October 19, 2013

Ministry of Truth

Live Long and Prosper

The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society.
Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government that is the true ruling power of this country.
We are governed, our minds molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. …
In almost every act of our daily lives, whether
  • in the sphere of politics or business, [or]
  • in our social conduct or our ethical thinking,
we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons … who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses.
It is they who:
  • pull the wires [that] control the public mind,
  • harness old social forces, and
  • contrive new ways to bind and guide the world.

Edward Bernays (1891 – 1995), Organizing Chaos, Propaganda, Chapter 1, 1928, emphasis added.

Stuart Ewen (1945) [Historian of Public Relations]:
[In a consumer society, it's] not that the people are in charge, but that the people's desires are in charge.

Paul Mazur [Lehman Brothers]:
We must shift … from a needs to a desires culture.
People must be trained to desire — to want new things even before the old have been entirely consumed.
We must shape a new mentality …
Man's desires must overshadow his needs.
(Adam Curtis, Happiness Machines, The Century of the Self, Episode 1, 2002)

George Orwell (1903 – 50):
Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past …
(Nineteen Eight-Four, 1949)

All propaganda is lies, even when one is telling the truth.
(14 March 1942)

A concerted set of messages aimed at influencing the opinions or behavior of large numbers of people.
(Wiktionary, 16 February 2013)

Thomas Paine (1737 – 1809):
When men yield up the exclusive privilege of thinking, the last shadow of liberty quits the horizon.

Danny Glover:
Every aspect of our lives — from what we buy, what is sold to us, who produces it — all those things are connected.
It's not only a monopoly of wealth, it's a monopoly of information …

Noam Chompsky (1928):
The United States is unusual among the industrial democracies in the rigidity of the system of ideological control … exercised through the mass media.
(Jean-Philippe Tremblay, Shadows of Liberty, 2012)

Political Disposition Versus Integrity

Robert Manne (1947): Professor of Politics, Latrobe University

[Paul Keating] made a terrible mistake in the mid-80s …
[He] allowed Rupert Murdoch's … News Limited, to take possession of … 70% of the Australian newspapers …
{[The] Press matters … not only [because it] sets the tone for radio and television news [but also because of its] enormous online presence …}

[Murdoch] combines … his passion for money and his passion for power in a highly original and innovative way.
[In] the United States, with Fox News, he has profoundly distorted the trajectory of the most important country in the world …
[He is] a highly destructive figure …

[The Australian newspaper] took a very strange turn when a very typical Murdoch employee, Chris Mitchell took over in 2002.
[Over the last decade] it has played an extraordinary role [in shaping] the politics of the nation [into what] we've become accustomed to …
[The] overwhelming issue of the age … is climate change.
[And] it has had a profoundly bad effect amongst the elite … on the question of climate change. …
At the heart of democratic politics in Australia is the need to confront the distorting impact the Murdoch press has had on our national affairs. …

[The Australian is] populist, conservative, neo-liberal [and] right wing – absolutely within the framework of Rupert Murdoch's politics …
But is was also a bullying paper.
[There] were certain people, like Tim Flannery, or myself, or various other people, David Marr …
There would be hundreds of articles over the years ridiculing, distorting, so on and so forth. …
There's an indigenous academic Larissa Barendt who wrote a silly tweet …
[For] about a month, her character was assassinated.
And she's not a robust person … she suffered a great deal. …

I felt someone had to stand up against this.
[And that] it was [important] not only to analyse it, but … to appear not to be frightened of the predictable response. …
There were [about] forty or fifty attacks [in response to my Quarterly Essay.]
[There] was one Saturday paper, in which … fifteen or sixteen thousand words [were] devoted to showing what a fool I was.

[For] me, it was very important that I fought back.
[There] is an old joke which says that you can never conduct an argument with any organisation … that buys ink by the barrel load …
… I have tried to show you can.

So … there are [three] elements to The Australian
  • that it's connected to the 70% of the Press in fighting for its causes …
  • the ideology of the paper and …
  • the bullying style [that plays such] a damaging role in the capacity of the country to have a democratic politics. …

[Tim Flannery is] one of the great writers of Australia … a very fine public intellectual and a very fine man. …
News Limited has tried to destroy his credibility.
[I believe] it's very important to resist. …

[There are] two papers that I read a fair bit of:
  • The Australian is right wing,
  • The Guardian is left wing. …
So I have a balanced intake.

[The Guardian] definitely has a bias to the Left.
But I trust it's journalists [—] even to bring up cases which are awkward from their point of view. …
[They] discuss policy.
And they pursue even contradictions within the world of the Left.
Whereas I just don't think that's true of The Australian.

So there's not only the issue of [general political] disposition.
[There's] also the question of integrity …
[If] I read The New York Times, I don't [always] agree with it …
But I know they're [at least] trying to get it right. …

The Australian, in the early 90s, was quite a good paper — when Paul Kelly was the editor.
[We've] just watched as it's gone down hill …

(Media Matters, Perth Writers Festival, Big Ideas, ABC Television, 26 March 20012, emphasis added)

Is News Corp Failing Science?

