In (sort of) defence of The Australian

With the Media Inquiry in full swing and the Greens’ Bob Brown complaining loudly about News’s lack of fairness and accuracy, now might be a good time to travel back in time 20 years. Let’s visit another era when a powerful paper was unashamedly boosting one side of politics – the left.

In 1992, Joan Kirner’s government was in its dying days: state government debt had ballooned, and many ministers seemed frequently to be denying reality. One newspaper, however, resisted the consensus that change was needed. The Age stuck by Kirner, took its initiatives seriously, derided the government’s critics and Opposition Leader Jeff Kennett in particular. Some of its best journalists, on beats like national politics and business, looked on in despair. But the state reporters and commentators would not be swayed. Balance consisted of criticising the Kirner government from the left as much as from the right.

The Age had many fine journalists in that era, but working on state issues there sometimes had an air of unreality. When Kennett won the 1992 election in a landslide, some of the paper’s reporters seemed not quite to believe it had happened. Only one of the paper’s Melbourne-based political journalists – the cheerfully professional Sue Neales – appeared to have cultivated contacts within the Coalition. ALP reformers like John Brumby thought the Cain/Kirner government had stuffed up; quite a few at The Age did not. On my third day working for the paper in Melbourne in 1993, I turned down a request from a news editor to write an opinion piece explaining that the new government’s budgetary tightening was unnecessary and dangerous. When Kennett’s initiatives succeeded – he ran one of the most successful privatisation processes ever – many at The Age seemed determined to ignore them. Steve Bracks and John Brumby knew better; on assuming government, they kept the best of the Kennett government reforms firmly in place.

Alan Kohler, appointed editor in 1992 to bring the paper back to a more centrist line, struggled against the power of the paper’s welded-on sympathy for the left. Kohler’s successor, Bruce Guthrie, an aggressive newsman, made Kennett the target of much of his aggression.

The point is not that The Australian’s frenzied campaigning against the current federal government is warranted. (I don’t think it is, and neither do many journalists at The Australian.) It’s not even that The Age’s approach in the early 1990s damaged democracy (the News-owned Herald-Sun was pro-Kennett, and frequently manically so, throughout this period). The point is simply that newspapers have campaigned against governments at regular intervals in Australian history, and campaigned at least as hard as The Australian is campaigning against the federal government now. If a newspaper or an owner has a duty to be even-handed, no-one noticed in the early 1990s. Certainly not Bob Brown.

About David Walker

David Walker runs publishing consultancy Shorewalker DMS (shorewalker.net) and is commissioning editor of Acuity magazine. David has previously edited the award-winning INTHEBLACK business magazine, been chief operating officer of online publisher WorkDay Media, held policy and communications roles at the Committee for Economic Development of Australia and the Business Council of Australia, and run the website for online finance start-up eChoice. He has written professionally on economics, business and public policy since 1987 and spent three years in the Canberra Press Gallery for News Limited and The Age.
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54 Responses to In (sort of) defence of The Australian

  1. m says:

    Tu quoque ( /tu??kwo?kwi?/), or the appeal to hypocrisy, is a kind of logical fallacy. It is a Latin term for “you, too” or “you, also”. A tu quoque argument attempts to discredit the opponent’s position by asserting his failure to act consistently in accordance with that position; it attempts to show that a criticism or objection applies equally to the person making it. This dismisses someone’s point of view on an issue on the argument that the person is inconsistent in that very thing. It is considered an ad hominem argument, since it focuses on the party itself, rather than its positions.

  2. Chris Lloyd says:

    There is no question in my mind that the Age are as biased as the Australian. The Australian is biased on the mining tax, carbon tax, tax in general. The Age cannot discuss race, sexuality, gender or immigration with even a semblance of objectivity. Both papers routinely choose their lead story to make a political point.

    I guess you are trying to argue that it was always thus. But my subjective impression is that media is more partisan than it was 20 years ago. Perhaps it is due to the complete trumph of market ideology – that aspitring to journalistic standards is economically naive for a commercial newspaper. Or perhaps the polarisation of US politics is leaking into the antipodes.

