Instructive to see how the domestic MSM have mis- or under-read the meaning of the Gillard speech, now a wild success around the world. And Australians do love a winner.

The Age, Tony Wright: “She stuck the knife into Tony Abbott for being an Alan Jones lickspittle and a misogynist. .. And so it went.” The SMH, Peter Hartcher: “All she achieved was a serious loss of credibility.” The Oz, Dennis Shanahan: “Gillard’s … presentation was brilliantly ferocious … [but] risked only alienating more voters disenchanted with the grubby, hypocritical and personal abuse from both sides of parliament.”

Meanwhile, os — The Guardian: “The rousing speech by Julia Gillard … has gone viral. Her anger is raw … Gillard has been called a witch, a bitch and told that her father died of shame for her politics.”

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The New Yorker: “So why is this among the most-shared videos by my American friends today? Purely as political theatre, it’s great fun … Or perhaps it’s that we are right now in one of the rare periods every four years where the American political process provides actual face-to-face debate between the leaders of the two parties. After his performance last week, supporters of President Obama, watching Gillard cut through the disingenuousness and feigned moral outrage of her opponent to call him out for his own personal prejudice, hypocrisy, and aversion to facts, might be wishing their man would take a lesson from Australia.”

The Australian media contextualised Gillard’s fifteen minutes of aim and shame into the muck of an ongoing political wrestle; this particular episode involving the repellent speech of various political/politicised figures. (Which is to say, I think they missed the non-political point of the speech.) The overseas press, through their distanced lenses, immediately zeroed in on the universal sense of moral and female outrage: the “double standards” and “hypocrisy” so nakedly named by the PM. As the New Yorker put it: “Gillard, of course, has her own strategic interests here as well—to keep Slipper on her party’s side—but in the process she got everyone talking about something much more important.” And what they saw as well as a female rhetorician in white heat was also the face of a man crumpling, from smirking to appalled (not quite right: disbelieving? discomfited? — befuddled), in the relentless assault of mirror and quotes.

But what set off this conflagration? It’s like that moment in Ghostbusters when they do the thing they’ve been told never to do, “cross the streams.” When the lines of power cross — “try to imagine…every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light.” With Gillard it was the conjuction of Politician, Woman and Daughter: the sheer political necessity of defending the indefensible Slipper; her personal feminist-female fury at a long period of public sexist abuse; and finally, the until now unexpressed rage over the maligning of her beloved, recently deceased father’s feelings for her. If you strike the Redhead, expect fire.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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