One of the joys of watching policy development is how it completely ignores the infinite flexibility of the people it seeks to regulate.
Every policy should go through a rigorous Response Scenario attack from the most creative public-private team imaginable. Just to work out what the best-and-brightest would do to subvert the policy goal.
And subvert the Finkelstein attack on free speech our best and brightest will. The unintended consequences of ALP-Green policy will undermine its goal of keeping the love media leaning Left.
In a post-Finky world, the love media will continue to bleed. Not only will they be seen as activists, they’ll be seen as government-sponsored ones. News consumers will trust little from government-approved news sources that parrot elite opinion. Goodbye SMH and Age. Just as it’ll soon be goodbye Newsweek, Chicago Tribune, LA Times and others in the US. The Australian will also decline as it self-censors to protect its ‘licence’ to operate (there is evidence that this has already begun).
The Gillard-AWU story is the harbinger of things to come. Consumers will turn to blogs, video sites and online aggregators that push the limits, independent of regulated news sources. Those free from Finky-fear will break the stories that matter.
Bloggers and vloggers will return to anonymity, free from media groups worried about Finkelstein. Individuals and groups will create blind trusts to protect their assets, and set up web hosting with overseas providers who are free from influence. They will dare the Federal government to block their content or IP addresses and reveal itself as a budding China.
Indeed, I’d advise serious commentators to start moving their assets now.
New news aggregators and email newsletters will emerge to collect the fragmented content. To protect themselves, they too will be held by blind trusts, with overseas hosting.
As a defensive measure they could drop and put up sites instantly, then inform their readership via Twitter. The hunt for Napster and Kazaa taught a lot of people a lot of lessons. Contemporary pirate sites have too.
And what is the outcome of this scenario? A devalued and declining mainstream under the control of government, competing with an energised and innovative independent subculture. A subculture with fewer of the disciplines of good journalism. With video and social media savvy, and insulated not only from Finkelstein, but also from Australian defamation laws.
The sort of moves the ALP and Greens are proposing will energise and motivate even middle-aged corporate types to put their IT project management skills, and substantial cash, into guerrilla media.
Go on, Julia Gillard, John Murphy and Steve Gibbons, I dare you. Take the gloves off. You will have less control of the narrative and you will empower your opponents in a new medium, rather than protecting your supporters in a declining one.