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Tag Archives: MSM

The MSM asleep at the Wheel

Last week Mainstream Media (MSM) political commentators were united in their condemnation and their mockery of PM Tony Abbott following his bizarre announcement that HRH Prince Phillip would become an Australian Knight.

They also seemed equally united in their condemnation of Abbott’s overall performance and the prospect of an imminent leadership challenge following the Queensland election. Better late than never, I suppose.

In fact, the media’s unity on these two issues is similar to their united front on Labor’s economic prowess, particularly between 2010 and 2013. At the time, they gave Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey unquestioning prominence while the two amigos recklessly hacked away at Labor’s economic record.

The only difference is that they were dead wrong about the two amigos and also about Labor’s grasp of the issues.

rudd When Kevin Rudd became Prime Minister in 2007 he inherited a gross ‘debt’ of $58 billion; quite trivial by today’s standards. At the time, he and Labor were treated lightly by the media until the GFC exploded and suddenly, the big question was: what would they do about it?

But up until this time, the media had been asleep at the wheel unaware of what really had been going on. For the ten years or so prior to 2007 they had been happy to drink the wine of what they perceived as good fiscal management by Peter Costello who had been delivering surplus budgets year in, year out.

But they should have known that in a national economy, the three principal sectors of management, i.e. government, private and external, the respective balances of each will always play against each other, while their aggregate total must balance when combined. If two are in surplus, one must be in deficit. If two are in deficit one must be in surplus and the net result must always equal zero.

A simple formula expresses this as follows:
(I – S) + (G – T) + (X – M) = 0
where I is Investment, S is Savings, G is Govt. Spending, T is Taxes, X is Exports and M is Imports.

During Costello’s time no one ever queried that up until 2007, while he bathed in the glory of government surpluses, external income was in deficit, and private debt, particularly household debt was skyrocketing.
costello

Costello’s surpluses were made possible because of the availability of easy credit, e.g. home equity based loans, banks offering credit cards to anyone breathing, and even some who had stopped breathing. Costello took advantage of the ignorance of the MSM and the people with his surpluses and actually gained their admiration in the process.

As we all remember, soon after the GFC struck, the Rudd government announced a stimulus program, one much criticised by the then LNP opposition, which put the budget into deficit. This created excess reserves in the banking system necessitating the issuing of bonds to ensure the central bank could control the overnight cash rate.

This necessary monetary process was misconstrued and presented as borrowing to finance the government’s spending when it was nothing of the sort. It quite falsely became the “debt and deficit myth” the LNP used so effectively to discredit Labor.

Following that stimulus, the external sector (trade) remained in deficit but the private sector (business) stopped borrowing and began paying down debt.

Fast forward to today and we find that household debt has remained at its historic high. Meanwhile, the business sector have been using accumulated profits to reduce debt and buffer themselves from deflationary forces in the absence of attractive investment opportunities.
china At the same time, successive years of deficit budgets caused by China’s economic slowdown coupled with an over-valued Australian dollar has had the effect of limiting further deterioration in unemployment.

That’s the good news. Now for the bad news. Joe Hockey’s austerity budget threatens a seismic shift in these balances.

The move to austerity will actually force the private sector towards higher indebtedness (deficit) by running down savings because there won’t be the flow of money to enable current levels of saving.

If the household part of the private sector starts saving and/or begins to pay down household debt (credit card and mortgages), the economy generally will begin to contract, business will slow, unemployment will grow and the deficit will also grow from further reduced revenues. The December 2014 inflation rate announced last week confirms this trend.

This means that the private sector will bear the burden of balancing the economy on a scale that will drive the country into a horrible and prolonged recession.

This is exactly what is happening at the moment in Europe.
davos

This is why the European Central Bank has decided to issue $1 trillion euros of fiat currency to be deposited into the reserves of the member banks. This is why austerity doesn’t work, at least in these circumstances.

The question arises therefore, why is it that the Australian MSM economic experts are not pointing out this fact? Are they once more asleep at the wheel? Or, is it just too hard for them to acknowledge Labor’s better understanding of the way the economy works?

It is my opinion that neither they, Joe Hockey nor Mattias Cormann understand any of this.

