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Newsletter 321

Published January 23, 2020
Angry Old God vs. Scummo

I’m having a couple of weeks off the art column so the only new posting is a review of Bombshell, the much-anticipated account of the sexual harrassment scandal at Fox News that put an end to the careers of Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly. Although there is at least one scene that brings home the full impact of harrassment in the office, the film is really about power: the corruptions of power, the way that employees contort themselves to accommodate the bosses’ designs.

Ailes is the supremo that controls the look and content of Fox News but the ultimate power resides with the proprietors, the Murdochs. Bombshell contains some very unconvincing portrayals of Rupert Murdoch, and his sons, James and Lachlan. The younger Murdochs never come across as anything but loyal lieutenants in this movie, but this week’s news has shown a different side of James, who has spoken out against News Corp’s persistent denials of climate change.

Anybody else would probably be sacked or pressured out of the organisation, but when it’s one of the heirs apparent this creates a quandry. If you are a well-paid opinion writer in The Australian who peddles right-wing twaddle to toady up to Rupert, it will be hard to follow the usual procedure and launch a full-scale attack on the perceived enemy – the fate of figures such as Matt Kean, the NSW Minister for Energy and Environment, when he broke ranks and called for action on climate change.

Could anyone denounce James Murdoch as a crazed greenie? A left-wing extremist? There may be a change of approach looming, as Murdoch senior has just told us there are no climate change deniers at News Corp (!!) and announced a $5 million donation to bushfire relief.

I may be cynical but I assume this change of heart is largely cosmetic – a form of damage control to tide us over the bushfire crisis. When we’re back to normal, albeit a new normal, one may expect to see the same troglodyte attitudes resurface in the Murdoch Press. The bigger concern is those readers who are too stupid, too selfish or heartless to stop denying the impact of climate change. What greater evidence do they need?

Foremost in this respect will be politicians such as Craig Kelly and George Christensen, who are accustomed to bullying their own colleagues into line with their views. As the Coalition grows more fragmented in its attitude toward the climate crisis, such divisive figures will become public liabilities. The problem will land squarely on Scummo’s doorstep, and he has already shown us his ineffectiveness as a leader, his hypocrisy and contempt for the public. His buddy-buddy relationship with Jesus seems to have failed rather badly, even allowing that the Lord moves in mysterious ways. A quick glance at his Old Testament should be a reminder that when some exalted leader did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, a terrible retribution generally followed. Not only would He smite the errant leader, but bring down disaster on the next several electoral cycles.

The fires, and the economic aftermath, will put pressure on many of the Coalition’s pet projects. Can Scummo be so strident in his defence of the Adani coalmine when it’s clear that a new global economy is being built on the embrace of renewables and the rejection of fossil fuels? Coal may (or may not) be worth $70 billion in exports, but it’s a dying business. A responsible government would be taking every opportunity to support the emerging business opportunities provided by renewable energy projects.

There’ll also be questions asked that go beyond the energy sector. Will the NSW government persist in wasting up to $2 billion dollars ‘relocating’ the Powerhouse Museum, against all advice and common sense, when funds are so urgently required for bushfire reconstruction? If James Murdoch can contradict the dominant ideology of News Corp in public there must be politicians of integrity within the Coalition who are willing to put forward views that go against the smug, short-term opportunism that has been such a feature of politics, both federally and at state level. Out of the inferno we need new courage and new thinking.