  3. Pedro says:

    “Perhaps it is due to the complete trumph of market ideology – that aspitring to journalistic standards is economically naive for a commercial newspaper.”

    If you mean that papers evolve to favour a point of view because that captures a market, then haven’t the UK papers being doing that for yonks?

  4. Patrick says:

    I obviously don’t have any recollection of newspapers more than a few decades ago. But my understanding, based on my history studies and my reading of fiction and non-fiction alike, is that any ‘golden age’ of objective journalism must have been rather short-lived. I don’t believe, for example, that slavery was the subject of dispassionate analysis in antebellum America, North or South. What of the French revolution anywhere? The Boer war? Nixon? Kennedy? Hoover? The Communist Party? Menzies? Whitlam?

    Interestingly, the ‘welded-on’ struck a chord: an experienced newspaper writer/editor I know said that the socialism at the Age was ’embedded in the pillars’!

  5. Ken Parish says:

    Discussion about biases simply highlights that the real issue is not bias or balance at all, but News’ print monopoly in too many cities. In Sydney and Melbourne you can make a persuasive case that News and Fairfax together provide reasonable diversity, especially when you put ABC and assorted online media into the picture.

    However in places like Brisbane, Adelaide and Darwin the News Ltd monopoly IS problematic.

    Nor do I think the issue is resolved by pointing to the increasing range of online/alt media etc. It remains the case that most people get their news and opinion from the MSM, and that print MSM coverage still informs and shapes other online/alt media (and indeed electronic MSM). As long as that remains the case the News monopoly remains a real practical problem in cities where it exists.

    However it seems unlikely that Finkelstein will tackle that issue (it might even be outside his terms of reference – I haven’t checked). Strengthening the powers of the Press Council, putting the print media under ACMA or creating a specialist formal print media regulator might help in creating better checks and balances for dealing with individual complaints of breach of privacy or unfair treatment at the hands of the print media, but won’t do anything at all to address wider systemic issues of lack of diversity of opinion, perspective and judgment as to what is newsworthy.

    As I’ve argued previously (and it’s in no sense original), there has never been an era when newspapers even closely approached some notional ideal of balance, objectivity and/or scrupulous publication of diverse viewpoints. Newspapers in the 19th and early 20th century were mostly shamelessly partisan scandal rags e.g. the Bulletin. That isn’t a problem if you have a wide range of publishers with different biases etc. If previous governments had refused to allow Murdoch to take over the HWT or Fairfax to acquire The Age, we might not be having the current debate. OTOH the financial pressures generated by the Internet might well have meant we’d be facing the choice now (rather than 20-30 years ago) of allowing mergers or seeing some of them simply declare bankruptcy.

  6. zoot says:

    If a newspaper or an owner has a duty to be even-handed, no-one noticed in in the early 1990s. Certainly not Bob Brown.

    Since Brown was a member of the Tasmanian House of Assembly at the time, why should he have taken any notice of Melbourne newspapers?
    I think Ken has nailed it – the real issue is the near monopoly of Limited News.

  7. whyisitso says:

    Why is it the responsibility of News Ltd to have opposition newspapers in Adelaide, Brisbane , Darwin and Hobart? There’s no real barrier to Fairfax or anyone else setting up outlets in these cities. Would you have the government close down the News Ltd papers in these cities, or force them to sell to leftish operations?

    The Australian has a number of left-wing journalists and columnists writing for it. There’s Van Onselen, Steketee, Adams, Overington, Megalogenis, to name a few. As a conservative I often find myself disagreeing heavily with Paul Kelly, who writes often enough from a left-wing perspective, although he’s more even-handed than most. There is far more left-wing commentary in the Australian than you find of conservative commentary in The Sydney Morning Herald. There, after you’ve read Gerard Henderson and Paul Sheehan, you see very little conservative commentary. I understand The Age is even worse. They sacked Henderson a number of years ago on the basis of his ideology.

  8. Ken Parish says:

    “There’s no real barrier to Fairfax or anyone else setting up outlets in these cities.”

