You all remember Old King Canute taking his throne down to the beach, right – “Cnut set his throne by the sea shore and commanded the tide to halt and not wet his feet and robes. Yet “continuing to rise as usual [the tide] dashed over his feet and legs without respect to his royal person. Then the king leapt backwards, saying: “Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings, for there is none worthy of the name, but He whom heaven, earth, and sea obey by eternal laws.”
Possibly true, possibly not. It was a thousand years ago, if it happened, and our media finds it impossible to recount accurately something that happened 1000 minutes ago. But if it wasn’t then it should have been. Should have been read out to every subsequent king and baron. Oh not the god nonsense of course, they did enough of that for themselves, but the idea that the most powerful person had no control over the natural world and its “laws”.
Certainly should be read out to Ms Gina Rinehart, richest woman in the universe, well, Australia anyway, and probably the one with the greatest hubris, now that Maggie Thatcher and Sarah Palin have left politics.
She was fairly private and low key until a couple of years ago. Then she emerged in the front of a crowd of well-dressed protesters, with professionally printed signs, bused in from a nearby office to stand at attention on astroturf. It was a very small crowd, but with the use of a camera carefully focussed just on the front row, managed to give the most inaccurate record of an event since US soldiers pulled down the statue of Saddam Hussein in a pretence it was a sign of popular support for the invasion.
But I digress. There was Gina (was she holding a sign? I forget) chanting with the others “Whaddawe want? No taxes for billionaires. Whendowe want it? Now”. No, I made that up a little bit, a rough translation but capturing the essence of the event.
Made so much noise that day and other days through the media they won the debate, tax essentially dropped, prime minister dumped from office partly as a result. Power, sure, but not much different to the power the very rich have been exerting in this egalitarian society for 200 years.
And then I read this and suddenly we were into much more sinister doings. Into the American world of the Koch Brothers, and PACs, corporations as people, and the Heritage Foundation.
So it has gone ahead. Last few days have seen Rinehart taking the major shareholding in Fairfax, Plimer appointed to her boards. And the IPA, apparently also supported by her financially has, over the last few years, become ubiquitous almost daily across all the media of the ABC. Some of the details about this are available here and here and here.
So we are reaching a situation where Murdoch controls 70% of the Australian commercial media, Rinehart in effect will control much of the rest, and the IPA is ensuring that the ABC takes a strongly right wing view of every issue and climate change is scarcely ever mentioned.
So expect over the next decades, that these powerful people will ensure the election of an ultra conservative Coalition government, the media will release only information it wants released and will tell you what to think about it, that no action witll be taken on climate change in any way, and environmental protection and regulation will be smashed. I can see no way of stopping this no matter how many of us blog away in our small corners of this brown land. Twenty billion dollars versus twenty million people in a democracy? No contest.
But then in ten years time I have a picture of this lonely woman sitting on a throne on a beach. Behind her a gaggle of shock jocks and climate change deniers and mining CEOs and conservative politicians. One of them is saying “Give the order, O great Queen, and it will obey”. She is holding out her hand to the sea and commanding “climate stop changing”, but then she gets drowned by the rising water levels and I can see her no more.