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Feb 22, 2013

Does the Labor narrative narrative stand up?

We all complain Labor lacks a narrative. But what if positive narratives are now impossible to effectively communicate? Look overseas and it may well be the case.


It’s funny, but no one in Labor is laughing: the very week the Gillard government produces its most coherent economic and political statement of the entire time Labor has been in office, it gets accused yet again of lacking a “narrative”. Waleed Aly, joining Fairfax’s new “all leadership speculation, all the time” format, says governments “thrive on narrative” and Labor ain’t got one.

Ah, the irony — Labor’s actual narrative can’t be heard over the clamour of leadership speculation and insistence it hasn’t got a narrative.

This is only the most recent of almost countless articles about Labor’s lack of an overarching narrative — many of which, I readily confess, I’ve authored myself. It’s taken as an article of faith that governments need a central story around which to structure their communication with voters and to guide their governing priorities. Labor’s peristent problem, we’ve all maintained, has been it lacks such a theme and that that is reflective of its lack of core values.

Well perhaps it’s time to reassess how much we rely on the “narrative” narrative.

You see, this government isn’t the only one about which, it’s lamented, there’s no narrative. The Obama presidency has been dogged by complaints he lacked a narrative, or (premature, as it turned out) declarations that he’d finally found one. One Washington Post writer in 2010 was already toting up the number of times Obama’s loss or lack of narrative had featured in mainstream commentary. In the lead-up to the 2012 election, there were complaints Obama had lost his “narrative mojo” or allowed Republicans to impose their own narrative. A re-elected Obama had finally found “a strong narrative arc”, another writer opined in December. His State of the Union address was seen as an attempt to replace an “austerity narrative” with a more progressive economic narrative.

David Cameron hasn’t fared any better. The Tories lack a clear message because Cameron doesn’t have one, the New Statesman’s political editor complained earlier this week. Cameron lacks a convincing narrative, a Guardian commentator noted at the end of last year. And it’s not just the Left in the UK. “There is no leadership and no narrative. Kids are running Downing Street,” an unnamed Tory MP was quoted as saying a fortnight ago. Cameron had allowed Labour’s Ed Miliband to create a narrative of government incompetence, a senior Telegraph commentator explained in October.

Sound familiar?

Still, Gordon Brown had the same problem. There was no distinctive Labour narrative, the Independent’s Peter Hain lamented in 2009. Or if it existed it was confusing, a Spectator columnist suggested. Brown allowed Cameron to paint him as incompetent, too.

So what’s going on — do we have an entire generation of Anglophone politicians who have entirely lost the capacity to communicate narratives effectively, who can only stand idly by while their opponents portray them as incompetent? It seems unlikely — does anyone seriously suggest Barack Obama is a poor communicator? Or is our concept of a “narrative” now flawed? Before we read the next article on Labor’s failure of narrative, think about these points:

  • A constantly reinforced government message requires rigorous top-down control of ministers and MPs that the media complains about. Remember the media’s incessant complaints about the Rudd office’s control of messaging? The media says it prizes authenticity and politicians who resist spin in preference for talking about things realistically. But you don’t convey a consistent message by offering nuance, detail and “calling it as you see it”.
  • Narratives are made, not born. The Hawke government didn’t come to office in March 1983 with an economic reform agenda; it was compelled to embrace one by economic circumstances and the wretched budget situation John Howard bequeathed it. And the agenda changed over time as economic circumstances changed. Governments have to operate in the real world, and the real world throws up problems to be dealt with. Labor has had to govern with a global financial crisis, a European depression, a mining boom and a bulletproof currency, and has maintained economic growth, low inflation and low unemployment, despite the apparent lack of a narrative. During the GFC the “narrative” was about protecting jobs. The strong Australian dollar has now prompted Labor to put together a coherent economic policy based around jobs, productivity and innovation, within a strongly fiscally constrained environment. It is actually a narrative. It isn’t the sort of narrative that gets the media excited, but it’s the one we need.
  • It’s easier to communicate a negative narrative than a positive one. Just ask Gordon Brown while David Cameron was painting him as incompetent, or David Cameron as Ed Miliband paints him as incompetent. Negative narratives are simple; positive narratives are complex and nuanced. It’s easier for oppositions to communicate narratives than governments, because governments have to govern in the real world, with all its imperfections, while oppositions govern purely in rhetoric, where things are always easier and everything runs smoothly.
  • It’s easy to communicate us-and-them narratives — whether it’s the Right targeting asylum seekers and Muslims or the Left targeting foreign workers. Inclusive narratives that seek to unite rather than divide are harder to sell because they’re more complex.
  • Leaders with a long history in public life find it easier to communicate with voters because voters instinctively know what they stand for; politicians who are relatively recent arrivals have no values recognition to draw on in the electorate. No one ever asked what John Howard’s “narrative” was, even as he shifted from a neo-liberal economic hardliner to a tax-and-spend big-government advocate of centralisation.
  • And, maybe most of all, in a fragmented media, and with people able to select their own media or select none at all, communicating to the whole electorate is becoming increasingly difficult. It’s no longer the 1980s when there was a limited number of media outlets across TV, radio and newspapers and even tabloid current affairs programs ran prime ministerial interviews. Governments can have the most compelling narrative possible, but if a substantial chunk of the electorate simply refuses to pay attention to political coverage, it’s irrelevant.

