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Tuesday, 19 March 2013

The new politics

The media flew into a flap about the imminent threat to free speech last week over the proposal by the Communication’s Minister, Stephen Conroy, to improve regulation and diversity of media content in this country.

The Sydney Daily Telegraph covered itself in glory, comparing Senator Conroy with Stalin, Mao and a host of other totalitarian figures; as well as running a story about how the boss of News Limited, Kim Williams, is worried that "the government-appointed advocate will have the power to close down our ability to report on that which is going on in our society”. Call me old-fashioned, but I’m struggling to see where Boss Thinks Thing Is Bad Idea is news.

Maybe it is satire, as News Limited lost any ability to “report on that which is going on in society” years ago.

The editorial director of News Limited, Campbell Reid, is a member of the Australian Press Council – the very body that put a submission before the Independent Media Inquiry which  called for tougher penalties for breaches of standards, including fines, and the appointment of a “special panel” for “exceptionally grave” breaches of its standards.  But that didn't stop old Reid stumping up on the 7.30 Report to claim that Conroy’s reforms (which didn't go nearly as far as his own Press Council wanted to) left him “bewildered at the perceived necessity in a completely free society to impose Government sanctions on free speech”.

Of course this has nothing to do with the fact that the current business model for the Mainstream Media (MSM) is hopelessly failing/ as readers - and therefore their ultimate customers, advertisers – desert them in droves

As the excellent blog The Failed Estate points out, much of the hostility towards the Gillard Government is because the MSM perceive that things like the NBN and enforcement of greater editorial standards hit the corporate bottom line for Murdoch, et al. As The Failed Estate Points out, it is "a media trumpeting the public interest and acting in self-interest”. That the national broadcaster would go along for the ride shows how the leviathans of Australian media intimidate and bully their peers into pushing an agenda into the public domain.

That Conroy would embark on this policy is a sign of how politics is changing because the way we communicate is changing. Elements of the current Federal government could do worse than simply give up on the MSM. They get no acknowledgement, no discussion of policy and no serious information to the public through the existing media. Social media and new media outlets such as Independent Australia show how much the MSM are missing the mark. People are hungry for relevant information on their day to day lives, and the MSM is pretty much next to useless in providing it.

Take, for example, the campaign against Coial Seam Gas (CSG) in the community. Whatever you think of the merits or otherwise of CSG, this article from Inside Story shows that Rob Oakeshott, the Independent MHR whose vote is supporting the Gillard Government is – far from the picture painted by the MSM of him facing massive voter backlash for doing so – actually being greeted with raucous support on the ground in his own electorate because of a policy stance.

There are other examples - from news stories, to sport,  to natural disaster coverage,  to a simple traffic report - where the MSM get simple useful facts wrong, present them out-of-context in a meaningless manner or simply present an irrelevant opinion as fact (“The opposition spokesman said that...”). This is their core job, to provide news (stuff that is new) in a reliable manner. They can’t even do that.

They do all this oblivious to the reality that people have new ways of finding things out. We can go to source information just as quickly as they can. We can watch or read transcripts of press conferences or read press releases. We can get more information relevant to our day-to-day lives without having to even bother with the inane chatter that is the MSM. And through social media we can share it with others.

But it’s not just the MSM that doesn't get this new way of communicating.

At least one Australia Post employee was threatened with a warning counselling because of content on this blog. A warning counselling is the first step in a disciplinary process leading to dismissal from employment. It is significant because no identity of any postal worker is identified on this blog. When Australia Post made the allegation they could produce no evidence linking that particular employee with this blog. The allegations were unproven.

Issuing a formal warning counselling, and the implications of dismissal, make a cogent case that this was an attempt to stifle this blog and intimidate any would be author. This author would be interested if any other postal workers have been caught up in this obvious fishing expedition on the part of Australia Post’s Human Resources department (who would be more productively employed ensuring that Australia Post paid its employees correctly and on time as is the Law under s.323 of the Fair Work Act (2009).)

None of Australia Post’s actions in this matter are consistent with the ideals of liberalism that have underpinned western thought since the seventeenth century, but it is consistent with the sort of totalitarianism Kim Williams and the Daily Telegraph was so concerned to warn us about.

It is curious is that this sort of attempt-to-silence comes not from the Government, where News Limited et al spend a lot of time pointing the finger, but from a corporation. And there are other examples of corporations engaging in stifling free speech, just none so close to the blog you’re reading now.

That hallmark of MSM integrity, The Australiancalled for the blogger Greg Jericho of Grog’s Gamut fame to be sacked as apublic servant when he we outed by their journalist James Massola. He and the Australian ended up with egg on their faces when their actions not only spurred the popularity of Grog’s Gamut, but made their own feeble efforts look dismal in comparison to the studied contributions from Mr Jericho on economics, sport and the arts.

