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Friday, 13 February 2015

The Elephants in the Press Gallery - The AIM Network

The Elephants in the Press Gallery - The AIM Network

The Elephants in the Press Gallery

The Press Gallery have been busily, emphatically, excitedly making
the most of the new leadership tensions story that Abbott has gifted
them over the past few weeks. But amongst the innumerable number of
articles about what’s gone wrong for Abbott, how he got to this point so
quickly in his first term, and what he plans to do to fix this mess,
there are some massive elephants in the Press Gallery who are being
consistently ignored. In fact, there are enough elephants to build a
pretty decent circus, if you throw in the journalists as the clowns.

Here are some of the most obvious elephants who have been ignored in
the leadership crisis coverage, the 16 months of Abbott’s government and
in some cases, his entire 6 years in Opposition:

  • Abbott’s ‘budget emergency’ is a lie he has used to justify cutting
    government spending for ideological reasons, at a time when the economy
    needs stimulus, not cuts. This fake ‘budget emergency’ has decimated
    consumer confidence and has reduced the amount of money in the economy
    to the point where Australia is teetering on the edge of a recession.
    Put simply, Abbott has ideologically wrecked the economy because he
    prefers small government.
  • Abbott’s budget aimed to protect wealthy Australians from ‘budget
    pain’ and to blame poor people for all the economy’s problems. The blame
    is based on the lie that the unemployed are lazy and if they want to go
    on being so lazy they will be punished because of it. This ideological
    position relies on various economic lies such as the following:
    • That jobs can be created by the unemployed applying for more jobs.
      There are 5 unemployed people per available job in Australia. People
      want to work and there are no jobs for them to work in.
    • Tax cuts for the rich create jobs. No, they don’t. Demand from
      consumers create jobs. Tax cuts for the rich just make the rich richer,
      and inequality worse. If consumers can’t afford to spend, the economy
      grinds to a halt.
    • Wealth trickles down. No it doesn’t. By next year, the 1% richest people in the world will own half the world’s wealth. There is no trickle.
    • Government spending and taxation is like a household budget. No it isn’t. If you haven’t heard of Modern Monetary Theory yet, follow this link.
  • Abbott is failing to get his budget through the Senate, not because
    Labor controls the Senate, but because right wing minor parties, those
    who traditionally supported (and in one case funded) the Liberal
    National Coalition, are refusing to pass policies they know are so
    unpopular that they would threaten their political careers putting their
    names to them. It’s really as simple as that.
  • Abbott never properly defined what he would do as Prime Minister
    because he knew if he told the voters what he really wanted to do,
    ideologically, to the Australian economy, culture and society, he would
    never have won the election. The Press Gallery ignore this elephant
    because to point it out would be to also admit that they never
    scrutinised Abbott in the lead up to the election since they were too
    busy writing about Labor leadership tensions. The first rule of
    political journalism in the Press Gallery is ‘never ever admit you were
    wrong in the past’. Anyone with eyes could see exactly what the Abbott
    government was going to be like and if you followed independent media
    sites like this one you would have got a very accurate preview of the
    situation we are in now. But you never got this preview from the
    mainstream media. And the last thing they want to do now is to admit
    they were the reason the electorate got such a shock when they realised
    who Abbott really is, and what his real plans for this country were.
  • There are things Australians should be scared of, and there are
    other things Australians should stop being scared off. We should be
    scared about Climate Change. We should be scared about wealth
    inequality. We should be scared about our own and future generations’
    ability to find jobs in an economy where manufacturing is declining, the
    mining boom is over and competitor economies are forging ahead with
    technological innovation on the back of better education systems than we
    have access to in Australia. But instead, Abbott, at every opportunity,
    without scrutiny from the Press Gallery, goes straight to two
    boogeymen-under-our-beds as diversionary tactics to try to scare us into
    supporting his ideological agenda (which we’ve already proved we don’t
    like). These boogeymen are ‘debt and deficit’ and terrorism. The quest
    for the revered ‘surplus’ is akin to the government throwing all their
    resources behind an ideological holy grail, at the expense of Australian
    jobs and to increase household debt. It is nonsense, yet the Press
    Gallery don’t seem to understand this. Oh, and terrorism? According to this helpful analysis on Crikey,
    more people died in the past ten years falling off chairs in Australia,
    than they did from acts of terrorism here and overseas. What would you
    say if the Abbott government tried to make you scared of sitting down?
These five elephants should be at the heart of any political
discussion, at the heart of debate about policy and what is right for
Australia’s future. But this is where the grand-daddy elephant needs to
be pointed out. Political journalists in Australia are not interested in
discussing policy. According to them, there was no need to discuss the
effect that Abbott’s policy decisions have had on his current
leadership-crisis predicament. No, as usual, the journos are as shallow
as a puddle, with analysis such as this from Lenore Taylor, Laura Tingle, Laurie Oakes and Peter Hartcher.
These articles all share two things in common; they perpetuate the myth
that the Liberal government’s problem is all about Abbott and the
dysfunctional processes around him, when really the entire government
has helped create this situation by all sharing the same ideological
agenda as Abbott. They all supported the turd, cooked the turd, and
perpetuated the lies that brought the turd about. And now they’re all
complaining that Abbott’s has failed to polish the turd and they want to
give Malcolm Turnbull a go. But it’s Turnbull’s turd just as much as it
is Abbott’s. Where is this analysis? And of course, they ignore the
elephants I’ve described, whilst also ignoring the role the Press
Gallery played in putting Abbott where he is, without scrutiny, without
analysis, without a heads-up about what the country was about to
experience. Rather than taking a step back and looking at themselves,
they keep making the same mistakes over and over again. Exactly like
Tony Abbott. The Australian public deserves better government. And we
deserve a better Press Gallery to help explain what a better government
would look like.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Barrie Cassidy and Jonathan Green are wrong and this is why . . . - The AIM Network

