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SydWalker.Info is a personal website. I live in tropical Australia near Cairns. I oppose war, plutocracy, injustice, sectarian supremacism and apartheid. I support urgent action to achieve genuine sustainability and a fair and prosperous society for all. I rely upon - and support - free speech as defined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (see below).

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Come in No 12! Taking a Megaphone to Australia’s Finkelstein debate
March 12th, 2012 by Syd Walker

My submission last year to the Australian Independent Media Inquiry conducted by Ray Finkelstein made 40 points in total.

Perhaps I should have made use of bold text to highlight key phrases in my twelfth point (emphasis added):

12. The public myth is of a fiercely competitive media environment, in which journalists vie to rush out the truth to the public. This process doubtless operates to some extent.

Of equal if not greater importance…. is the tendency of journalists – across institutions and companies and even including paid free-lancers – to form consensus about news value, both positive and negative. Competition drives the news process – but collegiate conformity sets its boundaries… The mass media, en bloc, has utterly failed to provide fair and honest coverage of credible, evidence-based perspectives on very important issues – to an extent that merits the term censorship.

My submission to the inquiry and my attempt to make this point in particular – at least so far – have been about as effective as Cassandra’s efforts during the Siege of Troy.

In all the ”debate” that’s erupted since Finkelstein’s report was published on February 28th, no-one wants to say anything about No 12!

________________________________

Various positions have been staked out in the debate that has been in progress.

Greens Leader Bob Brown got on the front foot early, lauding the Finkelstein report and its main proposal – the establishment of a government-funded News Media Council that would administer a complaints process against ALL Australian media, including relatively low-traffic websites (even websites hosted overseas judging by a heavy hint to that effect in the report!)

By contrast, the right wing in Australia, in general, has been dismissive of Finkelstein’s commenations. This is a case in which I agree with much of what they’re saying.

On Lateline last week, Opposition Communications spokesperson Malcolm Turnbull spoke eloquently against the NMC proposal and made it clear the Liberal-National Coalition will not support it. The Coalition can certainly pick up votes on this, especially if the Gillard Government is foolish enough to press ahead and try to legislate Finkelstein’s NMC. For me, Turnbull’s most quotable quote was “we need more freedom, more diversity in news media and we’re not going to get that from this sort of heavy-handed media inquiry.” Well said Mr Turnbull!

As far as I’m aware, Gillard’s Labor Government itself has kept its head down. That’s smart politics. For once it isn’t the widely-distrusted Minister for Communications Senator Conroy who’s copping flac from all sides. He must be enjoying the spectacle of verbal mud pies soaring safely over his head from either side.

As well as right wing commentators such as Gerard Henderson and the Institute for Public Affairs (IPA), the privately-owned mainstream media itself has been hostile. They don’t like the idea of a government-sponsored News Media Council. They’d rather keep the Press Council, more or less in its present form. Julian Disney, Chair of the current Press Council (which is funded by the corporate media), would also like to keep it – but he wants a bigger budget and more extensive powers. Some informed commentators suggest that’s where the ball may eventually land.

Journalism academics have bought into the debate with enthusiasm, including Julie Possetti, Wendy Bacon, Margaret Simons, Mark Pearson and Jason Wilson. Their opinions have been mixed – ranging from broadly supportive to highly critical. Some of them have been stung by taunts from practising “journalists” in the mass media, especially in News Corp. Occasionally the brawling has got rather tawdry.

All – or almost all – of this brouhaha has focused on the proposed News Media Council and the issue of whether a complaints process should be set-up, who should run it, how it should run and so forth.

Yet those issues are not – at least from my perspective – the biggest problem with our media. I’ll say again what I think IS the biggest problem. This time I’ll use a “one-liner” in larger type:

It’s what’s MISSING in the media that’s most in need of remedy!

The issue of “what’s missing” comes down to some deeply ingrained yet unspoken biases – and a most unsavoury tendency for ALL the key players in the media circus to self-censor and blatantly fail to cover all sides of certain important “hot topics”. Any notion that the Government is likely to correct for these deep biases is of course as ludicrous as the idea that the big media groups that currently perpetuate them will tamely change their ways. It wasn’t even on the cards that Finkelstein would explore this subject and he didn’t surprise us. Government, the mass media, the media academic establishment – none of them are keen on mentioning it, to say the least.

