Only rationality will destroy Alan Jones' joint

Management of Sydney radio station 2GB announcedon Sunday that it was removing advertising from the Alan Jones breakfast program for an indefinite period, at a cost to the station of $80,000 per day.

The action was unprecedented. It followed social mediapressure on advertisers to boycott the program after Jones violated the unwritten code of common decency in remarks he made about the prime minister's late father at a university student function.

Jones' apology was unconvincing, and many people remain appalled. It is a testament to the relatively new phenomenon of social media that it is able to empower ordinary people to bring Jones and 2GB management to heel when government broadcasting regulation cannot. 

It is perhaps an example of the 'people power' that is more usually thought of in the context of overthrowing unpopular political regimes such as occurred in the Arab Spring. 

However we need to remember that what has happened in the aftermath of the Arab Spring has shown us that people power can create more problems than it solves. The people are manipulated by other powerful groups, or their action may precipitate a power vacuum. As a result, many who supported the revolution may wish for a return to the dictatorship they loathed.

People power can also become mob rule, which is a long way from its democratic aspirations. Mob rule is tyranny of the majority and the rule of passion over reason. The rights of small people with less audible voices are not taken into consideration in the way they are with properly functioning laws and regulations. 

That is why it is better to work within the regulatory system. People power is a last resort that is justified only if the regulatory authority is unable to fix the problem.

In the case of broadcaster Kyle Sandilands, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has demonstrated its impotence, despite the restrictions it placed on 2DAY-FM's licence. There is no indication that Sandilands has reformed, in the sense of becoming contrite. Nor is it likely that the ACMA can change Jones.

With regard to advertisers on Jones' program, the social media organisers have outsmarted 2GB's Macquarie Radio Network management. But it is unlikely that the collective rage against Jones' behaviour will be sustained, respectable, and ultimately effective, unless the passion is accompanied by reasoned argument. If not, it could even vindicate Jones and 2GB management's claims of 'cyber bullying'.

It is encouraging that there are signs of reason in the Facebook groups spearheading the campaign. 'Sack Alan Jones' organisers Nic Lochner and Vinay Orekondy responded in a cool headed manner to 2GB management's decision to cancel advertising on the program: 'This campaign has constantly called for civility and decency in public debate — it will continue to do so — and we have gone to great strides to ensure that discourse is conducted appropriately.'

Similarly, the 'call to arms' of the group Destroy the Joint is 'Keep Calm and Destroy the Joint'. 

Calm is not exactly reasoned argument, but it helps to create the necessary disposition. It is important that such groups do not simply destroy the careers of rogue broadcasters, but also work to improve the regulatory system that allows them to flourish.

Another media pressure group, Friends of the ABC, appeals to a different constituency but has always maintained a good balance between activism and contributing to the shaping of public policy through activities such as the preparation of submissions to inquiries. GetUp! covers a range of issues, and is similarly involved in providing policy input. 

Forcing 2GB to cancel the advertising was a spectacular victory but the social media groups should not expect more capitulation from station management or Jones, especially if their action is not accompanied by developed rationale. Moreover it may look as if Jones is being bullied, as he claims, and the public could feel sorry for him.

Families only a means to an end

This year's Australian Catholic Bishops Social Justice Statement focuses on the family. It is put into useful perspective by the publication the Bishops' Pastoral Research Office September E-News Bulletin headlining the 2011 Census statistic that only 50 per cent of Catholics aged 15 and over are married.

The often talked about nexus between marriage, the family, and the Catholic Church makes this seem an extraordinary figure. If marriage and the family are so important in Catholic teaching, are we talking about a 50 per cent failure rate?

No. Family life is often thought to be the norm, but that is not correct. It holds no value in itself but it is an often fruitful means to a morally good life. Many mature age 'devout' Catholics who find themselves single and without families have been conditioned by their upbringing to write themselves off as failures. But their marital status, or how many children they have, is not the measure of success or failure. 

The standard by which individuals should instead judge themselves is the norm of a life of self-giving. The Social Justice Statement stresses this, and quotes Pope John Paul II: 'Self-giving ... is the model and the norm'. The family, of course, is a good situation in which to live such a good and virtuous life. John Paul II calls it 'the first and fundamental school of social living'. 

