On New Year’s Eve I had an epiphany. It was at lunchtime by the way – not after a long evening – as it has been some years since I have stayed up to see the New Year in.
We had guests for lunch who have a similar attitude to waiting around until midnight. They had brought a bottle of Moet along. It’s also a long time since I’ve been allowed to drink much but Moet deserves two glasses so it was a bit of an exceptional day.
Needless to say the discussion turned to politics and one of the lunch guests raised something about the current political situation and mentioned the Cabinet Minister Chris Bowen.
When I looked blank and I simply couldn’t recall what Bowen’s portfolio was the guest said: “Don’t you read the newspapers?
And that’s when I had my epiphany. I realised I no longer pore over the daily newspaper and now have only a tangential interest in Australian politics. In 2021 and 2022, along with Bob Weis, Mike Hollands and Bob Ditton I was deeply involved in political campaigning through the Truth and Integrity Project. Up early I did research for the Twitter feed Bob Ditton ran; worked with Mike and Bob Weis on writing ads; reviewed polling and attitudinal research and its implications; tended the Project’s website; and promoted our activities.
Even when I was working in politics I probably didn’t work so intensively – partly because political campaigns were much more primitive in those days.
In the last week of the campaign, while I was in hospital, I was writing our final website post on corruption and integrity. After I discharged myself so I could vote (there was no absentee voting facility in the hospital) I came home, watched the ABC coverage until it was obvious Morrison was gone, and then collapsed into bed before the speeches began.
In the following months I followed politics progressively less and less intensively as the agitation, the contempt and the sick feeling in my stomach which occurred whenever Morrison spoke, or I thought of him, dissipated and the Albanese Government set about rectifying policy failures and implementing much needed changes.
But it was the New Year’s lunch which was responsible for the epiphany and what it involved.
I realised that I was just flicking through the morning’s Age and spending more time on the sports pages than the features or news pages. I realised that I never had to read Peter Hartcher and some others ever again.
I could still enjoy the only Australian economics journalist worth reading, Ross Gittins, and the inimitable Greg Baum the only sporting journalist who challenges the nonsense claims emanating from the Grand Prix but for the rest of The Age and the Australian media – why bother?
…and what do you get from the mainstream media anyway? One day it is demands why the Government hasn’t introduced COVID testing for Chinese travellers to Australia. A few days later it’s pages on why they shouldn’t have.
The Australian thinks the big issue of the day is whether it is scandal or not that Alan Jones is selling off his library and how Peter Fitzsimons reacted to his book about Kokoda was being devalued in price. Having never listened to Alan Jones nor read any book by Peter Fitzsimons it didn’t seem terribly important. But then much of what gets The Australian aggravated is irrelevant to most Australians. (BTW: I haven’t started reading The Australian. My friend Tony Jaques told me about it while laughing about how deaccession of a book could be worth an ‘insult’ headline).
Most importantly the urgency about politics has disappeared on just about everything except The Voice campaign. Even with this, despite the apprehension Australian progressives always suffer from when much-needed reforms are proposed, there is a fundamental belief that the massive grassroots campaign underway will defeat the obfuscations, lies and misrepresentations of the opponents.
The opponents need to fall back on the time-honoured tactics of arguing about where the details were or lightly concealed racism seem a bit absurd in a country which had voted yes to gay marriage and where a tide of young people would swamp the old, embittered racist minority.
On top of that whenever the Tories drag out John Howard and Tony Abbott to support their campaigns you know they are in deep trouble.
Although to the rare credit of Nine newspapers they did publish (1 January) Professor Anne Twomey’s demolition of the nonsense of needing details about the Voice – details which Parliament settles and would never need to appear in the Constitution anyway.
For the rest of the media – why bother? I still read The Economist each week and the Weekend FT (except for the fashion bits) and quickly flick through the email headlines from the Guardian, Washington Post and crikey and check the ABC News feed and The Saturday Paper.
But as for daily absorption in news coverage my epiphany revealed not only how unnecessary it was but how I hadn’t actually noticed I had stopped being immersed in it.
And unlike smoking and drinking it’s easier to give up on much of the Australian media than it is to give up smoking or to cut back alcohol consumption.
Nevertheless, I can recommend all three, for better physical and mental health. You too might also experience an epiphany.
Note: Regular readers will note that the blog always refrains from using the perpendicular pronoun. It seemed a bit inappropriate to use the blog word instead of the I word for something like an epiphany. The blog will return to the usual blog usage from the next blog.