    Really? In 1984 Peter Isaacson Publications decided to set up a Sunday newspaper in Darwin. Murdoch had a monopoly and had never bothered to establish a Sunday paper at all, so Isaacson saw a market niche opportunity. Murdoch got wind of it and bankrolled his local Darwin operation to the tune of millions to send Isaacson broke by all available means. News Ltd registered the business name “Sunday Territorian” just minutes before Isaacson. Isaacson began publishing under that name anyway (too late to change). Litigation ensued and the Federal Court held that neither could make out a sufficient case for exclusivity and so both were mutually restrained from using the name without clear product differentiation. See Re Peter Isaacson Publications Pty Limited v Nationwide News Pty Limited; Northern Territory News Services Pty Limited

    Murdoch then proceeded to give away its version of the Sunday Territorian to all Darwin residents free of charge for the next 9 months or so until Isaacson gave up and closed down.

    No real barrier? Sure. Australia’s anti-monopoly laws are pathetic. Unlike the US (e.g. Baby Bells, Standard Oil etc), the ACCC does not have and never has had power to order the breakup of a monopoly however toxic and unprincipled.

  9. whyisitso says:

    1984 – nearly 30 years ago! Plenty has changed since then. Isaacsons was a pathetic organisation, very poorly managed and doomed to fail. The ACCC today has plenty of power to fight predatory behaviour – it just has to use it.

    I would have thought that before you even started planning to set up a business you would register your trade name(s) first. Failure to do so indicates extremely poor management. You can’t blame competitors for your own hopeless management practices.

  10. FDB says:

    The ACCC today has plenty of power to fight predatory behaviour – it just has to use it.

    I suspect that you would prefer they didn’t.

  11. Patrick says:

    The modern-day counterexample to Isaacsons is of course Fox News who dared cater to the other half of the market and lapped it up.

    All of this is partly missing the point of course; the real question is how do we facilitate the next generation of media without just entrenching the current generation (apparently the default strategy!!).

  12. whyisitso says:

    I suspect that you would prefer they didn’t.

    Crap!!!

  13. Bill Posters says:

    I love how the Herald Sun’s campaign against the Kirner government is relegated to a parenthesis. In fact, it was not just maniacal. It was also very expensive.

    Piers Akerman was brought in especially to do the job on Kirner – he had a mandate to finish off the government, which was already in poor shape.

    But the campaign was so relentlessly one-sided and unfair that circulation plunged. I don’t have the figures handy, unfortunately. It took some years for circulation to recover. This was in the pre-internet period when lost circ could be recovered over time – these days the readers would be gone forever. (Indeed, it’s doubtful the print edition Herald Sun will get back all the circ it’s lost in the past year or so under the current editor/a fairly stringent cost-cutting regime).

  14. whyisitso says:

    The Cain/Kirner government was the third worst government Australia has ever had, beaten only by the Whitlam government and the Iemma/Rees/Keneally government in NSW. Not sure where I’d place the Brian Burke government in the pantheon of Labor Party failures.

    It takes a special kind of genius to destroy an icon like the State Savings Bank of Victoria.

  15. FDB says:

    The modern-day counterexample to Isaacsons is of course Fox News who dared cater to the other half of the market and lapped it up.

    Only if you ignore the entire point of Ken’s example – that Isaacson was hounded out by entrenched interests. Fox was already under a very bloody handy umbrella before it started bravely catering to the neglected morons of the uneducated right.

  16. Patrick says:

    It’s beyond me why one would prefer the educated morons of the Age to the uneducated morons of Fox News (leaving aside that a lot of people who watch Fox News are very evidently not morons).

    At least lack of education could be an excuse.

  17. Fred Argy says:

    The truth is that the Murdoch press (which is generally pretty unanimous)controls about 70% of the daily newspapers, whereas the Age has only a small coverage. Murdoch has a semi-monopoly, as Ken Parish says.

