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Good news stories from the age of outrage

  • 14 February 2019


It has becoming increasingly common for commentators and politicians to dismissively refer to our society as presently living in an 'age of outrage'. Such commentaries are generally paired with a wistful harkening to an era where, they assure us, things were better, more peaceful, and where one might enjoy an apolitical existence. They are outraged at our outrage; and assure us it is the rise of social media, millennials, and this damn age of outrage which has ruined everything.

But what is actually going on here? Are we really the snowflake generation? And is social media and increasing political engagement among the broader public truly the toxic end of civilisation which some claim? That is going to depend on your definition of civilised.

For a long time in 'Western countries' formal and broadly accessible platforms of communication such as newspapers, radio, and television have been controlled by a very few powerful, privileged, wealthy individuals. Australia has among the most concentrated media ownership in the world, yet while traditional media is generally controlled by very few, it is influential and broadcast to the many.

As technological advances have evolved over time, with each advance in public broadcasting there have come visible and demonstrable changes in the public discourse around politics and activism. This is not unique to a present day context — consider for example, the impact media and uncensored broadcasting had on public responses to the Vietnam War.

This relationship between media, communication sharing, and public engagement with politics is well established. Propaganda spread through media, and the application of media control is a tried and true tactic in politics around the world, with Germany in the 1930s considered a prime example of how political goals and agendas can be assisted through propaganda and control of the media. In a present day context China, Saudi Arabia and North Korea are among the countries who censor their citizens' access to the internet and social media, and discussions around censorship have happened here in Australia too.

Media matters, and always has. As a conduit of information which is relied upon by the vast majority as a source of news, knowledge and understanding, it is predictable that the information, perspectives, and agenda shared via media is often of concern to the political parties in power, and those who would like to be.

But times are changing, and both 'what' and 'who' media is is changing. With the rise of