The 9pm Election Unhinging: Week the First

Scott Morrison calls the federal election on 10 April 2022. (Photo: STR/AFP/Getty Image) Inset: Front page of Melbourne’s Herald Sun, 12 April 2022. (Photo: Paul Kidd)

Australia’s federal election has been called for Saturday 21 May 2022. In a headrush of poor judgement, I’ve decided to produce a six-part mini-series of The 9pm Edict with an election theme, with episodes appearing each Thursday. This is the first.

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The 9pm Arch Window into the Soul

Adelaide Railway Station

This podcast returns to my hometown of Adelaide and turns thing inside out, with The Arch Window’s Nicholas Fryer asking me questions. Some of them dig into my past.

We talk about internet influencers, internet advertising, the role of the ABC as Australia’s national broadcaster, the shift in focus of The Australian and other Rupert Murdoch media outlets, Malcolm Turnbull, Korean boy band BTS, The Veronicas, Bipolar II Disorder, the nature of being a writer, Sky News Australia, bourbon, repressed memories, getting older, and the importance of fear.

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See this, folks? It’s a picture of democracy

Sunday Telegraph from cover: click to embiggenThere’s plenty of feels clogging the intertubes this morning about the front page of Sydney’s Sunday Telegraph (pictured). “AUSTRALIA NEEDS TONY,” it says. Oh this is so terrible! It’s a threat to democracy, whaaa whaaa whaaaaaa!

No, kids, look at it more closely. This is a picture of democracy. Suck it up.

Or, if you don’t like it, stop your whining, get off your arse, and do something about it.

Sure, the Murdoch newspapers’ ability to endorse a particular candidate on their front pages, effectively plastering a party-political poster onto newsagents and breakfast tables across the nation, gives that candidate a huge advantage.

Sure, if you don’t want that candidate to win, then this is a bit of a blow to your dreams.

But how about thinking through the implications of what you’re actually suggesting before you spend the whole day whining about how “undemocratic” this is?

For a start, why do you imagine that this, Murdoch’s alleged influence, is why Labor can’t win? Have you not considered that Labor itself has some sort of role to play in the process? By all accounts, they’ve been playing a pretty shit game. But that’s not really what we’re talking about here.

As Mark Newton tweeted a short time ago, your argument seems to be “All we need to do is reduce Murdoch’s influence and ALP will win.” That’s (a) antidemocratic, and (b) magical thinking.

“Let’s adjust media censorship laws specifically to improve the chances of my favourite candidate winning, because democracy,” he said.

You seem to be assuming that, despite the hundreds or thousands of people involved in the production of these newspapers and other media operations, they represent solely the opinion of one man, and him alone. You seem to discount the happy participation of all the others.

And even if it were solely Murdoch’s opinion, you seem to be wanting to remove his right to free speech because his opinion is different from yours, and you’re jealous because more people read his opinion that yours.

Diddums.

Do you really think that expressing opinions is some zero-sum game? That because Murdoch, or anyone else, has loudly expressed their opinion, that you’re somehow silenced? Then you’re an idiot. Stop whining, start influencing. And don’t whinge that Murdoch has so much power that it’s unfair and you can’t catch up, because I’m pretty sure Murdoch didn’t create his media empire by whining.

Sure, he had a head start, inheriting a ratty little provincial afternoon tabloid called The News. But you’ve got the internet at your fingertips, you can start organising, and try to counter the opinion you don’t like — because persuading and organising is precisely what politics is about, and in a democracy anyone can play.

Oh? That’s all too hard? Waaa! That’ll take ages. Waaa waaa waaaaaa! You just want to rub your tummy and have the Magic Democracy Fairy appear in a burst of sparkly how-to-vote cards and fix it all for you?

OK, let’s do that. Let’s have the Magic Democracy Fairy take away Murdoch’s influence. “Poof!”, it goes. Now what? Who’s next down the line? Take away their freedom of speech too? And the next? And the next one after that?

In terms of someone’s perceived influence being greater than yours, just how small must the margin be before you’ll allow them their freedom to express a view different from your own? Clearly-stated policies, or GTFO.

[Note to the hard of thinking: If you think this is somehow written in support of Tony Abbott, you really are an arsehat.]

Guardian Australia not the droid you’re looking for

The Guardian masthead: click for media releaseThere’s something weird and creepy about the way journalists and other media tragics have been fawning gape-jawed over this morning’s official announcement that The Guardian is launching an Australian edition. Mummy England will save us from the evil Mr Murdoch!

What, like some weird hybrid lefty combat nanny droid, constructed in the UK’s finest media laboratories out of the Queen, Sigourney Weaver (as Ripley) and Brooke Vandenberg, strapping itself into the drop ship to bring quality journalism back to the colony planet?

I even saw one highly-experienced media professional say it was great to see people trying new things. “New”? Which bit about this is “new”, exactly? Words and a few pictures on a website, written by the same kinds of people that have always written them?

It’s all being spun as a positive thing, of course, and the reporting so far seems to be swallowing the party line. The Guardian expands, challenges existing operators, media diversity quality journalism democracy commitment innovation groundbreaking unique take blah blah effing blah fuck it kill me now.

Knowing nothing more than what’s in the media release, let’s do a bit of old-fashioned follow-the-money…

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Talking “The Global Mail” on Radio 2SER

I thought I’d be too busy today to pay much attention to the new quality Australian news outlet The Global Mail. But then around 2pm I got a call from Radio 2SER in Sydney asking for a comment.

And so it was that at 2.30pm I was interviewed for the station’s current affairs program The Wire by Calliste Weitenberg, along with The Global Mail’s managing editor Monica Attard.

If you haven’t caught up with this yet, The Global Mail has no advertising and no subscription fees. It’s funded entirely by philanthropy — in this case $15 million over five years from Wotif founder Graeme Wood, a man I previously called an arsehat over another matter.

The radio story includes my approval of the new masthead’s long-form journalism and the experience of the editorial team, and notes that it’s easy to differentiate between Wood’s open philanthropy or the similar position held by Al Jazeera and the more power-hungry approach of Rupert Murdoch or would-be media magnate Gina Rinehart.

What it omits is my observation that despite Attard’s claim that everyone is their audience the staff seem almost entirely white middle-aged middle-class types, that you can’t possibly be everything to all people, and that I’m hanging out for things like database journalism and innovative storytelling techniques.

And don’t get me started on the custom sideways scrolling that simple doesn’t respond to trackpad gestures on my MacBook Pro.

But all that said, it’s only Day One for The Global Mail. I wish them well.

Play

The audio is ©2012 2SER-FM 107.3, and you can download a podcast of the entire episode. But as usual I’m archiving and mirroring the relevant segment here.