Andrew Bolt has a fantastically unfair go at Age columnist Ross Gittins this morning, following Gittins’ piece excoriating selective compassion.
Gittins leads into it in a fairly provocative way –
The outpouring of public concern over the terrible Victorian bushfires, the rush to give blood, the huge amount of donations, the efforts of governments to do all they can to help, the way business has swung behind the appeal for assistance – it makes you proud to be an Aussie.
Is that how you feel? I don’t. I find it all strangely disturbing and distasteful.
Why? Here’s the crux of Gittins’ article –
The reason I’m cynical is that I know how fleeting all the professed concern is. I hate things that are fashionable, where everyone has the same opinion and does the same thing at the same time.
But like all fashions, it never lasts. Our preoccupation lasts a week or two before the media senses our waning interest and turns away, waiting for the next natural disaster to get excited about.
Unlike those actually caught up in the disaster, our mourning is soon over and our grief quickly dries up. Our care is all care but no responsibility. Everyone wanted to give blood last week, but what the Red Cross needs and can’t get is enough people who’ll give blood regularly when it’s gone back to being unfashionable.
In his sanctimonious attack on Gittins, Andy of course doesn’t quote the above at all, or even refer to it. This is how he portrays Gittins’ article:
Sydney Morning Herald columnist Ross Gittins is disgusted that so many Australians have been so keen to help the victims of the fires…
Bolt completely omits the context made clear by the rest of Gittins’ article – that his disgust is for selective compassion that only arises for causes that make the TV, and that quickly dissipates, leaving a serious long-term gap. Andy continues:
And you know the people who’ve lined up to donate blood, or offered accommodation to the homeless, or organised fundraisers, or fed the firefighters, or raised collections for the orphaned, or sorted the donated goods, or counselled the bereaved, or pitched in to rebuild?
And he quotes, out of context, another introductory clause from Gittins’ piece. And then encourages his readers to get stuck in:
Please don’t restrain your criticism of Gittins. Any pity you may feel for him is just a sign of your depravity.
You can guess where that went.
Andrew Bolt must have read Gittins’ article. He must have grasped the point Gittins was making. And there may well be a legitimate argument to be made with that point – for example, that perhaps selective compassion is better than none.
But Bolt is apparently not interested in a legitimate argument – he’s interested in a smear. Thus he outrageously misrepresents Gittens, opportunistically dragging out the parts of the article which appear to criticise compassion and pity whilst completely ignoring that the piece is arguing for compassion and pity to be more widespread, and longer-lasting. He portrays Gittins’ piece as the opposite of what it actually is, and relies on his readers not clicking on the link and finding out for themselves what Gittins actually said. He’s long sold them this lie about “elites” who have “contempt” for ordinary people, and twists this piece until it looks like an example of that.
And don’t his readers love it. Andrew Bolt appreciates our generosity! (Yay!) Andrew Bolt will stand up for bushfire victims against people who he implies are opposed to their receiving assistance! (Yay!) Ross Gittins is a Spencer St elitist who hates ordinary people! (Boo!) Ross Gittins hates the bushfire victims and wants them to suffer! (Boo!)
They don’t care that it’s not true. And neither, apparently, does Andy.
Yes, a fine example of Andrew Bolt’s shamelessly disingenuous approach to public debate, and the half-truths and misrepresentations he so regularly uses to attack opponents. And on the very day this site launches! Thanks, Andy.