Tim Dunlop on Tony Abbott’s Press Gallery Cheer Squad

1804joh8_gallery__550x383,0In posing the question yesterday about why Tony Abbott’s expenses claims attracted so little scrutiny during the last term of Parliament, I might have added that the way they are being reported now is interesting, to say the least. Headlines like “PM Slips Up on Claims”.

This is just by way of a strong recommendation that you read Tim Dunlop’s latest piece at King’s Tribune, about Mr Abbott and the Press Gallery:

I just wish they had more pride in their profession, were less willing to let Mr Abbott lead them by the nose. I wish they had more respect for the citizenry whom they purport to serve, and that they would actually cast a genuinely critical eye over what the government is doing rather than faffing around trying to explain to us why black is now white.

You can read the whole thing here.

For those in Brisbane, Tim will be speaking on a panel about the future of media and journalism at Avid Reader tonight at 6pm. Sorry about the short notice (I’ve been busy), but I believe tickets are still available.


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16 responses to “Tim Dunlop on Tony Abbott’s Press Gallery Cheer Squad”

  1. dave

    Tim’s analysis is spot on but his premise is weak. There is no fourth estate or at least not one as popularly conceived. The mainstream media is complicit with other institutional forms of authority in maintaining consent, or as Chomsky put it manufacturing consent. That authority doesn’t necessarily rest in symbolic public places such as the PM, rather it is largely unseen and people like Abbott are merely proxies.

    Therefore while there is a logical contradiction in how the press treats Abbott and his cronies now they are the government compared with how the previous government was treated, the contradiction ignores the connections between the mainstream media and representatives of real power and authority. For anyone who believes that so-called fourth estate values transcend real power relationships, I have a special price on certain bridge they should be interested in.

  2. paul burns

    One or two enterprising souls asked Abbott searching questions in Bali re expenses to the point he couldn’t fob them off. Once back here, I’m sure he’ll be back to hide and seek with the press on his terms. What I would like to know is how long will Abbott’s avoidance of the press pack go on before editors start telling their journos to go out and get some news on him. The tactic might backfire. After a few months of this, provided Labor don’t make themselves the story again, the journos might get annoyed and the zeitgeist might turn anti-Coalition.
    Already one or two of them seem to be manufacturing differences between the Nats/rural Libs and free trade Libs, if only in a miniscule way.
    One can only live in hope I suppose.

  3. philip travers

    Over complex Tim.The mistreatment of media,is what they may well expect,after all they are also close up and remove their five o’clock shadows for presentation purposes.And Abbot is a master of patience,seeing that in others,then testing himself.Not as quick in the boxing ring as Fly like a Butterfly sting like a BEE,BUT proficient enough,to sense his own weakness whilst the media feel changes in the heat and metabolic rates.Up close his eyebrows conform to the impression that he will not copy Menzies and Hawke in lifting either.Straightness in eyebrow archery means the PRESS William Tells are still in the feeling mode.Maid Marion and other cross hairs of the modernised sheriff of Nottingaustralia,[are being just the figures on the wooden board next to the Queen with names of the club officials]rather than the badge. If everything including the World starts whenever Labor wins or has a new leader,then Abbott made it to the last century cranking up the car.Muscle man extraordinaire what actually does anyone know about Abbott!? Other than what the media itself has created by Abbott being involved in it directly!?Apart from being either told by the bosses or implied hinted or nodded…….. essentially, nothing! Maybe there is a fear in the press about this that is below the level of the conscious,but occasionally the rumour mill hints,or imagination are the shoe laces not to trip over.One thing occured to me today when Abbott was talking about Bali victims and how he got to know these people.[That in itself would take some time,how much time,is a speculation.] The question of doing homework or being well briefed as a choice,is something that I CANNOT TELL.

  4. Darryl Rosin

    Lord. Journalists DO have pride in their profession. Try talking to one for a few minutes and your shoes will be covered in their pride. Lack of professional pride is the opposite of the problem we have. (Nemesis, where are you when we need you?)

    “What I would like to know is how long will Abbott’s avoidance of the press pack go on before editors start telling their journos to go out and get some news on him.”

    If they were going to get bored with him, they would have by now.

    One can only live in hope I suppose.

    Hope is for the weak.


  5. zorronsky

    I agree with Dave and add that the MSM will obfuscate by turning the debate to Labor whether warranted or not . It has always been so because, as Dave rightly points out, the MSM is complicit. Watch for the friendly press toward the mining maggots..magnates in and out of parliament.

  6. zorronsky

    Also re the MSM, the re-naming of the carbon price was a done deal once they took up Abbott’s chant and nothing Gillard or anyone else could have done would have reversed it.
    The US media has successfully mirrored that with Obamacare or the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act . Something that the pro conservative Australian media including the ABC has taken to with gusto.

  7. adrian

    Yes dave is right – anyone who expects any change in the dynamic is deluding themselves.

    Any questioning of Abbott, or any negative articles are just there as a gentle reminder as to what will happen if the payback isn’t forthcoming.

    And Darryl, the point is that they have pride in themselves and their place in the information universe, but can’t have any pride in a profession that they haven’t a clue about.
    Just because they work as so called journalists does not automatically mean that they understand what it means as a profession.

    Judge them by their actions and most clearly haven’t a clue.

