As many bloggers know, The Australian is hypersensitive to criticism, which is unfortunate, since so much of what is printed in its pages calls out for correction. The most consistent example is its War on Science (particularly climate science). Tim Lambert’s series on the topic is now up to 50 entries.
Until now, the usual MO has been to make the attack without identifying the target, though in such a way that anyone actually involved knows who is intended. For example, I got a whole editorial to myself, in which I was described only as “an opinion writer in a financial tabloid” and as a “green activist” with a “totalitarian mindset”. I’ve finally got around to adding the latter bouquet to my sidebar, along with various other compliments.
But, as the Oz has become more and more openly partisan and dishonest, the criticism has come not only from bloggers and occasional columnists but from leading lights of the journalistic establishment, who can’t be ignored in this way. Laura Tingle had an excellent piece in the Fin (paywalled) and the Oz today identifies Barrie Cassidy and Fran Kelly as fellow-critics. The Oz takes offence at a description by Fran Kelly of “front-page editorialising”, but that’s too generous. Party-line propaganda masquerading as news can be found on every page of the Oz.
And what’s true of the Oz is true of the entire Murdoch empire, from Fox News to the Times of London. The former paper of record was recently forced to print a humiliating retraction of the lies it told about the spurious “Climategate” scandal, something which the Oz has (I think) failed to do.
Obviously, Murdoch is not incurring any short-run costs from abandoning the truth. His readers and viewers have demonstrated, over and over, that they prefer comfortable lies to inconvenient truths, on everything from the Iraq war to climate change to birtherism. But sooner or later, the political right in the English-speaking world will pay a heavy price for its collective decision to disregard reality.
fn1. To be absolutely specific, it was the Sunday Times – I’m not sure of its exact relationship to the weekday edition.
fn2. Of course, the real scandal was the theft of private emails, and the use of distorted extracts for defamation, a crime in which almost everyone in the anti-science movement was complicit to some extent or another. Their standards of morality are even lower than their standards of reasoning.