Modia Minotaur

Trawling the airwaves to spare you the agony!

Friday, October 20, 2006

The Other Riots

It's been quite a week in State Parliament. On Tuesday, we saw the extraordinary - I imagine, unprecedented - scenes of disendorsed Liberal MP Steve Pringle actually ripping up his party ticket in the Parliamentary chamber and, much as Patricia Forsythe before him, making serious allegations about the complete collapse of internal party democracy and pointing the finger squarely at one nasty piece of work named David Clarke. Hilariously, John Howard has dismissed the rorts as `a colloquial branch stack' (whatever that means, and however it makes it better than a flat out branch stack), while a pretty shattered Peter Debnam described Pringle's move as `designed to embarrass me and embarrass the Liberal Party'. Well, hell yeah! So it should! It has taken only a year for such allegations to become explosive to routine, and for them to move from the 7.30 Report to the parliamentary chamber. The more the NSW Liberal Party attempt to sweep this under the floor, the more unelectable they'll become, and that's saying something.

Meanwhile, NSW Police Minister Carl Scully is under fire for not releasing a police report on the Cronulla Riots. While I can't help but see this as a bit of a storm in a teacup - several quite legitimate reasons have been named for the holdup, such as the protection of witnesses - things don't look brilliant for Scully, with Morris Iemma refusing to rule out sacking him.

One caller to ABC 702 this morning brought up an interesting theory. He suggested the report had been suppressed because it is so critical of the media - specifically talkback radio - something no government can afford as an election approaches.

I think this is a pretty interesting theory, and it does demonstrate the way strong media is, as I've said before, integral to strong democracy. The whole ugly affair is a perfect demonstration of the impact of a weak (that is, unethical) media. Firstly, the report found that the reports of a Middle Eastern youth `assaulting' a surf lifesaver, outrage over which sparked the riots, was universally misreported, and was nothing more than a small and apparently non-racially balanced fracas. Secondly, it found that several talkback radio hosts directly stoked the fire and precipated the riots (I'm unaware whether they named Alan Jones and Ray Hadley, but I just did).

The media were extraordinarily unsympathetic to Morris Iemma early in his term, but the tide seems to have changed in recent months. I imagine the government has no desire to give the Alan Joneses of the media reasons to get angry about them.

Speaking of Alan Jones, the day is almost upon us: exclusive extracts from Chris Masters' `Jonestown' will be published in tomorrows Sydney Morning Herald, and plenty of people aren't looking forward to it, much less Jones himself. In announcing the extracts several weeks ago, David Marr made the brave and typically Marrish step of naming Jones as `a gay man'. Now, it's very silly that this is a move that should be branded `brave', but it goes to show exactly how much psychological power Jones exercises. Will `Jonestown' break that power? Will we hear Alan Jones coming out to his 2GB listenership on Monday morning? Probably not, but wouldn't it be amazing ...

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