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Monday 29 January 2018

When History becomes - his story

It has oft been said that "history is written by the victors", that the truth lies somewhere beneath the distortions inflicted on it by one-eyed victors.

No doubt there are many cases that support this view. With widespread "Fake News" and "alternate facts" distortions of 'truth' are all too real. This was brought home to me when I viewed the most recent, excellent, short video from the Prager U. The video titled "The inconvenient truth about the Republican Party" highlights some, now most "inconvenient" and one could genuinely say 'alternate' facts, about the role of the Republican party in American history;

The inconvenient truth that the Republican party was responsible for freeing the slaves, and that it was the Republican party that has been the driving force in achieving civil rights for African Americans as well as equal rights for women. Now perhaps I am living in a cocoon, but had I been asked, prior to seeing this video, about the relative roles of the two parties in achieving civil rights for 'African Americans' and for womens' suffrage, I would have given more credit to the Democrats than the Republicans. So this video was indeed an eyeopener. Have a look at it for yourself.

Unfortunately this is not the first time my 'recollections' were at odds with reality.

The role of the democratic party in the defeat of the Americans and South Vietnamese in the Vietnam war (see The truth about the Vietnam War), and also its role in providing the 'template' for the laws of the Nazi regime (What the Nazis learned from American Progressives), are further examples of such distortions that I have learned relatively recently.

Why is this so? It is understandably very much in the interest of the Democratic party to spread beneficial re-interpretations of their subversive history. However where are the checks and balances? Where are our academics and media to correct such 're-interpretations'?

Alas, nowhere! Indeed by their silence they are complicit. The fabric of truth is being distorted by our 'last bastions' willingly spreading falsehoods to the unwary.

Our partisan media goes 'all in' on any any issue that supports its cause but totally ignores any fact that does not support it. It drums up emotions and fosters conflict.

More than ever our society needs trustworthy, incorruptible truthsayers. We need to have a new set of journalists to shoulder the burden. The current mob are not worthy.

Monday 8 January 2018

Blame the partisan Media

Chris Kenny's first foray into the new year "Gesture politics blocks the nation’s path to progress" is an insightful summary of the failures of our political class over the past decade.

With simply clarity he shines a torch on some policies that even a schoolchild would find laughable.

Here are a few; -

"In a nation as blessed as ours it is incongruous that our political/media class has an over-abundance of ambition when it comes to futile gestures that pretend to save the planet yet lacks sufficient will to control what is within its grasp by trimming spending to sustainable levels or redressing the social and economic disadvantage that still bedevils our indigenous people?"
and ,
"We have safe injecting rooms for heroin addicts in which it is illegal to smoke a cigarette. We defend the rights of drug addicts on methadone to drive their cars while we intervene to prevent pensioners from obtaining Nurofen Plus from their chemist without a prescription from their doctor. And we whinge about the cost of Medicare."
or , indeed; -
"We impose costly renewable energy subsidies on electricity users and then offer additional welfare to families who can’t afford their power bills. We take policy decisions aimed at ensuring coal generation and other “dirty” industries are no longer financially viable, then we lament the loss of manufacturing jobs. We look to subsidise new industries to reboot the towns and regions made redundant. And we buy diesel generators to make up the energy shortfall."
and, finally;

"We build up a successful immigrant culture based on orderly migration, yet those who argue most strongly for multiculturalism push for an open-slather approach to border control that would undermine all that has been achieved. We build an economy partly based on our cheap energy advantage but decide to turn ourselves into a high-cost energy nation that exports its cheap energy and its carbon emissions overseas. Carbon emissions still rise globally, but we pat ourselves on the back."

He shoots the blame on so called "Gesture Politics" where the objective is to show you are part of some accepted virtuous group rather than good policy outcomes.
"It doesn’t matter whether a (policy) works or not, it has done its job by providing a vehicle for its supporters to demonstrate their virtue. A gesture made is a policy goal achieved."
And surely there is too much evidence to ignore this conclusion. Our political leaders are indeed guilty as hell. I won't bother recounting the policies that serve no benefit but send a signal of virtuosity.

