Goddamn it I’m kind of loathe to add to the sextrillion words already spilled vainly over That Speech last week, but I feel that there is one thing that remains unremarked upon.
I’m certainly not about to dive in to the debate over what is/isn’t sexism/misogyny, other than to say that as a man, I’m not positioned to judge how women should feel about things, and that it’s clear that Tony Abbott almost certainly is not a misogynist and almost certainly is a sexist.
The addendum to this debate, one that emerged rapidly on the heels of the speech itself, is whether or not the ‘press gallery’ was wrong to fixate on the fact that the PM was speaking in defence of Peter Slipper, whose text messages were certainly not a glowing endorsement of the fairer sex.
“WHY ARE YOU FOCUSSING ON SUCH IRRELEVANCE” came the cry from vocal corners of Twitter, which acts effectively these days as a channel for intelligent spokespeople of non-journalistic background to speak up against media intransigence. “We are here to provide context and we know best” came the journalistic retort.
Clearly the massively consistent reporting of Gillard’s speech as a ‘failure’ and ‘hypocrisy’ was faintly ridiculous, given that it was not how the speech was being received across the populace. 1.6 million views of the youtube clip in six days indicates that the gallery had its finger utterly removed from the national pulse. Getting bogged down in the minutiae showed that political journalists missed what is clearly a historical moment. My former TBL comrade Max/Hunter/Paul put it best when he said it was “our generation’s Redfern speech”.
By stressing the importance of Slipper, the media wound up (and will likely wind up) looking like fools, much like the Chicago Tribune, commenting in the wake of the Gettysburg Address:
“The cheek of every American must tingle with shame as he reads the silly flat and dishwattery [sic] remarks of the man who has to be pointed out as the President of the United States. … Is Mr. Lincoln less refined than a savage? … It was a perversion of history so flagrant that the most extended charity cannot view it as otherwise than willful.”
Obviously, the lens of history makes them look like a proper arse, and no doubt in future several quotes will re-emerge, making them look even more foolish, removed as they will be from the immediacy of the parliamentary moment.
While I think the gallery wrote a bunch of junk, and should have realised that this was a moment that deserved attention, rather than trying to dictate to readers what the readers should think was important, there is a case for sympathy for them.
In almost every other case, the non-journalistic eloquence of that particular slice of Twitter is fierce in its prosecution of journalists who fail to provide detail and context, instead simply offering simplistic ‘analysis’ that confirms existing audience prejudice. That when Tony Abbott rails against the carbon price, reporters simply repeat the claims and the government’s counter-claims. And they’d be right. But still, when political writers DO look deeper, and offer context, it’s a little bit stupid to be suggesting that their reporting should be dictated purely by the angle that the audience finds most appealing.
Still, what a speech. If I have a daughter, I’m going to play it for her before she’s 12.