PATRICIA EDGAR. The ABC, Facebook and the Meaning of Trust

Image result for abc trust

Google images selected this image as the most relevant to “ABC Trust” for obvious reasons.

Cross-posted from John Menadue’s Pearls and Irritations.

Trust is an interesting concept. It takes time to develop trust which results from a broad experience of something (or someone) which demonstrates consistent, reliable behaviour with integrity, ability, and surety; it involves confident expectation. But trust can be lost irretrievably, quite quickly. Trust allows for mistakes if they are dealt with openly and honestly. It does not forgive manipulation, dishonesty and betrayal.

This brings me to the recent Roy Morgan Media Net Trust Survey that found in 3 surveys of 4000 Australians, that the public gives a negative trust value to the banks of minus 18, while media companies score minus 7. Morgan subtracted distrust from trust to achieve a Net Trust Score (NTS). While the banks are seen as the most toxic brands, media companies are still in negative territory.  When 1,111 people were asked which media they trust and distrust most, the results show half of all Australians (47%) distrust social media compared to only 9% who distrust the ABC.

The only three media organizations that get a positive score are the ABC, SBS and Fairfax, in that order. The commercial networks score between – 6 and -10. The drivers for negative views are false news, bias, sensationalised stories, pushing a political agenda and too much advertising.

It has become a cliché to say the ABC is biased. The claim is repeated endlessly in the commercial media and by the Coalition MPs, who run campaigns on the basis of slogans, and who complain regularly about the treatment of the government on ABC news and current affairs. They work on the assumption that if you say it often enough people will believe it. But trust is not born from slogans.

It really doesn’t matter what the commentariat – conservatives like Gerard Henderson and Andrew Bolt or ‘liberals’ like Paul Barry or Chas Licciardello –assert as opinion, for trust is not formed by opinion pieces. It is built up over time.

The ABC has been there since 1932; television since 1956, and there is a history to review and a record to examine. The public has had a lifetime to evaluate the ABC. The public broadcaster openly examines the accusations of bias made against it on its own channels and invites detractors on air to express critiques. It publishes complaints against it, along with its editorial policy. Continue reading

Posted in Films and TV, Media | 10 Comments

Centrist strategic voting

This image was picked from a bunch of images on Google Image. This post is not about Canada. If you’re interested in Canada, it’s unlikely you’ll get ANYTHING out of this post. Canada is just incidental to this post. It is very cold there a lot of the time though, so it’s odd more people live there than live here. But that’s just the kind of provincial small mindedness that Troppo readers hate, but in which Troppo’s leadership collective CONSTANTLY INDULGE. SHAME.

This is my response to Peter Dempster’s proposals.

I can see one important merit of them. Electoral politics is inherently polarising because electoral politics involves politicians beating other politicians to qualify to be politicians in the first place – by getting into parliament – and then joining the team that helped them get to parliament in beating the other team. So it’s good to have stabilising influences such as what’s been proposed.

But while I like this intention, it seems to me that the idea has some difficulties intellectually and has no chance practically. The results of the survey that Peter quotes are interesting and informative, but I don’t think they should be read naïvely.1 For instance 45 percent of people say they’d consider voting for a new centrist party, but we know how many people do vote that way when people try to establish such parties.

This leaves aside the question of where the ‘centre’ is. For me the ALP are a thoroughly centrist party. The concrete policy decisions the Government is making so far are relatively centrist also, but the right now has the problem the left had from the 1960s to the around the mid 1980s, which is that they have an unreasonable faction. 2 In the same vein, I’m not sure how easy it is to pick a single dimension of ‘centrism’. For instance on military matters there’s nothing centrist about me. I’m in favour of doing almost anything to avoid getting into a war. Not anything – I’m not a pacifist – but almost anything. There’s nothing centrist about that. Continue reading

  1. I hope you like that little gizmo over the “i” in ‘naïve’. I do! But I digress.
  2.  I was going to say it’s an ideological faction and to some extent it is, but that’s dignifying it somewhat. Opposition to greenhouse gas abatement isn’t really ideological, it’s part tactical and part a reaction to another ideology which one might call ‘political correctness’ – anyway, that’s just a quibble – not very interesting. .
Posted in Democracy, Political theory, Politics - international, Politics - national | 27 Comments

The Rise of China and dealing with American grief.

