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News, civics and the Great Forgetting

By Malcolm King - posted Wednesday, 6 January 2021

We 'socially construct' the world around us through socialisation, schooling, workmates, friends and family and the media. We experience the world from a specific and unique perspective, and that is our individual 'reality'.

This story focuses on how the news media 'injects' a world view in to that reality, creating delusion more akin to schizophrenia than an approximate perception of cause and events. This phenomena is aided by the Great Forgetting, where history becomes the shallow ground of TV dramas and remakes of remakes.

The media is not the sole cause of belief or attitude formation; it is not the prime mover of how we construct our reality. It is one snooker ball amongst many, ricocheting and cannoning off other phenomena, in what I loosely call the ahistorical and post-modern existential experience.


When I trained as a journalist in Melbourne in the 1980s, we still called, without irony, reporting a 'consciousness raising' profession. It's a consciousness corrupting industry now.

The decline of the news is a thesis in itself but key cancers include the overt politicisation of the news, mixing opinion with fact, decontextualization, the extraordinary rise of supposition and 'life style' stories, an obsessive focus on the negative, mass sackings of journalists and many more.

People have turned off the news much like they've turned off cinema, cricket or Rugby League. They realise the media's interpretation of events and commentary by politicians, opinion leaders and celebrities, is simply a cluster of disassociated perspectives, aggregated for public consumption, which bears little or no relationship to lived experience.

When we juxtapose people's experience of unemployment, under employment, age prejudice, caring for ageing parents or loneliness, then the news doesn't reflect this reality at all.

Even though we are inundated with information, much of it is decontextualized, trivialised or like a paralysed cyclops, totally focused on Covid-19 infection rates.

The more one watches or reads the news, the less one knows.


History, which is oft mentioned but rarely studied, has a weird way of throwing up parallels with modern times. Towards the end of the reign of the Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius (about 166AD), the first of the Germanic tribes crossed the Danube. A few made it over the Alps and charged around in what is modern day northern Italy, until they were pushed back.

In Rome there were rumours, hints and allegations, much investigation of animal entrails, persecution of Christians, wailing in the streets, holy processions and seers divining the future. No one knew what was going on. Today, the Germanic tribes would be called the Covid-19 virus.

The real problem though lay inside the gates of Rome. The empire had grown so large, it couldn't be administered properly. Those barbarians would be back. In the current context, they will come as unemployment and under employment, destroying the social fabric.

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About the Author

Malcolm King is a journalist and professional writer. He was an associate director at DEEWR Labour Market Strategy in Canberra and the senior communications strategist at Carnegie Mellon University in Adelaide. He runs a writing business called Republic.

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