Australia is not being governed. It’s being gamed.

As the latest round in the War Against Jihadi Death Cult Zombies weaves its inevitable way into the mill of sensationalist television news promos, and the ever-escalating one-upmanship of competing media organizations churns out “City Under Siege” headlines and the like, we need to pause and wonder just where we are headed after the first year of Abbott Reality Television.

It is becoming almost impossible to tell the difference between promotional material for Dancing With The Stars or The Block and the latest cynical attempt by the Abbott “government” (I use the word advisedly) to claw back some credibility in the polls. Could it be that petty? Just polls? With this mob, you have to go for the lowest common denominator. Of course it can.

What was, just a few months ago, the highly unpleasant but distant beat of a fanatical jihadist drum, has morphed into an existential Threat To The Homeland. In the words of a 10 News promo on Friday night, Australia now faces “the greatest threat to its national security in history”. If you’re going to go the hog, you may as well go the whole hog. Beat that, ABC, 7, 9 and SBS!

The same in-house promotions units who produce, edit and present titillating commercials for “unmissable”, “must see” episodes of dreary soap operas and second rate cooking shows, are now at work beating-up the latest half-dozen arrests of some religious crazies into a Threat To Our Way Of Life. The more ridiculous, the better.

As we watch men of the Press Gallery in suits with carefully coiffed hair looking staunchly into camera telling of how they are bearing up to the latest threat against their workplace, Parliament House, and vulnerable women (equally coiffed and made-up) delivering breathless on-the-spot reports from suburban streets seething with police in paramilitary jackboots and baseball hats, the Prime Minister deprecatingly tells us that he is not afraid for himself, but for his people.

Journalists love a war. The real ones go to battlefields and take their chances. The pretenders do stand-ups for local TV news bulletins, or beaver away Photoshopping front page newspaper graphics to scare the bejesus out of their suggestible readers.

The boundary between fake reality and Real Reality has blurred to the point of disappearance. It’s hard to tell the difference nowadays, and that is precisely the object of the exercise.

Meanwhile the Budget lies in tatters. Consumer and business confidence is approaching all-time lows. Unemployment is soaring. Indigenous Australians have been deserted again… for a photo op with the SAS. Renewable Energy, surely a growth industry if ever there was one, is under threat. Manufacturing industries are closing down, one after the other, dominoes in some ideological game. Prices for commodities that are actually in glut – electricity and gas – are soaring, not falling. Science is on the skids. Politicians are being sin-binned in lots of a dozen. Memories are failing. Debt is soaring. The dollar is tanking. Promises are discarded like used bus tickets. The government that told us “No surprises, no excuses” blames the previous government for everything instead of facing up to the fact that the people elected them to run the country.

When will the Abbott government start governing and stop spinning? The nation really does need to know when they can expect confidence and governance to return, not when the next fanciful beheading is about to take place. Let the regular authorities look after that in the normal way.

Each step along the way from the first announcement of the “Caliphate” to today, with “terror in our midst”, has both fed off the previous step and provides a platform for the next. Instead of attending to the important and pressing matters of state that affect real millions of peoples’ lives, livelihoods and businesses, a cynical promotional campaign is dumped in our laps, willingly propagated by a media obsessed with outdoing its rivals, using trumped-up drama, and narcissistic over-concentration on its own role in the process.

A Prime Minister who, in train with media finger-waggers and tut-tutters, rebuked his predecessors for junketeering has racked up more miles in the air and dollars in jet fuel attending pointless meetings and ingratiating himself with foreign dignitaries than either of the people he criticised. A couple of fawning op-eds declaring him to be “statesmanlike” seem to be the reason for this. That, and 1 or 2 points in the polls. As Abbott realizes that there are virtually no restraints on the treasure he can waste and the photo-ops he can manufacture, his swaggering, testosterone-pumped ego swells to fill the vacuum.

