There have been astonishing revelations in London about leaders in the News International group of companies and in the UK Parliament. Perhaps even more shocking is the disclosure of the deep and complex relationships between the two groups?
It is a classic case study of power and the old-fashioned dispensation of favour. News International controlled the media, and thus they controlled politician’s access to the power of the media. It was good old fashioned Machiavellian politics of fear and favour.
For years, without the general public realizing it, the leaders of the nation were kow-towing to the powerful masters of the mass media. Democracy as we believed it to be did not exist. Instead electoral success rode on the back of favorable mass media coverage.
It now seems that even the (once respected) leaders of the Metropolitan Police and Scotland Yard were not immune to seduction by power and money from corrupt media players.
Now all this is being laid bare, with systemic criminal, unethical, and idiotic behaviour revealed. The people are seeing the tawdry mess in the light of day. None of the leaders in question come out of this well. Their venality, their cupidity, and their stupidity are on public display.
But the real question is were good people betrayed by bad leaders in business, government and the police? Is society to blame? Do we get the leaders we deserve?
These are important questions for us here in Australia – after all we are an outpost for News International as well. It’s time we started looking into the murkiness of relationships between those players here too. And it’s time we ask ourselves what kind of government and business institutions we want. It’s time to think about how our democracy works. And to consider how mass media can make a mockery of universal suffrage by manipulating messages.
Andrew Crook on Crikey has done an interesting analysis of the Daily Telegraph’s coverage of the current government’s carbon tax versus the Howard goverment’s GST.
Julie Posetti raises some interesting questions for local media organisations to address in her recent post Some #Hackgate Questions for News Ltd and Other Media.
Another recent development in Australia times is industry lobby groups – such as mining companies and cigarette companies – harnessing the power of mass media to promote their own agendas. And through their campaigns they seek to stop governments enacting policies such as the mining tax or plain packaging for cigarettes. Thus the lobbying that once happened behind closed doors has moved out into the public realm.
The media landscape is shifting. The democratization of access to mass media means that others who seek to drive political agendas now have access to the means of production. Power relationships around media are also shifting. As a result these are dangerous times for democracy and for the implementation of long term public policies.
It’s time to stop sleepwalking and blindly accepting the ideas that the proprietors of the mass media want us to swallow. It’s time to ask questions like:
- What kind of leaders do we deserve?
- What kind of leaders do we create through our actions and demands as a society?
Also worth a read in this context is an article by Massimo Pigliucci on Al-Jazeera titled Ignorance today: Our world is awash in information – but can we make sense of it?