Monday, April 02, 2012

Only Monday, and yet the class and newspaper wars rage on ...

Every so often Paul Sheehan begins to sound alarmingly like a socialist, or at least a revolutionary of the old French school, or perhaps an Occupier, and so it is in Billionaire bashing: the new class war.

You might expect, from the tone of the title - who likes to be a basher? - a valiant defence of Gina Rinehart, or even national treasure Clive Palmer, but instead Sheehan calls on lotteries, Ray Dalio at Bridgewater, the 1%, The Hunger Games, Margin Call, the muppet callers at Goldman Sachs, Inside Job, and Newt Gingrich sniping at Mitt Romney to establish that there's deep disgust at social inequality and something obscene at work in capitalism.

Class war is back. On both sides of the Atlantic. The consequences have a long way to run.

Yes, it's Sheehan in apocalyptic disaster, let them eat a little cake or we'll all perish mode, a Jeremiah with a jeremiad, but you have to say it's also deeply lazy column writing, flinging together a few movies and a few snippets to eke out a column.

It spoils the party a little to note that class warfare never really went away, not in Margaret Thatcher's time, nor in the time of FDR, when he attacked speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism and war profiteering, noting that the evil doers were unanimous in their hate of him, and that he welcomed their hatred.

Sheehan's probably just caught up on the Republican party momentarily using the banner of "class warfare" as some kind of atrocious concept of the left, hoping thereby to conceal their continuing desire to practice class warfare by giving money to the rich in the mistaken belief that more than a nickel or two will trickle down to the poor ...

Unless Chris Berg happens to want to hire you as a nanny ... when you might luck in to the minimum wage provided you agree to a 365/12/7/24 regime because you just love to work overtime.

The notion that the conflict between rich and poor has some way to run is such an astonishingly banal insight, such a statement of the bleeding obvious, that you have to wonder why Sheehan still gets a run in Fairfax rags.

The more important question is which side of the class warfare divide you're on, and it's likely enough that Sheehan is on the side of ecstatic sourdough and magic water.

But speaking of class warfare, the most adept practitioners of the black art in Australia - the molochs of Murdoch - remain locked in class warfare of a different kind.

The AFR has continued to maintain the rage regarding its story about News Corp and payTV shenanigans, though it's slipped down the charts to the number two slot:

Yes, a poll will trump everything, but meanwhile, the saga has echoed across the Indian ocean and turned up like a smelly fish dropped by a seagull in the lap of the media department of The Guardian:

Just head off to the main media link above, and get the chips while they're still medium warm.

Meanwhile, the saga seems to have slipped off the front page of The Australian altogether, but it did lead to one splendid moment. To relish it, we have to step past the paywall iron bamboo curtain for a moment to read Editorial concerns deepen at the house of Fairfax.

Sssh, be quiet as a mouse, we wouldn't want them to think we're eavesdropping, but really if you wanted a classic example of a paranoid erecting additional fortifications around the castle you couldn't want for better (well at least in the week since David Penberthy began the job).

The piece is full of remorseless self-pity and an acute sense of unjust persecution, laughable in the face of the lack of pity and the capacity for unjust persecution the rag and the organisation has shown over recent years.

And of course after a cursory run with the Bart Simpson defence - it wasn't us, you can't prove anything, we didn't do anything - it's down to the hammers and tongs:

We expect this in the untamed world of online commentary, where the internet has become the new dunny door.

Ain't it grand. The company that has led the internet in Australia down the garden path to the outdoor dunny with the torn up newspapers and the redback spiders and the forlorn door flapping in the gale of strident character assassinations, bitchy innuendo, and outright distortions of the truth, via the likes of Andrew the Bolter, Piers 'Akker Dakker' Akerman, Miranda the Devine, Tim Blair, and the punchdrunk circus performers punching on at The Punch, bloggers and online commentariat members the lot of them ... this toffy royal "we" has the cheek to get sniffy about the smells emanating from the dunny door ...

Look first to your own latrine lads and lasses.

