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So you say you want a revolution

Mao is famously quoted as insisting that “all power comes from the barrel of a gun” and while that may hold true for a country in the throes of a revolution or subject to military conquest in an established democracy like our own all power comes form the most persuasive tongues and the dialogue those tongues foster within the part of the population who are politically active or engaged.  For a very long time during my lifetime those persuasive tongues were controlled by the owners of the mass media who were able to disseminate their ideas and understandings to a receptive audience who could only respond and engage with the issues via a limited facility provided by media owners in the form of “letters to the editor” they heavily controlled the choice and publication of such feed back to maintain their monopoly of political  discourse. This made owners, editors and Journalists both powerful and significant in our democracy. Political parties and aspirants to office openly courted the media and media owners and editors of both political inclinations have not hesitated to promote or deride the political players of their day especially when it came to promoting their own beliefs or vested interests. Thus we have a business focused player like Rupert Murdoch considering not only the players who will serve his political ideals but also his business interests. We should never forget that the reason that anyone publishes a news paper or owns a commercial television channel is to make a quid by selling advertising on or in it so it naturally follows that a media entity has to be responsive to its audience and to some extent reflect the needs desires and aspirations of that audience as well. Thus no matter what the ideology of a media owner may be (and I’m sure that some readers are imagining Rupert Murdoch as an evil manipulative puppet master right now) he or she also  has to respect and reflect the audience who buy his product.

The media landscape changed with the rise of the internet and the invention of the blog. All of a sudden political discourse was not controlled by mega rich gate keepers who shaped the discourse through their cohorts of authorized writers and speakers (journalists) Suddenly ANYONE  could write anything they pleased about the issues of the day and more importantly ANYONE could comment freely on what had been written. And comment people did with spirit and gusto. In the political blogs that were the pioneers of this brave new online world it was not uncommon to have comment threads that had many hundreds of postings as commentators had lively debates in real time as they tried to “find the plan” to explore an issue with great thoroughness. The problem is that most of these blogs have become very tribal indeed. A sort of mob rule mentality and tribalism has become the norm in most of the online spaces where politics are discussed. Thus if you visit any popular political site you will find that the commentators who have views consistent with the slant of the site tend to gang up on anyone with a dissenting voice who happens to raise their heads above the parapets and offer a contrary opinion. I’ve seen this happen on both left-wing and right-wing sites and it almost always devolves into personal attacks upon the person espousing a heterodox position along with the accusation that they are “trolling”.

My question is does it have to be this way forever? Surely the better way to go would be for those who have a passion for politics to do more than just seek the affirmation of those with a like minded.  Democratic politics is first and foremost about the art of persuasion. If you want change you have to persuade those who disagree with that change that they are in error and that the changes you propose have real virtue. No one is ever going to be persuaded to change their opinion if they never even encounter a rationale for a contrary opinion or if they never have their own beliefs challenged which means that even the most spirited but  “within the tribe” discussion is ever going to change a single mind. To make change within a democracy you have to change the minds and vote of those who give our political candidates their jobs.

What I advocating here is that those who want to see a better standard of political debate in this country learn to respect political difference and to embrace diversity in their interlocutors and further that everyone who wants a  better Australia needs to try to breakdown the tribalism in the online spaces where we discuss the issues. At the very least you could learn more about why those you disagree with think the way that they do, and you may even find that you can persuade them to a position that is closer to the way you see things.

Of course if you are going to be at all convincing you will have to interact with your interlocutors sincerely and with a generosity in debate that many culture warriors (as so many long time blog commentators become) find difficult. You see snarky comebacks and put downs become quite addictive when you are arguing with someone in an online forum (I know because I have not always  been a saint on that myself) but if you can resist that temptation you will discover a couple of things pretty quickly. Firstly your “political opposites” are often  not that different to yourself and that you may well have more in common than your think you do. From common ground you can find a common purpose and from a common purpose you can find a way to try to reconcile the differences in your positions. Even if you can’t reconcile those differences you can at least learn to respect each other.