To seriously consider Point 12 necessarily entails scrutiny of the real-life forces and powerful behind-the-scenes lobbies that control the media agenda in Australia – within both public and private media. That, apparently, is a subject so uncomfortable that none of the above want to talk about it at all.

The Australian public is poorly served by our highly centralised mass media (private and public) and by media academics and other “insider commentators” who rely on government as well as relationships with mainstream journalists. These “guilds” have THEIR pet issues – but don’t want to talk about anything that might jeopardise their reputations and privileged niches.

Only the blogosphere – the loose network of grassroots citizen-reporters and small groups of genuinely commuted activists – does that. Predictably, this new, dynamic, free, non-parasitic and currently untamed sector of the media is targeted by Finkelstein’s proposal.

________________________________

In Australia as elsewhere, bogus media reporting has now underpinned more than ten years of war, vanishing civil liberties and vastly expanded budgets for the military and what I think’s best described as the “Secret State”.

The mass media’s refusal to even discuss the copious and highly credible information that cast doubt on the official narrative of the events of 9/11 is proof positive our mass media is malfunctioning in a very serious way. The Australian media’s de facto blackout on similarly well-founded doubts surrounding the official narrative of the 1996 Port Arthur massacre is another example closer to home.

I could give other examples of bias and blind spots and did so in my media inquiry submission - input to the Inquiry that received not even a listing on the Government’s Independent Media Inquiry consultation webpage let alone any indication it had been read or considered.

Unlike the folk who earn their bread and butter from media corporations or some form of government insitution, I don;t think the public is not much interested in their in-house squabbles and defences of their respective reputations and credentials.

The public is more interested in the TRUTH. Friends tell each other the truth. The mass media is not behaving like our friend.

The video below shows Dr Graeme MacQueen making a presentation at Harvard last year entitled “The Fictional Basis of the War on Terror” (I previously featured Dr MacQueen’s Challenge to the Peace Movement on this website)

The presenter is an eminent academic. His topic - The Fictional Basis of the ‘War on Terror’ - is an absolutely crucial political issue of global importance.

It’s a BLATANT scandal that this man and many like him have been almost completely excluded from Australian mass media, and that academia and parliaments have ignored the perspective he brings to bear for more than a decade. It amounts to a deliberate blind-spot that’s neither justified or justifiable. It shames all involved in the cover-up, which as time goes by amounts to almost all the media establishment in this country.

_____________________________

The Finkelstein report is the wrong answer to what was started out as a different question.

Egged on by the Greens, the Government established a grossly undemocratic and quite secretive process (the Finkelstein Inquiry). The initial trigger was public concern about an issue half a world away – phone-tapping by The News of The World in Britain. Yet this phenomenon has now morphed into a proposal for an intrusive new mechanism to regulate Australia’s blogosphere! Rather like punters treated to a magician’s trick, we blink and wonder. How on earth did that happen?

Personally I don’t trust politicians, bureaucrats, journalists, academics or lawyers to regulate web content and internet traffic, either singly or in combination. As professions, NONE has promoted discuss honest discussion of the crucial doubts surrounding 9/11. For me, that’s a litmus test. They all fail that test, so why should they be trusted with web regulation? It’s like encouraging proven false witnesses to do jury service.

Here are Finkelstein’s Terms of Reference:

    • (a) The effectiveness of the current media codes of practice in Australia, particularly in light of technological change that is leading to the migration of print media to digital and online platforms.
    • (b) The impact of this technological change on the business model that has supported the investment by traditional media organisations in quality journalism and the production of news, and how such activities can be supported, and diversity enhanced, in the changed media environment.
    • (c) Ways of substantially strengthening the independence and effectiveness of the Australian Press Council, including in relation to online publications, and with particular reference to the handling of complaints.
    • (d) Any related issues pertaining to the ability of the media to operate according to regulations and codes of practice, and in the public interest.

The third of these ToRs has not been followed at all. Instead of providing suggestions for reform of the Press Council, Finkelstein proposed the very different model of a Government-funded News Media Council – a body that would intrude into media sectors not alluded to at all in the Terms of Reference, notably the “bottom-up” blogosphere that’s independent of mainstream media.

