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The Hanson Media Circus

That’s right. On the day Paul Keating told the ABC they are letting Australians down, and on the day climate scientists warned uncontrolled climate change has pushed the Arctic to a world-altering tipping point, Australian news organisations, who often complain that they no longer have the resources they need to go out and find stories, found enough resources to follow Pauline Hanson and her fellow One Nation climate deniers on a fun little day-trip to far north Queensland, to capture her swimming in a healthy part of the reef and to beam her climate change denying message to a national audience. I know ABC weren’t the only ones there, but I’m focusing on them because they should know better. I’m focusing on them because they covered this non-story not just on the evening news, but also gave it a full ten minutes on apparently-current affairs show 7:30.

Why on earth would any so-called-credible news organisation do such a thing? The answer to that is simple. Pauline Hanson is colourful and therefore newsworthy. When she says ‘I’ve got something to say’, the Australian media don’t expect her to earn the right to say it, on a national television screen. Instead, they follow along like lost puppies, giving her all the free publicity she could ever ask for, falling for her simple yet effective media strategy hook-line-wetsuit-wearing-and-sinker.

This simple strategy goes like this: the more ridiculous the comment, the more publicity it gets. We could call it the Hanson media strategy. Or the James Ashby, Hanson’s chief strategist’s media strategy. But that would be a bit inward looking. A bit, you might even call it, xenophobic. Because really, this strategy is not unique to Hanson. It’s not even unique to any of the One Nation nut-jobs (yes, I will call a spade a spade), or Cory Bernardi, or George Christensen, Eric Abetz, Peter Dutton or any other brought-to-you-by-the IPA or the HR Nicholls Society, or the Australian Christian Lobby or any other shady-funded-by-who-exactly-we’re-never-told shock-jock political-operatives. No, this strategy is global and it worked so well for the Trump-circus and the Farage-circus, it’s more than likely going to be adopted by political communicators the world over. Why not, when the media is so happy to oblige, and it works so well?

What was the point of Hanson’s reef visit? Journalists surely don’t think it’s newsworthy that she’s a climate change denier. We all know One-Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts was involved in the running of the Australian Galileo Movement who have been at the forefront of fighting against climate action in Australia for as long as there has been such a movement. It’s not newsworthy that there are still politicians out there who deny science, who deny experts, who deny that the world needs to do something about climate change before it’s too late. None of that is news. The angle Hanson was going for was that she was defending the Queensland tourism industry from falling tourist numbers, which are caused by, she claims, the false publicity that the Great Barrier Reef is being damaged from climate change, when really, she claims, the reef is fine. There is no logic here. There is no rational way in which a journalist can accept this clearly ridiculous argument with a straight face. And the key point is, there is no way this attitude, this media stunt is deserving of an audience. There are not two-sides-to-the-climate-change-argument because it’s not an argument. If I called a press conference to claim the sky is red, would I get 10 minutes on 730? No? By putting Hanson’s climate denial on our TV screens, and by not even trying to frame it as ridiculous, as un-thinking, as populism-against-experts-against-people-who-are-trying-to-save-the-reef, against the so-called-elite, a term now given to anyone who has the ability to think critically, the media is letting their audience down.

There is a phrase in public relations speak called ‘earned media’. Earned media is the opposite of paid media, the idea being that PR people lobby journalists to cover their stories by positioning those stories as newsworthy and as credible and as important to the audience, so that the space in the news section is earned, rather than paying for the message in the advertising section. My question to the ABC is this: what did Pauline Hanson do to earn all the free publicity she got on the ABC news and 730 last night?

I often hear the argument that Pauline Hanson received enough votes to get herself elected to parliament and that’s all she had to do to earn a right to a media pack following her around. But do all elected members of parliament get as much attention as Hanson? Do they all automatically have the right to say whatever they want, without fact-checking, without question, without having to come up with something that’s newsworthy, important, factual, credible and correct? Do they have to earn the right to be on the news, or can they say whatever they like and it will just be repeated, maybe fact-checked at a later stage on a different medium, but too late then because everyone has already seen the climate change denial and this is the only message they remember?

