Friday, June 15, 2012

The prawns is coming, break out the cat food ...

(Above: prawn, or tomato?)

Watching David Cameron do the odd squirm at the Leveson inquiry was captivating, mainly because he seemed to start at prawn-pink in the face, and then move into tomato mode at moments of stress.

Every so often the pond had the urge to adopt a South African accent, shout 'that prawn seems to be under stress' and get out a can of cat food, in honour of the alien flick District Nine.

Obviously, it implies something
that is a bottom feeder...
...that scavenges the leftovers.
You can't say they don't look
like that. They look like prawns.

Now this is obviously unfair, and certainly not the right approach to grave matters of state and bias and influence.

What was equally interesting was the way Cameron revealed himself to be just another politician, disingenuous and reliant on evasive rhetoric. It was a stripping down over endless hours of testimony that will stand against him for the future, along with some of his specific LOL denials.

But for details of all that you can head off to the rag which set the whole thing in motion, including Cameron defending the indefensible in David Cameron defends handing BSkyB decision to Jeremy Hunt, and the exceptionally handy memory lapses detailed in Leveson inquiry: Cameron struggles over 'Yes he Cam!' text from Brooks.

And the commentary has already drawn the obvious, if prawn-free conclusions, as in Leveson inquiry testimony lays bare David Cameron's media decisions, and Leveson: No smoking guns - but an awkward day for Cameron.

That latter pieces makes it obvious that in fact Cameron was much more in bed with News International and its former chief than could even be managed by the fawning Tony Blair.

The entire proceedings, set up by Cameron, has come back to wound Cameron, and he self-admittedly doesn't have the first clue regarding a regulatory regime which would have inhibited his incestuous Cotswolds lifestyle.

The same fellow-travelling happened with the allegedly leftist and liberal New York Times in relation to the Bush administration and the Iraq war, and neither the rag nor the war has ever recovered its gravitas, not least because it was its Hamptons airs and ways that led it into delusion and fellow-travelling.

This clustering of elites intent on sharing power is hardly surprising. The more there's talk of inner city elitists, the more likely it's being done by elitists who live in the inner city and work on a newspaper operating in the inner city.

Right at the moment the very same in-bed Murdoch house style is on display in Australia, with the fellow-travelling ways of a couple of key tabloids and The Australian.

Nothing in writing, no deals ostensibly done, just a relentlessly one-sided campaign, to the point where even Mark Scott could take an easy shot:

...firstly, let me deal with at least one of many misunderstandings about the ABC that exist at The Australian. It recently gave me and other leaders at the ABC several thousand words of free advice on the subject of groupthink. Now, free advice is often worth what you pay for it, but nevertheless I paid attention to The Australian, if only because I have always been happy to listen to experts speaking authoritatively in their field.

I must say it is a little difficult to know where to go with this, being lectured by The Australian about a certain narrowness in editorial perspective and a singularity in worldview. I was reminded of the wonderful American satirical singer and MIT maths professor, Tom Lehrer, who retired from recording in the early '70s. He remarked at the time that awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Henry Kissinger made political satire obsolete. (here)

Well it's an old joke, but a goodie, especially if you contemplate The Australian, groupthink group extraordinaire.

And Scott dared to name editor Chris Mitchell in a couple of humorous contexts:

At The Australian, they seem to think I should operate in the same way as their own Editor-in-Chief. I have no doubt that at The Australian, the senior editorial team run a tight news conference, with a clear editorial line emerging about the stories they will be pursuing, the people they are supporting, the agendas they are setting, the philosophy they are advancing. The paper executes accordingly, making Chris Mitchell, without doubt and for a long period of time, the most personally dominant editorial executive working in the country...

...The model The Australian seems to want the ABC to adopt would be akin to Chris Mitchell being forced to attend a daily news conference, convened by News Limited CEO – and the man finally editorially responsible for all product – Kim Williams, where Kim Williams instructs Chris and all other editors on the News Ltd line to be run across all papers and mastheads the following morning. Where your local team on the ground was not trusted to make editorial judgments and deliver the best product possible to their audiences. I am not sure how Chris would react to this.

But the rest of the world is ...