Apologists for Finkelstein make a case that the NMC is basically a benign idea that would work out in in the end. So far, Bob Brown of the Greens seems wedded to this view; a few media academics make sympathetic mutterings and even if holding back from endorsing the NMC as proposed, they take the “something must be done” line. On the other hand, so far, most of the privately-owned mainstream media appears to favour the status quo.

For once I find myself agreeing with some of the conservative media, not because I particularly like the status quo, but because I prefer to avoid leaping from frying pan to fire. I’d like the Government and its appointees to butt out of regulating the internet. I certainly don’t want more state interference.

At present, when composing articles such as this for my blog, I take into account a few obvious legal requirements such as the laws of defamation and copyright. I do my best to comply. Why should I be regulated more? Why should any privately-run website need be regulated more? No public case has been made that this is necessary; no case has been made it’s a pressing issue. The need to regulate the independent blog sector of the media was not explicit in Finkelstein’s Terms of Reference.

Explaining why the report didn’t look at the appalling centralisation of Australia’s mass media, Wendy Bacon claims ”The Inquiry was discouraged by its terms of reference, which did not mention issues of ownership, from looking at broader solutions to the structure of the media.

Perhaps so. But Finkelstein didn’t seem bothered about wobbling way off course on the Terms of Reference in other areas, notably with his central recommendation for a new News Media Council.

It’s hard to avoid concluding blogosphere freedom is once again under attack in Australia.

This time the attack comes from Stage Left. It’s aimed at independent media producers more than consumers. Instead of an internet “filter” this is about plugging founts of creativity and independence. The NMC idea is probably defeatable and may well be defeated – but what a waste of energy for us all, yet again!

Am I the only one who smells this rat? I don’t think so. Some of the more perceptive media academics are concerned about potential impacts on the blogosphere too.

Professor Mark Pearson – a Bond University academic who is critical of the Finkelstein report – outlines what could be at stake for bloggers and the grass roots media in his recent article on The Drum: Media inquiry: be careful what you wish for (emphasis added):

I suggested in my personal submission (PDF) to the inquiry and in my appearance at its Melbourne hearings that Australia already has enough of those laws. Hundreds of them. I suggested alternative mechanisms using existing laws. I argued that we did not need more media laws and more expensive legal actions and that a government-funded statutory regulator would send the wrong message to the international community. It is the approach adopted by the world’s most repressive regimes.

Which brings us to the matter of duplication. I have seen few serious ethical breaches that could not be handled by existing laws like defamation, contempt, consumer law, confidentiality, injurious falsehood, trespass and discrimination. There are existing mechanisms to pursue them properly through established legal processes.

All of the serious examples cited at 11.11 of the report could have been addressed using other laws such as defamation, ACMA remedies or breach of confidence (or the proposed privacy tort). But the new regulator would do away with all the normal trappings of natural justice, dealing speedily with matters on the papers only without legal representation a media defendant would expect in a court of law.

Small publishers and bloggers might well be bullied into corrections or apologies because they would not have the time, energy or resources to counter a contempt charge in the courts.

University of Cenberra lecturer James Wilson argues along similar lines in Media inquiry ignores value of diversity (emphasis added):

Isn’t it possible that under these rules, small operations might just decided that it’s easier, more sensible, to not publish risky, challenging material? Or accept the decisions of the regulator even where they disagreed with them in principle, even on occasions where it transpired that they were correct in their disagreement?

This is just one example of how the proposed scheme could actually threaten the one, long-term solution we have to the problems of concentration and media power – the rise of a range of sustainable online alternatives. From a certain point of view, it begins to look like an impost on diversity and media freedom.

Once more, Australian Greens leader Bob Brown (without consulting his party as a whole again?), has adopted a position that will surely jar with many Greens supporters once they wake up to this.

The Greens won new votes at the last Federal election thanks to Communications Spokesperson Senator Ludlam’s spirited and intelligent defense of internet freedom. All that hard work and political gain has now been put at risk by a single, ill-considered announcement by leader Bob Brown. It really is time for him to pass on the ring.

