After getting my morning coffee I began flicking through “Australia’s premier broadsheet”, The Australian. In a time when the newspaper industry is losing circulation, ad revenue, cutting staff, cutting page size, and most importantly, losing influence, The Australian is still going strong. Not because it is making any money, the reverse is believed to be true, but because it is being propped up as a monument to Murdoch’s ego. It imagines itself as the paper read by policy makers (The Australian is frequently quoted in parliament) and academics (in my experience they read it in rage, like a scab they can’t stop picking). Very little news appears in The Australian these days, mostly commentaries, and given that the paper’s main aim is to set the national debate on major political issues, it is successful if not profitable and will continue to be subsidised by News Corp for the foreseeable future.
Back before the internet existed crazy people only had the letters to the editor section of newspapers to write their paranoid angry screeds. The legend in the industry is that the most insane letters would be written in green ink, a tradition we continue here at We couldn’t make this up…. So today, as I always do when I happen on a newspaper, I flicked to the section in the paper entitled Opinions, which unlike the rest of The Australian instead of having opinion pieces interspersed by news articles, it has a funny little cartoon surrounded by the aforementioned letters and the editorial down the left side. I was confronted by one of the least sensible things I had read in sometime:
REGARDING themselves as more enlightened and sophisticated than ordinary Australians in the ‘burbs and the bush, many black-clad inner-city hipsters in Sydney and Melbourne who abhor traditional religion and claim not to believe in God are anything but atheists, agnostics or rationalists.
A correlation between religious belief in the recent census and voting patterns reported yesterday suggests many inner-urban dwellers have embraced Gaia and Earth-based spiritualism.
Belief in God is thriving among families, including migrants, in outer suburbs such as Campbellfield in Melbourne’s north and Horsley Park in Sydney’s west, where 97 per cent of people reported a religion. Their observance was matched only by remote indigenous communities.
In contrast, just 43 per cent of people in Darlington, in inner-Sydney, reported a religious affiliation. In Melbourne’s Clifton Hill the figure was 47 per cent. Such disbelief in God was exceeded only in Nimbin in northern NSW.
Regrettably, it is not rationalism that has driven Matthew, Mark, Luke and John from inner-urban streets, but the gospel of the Greens, whose vote has soared in such areas in inverse proportion to the fall-off in traditional religion. And the trend is costing all of us far more than a tenner a week on the collection plate.
As national income is sacrificed on solar panels and wind turbines, urban elites enthralled with the prophecies of Bob Brown, Tim Flannery and others demand ever-sterner penances to atone for the sins of coal barons, industrialisation and economic growth.
With a fervour that would make St John Vianney and Billy Graham seem lukewarm, the green army preaches in the public square and in cyberspace, on the national broadcaster and in school science classes.
Out of all proportion to climate science and akin to plagues of biblical proportions, Doomsday scenarios pepper the liturgical rhetoric of the new religion as its apostles warn of impending famines, sea levels soaring 80m and capital cities running out of water, if they are not annihilated first by hurricanes.
And, contrary to the moral code of the old religions that called on the rich to help the poor, Gaia’s will is being done on Earth as those struggling to afford their daily bread and power bills subsidise richer people who can afford solar panels to take advantage of generous government subsidies. It’s a cosy doctrine for some.
The weird bit was that this incoherent ranting, which would normally find itself at home on WND, was not the work of a letter writer, but of the editor them self. I say them self as The Australian always publishes its editorials anonymously and writer employs that annoying third person way of using the paper’s title when they wish to refer to them self (like I did earlier).
It is hard to begin to work out where to criticise this piece of prose. Is it the wealth, educated, entitled newspaper editor crying for the poor whist their newspaper attacks a union back government everyday on the frontpage and demands business tax cuts? The denouncement of Greens voters as irrational whilst ignoring the consensus on climate change? Or just the over use of hyperbole?
Clearly The Australian is losing the national debate on the issue of climate change. For years it has maintained a denialist agenda in the face of overwhelming science, it is now resorting to attempting to paint its political opponents as religious fanatics and reeks of desperation. However, that boat has sailed. Last week Australia brought in the most comprehensive carbon pricing system in the world, which will generate enough income that the federal government was confident in slashing taxes and raising pensions at a time when other countries are tightening their belts. I say carbon pricing system, rather than tax as its opponents labelled it, as the trading of carbon credits will begin in 2015, until then they are a fixed price increasing incrementally each year.
It is nice to see that in the age of new media with the opinions of minority and fringe groups being heard through blogs and Twitter, that crazy can still pour-forth from the hallowed halls of the office of the editor of a broadsheet newspaper.