Twitter provides so much inspiration for blogging (and vice versa) that you could, given an infinite amount of time and pep pills and typewriter ribbon, blog all day and all night. I thought today I would illustrate some of this, picking up on a number of stories and blogging briefly about them.
Here is the first:
Shoky Joky (@IH8SHOKJOKS)
25/03/13 9:03 AM
#AmAgenda – Fifield says “we never saw anything like a challenge to John Howard”. That’s just a lie which @Kieran_Gilbert accepted. #MSMfail
There are dozens of similar tweets just in my timeline every day, and I don’t want to talk about individuals here, this exchange could represent any Opposition member talking to any journalist. But let’s consider what is going on.
For the benefit of my younger readers (those born after 2007), here is some of John Howard’s political history. From 1983-1993 he was engaged in a life and death acrimonious struggle with Andrew Peacock for Liberal Party Opposition Leadership during the first ten years of Hawke-Keating.
They undermined each other and exchanged places after leadership coups several times, the battle ending only when Peacock lost the 1990 election and resigned but not before supporting John Hewson as his successor and blocking Howard from regaining leadership.
After Hewson lost in 1993, the almost comedy team of Downer and Costello took over after deposing Hewson in another bitter coup. Downer eventually resigned in 1995 and Howard got a triple bypass and, Lazarus-like, rose again. With a deal done with Costello that he would accept the Deputy Leadership if Howard agreed to step down within a reasonable period.
It never happened, Costello became more and more aggrieved, was more and more publicly at odds with Howard and determined to replace him. The bad blood between them was obvious, and much remarked on (and the exact parallels with the Hawke-Keating relationship). By 2007 it was also becoming obvious Howard could lose the election, and some of his most senior ministers went to him (in an exact parallel to what would later happen to Rudd) demanding that he resign and hand over to Costello. He refused and went on to lose of course.
Now all of this has happened just in the last 30 years. The bitter Costello challenge of Howard is within the last ten years. This is recent Australian political history. You might not remember the precise sequence involved in Howard-Peacock and so on, but if you have any involvement in Australian politics you would have to know the substance of it.
In short, in 30 years Howard was “challenged” over and over again. The only difference between Hawke-Keating and Howard-Costello, and Howard and Rudd, was that Howard was able to tough out the later challenges (as he had failed to do in the earlier ones) whereas both Hawke and Rudd succumbed to their’s.
And yet here we have an Opposition member apparently flat-out denying the reality of history, never happened, Howard was never challenged, (implying only Labor has challenges). And he in turn is allowed to rewrite history because his statement goes unchallenged. We have, it seems, always been at war with Oceania.
I repeat, this is merely a single example of something that happens daily now. I don’t know whether the Opposition deliberately lies or has fooled itself into its own alternative history reality of a King Howard who lived where:
“The rain may never fall till after sundown.
By eight, the morning fog must disappear.
In short, there’s simply not, a more congenial spot
For happily-ever-aftering than here in Camelot”
And happily-ever-aftering we go.
On the other hand I don’t know whether Australian journalists are operating under instructions never to question even the most blatant untruths; whether they are personally disinclined to; or whether knowledge of Australian political history is no longer a requirement for employment in Australian political journalism. Those who forget political history are doomed to report it badly.
Whatever the reasons, this turning of journalism into merely a matter of holding a microphone for a politician to speak into is extraordinarily damaging to Australian democracy (and elsewhere, much the same seems to be true of the US and UK). The average punter doesn’t retain political memories in the way us political tragics do. Just as he or she doesn’t have expertise in, say, medicine, or plumbing, or car engines, or climate change, and trusts specialists to provide it, so they trust experts to provide background, context, for politics.
If they are told, confidently, that John Howard was never challenged, by someone whose statement itself is unchallenged, then they are likely to accept it as true. History has been successfully rewritten, and, being so, will successfully alter the mindset of the voter to accept that leadership disputes have only taken place in the last year, and only ever take place in an inherently unstable Labor Party. A message that fits with all the similar messages, based on other rewritten histories, already implanted.
Media organisations used to have Fact Checkers, a role which seems to have largely disappeared these days. But in a broader sense the public once saw the media as a whole as a Giant Fact Checker responsible, on their behalf, for keeping the bastards honest. That role has been totally abandoned it seems and now the bastards have no constraints on their dishonesty.
It seems to be increasingly falling to the Social Media, Twitter and Blogs, to take over that vacant media fact checker role. Australia still won’t be Camelot, but we’ll be happier with our politics after that happens.
Or perhaps I am wrong. Check me.