Monday, 3 November 2008

Why the media are deaf to Rudd's blabbing

Andrew Bolt has been jumping up and down recently about Rudd leaking like a sieve after his chats with foreign leaders - particularly GWB. The question that keeps getting asked is this: "Why is the media not all over this like a rash?"

One commenter even made mention of the "cone of silence" that seems to have descended onto this issue.

It's not a cone of silence - it's a cone of ignorance.

I spoke to my own version of "Jack the Insider" - a man who spent 20 years in the guts of the federal government; a man who had daily contact with the press corps (a few of you will know who I am talking about). His view was simple - the press gallery might spend most of their life in Canberra reporting on politics, but they actually have no idea of how our parliament and government and public sector actually function. None. No idea whatsover. Someone like Laurie Oakes can spend 20 or 30 years dining with federal MPs and still be utterly ignorant of what an MP does.

They think they know, simply because they've been hanging around the place for so long, but that's like the hospital janitor who thinks he knows how to conduct brain surgery because he's been mopping the corridors outside the operating theatres for 20 years. The janitor might have a superficial view of what is going on, and they might have picked up some of the lingo, but they are still stunningly ignorant. Even the theatre nurses that work beside the surgeons might understand a lot of what is going on, but I still wouldn't trust one of them to pick up a scalpel to finish an operation if the surgeon got the shakes.

Watching what is going on - or to be more accurate, watching a small part of what is going on - does not in itself impart knowledge, wisdom or experience. Remember what it was like the first time you got to drive a car? You'd been watching mum and dad do it for years, seen lots of driving in movies and so on - but how many people still ended that first drive soaked in sweat, having bunny hopped up and down the street every time the clutch was released?

According to my insider, journalists actually get to see only a very small part of what really goes on - but they think they are privy to it all. That's the kicker - they really don't understand how small a fraction of government that they get to see.

So when this Rudd blabbing scandal blows up, it fails to blow up because the great majority of the media just don't get how serious it is. Their limited understanding of government and politics and convention fails to equip them with the knowledge to see this story for what it is.

Let me give you a military example. Let's say I walked onto a base with a reporter and saw troops walking past a certain officer and failing to salute, whilst saluting every other officer in sight. That would set off all sorts of alarm bells in my head, but a reporter with no military experience would fail to pick it up. They might have been to lots of Defence Department briefings and a few photo-ops with the Minister, and thus think that they have a complete understanding of how the military operates, but in reality, they are more ignorant of things military than the deepest backwoods country bumpkin is of opera.

So the Rudd blab-fest fails to raise the hackles of most Canberra hacks because they really have no understanding of the theatrical production in front of them. To go back to the analogy of going to the opera - I have been to the occasional opera. The sets look nice, the costumes are fancy, the singing is great and the music can be moving - but they are singing in a foreign language, and if I have not bothered to read the synopsis, or if the sur-titles are not working, then I really don't have a fucking clue as to what is going on. I might enjoy the spectacle, but the deeper meaning of the whole thing is completely lost on me.

That, unfortunately, is how most of our press gallery operates. They don't get a copy of the script, they're not trained as opera singers, they've never performed on stage themselves and the whole thing is undertaken in a language they don't understand.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree with your point about the journos not understanding a pollie's job, but this never prevented them from being all over a conservative's MP's perceived peccadillos like a rash.

The journos are simply ignoring Rudd's disgraceful behaviour because they all invested so much in getting him and Therese into the lodge; and they know that if they dare criticise Rudd they'll be shut out of the game by every Minister's bugle in Canberra.

If he felt so inclined, Rudd could take up where his comrade Milton Orkopoulos left off with absolute impunity.