Gaslighting. When media deny collusion.

10 Feb


In this discussion between journalists Malcolm Farr, Alice Workman, Caroline Overington and Fran Kelly yesterday, Farr and Workman take a swipe at those of us who have suggested that there has been collusion between the press gallery and the government to keep the Barnaby Joyce affair under wraps.

(Interesting times, Overington, a Murdoch employee, attacks her colleagues for not reporting on the Joyce affair.)

In fact, there’s nothing like suggesting collusion to invoke scorn and contempt from press gallery and msm journalists, who seem to assume that what one actually means by that term is an overt decision, taken in the middle of the night on burner phones by senior public servants, government MPs and senior media management to not publish or to delay publication of material that could in some way affect their mutual interests.

Such a scenario might well play out from time to time, I have no idea, however, what I mean when I use the term “collusion” is something far more subtle.

Every workplace, every family, every institution, every social media platform, indeed every human interaction is governed by overt rules, agreed upon by the culture and known to everyone. Far more elusive, however, are the unspoken rules, the implicit codes, the behavioural nuances deemed appropriate and inappropriate that you won’t find in policies and procedures guidelines. These are part of the culture of every institution, and all individual interactions. These tacit assumptions exercise an unspoken and unacknowledged control, constrain behaviour, and are arguably are more influential in determining behaviour than are the overt rules.

The press gallery, msm journalists, government employees and MPs are as enslaved by these unspoken cultural requirements as is any other human being. When Guardian journalist Katharine Murphy tweeted about the “convention” in the press gallery that MPs’ private lives are a no go area, she was referring to these unspoken rules.

It is to these undocumented conventions that I refer when suggesting  collusion or conspiracy between the press gallery and the government.

It probably won’t take you very long to identify the unspoken rules in your family that governed your behaviour, and the effects they’ve had on your life for better or for worse. Or in social media interactions, in the workplace, where nobody tells you about these cultural conventions, you have to pick them up, and you can be mightily ostracised if you unknowingly transgress. It isn’t difficult to image the powerful hold unverbalised conventions have over the culture that is parliament and the press gallery. Murphy names but one.

This conspiracy of silence on private lives in Australian politics cannot help but position the “ordinary” citizen as an outsider, marginalised in a democratic process to which we are, in theory if increasingly not in practice, essential. Many of us sense this exclusion and privilege, and many of us describe it, quite legitimately, as conspiracy and collusion.

Perhaps nobody actually said, “do not publish anything on the Joyce affair.” But nobody actually needed to spell it out. It would be known, via that mysterious process characterised as a nod and a wink, and in some instances not even that much would be required, what was to be said about Joyce, and when it was to be said, if it was to be said at all, and by whom. This is a process to which the punters cannot possibly have any access, and it is perfectly reasonable for us to experience that as collusion and conspiracy.

We are then gas-lighted by journalists who deny such a process ever takes place, and that we’re crazed conspiracy theorists living with our mothers, writing paranoid blogs in our grubby dressing gowns.

There are, however, instances in which the subtleties are abandoned and more direct orders issued. AFR journo Phil Coorey published this in December 2017:

Queenslander Keith Pitt, who Mr Joyce does not like, was not only overlooked but dumped from his job as parliamentary secretary for trade,” Coorey wrote.

“The two recently had a bitter argument about Mr Joyce’s infidelity and marriage breakup. Mr Joyce blamed Mr Pitt for spreading the rumours, a claim Mr Pitt denies.

Shortly afterwards these paragraphs disappeared from Coorey’s piece, after both Pitt and Joyce contacted him with denials. Fortunately, Twitter had secured a screen shot of Coorey’s original piece.


11 Responses to “Gaslighting. When media deny collusion.”

  1. Rex Willliams February 10, 2018 at 11:51 am #

    Overington gets a mention.

