Politics Opinion

Beyond the media hype: Tom Tanuki talks to Lidia Thorpe

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Australian independent politician Lidia Thorpe (Image by Julian Meehan | Flickr)

Lidia Thorpe sets the bar with independent media's Tom Tanuki, given mainstream press can't be trusted enough to tell her side of the story.

I PUT OUT an exclusive interview with Senator Lidia Thorpe on my little YouTube channel a fortnight ago. 

It was a privilege to help set the record straight on some things because Thorpe’s been subject to a year’s worth of invented "scandal" — often comprised wholly of misinterpreted footage and embellished stories peddled by the press. 

The conversation was great. Thorpe reflected toward the end that we were setting the bar — that if mainstream Australian media couldn’t be trusted enough to tell her side of the story, she’d simply speak with independent or upcoming media like myself.

Some whingers, who I think are accustomed to a strict diet of culture-war bullshit about Lidia Thorpe, told me they thought it was a "softball" discussion. I wondered: do I come across to them as a failing, partisan journalist? Was I being judged by the same criteria as an amply salaried journo on how bullish I am in interviewing participants?

I’m not a journalist. I don’t describe myself as one. I’m an activist and a commentator. 

I first met Lidia Thorpe in 2019 after spending the day physically protecting an Invasion Day rally from Far-Right parasites. I’m someone who she trusted enough to have a frank chat about what we both agree has been several months of blatant misrepresentation. 

Accusations of a "softball" discussion miss the point that there wasn’t anyone in the mainstream media playing ball with Thorpe this year. None of them really seem to get it. I was proud to host that discussion.

I’m also vindicated. Because the coverage to come out since that discussion only further demonstrates everything Thorpe said about establishment media’s current inability to treat her (or her political position) with respect.

Naturally, 2GB and Sky News did exactly what they were paid to do: Ben Fordham took one momentary aside from Lidia Thorpe on encountering racism in the Senate – a quick reflection in an hour-long discussion – and ran with only that.“She’s the girl who cried wolf”, he said of her. 

So utterly outlandish that an Aboriginal person could experience racism at work in an Australian office, Ben! Completely unbelievable, Ben! What will Aboriginals think of next, Ben?

Sky's Paul Murray spent a soul-murdering 20 minutes deliberately misunderstanding everything she said in our interview about her 2023 exploits. Patiently and methodically, he got it all wrong – for money – before inviting no less than Pauline Hanson, Joe Hildebrand and former Senator Cory Bernardi in for a say on it. (This interview is like a mosquito light for morons.)

I won’t go through it all because it’s too depressing — Thorpe being bailed up by a group of randoms outside Maxine’s nightclub and giving it back to them? 

Apparently, she said she was "unlucky", according to Murray. (She didn’t say that.) Murray most spectacularly misapprehends Thorpe’s eye-opening explanation of what happened at Mardi Gras on 25 February in Sydney. That was a situation Thorpe described as being essentially trapped and chased down by police. But Murray grabs a random quote from earlier in the discussion to pretend she lay in front of a float because her legs were tired.

Why do these people need to have adult conversations explained to them? Do they need an interpreter for conversations held in their own native tongue? Yes, I know they’re just doing it for money, but can’t they argue with the things Thorpe did say instead of arguing with stuff she didn’t say, which they made up? Is that above their pay grade?

The thing I personally found galling was Murray mocking my interview skills, remarking on my making noises in agreement during my chat with Lidia Thorpe. The cheek of him! I cannot accept criticism for making living human noises from someone who looks dead for five seconds before the autocue comes on. Watching him wait for the prompter is like watching 'Weekend at Bernie's'!

I’m aware that the function of Sky News is to pump room-temperature seed through the telly, inseminating their sad boomer audience’s heads with Paul Murray’s sad autocue speeches. So, I’m not surprised they all did what they were paid to. 

The media that really annoyed me was Media Watch. It released a segment the same day my interview came out and I expected better.

Presenter Paul Barry devoted a whole segment to saying the ABC should have spent more time and resources decrying Thorpe’s naughty behaviour outside Maxine’s. I found it astounding that this was the only aspect of the media coverage of the incident that Media Watch found worth commenting on — because there’s more to the story, I think, if you only… watch the media.

Maxine’s released CCTV footage of the incident on 18 April. What I find remarkable is that there’s footage, in that video, of one of the men deliberately positioned in the way of the taxi door. When Thorpe or her friend go to open it, the man seems to me to resist stepping aside for a moment. Was he hoping for Thorpe to stay behind and have it out? She did, in the end. But why was he doing that?

There’s a whole circle of people surrounding Lidia Thorpe from the outset. They’re all either filming or contributing to the back-and-forth. Interesting in light of Thorpe’s suggestion that they were all working in cohort with each other or somehow setting up the run-in they had with her. I don’t know — I wasn’t there. But it’s interesting how people obsessed over her words and nobody mentioned that.

Why is that of less interest to Media Watch than insisting the ABC should have joined the overwhelming establishment media chorus in telling Thorpe off for her rudeness? That’s what astounds me.

Senator Thorpe’s position on the Voice to Parliament doesn’t appear to suit the handy narrative binary that the liberal or Centre-Left media is aiming to push. Her staunch Indigenous sovereignty politics terrify the Far-Right hyperpartisan media, so they obsess over her. 

Lidia Thorpe said in our chat:

“The reason why I’m doing this interview with you is because there are no media outlets that I’m aware of that allow for a true conversation to occur. I think they’re all running on an agenda.” 

Doesn’t seem like many establishment media outlets are in a hurry to prove her wrong.

Tom Tanuki is a writer, satirist and anti-fascist activist. Tom does weekly videos on YouTube commenting on the Australian political fringe. You can follow Tom on Twitter @tom_tanuki.

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