The more irrelevant newspapers become, the greater their resort to spin, deceit and wilful manipulation in the service of pandering to their readers’ deepest fears and prejudices. Come on down The Daily Telegraph.
Splashed across the front page of the Monday edition of the Murdoch Sydney tabloid was a confection of such jaw-dropping dishonesty that one wonders how the hacks employed by that rag can look at themselves in the mirror each morning.
It’s “party-time” in Java, proclaims the Tele, as refugees say “thanks Julia” for promising them welfare payments and rent assistance if they make it to Australia on their leaky boats.
“The wannabe citizens are ecstatic the government has conceded detention centres are beyond maximum capacity and that asylum seekers would need to be released into the community while their applications for refugee status were processed,” the paper says.
“They would be given financial and housing support – as well as free basic health care – a massive boost from their current financial status in Indonesia where many are struggling to afford food.”
And of course, it wouldn’t be the Terror if there wasn’t a convenient party political message to keep the Penrith home fires burning.
“Mr Abbott is not good for refugees and asylum seekers, he does not like us, he is not really a nice man,” the paper quotes as 25-year serial refugee Afghan Zia Haidari as saying. “Ms Gillard seems to understand how we feel and is trying her best.”
One can imagine the reporter finely engineering those quotes in anticipation of Alan Jones, in full froth mode, reading them out over the radio in lip pursing disapproval.
Indeed, this “story”, accompanied by a photo of 13 suspiciously-posed male asylum seekers raising their fists, has all the hallmarks of a set-up. And given the involvement of maverick Kiwi-sourced hack Jonathan Marshall you can be certain this was a textbook case of finding “the facts” to fit a preordained stitch-up.
For one thing, ask yourself how a bunch of people escaping a civil war seven thousand miles away have such an intimate knowledge of Australian domestic politics. It is fair to say that a good chunk of the people in marginal electorates in Australia would struggle to identify our political leaders, never mind expecting a Central Asian refugee in an Indonesian refugee camp to do the same.
Second, it is very hard to believe that Marshall, given his own “colourful” reputation and that of his publication, has represented the situation in Australia fairly or accurately to these people. In fact, I would wager he has fed them a line that “Julia” wants to look after them and suggested there has been some fundamental relaxation in Australian policy on asylum seekers.
Third, the photo is a classic case of the photo-journalist stage-managing a shot to frame the story in a certain pre-organised way. This is unethical at best and is outlawed in most reputable news organisations like Reuters or The New York Times.
Fourth, the story deliberately misrepresents the facts for its readers to give the impression that taxpayers’ money is being “wasted” on housing or feeding people who have a legal right to seek asylum in Australia and for whom Australia has an international obligation to consider.
What the government announced late last month is that given the number of people who had arrived by boat since August 13, it would not be possible to transfer them all to Nauru or Manus Island in the immediate future. Accordingly, some would be processed in the Australian community.
However, those processed this way would still be subject to the “no advantage test”, which means they are admitted under bridging visas denying them work rights and giving them only basic accommodation assistance, and limited financial support.
This policy has been condemned by the Uniting Church as “unspeakably cruel”. But it seems even this amounts to pandering by The Daily Telegraph, who clearly would prefer the people overflowing from the dumping stations in Nauru and Manus be tossed into the sea, or perhaps put in the stocks outside the Rooty Hill RSL so the Tele’s readers can chuck chiko rolls at them.
And recall that all this “pandering” is because the Gillard government – under pressure from the very same newspaper and the shock jock flying monkeys – has allowed itself to be sucked into a race to the bottom with the Opposition on who can adopt the most grotesque policies toward refugees.
The result is we are spending billions – yes billions – of taxpayers dollars on an unsustainable, inhumane and impractical “solution” to refugees that denies human rights and flies in the face of this country’s self-image as land of the fair go.
If you were wondering about the cost of unethical, dishonest journalism, look no further.