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Wednesday 4 February 2015

Mischievous media magnifies mayhem

Following closely on the heels of Australia Day's "knightmare", the Queensland election disaster extended the criticism of our PM, now by deposed LNP MPs. Any hint of a leadership challenge, is like a drop of blood to our of media sharks, immediately generating a frenzy.

As if the world had stopped turning, not a news bulletin, newspaper, political commentator, twitter-face-blog-post goes without the questions pertaining to this one issue; "Was Abbott's speech good enough?", "Who will challenge?",  a survey is produced showing the popularity of potential contenders, Bishop has not said she would not run, or has not denied it enough, or there was a delay in denying it.

And aren't the media enjoying themselves? You can see it on their faces. The excited tone, the animation, the energy, the overt joking and 'grinning'. This game certainly looks like fun. Of course everyone gets on the bandwagon. When the frenzy is on, no journalist wants to be left out.

Who can blame them? It is much easier than the hard slog of reporting on economic or social matters which require facts, analysis, and real journalistic effort. It is much more fun. It is new, exciting, titillating.

Who can blame them, if the opposition parties are also feeding the frenzy with whatever morsels they can muster to keep the story going. After all there is an advantage to be had.

Who can blame them, if indeed the electorate is lapping it up. Those on the Left side of politics remember too well the all too recent Leadership challenges of the Labour government. They are now pleased to have the 'shoe on the other foot'. They enjoy the discomfiture of the Right, and hang on every word, and discuss it at every opportunity.

I am not blaming this on anti-Abbott, anti-Liberal media.This is not a case of media bias, although certainly some bias is apparent. It is the way independent media fight for attention. It is the media's 'raison d'etre', each vying to be the one who tells the story, the one to best analyse the situation and who can best anticipate and predict what will happen. They have many good reason to report this story, after all; "There is something happening, we need to tell our audience about all the possibilities. After all we are talking about who will govern this country of ours. This is important."

And once the fire is started, it is hard to stop. All potential contributors to the story are canvassed repeatedly, and they are quoted directly or as 'anonymous' sources. Like embers in a fire, each mention, each nuance of difference re-ignites a brush fire elsewhere and the story spreads, into actions and re-actions. Who knows when and where the current 'fire' will lead?

Our media act as amplifiers, increasing the volume and duration of whatever occurs. Small gaffes are repeated, explored, expanded and extended. Large gaffes become leadership questions, become leadership instability, become on going chaotic government.

Is it just a coincidence that in step with the evolution of the always-on news media and social media over the past decade, we have seen  greater volatility in electorate sentiment, and the rise of unstable and chaotic governments.

But how well does this serve our society? How well does this media maelstrom serve the people it represents?

I lament this unedifying picture of democracy in the 21st century.

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