All of which suggests that if Labor wants to meet our benchmark of successfully communicating a narrative, it should keep it simple, negative, divisive, artificial and relentlessly controlled. As if that would keep us happy.


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76 thoughts on “Does the Labor narrative narrative stand up?

  1. Apollo

    One thing I find commentators over reaching in attacking Labors as “don’t know what they stand for” when they relate it to asylum seeker issue.

    The ALP is a party of the worker union movement, they were the ones who proposed the White Australia policy. One could say that it was Whitlam who did not know what Labor stand for and abolished White Australia policy.

    Menzies signed the Refugee Convention. The Liberals now walking away from it, one could say that they are the ones who don’t know what they stand for, in addition to the big socialist ideas of baby bonus and gold plated parental leave.

    Politics is so lame in this country. I want Clive Palmer to run for office, bring on someone like Berlusconi and inject some bunga bunga into the polity.

  2. Apollo

    Also, bloc voting on asylum seekers law and gay marriage. Whatever happened to the Liberal ideal of freedom and conscience vote?

  3. Holden Back

    You left out “delivered in three word sentences using words of one syllable.”

  4. Hamis Hill

    Labourers never, never, never shall be slaves!
    There’s your bloody narrative!
    Adam Smith’s “labour and capital”, economic truisms are some how so obscure in this post-modern age as to be lost altogether?
    A narrative out of context is mere gibberish, the calling -card of this post-modernity.
    It is like something out of the conversation at the Mad-Hatters Tea Party.

  5. Kinkajou

    welcome to the future….msybe the narrative is a concept past its useby date…things are no longer that simple…a government has to govern and cope with what actually happens rather than just make pictures of the bombing patterns

  6. klewso

    Indeed, how’s that narrative to be heard over the MSM (controlling those airwaves of information) static, not interested in broadcasting anything but their own version of their own “papal infallibilty”?

  7. klewso

    … maybe it’s just not the narrative the self-obsessed media wants to hear and pass on?

  8. Gavin Moodie

    I found Keane’s analysis most enlightening. I would add that modern parties need a narrative since they relinquished the class base of their policies and support.

    While the fragmentation of the media makes it harder for the big parties to deliver 1 narrative, it makes it easier for them to develop different positions for different groups. So potentially Labor could appeal to the knowledge workers thru some channels and to the aspirationals thru other channels.

  9. Mr Tank

    Cheers Bernard some good points. I too read Waleed’s piece. Found it derivative. Anyway there is a narrative, one that was not intentional perhaps but is universally known to be the case. It is one of duplicity, ambition, arrogance and vanity. It is one of power at any cost. It is a narrative based in delusion. One that says “Yep the progressive project must depend upon my personal success.” One that in reality states “I shall tear this house down around me in the name of defending it.” Why is it that the people are awaiting with cricket bats? Because we know, that even on their worst days, these folks are better than any government the Coalition can provide. We hold them to a higher standard and we despise them when they fail to be what we need them to be. You know, better than ourselves. But there is a Labour narrative for now until the election. It is based upon sacrifice for the greater good. Not hard to work it out really…

  10. Robert Brown

    Is the “lack of narrative” meme actually a reflection of the state of the media?
    As Bernard says, “positive narratives are complex and nuanced…” and therefore more difficult to sum up in a headline. A “coherent economic and political statement” needs time, research and skills to analyse. Much easier to go meta, go sensation, go with the flow.

  11. michael in melbourne

    If Labor is going to go down at the upcoming election, why not do so with style and substance.

    Perhaps it is time to remorselessly pump out the positive narrative outlined by Mr Kean. Refuse to answer journo’s asking about leadership challenges. Tell them the message you want. Set the agenda. BE assertive. It’s not hard.

    Back it up with all the other good stuff achieved, like the plain packaging laws, like the carbon tax, and yes, even the mining tax – who in the hell can make a call on whether it is a good or bad tax after only 2 quarters?

