Sideshow: Dumbing Down Democracy
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Sideshow: Dumbing Down Democracy

3.32 of 5 stars 3.32  ·  rating details  ·  102 ratings  ·  20 reviews
Under siege from commercial pressures and technological innovation, the Australian media are retreating into an entertainment frame that has little tolerance for complex social and economic issues. In turn, politicians and political parties are adapting to suit the new rules of the game--to such an extent that the contest of ideas is being supplanted by the contest for lau...more
ebook, 256 pages
Published January 1st 2013 by Scribe Publications (first published May 2nd 2011)
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Gabrielle Trenbath
Sideshow – dumbing down of democracy. I don’t know where to start with this book, not to say that it was bad in anyway but that Lindsay Tanner brought up so any good points that I could almost write an essay.

But basically political spin has increased over the decades and Tanner seemed to imply that the main reason because the main purpose of commercial media was to make a profit and therefore giving people consumers what they want, i.e. entertainment. As he points out ‘news is now often judged...more
23/7: Not very far in but already impressed...This book is for anyone who ever frantically thumbed through a newspaper looking for 'real' news, came up empty-handed and wondered why.

2/9: I heart this book so bad.

I was cheering on the inside all the way through, until I discovered how tragically short Tanner was on solutions come the final chapter.

He's not short on ideas for how we got to this point, however.

From the need to entertain to the circus of gaffes, the dominance of emotive imagery ove...more
Jennifer (JC-S)
‘Modern politics now resembles a Hollywood blockbuster, all special effects and no plot.’

Lindsay Tanner (born 24 April 1956) is a former member of the Australian House of Representatives. He held the seat of Melbourne for the Australian Labor Party from 1993 to 2010. Lindsay Tanner served as the Minister for Finance and Deregulation from 3 December 2007. On 24 June 2010 he announced his intention not to contest the 2010 federal election. The seat of Melbourne was subsequently won by the Greens....more
This is a must-read for anyone who cares about democracy.
This is an excerpt from my review:

Politics in the 21st century matters more than ever it did, but Tanner’s right when he says that democracy is at risk when the people aren’t sufficiently informed about issues to make valid choices at the ballot box. He’s not talking about the small percentage of us who are interested in politics and will always find a way to be informed about it, seeking out new media on the net and (in my case) badgeri...more
Chris Avery
After a life spent (And an apparent, subsequent disillusionment) in politics Tanner has published his seething account on the relationship between politics and the media demonstrating the intellectual Decline in media and consumer attitudes and why politicians have adjusted their 'Performances' accordingly.
Right now im sitting in my room. My girlfriend is using a laptop. I casually inquire what she is up to. without looking away from the flickering screen she replies almost unconsciously, "Oh, n...more
This book was raved about by colleagues and the media in 2011, so I was very disappointed when I finally got around to reading it. 100 pages of anecdotes that seemed to sum up what I already knew (modern political discourse in the mainstream media is generally pretty bad), then 70-odd pages of often contradictory "causes" and "solutions" with no real analysis.

A quick read, and I'm glad I did, but I'm left with the impression that this book would have been a lot clearer and better if it had been...more
Found this quite entertaining for a political book. Also triggered a lot of notes for my own writing, which meant I didn’t think much about what anyone else would get out of it as I read – sorry if you expected a better review for your own purposes! I’m currently involved with a group of women running for local government and this has been part of my personal ‘background reading’ to filter into that process. Some insights, but nothing really ground-shattering. But some good references, as well a...more
Overall, this was an excellent look at just why 21st Century politics in Australia has become so bad. Lindsay Tanner is able to come out and call it how it is - we have a cycle whereby the media and the politicians play a chicken and the egg game to see who can dumb public debate down quicker. Both sides are to blame, and it's just a question of which side decides to buck the trend.

The writing style is free-flowing and easy to follow, and no stage did I feel as though the book was dragging. High...more
The basic premise of this is obvious, but it was nice to have it explained more thoroughly and really interesting to read the stories of Lindsay Tanner's direct experiences.

A few times I did feel like his argument was a bit all over the place, although I entirely agreed with him. Not that it was confusing or his point was lost, I just would have liked it more if it had clearly defined and separate subjects or areas. But I suppose that's my problem, and not a problem with the book itself.
Good outline of the problems in Australian political discourse (and media coverage). It's interesting seeing some of those mechanics explained by an insider.

On the negative side: I think Lindsay misunderstands and mischaracterises some of the online changes feeding into this, he suggests no potential resolutions, and some parts are sloppily written.

Overall though, I highly recommend you read it, especially if you've never read Neil Postman's "Amusing Ourselves to Death"
My first book on Australian politics and I struggled to get to the end. It was probably worth it but my reading of this would suggest that the media should take all the blame for the situation as it is. I dont agree with that as I think politicians and the electorate take some of the blame too. Perhaps I am just a cynic but when it would appear that all most politicians worldwide want to do is stay in power they wont act in the best long-terms interests of their constituents.
I agree with his point but felt he laboured the point. The same point over and over. It was refreshing to see a discussion of the media portrayal of politics and the effect on Australia's democracy from a former politician but this is predominantly an opinion piece. At least there was an admission to his own participation in the "sideshow". No suggestions or solutions to overcome the issue are offered though.
Hmmmm, I think we now know why Lindsay left Politics: DISILLUSIONMENT. He articulates what we see happening daily without necessarily attributing blame as such or criticising individuals for the dumbing down of national debate. But what's the answer? In that sense it's a disheartening read. Very engaging book, very articulate on the modern Australian polity.
Matt Pengilley
An important discussion in how the media focuses now on news as entertainment rather than being informative. Tanner discusses the causes of this in the context of Australian Politics - and reasons that all sides are partly to blame: politicians, the media and citizens and how politics now would rather be "entertaining" than action on issues that really matter.
Lindsay Tanner takes an alternate look at politics in an honest and humorous book which looks at many topics in Australia's poltitcal history and how the media has affected Australian politics. Tanner talks also of his own expereinces during his political career and gives great insight into our political system today.
Angela Alcorn
Looks interesting, albeit with a premise that is clearly obvious by watching most politicians worldwide in the first place. Here's an article on the book.
Kym Chapple
"You can't open maintenance" - driving power of announceables.

Market signals that guide politicians.

Focus groups as good servants, but bad masters (impossibility of having them as the first without risking the second?)
It was ... OK. At times a little long-winded, but overall Tanner speaks as someone who has seen (and actively been a part of) the increasing entertainment over substance approach by the media.
A bit dry, but thought provoking.
Priscilla Brice
Fascinating, but a little repetitive.
Steve Dustcircle
Steve Dustcircle marked it as to-read
Jun 09, 2014
Tim Cahalan
Tim Cahalan marked it as to-read
May 26, 2014
Mitchell_k marked it as to-read
Apr 21, 2014
Craig Hodges
Craig Hodges marked it as to-read
Mar 26, 2014
Lynne Fitzgerald
Lynne Fitzgerald is currently reading it
Mar 11, 2014
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