Saturday, 9 July 2016

When the Story’s not the Story

The events in Dallas yesterday are shocking enough without the national broadsheet attempting to sensationalise them further.

The Australian (the fart of the nation) published initial reports that pushed the line that a race war was imminent across the Pacific.

It’s too early to predict where the events in this tragedy will lead, but with this fiction being promoted, anything is possible –

Heavily armed snipers killed five police and transit officers in downtown Dallas and wounded six more, in a premeditated and triangulated “ambush-style” assault during a rally protesting against the killing of black men after two shootings this week.

That was the lead paragraph of the story on the front page of The Australian this morning.
The problem with this piece of “reporting” is that the references to “heavily armed snipers” and “triangulated” attacks is pure fiction.

By mid-morning the story from the same agency (News corp) had morphed into – 

The sniper who killed five police and transit officers in downtown Dallas during a peaceful protest yesterday has been named as Micah Johnson, a 25-year-old army veteran.

In the space of a few hours, “heavily armed snipers” (plural) have become one Afghanistan veteran who was posted as a carpentry and masonry specialist.

He was sent home from Afghanistan as a consequence of a sexual harassment complaint from a female soldier.

The notion of an organised group of militia (as initially posted on the front page of the Australian), is more in keeping with the race war narrative, but it was simply bunkum.

I don’t believe that this was a deliberate beat-up. Rather, it was sheer media incompetence, behaviour that Rupert’s broadsheet is becoming increasingly prone to.

The difference this time is that the perpetrator wasn’t an Islamic extremist, so Muslims, for a change, aren’t being smeared.

Will African-Americans cop the blow-back? Remains to be seen, but if the behaviour of News Limited is any indication, the signs aren’t good.

Monday, 4 July 2016

A Wotif Democracy

Pic courtesy Sydney morning Herald

The election results, although still unclear, put the current malaise in Oz politics front and centre.

That malaise is very simply the binarization* of our political culture that has gathered pace since the beginning of the twenty first century.

Obviously, dear reader, I’m introducing a couple of concepts here that require explanation.

By binarization, I mean the reduction of all political discussion into right and wrong, goodies and baddies, and Left and Right. 

It’s a trend that has developed rapidly, principally in the media, both mainstream and social. The advent of the internet has been significant. The geographical origin is trans-Pacific, and it has metastasized  through intellectual laziness.

Unfortunately, this cancer has spread to Australian politics, which used to be a bastion of collaboration, pragmatism and common sense. These local characteristics go a long way towards explaining the reasons behind our comparatively peaceful history.

Australians have never really taken their political beliefs seriously enough to shed blood over them. This is not necessarily the case in other comparative democracies.

My reference to the influence of the internet refers to the ability of individuals to express their ideas to a wide audience without too much difficulty. In case you haven’t noticed, I am, dear reader, doing that right now.

Unfortunately, as a consequence perhaps of lack of time in our busy lives, and creeping intellectual laziness, these private opinions almost automatically line up in binary fashion. Most bloggers, opinionistas and commentators can’t be bothered with analysis. It’s easier to opt for one of the two possible binary positions. Some make a living from it. Others exploit it.

It’s a malaise we’ve probably caught from computers. Their operating systems are binary.

There is a poor match between the Westminster system, under which we are supposed to be governed, and binary politics. The House of Representatives was designed as a chamber where people represent the opinions of their constituents, not those of political parties.

This most recent poll is a manifestation of this mis-match.

We have two major parties, each with two appendages. For the Liberals, their appendage is the slightly-to-the-Right Nationals – for Labor, it’s the slightly-to-the-Left Greens.

There are splinter parties on the extreme. The best examples of these are ALA, Pauline Hanson, and the Socialist Alliance.

To me this binarization and splintering represents something dangerous and destructive and explains to a large extent the volatility that has become a feature of recent polls. There is a solution. We need a legislature reflecting the wishes of the electorate. The combined sitting of the House and Senate will not do that. 

This same volatility reflects the frustration that most voters feel because their wishes and aspirations have become lost in the binary trend. 

That’s where Wotif (with apologies to Graeme Wood) comes in.

Wotif we had a government of national unity? You know, as existed in many countries in wartime. If our economic situation is as dodgy as we’re told, and we don’t want to inflict debt and damnation on our descendants, wouldn’t we be crazy to continue as we are? 

Wotif the sitting of both houses was closed, so that the press pack was unable to hoot and holler about the goings-on? Wotif members were sworn to secrecy about the proceedings to prevent grandstanding? Wotif all ballots were secret? Wotif the issues voted upon had to be significant enough to the gathered representatives to warrant discussion and legislation, rather than to appeal to some vested interest or another?

It would have to be better than the nightmare confronting us.

As it is, unrepresentative senators, elected through spite or disdain, will exercise power on behalf of the splinter groups who voted them in, holding hostage the bulk of voters who wouldn't touch their obsessions with a barge pole.

 I can dream……
*It’s real word. Consult your thesaurus.

Hugh White - Without America

Hugh White is always provocative, and doesn't pull any punches when it comes to criticising current defence policy. In 1995, he was appo...