I had occasion yesterday to read this piece by Michael Koziol, a 3rd year media & communications student at Sydney U
Clearly, young Michael has much to learn about media & communications and for a 3rd year student, I fear for the upcoming generation of media journalists & commentators this country is breeding. My principal problem with what Michael wrote is his predilection for classification of social and political ideologies into what I regard as a flawed perception of Australian society & culture, into the “left” and the “right”. Essentially, he’s framing all ideological standpoints into black & white with a void in between. I’d have thought that a very dangerous perspective for anyone to come at any issue from, let alone someone supposedly studying the mores of analytic commentary.
But let’s pull the curtain aside & see who the Great Oz really is. Here’s the ebb & flow of correspondence between Michael & myself.
I read your piece in the SMH today. Not bad for one so young, but I put it to you that you’re betraying your ideological allegiances by focusing – erroneously I might add – on this mythical beast, “The Left”. Do you even understand what you’re referring to by making such claims? Do you realise you automatically define yourself as an advocate for the anti-thesis of what you pan?
Michael, there is no ‘Left’ or ‘Right’ in the real world of rational debate & discussion over issues of merit. What occurred on Monday evening on QandA has nothing to do with conservatism or socialism, and all to do with the individual in front of the camera. To automatically make an assumption of the thrower’s ideological bent based on his, I believe, sweetly ironic mode of protest by hurling his shoes, speaks volumes for the man’s character, sense of proprietorial ethics and basic morality. His act speaks nothing of his core beliefs, nor of his political allegiances. To claim he is of “The Left” merely opens you up to criticism, as I’m doing right here.
I would urge you in your studies, and in your proposed career in media, to utterly disdain these biases and ideological predilections. Write from fact, not personal leanings, and you’ll attract more readers across the spectrum, not just those you want to preach to.
to which Michael replied:
Thanks for taking the time to look me up and write your email. I understand it must be a concerning issue for you to go to that effort.
I will give you this much: there is a very, very small chance the individual was not generally left-identifying. I also agree that the left/right spectrum is often misunderstood and misused. But I still think the left/right spectrum – along with the highly important authoritarian/libertarian spectrum – is a valid and valuable measure of political ideology, and I don’t buy in to this idea that it is irrelevant and passe. There seems to be this crusade against Left/Right argumentation in Australia but if you look at the political commentary in the US it is alive and well.
But the two major points of my article still stand: it is the perception of the shoe-throwing that makes all the difference, and it also necessarily takes attention away from critical analysis of Howard’s responses.
My closing rejoinder being:
Thank you for replying, Michael, and also for your validation of my effort in critiquing your piece. Two points I’ll leave you to ponder:
• Australia is NOT America. Our culture is NOT their culture and our political ideology does NOT mirror theirs. By conflating the moribund Left –v- Right paradigm with non-existent similarities between two divergent cultures is a common and dangerous mistake committed by many who wish to play this silly “us-versus-them” game of one-upmanship.
• Perceptions are like opinions and to paraphrase Harry Callaghan, they’re like arseholes. Everyone has one. Just because you have an opinion on an issue does not of necessity make it fact. You define the shoe-thrower as ‘left’, which automatically makes you ‘right’ in terms of the paradigm. Doing so places you directly in defence of Howard and directly in opposition to whatever you perceive the shoe-thrower to be expressing. Hardly the position of an objective commentator, which I presume to be the position you intended to take.
Observations on my behalf, purely due to my intense dislike of these flawed fall-back positions taken by a massive majority of media commentators. There is no ‘left’ or ‘right’, that’s my standpoint. There is objective and subjective analysis, and such it should remain. Clearly, my commentary on your style will not change it, more than likely will firm it up, but I feel these things need to be said.
Good luck with your studies. Perhaps we will meet again, in text, at some future point.
You’re probably wondering, dear reader, why I’d bother taking issue with what a young man thinks about a relatively minor fracas on live national television. Well, it’s pretty much outlined above, but succinctly, I have an ingrained hatred of these weak-kneed excuses for proper analysis of situations where it’s easiest to simply apply labels, classify one label as good/right and the other as bad/wrong. We see it constantly in the blogosphere, it’s becoming argument du jour on Twitter – not that 140 characters provides a platform for cogent discussion – and it’s making itself felt in certain spheres of the Main Stream Media.
A man disagrees with another on national television over an issue as divisive as any seen in recent years, and man (a) throws his shoes at man (b) in ironic symbolism replicating another instance from several years prior. Apart from the rather sweet irony involved in the matter, which we’re all very familiar with, there was/is absolutely nothing involved in the incident from which to identify the shoe-throwers social, cultural or political ideology. To identify said person as “left”, or “right” for that matter, is not only wildly inaccurate, it doesn’t mean anything. It’s akin to claiming that I, as an atheist, am unqualified to comment on matters of religiosity. Utter garbage.
It’s a sad indictment not only on the inability of people to engage intelligently, but of our higher education institutions to not be high-lighting these fraudulent approaches to public discussion, especially in media & journalism studies. Clearly, this is the case, else we’d not be seeing allegedly intelligent young people like Michael falling back on lazy excuses for personally biased commentary as a mode of social engagement. If you’re going to express a personal bias, then do so with honesty and integrity. Hiding behind moribund constructs such as “left” and “right” merely say to me that there is no valid argument, just an excuse for a whinge.