The periodic meltdowns at the Oz (see here and here) have been growing ever more bizarre. But it will be hard to top this episode, where editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell threatened to sue academic Julie Posetti for defamation. Posetti’s supposed defamation consisted of two Twitter posts summarising a speech by Asa Wahlquist, for many years the leading environmental reporter at the Oz. As Posetti summarised it Wahlquist found working for the Oz under Mitchell “excruciating” … “torture”, because of the paper’s anti-science stance
What is most amusing here is the way in which a string of Oz journalists spontaneously line up to write articles saying that Chris Mitchell would never tell anyone what to write.
What is most significant, looking at the Murdoch press more generally, is Murdoch’s willingness to trash the credibility of his media assets, built up over a long period, in the pursuit of ideological agendas and (perhaps) short-term profits. The Oz was never a great paper, but it used to be a good one, even if it was pretty reliably conservative. More strikingly, the same process is going on at The Times (of London), once regarded as the world’s ultimate journal of record. The same is true of the Wall Street Journal – before Murdoch took over the general view was that even if the Op-Ed pages were barking mad, the news was always accurate. Now the distinction between news and opinion is disappearing fast.
And the same can be said for the political right as a whole. Their eagerness to see plain issues of fact (WMDs in Iraq, global warming, the existence of a DDT ban) as subjects for political debate hasn’t done them much harm in the short term. But as the “epistemic closure” fuss a while back shows, everyone is increasingly aware that truth and falsehood are no longer meaningful terms for those on the right. This will, I think, entail some big costs for them in the long run.