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Political Manipulation: Alive in Australia and Doing Well

Updated on August 5, 2017
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Lawyer, research/writer and social activist, working alongside many Australian and international non-profit third sector society orgs.

Mainstream Media Farce

Mainstream media is increasingly exposed for the sham that it is - a utility tool to influence public narrative with, usually, a political agenda. We could delve on for pages about the specific corporate structures of main offenders of media spin, we could even talk about the AEC’s public record of donations from individuals associated with these organisation’s, but this is pretty much common knowledge i.e. Murdoch, Packer and all their little subsidiary outlets and holding company cronies.

But more directly related to the core issue, than the instigators of said issue themselves, in my opinion is the actual strategies deployed by these outlets, the intended effect on the reader/viewer and the reader/viewer’s ability to identify what is bullshit from what is reporting and be able to sift through their bias’s in a healthy, objective way. We all have biases. It’s not necessarily a negative thing either, it’s a part of human nature and a way for our minds to understand the world around us in relation to our subjective views, culture, spiritual identifications and the like.

However, when these biases are not kept in check by our own internal processors, we open ourselves up to manipulation by the structures that be and may be conned into doing their bidding. This is everywhere, to deny such is occurring is denying reality, for if the individual as part of a broader collective, truly believed in their own power within the broader context of society then we would not have multiple world governments running absolutely rogue and exploiting us in the first place. In a representative government, officials are supposed to do the people’s bidding, not the other way around.

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Mass Systems Dependency Theory (MSDT)

When we don’t know something, we tend to look to others or ‘outside’ to validate and help us make sense of whatever is going on. We even look to certain systems we think are credible, affluent or experts in something that we are not and we shift our own power to rationalise into the hands of others, whose intentions we don’t really know from a bar of soap. That isn’t to demonise well informed opinion, rather offered as a consideration point when differentiating crap from truth.

Media systems, like any other structure, has a significant impact on how individuals participate with and engage our society, politics and each other. As a result, this individual experience shapes and forms out collective experience with the extended world, making regulation of information streams am integral part of a well informed public. Simply because one person may not engage with mainstream media, doesn’t completely isolate them from the negative effects, because of the individual forming the collective aspect of human behaviour and life.

The thought school of 'Systems Theory' sifts through various influencing factors of components of what makes a system tick: a system being a bunch of independent things or mechanisms comprising an interconnecting network, a complex whole to further an ultimate objective. Within that school of systems thought there are other, more subjective applications, mini—schools if you will. Mass System Dependency Theory is just one. I won’t get into the logistics because I’m by no means an expert, but if you wish to follow more a credible source link is provided below. Essentially, MSDT is grounded in sociological literature, claiming that media and its audiences should be studied in the context of larger social systems, to be able to provide an individual with a comprehensive explanation of the effects media and mass media can have.

By now it’s become apparent that most , not all, things positioned in mainstream media is usually done with manipulative agenda’s, rather than noble intentions we’d like to associate with journalist integrity. Coverage usually focusses on war, fighting, quarrels between politicians, stupid inconsequential things a politician tweets (insert ‘covfefe’ here) rather than the important policies being advocated or discouraged, the deeper motives of the entire lawmaking system or anything else that has relevance or benefit to the people. Chalk it up to whatever you like, information coverage within the mainstream media, largely, is sold to the highest bidder without any further considerations.

3 Points

There’s so much literature on subjective aspect of MSDT or Communications Theory, but one of the primary resources was developed by Sandra Ball-Rokeach and Melvin Defleur, first published in 1976, which explains how certain tactics are used to penetrate an individual on a psychological level to alter perception. Ball-Rokeach and Defleur’s structural investigation and psychoanalytic application of Mass System Dependency roots itself in the notion that media and consumption of media is a very personal interaction. Although millions, billions of people could be presented with the same data, each person will internalise that data dependant on their own individual moods. The authors identify three basic needs that must be met to determine how important mass media may be to a person at any given moment, they are:

  1. The need to understand one’s social world (surveillance)
  2. The need to act meaningfully and effectively in that world (social utility)
  3. The need to escape from that world when tensions are high (fantasy-escape)

The more frequent a source of information/media can meet these needs on an individual basis, the greater the opportunity to affect and influence peoples attitudes and behaviours towards their external environments.

