For whom the trolls smell

OPINION:

Oh, you poor diddums. Lie down with a cool flannel over your head while I stir a Bex into a nice hot cup of Milo for you.

That’s was my immediate caring, sharing reaction on reading that ABC column by Michael Rowland over the abuse he and fellow political reporters are copping during this federal election campaign.

Trolls are all over them like seagulls on a discarded Bondi Beach potato chip. Ugly, nasty, hurtful trolls pecking away at their professionalism. Spraying their vicious, vituperative vitriol (not to be confused with Vi Trioli) all over dear Michael and his colleagues because they are too left, too right or too right too often. Should be sacked. Or worse.

One even called Rowland an “asshole”. “The sooner he goes from the ABC the better”. Others have called him petty names.

Maybe I should have added a second Bex to his Milo?

I get it that Michael has probably copped much worse that he can’t write about. Which brings us to the question of trolls. Maybe they’re all nuisances but surely only a small proportion are nasty and so devoted to be classed as cyber-bullies? And no-one condones those sorts of actions.

For example, I have sometimes wanted to tweet how fantastic it would be if Des Houghton, Steve Wardill, Renee Viellaris and Peter Gleeson were all stranded on a level crossing in a broken-down car with an old-fashioned Sunlander bearing down on them.

A 17-carriage Sunlander from my youth. That wonderful engine with the one big round headlight. Two baggage cars. The throttle wide open on the Marlborough stretch.sunlanderOLD

But I wouldn’t do that because that would make me a nasty troll, albeit one with the future of quality journalism at heart and in mind.

Besides if they spied the Sunlander a mile away bearing down on them at top speed they’d have about 15 minutes to get out of the car.

Of course not all of Rowland’s colleagues are affected by trolls.

In Rowland’s article, we discover that his former workmate Chris Uhlmann over on Nine is so confident in his fair and balanced reporting at this stage of his brilliant career that once he tweets about a political issue, he waits a while and then deletes all the responses, good and bad, without reading them.

As Uhlmann laments: “Twitter is a peanut gallery of hyper-partisan tools.”

This practice of deleting both the trolls and the tributes is one of “life’s little joys” for Uhlmann, suggesting he needs to get out more.

The Courier-Mail’s national affairs editor Dennis Atkins has said Twitter users had certainly “amped up” over the last few weeks.

“They are shoutier, they are more tribal. They are quick to attack the person rather than engage in the merits of an argument.”

But let’s now get to the heart of this matter. Rowland writes: “While the hyper-partisans are alert to any perceived “bias”, Uhlmann believes one side is way more offensive than the other.

“While one of the memes of the early 21st century is the rise of the aggressive right, the emergence of what I would call the ‘post-Christian left’ is much more of a worry,” Uhlmann says.

No. I haven’t got a fucking clue what he’s on about, either. Maybe he’s suffering from Pentupcostalism? He’s probably a mate of Greg Sheridan who suggests that “a virulent anti-Christian prejudice has crept into much elite culture in the past few decades”.

But I do know about growing left-wing anger over right-wing bias in this election campaign. And it will glow red-hot if we get to see too many more Liberal Party rallying cries like Uhlmann’s piece to camera for Nine on Sunday night.

Egged on by Peter Overton’s introduction that while Labor had introduced that day billions in childcare and aged dental care, the party could not say how they were going to pay for it, Uhlmann sounded like he was geeing up a Liberal strategists’ meeting rather than a journalist doing a to-camera piece.

He banged on how the Libs had been handed a perfect weapon to bash Shorten over the head with “Where’s the money coming from?” taunts from here to election day.

Two things stood out from that rant. Might have been three but I couldn’t tell if he had wet his pants over the excitement of the attack line he’s so sure Shorten has opened for the government.

Uhlmann appeared to have forgotten that Labor has $158 billion in taxes they’ll be collecting over the next decade from policies on the public record for yonks. Make that $387 billion if you believe the government’s shit over Labor refusing to go along with the LNP plan to flatten income tax rates in the mid 2020s.

So, Chris? Where might Labor get the money for an $8 billion promise over four years? Any ideas, pet? Hmmm?

And Uhlmann also decided that Labor is the only side of politics that must immediately disclose all their costings whenever a policy is announced or otherwise they’ll cop a merciless Morrison mauling, exaggerated by Rupe’s rotten rags and just about everyone else. Never mind that the Libs (and Labor) have often left their costings to the death – and recently in the Libs’ case, not at all.

There was a bit of red hot anger on Twitter today over that performance, Chris. Shame you didn’t take them in.