  18. Pedro says:

    Ken’s example shows you need deep pockets to get a paper started, but the reason Brisbane has only one paper is that the market won’t support a second paper. Ditto I expect for the other single daily markets. So what difference would it make in Brisbane if Fairfax owned the only single daily instead of Murdoch?

    If your complaint is that some of the markets have near monopoly newspapers then you need to show that a second paper is viable. If your complaint is that Murdoch owns the monopoly papers then talk about force divestments is irrelevant to media choice in the affected markets.

  19. Nicholas Gruen says:

    There are no ‘like’ buttons on this blog – should we have them?

    In any event, I liked Patrick’s last comment. Educated stupidity is worse than uneducated stupidity (though somehow right wing stupidity is nastier than left wing stupidity IMHO! They’re both probably equally dangerous, but in different ways and in different circumstances.)

  20. KB Keynes says:

    Ken had dispatched the first part of Whyisitso idiocy to the fence.

    The second is equally stupid. Have you ever read about State governments before the Depressions of the 1890s at all. Victoria take a big bow.

    Whitlam was bad but Bruce was appalling.

    bias we all can live with but it is the Australian’s blatant lies that is irksome.
    They are simply blatant.
    Fairfax aren’t in the race at all.

  21. whyisitso says:

    The Australian has a number of left-wing journalists and columnists writing for it. There’s Van Onselen, Steketee, Adams, Overington, Megalogenis, to name a few. As a conservative I often find myself disagreeing heavily with Paul Kelly, who writes often enough from a left-wing perspective, although he’s more even-handed than most. There is far more left-wing commentary in the Australian than you find of conservative commentary in The Sydney Morning Herald. There, after you’ve read Gerard Henderson and Paul Sheehan, you see very little conservative commentary. I understand The Age is even worse. They sacked Henderson a number of years ago on the basis of his ideology.

    You can’t deny the truth of this paragraph, Homer.

  22. Dan says:

    Van Onselen has close links with the Liberal Party and was on Tony Abbott’s staff when he was workplace relations minister.

    He only looks left-wing from waaay, waaay to the right.

    Megalogenis is, in Australia, the quintessential informed issues-based political commentator, and I bet he’s a swinging voter. Wonderful journalist, who I often disagree with.

  23. FDB says:

    The Age (and for that matter The Australian), do not cater to morons.

    Patrick missed my point, so no likeys from me.

  24. whyisitso says:

    “He only looks left-wing from waaay, waaay to the right.”

    No, he looks left-wing to anyone who reads his material in The Australian. Having tenuous links (historically) to the Liberal Party does not say anything about his ideology. Petro Georgiou also had links to the Liberals and is in fact to the left of most members of the ALP, and would be more at home with the Greens.

    Van Onselen has a highly inflated sense of his own importance. He wrote a book once on the Liberals and threw a childish tanty when one busy Howard minister had a staffer put together a contribution. The Australian would be better off without him, but I suppose retaining him gives the paper a sense of balance, something the SMH doesn’t even attempt with right-wingers.

  25. whyisitso says:

    The book referred to above was written after the Howard government was defeated,o the busy Minister was by then a busy shadow minister. This doesn’t change the essence of my comment.

  26. Marks says:

    whyisitso @ 14

    Read something like Jennings’ “W.A Webb” and you will see the financial shenanigans of a succession of left and right governments in South Australia that made Cain/Kirner, McMahon, etc look like paragons of financial rectitude.

    One could also ask about the stewardship of the Menzies years which featured high tariff walls.

    These would be the sorts of cases that I presume a newspaper that claimed any degree of ‘quality’ would look at…and examine and debate.

    Normally words like ‘moronic’ as have been used elsewhere on this thread are a bit of an exaggeration and a waste of space, but when a newspaper that has pretensions to quality allows such shoddy and blatantly silly statements through, and its readers actually seem to believe it, then the choice of descriptors becomes somewhat limited, and ‘clever’ isn’t among them.

  27. Dan says:

    “Van Onselen has a highly inflated sense of his own importance.”

