“Half-truth is much worse than a whole lie because it makes it even harder to tell the difference between the two.” (Gene Ruyle)
For many weeks the Australian parliament, paralyzed by the antiquated legalistic of Section 44 and pre-occupied with the marriage equality issue and the hounding of top politicians, remained oblivious to the existential risks to life on Earth, expressed by extreme weather events including powerful cyclones and extensive wildfires, engulfing large parts of the globe, and to the rising threat of nuclear annihilation. Nor does the majority of the Fourth Estate appear to be too concerned, preoccupied as they are in the chase of ratings and profits. But while it is “normal” for commercial channels to pander to their readers through the hour by hour reporting of salacious titbits, the ABC, the supposed guardian of the public good, appears to be living in fear of external pressures.
For a public broadcaster repeatedly declaring in the course of their programs “The ABC is the most trusted news source”, based on a poll (https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/abc-most-trusted-news-source-poll-shows-after-turnbull-minister-accuses-it-of-fake-news-20161222-gtgmqa.html), the following raises eyebrows:
- Rarely are ABC reports of extreme weather events, such as cyclones and wildfires, accompanied with indications of the scientific consensus regarding the inherent relationships between these events to global warming, responsible for an increase in the scale and frequency of these events. (https://johnmenadue.com/andrew-glickson-hurricanes-and-megafires-abound-but-dont-mention-the-words-climate-change/).
- The new ABC program “A matter of fact” claims: “In a world awash with bogus news, dubious sources and noisy opinions, Stan Grant brings Australian audiences the essential context they need to separate facts from fiction on the important issues of the” (http://iview.abc.net.au/programs/matter-of-fact-with-stan-grant/NC1805H002S00). So far, as far as I aware, this program mostly consists of interviews with high-level politicians and others executives, expressing views consistent with their political affiliation and vested interests. On the other hand, there appears to be a paucity of science-based facts. In particular, this relates to warnings by climate and health scientists regarding the extreme shift in the state of the atmosphere-ocean system, threatening to render large parts of the Earth inhabitable, flood delta and low river valleys and lead to a collapse of the marine food chain.
- The ABC Insiders program claimed to be “Australia’s flagship political discussion”, appears to mostly includes middle-of-the-road to conservative journalists associated with mainstream to right-wing papers. Much of the discussion relates to current, often minor to petty news items of little consequence for the survival of future generations and nature. Despite an air of self-importance, the question can be asked on what planet do these “insiders” think they are living on?
- An open letter to the Prime Minister signed by 200 scientists and communicated to the ABC has been ignored, despite of reminders (https://johnmenadue.com/an-open-letter-to-the-prime-minister-on-climate-and-nuclear-perils/).
- It is almost never clear to what extent reporters express, or partly express, their own views and conscience on the airwaves and TV? In so far as they may do so what risks are they taking in doing so or, alternatively, are they broadcasting only as “talking heads”?
In a global state bearing worrying analogies with pre-World War I times, selective derogatory references to perceived enemy countries and their leaders can only incite the public, promote adversity and fan the flames of future wars. To what extent has the mass media become the tail which wags the political dog, or/and the other way around? Media run by ideologies or affiliated with political parties and vested interests is in danger of morphing into the role of persecutor, judge and jury conducting “trials by media” campaigns, destroying reputations before people are found either guilty or innocent. Yet without a media, tyrants are able to monopolize information and propagate disinformation and fake facts, attaining absolute power.
Andrew Glikson, Earth and Paleoclimate scientist. .