If you are not into Australian political blogging you would have missed the blogstorm that has happened today. I won’t go into detail because other blogs have by now extensively covered what has happened. Tobias Ziegler writes:
Even if you haven’t read his blog, if you followed the media coverage of the election campaign there’s a pretty good chance you know about Grog’s Gamut. He’s the pseudonymous blogger whose pointed critique of the lack of policy questions from the press pack drew a lot of attention and sparked a debate, with journos and media bosses such as the ABC’s Mark Scott weighing in. Now, The Australian has deemed his identity to be news, and they also seem to have decided that public servants aren’t entitled to hold political opinions.
James Massola wrote the story which is titled: “Controversial political blogger unmasked as Federal Public servant” GASP! SHOCK! An Australian citizen has the temerity to express an opinion. Let’s give Massola the benefit of the doubt that he didn’t write the headline, but the way it is constructed tells a lot about the way The Australian sees this. First of all there is nothing ‘controversial’ about Grog’s blogs. I guess they would be if you live in a conservative Abbott-loving world, which of course The Australian is. But a lot of what Grogs was writing about was on his frustration on how the media covered the election from a Labor supporter perspective. Now if supporting the main centre left party in a democratic country is ‘controversial’ it show that The Australian has gone to the right wing pixies when it comes to its political positions.
The other thing is that Grog is a public servant and as such shouldn’t express his views. I don’t know why public servants should be political eunuchs? You just lose your right of expressing an opinion because you are employed by the government? Of course there should be limits on how ‘political’ a public servant should be, especially if they are in senior positions and if their public opinion would show that that person is unable to perform a balanced advisory function. If Ken Henry started a blog saying that Joe Hockey is a dickhead we would have a problem, but as far as I can discern Grog wasn’t in that position.
You can take the apolitical public service too far. In Victoria, when Jeff Kennett was Premier I was an active member of the ALP and a public servant. I hated that government with a passion. It was arrogant, it had a disregard for communities and of course the public service. I actively worked for its demise, even got a couple of letter published in the paper, so was I breaching some sort of code? I was situated in such a low level in the Public Service that it really didn’t matter (I think that my position description was ‘shit kicker’) but if we extend the ‘apolitical’ public service dictum to its extent then even Joe at filing cannot say anything publicly about a Premier or a Prime Minister.
No, I think that the reason for the outing is another one. For many years some journalists got a bit prickly that bloggers were getting attention. I mean, why take notice of the opinions of these amateur upstarts? Journalists get paid for their opinions, so even if they are absolute drivel they are thus much more important than any writing which appears online on free blog software. So until bloggers are unread and insignificant then they can be ignored, but if someone like Mark Scott take notice, well then that’s it. You should be outed and named. You want to play big journalist? Then be like us and tell us who you are.
What it is forgotten here is that unlike journalists, that are paid by telling us their opinion, bloggers do this (and often better) for free. They are not paid and therefore they can remain anonymous all they like. If a heavy media person takes notice that’s great, but that doesn’t mean that someone who writes for fun and in its own time should have his or her identity revealed if they don’t want to disclose it. Poor show.