As I suggested with the tittle “So you say you want a revolution ” its very easy to want change if you don’t think about how that change is to happen and what is to be built in the place of that which you want to tear down. Well I want to see a revolution in political discourse where those on the right and those on the left are willing to engage in productive online  debate that does not just degenerate in to acrimony and rancor. Hopefully in time we will see roughly equal numbers of players in the modern electronic sandpits but if we can’t have equal numbers any time soon can we at least have some respect for those of one political persuasion who go and play in the sand pits of the other-side? These brave souls bring that most rare and valued thing to these debates and that is what the Catholics used to call “an advocate for the devil”. You see once you have an advocate for the devil in your debates the depth to which you can explore the issues increases as a consequence. Of course those who just go into online comment threads for a bit of venting and affirmation from the like minded will probably hate having their blinkered thinking challenged, they will also hate having to justify many of the notions that they have previously taken for granted but the totality of the debate will have benefited. In the end we all want to change the world, we all want to see the plan, but you need to do more than carry pictures of Chairman Mao if you want to make it with anyone.

With a hat-tip to John and Paul

Clive and the not so happy ending

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I am actually sorry that I was MIA for last night’s QandA but I had an engagement with my son to play a game for the evening. However Palmer is certainly proving what a clown he is. What a shameless fool who sadly has the money (or access to funds) to make manifest some wild and crazy schemes the latest of which is his bonkers climate change conference where he plans to invite a whole swag of former world leaders to his dinosaur park for an utterly pointless chat fest. I am of course only guessing but I doubt that anyone with any real gravitas will attend but what is the bet that Clive’s new Bestie Al Gore is getting this stupid conference as payment for Clive’s road to Damascus conversion to the Green religion a few weeks ago? Palmer is as predictable as the plot of a $2 porno.
that said What Comrade Yale has to say as the post script to his post can not be seen as anything but the most amusing satire.

AND ANOTHER THING: One thing the Fairfax press is prepared to cover this morning is the plan by Palmer to establish his own national news publication; pitched as a “newspaper competitor” to Rupert Murdoch, Palmer has registered (or is in the process of doing so) the names The Australasian Times, The Australian Times, and Australian News.

There always seems to be a high-profile target wherever these “initiatives” by Palmer is concerned; not merely content to attempt to destroy a Prime Minister and a Premier, it now appears Palmer fancies himself to knock the most powerful media proprietor in the Western world down a few pegs as well.

Given the way he has conducted his political activities to date and what seems to be his conviction that the rest of us share his obsession with himself, it will be fascinating to see what passes as Palmer’s version of “unbiased news” — if this latest hare-brained scheme ever amounts to anything.

My guess is that even if it gets off the ground, it will find very limited favour with the news-consuming public; having spent 20 years in and around media companies and having acquired a firm grasp of what is involved in running them, my guess is that such an enterprise will haemorrhage money from Palmer’s fortune for as long as he is silly enough to persist with it.

Should it ever come to pass, Murdoch will be laughing — literally — all the way to the bank.

The Red and the Blue

Not only will Murdoch be laughing but so too will the many washed up ex Fairfax journalists who will undoubtedly be lining up to sell their souls, and arses to Palmer for a few pieces of silver, even if the arse in question is pock marked with anti TB injections.
Palmer is a Joke who has worn out our ability to laugh at him these days its just a tired sigh from me at any of his antics but one thing is certain and that is we can be sure that the only thing that Palmer is interested in is having his ego massaged continually by making himself the center of every possible issue in Australian politics. Sadly we may have to put up with his pulsating blubber for some time to come because the happy ending that the public dream of won’t come soon enough and in the mean time we have to endure something that is almost too horrible to countenance no matter what side of politics you lay on.

Cheers Comrades

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Some thoughts about mooted changes to Media ownership law in Australia

 

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People are creatures of habit and it is only that so many people are habituated to buying the news papers that any are still being sold at all. Just take any kind of commute on public transport and consider how many people are reading a paper and how many are staring at a screen instead. Some certainly may be playing games or even watching video but I expect that they will be out numbering those who are still reading dead tree editions of the MSM.

Then there is the things in the paper that people buy them for, most papers are not exclusively about politics and current affairs anyway, so some readers will be buying the paper for its coverage of sport, lifestyle or even just for the crossword puzzles.  My point is that the political classes (in particular those from the left ) just look at the raw sales figured and they think that every reader of the Herald Sun is in the thrall of Rupert Murdoch and that the owners dictate to their readers directing their opinions. The reality is that all media entities write to their audience. If they don’t their audience wither away quite quickly.  With the coming of the internet this is even more how things work Online entities are even more in an endless quest for readers so you have to play to what your readers want rather than thinking that you can manipulate their thinking. I have been writing a blog for nearly a decade now and I have noticed just how quickly particular readers flit in and out its the same now with the way that people read things online from the likes of Murdoch, Fairfax or even the Guardian People don’t just get their news from one source any more no matter what the subject is they will read what several sources say about it and then make up their mind. This behaviour is the same when it comes to broadcast TV people flit form one channel to another seeking different perspectives. My argument is simple, if the media  consumers have changed their habits then perhaps there is something in the notion that media diversity laws from the last century should perhaps reflect those changes as well.