Barrie Cassidy and Jonathan Green are wrong and this is why . . . - The AIM Network

Barrie Cassidy and Jonathan Green are wrong and this is why . . .

Abbott’s main argument against those in his party who want him out
is that to get rid of him now would be to return ‘to repeat the chaos
and instability of the Labor years’.  This is understandable; after all,
what else has he got going for him?

My question is, rather, why do elements of the mainstream media buy into this narrative?

Even commentators who are not nominally part of the right-wing
commentariat, such as Jonathan Green and Barrie Cassidy, are basing a
large part of their argument about how Abbott got there in the first
place on the electorate’s haste to be rid of the Gillard/Rudd
governments. Cassidy could be channelling  Abbott when he talks
about ‘the failed, disunited and chaotic Rudd-Gillard-Rudd
governments’; he says there was ‘a six or seven year period of
dysfunctional and chaotic governments’. Green says Labor was ‘a government we had come to hate’.

Sure. Labor lost the 2013 election, 46.51% to 53.49% on a two party
preferred basis. So I’m not sure who the ‘we’ is that Green is talking
about. Some of us, certainly. But others of us both valued what Labor
had achieved, and feared – rightly as it turned out – what an Abbott
government was capable of.

It would be foolish of me to dispute the impact of the changes in
leadership, the public backstabbing, the vengeful backgrounding of
journalists and the mistakes in policy and its implementation made by
these governments. Possibly it was Rudd’s back-down on climate policy
which most undermined his public authority. The governments were
certainly spooked by Abbott’s relentless negativity, rarely seeming able
to get clear air to promote a more positive agenda. And there were
disastrous policy failings, such as that on asylum seekers.

On the other hand, much of this was blown out of all proportion by
the Opposition and the media. Why is a minority government that has the
support of independents illegitimate? Will this be the case if the LNP
scrapes into minority government in Queensland? Does anyone really think
there are no factions in the Liberal Party? Or that they aren’t crucial
in deciding who leads the party? Why is only the negative side of the
Rudd government’s insulation scheme ever mentioned? Even Tony Abbott’s
Royal Commission didn’t manage to blame Rudd for the deaths of the four
workers whose unscrupulous bosses abused this program. Yet you’d think
Rudd went out and murdered them himself from the press treatment it
received. And why is so little credit ever given to the Labor government
for the stimulus package that saved Australia from the worst of the
GFC? Instead, there has been a relentless and damaging talking down of
the economy.

