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

News Ltd: ideology takes over « Previous | |Next »
November 10, 2011

The Nanny State meme is a favourite of the News Ltd media, and it stands for an opposition to governmental policies of protectionism, economic interventionism, or strong regulation of economic, social, environmental and health. They have winner take all ethos, a political agenda, and they use their concentrated media power to push that agenda which includes destabilising the Gillard government.

One of the frequent targets of those on the right are the public health interventions to improve population health, especially those around cigarettes, gambling and adult and childhood obesity.

PettyBNanny State.gif

Gary Johns in Middle class should stop picking on poor, fat kids in The Australian states that the obesity crisis is a confected "crisis", as with gambling, smoking and drinking, where the middle class declares war on the underclass. He states that childhood obesity is apparently most prevalent in the lower classes (working class?) and more so among Aborigines, islanders and those from the Middle East.

Johns, to his credit, acknowledges that obesity is apparent and increasing, that it carries considerable health risks and costs, and that a core question is whether the cost of individual eating choices should be regarded as an individual or collective problem. He adds that the prevalence of obesity is not in dispute but its spread and policy responses are.

So what is his argument about those policy responses? It's not much:

For those on the Left of politics intervention comes easily. No doubt, they would be keen on a mandatory pre-commitment scheme where a child nominates the number of times each day they poke their head in the fridge. Or, maybe as part of income management, welfare recipients should receive fruit packages....The public health lobby presses for fat taxes and bans on junk food advertising. But these are ineffective and, besides, why should everyone have to suffer for the sake of the few? Preventive measures are justified only when there is strong evidence they pay for themselves... for society at large, labelling food or taxing selectively or banning advertising is a step too far.

Consumers don't need better information. Positive messages of good eating from teachers, doctors, nurses and an array of allied health workers, including nutritionists, will suffice.

Johns vaguely understands the social model of health, health inequity, and consumer control of health. He has a glimmer of understanding that this model means community control over the environmental influences of health, and that this is central to the shift required in the health system if real change is to occur. But he then resorts to mocking primary care and health prevention because ideology takes over: positive messages from government wont work but positive messages from health professionals will .

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 6:37 AM | | Comments (12)


News Ltd goes on and on about a free and independent press standing up to, and questioning the government. They constantly say that the free press's brief is a to keep the other institutions honest and to facilitate popular democratic participation.

What is actually happening is that they've appropriated the language of the 'free press' to prevent reforms undertaken by the government of the day; to block shifts away from self regulation of the press; and to engage in political campaigns.

What drives News Ltd is profit---to increase revenue at less cost--and ensuring that its centralization of power and capital remains untouched. Their media power ensures that they are largely unaccountable to anyone but their shareholders.

Murdoch uses his media assets to wield political influence. The Australian is not just biased politically, it has an explicit political agenda.

Their defence of that agenda is to argue that the enemies of free speech are:

(1) using the media inquiry as a 'get Murdoch' inquisition. News Ltd is a partisan player and it has made itself the news.
(2) saying that the politicians need to stop having a glass jaw!

News Limited is going to work hard to discredit the Finkelstein media inquiry. It is politically motivated against News Ltd will be their main talking point.

This will resonate because the underlying theme of the submissions will be the Murdoch press, it's ethics and power, how to break it up and what should be done about it. The reason is that Australia has the most concentrated newspaper ownership market of any established democracy in the world. It is market dominance.

According to Eric Beecher in his submission to the Finkelstein Media Inquiry in Melbourne

In South Australia, News Limited owns the only daily newspaper, The Advertiser (daily average circulation 184,000**), the only Sunday newspaper, the Sunday Mail (circulation 284,000**), almost all suburban newspapers, one of two national newspapers, and the state's largest news website, Adelaide Now (1,913,000 monthly unique browsers***). There are very few journalists working in South Australia who aren't employed by News Limited. A similar situation applies in Brisbane, Hobart and Darwin.

There 's not much media diversity there. News Limited's domination of news journalism in Australia continues

That sort of article is doing a very political thing; it’s making an appeal to the well-off along the lines of: “Why worry about the poor? Why not abandon them, exploit them, and enjoy the proceeds”? This appeal essentially relies on a deliberately one-sided view of the “nanny State”, ie. that it funnels money from the well-off to the not-well-off. There is truth in that view – there are such things as transfer payments and social wage benefits to the poor – but it is only part of the “nanny State” story.

The other side, of course, is the extent to which the well-off are themselves beneficiaries of the “nanny State”. In this context, it is very interesting to note the political silence which has always surrounded (a) the unlimited carry-over of capital losses against capital gains tax liabilities and (b) the Howard Govt.’s discount to investors in rental housing whereby only half of the capital gains are counted for tax purposes – ie. there is a 50% discount of the capital gains tax liability. And of course salary packaging heavy on superannuation contributions reduces tax in the hands of the recipient. Those are only three ways in which the well-off benefit from the “nanny State”. The murky realms of company taxation are, I suspect, riddled with more of what amount to hidden subsidies to the rich, not least of which is the simple fact of limited liability for “Pty.Ltd.” companies. That one’s been hidden in plain sight for a long, long time. And then of course there are benefits to farmers, to miners and others.

I’m not aware of a comprehensive Australian expose of this other side of the “nanny State” – the benefits to the rich. Maybe other commenters can point me to one. But in general the “nanny State” criticism as it so often appears on the Right is a very (and deliberately) one-sided story which masks a political appeal and an implied promise of even greater wealth at the expense of Australia’s less-well-off. There’s a big element of what Americans would call a “dog whistle” embedded in it.

In his book, Democracy Under Attack: "How the media distort policy and politics" Malcolm Dean argues that the Right-of-centre tabloids have perpetrated a set of journalistic sins in such a pernicious and malign way that they have damaged the democratic process.

Among them are the narrowing of debate - plus, too often, a complete lack of debate - trivialisation, misuse of statistics, overall dumbing down, the consistent concentration on the negative and playing to the gallery, also known as the lowest common denominator.

The right wing tabloids influence social policy using their ability to fan fears and prejudices on drugs, crime, greenhouse gas emission, immigration, asylum seekers etc

"For those on the Left of politics intervention comes easily...."

Interesting innit? Seems that the wingnuts only object to (some) intervention when it's in their back yard.

Let's see how this Iran "crisis" works out...

you can find the corporate welfare around the old energy companies. An example

News Ltd have never accepted that media power, like any other power, should be accountable. "Freedom of the Press" has been used by them to fob off any regulation of the presses freedom in their top down media model and its traditional journalistic gatekeeping models.

All that exists is self-regulation of the Press Council ---its toothless with respect to complaints--and does not hold the press to account for its journalistic practices. Consequently, the public's trust in Australian journalism's ethics and honest is very low.

News Ltd will fight any attempt to levy fines on recalcitrant publications that refuse to correct errors, misinformation, or misrepresentation; or refuse to apologize for invasions of privacy.

Gary Johns has surely set some sort of record, in going for twenty years without including one scintilla of truth in all his rightist yabberings.
The main difference between Johns and large swathes of the sex worker population is that at least the sex workers have the excuses of coercion and material need as causes for their activities.

Gary Sauer-Thompson,
Thanks for the link. I notice that Naked Capitalism (a well-known US economics blog) has an interview with Dean Baker about his book "The End Of Loser Liberalism".

The book talks about the deliberate structuring of markets to favour the rich. It is US-centric and he is certainly spruiking his book, but it's nevertheless interesting in the context of how one-sided the discussions of market capitalism have become.

The cartoon on the previous post looks like Perry. .....and the 3rd reason not to flush swishhhhhhh