Introducing the new “ABC free” AUSTRALIA … now with extra ignorance, selfishness and cruelty

(Or why we need the ABC)

abc

Since the coalition’s Murdoch lead victory in last September’s federal election there has been a palpable shift in our national narrative. The images of a sun burnt country forged by convict sweat and hard working immigrants is fading fast, and in its wake a new story is being fashion.

It is a tale of well intentioned, hard working corporations, (who really just want to keep us all employed), being squeezed by draconian regulations and pushed offshore by rampant, out of control wages. It’s the chronicle of a government being driven into the red, not by cutting taxes for the wealthy and turning a blind eye to the corporate “offshoring” of profits (read “legal” tax evasion), but by those lazy unemployed/disabled bludgers on welfare, and their “anti business” environmentalist buddies. It’s the saga of nation overrun by so called “illegals” intent on subverting our immigration laws for the sole purpose of suckling endlessly on OUR government teat, (Ironically most of whom are coming here LEGALLY as refugees).

These new LNP/Murdoch sanctioned mantras are repeated so often, and with such earnest conviction it seems people are finding it pretty damn hard not to buy into it. There are even those in the Labor party who seem quite happy to have joined the chorus.

I hear it everywhere I go, everyday Aussies out there parroting the coalition’s vitriolic hatred for anything even vaguely related to the unions, the unemployed, the environment, asylum seekers, disability pensioners, ABC lefties, foreign aid, etc.

So why all the negative jawboning?

Well, if you read the papers Australia has, up until our recent electoral liberation, been a nation under siege by left wing “special interests”! Because of this evil leftist scourge we have been forced to endure such indignities as the 2nd highest standard of living in the world (after Norway), the planets largest houses, one of the worlds best/most affordable health care systems, quality education, disposable incomes such that we can afford to be the be the worlds leading per capita emitters of of CO2, and the dubious privilege of ranking 69th in our per capita refugee intake (49th in overall terms).

australia__s_contribution_to_the_asylum_seekers_by_wordswithmeaning-d56owrr

When you lay it out like that it’s easy to see why we have all been so unhappy, we have been really suffering! Clearly something had to be done.

But seriously, something has happened to us. If you listen to the rhetoric, it would seem we are no longer a nation that strives for the fair go, but rather one that values our own perceived self interest above all other concerns.

I scratch my head and wonder, how did this happen? When did Australia become a place that embraces the social and political agendas of the most ignorant, selfish and cruel among us?

It wasn’t that long ago that Australian public opinion was DEEPLY CONCERNED with the environmental legacy we are leaving for our children. As recently as last year people seemed happy to talk about the scandal that is corporate tax evasion. There was even a time, in living memory, when refugees that came here by boat were welcomed with a broad smile and a hand up.

So what happened? How did the social and moral imperative get banished from our national narrative? Did it happen by accident, or by design? And if by design, then by who’s hand?

And then there’s the bigger questions. Exactly who’s interests are served by these apparent changes in our attitudes? And is anyone standing against the tide?

The sculpting of public opinion has a long history and there are many tools, such as fear and scapegoating, that have been used to great effect through out the ages. “Group think”, for example is an extraordinarily powerful weapon, (after all who wants to run outside the herd, everyone knows how dangerous that is). The truth however has never been a necessary component when seeking to sway the prevailing sentiments of the masses.

William James, the father of modern Psychology notably once quipped “There’s nothing so absurd that if you repeat it often enough, people will not believe it”. This rather glib observation was most infamously put into practice by the Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, (a man on whom the power of the press was most certainly not lost), who used the simple “lie, repeat, lie, repeat, lie, repeat” principle to whip up the greatest genocidal frenzy in history.

More recently Goebbel’s philosophical musing “Think of the press as a great keyboard on which the government can play” has been turned on it’s head by the irrepressible Rupert Murdoch, our prodigal puppeteer d’jour, who, like some gruesomely wizened “whack a mole” has popped up here again to lead his relentless political cheer squad for which ever side will acquiesce to do his bidding. It would appear that, in spite of his meddling hand being beaten down in UK and much of the USA now being hip to the fact that “FOX NEWS” is an oxymoron, if you hand the old boy a monopoly he’ll show you he’s still got it.

murdoch-puppet_1940215i

One rather startling revelation that came out of the UK’s recent Levinson enquiry into press standards , was was that Murdoch had actively lobbied former UK prime minister John Major to change the Torries policy on the EU, lest he engage in willfully biased coverage in order to “hand the election” to Blair’s New Labor (a party/man seemingly more willing to do his bidding). Major refused to allow Murdoch to dictate policy and was duly slammed by the Murdoch press, who came out swinging hard for Blair.

