Fake news in Australia

The SMH reports:

It was easy news, if not exactly news based on fact. It all began on Saturday, when Australia’s Prime Minister went to see the Sydney Swans play, and posted on social a photo of himself cuddling his baby granddaughter, planting a kiss atop her sweet head.

In his non-baby-cuddling hand, Malcolm Turnbull held a beer in a plastic cup. …

One Facebook commenter, it was reported, asked “When was drinking while holding a child OK?”

Another, displaying contempt not just for the Australian PM but also for the proper use of apostrophes, said it was “disgusting to see people breathing grog all over baby’s but sadly I’m not surprised by Malcolm doing it”.

One Australian tabloid referred to an “online meltdown” over the photograph, and duly sought comment from properly Australian Australians, who could be relied upon to reaffirm Australian values regarding the appropriate co-mingling of beer and babies.

“Social researcher” Mark McCrindle said Australian had become a “nation of judgers”. Dick Smith said people could “go and live somewhere else” if they didn’t like the photo, and Ita Buttrose was very ticked off indeed.

Nothing brings a people together like a public shaming on social media, and in this case it was the original  Australian Prime Minister-shamers who were being shamed, bringing about an awe-inspiring shame-cycle that could well stay alive in the media for weeks, if properly stoked by an Andrew Bolt column or an Alan Jones editorial.

There is only one small problem, and it is a small problem indeed in the era of post-fact news. So small it barely warrants noting, except by pedants.

That is, the number of Facebook commenters who were “outraged” by the Australian PM holding a beer while cuddling a baby, numbered two.

On Monday morning, the post had been “liked” by 17,000 Facebook users, and 1500 people had commented on it. Because I value my mental health I did not read all the comments, however I couldn’t find a single one that wasn’t sticking up for the Australia Prime Minister in the face of the moral outrage he provoked, even though that moral outrage was not in evidence anywhere except in two comments quoted in the tabloid media and now, presumably, buried under an avalanche of nice comments.

So two people out of 1,500 didn’t like it, and the media turn this into a major story and fake controversy. No wonder trust in media keeps plummeting.

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