. Again, how that equates to treachery, I'm not quite sure. I suppose it might if forestry is considered somehow separate and above the broader concerns of an election manifesto, but I don’t think that Latham was suggesting that.

Within Tasmania, there was pretty much blanket condemnation amongst both state ALP MPs and union secretaries of the CFMEU's support of Howard, and of Scott MacLean and federal MP Dick Adams’ actions in particular. It has made MacLean in particular an unpopular figure at anti-WorkChoice rallies since.

Of course, this doesn't mean that there was a lack of sympathy for Braddon and Bass MPs Sidebottom and O'Byrne, who were lobbed a potentially explosive policy without any warning in the last week of a campaign, and that almost certainly sunk their chances, nor any assistance to sell it at a local level. Latham announced the policy in Hobart (the ‘Greenest’ electorate), and then slinked out the back door to Sydney without even attempting to sell the policy in the state. Perhaps that’s fair enough, as it probably wasn’t aimed at winning Tasmanian support (more metropolitan marginals elsewhere). But how federal ALP MPs have managed to convince themselves that this somehow equates to treachery from their state counterparts is beyond me. Again, the one ALP member to openly criticise the policy with any vigour was Dick Adams, a federal MP!

More broadly, you say that Gunns, the state ALP, and the unions are "working against the federal ALP and on behalf of the Liberal Party." Seriously? Where? In the RFA? You’ll have to be more specific on this one, because it isn’t evident on industrial relations, sexuality issues, wind farms et cetera. Eric Abetz was pretty peeved on state's response to the Researche Bay debate. Didn't seem to be an awful lot of collusion there. This is pretty much Peg Putt’s line from election night, and is far too simplistic in its analysis on the broader mechanisms of the state.

Clumsyk,
most of my comments refer to the Tasmanian forests issue/policy at the 2004 federal election, not the industrial relations issue of today. The old political cleavages of industrial Australia reappear with the IR reforms.

I would include Lennon along with Scott MacLean and federal MP Dick Adams in working to sink Latham around the value-adding forests policy and to give support to John Howard on the issue.

It is a defining political moment in my judgment, not just in terms of the social conservative working class going with Howard; but ALP and union members going against their own federal party in a federal election; and a state Labor Government siding with the Liberals. It is an explosive moment.

You write that Braddon and Bass MPs Sidebottom and O'Byrne:

were lobbed a potentially explosive policy without any warning in the last week of a campaign, and that almost certainly sunk their chances, nor any assistance to sell it at a local level. Latham announced the policy in Hobart (the 'Greenest' electorate), and then slinked out the back door to Sydney without even attempting to sell the policy in the state.

I'm currently in Canberra and I do not have my copy of Latham's Diaries to re-read his account of what happened during the election and after.

From memory of that text you are being unfair to Latham--you do need to give an account of the Lennon Govt refusing to work with the federal ALP on the forests policy right down to the wire; Latham was then forced to leave the modernizing plan to the last minute when he really preferred to go much earlier and debate the issue of sustainable development on its merits.

It is far too convenient to blame Latham:--he slinked out the back door to Sydney without even attempting to sell the policy in the state.

From memory again, Lennon announces a pulp mill after the federal election as his own policy; one that is almost a carbon copy of what Latham had proposed during the election in his value-adding forests policy. If Latham is right, then that is treachery. Lennon was far more willing to work with Howard than the federal ALP, with Lennon and Howard placing lots of question mark over some high conservation -value forests scheduled for logging.

You write that the state ALP supported Latham in 2004. Well no, it didn't. it crossed the political divide on forests. I point the finger directly at Lennon on this issue. He is so rusted on the Gunn's conception of development that he worked to undermine a federal Labor Party fighting for its life.

You also write:

Perhaps that's fair enough, as it probably wasn’t aimed at winning Tasmanian support (more metropolitan marginals elsewhere).

The Greg Barnes view overlooks that the forests issue was hugely symbolic in both Tasmania (its future) and the cities of Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide (saving the old growth forests from ecological destruction for low grade wood chip exports).

The media images of socially conservative working class cheering John Howard and his cheap forests policy---he was putting far less money in than Latham re conservation and future development--- was equivalent to a seismic shock.

Since the Beazley ALP has sided with Howard on this, we are talking a particular moment that discloses corporatism in Tasmania

Paul,
yes, the 'dumbing down' of the media is associated with the turn to the tabloid. Eric Beecher describes this as:

...a media obsession with celebrity, fame, trivia and lifestyles, to the point where many in the so-called "quality media" now believe they cannot attract a broad constituency without large dollops of celebrity gossip and soft lifestyle coverage. The problem is that while the dumbing-down approach maintains the macro audiences that attract advertisers, it simultaneously drives away the micro audience that craves quality journalism.

beecher says that as entertainment is more profitable than journalism, and far more universal, so the future of serious journalism is under threat large part because it has been replaced by entertainment at the heart of the media power edifice.

