Rob Idol

Bias: The Andrew Bolt vs Waleed Aly experiment

Rob Idol had the task of exploring bias: as a Waleed Aly fan can you agree with any of Andrew Bolt’s commentary?

A very poignant question was put to me the other day following one of my latest cynical Facebook status regarding something written by Andrew Bolt. The paraphrased version was, is it possible that Bolt isn’t always wrong, but your disdain for him would cause you to automatically discount it?

In the same vein, could you ever acknowledge if Waleed Aly wrote something you disagreed with? Is it possible to find merit in the work of someone you distrust or find fault in the work of someone you profusely respect?

How do you feel about writing something on it?

The question made for a fantastic topic of discussion, but I immediately cowered into a ball, adopted the foetal position and began to sweat profusely. They want me to write something that may turn out to be…..pro Bolt? They want me to explore the deep recesses of his vitriolic musings and find something that I actually agree with? I can’t shake the feeling that Bolt’s MO is not focussed on writing for his supporters, but rather, tailoring for his opposition. As the Rush Limbaugh’s and Howard Stern’s of the world will tell you, there is more profit in those that hate you than those that support you. Many, myself included, read Bolt’s column from time to time in some masochistic attempt to become outraged, safe in the knowledge that he will always deliver exactly that.

Is it possible to find merit in someone who is paid to deliberately incite you?

I feel this whole Waleed vs Bolt fracas is symptomatic of a much larger issue in political and social discourse in this country. A fair chunk of debate seems to be drilled down to the less than wise words of former US President, George W Bush – “You’re either with us or against us”. There are those well to the left who will furiously fight against any suggestion put forward by those deemed as “right”, regardless of the validity. The same is true of the reverse.

Whether this is as a result of the type of political leadership we have, or alternatively we have this type of leadership as they cater to this part of our psyche, this dichotomous approach is the reason we are where we are politically in this country. Our leaders would rather fight to the political death rather than even contemplate compromise. On the rare occasions that compromise occurs, each camp is still focussed on counting their “wins” rather than the outcome. I have to say, however, that in at least a small way, this does appear to be improving since the last leadership spill.

In order to achieve a little balance, I also looked back through Waleed Aly’s various articles, but alas, I couldn’t fault them. I maintain that this is not due to me placing him on a pedestal or viewing his opinions through rose colored glasses; rather, it’s simply a case of his ideology and values being very close to mine, regardless of any agenda he may or may not have.

With that in mind, it was time to apply some objectivity and ascertain whether I could find some merit in Bolt’s work.

It was difficult to start my research. The first few Bolt articles I read managed to praise Gina Rinehart, suggest that Labor now has a better national defence platform than the Libs, and labelled Turnbull a Communist. (likening him to Chairman Mao). Then onto two articles that looked to elevate both Tony Abbott and George Pell to sainthood. The bile rose.

I soon discovered a couple of examples that I might find more palatable. The first is a column in 2010 in which Bolt explores the fact that Howard was attacked so ferociously over refugee deaths at sea, however, the same protesters appeared far more silent when a large number of deaths occurred under the Labor Government and their amended policy. I have to say, for the most part, I agree with him. I don’t deny that his agenda is very much in play, but the issues that he raises are completely valid (particularly now with the benefit of hindsight) and they were articulated well.

The second is an entry about Aboriginal Recognition, fittingly targeted at an article written by none other than Waleed Aly. I can’t say that I agree with Bolt’s viewpoint on this one, but he put forward a well structured and thoughtful argument on the topic, which I can do nothing but respect. Further reading also led me to a few blog entries surrounding the 2011 Fukushima nuclear emergency, or more specifically, the unnecessary alarmist reaction after the fact.

Again, I have to admit that I agree with his standpoint.

My pessimism was illuminated by a glimmer of optimism. Whilst I certainly wasn’t a convert to the word of Bolt, he had earned respect from me. I still abhor most of what he preaches and I still question the motives behind his rhetoric, but I could honestly say that the guy had a point. Not just a point, but he had also shown the ability to structure and deliver a convincing argument to someone well outside his political sphere.

Which was a very important lesson learned.

Now, more than ever, it’s vital that everyone attempts to judge opinions and arguments on their merits, rather than purely based on their source. It’s not always an easy thing to do, and the inability to achieve it is in many ways inherent to Australian culture. As we value loyalty so highly, it can manifest itself in narrow-mindedness and/or a lack of rational thought. There is nothing loyal about following doctrine blindly, rather, its the most dangerous thing a human being can do.

The issues that polarise our community the most are the very ones that we most need to avoid taking opposing standpoints simply for the sake of it. These issues are complicated, and by design firmly in the grey making a black and white blanket approach ineffective if we are to find the answers instead of more questions.

Rob Idol

Rob is an aspiring writer who balances his time between a “real” job and his passion for politics, social justice and all things creative. He has an MBA, an unhealthy obsession with current events, an even unhealthier obsession with pop culture and has been known to offer favourable food reviews in exchange for free meals. www.robidol.com.au

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