    These are all changes which will benefit the country in years to come. Put that out there and see what happens. It can’t be any worse than what most people think will happen.

  12. Scott

    It’s hard to have a narrative when you believe in nothing except staying in power. No folk songs are ever written about that.

  13. kraken

    Any analysis of the Labor government’s so-called lack of narrative (which is a media construct in any case. Howard never had a narrative – he had asylum seekers and middle class welfare) should acknowledge its record, which includes “Australia’s world-beating economy during the global financial crisis, the carbon tax, the NBN, increasing the tax free threshold for low income workers, increasing compulsory superannuation, refurbishment of schools, increased pensions, pursuing the National Disability Insurance Scheme, creating ocean parks, the Murray basin buy-back scheme, and health reforms like the recently announced PBS for hepatitis sufferers. All of these and many more pieces of good legislation have been passed in the most difficult political circumstances.”

    Journalists and columnists are guilty of joining the News Ltd feeding frenzy, whose staple is endless recycling of simple-minded “Labor is doomed” or “Julia vs Kevin” narratives. The majority of the press gallery have been playing rats to Abbott’s pied piper for over two years. They’ve not only fallen for the small target strategy of the Coalition, they’re in thrall to the constant pitch to the lowest common denominator, hysterical rhetoric on a ‘crisis’ in the body politic & economy, undermining of Parliamentary process and the legitimacy of a minority government, propaganda strategies to demonize issues such as the carbon tax and asylum seekers to whip up fear, and a relentless wooing of blue collar votes embedded in small businesses.

    Poor fella my country…

  14. Julia

    A very thoughtful article. Thank you, Mr Keane.

  15. moonkid

    Spot on. How can a government maintain a positive narrative when its messenger (the media) is not a coherent narrator, but instead simulates a belligerent drunkard with multiple personality disorder?

  16. Venise Alstergren

    Apart from a little diversion in September, Labor could be forgiven for not having a clear narrative. “Why bother?” Could well be the rejoinder “We could use the words of Abraham Lincoln, and deliver a quantum leap forwards in Australia’s socioeconomic sphere and bring in the best environmental legislation the world has ever seen. But the electorate wouldn’t even hear us.They’d rather watch Chrissy Wissy Pyne doing his shimmering, simpering dance in the spotlight recently vacated by Tony Abbott.

    Bring on the clowns.

  17. JMNO

    What’s the answer Bernard? How does Labor cut through to a media that isn’t listening?
    George Lakoff, ‘Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know your values and frame the debate’ Scribe 2005 says the progressives talk programs but people are more receptive to values which is what the conservatives are good at talking about – and that is what Abbott has done and with great success.

    I think it is possible to know what Labor stands for from the policies they have implemented/have tried to implement but that doesn’t seem to be enough.

  18. Kinkajou

    The narrative is now reduced to a meme

  19. Microseris

    Whilst they have battled a hostile MSM since day 1, Labor can only blame itself for the lack of a narrative. Religion in schools, funding for private schools against all evidence, me too racism on asylum seekers, a carbon tax whilst overseeing a massive increase in coal exports, exemptions for religions for anti-discrimination laws, the list goes on.

    What do they stand for? As others have pointed out, Re-election.

  20. CML

    Good article, Bernard!
    Of course Labor has a narrative, as many commentators above have pointed out. It is not Labor who has changed, but the society in which it operates. Sure the media have relentlessly attacked the Labor “narrative” because it is not the one which most of them (particularly the media barons) want to hear. So the brainwashing of the electorate continues day in and day out, like a never ending monologue.
    Therefore, the current government is forced to operate within the framework of that famous saying: Politics is the art of the possible!

  21. David Hand

    Of course Labor has a narrative. It got it from Western Sydney focus groups.

    The Narrative is to deliver ever more ambitious social policy schemes to “share the fairness” and “Spread the benefits of the boom” to Labor voters. Gonski and the NDIS are merely the two latest iterations, following the carbon tax, mining tax, the health reforms, fairness to refugees and the NBN.

    It will all be paid for by greedy billionaires, greedy multinationals and greedy rich people. The narrative works well until they actually try to implement. Then the woeful fantasy of it all becomes real.

    This government came unstuck when Kevin was knifed. Whatever had happened before looked to me like the hard edge of policy aspiration meeting the real world. All governments experience that and the Abbott government will be no exception. It is usual and survivable.

    But what Julia did on 23 June 2010 has dogged every move since. The idea that “the dogs are barking but the train moves on” is exposed as self-serving delusion. Julia is doomed because people don’t like her anymore and her political obituary will point to 23 June 2010.

