BRIAN COYNE: The Bolt-Pell interview: It was “vintage Murdoch”

Stir up the emotions of Benny-Ratz’s little people

My understanding of a lot of things in life has changed quite radically over recent decades. Once upon a time I was an ardent believer in the great value of democracy and the “intelligence” of the great masses of ordinary citizens. Today I believe two unlikely soul mates, the former pope, Benedict-Ratzinger and one of the richest men in the world, media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, have a better understanding of the mind of the ordinary citizen than anyone else.

Way back in 1979, long before he became pope, the then Cardinal Ratzinger observed “The Christian believer is a simple person: bishops should protect the faith of these little people against the power of intellectuals.” Today I see that as the cultural belief of many leaders in the institution. Rupert Murdoch has long been a critic of the public broadcasters such as the BBC and the ABC with their appeal to toffy, thinking audiences who compete against the “ordinary citizens” – the “little people and simple people” whom he sees as his prime audience.

Murdoch has been running a campaign for decades to bring down the major public broadcasters – who compete against his commercial broadcast and media companies. Andrew Bolt provided one of the best assaults his house journalists have yet mounted via this interview with George Pell. Rupert, I believe, has no lofty political or intellectual ambitions. His ambitions are principally centred around audience numbers, advertisers and, through them, financial profits. Like Benny-Ratz, Rupert also appreciates that the average person is “simple” and wants to be protected from ideas, intellectuals and any heavy thinking. The whole communication game, as far as Rupert is concerned is all about stirring up the basest of the human emotions. Ironically, they are almost diametrically opposed emotions: on the one side stirring up over-the-top-sentimentality; on the other stirring up aggressive outrage, xenophobia and hate. The vast masses of citizens do not work themselves up into a sweat over ideas and ideologies. What they most seek is perpetual entertainment and distraction. Rupert and the commercial broadcasters and tabloid press provide this in bucket loads of over-the-top-sentimentality mixed in the next minute stirring up outrage, xenophobia and even hate.

The great irony at present – and a hugely unexpected one at that – is that the audience ratings for the public broadcasters have been soaring through the roof. The “little people” have seemingly started turning to the public broadcasters in search of intelligent and real “news and information” (as opposed to “fake news”). Furthermore Rupert has actually had to sack or stand-down legions of his underlings and even close many of his newspapers. His audience ratings have been tanking in ways previously not seen [SEE: https://www.theguardian.com/media/2020/apr/14/dozens-of-australian-newspapers-stop-printing-as-coronavirus-crisis-hits-advertising]. The complete banning of sports events has dried up his pay television audiences and he’s had to stand down huge numbers of staff in his electronic media channels.

It seems this tiny virus, that nobody can see with the naked eye, has achieved more for humanity and our collective sanity than a million public broadcast channels and all the thinkers and intellectuals who have ever been born.

Brian Coyne is editor and publisher of www.catholica.com.au

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