Why oh why: Spinning as news, edition # 378

How’s this for commentary as news? The opening sentence of the lead story in The Age today.

OPPOSITION Leader Brendan Nelson has sought to revive his ailing leadership with pledges to cut petrol excise and block a 70% tax hike on pre-mixed alcoholic drinks.

How absolutely dismal.  Combining moral confusion, with almost complete vacuity. I wonder what public speeches Brendan Nelson gives that seek to harm his leadership?

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16 Responses to Why oh why: Spinning as news, edition # 378

  1. Gummo Trotsky says:

    Well it certainly ain’t good English – ‘has tried’ would look a lot less poncy than ‘has sought’. Definitely commentary as news – but where’s the moral confusion?

  2. Tom N. says:

    You’re right, Nicholas: Brendan is a total twit. Still, he’s in good company, given that both Clinton and McClain recently pledged to exempt Americans from gasoline tax during the “holiday driving season”. Such ideas are almost bright enough to have come from the 20/20 summit.

  3. Gummo,

    Commentary as news embodies moral confusion.

    Tom N,

    You misunderstand my point. The third line of my post refers to the story – not to its subject – though I can see how the misunderstanding could arise, both because of the way I expressed myself in the sentence, and its subject matter means that it makes equal sense read either way!

    On this day the reporter and reported truly deserved each other!

  4. One of my pet hates is when elements of the media incorporate a party’s rhetoric into their own reporting. For example, Ten News said “working families will be a big winner in Labor’s budget.” Is it really necessary to use the exact same words – “working families” – that the Labor Party does in its rhetoric? Are “working families” a precisely defined demographic all of a sudden?

    And the “education revolution” may in fact be a revolution but shouldn’t it be determined to be so on its merits, rather than because it was branded that way by the Labor Party? It is constantly referred to as an “education revolution” by the media and only the ABC seems to bother adding the words “so called” before referring to it.

    I’m sure there were hundreds of times when they uncritically adopted the Liberal Party’s rhetoric when they were in government, it’s just that I can’t remember any off the top of my head.

    I’ve stopped getting annoyed by the stupidity of the media because it’s such a useless waste of emotional energy.

  5. You’re a man after my own heart Tysen.

  6. James Farrell says:

    You are absolutely right, Nicholas. The problem, though, is not so much that it’s commentary. The paper could reasonably and helpfully comment on whether the tax makes sense based on economic and health considerations. The problem is that it’s sports commentary, presented as if the reader’s principal interest is in the internal ructions the Opposition leadership, rather than in whether it’s getting a robust policy critique from that Opposition.

  7. James Farrell says:

    ‘Sports’ was meant to be in italic, not bold. That’s what reading your lunatic friend Burgess has done to me.

  8. Just as I was starting to admire that bolding . . .

  9. P says:

    I read it as a summary
    – Nelson’s leadership is …
    – he is trying to revive it
    – the sentence just stated his desire to have low/lower prices for petrol and alcopops

    Can’t see any editorial moral judgment. Unless his trying to revive it is a moral issue.

  10. When are shirking families such as my own going to get their day in the sun?

  11. Gummo Trotsky says:

    Commentary as news embodies moral confusion.

    Really? At most it indicates that the authors of the report are freely mixing fact and imputations of motive. You yourself asked “what public speeches [does] Brendan Nelson [give] that seek to harm his leadership?”. That’s an implicit recognition that the imputation is accurate but completely trivial. Well spotted.

    Where, in the quoted sentence, is the implication that it’s morally wrong for Brendan to try to revive his ailing leadership but that it would be equally wrong for the Liberals to head off to the cutlery drawer to raid the contents of the knife compartment? That might embody moral confusion since the two claims seem to contradict each other (although there might be lines of argument that reconcile the two).

  12. C.L. says:

    “Stolen Generations” is another one used uncritically on news bulletins and by journalists. There are, of course, no stolen generations. Journos may as well report that “the Easter Bunny said today that…”

  13. John Greenfield says:

    I always get a bit of a giggle as the poor befuddled tele-prompt readers switch from stolen generationS to stolen generation within one newscast. Given that the term is nothing but sophomoric agitprop with absolutely no grounding in reality, I advocate we say “so-called, ahem, stolen generations” from now on.

  14. Andrew says:

    The question isn’t “what public speeches Brendan Nelson gives that seek to harm his leadership?” It’s “what else could he do to revive his ailing leadership?”

    Other possible actions include: announcing any of an infinite range of other possible policies, reshuffling his front bench, doing a publicity-attracting stunt (like the “Listening Tour”), blocking all legislation in the Senate in the hope of provoking a double-dissolution, or just taking no action at all. I’m sure commenters here can think of others.

    Obviously some alternatives are better than others. The point is that saying “he has done X to try revive his ailing leadership” does not imply that he might have instead tried to harm his leadership. It just says that a) out of all possible actions X is what he’s chosen, and b) that his leadership is ailing and his motive is presumed to be that he’s trying to revive it.

    I agree part b) is mixing opinion with reporting of fact (unless The Age has evidence that that really is his motivation). But it’s not “almost complete vacuity”.

  15. Gummo,

    I’m sure you didn’t intend it as such but your comment seems to me to be mired in sophistry. Of course there’s nothing clinically, provably morally confused about mixing trite and clich

  16. C.L. says:

    #14 Thanks for clarifying the issue.

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