    If I’m a professor by the time I turn 35, I’ll be shouting it from the rooftops as well. Guy’s obviously bright as, and a great self-promoter (for better or worse).

    As for Fairfax and conservatism – did you notice when Andrew Bacevich visited, Fairfax and the ABC fawned over him? That’s because he’s a smart, articulate, principled conservative, with consistently well-thought-out positions. We just don’t seem to have them in the public eye in Australia (though I know through personal experience that they exist outside it); our conservative commentators are opportunistic hacks and will contort any which way to support the quasi-conservative flavour of the month. I think that’s a shame.

  28. Dan says:

    Incidentally, branding anyone isn’t a reactionary as “non-conservative” doesn’t help your cause one bit. The middle ground is where the actual debate takes place.

  29. Patrick says:

    That’s an important idea Dan. I very strongly suspect that the middle ground is the territory staked out by the more successful extremists of the previous generation.

  30. Dan says:

    Really? Unless I’ve misunderstood you, I disagree – the electorate is inherently conservative in the first dictionary meaning of the word (which is why, say, LurkChoices was such a flop). I think extremists influence the position of the Overton window, but when their ideas get up, it’s as a result of a long reformist process rather than a revolutionary one.

    Maybe this is what you were pointing to?

    Also, I can think of exceptions, especially when the Chicago School are in the picture.

  31. KB Keynes says:

    Whyisitso,

    That has nothing to do with what Ken demolished.

    I really do not care what commentators write.

    It is the lies and specious articles I object to and they are a dime a dozen at the Australian. They are not at the SMH

  32. Tel says:

    Calling Andrew Bacevich a “conservative” is equivalent to calling Ron Paul a “conservative”. Both of them are actually quite radical, they just espouse ideas of freedom and personal responsibility that might have been popular back in the days of “classical liberalism”, but those ideas have no place to fit comfortably into the modern political scene… they are very much fringe dwellers.

    Bacevich has been repeatedly critical of the Washington war machine (so has Ron Paul) and also critical of the Wall Street government takeover (so has Ron Paul), these things are probably enough to make the ABC give him a run. He also writes articles for various “progressive” blogs so I guess he is a bit more on their wavelength than Ron Paul (who is probably a touch more extreme).

  33. Mr Denmore says:

    You need to differentiate professional journalists from paid commentators/trollumnists – whose job it is to manufacture outrage. George Mega is of the former school, the Akermans and Bolts the latter.

    Real journalists base their analysis on truth, not on a prefabricated ideological position that tailors the facts to fit.

    The Australian is a crap paper because it gave up representing the truth and decided its aim in life is pursue the culture wars. Any journalist can see that. And most of my former colleagues at The Australian would agree.

    Good journalism doesn’t take sides. And it doesn’t fight causes, other than advancing the truth and taking pride in being a trusted source.

  34. Dan says:

    @Tel: just because most contemporary “conservatives” have abandoned actual conservatism in favour of some market liberal zombie doesn’t mean that there isn’t an actual core set of values that are conservative. I’ll let you name some thinkers in this tradition for us, since you object to Bacevich. (Wendell Berry? Paul Craig Roberts?)

    Ron Paul seems to think that if everyone just butts out of everyone else’s business, the world will spring into a social and economic equilibrium resembling the main street of Dullsville, Ohio. That’s not conservatism, it’s wishful thinking.

    As John Ralston Saul notes, the unfettered market and small-town values are enemies. The question for (supposed) conservatives is really which way to go here. And it’s the biggest ideological fissure in contemporary conservatism, one which in my view really hasn’t been adequately addressed.

  35. hammygar says:

    Dan, I think we’ve started to fight back against the unfettered market.

    Right wingers must be made to realise that these days knowledge and wisdom resides in a select few, and our lives need to be guided by them. It’s what the law is for, and conservatives say they’re in favour of law and order.