The media is letting us down alright, and it’s helping the likes of Hanson win more votes, scrutiny free. Until news producers are willing to turn down Hanson’s invite to the reef, until they are willing to follow her on her merry-little-publicity-seeking jaunts only under the condition that a climate scientists accompanies them to refute her anti-fact-statements right there on the spot, as part of the same news story, to show that she’s really got zero clue about science, and to put her off trying anything like that again, then they’re letting us down. Until we stand up and say enough is enough, there’s no reason they’ll stop playing this game. ABC complaints can be lodged here.


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  1. corvus boreus

    Climate change? A 2nd tier issue completely lacking any scientific consensus.

  2. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Good article, Victoria Rollison.

    The media needs to be brought to account for being complicit in the misrepresentation of the facts of Climate Change with the intention of deceiving the Australian public.

    When Guthrie’s ABC is made to atone and commercial MSM figures are held to account in the courts, the mud does stick and they are exposed to the public for the shonks they are.

  3. Ian Raymond SAFFIN

    Welcome to post truth dystopia. I’ve asked the ABC to do a story on the fairies at the bottom of my garden. I’m not holding my breath.

  4. Kaye Lee

    Aides to the US president-elect, Donald Trump, this week unveiled plans to remove the budget for climate change science currently used by Nasa and other US federal agencies for projects such as examining Arctic changes, and to spend it instead on space exploration.

  5. economicreform

    Is Corvus being serious? Presumably not. Given that there is virtually unanimous agreement among climate scientists that the climate is changing, that the planet is warming, that the polar regions are receding, that glaciers are melting, that the oceans are becoming more acidic, that the level of atmospheric CO2 is on a seemingly unstoppable upward trend, that the ocean levels are rising, tghat tropical storms are becoming more frequent and more violent, and that all of this has been largely caused by the outpouring of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere as a consequence of human activities.

  6. Kaye Lee


    cb was referring to a previous discussion about voters’ priorities where it was argued that jobs are more important to the electorate than action on climate change. cb was on the side of climate change. Without presuming to speak for him, I took his comment as somewhat ironical.

    The decision about action on climate change should be taken out of the voters’ hands by both major parties agreeing to bi-partisan support for the path forward. They have to stop lying about the figures and accept the responsibility that only they can protect us. Industry and business and shock jocks and Cardinal Pell and Malcolm Roberts most definitely will not.

  7. Matters Not

    Ian Raymond SAFFIN re:

    asked the ABC to do a story on the fairies at the bottom of my garden

    Not much chance I’m afraid. Now if you make a slight alteration, a favourable outcome is almost guaranteed. Try this approach;

    Dear ABC: Could you please do a story on the fairies at the bottom of Pauline’s garden?

    Then they’ll do a six part, hour long documentary and show it in prime time, with repeats the next day. They will use it to replace Foreign Correspondent and Catalyst. Roberts of course will star as one of the garden gnomes.

  8. randalstella

    1. corvus is being ironic, about a previous article. And quite rightly.
    2. Unless you want to persist for a year or more, just to stick it up them, and make them work – do not bother making a complaint through the procedures of the ABC complaints guidelines. They are a complete sham. The ABC routinely breach their procedures of so-called independent inquiry. No complainant should to be at the disadvantage of complying with them.
    You will get lies and distortions from beginning to end – unless it’s something deemed trivial enough for them to make a concession, Media Watch style.
    Like Media Watch, it is all in the hands of management.

  9. Keith

    We expect our politicians to get the best possible advice in relation to policy matters from experts. Experts are telling us that the Great Barrier Reef was not impacted where Hansen and her motley crew swam. Fortuitously, the aftermath of Cyclone Winston had a cooling effect on the Southern waters of the GBR. Kiribarti was not so fortunate, having had its coral reefs pretty well completely destroyed.

    Politicians need a code of ethics; they suggest they are professional; except, lies and manipulation fall far short of ethics.