Meanwhile, the nation drifts, rudderless, drunk with hatred for jihadist nonsense that gets its kicks by baiting fools like Abbott. Abbott and ISIS we made for each other. The viewers watch on, hugely entertained. There’s a new thrill every episode.

Behind it all is the certain knowledge that Reality TV rates. What else would the media do but use the same techniques they use in confecting phoney reality, all the better to cheapen actual reality? Somewhere in the middle the two streams meet and the nation, while remaining essentially ungoverned, is gamed instead.

Once upon a time it used to be called “bread and circuses”. The Abbott government has invented a new twist: “bread and circuses… without the bread”… directionless, spin-obsessed, blame-rich posturing, anchored in the grammar and language of Reality TV, run by a media increasingly relevance-deprived, shrinking in size and dumbing-down in intellect (yes, it’s possible).

All the while the nation sinks further into random aimlessness with no-one at the tiller, except the preening Prime Minister and his hapless sidekicks, urgers and sleeve-tuggers..

We cannot keep indulging in this orgy of spin over substance. You can’t run a country on terrorism for another two years. Someone’s got to do some work. Political commentators routinely emphasize the techniques and tricks of politics as indicators of good governance, ignoring reality. Tricks are an amusement, not the main game. Opinionistas tick-off “promises kept” without the slightest consideration of ramifications suffered. Barrie Cassidy nominates Christopher Pyne as “politician of the week” because his wife finally got her B.A. This has something to do with Pyne being education minister. You figure it out. I couldn’t.

Cassidy also cheer-leads for Scott Morrison to take over Homeland defence in one of the most fawning, embarrassing pieces of political analysis written in living memory. In writing this rubbish, fool Cassidy automatically disqualifies himself from further recognition as a serious commentator. After the Old Parliament House scare and the months off from Insiders to ponder his future, Barrie seems to have said, “Yes please” to the political lobotomy option.

Saturday’s Daily Telegraph urged governments to “CAGE THE COWARDS”, meaning lock up anyone arrested in the last day or so by the “terrorism” circus, without further ado.

The Tele’s logic? Some of the people arrested yesterday had been released without charge. The reason? Police didn’t have any evidence against them. Seems reasonable to release prisoners for that, but not to the Tele.

Months of surveillance by “strike forces” and “task groups”, hundreds of police, helicopters in the wee small hours, searchlights, raised terror threat levels, Glock-toting SWAT teams… and it turns out they didn’t have any evidence against most of the rounded-up. It was a stunt, an expensive, overblown one, but a stunt nevertheless. The Tele’s bluster, urging the abandonment of habeas corpus and the rules of natural justice can’t paper that over. They were arrested, so they must be guilty of something, It’s the oldest copper trick in the world. m’lud. The Tele enthusiastically agrees.

The Daily Telegraph is the same newspaper that has been running an anti-Muslim campaign for the past two months. They sent intrepid investigative war journalist and heroic blogger Tim Blair out to the wilds of… Lakemba. While there, Tim discovered that the non-drinking Muslim community didn’t patronize the local pub. They walked around in funny clothes. The men had scary beards. Some of the shops had… gulp… political and religious books in their window displays. You could hear different languages being spoken. There’s none of your “most Muslims are law-abiding” multicultural subtlety in Blair’s two pieces. It’s racial and cultural mockery all the way down to the Tim’s cave, located below a fetid gutter near you. One can’t help but wonder whether it wasn’t all part of a tawdry pre-promotion designed to soften up their readership before the quasi-military early morning raids began a few weeks later. But they wouldn’t do that would they?

Abbott, said to be “running the country” from his undisclosed, tented location in Arnhem Land, pauses only to incongruously put on a suit in the midst of the red dust to sombrely intone that “chatter” (a favourite word of intelligence agencies in circumstances like this, as it implies both sinister communication and reminds us that Muslims talk funny) has been overheard. He gives a blow-by-blow commentary on operational matters, in stark contrast to the object of Cassidy’s political man-love, Morrison, and his ventriloquist’s dummy, a forgettable and forgotten “3-Star General”.

