Australian news, and some related international items

In Australian conventional media, when it comes to discussion on AUKUS, only certain limited views are permissable.

Social media and independent news sites have had a significant effect on opening up the political debate over the AUKUS deal, writes Professor John Quiggin.

Social media and independent news sites have had a significant effect on opening up the political debate over the AUKUS deal, writes Professor John Quiggin.

Opening the Overton window. Independent Australia, by John Quiggin | 24 March 2023

ONE OF THE MOST useful ideas in thinking about political debate is that of the Overton window, named after American political scientist Joseph Overton. The Overton window is the range of ideas considered permissible in public discussion at any given time.

Overton’s crucial insight was that, while active participants in political debate could only take positions within the window of acceptable views, outside bodies like think tanks could help to shift it.

……………………………….The Overton window provides a way of thinking about current policy debate, particularly the treatment of the AUKUS deal by the mass media. At one end of the Overton window is the hyperbole of warmongers like Matthew Knott gushing that Australia is ‘no longer a middle power’ to the more cautious view that perhaps we should have had some public discussion before such a major change.

The mass media has been vigorous in policing even the slightest dissent within the political class, such as the questions raised, cautiously, by a handful of Labor backbenchers. It has responded with fury to criticism from those it can’t control like Paul Keating and Malcolm Turnbull. And, as usual, it has done its best to ignore criticism from outside the Overton window.

Although think tanks like the Australia Institute still play a role, the biggest challenge to the mainstream media’s role in policing debate has come from social and alternative media. The ease of communication through the internet is reflected in social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and more recently Mastodon, which have largely displaced older models of blogging. Equally important has been the proliferation of online magazines like Independent Australia and Crikey, and the rise of single-author newsletters distributed through Substack and Medium

At least regarding issues like AUKUS, there is an Overton window for social and alternative media. Almost all opinions are critical, with the dominant viewpoint being that the project is economically wasteful and puts Australia in danger of being dragged into war. The most positive views to be found on Twitter are “Labor inherited this from Morrison” and “cheer up, it will probably never happen”. The only point of contact with the political class Overton window is the view that we need to discuss this further.

Traditional mass media still has a greater reach than online alternatives. But it can no longer constrain debate within the Overton window defined by the political class.,17356?utm_source=substack&utm_medium=email


March 26, 2023 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, media

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