Fortunately, I came clean long before the US election and said that Trump would lose and probably should. It became apparent to me, months before the election, that he was determined to talk himself out of the job and he surpassed my wildest expectations. As it turned out, the path to victory was always there, if only he would shut up and stop alienating one group of voters after another. But, of course, that was asking too much. Now, as we survey the self-immolation of Trumpdammerung, we can start counting the damage. The main result in the US and in Australia will be that, for the foreseeable future, whenever anyone promotes a conservative view or perspective, our enemies will say the ghost of the discredited Donald Trump has risen from the dead, and the mainstream media will joyfully join in with editorials claiming that we do not want a re-run of that appalling era, do we? As far as Australia is concerned, I doubt if the Liberal party has the people or the skills to defeat this tactic and to present a persuasive conservative case on anything. In fact, a disturbing example of this has just appeared and we are only a few days into the new era. The issue has arisen as to whether the social media platforms should ban Trump entirely and whether, consequently, the platforms should be allowed to censor what they regard as undesirable content. Trust the Liberal party to be off to a flying start on that issue. One of their number, and a darling of big media, Dave Sharma MP, offered his solution. Why, he said, let us set up a tribunal to decide what to censor and what to allow. It would be a publicly accountable body, and it should make its decisions ‘on the basis of transparent reasoning and principles.’
He may as well have added ‘Just like the Human Rights Commission.’ Fortunately, our old friend Tim Soutphommasane is available as Chairman. I thought he had retired from branding all of us in his adopted country as ‘racists’. But he has found new sustenance at the cricket, where Australians are being ejected for making allegedly racist remarks about Indian players. Young Tim’s contribution was to say that the real evil that must be rooted out was ‘mocking’. Obviously, there is too much mocking going on and it must be stamped out, together with its evil cousins satire and irony.
In other words, the party of big government, as usual, has a big government solution: let the government decide what we are allowed to see and read. We went through all of that in 2013 when we rejected the Orwellian proposal of the Finkelstein Inquiry to establish a News Media Council as chief media censor. But here is the new Liberal party, off again. At least Mr. Sharma is consistent; he follows a discredited line of Liberal colleagues who wanted to take away Bettina Arndt’s Order of Australia simply because they did not like her comments on violence to women.
Also, on the media, it would be naïve if we looked back on 2020 without mentioning the very significant change that took place in the media and the matters it regards as appropriate to cover, particularly at the ABC. I refer, of course, to the Four Corners program on sex and the city and allegations about Alan Tudge and Christian Porter. It seems unthinkable that such a program could even be contemplated, but it shows how monumental a change has occurred in the media’s understanding of what is fair game. I do not want to ban it or punish the ABC for running it. I simply want to ridicule it, for that is what it deserves. The program was excessively intrusive and went into what were entirely matters of private behaviour: ‘current affairs’ perhaps. Anyway, the respective women clearly consented, one expressly, because she claims she was in a consensual liaison with Tudge and the other because an office girl having a snog with Christian Porter in full public view is hardly the Rape of the Sabine Virgins. The excuse for the program seems to be that it is a matter of public interest when someone claims there is a so-called toxic atmosphere in Canberra where female staff members are being leered at and propositioned by Coalition MPs. But female staffers are not being leered at or propositioned by Labor or Greens MPs. We are apparently being asked to believe that Greens and ALP lawmakers retire to their virginal couches after a hard day’s work closing a mine here and discovering a new human right there and nod off dreaming of a fossil-free future. Meanwhile, LNP politicians are rampaging through the demi-monde of Canberra, raping cattle and dragging virgins back to their kraals. The whole thing is ludicrous, of course, but that is the level to which the media has sunk. However, my point is not to try to drum up sympathy for the Liberal party in general or the two ministers in particular. In fact, I have no sympathy for the government. It deserves everything it gets from the ABC. Coalition governments have pandered to the ABC, given it extensive power and the ability to range into areas of broadcasting that can and should be adequately served by the commercial media. Moreover, Ita Buttrose, the new Chair, was involved and could have stopped the program had she wished. It is another brilliant stroke by Morrison to have personally picked Ms. Buttrose, overruling yet again any choice that the independent panel on appointments would have recommended. When I was on the panel, we grew sick and disheartened as the Coalition government ignored or overruled our recommendations, put their toadies on the Board — and look at the result. As for Tudge and Porter, their party brought this embarrassment on itself. Get ready for a lot more of the same impartial coverage from the ABC during this election year.
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