Tony Abbott will probably still be hunkered down in some damp, basment corner of the Lodge when we head into the next election. Probably. He and the Jolly Gollum Hockey undoubtedly expected resistance to their lies and thievery, just as they expected that resistance to come from the usual suspects. From totems and avatars easily demonised in the pages of the Murdoch press. Unionists. Students. Ferals. Whingers.
And God bless the slavering minions of Rupert, they've done their best by the Maximum Sith Lord; my personal favourite being last week's tabloid assault on a 15-year-old school girl by Wes Hosking and Brendan Casey at The Herald Sun. Nice work, lads. Woodward and Bernstein would be proud of you.
(Pixels by JB. The Hun didn't bother.)
For all of the resources available to governments to shape the story (to lie), and control the news cycle (to shift blame, to scapegoat, to distract… Danger! Danger! Refugees!) and in spite of the awesome power of Lord Rupert's fully operational DeathStar firing in their support, not even the most beef-witted Abbott fan, brains rotten with mad cow disease, could characterise the budget as a win.
The response has been savage, the reception so hostile that some of the money saved by making free universal health care not so free and far from universal may now be spent on a shiny new government advertising campaign to 'explain' why the budget was so awesome.
Apparently, very few people thought so. The ingrate bastards.
Granted your inbred plutocrats and market carinvores were kept well fed, happy to pick the dead meat from their canines with the shin bones of the old Australian Settlement, but that's the fuckin' problem innit guvnor? Hockey and Abbott spun up a horror story to sell their horror budget, but their efforts to convince us that the pain would be shared were so ham-fisted and inept and so disconnected from the reality of their attack on everyone who didn't own a mining company or a merchant bank, that the first hints of panic can already be heard outside the closed chamber of the Liberal Party.
The knives aren't out yet. They're not even being sharpened. Abbott will almost certainly survive this first shock, but he now leads a government looking even more like a gimp circus, with the Mad Monk centre stage, a shit-eating fabulist with a really creepy grin.
There is an aspect of the blowback to the budget that I've been meaning to write about for a week or so, however, that I haven't seen spoken of anywhere in the mainstream media. Perhaps that's not surprising because it's a story about the declining power of that media.
Once upon a time the only way we really knew what people thought about a budget was to wait until the Houses of Fairfax or Murdoch told us what to think. Even talkback radio which was the closest thing the media had to a sampling of mass opinion was nothing of the sort. The jabbering dupes who made it on air to parrot the opinions of their talkback superheroes were specifically chosen for that role by the show's producers. They represent nothing more than John Singleton's best guess at how to fill a couple of hours of dead air time with as many ads for incontinence pads and funeral plans as he needs to keep him in expensive ex-wives.
Things are different now. Have been for a while. The pushback against the Jolly Gollum got rolling as soon as he opened his wet lips and began trending on Twitter. People had their say without having to see it filtered through the old, established media. And what they were saying was, "Fuck you, Gollum".
It's only grown worse from there, partly because Hockey and Abbott have proven themselves to be utterly hapless at the arcane political art of convincing poor people to vote for the interests of the rich, but also because although the mainstream media is still the most powerful channel for framing political narratives and delivering or destroying political support, it no longer has a monopoly.
Bloggers are not about to put Rupert Murdoch out of business. But Rupert Murdoch's business is not what it used to be. Before the first oped column could be published, thousands of punters had already unloaded both barrels on Twitter and Facebook, many of them with much greater eloquence and relevance to the concerns of their readers than one of Rupe's slave soldiers. Imagine a single mum*, working graveyard shifts as a casualty nurse to pay school fees for her two teenaged kids who might not be going to university now – she is going to speak more directly to the fears of more people than all the sneering and bile of a Miranda Devine.
The number of people who read her Facebook status update, the one worrying about what's going to happen to her kids now – "OMG, they can't even get the dole if they can't find work!" – the one followed up with another post when she realises she's going to be working her shitty job until she's seventy, sure, it's going to be read by fewer people than Andrew Bolt's latest courageous counterattack on the dark and powerful forces arrayed against him by dark and powerful Aborigines who aren't even that dark so shouldn't be allowed to call themsevles aborigines anyway.
But that pissed off nurse and anxious mum is not alone. She is one of thousands. Millions. And their tiny voices add up to a roaring maelstrom.
I really believe she is behind that shock Abbott and Hockey have experienced. Her voice, raised as soon as Hockey started yammering on about sacrifice. All of the other voices raised with hers. This atomisation of the discourse, the rise of alternative voices and channels, and a loss of the iron control once exercised by newspaper barons in particular over the political narrative, doesn't have to work against the entrenched power of corporate media and the state. Normally it disperses mass discourse. In this case, however, with so many individuals all saying the same thing – "THIS IS FUKT!" – there is no way it can be managed by any government or even by the corporate interests it promotes and defends.
No, it doesn't mean Tony Abbott will be driven from office by Twitter. But it makes it more difficult for someone like Abbott to stay in office and work so nakedly in favour of the super elites while services like Twitter and Facebook and Tumblr exist to amplifiy the howls of rage and pain amongst the voiceless of once-upon-a-time.
Darrly Mason's Orstaylyan blog touched on this a few days ago, and Darryl left a comment below I wanted to pull into the main copy because I think it really sums up my whole point. So I'm gonna turn it over to him:
John's assumption is Murdoch ranters are more read than a single mum on Facebook. Not so sure that is the case any longer. I've seen posts by normally non-political Australians on Facebook, outraged at the Budget, that have been shared 100s of times, reaching 10,000s of people. Murdoch's ranters are words on a newspaper page more often than not flicked by on the way to celebrity gossip or sport. That single mum's heartbreaking words are appearing in Facebook timelines on the recommendation of trusted people, friends sharing with relatives, teens sharing with mums and grandparents and other teens. The 'single mum on Facebook' example is being repeated by others thousands of times a day across Facebook. The bounceback between Twitter and Facebook is enormous. Those on Twitter come across new stories about Budget shockers that they then cut and paste to Facebook and share widely, reaching people who have never heard of Bolt or Albretchensensen and could care less what they have to say. Facebook Aussies trust their friends and family members, and this is where the true Abbott fightback is taking place. And it's unstoppable, and no ad or political spinner or Murdoch ranter is going to make a lick of difference. There's no going back, the beast has been unleashed.