What did the International Monetary Fund say about the Australian economy? We’re heading for a severe slowdown. No, wait! We’re better placed than anyone. Hold on, that’s not right! Julia Gillard is putting a brave face on a grim outlook.
In an age when the source material for most news events is freely available on the web, it is gob-smacking that cynical and desperate media organisations continue to spin multiple versions of agreed facts to suit their own ideological positions.
If the facts don’t fit the dominant fake narrative – in this case an incompetent government that has wrecked the economy – then the hacks toiling away in the galleys of the nation’s newsrooms will dutifully work over the facts until they do.
It’s how AAP and News Ltd – in full ‘neagh-naa-na-NAA-naa’ mode – managed to report generally glowing IMF report this way: “Prime Minister Julia Gillard says a global forecast that slashes Australia’s growth rate is a ‘ringing endorsement’ of the local economy.” You can virtually hear the sneer.
Ask yourself why they didn’t just tell us what the report actually said without filtering it through the local he-said-she-said noise machine? After all, we don’t need Julia Gillard to interpret the report for us. And we don’t need the media to tell us what Julia Gillard said about it. So why not just junk the increasingly ropey intermediaries (usually 22-year-olds cutting and pasting from a press release) and go straight to the source?
Here’s the IMF’s short and helpful summary of its twice-yearly Fiscal Monitor published today. And here’s the short and helpful summary of its World Economic Outlook, published at the same time. Here’s the video of the IMF’s economic counselor on the report. Here’s the press briefing on the fiscal report. Here’s the press briefing on the economic report. Here’s the transcript. And on and on it goes.
Not interested in all that and just want to know what they said about Australia? Click on the summary, download the PDF and search for the word ‘Australia’. It takes precisely one minute. And here’s what you find:
“Recent natural disasters slowed growth only temporarily in Australia, and despite recent earthquakes, New Zealand’s recovery has gained traction, supported by strong terms of trade and positive trade spillovers from the region. Growth is forecast to pick up from 1¾ percent in 2011 to 3¼ percent in 2012 for Australia and from 2 percent to 3¾ percent for New Zealand.”
Or you might find this graphic comparing general gross government debt across the major economies. All you need to know is that high red bars are bad, low red bars are good.
So at a time the IMF is warning of a new global recession, it’s predicting Australia is rolling along nicely, its fiscal and debt position is one of the best in the developed world and it has plenty of petrol in the tank to drive things along if the global economy stalls completely.
That’s good news isn’t it? I’m sorry, but I’m here to tell you that good news doesn’t sell. We know Australia is a beacon of light in a wrecked global economy. It’s partly why boatloads of destitute people are seeking solace here. But that’s another story.
What’s important to our parochial media is that the IMF report must be manipulated to fit into the carefully constructed narrative about a government that has lost control. It doesn’t matter whether this is true or not. What matters is that it’s the story they want to sell you.
And they want to sell it to you because they need lots of colour and movement to keep you looking at their clients’ advertisements. They lurve the eternal election campaign and the he said-she said parade of irrelevance. That’s why the local political climate is so shouty and tedious. They’re fighting about stuff they can’t control and they’re faking up conflict to put up the pretence that they make any difference.
If going to the original source is too much, why not ditch local media from your bookmarks and stick to international sources about Australia? You’ll find respected financial news provider Bloomberg, for instance, marveling at an Australian media pessimism that is wildly at odd with the facts. Or you’ll see The Economist magazine – the bible for free market liberals – aghast that a country with so much going for it could talk itself into a funk because it’s in the commercial and ideological interests of media companies and politicians to play Punch and Judy.
My advice is to ignore news out of Canberra completely. Most of it is noise. Most of it is self-serving tosh. And most of it bears little resemblance to what is actually going on in the world. So read more widely, go straight to the source and treat with a large handful of salt what you see and read in the local media. It’ll save you an awful lot of grief and it will give you the necessary perspective that good journalism is supposed to provide