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Conflation – the media’s new weapon of choice

July 29, 2011 11 comments

Since the News of the World hacking scandal broke the general public has increasingly aware of the depths the media will sink to in order to sell copies/get page hits/get ratings.

Now that they are becoming more aware of the usual tricks of the trade to incite sensationalism, the media appear to have fallen back onto an old standard with increasing frequence…conflation or false equivalence.

This is how it works:

  1. Find negative issue/event/angle on something.
  2. Tie it, no matter how tenuously, to the subject of your preferred narrative.
  3. Profit!

Nothing demonstrates this more clearly than the recent “NBN hacking” drama.

At first the headlines were all about how the NBN was “hacked” with the clear undertone that this new project was a joke and massively insecure.  What actually happened was that a hacker had gained access to a company’s systems and this company was going to be a provider for the NBN, and that provider did not even have any services running on the NBN.  So after delving a tiny little bit deeper we find that it has pretty much zero to do with the NBN at all.

Did the media let the facts get in the way or their barrow pushing…HELL NO!  Despite repeated confirmation from experts that it had absolutely nothing to do with NBN at all, every headline contained the words ‘NBN’ and ‘hacked’ in close conjunction.  Even the term ‘hacked’ is completely inaccurate in this situation as the NBN is the infrastructure that the services run on…you can’t “hack” a piece of fibre optic you can only hack the data running on it.  It’s like saying you are going to carjack the Pacific Motorway.

I truly despair for journalism in this country when something a basic as that is ignored in the cause of sensationalism.

 

But of course it’s only the beginning. For the next two years we can look forward to the ultimate conflation…Carbon Tax = everything bad ever.  All you have to do is look at the reports of David Jones whingeing that the Carbon Tax is causing decreased sales.  Despite the Chinese scientists proving that time travel is impossible, the CEO of David Jones has obviously blown that notion out of the water because A TAX THAT WON’T COME INTO EXISTENCE FOR 12 MONTHS has affected his bottom line.  When does he get his Nobel Prize?

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#mediafail – The death of Australian political journalism

July 18, 2011 4 comments

For a while now there’s been an inexorable decline in the standards of journalism across the globe.  With the advent of the internet the 24 hour news cycle and the need to always be the first with the latest the emphasis has been moved away from considered analysis to superficial reportage merely to stake the claim as the “first”.

But now I am sad to report that political journalism has died a miserable lonely death in Australia and shuffled off to the wasteland currently inhabited by Today Tonight and A Current Affair.  It hasn’t been a pretty decline by any stretch of the imagination, but the past four years have seen the malignancy increase to the point where it is impossible to sustain life without heroic measures any more.  So what have been the causes of this sad termination, apart from the above mentioned 24 hour news cycle?

  1. The political journos themselves must shoulder the lion’s share of the blame.  From the days of titans like the younger Laurie Oakes and Paul Bongiorno (not the sad caricatures they have become in an attempt to remain relevant) we have now descended to the era of the Mark Rileys, Latika Bourkes, and Dennis Shanahans.  The whole press gallery has become an exercise in circle-jerk confirmation bias and a death spiral of editorial prejudice, with quality reportage and analysis the first casualties.  They have become nothing but stenographers for the right, with every press release treated as reality and devoid of any hint of thought.  When the national broadcaster starts the majority of political stories with “The Federal Opposition says…” you know there is some bias there.
  2. Following on from the journos themselves is their publications/broadcasters incessant treatment of opinion polls as news.  They are a carefully guided questioning of a small (very small in some cases) cross section of society…in no way do they represent what would happen if an election were held…which it won’t because it is at least 2 years away and only a moron would kick themselves out of a job because some brain-dead mouth-breather kept bleating on about a new election.
  3. Treating politics as a horse race/sport is the next step.  Both of these viewpoints require a distinct winner and loser, or hero and villain (no guessing what the current casting is huh?) and quite frankly the world doesn’t work this way.  Rather than dig deeper into the boring policy stuff to find out what is right/wrong or good/bad, they will grab the most sensational sound bite and beat it up until it suits there needs for hits/ratings/sales.  Take the “Julia lied” furphy as the current popular meme.  It wouldn’t take much to lay out the reasoning as follows:    a)  Promise was made during the election campaign i.e. BEFORE THE ELECTION RESULT WAS KNOWN.   b)  she also said Labor always wanted to put a emissions trading scheme in place.  c)  Neither major party won government in their own right, so they needed to negotiate with the Greens and Independents.  d)  Negotiation means compromise on previous promises.  e)  Compromise was that a fixed price would be put on pollution temporarily until an ETS was established.   It’s not that hard.
  4. And finally the journos belief that they are somehow integral to the political process and must be treated with the “respect” they deserve.  This of course leads to the well known phenomenon of journalists interviewing journalists, mostly about what other journalists have opined…best seen in that wonderful show “Insiders”.  The title sums it all up really…they truly believe that they are part of the mechanism of running the country.

Of course none of this is new so why the sudden urge to declare time of death?  The coverage of the carbon tax.

