An advert from GetUp criticising Rupert Murdoch was rejected by the mainstream press. Social media went into outrage mode, sharing and retweeting links to the video.
Perhaps the biggest problem in contemporary political discourse is the abuse of outrage. We don’t seek to persuade people who disagree with us. Instead, we seek to get our supporters incoherently outraged. I’ve argued elsewhere that it’s a deliberate strategy in the asylum seeker debate — both ‘sides’ of politics have more to gain from trashing the debate than participating in it.
But GetUp has taken this in a new direction. No person who sees that advert will change their opinion about Murdoch. There’s no content to it whatsoever. The point of the advert is not — crazily enough — to draw attention to Murdoch but to draw attention to GetUp.
In other words, we are now at the point in political discourse that an organisation like GetUp can cynically bank on the value of outrage. GetUp didn’t try to get the adverts played on YouTube, or on any of the other new media outlets. Instead, they targeted the part of the industry which was not relevant to their target audience in order to get free publicity elsewhere.
This is indicative of something incredibly sick at the heart of political debate.
But look instead at the consequence of this sort of activity. Surely the point of political debate is to persuade and be persuaded. Instead, we’ve seen this GetUp advert, the ‘dontbeafuckingidiot’ website, and various other campaigns which were targeted instead at convincing people who already agree with them that they should agree with them.
Abbott’s campaign team understood this problem early. Because all the polls were in their favour, they had to do very little in order to keep in the ‘lead’. Jaymes Diaz and Ray King have been able to hide from public debate and still come across as contenders for their seats. Why? Because they had more to lose from upsetting their supporters than they had to gain from convincing people who disagree with them.
Rudd’s team has not had that luxury and they needed to convince the disillusioned. As a result, we’ve had… Not much. The Left has shown that it has no idea how to convince swinging voters. Worse, websites like ‘dontbeafuckingidiot’ have shown that the Left gets belligerently upset when swinging voters don’t make the effort to agree with them.
I’ve only ever heard this reasoning once before in my life. When I was a teenager, my estranged father had a whinge that my brothers and I didn’t make more of an effort to see him. The whinge was actually a phrasing of a different truth: he didn’t know us well enough to form a relationship.
The Left is currently suffering the same problem that my father had with me. They simply do not understand swinging voters enough to engage with them. Instead of acknowledging this failure and working to correct it, they instead complain that swinging voters are ignorant and obstinate and uncooperative and unthinking sheep.
Outrage is the manifestation of prejudices confirmed. If you want to change people’s opinion, you need to change the language of people’s intuitions. Should Rudd fail to retain government this Saturday, the Left will need to look at its foot-stamping political strategy. GetUp has shown that it’s part of the problem and not part of the solution.
- GetUp takes on TV networks over refusal to show anti-Murdoch advert (theguardian.com)
- Quickpost: On @GetUp’s video of Abbott quotes #auspol #ausvotes (onlythesangfroid.wordpress.com)
- Anti-Murdoch ad banned from TV (smh.com.au)
- Your favourite TV station may be part of this bastardry – please read & share #ausvotes #media #censorship (tonyserve.wordpress.com)
- Australian TV networks reject anti-Murdoch commercial that accuses him of printing ‘misleading crap’ in his newspapers (rawstory.com)
- Media briefs: GetUp ad cut … Murdoch’s phone bill … Malcolm cut out … (crikey.com.au)
- TV networks refuse to run GetUp anti-Murdoch ad (abc.net.au)
- Watch the Anti-Murdoch Commercial That Australian TV Won’t Run (adage.com)