There’s a familiar refrain coming from commenters in the Murdoch press:
Why Piers? Why would these people who have chosen to enter politics want to harm Australia?
Why Andrew? Why would our Prime Minister want to harm the economy? Wouldn’t that be political suicide?
Why Miranda? Why would a government that will have to face voters at some point dismiss them out of hand?
Can anyone explain to me in clear terms why they believe that an Australian government would actively work to sabotage our nation, and its own electoral chances? It just doesn’t pass the sniff test, and yet we are relentlessly being told that our Federal Government wants to see the citizenry put in the poor house. Why?
I was no fan of a lot of the decisions made by the Howard government, but I never believed that he wanted our nation to fail. I vehemently disagreed with his vision of how a successful Australia should look, but I didn’t think that he was planning to deliberately undermine the whole of Australia. Yet since the election of Kevin Rudd in 2007, and his replacement by Julia Gillard in 2010, there have been wails of anguish from right wing commentators that our government means to do us harm. Why? And more importantly, why are people believing it?
Why aren’t the harbingers of doom ignored and ridiculed for their ongoing chicken little routines? How have we allowed our national discourse to slide to the point where government policy, and the PM, are called treasonous? Why does anyone take seriously the moronic accusations that we are close to being subjected to a totalitarian state?
Why do journalists who haven’t yet left the realms of sanity continue to provide cover for their unhinged colleagues rather than calling them out? Why doesn’t the fourth estate seem to care that they have lost the respect of so many of their customers?
An informed citizenry is an essential part of a healthy democracy, and our media are supposed to provide us with the information to make choices about how we are governed. What seems to have evolved, not just in Australia, is a situation where the fourth estate has decided that it’s more interesting to wield power than to hold it to account. Journos would rather be “insiders” than speak truth to power, our mass media is more interested in representing those with wealth and influence than holding them responsible for their words and actions. How has this become the status quo?
Our public discourse doesn’t represent a battle of ideas at the moment, News Ltd in particular has shown that it is willing to use a number of tactics to delegitimise and silence those whose views it disagrees with, and so we are reduced to sloganeering and partisanship. Under the cloak of a free press and the “right to know” our mass media are operating in a fashion where moral and sometimes even legal breaches are ignored, why doesn’t anyone speak out against this behaviour?
It seems to me that the first step in slowing down the “he said, she said”, overwrought, vapid styles of news reporting is to keep asking “Why?”. Why is this claim being made? Why is that relevant? Why should we believe that? These are questions that we used to expect our press to ask, but if they won’t, then we need to. The amazing thing is how quickly a lot of the hysterical claims in the media fall apart if you simply ask “Why?”. The second step is to dismiss any journalist whose answer is “I don’t know, butâŚ”, if they have not asked “Why?”, then the information they are trying to convey is meaningless.
It’s time to ask the commentariat why they believe the things that they are espousing. Why don’t they believe the IPCC? Why do they believe that our government wants to ruin our economy? Why should we trust them to base their work on unprintable secrets, told to them by unnamed people in the corridors of power? Why should we accept that anything they say has authority?
If the fourth estate now wants to wield the power it was supposed to keep in check then it is well and truly time to ask, “Why?”.