Probably not. People Skills has morphed into Teflon Tony. Even saying on national television that we shouldn’t believe what he says unless someone else has written it down for him didn’t stick.
I didn’t see the story last night but when I read about it this morning in the SMH I thought, well, unkind things that breach this blog’s no-name-calling policy.
This isn’t a post about yet another dumb and/or insensitive thing Tony Abbott has said. It’s a post about how you need to go looking to find out the basic information you need to make up your mind during the hysterical reporting of “gaffes”, and how that’s not good enough.
So, briefly, when Tony Abbott was in Afghanistan and told that no single factor caused the death of soldier Jared MacKinney, he said “sometimes, shit happens, doesn’t it?”. When Channel Seven journo Mark Riley approached Abbott about it yesterday, Abbott borrowed Julie Bishop’s death stare and turned it into Tony Abbott’s Death Stare of Rage with Added Speechless Nodding.
Check it out:
I read the SMH story over breakfast. It wasn’t until 2.30pm that I got on the internet and watched the video. And discovered that I was wrong – about Seven, the SMH and Abbott.
The SMH reported that Abbott said his comment was taken out of context, yet there was no sentence saying, “When pressed, he would not say what context his comment was delivered in”. So I assumed that he wasn’t asked to explain, which would be Seven’s journalism fail. Saying your comment has been taken out of context is meaningless if you don’t explain the context in which something offensive isn’t actually offensive, and it’s a journalist’s responsibility to ask that question. That would be like saying, “We’ll stop the boats” and not being asked how. Oh, wait.
But he was asked to explain the context, which makes it an SMH journalism fail. That Abbott wouldn’t answer the question is an important part of this story, because it shows us how he reacts under pressure.
It’s no secret that I’m not Tony Abbott’s Number One Fan. I’m horrified by the thought of him becoming Prime Minister. Horrified and despairified. But that the head of the Defence Association isn’t pissed off suggests that the story is more nuanced than we’re led to believe. Pirra and kimsonof can help me out here, but I imagine that when your job involves trying to kill people while not getting killed yourself, you need coping mechanisms, and maybe “sometimes shit just happens” is one of them. And “sometimes, shit just happens” is very different to “well, shit happens”. I’m thinking about ambos who crack jokes to deal with the shit they see. And about the faces of the soldiers around Abbott when he said it. Their expressions didn’t change.
Now, here’s where I call bullshit on Tony Abbott. He says he was ambushed by Riley, yet Riley and Channel Seven had apparently been trying for three months to get the Defence video through Freedom of Information laws. Abbott would have known about that. He’s had three months to figure out how to answer the context question and he came up with nothing.
The real story is not that he said “shit happens”, but that when asked a tricky question, he couldn’t answer. Couldn’t do anything but a bobblehead impression. That’s not a good look for someone who wants to be in charge of a country, is it?