Of rising tides and decepticons

IN 2011 I was in a remote central Queensland town which was completely cut off from the rest of Australia due to floodwater.

It was business as normal for the first week – then resources started becoming scarce.

There were two petrol stations in the town, and one owner decided to take advantage of the suffering of his township and inflate his prices.


The demand was there. People were scared and not thinking straight. So they paid it.

And then the flood water receded.

Supplies began getting through, the town eventually returning to normality.

It is always fascinating to gauge the measure of people during moments of crisis.

Take the siege at Martin Place on Monday.

Roads were shut, bridges closed, air traffic diverted, vests (both fashionable and protective) were worn.

At the time no one knew who was responsible or what they wanted.

It was terrifying, terrible, even terrorizing (illegibly).

As it turns out, it was just one bloke.

One man, one mentally unstable (that explains the vest) man armed with a shotgun.

But what amazed and alarmed me was not that an unstable criminal could acquire a shotgun and the desperate will to use it.

What astounded me was the ease by which the media of this country eagerly stirred us into such a frenzy of panic and ignorance.

Why were we all so petrified?

Usually when three people die it may make the local news – but certainly it would not require national rolling coverage across every channel, airwave and evening edition to explain to us that an ex-con has held several people hostage.

What else happened on Monday? No one will ever know, such was the all-consuming focus this macabre spectacle was afforded by the so-called professional journalists of this country.

Megatron himself could have landed in darling harbour and declared Sydney to be ‘New Cybertron’ and we would never have known about it.

The reaction to and coverage of Monday’s siege by Australia’s media cannot be forgiven.

It was just plain wrong, whichever way you look at it.

Media organisations made deliberate decisions to incite fear and panic at a time when the exact opposite was required of them.

They were decisions made to take advantage of us, of our trust in news and our faith that what is reported is accurate and decent.

That petrol station owner took advantage of his town, when the flood waters were high.

Two months after they receded, he was broke. Not one local bought petrol from his station for months and months.

After he had left town, broke and disgraced, another local bought the petrol station.

His prices remain fair.

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