For international readers who may not be aware, yesterday Australia swore in its first female Prime Minister. She’s also our first atheist prime minister, and our first prime minister without children. So yays. She’s done a good job in her first 24 hours.
More interesting to me, however, is the bizarre, baffling and fascinating means through which she ended up in the position, in a whirlwind of activity few could have predicted 48 hours previously (remember A Shiny New Coin's graph from last week’s ‘Best of the rest of the internet’?). Here are a few articles I’d like to read on Julia Gillard, K-Rudd (the man she usurped) and the spill.
1. Twitter and the spill. I made the error of jumping on Twitter on Wednesday night, “just for five minutes” and barely aware of the existence of the spill (I think one person had mentioned it on Facebook), and ended up compulsively refreshing my screen for two hours. Needless to say I didn’t get much done that night, but this was an indicident in which Twitter really shined as a medium.
I follow around 800 people on Twitter, and a good proportion of them must have been political tragics, because there were around 30 updates on my feed alone every 10 seconds. A lot of it was cheerleading and/or commentary, but it was also an extremely effective way of communicating breaking news. I work at a news organisation, and I was the first in my team to know that Lindsay Tanner had resigned yesterday (seemingly unrelated to the spill, but certainly related to yesterday’s flurry of political interests), seconds after Annabel Crabb had tweeted it. I’d like to read an article on the role Twitter played in reporting - and in hyping up support for - the spill.
2. Media ethics and the press gallery. I’ve always liked Gillard, but on Wednesday night I wasn’t a particular fan of the spill. It struck me (as I’ll expand on further in my next point) as somewhat divorced from reality - as much a creation of the press gallery’s boredom and frustration with Kevin Rudd as with intraparty factional issues (or, you know, any actual stuff ups). Anything for a good story/exciting political narrative. I’d like to read an article on the ethics of journalists playing the role of creators of the news, also mapping the extent to which this actually happened (or didn’t) in the spill. As Jason Wilson wittily proclaimed: "Well may we say God save the Queen, because nothing will save the Press Gallery." Mark my words, this one will turn up in undergraduate media ethics courses for years to come.
3. The spill and hyperreality. The thing that bugged me most about the spill on Wednesday night and Thursday morning (before I embraced my inner drama queen and just enjoyed the ride) was what seemed to be its complete divorce from reality. Kevin Rudd? Not the Most Awesome PM Ever (I’m yet to encounter one who fits that bill, though) but really not that bad either, and it felt like the current discontent about his leadership was at least partly a figment of the imagination that had snowballed out of some clever use of repetition by the reporters at The Australian. The spill for me was a WTF moment of a similar vein - but obviously lesser scale - than the invasion of Iraq (hang on, I thought we were supposed to be pissed at Afghanistan?).
4. What an ever-faster news cycle means for politics. It may just be a coincidence, but it feels like we’ve seen a lot of political turnover lately. Rudd is the first Australian PM to be ousted before the end of his first term (and like I said, without any spectacular fuck ups). The Libs may be in opposition, but three leaders since the last election feels like a lot. The NSW Labor Government has had three leaders over the last term, dumping them whenever polls get bad. I wonder to what extent this has to do with an ever-faster news cycle, and ever-lower boredom threshhold.
What most excited/baffled/fascinated you about the spill? What kinds of articles, blog posts or essays would you like to see written?