The politics of media spin: the New York strip tease affair

I believe that the media will play a significant role in deciding the outcome of the next federal election. In particular, the role played by the Murdoch press- which controls some 2/3 of Australias national and capital city news market will be crucial.

At this stage, Murdoch papers such as the Herald Sun and The Australian are showing a definite bent towards Howard and running a strongly partisan and aggressive policy agenda of their own (including on global warming, IR reform, taxation, welfare, Iraq etc,). The other members of the Murdoch stable have been less predictable so far at least but with a clear slant towards the conservative side of politics.

The influence of the media on public opinion stems not from the contents of their opinion pages and editorials but from the way news is presented, especially on the first two or three pages.

A good illustration of the power of media news spin can be seen in the recent treatment of the New York strip tease affair. The story exploded on Sunday and was given the full treatment in Murdoch papers. It alleged that Kevin Rudd was drunk and behaved inappropriately at the strip joint. touching the dancers and threatened with eviction. Rudd confirmed he was drunk (so drunk he could remember little!) but by Tuesday morning, the three witnesses to the event Snowdon, Alan and the owner of the strip club had completely refuted any suggestion of misbehaviour. The NY club owner said that Rudd was a little rowdy but acted like a gentleman throughout and wanted to leave as soon as he saw that it was strip joint.

In short, apart from getting too drunk that night, Rudd turns out to be more a prude than a larrikin.

So what do the Herald Sun, the Sydney Telegraph and The Australian do? Instead of setting the facts straight, they highlight the fact that Rudds sister in law was once a stripper and (in the case of the Herald-Sun) that Rudd was rowdy that night, while giving very minor treatment to the testimony of the NY striptease owner which completely exonerates Rudd of any inappropriate behaviour. Indeed, the Herald Sun (in an editorial) continued to pontificate about the appalling behaviour of Rudd and The Australian reproduced that editorial in Cut and Paste on Wednesday.

The upshot is that, unless readers of these Murdoch newspapers were able to read meticulously the fine print (which very few have the time to do), they will be left with the impression that Rudds behaviour on that fateful night disqualified him from the top job!

Despite plenty of serious literature showing the political power exercised by Fox News when it entered the fray in the USA, some doubt that newspapers matter much for political outcomes. They point for example to alternative sources of information. Yes there are other newspapers. The AGE generally takes a sympathetic view of Rudd but it is a small player relative to the Murdoch papers; the SMH is all over the place and the AFR has very pro-business leaning. Commercial TV news is influential but with no systematic political bias. The ABC is another counterpoint to Murdoch but have you noticed how often it simply picks up news in the Murdoch press and then runs hard with it? Then there is the internet. It is certainly growing in importance but a recent survey found less than 3% of Australian voters rely on it as their main source of news.

I believe that the election will be much closer than the opinion polls suggest and if the Murdoch press as a bloc decide to campaign systematically against Rudd the way they have been doing recently, it could prove decisive.

==================

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Bring Back CL's blog
Bring Back CL's blog
14 years ago

Fred,

This story has been around for a while. If Murdoch wanted to play hardball it would have been written about in the campaign.

It confirms to me Murdoch is hedging his bets and will back Rudd if the polls continue as they are.

Jc
Jc
14 years ago

Fred

I kinda think that it’s newswothy to know if Rudd’s sister in law was a stripper. Newspapers are supposed to be out there getting the dirt on stuff like that. You may not like it but it sells papers.

Scores is a mob run place, Fred. It’s not the sort of joint a future PM ought to be hanging around in as all sorts of bad things could happen. It showed bad judgement on his part. It’s where people like me hang out whose reputation is in tatters anyway.

“The NY club owner said that Rudd was a little rowdy but acted like a gentleman throughout and wanted to leave as soon as he saw that it was strip joint.”

I find this more than a little suspicious. How the hell would the Club owner know who Rudd is and was seeing all this happend in 2003. I mean this is a club in NY and Rudd was there only once for about 40 minutes. The club owner remembers him? How?

Newspapers try to sell information they think their readers will read. There is nothing that could be suggested any of these papers have acted in a biased manner. I recall the time when the news came out that Tony Abbot had/ did not have a kid. It was a big salacious story that ran for days and days. Murdoch’s papers didn’t avoid the story at all.

Bring Back CL's blog
Bring Back CL's blog
14 years ago

I agree with Joe.

The owner remember three Australians from 2003? I wouldn’t be surprised if he has had a recall via Allen which again shows Murdoch betting each way.

