Following on from my recent post about needing to control the media in order to have influence over the electoral process:
According to Denis Muller, Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Advancing Journalism, University of Melbourne, via The Conversation:
An audit of metropolitan newspaper front pages by Media Watch showed a heavy anti-Labor bias by News Corp papers, and a roughly equivalent – but less strident – pro-Labor bias by the old Fairfax (now Nine) newspapers, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. The New Daily analysed three nights of Sky News coverage – April 30, May 1 and 2 – and found gross anti-Labor bias:
News Corp’s unconstrained anti-Labor bias cannot account entirely for Labor’s disastrous showing, but common sense says it accounts for some. For example, the company has a daily newspaper monopoly in Brisbane through The Courier-Mail. It was virulently anti-Labor and Labor did astonishingly badly in Queensland. Coincidence? Possibly, but unlikely.
Note that neither newspaper empire showed a bias towards The Greens or Socialist Alliance. So don’t tell me Fairfax is “left-leaning”. The ALP hasn’t been left since Hawke and Keating. They are pro-corporate, just in a less virulent form. You won’t find Fairfax or the ALP arguing for the dismantling of capitalism.
The conclusion for me is that we either need more media regulation in this country – enforcing neutrality, at least in terms of political reporting and opinion – or we need to replace the old media with new media. But doing the latter has proven difficult over the last 20 years. Very few new media businesses have been able to build a sustainable business model that doesn’t rely on venture capital (which usually means putting rich white guys in control of your business) or advertising (corporate control over your revenue stream).
The only solution I can see for new media is to have user-funded models. Find blogs, podcasts, authors that you like and support them. And yes, I have a vested interest in saying that, but can you see another way forward? How do we stop the old media from determining the result of future elections?
I’ve been saying it for 20 years. If you want political influence in a democracy, you need to control the media. That’s why I started TPN. That’s why Murdoch is king. Don’t blame the voters. They get their opinions from the media. Don’t blame the politicians. They were chosen by the media to do a particular job. It’s the media. If we want change, we need to control the media. We need to invest in independent media. Not the ABC. Truly independent media. That’s why you don’t want advertising to find your podcasts. That’s why you don’t want VC firms to invest in New Media. That’s why you don’t want Facebook to be the new publishing platform. Those things just subvert the opportunity to wrest control of the future from the rich white psychopaths.
What can you do? You can make the media. Make podcasts. Write blog posts. Write books. Make documentaries. Make comics.
I’ve seen a number of posts on Facebook today where people say things like “I don’t care, I’ve got nothing to hide”. I used to think like that too. But the bad news here is that it isn’t you they care about.
Let’s think about a couple of scenarios.
A journalist or an activist is trying to build a story around government or corporate corruption. The government or corporation in question gets wind of it. They can use this mass surveillance to dig up any embarrassing details about this person’s life and threaten to destroy them if they proceed. Let’s say the person has been having an affair or just talking shit about their boss in an email. When the security state has unfettered access to everything you’ve ever written or said on the phone or searched for online, they can destroy anyone who poses a threat to them.
A politician is trying to push through some major changes to, let’s say, election funding or corporate fraud or cutting back on the military. Again, this kind of unfettered access means that any past mistake or screw-up in their lives can be used against them, to stop them from pursuing their agenda of change.
This isn’t a crazy theory. If you read about what has happened in the last 100 years of history when the security state got out of control, you can see this kind of thing in action.
The Stasi in East Germany.
The KGB under Stalin.
The FBI under Hoover.
The CIA under …. well just the CIA forever.
Hell, even the NSA today.
The more access we give security agencies to have unfettered access to our personal information, the more damage they can do – not to you or I, we don’t matter – but to the people who are trying to curb their power or change the system.
Australian international law experts have uniformly condemned Australia’s return of asylum seekers to Sri Lanka as a violation of international law that risks sending vulnerable people back to persecution and torture.
So how could this happen? How does a government break the law? As far as I can tell, there are only a few reasonable explanations.
1. They are completely inept.
2. They aren’t inept but don’t have any lawyers on staff to advise them about such actions, nor did they consult an external law firm.
3. They knew they were breaking the law – but didn’t care.
As much as I suspect our Prime Minister is a complete dickhead, I don’t think he or his team are completely inept or stupid, so the only reasonable explanation is option 3 – they knew they were breaking the law but didn’t care.
This leads me to wonder what the implications are when the government deliberately and knowingly breaks the law – does it mean that the concept of “law” is now invalid for the rest of us? Do we live in a lawless land? Are we an outlaw nation? If the government that is there to create laws willingly snubs its nose at the law, doesn’t this somehow mean the whole system of law is now void?
How can a government simultaneously insist that the population obeys the laws of the nation while it willfully breaks international law?
I had the opportunity this morning (5:30am my time!) to participate in a live discussion on Al Jazeera with John Pilger, the famous Australian investigative journalist, supporter of Julian Assange, and documentarian, about his new documentary “Utopia”, which looks at the current state of Australia’s treatment of our indigenous population. Although I barely got to speak to him (my one question comes in at the 30 minute mark), it was terrific to listen to him explain what he believes is the role of journalism and, in particular, investigative journalism. I want to be him when I grow up.