So did these failed and chaotic governments really not achieve
anything? I’ll just list some of what they did achieve, as Cassidy and
Green, and no doubt others, seem to have forgotten about these. The fact
that some powerful vested interests didn’t like them doesn’t make them
any less important reforms. The fact that some of them were used against
the Labor government doesn’t make them wrong either. Nor does the fact
that Abbott has repealed or undermined many of them. It’s impossible to
say which if any of these policies those who voted against Labor were
rejecting, but aren’t government supposed to act in the national
interest regardless of popularity? Labor governments:

  • Saved Australia from the worst effects of the GFC
  • Put a price on carbon, which resulted in a decrease in carbon emissions.
  • Began implementing the Gonski reforms to base educational funding on need
  • Began building a world class NBN
  • Introduced a mining tax to share the benefits of the resources boom more fairly
  • Introduced paid parental leave
  • Supported an increase in the minimum wage – modest, but still an increase
  • Introduced the National Disability Insurance Scheme
  • Achieved the Tasmanian forest deal
  • Achieved plain cigarette packaging
  • Won a seat on the Security Council to give Australia a stronger international voice

Why are Cassidy and Green and their ilk ignoring these positive
achievements? (It’s OK Barrie I don’t really hate you. I just think you
should know better.)

My guess is that it is only by portraying the Labor
governments as incompetent and hated that they can excuse their own
failure to look properly at Tony Abbott and his policies
, and to publicise what they would have found if they looked at all.

It’s true that Abbott made himself a small target. But there were
still things you could have analysed. Did you ever look in detail at
Direct Action and how it might work? Did you ever wonder in print
whether a price on carbon was a good thing? Did you ever suggest that it
would be wise to look more closely at the effectiveness of an NBN based
on fibre to the node – and therefore on Telstra’s aging copper network?
Did you ever question the inequality of Abbott’s paid parental leave
scheme? Did you ever consider what would be lost if the mining tax was
repealed? Was government debt really a problem in Australia?

And even if Abbott’s agenda was relatively limited, couldn’t you have
probed a bit deeper into his political agenda? He laid it out for you
in Battlelines. Small government, trickle-down economics, culture wars and social conservatism. It was all there for you.

Maybe a bit more work from journalists on sites like The Drum
wouldn’t have made any difference, given the torrent of anti-Labor venom
pouring out of the Murdoch press. Maybe the disunity and policy
mis-steps of the Labor government would have led to an election loss
anyway. But what I find hard to understand is the wilful denigration of
Labor’s achievements, a perversion of the narrative if ever there was

While I’m on the subject, please don’t go on making the same mistake
over and over again. Apparently, according to Green, Labor still can’t
do anything right. Bill Shorten is ‘carping’ in opposing not just the
destruction of Labor’s achievements but also the demolition of Medicare,
cuts to funding for health and education, the farce of Direct Action
etc etc. And for Cassidy, ‘Malcolm Turnbull is immune; above it all’.
Really Barrie? He’s voted for every piece of the Liberal agenda so far.
How about you start reporting facts not fantasy?

Sunday, 1 February 2015

The MSM asleep at the Wheel. - The AIM Network

The MSM asleep at the Wheel. - The AIM Network

The MSM asleep at the Wheel.


Last week Mainstream Media (MSM) political
commentators were united in their condemnation and their mockery of PM
Tony Abbott following his bizarre announcement that HRH Prince Phillip
would become an Australian Knight.

They also seemed equally united in their condemnation of Abbott’s
overall performance and the prospect of an imminent leadership challenge
in the Liberal party following the Queensland election. Better late
than never, I suppose.

In fact, media unity on these two issues is similar to their united
front on Labor’s economic prowess, particularly between 2010 and 2013,
when they gave Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey unquestioning prominence as
they recklessly hacked away at Labor’s economic record.

The difference then, is that they were dead wrong about Labor’s grasp of the issues.

Kevin Rudd became Prime Minister in 2007 he inherited a gross ‘debt’ of
$58 billion; quite trivial by today’s standards. At the time, he and
Labor were treated lightly by the media until the GFC exploded and
suddenly, the big question was: what would they do about it?

But up until this time, the media had been asleep at the wheel
unaware of what had really been going on. For the ten years or so prior
to 2007 they had happily been drinking the wine of what they perceived
as good fiscal management by Peter Costello who had been delivering
surplus budgets year in, year out.

