Wednesday, October 31, 2012


A simple idea: the failure of our rhetoric to match our reality.

Journalists spend ages attempting to craft their stories to make them 'accurate'.

But what happens when you know that what you're meant to report on - be it the assurances contained in the government's 'Asia White Paper', or the solemn protestations of a politician pretending to assure us of 'x' or 'y' - is rubbish . . .

Malcolm Cook (in Lowy's blog) writes:

The contrast between how broadsheet and tabloid newspapers covered the launch of the Asian Century White Paper on Sunday is telling. The Australian gave it saturation coverage and rolled out its big columnists to provide analysis. The Sydney Morning Herald also provided front-page coverage and considered analysis.
The Daily Telegraph, Sydney's largest circulation paper, relegated coverage to a single 1/4-page story on p.10, next to an equally sized one about the family pet. The pet story got a colour photo.

Perhaps the reality is the Telly got it right. What does the paper actually mean in terms of money? The answer is perhaps best put by someone else from Lowy, Rory Medcalf writing in the Oz:

"FOR all its wise ideas, detailed data and positive intent, the government's Asia white paper has obvious weaknesses.

There are delicate matters of timing and money. To be sure, it is better late than never, but we could have done with this kind of blueprint four or five years ago, when there was a solid surplus to help pay for the national transformation that will be necessary."

So what are we talking about here? The answer is a problem with our political process. This quote sums up the new driver: 

CAPLAN: You know, if you’re a successful politician, you know you don’t succeed by figuring out what’s really going on in the world and trying to explain it to people. You need to find out what people what to hear and then tell it to them. That’s what you see in debates. That’s what you see voters, successful politicians instinctively are trying to read people, trying to read their faces, what does this person want me to say to him, and that’s how they win.

I thought of this reading Maxine McKew's book yesterday. The incisive point she makes (in the chapter that wasn't excerpted by the media) is that Labor has lost touch with the broader Australian population. Rushing after the white-bread voters of Penrith has meant the party abandons intelligent policy and the Asian votes of the inner city. 

And look at Richard Cohen's scathing piece - a criticism of the left, from the left - in the Washington Post about Obama. This is about the difference between what you buy and what you're served up.

This excerpt has been edited, the original's at:

History was draped over Obama like a cape. His bona fides in that sense were as unimpeachable as Bobby Kennedy’s. The crowd adored Obama, although not as much as I think he adored himself. Liberals were intolerant of anyone who had doubts. Obama was not a man, but a totem. A single critical column from me during the campaign triggered a fusillade of invective. The famous and esteemed told me off. I was the tool of right-wing haters, a dope of a dupe.
Pity Obama in this regard. It’s hard to summon us for a crusade that has already been fought and lost. We made war on poverty. Poverty hardly noticed.
But somewhere between the campaign and the White House itself, Obama got lost. It turned out he had no cause at all. In an unfairly mocked campaign speech, he promised to slow the rise of the oceans and begin to heal the planet. But when he took office, climate change was abandoned — too much trouble, too much opposition. His eloquence, it turned out, was reserved for campaigning.
Obama never espoused a cause bigger than his own political survival. This is the gravamen of the indictment from the left, particularly certain African Americans. They are right. Young black men fill the jails and the morgues, yet Obama says nothing. Bobby Kennedy showed his anger, his impatience, his stunned incredulity at the state of black America. Obama shows nothing . . . Robert F. Kennedy’s appeal is obvious: authenticity. He cared. He showed it. People saw that and cared about him in return. With Obama, the process is reversed. It’s hard to care about someone who seems not to care in return. I will vote for him for his good things, and I will vote for him to keep Republican vandals from sacking the government. But after watching Bobby Kennedy, I will vote for Obama with regret. I wish he was the man I once mistook him for.

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