The Abbott story was actually very good for him.

I think this story will be good for Rudd in that it humanises him. Mind you who didn’t warn him about Allen’s drinking exploits?

L.Duce
L.Duce
14 years ago

Comments 2&3, yes of course Murdoch does not do this sort of thing except when he is doing it. Now go back to sleep,everything is all right.
Fred I think you are national treasure,keep up your excellent work.

Fred Argy
Fred Argy
14 years ago

JC the club owner identified the person who seemed embarrassed and eager to leave (and who cried out ‘oh no what am I doing here?’) as the ‘main guy’ (or words like that) and that he was the one at the Australian table “who wore glasses”. That’s pretty conclusive isn’t it? It also fits the character of Rudd that we all suspected.

Going to Scores in the first place in a drunken state did show a lapse of judgment but hardly a serious one – except in the prudish eyes of Rudd imself! He should not have been so apologetic and defensive about it.

What I find deplorable is the persistent attempt of many in the Murdoch press to insinuate that Rudd also behaved appallingly that night. Because of that, I believe this affair will hurt Rudd’s image.

If Murdoch goes boots and all against Rudd in the next few weeks, it will compound his problem. But that is only one of many reasons why I expect a very close election. I fear Labor will not match Howard on policy as Howard has access to the best departmental advice. I also believe Howard has an incomporable ability to talk to the Australian people simply and in their vernacular and that is still evident today.

nasking
nasking
14 years ago

I agree w/ your general assessment Fred, but i reckon the 3% figure is way off going by people i talk to. Besides, blog commentors & such tend to be fairly opinionated & enjoy shooting off emails & providing handouts for their family & friends…:)…word gets around, as it did in the US mid-term elections in 06.

And even the Corporate media is being careful about not demonstrating too much bias this time…in the long run it’s about making money & they don’t want to be spurned by an increasingly suspicious, sometimes hostile audience…& find they’ve made a REAL ENEMY out of the possible election winner.

Jc
Jc
14 years ago

“JC the club owner identified the person who seemed embarrassed and eager to leave (and who cried out oh no what am I doing here?) as the main guy (or words like that) and that he was the one at the Australian table who wore glasses. Thats pretty conclusive isnt it? It also fits the character of Rudd that we all suspected.”

Fred, this is bull they’re to feed us. Trust me it’s a big place and there would be a few 100 louts in and outta the joint each night is my guess.

Let’s say there are 100 guys going there each night. It would be more, but lets go with that.

100 guys *6 nights *50 weeks * 4 years = 120,000 dudes since Rudd who was supposed to have stayed for 40 minutes and left. So the club owner can recall who a pretty unassuming geeky looking type looked like 4 years ago.

He wouldn’t have known his name because I presume Rudd didn’t take out his credit and buy a couple of lap dances. So the club owner likely didn’t know his name but could recall who Rudd was.

The club owner is pulling a fast one here. The real story is who got to him and why?

Jc
Jc
14 years ago

“If Murdoch goes boots and all against Rudd in the next few weeks, it will compound his problem.”

Trust me, Fred, Murdoch would barely know about the story. The guy just spent 5.6 billion on buying one of the best brand names in the world. he certainly wouldn’t be crafting up some story about an Ozzi pol who went to a strip joint 4 years ago. There just aren’t enough hours in the day. Not only that but he wouldn’t be messing around with his good editors unless he wanted to keep them.

Here’s my take.

Something did go on that night in the groping sense of the word. One hint is that Rudd says he can’t recall anything. Yet he did recall the following morning because he called his wife to apologize.

All the players are keeping quiet about it because it could damage all their reputations. Cal Allen most of all. Allen works in a town where groping gals is really looked down on and if it came out there would be hell to pay in the NYPOST newsroom with all the American gals there. American gals are pretty militant with that sort of thing. Trust me, he wouldn’t survive. They would be screaming for his blood.

The last thing all the players want if more of this gets out.

johng
johng
14 years ago

Fred is quite right that the press has significant power through their choice of headlines and what they choose to highlight. The Murdoch press are a real danger because they are quite unpredictable and will beatup on no or little evidence. The stripclub visit should not have been published as it is of no political relevance, and that applies whoever it was. But the murdoch press are particularly prone to beatups and campaigns. They having been doing campaigns on the Haneef matter and (in the past) on the Wheat Board, as well as on matters like industrial relations and climate change. In the case of Haneef where they have been anti-government, their lies, misrepresentations and unbalanced reporting were a problem, but their aggressive approach on this matter had some good effects in getting a lot of information into the public domain. Still you had to read very carefully to find the real story under the dross they put out. Their approach is debasing public discourse.
What will they do in the next 2 months as we approach the election? Most of their journalists won’t do anything different; they’ll continue with their normal right-wing, left-wing or neutral views. But there is the possibility that some of their journalists, subeditors and editors will decide to run softer on the government and tougher on the opposition, and this could have quite a significant effect. Well have to wait and see.