So how did The Australian respond, because you know in the world of groupthink, a charge of groupthink will automatically lead to a responding charge of groupthink, which will lead to a rebuttal charge of groupthink, which in turn will lead to a reproach of groupthink, which in turn will ... complete this sentence until a feel of light-headedness or nausea intervenes ...

And all the more ironic in that under Scott's reign, the ABC has clearly drifted to mild right in much of its coverage, while opening up its doors to the IPA, Peter "let loose the hounds" Reith, and dozens of other more extreme right-wing ratbags. If it ever was leftist - as opposed to tie and tails conservative - those days are long behind it ... is there anyone remotely like Allan Ashbolt left in the place?

Well there were a few nods to Scott's talk in the media section, but the comedy was left to the anonymous (which is to say unbylined) Cut and Paste section, which the rag imagines is satirical, but in fact is always revealing, in the way that inkblots can reveal a demon.

It came under the header Aunty's managing director gives himself a good pat on the back for delivering balance. (behind the paywall, googling of text required if you could be bothered).

First the Cut and Paster leads with a couple of quotes from Maurice Newman and Scott himself, reflecting on the ABC's culture. This sort of reflection is of course verboten at The Australian. Any talk of critiquing editorial perspectives and aiming for fairness and balance would see you out the door in an instant.

Then, in a way that could only strike anyone outside the culture wars as decidedly strange, The Australian dredges up a few diverse people who dared to talk about Bradley Manning - Pilger pilgering away on The Drum, Four Corners running a story, and Late Night Live talking to human rights and Assange lawyer Jennifer Robinson.

Yep, if various parts of the ABC take a look at various legal matters currently bubbling away - Bradley Manning, the plight of Assange and Wikileaks - somehow it's a form of groupthink.

Covering a story from a variety of angles with a variety of voices is groupthink ...

That's how far and how deep the lunacy at The Australian now goes.

The Cut and Paster's collation doesn't mean that the diverse coverage reveals the same opinions - it's a safe bet that the Four Corners story will be different in angle and approach to Pilger pilgering away, or the dreary Adams (who once again recently contended that the film industry started in the nineteen sixties with him, when he's not fit to lick the shoe of Ken Hall).

No, it's the mere fact that this story has bobbed up in several places that's enough to evoke group think.

Which presumably means three different stories on the ABC on various forums on the way the war in Afghanistan is going is also a clear example of groupthink.

The implication is so astonishingly stupid, so pathetically humorous, that the pond almost regrets mentioning it.

Perhaps a better solution would have been to shout "prawns" and get out the cat food.

The upside? Take it away clap happy Mark Scott:

I can only imagine how daunting it is for a university student, studying communications, to read the headlines and the speculation about what is about to happen to our major newspaper companies. Announcements about sweeping changes at both Fairfax and News Ltd are imminent. Hundreds of jobs to go; major reorganisations and I suspect centralisation in the management of editorial resources.

For years we looked at the United States newspaper industry and were thankful that here we had not seen the level of circulation decline, job losses, revenue collapse, and the sweep of closures. But it looks like it might now be our time.

And I admit that the speed and intensity of the decline in the newspaper sector here in recent months has surprised me. People who work inside and have full insight into the performance of the mastheads speak with a genuine shock and fear about what the numbers are now telling them about the precarious print business model.

Indeed. A righteous wrath is coming, and the print media will soon be out of print.

But they brought it on themselves, with their slowness and their obduracy, and in the case of the Murdoch rags, in the belief that a swing to the extreme right was the way to go, a form of Fox News tabloidism, rather than present a more balanced and centrist model.


(Below: oh dear, what if the prawns aren't pink? What if they were called prawns after the Johannesburg parktown prawn, a species of king cricket? Never mind, perhaps next week we can use groupthink as the metaphor of choice).

1 comment:

  1. Well, DP, if I slip you a nod or a ;( you will catch my drift. I mean, Cam, being of the Entitled Class, is probably more familiar with funny handshakes, or silly walks, or a toss of the mane.
    So, at this very minute, I am listening to the testimony of the dour Alex Salmond. Now, there's a chap without guile, indeed.
    Whereas Cam would abhor violence of any kind, a straight-shooter like Alex wouldn't shirk from planting a boot up the coit of anyone who tried to short-change the Strathclyde constabulary. Even a Murdoch.


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