Category: Media

The debasement of public debate

by Dr Ken Macnab

John Stuart Mill argued in On Liberty (1859) that it was ‘imperative that human beings should be free to form opinions, and to express their opinions without reserve’. Moreover, they should be free to act upon these opinions, subject only to the limitation that they do no harm to others. Implicit in Mill’s emphasis on freedom of opinion was the necessity for civil public debate in pursuit of the truth, a calm and systematic contest which acted as a check on power and authority.

In the 1820s the English press came to be conceived as ‘the fourth estate’, and credited with an important role as a ‘check’ on the various arms of government. A similarly crucial role is given to freedom of speech and the press in the First Amendment to the American Constitution (1791) and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948).

The modern media often claims the same role as facilitator of constructive public participation in democratic politics and society. However, the media largely fails to provide either the full information or informed commentary necessary for it to be part of genuine public debate and a check on adversarial polemic. Instead, it is mostly servile and partisan. When media moguls like Rupert Murdoch set out to make more money by blatantly serving narrow political interests through media such as the alleged ‘world’s greatest newspaper 1843-2011′ (News of the World) and the ‘fair and balanced’ (Fox News), role of the ‘fourth estate’ becomes cynically manipulated and exploited façades. Moreover, and equally insidious in its effect on the quality of public debate, the tone and language of both much media communication and public response has become aggressive, personal and abusive.

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Media Alert: Norway, Australia and far-Right Christian jihad

 

 

 

A Charles Sturt University (CSU) academic says that the extremist terrorist attacks in Norway on the weekend targeted people with moderate, mainstream political beliefs, and this should be a focus for both security agencies and public debate in Australia.

Dr Hugh McDermott, a researcher at the CSU Australian Graduate School of Policing in Manly, says that after the attacks in Norway last weekend that  left more than 70 people dead and a nation in shock,  there is a need for a reorientation of federal and state policing intelligence resources to focus once again on far-Right extremism in Australia and the influence of these ‘successful’ actions on fundamentalist groups internationally.

 

 

“The shocking events in Norway by a Christian fundamentalist who bombed a government centre and perpetrated a shooting attack on a nearby island holiday camp were the acts of an extremist who has admitted links to far-Right neo-Nazi cells,” Dr McDermott said.“By his actions, he has copied Islamic extremists, thus almost making ‘common cause’ with them.

“The big difference with this attack was that this terrorist did not just target people randomly, like on 11 September 2001 or in the Bali Bombing. He targeted members of the Norwegian Labour Party only, and especially its youth wing and its central office.

“This is a sobering issue for political debate in Australia because these people were killed because of their moderate, mainstream political beliefs.

“In Australia, there is a growing movement that equates adherence to fundamentalist Christianity with hatred of the federal Labor government. There is a growing resentment among fundamentalist Christian and ‘conservative’ political movements that equates godliness with hatred of our federal government.

“In fact, I would go as far as to say there is a hatred of our nation. This is because it is perceived as ‘fallen’ and ‘evil’ due to the fact that mainstream Australia allows women choice, broadly supports gay marriage, immigration from other cultures, and the promotion of a green energy future through a carbon tax.

“While traditional mainstream church congregations have shrunk, new evangelical mega-churches have tapped into widespread economic uncertainty, finding followers among those who are leading an increasingly precarious existence. The activism and wealth of these religious groups have led to significant influence over conservative politics and debate.

“The hatred directed towards the present federal government by political anti-carbon tax demonstrators, and some media commentators, is the sort of white, Christian far-Right extremism we can expect more of, which in turn leads to the promotion of political violence. This can only fuel and fan the fire of hatred and justify the actions of extremist groups.”

Dr McDermott says there is a history to the far-Right religious extremism on the rise today, which is so extreme that it risks our social-democratic values and open non-violent political debate.

“During the 1980s and early 1990s, Australian law enforcement investigated and targeted far-Right political groups such as the National Front, National Action, and the League of Rights. These groups were either directly linked to terrorist violence in Australia, or their members actively took part in criminal violence with racist or political undertones.

“After the events in Norway, and considering the influence that such ‘successful’ actions might have on fundamentalist groups around the world, there is a need for a reorientation of federal and state security and policing intelligence resources in Australia to focus once again on far-Right extremism in Australia.

“Furthermore, Australian state and federal governments, regardless of their political persuasion, need to focus on the unacceptableness of the promotion of extremism of any form – Left or Right, Christian or Muslim – in debate or in the media,” Dr McDermott said.

ends

Media Officer Bruce Andrews
Telephone : 02 63386084

Media Note: Contact CSU Media to arrange interviews with Dr Hugh McDermott.

 


Senator X – a rolling stone gathers no policies

by Malcolm King

There is no doubt that Senator Xenophon has the South Australia public and media in his pocket.  More than 150,000 voters and 50 journalists whose contact books automatically open to the letter X can’t be wrong, can they?

“My political philosophy is summed up by the myth of Sisyphus, the story of this poor bastard that was condemned by the gods to roll a boulder up a hill. And I feel like I’m rolling that boulder up to the top of the hill, never getting to the crest. But I’ll still keep going,” he said recently in the media.

Unfortunately Senator Xenophon will have to keep rolling that stone a little longer as the Greens have taken the balance of power in the Senate. It’s a kick in the guts for South Australians who placed so much faith in the Anti-Pokies campaigner.

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Pollies, press and police …..too cosy here, too?

by Cheryl Kernot

“Over more than three decades, no one dared question the perversion of politics by and for Rupert Murdoch.” So remarked Henry Porter in Sunday’s Observer (10/7) in a discussion of the ethics and alleged criminality of journalists and editors of the high circulation tabloid Murdoch newspaper, News of the World.

Whether it has happened here or not the fact is that phone hacking is just part of the bigger ethical issue well summed-up by PM David Cameron: “the truth is, we have all been in this together – the press, politicians and leaders of all parties – and yes, that includes me.”

And yes, that includes politicians in Australia who have been, and currently are, in thrall to the power of media proprietors and shock jocks; seeking to court support, in the belief that a newspaper’s endorsement is one of the powerful keys to election success. The trade-off is timidity in the face of a newspaper’s “policy line”.

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Want to Solve All your Problems, Rupert Murdoch? Become A Banker.

by Richard (RJ) Eskow

 

 

 

 

 

Rupert Murdoch’s got problems. His employees are being arrested, he’s losing his latest acquisition, and he’s just been called to testify before the UK Parliament. But there’s an easy way for Mr. Murdoch to protect himself from these inquiries and save his company at the same time: Turn the News Corporation into a Wall Street bank. There won’t be any prosecutions, and the US  government will even sweeten the deal with billions of dollars in easy money. And if Murdoch follows the trail blazed by bankers like Jamie Dimon at JPMorgan Chase, soon they’ll be begging him to acquire more companies.

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