Like the world today, Europe in the 19th century witnessed major shifts in the balance of power, with new technologies changing how life was lived. Otto von Bismarck, a Prussian, saw opportunities in that chaos. He unified the warring German principalities in 1870 via an unexpected war on France. He modernised Germany so that it was the industrial powerhouse of Europe at the start of the 20th century.

He achieved his aims by lying, cajoling, threatening, invading, persuading, networking, and analysing. He modestly said of his own achievements:

“The statesman’s task is to hear God’s footsteps marching through history, and to try and catch on to His coattails as He marches past.”

How would someone like Bismarck have viewed God’s major strides in our time, the rise of China?

The rise of China will inevitably lead to the emergence of two competing power blocks in world politics. On the one hand there will be China and its allies, on the other the West and its allies. Some countries will initially try to stay neutral or play the two major blocks off each other, but the smaller ones will be easy prey for the two power blocks to force into a choice, so they either unite in a third alliance or pick a side.

The rise of China raises obvious questions about alliances and less obvious ones about emotions.

The alliance questions are obvious: India would naturally fall in the camp of the West, so how would we prevent it slipping away? Korea and Russia could go either way, so what would sway them and what role could they be offered in the West? Should we try to delay countries who naturally belong into the China block, like Vietnam, from switching? Would three blocks be more stable than two? Can we keep the conflict relatively cordial or is some kind of low-level proxy-war inevitable? This is the obvious power-play stuff and the relevant scenarios will occupy thousands of analysts in both the West and China right this moment.

Bismarck excelled in power-play but thought deeper and considered the dynamics of group emotions.  The one I think we should watch out for is the grief that the Americans have to go through in order to come to terms with their smaller role. The West has not considered this issue yet, but I think it will dictate much of geopolitical life this century.

Consider the many ways in which the Americans will feel pain. Their military bases will be closed in the countries that switch to China, and their culture will be humiliated. Their cherished truths, pushed by their media, will no longer be the truths that others buy into as their grandeur fades. Their banks will be challenged such that the world financial system will not be dominated by them. Their internet companies will be taxed by allies and their technological inventions copied shamelessly without payment. Their corporate and political leaders will feel their power and influence reduce.

Americans as individuals will notice this when they travel abroad and taken less seriously. Their culture will be less admired and copied, which will mean the rest of the world will feel stranger to them, less welcoming. American tourists will have to watch their step more, and the brain drain to the US will reduce as American education will be downgraded in status.

The Americans are a very proud people, who have enjoyed a 100 years of being at the top of the world political tree, and 200 years of bossing around other countries in their own backyard. That is a long period of dominance to lose. They will feel intense pain and, after that, intense anger.

Britain and France have shown us that grief over a lost position of pre-eminence can last longer than 100 years and can motivate elites to do really stupid things.

France was pre-eminent around 1800 and since then has been in continuous relative decline. Its wounded pride motivated it to seed the second world war by inflicting the humiliating treaty of Versailles on the Germans, one of the worst political mistakes ever made. The grief of the French enabled the rise of Hitler and cost the world 60 million lives.

Britain resented its loss of influence enough to bottle up Germany in the early 20th century, a major factor in the outbreak of WWI. Its reluctance to accept historical shifts gave us unnecessary disasters like the Suez crisis. Even now, a century after it lost its pre-eminence, many Brits delude themselves that Britain will regain some of its former stature if it breaks with the European Union.

So if we owe devastating wars and disruptions to the British and French elites pining for lost glory, what can we expect the grief of the Americans to cost?

We face a century of American grieving over its lost position. We have only just entered the denial stage. What is yet to come is pain, followed by anger. Only after that anger can there be acceptance and bargaining.

What can we do to minimise the cost of American grief?

Posted in Cultural Critique, Democracy, Economics and public policy, Geeky Musings, History, Life, Political theory, Politics - international, Social Policy, Society | 25 Comments

PETER DEMPSTER: A strategic voting proposal in defence of centrism

Who is that man in the corner, and why is he watching you?

Well folks, as you know, Club Troppo is the only website east of the whole damn Murray Darling system that has the reputation to attract the kind of high quality debate we’re in for tonight. So everyone, in your best ClupPony clobber, cop this debate. A nice fellow going by the name of Peter Dempster approached me and asked what I thought of his idea. I sent him a few dot points, but then thought that rather than expand, I’d set up a debate or discussion here. So I’m publishing this piece now and after you’ve had your fill of civility, we’ll launch another round when I work up my reaction.

