In his piece in The Australian he demonstrates that he's let a few parrots out of the old intellectual aviary.
APART from their physical beauty, profound spirituality and extraordinary grace, what do these people have in common: Piers Akerman, Janet Albrechtsen, Frank Devine, Andrew Bolt, Michael Duffy, Paddy McGuinness, Miranda Devine, Christopher Pearson, Tim Blair and Gerard Henderson?Alert. Alert. They are conservatives!
Do they share the same blood group? Religion? Astrological sign? No, they don't. And I doubt they went to the same school, although it's remotely possible they came from the same laboratory, products of a catastrophic experiment in genetic engineering.
Dear reader, the link (and they're all linked, like charms on a bracelet) is their political proclivities as pundits. These towering intellects recall that famous tower in Pisa in that they have a perilous tilt and all in the same direction.
Were they boats, they'd list alarmingly to starboard. If aircraft, their lack of left wings would have them plummeting to earth. Indeed, some people of my political proclivities think many of them have crashed and burned. Repeatedly.
We - that is, lefties such as Robert Manne, David Marr and me - have been greatly outnumbered by the right-minded for many a year. Not just an endangered species, our population in the press is so small as to constitute extinction.Here is where Adams really demonstrates his delusion. The media in Australia is majority leftist, as are its political commentators. In listing nearly all of the media conservatives above he then restricts himself to just three lefties, one of which is the eternally loopy David Marr. He misses umpteen other lefties including such luminaries as Terry Lane. How does Marr get a gig when the equally intellectually barren Lane misses out? Like the USA and UK, Australia's media is dominated by leftists though, The Age aside, we're lucky not to be inflicted with the heavily left wing claptrap of the New York Times and The Guardian.
We are dead parrots, pining for the Fabian fjords, giving the illusion of life because we are nailed to our perches. Yet not so long ago the vice was versa. After years of being nurtured by The Australian, young Adams was suddenly personally sacked by Rupert Murdoch. (For the details, read John Menadue's autobiography Things You Learn Along the Way. At the time, Menadue was Murdoch's second-in-command and he insists my marching orders represented one of only two direct proprietorial interventions in his era.) The same day I was proffered political asylum at Melbourne's The Age, known both affectionately and pejoratively as the Spencer Street Soviet. The term could equally be applied to the paper's list to port, and to a degree the place was congenial to lefties.'Congenial to lefties' is an understatement. If you're not part of the soviet and have a desire to send all conservatives to the gulags then you don't get a job there these days.
The editor at the time was the legendary Graham Perkin, regarded as the antipodean counterpart to The Washington Post's Ben Bradlee, and I write of a time when newspapers were undergoing profound change. As I said to Perkin, "We're changing from newspaper to viewspaper." Unable to compete with the instantaneousness of electronic news, the papers, particularly the broadsheets, were opening their pages to more interpretation and opinion. While investigative journalism was enjoying its heyday, punditry was on the march. The era of the columnist had arrived.It's completely ironic that it's the 'right-wing rot' of the free market that has allowed Adams to express his socialist views. If vice were versa, to use his phrase, then the media would be one, big BBC-like leftist nirvana.
However, you couldn't help but notice something odd. Almost all my columnist and cartoonist colleagues at The Age shared the same views. Thus the paper couldn't have been more congenial. And the readers seemed just as agreeable. Circulation was booming.
But our food for thought lacked condiments, the salt and pepper of dissent. Perkin and I often discussed it. "What The Age needs," I said, "is a conservative columnist." Though himself conservative on some social issues, the editor gave a little shudder.
What sort of writer did I have in mind? "A local William F. Buckley Jr," I suggested, a reference to the doyen of US conservatives, a veteran 25 years ago, still soldiering on. I always enjoyed being annoyed by Buckley's stuff. The old duffer wrote right-wing rot with remarkable elegance.
(Is it too late, incidentally, to recommend the aristocratic Buckley as a role model to Akerman or Henderson? The antithesis of the neo-cons, he has been known to make a lot of sense. Indeed, he and I often agree, as when he declared the war on drugs totally and utterly lost. This was more than 15 years ago and Buckley called for a complete rethink on the policies of prohibition and criminalisation. Lately he hasn't hesitated to read George W. Bush the riot act.)The once reasonable The Age is now a hopeless, completely biased, left wing paper and its circulation is plummeting. In the US the same is happening to the NYT, the LA Times, the Minneapolis Star Tribune and a myriad of other single-view papers.
Perkin considered the proposition and agreed, but only "if you can find a conservative with a sense of humour". As this proved impossible, the matter lapsed.
I recall these halcyon days, this golden era of progressive-leftie domination of punditry, with mixed feelings, among them affection and despair. But I also hope my present crop of colleagues, those conservative choristers, will turn down the triumphalism. Perhaps they'll realise that things change. Tides, winds, minds, eras.
Let's go back to Pisa. In that glorious domed building beside the tilting tower, young Galileo conducted his classic experiments with pendulums, on the timing of their swings. As you know, Piers, Andrew, Miranda, Janet and co, political pendulums swing as well. And perhaps, just perhaps, a big swing is under way now that the era of Bush and John Howard appears to be over. If so, the free-market forces, which apply as much to ideas and opinions as anything else, will lead to a time when editors will want, once again, to recruit a few lefties.
But only, one hopes, if they've got a sense of humour.
The proprietors blame the decline on the rise of new media but that doesn't explain the rise in circulation of the Wall Street Journal and other more conservative or libertarian publications.
The fact is that the public is bored of reading the same old biased blather from non-serious people like Adams and Marr. Global warming is a greater threat than Islamic terrorism? The public knows this is rubbish. Readers are lost. Australia is a racist society for not supporting cultural relativism? People know the difference between good values and bad. More readers are lost. The list of agenda-driven topics that are out of touch with the views of the man in the street at places like The Age and ABC simply turn people away.
And where do they go? To places where there's a fair balance such as The Australian, which explains why conservative punditry is on the rise.
Conservatives such as Akerman, Blair and Henderson base their arguments on reality and do a much better job at providing fair and balanced views than do Adams and his clique who resort to preaching leftist topics du jour in complete absence of any understanding, or desire to understand, the other side let alone even discuss the catastrophic human and environmental impact socialism has had on the world over the last hundred or so years.
Naturally, Adams, ever the wise mentor, writes "As I said to Perkin, 'We're changing from newspaper to viewspaper.'" as if he a) was the only one who knew it; and b) invented the witticism.
Then again, maybe he did invent it, despite there being pages of it on Google.
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