Republican Establishment Invades Country Press - Protest
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Friday, 25 March 2005

You might have thought that with the clear advantages the republican establishment have with the elite media, they would not invade the letters columns of newspapers which are there for country people, those who live in what is now called rural and regional Australia. Apparently this is not so, according to this understandably vigorous protest in the Border Daily Mail on 23 March, 2005:

Fooled enough of the time

Sir,

To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, You can fool some of the people all of the time or all of the people some of the time but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.

Modern information technology has added a final clause to that statement and that is, ‘yet you only need to fool enough of the people enough of the time’. Mike O’Shaughnessy (The Border Mail, February 28) replied to an earlier letter of mine about the pitfalls of media monitoring companies and how groups with more money than valid argument can pervert the course of local public perception by injecting a volume of perceived ‘local’ discussion far in excess of actual local support.

He rightly points out that The Border Mail is a modern newspaper which publishes on the internet for the world to access, but fails to point out when replying to local letters about the republic debate that he is not only Mike O’Shaughnessy, of Spence, ACT, but Mike O’Shaughnessy, financial member of the Australian Republican Movement Canberra branch; of Spence, ACT.

But not only is he a financial member of the Canberra branch but is also a council (that is, committee) member, he is also an office bearer on that council and the office he bears is that of webmaster. He is also co-author of a pro-republic submission to the Senate inquiry on the republic. We out here in the sticks do know enough about the internet to realise a webmaster must have a comprehensive knowledge of the workings of the internet and access to the hardware with which to apply that knowledge.

That gives a webmaster the ability to lurk within every online newspaper nationwide plus online only media outlets and electronically trawl through them for specific words or phrases, to monitor only topics of interest such as, say, vegetarianism, animal liberation or the republic. There is valid reason to respond to nationally relevant topics in nationwide media outlets such as in Crikey online, The Age or Herald-Sun in Melbourne, or the Sydney Morning Herald or Daily Telegraph in Sydney or of course Mr O’Shaughnessy’s own local Canberra Times.

But to respond consistently in all of them!

We get all these metropolitan newspapers and can be more than adequately informed of Mr O’Shaughnessy’s opinions via his prolific contributions to them. His local letters do show, though, there is no interest whatsoever in the broader local regional communities of the Ballarat Courier, Border Mail or the Orange Central Western Daily, to name but three, when he replies to local discussion in these papers on a very narrow range of national topics like the republic.

By so doing he insultingly and arrogantly proclaims he is more capable than any local writer to articulate a cohesive local pro-republican case. In addition, he egotistically presumes his own opinion is so important that it is of relevance to local public opinion in dispersed regions he has no local involvement in, all the while deceptively concealing his very, very active involvement in a republican-vested interest group. Such arrogance, egotism and deception are traits we normally only expect of a politician, perhaps Mr O’Shaughnessy should consider running for public office, he seems to have the prerequisites.

Mr O’Shaughnessy was right though to point out that he has no need to pay a commercial media monitoring company to scan media output when by his own evidence of expertise, equipment and zealotry he is the republican movement’s own in-house media monitor. The perversion of public perception by such monitoring as outlined in my original letter therefore remains valid regardless of whether that monitoring is performed externally or in-house.

Instead of more money than valid argument, it is apparent Mr O’Shaughnessy has more arrogance, egotism and deception than valid argument. In fairness I must disclose my own associations and involvements. I have no association, involvement nor membership of any political party, lobby group or activist organisation. That leaves me free to open-mindedly accept any valid point of view. I have no hesitation with a valid case being put for Australia to become a republic but what has been uncovered here is a blatant example of a mindless electronic scatter-gun approach to public decision making, an abuse of the power of information technology.

Yours Sincerely,

KELLY KNOTT

 

This is a fair point. It is annoying enough when you see the same letter repeated the following day in another capital city newspaper. But to have a capital city based organization, with an agenda, which has no difficulty getting access to the national and capital city media, moving in on newspapers in the bush and thus crowding out locals is not fair-especially when it is to push something the locals are not interested in.

Until next time,
David Flint