  22. Sam

    Labor does have a narrative. It’s right there in the name. This is something that’s visible in both Labor’s workplace and industry policies. There’s a grab bag of other values whose absence in the Labor platform today is lamented by some left-wingers. While these may have coincided with Labor positions in the past, they often have nothing to do with Labor’s central message (or even run contrary to it, as in the case of banning coal exports).

    Labor’s problem with narrative is not that it lacks one, but that it’s all too ready to accept the conservative narrative, even when doing so is contrary to reason, good policy and Labor’s historical preferences. So instead of calling out as nonsense the idea that good economic management is all about building a surplus, Labor enthusiastically embraced it, only abandoning it when continuation of the fetish would have been at odds with Labor’s core narrative of protecting jobs. In the aftermath, there was an attempt to redefine good economic management in terms of ensuring growth and employment. This is something that ought to have happened long ago.

    The same sort of pliancy was on display with regards to tax cuts for the wealthy and private school funding. The continued commitment to the latter shows that no lesson has as yet been learned.


    Pretty hard for the media to report Labor’s ‘narrative’, let alone even notice it, while it’s so busy building the bonfire to burn the witch.

  24. gazo

    “Simple, negative, divisive, artificial and relentlessly controlled”? Well, that sounds exactly like the ALP’s stance on Julian Assange (to name but one example).

    I thought the key element of Waleed’s article was buried in the 3rd last para: “Once Labor embraced a deregulated, liberal economy, the political landscape was forever changed.

    And I think that is their real problem, not media management. After Howard was obliterated, I thought the Liberals might become a far-right minority, with ALP being recognised as right wing and the Greens emerging as the only real left wing alternative. But the LNP is still able to market themselves as (at least potentially) more capable free market disciples, so the ALP is left floundering.

    As for the media angle, of course we all know the Murdoch press is biased against Gillard: but then why hasn’t the ALP gone after Rupert? The Leveson Inquiry was an ideal opportunity to wind back media ownership rules in Australia. But to do so would be anathema to a party that embraces monopolies like Coles/Woolies etc.

    So you get what you deserve, Labor. And if an extremist like Abbott takes power you will have only yourselves to blame. Feel sorry for the rest of us.

  25. andy shandyfromtonypandy

    One would think that having a command of the language in which one is attempting to craft said narrative would help, non?

    First Gillard and her swinging (sic) cuts and, if my ears did not deceive me last night, that porcine gutlord Howes squealing about gutless pricks underminding (sic) la Gillard…….!

  26. Douglas Evan

    Must be a low news day. C’mon Bernard you are usually a lot better than this tripe.

  27. klewso

    So in summary Keane “Do the same kind of media porridge that Abbott does – for his Goldilocks!”?

  28. Michael Hilliard

    “Simple, negative, divisive, artificial and relentlessly controlled” sounds a whole lot more like Abbott’s narrative.

  29. Christopher Nagle

    Bernard’s ‘narrative’ riposte is a glorious example of baloney spiking. And it is particularly apt in relation to the seemingly impossible task for the ALP and its federal leadership, to resist the march of the critics, who will get them no matter what they do.

    The socialist narrative is dead and buried, and that all that is left to us from that is an increasingly powerful oligarchy that thinks the time has come, where everyone takes their orders from them, or else.

    The ALP is doing its best to play ball, but their best isn’t good enough, when there is an Abbott government coming that is just that much better trained and responsive to orders.

    Of course the bloody ALP hasn’t got a narrative, or anything else that is ever going to save them short of the second coming. Nothing is going to because nothing will be allowed to. The narrative has already been programmed. Take it as read…

  30. Heather

    Thanks Mr Keane. Great analysis.
    And “Michael in Melbourne”, I like your ideas.

  31. Michael Hilliard

    If I am not wrong didn’t Hitler have a strong narrative?

  32. shepherdmarilyn

    Gillard now attacking and abusing the Greens is pretty pathetic, shows again that she has no loyalty to anyone but herself.

    The ALP are racist cowards in a party born to shut out Chinese workers in the gold fields.

  33. Peter

    Who gives a bugger about narrative, do the things government is elected for and the public will embrace you…but they’ll kick your bum if there are stuff ups…enough said about Labor stuff ups, we all know what they are and there’s too many of them…and too much of some ugly stuff… the AWU slush fund, support for Thomson & Slipper, the HSU, NSW Labor, ICAC, …..arrrrghh, it’s horrible… the error prone PM sets the course for her government and the public have not embraced it, in fact they are repudiating it, see the polls. Slippery slope, exit time is near.

