Is modern technology a threat to our leaders and our political system?

Is there a down side to modern communication technology?

Are we expecting the impossible of our politicians today?  Can any leader survived in today’s world where their every action is immediately on show and recorded for posterity.

Every smile, grin, snarl or smirk is there for all to see.  Every recorded word and action is recycled to undermine any new point being made.

During the long reign of Mr.Menzies, there were very little of his daily life.  He managed to be out of the country for weeks and months at a time.  The country did not collapse.

What we seen of our politicians at that time, was they said in parliament or recorded speeches.  We did have the election campaigns where they addressed crowds or Town Hall audiences.   There was not the electronics and technology that pick up their every word every time they leave the sanctuary of their offices or homes. 

Does the USA President have to endure the daily scrutiny we expect our leaders to suffer?


“Comment: Political Leadership in Australia

Don Watson

“…. To be fair, Gillard is not the first prime minister to struggle in the first 12 months of office, and she has had more against her than any of the others. Less well known than Hawke, Keating, Howard and even Rudd were when they ascended, she has also had to contend with the facts of a hung parliament and being a woman in the role. Every day has been a struggle for legitimacy. All this, plus a hostile tabloid press and radio, and an outrageously unprincipled and unchecked opponent; her most bitter enemies have to concede she wants for nothing in resilience and steel………….” 

“…………Now, it might be that the Labor Party is beyond salvation by any leader. And just as possible that politics itself is too far gone to produce a leader capable of testing the proposition. To borrow something else from Weber, while passionate conviction and shrewd pragmatism are characteristics of great political leaders, what really distinguishes them is their detachment – not their proximity to the electorate but their distance from it. The natural posture for a politician has always been ‘chief among equals’. But modern media does not allow this. Now it is at best ‘equal among equals’ and commonly last or least among them. Listen to talkback, watch Q&A, tune into the internet and ask where the power and respect lies. Who lays strongest claim to the record, the knowledge and the authority, charismatic or otherwise? Not the leaders. Most of what used to be theirs is shared between the host and the audience, for whom pretty well any opinion is as good as another. The politicians scramble for the residue.

Every day they do what they used only to do in election campaigns. There is Tony Abbott, aspiring prime minister, in a hard hat or gauze one, staring down a mine, fiddling with a tractor, filleting a fish. The people are sovereign, he says. To hell with the sovereignty of scientific facts: popular opinion will determine if the Earth is warming and what to do about it – just as it determined the answer to polio and the movement of the planets. There was Prime Minister Rudd, tin-eared and ineffably graceless but a mind to be reckoned with – where else should we see him every day but surrounded by babies or hospital patients? And there is Julia Gillard, prime minister of the Commonwealth, daily risking her dignity in the nation’s malls and school grounds, confessing her insecurities at the National Press Club, bringing herself close to tears as she asks to be understood, surrendering to the maw of magazine culture and afternoon television, and taking the office with her. The Oprahisation of Australian politics is now pretty well complete…………”  

“……..No generation of Labor leaders has been so devoted to opinion polls as this one, yet it is doubtful if any has been more inept at moving opinion when it needed to. Perhaps the organisation is too rancid to attract, or (vide Lindsay Tanner) retain, the talent from which leaders might be drawn. It could just as well be that such leaders as it has, though capable negotiators and effective scrappers, are victims of dodgy political fashions that in time will fade.

The other possibility is that the wretchedness of Gillard signifies a more general upheaval in the social and political setting. The clichés, the tortured and oppressive cadences are habits of the language she was raised in. Demotic it may be, but this language carries only the shallowest meaning. The phrases are not to inform or inspire the audience but merely to echo it and satisfy its narcissism. The spin the public loathes is made expressly for them. 

So it is with contemporary politics: not enough formal culture remains to support a well-made argument over a fallacy or a speech over a slogan. The art is lost for want of belief in it. Which might be why, when called on to make the case for something as bold, complex and remote from immediate gratification as a carbon tax, an old codger such as John Hewson makes the case with twice the force of anyone in the Labor government……”


Could it be that we get to know too much about our leaders.  Can any of the great leaders of the past retain their mystic in today’s world?

