Monday, March 02, 2015

Monday Forum - role of writers in shaping language, populist responses to hep A, decline of the intellectual right

Start of another week, another opinion poll. Mark Kenny considers Tony Abbott thrown lifeline in Fairfax-Ipsos poll. Peter Hartcher takes a different view: PM Tony Abbott's 'positive' poll shows he's a dead man walking. In an earlier piece, Exit Abbott, pursued by a bear, Jack Waterford likened the current position to the fifth act of a Shakespearean tragedy.

 This last led me down a sidetrack, the role of literature in shaping languages. I am not a linguist, nor am I really familiar with the history of individual languages. However, I have a possibly ill-informed view that individual writers or pieces of work such as Shakespeare or the King James Bible have been especially important.

Is this true? Who are the writers or pieces of work that have affected particular languages?

The current hepatitis A outbreak in Australia has been apparently linked to frozen berries picked in China. This has lead to moves to change labelling laws to provide better country of origin information. In the same week, the Australian Government announced new measures to restrict foreign investment in real estate.

Both strike me as populist over-reactions. Is this a fair assessment?

Finally, in the interests of balance, should we encourage the Australian to reduce its rigid pay walls? The paper is the main exponent of certain right wing views. If you look at its on-line edition, you can see how 90% of the paper is accessible only to subscribers.The practical effect is that the paper has vacated the public space, allowing papers of the left, center-left or center to dominate. The right complains about left bias in the ABC, but does not object to pay-wall restrictions that actually take them (the right) out of the public debate. Increasingly, the right chatters to itself.

Mind you, Sydney's Daily Telegraph remains as the on-line voice piece of the populist right. This is the paper's take on the latest opinion polls: Leadership spill now unlikely as Liberals roar back in the polls. It's a very different view from those I cited earlier.

Still, the Australian is the voice of the more intellectual right So long as it remains behind its present pay-walls, its influence will continue to diminish.


Evan said...

Dennis Shanahan intellectual? You jest!

Nick Cater I think is quite good.

For English English (so to speak) Shakespeare is far and away the one who introduced the most vocabulary.

Based on my familiarity with my parents generation the KJV had a huge influence on more formal language - and their speech was peppered with quotes from it. Not exactly a representative sample, and they were quite middle class too.

Winton Bates said...

Regarding pay walls, I have suggested in the past that some articles in The Australian should be released from the restriction because the views presented make an important contribution to public debate.
However, it is an issue for the owners. I suppose there is a balance to be struck between the benefits to reputation of being seen to make influential contributions to public discussion and generating revenue streams to pay journalists.
Perhaps media owners should be thinking in terms of "loss leaders" to get people into the store, with lurid content being behind the pay wall.

Jim Belshaw said...

Focusing first on the Oz issue, it is an issue for the owners, Winton, and there is the rub. Just looking at it in terms of the debate on ideas, they want to promote certain views and improve returns. They face a conflict, as did Rugby in a different sphere.

Rugby chose the immediate cash and started a decline in the sport.

Evan may be right (pun unintended) on Dennis Shanahan. He probably is. But I wouldn't know because I never read him. He doesn't exist beyond those fleeting exposures I get from time to time on other media.

Not sure where I am going with this argument.

The Fin Rev has been campaigning on certain issues, but again has limited influence because increasingly it is talking to the already converted.

No answer, but commercial decisions play out in the public space.

2 tanners said...

I'll be interested to see how this plays out as well, because from what I know the Australian was already bleeding red ink and is the worst financial 'asset' in the entire news limited stable. I rather object to many of its views including its anti-science crusades and its vilification progroms - Tony Abbott and Peta Credlin are now feeling some of the venom formerly aimed at the likes of Rudd and Gillard.

It is a paper which tries to mould opinion. That's why the paywall is weird. When I click on a nes link which takes me to the OZ, it immediately asks for money and I am happy to refuse.

My suspicion is that the investors in News Limited need to see some basic attempt to make money, rather than trumpet views, hence the paywall. That says two things to me - the advertising is insufficient to pay for the Oz (although Fairfax don't seem to have a problem) and as Jim points out, its influence will necessarily decline.

Anonymous said...

Gotta just smile and move on sometimes. This long piece in the Daily Tele, originating from Gawker, basically complains about the effics of the MailOnline in its news aggregation model.

You have to read quite a bit of it before you get to the fact that MailOnline ( is about to enter the Australian market in competition with the DT.

And that's ignoring the fact that some months ago the DT reorganised its own online presence to include a "Right Rail" of remarkable similarity to that of the old UK version of Daily Mail.

What an incestuous bunch they are.


Anonymous said...

Sorry! missed putting the link I was referring to in previous comment.


Jim Belshaw said...

That was a fascinating piece, kvd. It also led me to revisit the Telegraph web site, something I rarely do, check Gawker and try to visit MailOnline. That redirected me to the new? Australian site.

Incestuous is the right word, of course, but it also reminded of the need for care in analysis when you don't quite know the structure, reach and likely impact of particular forms of media.

Dr Purva Pius said...
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