But it remains a school, and it is only one means to the end referred to. There are other 'schools' for those who do not marry or have families. Examples include voluntary work, single-minded dedication to a profession, or caring for ageing parents. Perhaps the family could be considered the 'default' unit in our society, but it is not the norm in the sense that those living outside a family are considered abnormal.

If family is simply one means among many of living a good life, why do the Bishops, and indeed governments, go to so much trouble to support the family?

The answer is that it has traditionally been the single most powerful vehicle for social inclusion and, for the Church, faith formation and fostering a life of self-giving. Those who do not live in functional families are much more likely to end up on the margins of society.

At a time of rapid social change, the family is under threat but there is no replacement model on the horizon. 

The Social Justice Statement is subtitled 'The social and economic challenges facing families today', and much of its content is devoted to spelling out perceived threats to the family such as the trend towards casual rather than permanent employment. There are many others. Similarly, governments have given preferential treatment to families in its distribution of tax cuts and carbon tax compensation. 

The problem is that governments can go too far and usurp the role of families with paternalistic policies, such as those involving welfare for Indigenous Australians. Such policies break families as Indigenous families were broken by government policy in the era of the Stolen Generations.

For all the good it does, the Church can also unintentionally break families when it demands conformity to teachings that run counter to generally accepted norms of society. 

Tony Abbott's monsters

Melbourne Anglican editor Roland Ashby recently produced a collection of interviews published in the paper over 15 years. Not long after Pauline Hanson made her legendary racist maiden speech in parliament on 10 September 1996, the author Morris West complained in his interview that 'too much attention has been given to Pauline Hanson [because] the media creates its own monsters'.

The most famous monster in the history of the western imagination is the one created by Victor Frankenstein in Mary Shelley's 1818 novel FrankensteinWhen Victor realises he has made a mistake in trying to play God, he leaves his handiwork to fend for itself. Frustrated and angry at being cut loose, it wreaks havoc on everyone and everything in its path.

Since the heyday of Pauline Hanson, the media has made monsters out of many politicians. It has mercilessly caricatured them as grotesque and out of control. This may have ensured coverage of politics that is accessible to most Australians, but it has been at cost of diminishing the quality of rational political discourse in this country. 

Significantly, the conservative side of politics appears to have itself adopted a variation on this practice. It has made monsters of its own MPs, in the belief that their larger than life profiles will translate into electoral success.

When appointing Nationals Senator leader Barnaby Joyce to the front bench as shadow finance minister a few years ago, Tony Abbott created the genre of the 'retail politician', in order to justify liberties such MPs would inevitably take with party policy. 'I think that Barnaby is a uniquely gifted retail politician,' he said at the time. 

The retail politician is given special licence to move about the electorate to spruik party policy. As less gifted communicators, the 'wholesale' politicians will stay out of the limelight to finesse the policies their retail colleagues are busy selling. That's the theory. 

True to the form of the monster, Joyce created havoc among his colleagues when he criticised the sale of Cubby Station to a Chinese-led consortium and thereby opposed the Coalition policy that supports foreign investment.

Then last week, another gifted retail politician who had been elevated to the shadow ministry, South Australian Senator Cory Bernardi, played to the nation's bigots by linking gay marriage to bestiality.  

This monster had to go, in what could prove to be a sign that Abbott has learned from his mistakes. Abbott might finally have ditched his distinction between retail and wholesale, in favour of authentic politicians, by appointing erstwhile wholesale MPs Arthur Sinodinos and Jamie Briggs to replace Bernardi in the ministry.

If this is the case, he has heeded the warning against hubris contained in Shelley's morality taleFrankenstein.

The iPhone 5 and Apple's profit fetish

Ahead of his Australian visit earlier this year, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak criticised the company for subjecting local consumers to 'horrible' price-gouging. Last week's release of the iPhone 5 has reinforced perceptions of Apple as an odious corporation that exploits consumers, alongside the likes of tobacco companies, big banks, McDonald's, and Coles and Woolworths.

Commenting in Technology Spectator on Friday, Professor David Glance of the University of Western Australia saidApple is about maintaining a very high margin of profitability, usually 30 per cent. 

They know everything about manufacturing, supply and corporate consistency. They can deliver a consistent, scalable and profitable service on a global scale. What they aren't are reckless innovators, experimenting with radical ideas.

The iPhone 5 announcement appeared to be a demonstration of Apple's greed and contempt for the consumer. Apple explained the need for the new 'Lightning' connector to allow for a thinner phone and a larger, longer-lasting battery. Unfortunately it will prove costly for many consumers because most existing iPhone accessories will be rendered obsolete without the purchase of a $35 adapter. 

