Does ‘Proximity’ Stop People From Being Part Of An ‘Active Audience’?

As an Australian citizen it was interesting to see how many people actually demonstrated a genuine interest in the outcome of the US presidential election between Donald Trump and Joe Biden late last year.

Despite the common argument: ‘American politics has nothing to do with Australia so why should we care?” It was evident that there was an active audience around me, engaging and following the votes as they frequently fluctuated.

In relation to Cultural Theorist Stuart Hall’s ‘Reception Theory’, notions regarding ‘passive and active audiences’ of media is distinguished as audiences holistically existing  “not as a passive recipient but as an active participant in the creation of meaning.” What Hall is suggesting is that it is up to those who consume the media to make use of it in their own personal manner.

It is understandable that there are people in Australia that viewed the election as nothing more than two super old, super rich white men arguing over a leadership position that supposedly has no effect over their existence whatsoever.

However, those audience members who refused to care about it all remained passive by choice. Though, they are still audience members, they were all exposed to the news, the updates, the constant social media chatter and all the heated debates. But whether they were sufficiently informed is another question.

Regardless of this reality, it occurred to me that many of my peers who shared the privilege of being audience members to of election were oblivious to the many impacts in which Australia would face on the basis of who would be elected as president in the United States.

In suggesting that the US is “the most powerful democracy on the planet…” United States Studies Center CEO, Professor Simon Jackman affirms that “…there is so much connectivity between Australia and the United States both at the government level but also out among ordinary people. Essentially, those who defend the notion that being an active audience member of American political news is unnecessary, is a passive attitude that can be seen as almost ignorant, and to an extent, naive, as this is not the case.

As an active audience member following the election, I was following the constantly updating news headlines. I could understand the implications of whatever the result was going to be. I was aware of the consequences that would come if either men were pushed into power. 

However, those who based their ability to care about political affairs on proximity and jurisdiction, remained clueless, which was both fascinating and a slightly scary to me.

For example, as active audience members would be knowledgeable of the fact that in the event Trump were to leave the presidency, Biden would take “greater action on climate change” which is going to “shape the future, potentially, of the planet…” as Jackman further affirms. 

It is comforting to know that the US will no longer neglect the fact they stand with one of the largest carbon footprints in the world, sitting at 4,543 MMmt in 2020 alone.

In addition, I noticed that in actively following the updates of this election I became more knowledgeable of what actually let Biden standout from his opposition, and not just because of the widely accepted vilification of Trump that was prevalent throughout the entire four years of his presidency. I learned that Biden was to “..implement a $1.7 trillion investment into renewable technologies…” and advocate for a transition into a more sustainable future.

Once again, universally applicable political decisions that passive audience members deemed irrelevant in their daily lives because ‘America is all the way across the world, so it shouldn’t matter’.

As an active audience member of such a major shift in national leadership of one of the world’s most powerful nations I am satisfied to know a greater step in combating global warming has at last begun. Does this prove that the United States indeed has an affect on Australia?

In knowing this, it cannot be debated that global warming has caused its damage in Australia during the presidency of Donald Trump.

Obviously global warming is a universally recognised global issue, however, major shifts in political action is all important information that passive audience members of this election choose to be excluded from due to the invisible barrier to foreign public interest that is ‘proximity’ and jurisdiction.

In understanding Steward Hall’s notions of passive and active audiences has shown me the importance of keeping an open mind about everything that’s happening around you, even if it may feel like it is a million miles away.

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