Flat White

You’re concerned about my right to know? Look who’s talking

8 November 2019

2:53 PM

8 November 2019

2:53 PM

Was it really just last month that the mainstream media teamed up to advocate their own freedoms, covering their newspaper covers with blacked-out redacted text? It feels like a year ago. Perhaps that’s because everyone forgot about it overnight, even though they’ve been at it so hard.

How can media organisations be so far off the mark in getting the attention of Australia – isn’t that their job description? Was it not pithy enough? Did they need a different headline? Maybe ‘black lines matter’ would have triggered more discussion. Through lack of practice, have they lost the ability to command our attention beyond one 24-hour spin cycle? Or perhaps they failed to tug the heartstrings of Australia because we really just don’t care that much.

Just like the movie industry has an inflated sense of its own importance — its celebrities assuming that we all care about their opinions, and its critics gushing over films about film-making (cough* LaLa Land), which turn out to be boring and self-congratulatory and just highlight their collectively skewed self-awareness — so the news media has an inflated perception of its own importance.

They have apparently become very concerned about your ‘right to know’, which is actually their right to know. But should everyday Australians like me really be offended that the government has confidential information?”

Too much of the media today has almost completely lost their ability to distinguish between reporting of facts and opinions. It is unethical to cherry-pick facts to support a specific perspective — and yet that is the norm today. Journalists don’t even try to develop their opinions from the facts. They just find the facts to support their opinions.

Last year, I watched ABC news report that 200 people went on a violent rampage on the streets of Melbourne. They had no video footage in the report, which seemed curious to me. How could something like that happen without any video footage? I was immediately suspicious, so I looked up the incident online and saw that there was footage and that my suspicion was correct: it would have been impossible to show it without viewers noticing that all of the rioters were black Africans. So rather than let the audience chose how to assimilate that information for themselves, the ABC tried to prevent us from being racist, by preventing us from knowing. What happened to our ‘right to know’ that day?


If the media really cared about our right to know, then they would report everything. When Queensland passed one of the most liberal abortion bills in the world, I found out on Facebook. I immediately went to abc.net.au to find out the details, but it was not even mentioned on their homepage, and I couldn’t find it when I searched ‘abortion’ in their search bar. They had a headline article about the death of the Big Bird actor, and yet couldn’t share this?  When it finally warranted a headline, it was in an article about how ungraciously conservatives were taking it.

I like to follow news from the USA directly. Often I look at our own ABC News website to see what they are saying about an issue. They never, I mean never, report when Donald Trump has a ‘win’. Australians only know one side of his Presidency; it is astonishing. Do people in Australia even know that unemployment in USA is the lowest it has been since the moon landing and that black unemployment is the lowest it has ever been? Do Australians know that he is already building his wall, having appropriated military funding?

The USA media has been disgracing itself for the last two years, repeatedly kicking ‘own goals’. Just look up Jussie Smollett, the Covington school kids, the Russia hoax, NBC’s killing the Weinstein story, the Pulitzer about Trump’s finances that had to be reclassified from ‘investigative’ to ‘explanatory’ reporting. Australia’s media willingly passes on the errors and skates over the retractions.

It doesn’t take much thought to realise that the ‘right to know’ is logically inconsistent with the ‘right to privacy’. Our media industry is notorious for having little concept of the latter, should we trust their judgement on the former? Look how even C-list “celebrities” have to manage the nuisance of paparazzi blocking their drive-ways, filming through their windows, spreading details of their private lives across magazine covers, and skewing everything towards the most sensational-sounding narrative that can be fitted to it.

Media personalities happily turn our ‘right to know’ into their right to be rude and obnoxious interviewers. Whenever I see an interviewer giving a politician a hard time, does it make me think ‘wow, I shouldn’t vote for that person’? No, instead I think ‘no-one should have to put up with that!’ and I wonder why they bothered with the interview. After all, the purpose of an interview should be so that the audience hears the opinions of the interviewer from their own perspective and from their own mouth. The purpose is not to watch them be dominated, humiliated and spoken over.

Of course we have a right to know some things. We live in a democracy, and we have a right to have the tools we need to judge the government’s performance. But are we meant to believe that this at risk today in Australia? Really? For one thing, most of the important things that we will vote on, the government couldn’t hide from us if they tried. Could they hide poor performance from the economy? Could they hide high unemployment? Could they hide failures of law enforcement? Could they go to war without us knowing? We live in this country, we know full well when things are and are not going well. Even if they could hide those things, we do have a vigilant media that seek out information and shares it — the media at least accomplishes that.

Does the media industry really think that the government is its biggest problem? Can it not see that it is similarly the government’s biggest problem? It’s not like there’s an egregious power imbalance at the moment. Our democratically-elected government is heavily influenced by the actions of our non-democratic media. Those same media institutions arbitrate which messages get through to voters. Independent media are the primary means that the government has for speaking to its own people — but the media are perfectly happy to pick and choose what they transmit. The media itself is far guiltier of violating our right to know than the government is.

The mainstream media has significant problems of their own—perhaps they should clean up their own house. Who can blame the government when it protects some information?

If I were to take this campaign more seriously, it would have to come from a more credible source.

Nick Kastelein is a Christian and a conservative who grew up and lives in Adelaide where he works for an engineering consultancy.

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