Robert Manne Is No Intellectual
Not if by ‘intellectual’ you mean someone who is capable of considering events and evidence, and coming to reasonable conclusions, a person capable of careful and objective analysis.
His article in the Sydney Morning Herald on September 2nd was called ‘A Pressing (ha, ha, I’m sure he felt very clever about that) Case for Standing Up To Rupert Murdoch’s Bullying.’
News Ltd owns 70 per cent of the circulation of major newspapers in Australia. If Rupert Murdoch, the chairman and chief executive of News Corporation, were an apolitical or a distant figure, this might not matter, but he has a powerful set of ideological beliefs and is determined to maintain tight control over the political line of all his papers on issues that interest him.
That may be news to many of Murdoch’s editors, to judge from the diversity of opinion expressed in their editorial pages, and their public support for different parties at the last election.
There is no evidence in Murdoch papers of bullying, or even ‘tight control.’ Nor is there any reason to think that a family of papers in which such a diversity of views are welcome could have the nefarious effect on public opinion that is causing Professor Manne so much worry.
Maybe he is frustrated that only 30% of Australians read papers which share his views:
The company’s domination of our newspaper market poses a real and present danger to the health of Australian democracy.
Really? Murdoch started a long way behind the pack, with just one Adelaide paper. Now 70% of Australians prefer to to read a Murdoch paper. That sounds to me like democracy in action.
Compare the variety of opinion in Murdoch editorials with, say, The Age or the ABC.
The ABC is supposed to be our ABC. We pay for it. But there is no programme on the ABC in which my views are regularly aired or considered. As for The Age, any thought of diversity of opinion in the pages of Professor Manne’s favourite paper is a joke.
It is reasonable for a paper to have a consistent editorial line on political matters. Some Murdoch papers do this.
It is less reasonable to refuse to allow the expression of alternative views in opinion columns or letters pages. No Murdoch paper does this.
Refusing to publish news which is unwelcome to one side of politics means that a paper has ceased to be a reliable news source and has become a party rag. The Age does this. This morning’s edition is a perfect example.
Rupert Murdoch seems to be a global warming believer, so it is difficult to see how The Australian’s regular publication of dissenting views, despite Manne’s angst about this, does anything other than disprove Manne’s assertion of megalomaniacal control.
The mild dominance of Murdoch papers in the Australian market is not evidence of Murdoch bullying, or of rigid editorial control, but rather of ordinary Australians’ preference for news sources which report the news fairly, and in which their views get a fair hearing.
Professor Manne’s problem seems to be that he simply cannot understand why most Australians don’t share his opinions. Since he is right about everything, this can only be because there is some dreadful conspiracy. Or because the rest of us are stupid.