Flat White

Don’t say ABC reporting on the Wentworth shit-sheet has been selective?

18 October 2018

2:06 PM

18 October 2018

2:06 PM

Lawks-a-mussy me! Don’t say the ABC’s reporting on the Wentworth shit-sheet has been selective?

Here’s what the workers’ soviet ferociously independent, much loved, quality national broadcaster had to say about this issue this morning:

An email falsely claiming independent candidate Dr Kerryn Phelps has pulled out of the Wentworth by-election because she has HIV has emerged, in what the candidate says is just one of the “dirty tricks” being deployed in the campaign.

The email, obtained by the ABC, was sent to hundreds of constituents and organisations from a fake address on Sunday and urges recipients to divert their vote to Liberal candidate Dave Sharma…

Coverage of the story on the increasingly shrill and trivial authoritative AM program was similar in tone.

The shit-sheet was the lead story; the introduction melodrama itself:

The Wentworth by-election campaign has taken a nasty turn with an email sent to hundreds of people falsely claiming independent candidate Kerryn Phelps has HIV.

The email says Dr Phelps is withdrawing from the campaign and urges voters to back Liberal candidate Dave Sharma…

When Minister for Families and Social Services Paul “Who?” Fletcher then appeared to talk about the bust of a dodgy NDIS service provider, the ABC still couldn’t let go. The interview opened with an utterly preposterous question:

This dirty tricks campaign against Kerryn Phelps in Wentworth. Could rogue elements of the Liberal Party be behind this?

Fletcher, a grey man in a grey flannel suit, offered flannel in response rather than querying the extreme bias in the question and killing the ABC line dead (something Prime Minister Scott Morrison at least attempts to do).

In a lunchtime update of the story on the ABC website, the soviet still seemed sure the Liberals were the baddies, despite the lines the lawyers insisted they put in:

Liberal candidate Dave Sharma says an email slurring his main rival in Saturday’s Wentworth by-election should be investigated by the Australian Federal Police.

Yesterday, independent candidate Dr Kerryn Phelps said an email that had been circulated claiming she was quitting the race was false.

The email also falsely claimed she had HIV.

The ABC does not suggest Mr Sharma or anyone involved with his campaign was behind the email.

Speaking at a press conference with former prime minister John Howard, Mr Sharma said the email was “despicable”.

When asked if he would support an investigation by the AFP and Australian Electoral Commission, he said: “Sure I’ll support that. These sort [of] things are despicable and they should be confronted and combatted.”

He said he had spoken to Dr Phelps to tell her he was disgusted about the email.

“It was a vile slur,” Mr Sharma said.

“It’s clear it didn’t come from us and didn’t come from our campaign. We had nothing to do with it.”

Yet a piece that appeared around the same time from 30 year Canberra Gallery veteran Dennis Shanahan on The Australian’s website said something significant about the email that we hadn’t heard in hours of huffing and puffing on the ABC. Something very significant indeed:

Eighty per cent of the email is about Sharma…


Let’s have that again:

Eighty per cent of the email is about Sharma…

Let’s have that again, with a little more:

It’s a sad day in Australian politics when the old trick of putting together an anonymous “shit sheet” full of false claims, lies, defamatory stories and character assassination becomes part of an election debate.

The grubby, false and vile claims made against Kerryn Phelps should never have been made and more importantly should never have been given media exposure that justifies the malicious trolls’ intent.

Just because the technology has changed to allow push polling and electronic trolling doesn’t mean the reason for giving this rubbish justification has changed.

What’s more the kneejerk treatment of the carefully crafted false email, down to deliberate typos, missed the racist dog whistle directed against Dave Sharma’s Indian descent.

The palpably false claim that Phelps would not stand at the election on Saturday could not mislead voters, although there was an attempt to get voters to void their ballots by not voting at all for Phelps and voting “only” for Sharma without distributing preferences.

Of course the inference was immediately drawn that this was a “dirty trick” — not just an unhinged nutter seeking to spread vile hatreds — and that meant the prime opponent to Phelps, the Liberals, would be responsible.

Hence a response was sought from Sharma’s office but there is no record of a response being sought from any of the other dozen candidates.

The reporting also missed the usual modus operandi of racists trying to work behind the scenes and argue rationally, reasonably and subliminally completely racist positions. Eighty per cent of the email is about Sharma — not Phelps — and uses a series of set phrases and words designed to antagonise the reader against the person being “praised”.

This email just doesn’t defame Phelps, it’s also a subtle white supremacist, world conspiracy, anti-immigration rant which should have been used like all shit sheets, not given oxygen.

So did the ABC, who broke the story, engage in what appears to be monstrous misreporting – monstrous misreporting designed to damaged a Liberal candidate in a by-election 48 hours before the polls open — when Sharma was the main subject of the shit sheet? Is this what we get for our $1 billion plus each year?

You’re all sensible adults. You can make up your own minds.

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