  36. Peter Mariani says:

    Doesn’t look the OZ has ever done much of a good job on the “balanced reporting” reporting side of things. At least its consistently bad.. Thanks for the historical perspective of the “hysterical perspective” of news…

  37. Dan says:

    Hammygar:

    I don’t think I 100% take your point – that’s just a classic competing goods thing a la Richard Holloway. To simplify: loss of autonomy and possible health risks to the child, vs disruption, possibly elevated physical risk and a different set of health risks on the other side of the equation…? The case in favour of either course of action stems from humanistic imperatives.

    People’s opinions on this would cut right across political lines, I imagine (with the obvious exception of libertarians, who imagine they place a great deal of emphasis on non-coercion, though in practice are quite willing to turn a blind eye to historical injustice. “We’ll object to government coercion starting… now!”).

  38. Patrick says:

    Dan, I’m not sure what is meant by the unfettered market. And I’m pretty libertarian, so I’m guessing that is more of a strawman or left-wing insider joke than a real issue. Pointing to Ron Paul only changes my conclusions if you accept that we can have a real discussion about how to combat the left’s support for communism as extolled by, for example, Jean-Luc Melenchon and Robert Hue?

    Back in the real world, there would appear to be plenty of room for debate as to whether the State facilitates the market more or less passively, and how much choice people are capable of. There would also be plenty of room for debate around how much explicit regulation of morality is required – there are, you will of course be aware, many kinds of fetters!

    ~ ~ ~

    Separately, in defence of the Australian, we would have to invent one if we didn’t have it. Consider for example the Aborigine affairs reporting that triggered the NT intervention on which Ken has recently written – the SMAged was never going to write that.

    Rest assured, I find the sheer idiocy of much of the Age’s reporting on lefty hot button issues at least as infuriating as you find the Australian’s numerous pecadilloes, which is why I practically never read it anymore. I’m far from convinced that they are substantively worse.

  39. Dan says:

    Patrick: You’re quite right. Of course markets are always embedded in societies, cultures and histories and their effective (and efficient) functioning is guaranteed by gov’t. Nice to see a self-described libertarian keen to acknowledge this. If I substitute the expression ‘progressively increasing market liberalism’, does that make my point clearer?

    As for the left’s support for Communism: while reasonably lefty myself, I think Communism has clearly failed historically and lends itself to power structures at least as odious as unreconstructed capitalism.

  40. Patrick says:

    Dan, I hope that was intended. Because that kind of idiocy is the reason why tribes can’t talk to each other.

    Capitalism, reconstructed, erected, built or fabricated, or un-any of the above, whatever its faults, has expanded the scope of human freedom and agency beyond what was previously imaginable and improved the lives of billions.

    Communism, historically and as a simple ‘background fact’ of politics, wherever and whenever tried outside of a kibbutz in every form whatsoever, has resulted in power structures at least as odious as anything ever put into practice outside of a prison camp.

  41. Ken Parish says:

    “Consider for example the Aborigine affairs reporting that triggered the NT intervention on which Ken has recently written – the SMAged was never going to write that.”

    Actually it’s generally accepted that the media push that most directly led to Little Children Are Sacred inquiry and then ultimately the Howard Intervention was ABC Lateline coverage esp Tony Jones, for which he was pilloried by many on the Left. There was also some excellent coverage by the Oz especially Paul Toohey. You’re right that I don’t recall anything much from Fairfax.

  42. Dan says:

    [email protected]: I was thinking of Pinochet’s Chile, in which the ideological connection between economic and social freedom was comprehensively broken.

  43. Patrick says:

    [email protected], more fool you then, it’s hard to imagine that Pinochet’s Chile was worse than any practical example of communism I can think of. You will recall of course that the great strength of communism is that the ‘ideological connection between economic and social freedom‘ is comprehensively reinforced, albeit only because both inevitably approach zero.

    Ken, I’ll take your word for it!

  44. Dan says:

    Patrick: you are deliberately missing my point in favour of being tribe-y. I was making the fairly obvious point that regardless of whether you go right or left, if you go too far you get a bad result.

    You turned this into “The Soviet Union was worse than Pinochet’s Chile!”. As it happens, I disagree, but in any event it’s irrelevant.

