One of my guilty, I won't say pleasures so let's go with habits, is skimming through the Daily Telegraph while waiting for my coffee at the local cafe. It kills time and I can check out the content without giving any money to Murdoch’s media empire.
Depending on how busy the cafe is it can sometimes take up to five minutes for my coffee to arrive, which is lucky, because I don't think my brain could stand much more of that kind of self-abuse. Squished between the advertisements, sports, crime stories, celebrity gossip and corporate press releases masquerading as news is what I like to call the Outrage Factory.
"Smug Bigoted Snobs" boomed the front page headline on May 5, the day before the airing of SBS's reality-documentary Struggle Street, a show that, according to the producers, “gives a voice to those doing it tough right on the doorstep of Australia’s most affluent cities”. But the Telegraph was not convinced. The article attacked the show and branded it as "West bashing" and "publicly funded poverty porn".
That is a rather hypocritical stance given that some of the people featured on Struggle Street were the types of characters who are regularly the targets of the Telegraph’s scorn and vitriol: sole parents, the disabled, welfare recipients and drug addicts.
But here the Telegraph had a bigger ideological fish to fry: attacking a publicly-funded broadcaster. But given the Telegraph’s conservative bent that is hardly surprising. Then the Telegraph took it further, launching a personal attack on SBS director Michael Ebeid, painting him as an elitist who lives on “easy street” with “his younger boyfriend".
As it turned out, the most controversial element of Struggle Street was the promotion. The show itself was, for the most part, largely sympathetic to the plight of its residents. It appeared that those who were most outraged about the show had seen little more than the trailer.
Checking out the Telegraph the day after the second episode of Struggle Street aired, there was no mention of the show or the residents of Mt Druitt. They had moved on to championing the cause of two other Aussie battlers. On the front cover was a Cheshire-cat-faced Gerry Harvey, owner of the retailer Harvey Norman, who is set to be one of the big winners from Joe Hockey’s second budget. On page 3 that great champion of the oppressed, James Packer, was taking on another regular Telegraph villain, Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore and her opposition to Packer's casino development on Sydney harbour, which the Telegraph trumpets as the “nation’s biggest construction project”.
Some might say attacking the Daily Telegraph for being a fair-weather friend of the working class and disadvantaged is just going after low-hanging fruit. But in reality, this is their standard operating procedure: claiming to support the “battlers” while backing the policies and budget measures that will hurt them most.
This is why having an independent media that is unwavering in its support for the causes of the 99% is so important and why Green Left Weekly needs your support.
If you are not already a subscriber, please think about taking out a subscription as it is one of the best ways to support Green Left. If you are not living on your own version of struggle street please consider donating to the GLW fighting fund on the toll-free line at 1800 634 206 (within Australia).
Donations can also be made to Green Left Weekly, Commonwealth Bank, BSB 062-006, Account no. 00901992. Otherwise you can send a cheque or money order to PO Box 394, Broadway NSW 2007. If either of those are beyond your means recycle the paper by passing it on to a friend or leaving it for someone else to read on the bus or train to help get the word out.
I’ll be taking a copy to leave at the cafe next time I’m there to get my coffee fix.