  10. My say

    The ABC has really reached the point of no return,when they can give One Nation air time to claim Climate Change is crap,as usual they never let the facts get in the way of a good story,if they had done their research they would oknown she was looking in the wrong area,but not one of the reporters questioned her on that ,They just let her spew lies,Hanson should be made to clarify the lies she told ,You ABC are a disgrace to Australia

  11. Kaye Lee

    When the interviewer (or should I say ABC entourage enjoying a day on the reef) did catch up with Pauline his question was “How are you feeling?” to which she replied “tired”. Victoria is right. It was atrocious infotainment minus the info.

  12. Ricardo29

    And Thursday night on that funny cooking show, Tim Flannery made an emotional plea for preservation of the reef and to their credit, the editors let it run. Everything said above about the ABC giving time to climate change deniers is true. Expect more of this type of stuff from Michelle Guthrie and Murdoch’s ABC.

  13. seaworks

    It does not matter in the long run what ever the clowns spew out in denial.
    When the Arctic is 30 degrees warmer than it has ever been, the sea ice is disappearing rapidly leaving the dark water to soak up the heat from the sun and that water is 3 degrees warmer than ever before, it is inevitable that there will be a crisis for the inhabitants of Earth.
    Too late to do anything about of course.

  14. Wayne Turner

    Jobs and growth,jobs and growth. The LNP’s MSM have forgotten about the failure of “jobs and growth”

    Instead we get “distracts” like Hanson BS,and Dutton’s dog whistling “look over there…”

    ABC = Also Biased Crap.

    All of the MSM,this is another moment of them “jumping the shark”.A previous one was the non-stop demonizing of then PM Gillard and promoting of then Opposition leader Abbott’s non-stop LIES.

    Don’t forget “jobs and growth?” IE: Decrease in full time jobs,replaced by more underemployment of part time and casual jobs.For those that can get/have a job.

    “Jobs and growth”.

    “Jobs And Growth?”

  15. Max Gross

    Our very own Taliban!

  16. lawrencewinder

    In another 7:30 piece of rubbish did anyone see Hissy-Fit Sales make a goose of herself in a badgering interview with Jill Hennessy (Vic Health Minister) where this banal dimwit tried to conflate the storm Asthma event with a terrorist attack and seemed close to suggesting it was Labor’s fault?
    Hissy-Fits was probably taking a leaf out of Unctious Uhlmann’s Tory lexicon of mis-information and his blaming of the SA power outage on wind farms.

  17. corvus boreus

    Corvus is always serious and never ironical.(or facetiously sarcastical)
    Hand-wringing over so-called ‘climate change’ and other environmental hobby-horses is an affectation that is solely the preserve of elite, effete, chardonnay sipping inner-city latté hipsters who don’t have to worry about stuff like jobs and schools.
    Is a colorful reef going to put beers on the bar for the coal miner who’s lost his job?.

  18. SGB

    If the ABC think that toading to the management is going to save their jobs then they are dimmer than I thought.

    The surest way for the ABC to be disbanded is to become a sycophantic organisation.

  19. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Hear, hear SGB.

    There is an Aesops Fable of the smallest tree in the forest which was allowed by the other trees to be cut down by the ugly tree feller. They sighed a sigh of relief because they thought the sacrificial tree was where it would end until the ugly tree feller crafted it into a stronger axe which could chop them down too!

    Moral of the story: we must stand together to keep out the perils of neoliberalism and the destruction of institutions like the ABC that we have historically respected.

  20. helvityni

    lawrencewinder, Ms Sales has two interviewing technics, one for the Right and one for the Left; “Mr Abbott you seem a bit dry-mouthed, here’s a glass of water for you”, flirting with Scott and Mal, and putting on her fish-wife style for the likes of Shorten, or anyone from the Greens….
    A very young relative who witnessed her first Sales interview, said: she seems a bit bitchy….???

  21. Kaye Lee

    When Sales was coming back from maternity leave, she insisted that Uhlman take over for a while because she didn’t want a direct contrast with Sarah Ferguson who had actually asked the tough questions. We get bland Chris for a while before simpering Sales came back. Ferguson in the mean time gets given the spokesmodel role introducing 4 corners.

