On “elite”

Recently, our Prime Minister started referring to media such as the ABC as “elite media”.

Now, what does the word “elite” do?

First, let’s look at the definition.

The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary gives the meaning of the adjective as:

“Of or belonging to an elite; exclusive”. And the noun – the elite – is: “The choice part , the best , (of society , a group of people , etc.); a select group or class”

Ideally, that would be considered a compliment; but all indications are that it was manifestly pernicious manipulation of language with the intent of causing disaffection with the ABC, Fairfax Media, and other media outlets that (more often than not) look to facts and seek to provide a genuine mix of perspectives.

How many of you are elite sportspeople? Few, as that term refers to those who are at the top of their sport. We like to watch, cheer for and be amazed by feats that can seem superhuman. The accomplishments of such people can inspire as well as provide a vicarious sharing in the thrill of winning. But for those of us not numbered amongst the elite sportspeople, we still remain separate from them.

Some will look at the social pages with envy as they see the rich and the powerful gathering at glittering events and partaking of expensive champagne, delicate canapés, and gourmet meals. As the glossy people bask in feigned admiration of each other, many might look on at these socially and financially elite and wish they were included. But they are not – that is the point. These elite will not include you unless you have the money, can gloss and glitter in expensive clothes and say the right things politically. You are separate from these elite.

So what happens when you suddenly find that “Our ABC” is not part of “elite media”? Does the organisation still speak to and for you? If the mischievous use of “elite” is doing its work effectively in your unconscious, there is a high probability that the answer is “no” – unless, of course, you count yourself as a member of the fact-seeking and fact-honouring elite.

When so much political discourse now refers to “Australian families” (never, single people you might notice), “mum and dad investors” and “the average punter”, we see politically inspired and driven support for those media which speak for and to the crowd, and which are not for the elite.

What has “elite media” to do with you, the average person, the mum or dad investor, the Australian family? “Elite” is separate, not you.

So now where will you find fact-based reporting and news (if you actually care to look for it)? No doubt the suggestion is that whatever you hear from shock jocks or read in tabloids or see on Facebook is good enough for the crowd. Apparently none of these sources is “elite”.

But the next time you see a very wealthy Prime Minister dipping into the canapés of other very wealthy people – the socially and financially elite crowd – you might like to wonder why a genuine member of that elite group wants to separate you from fact-based reporting and writing that offers some intellectual quality.

If, for example, the ABC is “elite” – that is, separate from you, not for you – will you care if it’s sold off, dismantled or corporatised to the point where it’s indistinguishable from the rest of the non-elite media?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *