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Saturday, April 02, 2005

Political editors vs social networks

As I read John Armstrongs latest column on George Hawkins escaping more misery, saved by Winston Peter's renewed attack on Peron wouldn't you believe, it occurred to me how close our political editors and reporters are to the day-to-day machinations of Parliament.

Often when I read the political columns and news reports I came away greatly educated on the little snarky games our politicos play, but I also feel as if I am being invited to treat the whole political endeavour as some game where truth is less important than political strategy, and effective debate is less important than scoring cheap hits against political opponents.

Armstrong is a case in point. He's an excellent writer and paces his columns well, drawing the reader in and often outlining smaller political events that have either not been reported or were buried in some back-page item. But he seems to singularly lack the ability (or desire) to pass judgement on any given political event or politician. Is that what being a political editor means in New Zealand? To avoid passing judgement on even the most horrible perversions of truth, such as Peters vs Peron? Does the style of political opinion writing in New Zealand media now require so much inside information that offending a source outweighs all other considerations?

If there is no sense of moral or ethical outrage exhibited by the very people who are meant to be the public's eyes and ears, then how can distributed public discontent ever build into a demand for change? Is it possible for a section of the public to develop and act on outrage without some sort of 'sanction' or encouragement provided by the people who control the forums of public expression?

In the United States, social networks for building outrage have long been part of the political landscape. The conservatives first took to the radio air waves and organised mail-out campaigns to offset liberal control of the popular media. Since then the Internet has allowed discussion forums like Free Republic to blossom, where conversation is more point-to-point rather than leader-to-reader, and links to external sources and other opinion is the norm. Political blogs are a further refinement of this idea, but more from a personal soapbox point of view. But here in New Zealand we seem to have few such popular social networks, unless you include talkback shows on Newstalk ZB and the soon-to-be-terminated Radio Pacific.

I guess thats what we 'right' kiwi political blogs are now trying to build - a social network of opinionated people outraged at the way our country is being run. We have little expression through the media for our discontent, so here we are creating our own interlinked cost-efficient soapboxes.

Posted by Antarctic Lemur | 4/02/2005 04:41:00 AM