Good Books about Rupert Murdoch, Harry Belafonte,The Dead Sea Deception and Great Expectations of our Angry Nation

After penning my article regarding the decadence of entitlement, I received a number of emails suggesting that I buy the most recent edition of Quarterly Essay and read Laura Tingle’s thoughts on the same issue. It is entitled “Great Expectations – Government, Entitlement and an Angry Nation” and I am pleased that I took their advice as it is 64 pages of absorbing reading. She makes the compelling point that our future governments, of whatever persuasion, will have to cease handing out entitlements or our nation will forever be burdened with increasing deficits. Her very valid point is that governments are responsible only for meeting needs – not entitlements. She also makes the point that Australians have always been angry with their governments ever since the First Fleet arrived. We blame them for everything that goes wrong. We are never personally at fault. However, in the last decade the anti-government crescendo has been very high. Because the quality of political debate has descended to the depths, voters are just as disenchanted with parliament as they are with government. In the last paragraph of her essay, she makes the telling statement “ We lack a captain with the skills to persuade us that they know the way.” Note that she uses the word ‘they’. She is talking about both Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott as well as their possible successors.

Over the past decade, I have read five books about Rupert Murdoch, including a novel by Jeffrey Archer. The latest, which I completed a few days ago, is written by David McKnight and is simply entitled ‘Rupert Murdoch’. It gives an analysis of why Murdoch decided to become a media magnate. Was his original intent to become a billionaire or did he want to exercise a powerful influence on world affairs without becoming a professional politician. McKnight decides that it was the latter. Most of us have grown up believing that the role of a newspaper is to report news, not create or distort it. This doesn’t happen anymore. Murdoch, and others, clearly intend to mould public opinion and then use this as a battering ram to force political leaders to bend to their will. McKnight presents evidence alleging that Murdoch forced Reagan and Thatcher to change their minds on some major issues and also take up matters that originated in his mind. In more recent times, a case may be made that he is exerting extraordinary influence on David Cameron, just as he did with George W Bush and Tony Blair. We can get upset about this if we choose to, but it is incredible that an Australian can rise from owning one obscure afternoon scandal sheet in Adelaide to dominate the world’s media, change the course of world events and become a multi billionaire as well. And he is not yet finished, despite the fact that some of his team are headed for prison cells.

 I am in the midst of enjoying Harry Belafonte’s biography which is called ‘My Song’. Harry is now 85 – even older than Rupert and me – and his book is worth reading. His homeland was Jamaica and he was a wonderful singer (daylight come and he wan’ go home). He was an even greater civil rights campaigner, along with his friend Sidney Poitier. He grew up in poverty in Harlem and suffered the appalling abuse that a black man always experienced in America in that era. But, he tells his story without bitterness in a calm and dispassionate manner, even acknowledging that some blacks are more racist than whites. He leaves his readers with the clear knowledge that while he fought his way out of it, despite some gambling problems, and found fame and financial independence, millions didn’t get the breaks that came his way. It leaves you wondering how many non-whites have lived and died with their talents smothered deep inside them.

 At the end of every day, I always read a chapter or two from a good novel so as to divert my mind from politics and money. I particularly enjoy religious thrillers in the mould of the Da Vinci Code. This month, I read one called ‘The Dead Sea Deception’ by Adam Blake. The plot involves some academics discovering that when the Dead Sea Scrolls were found a few decades ago, one of them was spirited away because it revealed that Judas was the Messiah, not Jesus, When they planned to reveal this to the world, they were murdered. Obviously, this news was going to cause the Vatican and Canterbury etc to have to retrench a few millions of their staff and worry how the real estate market was going to absorb the sale of a lot of ancient cathedrals. You can read it and discover what happens, but I can tell you that it is much more exciting than reading about the carbon tax.