Category Archives: Media

Stuff about the media generally

How did we get to this?

As the Facebook generation enters adulthood I do wonder if the thinly disguised reference to a sinister side of “the platform” in the latest Jason Bourne movie has any substance. For those of you who aren’t a JB fan, one of the plot lines in the latest movie reveals the agency has a “special” relationship with the architect of a rapidly growing social media platform.

Let’s face it, if you wanted to install a surveillance state, Facebook is gold. Team it with a mobile phone and there’s a basic profile without having to lift a finger from the keyboard.

Nor do I think this is particularly paranoid. It just is the way it is. A surveillance state by stealth and what could be stealthier than something we have willingly signed up for?

But getting back to the JB plot line. While I think it isn’t outlandish to claim that government agencies might have special relationships with IT companies (since in fact they do, despite the widely reported Apple iPhone case) I am more interested in the real politics. To be Machiavellian, who benefits from the rise and rise of Facebook?

Obviously Zuckerberg gets rich. One day he will catch up with his sponsor Gates. But if you look at the impacts of a rising Facebook on the old world social fabric it seems to me that something else is going on.

The claim of Facebook is that everything is social and by definition, connected. Facebook rather innocuously claims to just be what people want, despite the obvious fact that Facebook is very tightly controlled and managed. Without intervention, Facebook would be a mess, much like the world is in real life. So in a sense Facebook is a sanitized version of life with some room for a bit of nastiness.

Is it a platform for social change? Remember the chest beating about the role of social media in the Arab Spring? And where exactly did that end up? Syria? Iraq?

It has been remarked by others that Facebook tends to be a sort of echo chamber where we tend to gravitate towards comfort zones, friends we agree with, pictures we like, groups we think are worthy, pages that appeal to us. Facebook makes it extremely easy to avoid anything we don’t like or agree with. In fact we are so bombarded with stuff we like or should know about that we simply don’t have time or the energy to look at anything else. And this is happening to billion plus facebook users every day.

Sociology isn’t my area of expertise but I suspect what is going on here amounts to something that is actually the antithesis of social connections. By immersing ourselves in our echo chamber of choice we actually disconnect from the rest of society. The divide between us and them appears to disappear but only because we never have to deal with them on Facebook, until they burst into our lives armed with guns and start shooting.

A lot of screentime has been consumed recently devoted to the apparent demise of democracy, specifically the two party state variety and how fractured traditional political models have become. Is this a consequence of the Facebook effect? Impossible to answer definitively but there is something in the rise of authoritarian nationalism which is enabled by a media platform which facilitates close minded bigotry which in turn preys on the breakup of seemingly weaker tolerant liberal society.

And to which we add the spying capacity of Facebook and mobile phones. Scary huh? Particularly when you consider the role of the secret police in authoritarian regimes.

Of course the truth is usually seen as the best weapon in defense of liberty and justice but what happens when truth assumes a totally relativistic position. Well you get Trump, that what’s happens.

The advocates of change and disruption are quite strident in how we have to embrace the new. The problem is the new has some worrying old coming along for the ride and it is quite possible all this technotopia will simply usher in an age we might live to regret. If we survive.


Only The Libs have a plan?

The Australian Financial Review claims “Malcolm Turnbull is the only leader with a genuine growth agenda” in their editorial. Why? Because of the magic pudding of corporate tax cuts.

Who are they kidding? On what planet does corporate tax cuts automatically ensure economic growth? Where is the evidence?

Corporate tax cuts do however ensure that corporations pay less taxes. Corporations like Crown Casinos and News Corp. Not to mention other perennial favourites like Leightons, BHP, Hancock Prospecting etc etc. Hmm corporate tax cuts must be good for us if it rewards those companies. But the evidence? I can find evidence that high corporate taxation doesn’t necessarily deter economic growth but really the simple bold assertion that giving the big end of town a cut rate on their taxes is suddenly going to fuel prodigious economic growth is at best unsupported by any actual evidence.