___________________________________

The British phone-tapping scandal led to a much larger inquiry and ongoing inquiry in the UK, the so-called Leveson Inquiry. It is headed by a Jewish lawyer.

The Australian inquiry prompted by the same event has been headed by Ray Finkelstein. He’s a Jewish lawyer.

Last week Australia’s Communications Minister Stephen Conroy announced an important media appointment: the new Chair of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation will be Jim Spigelman. He’s a Jewish lawyer too.

Is there a pattern here? If we really want media diversity, isn’t the remarkable preponderance of Jewish lawyers involved in the investigation and remoulding of our media a topic worthy of mention?  After all, the Jewish population in both Britain and Australia is only a tiny percentage of the total.

Such a comment no doubt disqualifies this article from re-publication by any mainstream media. Yet surely it’s a legitimate issue for public consideration? After all, “bias’ is close to the centre of this whole debate – even if it’s not the bias I’m most concerned about.

I may well cop complaints for mentioning the ethnicity (or is it religion?) of these gentlemen. But I ask anyone contemplating accusations of “hate speech” or some other such nonsense to reflect on whether there would be public debate had Muslims been appointed to all three of these crucial roles  - or even had all three been practising Christians? Would the media and its conformist commentators be raising eyebrows if both media inquiries had been chaired by people of Arab origins? I think so.

Judeophilic bias, on the other hand, is a bias that’s “impolite” to discuss in the Western world. That’s been the case for so long, few if any of us can remember times when it wasn’t so. The careers of anyone in Australia’s mainstream media or in academia or government would doubtless be in jeopardy if they made such observations in their official output. Likewise – and more importantly –  pervasive Zionist influence within the major media corporations and public broadcasters is considered a “no-go” topic for mainstream debate.

Fortunately, sections of the blogosphere don’t have our begging-bowl out for cosy careers, sinecures and grants. We can and do raise such issues from time to time. We may not win popularity contests or awards, but we do ventilate what must surely be discussed in a democracy worthy of the description. We expand the discourse to encompass all topics of significance – not only those that are hand-picked by conformists

Now another bunch of social engineers want to use public funds to regulate us, weave new rules around us, position themselves to be better able to harass and intimidate us. They continue to keep their Code of Silence on crucial subjects they don’t want to discuss at all – while casting a jealous eye over our little patch of free speech. They all get paid for their various roles in this blood sport of hounding competition that shames them – competition from people who are willing to speak truth to power.

Our media professionals, media academics, media lawyers etc all ride on one big, articulated gravy train. As much as anything else, their collective endeavours can fairly be regarded as self-interested collaboration in social control.

From my perspective, the gravy train riders are welcome to stick their snouts in the meagre troughs of the peoples’ independent media whenever they like. I hope they visit more often. If they do, they’ll certainly encounter plenty of offal – but occasionally they’d come across quality truffles of highly significant information that’s completely unavailable via the mainstream media.

When they start insisting we all serve bland gravy like they do, they push their luck way too far.


14 Responses  
  • sentience writes:
    March 14th, 20126:44 pmat

    radical decentralization of power has always been a boon for the common man (as per lord acton’s dictum), and internet has been the tool enabling circumvention of the controlled media.

    those who would gladly welcome the arrival of the police-state are united by their loathing for the diversity the internet has opened up, though heartily applauding “diversity” in other garb.

    I dread that this may be a last, temporary refuge of freedom before the shutters come down, and applaud syd walker for his vocal stand.

      

    • Dino writes:
      March 17th, 201212:25 pmat

      Dear Syd,
      I cannot see a censorship of the internet other than requiring the already existing laws of libel be applied.
      Those with money and influence will be able to affect the occasional scapegoats but the information will exist in a scattered form so as to make elimination of the information/ideas impossible.
      Many sites have been ‘bought out’ or ‘attacked’ with a subsequent degradation of content.
      It will be interesting to see what the targets of any new council or board will be.
      I doubt it will be prosecution of firms or individuals espousing bullshit.
      Otherwise a large segment of MSM will have to go.

        

  • SydWalker.info» Blog Archive » Afternoon Bias with Genevieve Jacobs & the ABC’s Hive Mind writes:
    March 14th, 20129:26 pmat
  • Lau Guerreiro writes:
    March 20th, 20122:16 amat

    I’ve just written a couple of blog posts on this subject, which makes some good arguments that I think you might find interesting and useful.

