Yes, much of the twittering is the unpleasant expression of rage from all sides, especially when emotions are running as high as during the ‘lockdown’ in Melbourne. The shortcoming of Johanna Leggatt’s excellent but needlessly defensive article is that she assumes ‘journalists’ to be equally responsible and diligent professionals (‘The Problem of Belonging: The Twitter mob is a threat to writers and journalists’). They aren’t. Much of the reporting on the lockdown has been lopsided opinion (rather than reporting) and self-indulgent searching for ‘gotcha’ moments. If the Andrews government had followed the advice of most journalists, rather than that of epidemiologists, we would now be in a UK-style situation, with soaring rates of infection.
Peter McPhee (online comment)
Johanna Leggatt replies:
Thanks for your comment. I certainly agree that not all journalists are of the same calibre, but, of course, we could say that of any profession. Let me be absolutely clear that my central argument was about the impact of the specific nature of Twitter on working writers and journalists. For the purposes of the argument, it was important to assume a certain level of professionalism in the broader industry sense. The questions of whether the lockdown has resulted in a positive outcome for Victoria (few would argue it hasn’t) or whether journalism has become routinely shoddy are, indeed, interesting ideas, but they belong in separate comment pieces. Surely, it is possible to disagree with what some reporters extract from press conferences and churn into commentary, but believe more broadly in the journalist’s right to do her work without death threats or trolling on Twitter.
Parsing Donald Trump
I have been searching for some incisive analysis of the contemporary moment in the age of Donald Trump and I have finally happened upon it in Gideon Haigh’s review of Bob Woodward’s book Rage. Haigh nails phenomena that I have been unable to parse. Woodward, he states, ‘keeps straining to interpret Trump by the light of previous presidents’. That’s what it is, and it’s not limited to commentary on the Trump ‘administration’. The same could be said about the UK Tories and Brexit.
This is why so much analysis seems to function as obfuscation. ‘[F]inding that facts here have no purchase’, says Haigh, ‘Woodward is reduced to pointless imprecations.’ This practice is what I have repeatedly witnessed in political commentary and it is very helpful to have it named and explained so well. We haven’t been here before, certainly not in my lifetime. We need to name and explain things in order to develop a fitting response.
Kate Hegarty (online comment)