Friday, November 15, 2013

The Civic Vacuum

A major theme accompanying the destruction of the mainstream media's business model is what happens to our democracy when we lose public accountability journalism. We're finding out.

Whether liberal or traditionally conservative, no champion of a vigorous democracy can be happy with the emaciation of the Fourth Estate to the point where it is reduced to being a passive cheerleader or booster for the well-heeled, the powerful and the connected. The civic function of journalism has been almost entirely eclipsed by the market function of commercial media.

So our dominant media company masks its role as a propagandist for plutocrats by championing itself as a voice for the ordinary man against "the elites". It piously imports US-style rhetoric about "freedom" while sticking the boot into the most disadvantaged people in our community.

It's a neat charade its billionaire proprietor has successfully parlayed for decades, casting himself as the humble colonial boy pitted against the hazily drawn and apocryphal culture tsars, "politically correct" fun police  and snooty "liberals".

But the party trick is starting to pale. Indeed, it should be becoming clear to even the most rusted on Tele reader that "ordinary" working people are the victims here. Class war is only ever defined as such when fought from below. When waged from above, it is merely "reform". And the windmill tilting against the "elites" is just the cover for getting people to vote against their own interests.

It's not just a failure of media. It's a failure of our institutions generally. The Sydney Morning Herald's economics Ross Gittins gave rare voice to the trend recently here, noting that reform in the public interest is now virtually impossible because of the power of well -heeled lobbies.

Carbon pricing, improving the public return from our non-renewable resources, reducing the huge social and health costs from unrestricted poker machines - attempts to deal with all these issues have been undone by deceitful scare campaigns waged by powerful interests.

What's the media's role here? To provide people with facts and perspective and to ask  the questions the powerful don't want answered? Or to roll over on its back and ask for its tummy to be tickled?  Easier to get the punters clicking on Miley Cyrus' latest twerk.

If you want to know where all this is heading, look at the US, where the loss of tens of thousands of journalism jobs, the concentration of media power and the takeover of party politics by Big Money have created a vacuum that has virtually disenfranchised millions of citizens.

On that score, it is worth watching this discussion between prominent US media critic Bill Moyers, communications professor Robert McChesney and journalist John Nichols about the recently released  McChesney and Nichols book Dollarocracy .





6 comments:

  1. I certainly don't shed any tears for the loss of the MSM or any of the employees, it is all self inflicted

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  2. Good article Mr. D..
    I like the links too.

    fred

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  3. Fits neatly or intersects with the FTA move.. civil society is being shut down as a pincer movement of misguided pol-economic power is expressed through manipulation of communications involving access to real news and junk media, in the service of lobotomising dumbing down.
    Consent is manufactured through a combination of induced apathy and misinformation, for laws created by the servants of oligarchy in corrupted parliaments, that weaken the people's means for resistance to a globalised order based on nothing better than the greed, prejudices and meanness of spirit of the barbarians at the gate; Murdoch, the Koch Bros, Rinehart, Wall St /City of London etc.
    These are technicians of tyranny.
    They lack the humanity and imagination to nourish the goose that lays the golden egg, including for themselves if they only knew it, to develop the civilisational project and can only conceive of civilisation in a crude hierarchical form unheeding of actual human need.
    P Walter

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  4. Poor journalism and cash for comment are problems in their own right.
    What of ABC acting against our national interest with their national interest?

    I would like to hear your thoughts on this spy media beat-up Mr D.

    http://proudthinkingaustralian.blogspot.com.au/2013/11/abc-publish-first-think-second-policy.html

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  5. Well Rolly of course you're right to complain on behalf of the US government and the COALition govt. of OZ.
    A well informed democracy is dangerous, I mean who knows what an informed mob of plebs will think if they find out the 'truth'?
    Murdoch's minions learned long ago that only good news for the COALition and its mates is 'fit to print".
    Look how they didn't report on the nasty bits that Mark Textor tweeted.
    The public don't 'need to know' that do they?
    National security.

    We need to go further than just censor our local news outlets too.
    After all people could find out about Oz and the US spying on our neighbours from internet connections to overseas newspapers like Compas and the Djakarta Post in Indonesia and the Straits Times in Singapore.
    Maybe an internet filter, as I understand China has to keep its citizens in the dark, is required.
    The less people know the better for them hey?
    Its time we, the plebs, learned our place.

    fred

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  6. Fred, COAL exports have been a long post WW2 source of wealth and are used here for electricity to power our first world living standards. I am not sure what kind of plot your boiling here so lets talk about responsible, positive, constructive, trustworthy journalism which is what we all want (at Mr D's blog).

    Was not the Mark Textor tweet-insult hunted down and hand picked by Mr J Green of the ABC and then broadcast with a megaphone so the Indonesian press would be sure to get "the message" using the national broadcasting reach for public airing. Yes its good insult trading but is it good journalism? No I think not.

    This is why the "unhelpful media beat-up" is such a dominate part of "the story". ABC made the story and fed its story of offense along. Mr Textor should be rightly dropped likewise Mr Scott of the ABC for broadcasting intelligence clearly against the national interest - just for the hell of it.

    The majority of Australian's feel quite comfortable with our agents and others gathering intelligence concerning foreign states in the region because of recent historical events with violent civil unrest and local offshore extremists who are prepared to bomb and kill specifically Australians.
    Intelligence, spying, secrets and the defense of a state and their people is a reality like death and taxes. Best avoided but ultimately unavoidable.

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