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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

media and democracy « Previous | |Next »
September 20, 2005

I interpret this image by Cathy Wilcox as an interesting attempt to connect the public image of Mark Latham the politician to the person:--a homedad in a Sydney suburb who is doing a bit of writing that reflects on his experiences as leader of the federal ALP in 2004.

Wilcox1.jpg

True, Wilcox does not gesture to the tabloid image of the Latham as the mad dog:--she gives us the more sophisticated paranoid and narcissistic personality image. This gives rise to a hater who cuts a path of waste and destruction to all around him in the ALP. From the ALP side Latham's Diaries stand for betrayal of trust and political bastardry.

Wilcox's cartoon misses the mediating role of the media between the hater image and the stay at home person entirely. She publishes her cartoon in the corporate media, but she does not reflect upon the role of the media as a player in the political process.

Very little of the journalist commentary around the Latham Diaries concentrates on the role of the media in our political culture. Paul Sheehan is an exception. He says:

Latham's behaviour is not so far removed from what the media serves up every day as it subjects politicians and the electoral process to an unremitting campaign of belligerence, cynicism and ridicule. The media condescends towards democracy because it competes with democracy. It competes for power and control of the national agenda. The biggest contest in Australian politics is thus not between the Coalition and Labor, but between the elected and accountable against the unelected and unaccountable.

The broadsheet journalists are not watchdogs of democracy. They (eg., Glen Milne) are players in the political process, and they are very partisan in both a party political and a party factional sense. Mark Latham, for instance, claims Glen Milne is a Costello-booster.

They are publicists writing for a political cause and their sources are drip feeds, anonymous backgrounders, rumors and leaks from their political contacts. The journalists in the corporate media are maintaining a collective silence about Latham's exposure of the way they routinely trash the objectivity ethos of journalism they profess to uphold. They are players, not defenders of the public interest or democracy. They are playing very hard to demonize Latham. They have closed ranks and they want blood.

We have to start talking otherwise about the media: maybe about the independent media in contrast to the corporate media. An independent media that picks up Latham's truth telling, and then develops it to help us to understand our political culture better. A media concerned with enlightening citizens as opposed to one that engages in mass deception.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 10:39 AM | | Comments (13)
Comments

Comments


Please check out the on going saga of the Gold Card

Christ almighty. Sheehan said that? I hate having to agree with people I don't agree with.

Vest,
I dunno much about the ongoing saga of the Gold Card. There are so many Gold Cards

Care to enlighten us?

Wbb,
I don't have that particular problem myself. Issues criss cross political divides.

I'm interested in why you presume Latham is "truth-telling"?

An egotistical leader fails, and he then blames the system and everyone in it. Well, excuse me, but he would say that, wouldn't he, if he was rude and unreflective enough?

CS,
your account is only a part of what Latham is saying or has disclosed for us. For instance:

The ALP does have problems over and above its failed leaders, does it not?

Some of the corporate media is corrupt, is it not?

The ALP had some good policies, did it not?

That is the context in which Latham is working.

On a more philosophical note, I am interpreting truth telling in terms of opinion, perspective, plurality and debate; and in the way that the common political world opens up differently for its actors.

I'm against Plato (the politics of absolute truth) and with Arendt (the politics of opinion and plurality). Latham is to be congratulated for sacrificing the attainment of truth in politics to preserve the richness of human discourse.

It's a great performance, excellent theatre, and superb rhetoric about redemption in a political world rendered valueless by machine politics.

What is being offered is an agonistic conception of politics.

I'm against Plato (the politics of absolute truth) and with Arendt (the politics of opinion and plurality). Latham is to be congratulated for sacrificing the attainment of truth in politics to preserve the richness of human discourse.

It's hard to understand these two sentences, but when it comes to Arendt, let me assure you that she stood four-square behind the integrity of factual truth, the first point on which Latham's diaries are to be tested, not assumed, I would argue.

There are moreover many apparent serious breaches of implicit human trust involved in this book. Do you put no store in personal solidarities? Preferring instead, politics as entertainment?

