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26 responses to “It’s now”

  1. Guy

    Thanks Anna – I think there are lots of interesting issues floating around this area. I am also still a bit shocked that we don’t hear more in the mainstream media about McLuhan given the challenges and opportunities the online world presents today. McLuhan is a goldmine but I guess you need to rate your readers intelligence a little higher than single-cell organisms to talk about him in the modern context.

    I think you’re right that political parties, particularly in Australia, still aren’t quite getting it. The online offerings of Australia’s main political parties are mediocre at best. There is little attempt at continuity as you suggest between the “offline message” and the “online message”. The really sad thing is that there is scope to offer so much more and to engage people so much more.

  2. Moz has no blog

    If I take the time to learn about one or two issues, I want to know that the party will use similar values and reasoning to make decisions in (other) areas

    This is what is so profoundly alienating about the coalition and labour – the process they use to make decisions is horrifying where it’s not hidden. Values don’t come into either of them, unless you consider the utterly mercenary value of “anything that gets a vote”.

    The flip side is that The Greens not only have policy and decision making processes, they’re out in the open and available in mind-numbing detail on just about anything (I assume, I have been thoroughly numbed a couple of times).

    It’s also illuminating to communicate with parliamentarians. I have received an assortment of form letters from politicians over the years, most clearly written to deny communication (“I appreciate your concern but …” from Martin Ferguson, my local MP, on Hazelwood). But when I wrote to Louisa Wall and Kevin Hague in NZ (I’m a dual citizen) on the gay marriage I got an anodyne “thank you for your support” from some labour functionary and a direct reply from Kevin (or someone else willing to put a bit of time into a personalised response in his name).

    The Greens have a good handle, IMO, on what it takes to give the illusion that anyone can influence the party. It’s not as easy as it sounds (actual work required!) but it does seem to work. I know that irritates party machine people (“whaddaya mean you can’t guarantee preferences in every single party branch?”) and they get some awesomely fruity stuff out of it sometimes, but to me that is the point – the fruit-loopy types are obvious and visible in The Greens.

    With the other parties all too often policy is set by people with awesome skills in politics and no knowledge of the policy area at all. So we get Tony “women are useless, except my wife and daughters” Abbott deciding whether RU486 should be allowed into the country. WTF?

  3. Chris

    The other thing that parties seem to forget about the Internet is that when they exaggerate, mislead or plain lie it is much easier for the average person to fact check and spread what they find. So messages that parties may have previously been able to get away with for a few days and perhaps were never effectively countered because the stories got too old can now can get detailed within minutes/hours

  4. desipis

    The internet might make the past readily accessible, but it’ll only be that same small minority who both to look for the details and verify their authenticity. Who exactly do you think follows a politician on twitter? Everyone else will just accept what is published through ‘trusted’ channels (i.e. mainstream media).

  5. Mercurius

    Actually Chris @3, to me it looks more like the opposite phenomenon is in effect. I’m surprised at how impervious the talking-point-du-jour or narrative-of-the-hour actually is to facts and reason. Even more mystifying when, as you and Anna pointed out, those facts are indeed hyperlinked to the present discussion…

    For example:

    - Labor is in ‘disarry’ and ‘turmoil’ and Julia Gillard is GORN and the government is ‘illegitimite’ all because she “knifed” a first-term leader — when the Libs have “knifed” two of their own sitting first-term leaders (Baillieu was pushed onto his knife) and a number of senior Lib state Ministers have fallen in disgrace, all in the last fortnight.
    - The Carbon Tax has ‘wrecked the economy’ when the sharemarket is up 25% since it was introduced, Bluescope steel has skyrocketed since 2011, the economy is growing and unemployment and inflation are steady.
    - We all know the rot in NSW with Obeid and McDonald and NSW Labor, but Sinodinos, a senior Lib, slithers out of the fact that he had undeclared interests in Obeid-managed concerns.
    - All of ‘tainted vote’ Thomson’s alleged offenses occurred before he was a sitting Labor MP, whereas all of Slipper’s alleged misdemeanours were when we was a sitting LNP member…so how does that get to be Labor’s problem…and will any journalist ever investigate Ashby and Brough?

    I think it’s fascinating that narratives and talking points actually seem to repel facts for a remarkable long time and prove remarkably durable even when based only on perception.

    The maxim about a lie getting half way round the world while the truth is still getting its boots on seems more apt to me…

    And Anna, thanks for reminding me about the Marshall McLuhan scene in Annie Hall at the cinema queue. Boy, if life were only like this.

  6. Martin B

    Sure, there’s a difference but it has to be one of degree and not of kind. It it is completely unacceptable to happen to a PM then it must be at least outrageous at a state level and conversely if it is routine business at state level then it must be no worse than somewhat unusual at federal level.