We have a media that has new stories on the hour, where we get a recycling of every perceived mistake the government has made in the last four or five years. 

Any positive achievement is immediately drowned out with yesterday’s negativity.

Is this why we no longer consider it is proper to respect the offices of our democracy and the people who fill the roles.

Has our government become one of winner takes all, and the means of getting there does not matter.   

I have just listened to the PM give her speech on what she sees the future to be.  It was nice to see the PM be able to answer questions, which were asked in a calm and clear manner. 

This interview allowed information to be given, and it allowed us a glimpse of the PM’s nature and personality.

We have to get pass the spin and slogans, which has become all that our modern day media is capable of reporting. 

We do not need a new story on the hour.  What we need is time for the last one to be deciphered and analyzed.   We need time to make judgment of the truth of the matter and to understand what it means.

Should not this be what we demand at all time?  Good and in-depth questions which are allowed to be answered. 

We are capable, or most of us are capable of accepting or rejecting the answers we do not agree with.

Are our journalist’s victims of modern technology as are our leaders?

18 comments on “Is modern technology a threat to our leaders and our political system?

  1. Do we have more muscle yet?

    Maybe not, but it looks like that day may come.

    The ancient bush telegraph very efficient, we just have to recover the skills of our forefathers.

    “As advances in technology gives more social muscles to the regular citizen, Ms Gillard said that irrelevance of the Labor movement will be prevented by responding quickly and timely to ever-changing political and social landscape. ”

  2. Cu, the whole sorry process is driven by the 24 hour news cycle, and I’d be interested to know just how many people follow the entire days viewing and listening, apart from politici and political junkies ?

    The rest of the world possible only watch what passes for news once a day, and get 4 second grabs.

    Last night I listened to a lengthy interview on radio, with outgoing SA Premier Mike Rann, and when this topic arose, he said he’d often be hit with questions from his colleagues such as “why didn’t you mention this or that?”
    His reply was, “I did, I had a 30 minute inteview”.

    He also said that the journalists are only interested in conflict, and if they didn’t get it the camera lights would be turned off.

    I quite believe him.

  3. Pip, that link above has less than a quarter on the speech the PM gave. The rest is about how bad things are going for the PM and Mr. Abbott.

    I fail to see what it has to do with what the PM is saying.

    ABC 24. A little about what she said, then an interview with her partner and a rehash of Mr. Abbott’s shrinking violet. Nothing once again to do what the PM is saying.

    Now Mr. Turnbull’s shit.

    Now the HSU splitting.

    Kathy is not happy

    It is a shame they are not telling the whole story about this union.

    It present ruling membership and others are not so clean themselves.

    When the dust settles on this one. . I believe that Mr. Thomson might just come out one of the cleanest. The story is portrayed as bad for the PM.

    Why? The PM is not running or has connection to the Union.

    The ABC worked hard at re-igniting the so called scandal. Many tenuous links were made.

    This is our media.

  4. And some, including girls have been there longer. I would not stick my neck out on this one. It is just too murky.

  5. el gordo, have you never discovered on your bank statement any mysterious debits to names you’ve never heard of.

    My bank statement occasionally shows a debit to a holding company I’ve never heard of, and it turned to be my chemist.

    The HSU articles said that the restaurant was owned by the escort agency. Simple to follow if you really want to be fair about it, but the media do not want to be fair at all, unless it’s about Mary Jo Fisher.

  6. CU, I agree with you quote you: “We do not need a new story on the hour. What we need is time for the last one to be deciphered and analyzed. We need time to make judgment of the truth of the matter and to understand what it means.

    Should not this be what we demand at all time? Good and in-depth questions which are allowed to be answered.”

    I also notice that on the rare occasions that there are in-depth stories that they disappear very quickly while the ‘trivia time’ stories hang around for eons.

