Koche & Kiribati – how can we ignore climate change?

Koche Industries has been coined ‘the biggest company you’ve never heard of’ Rightly so – it has recently been revealed that the Koch brothers quietly funnelled $67 million to climate-denial front groups (Carkk, 2011)

Charles G. Koch and David H. Koch have a vested interest in delaying climate action: they’ve made billions from their ownership and control of Koch Industries, an oil corporation that is the second largest privately-held company in America (Greenpeace, 2013)

Its this kind of industry that works to create uncertainty in the media and therefore the general population. The Koch brothers undermine belief in climate change and prevent legislation that threatens their profits. By pouring money into bogus scientific studies and funding think tanks and front groups, the public is led to believe a genuine scientific debate is raging. In truth, these studies are just exaggerating the amount of climate change deniers – making the general public believe that the debate is raging at 50/50 – whereas in actual fact, climate change science is stronger than those of the deniers (Carkk, 2011). Simply by creating doubt in the mind of the general population, they are winning over in their fight to deny climate change for commercial and political gain. The media, in an attempt to maintain journalistic integrity and ethics attempt to present a balanced view of the debate – both sides fighting it out, but all this does is lead to misinformation and eventual disinterest as the public has heard it all before.

So where is the real evidence? Cue Kiribati.

So why, as Australians, aren’t we concerned? With cold hard facts like Kiribati, why isn’t the Australian media doing more to promote the cold hard facts and raise awareness of the realities of climate change? Perhaps it is because mainstream networks fear reporting a controversial issue? Or, like our earlier video suggests, big oil companies and large carbon emission producers contribute too much to our global economy to make them accountable for future catastrophe.

I think it would be fair to say that many Australians see climate change as a remote issue. Their perception of risk is limited by the fact that it is a global and long-term issue, and by the way the debate is framed in the media and who is delivering the message. As a society we are more likely to believe celebrity scientists like Al Gore, Karl Kruszelnicki and social commentators rather than actual, specialized climate scientists. As a collective it seems we have been desensitized from the issue – the effects are too remote for us to worry, or to change what we do today in order to set in motion changes for our future generations.

We’re better at dealing with problems that are concrete, close-at-hand, familiar and require skills and tools that we already possess. However climate change is invisible, unprecedented, drawn out, and caused by all of us. And so we feel paralyzed and believe that we are powerless. In a crisis that seems impossible to confront and but too scary to ignore, many people live in a state of willful ignorance. We both know and don’t know what is going on and the media is too afraid to steer us in the right direction.


billionairesteaparty. (2011). The Koch Brothers & Their Amazing Climate Change Denial Machine. [Online Video]. 13 June. Available from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IaKm89eVhoE. [Accessed: 18 September 2013].

Carrk, T. 2013. The Koch Brothers: What You Need to Know About the Financiers of the Radical Right. [report] Washington DC: Center for American Progress Action Fund, pp. 1-8, 19-25.

WorldBank. (2011). Effects of climate change in Kiribati- Quick facts. [Online Video]. 26 October. Available from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FH5m2PTp34M. [Accessed: 18 September 2013].

Greenpeace. 2013. Koch Industries: Secretly Funding the Climate Denial Machine. [online] Available at: http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/en/campaigns/global-warming-and-energy/polluterwatch/koch-industries/ [Accessed: 18 September 2013].


News Values: Michael Jackson v Neda Agha-Soltan

In 2009, after protests began after the reelection of President Mahmous Ahmadinejad in what many claimed was a rigged vote, Iran held the worlds attention (Steinhauer, 2013). A graphic video of the death of a young woman named Neda Agha-Soltan, who was shot by a member of the Basij militia, became an international focal point and symbol. However as time passed, the media moved on.  Saman Arbabi, an Iranian-American journalist producer of weekly Persian-lnaguage political satire show ‘On Ten’, explains how the loss of American and Western attention on Iran affected protesters in the country.

