Triple J Hack: Youth Politics and Current Affairs?

I heard some of today’s Hack on the radio and I was very unimpressed. It was on the issue of whether or not Australia should become a republic. The section I listened to was painful. They had ‘young’ people on the show being asked questions about whether they think Australia should be a republic. The discussion turned into an interrogation of why a young woman was questioning the relevance of the republic debate for her. One of the other discussants misrecognised this as apathy, ie that she didn’t care. It is not that she didn’t care — what would be the point of her appearing on the radio if she didn’t care? — rather it was because she was trying to figure out, and rightly so, why she should care about the issue of whether or not Australia should become a republic.

The issue of the republic is one of the issues that belongs to the games of the political classes. Most people don’t care as it is not going to affect their lives in any direct way. The debate around the issue of whether or not Australia becomes a republic is one of the events that allows people who want to be ‘political’ to perform ‘politics’. There may not be any direct outcome in terms of changing the way the majority of Australians live their lives, but this is irrelevant when performing ‘politics’. ‘Politics’ is about staking out a position, mobilising points, forwarding an argument and combating opponents.

It means that Hack is doing a salutatory job at functioning as a ‘current affairs’ type news broadcast. There is nothing of consequence discussed, it merely serves as a platform for those interested in being ‘political’ to perform ‘politics’ in a strictly ideological fashion. The ‘politics’ is imaginary. It doesn’t matter, at least not to the lives of nearly every single young person in Australia.

Mainstream current affairs shows are similar in that they have their usual array of story themes that allows them to present to the audience the opportunity to (re)perform their own respective ideological beliefs. Media functions through ideology not by determining one’s beliefs but by allowing audiences the opportunity to mobilise themselves into action. They present part of a challenge the other part is presented by the audience as they mobilise themselves to engage with the challenge. Which is why the most one-eyed ideologue can be practically brainwashed to the point of not having a single thought that is their own and yet be the most active — that is, the most mobilised — member of the audience-citizenry. Or the stupidities of shock-jock radio, for example, are part of a solution to solving the problem of alienation by providing the lost with tools for facing the challenge of fitting in. They don’t tackle the cause of alienation, only providing a lulling panacea.

If Hack wants to mobilise their youthful audience in productive ways, then they need to isolate those challenges faced by young people. It seems simple enough, and I have heard plenty of Hack episodes and stories where they do exactly that. This nonsense about the republic is on a spectrum, however, one that I think the Hack producers need to be aware and avoid. Leave it for the heroes in the national papers as they write themselves into oblivion with the rest of the deadwood media.

I don’t want to be entirely critical, however. There would be little point to that. Here are some story ideas that may or may not be relevant, part of figuring out their relevance would be part of Hack being successful. They are merely examples.

1) Mobility issues. Living in NSW it is clear the state government is run by a bunch of self serving assholes, with the rest being weak fools who don’t have the strength to tell the career politicians to fuck off and then actually try to fix anything. There have been some excellent people in government, from what little knowledge I have of the matter, but they are few and far between. Public and personal transport is one of the biggest issues that young people face. If Hack wanted to be at all effective, then they should have a regular slot that discusses concrete problems and practical solutions. A certain suburb in a certain city or a town and how young people are enfranchised or disenfranchised by their access to mobility. The technical term for this is motility, the capacity for mobility.

2) Fun. Living in the suburbs, one is mostly subject to whatever ‘fun’ is available to you. There are limited options for ‘fun’ unless one goes into the ‘city’ or if you start acting up and creating your own ‘fun’ from whatever resources you have available, such as cars, drinking, drugs, television and the internet. How do people have fun? What resources do they available to them? Are they privileged or disadvantaged? What does this mean?

3) The function of education. A comparative analysis of different ways of being educated, everything from being ‘street smart’ to doing a PhD. What are the expected outcomes of such a course of action in one’s life? Provide actual real life examples of the sort of things that you should expect. Gone are the days where doing a science degree meant you did ‘science’ or doing law meant you became a lawyer and so on.

4) Everyday life of different parts of Australia. What does it mean to grow up in FNQ compared to the inner-west if Sydney to the northern suburbs of Perth to a town in Tasmania and so on. In so many ways we are all raised to expect to experience everyday life in certain ways, but what is the reality?