Defining what you aren’t by defining what you are

Last night, Channel 9’s 60 Minutes program did an interview with Tony Abbott.

During the interview he used phrases like “we’re in a better space” and “I’ve certainly said some things which I wouldn’t say now” while linking it to certain things that families value such as “cohesion.”

Whether Abbott believes any of this is irrelevant to his purposes for giving the interview.

Whenever Abbott talks about himself now, it is always about defining what Prime Minister Gillard is and represents on his terms.

Here are some examples:

  • “We’re in a good space” = “Gillard’s in a bad space.”
  • “I’ve certainly said some things which I wouldn’t say now” = “Gillard’s said some things in the past she hasn’t admitted”
  • “Because like everyone who’s had a long time in public life – in particular – I’ve changed and I’d like to think that I’ve grown” = “Gillard isn’t like everyone who’s had a long time in public life – she hasn’t changed and she hasn’t grown”

And so on!

Whether it reflects the truth or not is none of Abbott’s concern. All he and the professional people who manage him behind the scenes care about is getting these points across by any means necessary. This is the Coalition’s new way of attacking Gillard: define what you aren’t by defining what you are!

They don’t even bother mentioning Gillard anymore because they’ve spent the last two years or so building the system of negative judgement in the public’s mind which is aimed directly towards any decisions she makes and every word she says. Since the beginning of the year, they seem to be confident that they’ve successfully deployed that system and they can focus on other things.

The big trigger point from the interview was that he had “softened” his views on issues like women’s rights and marriage equality partly due to the influence of his lesbian sister.

He has spent around 35 years of his political career creating an image for himself as a “right wing warrior” with nicknames like “Captain Catholic” and “Howard’s Headkicker” while writing books with titles like “How To Win a Constitutional War” and “Battlelines” only now to contradict it all by saying that deep down he’s really always been a bleeding heart lefty feminist who believes in social justice!

Whether he can convince the electorate that he’s changed is irrelevant as that’s not the purpose of this sort of interview. This is just another example of Abbott controlling the frame of the issues in the national conversation. This time, he’s doing it as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He doesn’t care about how he’s viewed, so long as he’s controlling the framing of all the communication.

Support something progressives support, get attacked by progressives because it’s “Tony being a fraud!” I have gone over this before in relation to Abbott’s chief of staff receiving IVF treatments. It’s all reliant on progressives attacking him over it.

He has no problems with mentioning marriage equality because his position is very firm and softening it can only make him look slightly reasonable. More to the point, Abbott knows that any such conversation on the issue ultimately will get targeted at Prime Minister Gillard and will continue to attract the negative predisposition prism that has enveloped her leadership.

It’s the same deal with everything else that comes out of his mouth.

The rest of the interview was simply noise that had no relevance to people except for Channel 9 to flog some advertising.


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