This post was originally a comment left on this blog by RX to the post Fairfax: their Rights At Work are more important than Yours. It also makes a brilliant stand-alone piece. Thank you RX. Posted with permission.
You make good points as usual. I concur with your theories as to why the previously balanced Fairfax and ABC have followed the News Limited lead into right-wing slant. There is a blinkered groupthink evident in much of the ‘reporting’ of Australian politics. Journalists interview other journalists in the electronic media (eg Insiders, Meet The Press and talkback radio). This results in a right-wing echo chamber where Coalition spinners and media ‘opinion leaders’ set the stage for the slant which others adopt. And which become accepted conventional wisdom.
Memes such as the “BER debacle” are an example of this. In reality the BER was NOT a debacle. It was a successful, efficient and highly effective economic stimulus measure, delivered in a timely fashion by the Rudd/Gillard administration, whose quick implementation was instrumental in helping to avert economic catastrophe as the early waves of the GFC threatened to overtake the domestic economy. But the way it was spun by the Coalition/media was that the money was wasted (the percentage of documented waste was actually low compared to private spending and most government spending). The spin from the anti-Labor forces in the Coalition/media took over, became the accepted ‘reality’, and was never successfully corrected/defended by the government – to their shame.
There are other examples too. The Home Insulation Program, another highly effective stimulus measure which triggered economic activity in every postcode are of the country and resulted in fewer housefires per thousand dwellings insulated than had previously been the case – was depicted in a topsy-turvy fashion as causing untold deaths and destruction. Again the government, to their discredit, did not work hard enough to set the record straight.
Perhaps the government were naive, assuming the public would be smart enough to see the truth for themselves. Unfortunately, the great percentage of the public only get to see and hear what the media want them to hear, meaning truth and facts are thin on the ground and difficult for the average time-poor and politically disengaged voter to assimilate.
The Coalition, it seems, have nothing better to do with their days than set spotfires of spin and misinformation burning, which are naturally taken up by their media supporters, and before you know what’s happening, there are wildfires of lies consuming the political debate.
Clearly the government needs to be more vigilant here. Perhaps their media office needs a kick in pants and tasked to put out the spot fires as soon as they are lit. This is distraction which the government does not need, but must do anyway for the sake of survival. If there were such a thing as a Labor-supportive media outlet or two (which we know there is not), they could take up the cudgels on Labor’s behalf, telling the truth which would negate the Coalition’s lies. There being no progressive mainstream media whatsoever, the government must – must! – become more pro-active and assertive in its media relations.
I agree also with your contention of car-crash government under Abbott. The guy is a walking, talking gaffe generator. As you’ve documented here on the blog in instance after instance he’s only got to open his big mouth and the gaffes start flowing like water from a tap. As PM (perish the thought) he would give rise to daily stories of foot-in-mouth. The clangers would fill newspaper columns, the stories would practically write themselves. Which would be considered a bonus by the lazy, self-serving commentariat who’ve given up on honestly reporting policy, preferring instead the trivial and personality-centred rubbish which enlightens no one but would stimulate sales of papers. It would undoubtedly be highly entertaining in a way to see the daily reports of the fool’s faux pas… but what a price to pay for the country to be subjected to such an inane extremist at the helm.