By Leonie Saunders
The above tweet goes to the despicably dishonest craven character of this country’s Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce and the all omnipotent mainstream media who chose to remain silent to the detriment of the democratic right of the electorate to be fully informed. The public interest is the licence that we the people bestow to journalists that gives them certain rights of entry to the political domain. It is regrettable that many Press Gallery journalists nowadays fail to understand their professional responsibility is irrevocably harnessed to serving the public interest. Naturally, this includes keeping the we the people abreast of the character of candidates seeking to represent not only their electorate but more broadly, the entire nation. To take the honour bestowed for granted not only mocks the very notion of safeguarding the public interest, it undermines journalism as a profession.
To their shame, Australia’s mainstream news media outlets are complicit in Joyce’s deception. By not shining a light on the hypocrisy of Barnaby Joyce who consistently spruiked Christian family values in the lead up to the same sex marriage plebiscite and then again when he repeatedly pointed out his strong family values in his campaign to retake the seat of New England in the by-election, makes this country’s mainstream news media outlets complicit in deceiving the public by omission. In addition to their complicity they are culpable for furthering the lie when they chose to sit on information that effectively prevented the electorate from making informed choices.
This conspiracy of silence must be judged as media bias undermining the democratic process. The Canberra Press Gallery stood silent while Joyce put himself and his ambitions above his electorate. And to the extent that he quite deliberately took every opportunity to articulate his utmost respect for the people of New England. It has to be said that it is a very dubious respect indeed given that he chose not to trust his constituents enough to be honest and straightforward. Joyce’s failure to be candid lifts the veil on his contempt for the country folk that he purports to respectfully represent. Even though the catalogue of Joyce’s misdeeds is vast, it should not be lost on the electorate that as a consequence of Joyce’s failure to renounce his inherited New Zealand citizenship. Once again Australian tax payers had to foot the bill for yet another expensive by-election.
I suppose the best that one can hope for is that in the coming Federal election Joyce’s reprehensible behaviour stands as a salutary lesson for New England’s ‘small l’ conservatives and swing voters.
It is of significant import to note that prior to the affair with his staffer becoming public knowledge, Joyce’s conservative colleagues and Press Gallery journalist were clearly aware of his contemptuous duplicity. Yet in spite of his dishonesty, politicians and news editors alike continued to protect him by conveniently claiming they were respecting his right to privacy. For me this raises the question as to why journalists chose to believe the public interest justified their relentless incursions into the private life of Julie Gillard, and further back, Cheryl Curnow. Was it misogyny at play or political bias or both? Did misogyny and political bias make the right to privacy of these two woman null and void?
When one examines the various problems that plague our Parliament today, it quickly becomes apparent that over the past several decades postmodernist ideas operating in conjunction with the rise of vacuous journalism as a consequence the 24 hour news cycle, collided with an influx of avaricious self-seeking narcissists entering the political domain. I hold this collision as directly responsible for the sad dramatic decline in the tenor and the substance of Australian political ideas and debate. It is the debasement of Australian democratic institutions by the political and media class has caused the public to distrust the political process.
As for Barnaby Joyce, well he certainly displays all the characteristics of a sociopath. His blatant hypocrisy and his duplicitous behaviour shows him to lack a clear sense of right and wrong. For him, empathy is an alien concept. His manifest lack of integrity is what allows him and others just like him to justify doing whatever it takes to hold on to power. To those of us with a keen eye on day to day events in the political arena, Joyce’s sociopathy is more than evident in the Parliament and elsewhere.
A recent example of this transpired when in an interview on the ABC’s 7.30, Joyce was asked by Leigh Sales about his extra marital affair with a young staffer. The response he gave proved him incapable of taking personal responsibility for his behaviour. That he took no personal responsibility for his abysmal behaviour that will have a lifelong detrimental effect on his current wife and their daughters is unfortunate for his family. Come to think of it, it is unfortunate for our country, too. It doesn’t take a degree in psychology to recognise that Joyce’s behaviour is symptomatic of an over active ego often associated with a narcissistic personality. This further supports the thesis that those with sociopathic personality traits tend to be over represented in politics.
With all things political, there is always more at play than readily meets the eye. Bearing this and the behaviour of Joyce in mind, when applying the blow torch of critical thinking to the overall behaviour of the political elites it should not come as a surprise to find an oversupply of narcissists lurking in the upper echelons of Australian politics. Perhaps the inherent vindictiveness that shows itself in the character of elites dominating this nation’s political and business landscape is a consequence of a distinct lack of diversity in socio-political ranks. Speaking from a rationalist perspective, it has to be considered that whether in opposition or in government the duty of all politicians to serve in the public interest is the root of the problem. Especially for those who believe themselves to be so superior that they are god’s gift to the world.
Obviously, it would be completely absurd for anyone to suggest that Barnaby Joyce is alone when it comes to being underserving of holding a position in high office. That is why scrutiny as to our politician’s integrity is important and for the media to underestimate the significance of this on the public psyche is foolhardy. Like it or not, politicians as decision-makers are role models insofar as they are pivotal to the proper functioning of society. Naturally this makes what they do in public and in private newsworthy.
Though it is true to say the character of our politicians is newsworthy, it matters not a toss so long as right-wing media bias prevents the general public having ready access to accurate information that gives due scrutiny to those issues that go to the character of political elites. Moreover, so long as the public perceives choices at the ballot box are tainted by misinformation including that which is a result of media bias, the public for the most part will remain cynical of politics and its processes. After all, being cheated of the right to be fully informed is to cheat people of their right to express themselves in keeping with the intent and substance of those democratic principles that the great majority of Australians hold so dear. On the upside, so long as democracy in this country is not seen to be done, the rise in public dissatisfaction will increase the momentum for socio-political change. And to that extent, as an activist for revolutionary social, economic, and environmental change, I am honour bound to thank the mainstream media.
Putting my aspirations for a better society aside, there is no excuse for the mainstream media’s conspiracy of silence that cheated the people of New England of their right to make an informed assessment of Joyce’s character before casting their votes. The people of New England – along with the entire population – were manipulated by way of the media forestalling the truth behind Joyce’s PR spin being discovered. The character of our politicians is a matter of utmost importance, but the good people of New England were prevented from seeing the guile of a politician who showed no compunction when blatantly exploiting his family time and time again in the lead up to the by-election. Led by political bias and the arrogant desire to control the flow of information, the mainstream media showed they cannot be trusted and as such are deserving of the public’s contempt.
It was clearly the media’s conservative bias that inspired their conspiracy of silence that saved Joyce from being exposed as creep whose innate duplicity knows no bounds. While it has to be said that having an affair with a much younger staffer exposes Joyce to be a dishonourable man with seriously flawed judgement, it is his manifest lack of integrity – or to be more precise – his innate Machiavellian character that makes him unfit for office, let alone being afforded the distinction of the office as Deputy Prime Minister of Australia.
Furthermore, that mainstream news outlets saw fit to conceal Barnaby Joyce’s treachery puts the lie to the notion of checks and balances concomitant with the press being afforded the status as the fourth estate. Moreover, it exemplifies the fear that government-controlled funding cuts in the ABC has undermined the public’s democratic right to be fully informed. Those wishing to hold public office have an obligation to the electorate to be open and transparent in both their private and public lives. Again, I reiterate, the public have a democratic right to information that goes to the calibre of a politician’s character.