    The first one is titled “Freedom of the press argument is deceitful” an debunks the argument that says that the public is smart enough to identify biased and untruthful media for themselves and that therefore we don’t need any regulation.

    Here’s a summary of the second post titled “what’s better than freedom of the press”

    Many of the opponents of media regulation will blindly hold aloft the sacred cow of the freedom of the press as if it is an indisputable truth that can not be surpassed by anything else.

    Well I dispute its importance.

    Freedom of the press is not the essential ingredient that ensures a well functioning democracy – it is truth in media that’s most important.

    Freedom of the press may or may not lead to a diversity of opinion, and a diversity of opinion may or may not lead to the truth being made public.

    What is important for society and democracy is that the truth is made public; and if we could get to the truth via another path other than through freedom of media and diversity then we should be prepared to take that path, rather than to keep holding aloft the sacred cow of freedom of the press.

    Freedom of the press is a means of getting to the desired goal – it is not the desired goal – but some people have made it so. Truth is the goal.
    Sometimes freedom will lead to truth but sometimes it won’t… its not the freedom we seek … its the truth!

    If we make this paradigm shift then the debate will become very different.

    I’ve written a couple of blog posts related to this subject on my blog http://www.amimakingsense.com.au and I’d appreciate hearing your opinion of the arguments I put forward there.

    Regards
    Lau

      

  • sentience writes:
    March 20th, 20125:47 pmat

    “Many of the opponents of media regulation will blindly hold aloft the sacred cow of the freedom of the press as if it is an indisputable truth…”

    When I pay hundreds of millions of dollars for a broadcast license issued by the government does that sound like an antagonistic relationship in its essence?

    Who regulates the regulators?

    Absence of regulation doesn’t promise a panacea or some universal “truth”, because that doesn’t exist. But it does offer a cacophony of voices, some of which can’t be coopted.

      

    • Lau Guerreiro writes:
      March 20th, 20127:03 pmat

      If there is no universal “truth” then why is a cacophony of untruths better than a couple of untruths? They all have equal merit don’t they? They’re all equally untruthful aren’t they?

      A common mistake that postmodernists make is to take the premise “there is no universal truth” and to surmise from it that “all statements have equal quantities of truthfulness”.

      This latter premise is easily debunked by comparing the quantities of truthfulness in each of the following statements:

      1) I was born 500 years ago on the moon, I’m 15 metres tall and have 3 heads and every day for the last 400 years, I’ve been selling hot dogs on the main street of Sydney come rain hail or shine.

      2) I was born some time in the last 150 years.

      I’m sure you’ll have no trouble identifying statement 2 as having a high degree of truthfulness and statement 1 having absolutely no truthfulness at all.

      I suggest that the role of a regulator is to attempt to minimize the amount of demonstrably untruthful statements being foisted onto the public by deceitful and manipulative people in the media.

      You may never be able to completely eradicate the weeds from the field but at least you can try to minimize them so that the flowers have room to blossom.

      regards
      Lau

        

      • Syd Walker writes:
        March 21st, 201211:05 amat

        Thanks for your comments Lau and for the opportunity to visit your blog.

        In this case, I do take the side of NO regulation – that is, no government or quasi-government ‘umpire’ should be entrusted with the job of adjudicating disputes over truthfulness.

        Defamation (and copyright protection) is a different case; it is covered by civil law as it essentially entails dispute between two parties; a censorship regime however is a matter ultimately in the domain of criminal law.

        The problem seems to me to go back to Socrates and was probably debated before that. The best answer that Mr S came up with was to allow free and open debate to let rip. I believe that still holds.

        You cite two examples of statements as examples of what “common sense” tell us are on the one hand an absurd and untruthful statement and on the other hand something almost certain to be true.

        Now let me give you two more, of the kind that might well crop up in judicial action as there are precedents already for that occurring.

        1/ Hitler killed six million Jews

        2/ At least a million deaths have resulted from the Chernobyl disaster.

        Would you really want Governments and/or their judicial agents making decisions on whether these statements are factually accurate?