The movement died exactly at the time Michael Jackson died! Michael’s death took over US media and Iran was hardly ever mentioned ever again. That really sucked because the Iranian slogan at the time was ‘Where is my vote?’ They were holding those signs in English so foreign press would acknowledge and broadcast their struggle for freedom. Once our focus shifted to Michael Jackson … many protesters felt left out in front of a brutal regime and lost their appetite to fight.” (Arbabi, 2013) 


Why does this happen? Why do we care more about the death of a washed up old music star, over a revolutionary uprising affecting millions of people? This is all thanks to commonly accepted, thought generally innocuous to the public ‘news values’.

  • Cultural proximity: Culturally distant will be passed by more easily and not be noticed
  • Relevance: An event may happen in a culturally distant place but still be loaded with meaning in terms of what it
  • Rarity: The more unexpected the event, the higher its chances of being included in news
  • Continuity: Once something has hit the headlines and be defined as “news” , then it will continue to be defined as news for some time even if the amplitude is reduced for some time even if the amplitude is reduced
  • Elite References: both in terms of nations and in terms of people
  • Negativity: Negative news will more easily be consensual and unambiguous
  • Composition: The story will be selected and arranged according to the editors sense of the balance of the whole bulletin
  • Personalisation: Wherever possible, events are seen as the actions of people as individuals

It was not that Michael Jackson is more important than the thousands who lost their lives in the 2009 Iranian uprisings – it was because large news corporations dictate what the general public care and don’t care about. We are more likely to read stories from the news values identified and therefore buy more papers. How sad have we become?



Look at moi: Kath & Kim lost in translation

After almost a decade of filling Australian households with laughter 2008 saw Gina Riley and Jane Turner take the leap and serve as executive producers on the American version of Kath & Kim starring Selma Blair and Molly Shannon. Lets face it – it was a sad and sorry flop. The American version of Kath and Kim misses the mark so badly that it’s barely recognizable as a distant cousin to the original. A successful translation is one that adopts local culture/humour – something that the ill conceived American version did not.

The beauty of Kath and Kim is in the familiarity- it’s our national comedy, celebrating urban Australia. The storylines follow the characters’ day-to-day lives, and document their personal struggles and the banality of their achievements and aspirations. Kath and Kim satirises the mother-daughter relationship and the habits and values of modern suburban Australians, and emphasises the kitsch and superficial elements of contemporary society, particularly the traditional working class which has progressed to a level of affluence (or “effluence” as Kath would say) which previous generations had been unable to achieve.

They visit our local places Westfield Fountain Gate, IKEA, Target, and various local restaurants. The mock our favourite television shows  including Big Brother and Australian Idol. They make statements about the current state Australian politics and their gaudy, out-dated fashion sense satirizes everything that is bad in ordinary, every day Australian fashion – theres no Collette Dinnigan or Jen Hawkins costume designing/modeling, just bad fake tans, hideous perms and the occasional slip of a g-string above Kims pink velour tracksuit. They love our celebrities including Kylie Minogue and Shane Warne and grasp onto Australian traditions and events including Carols in the Domain.

The mis-pronunciations and malprosim of the regular characters have become a part of the average Australian vernacular, saying “Look at moi” or “It’s noice, its different and its unusual” will often receive a decent chuckle among any Australian. Because it’s us. It’s both embracing, and making fun of everything it is to be a regular Australian. Its not highly produced or highly dramatized – its familiar and relatable and that’s what we love about it.

Mackelmore wins best hip-hop video at VMA’s but… he’s white?

Forget Miley Cyrus, Tuesday night saw Mackelmore and Ryan Lewis win the moon man for Best Hip Hop Video of the Year.  The indie duo beat out big names like Drake, Kendrick Lamar, and A$AP Rocky for their music vid for Can’t Hold Us! The pair also took out n winning the Best Video With a Social Message category, “Same Love” fighting off heavyweight competition Snoop and Drake, who collaborated on the anti-firearm ode “No Guns Allowed.”

Needless to say a barrage of criticism has followed. Examples include tweets ‘that time white dude makes a song about gay interracial love and made a million dollars’ and an article that I found personally irritating ‘2013 MTV VMA’s: Everything Was Black, Except the Winners’.


When did hop-hop culture become synonymous with black culture?

