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MEDIA CONVERGENCE AND CLIMATE CHANGE November 14, 2011

Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics, Democracy, Global Warming Politics, Natural Environment.
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Naomi Klein attended a Heartland conference and discovered the belief that it was a Trojan horse for social and economic change that was antithetical to the world view of the attendees. Think Tanks function to furnish media talking points.

She explains:

The deniers did not decide that climate change is a left-wing conspiracy by uncovering some covert socialist plot. They arrived at this analysis by taking a hard look at what it would take to lower global emissions as drastically and as rapidly as climate science demands. They have concluded that this can be done only by radically reordering our economic and political systems in ways antithetical to their “free market” belief system. As British blogger and Heartland regular James Delingpole has pointed out, “Modern environmentalism successfully advances many of the causes dear to the left: redistribution of wealth, higher taxes, greater government intervention, regulation.” Heartland’s Bast puts it even more bluntly: For the left, “Climate change is the perfect thing…. It’s the reason why we should do everything [the left] wanted to do anyway.”

Here’s my inconvenient truth: they aren’t wrong. Before I go any further, let me be absolutely clear: as 97 percent of the world’s climate scientists attest, the Heartlanders are completely wrong about the science. The heat-trapping gases released into the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels are already causing temperatures to increase. If we are not on a radically different energy path by the end of this decade, we are in for a world of pain.

But when it comes to the real-world consequences of those scientific findings, specifically the kind of deep changes required not just to our energy consumption but to the underlying logic of our economic system, the crowd gathered at the Marriott Hotel may be in considerably less denial than a lot of professional environmentalists, the ones who paint a picture of global warming Armageddon, then assure us that we can avert catastrophe by buying “green” products and creating clever markets in pollution.

The fact that the earth’s atmosphere cannot safely absorb the amount of carbon we are pumping into it is a symptom of a much larger crisis, one born of the central fiction on which our economic model is based: that nature is limitless, that we will always be able to find more of what we need, and that if something runs out it can be seamlessly replaced by another resource that we can endlessly extract. But it is not just the atmosphere that we have exploited beyond its capacity to recover—we are doing the same to the oceans, to freshwater, to topsoil and to biodiversity. The expansionist, extractive mindset, which has so long governed our relationship to nature, is what the climate crisis calls into question so fundamentally. The abundance of scientific research showing we have pushed nature beyond its limits does not just demand green products and market-based solutions; it demands a new civilizational paradigm, one grounded not in dominance over nature but in respect for natural cycles of renewal—and acutely sensitive to natural limits, including the limits of human intelligence.

I wonder what corporatism has got to do with freedom. Chris Hedges idea that it is quintessentially about new form of feudalism seems more plausible. Indeed, the road to serfdom. An employee within a corporate environment ceases to be a citizen in an effective sense. Wage slave is one description. Within corporations decision making power and influence is concentrated as is expected in a hierarchical structure. Corporations may not be natural persons but they have strategic interests.

So when did corporations begin to be interested in media and governments? Think about it, they are the agencies most heavily invested in public opinion, even more so than political parties and governments. The disconcerting thing about the internet is that it is not platform for pervasive advertising, and thus for business communication models. Technology has gotten ahead of them, much like the printing press got ahead of the Church in the transition from European Medieval Civilization.

The change in American public opinion, as related by Naomi Klein, is striking:

When public opinion on the big social and political issues changes, the trends tend to be relatively gradual. Abrupt shifts, when they come, are usually precipitated by dramatic events. Which is why pollsters are so surprised by what has happened to perceptions about climate change over a span of just four years. A 2007 Harris poll found that 71 percent of Americans believed that the continued burning of fossil fuels would cause the climate to change. By 2009 the figure had dropped to 51 percent. In June 2011 the number of Americans who agreed was down to 44 percent—well under half the population. According to Scott Keeter, director of survey research at the Pew Research Center for People and the Press, this is “among the largest shifts over a short period of time seen in recent public opinion history.”

Even more striking, this shift has occurred almost entirely at one end of the political spectrum. As recently as 2008 (the year Newt Gingrich did a climate change TV spot with Nancy Pelosi) the issue still had a veneer of bipartisan support in the United States. Those days are decidedly over. Today, 70–75 percent of self-identified Democrats and liberals believe humans are changing the climate—a level that has remained stable or risen slightly over the past decade. In sharp contrast, Republicans, particularly Tea Party members, have overwhelmingly chosen to reject the scientific consensus. In some regions, only about 20 percent of self-identified Republicans accept the science.

