The Good. The Bad. The Asinine.

That time I gave Rupert Murdoch a dollar

Rupert Murdoch is many things. Former Australian. Hacker of celebrity phones. Probable lizard-person. He’s also a billionaire. So why would I give him a dollar?

Well, last week I saw that NewsCorp journalist Andrew Bolt had a column up claiming to have tricked a bunch of lefty climate journalists into getting outraged about something or other. I suspected the column in question was the one where he claimed that warming was good for us, so I went to have a look, only to be confounded by the Herald Sun’s paywall. Being an enterprising sort of fellow, though, I thought “Stuff it”, and paid a single dollar for 28 days of access, with the plan to cancel at the end of that period.

After reading a few of his columns, including his hot take on the recent High Court decision about deporting Aborigines, I started to feel a little sick. Not just because this man is given a platform to spew his specious garbage to my fellow Australians, but also because he would get some of my dollar. So after being a Herald Sun subscriber for around 15 minutes, I decided to just cancel then and there. And that’s where the fun started.

I first went into my online account, thinking I could cancel from there, but, alas, that was not an option. Instead there was only a single line advising that if I wanted to find out about cancellation requirements, I should refer to the terms and conditions. So I did. The conditions run to 2,400 words, and cancellation is helpfully the very last condition, and it was there I discovered the joyous news that I would have to call 1300 MY NEWS to cancel. Now, I normally avoid calling call centres at all costs. But I was apparently out of options. So I called.

After navigating through to the cancellation section, I was then greeted with a rather odd recorded message.

“If you are calling due to our editorial content on climate change, please press 1.”

“Oooh that sounds like fun,” I thought. So I pressed 1. I thought I’d get to talk to Rupert or Lachlan or something, but I instead got another recorded message.

“Our commitment is to report the stories that matter to you and your community. That has never changed.

“Contrary to what some critics have argued, NewsCorp does not deny climate change or the gravity of its threat. However, we do report a variety of views and opinions on this and many other issues that are important to the public debate. If you would still like to talk to one of our operators, please stay on the line.”

I gotta say, it was kind of nice to subscribe to a NewsCorp publication for the sole purpose of reading about how warming is good for us, and to then ring up to cancel and be told via recorded message that NewsCorp does not deny climate change or the gravity of its threat. Pure gold.

Anyway, I still wanted to cancel, so I had to stay on the line. After 15 minutes on hold, I finally got through.

Me: Oh hi there, I’d like to cancel my subscription.

Operator: Oh I’m sorry to hear that. May I have your subscriber number?

Me: 265529035.

Operator: Thanks for that, I’m just bringing up your account. While I’m doing that, may I ask the reason for your cancellation?

Me: Andrew Bolt.

Operator: Oh… OK. What is it about Andrew don’t you like?

Me: Everything.

Operator: Well, he’s not actually one of our main opinion writers. We have many other journalists that provide a range of views.

Me: Yeah nah him being there really ruins it for me.

Operator: OK. I’m sorry to hear that. [pause] Oh, I see here that you just subscribed today?

Me: That’s right.

Operator: Did you want to at least keep your subscription for a few more weeks to see some more of our content? We have so many great articles.

Me: Nah that’s OK.

Operator: [pause] Fine. [hangs up]

And thus ended my NewsCorp subscription.

So, Rupert, you may have my dollar. But as long as you continue to give a voice to racist peddlers of climate dishonesty, you will never have my respect. And that’s worth a lot more than a dollar.

$1.50, at least.

Why Some Christians Won’t Suffer The Little Greta

Swedish Climate Activist Greta Thunberg
Greta Thunberg

You’d think, wouldn’t you, that a religion that has so much to do with children would be pleased to find that Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg is making waves on the international stage. Actually, children is probably a bit of a sore point for various churches right now, but what I’m actually talking about is images like this:

And famous quotes like “suffer the little children”, which even people who’ve never read the bible (and we know for a fact that most Pentecostals and Evangelicals haven’t) will be able to trot out on command and more or less understand.

So why is it, then, that Pentecostals like Scomo and Trump’s Evangelical base have been so toxic in their vilification of someone who, regardless of what you think of her means and methods, is essentially on a mission to save the world? Why are we watching conservative Christians pile in on her looks, her voice, her age, her figure, or her parents in what can only be called cyber bullying? The answer, as you might have guessed, is slightly complicated.