        I for one would not. As arbiters of truth, the Courts have their uses, but any notion they are equipped to resolve historical, scientific or philosophical debates is fanciful in my opinion.

        Wendy Bacon had an interesting article in New Matilda yesterday on this subject: What Happens When The Media Attacks?

        Like Wendy Bacon, you seem to feel that “something must be done” but don;t seem clear about exactly what that is. Neither of you seem to endorse Finkelstein’s exact model, though you’re sympathetic to it. But in this case I believe the devil is truly in the detail.

        Before changes are proposed they must be fully thought-through. We must also be very careful that any moves to change the media laws doesn’t get hijacked along the way. That’s probably my greatest concern.

        I don’t believe Wendy Bacon, Bob Brown or yourself have bad intentions on this. But I do think there are people who do and whose goal is to close down free debate on important issues. They keep trying to do this via various different tactics. Fighting back is like defending Freedom against the Medusa. But that’s the task fate has dealt us – until such time as free speech and free communications are so deeply entrenched in global society it’s impossible to take them away.

          

  • Lau Guerreiro writes:
    March 21st, 201212:23 pmat

    I don’t proclaim to have the solutions at hand.

    My first objective is to attempt to re-frame the debate a little so that it takes place with different premises at its core.

    In particular, the following two premises seem to be held as indisputable facts by opponents of regulation:

    1) Freedom of speech is the holiest of holies and ensures a functioning democracy; and anything that diminishes it makes our society worse off.

    2) The average person is capable of identifying bias and untruth in the media.

    These two premises are often the only arguments put forward by opponents by regulation to support their opposition.

    If we agree that both these arguments are flawed and can not be used in that form then the debate will be very different.

    Then we can all start thinking clearly about what we can do to improve the system instead of defending the status quo.

    Perhaps the solution is not to adjudicate on the truthfulness of every statement but only of the obvious ones.

    And perhaps we don’t say “its true” or “Its false” but rather, “there’s about a 90% probability of it being true”

    Maybe at the end of each year the watchdog can issue scores on bias. e.g this newspaper has a 70% bias towards the liberal party, and a 90% bias towards climate change skepticism.

    Maybe we need a beefed up version of ABCs Media Watch.

    Personally I really enjoy watching Media Watch, and I think that a lot more people would also enjoy it if was beefed up.

    Maybe each major media outlet (newspaper, radio, tv) would have to make available a certain amount of space/time for Media Watch type material which would not be controlled by the media owner but by the regulator!

    They could even be paid by the regulator for this space (at a cheap rate) or it could be made part of their licence agreement.

    They could, for example, give the bottom half of page 5, every second day to the regulator.

    This idea is actually much closer to the ideal of free speech than what we have now. The ultimate in free speech is when people take turns at standing on a podium in the town square to shout their message to the people.

    Currently the concentration of media means that the main podium is occupied by a few very large entities and no one else can get onto that podium – any dissenters can only get onto a very small podium in a little village far out of town where very few people will hear them.

    Forcing the major media to give over a percentage of their media space/time is like forcing them to give an independent representative of the people the chance to speak on the podium on a regular basis.

    See what I mean?

    My goal is to get intelligent people to start thinking about how we can improve the system rather than remaining stuck in the belief that “freedom of the press” and “no regulation” is the ideal solution.

      

    • Syd Walker writes:
      March 21st, 20122:29 pmat

      Hi again Lau.

      I wish I hadn’t written “NO regulation” before. I quickly qualified it as follows: “that is, no government or quasi-government ‘umpire’ should be entrusted with the job of adjudicating disputes over truthfulness.” The latter is what I intended to say.

      “NO regulation” implies there is none at present, That, of course, is very far from the truth. The ABC and SBS operate under statute and receive government funds. Licensing of the major TV networks is “regulation” too. There’s actually plenty of regulation built in to our superficially “free media”.

      In general, I would prefer less rather than more regulation. One reason we have market dominance by a few is because of government regulation that has favoured those few.

      As I argued in my submission to the Media Inquiry, we’re fast entering an era when a small number of folk will be able to set up a media channel of programmed viewing / listening – just as websites are easy to set up now. A fast, low cost broadband network will enable us to access a plethora of choice from all over the world. Institutions such as the ABC and Commercial TV channels may well die out in that very competitive environment. In my view that would be no bad thing. They have conspicuously failed to tell the truth on key issues abusing their privileged status as media providers.