We have F-18s being fuelled up. SAS boots on the ground at the ready. Muslims vilified and caricatured. Screaming headlines urging the abrogation of Magna Carta. Severed heads. Executioner’s swords unearthed from under backyard lawns. Police, lots of them. Uniforms and braid everywhere. Death cults. Pure Evil. The UN Security Council. Po-faced commentary about “leadership”. Arrests. Move over. I wanna be on TV.

In the lingua franca of Reality TV, it’s an “unmissable” episode of Abbott In Power indistinguishable from the spruiking excess of a promo for Big Brother. As he has always done, Abbott relies on standover tactics, threats of violence and intimidation, spin and deception. He gets others, like the Murdoch press and the truly malignant Ray Hadley to megaphone the really nasty stuff while he tells Australian Muslims he’s their friend. The field is strewn with the political and social corpses of Abbott’s “friends”. Start running if he wants to shake your hand (this means you, Warren Mundine). Abbott cannot lie straight in bed. He’s the Whirling Dervish, seeking to bring those around him down so that he might stand a little taller by comparison. It’s pathetic, but Abbott has always been a small man, obsessed by small things. He’d make sure he got a receipt for a slice of banana cake at the local school fete. He did so for a sliver of Peter Slipper’s wedding cake, then stabbed his friend in the back.

Meanwhile the country wanders aimlessly, stressed, terrorised, depressed, under-employed and essentially ungoverned, too full of intolerance and jingoism to realise how egregiously it has been gamed. Businesses fail, jobs are lost, industries wind up… but Tony, the War Prime Minister, will protect them from street-corner beheadings and jihadis at the gate.

The indigenous Australians he abandoned for a photo op with the SAS sit there in their corrugated lean-tos, puzzled. This was supposed to be their week, but the cameras, microphones and strutting ministers have disappeared. The old tribal men and women mutter to themselves, “Poor fella, my country.”

And they are right.

We are going to a war we cannot win, against an ideology we cannot defeat, for a purpose we cannot explain. There will even be an audience vote this weekend. Sound familar? It is self-justifying and pointless, but hugely distracting and entertaining. Government as Reality TV has arrived.

907 thoughts on “Australia is not being governed. It’s being gamed.

  1. I am proud to say I have never voted Green, ever.

    Same here. I regard them as Libs. So often they’ve backed the Libs’ policies. They’ve rarely been constructive while part of the Labor Team. It was a mistake to allow them in the Labor govt but there were not many alternatives.

  2. Good morning all,

    I do not know the full detail of the legislation passed in the Senate last night re the increased powers given to ASIO so I will not make any observations and jump to any conclusions at this point.

    I will wait and see how ASIO and the government actually use the powers given to them and then make up by mind. However, I have little confidence in this government to do anything right so I will not be surprised by whatever unfolds.

    What does interest me is the angst from the media and commentators re the legislation being a attack on the freedom of the press in this country.

    I think the ” freedom of the press ” angle might have more bite if the press in this country actually printed and reported the truth.

    For the 6 years of the labor government the media in this country went into feral overdrive and continues to do so with re the recent terror coverage a prime example.

    In the papers on radio and TV the media reports are nothing more than ” who can report the most shit while keeping a straight face ” with almost everyone reporting the young man killed in Victoria was intending to behead the police he attacked front and centre. No basis in fact just a good headline repeated over and over by Fairfax, Murdoch, the ABC and all commercial channels.

    The so called journalism that has been on display the last week has been nothing more than muck raking and scare tactics to drive up ratings and , for Murdoch at least, to drive the poll ratings for Abbott.

    I should not be surprised as this has been going on for years with Murdoch driving the daily cycle.

    Media in this country has become a political player and while agendas have always played a part in what is reported the media no longer even pretends it is a impartial bystander simply reporting the facts and nothing but the facts.

    I may be more concerned if the media actually had some freedoms to lose but the media lost its freedom when Murdoch took control and others simply fell in behind or tried to out headline.

