Since the Australian election I’ve been feeling a strange ennui.
The media cycle has slowed down and I don’t get novel or interesting information anywhere near as often as I’ve become accustomed to.
I wait for a new factoid to arrive, something to get my thought processes going or fire my emotions.
There’s nothing there.
That’s not to say the media – of which I am of course a part – is not trying.
All through the negotiations between the major parties and the independents, there was speculation galore. Every word seized on. Tiny factoids analysed.
Like many, I revelled in it. But I now see the same sort of writing, at a time when less is happening.
It’s made me realise that I go looking for news a lot, but that the content on offer is not very nourishing. I get a lot of “who” and “what” and “where” but very little high-value “why.” And it is the “why,” I have always believed, that is the reason to consume media because I want to be able to make sense of the world, not just know how it is turning.
Now as it happens, I think the Liberal Party’s communications plans are tailor-made for this environment where there’s a lot of interest in the “who what and where.”
I surmise those tactics as containing the following elements:
- Always attack;
- If you cannot reasonably attack, cast doubt on whatever the government is doing;
- Make any weakness a strength by linking issues on which you are weak to related issues on which your opponents are weak. Hence the NBN is not argued against on grounds of utility, but on potential to create wastage;
- Never admit mistakes, instead dispute the interpretation/and or motives of the source whose views have become dominant and made yours appear in error. Thus the Attorney General’s advice on pairing the Speaker can be dismissed as somehow errant.
- If all else fails, drape yourself in the flag and say you are defending Australian values and your opponents are dangerous pinko flakes.
This kind of communications style, I believe, lends itself to constant coverage because it always creates drama. You cannot attack without being colourful.
Media consumers who want more, more often, get what they want.
And the sheer volume of it means the meme of the day or the week floats to the top pretty fast.
I’m not sure if anyone’s understanding of issues really gets advanced all that far, or if debate improves as a result. Others have talked about how the blogosphere can become an echo chamber for one’s own prejudices, so there’s no need for me to go there again.
Myself? I’m trying to wean myself off the expectation there’s always novelty springing up, and that I could or should seek it out.
I’m trying to reduce my media consumption, to seek out byways of perspective and analysis instead of always wading into the river fact.
I don’t want all this news any more.