  22. crypt0

    The media is letting us down alright,
    And we’d better get used to that.
    The ABC is stuffed,as per all of the above article and comments.
    The situation will only improve when the little aussie voters cease being wilfully ignorant and start attempting to sift the truth from the rubbish.
    As far as readers of the murdoch press go, the ones I know accept what they read as gospel and no amount of contrary facts can sway them.
    As for the future, the hope of the side is AIM and a few other I’net based sites, albeit with rather less of an audience than the ABC/murdoch. We can only hope.

    Jobs ‘n’ growth.

    Jobs ‘n’ growth.

  23. wam

    she walks she talks she does something ‘interesting’ QED publicity.
    ou est vous, guillaume???
    2010-13 was disgusting when ABC and COMMERCIAL
    had one question
    The rabbott would have given the same answer no matter what the question..

    Like gillard, Sales had one brain fart and was left out of the loop till she recanted and became almost exclusively compliant.

    Insiders has remained with two in the mild right zone with one abbott apologist and my local abc radio has been anti- gillard and now shorten in living memory.
    depressing depressing maxima depressing.

    I tried to wash the debt crisis in 6 simple steps:
    using the % change of the rabbott’s mortgage compared to the income change as his salary increased.
    ie $600k debt
    backbench income $150k 400%
    ceo income $1.2m 50%
    Japan debt 200%
    Pommie/septic debt 100%
    gillard/swan debt 25%
    Where is the crisis?
    not one on my young abbottian or labor friends could get past %.
    They have not met % They cannot understand %
    a casual research confirms % is in y9 naplan
    A bookshop has a sale.
    A book normally costing $39.95 is priced at $23.97.
    By what percentage has the price been reduced?
    my guess is percentage is too hard for most maths teahers and they gloss over it.
    So how can billy change the concept??certainly not by using %
    what ever, the compound interest on the VET FEE HELP is going to mortify the workers, teachers nurses,especially women who make babies when they get to 35 and find their debt has doubled,and again at 45. Work that out for any poor girl who follows the rabbott’s daughter but doesn’t get a job(remember the school gets $6m per 100 students starting)

  24. Carol Taylor

    Perhaps for Hanson’s next trick she could take the media pack to a forest to prove that there’s no such thing as a desert. And guess what, the media would probably go…

  25. Harquebus

    How do we get these stupid corporate journalists to realize that, their children will suffer just as much as ours?
    When the new climate future which, is en route, arrives and the payment for our excesses is due and which, we will have to pay, don’t forget to say thank you.

    Here is a webpage that I visit at least every other day. There is something strange going on in the Arctic.

    I also regularly come across articles like this. Large scale methane release will wipe us out. If it means that unemployed miners have to go without beer to ensure the continuation of the human race then, so be it.
    “According to them the expedition confirmed the increasing releases of the greenhouse gas methane.”

    Here are few articles from my browsers history for those that would like to read some more.

    “We can choose to ignore the many warning signs of climate change — melting glaciers and sea ice, violent storms, rising seas, unprecedented droughts and floods — but the ultimate price we pay just keeps getting higher and higher. ”

    “Looking underwater in the northern sector of the reef in 2016, he would have seen no vibrant colors but a ghostly white scene of dead and dying corals, rapidly being overgrown by seaweeds.”

    “corals are still dying six months on due to coral predators and disease”

    “More than half of Japan’s largest coral reef has been destroyed due to the rise in water temperatures this year”

  26. mark

    yes harquebus,the children of the rich will suffer just as much,by becoming totally heartless.mark

  27. Neil Hogan

    How the ABC 7.30 Report should have maintained credibility & called this non story – “Pauline Hanson checking for bleaching there is a bit like a gynecologist looking in her mouth & seeing her tonsils still in tact, declaring she’s still a virgin & all the while Malcolm Roberts was demanding umbilical evidence to back up that claim.”

  28. John Brame

    Malcolm needs empirical evidence that coral bleaching is not a natural event. The coral are probably just sleeping and will wake up one day with amazing colour and vigour.

