A wizard for Oz – or insulting drivel?

By Sarah Gilbert

 U.S. President Barack Obama and Julia Gillard at a press conference in Canberra

U.S. President Barack Obama and Julia Gillard in Canberra 2011 (Reuters)

Barack Obama may have left Australian shores bound for the East Asia Summit in Bali, but the Aussies are still basking in the warm glow of his aftermath.

For the most part.

One columnist, writing for Australian Broadcasting Corporation‘s website, strikes a notably different chord.

Malcolm Farnsworth, a former high school teacher from Melbourne, expresses frank disgust at the mutual admiration society formed by the Obama and the Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard.

What’s worse, he suggests, is the Australian media’s reaction to nothing more than a marriage of convenience.

“Of course, the spectacle of a presidential visit was lapped up by the Australian media….Air Force One and its cavalcade of vehicles, security and people seemingly overpowers those who report on these things. It is as if the great home ground advantage of the White House travels with the president. Scepticism (sic) and satire are defeated by cringe and awe.”

Looking at some of the coverage, Mr. Farnsworth might have a point. Australia’s longest running broadsheet, the Sydney Morning Herald, produced page after page of uncritical copy, the crowning glory of which was hopefully not an article exhorting Aussies to “Suit up like Barack Obama.” The Australian gushes about the “rapturous send-off” the President got from the people of Darwin. The Sydney-based Telegraph talks of Obama putting Australia at the center of “‘a new world order.”

While it’s pretty clear that Mr. Farnsworth harbors doubts about his Labor Party Prime Minister – comments left by his readers accuse him of flagrant right-wingery – he may well have a point about the true nature of this trip. For Gillard, he says, the “roadshow” was put on to boost flagging domestic popularity. For the Americans, of course, the real aim was securing a strategically important foothold in the Asia Pacific.

The resulting coverage, claims Farnsworth, amounted to nothing more than insulting drivel.



Straight to the Source

  • http://australianpolitics.com Malcolm Farnsworth

    You’ve taken some latitude in interpreting parts of my article. I wasn’t really suggesting the trip was staged to boost Gillard’s popularity. Rather, I found it absurd to suggest that voters might look more favourably on Gillard just because she’s seen with President Obama.

    Spelling note: in Australia we use English spelling, so scepticism has a “c”, not a “k”. You Americans!

    • Latitude News

      Thanks for getting in touch. We took the tenor of your piece to mean that the “roadshow” (as you put it) had led most of the media to rethink a shaky view of Gillard. You were very clear on how the pomp and circumstance of Obama’s visit provoked the desired amount of awe in the public and press. But perhaps we slightly overstated the case by using the phrase “put on”. Fair point.
      As for scepticism/skepticism – we like your Australian/English version – we didn’t change it! But given most of our readers are American and would do a double take reading “scepticism” we added in [sic] to signal that indeed a different spelling…

    • Nick

      Mr. Farnsworth,

      How are Australians reacting to the prospect of the American Marine base in Japan moving to Darwin?

      The troops have not proven popular in Okinawa over the last few years….