TRUE OPINION: Yes – Leigh Sales and Co in the corporate media – there are misogynistic and weirdo trolls lurking on social media but a sense of moral righteousness is completely lost when you’ve been busy trolling the public with hateful, racist bullies and politically-biased coverage that upholds the status quo for years, writes Kieran Butler.
If you are a politics junkie – as opposed to a recreational user – you would have been glued to the 2016 Australian federal election coverage until the bitter end.
It was one o’clock in the morning. The result was in doubt. What was expected to be a triumph for Australia’s most recent Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, was in danger of eluding him all together. At the ABC, Leigh Sales and Annabel Crabb were incredulous.
In vino veritas is an oft-quoted Latin maxim, and though I doubt Sales or Crabb had been imbibing anything other than strong coffee, they were wired from hardcore exhaustion. Suddenly, inexplicably, they burst into fits of uncontrolled laughter at a weird inside joke about Malcolm Turnbull’s favourite bus route.
Their shared affection for Turnbull was obvious. When the mask of journalistic integrity slipped, it revealed that the taxpayer funded fourth estate is way too close to the people they are meant to hold to account.
For the past four years, Crabb had been cooking with a host of politicians in their kitchens. Crabb reckoned that “you can always get more out of people if you sit down to eat with them”. If this were true, Parliament would be a restaurant with Gordon Ramsey out back.
Crabb’s intention was to humanise her political mates, curry favour (pun intended) and show off her dessert making skills. The guest list for Kitchen Cabinet included Tory luminaries such as Tony Abbott, Julie Bishop, Barnaby Joyce, Malcolm “Bus Boy” Turnbull and Scott Morrison – who demonstrated his fondness for curry while Crabb not once asked about Reza Berati.
Fast forward to the present day in 2021 and Leigh Sales name checks Crabb, and a number of her ABC colleagues, whilst taking aim at “left-leaning bullies” on Twitter in a confusing screed that at once derides the platform for being “not a reliable gauge of public sentiment” yet “unparalleled for following breaking news”.
There is an illustration of political bullying from the inside when Sales tells the story of being berated in the 1990s by an unnamed male Labor premier during an election campaign. This is also confusing.
It can’t have been John Cain. He didn’t face an election in the 1990s. It can’t have been Joan Kirner for obvious reasons. Simple deduction confirms it must be Steve Bracks – who wasn’t the Premier during the election campaign! That was Jeff Kennett. Why the reticence about naming Steve Bracks? One can only assume that this is because, despite the bullying, Sales is now on “good terms” with Bracks.
Political bullying in Australia reached its zenith during Julia Gillard’s term as Prime Minister. It is arguably irrelevant, but Gillard never got a gig on Kitchen Cabinet.
The SBS documentary, Strong Female Lead, details the bullying Gillard received from Tony Abbott in Parliament. To prove it wasn’t misogyny, Julie Bishop steps in to do Abbott’s dirty work for him. Turnbull’s belated criticisms were conspicuous in their absence in real time. Predictably, the Canberra press gallery was riveted, and reported it all for shits and giggles.
Abbott’s relentless bullying eventually won the 2013 election for the LNP, paving the way for Turnbull and Morrison. As Strong Female Lead illustrates, Abbott’s attack was focused on his assertion that Gillard was an inveterate liar.
Sales’ “left leaners” remember this. We remember it every time the ABC reports Morrison’s avalanche of verifiable lies as truth. We remember just how close the likes of Sales and Crabb are to those they should be interrogating.
We understand that this LNP government is defunding the ABC, and has a metaphorical gun to their heads, yet they still commit slavishly to the charade of fearless impartiality.
We notice that Sales is starved for interview opportunities with Morrison and his Ministers on 7.30, and pulls her punches accordingly when they decide to grace her with their presence.
We know that she knows that we know this, and reasons that hitting harder when interviewing a member of the Federal opposition, or a Labor premier, will underscore that she is a journalist worthy of her Walkley awards.
We notice when Patricia Karvelas spends a whole hour deriding the ALP for parachuting Kristina Keneally into a safe seat, while failing to mention that the sitting Prime Minister launched a racist smear campaign against his pre-selected rival to take the safe seat of Cook in 2007.
We find it incomprehensible that Sales is complaining about bullies on Twitter when Christian Porter is still a federal Minister, Julia Banks won’t name who touched her up in the Prime Minister’s office and Brittany Higgins was forced to keep quiet about her rape so Morrison could get through the 2019 election unscathed.
Leigh Sales supposedly hates “cancel culture” and will defend prominent racists but wants to cancel the public on Twitter (Image: Supplied)
We find it baffling to the extreme for the likes of Sales, Sarah Ferguson and their fellow high-profile, well-paid “White Women” and “White Dude” journalists at the ABC and elsewhere (like LNP propagandist Chris Uhlmann) to complain about toxic, dangerous “sewer rats” on Twitter while they have been busy for the past couple of years cheer-leading and promoting how ‘important’ it is that the public ‘listen’ to extremely toxic, racist and downright evil White Supremacist bullies like Steve Bannon and the recently deceased and thoroughly brain-dead cartoonist Bill Leak.
We’re sick to fucking death of the ALP believing that there is any value whatsoever in taking the high moral ground when it comes to opposing the most corrupt government in Australian history by turning up to a gun fight with a plastic pocket knife.
We genuinely hate Morrison and his government to the same degree any of the LNP lovers hated Gillard, and all we see is a bunch of journalists and politicians who are meant to hold a government to account compromised by bus routes, TV dinners, pay packets and after hours drinking sessions with the bullies they enable.
We understand that politics is polemic. But impotence in the face of all this breeds anger. Anger fuels more hatred. That hatred is the real currency of modern politics. It is writ large all over the world and it is only going to get worse.
The days of civility are well and truly over, no matter how much you might look back on that time the PM gave you a proper bollocking over the phone followed by a “no hard feelings mate”.
All is artifice. As the mask slips, it reveals the endemic sickness at the heart of democracy itself.
In a few short years, we will all look back wistfully at being called a useless fuckwit by @gumtreewanker in cyberspace.