I wrote this to the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday morning:
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.
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.)