Oct 12, 2012

‘Clusterfuck’: how the media slipped up on the Speaker saga

They were the text messages that brought down the Speaker, making political history. So why did most of the media miss them?

Matthew Knott

Former Crikey media reporter

The modern media is a ravenous beast, quick to seize upon seemingly any scrap of scandal or conflict. Yet in this age of information overload, it’s still possible for a ground-breaking story to fly past the fourth estate as it stands by, distracted and impotent.

Look no further than Peter Slipper and the vile texts he sent to a former staffer comparing female g-nitalia to “shell-less mussels”. The story was so big that, in less than a week, Slipper — until then one of the great survivors of Australian politics — had been forced from the job.

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76 thoughts on “‘Clusterfuck’: how the media slipped up on the Speaker saga

  1. eric

    Just goes to show how last century newspaper really are! The sooner they die the better.

  2. Mark out West

    If the description is as vile as you portray then I would suggest that you are condemning a very significant portion of the population. The bearded cl#m is referred to in many male conversations, if this is all there is then the reason it received no traction was most reporters have used or laughed at the phrase.

    Get over yourself.

  3. geomac62

    So why is pussy riot so widely publicised ? What is the timeline of these texts , before or after Slipper became speaker ?

  4. Stevo the Working Twistie

    It is just so hard these days to decide what to be outraged about. Who can blame the mainstream media for not knowing which triviality to beat up out of all proportion?

  5. Shaniq'ua Chardonnay

    I think the reason the texts escaped notice is that they really only had ‘political implications”. They really don’t come across as misogynist to me – they just seem stupid. The worst was calling Ms Mirabella a ‘botch’ which was pretty venomous but that’s about it. I wonder if there are any similar comments about his male counterparts.

  6. legal-affairs

    The paragraph which begins, “According to many commentators on social media . . .” should more accuarately begin, “According to anyone with two functioning brain cells to rub together . . .”. If one is unfit for public office because one has made an off-colour remark in a private text/email/conversation then we should shortly be expecting to see two very empty Houses in Canberra.

    The false equivalence between public and private conduct is just another example of the way in which “balanace” is used as a crutch by those journalists unwilling, or unable, to do any actual analysis.

  7. Mark out West

    Also the phrase “The fourth Estate” belongs to only a very small minority of independent journalists, you could count on one hand.

    The rest are partisan, normally right wing because it doesn’t take as much intelligence to side with the money and power. Journalists like to wrap themselves in the “Fourth Estate” mythology like people who call themselves patriots wrap themselves in the flag.

  8. Michael Lines

    Geomac26, the texts were sent last year, before Slipper was Speaker. But you wont get the Coalition owning that little fact.

  9. Ben N

    I agree Shaniq – somewhat off colour comments in private messages do not a misogynist make.

    I am also surprised that there is little emphasis on the ‘private’ part either, as opposed to the allegations against Abbot for his very public opinions. To my knowledge, Peter Slipper hasn’t gone on the record with sexist remarks – if he had I am sure it would be dredged up by now!

  10. Matt Hardin

    @Stevo – you win. That is the comment of the week! Worthy of a whole First Dog cartoon.

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