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One sentence that says it all

Summary:
I’ve been generally appalled by the performance of the media in the current election. This article by David Crowe in the Nine/Fairfax papers is the perfect illustration. Asking what is wrong with the current election, Crowe concludes The fact is that neither leader has inflicted a killer blow against the other. The idea that an election is a gladiatorial contest between “leaders”, staged for the entertainment of the Press Gallery has never been put more simply and clearly. The article is entirely in this spirit, referring to a “lack of intensity”, Shorten’s failure to “hammer nails in the coffin” and so on. The idea that the parties seeking government might have different policies, and that some might be better than others doesn’t even enter Crowe’s thinking.

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I’ve been generally appalled by the performance of the media in the current election. This article by David Crowe in the Nine/Fairfax papers is the perfect illustration. Asking what is wrong with the current election, Crowe concludes

The fact is that neither leader has inflicted a killer blow against the other.

The idea that an election is a gladiatorial contest between “leaders”, staged for the entertainment of the Press Gallery has never been put more simply and clearly.

The article is entirely in this spirit, referring to a “lack of intensity”, Shorten’s failure to “hammer nails in the coffin” and so on.

The idea that the parties seeking government might have different policies, and that some might be better than others doesn’t even enter Crowe’s thinking. Rather, policies are sources of “messages” which amplify perceived “strengths” or cover up weaknesses.

To be fair, this has been the approach of the parties themselves for most of the past thirty years, running presidential campaigns, while avoiding any policy commitment that might increase their size as a target. That’s what political journalists know how to talk about. But faced with actual policy differences, they are like literature critics trying to review a mathematics article.

What makes this even worse is that Fairfax/Nine is about as good as it gets. The ABC has been scared out of doing anything that might attract accusations of bias, and has stuck almost entirely to gladiatorial commentary.

The Murdoch papers are now just propaganda sheets, with no pretence of separating news and opinion – everything is written from the same rightwing or far-right slant[1]. That wouldn’t be so bad if the rest of the media did not treat them as part of the club, to be defended against the attacks of bloggers and Twitterati. The result is that the political centre of the media is far to the right of that of the Australian electorate.

I can’t see this changing any time soon. Fortunately, the impact of media on elections is declining. Labor can win without any media endorsements if necessary.

fn1. They still have a handful of commentators representing the centre-right Turnbull faction of the Liberal Party, while (irony on) the left is represented by Graham Richardson (irony off)

John Quiggin
He is an Australian economist, a Professor and an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow at the University of Queensland, and a former member of the Board of the Climate Change Authority of the Australian Government.

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