Australia’s media crisis

Drum beat: the authoritarian state and the cyber-bullies

The rise of the authoritarian state continues in Australia, with the onslaught by the left on free speech and dissent moving to a new level. Two examples of the intensification of this campaign involving the traditional and the new media can be given here.

Firstly, control of the traditional media. There have been the announcements over the past few weeks by the co-Prime Minister, Bob Brown, and his ultra-fanatical deputy, Christine Milne, that there will be an ‘inquiry’ into the media in Australia. The other PM, the malleable and complicit Julia Gillard, has gone along with their demands to have a “good inquiry” (i.e., a cooperative one) into the media that will produce the recommendations (which have probably already been written) that are required to justify and guide the imposition of state control over all media.

This new system will be designed to ensure that any newspapers or other media that criticize the Greens or the ALP, or their favoured causes or policies will be either closed down, or sold to new, sympathetic owners. Similarly, anyone seeking to start a new newspaper or media outlet will be required to obtain a licence from a new government media control agency, staffed and directed by the Greens and the left of the ALP. This licencing procedure is designed to ensure that only ‘fit and proper people’ will be allowed to operate newspapers and media, i.e., that they have beliefs and intentions acceptable to the government, and promise not to scrutinize or criticize the government or any of its favoured groups and individuals.

This control will be coupled with the increased use of state regulatory bodies like the Australian Communications and Media Authority to carry out persistent and systematic harassment of broadcasters over frivolous or spurious issues, at the instigation of left-wing, Greens, and radical front organizations, as with the current complaint made by GetUp! against Alan Jones over the exact contribution made by the human species to the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

This will be a system reminiscent of the supine media of the communist bloc, and like that of contemporary Communist China where, e.g., the media have just been instructed not to inquire into the causes of the recent rail disaster (which would be embarrassing for various ramshackle and corrupt government bureaucracies), but to focus instead on the human interest aspects of the story.

Secondly, there is the new media. Here the government has already put in place a system to utilize online forums to carry out concerted and brutal campaigns of intimidation and victimization of anyone who dares to have or express dissenting opinions, i.e., they hold views different from those espoused by the Greens, the left of the ALP, other resurgent Stalinists, and their truly fanatical supporters in the community.

A lead agency in this system of intimidation is The Drum, the ABC organ of ‘online opinion’, about which I wrote in a recent Quadrant Online article. It had been given permission to republish an earlier article of mine on the Oslo atrocities, in a gesture of belief in the value of reasoned debate in the media, and obviously as an act of faith that it wasn’t just a set-up.

Well, it was a set-up, and one that allowed over a hundred cyber-bullies to attack me personally and professionally for daring to express opinions that differed from theirs. As soon as I realized what was happening I contacted Jonathan Green, the editor of The Drum, pointing out the complete lack of balance in the comments, the viciousness of the attacks, and the danger that the publication of such comments may be defamatory. His response was that

it is clear … that in legal terms [the comments] would be defensible as honest opinion (or fair comment) by the respective commentators, on matters of public interest and based on your article. We therefore cannot accept your suggestion that the published material renders the ABC liable to you in any way.

In other words, the ABC has established a politically very valuable online forum that it manages and directs, and which publishes hundreds of vile and vindictive comments of a highly specific political nature, but over it which it appears to exercise little or no moderating control and for which it denies any responsibility or liability under the law. It allows and indeed encourages cyber-bullying on a massive scale that wouldn’t be allowed anywhere else in the community.

To achieve its objectives, The Drum appears to have cultivated a very specific type of audience – one with highly predictable leftist views, extremely volatile emotions, very little self-control, no respect whatsoever for dissenting views, and a quite vicious desire to ridicule, demean, and defame anybody who is not of the left, but who is naïve enough (like me) to allow their views to be published on The Drum.

No doubt the ABC feels very relaxed about this arrangement at the present time and happy that it has The Drum as an attack dog that it can turn loose on its victims at will. It seems very complacent, and happy that it is setting the agenda and can direct the violent rage of its cyber-bully assault force against whatever target it chooses.

Ultimately, of course, this behaviour is fundamentally undermining the principles and conventions of the public sphere upon which the freedoms and prosperity of liberal democratic societies depend. It is also setting a precedent for future governments, which may wish to use agencies like The Drum in a similar fashion, but for purposes that the present regime controlling the ABC won’t like at all (although the mass of the Australian people might benefit greatly). That may be deplorable, but the ABC has set the precedent, and it will have to accept full responsibility.

Leave a Reply