Not bias but natural selection

Another identical verse is added to The Australian’s one-note song about left- wing bias in the media (‘The price we pay when journalists lose the plot’, 18/12), wherein the ostensibly laudable fact that journalists are increasingly tertiary educated is downgraded to a “malaise” by adding the tired Howard-era weasel-word “elite”. Let’s look at that word.

If elite means “among the most highly qualified and accomplished”, then surely all is as it should be. If it meant “from a privileged background and undeserving of one’s position” (the kind of elite the Left has always opposed), suspicions should be aroused; but The Australian is not saying that, only implying it by exploiting the ambiguity of the word.

Quoting its own correspondent and erstwhile Liberal Party employee Chris Kenny, The Australian accuses this elite of “disdain for the vulgarity, ignorance and prejudices of working families and their suburbs”. Apart from the insult to “working families” (a catch-all slogan borrowed from Labor), should journalists now be vulgar, ignorant and prejudiced, as well as uneducated, to evade the charge of elitism?

But in a sense The Australian is right. Intelligence and education both correlate strongly with progressive political views. This is not a local or recent phenomenon, is manifest in occupations like journalism where those two qualities are important, and is not so much a bias as a form of natural selection. Do we feign surprise at right-wing tendencies amongst military personnel, or social conservatism amongst priests?

To the beleaguered minority who work in such jobs but do not share these views, like Mr Kenny, it may seem that the entire world is divided along these lines, but that illusion does not support the grandiose claim that this constitutes a “fault line in Australia”.

The Australian’s position as the local flagship of a decidedly conservative global media conglomerate which dominates this country’s press makes the irony of that posture excruciating.

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