The man who shot himself in a burning house that had been attacked with tear gas rather than go back to jail was described as a “Mad Dog” by most of Australia’s press. Certainly by newspapers such as The Age. He had assaulted his girlfriend and faced the prospect of returning to jail after already experiencing a long stint there. I don’t condone his past crimes but I wonder if the inflammatory language (he was described last night in one media outlet as the “dead rapist”) used by the media and the police tactic of blearing a siren outside the house he was holed up in helpede drive this situation to a helpful conclusion. Did calling him a “Mad Dog” encourage this man to believe he would receive fair treatment if he surrendered. Did he deserve to die on account of the assault? The crime reporter John Silvester comments that television reporters enraged the victim him by calling him “Mad dog” – it wasn’t only television reporters however that used this label, so too did The Age as the sub-editors did on the online version of Silvester’s story.
I noticed the press over the weekend self-righteously criticized the Chinese Government for displaying a group of prisoner’s prior to their execution by lethal injection. I wonder if the aussi media behaved that much better in relation to this man. I find the judgementalism in their language unfortunate, inaccurate and dangerous.
The same judgmentalism is arising not only with respect to those judged by the media to be criminals. It also extends to our Prime Minister. There is literally nothing Julia Gillard can do that makes sense. The press treat the recurring polls as a cheap source of news and feed off them offering advice on who should replace her and why she should be replaced. Of course they help drive them as well. As she has done in the past (here) again Anne Summers sums up the campaign against Julia Gillard accurately. It is exaggerated, sexist and vicious and impolite. Its the same essential issue as for the so-called “Mad Dog” namely a bunch of nobody reporters making judgments about people and attempting to foist these judgements on the Australian people.