This has been a year of historic media lows for journalistic gullibility, “truthiness” and Facebook false news, matched only in the pace of decline by the erosion of political standards across the Western world.
Much has been written during the past month about the failure of the media here and in the US to anticipate the rise of Donald Trump, which surpassed even the British media’s failure to predict the Brexit vote mid-year.
The Australian media did better at the July 2 federal election, most picking a very narrow win for Malcolm Turnbull’s Coalition government. Indeed, unlike recent polling disasters in the northern hemisphere, our media polls picked the election almost exactly.
But there were some post-election media howlers, led as usual by the ABC’s Insiders program, where all three panellists and host Barrie Cassidy agreed it was outrageous that Malcolm Turnbull objected to Labor’s Medicare privatisation scare campaign.
This is how the media alienates ordinary voters and viewers. The “Mediscare” text campaign, devised by none other than the daughter of multi-millionaire fairness-campaigning former Labor treasurer Wayne Swan, was a new low in Australian campaigning.
Most parents would have been ashamed of a daughter pulling off such an unethical stunt. Not so our Wayne. And no criticism from the “laughing clowns” on the Insiders panel. By not calling it for what it was, Insiders showed yet again the partisan nature of the program. Not that such partisanship is confined to the ABC and the Left.
One Sky News conservative went so far as to demand in all seriousness and with great force the immediate resignation of the Prime Minister — only hours after he won the election.
Since then almost all the electronic media should hang their heads in shame for again turning the motley Senate crossbench into a group of media stars even more unquestioningly than Lateline embraced the Palmer United Party after the 2013 election.
Media commentators bleating about the failure of governments to drive reform since John Howard’s 2007 election loss need to stop pumping up the independents’ tyres. Voters are delivering unworkable parliaments and then, on the back of media cheerleading, following up with even more unworkable parliaments.
It can’t be that hard to understand that protest parties are making good government impossible by taking a populist approach to all difficult but necessary economic measures.
As usual, the progressive media shamed itself on climate change and renewables all year. The highlight surely was the savaging meted out to the ABC’s best journalist, Chris Uhlmann, when he wrote the truth about the damage renewables were doing to the South Australian power grid after the stunning late September statewide blackout.
But, like lemmings, there was ABC radio’s AM program talking up the cause of renewables on Thursday morning and giving one of the main culprits in the South Australian blackout, Premier Jay Weatherill, a free kick at the federal government for supporting the Adani coalmine in northern Queensland.
Like activists at the ABC, too many Labor leaders, state and federal, just don’t understand the effects the renewable energy target is having on electricity generation, price and reliability. Not to mention the grifting by big financial players of government incentives in the renewables industry or the long-term need for baseload coal or gas-fired power across the country.
The Fairfax papers regaled readers all year with claims of wildly exaggerated sea level rises and hottest years on record but conveniently failed to notice the cooling of surface temperatures around the world as last year’s strong El Nino retreated. They trust the science all right, but not when it shows “inconvenient truths”.
In the face of worldwide revulsion against Islamic extremism in the West, particularly in Paris and Brussels, even German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the architect of the Syrian exodus to Europe, was forced to change her tune. But not our ABC. Or Network Ten, the only challenger in free-to-air for the Left’s broadcast crown.
On Ten’s The Project, ABC’s The Drum and a host of ABC radio programs the real issue was Islamophobia. Never mind the dead kids in Nice this year or at the Bataclan Theatre in Paris in November last year. It was not radical Islam that was a threat but our attitude to that radical Islam.
If only more GPS-educated ABC journalists lived in Lakemba. At least they could do themselves a favour, intellectually, and engage with the new book by their one-time Australian hero Robert Manne about the intellectual and philosophical roots of modern jihadism.
For me, the first prize for Australian media imbecility in 2016 has to be shared by all those who reported — in all seriousness — that refugees on Manus Island and Nauru would never agree to be resettled in “Donald Trump’s America” after it was revealed the Turnbull government had negotiated a resettlement deal with the Obama administration.
Not only do journalists need to ask themselves why they are privileging certain activists by reporting their claims, and especially those in the asylum-seeker or animal welfare spaces, they also need to be sure what they publish passes the commonsense test.
What do journalists at the ABC and Fairfax imagine ordinary adult Australians think when they see such tosh? Can anyone really believe asylum-seekers risking death on the open ocean would not jump at the chance of resettlement in the world’s number one democracy?
Second prize (but with a highly commended for lack of any understanding of how Australians think about life) has to go to all the campaigners who led the charge against NSW greyhound racing.
Now everyone disagrees with animal cruelty. But they are even likelier to disagree with a bunch of Sydney eastern suburbs and inner-west progressives demanding the end of the sport of battlers.
Even the former national president of the Labor Party, Warren Mundine (in a couple of brilliant pieces in The Daily Telegraph), and long-time NSW Labor left faction leader and now Opposition Leader Luke Foley could see St Michael Baird’s ban would never fly.
Originally posted in The Australian