The Scottish poet, Robbie Burns, had a way with words. At the end of the poem ‘To a Louse’ he writes:
O, wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us!
It wad frae monie a blunder free us,
An’ foolish notion.
Just in case the Scots is too much – here is a translation:
O, would some Power the gift give us
To see ourselves as others see us
It would from many a blunder free us,
And foolish notion.
For some reason this came to mind a couple of weeks ago when the Sydney Morning Herald wrote an editorial headlined “Right wing media must share blame for US violence”. The editorial predictably went on to blame the right-wing media (that is anyone to the right of the SMH) as responsible for the violence on Capitol Hill accusing them of creating paranoia and conspiracy theories before going on to ask whether the public either in the US or Australia want to ‘consume media fuelled by paranoia”. But then followed these two revealing paragraphs:
“The problems of bias in the media are certainly not confined to the extreme right. Some attacks on the mainstream media are justified. It can struggle to reflect points of view different to the mostly university educated people who staff newsrooms. It can be spun and misled”
“But there is a fundamental difference, the Herald believes, between journalism that at least tries to find the truth, however partially, and journalism that is built around inventing it. There is also a line, perhaps a fine one, between engaged journalism that fights for causes and complicity journalism that collaborates with the likes of Donald Trump.”
It is good of the Herald to accept that they might have a little bias but like the lady in Burns’ poem, they don’t seem to see what they have become. They make an interesting observation when they assume that if you are ‘university educated’ you will all have the same political opinion and social views. What an admission of the poor state of Australia’s universities which should now in all honesty be renamed monoversities! When everyone comes to the same opinion, that is not education, it is indoctrination.
As for feeding paranoia – the SMH is excellent at that. All week, they and their cousins in the ABC, have been feeding the paranoia that the US is about to be taken over by right wing militias and that this is a clear and present danger in Australia. Are there extreme right-wing people in Australia and the US? Of course – just as there are extreme left-wing people (something that the SMH never mentions). But the problem is that the ‘liberal’ media create this fear of the Far Right, and then use that label on anyone who they disagree with. Against abortion? – you are Far Right. Question the causes of climate change? Far Right. Don’t agree that men can become women? Far Right. There have even been attempts to smear Prime Minister Morrison as an Australian Trump! It is quite simply the worst kind of propaganda. Incidentally the same happens on the other side politically – there are those who think that if you think climate change is man-made, or that the government should provide health care, then you are Far Left.
What the SMH calls ‘engaged journalism fighting for causes’ is in reality political propaganda presenting only one side of a many-sided story. This past weekend for example we were treated to a lengthy article telling the story of ‘transgender’ parents. The story itself was interesting but there was no balance in it – nor will the SMH publish a personal story of someone who has been greatly harmed by transgender ideology and has detransitioned. The Herald’s story itself contained inaccurate and false information – for example that 1-3% of Australians are trans (the true figure according to the only official figures we have is 0.01%) This is like the old Kinsey myth that 10% of the population were homosexual was pedalled as fact, when the true figure was just over 1%.
There was a time when newspapers like the SMH permitted a variety of viewpoints – but that has become increasingly rare. Ironically whilst complaining about Donald Trump and the culture wars in the US, they seek to import those culture wars to Australia. When I came to Australia, I just assumed that I would read the SMH; that it would be a kind of Guardian, that I would sometimes agree, sometimes disagree, but it would at least inform, educate and provoke to thought. Sadly, I have been so disappointed. Although there are some good writers, overall, the paper comes across as a somewhat tabloid propaganda paper. I know what the SMH opinion is going to be on almost anything – before I read it.
The irony is that the SMH is complaining about the influence of the media fuelling paranoia and conspiracy theories whilst it fuels paranoia and conspiracy theories – the end of the world is nigh, the Far Right are taking over the world, religious people are brainwashing your children etc.
None of this is to take a political position. Being what is termed a ‘conservative’ Christian (I prefer the term biblical) does not mean that one has to have conservative politics. Christ’s kingdom is not of this world. The Bible does not tell us who to vote for – neither should the clergy! But we do need to be aware of how as a culture, including our media, we have moved away from the Christian concept of truth, into a post-modern, post-truth world. There has always been bias in media, but the difference today is that the bias is now the reason for publication – the news is incidental. As the number of journalists has decreased, the number of columnists has increased. In a post-truth world this allows a newspaper which only presents one point of view to claim that it is objective and truthful!
But let’s return to Burns. Perhaps it would be good for us to examine our own bias and prejudices. And to see ourselves as others see us. They may see what is not there – but that is how they will engage with us. Christians of all people should know how little we know and should approach things in humility. And we should not be scared of truth – wherever it comes from. All truth is God’s truth.