The prospect of the annihilation of the human species no longer the subject of science fiction plots. There are numerous threats facing the survival of our species. The foremost and the most sudden is through the method of nuclear warfare. With more than a dozen nations equipped with nuclear arsenal, and national defense policies getting ever more hawkish over the years, it is a real and present danger. If such an event were indeed to happen, there is likelihood that much of the human population would be wiped out. Even as far back as 1945, the examples of Hiroshima and Nagasaki showed the devastating human consequences of atomic bomb explosions. In the decades since that tragic event the power and penetration of nuclear weapons have only become more potent. The technology to create such weapons has now been mastered by many countries. On the basis of this looming catastrophe, it is not outlandish to predict that we may well be the last generation of humans.
Global warming is another major threat facing humanity. Beyond the wellbeing and sustenance of the species, the survival of habitable ecology and geology is at stake as well. Though the general public is largely aware of this grave issue, the public discourse on the subject is quite shoddy. Corporate media houses, which are mostly pro-business, have tried to divert attention away from the problem by calling it a ‘liberal hoax’. The talking-heads invited to these debates also reflect the narrow agenda of mainstream media. Extreme right-wing commentators and moderates are invited to the exclusion of liberal intellectuals. The result is a misinformation campaign that induces a sense of complacency and lack of urgency among the general public. But global warming is real and scientific evidence makes it unequivocally clear. If the current sense of complacency among policy makers and the public were to continue then there will come a point of no return. The accelerated processes of climate change will be irreversible and cause widespread devastation for much of the environment. The chances of survival of our own species would become improbable. In this context, the thesis that ours could be the last human generation sounds very plausible.
Another factor having a bearing on our species’ survival is its own population growth. The ever increasing population is pitted against the ever shrinking natural resources. This state of disequilibrium would reach a tipping point when famines and epidemics would strike the most vulnerable populations. This in turn would take a political hue as the divide between the haves and the have-nots would be felt acutely. In this atmosphere, geo-politic conflict will escalate, leading to warfare. This brings the threat of nuclear bombs into the equation again.
Hence, we can clearly see that human civilization is at a precarious stage right now. Whether or not we overcome the looming dangers of total annihilation is totally in our hands. One of the things we can do is create awareness among the citizenry about the major dangers facing humanity. A well-informed citizenry, in turn, will put pressure on policy makers into implementing mitigation programs. If we fail to achieve these twin objectives, we may very well be the last generation of human beings.
Concentration of media ownership is a serious problem across the world. Since the media is considered the ‘Fourth Pillar’ of democracy, it is imperative that it remains diverse and free of commercialization. Unfortunately, the reality is quite the opposite. In this context, Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, stands as a symbol of this dire imbalance. News Corporation, under the leadership of Rupert Murdoch, has unparalleled power and reach in the news media industry. The Murdoch Empire spans several continents, with significant footholds in Australia, United States and the United Kingdom. Founded and headquartered in Australia, the company now boasts of being the number one newspaper publisher in the world, with a cumulative daily readership of 14 million in these three countries alone. Murdoch has a near monopoly in the media space in Australia, owning two-thirds of all newspaper circulation in the country. Across the Tasman Sea, in New Zealand, he owns nearly half. Further, he is the owner of two fifths of the Australian Associated Press. (Knowlton & Parsons, 2005, p. 200) These holdings are notwithstanding his considerable market share in Britain and the United States. These statistics bear testimony to the Murdoch’s media monopoly. Between the lines one can read the dangers posed by monopoly in an industry that is crucial to socio-cultural discourse.
One of the negative consequences of media concentration is that it nullifies ethical standards of journalism. News Corp’s official Standards of Business Conduct (SBC) document makes some bold claims. But the company’s actual behaviour is contradictory to these claims. For example, in the area of building trust with business partners and customers, it claims that trust and integrity are of utmost importance. The manner in which the company actually functions makes a mockery of these ethical concerns. There are several instances where News Corp had colluded with political organizations to attain favourable deals.
One of the first instances of News Corp’s opportunistic use of political connections came to light in1995. Murdoch struck a book deal with the then House Speaker of the United States Congress Newt Gingrich for a substantial sum of $4.5 million. The ethical problem was obvious in this case. Murdoch, who was even at that time an influential and trans-global media personality, owned a newspaper chain and several television stations. He stood to gain enormously through the relationship with the Speaker. It was only after severe public backlash that Gingrich decided to return the advance and settled for sales-driven royalties. (Rohm, 2012, p.336) If the contract had remained valid, the democratic political processes of the country would have been compromised. Events such as these showcase the dangers of media concentration.