Cheers Comrades

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Fairfax just needs a murdered schoolgirl…

The report in today’s Oz raises an interesting moral question about the nature of journalism,  namely is it morally acceptable for a journaist to break the law to get a story.

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click for source

So after breaking to the ALP database in a flagrant breach of the law this troika of Age journalists are trying to suggest that it was their god given right as “journalists” to flout the law in pursuit of some “great truth”? Is it any wonder that the profession is held in such contempt by the public? The thing is if these three get away with hacking  the ALP how long will it be before we have members of the fourth estate  hacking the computers of ordinary citizens ? Of Bloggers, like you and I dear reader, just because we may happen to express opinions that they dislike?  The laws that protect the ALP in this instance  protect us all and no one should be exempt from prosecution when they get into our computer systems  because they are “journalists”.

It has just occurred to me that Fairfax has taken such delight in the woes of the British branch of the Murdoch press in relation to the “hacking” scandal that saw one tabloid shut down in shame and journalists facing criminal charges and here they are with their own little “hack-gate”  sadly for the general public there is no great heart string puller like the victim being a murdered school girl in the Australian example but morally is this act by Fairfax journalists really that different?

I don’t think so,

Cheers Comrades

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Without dignity all is lost for Labor

I have been greatly bemused by the instance from the Gillard cheer squad that Gillard’s misfortunes are all down to the hostile media in the thrall of both Rupert Murdoch and Gina Reinhardt they insist that even the ABC   has become an instrument of the evil right wing conspiracy to oust their heroin(e) from the lodge. Gillard’s low standing is , they insist all because nothing she does is reported clearly and honestly without the efforts of the evil media overlords. Its desperate ranting the most of it and full to the brim with denial of the simple fact that we are being governed by the worst administration on living memory.  It is a party that has lost every shred of its dignity  and I just can’t help but think that Gillard is working from precisely the same script as the one   that was so  diligently used  by the unlamented Anna Bligh.

Like Bligh we have had the economic incompetence (who can forget Labor’s billion dollar stuff up of the Nurses pay system? )  and the undignified attempts to smear an ascendant opposition leader. None of which  resulted  any rise in the standing of the incumbent, if anything media stunts like Gillard’s “misogyny speech” only spoke positively to the most devoted of her acolytes  the rest of the nation just went “ho-hum” and wrote it  off as more undignified whining. The very final act of desperation form Bligh, in interlay begging the voters not to give Campbell Newman too much power  worked so well for Labor that in opposition they have been reduced to a mere eight seas  in the Queensland parliament and total irrelevance to the political process here.

Federally that is the prospect that Labor faces as well, to be frank I thought until recently that federal Labor might just fare better that Bligh at the next election but now I think otherwise. They seem likely to loose most of not all of their seats up here in Queensland, Rudd may be the exception because he has done a rather effective job of self promotion, Swan on the other hand is widely derided for his incompetence and I don’t think that he can survive the swing to ride the roundabout of opposition, why would eh want to anyway? If he were to hold his seat I don’t think it would be long before he found an excuse to retire from politics even though the seat would likely  be lost in a subsequent by election.

Then we have the joys of western Sydney that Gillard has been partaking of during the last week, boy what a great success that has been for Labor Julia Gillard and her minders   have managed to get just about every thing  arse about as Mungo MacCallum points out:

It is hard to believe with hindsight, but Julia Gillard’s safari to the western suburbs of Sydney was not really such a bad idea.

After all, this is – or at least has been since time immemorial – Labor territory, and in the present circumstances it needs a bit of tender loving care. It may be too late; the patient may be beyond recovery. But Gillard had to make the effort.

And if it was always going to look more like campaigning than governing, to quote her own rather artificial distinction, well, so what? Given that Tony Abbott has done nothing but campaign for the past 40 months, she can hardly be blamed for playing a bit of catch-up.

The mistake was to confuse campaigning with slapstick. Almost the only good thing that came out of last week’s fiasco was that it made the perfect scenario for a textbook on how to lose friends and influence people – to vote against you. It must have taken real dedication to cram so many errors, gaffes and downright embarrassments into a single expedition.