    In the interests of restoring your focus and helping you be a bit less Manichean, you might wish to undertake the following task: identify a criticism of capitalism that you either agree with or at least can see merit in. It’s good intellectual exercise :)

  45. Patrick says:

    Dan, in the interests of bonhomie and consensus let’s go from the bottom up:

    identify a criticism of capitalism that you either agree with or at least can see merit in

    Easy, I think that capitalism is too susceptible to regulatory capture and interest-group concessions.

    Consensus aside and bonhomie be damned, I’m not being tribal. There is simply nothing of just about any good about the Soviet Union at all, or Communist China (as opposed to today’s China), or North Korea or Communist Vietnam or anywhere Communist. Pinochet’s Chile was horrible and should be condemned. But we aren’t on the same page with our basic moral tenets if we can’t unconditionally condemn Communism as wrong and abhorrent in all respects.

    So our hopes of post-manichean dialogue are limited.

  46. Dan says:

    a) Okay – how would you go about reforming those tendencies?

    b) Plenty of Russians seem to yearn for the ‘good old days’ before capitalism. I’m not saying they’re necessarily on the right track but would you consider the possibility that they have more insight into their life histories and present circumstances than you?

    c) My condemnation of Communism is conditional insofar as what’s in Capital hasn’t actually been enacted. But where it’s been attempted, it’s failed. No doubt.

    d) “I’m not being tribal” but “our hopes of post-manichean dialogue are limited”. Uhm…

  47. KB Keynes says:

    Patrick,

    Capitalism cannot work without some sort of regulation. without that it the market doesn’t work.
    The argument is always about regulation that accentuates competition where possible.

  48. Nicholas Gruen says:

    I agree with Patrick – strongly.

    However it is possible I think to identify one quite strongly good thing about communism as it’s been experienced at least at the outset and for some years afterward. Early on, and often lingering on for a considerable period is that healthcare improves for the vast majority of people. I don’t know enough to know it was true in Russia but I’d expect it to be. It was true in China and very true in Cuba which had a good health system for a long time and may still do.

    Otherwise it’s horrible in pretty much all respects.

  49. Dan says:

    Nicholas – not to be a pedant, but Patrick asked for unconditional condemnation of Communism.

    I have no trouble condemning it, but the “unconditional” bit is always going to be a problem for any non-ideologue.

    You yourself said you agreed with him strongly, but then added a condition!

  50. Nicholas Gruen says:

    Fair point – I was reacting to your comment that “Communism has clearly failed historically and lends itself to power structures at least as odious as unreconstructed capitalism.” I think it’s worse than that.

  51. Dan says:

    Okay, I’ll concede that. But the key thrust of Patrick’s argument was: aren’t those lefties awful for supporting Communist dictatorship, something I personally disavowed right off the bat.

    Incidentally, Cuba continues to exert soft power via the export of (apparently impressive) medical services.

  52. Patrick says:

    Not quite what I was getting at, Dan. I was simply trying to pre-empt you saying that ‘righties’ have to wear Ron Paul by pointing to elected officials in a foreign country who support communism.

    If anything I meant to prevent a (false) debate similar to the one that we have just had. I think that’s what they call, these days, a fail.

  53. Dan says:

    Ha. Well, I don’t think I have much to add then, other than to say I don’t think I’m alone on the left in disavowing Communism, and certainly in its various historical guises. No doubt plenty of right-wingers think that Ron Paul’s a berk. Cheers for the discussion :)

  54. observa says:

    Aren’t the papers just populist and appealing largely to their demographics? Victoria seems to be a lefty haven judging by even a Ballieu Govt and hence The Age. Darwin naturally gets its Croc stories and pooh poohing all them Sutherners. Adelaide gets the flower shows, yartz and fetes mentality with a great big dose of anti-development reporting which seems to be the local pastime. Oh that and how them Easterners are always nicking ‘our’ water out the Murray.

    All in all I’d say the papers target their respective markets pretty well and blow with the electoral winds of change. I guess that makes them lean toward the lowest common denominator to earn a quid. They don’t call it mainstream media for nothing.

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