Apple's strategy of profit maximisation compounds the inconvenience and cost for consumers. A 'fair go' approach would have the company include the adapter in the box with the iPhone 5, or at least selling it at cost, which could be as low as $1. Other companies would seize the opportunity to create good will, but that is not necessary for Apple because it is still widely regarded as the arbiter of style and innovation, which Glance argues is unwarranted.

In his commentary on the new iPhone, Glance also points out what he believes is the reason for Apple's decision not to include the NFC wireless payments technology, which could become the standard for purchases in physical retail stores. He says Apple failed to convince banks to pass on charges when phones are used to make payments. It appears Apple is not interested unless it is able to replicate the 30 per cent commission it charges publishers and other vendors for 'in app' purchases of magazines and other products.

The Australian Government has shown itself capable of asserting the rights of Australian consumers against the disdain of Apple. Following the release of the most recent iPad, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission took successful court action against Apple for misleading consumers about the capacity of Apple's '4G' iPad to connect to any 4G network in Australia. Its chair Rod Sims last week portrayedApple's 4G claim as a misleading attempt to beat the competitor Samsung, whose product was compatible with 4G in Australia. 

This would only have been a minor irritant for Apple, but it shows that there is scope for governments to act against greedy corporations that take consumer law for granted. This year, we have also seen the House of Representatives Inquiry into IT Pricing, which essentially sought voluntary undertakings from Apple and other price gougers. While it did not manage to bring them to heel, continuing representation from consumer groups such as Choice shows Australian consumers could be ready to fight on.

Christian lobbying and politicians' self-interest

The Power Index is a sister publication of Crikey. Its purpose is to identify ‘who really runs Australia’. Last Tuesday its focus was the ‘powerful people in religion’.

There was a list of 18 leaders or representatives of faith communities such as the Australian Christian Lobby’s Jim Wallace. It created the impression that religious organisations are increasingly spreading the word by lobbying and talking up the ‘Christian vote’. 

Religious leaders are using their clout and followers to influence the national debate on topics such as same-sex marriage, euthanasia, abortion. ... Religious lobby groups are making noise – and getting results. 

The Power Index says churches are increasing their reliance on lobbying because fewer Australians are attending church services. This is obviously part of a more complex scenario that includes the power of the media and popular culture to shape opinion that once would have been influenced by clergy and religious teachers. 

While many of the religious groups are lobbying in support of what they perceive to be wholesome causes, the activity of lobbying itself can be far from wholesome. John Warhurst writes in his 2007 book Behind Closed Doors about the methods of disgraced Western Australian Labor identity Brian Burke, one of the country’s most successful and notorious lobbyists.

His view of human nature ... is that people always have a price. He ‘identifies people’s self-interest.’ He has a pejorative, malign view of humanity. He is ‘a very good judge of weak character.’ .. [He] ‘reads faces like other people read books.’ 

It’s debatable how much the average Canberra lobbyist has in common with Brian Burke in terms of how low they will go in order to secure the support of a politician. But aside from the level of resources at their disposal, it seems that the lower they are prepared to go in manipulating the will of a politician, the more impressive the result is likely to be. 

It is challenging for lobbyists attempting to appeal to the ‘better angels’ of our politicians. That is exactly what, for example, the Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce, is doing. Its rival Clubs Australia simply has to remind politicians of the seats their party will lose in the next election if it supports anti-gambling measures such as pre-commitment technology. 

Lobbying often involves issues that confront the interests of powerful mining or business associations. But sometimes important changes can be achieved by small groups with a simple transparent approach to lobbying and a steadfast commitment to their cause. One such ‘not so powerful’ lobby is Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans (ACRATH).

ACRATH has on its website an inspiring account of its ‘Canberra Advocacy Visit 2012’, which took place last month. It had four requests to make of politicians to improve services for trafficked people in Australia. It urged MPs to support the Crimes Legislation Amendments (Slavery, Slavery-like Conditions and People Trafficking) Bill 2012. The bill was passed in the lower house in the delegation’s presence, on 21 August, with the work of ACRATH acknowledged in Hansard. 