Even the normally sympathetic Fairfax press this morning ran a piece by Alan Stokes that can only be described as the cold hard light of reality reminding the Age faithful  that Life under an Abbott government will not be the sum of all of the Latte sippers fears as  the left’s denailists  have repeatedly insisted:

Amid all the scaremongering, it’s easy to forget this: Labor and the Liberals tussle mostly over the middle ground. Most government decisions emerge from consensus or compromise between two fairly similar world views. Cynics might even say modern politics is all about power and not world views anyway.

Still, the measure of a caring nation is how it treats its most vulnerable. So we cannot ignore the dangers of changing to Abbott. But we can be realistic. The awkward reality for middle Australia is usually that what’s lost on the political roundabout is gained on the swing.

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I was actually rather surprised to read this piece in the Age this morning because up until recently such realism was almost unheard of from  the Fairfax press I can truly commend the piece to our readers  as an example of political sobriety in a sea of drunken denialism. I can almost hear the chorus saying that this too is an example of the conspiracy to lay low the  good Gillard government. Its also certain that they will be championing Conroy’s attempt to shift the political debate to his half baked, yet over cooked scheme to muzzle the media    as James Paterson points out in the Australian  its a rather extreme reaction to a critical press:

Australia now also effectively will have a press licensing system. Any media outlet not signed up to a government-endorsed media regulator will lose journalistic privileges such as exemptions from privacy laws.

This will force media groups that are not presently members of bodies such as the press council to join, and is a powerful threat to existing members that they must not leave. It will be virtually impossible to run a media outlet in Australia without being under the supervision of government-appointed bureaucrats.

The last time that media outlets were subject to press licensing in the English-speaking world was 1693. What was too tyrannical for the English in the time of William and Mary is apparently acceptable in 21st-century Australia.

I can’t for the life of me imagine that Conroy’s scheme will be anything other than a distraction rather in the mould to the Gay marriage push of recent memory. In one sense its clever politics to push this issue because its bound to raise the passions of the devoted to Gillard crew and help cement that siege/victim mentality about the “MSM” however for the general public it will be even more evidence of a government a drift in a sea of its self made  troubles. The requirement for the endorsement of the Greens and Independents means that Labor can float this grand scheme, have it shot down by Oakshott, Wilkie  or Windsor and still claim that they have “tried their best” to the faithful while not having to deliver on what is a rather  bad idea.   For those of us who are fans of the game  its a totally transparent play and even if by some confluence of  political(bad) luck Labor does mange to get this up it has no chance of surviving a change of government. So its futility is very clear indeed.

None of this will add to the dignity of  the Labor party and without some dignity no amount of stunts and political manoeuvring will save the Federal Labor Party from a rout of Queensland or West Australian proportions.  Will Gillard realise the futility of her position and seek the good grace that she has squandered with the likes of her misogyny speech, or will we see an ever changing parade of more desperate nonsense like Conroy’s announcement yesterday? Going on the Labor record I expect the latter.

Cheers Comrades

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The zeitgeist and making a quid out of news

The Ipad and its creator

I am not by any stretch of the imagination an “early adopter” of modern technology. I very much prefer to wait and see if an item of the electronic species  will live up to the hype rather than splash out my own cash in the hope that it does do all of the things that its makers may claim about it. My cell phone is a few years old and one of the most basic models from Nokia and frankly I have yet to work out how to send and receive texts with it but it does make and receive calls very well and that is its most important function to me. None the less I find the ongoing development of the New Media quite fascinating.
Looking back over the last decade one can see that the big players in print and broadcast media have been rather slow to work out just how to successfully monetise their presence on the Internet and frankly now that they realise that the only way to make a decent quid out of news reporting on the net is with some sort of subscription service rather than entirely relying on advertising as they have done for print or broadcast media. But for subscription services you have to have either a product that a few people feel that they can’t live without so they are willing to pay a good price for  it or one where the sub is so low that the disposability of the content does not matter.

A formal announcement about the new publication, called The Daily, had been slated for Wednesday. News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch and Apple chief executive Steve Jobs were scheduled to attend a launch event at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

The Wall Street Journal reported that News Corp and Apple were delaying the launch while the two parties work out some kinks in the subscription platform for delivering the paper.

News Corp, parent company of News Limited, which owns The Australian, has staffed bureaus around the US to provide material for the new publication. It will cover general news, culture and entertainment and will include video.

