The Murdoch Press and the left

From Five myths about Rupert Murdoch published in The Washington Post. Myth Number 1:

1. Murdoch is on the far right.

Fairness and balance aside, Fox News serves up some of the most conservative voices active in American politics. The Wall Street Journal publishes consistently anti-tax and anti-regulatory editorials and opinion pieces. Murdoch’s London tabloids beat the drums for the invasion of Iraq, while his Australian tabloids routinely mock the idea of global warming.

And yet, this is a guy who kept a bust of Lenin in his student chambers at Oxford University. Murdoch founded his native Australia’s sole national newspaper (the Australian) in 1964 and encouraged its reporting on conditions confronting aboriginal peoples. Even though he is hostile to government initiatives on climate change, groups that examine corporate carbon emissions have given News Corp. high marks for monitoring and disclosing its footprint; the company beat a five-year deadline that he set back in 2007 to become carbon-neutral. A naturalized American citizen, Murdoch supports more liberal immigration laws.

Over the years, he has moved to the right. But his cultural conservatism and skepticism of regulation are tempered by more progressive stands, influenced in part by his three adult children with his second wife. And his political instincts prove flexible. Although he went after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a leading Republican, last year for cozying up to President Obama in the wake of Hurricane Sandy so close to Election Day, Murdoch has made common cause with center-left Democrats such as the late New York City mayor Ed Koch and Hillary Rodham Clinton when she was a senator from New York. Similarly, he backed Labor’s Tony Blair for prime minister three times in Britain. He is simply not as conservative as Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes or the Journal editorial page.

And then there is this from Wikipedia:

 At the end of the Thatcher/Major era, Murdoch switched his support to the Labour Party and its leader, Tony Blair. The closeness of his relationship with Blair and their secret meetings to discuss national policies was to become a political issue in Britain.Former [Labour] Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s official spokesman said in November 2009 that Brown and Murdoch “were in regular communication” and that “there is nothing unusual in the prime minister talking to Rupert Murdoch”.

And in Australia.

Rudd certainly has a lot to say about the coverage of the 2007 federal election by this august organ’s parent company in his new book, Not for the Faint-hearted, released today:

True to the Murdoch newspaper and Howard government form guide … The Murdoch press continued with its breathless reporting …

We gave him a hard time in 2007? We gave him our endorsement. The Australian’s editorial, November 23, 2007:

Mr Rudd has spoken of recapturing some of the reform zeal of the Hawke and Keating years … We recognise that no change is free of risk, but we recommend a vote for Mr Rudd.

Rudd hated News’s coverage of his time at a strip joint in New York. Rudd’s memoir, yesterday:

Sure enough … I was hit with the full barrage of Murdoch front-page headlines, screaming RUDD’S STRIP CLUB SHAME and DRUNK RUDD CAN’T RECALL STRIP CLUB …

And our investigations into his multi-millionaire wife’s business dealings. Not for the Faint-hearted, continued:

The Murdoch press stalking her as if she was a criminal … This was a type of McCarthyism; where once a charge is made, then published and sensationalised, it becomes legitimate to publish any subsequent charge …

Didn’t stop our sister paper The Daily Telegraph from endorsing him. November 23, 2007:

The Daily Telegraph believes Kevin Rudd should be the next prime minister … we now believe Mr Howard has reached his use-by date …

As did Brisbane’s The Courier-Mail, November 23, 2007:

Kevin Rudd is a man for his time … he has the support of The Courier-Mail, only the second endorsement we have given federal Labor since the newspaper was established 74 years ago.

Alinsky Rule 12 and Rupert Murdoch

Conservatives really are a guileless lot. The tactics of the left have been in print for half a century, they are before our eyes at every turn and no one seems to take them as an exact representation of what the left does. There are a few memes on the left – equality, social justice etc – that are there to cover up its hatred of the market economy and in many ways for freedom in general. There is no actual program; most of what you find are slogans wrapped around an opportunistic agenda whose only genuine end in mind is political power. There is literally nothing in a left agenda that could be used to organise a self-sustaining economically-viable society. Socialism in the West presupposes the existence of a capitalist order. The left agenda without free institutions and a market economy leads only to the gulag, political oppression and mass poverty.

