Election 2013 media panel

Protest, newspapers and the internet

Protest is largely symbolic; an act of disagreement and dissent, but one to which the attention of others must explicitly be drawn if it is to have any impact.

So when an image of a hand-written sign outside a Brisbane café announcing a boycott of Murdoch newspapers goes a little bit viral, it is an interesting moment in the evolution of protest, engagement and the role of the new networks of communication.

Given that newspapers and their journalists have controlled or carried many protest and dissenting messages of the past, we might wonder how it feels to lose that control to a smart phone and the internet.

But, more likely, we’re wondering why bother boycotting a product that so many have already abandoned.

Small protests can now grab our attention and from further afield than ever before, but the question remains the same: to what effect?

If the mass abandonment of newspapers has not dented the confidence of Murdoch newspapers – certainly in terms of tempering their front pages – then even an internet-prompted mass political boycott, if one was to emerge, would be unlikely to cause more than the briefest moment for reflection.