Union of Concerned Scientists
  • Over a recent six-month period, 93% of Fox News Channel’s representations of climate science were misleading (37 out of 40 instances).
  • Similarly, over the past year, 81% of the representations of climate science in the Wall Street Journal’s opinion section were misleading (39 out of 48 instances).

UCS’s examination finds that the misleading citations include
  • broad dismissals of human-caused climate change,
  • disparaging comments about individual scientists,
  • rejections of climate science as a body of knowledge, and
  • cherry picking of data.

[Much] of this coverage denigrated climate science by either
  • promoting distrust in scientists and scientific institutions or
  • placing acceptance of climate change in an ideological, rather than fact-based, context.

In 2007 … Rupert Murdoch claimed coverage of climate change in his media outlets would improve over time.
[This] has not been achieved. …
(p vii)

UCS calls upon News Corp
  • to undertake a thorough examination of how its media outlets portray climate science …
  • to develop standards and practices for communicating the subject to its audiences [and]
  • to help its staff to differentiate between ideological beliefs and scientific facts …
(p viii)

Would you like to know more?

Big Ideas 2013

ABC Radio National: Big Ideas

The Last Tree

Arlo Guthrie (1947)

I remember bein' a little kid one day, you know, and the teacher said:
When you see the white blast out of the school room window and the mushroom cloud, be sure and get under the desk right away. …
And that's fine, when you're five years old, or six years old.
You have to do what they say.

But when you're 12 or 13 and you start realizing it doesn't matter which way you fry.
That these people are actually insane, or they're just stupid.
And, either way, you're not expected to listen to them any more.
And so there was a time in the 60s, when it seemed like the whole world had a bunch of young people who said:
What else are these people tellin us, that is as ridiculous as that?
And so, we had, what we would call these days … a cultural revolution. …
It didn't change everything.
But it changed enough stuff.

Now we're talking about the environment.
We're arguing about it. …
We weren't doin that 50 years ago.
There was only one way to think about it, and that was:
Pollute to make money is the best way to do everything!
And that's changed.
It's changed because people started askin questions.

It doesn't matter whether they're on the Right, the Left, the this or that …
There needs to be people in every group who ask that group questions that an outsider could never ask.
So it's important to make friends in all the different groups, in all the different cultures, in all the different places …
And so that you support each other by having at least that attitude. …

I hate idea that, if you have enough money, and you have enough wealth, and you have enough influence — that you can influence entire nations, and groups of people, and take advantage of their, either, poverty or their fears, or their whatever … so that you profit by it.
Only for a short run.
You can destroy the whole world, for what?

You know, there's an old Cree Indian saying …
After you've poisoned the last lake,
And you've cut the last tree,
And you've killed the last river,
Only then will people realize that you can't eat money. …
I don't want to wait for that.
It's important to get out and talk about that.
You don't have to be right.
It's not a matter of bein right.
It's a matter of not being … herded, like some mindless cattle herd just goin down the road, goin along with the program, without at least askin.
And that's when things change.
When people are at least not afraid to ask.

(15 August 2013)

October 18, 2013

Working Life 2

Belinda Probert

Housework as a Female Occupation

The home, which is [your husband's] paradise, is
  • your handiwork,
  • your refuge,
  • your pride,
  • your castle,
  • your very, very own,
  • your actual self,
  • a part of you inseparable.
It is your heart and brain translated into the arrangement of daily life.

(The Australian Housewives' Manual, 1885)

The Future of Work

[Technological] change is not a neutral process driven by scientific progress or an abstract concern with efficiency.
On the contrary, specific technologies are developed and applied as a result of pressure form identifiable social groups pursuing their particular [interests.]
Nor is it the case, once these technologies have been developed, that the way they are used will be shaped by considerations of broad social benefits.
Rather, the use that is made of them is determined by the economic and social relations within which they are introduced.
(p 164)

[Whether the] labour-saving potential of new technology [will be realized or not] is not something which will be democratically decided or fairly shared if [the existing system of] economic, social and political [relations] remains unchanged.
(p 171)

It is more likely that technological change will lead to permanent unemployment for some … rather than shorter working hours for all.
(p 172)

October 7, 2013

Sectoral Impacts

World Bank: Four Degree World

Ecosystems and Biodiversity

Analysis of the exposure of 185 eco-regions of exceptional biodiversity … to extreme monthly temperature and precipitation conditions in the 21st century … shows that within 60 years almost all of the regions … will experience extreme temperature conditions …
[Large-scale] loss of biodiversity is likely to occur … with climate change and high CO2 concentration driving a transition of the Earth´s ecosystems into a state unknown in human experience.

(Turn Down the Heat, 2012, p 53)