We are easy to manipulate.
We can get pretty fired up about things - and there are masters amongst us who know what buttons to press to make it happen. Before you let a carpet-bagger kid you into spending a bit of your emotional energy in support of their campaign, make sure it really matters. Do your homework. Read. Analyse. Check things out a bit.
I've been intrigued all day today by this poster for the Wagga Wagga Daily Advertiser. It's everywhere around Wagga, the servos, 711s, milkbars and outside the papershop at the mall here:
Walk in through the sliding glass doors and here's the view in the mall where news has to do battle with a big Lotto draw.
I couldn't work out for a while what it was that jumped out at me about that news poster. It wasn't the giggly procto/digital bit, or the backdrop for jokes about paucity of news on offer for a local paper. It took a while, but as I sat with the kids and watched real people live real lives with real things happening in them I slowly realised. It matters here.
I lived in Wagga for a few years and I have family here. My children's grandmother and grandfather live here - their grandpa was the chief surgeon at the Wagga Base from the 1960s until recently.
After a bit of real life you get to know what makes a place a community. Local people know, appreciate and care for things that have value to them, things that really matter and make a difference to their lives. Getting cancer is serious. By the time you're old enough to maybe be a bit wise you know that from experiencing it around you. For men who age here and their families, it's an awful thing to have the angst and grief of going to Sydney for tests, or sending samples of things by a hopeful courier system- so knowing that one more thing that can help improve life where it matters can now be done here in the community really does matter. And it's news.
It's a pretty telling indictment on our political system that this poster seems quaint, or naive in its purity and innocence. It's lovely to see news like that, just a simple, plain and reassuring piece of what news used to be.
We've allowed ourselves to be conditioned by cynical PR operatives for whom everything is an issue to be played for advantage. To the PR operator nothing just is. It's not going to be news until it's been managed . And people who hang around them too much end up speaking like them - that's why politicians today sound weird and up and coming bureaucrats who've just started media-training sound weirder.
Journalists get ruined by it too. PR operaters train journalists like Pavlov and his dogs. The tragedy for most of our media is that it's unwitting. They don't realise, or do realise and are prepared to pay for the price for the reward. Which is paid in the currency of Australian journalism - access. To lose access is death, no more leaks, no quotes, no interviews.
If you ever needed proof of the nan0-thin veneer of authority that surrounds the spin-doctoring industry, check out McTernan's meandering speeches as Thinker in Residence, specialist subject - Customer Service. Yet in politics and management the big money goes to the spin-doctors, the opinion-poll leaders, the spruikers and suave image makers.
And their skill is in pressing buttons. Getting you off your seat and angry.
For years every job advertised in any government agency or large corporate employer has required in its Job Description or the organisation's policy statements explicit reference to Equal Employment Opportunity provisions. It's unlawful to discriminate on the grounds of gender. Heaps of agencies go to work every day employing teams of people whose reason for being is to investigate complaints where people feel aggrieved.
We let wafer-thin manipulators create that misogyny/sexism firestorm out of thin air.
As one of our readers pointed out today - it's impossible to find the lecture notes, the video, or the witnesses who saw or heard the Tony Abbott Lecture to Julia Gillard on Misogyny and Sexism.
That's because he's never lectured her on the issue. It never happened. But it's been reported uncritically as the basis for a wonderful and stirring response by Ms Gillard and the trigger for her inspirational ground-breaking speech that's made such a difference in people's lives.
For someone who was truly fired up about misogyny and sexism, that speech would really mean something if it was given to the ball-scratching Egyptian President, or the grand mufti of the Islamists in Ryadh on a Friday afternoon just before head chopping off time. That would truly be news and would show genuine courage and leadership. It's also not going to happen any time soon.
Just like the Kony youtube campaigns, the sexism speech was thin air. Nothing real happened. No one's life is better except the spin-doctors, carpet baggers and flunkeys who got paid to whip it up.
The news in Wagga Wagga is much better than that today.