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Is the Murdoch media pro or anti trans?

I suspect most leftists take it for granted that the Murdoch media opposes transgender rights, while trans-critical feminists see Murdoch papers as supporting the trans trend.

In Australia where I live, Murdoch’s News Corp is the main newspaper empire, as well as having a significant presence in television. Most Australian states have a paper in the News Corp stable. Their columnists are on a spectrum from liberal to shock-jock Right.

I’m not in a position to conduct rigorous academic research. But a starting point to explore the issue is News Corp’s free-access Australian website, www.news.com.au, which provides articles that also appear in the News, Lifestyle etc sections of Murdoch papers in different Australian states. I set up a Google news alert on the search term “transgender site:news.com.au”. Here are results 12 September-8 October 2016 (hyperlinked title, introductory text).

Warren Beatty: ‘My transgender son Stephen Ira is my hero’
WARREN Beatty has given his first in-depth interview in 25 years to praise his transgender son…

The mums pushing for change for their transgender children
(Led by photo of the mothers with Federal Labor Opposition Leader Bill Shorten)
RIGHT now, in homes all over Australia suburban mums are waging an almighty street fight. One day, someone will probably make a feature film about it. But for now, they are fighting in schools, courts, medical clinics, sporting clubs and even in the corridors of power in Canberra.
These are the mothers of transgender children.
The way they see it, there’s no other choice. The futures of their kids hang in the balance and society must change to accept them.

$700 million basketball stadium’s bold new feature
A $700 million sports stadium’s fitout has ensured the Sacramento Kings basketball team’s arena toilets are open for use to all fans: kings, queens and anything in between…

Transgender tourists deported from Hong Kong allege customs officials asked if they were ‘cut already’
TWO transgender tourists were barred from entering Hong Kong with customs officials allegedly asking if they were “cut already”…

SA to recognise transgender soon: Premier
A law that would allow transgender South Australians to have their gender formally recognised without undergoing surgery will eventually pass, Premier Jay Weatherill says… The premier has championed the bill…

Transparent: The most important TV show you should be watching
JEFFREY Tambor has earned deep respect for being one of the most versatile and accomplished character actors in film and television. On Sunday night, he stood on the Emmys stage and made an impassioned plea to Hollywood…. “Please give transgender talent a chance. Give them auditions. Give them their story. Do that,” he said…

Transgender actress Alexis Arquette dies
Alexis Arquette, the transgender actress and sibling of actors David, Rosanna, Richmond and Patricia Arquette, has died, aged 47. “Alexis was a brilliant artist and painter, a singer, an entertainer and an actor,” her brothers and sisters said. “We learned what real bravery is through watching her journey of living as a trans woman…

Like the more liberal mass media, these News Corp papers normalise trans and even evangelise for it. They educate their readers that anatomy is no longer destiny, while sustaining the crucial idea of an inherent femininity and masculinity, so important to preserving the notion of female inferiority and hence women’s oppression.

The Australian’s attack on queer theory and the Safe Schools Coalition

Very different is the coverage from the national News Corp paper, The Australian (behind a pay wall). When local leftists insist to me that the Murdoch newspaper empire is anti-trans, it is always The Australian that they cite.

Earlier this year The Australian took up a campaign by Christian groups against the Safe Schools Coalition Australia. (The SSC  has a brief to make schools safe and inclusive for trans and LGB students. This involves disseminating transgender ideas. It also involves presenting sex role stereotyping as an issue for a minority, not the general population; this can be challenged from the left. But the hard Right opposes trans discourse from an anatomy-is-destiny viewpoint.) Under sustained political pressure from social conservatives, Australia’s federal government announced it would limit the SSC program to high schools, restrict some content, and end federal funding from 2017. The campaign included the victimization of one of the SSC coordinators, Roz Ward, a member of the Trotskyist group Socialist Alternative (see here and here). The entire campaign was backed by the powerful right wing of the governing Liberal (conservative) Party.

Since then The Australian has continued to attack queer theory, which it links to Marxism, libertarianism and the corruption of children. Lesbian and gay issues are sometimes treated with veiled hostility, though the paper has also picked up, in a garbled way, feminist concerns about the impact of trans ideology on lesbians and gays (Left falls into extremists’ trap Jennifer Oriel, The Australian 20 October, 2016).

In the heat of The Australian’s red-baiting campaign against the SSC, news.com.au actually ran some articles supporting the organisation (eg here here and here). Other articles were neutral or critical, but any support for the SSC from the News Corp stable was notable at such a time.

Why the difference between state and national papers? I think they have different audiences and roles. The Murdoch state papers aim to connect with the mass population, and explain the world to them in a right wing way. The Australian caters more to a minority who are decidedly right wing already, and campaigns around causes dear to them. The different audiences are reflected in sales:

The Australian 178,045 (includes a pay-access electronic version)
The Daily Telegraph (New South Wales) 239, 018
Herald Sun (Victoria) 330, 766
Courier Mail (Queensland) 147,122
The Advertiser (South Australia) 120, 931
The Mercury (Tasmania) 30, 452
Sunday Times (Western Australia) 184,486

(Figures are from the Audited Media Association of Australia. Average total sales, quarterly figures to end of June 2016. Monday to Friday sales except for Western Australia where News Corp only publishes a Sunday paper.)

As mentioned above, what the Murdoch state papers really seem to like in transgender thinking is the straight swapping of identity between feminine and masculine. Faced with a changing world and resistance to confining typecasts, this is a neat and sweet way to preserve sex stereotypes, and hence ideas of women’s inferiority and the naturalness of their oppression.

Meanwhile the liberal capitalist media shrug their shoulders at concepts like genderqueer, gender-fluid and agender that incense The Australian. They’re happy as long as discontent at sex stereotypes is seen to be relevant only to a small minority, visibly set off from the rest of us – who are left to think pink, and think blue.

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