Moving Forward


This is either the most well timed book on politics of recent times or the worst. In her meticulously detailed volume of the caustic three years of Julia Gillard’s prime ministership,  Kerry-Anne Walsh ends the narrative tantalisingly short of the final scene – the long-canvassed ‘Ruddstoration’.

It seems churlish to fail the book on events overtaking it, but this is always the danger with seeking to tell history on the run. Indeed, one wonders, after reading it, whether Walsh’s punchy news diary-style treatment might have worked better as a live blog than as a paperback. Continue reading

The Mates’ Media

Ask any New Zealander living in Australia, and you’ll hear how we learn to shrug off  lame  jokes about “fush’n’chups” and sheep bothering. What we rarely point out  in return is that Australians, for all their relative wealth, have  an unevolved appreciation of women in power.

This blogger spent a week in his native NZ the week before last, attending a funeral of a loved aunt who had a family of seven daughters and two sons. Naturally, it was  a women-dominated event and one in which strong female voices could be heard without their asking for permission to speak. That’s characteristic of NZ, the first country in the world to give women the vote.
So it was a shock to return to Australia and a series of events, all of which suggested this country is in a process of devolution in gender politics: A menu prepared for a fund-raising dinner for the conservative opposition that featured crude and juvenile references to the female Prime Minister’s body parts, a shock jock who questioned the PM to her face about the sexuality of her life partner and a chorus of apologists – male and female – who sought to normalise this trashy, lowbrow, ratings-chasing outrage-mongering.
Whatever the merits of Julia Gillard’s political effectiveness as prime minister, it is now blatantly obvious that a large chunk of the electorate – egged on by a overtly  sexist media – cannot or will not deal with a woman in power. These mostly old men, trading off their reputation as ‘authority’ figures, channel the most vicious and sexist prejudice for ratings. The vile Alan Jones is the worst of them, but there are an army of jowled grumps behind him saying something similar.
Why do Australians’ put up with this trash? The short answer is they don’t. The media, as Wendy Bacon has recently revealed in her series on women in the media,  is still controlled by men. Not only that, but opinion pieces and political commentary are overwhelmingly by men.
The culture of newsrooms in Australia is male denominated. It always has been. And while other industries, such as financial services and health and retail and banking are starting to promote women like
Gail Kelly at Westpac or Sally Macdonald at Oroton, the media is still overwhelmingly a mates’ club.
None of this should be party political. That it has become so says a lot about the nature of politics in this country, which is clearly hellbent on importing the manufactured and idiotic culture wars that have paralysed the  American political landscape. The result is that what is decent and human is decried as “politically correct” by agents of power who want to pretend their power does not exist at all.
So under the guise of ‘freedom’, powerful voices seek to belittle or suppress the voices of those who traditionally are under-represented   in our media – those from other cultures, the disabled, the gay and lesbian, the agnostics, the adherents of faiths other than Christian, and, the biggest group of all – women. The disgusting  treatment of our first woman prime minister is just the latest manifestation of that.
It’s time all of us -women AND men – to put an end to it by demanding of those who hold power in the media and the advertisers who fund them that we will no longer accept as “OK” language that demeans anyone because of their gender, race, sexuality or faith.
That’s the way it’s going to be, whether you like it or not, MATE.

Society of the Spectacles

“When social significance is attributed only to what is immediate, and to what will be immediate immediately afterwards –  always replacing another identical immediacy – it can be seen that the uses of the media guarantee a kind of eternity of noisy insignificance.
– Guy Debord, Comments on Society of the Spectacle, 1987

When Julia Gillard delivered what was her best and most substantial policy speech as prime minister recently – one in which she also announced the date for the federal election – the media’s focus was on her new “hipster spectacles”. Continue reading

Contesting the News

The fierce debate over perceptions of Julia Gillard’s parliamentary speech on sexism – the press gallery take versus the public one – has touched a nerve among journalists for a simple reason. It has created doubt about the craft value journalists hold most dear – their nose for news. Continue reading

Ordinary People?

 

“Grandma, tell me about the Great Cyber War. What was it like?”

 
“Well, dear, on top of hill were the well-armed, but rapidly depleting mainstream media corps defending their turf to the death, or at least until deadline.

“Assaulting the outskirts of parliament were we brave bloggers, dressed only in our pyjamas, fuelled on skim lattes and clicking on petitions until our index fingers blistered. It was ugly, dear.”

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The Elephant Men

 “The world is a business, Mr. Beale; it has been since man crawled out of the slime. Our children will live, Mr. Beale, to see that perfect world in which there’s no war or famine, oppression or brutality – one vast and ecumenical holding company, for whom all men will work to serve a common profit, in which all men will hold a share of stock – all necessities provided, all anxieties tranquilized, all boredom amused. And I have chosen you, Mr. Beale, to preach this evangel.”

That pivotal scene from Paddy Chayefsky’s prescient 1976 media satire Network sprung to mind when lowbrow radio clown Kyle Sandilands revved up the outrage machine again this week and was rewarded with buckets worth of free publicity for his troubles.
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