The Curious Incident of the Rat in the Daytime

People in Sydney would have seen this image on their Daily Telegraph front pages as they walked to trains or into workplaces. It is based on a rumour that the new Speaker of the House, Peter Slipper, wanted to wear a wig as the speaker. The Daily Telegraph decided to revive their image from earlier of the “King Rat”, this time in a wig.

This seems to be what passes for political coverage in Australia – degrading images of humans depicted as animals. They not only degrade the person in question, they degrade us as a nation. This was the lead story on the Telegraph – and it then turned out to be inaccurate in any case. At the same time, we had the the Herald’s story about the catering company that provided the Coalition’s costings on Nauru, which raised questions about the reliability of costings and policies coming from the opposition. It has turned out the story has more dimensions than first reported, but yesterday it was more important to our national agenda than the Speaker wearing a wig.

Such a story about the costings did not appear in The Telegraph, neither today or yesterday. Instead, it was Slipper. Slipper with the wig – and when that was shown to be a fabrication, it was Slipper going to NZ. My view of the degrading nature of the rat picture was part of a Twitter conversation that featured Alison Rehn, Greg Jericho and the National Affairs Editor at the Australian, Ben Packham. It was started by a comment by Packham about Greg Jericho – to which I retweeted with my own comment.

Media = Commodity. RT @bennpackham @GrogsGamut @alisonrehn love to see a newspaper edited by Greg Jericho, but who’d buy it?

After he agreed with me that media is a commodity, I responded with:

Me – @bennpackham @GrogsGamut @alisonrehn Therefore, Slipper in wig depicted as a rat takes prominence over catering company providing figures.

Packham – @prestontowers @GrogsGamut @alisonrehn Slipper IS a rat. You dispute this? Labor is tarnished y it’s association with him

Me – @bennpackham @GrogsGamut @alisonrehn It is fine for media outlets to quote people who believe he is a rat. It’s not for the media to judge.

Packham – @prestontowers @GrogsGamut @alisonrehn no, he’s a rat by common definition

Me – @bennpackham @GrogsGamut @alisonrehn I am not sure when society said yes to people being depicted as rodents on front pages.

Packham – @prestontowers @alisonrehn @GrogsGamut Coalition says yes, his electorate says yes, Labor says you bewdy

Me – @bennpackham @alisonrehn @GrogsGamut You did not address my point – the depiction of a man as a rodent on the front page of a paper.

Packham – @prestontowers @alisonrehn @GrogsGamut so what, he is

Tasmanian journalist Alex Johnston (@swegen31) then came with this comment:

Johnston – @prestontowers don’t agree with you on this one mate. There’s no arguing he’s a rat. @bennpackham

Me – @swegen31 I know he’s a “rat” – but I object to his physical depiction as one. It’s puerile. @bennpackham

Packham – @prestontowers @swegen31 don’t buy the feckin’ paper

Me – @lloydois @bennpackham @GrogsGamut @alisonrehn Going back to my original point. Coalition costings story is much bigger than Slipper’s wig.

Packham – @prestontowers @lloydois @GrogsGamut we reported coatings and wig

Me – @bennpackham @swegen31 If the paper had front page stories like the coalition costings story, wouldn’t that sell papers as well?

Packham – @prestontowers @swegen31 get real. Not tabloids

Me – @bennpackham @lloydois @GrogsGamut What page was costings on?

Packham – @prestontowers @alisonrehn @GrogsGamut we reported costings online I dunno about paper. When is Labor going to deliver surplus anyway?

Alex Johnston @swegen31: @bennpackham @prestontowers the fact we are still talking about the rat shows it was the right front page.

Me – @swegen31 @bennpackham I think the fact we are talking about the rat is because it shows a low watermark of our media.

And that was it. The most illuminating comment – other than “so what, he is” was that about tabloids not publishing such a story. Having seen how the Daily Telegraph works, I would have thought that if the Government was being accused of using faulty costing mechanisms like that, we would be seeing a front page featuring a McDonalds or Cafe sign superimposed on a picture of the existing Nauru facilities. The most absurd from Mr. Packham was throwing in the irrelevant issue of the Labor surplus – perhaps showing us how much of a one track mind is being developed at The Australian.

I’m still not sure when we all thought it was good and acceptable to depict people this way – and for journalists to play such a partisan and immature game of name calling and liking the 14 year old style of scribbling on pictures. Perhaps the naughty boys up the back of our classrooms have become our journalists – not the “nerds” sitting up the front.

But perhaps I could just not be concerned about this style of political coverage and ignore the feckin’ paper.

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2 thoughts on “The Curious Incident of the Rat in the Daytime

  1. Just to think, all those years ago, when George Brandis referred to Howard as a “lying rodent” they could have (but didn’t) trotted out a similar picture.

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