Gay Mackie

The problem with smart journalists and dumb politicians

We’re a nation that elects extremely stupid politicians. So, the tendency from some journalists is to elevate their idiocy to higher planes of thinking. This services no-one but themselves.

 

 

Once upon a time, in the haze of the mid-1980s post-lunch drinks, I was offered some unsolicited advice from a chap who’s eyes were as glazed as they were wandering. He had the industry cracked, so he said, and he was willing to offer me the same sage advice. “Keep ’em angry, keep ’em stupid,” he opined, feeding the last of whatever it was on the rocks that crashed into his liver.

However, while the author of that statement is long expired, the sentiment lives on. I feel compelled to write this, as the proliferation of the media has afforded us the opportunity to say more things in more ways than we used to, but the ease of our own voice sees us magnify the same old traps. The core base of journalism is, has, and always will be, ego. We do it in the service of the public, but also to service ourselves. I fear, in 2019, with discourse so divided, and a Senate so disparate, and the fact that we’re always ‘on’, the temptation is to polish every turd and articulate each dud note.

The problem is simple. We see stupid politicians, and because we see ourselves as smarter than they, we attempt to mangle their stupidity into different boxes. Their moronic behaviour is all part of a master plan, it’s all in aid of a thing, something we can’t see. It’s our fault in two parts. We want to be that person with the most articulate disappointment. We can’t, of course, just say that x is an idiot. After all, stepping to that world isn’t professional. It isn’t even journalism, it’s just criticism. This is especially the case if there is no story. Politicians are a simple, avoidant beast. They seek attention and hide from it. It is essentially bait-and-switch. Tony Abbott eats an onion. We discuss the onion, we remember the onion. We forget the real issue surrounding the day, because today is onion day. We’re busy joining the dots that might not be there. We all remember the great onion plot of 201X, those smart enough to get it.

 

 

Of course, we’re the stupid ones, as we undo the simple, the easy, the moronic. After all, the onion has many layers. The problem is that we want to see something that isn’t there. The temptation to see something as cunning, is that it becomes nigh-impossible to differentiate between the faux-cunning and the actual cunning. We’re mozzies to their bug zapper. The problem is that the populace responds to these byte-sized truisms. Everyone wants to believe that their government is corrupt, incompetent, or working in a large plot against them. It’s why we spoke about the who-did-what particulars of Barnaby’s baby. Far too much newspaper type was wasted on that non sequitur. A more recent example was the Prime Minister driving to the Governor General’s house at 7 am to ask for an election. Less was said about why, as we prepared for the day of sausages, but questions should be asked, as the HelloWorld issue that was set to be raised in the Senate Estimates was cancelled by the announcement.

That should have been called out. That should have been the issue.

 

 

This is no less obvious in the mileage gleaned off Scott Morrison’s campaign bus. He’s either on it, not on it, or misusing it. The largest issue is what is he actually doing on that bus, if, in fact, he’s on it at all. If so, why? If not, why not? It feels like journalism. But it quacks like a goose. It’s similar, but wildly different.

 

 

My point is that one of the responsibilities of the journalist is knowing when to talk. There’s always a place to call bullshit when you see it, but we needn’t reinvent the wheel. We should endeavour to remain angry, but always recognise stupid, or evil, or corrupt, and express it in the obvious, truest terms. All else is masturbation.

 

 

Gay Mackie

Gay Mackie is a retired print journalist, who spends her time at yoghurt (yoga), tap dancing and asleep between the hours of 2-4pm. She'd also like to make it clear that the Editor-in-Chief of The Big Smoke is her grandson.

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