    Freedom of the press ? If there was free press that reported the truth perhaps I would care. The media in this country should have been put down years ago. I have no sympathy at this point.

    I will be interested to see how it all plays out.

    My guess is Murdoch will continue to publish his crap the others will follow and the great unwashed will continue to have no idea as to what is actually happening.

    Business as usual.

    Have a good day all.

  3. muskiemp

    He also had a touch of the Menzies to mix in with his Chifley.

    Abbott: Russia contributing to ‘dark times’

  4. The Labor Party have such a short memories. ASIO was run by Charles Spry (Irvining would have served under him) as Bob Menzies private spy organisation to keep tabs on ALP, unions and anti-Vietnam protesters.

    They were so sure of their position that the would not allow the Whitlam to see any files. Murphy fixed that by having a midnight raid with a search warrant. I believe that they sacked a few to get a bit of balance back.

    All Rudd done was leave AFP, ABC and ASIO alone and then left a raft of LIBs in overseas postings. Nelsen,Vanstone etc. Dill.

  5. Does anyone have an idea of the role of a PM’s CoS? Apart from what may be unprintable, the current one seems to be more of a minder than anything else. I would have expected the CoS to be more of an office manager. But I don’t know. Anyone with any experience/knowledge of this?

  6. Doyleym

    Like you, I think the media deserves everything coming to it. As for Aussies, if they fall for all this rubbish, well it is their choice. It has been great seeing the average aussie not falling for the budget bull…t, and as you say, all we can do is watch and wait to see how it all pans out.

  7. Australian Defence Force member withdraws attack complaint

    A member of the Australian Defence Force who told police he was attacked by two men of Middle Eastern appearance outside his north-western Sydney home has now withdrawn his complaint.

    NSW Police issued a statement on Friday announcing the “allegation of assault has now been withdrawn”.

    “NSW Police will continue to examine the circumstances that led to the allegation being brought to their attention,” the statement said

    http://www.smh.com.au/national/australian-defence-force-member-withdraws-attack-complaint-20140926-10mfgg.html

  8. It occurred to me that, the new media/security laws may be a way of ensuring News Ltd. gets all the exclusives, and no-one else does. It’s up to the government to decide whether to prosecute alleged breaches of these new laws, and if information is fed to a journalist by a member of the government, with approval, then we may see a News Ltd “exclusive” off the hook in such cases. It seems entirely possible that News Ltd could in fact become even more the de facto “official news agency”.

  9. My book has just arrived! Beautiful copy. Just had a look through the photos. Lovely.

    Read a paragraph at random. It was during the Qld floods where she was seen as “wooden and not caring”:

    Silly me, I thought actually caring mattered. Holding people’s hands. Listening to children tell you in their singsong voices the story of the horror they had endured. Making sure relief was delivered …

    (p. 104)

    No wonder we miss her.

  10. I am watching the Press Club waiting for Julia Gillard’s book launch. That useless bit of leftover skin from a circumcision, from the MSM is launching his book and has spent the whole time dissing Rudd and Gillard. Everything from the failure of the crops to a kids falling over his shoelaces in Uraguy is blamed on them.

    I wouldn’t use his book to clean up my dog’s vomit.

  11. APAC is going to broadcast of JG’s book after this useless ofl hasbeen finished slagging off our great PMJG.

    Not a word about what a moronic failure Abbott is.

  12. The hasbeen is speaking at the Sydney Institute, Gollum Henderson’s little club. I have an alert set for the start of Julia Gillard’s launch and until then I’ll be staying with Murdoch Mysteries. Far more intelligent viewing than Whatsisname’s ravings.

  13. fark, he is displaying everything anyone here ever said about the MSM.
    He is lecturing the ALP and all its members on how to run their party. Who the fec does he think he is?

    But he does blame Rudd leaking on ALP ballot problems. He also says the leaks had to come from Rudd or someone he authorised. But not a word about the MSM treason.