But they should have known that in a national economy, the three
principal sectors of management, i.e. government, private and external,
the respective balances of each will always play against each other,
while their aggregate total must balance when combined. If two are in
surplus, one must be in deficit. If two are in deficit one must be in
surplus and the net result must always equal zero.

A simple formula expresses this as follows:

(I – S) + (G – T) + (X – M) = 0

where I is Investment, S is Savings, G is Govt. Spending, T is Taxes, X is Exports and M is Imports.

During Costello’s time no one ever queried that up until 2007 while
he bathed in the glory of government surpluses, external income was in
deficit, and private debt, particularly household debt was skyrocketing.

surpluses were made possible because of the availability of easy
credit, e.g. home equity based loans, banks offering credit cards to
anyone breathing, and even some who had stopped breathing. Costello took
advantage of the ignorance of the MSM and the people with his surpluses
and actually gained their admiration in the process.

As we all remember, soon after the GFC struck, the Rudd government
announced a stimulus program, one much criticised by the then LNP
opposition and the budget went into deficit. This created excess
reserves in the banking system necessitating the issuing of bonds to
ensure the central bank could control the overnight cash rate.

This necessary monetary process was misconstrued and presented as
borrowing to finance the government’s spending when it was nothing of
the sort. It quite falsely became the “debt and deficit myth” the LNP
used so effectively to discredit Labor.

Following that stimulus the external sector (trade) remained in deficit
but the private sector (business) stopped borrowing and began paying
down debt.

Fast forward to today and we find that household debt has remained at
its historic high. Meanwhile, the business sector have been using
accumulated profits to reduce debt and buffer themselves from
deflationary forces in the absence of attractive investment

the same time, successive years of deficit budgets caused by China’s
economic slowdown coupled with an over-valued Australian dollar has had
the effect of limiting further deterioration in unemployment.

That’s the good news. Now for the bad news. Joe Hockey’s austerity budget threatens a seismic shift in these balances.

The move to austerity will actually force the private sector towards
higher indebtedness (deficit) by running down savings because there
won’t be the flow of money to enable current levels of saving.

If the household part of the private sector starts saving and/or begins
to pay down household debt (credit card and mortgages), the economy
generally will begin to contract, business will slow, unemployment will
grow and the deficit will also grow from further reduced revenues. The
December 2014 inflation rate announced last week confirms this trend.

This means that the private sector will bear the burden of balancing the
economy on a scale that will drive the country into a horrible and
prolonged recession.

This is exactly what is happening at the moment in Europe.
is why the European Central Bank has decided to issue fiat currency of $
1 trillion euros into the reserves of the member banks. This is why
austerity doesn’t work, at least in these circumstances.

The question arises therefore, why is it that the Australian MSM
economic experts are not pointing out this fact? Are they once more
asleep at the wheel? Or, is it just too hard for them to acknowledge
Labor’s better understanding of the way the economy works?

It is my opinion that neither they, Joe Hockey nor Mattias Cormann understand any of this.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Eight factors that shape how Muslims see the West –

Eight factors that shape how Muslims see the West –

Eight factors that shape how Muslims see the West

While Tony Abbott would have us think the West’s hands are
clean, a look at our actions in the Middle East reveal plenty of cause
for resentment, writes Scott Burchill.

Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation walks outside Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock

Among the avalanche of media commentary ascribing
contemporary terrorism to some deformation of Islam by an extremist
minority, one question is assiduously ignored: what, if anything, has
the Western world done to contribute to the preconditions for the
attacks we have recently seen in Ottawa, Sydney and now Paris?

For our political leaders the answer is easy: nothing.

Echoing John Howard after the 9/11 attacks, Prime Minister
Tony Abbott announced last September when committing military forces to
fight Islamic State in Iraq that: “… these terrorists and would-be
terrorists are not targeting us for what we have done or for what we
might do, they are targeting us for who we are; they are targeting
us for our freedom, our tolerance, for our compassion, for our decency.”

Abbott’s rationale repeats the presupposition at the basis
of Western government approaches: we are always the innocent victims of
terrorism, never its perpetrator. We have nothing to explain, change or
apologise for. By locating us on a moral summit from which we can look
down on those who do not reach our giddy standards, we are reassured and
can maintain our focus on violent fanatics and miscreants. Western
state terrorism, after all, is not just taboo, it’s a non-subject.

