Monday, May 30, 2011

Politics or journalism - let's blame someone

It is common to moan about the current state of politics. This isn't uniquely an Australian position though.

The question though is "who is at fault?" One popular view puts it down to an under-educated electorate.

DragOnista has a different take. Writing for The King's Tribune she thinks the solution is better political reporting, which in turn she thinks would come from teaching political history to journalists.

The idea fails on its own logic. There is no evidence that different/better political reporting would improve the thing commercial media needs, that being readers or viewers to sell to advertisers. What sells is what they already report - politics as horse race or politics as celebrity.

The first part is why in the two years after an election the media obsesses about leadership and possible challenges, and goes overboard on polls. The second part is why any column inches at all are devoted to J. Gillard's marital status.

My own view is that the lack of political engagement is a function of never having it so good. Let's face it, we've had 65 years without a major war. In Australia we've had twenty years of uninterrupted economic growth. Ultimately there is a degree of consensus around managing the economy as "guided capitalism" in the greater "liberal" tradition.

There is also a small amount of market game theory at work too. Just as I don't need every consumer to do endless price comparisons to get the outcome as if consumers do, so I only need enough citizens to monitor politics. Basically the free-riders know that the policy wonks will wake them up if they are needed.

Of course the problem with that is that it can be easy to wake them up the wrong way (great big tax) if we didn't wake them up properly to begin with (we are all going to die).

The message is for those who want to get greater political engagement, don't moan, don't complain about the journalists. Hone a message that explains why you need your fellow citizens engaged on something concrete.

Novae Meridianae Demetae Dexter delenda est

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