The rhetoric of the left is tactical at every stage. I am therefore astonished at this late stage that it still seems to escape the attention of all too many on the right that the attacks on Rupert Murdoch are merely part of the way the left goes about its business. Rupert Murdoch is simply a useful construct to build its coalition of the stupid (see Gruber). Here is the last of the rules but in many ways the most important:

RULE 12: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions.

So let us look at Rule 12 in light of the attacks on Murdoch and the Murdoch Press.

Target: Rupert Murdoch

Freeze it: Put the spotlight continuously on the evil genius and enemy of the people, a meme that is reinforced at every opportunity. Murdoch, Murdoch, Murdoch 666 with no let up. Never fear, the three-minute hate will be taken up by all on the left who, lacking any clear ability to think coherently for themselves, are grateful for a cause in which they can at least pretend to be knowledgable.

Personalise it: No abstractions. Just make the name “Murdoch” the metaphor for the capitalist press. You don’t need to explain anything to anyone. Once you have made the “Murdoch Press” the very definition of an anti-worker, anti-progressive media, there is no need to present a single argument. Remember, the left assumes its supporters are rusted on and generally stupid. Evidence matters not at all. All the counter arguments in the world will not avail you a thing.

Polarise it: Murdoch is made an issue on which everyone must take sides. You either agree that Murdoch manipulates governments to suit his own anti-progressive agenda or you don’t. It is then easy to identify the comrades and to heap disdain on those others who cannot see the truth. The Gnostic inner circle of insight and knowledge is bestowed on those who can see what is wrong with the Murdoch Press. The rest are just, in their eyes, fools and dupes, when it is precisely they who are manipulated and unable to think any serious thoughts for themselves.

Below are all of Alinsky’s rules for radicals. They really are the means by which the left projects its agenda. It is literally the case that every single strategist on the left consciously adopts these and are no doubt amazed how their enemies fall for it every time. And truth to tell, it is amazing that we never do seem to learn.

Saul Alinsky’s 12 Rules for Radicals – The Glenn Beck Edition

* RULE 1: “Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have.” Power is derived from 2 main sources – money and people. “Have-Nots” must build power from flesh and blood. (These are two things of which there is a plentiful supply. Government and corporations always have a difficult time appealing to people, and usually do so almost exclusively with economic arguments.)

* RULE 2: “Never go outside the expertise of your people.” It results in confusion, fear and retreat. Feeling secure adds to the backbone of anyone. (Organizations under attack wonder why radicals don’t address the “real” issues. This is why. They avoid things with which they have no knowledge.)

* RULE 3: “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy.” Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety and uncertainty. (This happens all the time. Watch how many organizations under attack are blind-sided by seemingly irrelevant arguments that they are then forced to address.)

* RULE 4: “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.” If the rule is that every letter gets a reply, send 30,000 letters. You can kill them with this because no one can possibly obey all of their own rules. (This is a serious rule. The besieged entity’s very credibility and reputation is at stake, because if activists catch it lying or not living up to its commitments, they can continue to chip away at the damage.)

* RULE 5: “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” There is no defense. It’s irrational. It’s infuriating. It also works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions. (Pretty crude, rude and mean, huh? They want to create anger and fear.)

* RULE 6: “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.” They’ll keep doing it without urging and come back to do more. They’re doing their thing, and will even suggest better ones. (Radical activists, in this sense, are no different that any other human being. We all avoid “un-fun” activities, and but we revel at and enjoy the ones that work and bring results.)

* RULE 7: “A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.” Don’t become old news. (Even radical activists get bored. So to keep them excited and involved, organizers are constantly coming up with new tactics.)