Jc
Jc
14 years ago

Media Population Reach Audience Share
Organisation Index* Index*
(Proprietor)

ABC 59.4 9.1
SBS 45.2 0.9

Fairfax Group 5.9 4.7

News (Murdoch) 20.3 16.9

So murdochs reach is 17%, while the ABC and Fairfax is about 15%. Murdoch carries lefries like Adams while I’m still waitng for a right wing view on either the tax funded ABC, SBS and Fairfax.

Nabakov
Nabakov
14 years ago

“How the hell would the Club owner know who Rudd is and was seeing all this happend in 2003. I mean this is a club in NY and Rudd was there only once for about 40 minutes. The club owner remembers him? How?”

“I remember we got a call from I think it was the owner of the Post, or the editor of the Post, saying that he was coming in with some political figures from Australia, some bigwigs,” Mr Osher recalled.

“It was only a one-time thing ‘cos I remember that was the only time the editor of the Post came in.”.

On the one hand, we have four people known to be there, Col Allan, Warren Snowdon, Elliot Osher and Kev himself going on the record to say nothing untoward happened that they can remember. On the other hand we have some vague anonymous source who does not seem to want to go on the record alleging some kind of unspecified inappropriate behaviour took place.

Dunno about some people, but when I see a molehill, I don’t climb it with much panting, nudging and winking and then announce I’ve conquered a mountain.

Also how exactly does an opposition party in Australia “get to” one of the most powerful newspaper editors in America? I look forward to more entertaining conspiracy theories here.

Jc
Jc
14 years ago

Yuk

ABC 9.1
SBS 1.2
Fairfax 4.7

News (Murdoch) 16.9

Jc
Jc
14 years ago

Oh yea right, nabobav, he knew exactly who Mr. Rudd was…… after 4 years. He was freshly minted in his mind.

And this:

“Kev himself going on the record to say nothing untoward happened that they can remember.”

Doesn’t exactly sound like this:

Mr Rudd yesterday issued a statement to The Sunday Telegraph, confirming he went to the club. But he said he could not recall what happened at the night spot because he had “had too much to drink”.

“If my behaviour caused any offence to anybody whatsoever that evening, I of course wholeheartedly apologise” he said.

http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/story/0,,22268275-5001021,00.html

What’s he apologising for is his behaviour was within he realm of good behaviour in a strip joint?

“Dunno about some people, but when I see a molehill, I dont climb it with much panting, nudging and winking and then announce Ive conquered a mountain.”

Wasn’t me who raised it, Fred did.

Nabakov
Nabakov
14 years ago

I see you have same dab hand with reading comprehension that you have with stats, poor old joe.

What bit of the word “if” don’t you understand?

“Wasnt me who raised it, Fred did.”

Fred used this molehill as a starting point for a discussion on media spin and the power of the Murdoch press. You however have been busy puffing it up into some peak of depravity through a mixture of ill-heard innuendo and cack-handed conspiracy theories. Nicely illustrating one of Fred’s premises by the way.

Back OT, yes I agree with you JC that papers will print what grabs eyeballs which they can then sell to their advertisers. But anyone who thinks that media magnates don’t take an interest in influencing their political and economic operating environments to maximise their preferred outcomes is someone who has never run his own business while cursing Government stupidity and sloth.

Jc
Jc
14 years ago

” I see you have same dab hand with reading comprehension that you have with stats, poor old joe.”

Do you always have to be this offensive?

There is no reason to extend any sort of apology regarding behaviour if (sic) he didn’t recall anything.
—————–

” Fred used this molehill as a starting point for a discussion on media spin and the power of the Murdoch press.”

Fred was doing a lot of things. But yes, one of things Fred was complianing about was a free press exercising it’s right to free speech.

—————–

” You however have been busy puffing it up into some peak of depravity through a mixture of ill-heard innuendo and cack-handed conspiracy theories. ”

Personally I think it’s very amusing for a Christian socialist to be caught with his pants almost down his ankles. That goes for a left wing or right wing Christian socialist.
—————–

“Nicely illustrating one of Freds premises by the way.”

