The week reached peak silliness yesterday when it was declared that a function room should have been immediately evacuated when a comedian made a bad joke. It seems everyone has been caught up in the moveable feast of outrage and victimhood.
The press gallery has certainly been stung by recent criticism of how they reported the Gillard speech.
Some commentators, like Laura Tingle today, have offered reasonable explanations for their earlier pieces, though they stand as slight reinterpretations of original versions. Some, like Dennis Shanahan, feel compelled to restate exactly the same arguments - that Gillard was compounding an earlier mistake, cynically defending her numbers by attacking Abbott - but even more forcefully (as if volume was the problem in the first place). Many journalists have responded to the online furore by implying that it's the social media that are out-of-touch with 'ordinary Australians'; Jonathan Holmes, for example, argues that because politicians speak to 'ordinary people', and press gallery journalists speak to politicians, therefore journalists represent 'ordinary people'.
The press gallery is entitled to argue that, overall, the Gillard speech will likely have a minimal or negative electoral impact; commentators may even argue for this. They are entitled to concentrate on the legislative impacts rather than emotional resonances of speeches. They are also entitled to get it wrong occasionally.
Members of the public are entitled to express enthusiasm for a Prime Minister who speaks to them, but also to question why traditional media saw things so differently. This back-and-forth is the new paradigm.
Graham Richardson asks, "Who will remember that speech (Gillard's) in the days and weeks to come? The answer is very few indeed. What will be remembered from Tuesday's debate is that Abbott sought to remove Slipper from office while Gillard sought to keep him in a post of which he is totally unworthy."
And everyone is entitled to ask, in the days and weeks to come, who will remember Richo's column today?
Nick Feik Politicoz Editor
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Complicated Canberra: Drama Compels, Numbers Count
"The social media raged that the Canberra press gallery 'missed the point' on Tuesday by focusing on the drama surrounding the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Peter Slipper, rather than understanding the PM’s speech was a 'defining' moment in history. Well, the speech is out there for all to see and enjoy. But dismissing the events that surrounded it ignores the fact that the words were but part of the political and human drama of a government trying to hold on to its numbers, and MPs trying to protect a fragile human being."
Hasty Conclusions In A Labyrinthine Week Of Blunders
"It is churlish, as some have done, to argue that Julia Gillard was merely trying to weatherproof herself against legitimate political attacks. There was some substance to her allegations, not yet adequately refuted by anybody… Rarely have we seen one political leader so dominate another in the Parliament. It was fleeting, but it could have longer-term consequences, no matter that the initial impact was diluted and overshadowed by Slipper's resignation. And just as that resignation blunted Gillard's attacks, so did other events blunt the Coalition's advantages."
"SEAN: No one says the man isn't a shrewd orator, Wolf. But what did he hope to accomplish by dragging the press corps all the way down to a remote whistlestop in Pennsylvania just to listen to a few paragraphs on the subject of dead veterans? RACHEL: You know what I think? He was trying to bring closure to a troublesome campaign issue. WOLF: Which one? RACHEL: The Civil War. It's not exactly proving popular in the polls."