- by Casey Davidson
- The Guardian
- Issue #2000
Racism, sexism, homophobia, irresponsible anti-science reporting, war mongering, and narrow political discourse are rife in Australian mainstream media, with a dominant Murdoch press that continues to report irresponsibly, and report purely in the interests of the right-wing US-backed elite. As the Overton window continues to be shifted to more conservative and discriminatory views, the struggle for independent media must be fought for to include the working class and all those most disadvantaged in Australia.
Thomas Mayor, author and Torres Strait Islander born on Larrakia country in Darwin, spoke on ABC’s Q&A last week, where he stressed how harmful misinformation has been for First Nations people, particularly in regards to the removal of children from their families. This was in response to a question about the recent debacle over the Joe Rogan podcast sharing disinformation about COVID vaccinations on the Spotify platform. While the broad left has enthusiastically boycotted Spotify for hosting the podcast over the disinformation, the wide array of discriminatory reporting is nothing new, particularly for people like Mayor and his community. Additionally, refugees, sexual assault survivors, LGBT+ people, people with disabilities, and workers fighting for better conditions have been largely left at the whim of propaganda attacks for decades.
Mayor is the author of a range of books, including his most recent, Dear Son, in which twelve contributors wrote a letter to their son, father or nephew, bringing together a range of perspectives which celebrate First Nations manhood. In comparison, The Australian published a disrespectful cartoon back in 2016, which depicted a First Nations father holding a beer, who could not remember the name of his son who was being brought back to him by a police officer. And while this clear racism has enormous consequences for First Nations people, including the disproportionate number of children removed from their families, The Australian editor at the time defended the decision to have the cartoon published.
Often when this kind of reporting is called out, the criticism is disregarded in defence of “free speech.” However, the blanket analysis that all “free speech” must ultimately be protected, regardless of whether it can have extremely harmful consequences, is a privileged position. Of course, free speech should most certain be protected when calling out Prime Minister Scott Morrison for his poor response to the devastating bushfires, to climate inaction, or his countless embarrassing attacks on how other states were managing the pandemic, and citizens have a right to refuse a handshake or glance disapprovingly at him. The consequences for Morrison are that he must then be held accountable for his poor leadership, and change policies for the better, or lose at the next election.
On the other hand, consequences for reporting in a discriminatory or irresponsible way can have incredibly devastating effects on communities. Mayor gave the example of the 2007 Northern Territory intervention, where the Racial Discrimination Act was suspended on a fabrication of how First Nations people live and love their children, leading to more racist policies, including the removal of children from their communities, and child incarceration. Refugees in Brisbane had their homes rocked by fascists after right-wing British commentator, Milo Yiannopoulos, was invited to speak, and riled up his neo-Nazi allies. Other refugees continue to be held in detention centres in horrific conditions simply for seeking refuge from war zones. Women and children continue to be disproportionately assaulted, while mainstream media unapologetically use victim-blaming language.
Additionally, while programs like Q&A appear to present a more “balanced” panel from the left and right, the accepted view is that this means the Labor or Liberal Party, who have a bipartisan approach on many issues, such as their support for US imperialism and domination and military intervention in developing nations. In Australia, both Labor and Liberal support class collaborative reformist strategies for workers, which ultimately always give the employer the advantage. In terms of housing, Labor has also dropped its position to remove negative gearing, even in the midst of a massive housing crisis brought on by the pandemic and poor management. There are millions of people in Australia who are not being heard or represented in the mainstream media or politics, which is why independent media and discerning citizens must be defended – this is the free speech which should really be protected.
The Guardian – The Workers’ Weekly is an excellent example of independent media, produced by working class people in various industries, which gives a voice to the people. It provides a perspective to analyse local and international issues more genuinely than in mainstream media, an opportunity for more well-rounded political discourse, and ways to progress towards a more sustainable and fair society for Australia. Subscribe at cpa.org.au/subscribe.