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Australian Apathy and the 24-Hour News Cycle

Image courtesy of themetapicture.com

Image courtesy of themetapicture.com

A guest post by Belinda Marsh.

Each morning, Australians begin reading the news on our phones, tablets and laptops. Some of us might turn the TV on and listen to the news in the background while we make breakfast. We get on with our day, and may tune in to the news on the radio on the way to work, check news websites throughout the day, listen to more radio news on the way home, and then come home and turn the TV on for the nightly news. We can check social media at any time, just in case we miss something important and, if we can’t sleep for some reason, we might check-in with the news at 3am, and access news from all over the world if we so choose.

There is a growing concern among the media and other social commentators that we are becoming an apathetic country. We simply don’t care as much as we used to, throwing our hands in the air and giving up all too easily. We prefer to look at Grumpy Cat memes and amusing seven-second videos. Our information, apparently, has to be delivered in small portions because our attention spans are teeny-tiny, and this makes it hard for them to balance against our desire for instant news, which is becoming an unquenchable beast that must be fed (in bite-sized pieces, of course).

It’s hard to say which came first – our hunger for up-to-date, constant news and information, or our disdain and apathy towards constant news and information, resulting in us being distracted by shiny things.

All I know is that I am tired; tired of watching politicians who smile as they tell us how they’re going to bend us over and give us a good rogering while they and their rich mates get richer; tired of reading about Big Business, Big Pharma and Big Banks using us as slaves to drive up their profits, keeping us sick and chained to The System; tired of celebrity news, full of ego, nothingness and unhealthy body images; and tired of watching wars, environmental disasters and poverty the world over on my screen.

It all gets overwhelming. The anger, upset and misery is too much to bear, and I simply switch off. My inability to do anything helpful in this crazy world means that sometimes I want to stick my head in the sand and ignore it all. The anger and pain I feel turns to despair as I hike up the white flag. I surrender to apathy, and tune out for fear of going insane.

It has become such an issue that I have even changed my routine. If I am not writing, I wander outside first thing in the morning, breathe in fresh air, wriggle my toes in the grass, and stretch languorously. I need peace, not a ranting 24-hour news monster that increases my feelings of hopelessness and anguish. My Facebook newsfeed, once home to angry news and alternative media pages, is full of calming, quiet pages and non-toxic, like-minded friends. It makes me happier to start my day with a snort-laugh over a funny comment or silly video clip.

Don’t get me wrong – I still read/listen to/watch the news because I really do want to keep up-to-date and informed. But I feel despondent that the world is weird, inhumane and destructive, and we have created it to be so, which makes me even more concerned for our collective sanity. Failing an alien invasion or zombie apocalypse, we’re continuing on the path toward this end, with only ourselves to blame.

And then there are those who care a lot less about the world, and prefer to simply make a decent enough income to have a comfortable life, complete with cold beer in the fridge and snags on the barbie, and watch Australia’s Got Talent. Sometimes I wish I could be like these people, and simply get on with the job of living without too much thought. Alas, it’s not meant to be.

I don’t believe I am alone in this general feeling of despairing impotence. We have signed enough petitions, gone to enough protests, discussed enough breaking news, and argued about enough politics to have an increasing sense of hopelessness, because nothing seems to change. This is how apathy has become the norm. We would rather play a game, update our status, tweet what we’re eating for lunch, and Instagram a selfie with the finished plate than hear about the PM’s sudden desire to destroy our health system, a new war brewing on the horizon, and the continuing meltdown in Fukushima.

So to those who are discussing the disease of national apathy, if you’re so concerned about it, consider what has made us so in the first place, and why it is so. Accept it as fact, move with the changing times, and have a bit of empathy toward our collective predicament.

And perhaps take a moment to walk barefoot on the dewy morning grass, and breathe.

This article was first published on Belinda’s blog Columnoscopy.



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  1. bjkelly1958

    This voices exactly how I feel. The despondency drawn from helplessness is very real and quite debilitating.

  2. John Fraser


    "And perhaps take a moment to walk barefoot on the dewy morning grass, and breathe."

    If I allow myself to sink into apathy that grass will be covered in concrete, the dew will be acid rain and I will be breathing smog.

    Think I will stick with my activist ways.

  3. khtagh

    Now I know I’m not the only one, well said. I too find is so infuriating what the MSM is doing to this country, all thanks to the biggest media criminals this world has ever seen & no-one!! will hold him to account, MURDOCH.

