One of the best emails I get in my inbox (after Spectator’s Morning Shot, of course) is the Fourth Watch Newsletter by Steve Krakauer. He’s a media expert from USA, who keeps a close watch on the fourth estate, hence the name of his newsletter and podcast. One frequent column is called ‘How did this get published?’.
But Steve doesn’t follow Australian news, for obvious reasons, and hence I feel obliged to write this article. Because ABC – How on earth do you possibly begin to justify publishing this!?
QAnon follower Tim Stewart’s an old friend of Scott Morrison. His family reported him to the national security hotline.
This article, based on last night’s 4 Corners, describes an Australian named Tim who has discovered the QAnon conspiracy, and according to his sister, “believes that the world has really been taken over by satanic paedophiles, or Luciferian paedophiles”. Satanic or Luciferian – that’s covering all your bases. He freaked his family out so much that they called the national security hotline.
According to his family, “he told them he could talk to cockroaches and that both former American first lady Michelle Obama and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern were actually men.”
Well, all of us can talk to cockroaches, so I don’t see why that’s relevant. Nevertheless, it does sure sound like Tim is lacking some internal logic regulator that can find the boundary between what’s credible and what’s far-fetched. I haven’t met him and I don’t really trust this report, but it’s certainly possible that he’s just completely nuts; the sort of person who is going to start a conversation with you on the bus.
Implicitly, the article attempts to generalise this one case to a much bigger systemic problem of online communities radicalising people, and to present it in its most threatening and tragic light. Yet without providing examples of harm being done, it’s going to be hard to convince actual Australians who know from basic lived experience that Qanon are rare as hen’s teeth in Australia and that conspiracy nuts are generally harmless.
Anyhow, I can see that if you are going to write an article about crazy people, then having a case study is a good way to do it. And if you find someone whose family are so loving and caring that they are willing to blab to 4 Corners all about him, then you’re going to proceed. But that’s not why this particular man was considered newsworthy.
The key element of this article, reinforced with unnecessary detail and a clumsy headline, is that Tim has been a friend of our Prime Minister, Scott Morrison. And so has his wife. For years!
And what, seriously what, are the authors trying to imply by this? That Tim is close enough to the prime minister to pose a threat to his safety? Are they trying to imply that the PM is also a closet Qanon simpathiser? Or do they think that having a crazy friend will tarnish the PM’s character by association? Apparently, that’s Tim’s sister’s perspective. She said “I don’t understand why the PM would want to be seen to be with someone who has such radical beliefs.”
So this is how we should view people who believe irrational conspiracy theories. You wouldn’t even want to be seen with them. A good prime minister would be too dignified to befriend such a low, reprehensible and dangerous person. A good PM would only ever mingle with intelligent, educated, rational elite people.
What a Pharisee! Who would say that about anyone, let alone their own brother? With family like that, who need frenemies? If you bother to read the whole article, it turns out that Tim’s sister, from whom most of the article is sourced, is a recent Green party candidate. Why wasn’t the headline, ‘Green party candidate throws mentally deranged brother under the bus for politics’?
So a family is torn apart along political lines because they have both extremes in the one generation. And these reporters see an opportunity to reinforce the ‘Qanon is a really big threat, even in Australia narrative. I disagree with it, and it’s hardly good reporting, buts it’s what I’d expect. However, the attempt to tarnish the Prime Minister at the same time by association is reprehensible. That’s not reporting, it’s mudslinging. What happened to fair and balanced?
ABC, how did this get published? How did the program get to air?
Nick Kastelein is a Christian and a conservative who grew up and lives in Adelaide where he works for an engineering consultancy.
Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.