While responsibility for acts of politically motivated
violence rests squarely with those who commit them, it takes a willfully
ignorant and dangerously naive view of global politics to believe that
Islamists have no grievances worthy of our consideration — and
rectification. This does not mean that we can put an end to anti-Western
terrorism. That is far too ambitious given the revolt against the West
dates from the period of European colonialism. Or that the West is
always to blame for the terrorism it faces.

Our crimes and their grievances should be addressed to
undermine the appeal that violent jihad holds for young, alienated
Muslim men across the world. We may not be able to dissuade the deeply
indoctrinated, but we would be foolish not to target the
undecided — those who can be swayed either way.

Simultaneously, we can restore some of our own moral and
political credibility, which has been severely tarnished in recent
years. We are, after all, responsible for the predictable consequences
of both our actions and inactions — even in the allegedly amoral world
of international relations.

So, what are the most pressing issues? Here are eight that
challenge Abbott’s claims about our “tolerance”, “compassion” and

1. The torture of innocent Muslims by the CIA

Details about the torture of innocent Muslims by the CIA and their
detention without trial at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay have been
partially disclosed in the US Congress. However, none of the torturers
are to be prosecuted for their horrific crimes, only the whistleblower
who exposed them.

2. The illegal invasion of Iraq and the destruction of Iraqi society

This particular atrocity was perpetrated by the US, UK, Australia and
others in 2003, followed by a decade-long occupation of the country.
It created the preconditions for Islamic State. There is no official
acknowledgement of this (quite the opposite), nor the hundreds of
thousands of deaths and injuries caused by the war, or the war crimes
committed in Fallujah (November, 2004) and elsewhere during the
occupation. Such is the absolution afforded by righteous power.

3. The longest war in US history against Afghanistan (2001-15) achieved virtually nothing

… well, except for the immiseration of the population. Al-Qaeda has
successfully re-spawned and relocated, while the Taliban is still a
formidable political and military force in the country today and will
remain so into the future. By outlasting us, they won.

4. The ongoing murder of innocent civilians in Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan by US pilotless drones.

A lot of secrecy surrounds these attacks, so there is little, if
any, accountability for them, though plenty of popular anger that helps
to maintain support for groups such as al-Qaeda in the Arabian
Peninsula. Dirty wars do not make many friends, but they do produce more
determined enemies.

5. US and Australian governments enabling and cheerleading Israel’s attacks on Gaza’s population

In 2014 thousands of Palestinians were killed injured and made homeless,
yet no protests or marches by Western politicians ensued. Instead,
doubt was cast by the Australian government that the West Bank and
Jerusalem were even “occupied” territory. Palestinians who eschew
violence and pursue membership of the UN and the ICC to try and resolve
the conflict are now to be ”punished” by Israel and America for treading
the diplomatic path.

6. Western support for corrupt, fundamentalist tyrannies in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain

Despite what the populations of these countries must endure
(beheadings, amputations, floggings, dictatorial rule, unfree media, few
rights for women, etc), these are our favoured fundamentalists (and
trading partners) and therefore beyond criticism, let alone invasion.
None of this should come as a surprise. In the Middle East and central
Asia, the West has a long history of supporting Islamic extremists at
the expense of secular nationalists.

7. The ongoing bombing campaign by the USAF, RAF and RAAF against IS in Iraq

This will only enrage those who see the military power of the West yet
again deployed against Muslims. As always, the bombings will produce
revenge attacks in the West that, inexplicably, will shock us every
time. The obvious lesson from Afghanistan and Iraq has not been learned:
there are no military solutions to the many challenges the West faces
around the world.

8. The charnel house that is Syria

With hundreds of thousands of deaths and injuries over several years
now, Syria is not seen to exercise the self-proclaimed moral conscience
of the West. Like Palestinians, Syrians have little to offer the West
and therefore do not count. There is to be no humanitarian relief for
them, just more bombing campaigns that mysteriously keep killing
innocent civilians.

By no means a definitive list, these eight factors
significantly shape the view of many Muslims towards the Western world,
including millions who live within its various political communities. We
can never assuage the concerns of every fanatic in every country, but
addressing legitimate grievances for which we bear direct responsibility
is an unavoidable first step towards undermining the attraction
of politically motivated, religiously inspired violence.