      Your proposition that “average person is capable of identifying bias and untruth in the media” is true as far as it goes – but my problem is primarily with the media elite who fulfil this interpretative function (or should do) yet almost always operate with crucial blind spots. As things stand, they are, apparently, not “capable of identifying bias and untruth”. So what chance do their readers and viewers have?

      Ultimately, I think seeing through bias and establishing the truth is a personal activity that comes, in part, with interest and application. Someone who rarely follows the news is unlikely to have that skill, even thought they may think they have. If I’m right about that,k the key thing is to increase political engagement? How do we get people interested in politics and willing to spend time thinking about the issues and educating themselves to become more rationally engaged? If that happens, it’s likely people will develop better crap detectors too.

        

      • Lau Guerreiro writes:
        March 21st, 20123:15 pmat

        In my opinion trying to increase people’s participation in politics and fact checking the media is doomed to fail. Most people just aren’t interested or don’t have the time.

        Our goal shouldn’t be to try to increase the amount of time they spend “engaging” but to try to increase the amount of truth they can extract per unit of “engagement”.

        In other words, if I choose to allocate one hour per day in engaging with politics/news then I want to get the maximum amount of truth I can out of that hour’s effort.

        Now lets look at this in a theoretical way so we can figure out what the ideal solution would be in a perfect environment – then we can see how we can adjust that ideal solution to fit the real world situation.

        Consider the following 2 possible solutions:

        1) There is one large, well funded news organisation, with lots of full time staff and an effective system for storing and categorising facts and reviewing stories to allocate probabilities of truthfulness and bias.

        2) There are no large organisations, just thousands of very small underfunded ones. Most of them only have part time volunteer staff and don’t have the resources to fact check in a timely manner.

        With the first solution I could use my hour to go to the one place and be reasonably confident that I was getting and unbiased factual story, any differences in opinion would be available on the same site linked to that story with links to places where the facts could be verified.

        With the second system I would waste my time reading many different sources just to personally have to fact check a story myself. And in such an environment it would be much easier to put out fictions because even if some of the thousands of news sources could debunk the fiction most people would not access those sources.

        I think that as the internet changes the media landscape, people will eventually realise that they can’t trust what is stated as fact on any old website, and they will start to crave large well funded media organisations that they can depend upon. I therefore see a greater role for government funded organisations to step in and fill the void, perhaps in conjunction with philanthropic and community funded organisations.

          

        • Dino writes:
          March 21st, 20126:58 pmat

          Lau,
          I have left some comments on your website.
          I think you are idealistic(in a good way) and a little bit scary in that you wish to implement a ‘formula’ for truth.
          As with most political institutions they are only as good as the people in them.
          Who will judge what percentage of truth exists in an article? You, or your proxy?
          What if I disagree?
          It is a can of worms. Some people don’t care and some people can’t due to struggling to simply keeping a roof over their head.
          It is tiresome and time consuming to surf the net read endless articles and finally, if you are able, to have a learned opinion of ‘hearsay’.
          I like science because it doesn’t give a shit about opinions, yours or mine!

            

          • Lau Guerreiro writes:
            March 21st, 20128:13 pmat

            Obviously it can’t be left to any one persons opinion to determine the truthfulness of something. All such determinations must be backed up by information that is public and can be cross-checked.

            If something is an opinion, then it is an opinion and not a fact.

            It is these sort of guidelines and definitions that need to be worked out by a regulator/adjudicator and there would need to be an appeal process that ensures the people in the regulator/adjudicator can be held accountable for their actions.

            So I suggest we need two organisations: one that regulates or adjudicates on the media and another organisation that critiques the regulator/adjudicator.

              

            • Dino writes:
              March 21st, 20128:39 pmat

              That might work.

                

  • mark writes:
    May 20th, 20122:12 amat

    Australians don’t have the balls to confront the Zionist reality. Our politicians don’t at least.

    It’s a shame because the Zionist fishbowl we live in underpins many of the other official lies we live with.

    Good piece btw.

      


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