  34. Hamis Hill

    And the narrative of the supposed, next federal government is that the Labor party is bad?
    Is that all they need?
    We will rule you because of someone else and not because of anything we are or do.
    Sounds vacuous, and perfect for conservative voters.
    Come September Australians will reject this mindless negativity because it is, basically, Un-Australian: something which Abbott does not understand because it is foreign to his character and unseratanding.
    He’s faking it, and he won’t make it!
    And no amount of self-delusion on the part of his supporters will change the reality that Australians will not insult themselves with an Abbott government, just as they did in the “unloseable” election of 2010.

  35. Hamis Hill

    unseratanding=understanding. Lazy proofreading.

  36. Hamis Hill

    Tree word narratives for Abbott:
    Two Time Loser?
    Not Ready Yet!

  37. John Anderson

    It was a pleasure to read your article and that written by Waleed Aly. Both are thought provoking and both make valid points. More please. Unlike the Fairfax coverage of Gillard [and probably that of News Ltd, which I don’t read], there was no orchestration.

  38. Mark from Melbourne

    I suspect the lack of narrative is at the media’s end…

  39. مكينSouthPacificSpunk

    by the rivers of babylon, there we sat down
    ye-eah we wept, when we remember sion

    when the wicked carried us away in captivity
    required from us a song
    now how shall we sing the lord’s song in a strange land

    let the words of our mouth and the meditations of our heart
    be acceptable in thy sight here tonight

  40. Patriot

    “RADIO announcer Ray Hadley has called on the Federal Government for a detailed report and explanation after he revealed 80 asylum seekers have been living inside the grounds of a Sydney university.

    On his radio show this morning, Hadley said approximately 80 Sri Lankan men were living at student accommodation inside Macquarie University.

    “In the grounds of the university there are two dorm buildings housing young women – those dorms are surrounded by the dormitories containing the 80 Sri Lankan men,” Hadley said.

    “According to people I’ve spoken to at the university, the young women feel both intimdated and frightened by having the men in close proximity. Some are in fact scared and conveyed that to police officers on the scene yesterday.”

    NSW Police today confirmed officers were investigating reports a man indecently assaulted a female university student while she was sleeping in her dormitory…

    The man is described as 20-25 years old, thin build, dark skinned, with dark short curly hair.

    You couldn’t make this stuff up. It’s like a parody of naive lefty stupidity.

  41. burninglog

    “Waleed Aly, joining Fairfax’s new “all leadership speculation, all the time” format”

    Great comment. Media Watch might steal that line on Monday night

  42. Hamis Hill

    Abbott’s “Austerity” Narrative to Axe AAA Rating!
    Just like Cameron’s Austerity has done in the UK?
    Strange how the ‘narrative’ of an existing government is the the sole focus while the ‘narrative’ of a putative government gets no focus at all.
    Articles like these absolutely define the media imbalance in Australia.
    And the palce eunuchs brazenly shrug off the criticism as usual?
    How about the “Story of Tony”, by that Henderson fellow, to balance it up?

  43. Pia Robinson

    One of the best things I have read for ages, thank you.

  44. taylormade

    David Hand “This government came unstuck when Kevin was knifed”

    May as well go over old ground, but it was earlier than that. Rudd should never have tried to wedge Turnball on the issue of climate change. Turnball just needed some time and space and they could have achieved a deal, but no, Rudd and Penny Wong had to rub his nose in it.

    ALP’s position today could have been so much different.

  45. David Hand

    You’ve got a point, Taylor.

    I guess that the ETS was a policy conundrum that Labor could have come back from. After all, most people even today want something done about carbon emissions. Maybe not the carbon tax but that’s only one policy response and a pretty poor one at that.

    Labor was ahead 52-48 on the two party preferred on 23 June 2010, a comfortable winning majority. 8 weeks later it was a hung parliament.

    Labor apologists point to economic indicators and wonder why the ALP is so disliked in voter land. Well maybe they want action on climate change but I am convinced they still grieve for Kevin.

  46. Peter

    The voters turned off Julia in the couple of weeks before the 2010 election, it was the”real” Julia appearing…people wanted to know why the real Julia hadn’t been there from day 1, it was so obviously insincere…”going forward” x 10, was just as bad, did she think voters were so stupid as to lap that rubbish up? And there was “There will be no carbon tax….” from Julia and Wayne..then there was the knifing of Rudd by the faceless men, and the stuffed up mining tax…and it went on and on……we don’t know whether an Abbott government would be just as bad…maybe they will be, but at present the punters just want Gillard and Swan et al to disappear from the TV screens.

