Feb. 26th, 2012

crazyjane: (Default)
As any poor bastard who reads my Twitter feed knows, I've been following the Labor Party leadership clusterfuck pretty closely since Kevin Rudd announced his resignation. Bah, who am I kidding, it goes beyond obsessive. But anyway ...

I've also been blogging frantically, as well as providing live 'micro-blogs' (the hilarious new name for live Twitter commentary) for the various speeches and interviews. There are, it seems, some advantages to being physically laid up a lot of the time (although I'm sure the kids won't thank me for this weekend). I think it's fair to say I'm as across this issue as anyone who hasn't got the specific inside track.


I've been appalled at the level of vitriol being flung around - not just statements of loyalty or preference, but actual vicious insults and downright threats directed at those who disagree on any given point. It's not just from the pollies, either. Media are churning out opinion pieces that go way beyond any pretense of objectivity, clearly declaring their preference for either Rudd or Gillard. And if the social media commentary were taking place in a pub, we'd have had a riot on our hands that spilled out into the streets long ago.

It's hyperbole, sure, but it really is dividing a good portion of the population.

In all this, I'm striving to maintain at least some level of objectivity. I think that's my job as an independent journalist, to analyse without fear or favour. And I know I fail miserably a lot of the time, especially when it comes to issues like asylum seekers or marriage equality. but at least I think I can say that I am as critical of Labor as I am of the Coalition, or Greens, or anyone else.

Not that this matters at the moment, apparently, according to the criticisms and abuse I've copped.

If I write that I think Rudd's running a slick, well-planned campaign, I 'must' be a Rudd supporter.

If I comment that Gillard has shown a level of feistiness in this campaign that we needed to see a long time ago - and which showed her capable of taking the fight to Abbott, I 'must' be in her camp.

If I talk about a third candidate, I'm a 'Greens lackey'.

Not to mention the people who re-tweet me, add their own exceptionally partisan insults and pass it off as my opinion.

And so on. No matter what I write, I'm accused of bias. Of being 'delusional'. A 'stupid c**t'. Et cetera.

And what pisses me off the most is that it's getting to me. I'm starting to second-guess myself. I read over and over what I've written, to make sure I haven't been too favourable or too critical. I start to wonder whether I need to give 'equal time' to both sides - even to the point of roughly the same word count.

It's ridiculous.

At the risk of sounding truly egotistical, I think I understand now the frustration that author and columnist John Birmingham vented after he finished up a stint as a guest columnist for the ABC. They're hamstrung by changes to their charters brought in by the Howard government, whose government consistently accused the national broadcaster of being 'unfair' to his administration. Now they have to provide equal time. And even so, they still get regularly hauled up before Senate committees and asked to account for absurdities.

One example? Tony Abbott's Budget reply speech last year. Twitter had decided to use the hashtag #budgies for any posts about it. Noting this, the ABC mentioned that on air and invited commentary on that feed. It was a simple PR decision. They could have tried to institute a different hashtag, but Twitter is notoriously stubborn about protecting its ability to choose its own labels.

At the Senate Committee hearing a few months later, the Opposition accused the ABC of being 'disrespectful' to Abbott by not 'insisting' on a different label - thus proving they not only don't understand social media, but also were not about to let the ABC operate without close interference.

And the ABC, as a result, self-polices its own work. To an extent that goes far beyond what it is legally required to do. If anything, it errs in favour of the Coalition. The internal watchman is so sensitive to any perception of Left bias, that it regularly shows evidence of bias towards the Right.

Birmingham wrote eloquently of the incredible frustration he experienced - of journalists in a constant state of nervous watchfulness in case their articles were too 'Left'.

At the time, I tried to imagine being gagged like that. Thankfully, as an independent, I don't have to worry about being forced to write to an agenda.

But in the last weekend, I've spent far more time worrying about whether I've unfairly favoured or criticised either Rudd or Gillard than I feel I should. I'll say it right here and now - Rudd has by far run the better campaign. He's popular, and people still feel he was poorly treated by being removed from office. We can't know everything that went on behind closed doors, but we do know that Rudd was never confronted by his colleagues - only blindsided. Gillard is tainted by her actions back then - not just removing him, but refusing to take responsibility for her own actions as Deputy PM, and now blaming Rudd for everything from a near election loss to her own government's problems (which she's been blaming on Abbott for months).

That said, Rudd's government showed far too little decisive action and far too much bureaucracy. Rudd was a micro-managing PM who didn't come up through Labor ranks and floundered in an unfamiliar environment. Gillard is a shrewd negotiator, pushed through the carbon pricing scheme and has held together a minority government in spite of Abbott's best (or perhaps worst) efforts.

The senior Cabinet ministers who support Gillard right now is utterly disgusting. Senator Doug Cameron, in his amazing Scottish accent, once referred to the Coalition as a 'rrrrrraaabbbble'. That accusation could easily be levelled at Wayne Swan, Simon Crean and Nicola Roxon right now. I'll say this for Rudd's supporters - with the exception of Maxine McKew, they're playing the ball, not the woman.

As for media hacks like Ackerman and Bolt - well, enough bandwidth is wasted on them already.

Do I think Rudd will win? Almost certainly not. I think he has about a third of the Caucus behind him, which is just not enough. But 'credit where it's due' is an axiom on which I've tried to base my work.

And it's totally fucked that trying to do that leads to little more than people whinging that you're a lackey or a hack or delusional.

If I were less convinced that I need to keep doing this - if only to be one more voice calling for some sanity in politics - I'd tell them all to go fuck themselves.

August 2017

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