So in spite of the Torries having had a clear lead in the polls up until Major’s “disagreement” with Murdoch, the Torries, (much like Gillard), found the power of a vindictive, inflammatory press mobilised against them simply too great to overcome. Blair was elected and the rest, as they say, is history.

While the Brits were duly outraged, you would think something so blatantly corrupt as seeking to dictate government policy in return for favourable press would raise a dubious brow from someone back here in Aus; but much like the “March in March” (a mysteriously unnoticed gathering of over 100,000 Australia wide) somehow it failed to be deemed newsworthy enough to make any significant impression on the Australian mainstream media.

So… If a media baron is dictating government policy in return for press support, but no one ever hears about it, is the political process actually being subverted? Probably, (but then who has time to worry about such things when we are all so busy hating and punishing refugees).

no to refugees Nauru Detention Centre

Or… If a crowd gathers in the city and no one is there to report it, did it really gather? Maybe it did in the hearts and minds of those who were there, but for anyone else, or in the archives of history?… Well maybe not.

march in march

We have been told a lot of things recently, (much of it negative), about everything from the unions to environmentalists, from asylum seekers to the NBN. And while it’s easy to put a question mark over anything a politician might say in an effort to popularise their chosen policy agenda; I can not help but wonder if a press core that is practically a monopoly, (and known to actively pursue it’s owners personal agendas), is actually telling us the whole truth, or even any small part of it?

Like many others I can’t quite shake the feeling that we’re being fed a grab bag of skilfully crafted misinformation, half truths and innuendo designed to direct our hostility toward the poor and disenfranchised, or anyone out there pushing for a fairer, more sustainable policy agenda.

According to the official story, Australians are apparently (on average) far richer than we were 10 years ago… but for some rather opaque reason we just don’t feel it.
I can’t help but wonder why that is?

Is it because we feel more entitled than we used to? (If we don’t have a car, a mobile phone, a laptop, an ipad, a kindle, a 50″ TV, Foxtel, Quickflix, a yearly overseas holiday, and at least 3 restaurant meals a week we think we are suffering an intolerable injustice?).

Is it that we are constantly being assaulted by the relentless negativity of a 24 hour news cycle, telling us that our unfettered access to “more stuff” is being threatened by the poor and disenfranchised?

Or maybe it’s that the wealth is only going to the top end of town, and no one else is reaping the benefit?

It’s perfectly understandable that when we are feeling squeezed we like to have someone to blame, but it is worth asking ourselves, is our anger being misplaced?

Here we are, literally seething with contempt for refugees, single mothers, greenies, protesters, students, socialists, the disabled, lefties, intellectuals and the all those former bank and manufacturing workers that have now joined the ranks of the unemployed. Meanwhile the gap between the haves and have nots is at an all time high. Our trusty government is busy reducing taxes for the top end of town, Corporate profits are breaking records left and right, (but strangely corporate tax receipts are not, Google, for example, had revenue of over $1 billion in Australia in 2012, and yet paid only $74k tax). CEO’s wages and share options continue to defy gravity, and our banks, whilst being incredulously profitable, are shipping jobs off shore faster than you can say “transaction fee”, and so it goes…

*(brings to mind a joke I heard recently: A banker, a Daily Telegraph reader and a refugee are out to lunch. The waiter puts down a plate with twelve biscuits on it; the banker takes eleven, nudges the Telegraph reader and says “hey watch it mate, that refugee wants your biscuit”)

Everyone knows trickle down economics is bunk, and yet we keep buying into the myth, lauding the lords and kicking the powerless. The cognitive dissonance simply staggering!

So my question is this…Who’s interests does this new hateful narrative really serve? Murdoch and his buddies in the 1%, or those of us in the mortgage belt?

Please don’t get me wrong. I am not wholly blaming Murdoch. We all lobby for our own interests, and why should he be any different. What I am saying however is that a virtual monopoly concentration of Australia’s media in any ones hands is dangerous. We need visible, diverse mainstream media to give a balanced range of views.

