belinda barnet on Tue, 22 Feb 2000 01:30:02 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> feedback loop

It's not on my agenda to start a flamewar over this one. And it's not on my
agenda to blindly defend Wark. But Phil's reply demonstrates a (sadly,
common) ignorance about how policy decisions are made in Australia. Which
is why we need Media Studies, and why we need intellectuals to _popularise_
Media Studies and point out exactly why the media does a lot more than
merely provide "trivial commentary" on or "announce" decisions which have
already been made "behind closed doors". There's a feedback loop going on,
and it's not just between politicians at Senate hearings.

"Big issues" often come into the limelight through the media (see examples
below). This creates public pressure. This brings it into parliament.
Australian politicians, whether they are talking tampons or shooting
galleries, dole bludgers or land rights, internet censorship or GST-free
chickens, are talking to a media circus, not just to each other in their
isolated rooms.

>As for your statement that "big decisions" are made in the media, that is
>also complete and ignorant rot. The big decisions are merely announced in
>the print and broadcast media. Very rarely is debate conducted in the media
>about really big decisions, like for instance the GST, GATT, NAFTA, the MAI,
>bilateral and multilateral treaties of all kinds - policy directions on
>biotechnology, trade, tariffs, foreign affairs, media regulation,
>privatisation - all of these are set behind closed doors or made in fora
>outside the countries that they will affect. That is not an extremist or
>paranoid statement, merely a matter of fact and experience. Once made by
>vested interests, decisions are then merely "sold" in traditional media. The
>only dissent allowed is narrowed to the terms set by a larger agenda, and
>even then, limited by editorial process to trivial commentary or

"Trivial commentry" indeed. I submit a few examples off the top of my
head--commonly given to first year media studies students by the
intellectuals Phil claims I am railing against.

(1) The Daily Telegraph runs a front-page spread featuring a "13-year old
girl" shooting up heroin on the streets of Sydney. This triggers a panic
attack in parliament, with everyone from Michael Wooldridge (Federal
Minister for Health) to religious leaders blaming the government for
letting such a thing happen. "Heroin abuse" tops the agenda, and the
incident becomes a "hot issue" in the NSW parliament. Shooting galleries
right across Sydney are closed down a few days later. Never mind that the
"intellectuals" discover that the 13 year old girl is actually an 18 year
old boy who was asked to pose for a concocted story.

(2) Need I say... Paxtons? The (in)famous family featured on _A Current
Affair_ who were "sucking taxpayers dry" by hanging out on the dole.
Needless to say, the scenario was completely concocted. _A Current Affair_
did a hell of a lot more than "announce" the situation.
A national tide of hatred was whipped up against the Paxtons by the
feature, and the "issue" of dolebludgers was inevitably wheeled out in
parliament (this supposedly isolated arena that the media merely
"announces" the decisions of). In the following weeks, we had various
policies, schemes and other "big decisions" imposed on the nation. Work For
the Dole, Dole Diary, etc.

And I maintain that there _are_ only a few intellectuals who actually talk
about this shit. Why do we have to leave it up to Media Watch to dispel the
propaganda _after_ the fact? Or to the very short list of writers you gave
in your email (compared to the size and reach of the mainstream media).

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