CS
as you well know Plato's conception of absolute truth is not the equivalent of factual truth. So, in your placing the emphasis on factual truth, I have interpreted you as displacing the politics of absolute truth. We have some common grround.

Yes, factual truth is important for the formation of opinion, persuasion and debate in poltiics. I'm with Arendt on this too. So we have some more common ground.

If factual is to be as a criteria of assessment, then it should be for both the Latham diaries and the practices of the federal ALP. It is well known that the culture of the ALP works in terms of rumor, innuendo, spin, threats fictions, leaks, lies etc---so factual truth has been transformed into opinion--on a charitable reading. II you want Latham's diaries to be assessed by factual truth, then this should also apply to the words of his opponents in the ALP.

Don't you agree?

If Latham has breached the trust of the ALP as you claim, then what of his opponents who undermined him whilst he was leader and fighting a federal election. Have they not also breached the trust of the ALP? Do we not have a history of the betrayal of trust by the factions, machine men and senior ALP figures?

Or do we judge Latham and the factional machine differently on this? Do you want to hang Latham on this and let the individual members of the ALP leadership group off the hook. If so, it is hardly due process in the court of reason, is it?

On the issue of trust, it is my judgement that Nietzsche's conception of nihilism applies to the culture of the ALP--what we see is the hollowing out of its highest values. It is bad history to pin that historical devaluing process on Latham.

Surely you do not want to do that?

As you well know Arendt's conception of politics as performance has little to do with politics as entertainment. It is about politics being its own world with its own values, habits and conventions and so counters the utilitarian conception of politics as self-interested personal behaviour.

Or do you want to say that the ALP tactics in the House of Representatives should be assessed in terms of the politics of entertainment?

Thre are many concepts of truth: absolute truth, philosophical truth, revealed truth, historical truth, factual truth.

It is well known that the culture of the ALP works in terms of rumor, innuendo, spin, threats fictions, leaks, lies etc---so factual truth has been transformed into opinion--on a charitable reading. II you want Latham's diaries to be assessed by factual truth, then this should also apply to the words of his opponents in the ALP.

It is well known that politics has an unhappy relationship with factual truth, period. There is nothing specific to the ALP in these observations, just politics as usual. In any given instance in any politics/party, the first analytical stop is a check with factual truth.

If Latham has breached the trust of the ALP as you claim, then what of his opponents who undermined him whilst he was leader and fighting a federal election. Have they not also breached the trust of the ALP? Do we not have a history of the betrayal of trust by the factions, machine men and senior ALP figures? Or do we judge Latham and the factional machine differently on this? Do you want to hang Latham on this and let the individual members of the ALP leadership group off the hook. If so it is hardly due process in the court of reason.

He has breached the trust of many people, whether they are in the ALP or not. This is a brutal thing for anyone to do in human terms in any context. As to the specifics, as far as I can tell, Latham received remarkable support from the ALP in his leadership and election tilt. What betrayals are you referring to? And in any case, more wrongs would not make anything right.

On the issue of trust, it is my judgement is that Nietzsche's conception of nihilism applies to the culture of the ALP--what we see is the hollowing out of its highest values. It is bad history to pin that historical devaluing process on Latham.

This strikes me as post facto romanticism. I suggest you go back and read Vere Gordon Childs' 1923 book on the ALP for a historical reality check.

On the final point, I think I misread you, as I thought you were saying 'anyhow, it's all great fiun'. My apologies.

CS,
there are indeed many concepts of truth. I do suspect that you, as a good modernist, want to transcend the realm of opinion, appearance, perspective, interpretation and the work of persuasion and dissuasion.

So my question: do you want to weld the weapon of truth to cage the plurality of opinion and perspectives in political life?

I've said that factual truth is one criteria to evaluate Latham's Diaries. It is not the only criteria, as it just a starting point. The significance of the Latham Diaries lie elsewhere--eg., in opening up debate, creating new perspectives, disclosing agonistic political action.