Never have I seen such a conglomeration of dribble, gibber and, to paraphrase the PM, absolute crap.  The coverage of the facts of the package have been minimal and detailed analysis almost non-existent, but the reportage on the hysteria of the LNP, mining companies and any other vested interest that might even have to pay a bit extra has been staggering.  For fuck’s sake there’s been wall-to-wall reporting of whingers earning over $150,000 who are complaining that they will have to pay extra to run the ducted air-conditioning in their McMansions.

So to sum up, I think it’s time for a change.  We can no longer rely on the journalists in this country to provide us the information we need to make decisions about the future of this country and which political entity will do the best for our country.

We, the amateurs of the blogosphere need to stand up and be counted.  I’ve read far more detailed analysis and reporting in the numerous blogs I read than anything else I can pick from one on the major news organs.  It’s time for us to get our messages out there and be taken seriously as the successors to the Fourth Estate.  They can revert back to the celebrity breakups and dodgy tradies that they cover so well…the blogosphere can handle the serious analysis that they are unwilling or unable to provide.

Now I’m only a rank amateur…I’m poor at fact checking, let my opinion run free and am not one for in depth analysis (whoa…I could actually be a journalist with that skill set!), but for some better and more detailed information I strongly suggest you check out Grogs Gamut, Politically Homeless, The Failed Estate, Larvatus Prodeo, and if you’re feeling combative and want to see some trolls in the wild, jump on to Gutter Trash and join the fight.

Get yourselves out there and get the correct information spreading…we desperately need it.

Australia, the whingeing country

July 14, 2011 8 comments

It’s official, Australia can no longer be counted as “the lucky country”…we have instead become a country of self-centred whingers.

When the people start to moan about not being compensated enough for a tax THAT IS NOT BEING LEVIED ON THEM DIRECTLY, or whine about having some of their benefits removed because THEY ARE EARNING MORE THAN $150000 PER YEAR then it’s time for a serious reality check.

To mind, this all started with the great myth of the “Howard battler”.  This was John Howard’s way to siphon support from the traditional Labor base by appealing to the “aspirationals” in the cashed-up bogan belt.  By throwing middle class welfare at them he encouraged to effectively spend beyond their means…McMansions for all with two Commodore V8s in every garage.  Of course, this meant that because they had borrowed beyond their means to get their flashy new house (courtesy of the First Home Owners Grant and low doc loans), any slight movement upwards of interest rates meant they got pushed to the wall.  Naturally the culture of blame wouldn’t allow them to accept responsibility for their poor decision, so the Government copped it for allowing interest rates to rise.

This leads on to the second point, where the public’s main indication of the state of the Australian economy has become the movement of interest rates.  This is a result of the media’s complete aversion to analysis on anything but the most superficial of levels and resorting to 3 minute factoid laden spiels designed to provoke a response…usually indignation.  Hence the prevalence of shonky tradies, dole bludgers and welfare cheats throughout what used to be some decent current affairs shows.  So now that the public believes that interest rates are the sole indicator of a healthy economy, any movement upwards is treated as a betrayal of the battlers by the Government, despite the fact that a) the Reserve Bank board is independent of the Government, and b) interest rate changes are a mechanism used to control the economy, not a weapon against the public.

Finally we come to what I think is the primary cause of this attitude…the shithouse state of the media in this country.

Gone are the days when you could switch on the news and learn the facts about politics and government in this country…it has been increasingly treated like a sport where you have to pick a side and everything is a victory or loss…there is no middle ground.  Considering politics has long been called the “art of compromise” this is a serious disservice to the viewing/reading public.

Of course they treat it this way solely for the purposes of ratings/circulation/hits…they no longer see themselves as supplying the service of facts and analysis to the public, instead they are providing profit for their shareholders.  The media has also been infected by bias towards one side of politics, and it is only the very obtuse or the very biased themselves that can claim otherwise. When the not for profit national broadcaster parrots headlines directly from the News Limited stable and prefaces every story regarding a government policy with “the Federal Opposition says…” you know there is something wrong.  When the supposed national broadsheet vows to destroy an established political party at the ballot box and deliberately casts a very successful government policy (97% success) as a failure then you know there is some bias in the media.

So when Tony Abbott can get away with ridiculous pronouncements without a hint of scrutiny, continually talking down the Australian economy without a hint of censure, and demeaning our Parliamentary system with his childish censure motions EVERY DAY OF QUESTION TIME purely to try to get on TV news, then you know the culture of whinge is becoming deeply ingrained.

Australians need to have a good hard look at themselves, take a big cup of concrete and harden the fuck up.

The fact is we currently have one of the best performing economies in the world regardless of all the doomsaying.  We have one of the highest standards of living and compared to some countries where it is a day to day struggle to get a job or food, we have it easy.

If you’re whining that your house has lost value because of the GFC, or your business will go under because of the carbon tax WHICH WON’T BE INTRODUCED FOR ANOTHER YEAR, or that you aren’t getting enough handouts from the Government because you earn more than $150,000 you should just shut the fuck up and count your blessings that you live in Australia.  If not, get the hell out.

