Saturday, 1 February 2014

The ABCs of Ideology

"inner-city"..."inked-hipster"..."communist"..."left-leaning"..."latter-day Trotskyites"... are all adjectives which have appeared in conservative editorials over the past few days
The right-wing's ideological knives are out. As is their wont, they target Australia's publicly-funded national broadcaster, the ABC. After Abbott subtly labelled the ABC left-wing traitors, editorials from the market fundamentalists at the IPA and The Australian have rallied against against the "hysterical" reaction to Abbott's words as well as the usual targets of disaffection: perceived editorial and cultural biases, overreach beyond its charter, operating without oversight, etc, etc. As usual, however, the Right has largely forgotten to find any evidence to support their anti-ABC contentions.

From the IPA's James Paterson:
"As an organisation, (the ABC) has shown itself to be tone deaf when it comes to the legitimate concerns of many Australians, that it leans to the left and is not a welcome home for conservatives or classical liberals – particularly among its salaried employees."
And from The Australian:
"The slip in messaging has given Mr Abbott's critics the opportunity to claim the Coalition believes the national broadcaster...should be a cheer squad for the government and the country... Of course, that is not the view Mr Abbott subscribes to." 
Both talk about the inherent "left" bias of the ABC, without really offering any evidence of it. Some in the Coalition party room, of course, favour yet another government inquiry to root out the ABC's "bias" (so much for small government), even though such inquiries have historically come up empty-handed. All The Australian can do is point to the personal Twitter feeds of a few ABC employees to demonstrate the "clear direction" of personal agendas; its programming driven by the "Greens-Left activist complex".

Jeez. Are these guys for real? Joe McCarthy called, he wants his nebulous all-encompassing fear-mongering language back.

The IPA's and The Australian's editorial shows their inherent bias by scripting an apologia for Mr. Abbott. Instead of pointing out the many factual inaccuracies in Abbott's "feelpinion" about the ABC, the editorial claims Abbott never actually meant to say the ABC was un-patriotic, but rather "(he) believes good journalism is healthy for our democracy." The PM's language was "sloppy", but he didn't actually mean the ABC was traitorous when he said it was, it was merely a "slip".

The fault lies with Abbott's critics' for reacting "hysterically" to the words he said, rather than the words The Australian says we ought to think he said.

As James Paterson says, no media organisation should be above criticism, and how right he is. No reasonable person expects them to be, least of all the ABC. But what Abbott said was beyond "criticism", it was unfounded opinion clothed in the rhetoric of "many people feel that...".

The ABC should be held to the highest account, as should all broadcasters and media outlets in Australia who produce "news", whether they themselves term it that or not. They should not, for example, be able to completely misrepresent scientific evidence on climate change or mislead the public as to the welfare entitlements of refugees. But they do. And they do it frequently and repeatedly. Usually only with the softest of repudiations from ACMA.

Probably the only people who "feel" Abbott's opinion are the market fundamentalists at the IPA and the right-wing ideologues at News Corp. I say that because I have evidence, rather than opinions: the ABC is consistently rated the most trusted media organisation in this country. I guess the public must be "feeling" wrong.

There doesn't seem to be much factual basis at all to what the Right "feels" about the ABC and it's in these wide-ranging editorials that the IPA reveals the real reason the Right's so worked up: "If there was ever a case for a taxpayer-funded state broadcaster," Paterson thunders, "it doesn't exist today".

There you go. Ideologically, the Right just doesn't like the ABC.

I'm sure almost the entire rural population of Australia would disagree with Paterson on there being no case for the ABC, not to mention the vast number of people who watch, listen, download or read the services it provides every single day. The state of media in rural Australia, for example, is what a reasonable person calls "market failure"; the IPA calls it the "free market".

The perceived bias, along with Abbott's "un-Australian" slur are just shit the Right is throwing against the wall in the hope something sticks to the ABC (it very rarely has, far fewer times that its commercial counterparts). There is no smoking gun of bias and there probably won't be. Alas that won't stop the Right's ideological warriors waging yet another war, hosting yet another inquiry into the commie leftie "latter-day Trotskyites" (yep, The Australian used that term) culture at the ABC. Meanwhile, the ABC itself responds to calls it doesn't do enough stories about electricity prices and the things that "matter" to the public (international crises like Syria and marriage equality are so bourgeois) by calling in external auditors to vet its news coverage. Haven't seen News Corp do that...

Of course the issue would be far less vexed if Ausatralia had a strong, robust and diverse commercial media sector. It doesn't. We don't. One need only look at the The Australian's sick attitudes towards democratic parliamentary parties such as the Greens, or the Daily Telegraph's 2013 Federal Election coverage to see the bias that's present and apparently A-OK in the commercial media sector. At least sane people have Media Watch.

But, according to The Australian, the ABC shouldn't even be running Media Watch to look at bias and journalistic howlers in both its own house and in others' because "(the) ABC charter does not veer into the realm of correcting for the biases, real or imagined, of its media rivals".

Hmm. Perhaps a taste of one's own medicine is required.

So there, ABC. Go back in your box and let this nation's commercial media prove with their own words why we need you.

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