The key element for me here is your claim that:

"You write that the state ALP supported Latham in 2004. Well no, it didn't. it crossed the political divide on forests. I point the finger directly at Lennon on this issue. He is so rusted on the Gunn's conception of development that he worked to undermine a federal Labor Party fighting for its life."

This is just incorrect. Lennon was clear on his disappointment on the forest policy, but he was unequivocal in his support on EVERY OTHER election issue. On health, on education, on IR, on tax, on aged care, he clearly and strongly articulated that a vote for Howard would be “disastrous” for Tasmania.

Like it or not, for the clear majority of voters, forestry is not THE deciding factor. That may distress Richard Flanagan, and it may indeed be short sighted, but it is clearly the case. The recent state election has highlighted this. The conclusion of many that this amounts to a failure to support the federal ALP is disingenuous, and wilfully ignorant of what was said at the time.

You say that:

“most of my comments refer to the Tasmanian forests issue/policy at the 2004 federal election, not the industrial relations issue of today. The old political cleavages of industrial Australia reappear with the IR reforms.”

But the IR reforms were at the heart of the 2004 campaign. While some tried their level best to make it a referendum on forests, the debate on IR fell somewhere through the cracks. It’s rather ironic that Lennon tried to articulate this during the 2004 campaign, with IR at the heart of his endorsement of Labour, but somehow has come out as the ‘traitor’ who ‘cost’ Latham the election.

Latham’s book has a number of positive contributions to Australian political debate, but I’m afraid with regard to the Tasmanian political scene, he drifts into rant mode, and simply refuses to take any responsibility for his loss. The idea that Lennon could (or indeed should) ‘save’ his forest policy by turning his own back on the RFA (political suicide for him after sticking to it as the foundation of compromise on the issue of logging), or that somehow the state govt forced his hand to release it one week out from the poll either paints a picture of a fundamentally weak leader, or a tactically inept one. No-one could have stopped Latham engaging on sustainable development, not Lennon, not Howard. However, he chose to announce the policy in Hobart, distance himself from local members, and fly back to Sydney ASAP. But then again, it wasn’t Latham’s fault, it never is.

Clumsyk
Lets clear away what is not at issue to avoid the polemics of blame since the issue is corporatism in Tasmania.This was raised by Flanagan thus:

It is no secret that in a climate of fear and intimidation where the government now seems to exist only as a client and standover man for big business, the Tasmanian media has been both cowed and duchessed to kill some stories and to run puff pieces in their place.

I'm arguing that this indicates corporatism. So:

*my post agrees with Flanagan on the state of the media in Tasmania and it argues that this indicates corporatism.

*I'm not saying that Lennon did not support the federal ALP on other issues. I'm talking about the forests policy as disclosing corporatism in Tasmania.

*I'm not saying that Lennon did not campaign for IR issues in the state.I said the old class issues of industrial Australia reappeared after Howard pushed through the IR legislation in 2005.

*I'm not saying that the forests is the issue or even that it overrides every other issue. I'm saying that it was a deeply symbolic issue that that had deep political reverberations in federal state relations in 2004.

*Nor am I turning this into a battle of personalities of Latham versus Lennon ---the forest issue is being used to highlight the existence of corporatism in Tasmania. This can be put into historical perspective--once it was HydroTasmania +ALP now it is Gunns+ALP. Corporatism is well entrenched in Tasmanaia

If we are going to debate the fallout of Latham's forest policies, and sustainable development, then lets be fair. Latham is very clear about the things that he did wrong in the election. It is all spelt out in the 2005 section of the Latham Diaries and it was stated to the post election ALP postmorterm.

(Latham argues that it was the Tasmanian crowd who refused to acknowledge their part in the ALP defeat in the post morterm).

*I'm not saying that the Tasmanian forest issue caused the defeat of the ALP in the 2004 election. I am saying that those who opposed the federal ALP on this issue effectively crossed sides in the context of the 2004 federal election To put it bluntly we have the disclosure of a Lib-Lab situation.

The significance of corporatism is that it squeezes democracy. That has happened has is not with respect to the reforms of the Legislative Council--a LiB-Lab alliance to squeeze different political voices of the minor parties in an atttempt to get rid of the Green opposition to their old fashioned resource exploitation style of development.