CultureWatch

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Sour Grapes from the Left

Apr 16, 2007

As I and others have long documented, the mainstream media can hardly be accused of being home to rabid conservative opinion. Nor can “our” ABC be accused of being a right-wing media outlet. Instead, Australian media is by and large left of centre, as the ABC certainly has been for years on end.

Recent attempts at making our tax-payer funded ABC representative of all Australians, and not just the secular Left, have been slammed by the lefties. They have had things their way for so long, that the slightest move towards genuine impartiality at the ABC has them all flustered. They are now shouting down such much-needed reforms, labelling them as censorship and – in their view – the rights’ ever-enlarging grip on the media.

A good example of this whinging comes from Robert Manne, La Trobe University lecturer and leftwing media commentator. He had an article in the Melbourne Age – he is a regular columnist for them – on April 4, 2007, in which he bewails the moves to make the ABC more accountable, and representative of the whole Australian community.

His basic argument is that the tax-payer funded ABC must be left of centre, to offset what he sees as the conservative bias of the mainstream media, specifically the Murdoch press. At least he admits to his leftwing agenda. He does not deny that the ABC has for decades been a hothouse of leftist ideology. He simply says it should stay that way.

Consider one of its favourite outlets for Leftwing agitprop: Media Watch. Manne admits that “Media Watch was once, unashamedly, a program of the left.” But now he is worried that it is moving too much to the right (in reality, simply moving to the centre!).

And he complains about the new ABC debate show, Difference of Opinion. Most people would expect a title like this would mean that genuine diversity of opinion is featured, not just a one-sided leftwing rant. So it comes as no surprise that Manne dislikes this program as well, seeing it as bland and unexciting.

There are a number of shortcomings to Manne’s position. First, as I and others have argued, the MSM is generally left of centre. And that includes the Murdoch press. Sure, the Australian may feature Janet Albrechtsen, but it also features Phillip Adams. It may have Frank Devine, but it also has Emma Tom, whose obsession with kinky sex and the like makes her a disgrace to the paper.

The Herald Sun may have Andrew Bolt, but it also has Jill Singer. It may have Paul Gray, but it also has Robyn Riley. So the conservative columnists in the Murdoch stable hardly enjoy a monopoly there.

And the editorial line of the Murdoch press on many issues of concern to conservatives, such as pro-life issues or pro-faith issues, is often far from conservative. Consider just one paper: the Australian. Whether it is pushing for cloning and stem-cell research, or featuring rabid atheist op ed pieces, it has many conservatives spitting chips.

And of course consider the Fairfax Press, which Manne has a nice run with. His columns are there, along with a host of other left-wingers. The Melbourne Age had only one mildly conservative columnist, Gerard Henderson, and he was long ago given the boot. So while the Murdoch press at least allows all points of view with its columnists and commentators, the Age and Sydney Morning Herald are monotonously and uniformly way left of centre, with hardly a dissenting voice to be heard.

So the argument that we need a leftist ABC to counter the conservative emphasis of the MSM just does not ring true.

What about Manne’s takes on Media Watch? While it was nice of Manne to admit to what so many other lefties have always denied – that Media Watch is a leftist propaganda piece – he need not lose too much sleep over it becoming in any way even remotely conservative. If we can just get it somewhere closer to the centre, many conservatives would be satisfied. But it has a long way to go yet.

Manne closes his piece bewailing the slight moves toward objectivity and neutrality in Media Watch and elsewhere, asking, “Does this represent the kind of ABC the nation wants?”

Well, yes, actually Robert. It is not meant to be just a hot house for lefties like Manne. It is meant to be the national broadcaster, funded by all Australians. Thus it should reflect all Australians, and all points of view, and not just push one agenda – that of the left, which Manne thinks it is called to do.

The truth is, finally a tad of accountability and across-the-board representation comes to the ABC, and the left starts throwing hissy fits. They too long have had the media in general and the ABC in particular in their leftist pockets. Now that a bit of fairness and balance is coming along, they just don’t like it.

Like school-yard bullies whose turf is finally being challenged, they run screaming from the school yard, claiming it is all too unfair and unjust. It is time for some of these lefties to grow up, and face reality. If the media starts to turn more centrist, it is doing so because most Australians do not want leftist ideology to rule in the roost.

[890 words]

7 Responses to Sour Grapes from the Left

  • Robert Manne a lefty? The former editor of Quadrant and conservative Jewish commentator a lefty? I must have missed something. I suppose Winton Churchhil was a lefty for not joining the rest of his Consevative Party support for the new 1930s German government.

    To be a lefty in Australia today, you must reject the Howard government’s social engineering. Manne’s refusal to support Howard’s rejection of the history of colonial Aboriginal conflict does not make him a lefty. Nor does his rejection of news reporting regulation within the ABC.

    You would like civilised discussion without name calling but your the biggest caller of names. However, that is typical of the Christian right!

    Micahel [sic] Boswell

  • Thanks Michael

    But I am afraid you are out of your depth here. You obviously know little about Manne or his writing. Indeed, you refuse to believe his own statements on the subject. Yes, at one time he was conservative, and editor of Quadrant, but he has long ago moved away from all that. He is quite forthright and adamant about being on the left nowadays. Just one of his recent book titles makes this clear: Left Right Left: Political Essays, 1977-2005. You seem to be ignorant of all this, or just unwilling to accept what he has said on the matter.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • An interesting and detailed review of Robert Manne’s book, by Peter Coleman, was published in Quadrant. The review, titled ‘All that swaggeer – Robert Manne’s virtuous Trajectory’, desribes the shift in Manne’s position on many issues. It is at http://www.the-rathouse.com/PC_Manne.html
    Jenny Stokes

  • Bill

    Can you give us a brief understanding as to what the ABC has done to reform?

    Damien Spillane

  • Thanks Damien

    Not all that much, but we should give credit where it is due. They did appoint three conservatives to the ABC board: Ron Brunton, Janet Albrechtsen and Keith Windschuttle. Their newly appointed managing director, Mark Scott, has admitted to past bias and claims he will seek to rectify this in the future. And shows like Difference of Opinion are meant to feature debate with genuine diversity of opinion, even though some think it is a bit lame. So there have been some steps which we should welcome.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • I’ve heard one Rupert Murdoch state categorically that his papers “support American Foreign Policy”. Since I only have Murdoch papers in my home town then where’s the balance? Having a token lefty or two doesn’t equate to balanced reporting in my view. The problem is that we’ve allowed the “fourth estste”, the “oxygen of democracy” to be controlled by a few media tycoons and they will always pursue their interests, not ours. What we need is proper media diversity and for papers to be honest about where they stand, just like they do overseas.
    Larry Chiera

  • Thanks Larry

    With most papers online these days, your objection about balance seems a bit weak. And there seem to be far more than one or two lefties in the Murdoch papers, while it is very hard indeed to find conservatives in the Fairfax Press. But I do agree with you that ownership of large hunks of the media in the hands of a few can be dangerous indeed.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

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