Music videos spread with technologies and distribution networks do in some ways portray an typical 50cent-esque image of ‘gangsta’. However this is not the case.  The technoscape of user generated media means that a lot of people call themselves hip-hop artists – but do only some people do it in an authentic way?

Do you have to have lived the oppression that is the supposed roots of hip-hop? Do you have to be male, hard knock, heterosexual? In defence of Mackelmore & Ryan Lewis – since when is writing effective and eloquent lyrics that acknowledge global issues as opposed to, pointing out, “how fat that girl’s ass is”, not considered to be award-winning hip-hop deserving of recognition? Mackelmore’s music won because it’s the first time in our culture that gay marriage and marriage equality were raised through hip hop and popularised in the public sphere.

Is hop hop dependent on race, gender or class? Do you have to be African American, oppressed male to be able to make your hip-hop music authentic? The current nature of hip-hop would suggest not with rising Australian artists such as Urthboy, and Hope One an Australian female beat boxer. But should these artists have to be seen as ‘challenging’ the authentic notion of hip-hop just because they’re not a black youth from the Bronx that’s dealt with ‘extreme hardships’? I 100% disagree. Hip-hop like any other genre or music or art, should be a forum for individual expression regardless who you are or where you come from.

Australians are the best, right?

Since my first year of study at UOW in 2011 I have always held a romanticised notion of international exchange. Seeing two of my close friends take on the college life, one in Colorado, USA and the other in Exeter, UK sparked a lot of (polite) jealousy. For me, international exchange is probably never going to happen: Reason 1 being my absolutely inability to save any of the money that I earn on a weekly basis. Reason 2 being the lack of international universities that will allow me to study law. Studying a double degree in Law/Communications here at UOW, deciding to study overseas would probably mean having to defer my Law degree for 6 months, which will ultimately extend my time here at university to 6 whole years. No thank you, 5.5 is time enough. So what is it that makes internationalising education, not only appealing, but important in our global context?

  • Along with globalisation comes what is termed ‘Globalised Industry’. In order for Australia to compete in a global market, we must think and operate in with a more global mindset which can be helped along through internationalising education.
  • As the world become connected, so too do our workforces. Learning to become global citizens in an international workforce is so important not only due to the many multi-national companies that offer employment within Australia, but for the sharing of knowledge and skills between countries.
  • International education is so important as we come to understand global issues as they are represented in the media and the world around us. It promotes cross-cultural thinking and understanding.
  • The rise of the ‘Asian Century’ and BRICS economies, makes it more important than ever for Australians to learn to be global citizens, not only economically but in other facets of our lives as well.

Despite my desire to travel overseas, I believe that its not just be travelling to other countries that we receive the richest intercultural experiences, but also by sharing experiences of international students within Australia universities.  Unfortunately  for us, as well as our international compatriots,  Australian universities aren’t renowned for our welcoming attitude, especially in light of the 2009-2010 attacks on Indian students in Melbourne.

Kell & Vogl note that there is an interconnection between English language proficiency of international students and social interaction. Earlier in he article that pair notes that  “a crucial element in the achievement of success for international students is not only their academic adjustment but also their adjustment to the social and cultural environment”. So why is it so hard for international students to adjust? Why do they need to develop cultural plurality, multiplicity and hybridity in order to feel at home within our Australian cultural setting?

I believe the answer to that is the ethnocentric culture that forms the values and attitudes ‘ordinary Australians’ (however you may define them) have towards different cultures and traditions. For such a multi-cultural society it’s not uncommon, even at university, to hear the odd racist quip or parochial remark from our peers. To think that, as dicussed by Kell & Vogl ‘Australians can appear ambivalent, distant and disinterested in international students are foreigners in general’, is both distasteful and worrying.  In an effort not to pigeon-hole all Australians, it does still seem to me that we share in a culture that boasts a pinch of arrogance. As if we have something to teach foreign students-  they should learn off us. Whereas the reality is so very different. As we being to operate as global citizens in our rapidly changing world especially. We, as Australian domestic students, have so much to learn from the tenacity, self motivation, independence and direction of international students.  If only everyone could recognise that, we could make university life a little more culturally enriching for all.