Journalism abuse : calling MPs rats and child molesters 1

You could expect the Liberal National Party to be angry about MP Peter Slipper ignoring party orders and becoming Speaker of the Australian parliament. His switch was an embarrassment for the aggressive opposition leader, Tony Abbott, who until then, was confident he could force a new election.

News Corp's digitally altered front page

But what of reporters at News Corporation dropping any pretense of objectivity and larding their reportage with  abuse worthy of a shock jock?

This week’s Sunday Mail, a Brisbane based News Corporation paper, carried the story, “How Labor lured Peter Slipper to Speaker’s chair in Federal Parliament” by Renee Viellaris, a senior writer.

THIS is the story of a political rodent, Labor’s political Pied Piper and a leader who stepped in his own rat trap.

Details on how Liberal National Party double-crosser Peter Slipper was groomed by the ALP to take on the role of Speaker in the nation’s Parliament can now be revealed….Renee Viellaris

Consider the extremity of the language. The article described a member of parliament as vermin, presumably fit to be exterminated. The journalist didn’t even bother attributing this ugly slur to a source; a common gambit deployed by politically inflamed correspondents. It was merely stated as fact. There could be no doubt the reporter disapproved of Slipper’s political decision.

Meanwhile, the metaphors were happily mixed to suggest the Labor Party “groomed” Slipper. Grooming, when applied to humans, is a term commonly used to describe paedophiles systematically preparing children for molestation. The image is re-inforced by a reference to the Pied Piper, a mythical trickster who charmed rats and abducted children.

This purple prose referred to a meeting between Slipper and Anthony Albanese, Labor’s Leader of the House of Representatives. In this context, the references were clearly inappropriate and intentionally offensive to both Slipper and Albanese.

Apart from the language, the story seemed to be a coherent analysis of Slipper’s defection. Could it be that Ms Viellaris had been embarrassed herself by the work of an anonymous sub-editor, seeking a more fevered pitch? Lets hope so, at least for the sake of her reputation.


One comment

  1. The journalists could be considered to be reacting to the public perception of Slipper by the electorate in general, and thos people on the Gold Coast who have had to put up with him as their elected representative ….

    On the other hand, I think they’re just reacting to the language used in and around parliament, ranging from “Once a rat, Aways a rat” (advice from the ALP over Mal Colston) to “Kill the Witch” (the sign Abbott stood in front of earlier this year).

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