John Menadue. Stuck in a closed information loop

Conservatives who read and listen to News Corp media have a problem. They are encouraged to believe that the world is really like News Corp says it is. The inevitable result is a loss of reality.

Paul Krugman in the New York Times on September 23 wrote of the problems of right-wing Republicans who keep complaining about the lazy jobless. He said

In a nation where the Republican base gets what it thinks are facts from Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, where the party’s elite gets what it imagines to be policy analysis from the American Enterprise Institute or the Heritage Foundation, the Right lives in its own intellectual universe, aware neither the reality of unemployment nor what life is like for the jobless. You might think that personal experience – almost everyone has acquaintances or relatives who can’t find work – would still break through, but apparently not.’

That closed information loop also operates extensively in Australia through the same News Corp. Australian conservatives are encouraged to think that the unemployed are dole-bludgers, that Muslims are terror suspects and that poor people don’t need to drive cars.

News Corp says in its outlets that the war in Iraq was justified and that climate change is nonsense. They are probably the two most important issues of the last decade. On both News Corp has been on the wrong side of history.

In the short term conservatives get a ‘sugar hit’ out of reading The Australian, The Daily Telegraph, The Courier Mail and The Adelaide Advertiser, but in the long term they become divorced from reality.

These publications are not as extreme as the old Pravda, but rusted-on party supporters feel affirmed in their ideological correctness. But gradually they come to the view that they are being told nonsense and that the world of political unreality does not match their own experience.

As Daniel Moynihan, the former US Senator said, ‘everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but no-one is entitled to their own facts’. And News Corp keeps pushing opinions of issues such as climate change denial and pretends that they are facts. Scientific advice is overwhelmingly telling us that climate change is occurring and that human activity is responsible for that change. But News Corp keeps telling its conservative readership that climate change is nonsense.

Think tanks, like the Institute of Public Affairs adds to this closed circuit information loop. The IPA is secretly funded, apparently by big Tobacco and the foreign miners, but pretends it is an independent and intellectually honest think-tank. Just like News Corp it is a propaganda vehicle which helps conservatives to affirm their view of the world.

In the long term, ideological institutions like News Corp who feed into and from their ideological base do a great disservice not only to serious conservatives but also to the long-term interests of a diverse and informed community.

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