If there's one thing the Murdoch media and their political acolytes do well, it's angry negativity and manufactured outrage — and it may all end badly, says Duade Borg.
I LIKE TO THINK I'm reasonably politically savvy.
I spend at least a couple of hours each day scouring through the media landscape for news about Australia's elected officials and how they are going about running (or wrecking) the country. It's pretty much my morning agenda after rolling out of bed and pouring a coffee.
My routine involves visiting a few blogs and following links to news articles on Facebook. This is just my starting point, as suggested and related articles usually present a web of information I can easily access. I read articles as presented by all the news outlets, spending a comparable time across the big three in Aus — the ABC, Fairfax and News Ltd, as well Independent Australia and sites on The Australian Independent Media Network. I am pleased now to also add The Guardian Australia to this list.
Much has been said of the bias in Australian mass media and you could only possibly miss it with specific blinders. The Murdoch media, which myself and others have affectionately labelled "Limited News", beats the "change the government" (notice their partiality to three word slogans) drum loudly and visibly — shamelessly and relentlessly, often without any justification or attempt to substantiate their spurious claims.
Their emotive language and relentless negativity seem to have but one objective: to manufacture outrage and wrench it up to boiling levels — to the point of instigating rage and threats of violence against elected officials.
I am not completely innocent in this war of violent words. Up until recently I frequented a gaming website/online community and I was somewhat of an ‘enforcer’ — I used my wordsmithing talents to berate and belittle anyone who disagreed with me, having angry outbursts and causing a ruckus just for the sake of maintaining a certain online persona.
The realisation that I was part of a problem that is of such great concern to me was the catalyst which inspired me to begin writing. I need a constructive outlet to release my frustration in a way that can benefit others.
I’m frightened that this culture of hatred and violence can spill over into reality here as has happened so frequently in other western societies.
I refer to the case of US Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, whose brain and the lives of her family were torn to shreds in a violent attempt on her life in 2011.
A 22-year-old man strode up to her at a constituent meeting in a supermarket car park, produced a pistol and shot her point blank in the head, then proceeded to fire indiscriminately upon the crowd, injuring over a dozen people and killing six, including an elected official and some public servants, before being subdued by witnesses.
Could this be the path that a disturbed individual could take here in Australia? It doesn't take much sleuthing to uncover hordes of bogans prepared to attack our Prime Minister personally — about her glasses, her looks, her figure, her hair, or merely the fact that she is a woman.
There is one Facebook group, in particular, which takes first prize for being the most vile, hate-fuelled cauldron of nescience I have ever witnessed — and I'll admit I've seen my fair share of "anti-" Facebooks.
Julia Gillard - Worst PM in Australian History has over 46,000 likes and is described by the administrator as 'just providing the platform for them to discuss' how much people hate Julia Gillard.
'I don't need to promote for people to hate Julia Gillard,' he says, 'she does an awesome job of that all by herself.'
‘Troy’, the owner of the page, guards his identity after receiving threats of violence.
'Mate, I’m just a normal bloke, no one special,' he responds to questioning. 'I’m married with kids and own a small business.'
He says he was surprised at the popularity of the group:
This Facebook page started on July 1, 2011 – 12 months after Julia Gillard had [become] PM. Basically I was mad as hell and extremely frustrated with her and her government. I just wanted to chat to a few likeminded people who also shared concern over her government. I was stoked when I got to 500 likes and was having a ball chatting with people. I never intended for it to be what it has become. I guess more people like what I write than I could have ever imagined.
I try to maintain humour in my posts as well as opinion. It's not easy having a family, running a successful business and a Facebook page. People think I sit around all day doing nothing. It used to be a lot of hard work however there got to a point when it got so big I just let it be.
The motivation for the group, however, appears to stem from a negative perception of the government rather than from any objective consideration of the facts. When asked about his political affiliation and local issues, Troy seemed uninterested.
[I’ve] never been interested in Australian politics,' he explains. '[I] don't know the name of my electorate off the top of my head nor are [there] any local issues of any concern other than traffic.'
I've always had faith the people in charge knew what they were doing. I am at an age where I was blessed and John Howard was in charge not long after I was of voting age and I trusted the government was doing a good job. Everyone had jobs was making plenty of money.
'Here’s the thing – my BS detector is as sharp as a tack,' he begins, mixing his metaphors, as the subject turns to Julia Gillard. 'Yeah she's broken hundreds of promises and she's lied and as far as I'm concerned she's a crook.'
