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

media +politics « Previous | |Next »
August 2, 2007

It looks as the Labor left may have gone quiet to ensure the possibility of a Rudd victory, now that Rudd is seen as an election contender-- even by the business community in WA. He looks safe and doesn't rock the boat too much whilst occupying the middle ground.

Or so we are told by reporters/commentators who position themselves as the knowledgeable insiders we can trust to tell us what is really happening in a distant world that only the political elite, lobbyists and staffers have an experience of.

This is the mainstream way of looking at politics:-institutional journalists and their news organizations spend their time and space on the so-called "horse-race" (who wins) and on "insider coverage (the story of political struggle). They spend little time and space on policy analysis or telling the stories of people affected by politics and governance.

Alan Moir

The traditional frame of the mainstream media----the horse-race with an uncertain outcome in 5 months time ---keeps us citizens informed about events that often have low political utility or meaningfulness---eg., the Canberra whispers, rumors, events, and remarks when Parliament sits. Everything in politics is a tactic and all politicians are mere schemers and opportunists according to the Canberra Press Gallery frame.

These remarks and events are then given flash, tone and slant to create drama and interest, so as to sell newspapers. So we have a narrative structure (a horse race to create a causal sense of events) being applied to ambiguous events and words. This narrative of tactics and strategy is more about political myth than it is about history.

If we come back to left Labor being quiet, we can ask, well, where is Rudd on the Haneef case? Haneef has gone and yet Kevin Andrews is still spinning and managing the news. Why hasn't the ALP had a go at the dalek Minister? Cannot they smell a weakness? Vulnerability? A wound? Why don't they fire a few arrows in his direction, instead of saying that everything is hunky dory from the briefings they've been given and calling softly for an independent judicial inquiry.

Things are not hunky dory are they? So why not place pressure on Andrews. Soften him up.

Well the ALP has found some political courage. After much deliberation with his strategists Rudd has stepped out of the political shadows. He's taken 2-3 deep breaths and called Andrews inconsistent. Wow. Such courage! So what is going to do with the anti-terrorism legislation when it comes before Parliament.

Update #2
Maybe more courage will be shown by the ALP in the use of the new media that goes beyond dipping the political toes into YouTube, MySpace or Facebook. The framing there is different to the horserace frame of the Canberra Press Gallery.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 10:14 AM | | Comments (24)


I expect a big turnout in the polls for the Greens this year for both the obvious reasons. Wouldn't it be funny if the they actually won a few seats and Rudd and co had to buddy up with them.
And it would be equally as funny if the Coalition had to too.

what I'd like to see is the Coalition lose control of the Senate, the Senate's committee powers strengthened and the Executive made accountable. The Coailtion has abused the Senate since it gained control. I hope the Australian people are awake to what they did in 2004.

The most realistic possibility is that the Greens replace the Democrats. The ALP in the Senate is hopeless--says one thing (no no no for the cameras) and does another (quietly sides with Howard). The ALP does not treat the Senate with respect, as it thinks that all the power lies in the House--and so the executive.

Hence they too are all for executive dominance. So they need checks and balances to place on their exercise of power.

To be fair to traditional media (though why anyone would bother is an interesting question) and the traditional frames they use, that's still the easiest way to think of politics. It's the version the uninterested are familiar with and from all reports, 'uninterested' and 'mainstream Australia' are pretty synonymous.

For traditional media to do anything other than what they do now would require a whole new approach to journalism, and probably a whole new bunch of journos. Hopefully that will happen within our lifetimes, but in the meanwhile it's interesting watching them, and the politicians they watch, trying to deal with a new world they apparently didn't see coming.

I'm not sure that each side (politicians and media) is just watching the other. The relationship is more symbiotic, as many individuals from both sides are dancing the political tango together. Or they have their hands in each other pockets.

Re your comment:

For traditional media to do anything other than what they do now would require a whole new approach to journalism, and probably a whole new bunch of journos. Hopefully that will happen within our lifetimes,

What would a new frame look like? Is this being developed by the political bloggers? If so in what way?

Any ideas or suggestions?

Interesting that Rudd has actually "attacked" Andrews (The Age's term for his fairly mild criticism) today. Gives the impression that he has been waiting to see just how badly the government will bury itself before he speaks out, though this may just be wishful thinking on my part.

It's certainly about time that Rudd said something. His approach appears to be fairly clever in terms of striking a balance between being a small target and getting his point across; he uses Andrew's own idiotic pronouncements rather than attacking the terrorism laws directly.

However I would say that this just makes Rudd a coward. Does his late whine about Andrews (and not about the unjustness of the laws) mean that he is a representative of the population generally?

When I lived in Toronto in the late 90's I was proud to say I was Australian. But now, for the first time in my life I feel a real and deep shame about my country. I look at what we have done to Afghanistan and Iraq and East Timor, among other countries; what we have done and continue to do to our indigenous brothers and sisters; and how we treat residents even citizens. I wonder when we will have a politician that actually stands up and says, this is enough bullshit.

