14 March 2023

Whoever controls the media, controls the mind ... maybe

| Ross Solly
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How much of the media’s message breaks on through to the other side? Photo: File.

Whoever controls the media controls the mind.

So said Jim Morrison (allegedly), the lead singer of The Doors.

I say allegedly because no one has actually been able to find where he said it, although the date is given as 1969, two years before his tragic and untimely death.

But that is not the story today. More, it’s a question of whether these words, which certainly rang true after the turbulent 60s, are still relevant today, and if so, are we in big trouble?

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The available evidence seems to suggest those who control the traditional media – newspapers, television, radio – are much less likely to control the minds of the mass population in 2023.

Take, for example, recent election results in Australia. Certain media outlets have unashamedly campaigned for the political party of their choice, only to watch on as the voters ignored their bleatings.

At a recent dinner party I attended, the conversation turned to the media. Among this group of well-educated diners, none said they buy newspapers during the working week. A couple said they buy a weekend paper but rarely get time to read it.

No one around the table watched television news anymore, although they occasionally caught up online. Some did say they listened to the radio but were more likely to listen to podcasts.

It prompted the obvious question – where do you get your news from? How do you know what is happening in the world?

Nearly everyone said they subscribe to at least one online news outlet and often receive breaking news text messages. But it became painfully obvious to me many didn’t get the news at all. When I raised a couple of issues that had been making headlines recently, I was met with blank stares.

It seems most news these days is garnered from social media.

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Jim Morrison possibly would have loved the scene where the people are controlling the media, and by extension, our minds. I’m not sure, though, he would have loved how it has panned out.

Here lies the problem and why I think we are in big trouble.

Many traditional media outlets now rely on ‘clickbait’ to drive traffic to their sites. These outlets employ social media whiz kids who attend editorial meetings every day, giving their take on what is getting social media attention. This shapes the coverage for that day.

The consensus is people don’t want to hear about doom and gloom. They certainly don’t want anything too complicated. They want bright and positive stories.

You can pretty well guarantee a story about the Voice or changes to superannuation laws will not get many clicks. So important issues are buried. And when they are tackled, the coverage can be so shallow consumers are left none the wiser. These are issues which need analysis and sensible explanation.

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It’s little wonder that discussions about the Voice referendum, changes to superannuation and the stage three tax cuts have descended into vitriol and class warfare. Nobody can be bothered reading, listening or watching detailed analysis any more, so virtually no one provides it.

Much better to trot out lines that get the clicks.

So was, and is, Jim Morrison right? Probably, although this is the man who also gave us these words of wisdom from ‘Roadhouse Blues’:

You got to beep-a-gunk-a-chucha

I think this is a better reflection of where we’re at in 2023.

RIP Jim.

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