The media and March in March

I wrote this to the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday morning:

Dear Sir
So Prime Minister Tony Abbott was correct after all when he said, as shown on the ABC News last night, that the only big march happening in Sydney was the St Patrick’s Day march. He must have been correct because that’s the only march reported in today’s SMH, and the SMH is a journal of record, or at least it was once.
The March in March demonstration by people wanting their voices to be heard in opposition to the many ways in which the Abbott government is attacking the common good evidently didn’t happen. Their numbers, ranging from 8 to 40 thousand depending on whose estimate you take, were an illusion that took up the whole of Broadway from Railway Square to Victoria Park. The illusion evidently was sufficiently realistic for you to publish two accounts online, the first a derisory and derisive AAP report [sorry, I couldn’t find it on the Fairfax site] saying there were hundreds of people and mentioning a couple of ‘wacky’ placards, the second mentioning a more realistic  figure of 8–10 thousand and giving a somewhat more accurate account of the demonstrators.
A couple of the speakers at this non-event spoke of the terrible effect of cynicism on our public life. Your total silence about this event, and other marches all over the country – not even a by-the-way in your account of the St Patrick’s Day march – is certainly doing its bit to foster cynicism.
Jonathan Shaw

Today’s paper did publish a letter from Antony Mann of Lawson (scroll down at the link) making the same general point much more succinctly. I wonder how many they received?

Paradoxically, I found the Herald‘s near silence oddly encouraging. If they can minimise or ignore what was probably more than 50,000 people in the streets all over Australia, then what else are they not telling us about? How many small acts are being performed in the community every day, invisible to the newspapers, that contribute to a swelling movement to bring some kind of sense to Australia’s responses to climate change, the international refugee crisis, predator capitalism and so on? Maybe the future is brighter than the Fairfax press makes it look. (Pardon me if I don’t mention Murdoch.)

And then there’s this, which I’ll write in spite of Godwin’s Law:

At Belmore Park on Sunday, I met an old friend who had come out in the pouring rain to be part of the march. She was going home before the speeches were finished, because, as she said, she was pooped. She’s 89 next week and the effort had taken its toll, but she said she was greatly heartened by the big turn-out. She was a girl in Austria at the Anschluss, the daughter of secular Jews. It matters to her to see people making their voices heard against injustice, even when the injustice is perpetrated by a democratically elected government.

A young woman with rainbow hair asked to take our photo. As we smiled for the camera, my friend surmised that she wanted us for our white hair. The young woman said she was sending the photo to her parents to show that there were respectable people at the demo – something, it turns out, they wouldn’t have learned from the Sydney Morning Herald.

(Also, thank heaven for the publicly funded SBS and ABC television.)

6 responses to “The media and March in March

  1. Dear Jonathan, we were also at the rally against cynicism. We felt great to be a part of it and I think that a lot of people’s juices have begun to flow again. Love your work and your eloquent way of saying the truth. Tim Carroll


  2. Oh good for you Jonathan. Unfortunately I had a clash for the time of our march here (I’m secretary of a cultural organisation Friends’ group and our committee was meeting then.) I’m thinking now we should have changed our meeting time! Love the rainbow-hair-coloured girl taking the photo to show her parents. You can just hear it can’t you!


  3. Tim, Jonathan: Billy BRAGG pointed out that the real problem of our society is cynicism. Didn’t you love his singing – as well as Kaveh BAKHTIARI’s performance poetry piece: “To the Not-so-honourable Mr Abbott, Sir!” and all the other eloquent, impassioned speakers. Yesterday I was betwixt house-sit and home – had only a cursory glance through the SMH – saw nothing about the March in March for Sydney – figured I had flicked over too many pages! Shocked early this morning to read the letter in the SMH pointing out clearly that there had been no report in its pages! What is going on?! Bravo for writing as you did. Let’s hope we see some decent response, too, otherwise we might as well say it’s all over for the SMH as a reputable daily paper – especially when reputable types with white hair were in that great river of concerned citizens flowing up Broadway from Belmore Park to Victoria Park! And Warren Mundine calling us all wankers – while he wandered off to the footy – I loved the curse placed on him by Ken CANNING – that he return after the game in which his team had lost to find a parking infringement notice on his car! Impish!


  4. Thanks Jonathan. Of all the things that Tony Abbott has done, his response to the march was possibly the one that has made me sickest. He’s not just ignoring a march – he’s willing to ignore what must be about half the population, based on recent polls. A lot of people have a ‘he was elected – get over it’ attitude to any sort of criticism of Tony Abbott. In ignoring a peaceful protest in such a childish manner he showed how clearly his government is willing to rule only for its friends.


  5. Thanks for commenting, all. Speaking of progressive actions that will rarely if ever be reported in the press, how about you guys? Remaking the public image of Western Sydney, being active in the Quakers, organising innovative educators, exploring alternatives to the rat race. Onyez!


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