“If you spoke to any Coalition MP – even those appear on it – they’d admit the program does lean to the left.”
Coalition Senator James McGrath
Last night after reading the above quote, I immediately began to ponder what a rough deal Collingwood gets from the umpires week after week – ask any Collingwood supporter and they’ll all admit that umpires do lean toward the other side…
Strangely, most people would quickly realise that the Collingwood supporter may not be the best person to ask if you’re hoping for an unbiased, independent analysis. Something about a conflict of interest.
However, the Coalition seem to have it framed beautifully. If you don’t agree that the ABC is a mob of Trotskyites aiming to bring down our system by giving too much air space to Labor and The Greens – and by too much, we mean, any – then you must be on their side and clearly, you’re not on Team Australia and you’d probably just roll out the red carpet to those asylum seekers.
Last year, I wrote about the way information is framed as being very important. If you run a story about young people hanging around shopping centres harassing other people and follow it with a poll about support for work for the dole, you’ve probably added a few percentage points to the “Yes” vote.
Whenever the Coalition starts to talk about ABC bias, I remember back before the Iraq war, Richard Alston and others argued that it wasn’t presenting a “balanced view”. Among the things that the Liberals found objectionable was an interviewer who had a very “cynical” tone when interviewing someone about the WMDs.
Remember those Weapons of Mass Destruction? For those of you who don’t it went something like this:
Coalition of the Willing: We were attacked on 9/11. Surrender your WMDs.
Iraq: We ain’t got none. You took ’em all after the gulf war.
COTW: We don’t believe you!
Iraq: You can check. Besides it wasn’t us who attacked you.
Weapons inspectors are sent in.
COTW: The inspectors can’t find them because they’re not clever enough to see through you sneaky Iraqis. If you don’t hand over your weapons we’re coming in to get them.
Iraq: I told you before. We ain’t got none.
COTW: This is your last chance! We’re going to count to three! One…
Iraq: What are you? Deaf? Don’t you remember? You took them all away.
COTW: Two… Ok, attack.
Iraq: Hey what happened to three?
COTW: Mission accompllished.
Left wing Media: So where were the weapons?
COTW: Because we had to wait on the UN, they had time to sneak them out the country so we wouldn’t find them.
Left Wing Media: Which is, of course, what you do when you’re about to be attacked. Hide all your weapons!
COTW: Forget the WMDs, the important thing is restoring democracy and freedom in Iraq.
Mm, did anyone else notice how the “mission” in Iraq was re-framed from being about protecting the West from attack to being about removing a dictator and restoring freedom? The WMDs were only a small part of the reason apparently… Hardly worth mentioning, so let’s never do it again.
Anyway, let’s just accept that the ABC has a long history of bias and has cynically criticised the Coalition of the Willing, as well as the current Coalition of the More Than Willing If Only Someone Would Do Something Where We Can Have A War. The ABC has also shown its true colours by running “science” programs which everyone knows is a thinly veiled attack on the Liberal position on science, which is to say that it should be in the hands of people who know how to manipulate it to come up with the evidence which backs the position of the government.
And so we move to Bill Shorten and his conflict of interest. Let’s look at how this is being framed by the media. First, it’s being suggested that he conspired to reach a deal which left members of his union working for below award wages. Ok, let’s just pause a minute here and remember that this was negotiated under the Liberal government that introduced Workchoices which reduced the allowable matters that could be included in awards. The Liberals were all about “flexibility”, so it seems odd to hear the faux outrage from Abbott. Yes, I can see that workers and the Labor movement could think that this is poor form, but the loudest criticism isn’t coming from the left.
But more interesting to me is the way any funds that have been directed to Bill Shorten’s political career are being portrayed.
Now, I know that Shorten isn’t the most popular leader Labor’s ever had, and I know that he seems just a wee bit too ambitious, but let’s just put that to one side to allow me to frame this slightly differently.
The union movement is strongly connected to the Labor Party. Many, many unions divert funds to attempt to help the Labor Party get elected. One union managed to find creative ways to direct funds to help Bill Shorten’s political career.
Yes, I know that it’d be much more ethical to have held dinners and to have charged large sums of money for access, but who’d want to have dinner with Bill Shorten? Maybe Labor could organise something where people paid money not to have dinner with Bill Shorten. For an extra ten dollars, they could not have dinner with Joe Hockey on the same night. Or perhaps if they simply allowed the Mafia to organise the dinner, people could have received an invitation that they couldn’t refuse.
Everything is about framing. That’s why we end up thinking that any money Shorten’s election campaign received is “a conflict of interest”, but any money that the Liberals received from businesses – even family businesses – presents no “conflict of interest”. That’s what’s enabled Abbott to actually present the fact that they’ve shut down information on “operational matters” as a successful stopping of the boats when the simple truth is that, even if boats were arriving, nobody would be allowed to tell us. But even if one accepts that the stopping of the boats is an Abbott government success, one has to wonder how they’ve managed to frame it as though it’s a really, really important thing.
Panic, because we’re being invaded. They’re coming to get us. We need strong borders. Relax a bit, you’ve got a strong government. But not too much, because there are people out there who want to harm you. You know, the ABC and Bill Shorten. I mean, they’re not on our side.
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