We also need some measure of mainstream media presence that is not driven by profit, or dictated to by advertising revenue and share holder values. We need a media that is prepared to objectively challenge the veracity of the story as told to us by Murdoch, (and given the governments proposed changes to section 18c of the racial vilification act this is now more important than ever).

In short, we need our ABC.

[twitter-follow screen_name=’LetitiaMcQuade’ show_count=’yes’]

Get ‘em onside

Referee Assigning a Red Card In sport we quickly learn to play to the ref. All Black Richie McCaw is a master at it. If the ref isn’t penalising offside then why stay behind the last feet in the ruck? Netball umpires have individual interpretations of how much contact is allowed in striving for the ball or how far three feet is. Some cricket umps seem loathe to give an lbw decision. And their decisions can affect the outcome of the game as Manly Sea Eagles fans will tell you about last year’s grand final – that pass was forward!

Because the independent arbiter is so important to the game, they have come under increased scrutiny with mechanisms of review of individual calls and overall performance. Technology is helping them get it right with replays and hotspot and hawkeye and the like. Review panels assess performance and referees and umpires quickly find themselves dropped if they don’t do a good job of enforcing the rules competently and impartially.

In politics, the media is the referee. It is their job to scrutinise what our politicians are saying and doing and to call foul when necessary. This scrutiny should be applied to all government policies and procedures as well as alternative suggestions. Pertinent facts should be presented and falsehoods exposed.

Journalists are paid to research available information, to seek out expert analysis, to canvas options and opinions, and to present to the public an accurate portrayal of the situation in a way that non-experts can understand. It is their job to keep a level playing field, enforce the rules, and to penalise those who break them.

In Australia in recent times we have the referee not only ignoring foul play but actively promoting it. They are unashamedly wearing the club colours and making no effort to hide their bias. And it isn’t just one or two incompetent rogue refs – Bolt, Hadley, Jones, Devine, Ackerman, Albrechtson, Kenny, Cater, Henderson, Shanahan, Switzer, Whittaker, Murray, Savva…the list is endless.

Why haven’t these people been demoted? Where is the independent review panel that holds them to account? Is sport more important than the running of our country? When the ref has joined one team then the game is no longer fair.

Social media can only go so far in assuming the responsibility for enforcing the rules as it takes active participation to search for the truth. Main stream media still has a considerable reach and must be reminded of their obligation to inform the public and to keep the bastards honest. To the Murdoch press and associated shock jocks I would say…

Get a pair of glasses ref – they’ve been doing it all day!

Independent media: the sleeping giant and the MSM’s response

Paul Sheehan’s recent attacks on the hugely popular Facebook site Tony Abbott – Worst PM in Australian History are not isolated incidents of the mainstream media (MSM) publicly airing disdain towards the social media.

Ferocious, and to some, persuasive attacks by the MSM have become rabid from the moment the independent media (the Fifth Estate) and voices in social media (blogs, Facebook, Twitter) became even the slightest of threats to their diminishing integrity. And why wouldn’t their integrity be diminishing when the direction we’ve seen in the MSM leans towards, especially in the last few years, are stories that are trivial, narrow, shallow and sensationalist? And often untrue. My recent article, The facts versus Andrew Bolt offered an example of the of the fabricated sensationalism so evident in today’s media.

It was a couple of years ago that I first noticed the MSM unleash an attack on the independent blog sites. A couple that I read from the Murdoch media exhibited a sort of ‘xenophobic’ hatred. Christian Kerr, a political journalist with The Australian, savaged the blogosphere with more zeal than I’ve ever heard him attack incompetent politicians, writing that:

It’s also worth noting that the`blogosphere’ supposedly outraged is the small incestuous clique of self-identified lefties, with readerships composed mostly of themselves, who were more than happy to out other bloggers a few years ago with whom they disagreed.

That last bit, for the uninitiated, is a reference to the modern dull and doctrinaire Crikey and its very own Adrian Mole, barrister-blogger Walter Jeremy Sear, and his role assisting The Sunday Age dissect the corpse of the spectacularly snarky site The Spin Start Here that offended sensibilities for years until it reached its logical conclusion and ripped itself apart. Sear was happy to help with an outing then.

The whole thing smacks of naivety and self-righteousness.

And naivety and self-righteousness seems to define the vast majority of the Australian blogosphere. That and whining conspiracy theories.