  8. jules

    Dave @ 1 – have you read Propaganda by Edward Bernays?

    Bernays is considered the father of PR, was heavily influential on Goebbels (Bernays is Jewish and found out about Goebbels respect for his work late in his life, in the 1960s,) and thought that social control via pr, media etc etc was a fundamental part of a functioning democracy.

    Bernays is an interesting character – its easy to criticise him and he deserves some, but he wasn’t necessarily a shithead. His involvement in pr events that have changed American, and as a result Western culture is undeniable. He promoted smoking in the 1920s (and anti smoking campaigns later in his life), fluoridation, equal rights for non whites, fascism in Guatemala… heaps of other stuff too.

    I’ve found myself thinking about Bernays alot since Rudd got elected.


    To me it seems the “press pack” also seems to follow similar rules of behaviour to flocks, herds and schools of fish. As well as humans in a crowd. Some individuals lead, and a basic set of game/behavioural rules to keep moving in the same direction, or change direction in response to threats/stimuli means the media is so samey.

    Once upon a time media diversity probably worked against this pack behaviour because different media outlets would need different pov to differentiate their products. These days there is effectively one pov.

  9. Alison

    Whatever way you look at the Australian media, you don’t have the information on any subject from them; politics, they know nothing about it. Starting to think ABC would be better sold off, a relief not to have to follow their political rubbish.

  10. Helen

    Laurie Oakes, quoted in Tim’s article:

    Gillard’s attempts to slow the cycle failed. It was one of the things that brought her government – and Kevin Rudd’s – undone.
    But Tony Abbott slowed it over the last few weeks. Almost brought it to a stop, in fact, as far as news from the new Coalition Government is concerned.
    Never before in Australian politics has there been such a quiet transition to a new administration.

    Laurie! Dude!
    Have you considered the possibility that we were all just friggin’ exhausted?

  11. Darryl Rosin

    Just because they work as so called journalists does not automatically mean that they understand what it means as a profession.

    I don’t think I could disagree more. The professionals employed in a profession have the strongest claim by far in defining what the profession is. Who else could decide?

    Don’t try coming at me with some ‘O, the fourth estate is crucial to the functioning of a democracy’ crap. Do you go to a barber to for bloodletting, tooth-pulling and enemas? No? Then don’t go to a journalist to try and find out what’s happening in the world.

    The media exists to sell advertisements. Journalists exist to attract an audience to the advertisements. That system worked kind of OK in a ‘public interest’ sense for a while, but not any more.

    Something has died in the walls of our mediasphere. You know, you get the occasional unpleasant whiff, but it doesn’t go away and gets stronger and more constant and you eventually accept that an ostrich or hippo got in there somehow and there’s no easy or pleasant way to deal with the problem and you’re going to have to tear the walls out and not have a fully liveable home fo a while. That’s where I’m at with journalists now. I have a powerful, boiling anger and disgust in my belly for all of them. If they have any sense of shame or dignity they should start calling themselves “bloggers” or “customer service professionals” or something.


  12. wpd

    considered the possibility that we were all just friggin’ exhausted?

    When it came to ‘persistence’ Abbott and his team were never exhausted. It was total war. It was both strategic and tactical. And 24/7.

    Lessons to be learned.

  13. faustusnotes

    Journalists were, in my experience, the stupidest people at uni by a long shot. Coincidence? I think not …

  14. Alphonse

    Dunlop nails it. I’d add that Mark Kenny, latterly of The Adelaide Advertiser, now SMH Senior Political Correspondent (a Gina hire?), has not shed his conditioned Murdochian responses:

    If I expected our media to behave like an impartial school of sharks, I’d be mystified by the absence of daily stories about the baton in Malcolm’s knapsack.

  15. jules

    Alphonse I don’t think impartiality has anything to do with our current situation.

    This study plays with how humans react in crowds, and its had me wondering since i saw it 3 or 4 years ago if could be applied to the media in Australia.

    Here’s the abstract:

    In groups of animals only a small proportion of individuals may possess particular information, such as a migration route or the direction to a resource. Individuals may differ in preferred direction resulting in conflicts of interest and, therefore, consensus decisions may have to be made to prevent the group from splitting. Recent theoretical work has shown how leadership and consensus decision making can occur without active signalling or individual recognition. Here we test these predictions experimentally using humans. We found that a small informed minority could guide a group of naive individuals to a target without verbal communication or obvious signalling. Both the time to target and deviation from target were decreased by the presence of informed individuals. When conflicting directional information was given to different group members, the time taken to reach the target was not significantly increased; suggesting that consensus decision making in conflict situations is possible, and highly efficient. Where there was imbalance in the number of informed individuals with conflicting information, the majority dictated group direction. Our results also suggest that the spatial starting position of informed individuals influences group motion, which has implications in terms of crowd control and planning for evacuations.

    Its an interesting read on its own, without considering it in light of how the traditional media in Australia behaves.

  16. Megan

    What’s extraordinary is that even though Gillard is gone, Abbott still has most of the press corps nuzzling up to him like kittens at the teats of a loving mother. Why does this happen?

    Love it! And I’m disappointed with Laurie Oakes, who almost seems to have a thing for Tony Abbott. In another article he said he gave an aspiring Abbott a glowing reference saying how great with words this man is. But I remember Tim Dunlop’s blog on a Murdoch website and was surprised at how long he survived.