    Unless of course there’s a double standard at play, based on stereotyped understanding of Labor as the party of ruthless factional power plays (and hence the Libs as well, not that).

  7. Chris

    It makes voters less willing to give Labor the benefit of the doubt about the good things that they’ve done in the last term.

    Not only that but now when new policy gets announced people end up analysing why they are announcing it (how is it going to affect the polls) rather than what the policy actually is.

    Sure, there’s a difference but it has to be one of degree and not of kind.

    Rudd getting ditched was also a first, precedent setting. I wonder if Ballieu would have been pushed out if Rudd hasn’t been. But it’s now clear that no premier or PM can feel safe from internal challenges in their first term. And I think that’s actually a really bad development (well ok I wouldn’t be particularly upset it Abbott gets knocked off by Turnbull early on)

    desipis – it’s changing. I’m seeing a lot more political stuff get either retweeted into my twitter timeline or into my Facebook feed.

  8. Mercurius

    Anna, I think we may be in furious agreement: your point about the narrative of Labor’s desire to win clouding out recognition of their legislative reforms is a re-statement of the proposition I put — namely that narratives seem surprisingly impervious to facts — even facts that are only a hyperlink away.

    Nor does it require ‘equating’ the PM and a state Premier to suggest that if changing leaders within a first term indicates a party or government in disarry, why does that maxim seemingly only apply at the Federal, and not the state or local level? Councils who lose a newly-elected Mayor in short order don’t exactly indicate a tidy and well-run municipality, do they? This isn’t an exercise in tu quoque on my part: I’m genuinely puzzled by the fact that, for example, an influx of boat people damns Labor’s reputation on ‘border protection’ for all time, yet a lazy Coalition eye on the AWB putting hundreds of millions of dollars into Saddam Hussein’s pockets seems to have damaged their national security credentials not a jot…

    Hyperlinks aren’t changing those perceptions and the narratives seem to be quite entrenched in spite of facts that are always already present.

    As for ‘wanting to win’, well yes, I’ll grant you that’s an insufficient condition for deserving government, but it is a necessary one. I’ve still no idea what the Coalition want to do other than occupy the government benches, and no matter how far I follow the hyperlinks, I still can’t find a narrative for their program for Australia…

  9. Martin B

    I can assure you I have zero interest in discussing the leadership question here, but I am interested in the way the conventional understandings have been created. Provisionally, I tend to take Merc’s position. I think that the ‘echo chamber’ effect of the Internet seems to be trumping the ‘diverse spectrum’ at least at this point in time.

  10. akn

    Anna, I think that the absence of a meaningful narrative is rooted in the collapse of the modernity. I’m not here to celebrate that but note it; the modernising project as conceived within the western liberal tradition has ended with a whimper; it hasn’t brought universal freedom or happiness, the industrial cornucopia of capitalism is spiritually exhausted for anyone not totally subordinate to its hegemonic logic. This is why political parties of the previous epoch are increasingly irrelevant; the material conditions and social relations of the previous industrialising/modernising epoch have changed irrevocably; the political parties of that age attempt more and more with less and less success to shape or create a meaningful political reality but they are narratively incompetent because they have really no idea whatsoever what the fuck is going on.

  11. desipis

    Anna@6, I wasn’t trying to suggest that people don’t discuss politics online. I guess what I was getting at is that I don’t see the Internet as particularly enhancing the quality of political discussions of the masses. I’m sure there are pockets of people that use other social media in the same way LP is used, but I don’t see that happening in a widespread manner. A lot of what I see is simple ‘sound-bite’ gotchas (like the Andrew Leigh tweets), or self-centred rant about how a politician is somehow responsible for some unpleasant experience.

    That’s not to say that the Internet hasn’t empowered a lot of motivated people to be better informed, I’m just not convinced that these people are having a significant impact on the political views of the broader population.

  12. wmmb

    The internet is one thing, and then there are those complete ignoramuses, among them me, who don’t have a working television. One consequence, perhaps among many, is that we do not give a stuff about what is happening to Channel 10, whatever. As for the newspapers, the SMH, seems to have reduced brain with its format , and that might be attributed to the “internet’ as well. It is a hard job running a political party these days. You have to make all the decisions, because there is nobody else around.

  13. Paul Norton

    Anna @13

    But I think the other side of the problem is that it’s more obvious to voters that a lot of Labor’s recent decisions are actually purely motivated by the need to win short term. Their real narrative is showing, so to speak.

    Agree. Could I suggest another dysfunctional element of Gillard’s communication style, which is her habit of announcing policy decisions or stances (even those that aren’t purely motivated by the need to win short term) with demagogic rhetoric motivated by considerations of short term advantage, yet which turns out to be ill-considered and short-sighted, and completely fouls up the terms of subsequent public debate to the detriment of the government and the policy (cue “There will be no carbon…”, and perhaps the 457 issue is another case).