* RULE 8: “Keep the pressure on. Never let up.” Keep trying new things to keep the opposition off balance. As the opposition masters one approach, hit them from the flank with something new. (Attack, attack, attack from all sides, never giving the reeling organization a chance to rest, regroup, recover and re-strategize.)

* RULE 9: “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.” Imagination and ego can dream up many more consequences than any activist. (Perception is reality. Large organizations always prepare a worst-case scenario, something that may be furthest from the activists’ minds. The upshot is that the organization will expend enormous time and energy, creating in its own collective mind the direst of conclusions. The possibilities can easily poison the mind and result in demoralization.)

* RULE 10: “If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive.” Violence from the other side can win the public to your side because the public sympathizes with the underdog. (Unions used this tactic. Peaceful [albeit loud] demonstrations during the heyday of unions in the early to mid-20th Century incurred management’s wrath, often in the form of violence that eventually brought public sympathy to their side.)

* RULE 11: “The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.” Never let the enemy score points because you’re caught without a solution to the problem. (Old saw: If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. Activist organizations have an agenda, and their strategy is to hold a place at the table, to be given a forum to wield their power. So, they have to have a compromise solution.)

* RULE 12: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions. (This is cruel, but very effective. Direct, personalized criticism and ridicule works.)

Government must get out of the way

Keynesian economic theory has turned out to be a device for the rich to rob the poor, for the unproductive to raid the incomes of those who work. We are supposedly all to be made better off through massive diversion of the wealth of our nations into the pockets of the crony capitalist friends of our ruling elites and union leaders who fleece their members in the name of protecting them from the employers who gave them their jobs.

Rupert Murdoch has spoken on this to the G20, the first person not from a government to be allowed to make such a presentation. Paul Kelly discusses Murdoch’s speech under the heading, Equality at risk in the West, says Rupert Murdoch. It’s a damned sight more than just equality that is at risk, but our very prosperity. We are being made poor across the broad expanse of our communities because governments are now the chief agents for dispensing purchasing power. Obama was right: you didn’t earn it. The government earned it, and you will only be allowed to keep what it decides you should keep. This is part of what Murdoch said:

“In America, the most highly paid 1 per cent now pay 46 per cent of all income tax.” . . . “In Britain, the top 1 per cent pay 28 per cent of all income tax. That is a massive shift from what our society looked like 30 years ago. We should all be concerned about this polarisation which was never the intent of policy but is certainty a consequence.

“Quantitative easing has increased the price of assets, such as stocks and real estate, and that has helped first and foremost those who already have assets. Meanwhile, the lack of any real wage increase for middle-income workers means growing societal divisions and resentment.”

Quantitative easing is a disaster but you will not find out why by reading any economics book that I know of, other than mine. The last two chapters deal with what had once been stock standard economics before the General Theory. Even Keynes dealt with the money rate of interest (the price of credit) and the natural rate of interest (the price of actual resources, such as bricks and mortar), but that was in his 1930 Treatise on Money, which he wrote before he was sidetracked by Say’s Law. We are ruining our economies in the belief that we are actually doing them good by higher levels of public spending and lower interest rates to encourage investment. But we are ruining them, which is a fact that is obvious to everyone. The only thing invisible is why. But what Murdoch proposed is absolutely right:

The significance of his nine-page speech is his argument about the limits to both monetary and fiscal policy and the imperative for a new approach based upon the need “for government to get out of the way”. Mr Murdoch called for: labour market reform; lower and more competitive corporate taxes; a crackdown on multinationals — naming Google — for not paying taxes where they make their profits; a rethink on excessive bank regulation, warning “you would have to be mad to join the board of a bank these days”; and recognition that high taxes and over-regulation were damaging economic growth and the public interest.

