Monday, January 30, 2012

On the "riot" that never was and will not die.

Call me a spoilsport, but I don't think the question of whether Tony Hodges, or Kim Sattler, or both, reportedly leaked the location of the PM and Abbott at the Lobby, a scant 50m from the Tent Embassy's 40th Anniversary celebrations, is actually that important.

In fact, I'd go as far as saying that no one outside of the Canberra Press Gallery actually does. As the first week of Parliament gets closer and closer to sitting, the children, having clocked all the x-box games, watched all the movies and annoyed the family dog into a state of perpetual anxiety, are desperately clamouring to see their friends back at school. This media-adviser intrigue is the red cordial that could fill their week until next Monday, and they are NOT. LETTING. GO. OF. THE. FUCKING. CUP.

Whether it's a story on Sattler's "long history of activism"a potential AFP investigation, the lack of charges for an AFP investigation, the potential for a no confidence vote, Wilkie's backing of the no confidence vote (I think this may actually have more to do with a certain other issue, y'know, but that's just me)... we will hear about this issue until we care about it as much as we're being told we should.

So here's the trajectory of a single day (today) - we get multiple versions from yesterday about Kim Sattler's involvement with Tony Hodges (who has already been stood down), the Opposition moots that the AFP could charge Hodges with a criminal act, the AFP says "sorry guys, no dice," the Opposition suggests the AFP is toothless and potentially incompetent and calls for an enquiry (and potential for charges of incitement), the AFP reminds everyone that they will still investigate crowd involvement and potential criminal acts, the Opposition suggests they will call for a no-confidence vote in the first sitting week of parliament, Wilkie says, "aye, fucking right", and... SCENE.

This story is everything that is wrong about the interplay between politicians and the media. Throughout the day the Opposition have, I'm sure with the absolute knowledge that nothing would come of it, kept the media fire consistently fed with a talking point every one to two hours. And the press have eagerly turned the crank on the media release machine, because it's copy. Easy copy. Copy that reads like it has real spice - and requires no background investigation at all.

Even the editorial copy is a long slow yawn - Michelle Grattan must be glad when she can bang out an opinion piece that seems different and new but wraps so easily around the same lack of credibility trope she's been following since late 2010, and I'm sure that the Australian has a pro-forma for the "sorry day for our nation" editorial.

Where are the stories actually investigating the claims of "violent riot" used to justify the reaction?
Was there any actual violence? Why aren't we hearing about specific events, if this is the justification used? I'm sure if any were known by the journalists reporting the events, we would be hearing about it.

Instead we have this:

This video was linked to by Leigh Sales on twitter, with commentary:

Sadly, while the footage is possibly the best we have of the events, and has great insight into what went on inside the Lobby, it's not sparse, clear scripting. It's loaded with hyperbole, and smacks of what Lindsay Tanner calls "linguistic inflation" in Sideshow. We can't just take in the events, we have to be reminded that they were "trapped" and "rescued" from an "angry, raging mob".

There is the potential for good investigative journalism in following the actual events that are driving these stories, beyond what happened inside the Lobby, beyond the discussions of the PM's staffers; about the people who are being described as an "angry mob", without question. Where is the story about Menzies House's campaign to close down the tent embassy - an organisation with clear ties to sitting Coalition MPs? While Abbott's initial remarks were distorted and taken out of context to drive this event (by the very media organisations now happily picking over the carcass), this campaign is exactly what the remarks were interpreted to mean on the day.

Protests often involve shouting, chanting, and if a politician flees rather than addressing the crowd, a negative response. I don't think we're seeing much more than that in the footage we have to go off of currently. A little bit of shouting in a democracy on a contentious issue should not a scary thing be.  I see a group of people holding the line, and a policy force trying to break it. This is pretty standard protest footage.

Perhaps aptly,  the angry mob we see most actively held back from the PM's car in the channel 9 footage is the press.

1 comment:

  1. Who asked the mad monk the doorstop at the Opera House a few hours earlier? That's where this yarn gets full points. Thanks for the read.