  4. Big Al

    The 24 hour TV news is a joke.I remember watching CNN in a Tokyo backpackers.Somewhere was being bombed .For hours they kept repeating the same short film clip.I had imagined 24 hour news would be filled with news items from around the world, not the same re-hashed segments.With all the technology we seem to be getting less real news. I don’t buy newspapers any more; most have become mere comics, filled with life-style and envy articles.

  5. Dissenter

    We can all do something. We need not give up in despair. Murdoch and the corrupt msn will steal democracy away from us if we let them.

    As your article describes despondency and apathy is the desired result.

    Boycott all TV and MSN news and media. Save that time and spend it by good work SPREADING the word – the real work so that the isolated and despondent can take hope and know that there is an opposition and DEMOCRACY is not lost.

    We do not have to accept a FASCISt state. We do not have to accept a corrupted media.
    We can vote them out of office and it ONLY TAKES an EXTRA say just a guess 50,000 votes. Now I know it is a lot less SO LETS get cracking.

    LET us all help TERRi BUTLER in GRIFFITH and that is just one GOOD START.

  6. Dianne van Dulken

    Oh my God! YES.

    I had a theory that part of the Liberal governments policy was to do so many outrageous things right away so that anyone with the slightest Left Wing tendency or heart would give up in despair. It’s working. I don’t know what to do anymore and hitting a brick wall is exhausting and I need a break. Too many things to be appalled at, there is no way you can focus.

  7. Damo

    I agree with pretty much everything you’ve said here Michael but the sad reality is that most people genuinely don’t understand politics nor do they care. My Wife got this through to me during a moment of exasperated frustration during the last election. I couldn’t quite get it through my head how it was even remotely possible that Australia was about to elect a nut case like Abbott. How is this even remotely possible????? Most people don’t care she explained. They don’t bother with the news and less, if they do, they don’t really get it. They don’t understand climate change so they stick their heads in the sand and keep driving third three 4×4’s.

    Given that Abbott was indeed elected I had to come to the sad conclusion that she was right. I think a sustained period of wealth has made Australians as a whole complacent, insular and to a degree spoilt. When I moved here from the UK in 2000 I thought I’d left the whole class & wealth based snobbery behind. Aussies were different, more down to earth. Well, it didn’t take long for that to turn around once people tasted wealth, excessive (now unsustainable) wage increases, astronomical increases in property values, cheap luxury cars and so on. Many well-off Australians today make British snobbery look mild-mannered.

    The Howard years prove that the Australian electorate go with whichever party offers them what they perceive to be the biggest personal incentives but they’re not looking at the bigger picture, the long game. I think this is borne out by just how quickly the LNP’s polling has fallen through the floor this time. Where are these boosts to our wallets they promised? Where is this miracle economic boost they guaranteed? Ultimately what ushered the LNP in will likely usher them back out just as quickly…

  8. PeterF

    My grass is filled with catheads at this time of year, possibly apt.

  9. Richard

    The shallowness of the 24 hour news cycle in Victoria has been highlighted by the following: Students in the State system started or resumed school for 2014. Not one news presentation mentioned that the return to school was at a time when the Federal Govt have stopped the school bonus for books, administration costs and no mention today about the Gonski “backflips”.

  10. Mark Rayner

    Hmmnnn what is causing this apathy should be the question. Is it fluoride, the inuration of our children during their commercial schooling making them care only about money not life, is it the hiding of the REAL truths of the world, bs laws to always look over your shoulders for, the diversionary tactics used by controlled media to remove any ideas that the populace may have of retaliating over these things.. et al.. Bandaids only cover sores.. Politicians and the controlled media have a lot to answer for…….

  11. Richard

    Correction: ABC News did make reference to school funding cuts and Gonski cuts not commercial news.

  12. John.R

    I think we are apathetic for ( 1 ) we have it pretty good,but we are to stupid to realise how things got to be so good.It is because of the work of the people who were here before you.Of course once you loose it then you will realise how good it was ( 2 ) We are sick of hearing how good it is for all of us that our corporate gods are making mega buck profits out of us and having our politicians sucking up and promoting them as our saviours.
    The MSM that is now only there for for profit over decent information is a big part of it.They promote fear of anything different and don`t want change.This is the world of CONSERVATIVES………….but change is coming cause the wheels are going to fall of the bus

  13. Simon

    Hi John – agree with your thoughts, it can become very depressing seeing our country being driven down the hole the US has been dragged down into by narrow minded, divisive, selfish politics. Be kind to ourselves and take time to “smell the roses” walk bare foot in the grass. However as Dissenter suggests – we should not think all is lost and be depressed to in action.
    I take heart in the steady rise in membership of online advocacy groups like Get Up, watch, listen and take part in getting the message across to the increasing number of Australians who think there is something very wrong with Abbott’s fringe right wing politics. Take heart that there are many who feel like you but we can’t give in. join in with anything that is doing some thing to raise awareness of Phoney Tony’s lies deception and wreaking ball tactics

    Some of Australia’s finest and most defining moments came from triumph from duress.