  47. Hamis Hill

    Is it futile to point out that poll answers are not votes?
    Must this really be stated?
    Before it becomes “received wisdom” that polls are votes, can the nation adopt the direct democracy of Switzerland, seeing as the enthusiasm for almost dailly polls has become so great?
    Instead of being fobbed off with this pathetic polling pantomine of the MSM, why not some real votes, after debate and properly regulated and across all those eligible?
    All made more possible by the NBN, the enemy of Mainstream Media?
    Poll answers are not votes and are not a substitute for real votes, such as might be given more regularly than the life of any present governments; direct democracy, there seems to be a demand.
    Don’t be fobbed off with second best.
    Polls are not democratic.

  48. Patriot

    To all the MSM whingers – your fundamental problem isn’t with the MSM. Ultimately it’s with free enterprise and freedom in general. You’re p_ssed that conservative media is in ascendancy because people are willing to pay for that rather than the loony left crap that you all enjoy.

    Any conservative media publishers that are destroyed by punitive regulation will be replaced – if they’re replaced by anything at all – by new conservative media publishers, not by Crikey, The Green Left, The ABC, or any other loony crap for the simple reason that normal people have no interest in that.

    The media landscape that you all wish to see could only be achieved by forcing people to believe the crap you believe – you would need to legislate against thoughtcrime.

  49. Hamis Hill

    The fundamental problem with the MSM is that it is not free-enterprise at all but a monopoly which denies free-market competition.
    Only the terminally brainwashed fail to recognise this.
    So paranoid about extremism that they embrace totalitarinism as a defence and poison democracy with their polluted nightmares about thought police.
    A free-press is not the momopoly that the MSM is in Australia. Sad but true.

  50. Suzanne Blake

    Hi Bernard,

    No one is listening to Gillard anymore, except the rusted on 28%. They are leaking on each other and its a rabble.

    Hope they keep Gillard there for the election, so the lesson can be complete

  51. Person Ordinary

    So Patriot, you are claiming victory for the propagandists over the Enlightenment Activists? You delightful fool. Priceless.

  52. Patriot

    Hamis, that’s nuts. Rupert Murdoch didn’t stop Crikey publishing this article or you publishing your comments. They’re there for the whole world to read. What’s missing is a sympathetic audience.

  53. Patriot

    Person Ordinary, free people exercising their right to read, listen to and watch what they want claimed victory for the prevailing media landscape. If you want to call the result propaganda you obviously don’t have much regard for freedom or for people.

    If you think we’re all too stupid to be left alone to choose our own newspaper, what do you think about us choosing our own government?

  54. Gocomsys

    After an absence from this site I was pleasantly surprised to read this insightful article by Bernard Keane.
    I also noticed that the troll infestation has almost cleared up. Great.
    Maybe Crikey can still be part of the investigative reporting stream away from the defunct MSM/ABC. See also:

  55. Person Ordinary

    “free people” … Dude, you are walking around in a cloud. Freedom requires truth. Without truth, the individual is being led to decisions, by forces serving the status quo. That is propaganda.

    To say we can have a democracy while the “conservative media is in ascendancy” suggests you are either a propagandist yourself, or an ignorant victim.

  56. Patriot

    “Without truth, the individual is being led to decisions…”

    Reminded me of this

    “There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.”

    The public response to that suggests to me that people know exactly what to do with people who dishonestly lead them to a decision – they withdraw their support and get rid of them. People are free to do exactly the same with media publishers. That they don’t suggests to me that they trust Andrew B_lt and Alan Jones more than Crikey or The Green Left.

    It seems to suggest something rather different to you and it brings us back to your contempt for freedom and for people. You seem to think you know better than the collective wisdom of everyone who reads a paper, listens to the radio or watches the news on TV and that we’re all incapable of rejecting dishonesty and harmful opinions and ideas.

    That being the case I seriously would like to know if you believe in democracy. If we’re too stupid and gullible to be allowed choose our newspaper or talkback host, how the hell can we be trusted to choose our government?

  57. Hamis Hill

    The trouble with Bolt and others not worth naming is that they are reactionaries.
    They do not offer anything original to the public but only seek to moderate the public’s reactions to the original offerings of others.
    That is no description of a free market.
    If you are talking about businesses marketing their products through advertising then that is not really news since it takes a disinterested journalist and an educated public to compare rival products.
    That would support a free-market and democracy which is the real complaint about Mudorch because his monopoly plays at obscuring the deficiencies of one product, the conservatives, and displaying the others in a negative light.
    As they used to say in an other time, “don’t spend all your money in the first shop you come to”.
    There is just no shopping around with the Mudorch monopoly, it is not a free-market, just the company store.
    “Saint Peter, don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go, I sold my soul to the company store”.
    I think that came from one of those terrible US communist songs; one day older and deeper in debt, sounds just like the Howard era.
    And you knoww the voters just can’t wait to get back to the “Golden Era”! Election Now!

