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February 04th 2013 print

Merv Bendle

Australian journalism’s reeking cesspit

Bias, selective reporting, glorified stenography, groupthink -- Australian newsrooms have come to be populated by propagandists masquerading as journalists. Tony Abbott can fix that. They will fix him if he doesn't


The left-wing bias in the media must be confronted. As Cory Bernardi’s account of his recent experiences illustrates, it must be done … but it won’t be pretty.


The media gatekeepers in the ABC, Fairfax, etc, will fight tooth and nail to retain the dominant role they have usurped over the past 40 years. Nevertheless, they must be overthrown if Australia is not to decline even further into the authoritarian welfare-state morass within which the ALP and the Greens so joyfully wallow.

As a Coalition victory in the upcoming federal election becomes increasingly probable, and with conservative governments in the major states, the time will shortly be ripe for a showdown with the leftist media and the institutional infrastructure that supports it. Senior and influential conservative parliamentarians need to recognize and effectively support a campaign to restore balance and objectivity.

This will be a campaign that must be fought on several fronts and may become bitter, but it must be undertaken. Otherwise the next coalition government risks being merely an interim administration, keeping the seats warm while the ALP spends time constructing some ‘values’ around which its various factions, apparatchiks, and opportunists can coalesce before returning once again to rort and sack the country.  

As has been repeatedly observed by numerous commentators, the media in this country are dominated by an extremely well-entrenched elite that long ago embraced a radical environmental, authoritarian, and statist ideology. This extremist worldview has become the default setting for much of what passes for thought amongst journalists and media operatives in the ABC, the Fairfax press, government spin merchants, and academic journalism courses.

Embedded in its self-sufficient and self-satisfied groupthink mentality, this complex and extremely well-resourced leftist network feels it never has to question its assumptions, goals, values, or motivations because it automatically sees them as natural and moral. Consequently, any opposition, criticism, or dissent is perceived as misguided and immoral, worthy only of condemnation, ridicule, and indeed punishment, as the ALP has made clear with its proposed media regulation and anti-discrimination legislation.

Cory Bernardi’s experience is typical of how this leftist fundamentalism operates in the media, and many others on the conservative side of politics and intellectual and cultural discourse have had similar experiences, as people associated with Quadrant are only too well aware. Basically, it amounts to a quite firm interdiction of all views that don’t promote the far-left political and radical environmentalist agenda, coupled with a profound animosity towards conservatives that serves to excuse all types of misrepresentation and mockery.

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Bernardi details some of the stratagems that are used to set-up conservatives in media appearances, interviews, and profiles, and a myriad other examples could be quoted: important books with a conservative perspective don’t get published or reviewed, or else they’re simply denounced or ridiculed; journals like Quadrant have their grants slashed, etc, etc. Those of us who have worked in academia are subjected to similar pressures and sanctions. In my own case virtually every contribution I made to public discussion led literally to howls of indignation and demands that I be sacked for my temerity (e.g., “Defamed on The Drum”, QO, July 27, 2011).

The question: what is to be done?

As far as the ABC is concerned I believe it should be broken up or closed down (“The utter failure of Their ABC”, QO, September 11, 2012), preserving those parts that serve specific community needs and ensuring decentralization amongst all states and regions. This may involve a bloody battle, but some effective measures must be taken by the likely Coalition government, and very early in its first term. Meanwhile, Fairfax is slowly succumbing to market pressures and inept management. However, the ABC and Fairfax form just the (very large) tip of the iceberg and the battle must be taken into the deeply embedded institutional system that supports the leftist domination of the media.

Above all, this involves the universities, which have colonized journalism education over the past few decades and treated it as yet another bountiful revenue stream akin to teacher training, hiring a few lecturers (some of whom may even have adequate qualifications), and shamelessly promoting their doubtful wares to entice hordes of students who are encouraged to think that they will find a career in journalism or the media when the universities know that this is highly unlikely. Sadly, all that most of these students acquire is a worthless piece of paper and a significant HECS debt.

However, they also acquire a leftist ideological indoctrination. For over 20years I taught journalism and communications students at university and never ceased to be amazed at the extreme narrowness of the simplistic political and social analysis to which they were exposed, structured around the ‘class, race and gender’ template (to which over the past ten years has been added ‘climate change’). The central authority for this leftist world-view was and remains the anti-Semitic anarchist Noam Chomsky, with his simplistic but unrelenting insistence that the media are used by the capitalist ruling class purely for propaganda purposes to ‘manufacture consent’ amongst the masses in the interests of American imperialism.

Other authorities preaching the same message include the French philosopher of extreme paranoia, Michel Foucault, who represents liberal democratic societies as vast systems of surveillance and persecution; Antonio Gramsci, who argued very influentially that the ‘class struggle’ must be carried out by intellectuals in the realm of culture and above all in the media; and Edward Said, who draws on these ideas to promote the view that ‘the West’ is engaged in a war against ‘the Other’, a vast realm of victimhood, represented above all by Muslims, but also every other special interest group that wants state support and protection. Other leftist theories elaborate on these themes and together they serve to inculcate amongst journalism students the view that they are part of an enlightened revolutionary vanguard whose task is not primarily to effectively communicate stories of interest or importance to the community, but rather to overthrow capitalism.

This indoctrination reflects the dominant leftist perspective in arts, humanities, and social science courses throughout Australia, and it perpetuates an all-pervasive and stultifying ‘intellectual monoculture’. As I argued in my submission to the Senate Inquiry into Academic Freedom in 2008: "In another age this could be a fascist, far right intellectual monoculture and it would do just as much damage to our society as a left-wing or far left intellectual monoculture. It is not so much the politics of the thing; it is the fact that it is an intellectual monoculture, that it is one voice being heard over and over again unrelentingly." With the advent of social media and the rise of the blogosphere the political and social impact of this intellectual monoculture is now being vastly magnified.

Ultimately, therefore, the leftist bias in the media must be combated on several fronts. The most obvious is the ABC, which the Coalition can deal with inside a year if it has the will and courage to do so.

More broadly, there has to be a determined effort to overcome the leftist intellectual monoculture in the universities, where most journalists get their training, acquire their ideological worldview, and have their leftist bias continually ratified. This in turn should be part of an overall initiative to restore balance and value for money in arts, humanities, and social science courses.

Bernardi has reminded us of a perennial problem facing liberal democratic societies. The time is approaching when concerted and coordinated action can finally be taken.