I know quite a few members of what I and many others consider to be churches at the insanity end of the spectrum. For the most part, they’re lovely people. Always up for a chat, heavily involved in volunteer and community work, and the picture of sanity and reason when you, say, can’t help but point out the insanity of Christian fundamentalism at a dinner party in a house you’re absolutely certain you will now never be invited to again. For the most part, these people are not just model citizens, they’re model people. So why is it, then, that these same people so frequently and so vehemently plop themselves down on the wrong side of debates such as marriage equality, LGBTQI rights, and climate change?

“So why is it, then, that these same people so frequently and so vehemently plop themselves down on the wrong side of debates such as marriage equality, LGBTQI rights, and climate change?”

The cheap and easy answer is ‘religious dogma’. The narrative which I most frequently see in both the media and in discourse between private citizens is that these people, having elected to believe in a ‘Bronze Age Fairy Tale’, are simply incapable of rational thought so what the hell are you surprised about?

This doesn’t work. It’s probably going to be controversial for me to say this here, but the simple fact is that cognitive dissonance is not the especial reserve of the faithful. We’re all more or less as stupid and irrational as each other – it’s just a question of what flavour of idiocy we prefer. Which means that a belief in God doesn’t actually warrant an assumption of mental and moral incapacity – if it did, we would most of us have to discount any and all beliefs held by our pre-atheist selves. All of them.

It’s not all that relevant to my argument – I just found this uplifting and thought you might too

No. Where the answer lies is in the far more worrying intersection of religion/culture/politics. And especially identity politics. The relevant narrative here is one of victimhood. Many conservative Christians of all denominations see themselves as heroically holding the line on a kind of cultural Alamo. The loss of practising or church-directed Christianity’s grip on our culture and norms is something churches, established and fringe alike, naturally find deeply worrying. And the 101 playbook for churches for millennia has been to mobilise the base when under threat.

Many conservative Christians of all denominations see themselves as heroically holding the line on a kind of cultural Alamo.

So this is how we arrive at a situation where a biblical literalist like Scomo, who supposedly must believe that stewardship of the planet is a sacred duty handed down to him by Yahweh, can deny climate science, promote coal, and attack a sixteen year old girl for speaking her mind. And what’s worse, for capturing the attention and imaginations of the untold masses in a way that he could never dream of achieving.

For a Christian of Scomo’s ilk, ‘globalists’ (which is now a blanket term of abuse for anyone who attempts to be an intellectual and believes in the international system) are godless technocrats who want to dissolve all national and moral borders and create a kind of Huxley-esque Brave New World. What makes this vision of the world so compelling for so many is that it’s half right. ‘Globalists’ do see the second order effect of hard sovereignty and nationalism as catastrophic war, so they want to erode it a little. They do want to create a set of universal norms that are emphatically free of any single religious ideology. I mean, that’d actually be the definition of ‘universal norm’. And ‘globalists’ do definitely want to destroy the Christendom that so many Pentecostals, Evangelicals, Catholics, Orthodox, etc. created over millennia of hatred, bloodshed, exploitation, and forced conversion.

The reason they want to do this is because they understand that as miraculous as the west’s achievements have been, they have been intermixed with shameful atrocities to a morally unacceptable level. That the only way forward is to create a world which is like the one where the west was the best, only with room for ‘the rest’. To move past the old gods and old ways which helped to get us here, in the same way that most societies tend to prefer their veterans and their past leaders to live quietly on a farm somewhere instead of remaining obnoxiously visible.

Church leaders have sold this narrative of secular attack so successfully that not only have their faithful bought it, but so have secular progressives.

So of course the Christians cannot suffer Greta Thunberg. She is the figurehead of a movement that they see as aggressively and deliberately sidelining them. The tragedy of it all is that it doesn’t have to be this way. There’s no actual corollary between climate activism and disdain for the religious, in the same way that there is no necessary contradiction between religiously-based social activism and inclusion of secular ethicism. It’s just another case of The Establishment vs The People. Church leaders have sold this narrative of secular attack so successfully that not only have their faithful bought it, but so have secular progressives. We’re now in a situation where both sides of this argument think the other beyond redemption/reason.

Which is a kind of genius, really, as it’s the only way I can think of for nervous power elites to create a situation in which we all fragment to the point of ineffectuality, thus helping them to maintain the particular status quo in which they remain on top.