Monday, 5 January 2015

En Passant » The Australian and the contest of ideas

En Passant » The Australian and the contest of ideas

The Australian and the contest of ideas

I read Rupert Murdoch’s The Australian every day. I want to know
what the fruitcake faction of capital is up to. That includes not just
Murdoch’s journalists and his major ‘serious’ newspaper outlet in
Australia but the Abbott government they serve and influence and the
Liberal base they feed and incite.

However even Rupert and his minions seem to realise that Tony Abbott
and/or his government are on the nose. Poll after published poll in The
Australian shows Labor easily winning the next election.  That has been
the case almost since the day Abbott and co were elected.  Australians
voted Labor out and almost straight away twigged that the incoming lot
were just another pack of rotten neoliberal politicans caught between
the desires of business and the needs and wants of ordinary working

At the moment, with The Australian’s promotion of Julie Bishop, it
looks to me as if they see the problem as Abbott rather than his
Government and its neoliberal policies like the GP co-payment,
increasing the pension access age, cutting university funding and
freeing up their fee setting, to name a few.

These are policies which over time are designed to benefit capital
as a class and individual capitalists,  assuming they can be carried out
against a reluctant working class. They benefit capital by reducing
government expenditure, at least on welfare and the working class,  and
this over time can be redistributed to capital in the form of company
tax cuts, once the Budget deficit bogey is addressed.  Indeed, the
Budget deficit becomes an excuse for cutting state payments to the
working class

So far the Senate, reflecting popular discontent, has held up
a number of unpopular Budget measures, although Labor did agree to pass
$20 billion worth of cuts before Christmas. Abbott and co also managed
to introduce a number of cuts, such as the GP co-payment in another
guise, administratively rather than legislatively.

The other day The Australian published an article by former Labor Party Keating Government Minister Gary Johns called No contraception, no dole.
It basically argued that contraception should be compulsory for those
on welfare.  Evidently the poor, especially poor Aborigines, breed too
much and shouldn’t be allowed to. Now where have I heard this sort of
social engineering before? Anyone want to remind me?

The Australian received a lot of bad press for publishing this
tripe, tripe aimed at blaming the victims of capitalism, in particular
Aboriginal Australians, for their plight. This, and the response to
another disingenuous piece asking Is science showing there really is a god? prompted an editorial in The Australian in defence of … you guessed it, The Australian.

Two arguments in the editorial stood out. One was that ‘a serious
newspaper should present a variety of opinions.’ The other was that ‘we
love a contest of ideas.’

On both counts The Australian fails. Let’s personalise this first.
Since I got my new computer in late August I have sent 7 letters to the
editor to the Australian and one article for consideration. None have
been published. However to give the opinion editor her due, she at
least, unlike the Fairfax newspapers, had the decency to respond, saying
she didn’t have room for one. An earlier one was rejected by another
editor who said:

Thanks for your contribution, which I enjoyed. Your call for an
overthrow of capitalism, however, runs counter to the ethos of the
paper. It would be odd to publish it.

At one stage the national politics editor, David Crowe, shouted me a
modest late breakfast in Manuka (his timetable was full, not mine,
hence the early morning get together) to discuss if he could run some
tax ideas past me and quote me. He did, for one article.
Then he stopped, presumably because he discovered quoting a socialist
on tax matters probably wasn’t helpful to him, his boss or his audience.

Of course none of this proves my case that The Australian is part of
the fruitcake faction (i.e. the extreme neoliberal wing) of capital in

Indeed my strike rate with the Fairfax papers, in particular the
Canberra Times, is even worse when it comes to articles being rejected.
None out of eight in four months is my Fairfax strike rate. They are
happy to quote me on tax matters in staff articles (see this and this and this for example) but not to publish me in their pages.

My home town newspaper, the Canberra Times, part of the Fairfax
stable, used to publish my letters regularly but no longer does. I have
had only 2 of my 23 submitted letters published in the last 4 months.

Maybe I am just not that publishable. Anymore. I suppose it could be
that my writing style and topic choice condemn me to the editors’
dustbins. I suspect however that my politics is the determining factor.

