It’s difficult to know if Media Watch is parody these days. Mark Latham — who publicly attacked an outspoken transgendered officer of the armed forces, who publicly attacked an outspoken woman who was campaigning against domestic violence for ‘commercialising’ her grief, and who has attacked a series of outspoken women who had the audacity to write in public about whatever the funk they want to write about — has quit writing for the Australian Financial Review, and Media Watch thinks this is a loss to Australian public life.
Losing Mark Latham is a loss.
A few minutes later, Q&A crossed to the Melbourne Writers Festival where Virginia Trioli hosted a panel of former politicians, and Louise Adler and Annabel Crabb. The word ‘boring’ trended for well over an hour, with people wondering why we were having a MWF special just to hear from has-been politicians musing about writing political autobiographies.
Meanwhile, people are scratching their chins, furrowing their brows, and covering blackboards with dense mathematical formulae, trying to answer today’s most pressing political question: ‘Why are young people not interested in politics?’
I am very lucky to be friends with a bunch of amazing writers. I took a year off work to go freelance for a while, dabbling in various adviser positions and pitching a few articles here and there. It is a surprisingly grueling job, where there is very little guarantee that the work you produce will actually translate into a sustainable income. Some of my friends have been able to latch on to regular columns, but a lot of them still get by from pitch to pitch, usually with incomes being subsidised by retail work or paper monkey admin.
Now look at the industry in which they are trying to compete. People like Andrew Bolt, Gerard Henderson, Peter FitzSimons, Mike Seccombe, and, yes, Mark Latham are coddled into cosy, well paid positions while young, fresh, insightful talent get the scraps. Even Media Watch is presided over by a Baby Boomer who recaps stuff he saw on the Internet last week, sanctimoniously failing to understand the issues he’s raising.
When new media outlets open up, companies are far too eager to play a conservative hand: give the plum jobs to the old hats who’ll produce the regular old content that has seen readership numbers crash into the pit. Meanwhile, the post-Boomer generation currently outnumbers them, has increasing levels of disposable income, and yet is spending it everywhere else but on news.
It’s even affecting the political book industry. Boomers writing for Boomers, published by Boomers, launched by Boomers. I don’t think I’ve actually seen a book of political essays written by somebody from my generation. I think the closest we get is in anthologies of esssays, safely nestled between six or seven essays written by people who were relevant back in the 1980s.
The political class is dominated by a generation who has no incentive to have a long term game. Political campaigns are waged on short term pandering to people approaching retirement. Newspaper columns are written by this generation, systemically shutting out other people from having a platform, and then tut-tut that younger generations aren’t as engaged with politics as they are.
If you want politics in Australia to improve, rescind the vote of every person over 40. Just as there is a mandatory retirement age for judges, we should hold a referendum to prohibit the over 50s from sitting for Parliament. And if you want young people to engage with politics, sack the deadwood trolls and hand the reins over to the next generation who have the right values, language, and cultural reference points.