When I was out for my walk this morning, I saw a copy of someone’s Daily Telegraph front page, entirely taken up with the gleeful pronouncement, YES, HE CAN! The Tele is Sydney’s biggest-selling and worst newspaper, a News Ltd tabloid, although long gone are the days when the difference between broadsheets and tabloids concerned their content and not their column inches. It’s a last-minute push for Tony Abbott, and no, he really can’t.
It’s revolting and offensive enough that the Tele has blatantly ripped off Barack Obama’s successful campaign slogan, suggesting a not-so-subliminal association to voters between Obama and Abbott (ridiculous on absolutely every level there is, except maybe that they’ve both fathered daughters), but what’s worse is that the News Ltd flagship, The Australian, ran a similar headline on its front page on Tuesday: Yes, he will: Abbott meets PM’s Challenge. Note the cunning omission of the other candidate’s name? You have to admire the subtleties of this kind of manipulation – it’s pretty impressive, even if it does make me sick. Yes, can, will, meets: active, leading, positive language. It’s the eve of the election, and Murdoch-owned News Limited’s message is clear.
At least the Tele is blatant in its bias – and I didn’t expect any more of that particular paper, but I am always horribly disappointed when The Australian takes its reportage cues from its sister publication, and I can’t find any other interpretation of this piece of grotesque populist partiality from Paul Kelly, supposedly one of Australia’s leading and certainly one of its most senior journalists. I actually gagged reading this yesterday:
He offered prudence, personal conviction and the humility of the common man. […] Though tired, Abbott’s natural rapport with people was manifest.
Most questioners called him “Tony”. He came over as an authentic, competent, down-to-earth Aussie asking for the public’s trust. Win or lose, the Abbott personality is now penetrating — genuine, self-effacing and imbued with the sense of human imperfection.
Abbott never promises the sun, moon or stars. He is strong on the limits of government, given his drive against waste and deficits.
Jesus. Give me a break! ‘Though tired’ – please!!!!! It’s embarrassingly romanticised, biased language – as if Gillard isn’t dead on her feet by this stage too! And this is not a biblical struggle, despite appealing to Abbott’s Jesuit education at one of Sydney’s most expensive schools. ‘Down-to-earth Aussie’? You must be joking, Paul Kelly.
By contrast, Kelly repeatedly characterises Gillard as spiky and aggressive (and stresses Labor’s negative campaign against Abbott, as though the Coalition hasn’t run its campaign against Gillard along exactly the same lines), which is smart, because no one could accuse him of ignoring or downgrading her performance, only of suggesting she is one pushy chick, and since the scale of her ambition is no longer in any question whatsoever, well, no surprises there. But it does ever so gently stoke that lingering fear, loathing and suspicion plenty of Australians still have about strong women. Kelly favours adjectives like ‘relentless,’ ‘determined’ and ‘combative’ in his depiction of Gillard, and I can almost feel the collective lip curl in disdain.
It’s shrewd spin, but unbiased reportage it most definitely is not, and it concerns me deeply that there’s no honesty or transparency about media’s by now near total abandonment of its stated remit. Elections are not horse races or sporting events, but everywhere you look today across various media, all you’ll find is the language of the track. And guess what? It’s ‘neck and neck’ and voters are still ‘hedging their bets.’
I hope those huge numbers of undecided voters have come across at least some of the material that removes the muzzle very wisely fixed across Abbott’s jaw throughout this campaign, because there are things that people really should know about him. Among other much more recent clangers, GetUp! unearthed this 1980s example from Sydney University’s student magazine, in which the undergraduate Abbott says: ‘It would be folly to expect that women would ever dominate or even approach equal representation in a large number of areas, simply because their aptitudes, abilities and interests are different for physiology reasons.’
This guy? Lead my country? No, he can’t.