There’s a nasty little tale called The Outsider by the twentieth century horror writer, H. P. Lovecraft, where an unworldly beast learns he is a monster after seeing himself in a mirror for the first time.
Alas, this is a process we must all go through in life if we want to grow and rid ourselves of undesirable qualities. However, after reading regular ABC and The Project panellist, Jan Fran, I am beginning to worry people cannot recognise their reflection in the glass windows of Australia’s inner-city coffee shops.
In a piece published by The Age, “The green inner-city bogeyman is a figment of the government’s imagination”, Jan attempts to debunk this notion as a myth.
Well-written prose positioning oneself as a cultural elitist with a superior grip on humanity than the rest of us is forgivable, but we cannot accept the misrepresentation of numbers.
To push forward her agenda and speak on behalf of Australians, Jan uses questionable data with a small pool of respondents. No matter how righteous you may think your argument is, this is not okay — especially in a post-COVID world where misconstrued numbers are used every day to alter the fabric of our society.
Jan claims, “60 per cent of Australians say they ‘view climate change as a serious and pressing problem. Seventy-one per cent say they somewhat or strongly support action to meet the Paris targets. Sixty-one per cent want Australia to achieve a net-zero emissions target by 2050.’”
Out of the three surveys referenced, one asked 1,000 Australians, another 3,286 and the third 1,600. One of these polls was proven to be flawed by Adrian Beaumont in The Conversation, who explains it is “completely unsurprising, given this framing, that voters massively prefer new tech”.
To use Jan’s words, “Something isn’t adding up!” How can she speak for a whole country when using surveys that collectively make up 0.02 per cent of the population?
Jan goes further to state, “It doesn’t matter which poll you read, the majority of Australians want action on climate change, and the majority of Australians don’t live in the inner city.”
Jan’s critique that the “Green inner-city bogeyman” is a fallacy may be correct. She is missing the point, however.
The phrase is not meant to be taken literally. No one actually believes our inner-cities are overrun with virtue signalling latte drinkers. Ironically, in her quest to disprove this, she has embodied the definition of this hyper-moral being by using research with a narrow reach to state the opinion of Australians.
Perhaps Fran has forgotten about the 2019 election, which pundits say was lost on Labour’s clean energy policy; or the recent leadership spill in the Nationals where the party’s stand on emission targets was a contributing factor?
A federal election that engages a majority of the population is a far better indicator of our position on green energy than any poll a newspaper can produce.
The phrase in question has emerged in an increasingly polarised Australia, where there is a growing disconnect between people living in major cities and rural areas.
Typically, it is used to describe those on the left who push forward a progressive agenda — think climate change or identity politics — with disregard for the quiet Australian. It is hubris like Jan’s that highlights precisely why the term was coined, validating its use in political discourse.
Numbers do not always present objective truths, and far too often, we see them being treated as such in the political debate. When you’re passionate about an issue, it is easy to fall into the trap of statistical sensationalism, but this is low hanging fruit and only erodes the integrity of Australian journalism.
Seeing what we want to believe is something we are all guilty of in the echo chambers of our political leanings. For this reason, we must demand transparency from journalists, politicians and each other, especially when numbers are concerned because they’re easily mistaken as gospel.
We ought to place a higher value on respecting facts instead of manipulating them to fit a narrative — a tactic used shamelessly by the left; à la Dark Emu and the ABC’s Scott Morrison/QAnon conspiracy theory.
Friedrich Nietzsche warns, “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster”. Sadly, in Fran’s case, she has become the latte-drinking bogeywoman she says doesn’t exist. However, I must confess, I do enjoy a caramel latte on a Sunday morning — although I make sure to look at myself in the window as I walk out.
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