May 12, 2011

The Budget for the Poor Middle Class

A quick examination of the Herald Sun's coverage of the budget, because I'm not sure if kids are being taught about bias in school.

Here's the front page:

Let's start with the agenda. The Herald Sun generally don't like the Labor party, or perhaps prefer the Liberal party (I purposely did not say the Coalition). You can find evidence of this when you look at their coverage of past budgets under Howard and Costello, when Costello would be posed as a Superman of finance, literally shown wearing blue and red tights and cape.

The paper's aim is to make you dislike Labor's budget. The headline clearly sets out the mission statement, evoking 'unfairness' by reducing the entire budget into a snappy one-liner. After that, you might notice the brightly colored graphic:

What the hell does this have to do with anything, you might ask? Admiral Akbar would reply, "It's a trap!" The idea is to ask a question that most of us will answer, 'of course not!' to, warming up our blood because it's all so unfair. You'll notice they don't specify what rich might be, allowing our imaginations to form images of besuited CEOs and stuffy snobs in manors, sliding down money piles: the horrible moneybags we love to hate. Compared to 'the rich', a $150k family seems normal, regular, just like us.

From there, it's a full assault on the budget in relation to this $150k family. The paper shows only the downsides, costs and losses, none of the benefits like the car write off for tradies or small business owners. They run stories about struggling, suffering and scrimping families, but nothing about lower wage earners, students, pensioners or childless families. They unleash Miranda Devine from the opinion page.

Finally, they wrap up their coverage with a bookend graphic, this time showing overwhelmingly that YOU won't be better off with this budget. Never mind that they have no idea who you are, and that the voters in the poll make up only a small subsection of the populous who read the Herald Sun and are thus inclined to agree with it in the first place. (Note: below is the online version, which varies slightly from the print version above)

By now, we've been shown enough of an attack on this $150k family, the family that compared to the Monopoly guy, is full of saints and battlers, seemingly being ravaged by an unfair budget. The stuff the Herald Sun doesn't run keeps us from seeing the bigger picture. The budget affects THE NATION, not just one demographic slice of the population. The Herald Sun are trying to manipulate you, dear reader, by showing you the side of the story that benefits the paper the most. Their readers are generally this $150k family. Their owners prefer pro-business, conservative governments and consumers. Whether you agree with the budget or not, remember to look at the whole picture, not just one side's framing, before you judge.
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