Quite remarkably, Christian’s little dummy spit was shadowed by the editorial of another from the Murdoch empire, the Townsville Bulletin, which announced to North Queenslanders that bloggers are cowards:

When reporter James Massola “outed” an anonymous blogger in The Australian newspaper last week, he received death threats and a torrent of personal abuse.

How dare someone in the mainstream media name one of these increasingly puerile bloggers, self-appointed guardians of righteousness and all that is wrong about society and, in particular, newspapers.

Grogs Gamut was named as a Canberra public servant and the reaction from his mates was as predictable as it was boring.

Those who hide under the veil of anonymity, taking cheap shots to satisfy their trendy social agenda, don’t like it when they are thrust into the real world.

The great thing about newspapers is that, love us or hate us, we’re the voice of the people. We represent the community, their views, their aspirations and their hopes. We champion North Queensland’s wins and we commiserate during our losses.

Oh how high and mighty they are, being the acclaimed “voice of the people”. And true to from, jumping in on the act the aforementioned Andrew Bolt screamed that the outed blogger, Greg Jericho, be sacked from his usual job. Indeed, let’s punish this new media.

There is no doubt that all forms of dialogue in the social and independent media have profoundly influenced the nature of modern communication and obviously this doesn’t sit well with the traditional media. The above references are indicative of their opinion that the new media produces public discussion that falls well below their standards. I, however, disagree. News stories these days are nothing more than opinion pieces to which nobody is held to account.

New media is now holding them to account and this sits very uneasily with them.

In a few short years the new media, blogging in particular, has become a global phenomenon and it has reshaped our view of journalism. It is in the political sphere, that the impact of blogging is being nurtured.

In an essay titled The Influence of Political Blog Sites on Democratic Participation, ShariVari wrote that:

A computer-mediated environment may make it easier for citizens to express their feelings about political candidates and allow them to speak more candidly than if they were in a face-to-face situation. The diversity of the internet gives citizens access to a wide variety of opinions and information that they may not have access to otherwise, and this may play a role in changing or shaping an individual’s political views. After disregarding any blog sites that have a corporate financial objective or are engaging in political agenda-setting, political blog site users can begin to discuss their personal view points with peers.

I find this essay to be rather heartening. As a blogger and a social media user who has lost all faith in the MSM it was good to know that we can indeed have an impact, albeit small at this stage.

ShariVari concludes that:

All of the research shows that increased opportunities for participation can only encourage democracy . . . This research means that citizens are increasingly turning to and trusting the Internet for accurate information, using it as a platform for participatory democracy, and becoming more knowledgeable about political information in the process. A Spiral of Silence is less likely to exist where citizens have only each others’ opinions to evaluate in terms of their own civic participation and lack status cues such as gender, race, and socio-economic status. Blog sites definitely are increasing the ways in which citizens can participate in their democracy.

The above article, although American and a couple of years old, aptly describes how independent media is now evolving in Australia.

Independent media are better suited to provide the diversity which is often ignored by traditional journalists. Both independent and social media advances the opportunity to expose doctored or omitted facts from mainstream media and point out the bias by particular reporters who do not provide such opportunity for his/her readership to give voice to alternate opinions.

Independent media also encourages contributors and readers to think objectively and ask the probing questions that might often be avoided by the MSM, particularly if they are working to a different (or hidden) agenda. Further, social media gives people the opportunity to analyse and disseminate the news and opinions thrown at them from the established media and as a consequence social media is awash with a more objective and factual analysis. Where, for example, would you find corrections to false or misleading statements from the current government exposed? Not the MSM. Not the MSM as they operate under a different agenda.

But if the MSM was objective, impartial and committed to providing a quality service then there may not be the thousands of social media groups the MSM are now taking a disliking to.

Had we a balanced and analytical media, there would be blogs and social media groups, certainly, but at the extremes of the political spectrum although their popularity would have been limited to those that simply agreed with them. Now we have people turning to the new media because they know they cannot expect the truth out of the old media. If the MSM did their job better they wouldn’t need to be so capriciously attacking social media because, quite simply, they wouldn’t be competition.

Sheehan’s recent attack, as mentioned earlier, is not an isolated incident. David Donovan of Independent Australia has also been targeted. David innocently tweeted:

Forgive if I recall incorrectly, but didn’t Abbott promise to spend his first week as PM in an Indigenous community?

