Will ‘shit happens’ put Tony in the shit?

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?

20 responses to “Will ‘shit happens’ put Tony in the shit?

  1. NWN ,that’s correct .
    “shit happens “is abbott speak when he is stumped for an answer . Nobody pays much attention .
    Now a bloody big BUT. He believes he should be PM yet when asked a question no matter how trivial because that’s MSM aussie style he dropped out, he could not think of any thing to say. This thing wants to be PM and he stood there like a dunce .
    I actually think this is good journalism ,the question was asked ,explain the context,he had not been accused of anything detrimental and he is a big tough in your face politician who has great people skills and he shit himself , nothing to say. Others say he looked as if he wanted to assault the reporter I think he thought he had actually done something wrong with the statement to the soldiers and was trying not to cry. In his mind he was probably thinking “not another stuff up”.

    • Exactly, tredlgt. It’s not that he said “shit happens” – and like I said in the post, “sometimes shit just happens” is a lot different to “well, shit happens”, and it’s dishonest for the MSM to be reporting it as such – it’s that he couldn’t think on his feet.

      And yes, Riley asking him to explain the context IS good journalism. We just don’t see it often enough. And I don’t think he looked like he wanted to punch Riley. Maybe it’s the camera angle, but to me it looked like his brain said ‘if you don’t move and don’t say anything, he’ll go away’. Panic and fear, not menace.

  2. best piece on this shit happens saga that ive seen anywhere NWN!!

    i have no doubt that Mark Riley and Ch7’s intention WAS to create a media circus on it – which is sensationalist, but it still newsworthy in my opinion.

    of far greater importance is Tony’s inability to respond. if, as Pyne and Hockey proclaim, Tony is a straight talker, then he should’ve at least been able to do some straight talking with Mark Riley, instead of waiting however long to come up with a lameduck response.

    also – beer soon. im parched.

    • Thanks phatmaniac. I’m glad the story has moved on today to being his response – or lack thereof – rather than what he said in Afghanistan.

    • ‘straight talker’ is code for a tendency to run off at the mouth and usually offend someone (not white middle class Tories as a general rule) Their get out of jail free cards on using it are running out, or rather, they should be.

  3. Speaking as the wife of a soldier and the sister/cousin of those who work as soldiers,cops, firemen and paramedics, (in my family, there appears to be a defect on the Y chromosome, gave the men in my family a hero complex) I do believe there is a somewhat morbid and black sense of humour amongst the ranks of those in the services. I’d be willing to bet doctors and nurses, people who work in trauma, the SES, morticians also have their own coping mechanisms. Personally I find off colour humour a more palatable way of coping than say alcohol abuse.

    How this story became news is beyond me really. A lot is being said about how they sat on this ‘story’ for three months and Abbott had plenty of time to formulate an answer to the question….but really, I fail to see how he had a question to answer. The footage explains the context. It’s not rocket science. It’s not even journalism. It’s bullshit.

    The only possible reason the media could have for running a ‘story’ like that is to make Abbott look like a douche bag and if channel seven were paying attention instead of chasing bullshit ‘stories’ they’d realise that dear old Tony doesn’t need help looking like a douche, he’s doing a bang up job of it on his own. Which is kind of insulting to the general public at large. We already KNOW Abbott’s a douche. They should move on and report some real news.

    • Ah, fabulous Pirra! I’m so glad you stopped by. Surely some of Channel 7’s thinking on this is that few people would actually watch the video, and most would just hear that he said “shit happens” and “Channel 7”. Which is what I thought when I first read the story.

      • I’m glad to finally be able to drop by. No home for seven weeks and no internet for nine weeks makes Pirra one pissy little woman with a very short fuse and a bad case of verbal diarrhoea.

        • That’s awful. We had no home for two weeks and have been waiting another two for the internet – apparently it’ll be on by the end of next week – and it’s made me shitty. I can’t imagine seven and nine weeks of it.

          All moved in now?

          • Yes. still have a few boxes floating around. Part of me figures why bother, I’ll be packing again in two maybe three years.

            The joys of being between homes. At least our seven weeks were comfortable and paid for by somebody else. If I could figure out how to use the internet effectively on my phone…perhaps I wouldn’t have struggled so much. (Or maybe I should just get off my ass once in a while and walk away from the computer so I don’t go through withdrawals during moves…) I have the net back (obviously) but I’ll be damned if my twitter will work. I have to keep switching back to old twitter and even then it only works when it wants to…

            Wow, first world problems…

  4. Perhaps we can start a tweet or tv show, ‘shit my opposition leader says’. Someone get me William shatners agent

  5. Spot on. I had absolutely no problem with him saying “sometimes shit just happens” because for soldiers in a place like Afghanistan, sometimes shit really does just happen. If they treated every death or injury as a sacred tragedy, they wouldn’t be able to do their jobs. Abbott’s statement was fair enough.

    But 20 seconds of silence when asked to explain?! GEEZ.

  6. It’s the underlying theme of Murphy’s Laws of Combat that shit happens. I said it elsewhere but I’ll repeat it here. Never in history has a politician so concisely and accurately described the nature of warfare that Abbott did in this video, even if he wasn’t aware that he had.
    About the reaction consider the circumstances, a journo asks a question which directly implies something which the journo knows to be untrue and that is extremely offensive. Sort of like having someone approach you and say hey aren’t you a kiddie fiddler? That Abbott resisted the urge to knock Riley’s block off (as he so desperately deserved) is a credit to him.
    It is also a credit to the ALP that not one of them went on the offensive.
    The father was outraged however this reaction may have been obtained prior to the release of the unedited video. In any case there is something I like to call the Kovco-Scapegoat Complex, in which some members of a dead soldiers family will try desperately to have someone pay for their sons death, even if it’s a pollie for what he said about it. It is named after the family of Jake Kovco who went so far as to accuse fellow soldiers of murdering him when in fact he shot himself because he was behaving like a cockhead.
    In any case it is interesting how some extreist left blogs like the gutter trash have changed their focus from what Abbott said to how he reacted whilst maintaining the same level of faux outrage (I firmly believe that extreme lefties celebrate such tragedies as it gives them political ammunition) This pretending to give a shit about soldiers is what really offends me.

    • Abbott’s reaction has always been the story for me, because I don’t have a problem with what he said.

      Are you going to blog about it? I don’t want to tell you what to do, but I’d be really interested in reading your take on it.

    • Amen Kimsonof.

      As I said before I don’t really understand why this whole thing is news at all. What was said or the reaction to being asked about it. It was Abbott baiting and nothing more.

      My husband was on that Sec Det and cockhead is a much nicer way to describe the Kovkco incident than what came out of my husbands mouth.

  7. I’m pleased to have found a blogger willing to challenge the media and political discourse in our country. I am especially pleased to find a focus on Abbott. You might be interested to read one of my posts in which I compare him to Stephen Harper, the current Canadian PM.
    http://cinova.wordpress.com/2011/05/03/a-tale-of-two-demagogues/
    I look forward to reading more of your critiques. And congrats on winning the competition! Cheers.

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