  14. Katz

    There is no basis for asserting that technology is “completely” changing how we think. It is true that technology is radically changing how we communicate.

    I think it can be argued that the Internet gives succour to spinmeisters within political parties who use instant feedback on issues to promote churning and spin. Thus the Internet promotes a certain kind of careerism. This effect is very new. It is yet to be proven whether this effect will be permanent.

    One outcome may well be that grown ups will take control of communications, sending this generation of spin doctors to the naughty corner.

  15. Ronson Dalby

    Anna @ 13,

    “Perhaps it’s because people expect better from Labor, and so it damages them more when they appear to / actually discard their values.”

    And no better example of that for me is Julia Gillard and her stance on marriage equality.

    In 2007 when I was hoarse with cheering when the Rudd/ALP government was elected, I was sure that one day we would see JG as PM. If I remember rightly people even knocked up ‘Julia for PM’ graphics for future use.

    Who then, or even in 2010 when JG became PM (not the way I had hoped she would) would have guessed that she would be so firmly in the camp of conservatives on the marriage equality issue?

    I find it hard to believe she didn’t discard left-wing values for the sake of what, a few ACL votes?

    And then there’s refugees and so on …

    Who really knows what the PM and hence the ALP stand for now? As an ex-member of the LP (left in ’82), I look back to that time and see a party that represented what we all thought the ALP did until the last few years. How times have changed with Malcolm Fraser becoming a champion on left issues.

  16. Nick

    Katz @ 18: “There is no basis for asserting that technology is “completely” changing how we think. It is true that technology is radically changing how we communicate.”

    We think when we communicate, and our ability to respond to information affects how we receive and process information. Speed of response allows more room for thoughtlessness. Witness the amount of people who have lost their jobs, or politicians who have had to apologise for quick-fire twittering.

    The psych tests Brian linked to on the Pope Francis thread were interesting. I quickly discovered I have ‘a strong bias for hetero over same-sex relationships’, and ‘a strong bias for the abled over the disabled’, based on the speed I could respond to information presented to me on the screen…

    Speed of communication (in media forms which tend to privilege response to information over information itself) would appear to reinforce past biases. This may go some way to explaining Merc @ 5.

  17. Katz

    I still talk faster than I can tweet.

    Why should my tweets be more thoughtless than my conversation?

    The major difference between a tweet and an off the cuff comment is that a tweet leaves a permanent record.

    The distinguishing features of the Internet are permanence and searchability.

  18. Katz

    “OMG Twitter” WTF?

    I’m willing to be persuaded by persuasive evidence.

    Where is it?

  19. Fran Barlow

    Paul Norton:

    which is her habit of announcing policy decisions or stances (even those that aren’t purely motivated by the need to win short term) with demagogic rhetoric motivated by considerations of short term advantage, yet which turns out to be ill-considered and short-sighted, and completely fouls up the terms of subsequent public debate to the detriment of the government and the policy (cue “There will be no carbon…”,

    Very much so, and the vehemence with which they declared in favour of achieving a surplus was another. The reality is that the ALP have been far more “on message” than the coalition and yet this very thing has simply amplified their errors whereas with the coalition there has always been ambivalence. Yet who is doing better?

    We could toss in “East Timor Solution” and Gillard’s bizarre pronouncements on Assange’s legal vicissitudes, and wrt to the carbon pricing issue, her acceptance of the terminology of “carbon taxing” in February of 2011.

    Like her predecessor, she lacks tactical acumen — though one suspects this simply reflects the fact that she has no place she can go to work through her ideas in a coherent way* or navigate out of places where she has strayed in error.

    * One suspects that unlike people who enter and remain in politics with a clear vision of what a better world might look like and the vehicles through which it might be realised, she is always going to be doing ad hoc politics.

  20. Nick

    Katz: “I still talk faster than I can tweet.

    Why should my tweets be more thoughtless than my conversation?”

    Because often you can’t talk to others in *instant response to receiving information*.

    But you can always tweet to them. If you like, even before you’ve finished receiving the information – and to every person you know, and many others you don’t.

    We often do things simply because we can. Traditionally, people would put a lot more thought into what they might say publically. After all, it’s not something most people, even many politicians, did very often – but people *think differently* now.

    “The distinguishing features of the Internet are permanence and searchability.”

    Hmm, to a point. Facebook isn’t easily searchable (not at all from outside Facebook), and it isn’t permanent. Disable your account, and every communication you made instantly vanishes. I’m not sure if Twitter works the same way, but apart from temporary caching, I’d be surprised if it didn’t.

  21. Nick

    Anna: “The move from speech to writing changed how we think, making abstract categories possible, for instance (see Walter Ong).”

    Or even just McLuhan. We’ve moved from the auditory back to the visual. Not for the first time.