Ignoring Barnaby: All in the name of the narrative

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(Cartoon by Mark David / @mdavidcartoons)

One of the reasons people don’t trust the mainstream media any more is because they manipulate news to suit a “narrative”, writes managing editor Dave Donovan.

THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA is suffering from an identity crisis. They can’t understand why people don’t trust them anymore.

Well, I’ll suggest one reason is “the narrative”. That is, the media – being focussed on “stories” and “entertainment” – will, over time, build up a “narrative” about an issue or an individual and then slavishly report on that subject in line with that line. Anything that isn’t able to fit neatly within that storyline will be excluded.

Look at Don Burke. For many years the media presented him as a friendly, helpful, unthreatening, good bloke. Never mind his astroturfing for the IPA, or advocacy for pulp mills, that’s what he was. Now, with the weight of allegations against him and the public mood being in favour exposing sexually abusive celebrities, there's an almighty pile-on on Don on every channel. But it’s not like the media weren’t aware of these allegations years ago — he was literally in the media. It’s just that the narrative has changed and so Burke has become fair prey. Yet still they wonder why people don’t trust them?

Closer to home, Independent Australia readers might wonder why anyone would trust the mainstream media after Kathy Jackson. For years, the Liberal and MSM narrative had her as the “heroic union whistleblower”. Eventually, largely due to IA's lonely and repeatedly discredited efforts, the weight of evidence became too overwhelming, the Liberal Party edged away from her and the mainstream media turned. The narrative didn’t fit anymore, so they needed to create a new narrative. She now faces the criminal court on hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of fraud and theft charges. The narrative has nothing to do with the truth.

Three further recent examples concerning our political masters spring immediately to mind.

Firstly, Industrial Relations Minister Senator Michaelia Cash is presented by the media as being a hard-working and talented rising star of the Government. In fact, she is a disaster-prone liar. For instance, last month she lied to Senate Estimates six times about whether her office tipped off the media about clearly orchestrated AFP raids on the AWU. It was only when someone in the media had a rare and unexpected twinge of conscience that this deception was revealed to the public. But, because the narrative hasn’t changed yet, she is allowed to stay in her day job — namely, persecuting the union movement. The latest news is that her office has denied an FOI to reveal communications she had with her office about the raid. You might have missed that story, because it was only reported by one media outlet. It didn't fit the anti-union narrative, presumably.

The next example is Communications Minister Senator Mitch Fifield. Fifield is portrayed in the media as a no-frills, hard-working, honest go-getter. In fact, he is a former snake-oil salesman for big business influence merchants the IPA, and still a transparent agent for vested interests — namely Murdoch. He has helped wreck the NBN, gutted media ownership regulations and is, moreover, a blatant deceiver.

For instance, Fifield recently gave – just gave, without any documentation or strings attached − $30 million to News Corp under the laughable guise of providing for “women’s sport on television”. The day after he did so, he declared on his register of interests a set of Foxtel cufflinks. Fifield refused to answer any questions about this obvious piece of quid pro quo. The media didn’t pursue it, because exposing Murdoch's influence is never part of the narrative.

At the start of this month, Fifield was exposed as having known “for weeks” Senate President Stephen Parry was a British citizen.

In Question Time and in a Senate Inquiry on the topic, rather than answering questions about what he advised Parry, when he knew about his citizenship issues, who he told, Mitch simply said, over and over again:

"It was not my place to speak to others, it was not my place to assess his circumstances. The only senator’s circumstances and eligibility I’ve studied and considered in detail are my own."

Later, when asked about in on SkyNews, Fifield answered:

“I have answered every question in Question Time and the Senate about this issue and now it is time to move on.”

And move on they did, immediately, to other questions. Would they have done so if it was a Labor or Greens senator, such as Sam Dastyari? Of course not. It’s the narrative, stupid!

Finally, Barnaby Joyce, the former deputy PM. The media narrative about him – repeated constantly − is that he is an honest, hard-working family man, beloved by his local community. In fact, he is a boorish, bumbling bully and an alleged drunken lecher. As for lies, he is the worst of the lot. This is a man who once claimed on television he had never been to England, before it emerged he had literally been there the previous month.

Joyce is facing a by-election in New England, apparently because he forgot his father was born in New Ζealand. No matter how ridiculously implausible this is, the media never batted an eyelid. Instead, they grabbed their TV crews and followed him around the New England campaign trail, which they presented as a victory march, but which resembled a month-long pub crawl. And despite being right there on the spot, they have steadfastly refused to ask him about the rumours swirling around him, including a serious sexual assault allegation — one which only we and one other publication have reported upon. So much for the “Weinstein effect”. Clearly it is yet to pierce the the mafia-like media omertá that protects politicians in Australia.

Just this week, Barnaby claimed to have been “stalked” by a constituent after an altercation in, of course, a local pub. As Sydney bureau chief Ross Jones reported yesterday, there was no stalking. Joyce was merely deflecting from the fact that he been the aggressor, calling a fellow patron a “fuckwit”, flicking his hat off his head and being within an inch of punching him. Similarly, Joyce had claimed a lady had “ambushed” him last year. He created this tale because, in fact, he had angrily told the female to “piss off” after she politely asked him some questions about mining. But still Barnaby is portrayed as a popular “hail fellow, well met” character within the mainstream media narrative.

And he will be so presented until it is impossible to shoehorn his alleged angry, drunken exploits into this storyline any longer. At that time, there will be the predictable shock and outrage – who knew such demons lurked within? – and they will descend upon Joyce like hungry wolves, whether the stories are true or not, just as they are now with Don Burke.

I just wonder how much damage Joyce might do before then, all for the sake of “the narrative”. And still they wonder why people don't believe them.

This Independent Australia editorial was originally published in the IA weekly newsletter and members only area. If you'd like to receive exclusive subscriber only articles like this one, along with many other extras, simply subscribe to IA HERE (for as little as $5).

You can follow managing editor Dave Donovan on Twitter @davrosz.

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