Humans are naturally wired to be many things, especially with correlation to the above three points above, so the possibility of being triggered on a psychological level, by information in the media is present in everyone subjective to their levels of response.

  1. Curious (surveillance). Our sheer ability to be cognizant beings, inquisitive just like animals, to wonder and think about our surroundings. Of course humans have a need to understand one’s social world, we’re innately primed to be curious - about everything.
  2. Social Creatures (social utility). Our tribal origins were verbalised since the days of Aristotle when man created words to explain this feeling present in all humans of wanting to be a part of something, a group. By nature we are social creatures - always have been, always will be.
  3. Creativity/Imagination (fantasy-escape). This can swing two ways. Creativity, imagination and fantasy are inherent in all humans to some level and have produced some of the finest expressions, visual, audible or otherwise of what it is like to be human. Escapism however, while having some positive benefits, can also indicate a denial of reality, inability to accept truth and a display of man’s ignorance.

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Threat to Democracy

As the world around us seems to become more complex, what with advances in technologies, growing socio-political and cultural issues and so on, we look outside ourselves to find information to our questions. It seems the ability to have an answer is more readily appreciated than the ability to just ask the right questions these days and critically examine ones surrounding and place in today's world.

Even this, this article right here, I could be trying to subtly push some agenda you have no idea about - what’s the point of writing if not to express a perspective? Well, I’m easy, I’ll just tell you my agenda. Which is to be just one more addition to the already flourishing body of voices out there to help individuals navigate this crazy, messed up world by offering a perspective different to the the out-dated, manipulative messages we've receive from the military-industrial complex for the better part of a century; whether you take it or leave it is none of my business.

The external messaging we receive daily from the media, whether that’s your Sunday newspaper, TV, the internet or whatever, trains us to marginalise ourselves and our efforts, to think we cannot effect change and to drum up as much fear as possible to paralyse us from stepping out and taking actual action.

This is a purposefully designed infiltration of information streams and debunking of free communication flows to a wide audience of people. Propaganda, unfounded association and suggestion, framing and countless others are just some tactics the media and politics uses to obscure their responsibilities and distract us from the actual intentions and motives behind why a certain action is being taken and why another is being dismissed.

Democratic governments were formed in the name of ‘representative democracy,’ that is to represent; to uphold and pursue the needs and desires of the citizens, constituents and people, not to pursue a personal or plutocratic desire but to have the collective benefit in front of mind.

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27th & 28th July 2017 - Central Station & Haymarket

A local example of this, which occurred the past two days in my hometown of Sydney, Australia has stirred up much distress and frustration, both within myself and the external community.

Below are two videos, of two news stories that both occurred within two days of each other. The first, a story covered by all large Australian media channels, from 9News to Channel 7, Sydney Morning Herald etc.

This story occurred Thursday 27th July 2017, where a man (suggested by family to be suffering from depression at the time) threatened a florist at Sydney Central Station and forced him to call the police. NSW police arrived on the scene, where CCTV footage shows four armed officers, attempt to get the man to drop the weapon he was holding (a pair of scissors). The man didn’t relinquish the scissors and ran at police, the closest one of which fired four bullets and shot the man dead on the spot.

To throw my two cents here, there were four trained police officers, responding to a man holding a pair of scissors - it’s not like he had a firearm. Instead of containing the situation, which is what law enforcement is trained to do, four bullets had to be fired to control the situation? Seems like trigger happy police brutality and unnecessary use of force if you ask me.

The second story occurred the following day Friday 28th July 2018 where a man (assumed) to be of Iranian origin, official reports have not been concluded yet, was protesting in front of the Department of Border Protection and Immigration, Haymarket offices by sitting down, propped up against the building talking to whoever would listen.

The man, clearly troubled, doused himself in petrol and eventually lit himself on fire. Again, police were nearby with fire extinguishers and were able to put the fire out within seconds. What is troubling, is the press release following the incident where a NSW police force Detective Superintendent remarked, with particularly odd emphasis, on the ‘exceptionability’ of NSW police and suggesting that there behaviour was occupational exceptionalism despite having to deal with troubling situations such as this on a daily basis.

