There’s a bit of a meme going around with Howard supporters at the moment, which this quote – attributed Peter Ruehl of the Fin Review – sums up nicely,
“Whenever you [hear] somebody saying the other side won because of scare tactics, what they are saying is the voters are stupid” (quoted by “harry clarke” on John Quiggin’s weblog).
Let me spell this out: both sides ran advertisements designed to elicit strong concerns about the other’s leader and their possible behaviour in office. Like almost all modern advertising, they were designed to elicit an emotional as well as intellectual response.
These ads were, in the venacular, scary.
To follow Peter Ruehl’s logic through, when a party runs one of these scary advertisements, it’s because they think the voters are stupid. The Liberal party ran the largest number of scary advertisements so obviously, the Liberal party thinks the voters are stupidest. That’s what Peter Ruehl is saying.
For the record, I think the Liberal party’s scare campaign may not have been responsible for their win, but it was responsible for the size of their win. Their ads were well targeted, well timed and played on the fears of the large number of Australian voters that don’t care about federal politics. These voters are not stupid – they are ill informed on the runnings of our country, scared of interest rate rises and more ready to believe bad things about politicans than good things, but not stupid. In their position would be strange if they weren’t scared by the Liberal party’s ads. Congratulations to John Howard and his team for understanding the voters better.
So to Peter Ruehl and friends, no, I don’t think the voters are stupid, any more than the Liberal party does.
Starting from July 1, 2005, the Liberals will have control of the senate, and it’s likely that cross media ownership laws will be relaxed, if not completely repealed. Currently, those laws are the only thing stopping Kerry Packer buying the old Fairfax empire.
I am expecting most of Australian television and print media to be owned by Kerry Packer and Rupert Murdoch by the end of 2007. Both Packer and Murdoch have a conflict of interest when it comes to reporting the news, in that with such large businesses, the news often reflects poorly on them, and so it gets censored.
Check out the Limited News site for a glimpse of how the Murdoch empire controls its newspapers for it’s own benefit. Don’t expect any better from Packer.
I also expect to see the government reign in the ABC‘s news departments, shrinking them agin and also demanding more favourable coverage under threat of disbandment.
So today I subscribed to Crikey, not because their news is brilliant, but because they are independent. I hope Crikey will be the first of a number of independent news bureaux running with low overheads and quality reporters.