It was a fair question. If it wasn’t bad enough that this pre-election commitment was washed aside by the MSM, then the insulting attack on David by Samantha Maiden, the national political editor of News Corporation’s Sydney Sunday masthead, the Sunday Telegraph was. The attack was personal. I encourage you to read David’s account of it.

What on earth is wrong with the MSM? Not only is the credibility of their professionalism crumbling but they attack the independent media for introducing the credibility that they themselves lack. Independent media are asking the questions that should be asked. Independent media are exposing the falsehoods that should be exposed. And in doing so, incur the wrath from the MSM who people, traditionally, have looked to for balanced news and opinion.

Margo Kingston – a former journalist with the Sydney Morning Herald and now a leading figure in social media – summed it up rather succinctly in an interview with The AIMN:

It’s scary that the media are not doing their job. Many journalist friends have expressed the same concerns; they don’t feel as though they are traditional journalists anymore, they are simply writing what the powerful want them to write . . . And there are journalists in the traditional media who secretly admit that the new, independent media is the way of the future.

Some, however, are obviously frightened of it. They can persist with their attacks, but like their news stories they are shallow as rossleigh proved when he spoke to the creator of the Tony Abbott – Worst PM in Australian History Facebook group; the one that Paul Sheehan fabricated stories about. It was a glaring example of story being made up to attack the independent media. It’s not a good move. The Fifth Estate is a sleeping giant. It’s starting to wake up and my advice to the old media is not to provoke it. It is going to consume you. We are no longer passive observers. Margo adds:

We need to build a bridge between the new media and journalists who see the corruption within the mainstream media. We need to collaborate and work together. We can do this by luring traditional journalists into the new media and free them of their shackles. If we do this, one day we in the new media will look back and be grateful for the decisions we make today.

That would be ideal, however, even if ‘traditional’ journalists prefer to ignore the freshness that the new media can offer, there has already been an emergence of ‘new’ journalists in the Fifth Estate to fill the void.

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The people versus Murdoch

Plato (428-348 BC) was opposed to the use of the written word; convinced that it destroyed memory. People, he argued, wouldn’t bother to memorise facts or stories. Spreading words indiscriminately was wasteful and they were not to be trusted.

How prophetic. And yet, though spoken over two millennia ago, how utterly contemporary. Look at our mainstream media (MSM) with their central tenet that their journalists are reliable, truthful and objective. Who do you believe? Them or Plato?

The direction we’ve seen in the MSM leans towards in the last couple of decades favours stories that are trivial, narrow, shallow and sensationalist. And often untrue. Truth doesn’t sell a newspaper. If Plato were alive today he would no doubt bemoan the MSM have been spreading words indiscriminately and wasteful. And they most definitely are not to be trusted.

Some bloggers have publicly stated what Plato would have agreed to, and in response the MSM unleashed a ferocious and to some, a persuasive attack on the independent blog sites. A couple that I’d read earlier from the Murdoch stable exhibited a sort of ‘xenophobic’ hatred, which first became evident a couple of years ago. Christian Kerr, a political journalist I admired, savaged the blogosphere with more zeal than I’ve ever heard him attack incompetent politicians, writing that:

It’s also worth noting that the `blogosphere’ supposedly outraged is the small incestuous clique of self-identified lefties, with readerships composed mostly of themselves, who were more than happy to out other bloggers a few years ago with whom they disagreed.

That last bit, for the uninitiated, is a reference to the modern dull and doctrinaire Crikey and its very own Adrian Mole, barrister-blogger Walter Jeremy Sear, and his role assisting The Sunday Age dissect the corpse of the spectacularly snarky site The Spin Start Here that offended sensibilities for years until it reached its logical conclusion and ripped itself apart. Sear was happy to help with an outing then.

The whole thing smacks of naivety and self-righteousness.

And naivety and self-righteousness seems to define the vast majority of the Australian blogosphere. That and whining conspiracy theories.

Quite remarkably, Christian’s little dummy spit was shadowed by the editorial of the proclaimed masthead of the Murdoch empire, the Townsville Bulletin, which announced to stunned North Queenslanders that bloggers are cowards.

When reporter James Massola “outed” an anonymous blogger in The Australian newspaper last week, he received death threats and a torrent of personal abuse.

