2005-09-06

Entertainment is a Commodity. Truth is a Right.

The Daily Telegraph is a Sydney based tabloid newspaper. It is well known for its exceptionally bad writing, its pandering to the lowest common denominator and, occasionally, outright lies.

For those who are not from Australia, there was a major news story in Sydney in the week before Hurricane Katrina arrived. John Brogden, the NSW opposition leader and member of the Liberal Party (which is, ironically, a conservative political party like the US Republican party), had been reported in the media as saying some rather unsavoury things about his political opponent, former Premier of NSW, Bob Carr - or rather, about his wife, Helena Carr.

What had happened was this. Bob Carr announced his retirement some weeks ago. John Brogden, his political opponent, held a party with a number of journalists that night to celebrate his opponent's leaving. During that party, he got a little drunk, and described Carr's wife, who is Malaysian, as a "Mail-order Bride". He also pinched a female journalist's posterior and propositioned another female journalist. When all this came out in public, Brogden was humiliated. He did the only "honourable" thing open to him and resigned as opposition leader. He then attempted suicide, but was hospitalised in time. The outrage over Brogden's behaviour was soon lulled by genuine public concern over his wellbeing.

So what's all this about the Daily Telegraph? Well the Telegraph made some rather unsavoury reports of Brogden's past sexual escapades. It reported that in 2003, Brogden had proposed a "threesome" with two female journalists. For some reason it appears that the Telegraph named those journalists.

Media Watch, an Australian TV series that explores current media issues, was contacted by the journalists involved and has concluded that the Telegraph report was a lie. (Brogden sex claim branded a lie - SMH) The entire story was concocted by the journalist/editor of the newspaper in order to cash in on this sad episode. As a result, they have wrongly smeared the name of a man who has already destroyed his political career.

I was never a fan of John Brogden, and there was no other option but for him to resign. Nevertheless I was impressed by the man's honesty in front of the media when he confessed his wrong behaviour, and offered no excuses whatsoever. The man's career is ruined, his marriage is likely to be "on the rocks" and his own emotional state is delicate.

A friend of mine was once on a bus reading a fantasy novel. The person next to him commented to him "Still reading kid's books I see." The man was reading the Daily Telegraph. My friend related later how ironic such a statement was.

The media are so important in our society - but economic realities such as competition and advertising ensure that the media are always going to report things badly. The Telegraph is aimed at people with lower levels of literacy, so their readers don't always worry about whether they are being fed lies. More liberal and educated newspapers, like the Sydney Morning Herald, have readers that appreciate objectivity and facts more. That's not to say that the SMH is unbiased though, as any Sydney Anglican can testify.

I invented by own adage to describe my feelings about this: Entertainment is a Commodity; Truth is a Right. When it comes to entertaining us with TV shows and other things, the media are selling us a commodity via the selling of advertising space. Good on them - let them keep doing it. But Truth - especially truthful reporting of events and unbiased covering - is a right. No one should ever be led to believe falsehood by the media.

Oh, by the way, for my North American readers - the most repulsive and consistently biased news organisation you guys have is Fox News. It's owned by Rupert Murdoch and News Corporation too - the same owners of Sydney's Daily Telegraph. Feel free to blame Australia for that one.


From the Department of Wha's Happnin?

© 2005 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/


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2 comments:

Anonymous said...

You say that the Liberal Party of Australia is "ironically a conservative party".

I understand that you are trying to write for both an international audience and an Australian audience that knows very little of its own political history, but I think this characterisation is misleading.

I think a better description would be to call it a party with both liberal and conservative roots and a party which presently has both liberal and conservative wings, but which compared with some other "liberal" parties is more "conservative" than "liberal". And there's nothing "ironic" at all about that ... unless of course you're a fundamentalist progressive ("two legs good, four legs bad" stuff).

The problem is that words describing political positions such as "liberal", "conservative" "progressive" etc. are fluid to say the least. The meaning will vary across cultures and times and even individuals within a culture and even between individuals. What was once "progressive" can be subsequently old hat and championing it becomes "conservative". What one person finds "progressive" another finds folly.

What is exactly a "conservative" or a "liberal" or a "progressive" on your view? What makes the Liberal Party "ironically" a "conservative" party on your view?

I suppose for a died in the wool lefty the Liberal Party of Australia would be "ironically conservative", but for many died in the wool conservatives the Liberal Party of Australia would be too liberal and not conservative enough.

Moreover, compared to the National Party of Australia the Liberals really are quite "liberal". If you are looking for a truly "conservative" party in Australia it would have to be the National Party.

And of course compared with "conservative" politics in, say, Iran the Liberal Part of Australia is a shining beacon of liberalism. Matters are confused even more by the fact that Americans tend to use the word "liberal" in a different sense from the rest of the world (more what might be referrred to as "progressive" -- or "regressive" on my view of things -- in other parts of the world).

When the Liberal Party of Australia was founded, the party's name was no accident and far from "ironic". It was very much a conscious decision to name the party "liberal" and not "conservative". This was not some cynical plot by evil conservatives to foist their diabolical views on a saintly progressive populace. In Commonwealth countries the word "conservative" has a particular pedigree with which the newly formed Liberal Party of Australia did not want to identify.

Now admittedly times have changed and many of the old issues associated with conservatism (such as aristocracy, Empire, an Established Church of England) are no longer issues in modern Australia.

But there is still a good case today for calling the Liberal Party "liberal".

One Salient Oversight said...

I actually agree with you on this one - their economic and social policies are more in line with classical liberalism and libertarianism.

But I had to make sure my North American readers understood!