How ‘We the People’ Lost Control of Our Own Country

March-In-March-State-LibraryForget media censorship. In Australia, there is a gravely concerning relationship between media ownership and public opinion censorship. What do I mean by that? I mean that while members of the public may have the right to choose what media to watch, generally, they’ll watch the most popular one or two. So freedom for other media entities to exist is excellent (and better than many less lucky countries), but it doesn’t change the fact that the largest of them will be the ones whose message is heard by that same majority. The more circulation (eyes and ears) a particular media entity controls , the more control they have over the TOTAL public perception and opinion. They control what is important, and what is not. March-in-March-Melbourne-2014-32Think about it like this. You’re an employee at a company and your boss sets a meeting agenda. She or he has the power to control exactly what to talk about during that half hour meeting. Even if you disagree with what’s most important, unless you can directly convince your boss otherwise, that agenda stays the same – how they want it. Which means that all the other colleagues at that meeting, believe that whatever is on that agenda, is what is most important. As a protestor in the “March in March” in Melbourne, my sense of deflation after the event at the lack of media coverage quickly turned to curiosity. I asked myself…”How could the Australian media ignore such a massive turnout? I was THERE! I saw it. My parents and my partners parents were there. THEY saw it. Sure there were some fringe hippies, but the majority of attendees seemed like completely average Aussie’s to me. There were tens and tens of thousands there. Why the post-protest radio silence?”. Now, I think some of it had to do with the lack of organisation from the protest founders – they didn’t exactly make it easy for the media to report. Secondly it was probably difficult for the media to put the protest into a neat box, when those who turned out were protesting everything from immigration policy to climate change to a general vote of no confidence in government. But, something tells me that’s not the whole story… Research has shown that media ownership is perhaps the most important impact on modern public thought and opinion. So then, lets dive into the concentration of media circulation in Australia. This is just an example using Newscorp. I’ve taken from a number of different sources to find their ownership across a variety of media to estimate what their potential TOTAL audience could be. Nine, 7 and APN Radio Stations, while they may stack up in numbers (eyes and ears), would not have the same number of people who see their news segments as Newscorp’s media entities combined.

Owner TV PayTV Newspaper Commercial Radio Internet Total Potential Eyes & Ears
AU Preference 90% 30% 10% 62.50% 40%
20,412,000.00 6,804,000.00 2,268,000.00 14,175,000.00 9,072,000.00 22680000
Newscorp 0% 63% 57% 0% 25% 7,847,280

This means Newscorp has the power to control what could be upward of 25-30% of those peoples voting preferences (with just over 14 million Australians voting at the 2013 Federal elections. Based on the two party preferred voting results, the “swing” between the parties was approximately 412,000 people. That’s just 5% of Newscorp’s total potential audience! Still think it’s not possible for a media entity to be able to help swing an election? March in March 2014What I find concerning is that the March in March, unlike other protests about specific areas of concern, was basically a march against a particular leader and a particular government, not just one particular policy decision. There has been nothing else like it in Australian history. Something to be concerned about? I’d say so! 112 thousands Australians got off their lazy asses on a Sunday, instead of signing a Getup or Change.org petition. If that’s how many people were willing to get out of bed for this, how many more were thinking it. And yet there was barely a wink of coverage on it in the media. How can the complete degradation of trust in the government from its citizens NOT constitute a media story? Or here’s another question, is a democracy really a democracy when protests don’t end in any political interface or conversation? (see outcome below)

Issue Protesters Year Outcome
March in March (Anti AU Govt) 112,000 2014 None
Climate Change Rally 60,000 2013 None
Occupy Melbourne 2,500 2011 None
Marriage Equality 5,000 2010 None
Industrial Relations (Howard) 250,000 2005 None
Iraq War 200,000 2003 None
Industrial Relations (Kennett) 150,000 1992 None

There is a misconception that politics is like a football game, the party who wins, even if its by just a few %, should mean that the other half of the country have to take whatever comes. The difference between a political win and a win at footy, is that the footy team only have themselves and their team (who won), to answer to – whereas in an election, the winning team must still look out for the interests of the losing team with the same amount of care as those who voted for them! it seems Australian politicians have lost sight of that. 2014-06-08_19-45-55 There is really further investigation that needs to be done to come to a strong hypothesis around this area but I’d be very interested in investigating the following: 1. Look at the number of people who attended a protest in Australia, and then cross reference that against the number of news articles for the protest, by company type and compare this also to the personal views of its chief controllers. 2. Look at total number of audience by media type, then cross reference against % of Liberal positive articles and then look at election outcomes (across both state and federal elections in the past) 3. The relationship between media coverage and interest in a protest, and the strength of political change brought about as a result of the protest (both in Australia and overseas).

So…how did we the people lose control of our own country? By letting others dictate what is important to our lives and what is not.  Feels like it’s time we as citizens question our own complacency and start to think about how we could regain our control.

In the mean time, my mother took photographs of a variety of rather witty signs from the March in March (whether you’re pro-Libs or not, they’re still amusing). I’d hazard a guess that this is the largest collection of March in March sign photography in Australia!

 

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5 thoughts on “How ‘We the People’ Lost Control of Our Own Country

  1. You’ve raised some good points, and almost put your finger on the central issue – that of ‘The Social Contract’. This government is determined to both ignore and undermine this fundamental structure of liberal democracies in favor of oligarchies and plutocracies. This push is ideologically driven and masks itself as a savior of ‘freedom and individual rights’ struggling against a profligate Left which would ‘centralize and socialize’ government in the manner of command economies such as the former Soviet Union under Stalin and China under Mao. This ideology is of course utter bullshit and merely a thinly disguised attempt to impose a Neo Fascism using the vehicle of ‘economic reform.’
    This raises the question of how do we, the Australian people regain a commitment to the the social contract – to the underlying principle of ‘a fair go’ for all?
    There are several ways but primarily through a united push such as the marches which in the main have been apolitical (not organized by any political party but have risen through vox populi) and needs be accompanied by a rejection of ‘supply side’ economics and its inherent premise of a permanent pool of between 5-6% of the workforce unemployed and its overreaching ideal that society should serve the economy (and this includes the environment).

