Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Real Contest: Worm vs the Libs

That didn't take long. It seems the election campaign, never destined to be an entirely high-minded affair, has already come down with a severe case of the sillies. The substantive issues discussed in Sunday's debate have now been well and truly overshadowed - even internationally - by Wormgate. Censorship or breach of agreement? Liberal Party/Glenn Milne conspiracy? What does it all mean? Could it be that the Worm is ... Union?

It would be one thing if Wormgate and commentary thereon were confined to the understimulated bloggers among us. But it's not, not by a long shot. I understand why the journalists are playing along - the subeditors get a simple binary choice between "Can of Worms" and "The Worm Turns" - but people with actual responsibilities are joining in the fun. Worm favourite Kevin Rudd prudently refused to enter the fray, contenting himself with a jokey "I have not interviewed the worm. I'll leave debate about the worm to others."

But the Health Minister, Tony Abbott, has no such qualms. Loyal to a fault, and incensed at the way the Worm treated his beloved boss, Abbott has being doing his bit to advance the anti-worm agenda. He's not saying the Worm is union, exactly, but there's definitely something suspicious going on:

To me, it is pretty clear that that was an audience that had already made up its mind who it was in favour of, and I wonder how that audience was selected. I don't think the worm was a fair reflection.

Get back to work!

Meanwhile, Howard biographer Peter van Onselen is calling the debate for Howard, although just barely. Fine; but what are we to make of this rationale?

Kevin Rudd ... underperformed. He wants Australians to throw out a largely successful government, whatever disagreements people might have with aspects of their policies.

I beg your pardon. Those "disagreements" are not trivial quibbles. They are exactly why so many of us - not just Rudd - want to throw out Howard's government. Are we to admire the mere fact of Howard's 11 years in government despite believing that much of what he did during that time was immoral and damaging?

That's really what the Libs and their most ardent supporters would have us do. Which, incidentally, is one reason they're still performing so poorly in the polls - people are suddenly sick of "vote for us, you always have before!" Perhaps van Onselen's time would be better employed devising a new strategy for Howard, rather than lamenting the "perception" that Rudd won the debate.


diego luego said...

Well, John Howard decided on the date of the debate, the format of the debate and how many debates there were going to be. But, unfortunately for him, he could not control the media (this time). Despite stacking the odds as favourably as he could, he came out second best.

Channel 9 has the copyright over the Worm, but the ABC needs to add some pizazz.

I've got an idea for them......

If the audience agrees with the speaker the lighting gradually brightens, the camera zooms in, and the volume increases. If it disagrees the opposite happens. Calibration is by the speaker saying "Peter Costello" five times to determine the minimum brightness, zoom and volume.

Excuse me now, I'm just nipping out to copyright this.

Lucy said...

It's frankly a little scary that a political party would attempt to influence an important broadcast this blatantly. JH has ruled with an iron fist for so long, he's forgotten he doesn't live in his own personal fiefdom. Shame on the Libs, shame on the National Press Club, with extra special shame points to Glenn Milne. It's one thing for journalists to have a political agenda, but surely if there's one interest that unites journalists as a group it's freedom of the press from political interference.

I very much like your audience-meter idea. Now we just have to stack the ABC board. The Worm's reaction to Costello was hilarious, the highlight of an outstanding Worm performance.