  7. CU, also they the media are using technology use one of Kevin Rudd’s mess with our minds. When it was solely the print media and the evening news and a couple of current affairs programs the stories had to be well thought out because once it went into print or was put to air, there it stayed. Now the media can frame the debate by emphasising it’s chosen topics.

  8. As far as the media today is concerned, Mr. Abbott and only Mr.Abbott is the story.

    We have his daily press conference where the media caters to his needs by asking the questions he is focusing on. Once these questions are asked, Mr.Abbott is allowed to walk rudely away.

    Every story that concerns the PM is a short inroduction of what she has said.

    The rest of the article is taken up with how bad the PM is travelling and what Mr. Abbott or sometimes Mr. Rudd has to say.

    If you can get a less than flattering photo of the PM atttached, all the better.

    There has een a move in the print media, in that it is designed for how it is seen online than in the media.

    On line, the same articles often have sound and video attached.

    There is one positve that Mr. Abbott’s daily press conference is showing up. It is how unreliable our broad band is. This morning’s offering had to be abandon altogether.

  9. CU, it’s all about impressions isn’t it. And I’ve been criticised for that one myself..if it’s about refugees I put up a pic of small children because it’s far more sympathetic. If it’s about Gillard I find the kindest pic..if it’s about Abbott we find something snarling and unflattering.

    In my very brief sojourn as a journalist The Rule was: The Pic and get your point across the first 4-5 sentences because very few people read the entire article.

    Therefore you will notice that anything positive about the government will be down towards the bottom of the article. It’s a tried and true journo trick.

  10. I think the technology is fine, the problem lies with people. Quality has been sacrificed for quantity; the airwaves and intertubes are saturated with “news” which is more entertainment than news. We’re assaulted with entertainment dressed up as news every minute of every day.

    So there is a frantic scramble to find news in the most minute and trivial word or gesture.

    Gillard scratched her nose!! She’s in deep shit!

    Abbott breathed unassisted-he’s the chosen one! Abbott spewed forth a three word slogan-he’s been annointed!!!!! Obviously a PM in waiting.

    Gillard has negotiated a minority government-obviously incompetent and unable to lead the nation.191 pieces of legislation passed this year-A GOVERNMENT IN CRISIS! PARALYSED AND INEFFECTIVE!!! GILLARD’S LEADERSHIP PARLOUS!!!

    Opposition neither debates nor attempts to amend legislation they think needs tweaking-Abbott opposition disciplined and fighting back! Chairman material!

    The competition for ratings is fierce and they have to provide newer, “better” entertainment for the public, who crave more and more sensational rubbish a la Big Brother. Think Rome and the games.

    The in depth interview and carefully researched and well argued report is dead and has been replaced by the 10 second bite. By the time the journalist has prepared that report it’s well out of date. We’ve been programmed to have the attention span of a gnat and I truly think we’re a iot more credulous.

    Politicians are stalked by packs of press. Microphones are thrust in their faces and they’re asked to opine on things they may not be aware of let alone had the chance to have a nodding acquaintance with the facts.

    We expect our politicians to know everything about everything, ignoring the fact that’s not possible even if you’re a member of MENSA. But politicians daren’t admit that they are not walking Encyclopedia Britainnicas.

    Min, I think people only read the headlines, these days.

  11. Saz, that is an excellent point..and in hardline Islamic countries too. I was reading (somewhere) that it has been new technology and new social interaction items such as Facebook which has made especially Islamic youth revolt against extremism. It is no coincidence that once there are protests that one thing that these governments do is to try to close down outside communication.

  12. Jane you’re brilliant 🙂 quote you “Abbott breathed unassisted-he’s the chosen one! Abbott spewed forth a three word slogan-he’s been annointed!!!!! Obviously a PM in waiting.”

  13. Thanks, Min. CU, they know they can print any old BS, because hardly anybody will read past the headlines and if they do, as Min says, they certainly won’t read to the end of the article , where a tiny kernel of the truth is to be found. But you’ll need an electron microscope.

  14. Jane, as mentioned during my (very) brief sojourn as a journo that was The Rule: the pic, the headline and get your talking points across in the first paragraph.

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