And the AFR criticism of Billy Shorten, he has engaged in class warfare. Digging into old school politics of envy. Tax the rich, help the poor, that sort of thing. Shame on you Bill.

So the problem isn’t really a matter of one side of politics has an economic plan and the other doesn’t. That’s bullshit. They both have a plan, but one side would rather work towards improving economic equality because that produces better social outcomes whereas the other side wishes to produce greater economic inequality because inequality is the primary device that drives the capitalist model, a model which has recently resulted in even more spectacular results for the rich.

But I guess at $4 per edition not too many unemployed are reading the AFR these days.


Outrageous public boo Prime Minister #itstime

Oh dear, the right honourable our PM, Mr Abbott and his preceeding neoliberal footsoldier Little Johnny Howard got booed when they turned up to Whitlam’s funeral. Clearly these people haven’t been reading the Daily Telegraph long enough to know their lines. Don’t these disgusting filth realise Australia needs Tony?


Just in case you aren’t getting the message, here’s how the “tele” covered the funeral


And just to make sure, they are running this insightful bit of journalism somewhere.

Take a bow Rupert. I wouldn’t piss on you if you were burning.


Amanda, the gift that keeps giving

Bless her socks, Amanda Vanstone is a GEM! The Age must be tickled pink by their star recruit.

First, her latest article of faith inspired 677 comments, more than twice the number cheering Our Tones as he goes mano a mano with Vlad the impaler in the battle of shirtless men. But then there is some big money in Vlad’s corner so maybe Tone was wise to back down while he could. On the other hand the best the Age could do was summon up some lefty gook economist from the Oz Institute to respond to Amanda’s insightful prose.

The second observation about Mandy is she seems to be gifted with the rare talent to ignore the blindingly obvious and steadfastly maintain that black is indeed white. Such vision is rarely seen in someone so esteemed in this country although I am told it is more common over in the US and elsewhere in the World according to Rupert.

Amanda will not suffer the fools who assert sheeplike the communistic mantra that inequality is a bad thing. It is about time someone came to the defence of the poor beleaguered rich folk who want nothing more than a quiet night at home and to help their fellow man in times of trouble. People like the late great Kerry Packer who single handedly built the greatest TV empire known to mankind, dragged himself up from the gutter to become a leading light to those aspiring to the sort of social mobility Mandy so rightfully defends. The late Kerry’s philanthropic deeds are only matched by his son’s great passion for investing in such job creating wealth distributing enterprises as the Melbourne Casino. Like the poor downtrodden Gina who had to suffer such terrible deprivations under the previous Labor government, these people are only ever thinking of what they can do for AUSTRALIA! The hundreds of druggies and commies frothing at the mouth who vented there rage at Amanda for daring to call it how it is should really just take a chill pill and thank their lucky stars we have such noble spirits doing their bit to keep this great country great.

Sure, Gina might be a bit inclined to ask her hard working book keeper to make sure she gets her tax return right, but just like the late great Kerry, Gina probably thinks it’s her patriotic duty to make sure the gubberment isn’t ripping her off to pay the bleeding heart dole bludgers to skive off and smoke cones all day. It’s no wonder we acknowledge such nationalistic endeavor with state funerals, it sets the bar high for personal achievement and gives the rest of us something to look up to.

Oh poor Amanda to be so cruelly misunderstood, to think she has even be called “a political hyena who takes delight in attacking society’s most vulnerable” when all she is trying to do is stand up for those who shun the limelight and avoid the rewards they so richly deserve.


Old men confront the 21st century

It was a telling incident that demonstrates the disconnect of the old guard in the Liberal Party machine but it is hard to decide which one was more revealing. Was it the inept and incompetent Brandis on Sky who bumbled incoherently about how the government will increase its spying on the public or was it the other hard right culture warrior Abetz who when interviewed by a young woman on daytime TV casually asserted scientific evidence existed that linked abortion to breast cancer.

