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DIDGE - The View From Down Under

An Aussie’s ridgy-didge view of world affairs and popular culture.

Monday, October 11, 2004

The Age: How could you do this to us?

In Melbourne we have two major newspapers, Rupert Murdoch’s Herald Sun and Fairfax's The Age. It makes me cringe just to look at the front cover of Murdoch’s trashy tabloid (it’s so jam-packed with irrelevance, ignorance and a general apathy towards anything other than sport and sensation that I need to shower after reading it), so The Age is my source of quality news. At a time when the Herald Sun is printing blatant lies about The Greens (including laws to make people eat less meat and ride bikes), in an attempt to stifle their rising popularity, I have come to embrace The Age as a defender of journalistic credibility. But Friday’s (October 8) issue hit me like a truck. The unthinkable happened: The Age supported John Howard in his bid for re-election.

The editorial cited economic reasons, and also pointed out Mark Latham’s inexperience. There is no doubt the economy is good, but surly you have to stack it up against all the horrible things this government has done. The locking up of children in detention centres, the amount of time people remain locked up in detention centres (one man has been locked up for over six years, yes – six years), lying that asylum seekers threw their children overboard, even though Howard was told this was not true, knowing about the abuse going on in Abu Ghraib prison and not saying anything, then lying about knowing it was happening months before the story broke in the American media. Oh, and ignoring intelligence that said Saddam Hussein didn’t have weapons of mass destruction and then entering Australia into an illegal and immoral war, making Australia a greater terrorist target.

Oh, and then there’s Howard’s stance on gay marriage, which is offensive, out-dated and bigoted (he actually said gay marriage would lead to the end of humankind because homosexuals can’t copulate). Howard’s abolishment of ATSIC (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission) is truly insane. The governement suspended the ATSIC chairman Geoff Clark, but in an embarrseing turn of events the Federal Court found the suspension to be unlawful and “discriminatory against indigenous people”. Huh, what a pack of racists. And Greenpeace, the Australian Conservation Foundation and the Wilderness society, have attacked Howard’s environment policy, calling it a “disaster”, and he still refuses to sign the Kyoto agreement. If you just look at the economic issue, yes, they probably deserve to be re-elected. But a government should not be elected on one issue. Their pros and cons should be weighed up. And somehow I think his failings would tip the scale towards being kicked out. Dismissing every horrible thing Howard and his colleagues have been responsible for, just to focus on the economy, is something I would expect from a Murdoch paper, but not The Age.

Needless to say many other readers felt the same way. The next day the letters page was flooded with readers shocked by such an honest newspaper supporting such a dishonest man. Some of the opinions expressed included:

“The Age let us down – badly. The editorial’s marginalisation of the Government’s ‘shortcomings’ (dehumanising treatment of refugees, sending young Australians to risk their lives and others in an unjustified war, lack of meaningful reconciliation with Aboriginal Australians) insults the value, respect and trust we have for The Age.”

“I’m hoping mad. How could The Age possibly back John Howard? I thought your paper at least would stand up to these liars, but your editorial was timidity itself. I can only guess that your leader writer doesn’t even read his own newspaper. Well, be assured that from now on, neither shall I.”

“The Age has betrayed Australia.”

“I am appalled that The Age endorses the Coalition. Some readers will not forget or forgive. I, for one, will not renew my subscription.”

I will, however, continue to read The Age. What other choice do I have in the area of newspapers? The Herald Sun? No thanks. I’d rather inform myself of important world issues rather than stare blankly at half naked celebrities and the frequent, pointless, pictures of children and animals, only to come across a major story shoved down into one paragraph on page 37. But my love of The Age has diminished, and it will take awhile to resurrect that faith. I don’t know what it will take, and I really don’t know if it could ever be fully restored. What The Age has done is huge. I know many people run to The Age to get away from all the butt kissing that goes on in most areas of the media. But now what do we do when a quality paper shuns the stories in its own pages and chooses John Howard? A few months ago The Age printed an editorial, which outlined the ridiculousness of banning gay marriage. It was intelligent, compassionate and much appreciated when the world seemed to be getting more hateful. Some more editorials with the same amount of intelligence would be nice.