    At present, neither of the left leaning parties (ALP, the Greens) are willing to challenge the dominant paradigm of ‘market forces’ economic theory although the Greens are a little more receptive than the ALP which continues to offer a version of ‘Neo-liberal lite’ as a solution. As long as both parties continue to either avoid or ignore the implementation of other economic theories such as Neo-Keynesian, Neo-Chartalist / Modern Monetary Theory, the struggle to take back the social contract fore ‘we the people’ will continue to be an uphill struggle.

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  2. A few things come to mind; were we ever in real control of our own country? As an Australian, I would think that we aussies have had democracy, but are a bunch that let our own government and corporate interest to dictate us in our media and policy of both state and federal levels. May be our literacy level is not high enough, may be true blue aussies are mostly made of labour and liberal voters. May be people who got off their lazy asses to protest are not the ageing majority of voters who are the conservatives. Conservatives who don’t like refugees, who find the word green too new to consider, and who would think the Tony Abbott’s government has been doing a fine job with cutting fundings to social benefit and stopping boat people.

    Michelle I am sorry that the investigation you asked for is beyond my patient and interest as I find the figures challenging to obtain and the instructions are not entirely agreeable. Also, with my limited understanding of society, I don’t find that method of investigation is appropriate in order to change who is really in change. Because I believe that is a matter of changing the fundamentalsss in a young-and-free system (like it is in the national anthem) Believe me when I say that it feels sorry to attend a university without completing the only homework I am asked of completing. On the other hand, I am aware that assumption on how Australians voters are divided between conservatives and idealistic individuals isn’t a good enough comment under your post. To enrich this comment, I am going to think outside the square on how to “regain our control”

    This very “control” does not belong to Australians who share the same agenda as those who took it to the streets in different cities. The other Australians of different agendas either don’t care or appreciate how the elected government and corporate media bringing to them promising results and formulated coverage. As if they are movie goers who enjoy the fine line between good vs evil and happy ending in that are inevitably built into countless hollywood productions over the years due to INVESTORS’s interest. Interest that dictate against the art of storytelling and creativity. What you really hope to achieve with your post is Australians with agenda behind March In March to have MORE control.

    I believe there are two components to it, and one impossible step to take; to increase the numbers of those Australians that share such agenda as the protesters, and to increase the influence of their activism as well as voting behavior. The impossible step is to change the way how media serves the public interests.

    There are certain factors in the short Australian history where conservatives changed how they think or how they see them-selves; The becoming of Anzac Legends around WWI, the aftermath of the Vietnam War, the loss of Christians value, divorce rate that lower the birth rate, medals won by Cathy Freeman in the Olympic games and the rise of multi-culturalism after the abolish of White Australian Policy in the 1970s. The magnitudes of these factors in modern history cannot be changed by policy or media coverage. From where I see the nation I live in, the shift of control would only change if a factor happened, a factor of such important occurs and it affects Australians in the same way across demographics among voters, like any of those factors in history, over a period of time or a single event.

    On the matter of media coverage not serving the Australian people’s interest as it should. If there is a class action which general public can employ against corporate medias, like how account holders of the 4 big banks can use against the banks over illegal excessive fees. Or audiences simply stop watching the major channels for alternative media. There is no realistic and practical solutions insight other than those two. Unless if somehow, some people or one can change the way the general public think of media. Back in 2011 Facebook was used as a tool by rioters to bring change to their own Egypt, questionable change, destructive change, and blood shedding change. Of course one can hope that media coverage can be better regulated by government of state or federal level, but that requires a government that truly represents its people first. Such government has yet to be made into existence by mortals under all of heaven in both past and present.

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  3. Hey Kelvin – my notes in response:
    1. I think your first para totally misses what I was trying to say. While small in comparison to all of Australia I was actually saying that voters from both sides were at this march and that it was serious enough for Aussies to care about.

    2. I don’t know what you mean by “agreeable instructions” – I don’t expect readers to go and investigate on my behalf, that work would take time and money to actually confirm or deny a hypothesis.

    3. The very FACT that there was a protest of this type (given it was truly the first of its kind and very large) shows that in fact, a growing number of people are unhappy and that the step is not so impossible – so the opposite of what you’re saying is what we are actually seeing occur.

    4. Policies don’t change people, people change policy!! So the idea that these policies through history changed , again, in my opinion is the wrong way around. There was change that occurred amongst the masses slowly coming to see certain behaviours or rules and unacceptable. And as that happened, laws were able to be passed to cater for the public who were shouting for it. There are many examples of where policy before time of public acceptance is introduced and no matter what it is, if it is too large a change for the public to handle, it simply won’t be able to be implemented. Example is North Africa with women’s rights. If anyone tried to bring in gay marriage 100 years ago, even if it were passed in policy, it would not have been accepted by the masses.

    5. Re: questionable change in Egypt – I recommend you read: Freedom in the land of the Pharaohs which talks about the lead up to that time and the actions of the govt in place prior. Yes sure it didn’t have the desired outcome the Egyptian people were hoping for, but to say that it was questionable or destructive change for them, is to completely ignore the completely destructive govt that has existed in Egypt since the early parts of last century.

    So anyway, I’m not sure I really understand/follow/agree with most of what you wrote but its great that you’re thinking about things!! 😀

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