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Wednesday, 27 January 2016

I'm grateful that Australia has strong institutions

This corrupt buffoon is Najib Razak, the prime minister of Malaysia. According to a New York Times story he is desperately trying to wriggle out of accusations of corrupt conduct. To that end he has already dispensed with the services of one Malaysian attorney general. The people there are outraged but nothing happens and this slimy leach continues to hold power.

Nothing like this could possibly happen in Australia. The Opposition here would mercilessly taunt the PM for his sins. Meanwhile, the media would whip up a frenzy of outrage within the community, and the community would be heard not only through social media but also through the opinion polls. The government's ratings there would plummet and there would be calls from within the ruling party to change the leadership. It would be a bloodbath the likes of which we have not seen for decades.

We often talk of institutions like political parties, the High Court and government departments. But the range of institutions is wider than just these capital-letter organisations. The Twittersphere, for example, is a recent institution that requires more study to really understand how it works. Some people who use Twitter regularly have become very adept at using it to their personal advantage, but as a general rule it is largely an unknown. It tends to be a bit more of the left than the broader Australian community, for example, because it is still largely made up of fairly early-adopters, people who always tend to be a bit better endowed in the IQ stakes than the average punter. And we know from past studies that there is a direct correlation between IQ and political persuasion, with the smarter people tending to be able to hold more than one thing in their mind at one time, making them more likely to be comfortable with the complexities inherent in progressive stances.

And the media has been understood to be a critical institution in society for a good 200 years, at least since the French Revolution, when it was famously called "the fourth estate". Unfortunately even in a country like Australia the media gets short shrift often. Few people have much sympathy, for example, with its current economic difficulties, difficulties that are due to the advent of the internet and the subsequent lowering of the cost of entry into publishing.

But we would be lost without the media. How else could we reliably get information about all the things that we need to know in order to make an informed judgement on polling day? In a large democracy with millions of people living in geographically-distant places, like Australia, the media becomes absolutely essential for everyone. Without it we simply cannot know what is going on. I think nobody thinks that their own immediate community represents the whole of the country. This is why I support the media by keeping personal subscriptions to several mastheads. It's not a lot of money but for me it's an insurance policy against totalitarian government, which would be the likely outcome for us in the absence of a competent media.

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