    Not a word about how the Press Gallery went along with the tearing down of our first PM or their lovestruck arskelicking of Abbott.

    b’tards.

  14. TLBD

    Well done on calling the bullshit assault as “a set up” 24 hours before it became officially bullshit.

  15. Abbott’s extreme, glued-in-place comb-over for his UN speech – ludicrous. Not sticking around to listen. how dare APAC go to that garbage straight from Julia Gillard. It does, at least, allow us to realise yet again just what we have lost.

  16. Paul Kelly might have been good once. Thirty years ago. These days he is just a pompous wind-bag who does whatever his betters at News tell him to do. Which is to denigrate Labor and praise his party. And I suspect he knows it.

  17. This is Paul Bongiorno, one of the better journalists.

    This is Paul Kelly, hasbeen journalist and devoted Abbott arse-licker

  18. Rudd leaks more details of his submission to the 2010 election review to his number one fanboy

    “The factions have roared back to life with a vengeance,” he wrote. “They must be abolished from the party organisation. The factions, and those institutional factors which give rise to them, are the cancer which will destroy the meritocracy and creativity that can be the only guarantee of our party’s future.”

    I’m sorry Kevin, are these the same factions you courted when you were looking to topple Beazley? and the same factions you undoubtedly courted when your People’s Prime Minister challenge failed spectacularly?

  19. WTFFFFF !!! Abbott at the UN banging on about what a marvelous government he leads as if it is a campaign speech. I’m sure the world will be thrilled to learn such exciting things such as his government wants to eliminate the deficit in four years. Will the prick make that claim back home.

  20. Paywalled, worth trying the free trial if you’re not a subscriber. Bernard has been following the issues for a while.

    http://www.crikey.com.au/2014/09/26/stay-calm-on-terror-laws-the-worst-is-yet-to-come/

    Stay calm on terror laws — the worst is yet to come
    Bernard Keane | Sep 26, 2014 1:05PM

    The national security laws passed last night have problems — but they’re not the huge threat some have made them out to be. That threat is coming, and hysteria now won’t help to fight it.

    For a number of years, Crikey has been warning about government overreach, the growth of the surveillance state and the ludicrous imbalance between freedom and security in Australia. But at the moment, the sudden surge of criticism of the national security laws passed last night needs some perspective. Some of the claims being made about the laws need to be ratcheted down a bit, especially these:

  21. I’m coming to the conclusion that even the worst of the world’s recent dictators would be laughing themselves sick at the antics of Australia’s current holder of our Prime Ministership. If they weren’t already expired, that is …

    *hangs head in deep embarrassment for both sides of politics*

  22. Watched Dame Quentin launch the Gillard memoir. A powerful reminder of her class, style and intelligence.

  23. I wrote the thread starter here nearly a week ago, when 15 people were in custody and hundreds of police were roaming the streets.

    Now there is only one still in custody, the ADF is apologizing for false complaints, new terror laws have been instituted, Abbott is in New York, and a young hothead is dead.

    Tell me it ain’t just like a Reality TV show, and being hyped as such.

  24. l2

    This is Paul Bongiorno, one of the better journalists.

    Yep. Was generally able to negotiate the maze and sort reality from propaganda.

  25. Quentin Bryce was excellent, unrestrained in her praise of Julia. You could tell when both women were together by their body language they respected and admired each other. Julia as usual was her straight forward self, it was great to watch. We only happened on it by a tweet.

  26. 2gravel,
    Thank God for the mute button. Occasionally watch CNN , BBC , Al Jazerra and read Wash Post, Guardian, NY Times and the odd BK link.

  27. gigi

    Often he was just part of the “maze”. imo.

    The Press are what they are. The opposite can be John Pilger.

    I wonder what Burchett would make of current affairs?

  28. Still, it’s not fair that we should be deprived of the news. We have the right to watch the news and we should expect them to be objective whether under this govt or the Labor govt. I’m dreaming.

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