Interesting article (“Martha Raddatz and the Faux Objectivity of Journalists“) by Glenn Greenwald following the Biden-Ryan VP Debate. “The highly questionable assumptions tacitly embedded in the questions Raddatz asked illustrate how this works, as does the questions she pointedly and predictably did not ask.” “That is what this faux journalistic neutrality, whether by design or otherwise, always achieves. It glorifies highly ideological claims that benefit a narrow elite class (the one that happens to own the largest media outlets which employ these journalists) by allowing that ideology to masquerade as journalistic fact.” Greenwald gives examples of the “Medicare going broke” and “Iran is the greatest national security threat to America” questions to illustrate his point.
I just saw a discussion on one of our tv networks about the effects of the “carbon tax” in Australia after “100 days” that is a slightly different example of the same thing. As these things go it wasn’t so bad. They had actually got an expert to talk about it instead of a politician or shock jock as they normally would. The questions were based on the “sky is falling in” scare campaign of the Liberals, and his answers were calm and measured. So what am I complaining about (never satisfied am I, even when they do the right thing, whinge whinge whinge?)?
Three things. The segment was advertised for an hour preceding with the words “Carbon Tax”, the term used throughout the segment except occasionally by the guest. Now “Carbon Tax” is the term the conservative politicians and shock jocks have been using for two years (alternating with “Great Big New Tax”) for two reasons. First to continue the lie that the Prime Minister had lied in saying she would not introduce a “Carbon Tax”, and second so they can scare the living bejeebus out of all the punters out there by pretending that they were going to be paying so much tax that the Apocalypse would be a walk in the park.
In fact the PM had gone on to say words to the effect “but I intend to put a price on carbon” and that’s exactly what she did. A carbon price isn’t a “carbon tax”. No one is paying extra tax. In fact because of the package of compensation measures almost everyone is better off. Instead of introducing a punitive tax to stop people using so much carbon-generated power, the government used the carrot of compensation so that if you began producing less CO2 you would do even better. To keep on using the term “carbon tax” is to keep selling the conservative meme.
Second, all of the questions, as I said above, were based on the dire warnings the conservatives have been running for two years – businesses ruined, towns wiped off map, pensioners dying in unheated rooms, lamb roasts costing $100 and so on. But still presenting them as questions on 14 October 2012 implies that they were indeed valid points to raise. Proved by the last 100 days to be wrong (although one of the hosts, whose politics are always worn on her sleeve, muttered that meat prices might have gone down but that was because of good seasons – still fighting the battle to the last), but who could have known that?
Well, you could have. You were told plenty of times. There was endless modelling to show the effects, but even without that a moment’s thought about the way the scheme was set up would have told you that all the conservative publicity stunts and deceptive parliamentary questions were as fake as the ones involving an antique shop and a pensioner’s electricity bill. That is “100 days” tells us nothing we couldn’t have known in advance if you hadn’t constantly legitimised the conservative campaign by merely reporting it as fact for the last two years.
And finally the Polar Bear in the room was never mentioned. The Arctic is melting at a frighteningly rapid rate, America has been frying, Barrier Reef in big trouble, and yet reducing greenhouse gases, the whole reason for putting a price on carbon was never mentioned. Nor has it been very often during the last couple of years in this context. So for the public the government has inexplicably introduced a “great big new tax”, apparently for no other reason than to ruin antique shops, wipe towns off map, and kill pensioners, because they are such nasty people. And still, today, the carbon price was discussed without this frightening context.
Australian journalism, like American journalism has a history in recent years of this kind of acceptance of what Lakoff calls conservative “framing”. Perhaps, to give them the benefit of the doubt, unknowingly, but I suspect often in full awareness of what they are doing.
Watch out for it.