Just fauxing


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.

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8 comments on “Just fauxing

  1. f1retree says:

    Alan Jones audience types, nothing between the ears, will believe anything they are told, fearful, habitual, herd-like, conservative voters without which the likes of Tony Abbott would not exist.


  2. I agree entirely with your post. Romney pulled a similar pejorative naming trick in the first debate by referring to the medical insurance bill introduced by President Obama as ‘Obamacare’. I wish Obama had simply have feigned incomprehension at the name and asked ‘the candidate’ to identify the bill to which he referred by its proper title. Romney would have been forced to call it ‘The Affordable Care Act’, and then Obama could have grilled him on why he had suddenly taken such a dislike to ‘affordable health care’ for ordinary Americans, especially considering the current Federal legislation had provided health insurance for 39 million extra Americans, and was modelled on a similar bill introduced by Romney when he was a State Governor.
    Our journalist friends love to claim they are being objective when they ask presumptive questions or put an unwarranted emphasis on ‘selected’ elements of a story.
    Twice in two weeks, the so called ‘Environment Editor’ for the Australian, Graham Lloyd, has created contrarian headlines in relation to climate change.
    In the first, on 30 September, the headline announced ‘Sea level fall defies climate warnings’. Lloyd quotes a CSIRO report that states that the global average sea level fell by 5 mm last year (2011), after 20 years of steady rises of 3 mm per year in line with predictions. CSIRO scientists explain this in terms of unprecedented extent of flooding that occurred in 2011 on several continents, which lowered sea levels temporarily – until the water flowed back to the ocean. The article even includes a graph which shows the 5mm fall in 2011. But that fall is more than balanced by a 10 mm rise this year, putting sea level rise back on trend, a fact that is visible in the graph, but remains unremarked in the article.
    The following week, when news of the record shrinkage and imminent demise of the summer Arctic Sea Ice has actually made its way into some of the mainstream media, The Australian publishes an article stating ‘the cold hard fact’ that at the same time the Antarctic sea ice ‘expands against the odds’ – in the middle of the Antarctic winter, duh! And the expansion is less than 1% in dramatic contrast to the 80% reduction in Arctic sea ice volume.
    It is a bizarre process; publishing accurate information under headlines that claim the opposite. I assume the intention is to catch the casual ‘skimmer’ who reads only the headline, confirming his prejudice. But when criticised for ‘mis-representation’, the Australian will point out that the body of the article revealed the ‘truth’..


    • Eric Snyder says:

      John, as a business owner who provides health care as an employment benefit, insurance costs have escalated about 20 percent since President Obama signed the bill. It is anything BUT affordable health care.

      As is typical, anytime govt does anything the private sector can provide, it costs more and benefits fewer people.


  3. Trev says:

    Apologies for the cross posting here David, but this is something I believe Eric needs to explain.

    Eric, in your country, who pays the price when someone can’t afford insurance and requires,say, major heart surgery? Such surgery costs a great deal of money – much more, you would think, than could ever be provided by your private charitable organisations. Would Medicaid have a role to play here?


    • Eric Snyder says:

      Trev, there are a few alternatives for someone who needs very expensive medical care and is poverty stricken. Yes, Medicaid is one program. Catholic (and many other Christian-based) hospitals will provide care for anyone who needs it regardless of the degree of expense. Counseling to determine the degree of financial contribution, if any, the patient can make is necessary.

      Also, our individual states have insurance programs that provide even expensive procedures. Medical is the program in my state of CA. The level of care and what procedures are/aren’t covered varies from state to state.

      Medi-share is a Christian based program where Christians contribute to help provide any kind of necessary medical care to whoever needs it. Zarephath Health Center provides free care to those who need it but I’m not sure how complex the care level is they are able to provide.


      • Trev says:

        Thank you Eric, I’d have to say though that the circumstances you describe are not those I’d welcome here. I’d be fearful that too many would “fall through the cracks” without some form of universal medical care.


        • Eric Snyder says:

          I understand and, of course, I would never “recommend” anyone else subscribe to our system. My only point is that it is extremely obvious that our level of medical care, and its availability to anyone, has deteriorated greatly as our federal gov’t has encroached on the system.


  4. paul walter says:

    Classic expose of what we know to be Dennis Shanahan/Paul Kelly/Glen Milne style Murdoch polemic, usually a lie wrapped in a tone of sober solemnity; a consciously weasel-worded confection designed to deceive employing the mimicry of objectivity.
    No doubt about it, Glen Greenwald is always worth read.


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