For mine Abetz wins by a short head but mainly because I can think of nothing more stupid than a ageing old fart like Abetz trolling out a right wing article of faith live on commercial TV in an interview with someone likely to experience either of the two linked conditions, ie abortion and or breast cancer. He’s a stupid old fart talking through his arse and the fact he was so stupid as to do it when and where he did illustrates the extent to which his generation of thinkers is not connected to the modern world of evidence based decision making.

And to think this mob junked the Science department.

Team Abbott rattled by loose cannon salvoes.


Be Prepared!

It seems like a good idea for politicians, especially those of a conservative nature to be prepared and given the recent reports of Australian government ministers with their snouts in the public purse I found this little gem written for our northern cousins.

It seems like only yesterday pollies were using credit cards to pay for prostitutes when all they really needed was to be reimbursed for their expenses. Ahh memories,,,

Here’s your general purpose one apology fits all from Andrew Coyne.

This is the hardest thing I have ever done. This has been the worst experience of my entire life. Believe me, no one feels more badly about this than I do. How could this have happened to me?

I just want all the facts to come out. I’m just trying to get to the bottom of all this. I am prepared to answer everyone’s questions. I am prepared to speak with certain hand-picked media. But first let’s let the police do their work. Let’s see all the evidence. Let’s release all the documents. And then let’s let my lawyers move for a mistrial.

About my expense claims. We’re still trying to piece together what happened, but it seems that, yes, in the crush of a very busy schedule, some receipts marked “personal” or “private” may have been inadvertently mixed in with some other receipts marked “business” or “naughty.” And I pledge to you today that every penny of these expenses will be repaid, with interest, out of the proceeds of future expense claims.

Second, with regard to my alleged drug use. I can’t lie to you: When I told you I couldn’t lie to you before, I wasn’t telling the whole truth. But that’s because you didn’t ask the right questions. When I said “I do not do drugs,” you didn’t specifically ask, “are you lying to us?” But let’s not overstate this. I am not “addicted” to drugs. If I did drugs, it was only while filling out my expenses.

As for the rest – the conflict of interest, the drunk and disorderly, the theft under, the driving while, not to mention tariff items 13485 through 13496: I am sorry. I am so sorry. I am just so sorry. I am sorry in a hundred inadmissible ways. To my family, my constituents, and most of all, to my dealers, I want to say: I am sorry. I know I’ve let you down. Worse, I’ve let myself down. I have not lived up to the standards I set for myself, which were pretty much non-existent to begin with.

I just wish I could go back in time and make everything right. If I could go back in time – if I could get in a time machine right now and go back to certain points in my life and change the course of history, without accidentally murdering my own grandfather or otherwise tearing a hole in the fabric of space-time, I would. But I can’t. I can’t alter the past. On the other hand, I can refuse to learn from it.

There’s more at the Vancouver Sun.


Coalition battle plan on boats

What boat problem? It’s a military operation now kiddies, nothing to see here. Breathtaking audacity springs to mind. I’m sure their bosses over at Murdoch Inc will play ball.

Coalition minister Greg Hunt said the Government would provide ‘‘regular, continuous, full disclosure’’ about boat arrivals. “We are focused on protecting the borders but also providing disclosure but we will do it in a manner consistent with a military operation,” he told Sky News on Sunday.

via Coalition to come clean on boats.


Obama’s Photographer Joins Instagram

Kevin Rudd’s Instagram selfies have made mainstream news as has Team Rudd’s acquisition of Obama elite Digital Attack Dog and now we see another example of how “old media” is adopting the “new media” tools in service of the political elites.

So far well and good perhaps but it seems odd that while teams Rudd and Obama have no problem with adopting the medium of choice for Gens X,Y and Z the same broadcast mentality is prevailing, that is, the possibility for bilateral communications within the public sphere where we can speak to power as well as listen is being swamped by professionally generated content.

Squeaky wheels and sophistry?

Meanwhile disfranchisement or disinterest within the Oz electorate is reaching noticeable proportions with one in four young Australians not enrolled to vote. Is anyone joining the dots here?

