I don’t share the wishful thinking of those who believe the Corona pandemic will somehow lead us to a more enlightened way of thinking. As if the blight of dirty dairying, unsustainable tourism and no-tax housing investment is going to be less inviting after alert level one has come and gone.
More and more we hear from influential economic commentators that neo-liberalism has lost its credibility as an economic philosophy. Yet it never had any credibility for those of us who have watched from the sidelines dumbstruck for 30-odd years as business and political leaders worshipped the idol of market forces. It has never had anything to do with the common, shared good, but more an official invitation to exploit your less fortunate neighbour.
The media has to a large extent been complicit in this great whitewash. Newspaper columnists especially, parade business leaders and financial operators every day as if their opinions have the same economic authority as Ashley Bloomfield’s comments about COVID-19.
Columns are sometimes embarrassing moments of cheerleading, often reserved as a matter of course to chart the rise or fall of share values. When the value of shares rise, that is seen as a good thing even when the price rises follow a manufacturer taking jobs offshore. The morality of these actions is rarely if ever discussed or debated, the media is silent, and that silence speaks volumes.
Balance is a valued component of news reporting while columns are there for analysis and opinion. In the end though we have to accept that newspapers are owned by people with a vested interest in the economic status quo. Government funded media is different because they’re not in the business of chasing ratings and advertisers, whose spend is now diminishing and going to the new online media.
But there was a time, before the unions were crushed, when the voices of business and financial interests were balanced as a matter of course by the voices of high profile union leaders representing workers. Now, less advertising, the loss of journalists and the arrival of digital media have provided the perfect storm for the demise of print media. Ironic isn’t it?