Oh it's grand and it's rich, but do go on:

It speaks volumes, however, about the decline of standards at the ABC that it too should endow the AFR's stories with fake gravitas without making any attempt to establish the facts or contact News Limited for comment.

Uh huh. Tell that to anyone wanting fair and honest reporting on climate science. Before he gave up on the job - who can abuse him for refusing to pay to access News Ltd silliness, Deltoid had got up to number 76 in The Australian's war on science, with the use of Dad jokes, a breach of the 1949 Geneva convention on humour.

Oh yes, that tone of fake hurt gravitas, immediately belied by humourists in the rag who think it's funny to label The Age as Pravda by the Yarra, and don't understand why some people think Dad jokes are best left to irreverent bloggers, rather than rags seeking fake gravitas by bashing the ABC and the opposition on a daily crusading basis, turning newspaper reporting into radical distorted crusading fear and opinion mongering ..

Phew, but do go on ...

The only possible conclusion from this tawdry episode is that Fairfax has been using its financial daily to damage its chief rival. In other words, the AFR is a pawn in the kind of dirty tricks campaign it claims, without evidence, that NDS conducted against Austar. It has added a layer of mud to the smears News Limited has endured because of its links to News Corporation, the publisher of the now-defunct News of the World, one of number of papers accused of corrupt journalistic practices in Britain.

Oh the poor innocent long suffering possums, how the heart bleeds. Layers of mud, as if the mud isn't of the home-made and self-applied kind.

Who can tell what Fairfax hopes to achieve by further eroding the reputation of its circulation-challenged national title in this manner. We do know the company is in such dire straits that it recently considered closing its own presses and renting print space from News Limited. And we know sales of The Weekend Australian outnumber those of the weekend AFR edition by five-to-one. Readers, it appears, are less gullible than some editors.

Yep, that'd be the readers unaware that The Australian reportedly has rarely made a profit, and routinely relies on cross-subsidies from the tabloid rags like the HUN to stay in the game. For vanity ... and for influence.

Which in turn explains why the rag would dearly love to be the only newspaper servicing the business community, and Sydney and Melbourne get turned into one newspaper towns with the demise of Fairfax.

Oh yes, it's warfare, but in this case it's very much a matter of pot and kettle arguing over blackness, and ain't it grand to see the AFR tweak the beard of Rupert.

Has anyone from the rag ever refuted - with actual hard figures - this set of assertions from its deepest most feared enemy, the fiendish Robert Manne?

... It's very hard to find out whether, or how much The Australian loses every year. Everyone seems to think it loses a great deal. But I talked to experts about the finances of newspapers, and they didn't know the exact profitability or in fact loss-making of The Australian because many of its finances are tied up with the other News Limited papers. The printing presses are shared, distribution is shared, and so on. So the finances are opaque. But on the other hand, everyone thinks it loses a lot of money, and I think most people see that it continues mainly because Rupert Murdoch sees it with pride, as the vehicle he can use to influence the trajectory of Australian life. So whether anyone has the will to keep it going with so much loss after Murdoch passes or loses his grip we don't know. I think it might be a fifty-fifty bet as to whether it would be able to continue. It presumably could be bought by someone else who might try and make a go of it, but whether it could ever be even vaguely profitable is unclear I think. (here).

Well the passing of chairman Rupert - it can be said in a realistic rather than an unkindly way - will be sooner rather than later - and hubris is perhaps an unwise tone for an unprofitable rag, given the way it's not possible to see around corners (as long ago established by Jon Cleary's novel).

You'd think living in this sort of glass house would inhibit the throwing of stones, but The Australian by now is an habituated, serial thrower of all sorts of scurrilous stones.

There can be no better example of the story of the frog and the scorpion in action ...

Oh yes, in the famous words of Paul Sheehan, the newspaper wars are ongoing, and the consequences have a long way to run.

(Below: speaking of the frog and the scorpion, Tom Tomorrow produced this variation back in 2010. More TT here).

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