What mainstream media newspaper regularly publishes a socialist?
What mainstream media newspaper ever publishes a socialist? By socialist
I don’t mean some warmed over social democrat who has made his or her
peace with capitalism and who now writes acceptable puff pieces for
Fairfax or Murdoch. I mean a socialist, one of those people who wants
the working class to overthrow capitalism and spread democracy into the
economic area so that production is organised democratically to satisfy
human needs and wants.

Nick Cater, formerly a journalist with The Australian but now the
Executive Director of the Menzies Research Centre, and a weekly
columnist with The Australian,  had this to say about my writing
ability in an article in The Australian.

In today’s world of eff-you politics, Passant is an anachronism,
and not because he wants to see the overthrow of capitalism. He is an
oddity because he insists on articulating his case.

As I pointed out in a blog article at the time,
The Australian hadn’t published one of my 30 submitted letters in the
previous year. So if my writing is well argued, as Cater believes, why
wasn’t even one of them published?

It gets worse. I have in the last week made two comments online on The Australian. Neither have been published.

The answer to the question why I am not published is pretty simple.
Let me republish again the comment by one of the editors to The
Australian. “Thanks for your contribution, which I enjoyed. Your call
for an overthrow of capitalism, however, runs counter to the ethos of
the paper. It would be odd to publish it.”

That is it. The ethos of the paper isn’t about presenting a variety
of opinions or a contest of ideas. It is about capitalism and its
defence. It is about legitimising the current structures of society and
power relations; it is about ensuring legitimacy in a time of austerity.
As one of my friends remarked: ‘Like the rural bar in The Blues
Brothers that played both kinds of music, “country and western” the
Australian is open to discussion that is both neo and liberal.’

[As an aside that is why I think Abbott will resign or be knifed.
His leadership undermines the legitimacy of neoliberalism in a way
Hawke, Keating, Howard, Rudd and Gillard never did. However those Labor
leaders in the list alienated their supporters with their neoliberal
policies and in power have laid the carpet out for the election of
Howard and then Abbott. The number of rusted on Labor voters and members
has fallen markedly since Hawke came to power as disillusioned voters
and former members look for electoral alternatives.]

This process of legitimation requires some differences of opinion.
In the Australian this swings between unapologetic and enthusiastic
Abbott government supporters to more reluctant supporters to right wing
Labor Party hacks. Even the occasional left ALP writer is a prisoner of
the times – a mixture of neoliberalism and Keynesianism with a dose of
pretend social empathy that wends its way into a broad based Keynesian
neoliberalism and zombie social democracy.

In the Fairfax papers it means some of the neoliberal Keynesians get
a run. I merely note that John Quiggin, a respected Keynesian academic,
lost his regular gig at the bosses’ newsletter, the Australian
Financial Review, after a former Australian manager and journalist took
over the editorship. Richard Denniss, from the Australia Institute, a
centre-left group, now seems the Fairfax Keynesian of choice. But their
columns hardly challenge the status quo that is capitalism. Certainly
they challenge some neoliberal ideas and some vested capitalist
interests but not capitalism itself.

It makes some business sense to publish these writers because their
social democratic ideas actually represent or resonate with a majority
of the Australian population. [As a left field thought I was going to
suggest that this might see The Australian try to broaden its appeal by
employing a regular centre left writer, but maybe some things are a step
too far. As John Quiggin noted, while the Australian editorialised against him it did not publish him.

Online media is somewhat different. For example the Guardian runs
more radical left-wing and socialist writers. It is trying for a niche
that attracts the social democrat majority.

What is not acceptable to the doyens of the mainstream capitalist
media of course is a writer of calibre who is a socialist. Neither
Fairfax nor Murdoch would regularly publish one. Indeed as far as I know
they have not published a revolutionary or radical political article in
decades. (Go on, show I am wrong. But be warned. The one case that
disproves my case will prove it.)

For me a famous Noam Chomsky meme captures brilliantly the narrow range of debates allowed within the capitalist media.

A variety of opinions? A contest of ideas? Only those writers imbued
with the capitalist ethos are published in the mainstream media.

Monday, 29 December 2014

The Failure of Mainstream Media. - The AIM Network

The Failure of Mainstream Media. - The AIM Network

The Failure of Mainstream Media.