  58. Hamis Hill

    When it comes to the conservatives, the Mudorch monopoly is simply advertising a wholly qwned product.
    That is advertising, not news.
    Not free-market competition and not democracy and not anything approaching a choice, except between that and nothing, which is no choice at all.
    Simply a monopoly.

  59. Patriot

    There is competition and choice. You’re staring at it. It has advertising too. Sinister, invasive advertising that knows what phone I’ve been looking at in my case. Jokes on them but – I’ve already bought the phone. Ads for other members of their corporate media conglomerate down the bottom. I’ve also seen ads attempting to brainwash me into giving money to animal rights groups or watching a particular movie. I don’t see it as a big problem. I just exercise my right to not click on them or pay any attention.

  60. Person Ordinary

    Patriot, let’s try it one point at a time …

    Can we have freedom without truth?

  61. Patriot

    We have enough freedom to conduct our own enquiry to find the truth when it’s appropriate. Sometimes the truth just isn’t any of our business. Do people need to know the truth about what their neighbours do in their bedroom at night?

  62. Karen

    Labor has a narrative. Jobs, education and health. MSM knows it but chooses not to push or to l*e about it, in its quest to promote Abbott to the leadership. QED.

  63. Person Ordinary

    You are only free to make your own “enquiry to find the truth” if you are free from belief. No?

    But the product of the commercial media is your belief. That is what they make. It may be comforting to think their product is something else, in return for the token purchase price of a newspaper, but this is the delusion. This is how and why they have been able to get away with it for so long.

    But now, the activists …

  64. Hamis Hill

    “A wicked and adulterous generation will seek signs and find none”.
    So what about a prime ministerial narrative?
    Just as Rudd was visibly, “John Howard Lite”, a not too scary change of older for younger, what if an Abbott PM would be a sort of “Ruddstoration”?
    In this narrative there are the similarities of childhood education, where in the manner of “give me the child and I’ll give you the man” the foreign (To Australia), fuhrer pricip of leadership infallibility took hold along, with a deliberate and implicit denigration of democracy?
    The same democratic leadership deficit sank Keating’s Prime Ministership for the same reasons.
    More signs; both Rudd and Abbott fear (and hate?) a non-believing female PM for the same early childhood reasons?
    No, the wicked and adulterous will not see the repeat Prime Ministerial narrative of democratic leadership disaster and failure inherent in Abbott, Rudd and Keating.
    They will seek but they will not find being blind to the truth of this “narrative”. (No fault of their own, having been brainwashed at a vulnerable age).
    Abbott who lived by the backstab will die, politically, by the backstab, because Australians, even in the “NewLiberal” party will see that the best leaders come from the protestant democratic traditions that are the heritage of the majority of Australians and distinguish the nation from the Banana Republics. Turnbull suffered the same leadership deficiencies for the same reasons.
    I give you Menzies, Hawke, Howard and Gillard, who learned about democratic leadership in their childhood, whereas the failures were deied this virtue.
    It is the separation of church and state thing ” Render unto Caesar” and keep god out of it?
    A prime ministerial “narrative”, that we need to have?
    Who brought religion into politics? There’s a sign for ya!
    Very very wicked and fundamentally un Christian.
    “Render unto Caesar” now who said that, wicked ones?

  65. Gocomsys

    Patriot. You said “If we’re too stupid and gullible to wisely choose our newspaper or talk back host, how the hell can we choose our government?” Good point. With all the daily garbage supplied by our mediocre MSM/ABC that’s a real problem isn’t it?

  66. Hamis Hill

    “The product of the commercial media is..belief”
    Person Ordinary, you’ve nailed it!
    The Belief Industry, indeed, is there a policy?
    Now there is a rock to build an inquiry upon.

  67. Patriot

    “You are only free to make your own “enquiry to find the truth” if you are free from belief. No?”

    No, not at all. Any person is free to reevaluate any belief at any time. And nothing prevents them consulting any source for guidance – from Andrew B_lt to the Tribune – or using their own observation.

    “The Belief Industry, indeed, is there a policy?
    Now there is a rock to build an inquiry upon.

    That brings us back, once again, to freedom, people and thoughtcrime. You really do think we’re all too stupid to safely form our own opinions and beliefs without the intervention of the state. Your problem is fundamentally with what other people think. Your solution is state regulation.

