One of the surreal aspects surrounding Extinction Rebellion Western Australia’s (XRWA) Day of Declaration protest at state parliament on August 15 was the frantic efforts of The West Australian to poison public perceptions of the rapidly expanding movement.
Needless to say, this has proven to be invaluable publicity for the newly-formed XR.
The West's attack on XRWA included a number of lurid stories, culminating in a full front page plus double spread feature on August 8. It was accompanied by relentless calls on local governments to refuse to endorse the “Declaration of Climate Emergency” and abandon carbon emission reduction targets.
The newspaper, which is owned by Seven West Media, has always been a standard-bearer for big business and the mining industry. Seven West’s largest stakeholder is Kerry Stokes’ Australian Capital Equity, which has extensive holdings in mining equipment and petroleum exploration.
Perth’s only daily newspaper and the oil and gas industry are the same beast.
In recent years, The West has come to resemble the kind of right-wing tabloids produced by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Some date this shift to Seven West's acquisition of the Sunday Times (Perth’s Sunday paper) from News Corp. Since then — and perhaps as part of the sale deal — The West regularly publishes the hate-filled ramblings of right-wing News Corp columnist Andrew Bolt.
But there is something more to it than that.
Public awareness of the terrible existential danger posed by the climate crisis is gathering pace. The West knows this, but its concern is not the threat to life and civilisation on Earth posed by the climate crisis, but rather the profits of the fossil fuel industry.
The West’s shift is a conscious counter-offensive to prevent any rational response to the climate emergency.
In Australia, veneration of coal and gas is a state religion. The capitalist media are its high priests. The Coalition and Labor are just the altar boys.
The fossil fuel mafia that rules over us are out to smash even the most mild-mannered critics of the system.
It is naive to think that right-wing forces here and abroad are not developing their own responses to the hardship and disruption that will come with more climate change. They are: their answers are fascism and war.
Border walls, demonising the poor and refugees, restrictions on civil liberties and greater military spending are just the early preparatory work.
Labor’s capitulation on Adani’s Carmichael coal mine in Central Queensland, its endorsement of fracking in WA and the Northern Territory, and its support for United States President Donald Trump's warmongering with Iran make it clear which side its parliamentary leaders are on.
There is still time to avert the worst-case scenarios of climate catastrophe. But only a society that breaks with the logic of capitalism — one based on human solidarity and that treats people with dignity — will be able to effectively respond to the challenges and disruption already set in motion.
Achieving this requires breaking the grip that the fossil fuel mafia has over politics. This can only be done by building a huge counterpower in the streets, communities, schools, universities and workplaces.
For this, we need anti-capitalist media outlets such as Green Left Weekly.
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