Mornin’, all. Based on our conversation yesterday morning; I’m reasonably sure that I’m overthinking my posts, and trying to work each one into a masterpiece of brilliant observation, trenchant analysis and tortured purple prose. Which is why I’m consistently late. So I’m going to start posting any old junk, and more of it! Today, I have a bunch of stuff that I had originally intended to put in one monster post; but it doesn’t really help anyone to put it all in one entry, when 3 will do just fine. Easier to search, skip the boring bits, and tag the shit out of. And you won’t get it all at 3am tomorrow.
So here’s some interesting stuff:
How to touch boobs
Most of the lifestyle blogs on SMH are absolute rubbish, genuine internet pollution where regular columnists hide behind nom de plumes to post inflammatory and reductive generalisations that would never see print in a reputable journal of record. However, Sam De Brito’s blog is often worth a read because he actually engages with a lot of more complex gender issues and puts his opinions on the line. This isn’t one of those posts; but it’s worth a look for anyone without boobs who’d like to – or does – touch them. Be a little less careless is the general theme, I think.
Changing the World, One Blog at a Time
My colleagues are probably pretty sick of me banging on about the opportunities that new media gives us in the union movement to organise beyond the traditional confines of workplace and industry. But it’s hard to find examples of where it’s genuinely worked. This (brief) post describes a workplace dispute that was resolved by grassroots community organising effected through blogs. In this case, though, it required the involvement of traditional media to reach the public proper – but in Australia, we’re unlikely to have that opportunity, with our limited media pool. It’s particularly important for a dispute that I’m running in Customs which is likely to hit the media within a month; so stay tuned for more on that over the next couple of months. I’m still deciding whether I should use this blog for work-related activities or not – and I’d appreciate your feelings on that before I do, if you’ve got any.
Italy’s Right To Life debate turns sick
Never make the mistake of assuming that America and Australia are conservative, and Europe is progressive. Silvio Berlusconi’s attempt to play hard-right Catholic politics with the destroyed life of this woman and her father make the Schiavo controversy seem positively civilised.
Peter Harcher is probably my favourite Australian politics journo; along with Jack Waterford of the Canberra Times. In this piece, he’s demonstrating one of the new Rudd government’s favourite media management techniques – the backstage pass. In the dying days of the Howard Government, journos like Paul Kelly and Michelle Grattan were increasingly able to penetrate the legendarily secrecy-obsessed Howard cabinet, and start producing blow-by-blow descriptions of cabinet meetings, cat-fights and unfolding events. It seems straightforward, but Australian politics was one of the first in the world to develop the currently fashionable spin fixation; with the formation of the National Media Liason Service (the aNiMaLS) back in 1983. After Keating’s defeat in ’96, the aNiMaLS were quickly disbanded and replaced in short order with the Government Members Secretariat (the GMS). These organisations, part public service, part partisan, generally served to keep the media at a satisfactory distance from the workings of government for better than two decades. They were both cause and symptom of the decline of the Australian investigative journalism culture of the 60’s and 70’s, which produced once-great individuals like Mike Carlton, Ray Martin, and Laurie Oakes. Anyway, the narratives of power coming out of the Oz and the Fairfax papers were exciting; they were engaging and well related to by the A’s and B’s who read broadsheet newspapers. For the first time in a long time, people got a good look at the individuals populating the government, and it had a huge impact on the government’s standing. Howard’s reputation was tarnished, as were Costello, Downer and Minchin; while rising stars like Turnbull, Hockey, Pyne and Tony Abbott found themselves surprisingly well received.
While Howard tended to view the leaks as a force for uncontrollable chaos, they kept on happening. His measures against them did as much damage to his image as anything else revealed through these stories. He tended to look paranoid and media-obsessed – something Kevin Rudd, a similar control freak, has clearly decided to avoid at all costs. The Rudd government has taken a select group of journalists into its confidence, and seems to be constantly feeding them exactly these kind of leak stories – and since the economic crisis, that’s only increased. Interestingly, that’s pretty much what the International Crisis Group recommends during a situation like this: government engagement with the bad news, instead of denial or unrealistic optimism; and media exposure to the internal workings of government. Great for national confidence, apparently. (Couldn’t find the link, though. I’ll work on that.)
Stay tuned, more junk through the day!