    Made me think of Blabbott’s election pitch that they were going to be Adult’s about this that and everything.
    From my life experiences kids are dying to be adults and in growing up make some massive stuff up’s. Adult’s on the other hand don’t rave on about being all knowing they just make sound decisions with out fanfare. I think it’s time the Liberal rabble grow up and recognise they aren’t acting very “Adult” at all.
    And the public at large are seeing this in larger numbers!!

  14. John Fraser



    "There's a brand new talk, but it's not very clear
    Oh bop
    That people from good homes are talking this year
    Oh bop, fashion
    It's loud and tasteless and I've heard it before
    Oh bop
    You shout it while you're dancing on the ole dance
    Oh bop, fashion

    Fashion! Turn to the left
    Fashion! Right
    We are the goon squad and we're coming to town

  15. grooviechickie

    I was expressing my need to sometimes switch off. It all gets too much at times, and we need time out. We get apathetic because the machine grinds the hope out of us. MSM is a big part of this machine, even though they don’t realise it.

    I wrote this after listening to Laurie Oakes’ speech on not understanding our apathy as a nation a few weeks ago (it was on the ABC – at some press club conference or something). The MSM complains about our apathy, but is unwilling to acknowledge the part it plays in feelings of helplessness.

    But I wasn’t suggesting that these feelings were a forever thing. It’s mostly a temporary state of misery, unless you’re of bogan ilk. People like us will always make our way back to sites like this, get our fix of frustration and angst, put our angry boots on again and start stomping. We just can’t help ourselves. 😀


  16. Hotspringer

    The feeling of powerlessness and despair is overwhelming. I am glad to be old and decrepit, but our poor children; what have we done to you!

  17. Helen

    We might not be able to do anything now but we can when the next election comes up. Shake off the apathy and get out their and vote this mob out. Mind you if we are lucky TA will be out the door before the next election.

  18. John.R

    @ Simon..Thanks for that,One Term Tony is in for a big shock,as there is no honour amongst thieves..The Right wing of politics in this country has a Born To Rule MENTAL..lity

    There was a nursery rhyme called….. Follow The ” Leader “…it made no sense…..neither does following anyone else……………..as their path is not yours

    @Hotspringer…the change that is coming will leave our kids in a good place……buy gold

  19. Tim Bateson

    So this is what has become of the left?
    I think you whiny bunch of limp wristed, would-be activists need a good, hard kick in the f****n head. You wring your hands at the injustice of it all but speak about wishing you could be satisfied with a “cold beer in the fridge and snags on the barbie” and you issue a collective moan about it all being too hard and drop to the floor in a swoon. I will be the first to say it – you’re not built for this. You give up this easily, this quickly you’re worse than the mindless f**k stains that voted the LNP into power. At least they had the strength of their convictions.
    This is the first 130 day under this conservative a-hole and he and his cadre are relying on your lack of staying power and your willingness to give up so that he can begin making the genuinely horrible changes. Did you honestly think you’d just ask the guy to stop being nasty and he’d do it? Sign a digital petition and he’d go away? Join a couple of facebook groups and suddenly Martin Luther King would rise from the grave and in concert with Che they’d blast Tony and Fat Joe to dust and convert “Strya” to a socialist utopia and we’d all finish the day with a cold beer and enjoy collective dick tug? You silly bunch of fools. If this is the new Left, we’re in trouble.

  20. John Fraser


    @"Tim Bateson"

    Ahhhhh ! young Timmy.

    I see the ADHD is still out of control.

    Still on Ritalin are you ?

    Perhaps you should ask your doctor to try Strattera,

    Also try the power of positive thinking …. all this putting yourself down is not conducive to writing an intelligent "Comment".

  21. Tim Bateson

    @John Fraser:
    I have read your feeble attempt at a response to the comments I made earlier and whilst I will refrain from openly abusing you I will ask you to clarify please, what your intention was in replying to me? Did you want me to know that you have access to a MIMS guide and understand something of the treatment options for attention deficit disorders? Or did you want me to see how poorly literate you are and how you don’t properly understand how to form a paragraph?
    Please, by all means reply and embarrass yourself further but I’ll repeat what I said earlier – if this is what has become of the left, then we are all in trouble.

  22. John Fraser


    @Tim Bateson

    Nothing so esoteric.

    I just wanted to see how stupid you are.

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