Did Fred mention it was depraved?

—————-

” Back OT, yes I agree with you JC that papers will print what grabs eyeballs which they can then sell to their advertisers”

Yes they do and Murdoch’s do it better than most which is why that stable seems to have a much bigger readership than the lost-at-sea Fairfax group.

—————-

” But anyone who thinks that media magnates dont take an interest in influencing their political and economic operating environments to maximise their preferred outcomes”

Yea right. I can see it now. Rupert gets out of the WSJ strategy meeting on how to direct his Australian minions on what to write about a pol and a strip joint. Too funny for words… leading to the last bit.

—————

” …..is someone who has never run his own business while cursing Government stupidity and sloth.”

You mean like standing on the docks opening boxes and waiting for import shipments on a cold weekend…. Yea that sure teaches you how to interfere in the daily editorial jig. NOT! That’s not how big corporations work. You choose the people to do a good job. You don’t do the job for the people you choose especially in organization of that size.

Nabakov
Nabakov
14 years ago

Well that’s as fine a collection of elision, evasion, allusion, innuendo and general strawmanship as I’ve seen in a long time.

You do realise that not one of your direct responses to the lines of of mine you quoted actually constitutes any kind of logical arguement focused on what I actually said?

No, you probably don’t do you?

patrickg
14 years ago

Jeez JC I think you’ve been hitting a little too much of that Kool-aid. Conspiracies in every corner!

Your assertion that there’s no right wingers on ABC or Fairfax is – though more rational than your other, bizarre, assertions (they “got” to him?! but I thought he was with the mob, JC, they ain’t afear’d o’ no one!) – equally mistaken.

Richard Glover (abc and Fairfax), Miranda Devine, Tony Abbott, Peirs Akerman, Andrew Bolt (abc) Gerard Henderson (abc and Fairfax), hell two days ago, the SMH ran editorial from the horned one himself, Howard. If you think Fairfax is some kind of commie/pinko/hippie love in, you really must be living in an alternate universe or something.

Ken Lovell
14 years ago

Ah but patrickg the wingnuts don’t regard all those folk you mentioned as being on the right at all … they would say they’re all mainstream centrists. To counter Phillip Adams they’d say you need someone like Denish D’Souza … to whom no MSM outlet in Australia would dream of paying good money to write regular material, thus proving their hopeless leftie bias.

patrickg
14 years ago

Oh I see Ken, check and mate, as they say. Maybe someone has got to us as well….

observa
observa
14 years ago

Rudd going to a strip joint was a snooze story for years until Mr Squeaky looked like he was going to become PM and then it was fair game to test his public reaction. I’d put iot in the same boat as the Costello liquid lunch story, which became too tantalising for the MSM, once Howard was getting whacked by the polls and rumours of a possible change of leader began to surface again. It’s just the nature of public life in the glaring spotlight nowadays, rather than some conspiracy. JC has a point about the club manager’s recall as Tim Blair quite rightly points out with juxtaposing what Rudd’s stance was before and after the manager’s statement, placing him on more solid ground-

“KEVIN RUDD: What I can absolutely recall is that there was nothing inappropriate as far as my behaviour was concerned.

KERRY OBRIEN: You can recall that with certainty, yourself?

KEVIN RUDD: Yes.

Previously:

[Rudd] said he could not recall what happened at the night spot because he had had too much to drink.

“If my behaviour caused any offence to anybody whatsoever that evening, I of course wholeheartedly apologise, he said. ”

It smacks a lot like his change of stance over the initial Burke affair revelations and subsequent, but then Costello was much the same over that lunch outburst. It gives us a glimpse of how they handle the spotlight and the discerning among us recognise the underlying truth. For the average punter, neither story is of much concern politically, other than to reinforce what they already surmised. As usual the mob will get the next election right, as they always have, given the choices they faced. Providing Rudd doesn’t crack under the strain like Lithium, he’s a shoo-in. There’s a mood for change.

observa
observa
14 years ago

Having said that, I suspect the journos have got a bit bored with the inevitable Coalition pasting and like all good Aussies are beginning to barrack slightly for the underdog, now that it’s clear that’s what the Howard Govt is. It’s a bit like footy journos dissecting Geelong and asking the tough questions. Could they possibly crash and burn on the big stage? They could, but like Geelong, the current Opposition looks to have their manure together this season.