Yet that is not the whole story. Surely politicians have always tended to prefer policies that showed them in a good light. They have always pandered to popular opinion, casting many a dollar in directions that seemed only to benefit them in the short term. This is not a new phenomenon.

What is different today than was the case say 20-30 years ago, when we seemed to have longer term commitments and better outcomes?

What has changed?

What has changed? No doubt the short media cycle the rise of social media the clamor of dissenting voices on any policy is a factor. But there is more to it than that. In the past, if a politician strayed too far from, at the very least, 'justifiable' policies, they were held to account by an inquisitive media or indeed academia. The system included checks and balances. If some outlandish commitment was made in the interests of virtuosity or vote grabbing, both the media and some 'experts' would combine to highlight its consequences and let the audiences pass judgement. Moreover the  very possibility of such an embarrassing analysis imposed some self control on the pollies.

It seems to me that is no longer the case. Our media have become too partisan and as a result have lost their impact. Journalists no longer report objectively on "facts" but intersperse reporting with commentary. They have become players instead of observers and analysts.
Can you even imagine an ABC reporter highlighting the futility of Climate Change policies as Chris has done?

As a result audiences too have become polarized. Those who have the same political disposition will listen and even "believe", but others will switch off.  The consequence is that where a journalist highlights a problem with a policy, even a very real problem, many are not listening. The electorate has formed islands that follow the media that pander to their view of the world. This feeds on itself as the media in turn pander to their audience.

The Fourth Estate has let us down

While Chris may not have wanted to rat on his own profession, I believe they are very much part of the problem. When the media provided a generally 'objective' reporting and unbiased analysis they were trusted by the electorate as a whole. Once they became partisan they lost that trust and the power to 'weed out' bad policy outcomes. So we all suffer the consequences; a broken political system, a partisan media, islands of polarized opinion, a country made ungovernable.

Unfortunately it is hard to get this genie back in the bottle.

Friday 5 January 2018

Fickle people

We humans are a tribal species. Wanting to share our lives with others of our ilk, we like to band together, all-for-one and one-for-all. No doubt evolution has taught us that such an instinct conferred an advantage over the loners. But this tendency certainly thwarts rational analysis in the modern world.

A recent video by Ami Horowitz highlights just this point. Bernie Sanders supporters are given some of the elements of the recently passed US Tax reforms but they are told these are Bernie Sanders' alternative plan. A real gotcha! Well worth he few minutes.

But lets not get too cocky, I am sure republicans too behave this way. We tend to forgive the trespasses of those in our team while we call out those who trespass against us.

So this type "changing hats" exercise is often quite worthwhile.

Belated New Year's greetings!

A belated "Happy New Year" to all readers! I have been away from my desk, for my annual 'switch-off'. That short interlude each year of concentrated RnR.

I think I noted this last year,  but it still remains true, switching off electronic media for a while is quite therapeutic. Our electronic media compete for our attention with an incessant and increasingly strident stream of exclamations. Turning from one to another till we are spinning like a top. No wonder we need a wind down, at least once a year.

This year I was assisted in my 'unwinding' by an electronic storm in late December that managed to upset the delicate balance in my 'information' network. As a result my cable TV decided to select which stations I could watch. All free-to-air were gone and some of the cable TV stations too. And more importantly so was broadband. Mmm.

Living without broadband even for a day is a challenge but when I confronted my supplier I was told

"The first available service is on the 15th January, Merry Christmas!  Would you like fries with that?"

But I feel my blood rising so I shall ''switch".

Yes, it was nice to relax away from the daily babble. My wife and I only venture a couple of days
up the coast, but we have been and still are in the January lull.

Unfortunately the world around us continues at its merry pace, freezing weather in the US, an air plane disaster her, an uprising there. The usual stuff.

If only the world could take a break every once in a while.

Alas, welcome to 2018.