Since it went on sale last year, the iPad has given fresh hope for the survival of professional journalism in the digital age. Traditional publishers are betting the iPad and its imitators can help provide new sources of advertising and subscription revenue.

And many of them need it. The economics of news on the broader web have been brutal for print publishers. Space for web advertising typically sells at just a fraction of what it does in print, and few publications have successfully charged readers for online access to stories.

When I heard that the subscription price for “the Daily” is going to be a very low I instinctively thought that Murdoch may well be onto a winner in the commercial sense here. When the cost of the service is very low customers don’t really mind if the content is superficial and the focus on the trite and trivial. They won’t mind at all.In fact there may well be many people who will happily pay their sub just for the trite and trivial. I can’t see how this can fail commercially. The quality of the content and the Journalism may worry media nerds and news junkies but I think that far too many of them fail to appreciate that the majority of people just don’t care as much about in-depth analysis as they care about having something that makes the feel that they are in touch with what is happening in the world.

In our modern world its a case of the media that hooks into this Zeitgeist will make a quid rather than the one that panders to what the intellectuals are sure that everyone should be  immersed in, a deadly serious and in depth analysis of world events may rock the boats of the intellectual classes but for most ordinary people its all just colour and movement on a screen.

 

Cheers Comrades

 

At Chez Hall we love modern technology

Pay per view

Probabaly the most profitable online content is what tickles your fancy,,the erotic and ponograpic content has driven much inovation on the net from the fairly respectable content of "soft"sites like Australia's "Abby Winters" to stuffthat sickens and disgusts most people.

Probably the most profitable online content is what tickles your fancy. Erotic and pornographic content has driven much innovation on the net from the fairly respectable content of "soft" sites like Australia's "Abby Winters*" to stuff that sickens and disgusts many people . As the old saying goes "there's money in muck". The question is of course: Can money be made from the more mundane content of the news?

This post is a follow on of sorts to both the last one about copyright and this one citing Rupert Murdoch because it raises the question of just what internet users would be willing to pay for accessing online content and just how content providers could possibly hope to charge for their stuff when it is available from multiple sources simultaneously.

WITHIN five years internet users will have to pay to access content now free, according to Barry Diller, chief executive of InterActiveCorp in the United States, which runs about 30 websites and turns over $US1.5 billion ($A1.8 billion) each year.

“I absolutely believe the internet is passing from its free days into a paid system,” he told the Advertising 2.0 conference in New York this week.

Mr Diller said the paid model would include subscriptions, one-time purchases for access to sites and micro-payments.

So dear readers would you care to nominate just what you would pay to view online*?
Personally I don’t pay for any content, well other than paying for access to the net via my ISP and I think that Barry Diller, rather like Rupert Murdoch may actually be trying to create a self-fulfilling prophecy here, a piece of wish fulfilment that is going to be disappointed.
Cheers Comrades
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* This website is cited to spite the Grodites who think that a bloke appreciating  pretty Aussie girls is something to be ashamed of. 🙄

Would you pay for that news feed?

I have a great deal of respect for Rupert’s business acumen but I can’t help thinking that his desire to charge a subscription fee for accessing the content that is now provided free just won’t work.

Rupert Murdock

Rupert Murdoch

Rupert Murdoch has flagged an aggressive push to start charging readers for News Corp’s newspapers online over the next year, seeking to put an end to the company’s profit erosion as advertising dollars shift to the internet.

“There is no doubt that the traditional newspaper model has to change, even though the present situation I think has been greatly exaggerated by the current recession,” Mr Murdoch told analysts on a conference call this morning, announcing a 97% earnings slump at News Corp’s newspapers and information services for the third quarter.

“Classified revenues are undoubtedly migrating to the web, probably not to return.”

The reason I think that this plan will fail is simply because there are just too many alternatives that will continue to be available for free and that he is approaching the desire to counteract the decline in newspaper revenues the wrong way. Perhaps what he should be seeking is a way to make online advertising more profitable. I suspect that part of the problem is the nature of online content, the fact that it can be viewed everywhere on the planet so although advertising copy will be seen my many the advertising can not be very well targeted in terms of the geography; no one wants to buy a product from a supplier on the other side of the planet.
Maybe the real solution for advertising on the net is to develop a way to make it more location specific but then it would be more something sold by service providers rather than content makers, Hmm maybe Rupert has missed the boat after all.
Cheers Comrades
😉

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