At last one newspaper gets it.
The Courier-Mail’s headline is blunt:
“Every single thing you have ever heard about MH-370 has been wrong.”
I’ve just been listening to a discussion on ABC-24, where one side says this headline is awful, goes too far, and the other says it reflects the truth, especially the subjective truth for the families. It seems that even the bare truth is being resisted. The families, their hopes raised, should be let down more lightly. To what end?
It is hard to get past the enormity of this debacle.
Other searches were conducted and failed. That’s OK, searches DO fail.
But no search was spruiked as much as the Australian-led version.
Despite Angus Houston’s best efforts it was taken out of his hands by a Prime Minister, hungry for publicity and a boost in his poll ratings, in cahoots with a media looking for an excuse to use the description “Prime Ministerial”.
Abbott had not been in Japan for more than a day before those “Prime Ministerial” tags started to flow. You’d have thought he’d negotiated Peace In Our Time the way the press gaggle along for the ride praised his every diplomatic step.
The Japanese “Free Trade” agreement was a triumph, “historic”. This was despite the fact that rumblings back home made it plain it was anything but. On all the major aspects of the deal Japan got exactly what it wanted, conceding very little and gaining a lot. This was certainly true regarding agricultural products.
But the likes of Mark Simkin and others waxed lyrical about Abbott’s near genius. He had learned so much, had not put a foot wrong, had the Asians swooning with admiration and awe at his talents for negotiation.
What seems to have really happened was that Abbott had declared his hand too early. He set a timeline for the conclusions of negotiations and the Japs played him like a kokoyu. They waited until he had nowhere to go and no time left. They knew that by this time Abbott would have signed anything they put in front of him, so much was at stake.
And so he did. Let us just note that the “Free” Trade deal did not go necessarily to Australia’s advantage.
Next was Korea. Abbott was barnstorming the mysterious East, wrapping those little yellow men around his pinky finger. With his suave new hairdo and his furrowless brow, he presented as the very model of a proper Aussie PM.
The media went wild: two down, one to go!
Then came China, our most important trading partner. Abbott had one big card to play: MH-370. He’d already put Perth on the map, conveniently during a Senate by-election, and now he was about to wow the Chinese Premier.
He went public, telling the world that the search was narrowing. He had information that could only be shared with the Chinese Premier.
Back home, story after story appeared about it. Abbott’s name started creeping closer to the top of the articles, with Houston’s contrasting sobriety sinking deeper and deeper into the body of text.
Eventually it had to happen: the search for MH-370 became all Abbott’s, and Houston’s name disappeared altogether. It was as if these stories were written by Abbott’s PR unit, topped and tailed, the by-line changed and then just issued through the various Australian media organs otherwise unedited. Which is probably the case.
So now today comes the admission that we know as much about the disappearance of MH-370 as we knew on day #3 or #4… which is practically nothing.
Abbott, up against his blurted-out ambitions on Free Trade, and unable to announce progress in the search for MH-370, signed the agreements anyway and then made out – falsely – that success in the search too, was imminent.
The hopes of the relatives had been raised to new heights. Abbott’s statements were not those of some cloud-dwelling blogger. He wasn’t a lonely oil rig worker seeing lights in the sky. Nor was he an out-of-work oceanographer seeking publicity by claiming to have “found” the aircraft.
Abbott was the Prime Minister of Australia and (I am sure despite the warnings of Houston) did what he always does: acted first, got himself through the day in Beijing, and the rest can sort itself out later.
Sometimes it’s better to seek forgiveness than ask permission.
But I fear it will be Houston who is seeking forgiveness, not Abbott. Already Truss had been trundled out to front Parliament with the bad news. There is no sign of Abbott. No sign of the man with the condolence motion in his pocket, or the glad handing arm wrestler of Beijing.
We, the public got done over by the media and by the government. What had started out as a serious search, developed – as it always does when Abbott is involved – into a publicity stunt and a bullshit parade.
And increasingly, like other Abbott stunts, it’s fallen as flat as a SAO.
Someone will have to pay for this, and it won’t be Abbott.
Houston may as well resign now.
The story that was woven – one of ever tightening circles, little clues here and there, random pings, obscure satellite data, a growing confidence, culminating in a summit meeting with the Chinese Premier – has been almost completely wrong.
The same technique used to run the “Budget Emergency” and “Labor Waste” lines – constant repetition until we’re nagged into submission – was used with MH-370. Even when the story turns out to be wrong, it has a momentum that is almost impossible to stop. Even to deny there is a “Budget emergency” you have to use the words “Budget Emergency”, and the meme is thus continued.
Talk about the “search” for MH-370 continues the myth that there is a “search” in progress. There isn’t. They’ve stopped looking. They might start again, but that won’t be for months. And it will probably be in a different place altogether.
However, once Abbott got a whiff of the potential for his involvement – the WA election, big-noting with the Chinese Premier, spivving for the Defence forces and the attention of the world’s media – the result was inevitable.
The punters want to believe, despite headlines like the one above, and despite the comprehensive rebuttal of just about all evidence. But, as Kerry Packer once famously put it, when asked about a near-death experience (did he see Heavenly lights?): “There’s nothing fucking there.”
They’re looking in the wrong place. They’ve admitted it.
There has been no progress since the plane first disappeared. It was all a media and spin charade. We weren’t close – “within days” as one spruiker told us – to finding “the final resting place” at all.
Most likely someone DOES know. Huge airliners just don’t disappear nowadays. But whoever that person is, it clearly isn’t Abbott, or sadly, Angus Houston.
Of the two, Houston is the disposable entity, drafted to add gravitas to Abbott’s relentless spin machine, and will soon be discarded, perhaps even in disgrace. A fine career ended ignominiously.
Another career will be saved, for the moment, on the back of Houston’s coming public humiliation, not only yesterday, but also while Abbott was grandstanding in China.
Then Houston will become the next person to learn the ugly truth about Abbott’s “legendary loyalty” to his mates. There’s nothing fucking there, either.