Saturday, September 24, 2005

Retail Politics

Another quote from the Latham Diaries, the best book on the worst side of politics yet written. (But, conversely, one of the worst books on the best side of politics).

"Perhaps it's just the way the system has evolved. Television is the ultimate retail medium, suited to short, sharp images and stunts, never any policy detail or ideology. And television dominates this place -- just look at Beazley tossing around cans of tomato soup at his morning doorstops outside Parliament House. It's /The Truman Show/ for egomaniacs and opportunists. Marshall McLuhan was right: the medium is the message. And Australia's great party of social reform has become a retail party, a tomato soup party."

Myself, I think this is giving too much weight to the importance of retail imagery, but I think nonetheless we are presented with a lot of it. Given that, most of our news bites contain little more than sensationalism. For me, context is usually as important as facts, so I naturally dislike that kind of sound-bite reporting. However, the link between this and people's beliefs is not really clear. Mostly, I think when empty news is reported, they just disconnect.

The top-rating shows are either not news at all, or else the best news. (Just look at the ABC ratings for news and current affairs, and the ratings for Survivor). People are either watching good news, or no news.

What do you think? Where does your news come from, and how much credence do you give it? Do you ever catch a news report defining your beliefs without you having really been aware of it? It happens to me, so perhaps it is as important as Latham thinks...

Cheers,
-MP

3 Comments:

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9/24/2005 11:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Becky said...

Are good Australian newspapers relatively free of bias? I ask because a few years ago in New Zealand someone did a survey over which of the main centres watched the news the most. Wellington came out on the bottom, which suprised people because we Wellingtonians like to think we're smarter than the rest of the country.

My father had this theory though that Wellingtonians don't bother watching the news because they read newspapers instead, which is really more intellectual.

Now I write this I realise it's not entirely on your point. Still, it's kind of interesting.

9/28/2005 11:40:00 AM  
Blogger MelbournePhilosopher said...

Well, I would say that by definition a good newspaper is free from bias, or at least honest about it. So possibly, the question should be whether any Australian newspapers are any good! :)

You've got access to "The Age", "The Financial Review" and "The Australian". Everything is owned by Murdoch except "The Age", which is the least biased and most read paper, but it's still not *that* good -- a lot of syndicated content, etc.

The best information by far comes from ABC, our government-sponsored national broadcaster. The best source is their Radio National station, followed by "The Age", followed by everything else.

9/28/2005 10:25:00 PM  

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