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Bob Ellis: Murdoch's brainwashing fails

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Even to the most impartial observer it is clear to see that Murdoch's News Limited has an anti-Labor agenda, with the return of Kevin Rudd Bob Ellis writes that their brainwashing plan has failed gloriously.

Murdoch can''''t compete with Rudd, says Bob Ellis. (Caricatures by John Graham / johngraham.alphalink.com.au)
Murdoch can't compete with Rudd, says Bob Ellis. (Caricatures by John Graham / johngraham.alphalink.com.au)

IT'S CALLED BRAINWASHING.

It worked for a while.

It had us convinced that though women disliked Abbott, 4 million of them would make him prime minister. That though parents liked getting more money for their children, they would vote for the party that would take it off them. That though everyone has disabled relatives and friends, they would vote against the party that made their sad lives better. That though Labor has 21 potential prime ministers in its caucus, people would vote for the Coalition, which has only one. That though one-to-one, Labor ministers win debates against their Coalition shadows, it will not be Labor that people vote for. That anyone gives a stuff about budget surpluses. That any seat ever fell because of boat people — though no seat, thus far, ever has.

It’s called brainwashing. It’s what the Murdoch people do.

They do it very well.

They do it around the clock, on Sky, Fox News, the Daily Telegraph, the Herald Sun and their special engine of untruth, Newspoll.

Murdoch’s biggest achievement was to convince us that ‘Labor’ was a soiled brand. This despite the fact that 57 per cent of Australians, however they planned to vote, wanted Labor to win. They convinced people that ‘Labor’ and not ‘Gillard Labor’ was what troubled them. This has all proved to be untrue.

After ‘Gillard Labor’ was replaced by ‘Rudd Labor’, 1.2 million more people preferred Labor, and 1 million more voted number 1 for it. This means ‘Labor’ has no particular meaning, but ‘Gillard Labor’, ‘Bligh Labor’ and ‘Keneally Labor’ (aka ‘Obeid Labor’) does.

A stunning turnaround since Rudd's return. A la Keating in 1993 and Howard in 2001. (Image courtesy ABC Insiders screenshot)

It means that in a television-driven political argument, the name, the look and the sound of the leader matters.

It’s clear a lot of people didn’t like Gillard for a number of reasons.

Women who were married didn’t like her being unmarried. Religious women who were married didn’t like her being an adulteress. Women who were shotgun-married – 1 million of them, probably – didn’t like her advocating abortion. Men and women who were religious didn’t like her boasting that she was an atheist. Two million Queenslanders didn’t like her shafting a Queenslander. For many men too – 1 million perhaps – a woman who lies is worse than a man who lies. The idea of the “crazy redhead” is embedded in the minds of many males over 40. Muslims, who usually voted Labor, found the combination of deviousness, adultery, varying hair colour or visible flaunted hair of any colour combined open amorality unbearable.

When Rudd returned, it became plain that these things were so.

Queensland swung back to Labor. The Hillsong suburbs renewed their affections. The Chinese of Bennelong, keen on a Mandarin speaker, revised their view of the tennis-player. The prime minister’s marital status and hair colour were no longer issues. Nor was his gender. One million men – no more – of Middle Eastern, South Asian and African descent didn’t want a woman ruling them. More than 1 million women, I would suspect, believe for religious, cultural and family reasons that a woman’s place is barefoot, pregnant, submissive and by the sink.

Rudd and Albo changed all that.

Six seats in Queensland, two in New South Wales, two in Victoria, and one in South Australia will certainly fall now to Labor. No more than one be lost in Tasmania. This gives Labor 82 to seats, 62 to the Coalition, 1 each to Palmer, Katter, Wilkie and Bandt. That is, of course, if it is not a Ruddslide. It most definitely could be that.

Rudd in QLD
Queensland will be a happy hunting ground for Labor. (Image courtesy brisbanetimes.com.au/Harrison Saragossi )

So ... the brainwashing worked for a while.

We were told it was ‘Labor’, not Gillard, that was on the nose. ‘Labor’, in that sense, does not exist, in this presidential, televisual era. ‘Labor’ has more traction than ‘Liberal’ however, for which, since about 1980, there is no real warmth left. There is no nostalgia for Howard, no yearning for Hewson – the great lost leader – or Greiner, Debnam, or Snedden. There is for Beazley, Keating, Rees, Gallop, Dunstan, Bannon, Beattie, Bracks, Bacon, and Rann.

No brainwashing can make up for good leadership, good policy, or decency of national purpose.

Eventually the spin doesn’t work, and the brainwashing subsides, and what is to be done is clear.

(Bob Ellis is a former ALP speechwriter.)

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