The way in which the mainstream media (MSM)
chooses to report and discuss the economy, i.e. in conventional
neo-liberal terms, reinforces the notion that the economy is some sort
of God who must be served and obeyed by the people in one particular
way to the exclusion of any other. This is a false concept wrapped in
metaphorical jargon that has not only poisoned our minds but, in the
process, allowed us to become enslaved to its will.

The way the media frames its articles and the language it uses to
present them, crowds out any alternative discussion and prevents
alternative concepts being presented. As a result, the present
government’s ideological agenda of austerity and surplus driven
macroeconomics becomes something akin to the Ten Commandments, which we
must obey and accept. This too, is a false concept.

It is time for a more progressive view to be aired, discussed and debated.

The progressive vision of an economy is the reverse of the existing
one, where it serves the people, advancing public purpose, whatever that
might be. It is a vision where, within the constraints of a healthy
environment, we live in harmony with the planet, where equality is the
principle commandment, where we control everything about it and we use
it to advance our quality of life, without destroying the planet and
without leaving anybody behind.

barrier that is preventing this progressive view from being debated is
in the language used to explain it. We are trained in our early language
to think of the word ‘deficit’ as bad. It equates with concepts of
debt, of owing, of a burden, of having to restore a shortfall, etc. It
isn’t helped at all by comparing a nation’s economy to household

We haven’t been able to link the word, ‘deficit’ with something good,
with employment, with growth, because the mainstream media won’t
indulge it. They are seduced by convention, afraid to think outside the

To this end, the MSM have allowed the present government’s failed
ideology to prevail. Where it fails is in thinking that a surplus is a
goal rather than a tool. Surpluses and deficits should be determined by
what we, as a nation, want and should be used to suit the circumstances
at the time. Surpluses and deficits are not an end in themselves, they
are tools used to achieve an outcome.

What we want right now is full employment or as close to full
employment as we can come. In our present circumstances, that will not
be achieved by trying to bring the budget into surplus. The media’s
so-called economic experts should be framing their articles to reflect
this. At the moment they are seduced by the metaphorical language that
undermines any hope of full employment.

Using the current issue of welfare, the one the media love to milk,
where they grasp at any suggestion of waste and abuse, of lazy people
not trying to find work, of the sick bludging on the system, we can
demonstrate an economic imperative they never highlight.

they never explain and what the present government doesn’t realise is
that when tax revenues fall, welfare payments increase. One works
inversely with the other. These are the automatic stabilisers where the
common denominator is the workforce participation rate and by
association, the GDP growth rate.

These stabilisers restrict the range of the business cycle by
expanding and contracting depending on the level of fiscal policy. When
unemployment rises so do welfare payments. If, for example, Scott
Morrison thinks he can reduce welfare payments while tax revenues are in
decline he is effectively trying to reverse a natural outcome. It is a
bit like trying to go forward when the car is in reverse gear.

So, if his approach to welfare payments is similar to his approach to
stopping the boats, i.e. having no time for the personal impact on his
decisions, just the outcome relative to the government’s policy
position, he will discover that just like stopping the boats, reigning
in welfare spending is a dirty science. Outcomes will vary in ways he
and the government cannot foresee.

Thinking that having a business friendly conservative government will
automatically generate business confidence is foolhardy at best, also
lazy and already proving to be a false expectation. Only full or near
full employment will generate demand of the kind that will lift us out
of stagflation. The unemployed cannot find jobs if the jobs are not
there. At the last count, there were approximately 770,000 unemployed
and less than 150,000 jobs advertised.

As long as governments, like our present one, push supply side
economics (if you make it, buyers will come), instead of demand side
economics (making what buyers need and want), unemployment will continue
to rise. The private sector will not manufacture or produce goods
without a known ready market.

media has failed dismally in explaining this to its readers. It has
failed the people it is there to serve. It peddles a false and
misleading language that serves an exclusive minority, the super-rich.
Little wonder circulation has plummeted.

The task of explaining alternative, progressive economics has fallen
to the blogosphere and social media sites where much of the lost
readership of the MSM has found a new home, found what it wants to read
and the language it prefers.

Is it a forlorn hope that 2015 will see a breakthrough in progressive economic theory? We will certainly try.