White Man’s Media-Why cleaning up the government and media is women’s work

Sep 6, 2021
White mans media

We let powerful global institutions control the narrative, and it’s up to women to put a stop to it.

Most of those who brought us this anthropocene age are white, grey, male, and stale. It is now the virocene, the envirocene, and the pyrocene age too, thanks to the younger and even richer men who are taking over from them.

Ingenious white men invented the printing press, the newspaper, radio, television, and the internet. While some claimed that these were tools for enlightenment and progress, media moguls of the past like William Randolph Hearst, Lord Beaverbrook, Robert Maxwell, and the Murdochs used the power of the media to their own advantage. Their media, far from comforting the afflicted by afflicting the comfortable, could control governments, which controlled the taxpayers, who read the newspapers.

The wealth of each of the world’s seven richest men is now greater than the GDP of several countries. Men like these, all but one of them Americans, can take joyrides to space, feel no pain from billion dollar divorce settlements, and then buy baubles for the next wife, like the multi-carat tiara that recently appeared in Murdoch’s Wish magazine. Several of these men have used their wealth to acquire power, by owning and shaping the information, the publicity, and all the narratives that most of us meekly accept. Thus the propaganda controls us. It scapegoats and scorns anyone who objects.

Governments and media have the power to inform us or withhold information from us. In the internet age, that power enables them to invigilate us and control what we say, write, and think. It enables them almost effortlessly to sell us one bill of goods and then exchange it for another, if they want a particular government elected, if they decide the leader of a different country should be demonised, or if they want to change enemies. This is happening before our eyes as the old enemy terrorism, becomes the new enemy, China.

Australians have had their consent manufactured in this way for so long, by the Murdochs, Packers, Fairfaxes, Stokes and others, that we accept it with barely a murmur. We can write stinking letters to editors who bin them as soon as they see the topic or the writer’s name. We can register our disgust by not paying outrageous prices for (literally) incredible, shrinking newspapers, but do they notice? Are any of their conformity-celebrant columnists replaced, the DLP hangovers, or even the anti-feminist women?

Government treats us no better: it only takes longer. We can file cumbersome, expensive FOI requests and the result is the same as from the newspaper editors. The Defence Department has been instructed by its minister, Peter Dutton, to respond to requests from the public with the minimum information. Yet attorney-general’s officers seeking some “foreign influence” laboriously discover the conferences Australians have been to and ask even Gareth Evans for details. Whether their research includes the Australia-America Leadership Dialogue, or politicians’ invited trips to Israel, or Tony Abbott’s work on trade for the UK government, is not revealed, probably to protect “national security”.

We’ve known since at least 1988, when Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky wrote Manufacturing Consent, how the mass media can perpetrate market manipulation, censorship by omission, and ideological propaganda. Disinformation is what both governments and mass media produce, in their own interests. What they object to is people turning to alternative sources of information, making up their own minds about it, and causing political embarrassment by sharing it with whomever they like. That’s why for years Edward Snowden has been in Moscow, Julian Assange in Belmarsh, and Witness K, Bernard Collaery, and David McBride before the court in Canberra. That’s why it will take anguished years to find any Australian guilty for what happened in Afghanistan, or for the alleged rapes of ‘Kate’ and of Brittany Higgins.

Why do we let governments and the mainstream media control the narrative and people’s lives, and how can we put a stop to it?

A feisty Melbourne woman, who’s unlikely to displace any of Murdoch’s anti-feminist columnists, proposes some answers in her widely-read blog.

Caitlin Johnstone accuses the mainstream media of focussing on technological, and hence profit-driven, solutions to climate collapse, which are unlikely to succeed. She says this is because the global model values growth and making more things (“men’s work”) over cleaning things up (“women’s work”). That’s also why so much of the work done by women – including writers – is unpaid.

Johnstone goes on to argue that unmaking things is what is needed now: “The oceans are our planet’s best carbon sink, for example, and their ability to do that is being choked to death by plastic”. Removing plastic from the oceans is expensive, not profitable. So the push to do this is ignored. The solution is clear, but it doesn’t attract (white, male) billionaires, says Johnstone.

Media consumers in China now have an alternative to white men’s media. The global dominance of Western narratives has been stalled by Beijing’s huge investment in media, in China and world-wide in many languages. Journalists from non-compliant countries have been sent home; academics accused of spying have been imprisoned; if Apple, Google and the like don’t comply with the rules, they are shut down. Outlets like the China Daily and Global Times recite point by point the shortcomings of Western countries, particularly Australia, as does the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman.

By whatever means Chinese consent was manufactured, in June some 20 million of them reportedly protested to the World Health Organisation about the origins of COVID-19. They called for the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick to be investigated, along with laboratories doing biological weapons research elsewhere in the world. It was a shrewd move: an American refusal would disempower Washington’s demands for access to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and would suggest that Fort Detrick had something to hide. Only in the Chinese non-white men’s media do we find the suggestion that Murdoch’s Sharri Markson has written the Chinese half of the story, but not the American half. Watch this global space.

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