Yesterday I wrote about the leadership crisis that the media has entirely manufactured. I am sure that it goes without saying for most of you that the media are not mere observers, gathers and reporters of news in our political space. They act in the space perhaps even more than the politicians. The media defines the terms of our political debates and the context those debates take place. No one else in the political space has the power to manufacture reality like the media does.
Not to labour the point, but I think The Age today illustrated my point beautifully.
MPs waver? So Labor MPs have expressed doubt about Gillard’s leadership? A challenger is counting their numbers? Anything?
No. Nothing of the sort.
That’s not to say Labor MPs aren’t feeling a touch of dispair. They have been getting nowhere in opinions polls, and the two biggest media stories of the week are how the government is incompetent (High Court ruling) or just plain stuffed (Craig Thompson). This despite the Parliamentary Budget Officer bill being introduced to parliament.
SOME of Julia Gillard’s own MPs have declared she is stuck ”spinning her wheels” and predicted an election rout ”in varying degrees of diabolical”, as Labor’s internal despair spills out into public view.
That’s not leadership speculation. That’s not MPs wavering on leadership. That’s a feeling that has been expressed for months. They’re not getting anywhere in the public’s mind, and it’s frustrating the hell out off them.
The Age then reports that the ALP is feeding information to the opposition on the Craig Thompson affair, but then The Age tells us that “Both sides agree the leaks do not appear to be motivated by a desire to damage Ms Gillard”. So not wavering on leadership then.
And this is where the story enters self-perpetuation mode,
Both sides agree the leaks do not appear to be motivated by a desire to damage Ms Gillard; but the Thomson affair, along with the High Court’s ruling last week against the Malaysian refugee swap deal, has intensified speculation about Ms Gillard’s future as Prime Minister.
Speculation from where? The media. But that doesn’t matter, by this point the idea of media speculation is so entrenched that they don’t need to justify it, they just need to say it. The Age is reporting on the media’s own speculation.
The only reason that Gillard has even commented on matters of leadership (or anyone has commented on it, for that matter) is because the media has asked about it.
Then the article come crashing to a close almost contradicting the first half of the article,
Sources across the party insist there is no imminent move against her, citing a prevailing view that she should be given time to pass carbon price laws and sort out Labor’s stoush over gay marriage.
Former New South Wales premier Bob Carr insisted the party was not considering a change of leader. ”I know they’re not. There’s no basis for leadership speculation,” he said
Bob Carr is probably right, or at least he was. There wasn’t any basis for leadership speculation. The point I am labouring here is that the media may have been imagining all of this leadership speculation, but the media has the power to imagine it into reality. Leadership speculation is very real now even though it wasn’t before.