Duncan Storrar is guilty of a simple crime: he had the temerity to ask a question that embarrassed big business and the government in front of a national audience on Q&A.
As a result, the most powerful news organisation in the country has done everything in its power to destroy his life.
Duncan’s question was simple. He asked why the government would give tax breaks to the wealthy who make enough to barely notice them, when for him – a person with a disability who works part time for the minimum wage – a tax break would make a real difference and allow him to spend more on his children.
The response from Liberal MP Kelly O’Dwyer and big business spokesman and all-round schmuck Innes Willox was a mixture of arrogance, bumbling and incomprehension. O’Dwyer thought the question offered a good opportunity to mention how much one of her small business constituents had benefited from a government-sponsored $6,000 toaster. Willox, on the other hand, thought he would distinguish himself from the other softies on the panel by berating Duncan for not paying enough tax.
They both looked like the entitled fools that they are.
Unfortunately though, the rich and the powerful do not fight fair. Outraged that a mere commoner had not only taken on but wiped the floor with the supposedly polished performers of the business and political elite, the rabid dogs of the Australian ruling class, the Murdoch tabloids, launched a savage campaign of revenge, character assassination and good old fashioned bullying.
News Corporation is extremely good at three things – minimising the tax it pays, kicking the poor and going after its political opponents. Here was a chance to do all three at once. Hot on the heels of a front page hatchet job targeting a homeless man sleeping rough and begging in the Melbourne CBD, the Australian and the Herald Sun recognised that, while they might be unable to discredit the message, News Corpse “journalists” could shoot the messenger instead.
They poured over Duncan’s past looking for anything they could find to discredit him, and targeted his strained relationship with his adult son. These papers have hounded Duncan and his family so ruthlessly that Duncan’s mother has fears that her son may attempt suicide.
This harassment has a purpose. It’s about trying to keep other ordinary people from feeling confident that they can have a say on political issues. There’s not a person alive who doesn’t have a couple of skeletons in their closet that a ruthless news conglomerate can’t dig up. Whether they are dug up or not is a decision newspaper editors make on political grounds.
The idea that only people who are completely “respectable” can have an opinion is an attack on democracy harking back to the days when the vote was extended only to men (never women) who owned considerable property. It conveniently ignores the fact that the crimes of polite society are invariably much worse than those of the working class people they rail against.
The same newspapers that hound Duncan stayed almost totally silent about Malcolm Turnbull’s naming in the Panama Papers and his investments in the convenience store chain 7-11. The Murdoch press tried to shut down all debate when Tony Abbott’s daughter was given a secret scholarship to one of the private colleges that was poised to make millions out of deregulation. And these same papers didn’t raise a fuss when it was discovered just what a young David Cameron had done to a dead pig. After all, what’s a little exploitation, bribery and necro-bestiality between friends?
This isn’t the first time Murdoch has tried this. Red Flag contributor Roz Ward has recently been subject to ongoing attacks by the Australian for her work fighting homophobic bullying via the Safe Schools program.
But while Murdoch’s shitrags have been going for the jugular, ordinary people have had a much better response to Duncan’s plight. An online fundraiser to benefit Duncan, comically advertised as “Buy Duncan Storrar a toaster”, raised more than $60,000 from 2,380 people. This solidarity should give us all hope for the future. It shows that while those in power want a dog-eat-dog world, solidarity is still very much alive among the rest of us.