This, on top of the fact, that most of every mainstream media coverage of the story engaged in blatant victim shaming.

Would also like to point out on the news article link of the DIBP incident how the Department spokesman, later covered by the writers of the article, felt the need to work in the fact that it was ‘Not Terror Related’. Last time I checked, standard definitions of terrorism meant inciting violence or fear, which seeks to threaten others - how the f*** is sitting down in desperation and trying to end your own life possibly misconstrued as an ‘act of terror.’ People require appointments at the DIBP to obtain passport clearances too, but the spokesperson didn’t feel the need to clarify the incident was also ‘not related to pissed off person over passport quarrel’ or any other irrelevant qualifier. Suggestive of an agenda much…

When we think of the DIBP story, similar ones of self-immolation in immigration detention centres spring to mind. These people have been exploited and brutalised for years, for years living life in limbo with no certainty of their futures, forced to live with traumatic memories of detention - current or previous - separation from their families and the general everyday struggles reflective of what it is like to actually go through the asylum seeker/refugee process in Australia.

This act mirrors the underlying problems caused by Australian political position on this and its handling of immigration issues. As someone who works with this arena, this is not uncommon and something like this occurs everyday, every single day - yet the media liked to play on it, to the larger public, as some big act of societal defiance by the desperate man, as well as a conveniently timed opportunity to praise police following the previous days behaviour.

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3 Points in Application - An Example

To apply the above three criteria’s of Ball-Rokeach and Defleur’s work to this example, these are my interpretations of the matter, though there are many more I’m sure:

1) Surveillance - Both these incidents occurred in two of the most public and busy area’s in the city; Central Station and Haymarket, a suburb forming part of the Central Business District. Neither of these incidents could hide from media attention, even if they wanted to, purely because they happened in such visible areas.

Nevertheless, controlling the narrative of both these stories is necessary to drip feed pieces of the whole story to the inquisitive and curious readers/viewers of Sydney, allowing them to understand and know about the events that recently occurred around them.

2) Social Utility - Every single media story will have a collective aspect to it, trying to foster cohesion and bridge the divide between the medium and the individual. In my opinion, the social utility aspect of these incidents both took advantage of police involvement, trying to insinuate the collective public are being fiercely protected by our law enforcements knights in shining armour.

Official reporting of both the incidents completely missed the mark on the real problems. Of the first story, behind excessive use of force by police on a man with potential mental health issues who was not even behaving as violent or aggressive as one could justify the use of drawing a weapon on. I’ve seen club bouncers subdue juice-heads with more aggression without resorting to severe physical consequences, yet it was quite alright to shoot a man with scissors four times? Of the second story, victim shaming a man struggling with mental health brought on by inhumane treatment for year on end by multiple governments was used to control the narrative of the incident away from the core policy issues and towards how amazingly our police force are.

3) Fantasy-escape - On a general average, people don’t like to hear negative things. We don’t like to hear about the fact that we may have a valid, systematic mentality issue within our law enforcement, which is actually a threat to the public and general freedoms than it is for the benefit of our safety.

We don’t like to hear that our Government is embroiled in international disputes everyday because of our inhumane and cruel approach towards asylum seekers, which is illegal by the way, and probably a major aspect that caused the man’s behaviour that day. We like to escape the harsh realities of life and dive off into some fantasy world where all is well, there’s no problem here and that everything works just fine, “see, look how well our police helped that situation,” instead of “hmm, I wonder what horrible things must have happened to that man to make him feel/act this way?"

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Final Words

It’s just absolutely atrocious and the whole think stinks.

Particularly when one ruminates over the fact that this kind of reality denial will only guarantee years of the same negative environments for everyone, all because we as a general public are uncomfortable with the truth and lulled into a sense of apathy to incite real positive change. Many people in the community continue subscribing to information fed by the media; most notable when I was trawling through the vitriolic comments on social media postings by the news outlets or on the digital websites of their networks.

An ability to critically think for oneself and total submission to polluted ‘group think’ mentality, does nothing beneficial and only reinforces the legitimacy of Lawrence Krauss’s notion that “the biggest threat to democracy is an uninformed electorate.”

© 2017 Sharon G

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