In every modern democracy, there’s an ongoing struggle to balance ideology and policy, transparency and secrecy, fact and spin, truth and ‘gospel’ truth, recollection and statistics, experience and passion. Then, after the agreed, signed-off message has escaped from the party's sanctum sanctorum, there’s another phase of this convoluted process in which the professional political spin doctors polish the language, grind away any rough edges and make it fit for pre-public (traditional media) consumption.
Journalists with an expertise in their political environment digest the message released by the political communications specialists, many of whom used to be journalists themselves. Regardless of background, these reporters sieve the information through a series of filters, including whether a story is appropriate for their audience, the channel, the editorial bias, the journalist's personal perspectives and any other news of the day.
What comes out of this apparently necessary series of processes is what we often see as "news"...or what is rejected by media types as being less than newsworthy. If you think the news is all 'spin', take a moment to consider the announcements and media releases that died with a single touch of the Delete key.
Sometimes we can remove one level - the reporter - and televise a live press conference, but unless its an impromptu one, the statement being read was prepared and approved by the spin department, or created from a set of Party-approved talking points.
Take Joe Hockey's presser this morning (transcript not available) in which he made hay from a report showing that Australia's productivity was relatively slow. There were some clumsy Olympic references and the suggestion that this is Very Bad for Australia. What he didn't say was which Productivity Report he was referring to, where Australia ranked compared to which other nations, or who funded the report. Was the report prepared by the AIG or the Ponds Institute?
Mr Hockey also failed to mention how he might go about improving this dreadful situation with our constipated productivity.
Barely seconds later, Mr Hockey was critical of Wayne Swan's continued offensive against the Axis of Greed, and decided (probably with the assistance of staff) that Mr Swan was drawing attention to himself as "Acting PM" to set himself up as an alternative to the unpopular Julia Gillard. I hate to be the one to break it to Mr Hockey, but here goes: Wayne Swan is the Acting Prime Minister. He doesn't need to draw attention to himself. He gets our attention because right now, he is our elected leader.
Sadly for Mr Hockey, he'll never have that chance. In the Coalition, the Acting Prime Minister is always the Leader of the National Party. Perhaps that's why he doesn't understand how silly his claim of a "look-at-me" strategy really is. Given the absence of gravitas in Hockey's presser, I'd say it's a solid case of the Pot and the Kettle...
Yet on it went. Joe Hockey was anxious to mock the inspiration Mr Swan draws from Springsteen's Born To Run. Meh. I'm not a Springsteen fan, yet I'm delighted to see a politician who has room in his life for more than one idea, more than one source of inspiration. The Australian Labor Party doesn't begin and end at the site of the Tree of Knowledge.
Was the whole Hockey not-news conference simply a way for him to display his supposed intellectual snobbery compared to the Acting PM, who prefers a working-class flannie-wearing songwriter to Hockey's inspirations: Menzies, Howard and probably a trio of mining billionaires. I imagine most of the electoral battle-grounds in Western Sydney and South East Queensland would prefer The Boss too.
But it's not a class war. It's a message war and today, Mr Hockey failed on every count. PR101 still dictates that if you don't have legitimate news, don't call a presser or issue a release. As for his problem with Springsteen, a simple "yuck" on Twitter would've sufficed. Clive Palmer's response, complete with righteous Aussie indignation, was equally misplaced. The issue isn't Springsteen versus Redgum versus learned tomes from Joe's personal library. It's the optimism of knowing that inspiration is everywhere, and yet entirely personal. It's subjective and irrational and surprising, and to do anything less than welcome it, in whatever form it appears, is just plain dumb.
In any case, a sincere gut-felt love of music suggests creativity, vision and a mind that is ready for new ideas. Perhaps today's battle was between open and closed minds, between creating inspired solutions for the future or borrowing policy from the past.
"The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them."
— Albert Einstein