Introduction to Theme 1: Media and Politicians
8 Selected texts/analysis. Theme 1: Media and Politicians Senior English
Mining for truth
SBD feels extremely appreciative of Australia's journalists. It is not an easy job and is becoming more difficult but the role of journalists is not always clear and media frustrations or pressures can create complications.
In selecting texts for this project, we found an unexpected development. The start of 2017 saw much media commentary about the public’s disillusionment with politicians. This discussion developed into a strong and continuous media preoccupation.
When we looked closer however, the issue seemed more about the media than the public, less about disenchantment and more about an antagonism being expressed in an increasingly dubious manner. Negative media views were being threaded through all political topics whether housing, migration, marriage equality or terrorism.
The media of course includes many opposing views. Some programs present a range of commentators while other outlets continue with their traditional opposition to their traditional political enemies. While this is biased it is predictable. The escalating trend of denigratory remarks about any or all of the 'political class', was disquieting. It was often the end of discussion about the major issues.
Isn't criticism the job of the media?
Unreasonable attacks set a low bench mark. They pave the way for any sort of un-reason from low level social nastiness to political extremism. We believe it is the job of the media to hold individuals or political parties to account but negative comment about the 'political class' is not the same as rigorous evaluation of individual people, parties or policies.
Some leading politicians insult other politicians or parties in an indiscriminate, irrational and hostile manner. This discourages the public from an interest in politics. When media commentary insults all politicians in an equally indiscriminate, equally irrational and equally hostile manner it is equally discouraging. It was our view that in a subtle but cumulative way, negative media commentary was dampening public interest in even the freshest or most interesting of topics. It was becoming an ongoing distraction.
Some of the forms...
Negative motivation is an increasingly embedded theme in media commentary. Political parties are not described as responding to an issue. Instead they are said to 'seize' the chance, 'jump' on the opposition, 'wedge' or 'obstruct' . Politicians do not respond to new policies, they are described as 'trying to upstage' the opposition but speculation about political intentions is an effective distraction. The suggestions about cynical political motives assume the commentators have hidden knowledge. This is a highly unreliable assumption. Such suggestions also imply the commentator and only the commentator is able to take the high moral ground. Whatever the intentions, the end result is discouraging.
If policies sound appealing, fair, reasonable, or interesting, they are increasingly called 'populist'. New policies come with a comment that 'of course, (the politician) will be standing for election in 12 months' - a comment that ensures the intention and therefore the policy (and our interest) is tainted.
'Partisan' politics has become a media term to imply prejudice, pettiness or an inability to see another side. If a judge is unmistakably partisan it is a betrayal because judges are meant to be even-handed but politicians are not judges and we don't usually vote for, expect or want our politicians to be even-handed.
Partisan means an enthusiastic supporter. We don't see a problem with strong feelings. Strong feelings can arguably be said to have achieved more major reforms than otherwise.
Is spreading a grey jaundiced coating on political news, 'sincere' cynicism or misdirection?
The persuasive language described above is insidious. It can disguise its real intention whatever that may be but it can also filter real issues, real political achievements, real alternatives and real shortcomings. Whether from pressures, frustrations or simply current fashions, journalists may well be disguising truth and discouraging public interest more effectively than any politician. It is unfashionable to defend politicians but quality, reasoned media arguments should not be replaced by emotive and belittling opinions, regardless of the target if only because the impact of such opinions is to lower the standard of discussion, lower the standard of thinking skills and open the way to manipulation.
More complex attacks..
Some journalists criticize 'the political class' in more complex ways. In our view, some of the new, recent media expectations of Australian politicians such as 'bipartisanship' are based on faulty premises, promote contradictory expectations and are creating much unnecessary negativity. Some of our texts in this project demonstrate reasoned argument about topical issues, some show insults about particular politicians while others are blatantly prejudicial about any or all.
Insult or argument, persuasive texts come in many forms with a variety of techniques, language and tones...
What's your view?
...but students will judge the texts, judge the commentary and decide for themselves about which styles are effective and why.
'Discussing politics perverted?'
An Hungarian teacher explains a difficulty they face
or '...you hear the view that "politicians are all the same" as if oranges and apples were identical fruit. "I find it disturbing" says Hungarian teacher Laszlo Kuroli, "the even the word politics- think about its Greek origin- makes people shut down as if you do something horrible and perverted when you try to discuss politics." (Extract from article Sydney Morning Herald.
The history of great reforms and our own recent history shows major developments initiated or supported by political leaders. Political leaders can be rebels fighting for justice, cronies of the corrupt and everything in-between.
Laszlo Kuroli is discussing a repressive state in which the view that all politicians are the same has been actively promoted. The extract highlights the dangers.
Trends and themes
Issues are topics that are important and which receive much coverage. When similar opinions about an issue are leaping off pages or screens, it is time for a closer look- particularly if the opinions lack solid argument. Repetition is a major tool in marketing and persuasion.
Persuasive texts often contain ideas that are buried beneath the surface but practice with texts on one issue helps with texts on others so keep up the work! Good luck!