The recent revelations and discussions on the alleged role the ABC played in the NBN debate brought me back to the element of this issue that we have already discussed many times – that the whole debate regarding the NBN has been politically-led.
I can fully understand political arguments regarding issues such a small government, market-led developments, and business profits on the one hand, and issues such as nation-building, the national good, and equality of service (for rural and disadvantaged people, for example) on the other; and while I might not agree with them I understand where people are coming from and I respect their opinion.
From an NBN perspective this has nothing to do with technology, broadband requirements for the digital/interconnected economy and other rational elements. Whether your political leaning is to blue, green or red, fibre optic is always better than copper. A system that delivers 50Mb/s is better than one that delivers 25Mb/s; a unified single technology infrastructure is better than a mixed technology one; it is cheaper to maintain fibre than copper; and so on.
What we have seen is that, driven by politics, the debate started to interweave subjective political persuasion with factual technical information. And in order to make this work some rationality was found to make those entwined arguments look like the ‘truth’
When thinking along these lines I remembered something that the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche had to say:
To recognize untruth as a condition of life – that certainly means resisting accustomed value feelings in a dangerous, way; and a philosophy that risks this would by that token alone place itself beyond good and evil.
Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil (Jenseits von Gut und Böse) 1886
He argues that you can’t just use rationality to find a way that automatically leads to objective truth. Everything is dotted with psychological motives; the use of logic can be used as a game played to make such ‘truths’ look more real.
These arguments are not only creeping into the NBN debate – the climate deniers are another group that is good at making ‘truth’ out of untruth. The problems in the Middle East, the refugee drama and other war-related events are riddled with such politically concocted ‘truth’, from both sides of the fence.
Back to the ABC issue ……
Good journalism and good reporting obviously has to provide a balance of opinions, but that balance should be based on separating the political issues from neutral issues such as technology.
In my view, good journalism and good reporting does not provide a balanced view on climate change by giving equal weight to the climate deniers.
The NBN issue is somewhat more complex, but key here also is separating the politics. Certainly ask all parties what their political view on the NBN is, and accept that some will say that government should not be involved and others say they should. I would not have any issue with such arguments and accept that opinion.
Technical matters, however, should be separated from that and should be reported on as facts. It would be wrong to treat concocted truth that is based around a political persuasion as a balanced argument for debate.
- Australia – National Broadband Network – Developments and Analyses 2015-2016
- Australia – National Broadband Network – Policies and Regulations
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