Miscellanea

Couple of brief things.

This is true. There is a system, and you live within it. There is way too much dithering about motivation and perceived hypocrisy and so on; almost none of it is relevant to anything. It's not important whether such-and-such an idea was only electorally possible because of some kind of unholy alliance; it's important whether that idea is any good. That's not to say it isn't interesting to read an article about the alliances and the arrangements that make certain policies happen. But it's not relevant content for a political campaign or an argument against those policies; the content should be actual facts about the way an idea works and whether it is just.

A tangentially related issue is the annoying trope, particularly seen in US politics, of the right-wing "deceiving working-class people into voting against their own interests." As above, this is not really relevant except to the extent that it suggests that the opposition on the left isn't really doing its job - of proposing alternative policies and spreading information about them - very well. But more importantly there's no obvious reason why this should be 'deception' nor why we should regard it as so pernicious. Wealthy progressives haven't been 'deceived' into leaning left; they are voting on principle. It's fine for less well-off people to do the same thing! And I'm not sure that pushing this idea, with its implicit premise that people should basically vote only on their immediate material interests rather than any outward-looking or principled grounds, is a particularly good strategy for progressive politics.

Secondly, the front page of the Financial Review has a headline "PM caves in on asylum seekers". I think this is far from a fair characterisation of what has happened. Julia Gillard hasn't been holding one line for several weeks under persistent Opposition pressure, only to now give up. She has spent several weeks saying that the expert panel was in the best position to recommend a solution. It now has, and she has now accepted it.

But I'll elect to use this opportunity not to defend the government against that characterisation, but to point out the elusiveness of proper objectivity in media. Clearly "caves in" is a weighted phrase which you might prefer to avoid. But it doesn't explicitly claim that the change of position, cave-in that it is, is a bad thing. And it's arguably necessary - "PM adopts Houston recommendations" doesn't convey the change in substantive position that's occurred. Obviously the ideal (at least from my perspective) is a headline that indicates the policy shift and the expert panel behind it, without using weighted or connoting language. I'm unsure that that headline exists. Putting even all of that aside, there are plenty of people who would argue that "PM caves in" is a perfectly fair characterisation of events and there's nothing wrong with the headline at all.

All of which goes to my point that the important thing in a media marketplace is not "objectivity" or "independence", but plurality.

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