She has absolutely no respect whatsoever for the Australian people. Treats this whole thing like a game of who can produce the most spin. I'm only interested in results. She has no fiscal responsibility. PLUS her knifing Kevin Rudd after days of promising she wouldn't is un-Australian and she made a bad call.
Some of his comments allude to the fact that many of his frustrations can’t find a foundation in reality.
She's never been voted in by the people,' he continues. 'She won the support of the members of the lower house but she formed government by screwing us all over with the bullshit carbon tax then delivered three years of deficits.'
Labor are just full of highly unqualified people. Peter Garrett please the man is useless... as for the rest they believe their own bullshit. As a business person I see running a country like a business and Labor can't run a chook raffle.
I think the best thing that can happen for Australian politics is someone who can tell it like it is. Problem is people don't like the truth. Truth is we have become a ridiculous society reliant on welfare. We give too many handouts.
Create more jobs, make people work and you'll earn more tax revenue. Not that hard.
However, Troy insists that the group is not intended to vilify Ms Gillard.
'I was offended that you suggested that my page promotes violence and hatred,' he said. 'That's simply not true.'
It's my soapbox and [I] abhor violence. I would call it political satire not promoting violence. As for hating Gillard as I said today, she does a good enough job of that on her own. I've never promoted my page nor paid for advertising.
People are attracted to it because of the natural response she gets out of people. I think simplifying it to say it's a hate page is ignorant. I have said and always said it's in the title.
It is a forum where people can vent their frustration and anger as it builds up having her as our PM.
What happens is that she drives people so crazy that it brings out emotions and comments people don't really mean because they are at their wits’ end.
It appears his opinions are vulnerable somewhat to subjective peppering. Where do people get these misconceptions about Julia Gillard, her government and their work?
This brings me to the comments section of any political news article on any news website. You could be mistaken for thinking that every right-wing comment is made by the same commentator considering their uniform nature.
Not only do they claim that successful programs were a complete failure (the government funded insulation scheme, for example – the industry’s safety standards and procedures were overhauled in the wake of the deaths during the roll-out, standards and procedures which would have, in retrospect, prevented said deaths) but they consistently write home about how much they cannot wait for September 14 — where they say there will be a violent culling of all things Labor. The language used can’t be described as anything less than ‘colourful’… it always has a tone of violence and vitriol to it.
Never will you see level-headed right-wing commentary with thoughtful, evidence based arguments free from subjective language or opinion-based assertions. Well, maybe you will if you’re really patient and determinedly cut through all the rot, I should leave that concession in the interests of balance — in my personal experience, the frustration takes over long before.
Most of the hate seems to be directed at how the country’s finances have been managed. Could it be that the target audience of Mr Chairman are merely parroting what the master of puppets is demanding? This is what Murdoch tweeted on May 17:
Tony Abbott should not be making any promises . Carbon tax and giveaways should be scrapped Inheriting broke country. Fix up first.
Inheriting broke country? With GDP up around $1.5 trillion and gross debt as a percentage of GDP hovering around 20 per cent, Australia is far from a broke country. In fact, outside of the Coalition and right-wing Australian economists and commentators, this country is the envy of the entire world economically — you don’t have to search far on the Internet to find the evidence, however finding such commentary within Limited News presents a struggle.
So just how do Liberals get by? From the way they present their arguments about debt and borrowing, it would be safe to assume that these people have always been incredibly wealthy, never requiring them to borrow money to improve their businesses, or for a mortgage or family vehicle.
I’m not a businessman, but it seems logical to me that in times of low interest rates, borrowing money to invest in improved services and revenue is a good thing.
It would be naïve (bordering on silly) of me to compare a country’s budget to a household budget as the shadow treasurer has done time and time again — however if I were to, it seems similar to seeing a family with $150,000 in the bank, earning $1,000 a week with $30,000 left on a mortgage – ignoring all their assets – and asserting they are ‘broke’.
One thing it seems you can rely on as a constant is that the wealthy will vehemently protect their interests, whether these interests are for political clout – such as in the case of the media laws being so viciously campaigned against – or a source of income – like the NBN, a true thorn in Murdoch’s side – happens to fall under both these categories for Mr Chairman.
When one man holds so much influence, with one hand feeding the masses his soothing blend of ignorance and propaganda, while with the other hand sparking up xenophobia and outrage at the poor and disadvantaged, it’s little wonder the result is so bold and aggressive.
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