Reading some criticisms rather than just relying on the usual slap on the back and “well dones” the electronic media love so much could be good for you. At least Michael reads the online criticisms. A bloody good idea because you can get a swelled head in TV land with too many “great segues!” and “that was very punny; you’re on fire today, Michael” and “have you done something with your hair?”

To this lifelong print-media hack, there is no faker bubble than the electronic media bubble.

So let’s get to the nitty-gritty of why our nation’s political reporters are copping a lot of legitimate criticism and some trolling, the good the bad and the ugly. Some home truths for Rowland and the other beleaguered scribes mentioned in his piece.

courierbudgetfpThere are countless numbers of Aussies, and I suspect not just lefties, who were firstly appalled but are now just bloody angry over the disgraceful performance of News Corp Australia publications, such as this typical carry-on from The Courier-Mail after the latest Federal Budget (pictured).

A question for the lot of you. Do you think the #newscorpse coverage, with its dominance in Australian print media, is in any way, shape or form fair to Labor? Do you agree that people on the left/centre are entitled to be pissed off?

Ditto for any media outlets that tear and read the news off those publications?

Ditto for Channel 7 just about anywhere around the country?

Ditto for Sky News Australia?

Maybe ditto for the entire Nine Network after Sunday night’s “spoken C. Uhlmann for the Liberal Party of Australia” effort.

We are rightfully fed up to the back teeth, and the ABC is in many ways equally to blame.
Sorry to shock you, Michael but it’s true.

Firstly, let’s dismiss claims that Aunty is left wing, as one of your tweet challengers suggested. As that dear old Queensland Tory Ian McDonald lamented on Facebook just the other day: “Why oh why did I break my rule never to watch the ALP News – sorry ABC News. Full of pro-ALP stories…”

ALP News. Yes, headshakingly unbelievable. You’d laugh in normal circumstances.

Through that door there, Ian, and join the likes of Andrew Bolt, Chris Kenny, Miranda Devine, Janet Albrechtsen et alotmore who all want that hotbed of socialism, the ABC, sold off to guess whom because its reporting doesn’t match the fair and balanced output of those fine journalists.

My best bet, Michael, is that you think the ABC is doing a jolly good job in adhering to its charter of balance and fairness. Well, I and a lot of other people call bullshit on that. Aunty has drifted to the right, probably an understandable response to the intense pressure it’s been under from the RWNJs and government ministers, if that’s not a tautology.

Right across the spectrum these first two campaign weeks, the mainstream media have been acting like Nine’s NRL commentators trying to talk up a contest after a team is leading 28-nil at halftime.

Everyone is craving a tight finish.  Be it Insiders, a Fran Kelly panel on RN, 7.30, general news bulletins, it’s all been about Shorten’s stumbles against a confident and bullish prime minister.

I doubt there was any other news organisation that banged on longer about Shorten’s misspeak on his superannuation policies than the ABC. At least Patrica Karvelas put it in perspective on Insiders on Sunday. Only the staunchest of Liberal supporters would claim that Shorten was deliberately trying to hide or deny superannuation changes that have been on the table for a long, long time.

It was an overblown piece of nonsense yet Barrie Cassidy awarded the first week to the LNP largely on the back of it.

And there is no better example of how Aunty has continued to carry on in the same vein that  Jade Macmillan’s column on Monday. She’s been given a damn good going-over on social media, if not an outright trolling.

And maybe she needs a damn good trolling with lines like this:

Murmurings among the travelling press pack that Mr Shorten’s campaign appears to lack the dynamism of the Prime Minister’s have only grown louder during the last week.

Scott Morrison is constantly captured “doing things” — playing sport, picking carrots, going on a ride at the Royal Easter Show and even shearing a sheep.

Mr Shorten still goes for morning runs but mostly likes to play to his strengths, drawing on his union background to speak to workers at construction sites and hospitals.

Doing things like playing sport, picking carrots, going on a ride…. get off the bus, Jade, for your reputation’s sake, if nothing else. What’s left of it, anyway.

With less than three weeks to go, I’m hoping the ABC might start to concentrate on policy offerings and give what a reporter heard in the bubble of a media campaign bus a break.

So, Michael, cast aside that flannel. Finish your Milo, get up and get back into the fray as the true professional that you are. By all means, reject the really nasty trolls and put them out of your mind.

But cop the furious sprays. And try to appreciate the understandable anger behind many of them. They really are fretting about the future of this country and the integrity of the fourth estate, although it might be too late to do much about the latter.

Don Gordon-Brown