But if you start from Y=C+I+G you cannot make any sense of what he suggests. Read Chapters 16 and 17 of my Free Market Economics second edition if you would like to understand the classical explanation for what is happening right before your eyes and why these kinds of reforms are needed. I do find it odd that this is the only book I know of, at least one that has been written since the 1930s, that can explain what was once obvious to every economist in the world. But odd or not, that is how it seems to be.

Abiding by our way of life

Let me return to that speech by Rupert Murdoch the other day to pull two other bits from it. First this:

But at the end of the day, the values that define Australia depend on more than good government and strong allies. They depend on sound and vigorous institutions especially private institutions.

You can’t have the rule of law if the courts aren’t free and independent – or if you have lawyers running amok as they do in the American system. We cannot allow the rule of law to become the rule of lawyers!

You can’t have a free democracy if you don’t have a free media that can provide vital and independent information to the people.

If the ALP is wondering why the Murdoch Press was a tad hostile to its re-election, they might wish to dwell on this. And this is not just Rupert Murdoch but a pretty sizeable proportion of the country who believe exactly the same. Who were people the likes of Rudd and Gillard to threaten these long-established traditions of freedom and the media? On that alone they needed to go not to mention the rest.

We are not yet overwhelmed by governments but have been moving rapidly in that direction. Our election may have saved us from even more. All governments want to spend so it will be hard to stop even our present incumbants from supporting their vision with our money. But at least there is the possibility that they will see it as their role to build the civic culture that Murdoch was discussing.

And then, from that same speech, there was this:

But for all this progress, there is still a strand among some parts of Australian society who seem to value every culture except our own. These people are gravely confused about what real multiculturalism is. Multiculturalism is not relativism, and tolerance is not indifference.

Australia has clear values and strong institutions. One key value is an openness to all comers – provided they are willing to abide by our way of life.

Australia is what it is because of who we already are. I have always been struck that we made a Jew our Governor-General in 1930. This is a country open to the talents. But it is not a country into which we can bring strings of takers who do not contribute or who do not wish to embrace the values of an open and tolerant society that have developed on this continent over the past 200 years. Never perfect, but it has always been the ideal.

The Murdoch vision

Rupert Murdoch gave a speech last night to the Lowy Institute on “Let’s learn to thrive on disruption“. And what he means he says early on:

For Australia is on the cusp of becoming something rare and valuable in this new world: an egalitarian meritocracy, with more than a touch of libertarianism.

But we can’t wait for later.

In the past few years, we have all seen how advances in communications and travel have eliminated the tyranny of distance. The same might be said for size.

Think about Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong. These are all small places, and hardly blessed with natural resources. Yet not only have they carved out a competitive position in the world because of their free, open and dynamic economies, they have become a source of inspiration for countries around the globe.

Australia can and should do better than all of them.

Australia is the best country in the world because we do have the great English traditions of free institutions, free markets and a willingness to accept and adapt to change. The US was once such a country but isn’t any more or at least may no longer be. We are such a country and are getting better. But what I found most astonishing in the speech was this:

Australia must be the world’s disruptive economy.

The economist Joseph Schumpeter once described the process of ‘creative destruction’ as essential to capitalism. The current fashionable word to capture that sense of creative chaos is ‘disruption’.

As soon as I saw the word “disruption” in the title I went looking for Schumpeter’s name. He is the economist of disruption, who sees that the role of the entrepreneur is not to behave in the way economic theory now teaches, concerned with incremental change with one more unit of some already-existing product leading to a change in revenues and costs. It is about individuals who do new things in new ways. Understanding the role of entrepreneurship is to understand the way in which the world betters itself by a continual introduction of new ideas embodied in wholly different ways of doing things.

It is the vision of people who look forward to the future, who want to engage with change because they know that change is coming, understand that change is often for the better and have introduced institutions that will allow such changes to be introduced, causing disruptions of course, but also with a relatively smooth transition to the new. This is how it has always been in this, the last-ever new frontier society in the world, and I too hope it will continue in just this way, building on our past and on into a future filled with unknown unknowns.