Media tells only what they think we can handle

Media tell only what they think we can handle
March 5, 2014
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Sally Young
It is remarkable how the reporting of events blows with the winds of change.

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Wendi Deng
Wendi Deng Photo: AP
The relationship between the media and power is wonderfully encapsulated by the front-page headlines that appeared in Le Moniteur, the official French government daily, in the month of March 1815. During that month, Napoleon Bonaparte escaped from his exile on the island of Elba and launched an extraordinary campaign that began with recapturing France, and ended on the battlefield at Waterloo.

March 10, Dateline Elba

The Beast Has Escaped Its Lair

March 15

The Rebel Bonaparte Evades Arrest

By Loyal Troops, Heads North

March 19

The Emperor At The Gates Of Paris

March 20

His Imperial Majesty To Enter

The City Today

These headlines show the athletic flexibility of media reporting as it responds to shifts in power.

In that case, Napoleon was being elevated as his power increased, but, of course, it also goes the other way as we regularly witness the downfall of previously powerful individuals.

Most vulnerable of all are the women who are powerful by association because they are in a relationship with a powerful man. If they separate from him or – even worse – leave him, their shift from protected species to fair game can be dizzyingly abrupt. Continue reading

No Laughing Matter

No laughing matter
November 15, 2013
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james adonis
Work In Progress
James Adonis is one of Australia’s best-known people-management thinkers
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What sort of a leader would you make?
What sort of a leader would you make?
When working with a large Australian company recently, I asked a group of 30 team leaders what they would do if they overheard an employee telling a racist joke. Their response, almost in unison, was surprising: “We’d laugh.” Continue reading

How we’re herded by language

How we’re herded by language

Metaphors can persuade us to war or bring us back from the brink. We must try to be more aware of them.

Poodle at Westminster dog show

‘The present meaning of the word poodle seems a world away from what the original breeders must have had in mind when they bred the Pudelhund to be a water retriever.’ Photograph: Chris Mcgrath/Getty

Here come the old metaphors again – and some new ones, too. In the last few days we have heard Barack Obama flooding the zone so as to urge strikes in Syria, within time windows, but without boots on the ground, because of the crossing of a red line which, back in May, threatened to box in the president, or even turn into a green light for Bashar al-Assad, who himself says that “the Middle East is a powder keg, and today the fuse is getting shorter”. John Kerry calls people who hesitate “armchair isolationists“, which suggests useless snoozers by the fireside rather than thoughtful opponents. Meanwhile, the media dubs France “America’s poodle“. So vivid are British memories of that taunt that the very thought of it may have accelerated the quick decision this time to reject military involvement. Continue reading

What can we learn from email mind games?

What can we learn from email mind games?

August 26, 2013 – 11:56PM


Over drinks the other night, a friend confessed that she’s been spending an inordinate amount of time puzzling over emails from a new guy in her life. But it wasn’t the kind of decoding she was used to doing, given that she has no romantic interest in him whatsoever. Rather, they were emails from her new boss, who – despite being articulate in person – has a habit of sending her lower case rants that are almost entirely devoid of punctuation.  His emails are often brimming with typos and abbreviations, with a typical message being: “meeting in ten can you pls make sure everynes there pls. Tks.” Continue reading

The persuasive power of pronouns

The persuasive power of pronouns

Click on this link to listen to the audio from  Radio National.

Politics, it’s a war or words. We might hope they carry a little meaning, but it seems that there is also science behind making a winning political speech.

Are some words more politically effective than others?

Well we have the answers, as a Queensland University study has found that political leaders who use the collective pronouns “us” and “we” are more likely to win – far more likely.

Children and families become ‘it’ and ‘them’ as asylum seekers are dehumanised

Children and families become ‘it’ and ‘them’ as asylum seekers are dehumanised

Date July 17, 2013 Category Opinion
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Stephanie Peatling

Senior writer

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Stills from a Four Corners program on the Villawood Detention Centre. Mohammad Bedraie holds his son, Shayan,6, with mother, Zahra Saberi.
Asylum seekers issue ‘poisoned by politics’

Remember Shayan Badraie?

In 2001 he was a six-year-old boy who lay limp in his parents arms as they told the ABC Four Corners program that Shayan was so traumatised by his time in Villawood detention centre that he had stopped eating and drinking.

Art by Children in Detention

Drawings done by kids in detention on Manus Island. Photo: GetUp and Chilout

The then immigration minister, Philip Ruddock, was criticised for his apparent lack of compassion towards the family, which was noticeable in his repeated references to Shayan as “it”.

Not “the boy” or “the child” or “him” or any other slightly more personal way of referring to a human being.

Of course it was deliberate.

A tough immigration policy relies on preventing stories such as Shayan’s from being told.

It it why pictures drawn by children held in the processing centre on Manus Island and released by Greens Senator Sarah Hanson Young early this year are so affecting. Continue reading