What is wrong, and why we can’t seem to fix it

Throughout most of my life I have been living under conservative governments, and the nicest way I can find to describe political conservatism is to say that it embodies the popular phrase ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. However, as we all know there are many things wrong at present, and they need fixing. No amount of ignoring them will make them go away. This blog is about those awkward facts of world that won’t go away and which political conservatism won’t make go away either.

What I’m going to aim to do is post a blog once a week, on a Friday, so you can digest it over the weekend. The next week’s blog will either be the next in my series, or a discussion of issues that have arisen from the comments.

I’m going to have a very strict comments policy, comment will only be accepted if they are intelligent and polite contributions to discussion around the topic of the post. Everything else will be moderated.

If you find a blog here sympathetic, you might consider reading the blogs from the beginning, as they are supposed to be a more or less continuous argument.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

The Media 1

This blog post has a simple and familiar theme: the media is supposed a source of information on which people can based their evaluations of the world and make decisions; in reality the mainstream media (MSM) of the early C21 are largely run as a vehicle for propagating the right-wing corporate agenda. This can either be done flagrantly (US Fox News), or it can be done more subtly. Either way it can be seen that the mission of the MSM is to sell a version of the western consumerist lifestyle deriving both from the news reporting and from the advertising that surrounds it. Noam Chomsky mordantly observed that we assume that news consumers are the clients and they purchase a product, the newspapers or whatever, but in fact, he said, the clients of the MSM are the advertisers and the products delivered to the advertisers are the consumers.

What follows in this post as an illustration of this thesis is a listing of the main news stories of Nine News (Sydney Edition) from their 6pm Sunday evening bulletin during the winter and spring of 2010. I decided to record these as the TV happened to be on in the house this time each week.

Not being very familiar with commercial news reporting I was at a loss initially as to how to analyse the news. My conclusion in the end was the this bulletin seemed to be creating from the news it reported a view of the world as a cruel and unpredictable place, full of natural calamities, violence, predatory individuals and governments, with a constant danger of Australia losing in international sports competitions—and the corollary to this is that viewers should look to their homes, possessions and families as refuges from this world... and vote for conservative politicians who can be trusted to get tough on crime and unAustralian behaviour.

How this differs from other expressions of MSM practice is mainly in its extreme unsophistication (mingling, as it does national, international, sports and local stories). This is a news programme that milks emotion wherever it can (even (24/10/10) giving a sympathetic hearing to Christina Keneally, the then NSW Labor Premier, when Nine News coverage of the State Labor Government was otherwise hostile), and never misses an opportunity to fall into bathos.

[OK, so some of my summaries of the stories may be a little snarky, but people who are familiar with the ‘product’ will recognise them as a type.]

Each item should be read as ‘Be frightened of [insert news story]’:

Paying too much for alcohol
6 individuals in Villawood Detention Centre
Elderly male drivers reversing out of drives without looking
The weather

Hit and run drivers
Money being wasted on Sydney Opera House
Muslim Australians rorting the First Home Owners Scheme

Socceroos losing in World Cup
Dying on glaciers in NZ (Australian tourist deaths)
The Taliban (Australian solider killed in Afghanistan)
Schoolyard fights

Flying in Africa (mining executive deaths)
NSW State Labor not losing in March 2011 (Penrith state by-election)
Babies being shot in their cots
Kevin Rudd’s Broadband Plan
Socceroos losing in World Cup

Stabbings in the Blue Mountains
Julia Gillard’s new policies
Professionally organised protestors” (G20 Summit)
Traitors” (Jana Pitman running for Britain)
Being kidnapped at Word Cup
Fathers being bashed by police

Stabbings in the Blue Mountains
Home invasions
Julia Gillard
Greedy Sydney Councils (parking fines)

Uncertainty about Federal Election date
RTA cash grab (“speed-cameras hitting the ground”)
Missing bargains at the July sales
Teenagers and violent crime

Labor winning election despite a Galaxy Poll
War veterans losing medals in house fires
Unexplained murders (Lin family)
BP oil well cap not holding

Political correctness claiming scalp of (anti-muslim) Liberal candidate
Tony Abbott losing election debate
Perils of rock concerts
Unexplained deaths

Child abductions
The Shadow of Kevin Rudd”
Fatal shootings in Sydney
Government’s mining tax destroying opportunities for ordinary Australians.

Tony Abbott’s campaign launch not being enough to secure a Liberal victory
Mark Latham
Malfunctioning fire alarms
Child abductions

Julia Gillard as next PM
Crazed feminists bringing down David Jones (sexual harassment case)
The Taliban (Australian solider killed in Afghanistan)
Forgetting our military heritage (Sandakan death marches commemoration)

Julia Gillard’s socialist minority government cheating Australians of the Conservative government they voted for
The socialist Greenslide
The NSW Labor Government
Daughters shooting their fathers

Threats against Independent MPs
Dangerous surf
Pakistan causing cricket corruption
Fees demanded of professional photographers in Sydney

Wind and floods: losing power, falling eucalypts, damage to property, “unforgiving, cruel nature”
Earthquakes ((1st) Christchurch Earthquake) “The Richter scale can measure quakes, but a security camera can give a much more graphic picture”
Paul Hogan fleeing the country
Your footie team not making it to the final eight

Alcohol fuelled violence
Pedestrian accidents
Terrorism (Sept 11 anniversary)
Julia Gillard’s step-daughter posing for men’s magazine
Julia Gillard’s cabinet reshuffle

Car crashes
Security at Commonwealth Games (esp for parents of competitors) + Dengue fever
Rough seas
Julia Gillard “setting her goals too high”
Greens taking advantage (euthanasia legislation)

Computer malfunctions affecting air travellers
Chaos in Delhi, Australian athletes withdrawing from Commonwealth Games
Julia Gillard moving into two houses at once (Lodge and Kirribilly)

[No News owing to NRL Grand Final coverage]

[missed news]

[Mary McKillop edition, beyond analysis]

Personal tragedy” (Christina Keneally interview)
Public school underfunding
Cars crashing into houses
Wikileaks’ threat to National Security

Plastic water pipes
Julia Gillard on the world stage

Boating accidents
Julia Gillard on the world stage (Hillary Clinton visit)
Kilojoules in fast food
Qantas engine failures
Skin cancer

Police being stabbed
Bushfires (“a million NSW properties at risk”)
Julia Gillard on the world stage (APEC)
Mark Webber’s poor qualifying time for the Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix
Gas drilling in Sydney suburbs

[missed news]

Balanglo State Forest murder
Qantas A380 engine problems
Victorian state Labor evading voters’ wishes just as Julia Gillard did federally
England winning 1st Ashes Test

Floods in NSW
Boating accidents
Car crashes
12 year old armed robber
Fast food marketing aimed at children
England winning 2nd Ashes Test

[Oprah edition, beyond analysis]

Assaults and other alcohol-fuelled violence
Asylum-seekers drowning
Gas drilling in the Sydney area
Illegal drugs at music festivals
E-mail killing post offices

next week: the media 2

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