I have plugged along with trying to get my message out for many years now. I created this blog over three years ago so my deathless prose wouldn’t just vanish into the aether, and have slowly built a modest following for it, getting occasional pieces published in more public places along the way.
This past week I have had an episode of doubt, including feeling depressed for a day and a longer surge of bodily stress indicators. This was triggered by a confluence of events that I’ll get to. The result is I’m not sure it is worth the effort and aggravation – the effort to provide an alternative to failed mainstream economics, to raise awareness about global warming, and to maintain a voice of informed decency amid the growing cacophony of brutish, ignorant ranting. The aggravation of feeling ground is being lost. Perhaps I should reduce my aggravation level by stepping back and letting things flow for a time.
I am writing this because I don’t mind connecting with you at a personal level, but also to suggest that if you think you see worthwhile things here then perhaps you could help to spread the word, or make serious suggestions to that end. More about that below.
Recently I found an article on Fairfax’s National Times online. It was as amateurish a piece of global warming denialism as you would find, repeating a string of old and debunked claims. I can’t even find it now. (Note to overseas readers: Fairfax is the other major newspaper owner in Australia, after Rupert Murdoch. Gina Rinehart, richest woman in the world thanks to our resources, which she has had dug up and shipped away, wants to use it as her personal megaphone, Fox News – style.)
Three times I sat to write a response. Three times my motivation collapsed. I would not respond by addressing the points raised, that is to fall into the trap of endless spurious debate. No, I would point out the difference between the scientific debate and the policy question, talk about science’s system to filter out nonsense, the lack of such a system in the general media, and note that denialists are down to only one resort – conspiracy theories.
But I’ve said it all before. Not only is sense and nonsense indiscriminately sprayed around the media, but this was just the kind of nonsense one would expect to result from Gina Rinehart’s increasing influence in Fairfax. Nothing I say can stop that. My putative response sits unfinished.
At about the same time I finally got a piece onto the ABC’s The Drum – The PC of the radical right. Mainstream commentary overlooks so many obvious things, things I could finally inject into a larger forum. My piece was on their main page for a couple of days and then scrolled off the bottom. Never mind, I thought, it got lots of comments and will probably make it into their “Hot topics” box for a couple more days. No, it didn’t.
Instead they highlighted a less-commented, predictable piece on media “freedom” by radical right weekly commentator Chris Berg. It was still there over a week later. Then they put up a new Berg piece, so his nonsense was doubly highlighted. It was hard to escape the feeling an antidote was being administered, to counter the corruption introduced by my piece. Oh, I mean, to ensure “balance”.
Because, of course, the ABC has had radical rightists on its Board, and the Managing Director is right, and a climate sceptic to boot. The effect is steadily permeating “our” ABC. Have you noticed some increasingly puerile evening “entertainment” lately?
It feels to me that nearly all mainstream opportunities for some real freedom of debate are closing down. I used to get things into the Canberra Times until its ownership changed in 2002. I’ve been getting odd things in The Drum over the past year. But the trend is all the other way. Rinehart’s push to own more of Fairfax has concentrated some minds on the possibility of losing all pretence of “quality” media in this country. I use quotation marks advisedly. But the debate on “freedom” of speech is still astonishingly limited – the only alternative to domination by fat cats is domination by The Government, in most commentators’ tiny minds.
Oh yes, and then a publisher came back unenthusiastic about The Nature of the Beast, just as my agent had, earlier in the year. “There are other titles along the same lines”. Well no, but if you don’t get that …
As the crisis of our civilisation intensifies, the old forces will fight more viciously to maintain their power. I expect to have to retreat to a smaller space, to keep some kind of flame burning. On the other hand in the odd optimistic moment I wonder if we might be getting close to some political tipping points, when enough people finally get fed up and stop supporting the bastards. That’s all it takes really. Don’t vote for them. Don’t even give them a preference.
But it’s painful to watch good things being destroyed, like the local School of Music, part of a world-leading university, where international-level musicians are being cast off in favour of more “policy studies”, and “quality assurance” procedures. And many other abominations that continue, or increase. Of course many of them are worse than a loss of culture and the arts. Many people die because of the present insanity.
For nearly fifteen years I have waded in the cesspools of the world’s affairs because you have to confront what you are trying to move beyond, and it has been a continuous exercise in avoiding the slide into cynicism, in maintaining a life, and a faith in the ultimate power of love. Sometimes, including this past week, it has seemed too hard.
If you have suggestions they will be welcome, especially concrete suggestions on how to get a bigger audience. For example, web sites around the world that might be receptive to running some of my pieces. Or people who are good at promoting things like this blog, and my book. Or (you have to ask for what you want) someone who would organise an independent news and commentary site, supported by many small share owners. This has to be a model that’s coming, as the old media organisations yield to the internet. Or whatever.
In the meantime I’m not sure how I’ll proceed. I may post less often, though I still have a couple of itches to scratch. I may take a break at some point. Or perhaps I’ll glimpse the light again and carry on.