Demonising gun owners: Persuasion versus putting on a show

The tragic mass shooting in a Texas church this past weekend has reignited the debate about America’s gun laws. Despite being inclined towards the libertarian position on many political issues, I’m not really that invested in the gun control debate. Firearm laws just aren’t a topic I normally have much interest in because there are other issues that matter more to me personally. Living in Australia, which has a different relationship to firearms than the US, I’m also wary of getting too involved in an argument with people for whom this stuff matters much more personally. As a private citizen in Australia, I presently have no interest in owning any guns. However I am capable of admiring the skill that goes into the design and […]

State of the Nation – Four Election Insights

You can not win an election unless there is an issue you are passionate about and are prepared to fight for.  – Gary Morgan. On Wednesday morning, I was fortunate to be able to attend the launch of the latest Roy Morgan State of the Nation report – election edition. The presentation explored the Australian political landscape, with a particular focus on the upcoming election, the issues of importance to voters, and the challenges for whoever forms the next government. My commentary below is based on the presentation, as well my notes in some of the other comments maybe by Gary Morgan and Michele Levine at the presentation. 1. It’s the economics at home that matter Forty-two  percent of Australians rate economic issues as the […]

Fairfax ‘click bait’ does it no favours

   A lot of people like to hold out the Fairfax media as some sort of bastion of quality journalism. But if Fairfax is trying to carve a niche as the ‘quality’ news source, it might want to steer away from the sort of click bait journalism it engaged in today. Here’s the morning headline from the SMH, and a similar snapshot from the Canberra Times.      Now let’s hone in on that cancer story… CANCER RISK CONFRONTING MILLIONS A new report suggests almost one in three people may be affected. O. M. G.   One in three people affected. That sounds really really bad. But it says affected. That’s a bit of a give away that we might not be talking about your actual […]

Politicians and the God Complex: Voting for someone without all the answers

Would you vote for a politician who told you they didn’t have all the answers? After watching Tim Hartford’s TED Talk on ‘The God Complex’, perhaps you might be more willing to consider it. But if ‘trial and error’ is a better policy alternative, why isn’t it more popular with politicians? Tim Hartford argues that in our incredibly complex world, one has to have a God Complex to be ‘absolutely convinced’ they know how the world works. Likewise, someone who believes their particular solution to a problem is ‘infallibly right’ is kidding themselves. Hartford claims the best process for solving our problems is actually through trial and error. So when it comes to rolling out a nationwide policy, especially something long lasting and very expensive, […]

Will GetUp!’s satire GetIt! in trouble?

With an election likely to be called in the next few months, advocacy group GetUp! has launched a campaign encouraging people to ensure they are enrolled to vote.   A key element of this campaign is a YouTube clip portraying the electoral battle as if it were the latest Hollywood action movie. The clip is cleverly put together – superimposing the faces of  political figures on to the bodies of Hollywood action heroes amd tying together action sequences  with a dramatic soundtrack interspaced by political ‘sound-bites’. It looks and feels like a genuine Hollywood movie trailer, no doubt helped by the fact that GetUp! have utilised footage from actual blockbusters such as The Matrix and The Fifth Element. Which raises the question of whether this video […]

Hetero sex scandal?

One day, public figures being gay and/or enjoying sex won’t be newsworthy. Unfortunately for David Campbell,  that day is yet to dawn.  As Channel Seven demonstrated earlier this year, for some journalists and the audience they serve, that combination is still seen as scandalous. When the David Campbell story broke,  LE  pointed out the mixed messages being sent out on this topic.  At the same time some members of the media where busy berating Jason Akermanis for discouraging gay AFL players from coming out, “gay sex scandal” was rapidly becoming the headline of the day as the David Campbell story escalated. Seven’s original story was accompanied by allegations Campbell had misused his ministerial car in order to attend “Kens at Kensington” and that he had […]

Publicity via controversy: Kick-Ass vs VicRoads

This week has seen a couple of examples of organisations generating publicity via controversy. Sometimes controversy works as a publicity tool and other times – one has to question whether it risks diluting or obscuring the real message. For the promoters of the film Kick-Ass, upsetting groups like ‘Focus on Family‘ is probably great publicity. When your target audience is 16-24 year olds, having religious groups fulminating in a tabloid news story about the violence and lewdness of your film seems like a win. Perhaps the main complaint of the Kick-Ass promoters would be that the controversy seems to have died down too quickly. Meanwhile, VicRoads looks to have generated more controversy than it originally intended with a series of YouTube videos targeted at young […]

Penbo for Media Watch?

David Penberthy’s article in ‘The Punch” today looks at the role of celebrity agent / PR man Max Markson in the recent Lara Bingle affair.  The thrust of Penberthey’s article is that Markson’s attempts to maximise the short term revenue opportunity from the recent media attention has in fact harmed, rather than helped, Bingle’s reputation.  Penberthy is well aware of the irony of his moral outrage: “I’m under no illusions about the perception of journalists and journalism. And, as a former editor of The Daily Telegraph, I’m not about to embark on a career as an ethicist. “ (The Punch, 15/03/2010) Maybe not a career as an ethicist, but perhaps the ABC should consider him as the next host of Media Watch.  Whilst he’s no ‘clean skin’, […]