Owning The Press–and Democracy

Aug 9, 2012

Jennifer Hewett, may I introduce to you a man by the name of A.J. Liebling. While Hewett may live in the world of the Fantasy Review, Liebling lived in the real world of media, where power and democracy often clashed.

Liebling, a long-time American journalist, observed quite correctly that, “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.”

Which doesn’t seem to occur to Hewett, or she simply wants to conveniently smudge the truth. Today, she’s acting as the willing mouthpiece for The Empty Suit, leader of the Coalition, who is bent out of shape by the government’s inclination to make some modest attempts to preserve a modicum of freedom of speech. Hewett, on behalf of The Empty Suit, attacks Wayne Swan:

Add to that Abbott’s attack on government bullying for claiming Gina Rinehart is a “danger to democracy’’ over her refusal to endorse Fairfax Media’s existing editorial charter. Case closed apparently. It’s surely in the public interest to have greater controls on media “bias’’, on institutionalising the ability to demand corrections and on who gets to own media outlets to pursue their own agendas. Hear, hear, Wayne. [emphasis added]

Wait just a minute. Who is the burden on exactly? Wayne Swan and the government? Or Gina Rinehart? Recall, as we discussed a number of times, even Malcom Turnbull was on the side of the position that Rinehart had to sign the editorial independence charter:

Opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull also said the board’s reluctance to give Mrs Rinehart board seats was understandable ”without a commitment to supporting editorial independence . . . If Fairfax, for example, were seen to be a mouthpiece of Gina Rinehart and a ‘spokes vehicle’ for the mining industry that would undermine its business model dramatically.”

Rinehart cannot even agree to a basic requirement to adhere to a code that has been broadly accepted, the questions should be aimed at her motivations, not Wayne Swan’s motivations. But, in the world of the Fantasy Review, reality plays a very small role.

@jonathantasini

The Fantasy Review Goes Off Into La-La Land

Aug 2, 2012

Why I spoil my appetite — a good lunch salad is a sad thing to waste — by reading drivel is always a mystery. But, if you make the mistake of reading the Fantasy Review — among bankers it’s known as the “Financial Review” — you run that risk. Today, it was Jennifer Hewett’s fault. While we live on the planet of reality, where actual facts matter, Hewett inhabits the world of mystery and alchemy, where things get mixed together and stuff just happens.

Hewett is annoyed, as anyone can tell from her tortured column today, by yesterday’s speech by Wayne Swan, which I previewed yesterday with a modest observation that Swan was simply stating the facts that about Clive Palmer, Gina Rinehart and Andrew Forrest: “One tycoon is using his money to challenge the principle of fair taxation through electioneering; a second is using his money to challenge it through the courts; and a third is using her money to challenge it by undermining independent journalism”.

Hewett is entitled to disagree. But, the problem is that  she — and a whole host of transcribers of press releases (what we formerly used to called “journalists”) — don’t bother to connect with the reality-based world when making arguments. They pretend as if shit just happens, as naturally as the sun rising in the east and setting in the west.

Let’s look at a few examples from the column (subscription to the Fantasy Review is required). First:

It is true that manufacturing jobs in both countries have been in long-term decline and are being hit particularly hard now. Those changes are partly due to a changing global economy and the rise of Asian manufacturing, partly due to the excesses of a debt-fuelled consumer and banking binge in the US and Europe.

Aha. “The changing global economy”. Well, wait a minute. The”global economy” changes because rules change. It isn’t a natural phenomena, nor magic. Those rules that were changed, mostly via so-called “free trade” agreements, set up a new regime based on one thing, and one thing only: where could companies find workers who could be exploited by paying them the lowest wage and forcing them to work in the least regulated, most dangerous conditions. The decline, then, was in wage standards, which, then, triggered the “rise” of Asian manufacturing.

Then, Hewett goes on:

Adapting to this inexorable shift and being able to ride the waves of change without falling off is the hard part for any country, any government, any company.

“Inexorable shift”. What utter nonsense –it isn’t a natural phenomena. It’s only inexorable, ironically, precisely because of the point Swan made, which Hewett hates: tycoons set the rules. Their rules say: we reap the money, we set the terms, we drive wages as low as possible.

Well, of course, like all good “free market” idealogues, you knew this one was coming: when all else fails, blame Europe:

Nor does he reflect on the rather elusive economic benefits of that model of government intervention – high taxation and economic and political paralysis in Europe. That’s equality of a different sort.

It’s almost boring to have to point out that the austerity destroying millions of jobs and the livelihoods of millions of workers, impoverishing generations of people and threatening the stability of at least Greece and Spain, has almost nothing to do with taxation — actually, that’s not exactly true since part of the crisis has to do with rich people refusing to pay higher taxes — but actually the problem is that the financial implosion created by greedy bankers wiped away trillions of dollars in wealth, triggering an economic meltdown.

Lastly, and this is Hewett’s dumbest point:

Yet this Treasurer is not at all taken, for example, by America’s extraordinary capacity for innovation in a range of industries, its economic flexibility and its ability to generate new sources of growth.

If this country wants to adapt the American Disease, which has killed the middle class, diverting 30 years of wealth growth from the people who created the value into the hands of the few so that more people live in poverty in the US – 46 million – than at any time in the half-century the US government has measured that figure, well, fine. But, deal with the facts of what the American model accomplished — not some fantasy version of what you’d like to happen.

Why bother with this? A fair point. The problem is that too many people have bought this idea of the “free market” and the notion that de-regulation is the way to happiness. Except the facts don’t support that fantasy.


@jonathantasini