You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll fill in all the surveys that tell you (quite routinely and wrongly as it turns out) that, here at ClubPony we value your opinion. And then you’ll do it all over again.  Anyway, here’s Peter’s post.

Most voters occupy the middle ground of politics; they are centrists.

Statements about politics: Essential Poll, 18 July 2017 Agree Disagree
I wish both sides of politics would try to ‘meet each other in the middle’ more often 71% 6%
I don’t personally identify with either “left wing” or “right wing” politics 50% 18%
I would consider voting for a new “centrist” political party which takes ideas from both sides of politics 45% 14%

We don’t need a new centrist party. Working with what we have, but voting smarter, centrist voters can force politicians to meet in the middle. To make it happen, however, they need expert advice from political journalists. Sports journalists provide a rough model for what political journalists need to do.

Consider that sports journalists watch a lot of sport, talk to lots of fans, players and coaches, read and write about sport, argue about sport, may have played and coached. Journalists routinely distil that information, for the fans, by nominating a national team and arguing the case for who makes the final cut, who doesn’t. The process is part of the routine elevation – from club teams to national team – of the loyalties and hopes of sports fans.

Political journalists watch a lot of politicking, see how issues play out, talk daily to politicians and their advisors, immerse themselves in polls, read and write about politics, argue about politics, have participated in politics or plan to. They could distil their knowledge by nominating a national political team, but don’t. They should, since it provides voters with critical information that is otherwise impossible to obtain. The sports model can be modified to preserve journalistic independence.

Thus, at election time, the centrist voter may appeal to the journalist …

Of the candidates nominated by the major political parties, nominate the slate of candidates, from both sides, that offers the best prospect of meeting in the middle, of cutting a deal that most voters can live with. We accept the uncertainties; your informed and considered opinion is all we ask.

… responding constructively, the journalist ranks candidates for their ability meet in the middle. Let’s just say that candidates are ranked according to their ‘moderateness’ as revealed by their history of political words and actions, providing the basis for the elevation of voter loyalties and hopes – from parties to nation. To illustrate …

Continue reading

Posted in Democracy, Media, Political theory, Politics - international, Politics - national | 19 Comments

Fred Rogers

Posted in Films and TV, History | 1 Comment

The Norms of Science: Extract from Paul Romer

I was looking for something on economic method, and found this section of Paul Romer’s “The Trouble with Macroeconomics” which I thought was worth posting.

Some of the economists who agree about the state of macro in private conversations will not say so in public. This is consistent with the explanation based on different prices. Yet some of them also discourage me from disagreeing openly, which calls for some other explanation.

They may feel that they will pay a price too if they have to witness the unpleasant reaction that criticism of a revered leader provokes. There is no question that the emotions are intense. After I criticized a paper by Lucas, I had a chance encounter with someone who was so angry that at first he could not speak. Eventually, he told me, “You are killing Bob.”

But my sense is that the problem goes even deeper that avoidance. Several economists I know seem to have assimilated a norm that the post-real macroeconomists actively promote – that it is an extremely serious violation of some honor code for anyone to criticize openly a revered authority figure – and that neither facts that are false, nor predictions that are wrong, nor models that make no sense matter enough to worry about. Continue reading

Posted in Economics and public policy, Methodology, Science | 16 Comments

PATRICIA EDGAR. The Circus that has been Government Policy on the ABC for Forty Years

Cross-posted from John Menadue’s Pearls and Irritations.

The ABC has been an extraordinarily resilient organisation. It has withstood management and Board upheavals, survived remorseless budget cuts and harassment. But the current attacks on staff and on its role are as overt and vicious as they have ever been. Many of those who were imbued with ABC values have died or moved on. The biggest fear to friends of the ABC today is inertia. This current attack will not be solved by quiet negotiation. The Government’s tactics are neither rational nor honest. This has to be a vocal public fight and once the dangers are understood the public will have to respond. What is there left to defend for our democracy to live on if the ABC is destroyed?  

There is a single, simple reason why the Liberal Coalition is persecuting the ABC: they believe it will be easier to remain in power if the ABC is nobbled.

The long and volatile history of governments, both Liberal and Labor, attacking and cutting the public broadcaster’s funding , ostensibly to achieve greater efficiency with public money , shows their motives over the past 45 years to be primarily political rather than in the public interest. This history is informative for the challenges the ABC and its supporters now face. Continue reading

Posted in Cultural Critique, Democracy, Films and TV, History, Information, IT and Internet, Journalism, Media | 2 Comments