Though it is true 'that politics has an unhappy relationship with factual truth, period', and that this is 'business as usual', we are talking about the ALP as well as Australia's political culture. The former is a sick and destructive culture as it one that devours itself.

The ALP has responsibility for this not the Democrats, Greens, Liberals or Nationals because it is the different factions in the ALP acting as birds of prey taking pleasure in devouring one another. Responsibility is the realm of ethics not that of factual truth.

Re trust in the ALP: The betrayals I'm referring to go beyond senior ALP figures leaking to the media--I have in mind all the fictional sexual stuff that was peddled to undermine and destroy Latham's character.No doubt we will now see a campaign within the ALP to take out Latham's old supporters.

Nowhere in any of your comments are you saying that the ALP has to take responsibility for its destructive practices ---it is all to be sheeted home to a deeply flawed Latham. You seem to be doing the same as many members of the media establishment and the ALP are doing. Your evasion of responsibility is taking you close to a denial of responsibility and to legitimating a 'it's just business as usual' folks position

This denial has the effect of spinning for the ALP machine, with its will to power as domination, and a seeking of revenge. To avoid being the individuals being self-serving the ALP has to have a look at itself; rather than project everything negative onto Latham in the process of seeking revenge.

As it so happens, I have read Vere Gordon Child's classic 1923 text. It supports my case about nihilism as a historical process of the devaluation the highest values by which we live our political lives. This is a century old process.

I would go further. Far from it being 'post facto romanticism' it is not just the core ALP values, such as trust and solidarity, that have been devalued. So too are the classic liberal and the social liberal values of social justice and quality of life. This process leaves us without a mode of evaluation of political action, other than success in grabbing the levers of power through business as usual.

Business as usual is the consequence of the historical process of nihilism. So we live within and accept the factional machine politics of business as usual.

What that means is that a business as usual ALP cannot be trusted to defend the constellation of values associated with democracy, community and citizenship.

Latham, from where I sit, is fighting the good fight, even if I find some of his tactics questionable. But then I haven't been pillored and kicked the way he was by his right wing colleagues when he was sick.

Well, I have the book now, so I'll suspend further preliminary judgement until I've had a chance to read it properly.

Still, to me, your position looks weepingly naive, speaking as someone who worked very closely with pollies of different colours for many years at cabinet level. If Childe doesn't convince you of the agelessness of these kinds of bleats, try E P Thompson's classic account of politics in London from a century earlier: "Demagogues & Martyrs" (in The Making).

CS,
I've also read EP Thompson. Standard reading in a Marxist philosophy department, you know.

And I'm talking from the perspective of being an insider: a political advisor to a Senator who held the balance of power in Canberra for many years.

Nietzsche naive? That's not a judgement about his account of nihilism that you often hear in the literature. Latham has put his finger on what Nietzsche was talking about.

The media are owned by the rich. The rich invest into the political party that supports them,and politicians support them by implementing policies and legislations that serve the rich. Hence, the rich pay for their politicial campaigns and promotion in the media, they write the praises about them (the rich own them remember)so this political party stays in power. The three (the rich, the media they own and journalists they employ, the politicians)take care of one another and rule by "divide then conqeur" principle. So, divide the public, divide the masses and divide the rest of the parties, feed them the information that numbs their minds down like celebrity watch and crime/scandal type of reporting.
And now, we have politicians and journalists bash Mark Latham for exposing it in full view. They call it the misrepresentation of facts or the Latham's madness.
When liberals misrepresent the facts it is for the Australian public good? And when their journalists misrepresent the facts, it is also for the Australian public good? And there could not be more misrepresentation of facts than there presently is in the media and by the liberals.
So, why bash and label Latham? Because the truth that he has said is like Medusa's mirror. It hurts their image that it nearly kills them. It makes them all face their ugly side and they would rather team up and label Mark Latham as a psychopath. All of a sudden they have become experts in psychiatry. And for the rest of Australians, this could be a wake-up call to take the web that the media and the politicians have been pulling over ther eyes for a long time.