 

UPDATE:  Awesome article by Geoff Lemon…must read.

State of Origin – woo hoo 6-0!

State of Origin wrapped up for 2011 last night with a resounding win for Queensland, giving them six consecutive series wins and sending off Darren Lockyer in almost the perfect manner (perfect would have been 3-0).

A few thoughts on the games:

  1. Game 1 showed how Queensland’s attacking defence can stifle the NSW playmakers and snuff out their go forward.   The fact that Matt Scott gained more ground alone than all of the NSW forward pack combined is a testament to both his skill as a prop and the team defence.
  2. If not for the Maroons poor execution in Game 1 the lead would have been 20 points.  I can think of at least 3 occasions when a try went begging because of a simple mistake.
  3. NSW did play well in Game 2, however Queensland played incredibly poorly and not a patch on their usual ability.  They were shell shocked early and by the time they got out of it, it was too late.  Mind you they almost did it…if Inglis has held the intercept pass it would have been a 10 point turnaround.
  4. Game 3 was a sublime display of rugby league…the first 30 minutes at least.  Queensland completely owned the Blues and spent 81% of the first 30 minutes in NSW territory.  It was lucky they only put 24 points on them.  As for the first NSW try…it was a totally arsey piece of play and didn’t warrant the exclamation of “the tide is turning”.  The score greatly flattered NSW as they were not even in the competition.
  5. The NSWRL Channel 9 commentary team were simply appalling.  A great bunch of biased blue-eyed toss bags I couldn’t dream of running across.  Listening to them calling the second game was just torturous…I recall them verbally dry-humping every NSW player for a solid 20 minutes at one point.  Then they had the temerity to point out that yes they were biased, but they had two callers biased towards Queensland as well…despite the fact that neither of them was actually calling the game.
  6. Once again the referees distinguished themselves with their mediocrity.  Maybe they’ve been given instructions to let as much go through as possible, because there were some appalling high shots let through as par for the course.  I swear that every tackle Glenn Stewart made in the first 10 minutes was around the jaw of the Queensland player.  And yet they feel the overriding need to disallow a try because of “driving”…what the hell is that about?  Don’t we see that every week in the NRL?
  7. Paul Gallen.  Seriously is this guy a meat-axe or what?  I know the NSW press is seriously in love with him, but since when does 1 excellent game and 2 average ones make you a superstar?  And what was with the incessant whingeing to the referee?  Every time NSW got called on a penalty he was up in the refs face pleading for a second chance…”come on Gov, I know his head has been knocked off but that doesn’t warrant a penalty…he viciously headbutted my forearm”.  And then capping it off with his graceless speech at the end about refs calls just shows how classless he really is.  I know they must set the bar pretty low down there but really?  I suppose they did crown Mitchell Pearce the “best halfback in the world”…not sure in what sport but based on last night’s game it wasn’t rugby league.

I fully expect a bunch of “Origin is dead” stories to start floating around now…very much a case of taking your bat and ball and going home.  Either that or “Ricky the genius” will be working on his master plan for next year…probably getting centres to play in the forward pack because they’ll be REALLY mobile, and it worked once didn’t it?

All in all, a great day to be a Queenslander.  GO THE MAROONS!!

Happy Tony Abbott Irrelevancy Day!!!

July 1, 2011 15 comments

I know it’s been a while been sprays, but it’s been difficult to find anything worth writing about. It’s all been very Groundhog Day:

1. Tony Abbott brain farts/slags off the Government
2. Media goes mental and runs it wall to wall without scrutiny
3. Media gets confirmation by interviewing Opposition and further validation by interviewing other journos.
4. When proven to be factually incorrect, correction printed in two lines hidden in middle of story.

Couple this with Tony’s incessant pointless censure motions in Question Time with the sole aim of getting his head on TV and you can see how depressing the state of our parliament really is.
For someone who touts himself as an alternative PM he is showing a distinct lack of gravitas and just highlighting that he will do absolutely anything to achieve power.
Then there is his record in Opposition. For someone who is incessantly shouting NO all the time, he hasn’t had much success blocking legislation. In fact this minority government has succeededmin passing over 150 pieces of legislation and Tony has managed to block precisely…zero. Awesome work there Tony.
And now he’s promised 11 billion in tax cuts, but when questioned on where the money will come from, he’s come back with “we don’t have access to Treasury psi we can’t give you exact figures”. I steps Julia and offers them the services of Treasury to cost their promises properly. Does Tony man up and put his his money where his mouth is? Hell no!
He runs away like the little girl that he is, yelling “but public servants are all Labor stooges so they’ll dodgy it up”. All we can say to that is *cough* Godwin Grech *cough*

Now today is the turning point. The new senate takes its place and the LNP no longer has the balance of power. With the help of the Greens, Labor will be able to push their agenda through much more smoothly and Tony can just sit on the sidelines throwing his tantrums…not that he doesn’t actually do any different these days.

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