Unfortunately Rudd, like Beazley, is too much of a coward or too beholden to his undemocratically selected advisors to stand up for the rights of people like my wife, a permanent resident from Europe who I imagine could be sent home at a moment's notice if she were to speak out against an asshole like Andrews.

The media and political parties are driven by very similar goals -- to be as popular as possible at the lowest cost. Nobody seemed to notice when PM Howard attended Packer's wedding in what must have been the ultimate failure of the self-proclaimed "fourth column". The media wilfully overlooks the fact that only people who are outside the influence and circle of power can write about it in an unbiased way. And this is where important political blogs like this one and several other high-quality Australian political blogs come in.

Bravery is an expensive, long-term strategy which suits neither the mainstream media nor our so-called representatives.

One comment is pertinent above all in the above and that's the state of the senate since 2004. The real disaster of that election wasn't so much Howard retaining government but Australia losing the hand- breakof the Senate.
Bad for Howard even, since less scrutiny on him and less accountability demanded of him meant he became less on his toes; more capricious, lazy and unimaginative in his government.
I agree that politics follows demographic change in Australia over the last generation. Trade unions no longer anchor the ALP, with the death of manufacturing and laboring. The erosion and eventual absence of that old alliance of intelligentsia and workers that once made Labor a vital force for consciousness and the national project in Australian life died with the arrival of the conservative grouper Right to fill the vaccuum. The sense of a social critique and need for solidarity is gone. The newly-dominant Right is a ferret for globalisation- its hatred of social democratic outlook and viewpoints that challenge rather than welcome the liberal conservative outlook makes it thus.
Labor can only survive in the new environment as the plaything of reactive opportunists,careerists and technocrats and "developers"- RIP.
Those of goodwill and intentions with enough of consciousness left to see still, things as they are, keep trying somehow wrench Labor back into the real world, if only because they can see after a decade what sort of alternative Howardism is.
But it's hard not to be pessimistic.
Ps, anyone watch Rudd's interview by Kezza on 7.30 Report tonight?

yes I saw the interview and thought kevvie was too white looking and everything he said was well rehearsed. Trying to address the Meetooism by saying he thought of it first was a waste of time. Kerry could of pushed him harder but ran out of time....funny that!

Re your comemnt:

Unfortunately Rudd, like Beazley, is too much of a coward or too beholden to his undemocratically selected advisors to stand up for the rights of people like my wife, a permanent resident from Europe who I imagine could be sent home at a moment's notice if she were to speak out against an asshole like Andrews.

I see that Richard Ackland in the Sydney Morning Herald says that the basis of the Labor Party's muted, me-too response to cancelling Haneef's visa, locking him up, letting him go, spreading out-of-context (dis)information about him, then saying he might be charged again is "You can't take risks. Good riddance to him."

The media have a chance to flex their independent muscles and affirm their watchdog position.

They could adopt a critical perspective on the proposed the "sneak and peek" powers for the flatfooted Australian Federal Police so they can search people's homes, computers, telecommunications and anything else they fancy without warrants, or maybe with "delayed notification warrants".

It is the police who will be issuing these warrants, not the courts.

Those sneak and peak powers are probably taken from the UK. The problem is that, unlike the UK, Australia does not have the countervailing protection of a human rights act, which the British courts must apply in an endeavour to find the right quotient of liberty in an age of terrorism.

Will the Press advocate for countervailing protection of a human rights act as exists in Victoria and the ACT.

I'm currently taking a more optimistic view of all this, though I reserve the right to change my mind without notice.

The traditional relationship between politicians, parties and the media has shifted a bit this year, partly because of Rudd's approach and partly because of the blogosphere.

Rudd side-stepped the Canberra pack and did FM, MySpace, Alan Jones on groceries and any other communication channel available to him, so while the gallery was doing the frame thing he was elsewhere engaging with other frames.

He hasn't been quiet at all, he just hasn't been using the usual message carriers. It seems to have taken a while for the usual media suspects to work this out and, once they did, their terribly important noses were put out of joint. Understandably.

We've heard often that nobody's listening to Howard any more, but is it possible that they're not listening to Howard's choice of media anymore?

The Government Gazette's run-in with the blogosphere is the prominent example of the impact bloggers have had, but it's also important to bear in mind the wave of negative commentary from their non-blogging readers, otherwise known as customers, audience, consumers, voters, whatever.

The media could respond by either picking up their game or withdrawing from interaction. They seem to have chosen withdrawal. So far. We'll find out eventually whether that's sustainable.

I think it's too easy to overestimate the political power of public opinion on the net. I think public opinion has a greater potential influence on the way media is done. Where framing and spin are concerned there's a clear public preference for frame- and spin-free journalism.

The other thing is that journalism has catered for the short attention span, minimal information and plenty of sparkly packaging. The blogosphere is about more information than anyone can handle and consensus through a kind of elaborate sorting process. Ideally they'd work together I guess.

On the topic of Kevvie's weak responses of late, dunno. It's obviously annoying a lot of people, but are they going to vote Liberal over it? Green with Greens-loathing Liberal preferences?

Before anybody beats up on Rudd too severely over national security, check out what Andrew Bolt's fans think. They vote too. A lot of them think Andrews is a goose, but they still don't like brown people. Kevvie's best bet has to be compromise.