Here’s a stab in the dark. Mainstream politics is out of touch with the concerns and values of the younger generations, but more than just superficially. The established order seems incapable of orderly but significant change. While this is not an issue particular to these times, it is perhaps more pressing than any other given the rather large number of humans involved and some of the challenges we are confronting in the 21st century. Opportunities for peaceful transitions seem to be disappearing quicker than blemishes on a supermodel.

May we live in interesting times.

Obama’s Photographer Joins Instagram – LightBox.


Labor Bashing | The Australian Independent Media Network

Victoria might be right about the trifecta of self interest aligned against the ALP but she glosses over the damage the ALP did to itself when it deposed Rudd.

The problem with the analysis which says Labor has delivered good government (which incidentally I agree with) but finds its message lost in a right wing dominated media cycle is underlined by the comment about Julia Gillard’s legitimacy as PM. I suspect that lingering in the back of the mind of a lot of voters is the thought that somehow Gillard should not be PM and I think there is some reason to argue this is really what is corroding support for the ALP in government.

This is not to say that Gillard is a bad PM or that Labor is a bad government because that is simply not the case. The problem is that Gillard deposed a popular leader, Kevin Rudd, because the party she belongs to decided they didn’t like Kevin 07 anymore despite him leading them out of the electoral wilderness. I think the election result in 2010 underlines this, the Libs who had been unceremoniously kicked out less than three years before suddenly found themselves almost in government. No doubt they couldn’t believe their luck, their opponents had deposed of the most popular politician in federal politics in what looked like a midnight coup.

The extent to which this meme circulates in the public sphere is evidenced by statements about Gillard’s honesty and so on. What seems to be really caustic now for Labor is the simply fact that while it is now accepted that Gillard is the ALP leader, she is not a leader of the people in popular terms. Unfortunately for Gillard and Labor, this one single issue is what their opponents can exploit without even trying. It’s not just that Gillard is not popular, critically, Gillard has never been legitimised by a popular vote and more to the point, her election as leader resulted in Labor almost getting dumped less than three years after they trounced Howard and the Liberals.

The handwringing that Labor has gone through with regard to Rudd only fuels the flame of discontent. As far as I can tell Abbott is not particularly popular with the voters either but that is hardly good enough.

What seems to matter here is this. The Australian public decided Howard had gone too far and Kevin 07 was man. So far so good. But then mid term almost, the ALP goes ballistic and gets rid of Kevin despite the fact he was still riding high with the public. What no-one in the ALP seemed to grasp was, that for most of the public, accustomed as we have become to the idea that the PM IS the government, the ALP had deposed of the people’s PM. Kevin might not be a working class hero but his mildly progressive but quietly conservative public persona was lapped up in middle OZ. People like him. The same cannot be said to be true of Gillard.

So with less than 100 days until the next election the ALP machine is in total disarray. Perhaps too late they have realised the extent of their problem. In another time, perhaps Gillard was the leader they should have but even then her popularity would have to be tested and while no-one is suggesting that John Howard was popular, he was at least elected as PM in several elections with a majority. What seems to completely escaped the minds of the ALP brains trust is Gillard was not elected with majority, ipso facto, she and the manner in which she became PM wasn’t popular. Nor has she become popular.

Sadly for Gillard, who I think is potentially the PM we actually need, the ongoing K Rudd saga isn’t just a media beat up. The idea resonates with voters because they still like Kevin and they now don’t like the ALP because it took their Kevin away.

Of course the irony of a so-called party of principle held hostage to popular opinion demonstrates just how far from principles party politics has become, but that’s another issue. What Labor seems not to have grasped is that politics has become much more of a popularity contest and less of a battle of ideas, possibly because the ideas emanating from the left seem to be almost indistinguishable from the ideas of the right. If the electoral landscape changes radically ideas may once again take centre stage, but in 2013, federal politics is going to be shaped by the contest between the boxing monk and former lawyer who got rid of Kevin07. I doubt the bookies have odds for who will win.

Labor Bashing | The Australian Independent Media Network.