Hate and vitriol toward our prime minister, mostly by shock jocks, has reached fever pitch — an atmosphere unleashed by Abbott's aggressive style. Michael Taylor comments.
IF I WERE to be asked which side of politics indulged in the practice of ‘playing the man, not the ball’, I’d reply that it’s a one-sided contest. The ‘Right’ wins in a canter. By the ‘Right’ I refer to not just the members of the Coalition but their supporters and the right-wing media.
I’m assured by many from the Right that the 'Left' has its fair share of trolls, muggers and attack dogs, but I’m sorry — I can’t find them anywhere. At least not the places I frequent; the media – old and new.
The old media sets a bad example – or I should say a good example? – of ‘playing the man' (or woman).
Here are some recent examples that – of the many available – come to mind:
- After Senator Conroy announced proposed changes to media laws, who did we see attacked? The laws or Senator Conroy? Conroy, of course, and it got personal when he was likened to one of history’s greatest mass murderers, Joseph Stalin. We saw little dissection or even debate on the policy or its implications. The best the media and the Opposition could do was attack Senator Conroy in the most vile way they legally could.
- When refugees drowned off Christmas Island in 2010, who did we see attacked? Not the people smugglers, but Julia Gillard who according to one fanatical right-winged mouthpiece had blood on her hands. The attack was rabid.
- When four people tragically died providing home insulation under the Rudd Government’s home insulation program, who did the media blame? Minister Peter Garrett, of course. Were they interested to seek answers about why or how these people died, or how future deaths could be prevented? No, they weren’t. They preferred to play the man.
It contrasts to how the Left react.
Take recently, when the Opposition released their NBN policy – the details I needn’t go into – it was not well-received. But who or what was attacked? The policy. Nobody played the man; they played the ball. Sure, people made fun of it because after all, it was a dud. Can we really expect those of the Right to play the ball when the man who oversees the demise of political integrity in this country, Tony Abbott, has turned ‘playing the man’ into an art form?
I used to think that John Howard was a mean-spirited, nasty piece of work, but in comparison to Tony Abbott he appears as kind, caring and compassionate as Mother Teresa.
Tony Abbott is far, far more mean-spirited. He demonstrates this in the way he ignores human misery and the way he belittles those who are suffering from it. He is, in a nutshell, nasty to the core.
Stories surface that he’s been inherently nasty for as long as people have known him, but it wasn’t until 2005 that I first took notice of his extreme level of nastiness and lack of compassion for human misery when it was hoisted onto the national stage. It came only hours after the NSW Leader of the Opposition, John Brogden, had attempted suicide.
The Age reported at the time that:
The day after Mr Brogden was found unconscious in his electorate office with self-inflicted wounds, Mr Abbott publicly joked at two separate Liberal Party functions about the disgraced leader’s career-wrecking behaviour .... Mr Abbott was asked at a fund-raising lunch about a particular health reform proposal and reportedly answered: "If we did that, we would be as dead as the former Liberal leader’s political prospects."
Nasty. Even to a mate.
He also claimed that Bernie Banton was a mate. Not that he acted like one.
When Tony Abbott was the Minister for Health, the dying asbestos disease sufferer Bernie Banton obtained a petition containing 17,000 signatures of those who supported the listing of the mesothelioma drug Alimta on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. This petition was to be presented in person to Tony Abbott. If it wasn’t disrespectful enough to snub the petition, then his verbal response certainly was.
Mr Abbott said of Mr Banton's actions, fighting for James Hardie asbestos victims:
"I know Bernie is very sick, but just because a person is sick doesn’t necessarily mean that he is pure of heart in all things."
He loves making fun of dying people. Does he expect we’ll all laugh along with him?
He even has a go at deceased people. Margaret Whitlam wasn’t even in the grave before Tony Abbott used her death to score cheap political points.
He said, on hearing of her death:
"There was a lot wrong with the Whitlam government but nevertheless, it was a very significant episode in our history and Margaret Whitlam was a very significant element in the political success of Gough Whitlam."
Nasty. As always. Just another person to mug.
And let’s not forget the role he played in the jailing of Pauline Hanson. After One Nation shocked the Coalition by winning 11 seats in Queensland in June 1998, Abbott was determined to dig up every piece of dirt he could on Hanson. In his own words, on her demise he boasts this was:
"All my doing, for better or for worse. It has got Tony Abbott’s fingerprints on it and no-one else’s."
His nastiness is contagious to the Liberal Party and many of its members, supporters and the adoring media have been affected under his leadership. It is a point that I and many others have expressed, but I do like what Dave Horton has to say in summary:
In effect all shock jocks and populist politicians are painting targets on people who do not share their views. In Australia the people who said the Prime Minister was a "witch" or a "cheap prostitute whoring herself" who should be "drowned in a sack" or "kicked to death" were inviting violence in a way that should not be permitted in a civilised society whether applied to the prime minister or the unfortunate woman who was the partner of Car Park Man.
Bullying, in home, school, workplace is rightly taken very seriously these days. And it is clearly recognised that verbal bullying can cause as much distress and psychological damage as physical actions.
Yet we facilitate, protect, applaud, the bullying and incitement to bullying that takes place every day in out media. Target after target of helpless and/or vulnerable groups (Aborigines, gays, single mothers, unemployed, refugees, public housing tenants, environmentalists, unions) are chosen day after day by bully boy shock jocks and politicians. Day after day there are attempts, by the same people, to denigrate, delegitimise, degrade, political and philosophical opponents. Day after day words are twisted, lies told, rage consequently incited.
And oh how that nastiness has filtered down into our media, old and new. If you need any further evidence of how nasty the right are then feast your eyes upon these two disgusting videos, courtesy of the rabid, vile right-wing shock jocks at 2GB:
Do you see or hear that type of media trash from the Left?
Recently, I had the displeasure of witnessing such pathetic behaviour on social media.
We are often asked here why we only preach to the converted. I can assure people that we don’t. All of our articles are posted on Facebook sites, for example, where left/right followers have the opportunity to debate the articles. John Lord did this last night, and he was immediately subject to a barrage of personal attacks bordering on defamatory. I checked the profiles of those playing the man, and surprise surprise, they boasted on their Facebook pages as being Tony Abbott or LNP supporters. Not one of them showed any commitment to discussing the topic at hand, unlike the Left supporters on the site.
It was pure filth. He was verbally mugged.
It’s their style. Play the man, not the ball. And when you catch him, make sure he gets a good mugging.
(Michael Taylor writes at The Australian Independent Media Network and Café Whispers. This article was originally published at AIMN.)