How dare someone in the mainstream media name one of these increasingly puerile bloggers, self-appointed guardians of righteousness and all that is wrong about society and, in particular, newspapers.

Grogs Gamut was named as a Canberra public servant and the reaction from his mates was as predictable as it was boring.

Those who hide under the veil of anonymity, taking cheap shots to satisfy their trendy social agenda, don’t like it when they are thrust into the real world.

The great thing about newspapers is that, love us or hate us, we’re the voice of the people. We represent the community, their views, their aspirations and their hopes. We champion North Queensland’s wins and we commiserate during our losses.

Represent the community! Don’t you mean control the community?

Blogging has profoundly influenced the nature of modern communication and obviously this doesn’t sit well with the traditional print media. The above references are indicative of their opinion that blogs produce public discussion that falls well below their standards. I disagree. News stories these days are nothing more than opinion pieces to which nobody is held account.

The blog sites are now holding them to account and this sits very uneasy with them.

Many blog writers have a natural gift of being able take the single main story of the day – turn it into something worth reading – and foster the expression of a range of opinions that otherwise would not, or may not, have the opportunity of being expressed to a wide audience via the MSM.

In a few short years, blogging has become a global phenomenon. It has not only has reshaped our view of journalism, but has unlocked previously unrealised publishing opportunities. Blogging itself, in my opinion, is journalism. The readership is limited, hence blogging sites with similar agendas often link their sites together to broaden the impact of their commentary. The blog sites of the MSM usually filter out contributions from bloggers whose opinion do not fit into their schema, so while independent blog sites provide minimal impact, the avenues through the MSM can provide none.

Then what are the impacts of the independent blog sites?

It is in the political sphere, that the impact of blogging is being nurtured.

In his/her March 2010 essay titled The Influence of Political Blog Sites on Democratic Participation, ShariVari wrote that:

A computer-mediated environment may make it easier for citizens to express their feelings about political candidates and allow them to speak more candidly than if they were in a face-to-face situation. The diversity of the internet gives citizens access to a wide variety of opinions and information that they may not have access to otherwise, and this may play a role in changing or shaping an individual’s political views. After disregarding any blog sites that have a corporate financial objective or are engaging in political agenda-setting, political blog site users can begin to discuss their personal view points with peers.

I found the essay to be rather heartening. As a blogger who has lost all faith in the MSM it was good to know that we can indeed have an impact, albeit small at this stage. If we follow the trend seen in the United States, we may one day see a healthy blogging industry flourish in Australia.

ShariVari concludes that:

All of the research shows that increased opportunities for participation can only encourage democracy . . . This research means that citizens are increasingly turning to and trusting the Internet for accurate information, using it as a platform for participatory democracy, and becoming more knowledgeable about political information in the process. A Spiral of Silence is less likely to exist where citizens have only each others’ opinions to evaluate in terms of their own civic participation and lack status cues such as gender, race, and socio-economic status. Blog sites definitely are increasing the ways in which citizens can participate in their democracy.

Up until recently, people in democratic societies wishing to have their ideas and opinions published had to contend with editorial policies that were generally based on the ideology of the editors, and of course, on what was sellable. However, this regime of control over what content is allowed to emerge is collapsing in today’s world of participatory media.

Today’s audience want to be part of the media, rather than passive receivers. Not only do they want to comment on the news, they want to be part of creating it.

Many bloggers believe they are better suited to provide the diversity that today’s democracies need, yet which are often ignored by traditional journalists. Blogging advances the opportunity for bloggers to expose doctored or omitted facts from mainstream media and point out the bias by particular reporters who do not provide such opportunity for his/her readership to give voice to alternate opinions.

Bloggers also encourage contributors and readers to think objectively and ask the probing questions that might often be avoided by a mainstream media organisation, particularly if they are working to a different (or hidden) agenda. Further, through blogs, people have the opportunity to analyse and disseminate the news and opinions thrown at them from the established media; the blogosphere is awash with a more objective and factual analysis.

Blogs have exploded in number, not because they are the echo of dissenting voices, but because the MSM has created an arena for them to enter. If the MSM was objective, impartial and committed to providing a quality service then in a modern democracy there may not be any bloggers, or for that matter, the millions of blog sites that exist purely to fill in the gaps exposed by the mainstream media empires.

In other words, it’s the people versus Murdoch.

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