Lobbies such as ACRATH and the Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce are doing the right thing by attempting to appeal to the sense of compassion in our politicians. We can only trust in human nature that they will ultimately prevail. Unfortunately other groups such as the Australian Christian Lobby think in terms of the 'Christian vote' and its appeal is to the self-interest of politicians.

The Paralympics as a work in progress

The Paralympics have been paired with the Olympic Games since Rome 1960. They are a good and necessary fit. 

In many ways, they represent an antidote to the Olympic movement, which fosters the deification of athletes. The Paralympics account for, and affirm and celebrate, diversity in the physique of human beings.

The low point of the modern Olympics is often identified as the 1936 'Nazi' Olympics in Berlin, which Hitler saw as an opportunity to promote his government's ideals of racial and physical supremacy.

The Nazis' attitude to disabled people makes it scarcely possible to imagine a Paralympics paired with the Berlin 1936 Olympics.

They took the Darwinian idea of the survival of the fittest in the animal kingdom, and applied it to human beings. Those who did not fit the definition were excluded, left on the margins and persecuted. Many disabled people were killed because they were considered an unnecessary burden on society.

The theme of last week's Paralympics opening ceremony was new enlightenment, which was personified in the the event's star Stephen Hawking. It spoke of a new world of inclusion that does not limit human potential.

It shows how far we've come, with the relatively recent United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the widespread acceptance by Australians of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, in the background. Disability is becoming accepted as part of the new normal.

But in celebrating this achievement, we need to acknowledge the limits of the Paralympics in their current ability to break down barriers between ability and disability in general. In many ways its emphasis is on cultivating physically disabled — but intellectually agile — superheroes such as the South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius (pictured). Instead of merely physical prowess, the Paralympics has become a showcase of 'mind over body'. 

In itself this is a great achievement. But where does it leave those with an intellectual disability? Sadly, it would seem that the Paralympics breaks down the kinship that exists between the physically and the intellectually disabled, leading to a more decisive marginalising of the latter. 

One of the most insightful thinkers on intellectual disability in recent decades has been French-Canadian philosopher Jean Vanier. His emphasis is that a common fragility is what unites us as human beings. This definition of humanity ensures that the intellectually disabled and those suffering mental illness are not at all marginalised. But it is not compatible with the Paralympics' stress on performance.

This suggests that the Paralympics is a work in progress. Its remarkable achievement to date has been to stress the mind part of the mind-body equation. To this, a truly inclusive Paralympics would need to add 'spirit'. This would surely complete the extrication from the Nazi influence.

Rudd's forgettery and the things that don't matter

The word ‘forgettery’ was mentioned several times by Kevin Rudd during the Eureka Street Discerning Conversation at Melbourne University earlier this month. 

It’s not listed in the Oxford or Macquarie dictionaries, possibly because it originated in the Rudd household and may not have gone far beyond. Rudd said: ‘Mum always had a saying: just put it into your forgettery’. 

He used the term to indicate what he does with criticism he’s been subjected to over the years, such as that referring to his reported tantrums and harsh treatment of staff.

Is putting unpleasant or shameful memories out of our mind a sign of arrogance, or instead the outcome of a proper discerning of what needs to be taken seriously?

There are some clues in an interview which Annabel Crabbe conducted with his wife Therese Rein for Fairfax in 2009. They suggest it was apt to use it during an event that was titled Things That Matter.

In dealing with her anger over the publication of photos of her gym workout, Rein said she put it into the forgettery. It’s the same for opposition and media outrage over the Rudd Family's use of a publicly funded maid to babysit their youngest teenager during their early days at the Lodge in 2008. The forgettery is for the things thatdon’t matter.

‘All that stuff goes straight to the Forgettery,’ Rein told Crabbe. ‘Stuff that actually doesn't matter goes in there. Stuff that's not important, stuff that if you carried it with you would be a burden.’

On the other hand, some things do matter, and we need to carry them with us until we can atone for them. These may or may not include items in Rudd’s forgettery. But they certainly included the treatment of Indigenous Australians, and also the Forgotten Australians mistreated in institutional child care last century, and children sexually abused by church officials. 

The media and opposition are programmed to act as watchdogs. They – and indeed the public – will not allow things that matter to remain in the forgettery. Former prime minister John Howard put the treatment of Indigenous Australians into his forgettery. Subsequent support for the Apology showed this to be a misjudgment of public sentiment. 