  68. Hamis Hill

    Sure, after exposure to “there is only one truth” propaganda people are inspired to seek out balancing information.
    So that is how “Rabble-Rousing ” works then?
    Keep The Balance is what voters will be doing in September to avoid the imbalance of Wall to Wall coalition govermnments.
    One-sided political commentary, you seem to accept Patriot, that it does exist, does not “Keep
    The Balance”.
    The licence to broadcast to the whole population implies that the whole of the interests of the population should be balanced in any broadcast otherwise the risk of incentment to hatred and division becomes too high.
    Keep The Balance will be applied, without thought police or coercion, by the voters in September.
    Keeping the balance in licenced, “public” broadcasting is not coercion or thought policing it is just good governance.
    This can only happen in a well educated population who don’t, as a result of that education, spend all their credulity on the first argument, peppered with outright lies and deliberate inaccuracies, thrown at them.
    We have seen how the conservative side of politics has adhered to this aspect of good governance by systematically reducing funding to education.
    Unbalanced broadcast opinions exploit the resulting weaknesses and threaten good governance and the stability of society.
    Thought policing is what happens with right wing shock jocking, it is insidious and dangerous and potentially destructive.
    And uncivilised, giving way to the law of the Jungle.
    But law and order campaigns are always good for conservatism aren’t they, like Charles Court making three people gathering on a footpath illegal, does anyone remember?
    This not propaganda because it is actually true.
    The democratic guidelines for public broadcasting were set up by the BBC, How soon we forget the comparison with 1930’s Germany. Thought police?

  69. Person Ordinary

    Patriot – you said “Any person is free to reevaluate any belief at any time”

    This is something you believe? A belief?
    Are you prepared to reevaluate it?

  70. Patriot

    Sure, if we keep it in context – the context being a discussion on the Australian media audience and the influence of publishers.

    Of course there are places where people are less than free to do so. In many countries Muslims aren’t free to abandon their faith or have critical opinions on Mo. The penalty? Death. It’s certainly effective in stopping people having “undesirable” opinions! Is that the direction you want us to go in?

  71. Hamis Hill

    “Rethianism” explains a lot about the balance in public broadcasting and the narrow vested interests of private broadcasting.
    There is the old advice “when in Rome do as the Romans do” to avoid trouble.
    Romans, by contrast do what they like in other people’s countries.
    So either you have the local, national interest protected by balance in broadcasting, public or private, or you have the “Romans Abroad” scenario where privatising and colonising the whole local marketplace of information proceeds unopposed.
    How is this in any way patriotic?
    It is this mercenary betrayal of the public interest which characterises the mainstream media in Australia.
    Try getting any “narratives” in that chaos of self-interest.

  72. Person Ordinary

    Patriot – You have never been curious enough about philosophy to have a quick look – not even once?

    If you can not see belief as an impediment to truth, then perhaps you do not yet have the circuitry to comprehend the broader conflict between propaganda and enlightenment. That’s ok, of course. There is a line in a song “Philosophy is a walk on the slippery rocks” and I respect that some people do not see the value in taking that risk. I appreciate your thoughts.

  73. Patriot

    “Patriot – You have never been curious enough about philosophy to have a quick look – not even once?
    If you can not see belief as an impediment to truth…”

    Wrong again. I know enough to recognise a straw-man when I see one. I never said belief wasn’t an impediment to truth. I said we are free to reevalluate beliefs and reject them. Prove me wrong.

  74. Person Ordinary

    So, belief is an impediment to truth. Good, that’s a starting point, but still such a long way to go. Maybe later …

  75. Gocomsys

    The greatest threat to our democracy in my mind is for extremism in its various forms to take hold. We have to recognise it and guard against it. Ignorance and complacency are unacceptable.

    When one has a problem with mice one does not send in the rats.

    We simply can not afford another term of regressive extreme conservatism. This transcends party politics. Who wants the likes of Rupert Murdoch, Gina Rinehart and Mark Scott just to name a few calling the shots? Well, that is what’s happening right now. It makes me shudder when I imagine the totally discredited sycophantic remnants of the failed Howard regime in charge again. Are we doomed to make the same mistakes again?
    There are signs that even moderate fence-sitting journalists like Ben Eltham (New Matilda), Bernard Keane (Crikey) and now Michelle Grattan (Conversation’s latest recruit) are missing these vital signs.
    Wake up people before it’s too late!

  76. Longtime Fan

    The “rusted on” ALP support is still 35 percent, as it always has been. Polls that show otherwise are flawed.

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