Press freedom and the Australian government’s introduction of metadata legislation to access journalists’ sources dominate Monday night’s QandA program.
Peter Greste had many thoughtful things to say on Monday night’s Q&A, but perhaps his most essential was this: “If we ignore it, it will come back to bite us in the arse.”
It was not intended as a universal admonition to Australians – he was talking specifically about the implications of the recent university massacre in Kenya – but coming from Greste it might as well have been a broader warning to be careful what you vote for.
When you’ve spent 400 days locked in an Egyptian prison for the crime of doing your job, you come decorated with a certain assumed moral authority. A tougher task is to wear that…
There is much imagery on the market that masquerades as Art while it is little more than wall-paper described as Abstract Art, or Abstract Expressionism, in a bid to attach the work to a genre in order to legitimize it as Art. Of course, one can argue that any painting, or object, can be described as Art if the artist says it is and rightly so, but that does not mean that the rest of us have to accept the work as having real artistic legitimacy. Nevertheless, all works presented as Art, be it wall-paper, or masterworks, and everything in between regardless of subject matter, or no subject matter in terms of `wall-paper`, is political.
The above image is part of a painting created by Frank Mosmeri, who disposed of this work by painting over it, because he felt embarrassed by the fact that it had nothing to say. I thought it beautiful visually and the artist could have `sold` it by referring to it as an expression of beauty. But for the artist it was simply `wall-paper` and, in that, it was still political in saying nothing. That is, it was a `safe` image, as is the Minimalist genre that found its way to the National Gallery of Victoria in the form of a `block-buster` exhibition of Contemporary work, while the Vietnam War was raging.
`Safe Art` makes no waves in lending little to nothing to the issues of the day; nor does it awaken the mind to the Self. Mindless in content `safe art` is political, in that it keeps the Public unaware, so any Government involved in an unjustifiable War, or is engaging in propaganda to implement policies that negate the `common good` would welcome `Safe Art` into society and into the halls of power. When one looks at Public Sculpture funded by Government, -local or federal- what we see is not imagery that reflects the horrors of war, or poverty and the like, but rather the opposite to inject a feel-good in society and a reinforcement of the power-structure of a Nation and its Culture.
The notion of Empire is particularly visible in much Architecture that is designed to house government. Take the Victorian Parliament, as an example, with its Greek-Romanesque pillars symbolic of the Roman Empire erected in front of this government building leaves little room to doubt that it was designed to remind the population where power rests. Just like Visual Art, Architecture too is political and this extends to home dwellings, which suggest that the occupants are either wealthy or poor. All our possessions do likewise and so too our clothes and choice of style. `You are what you wear` might be a cliche, but this is rooted in fact like most cliches.
The above painting is also by the artist Frank Mosmeri, but unlike his `safe` piece, this work in the genre of Expressionism offers an emotionally charged image concerned with the treatment of live-stock for human consumption. Mosmeri is not a vegan, but eats little meat, as he has been growing more aware of what live animals go through to fulfill Human want. The artist is not alone in his thinking on this subject, nor is this work finger-wagging judgmental, but with its very creative delivery it makes contact with our emotions to lend to a greater sense of compassion for cattle and perhaps a touch of guilt and, in that, reminds us to be more vigilant towards their treatment, as cruelty towards animals is inhumane.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that this work does not serve the interest of the Cattle Industry; nor a Government receiving Tax revenue from it. It might also not sit well with meat eaters, while in contrast attracting admirers made up of Vegans and animal lovers, or protectors, who act as protagonist against the export of live-stock here in Australia and elsewhere. Unlike `safe art` that acts political in saying nothing, this work, in contrast, is political in what it does say and is a noteworthy work of Art, rather than wall-paper masquerading as such.
Similarly is Mosmeri`s painting titled `Beluga Whales`, which at first glance appears as an image of two very cute and happy Marine mammals, but after a closer look and the image of the spear in this work comes into focus, our first impression gives way to a foreboding view telling that these unsuspecting innocent Whales are in danger and so they definitely are in the `real` world. Works such as this and `Dinner` are obviously political, but `safe art` that is essentially decorative is equally political and particularly so for those in control, who are more apt to embrace it, as they can do what they will with their power in Societies where ignorance among the masses flourishes.
In this New-Age of Information we feel ourselves increasingly lucky to have access to a host of different opinions on an endless range of topics. But with the concentration of the Media in Australian Society the public is at risk of having their opinions shaped to suit the ambitions of the few, rather than the ambitions of the many. In light of this, the Australian Government is looking to introducing new Media Law Reforms that have been met with an all out assault from News LTD and opposition from the Liberal-National Party, while wider opinion agrees that the new Media Law reforms, announced by Senator Conroy , are essentially `light weight, as expressed in the following article from The Conversation that offers An Academic View of New Media Reforms The idea that the new Media Reforms are `light weight` have also left some people, with less faith in the Media remaining self regulated, arguing that the Reforms do not go far enough.
In view of the importance of Press freedom in a free society, the new Media reforms probably do go far enough without impinging on ideas, which can equally be challenged in a free media society. The ABC and SBS are important safety-nets where the concentration of media exists, as is the safety net governing future media merges that need to pass a `public interest test` overseen by a government appointed administrator. This aspect of the reforms is possibly the most welcomed by those who understand the fundamental importance of Media diversity to a Democratic Society, which is why the Media has always been subject to certain regulations with it being `a beast` with the potential to rip society apart through means of persuasion, or propaganda. The Government wants the new reforms passed within a week and says that it will not negotiate on any of it`s 1all or nothing` Media Reform package, that also includes requiring the Media to offer the public a certain amount of Australian content.
What Governments do has an impact on all society and so too the Media with its power to shape opinion. There is no appetite for censorship in the new reforms that need to be properly understood along with the current Media Laws, which are not up with the on-line developments taking over in Australia`s media landscape that the reforms attempt to address. This is not to argue that the media reforms ought to be passed, as without having access to them there remains a reluctance to come to this conclusion, but for Politicians who have access to the reforms, it is of paramount importance that the reforms are well focused on and not simply dismissed on the basis of News LTD`s objections too them. The reforms are not draconian according to the voices of reason so far, which are not on Big Media`s payroll. As for the Opposition`s opposition to the changes, predictable! The LNP are a Party that wants to win the next Federal Election against Labor and positions itself in the same corner as big players like Rupert Murdoch and Gina Reinhart.
An unchecked Media can persuade a society to willingly step into an Orwellian nightmare after being fed on a diet of propaganda. It happened to the Germans and it can happen anywhere at anytime where information can be manipulated, or withheld. News LTD makes no secret of supporting the Liberal-National Coalition and feeds the public big doses of front page assaults on the Prime Minister and her Government. Negative opinion commentary on the Prime Minister has also become the norm across much of the Media, which has resulted in the opinion Polls showing Government disapproval to be high. No Government can withstand a high level of the media pitching against it and no just society can hold it together where people vote against their own interest. Media Corporations engage in what is best for their own business, not social joy.