As for the church, Bishop Anthony Fisher appears to have had the forgettery in mind when he provoked outrage during World Youth Day 2008 by trying to insist a sexual abuse case belonged there. Before later apologising, he spoke disparagingly of those who were ‘dwelling crankily ... on old wounds’.

This raises the question of the motivation for keeping some things in the forgettery while allowing others to be retrieved from it. The identification of the truth in a way that leads to the righting of the wrongs of the past would seem appropriate justification. But too often, it is done as an act of political or psychological vindictiveness.

Julia Gillard has had her own forgettery raided during the past week with media coverage and opposition questions concerning events that occurred two decades ago at the end of her period of employment as a lawyer with Slater & Gordon.

At her media conference on Thursday, she lashed out at the ‘misogynists and the nut jobs on the internet’, which would seem to be fair criticism. As would criticising The Australian newspaper for using already resolved issues from the past to prosecute its anti-Labor political agenda.

A forgettery is not sealed like the confessional, but it should not be opened unless it promotes justice for the individual and the common good.

Only good policy will save Labor

Following Government whip Joel Fitzgibbon's comments on the ABC's Q&A last week, it was clear there is a growing consensus that 'time is running out for Julia Gillard'.

It's commonly assumed that this refers to the need for her to turn around her performance in the opinion polls, as if that is an end in itself. But electors are more interested in a government that can enact good policy for the wellbeing of the country, and time is running out for her to do that before the 2013 election.

When Labor was elected in 2007, Kevin Rudd was given a mandate to respond to the 'great moral and economic challenge of our time' with legislation for a carbon emissions trading scheme. He lost his nerve and trashed the mandate. Voters subsequently trashed Labor because Gillard maintained the fixation with opinion polls that had caused Rudd's downfall.

The passage of time showed that it didn't make a great deal of difference whether the leader was Gillard or Rudd. In all likelihood, it doesn't really matter who leads Labor to the 2013 election. What is more important is that they are able to demonstrate good policy achievement with a minimum of political compromise made to secure the popular vote.

Labor's judgment on the degree of necessary political  compromise has been lacking. It is consequently on track to allowing the Coalition to win the 2013 election by default.

Miriam Lyons of the Centre for Policy Developmentwrites of good policy ideas that are considered 'politically toxic'. An example is the inheritance tax recommended by the Henry Review. It would be a 'fair and efficient' solution to the problem of a shrinking revenue stream that comes with an ageing population. Such ideas are often championed by conservative groups, with the International Energy Agency wanting fossil fuel subsidies eliminated and warning that we must stop building coal-fired power plants within five years.

Back in 2010, the Edmund Rice Centre published abackground paper in its Just Comment series. It fleshed out Tony Abbott's stated vision at the time for a 'kinder, gentler polity' that he thought might enable him to work with the Independents in a minority government. 

Tony Windsor, whom Abbott was courting, favoured kindness and gentility, rather than bashing heads or killing good policy. Windsor's approach to dealing with the rural backlash to the politically challenging Murray-Darling water buyback scheme was to acknowledge there was no 'one size fits all' solution. Politicians had to visit farming communities to 'walk slowly with the people that are affected and see if there's a range of options that will fit their particular stressed circumstance'.  

Gaining the trust of the electorate, rather than stoking fears about invasions of boat people or industrial relations reforms, is a better way to win an election. But it takes time. And yes, it is running out.

Sin, spin and sex abuse in the church and military

Church leaders have a responsibility to protect the reputation of the institution of the Church. They are also custodians of a very high moral duty to protect the most vulnerable in their care, including sexual abuse victims.

It is a common criticism that they have previously given priority to looking after the reputation of the institution over the needs of sexual abuse victims, who have suffered further as a result.

On the other side, many critics are not obviously concerned about the rights of the Church's 'good people' and positive values represented by the institution.

It appears they wish to see the needs of victims addressed in isolation.

There is goood reason for suggesting the needs of victims are more important than those of the institution, but it is not helpful in the long term to assign priority to one or the other. Because the sexual abuse problem is endemic, the long term common good requires a more wholistic strategy.

Last week the Australian Defence Force (ADF) was subject to similar criticism following the release of the damning DLA Piper report into sexual abuse over many years. Just as Catholic Church leaders were accused of harbouring past abusers by not reporting them to the police, media headlines highlighted the DLA Piper report's revelations that 'un-prosecuted rapists' remain in 'senior positions in the armed forces'. 