Lyn, A lot of people think Bolt is a Goose too!

you are right. Things are beginning to shift in terms of the way politics is being refracted through the different media and diversity of the media. It's no longer newspapers, television and talkback radio. Different media different audiences. Different framings?

The MySpace stuff sure has a very different feel to the political commentary in The Australian or the Australian Financial Review.

Does anybody know which is John Howard's webpage on which he posts his video's? this or this or this? Or are the videos being posted on YouTube?

If so, then the Canberra Press Gallery has been put in the same position as the political blogs---commenting on a video.The former have lost their insider status of being there in the flesh.

The Rudd My Space page is pretty staid. I would have thought it would have been more visually adventurous.

The most significant shift is posting videos on YouTube.

I see that Frank Devine, in commenting in the Australian on Murdoch's acquistion of the Wall Street Journal, says the following:

The newspaper format remains the best collective method of gathering and analysing news. Newspaper content electronically delivered is our strongest defence against the online babble of bloggers, propagandists and hucksters.

Interesting that the Government Gazette equates bloggers with propagandists.

This poor defence of professional mainstream media is really an attack on the cult of the amateur. Devine overlooks that his commentary within the 'newspaper content' is babble for many readers.

Its quite a funny statement to make though nan. "Online babble of bloggers,propagandists and hucksters" I bet he was chuckling when he wrote that.

I find a lot of political bloggers really are just trying to self promote and do tend to babble and take the negative stance on every issue just to stimulate comment and interest in their blog. Rather like the real journo's do.

Devine's cultural conservatism is expanded in this account of the effects of blogging on a literary culture.

It's the old professionalism versus the amateur frame.

All blogs now have a place in the world whether they are political, artistic or the stay at home mums. The gloss of being a print media journo has been scoured. Opinion is free'er and free.
Blogging has the potential to make the world a better place unlike newspapers.

I see that Danah Boyd has argued that social network sites such as MySpace and FaceBook can be understood in class terms. She says:

The goodie two shoes, jocks, athletes, or other "good" kids are now going to Facebook. These kids tend to come from families who emphasize education and going to college. They are part of what we'd call hegemonic society. They are primarily white, but not exclusively. They are in honors classes, looking forward to the prom, and live in a world dictated by after school activities.

These are the "hegemonic teens" On the other hand the second group "subaltern teens inhabit MySpace:
MySpace is still home for Latino/Hispanic teens, immigrant teens, "burnouts," "alternative kids," "art fags," punks, emos, goths, gangstas, queer kids, and other kids who didn't play into the dominant high school popularity paradigm. These are kids whose parents didn't go to college, who are expected to get a job when they finish high school. These are the teens who plan to go into the military immediately after schools. Teens who are really into music or in a band are also on MySpace. MySpace has most of the kids who are socially ostracized at school because they are geeks, freaks, or queers.

She says that the "clean" or "modern" look of Facebook is akin to West Elm or Pottery Barn or any poshy Scandinavian design house (that I admit I'm drawn to) while the more flashy look of MySpace resembles the Las Vegas imagery that attracts millions every year. I suspect that lifestyles have aesthetic values and that these are being reproduced on MySpace and Facebook.

I think that is a fair analogy. I set up a facebook this weekend to have a look at it. Mainly because I had noticed that some of my blog poet friends had them. You need to have one to "login" to view their ones it seems.
I can see that it would attract a totally different kind of person. Myspace is much more random and punked and represents the voice of "street youth and music" more.Most bands have a myspace page with samples of their music on. I cant see that happening too much on facebook. One thing that they do have in common is that you need to ask people to be your friend and to comment. I bit like primary school. Boring!
I'll stick with Blogger.

the politicians may be using YouTube, MySpace and MyFace but their websites are pretty poor, as Melanie La'Brooy points out in The Age.

I have been told that the website of Howard's with Winston in the name is a fake site....I haven't looked at it closely though.
I suppose that there would be a train of thought that would not want them to be too flashy so as to reach the target.

Nan, how do you think we will go if they do the same with the country as you reckon they do with their websites?

I guess they are dipping their toes in the water with MySpace, YouTube and Facebook. IIt's seen as same content from the party media professionals but new distribution channels. The user generated material is minimal--being a friend of John or Kevin.

Howard's favourite medium is talkback radio. It appeals to older audiences and the presenters who dish up a diet of conservative drivel mixed with feigned outrage, carefully confected to appeal to the aged demographic.

So when Howard talks about speaking to the Australian people he really means just the 60-plus demographic.

The flaw with talkback, apart from being a tired old format, is that it does not connect with, or have relevance for, a younger audience.

Hence the turn to the internet--a younger audience. That's utilizing Web 2.0, --the growing sector of the internet that serves mainly as a platform for user-generated content, including sites such as MySpace, Facebook, Typepad, Blogger and YouTube.

How are they going to bring in user generated content?That is where the internet is.

Kevin07 is different. Have a look. It invites participation and encourage supporters to interact with one another, participate in blogs and stay in touch with what is happening on the campaign trail.

It expresses the time for change message.