    Nice one ABC – NOT !

  29. corvus boreus

    Recycled composite of two previous comments from the “worlds apart’ thread (couldn’t be phuqqed rewording).

    The soundness of the basic science is clear within the credible relevant scientific bodies (with the usual quibbles on details).
    There is also quite clear consensus in the international community, hence the various treaties and protocols (exceptions noted).
    However, the clarity of message seems to be breaking down somewhere on the way to the electorate (those ‘guys’ in the pubs).
    Perhaps the public saturation of commercial corporate media constantly braying a denier-skeptic message has something to do with this chronic level of mass miscommunication.
    Or perhaps the people in pubs are just too drunk to understand what science is saying

    Sadly, the (on-message) chorus amongst Labor affiliates seems to indicate that climate change has quasi-officially been relegated to a ‘2nd tier issue’, which, given the scientifically stated urgency of climate action, would presumably further peripheralise other (related) environmental concerns, like biodiversity conservation, soil health and water quality.
    I gather that this ecopathic shift is a move designed to stop climate sceptics (or those who simply don’t know or care much about ‘AGW’) from jumping ship to One Nation, but wonder how many environmentalist-type votes it will bleed in other directions.
    Funnily enough, despite a general stance of anti-environmentalism and outright climate denial, PHON policy stands on more environmentally friendly ground than the ALP regarding CSG mining, which does rate as a ‘1st tier’ issue for residents of some regional areas (eg around Tara/Chinchilla in central QLD), and has fair degree of broader ‘pub’ resonance (even Alan Jones is a greenie on ‘fracking’)

    Meanwhile, at Maules creek, NSW, a large area of remnant forest is currently being leveled (destroying over 40% of a critically endangered ecosystem and fragmenting the remains) in order to employ a few people to dig up coal and ship it overseas for burning. Despite obvious and clearly demonstrated flaws, discrepancies and possible corruptions in the application and approvals process (eg the ‘offsets’ alone were as dodgy as phuq) Labor (state and federal) continues to approve.
    Nearby, at Pilliga forest, numerous gaswells continue to send up large flares of open flame despite a total fire ban.
    Up north, inland from the reef, Adani’s Carmichael mine, state and federal approvals obtained, waits anxiously and eagerly for a cheque in the mail.

    Ps, economic reform,
    You can add methane cladate eruptions and mass forest die-offs (particularly nth temperate) to those signs and symptoms.

  30. wam

    Beauty, Victoria but I didn’t quite catch the short ABC resources?? Does the two men’s junket to America gives the lie to that.
    Why would you expect the media to take an opposition view without a driver? The rabbott drove the media and little billy seems unable to capitalise on the thirst for controvesy.
    That takes away any contracted personal discomfort from trunball.”

  31. helvityni

    Carol Taylor, maybe Hanson can’t see the forest for the trees….

  32. Mark Needham

    Meantime, LNP is changing Medibank. Fees are to go up 30%, those on social benefits get a 50% increase in levy, and sick people, who are sick prior to seeking medical attention, will be denied attention for Pre Existing Medical Conditions.
    About time I say.

    The part that the LNP cannot deny, is that Bill Shorton warned all the brain dead, prior to the last election, that this was going to happen. It would appear therefore, that there is a mandate.
    Mark Needham

  33. Brad

    I didn’t realize pauloiyne had qualifications in marine ecology. Perhaps she did it as a post graduate thingy after her initial qualification in fish and chips 101.

  34. Adrianne Haddow

    No Brad, no marine ecology qualifications.

    But she does have a rather fetching wetsuit and the apparent right to dig up living coral to ‘prove’ her point re. a healthy Great Barrier Reef, and how all those scientists and Greenies got it wrong.

    And it must be true ’cause she had ABC reporters filming her.

  35. Kevin Brewer

    IT WASN”T ANTARCTICA BUT THE ARCTIC!, a whole different place with entirely different effects on world climate.

  36. Michael Taylor

    Thanks Kevin. I’ve had it changed.

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