The other day political commentator Mungo McCallum remarked in passing that ‘the influence of the media on public opinion has always been greatly overrated’. I beg to differ, along with quite a few other commenters on his article. Here is a longer case for profound media influence.
It seems journalists in the mainstream political bubble tend to share the disconnectionof the politicians from the rest of us, which is understandable if their perception of the world is mostly the bubble. And if your measure of the problem is the distance between the mainstream media and ‘public opinion’ you might miss something important. After all, the perceptions of most punters include the highly selected pap the media choose to serve up to them, so there’s not usually going to be a big difference.
But what would a well-informed polity, or just a polity sketchily informed with a rough balance, think? What would ‘public opinion’ be then?
It took on the most riven, brutal and monumentally incompetent rabble since Federation and still could not manage to beat them. This is a profound failure that requires a profound explanation. There is one, though it goes against decades of received wisdom.
The problem is the economic ‘reforms’ imposed by the Hawke-Keating governments are a failure. Our anaemic economy and divided society are their continuing legacy.
These claims are of course heresy. They sully the revered memory of Larrikin Bob. They contradict the economic and political mantras of the past thirty five years. Yet the evidence is clear and has been readily available for some time.
I already wrote about the failures of Labor and the Greens and the flagrant partisanship of the media in bringing about Labor’s shock election loss. The trouble is these problems have been evident for a long time (Labor, Greens) and there is little sign anyone in those parties really understands what is necessary.
Nor is there any new party in the offing that might seize the day. The US has Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The UK had Jeremy Corbyn to revive their Labour Party, though he may be sinking into the ancient and corrupt mire of British politics. We have no messiah.
Yet this election has shown us the way forward, if we are open to noticing.
Tuesday there were crowds (up to 1000) in front of Parliament House attending rallies for Stop Adani and medical evacuations of refugees from their island gulags (though you wouldn’t know it from the mainstream media).
There was some interest in the People’s Embassy and its message ‘Drive the money changers from the temple of democracy’, though the numbers were not large. Mostly a passing ‘good on you’.
A highlight was emphatic support for the message from Greens leader Richard DiNatale, who was cruising the crowd.
Next week, as Parliament resumes, I will mount a protest against corruption of the Parliament, namely a People’s Embassy – to our Parliament. See the explanation on the dedicated page A People’s Embassy.
Corruption of our democratic system is flagrant, but hardly commented upon. Politicians accept money from the rich and do favours for the rich, against the known wishes of the people. It may be all nudge-wink, but it is plainly there and plainly subverting our society.
Several pledges will be available for politicians and candidates to sign up to. The most important are the Sunshine Pledges, to reveal contacts and financial support in real time, and to limit donations to individuals and small amounts.
Score voting avoids the vagaries and gaming that are intrinsic to preference ranking systems. It is simpler and more reliably reflects the will of voters. You have probably used it if you have completed a survey. We should use it in political elections.
The 2018 Victorian election has turned up another result in which ‘preference whispering’ by minor parties has distorted the will of the people ($, William Bowe at Crikey), if we take the will of the people to be indicated by first-preference votes.
Minor parties scored 25% of upper house seats from 20% of first-preference votes, whereas the Greens scored only one seat with votes that exceeded almost all minor-party votes individually. In one case a primary vote of 1.3% beat a Greens primary vote of 13.5%.
[Didn’t get any takers for this commentary, then it got stale. There may be more opportunities before too long.]
It’s not the salespeople, it’s the product. The product does not serve the people and the people know it, so they keep rejecting the salesperson.
You might think, after a parade of six short-term Prime Ministers, and counting, that this diagnosis of Australia’s political instability might be more commonly perceived, but much of the attention remains on more superficial factors like personality, technology, social media and so on. Even when the political product is questioned few seem to appreciate the depth of its inadequacy.
The best of Oz past, the smartest of Oz present, an enduring Oz future
Most Australians want a more stable and cooperative society, stronger communities and families, more equal distribution of wealth and better care of the environment. However free-market ideologists have badgered and deceived us into selfishness, fear and mediocrity.
We Australians have shown, over our short history, we can be innovative, resilient, bold, generous and welcoming. We have abundant skills and resources. We have clean technologies and techniques. We are creative. We can harness the economy so it delivers a fair go for everyone, without trashing the land and planet.
We can live well and generously in this ancient, fragile land.
The right-wing ideology of the past 40 years has failed. It was always going to fail, because it is based on nonsense ideas, and because it harms people and the natural world. Australian politics has been dragged far to the right since 1980 because both major parties embraced an agenda promoted by right-wing radicals. Now the radical right’s grip on power is finally slipping. We are poised for a major political re-alignment.
Progressive reformers are attempting to take control of the major parties of the nominal left in the United States and the United Kingdom, in the wake of losses in national elections and the rise of reactionary forces. Even if the rebels do not take full control there is some prospect that the parties will at least be substantially changed.
No such fate threatens the Australian Labor Party. There is no flicker of unorthodoxy from within. There is little prospect of the plebian hordes storming it from without. The ALP stands, inert and impregnable, occupying the political space where a progressive party ought to be, the greatest obstacle in Australia to the constructive reform we desperately need if we are to have a tolerable future.