Features Australia

Failure of the Fourth Estate

No wonder the Press is held in such contempt

21 May 2022

9:00 AM

21 May 2022

9:00 AM

How many readers have heard of the Republican-leaning polling operation, Rasmussen? Rasmussen’s results are as good as the many left-leaning pollsters over the past two presidential elections – make that better than most (though it’s not been tough competition). The firm has the best daily presidential tracking poll going. Well, last week Rasmussen released a survey of 1,000 US likely voters conducted May 11-12. The poll has a margin of sampling error of plus-or-minus three percentage points with a 95 per cent level of confidence.   Amongst other things the poll showed three times more Americans believe the legacy media was more aggressive in questioning former president Trump than believed it is more aggressive to President Biden. (Speaking personally, I find it amazing that any sentient being believes that the press questions Joe ‘I can only read the teleprompter’ Biden more aggressively than Trump.) The poll or survey also found that 80 per cent of voters believe that ‘fake news’ is a serious problem in the media, including 56 per cent who say it is ‘very serious’. Nine in ten Republicans say it’s a serious problem but, perhaps surprisingly, three out of four Democrat voters also say that fake news in the media is at least a ‘somewhat serious’ problem.

It gets worse for those in the media. Almost six in ten US voters agree (including half who strongly agree) with the statement that the media are ‘truly the enemy of the people’. (That claim is usually associated with former president Trump but many, like John Hinderaker, say the Trump quote was actually that ‘fake news media are the enemy of the people’, which is not the same assertion.) At any rate, 58 per cent of American voters agree with the proposal that the mainstream media are ‘the enemy of the people’. It’s hard to see how any other group of Americans – including politicians – could be held in lower esteem or viewed with more contempt than these members of the press.  But then we have all seen two years of fear-porn press, where those with unorthodox or iconoclastic views were not just silenced but attacked. Just listen to what Sunetra Gupta – the Professor of Theoretical Epidemiology at Oxford University, and a world authority on infectious diseases – has to say about how she was treated due to her view that lockdowns and all the related despotic government measures were a terrible mistake. She and the other epidemiologists who authored the Great Barrington Declaration were not rebutted; there was no attempt to refute Gupta’s claim that the data were clear that focussing protection on the vulnerable would have far better results all things considered, including in terms of total deaths from all causes – which was the route Sweden took and that today has given that country enviable European scores on excess deaths, on not blowing out the debt, on not sacrificing the children by suspending schooling, etc.

So no attempt to rebut or refute Professor Gupta. Instead she was attacked, silenced and condemned as a fringe nut (despite a lifetime of identifying with the political Left). Much of this abuse and cancelling was by Big Tech but much was in the mainstream press too.  Almost nowhere did you see a questioning set of journalists who doubted the lines they were being fed by heavy-handed governments. Or who wanted to hear from a dissenting voice who was amongst the most credentialled in the world. And that was true too in the US and Australia. Anything not in keeping with the line spewed out by the public health clerisy was largely rubbished and subject to ad hominem attacks as journalists rushed to uphold what members of the UK’s Sage committee now concede was a deliberate attempt to scare the public witless.


Watching and living through the pandemic (including a fortnight in hotel quarantine) I’m not sure if I have more contempt for the political class, the journalistic class or the police. To paraphrase Henry Kissinger, it’s a shame they all can’t lose this competition for the most disgraceful behaviour through Covid.  And on the police let me repeat something I said in these pages a year or more ago. I come from a middle-class Toronto family where the police were always held in huge regard. I spent my law school years arguing with left-wing professors who distrusted, and even had a thorough-going contempt for, the police. I’d always thought they had a tough job they performed well under very difficult circumstances. And up to 2020 I was easily the most pro-police law professor in this country. But go back and watch again police in this country manhandle a pregnant woman, kick and attack lockdown protesters, spray them with pepper spray, throw to the ground a man in an airport seemingly minding his own business, the list of egregious examples of policing according to the ‘we’re here to enforce these brutal, illogical, quibbling, despotic Covid rules as strictly and as uncharitably as we can’ handbook going on and on. I know this wasn’t all police but nor have we, the public, had the grovelling apology we deserve from the police higher-ups.

That’s a long-winded way of saying the journalistic class was given a run for its ‘totally useless’ money by the police during Covid. But outside the pandemic the mainstream media has also looked to be captured by activist reporters and not to be remotely impartial or balanced. Let’s be honest.  The ABC leans so far left it beggars belief that any Coalition government would keep increasing the taxpayer money – not government money, but taxpayer money – it sends their way. This has to stop and Liberal politicians have to learn from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to fight the fights that need fighting, rather than offering Danegeld to all the special interest lobbies of the Left (I include the ABC in that description) who will only ever come back for more while treating you just the same.

At this point some readers might be wondering why the vast preponderance of young journalists are activists for the Left, and virtually never for the Right. That flows from the capture of huge chunks of university departments around the Anglosphere by the forces of woke ‘progressivism’. Here in Australia it is plainly true that after nine years of Coalition government our universities are worse on every front – more bureaucratic, fewer conservative academics, far more woke and politically correct, lots of grade inflation, lower standards, more affirmative action and a massive ‘diversity’ bureaucracy, all brought to you while Liberal ministers were in office. And journalism departments were most certainly not immune from that trend.

So bear all that in mind if you happen to be at an election night party where the TV is tuned to the ABC. My bet is that there’ll be some celebrating going on as Labor wins.  The Libs have brought this on themselves but that doesn’t mean any of us have to pretend our journalistic caste is full of honest brokers or disinterested ‘keep the politicians honest’ scribes. The Americans’ attitude is closer to the truth on this one.

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