It creeps and leaps and glides and slides It’s the Blob — the not wholly complimentary name from within the Obama White House to describe that US foreign policy faction that believes any given international challenge requires a military solution.
The Morrison government’s marketing-as-diplomacy AUKUS play suggests that Australia has its own Blob franchise, complete with publishing-arm-cum-think tank in the US-owned News Corp.
Franchise views were on display in The Weekend Australian: bouncing off US exceptionalism with a “there is no alternative” certainty to assert that Australian security can only be guaranteed by ever-deepening integration into US operations both to strengthen independent capability and to tie the US more tightly into the western Pacific.
From Vietnam to Iraq — and now on to submarines — it’s used to wedge Labor on to the Coalition’s preferred national security terrain.
Obama adviser Ben Rhodes is credited with naming “the Blob” to describe that amorphous group of politicians, academics, journalists, think tanks, and diplomats that linked right-wing neoconservatives and left-wing humanitarian interventionists by weaponising concern over human rights into a hawkish strategy that led equally to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Since Rhodes gave it a name, there’s been a growing journalistic oeuvre either denying there’s any such thing or confirming: yes. And that’s great! It defines political leaders: Obama was considered Blob-agnostic, Hillary Clinton a Blob evangelist, Sanders the anti-Blob, and Trump Blob oppositionist.
Biden’s foreign policy team has been called “the revenge of the Blob”, although now, apparently, he’s fighting the Blob over Afghanistan. From a US perspective, AUKUS is distilled Blob thought in action.
The response so far has demonstrated its limits in Australia. It’s Canberra orthodoxy that keeping close to the Americans is good policy and good politics. But most of the Nine and ABC media have been critical about the process (not really Morrison’s skill set, of course) and the marketing guff wrapped around it. The 2040s horizon has left them sceptical of the medium-term benefits.
Anthony Albanese is ducking the wedge, although trying to layer multilateral tests over the trilateral deal. The counter-Blob is pushing back: politically through Keating, Rudd and Carr, and in The Saturday Paper by Hugh White.
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This week the story shifts offshore, out of Blob control, to Washington, Paris, Beijing — even Wellington and Jakarta.
The Great Bloviator logs on For once, the vastly overused adjective “Orwellian” is apt. The Great Bloviator of News Corp, Paul Kelly, has given his ringing endorsement to Scott Morrison’s submarine debacle.
“It is Scott Morrison’s initiative — in its nuclear submarine component, its technological sweep and its diplomatic achievement,” Kelly frothed last week in an orgy of News Corp enthusiasm. “This partnership is designed to last for generations. It locks Australia even more tightly into American strategy and capability against the rising power of China … It reveals two things about Morrison: a long-run strategic vision in response to China’s coercion and an activist and bold diplomacy, from mobilising traditional ties with the US and UK to promoting Asian partners Japan and India in the Quad.”
Except isn’t this the same Paul Kelly who just seven years ago was frothing with equal enthusiasm about our “glorious future” in a “formal strategic partnership” with China? As part of a News Corp campaign suggesting anyone who questioned Tony Abbott’s trade deal with China was racist, Kelly lavished praise on “the sheer dynamic driving the complementary Australia-China partnership. This mutual self-interest is going to pull Australia far closer into China’s orbit in coming years. And this process is being authorised by a pro-US conservative, Tony Abbott.”
According to Kelly, “Abbott has scored a victory that confounds his critics … The gravitational pull of China will become tied to the living standards that fuel Australian social expectations.”
The only dog in the manger back then: “America’s defensive attitude towards the rise of China’s economic influence.”
These days, we’ve always been at war with China.
Lach it in Australian rich-lister Lachlan Murdoch struggled through the pandemic last financial year with about $37 million in compensation for his work as executive chairman and CEO of Fox Corp, including the last few months he spent working from home in Sydney.
Seems he spent most of it while he was here — this will just about meet the cost of the $37 million Point Piper boathouse he bought in March.
According to the remuneration report going to the Fox AGM in November and filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday US time, the money is a mix of base salary (paid, according to the company report, to “attract and retain quality executive talent”), incentives, and stock units and options. It doesn’t include any money he makes through his ownership of Nova Entertainment or as chair of News Corp.
Rupert Murdoch, a US citizen who spent the pandemic in the UK countryside, was paid about $41 million from Fox. He also draws payment from News Corp although this year’s figures are not yet released. In the 2020 financial year it earned him about $8 million.
Face the facts The Wall Street Journal has been methodically working through a tranche of leaked Facebook documents to produce the Facebook Files. It’s about as bad as you’d imagine: from special exemptions for about 5.8 million high profile users under the XCheck program that allowed misinformation, calls to violence and revenge porn to stay on site through to internal reports that acknowledged the company knew for years of the mental harm Instagram’s perfect images was causing to some teenage girls.
For the media, the shock is that Facebook knew its 2018 decision to downplay news for posts from family and friends would act to feed outrage rather than restrain it — for news to break through on the news feed it needed shock factor, and the outraged media obliged.
Meanwhile, The Contrarian, Bloomberg journalist Max Chafkin’s biography of Trump-supporting Facebook director (and eminence grise) Peter Thiel, explains how Thiel’s “ruthlessly unsentimental libertarianism” became Silicon Valley’s guiding philosophy.
Wu who? Exciting week for Wuhan lab leak conspiracists with the Sharri Markson documentary on Sky tonight and her book out in stores next week. The Australian has already published nine tasters in the past month, although none seem to get at what “really” happened in Wuhan.
Perhaps a better indication might come from economic historian Adam Tooze in his book Shutdown, also out this week. His more structured take? In Wuhan, the anthropocene crashed into globalisation. The result? The capitalocene pandemic.
Orchward Nicki Minaj becoming a Fox favourite after linking orchitis (inflammation of one or both testicles) and COVID-19 vaccines is a reminder of the Wikipedia entry on the link between the disease and the Nazi leadership: Hitler has only got one ball…