Changes of public opinion seem to be about media framing and personal beliefs. What then about technical and other subjects for which people in general cannot expect to be well informed or indeed have the time to be well informed? The question might be: What evidence would convince you that the climate was, or was not, getting warmer, and the long term heating was principally due to human activities?

Every selection of what is important and relevant has an editorial viewpoint, and every viewpoint is part of a world view. Media does not select views, it is organized around political philosophies. The argument concerning media diversity and the role of gatekeeping in the age of the internet needs assessment and evaluation is current because of current enquiry. Mark Day in The Australian describes the situation:

THE Australian Communication and Media Authority says most of the legislated regulation it administers has been “broken or significantly strained” by the processes of convergence.

The 93-page Broken Concepts report, released today, makes it clear that media regulation over the past 50 years has failed to keep up with changes in technology and society.

ACMA, a government-funded regulator, administers 26 acts passed by parliament in the past half century that include 523 pieces of regulation. These cover radio and television broadcasting, telecommunications, the internet and radio communications, where convergence is blurring historical distinctions.

Piecemeal changes to legislation have led to a situation where the communications landscape “resembles a patchwork quilt”.

“It is fragmented and characterised by ‘bandaid’ solutions that lack an overarching strategy or co-ordinated approach to regulating communications and media in a digital economy,” the report says.

The report identifies problem areas including policy misalignment, gaps in regulation, misplaced emphasis in legislation that skews regulation and the blurring of boundaries between historically distinct services and sectors.

The report will put pressure on the federal government to urgently rewrite the rules for the digital economy, a process that it has begun with the Convergence Review. The three-member Convergence Review panel, established last year by Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, has been touring Australia hearing submissions. It will continue to receive input until October 28 and has promised a report by March.

Tom Dick writing in The Sydney Morning Herald.

The restriction on one owner controlling too many TV networks, radio stations and city newspapers is no longer needed to protect diversity in the digital age, according to Rupert Murdoch’s News Ltd, which wants the media ownership rules abolished.
It told the government’s convergence review of media regulation that the ownership rules had passed their use-by date, given the abundance of alternative sources of news now provided online – and by pay TV and national newspapers which are ignored by cross-media rules.
The internet made it easy to start websites and the choice for internet audiences was now ”essentially limitless”, it said, arguing the market had delivered a depth of diversity that regulation could never have achieved.

Furthermore, News Ltd papers were read by only 26% of Australians and its influence was limited because now have other sources of information. Henceforth, The Australian and other group newspapers will cease publishing editorials and offering commentaries, or engaging in political campaigning against, for example, climate science since it is so ineffectual on the target audience of opinion leaders whose influence extends across other media. Judith at Catallaxy is not happy with the quality of the quality of the left wing diversity she reads in The Australian.

The Occupy Movement is a case study of mainstream media reporting.

In Rolling Stone, Matt Taibbi describes how he learnt how to appreciate OWS – and it had much to do with the presentation in the tabloid media, in particular those outlets of diversity of opinion owned by Robert Murdoch. Via War in Context. An opinion unlikely to see the insides of a Murdoch publication or Media presentation.

At Truthdig, David Sirota is surprised that his local television station actually mentioned the social reality. OWS seems to have made a difference. Income inequality was briefly.

The focus should not be on media, but on the system of opinion formation of which certain player, without ignoring those who are operating behind the curtain of media scrutiny, such that it is. The purpose of media may be to make a profit, and those to function as propaganda machine, but it’s superordinate democratic role, once performed by the myriad pamphlets created by the printing presses was informing the democratic citizenry.

ELSEWHERE:

Sinclair Davidson is critical of John Quiggin.

Professor Ian Marsh has an analysis of the disconnect within the political process that has developed, in which the media’s role is significant as it is negative. He writes as part of a social and political development:

From the perspective of building a prudent public opinion, media influence is almost wholly malign. Media focus is short term, there is an incentive to sensationalise and trivialise, it is impossible to sustain a complex argument via this channel. The media have commercial imperatives which are hardly consistent with good public policy, and sound-bite politics is inevitably lowest common denominator politics.

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