Ken Lovell
14 years ago

Except obs that you’re comparing a direct quotation from transcript in the first instance with a third person’s (misleading) paraphrase of what Rudd said in the second, which is a bit naughty.

Nowhere have I seen Rudd say he was too drunk to remember what happened. He’s consistently said nothing untoward happened to the best of his recollection while conceding that he was pretty pissed and therefore his recollection isn’t perfect. Having been in a similar state more nights than I care to recall, I can easily accept that as he has thought about it more and talked to others who were there, his recollections have improved. Any witness evidence in court proceedings depends on a similar process of prompted recollection, there’s nothing remotely unusual or sinister about it.

Jc
Jc
14 years ago

Jeez JC I think youve been hitting a little too much of that Kool-aid. Conspiracies in every corner!
I only drink water mostly, patrickg. Never took to sauce or any other forms or relaxation
———————-
Your assertion that theres no right wingers on ABC or Fairfax is – though more rational than your other, bizarre, assertions (they got to him?

I presume youre suggesting one assertion is not as bad as the other. Is that right? Well your man of straw just burned to the ground because I have never suggested that Fairfax doesnt run right-wingers. It has a left wing stance and seems to be barely tolerating the right.
I think there has been a cover up of sort yea. In view of his inconsistent answers, the timing of his statements that seemed to have come out only after a new piece of the puzzle was published.. Yea, there does seem to be a little too much smoke.
————————
! but I thought he was with the mob, JC, they aint afeard o no one!) – equally mistaken.

Dont be silly.
Scores was always rumoured to be a mob run joint when I lived NYC. Maybe its changed. It was a dumb place for him to be in.
——————————-

Richard Glover (abc and Fairfax), Miranda Devine, Tony Abbott, Peirs Akerman, Andrew Bolt (abc) Gerard Henderson (abc and Fairfax), hell two days ago, the SMH ran editorial from the horned one himself, Howard.
So do Murdochs papers. So what? There is nothing unusual about op-eds running against the political bias of the organization. It makes good business sense.
—————————

If you think Fairfax is some kind of commie/pinko/hippie love in, you really must be living in an alternate universe or something.

I really could not imagine anything other than that. In fact I cant see how any news organization cannot have a bias as it is almost impossible not to. It would be equally foolish from a business perspective. Not to carry an institutionalised bias.

I have nothing against private media organizations displaying bias at all. It their right as is my right o choice.

However I do have a problem with ABC bias as it is on my dime.

Jc
Jc
14 years ago

Kenl

That comment about “wingnuts” is really quite offensive. My I suggest you either take a real good look at an unfogged mirror or/and leave it for the pages of Road to Insanity where it really resides.

“….third persons (misleading) paraphrase of what Rudd said in the second, which is a bit naughty.”

How do you know that KennyL?

Jason Soon
14 years ago

at the risk of derailing this thread further, in what sense is Richard Glover a right winger? This is the same Richard Glover who writes the extremely lame and self-indulgent tosh about his children every Saturday which probably no one except he and his family reads?

D W Griffiths
D W Griffiths
14 years ago

The piece of this story that everyone seems to miss is that Kevin Rudd was out on the town with COL ALLAN. Col the archetypal hard-drinking News Limited editor. Col the man Rupert trusts. Col who once famously pissed in the sink at a News conference. Yes, this guy puts the p-ss in “p-ss artist”.
The following quote from Mark Latham’s diaries puts it nicely:

Lunch with The Daily Telegraph’s Col Allan, Malcolm Farr and Piers Akerman at the swank Lucio’s in Paddington. It’s a marathon session these guys can really hit the p-ss. They want me to write a weekly column for the paper and I’m happy to oblige… The lunch finished at 5.30pm and then it was back to News Ltd for an hour of work, blind as bats. Col wanted to kick on, but I bailed out. A five-hour lunch is about my limit these days.

(Hat tip: Crikey)
The funniest aspect of the whole business has been watching the News Ltd tabloids tiptoeing around the fact that their most famous alumnus was the bloke who got Kevin past .07. Yet the whole gallery knows that if you go out for an evening with Col, you’re odds-on to end up plastered.

patrickg
14 years ago

Sorry Jason, I didn’t mean Richard Glover, I meant Michael Duffy!

I was getting columnists I basically never read mixed up (totally agree with you re: Glover. Don’t really get the idea myself)!

Bring Back CL's blog
Bring Back CL's blog
14 years ago

patrick, Jason did not ly a glover on you