Such, such are the joys of this new communications age. The frenzied meltdown of the MSM in the face of this change shows no signs of abating. They roam the intellectual spaces of the world like a mob of Ranters intent on smashing the mills and machines that threaten their livelihood.

It is pretty obvious that the Murdoch empire is doomed, and the emperor has no clothes.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

"Sam Dastyari will be played by a 44 gallon drum of used cooking oil”

Ah yes, quelle horreur at the predictable pantomime of the current ICAC inquiry.

Why are we so surprised? Because they got caught? Andrew Elder had a go at it over at Politically Homeless and Anne Davies rose to the bait .*

O'bied, Macdonald, Carr, Iemma, Scully, Costa! These people are just names, but what policies they inspire! When governments and corporations insist you receive bills electronically, direct you to use automated checkouts at supermarkets, place you on speech recognition gateways and so forth, when they insist that the bottom line is more important than the service delivery, they are, in effect, saying 'do as you are told!'. It is slavery.

So why are we surprised when some dullards screw up even that simple proposition? These buffoons are from the ALP. The ALP is an electoral machine. Nothing more, nothing less. It exists to support endorsed candidates be elected to local, state and federal rubber stamp agencies. It would make for a terrific farce, with SamDastyari played by a 44 gallon drum of used cooking oil.

At a state and federal level the big buck decisions are made at a ministerial level and around the cabinet table. At local government level the same decisions are made at a coffee table. The position of households in those decisions is very weak, as evidenced by Doug Cameron's occasional plaint in the background as we march vigorously towards our bright neoliberal future. Households are disorganised and bonded by debt to live lives that are not quite what they believed they would be. This is the vague sense of dissatisfaction that permeates public life, the end of civility. It is why we have turned into a nation of flag waving whingers.

Which brings us to the problem of Peter Hendy.

Hendy is not from the ALP. Peter Hendy is from the Liberal Party . He is the endorsed candidate for the federal seat of Eden-Monaro, to run against the incumbent, and greatest example of why the ALP is just an electoral machine, Dr Mike Kelly, OAM.

Now Mike Kelly is about as Labor as Bob Menzies, but so was Ron Mulock, who nonetheless oversaw important reforms and represented the good citizens of the Penrith Valley as well as could be expected. Kelly has done the same for that cold and dry south-eastern corner of New South Wales. He holds the seat on the barest of margins, which actually grew at the 2010 federal election. It is the famous seat that allows people to use the word bellwether without being laughed out of town.

Mr Hendy had a dodger in my post office box this week, offering the Abbott Plan and asking for supporters and donors to come forward.. There was a reply paid form with a return address of P.O. Box 2, Kings Cross, 1340. The Abbott "plan" read like a Ray Hadley wish list. There is a nice picture of Hendy being kind to some elderly citizens on the front cover. It's weird.

Hendy bills himself in the flyer as being a local from Queanbeyan, but who is Peter Hendy? Is this the Peter Hendy who believed that Workchoices didn't go far enough? Who laid blatant lies before the senate enquiry into the Workchoices legislation? Who firmly believes that placing the canary yellow shirted workforce of Queanbeyan on individual agreements will lead to a boom in, what's the big employer in Canberra outside the public service again? That's right, retail. Is this the man who made Workers Online's  Tool Of The Week three times in less than twelve months?  Still, he's not Julia Gillard, But then again, he is Tony Abbott – and if Queanbeyan doesn't see Tony Abbott again it'll be too soon. 

So, like Mumford and sons, they've really fucked it up this time. It may be wishful thinking, but I think Mike Kelly will be fine in Eden-Monaro, especially as the Liberal party candidate is up at The Cross, soliciting for support.

Next to this, Sam Dastyari and the other Sussex Street bums look like amateurs by comparison. Focus groups be damned, none of these organisations have any legs left to campaign with! The grass roots advocates have largely given up.

It will be interesting to see if Australia can be astroturfed by Tony Abbott, through Peta Credlin, Crosby-Textor style. Somehow I doubt it, not because of EMC or Hawker-Briton** being any better, but because they're all equally fucked, and people are aware of things such as frying pans and fires.

* Mr Elder has not been updating his comments (unsurprising given Davies veiled legal threats), but I will put my comment up as a separate post if it doesn't go on Politically Homeless.

** This outfit, which is halfway between Crosby-Textor and the numbers operator, Tattersalls, backed Rudd in early 2012. Great job that. They must be gun players.