Oct 24, 2011

How the internet messes with the game of media and party politics

The problems the media and politicians face run deeper than the disgruntled voters and empowered readers: society is being rewired by the internet.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

The rolling self-diagnosis of what ails our politics and political coverage continued apace last week. Laurie Oakes devoted his Andrew Olle Lecture on Friday evening to it, a couple of days after Annabel Crabb gave a Sydney Institute talk on a similar theme.

The debate has flared frequently since the 2010 election, most particularly after Lindsay Tanner gave everyone a bollocking in Sideshow. But last week’s lectures were particularly timely given this week News Ltd starts rolling out its paywall in an effort to discover the alchemy that will reverse the decline of text-based media revenue. Or, if not that, then at least milk cash from people who don’t realise you can already get Liberal press releases for free from the party’s website.

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26 thoughts on “How the internet messes with the game of media and party politics

  1. paddy

    Standing ovation Bernard! One of the finest pieces you’ve ever written for Crikey.

    Note to Crikey: In celebration of News Ltd’s erection of it’s long awaited safety fence, perhaps you might consider letting this gem from BK fly free today. 😀

  2. D. John Hunwick

    I am not sure I grasp all of this article by BK, but I understand the import of what it is all about. My concern is not that the internet is generating new communities of like-minded people that are (rightly) by-passing most of the media because of the insignificant content it contains, but how do such communities actually bring about action. Take the present Occupy movements. I fully agree with their view that the present system allows a select few get obscenely rich while making all the others on the planet pay for it. They get to gether and occupy a street or two and maybe picket a bank or financial institution but change NOTHING. If the powers wait a few more weeks everyone will go home and things will be back to nnormal until the next, predictable, financial crash during which the villains will move away with the ill-gotten gains and the rest of us will be left to try and piece together a better system.

    I can see now that the coming discussions about climate change in Durban will be full of noise signifying nothing. Nothing decisive will happen until some catastrophe occurs that has a savage impact on the rich and the only way out will be the suspending of social democracy and the introduction of some form of autocracy to get us through the global mess our present leaders have got us into.

  3. Michael

    A good read Bernard with only a few narky swipes, and refreshing for that. Technological advancements have wrought profound changes in societies before, as now. I am intrigued by, and find myself agreeing with, your suggestion of a new form of tribalism unbound from geography, and with an almost instantaneous global communication reach. But whilst international movements will impact greatly, you should consider that all politics is local (Tip ONeill).

  4. Simon

    nice sentiments. feels a little hyperbolic though…

    Yet to see anything derived from the internet crystalise into anything actually meaningful in the political sphere. It’s threatening sure, and there are real effect insofar as mainstream politicians react to them – but it’s a little like jumping at shadows…

    Don’t look at Occupy either. It is how it appears and not likely to make a dent on things in this country any time soon.

  5. simone

    Wonderful Mr Keane! Lovely analysis. I’m left wondering about the logical conclusion to this argument. I mean at a societal level. Makes me think about a stateless globe. I can see a need for a judiciary and a bureaucracy – someone has to write the rules and someone has to organise the garbage disposal. But the party political system becomes a dinosaur in this model. ‘Leaders’ are chosen by your communities on a global basis not a geographical basis. This becomes an exciting future where idealism, ideals and ideas can flourish.

  6. Amathar

    Great article.

    IMO the Occupy movement is an evolutionary step in the interaction between digital natives and existing power structures. It is a natural conjunction of much of what Bernard lays out above.
    It’s a pregnant moment in history that could go in many different ways. I think it could as easily fade into background noise, explode into violence, or prove to be the political “smarter, more innovative digital native” that Bernard predicts.

    Perhaps the revolution won’t be televised after all. It might be offered for download via torrent.

  7. kennethrobinson2

    With our current lot of POLITICAL MASTERS, I cant see much changing, unless the pressure is kept up.
    Unfortunately, where I live and age prevents me from participating, believe me protests work, being on the wrong side during the Vietnam war protests, has a lasting effect, (I was a soldier), its going to take a lot, but its up to the younger generation, to fix the past mistakes, caused by people like me, who believed the SYSTEM.

  8. David Coles

    Great article Bernard.

    It would be sad if people see the changes that are occurring as something to fear. The democratic system, as it is now working, is now in a state where some politicians, political parties and some in the media think they have worked out how to manipulate the populace. Lovely to think that there is something on its way that no one in the system can control.

  9. form1planet

    I second Paddy, this is a great piece. BK draws clear parallels between party politics and mass media: their power and relevance has been similarly rooted in geography, and they are both now threatened by the rise of communities and alignments that transcend physical location. For the media that disruption is well underway. But what would post-geographical politics look like, and how does that change come about? Newspapers can fail and new media can take their place overnight, but presumably the nation-state/electorate-based political system will put up a bit more of a fight.

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