    But don’t forget Guthrie, a Murdoch plant to bring down the ABC and she is excelling in every respect, as they are no better that a second rate commercial channel nowadays.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jennifer Wilson February 10, 2018 at 1:24 pm #

      Agree, Rex. The degeneration of the ABC has escalated tenfold under Guthrie. Barely listenable/watchable now.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Rex Willliams February 10, 2018 at 2:48 pm #

        I am pulling up my sticks in Canberra where I have charmed the locals through the Canberra Times letters for 10 years and heading away to the Blue Mountains where politicians seldom frequent. Oh, what a blessing.
        But before I goI would like to compliment you on the service you provide, a quality effort for all people anxious to read truthful comment, rare elsewhere these days.
        But I will keep up my reading of your writing efforts and with more time to spare even pick up a pen at times to comment.

        It is sad, Jennifer how a country once a small (in population) first world country, has gone from being a British slave, to become an American lapdog, fighting battles in places where the US controls opium, up 3600% in 10 years; alienating countries 10,000 kilometres from our shores for no reason other than supporting US hegemony and allows our own Reserve Bank to devalue our own dollar so our cost of living accelerates wildly; where our young will NEVER own their own homes anymore; where our country can be purchased for 75 cents in the US dollar and we spend so much on tertiary training to produce graduates who will never find a job while the skilled tradesmen we need so badly will take another three years to be available for hire if they start their careers today. Our values are all haywire.

        What is wrong is clearly the quality of our politicians who can survive year after year on $180,000 plus and for some simple reason we just do not attract the right people into our governments, one feckless PM after another by voting out of office the likes of Keating and not voting into office the likes of John Hewson.

        We deserve what we get.
        So keep up the high standards. They aren’t many other standards one can be proud of in this now very ordinary second world country, sadly.

        Unlikely ever to be any different now. We had our chance at fame and fortune and blew it.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Jennifer Wilson February 10, 2018 at 5:39 pm #

          Many thanks for your post, rex, and your appreciation of th blog.
          All th best for your new life, and please, they have WiFi in the mountains, do keep visiting and commenting.

          I agree, the state of our country is heartbreaking, and I don’t know how it will improve.


  2. Marilyn February 10, 2018 at 5:29 pm #

    The press gallery work on the top floor of the house with horrid hot offices, they take ages to get to any actual pollies rooms if they ever bother, it’s quite a walk to the public galleries, in fact you need a cut lunch and water bottle to get from any office to the dining room.

    Absent any other actual human contact they sit and pick each others nits till they get a yarn they all like. Then they pass it off as actual news.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson February 10, 2018 at 5:40 pm #

      I suspect you might be right, Marilyn


      • Marilyn February 10, 2018 at 6:48 pm #

        I know I am, I worked for a senator for a year in that place, it’s the most user unfriendly building on the planet.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. paul walter February 10, 2018 at 7:34 pm #

    I’ve just passed a comment at AIM, so will come back later when I have thought things through a little more. As Marilyn would tell you, it has been assiduously hot in SA and a person can feel a little jaded as the deadening effects of a cool change finally work their way through.

    Brief comment here: what fairy stories the ignorant, arrogant media and press spin for the oiks, god help us and them as if they actually believe their own bullshit as much as they think we should swallow much of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson February 12, 2018 at 8:20 am #

      Actually, PW, I’d find it marginally more acceptable if they did believe their bullshit, rather than consciously deceiving & manipulating.


  4. doug quixote February 11, 2018 at 12:20 am #

    The gaslighting is the funniest part; rather like Trump and his cries of “fake news” whenever anything contradicts the way he wants the world to be, or fondly imagines it to be.

    From one point of view you can’t blame them for incestuously protecting what little privacy they have. They have to live cheek by jowl with these people for months on end, and hope to get some degree of candid comment. The sort of candid comment they’ll never get if they are known to publish the private doings of the likes of Baaarnaby.

    Hypocrisy abounds; a ‘conspiracy of silence’ if one uses the term loosely. It is more of a convergence of interests – the journalists’ interest in getting close to their sources, the politicians’ interests in getting away with whatever it is they’d rather hide.

    Then they will steal the eyes out of your head and declare that you were born blind.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson February 12, 2018 at 8:22 am #

      Oh, I love that last sentence DQ.

      Perhaps journos should be rotated in the press gallery. No longer than the electoral cycle.

      Of course they’d howl that they were unable to form “relationships” with lollies, but perhaps that is no bad thing.


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