This is quite significant because the ADF has always had the capacity to deal with its own through the court martial system, which allow criminal sanction. By comparison, the Church has only been able to inform civil authorities and defrock priest perpetrators.

Retired Major General Jim Molan commented at The Drum on Thursday on the 'not inconsequential' issue of the reputation of the ADF. However he insisted that protecting the reputation of the ADF 'must never hamper justice for victims', who are 'the first priority of action'.

It is pleasing that he puts the needs of victims ahead of the reputation of the ADF. But it is a flawed strategy to consider reputation and the rights of victims as two unrelated challenges that must be addressed separately. Increasingly it appears that we're talking about a problem that is endemic and not confined to a rogue element.

Molan explained that the ADF 'needs to remain the most respected institution in Australia, as it was in a recent survey, to attract people and funds to do its job'. Separately, he argues, it 'can respond empathetically to each individual abuse case without accepting that this puts a stain on all the ADF and all that it does'. 

Contrary to Molan's argument, we believe that it is necessary for the ADF to accept the 'stain' before it responds empathetically. The very act of accepting the stain will demonstrate the ADF's capacity for strength, honesty and justice in the way that it goes about confronting serious internal issues. This is a much more effective way of ensuring its good reputation for the long term than a slick public relations expertise, which is the common quick fix for reputational damage.

A contrite ADF that acts righteously within will always be in a better position to prosecute just wars than an organisation with an apparently good reputation that is founded on hubris or spin.

If Molan's views reflect those of the ADF leadership, the Church is ahead of the ADF, in that the Church has moved in recent years towards accepting that the sexual abuse problem is endemic and not merely the result of the behaviour of rogue priests. A major turning point came when Pope Benedict XVI told reporters in 2010 that the problem was 'the sin inside the Church'. Implicitly he was saying that acknowledging the institutional Church's sin — or stain — is the precondition for forgiveness and reparative justice for abuse victims.

If — and only if — this attitude filters down to local dioceses, the Church can expect to be able to offer justice to sexual abuse victims, and rebuild its reputation at the same time. A joint lesson for the Church and the ADF.

News and entertainment a difficult mix

e know them will effectively cease to exist within a few short years. 

Many readers will miss the familiarity and romance of print. But more disturbing is the likelihood that the dignified authority of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age mastheads will be lost when the more ephemeral, entertainment-oriented electronic edition is all we have. 

The comparative lightness of the online content is consistent with the increasingly widespread trend to blend news with entertainment in electronic and online media in general. In fact the appeal of this is such that many, perhaps most, Australians have their news delivered to them within a form of popular entertainment rather than ‘serious’ news publications and programs.

It is often breakfast radio presenters such as Kyle and Jackie O who shape young people’s perceptions of the world with their mostly offhand and anti-social jokes about events and issues of national and world significance. Or the more socially responsible but nevertheless trivialising news oriented comedy programs such as Channel Ten’s The Project, as well as short-run series such as last year’s Hamster Wheel from The Chaser and ABC1’s current Friday offering Shaun Micallef’s Mad as Hell.

These shows are influenced by highly successful and sometimes incisive American news comedies including The Colbert Report and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. 

Such blending of news with comedy is the subject of acomment by Californian Jesuit James T. Keane in the latest issue of America magazine. Keane writes of the usurping of the traditional network news bulletins by the likes of Colbert and Stewart, who ‘deliver news wrapped in comedy, pop-culture references and often an ironic distance from momentous historical events’.

Significantly he is not entirely disturbed by this phenomenon. He argues that it is naïve to assume that Walter Cronkite could be trusted to deliver ‘unvarnished truth’. Moreover he suggests the comedies provide a kind of antidote to the xenophobia and introspective consumerism fostered by network news bulletins. 

Mainstream news programs routinely report on the ways in which ‘our way of life’ is being threatened or destroyed and seldom acknowledge that such ways of life are unsustainable or contrary to the public good.

It’s a positive that satire provides much-needed perspective on traditional news, and that it has moved beyond a niche to educate the masses to consume the news more critically. But regrettable that the iconoclastic tone of many of these comedians of the left lacks the values and moral centre needed to counter the xenophobia and play to self-interest of the network bulletins and the right-wing news entertainment programs such as The O’Reilly Factor on FoxNews.

If Fairfax Online remains dominated by an imperative to entertain, we should hope that it finds a way of retaining the sense of values that have long given the printed broadsheets their authority.