There’s been a lot of good discussion recently, started by John Lord, about democracy, or the lack of it in Australia, and as I was watching ‘Clarke and Dawe’ on the ABC this week I was reminded of the saying by Winston Churchill, “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” Condescending, yes but at the same time, quite true.
My parents used to tell me that if I believed nothing of what I read
and half of what I saw, I would not be caught out by charlatans
disguised as wise men. That was good advice and also true. I’ve rarely
been caught out by false claims except those of a religious nature, when
I was young, but I’m immune from them now, too.
That is why I am forever sceptical of politicians and the media.
Things can be said by both which can infer one thing but mean another. I
used to rationalise that I was the one who didn’t understand until I
discovered that politicians excel in the art of double-speak and I was
just another victim whose mind was being deliberately manipulated. And I
have been aware, particularly in more recent times, the media are doing
Thursday we were all shocked to hear that Australian Federal Police
raids were conducted in Sydney and Brisbane and several arrests made of
men suspected of having the intent to commit a terrorist act. The media
reporting shocked us because of the mention of alleged beheadings being a
part of the plan of those involved. Having not yet recovered from the
abhorred acts by members of IS against Western journalists in Iraq, the
very mention of beheadings planned by Australians in Australia was a
shocking news item to have to confront.
So I watched every news story I could on this event, eager to hear
what the authorities were actually saying. But I soon realised that it
was what they were NOT saying that was more to the point. Not one
authorised person interviewed on Thursday night suggested that a
beheading was being planned. Not one. The only reference to beheadings
came from the media.
There was one occasion on the 7.30 report when Leigh Sales asked AFP
Commissioner Andrew Colvin if his concerns about intended acts of
violence included beheadings. His reply was that such acts had to be
taken into account when considering all the possibilities. This was
hardly a definitive statement about any particular act. He also appeared
reluctant to mention the word.
where did the idea of beheadings originate? Clearly not from the
authorities. This leaves me to draw the conclusion that it was someone
in the media who invented the notion of beheadings and permeated that
notion on a whim, or a fanciful idea to embellish a story big enough to
make it the main news item of the day. Then it went viral. It would have
been the main news item of the day, anyway. No embellishment was
So what does all this have to do with democracy?
Deliberately using a means of mass communication to spread an idea
that brings fear into the hearts and minds of the community is an abuse
of the democratic process. To use the media to subliminally marginalise
one section of the community is an abuse of process.
Little wonder that the average voter, to paraphrase Winston
Churchill, doesn’t have much of an idea about what is happening in their
name. And it doesn’t exude much confidence in a true democracy if their
minds are so polluted with false reporting, lies, deliberate deception
and where journalists and politicians are all too ready to take
advantage of their weakest moments and uninformed opinions.
These moments and events mis-reported as they are, only provide more
evidence, if we needed any, to the claims that democracy in Australia is
paper thin and more a fantasy than a fact.
the efficacy of what politicians and the media do is the duty of us
all. Any discomfort that we may feel in so challenging, pales in
comparison to the broader principal. To do otherwise is to approve of
mediocrity in the media and an abuse of our democratic process.