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Hey, Dick Smith: if Carbon Cate can take Murdoch’s ‘lies’ then surely you can too

When the rich are scared to talk, something’s clearly going wrong. Paul Miller/AAP

Iconic Aussie entrepreneur Dick Smith is feeling intimidated. Not by growing population pressures, nor by climate change or carbon prices, but by the bullies at News Limited.

In a recent interview, Smith referred to himself as “gutless” for not appearing in the current “Say Yes” pro-carbon price campaign starring Cate Blanchett:

“I didn’t appear on it because I knew that I would be a front page of lies in the Rupert Murdoch press here,” he said. “There was no way I would destroy my name that way. I was gutless. I didn’t stand up for the truth.”

This flows on directly from last weekend’s mayhem over the “hard-hitting” Sunday Telegraph front page “exposé” (yawn) that Cate Blanchett dares to have both money and opinions. (Perhaps just a tad ironic coming from the stable of a megalomaniacal, opinion-thumping multi-bazillionaire?).

Right now, human-induced climate change effects look to be even worse than many credible sources have predicted. The International Energy Agency’s report this week has revealed that we have already well-exceeded global carbon output maxima set for 2020.

We are in very dangerous waters, folks.

So, what are the Murdoch papers doing? They’re attacking Cate Blanchett for speaking out about something that has possible fiscal implications for normal folks because she earns heaps of dosh. And they are indirectly intimidating the likes of Dick Smith into not participating in such activism for fear of media savaging.

As Guy Rundle so eloquently put it in Crikey yesterday:

“There is something so extraordinarily obscene in that misapplied focus, something so mendaciously nihilistic in the actions of the bottom-feeder journos at the Sunday Tele, that it constitutes an affront to humanity itself, to the notion of seriously debating what is to be done about this challenge.”

Or in the language of Twitter: #FFS! (look it up, it’s probably exactly what you were thinking).

Simplifying the News Limited line:

Climate change might well be real. The need to do something is probably urgent. But this doesn’t matter right now because Cate Blanchett’s rich.

I confess that I am on record here calling the Say Yes campaign misguided. I believe it is, but because it won’t do anything to change the bilious rhetoric of the naysayers. Not because I disagree with their premise or their motivations.

Sadly, that piece also predicted that Say Yes would merely fuel the likes of News Limited against the core message of the campaign, that they would turn it into another beat-up about how the out-of-touch-with-real-Australia Say Yes folk aren’t “like us”.

It ain’t always fun being right.

Murdoch’s posse of attention-seeking misanthropes have applied what the creators of South Park wonderfully and insightfully characterised as “the Chewbacca defence”.

Simply put, drown out any serious or credible opposing arguments with nonsensical or irrelevant arguments until the audience/public is so confused or worn-out it relents.

Many will recognise this as a version of “argumentum ad nauseam”. It is of course equally “argumentum ad hominem” – attacking the arguer, not the argument. And it is this kind of strategy that has Dick Smith – and likely many others – worried.

But look, we already know all this. The question is, what do we do?

Grow a pair

Everyone knows that you have to stand up to bullies. It’s Playground 101.

Bob Brown has had the snot kicked out of him by Murdoch’s Mindless Marauders for years. He’s been directly attacked in editorials in The Australian:

“We believe he [Bob Brown] and his Green colleagues are hypocrites; that they are bad for the nation; and that they should be destroyed at the ballot box”.

And he’s been selectively misquoted, as illustrated nicely by Tim Lambert in his Deltoid blog. But what you don’t see Bob Brown being is gutless.

It’s odd that Dick Smith feels he can’t take a little media flack, despicable, personal and irrelevant though it may be. After all, if he could survive the horrors of his tenure as head of the former Civil Aviation Authority, I reckon he could have struggled through this.

And arguably, for the Greens leader, media bashing can be far more damaging than for Mr Smith. Brown’s currency is public opinion; Smith’s currency is, well, currency. But despite this, Bob seems to be doing just fine, even in the face of constant News Limited battering.

And anyway, in cases like this, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

I very much doubt Dick will escape Murdoch flack. If he had appeared in the campaign, he’d cop it. Now, after saying he didn’t have the guts to appear, I’ll bet he still cops it.

I suppose he’s entitled to a couple of brownie points for admitting he piked. But really, if you’re going to get kicked, it might as well be for something you’re proud of doing.

Grow a pair, Dick. Bob’s doing fine, Cate’s doing fine. I reckon you’ll be fine too.

Don’t give bogus claims oxygen

Perhaps we should not be so quick to leap on the many (frankly pathetic) beat-ups perpetrated by News Limited and their ilk. Many make the most risible soapie plot seem sophisticated, and the only thing keeping them alive is the counter-attack.

Often the best response to bullshit accusations is no response. Silence, judiciously applied, can work wonders.

Murdoch’s isn’t the only game in town

Two things I’ll say confidently about the News Limited press: it’s consistent, and it’s reliable. Consistent in its refusal to intelligently engage with the critical (climate) issues. And reliable in its systematic, personal abuse of those who disagree with it.

But noisy, ubiquitous and influential though they are, Murdoch’s publications are not the only players around. There are other outlets, other ways to campaign (e.g. The Conversation, The Age, ABC, Crikey, non-shockjock radio). If we craft simple, direct, accurate messages and stay on them, in venues that actually present them as intended, that will help.

No more mucking about

We should publicly, intelligently and loudly support those under attack from the Limited bullies and all their kind when irrational attacks are launched not at someone’s arguments, but at their person. We should support acts of courage in the face of abusers like Andrew Bolt, Alan Jones and the myriad Murdoch minions. Even the largest of foes can be felled by the weight of the multitude.

It is clear that those of us on the science-based, economically-responsible and evidence-driven side of the climate situation have a moral imperative to work against the bullies.

Never has a collective, well-constructed, rational voice been more important.

We aren’t in the playground any more, and it isn’t lunch money that’s at stake.

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