Sunday Herald Sun - - Opinion -

FEW things sum up Australia’s ad­dic­tion to fake out­rage than the hul­la­baloo sur­round­ing Mal­colm Turn­bull nurs­ing his grand­daugh­ter while hold­ing a beer at the footy last week­end.

The ini­tial re­ports, which were based on a few neg­a­tive com­ments on so­cial me­dia, spawned a week of dis­cus­sion about whether it was ap­pro­pri­ate for a grand­fa­ther to hold his young grand­child while en­joy­ing a drink.

Be­fore we go any fur­ther, it is fine. In fact, it’s bet­ter than fine. It’s great.

It was dif­fi­cult to tell ex­actly which phony of­fence Turn­bull had com­mit­ted.

Ac­cord­ing to a few haters on­line and some me­dia com­men­ta­tors there was per­haps a risk that a few tiny al­co­hol par­ti­cles from his breath may have landed on the poor tot’s head. Or per­haps they were con­cerned that things would es­ca­late so quickly that a boozed PM would drop young Alice on the ground at the SCG. It’s faux out­rage at its finest and no one is im­mune.

Do you re­mem­ber when for­mer prime min­is­ter Tony Ab­bott threw back a schooner of beer at a univer­sity party in a Sydney pub? Quelle hor­reur. Then there was the time a Dgrade porn star at­tended a Bud­get-night func­tion with se­nior min­is­ters. You’d swear they were frater­nising with Bashar al-As­sad.

Bill Shorten’s wife, Chloe, was also caught up in an on­line storm when, Heaven for­bid, she re­moved a scratchy neck­lace dur­ing her hus­band’s speech. How dare she!

For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter Julie Bishop was also hauled be­fore the morals po­lice for don­ning an ex­pen­sive frock to a char­ity ball. Cue out­rage.

Imag­ine if the eas­ily of­fended among us knew that Ms Shorten and Ms Bishop even shared a joke about their re­spec­tive faux pas re­cently. They’d be off their chops.

This man­u­fac­tured in­dig­na­tion for phony of­fences is know as “out­rage porn” — a term coined by New York Times car­toon­ist Tim Krei­der.

He ar­gued that out­rage is healthy when it mo­ti­vates us to act against in­jus­tice, not when it causes us to judge the seem­ingly in­no­cent.

I’m not say­ing the me­dia isn’t guilty of stok­ing and sup­ply­ing th­ese hol­low sto­ries. But we seem to have be­come ad­dicted to be­ing an­gry. So­cial me­dia has given us a space to scream “I’m out­raged” in uni­son. It feels like a com­pe­ti­tion; who is the most ag­grieved.

Dur­ing the end­less chat about Turn­bull’s beer-and-baby photo, one of my col­leagues tweeted the of­fend­ing im­age along­side a photo of the late Steve Ir­win cradling his one-month-old son, Bob, in one arm while dan­gling a slab of meat over a hun­gry croc in the other.

He also in­cluded a photo of the late Michael Jack­son dan­gling of his baby son, Prince Michael II, over a fourth-floor ho­tel bal­cony in Ber­lin.

The tweet was meant to show the in­no­cence of Turn­bull’s per­ceived crime com­pared with ac­tual cases where a baby was in strife. Lo and be­hold, some­one was even out­raged by this com­par­i­son.

While apathy isn’t the an­swer, we should re­serve our out­rage stocks for things that truly mat­ter. There are count­less things to be out­raged about in this world. Our nation’s debt has surged past a half-tril­lion dol­lars. House­holds face a higher risk of black­outs this sum­mer due to a lack of re­serve power in the en­ergy mar­ket. Oh, and Kim Jong-un seems in­tent on start­ing World War III.

Po­lit­i­cal al­le­giances aside, a photo of our Prime Min­is­ter hav­ing a beer at the foot­ball while cradling his grand­daugh­ter should trig­ger only a smile. If not, set aside time for self-re­flec­tion.

The only thing of­fen­sive about the im­age was that the PM — not the big­gest of sports fans — was oc­cu­py­ing such a great seat. ANNIKA SMETHURST IS NA­TIONAL POLITICS ED­I­TOR @an­nikas­methurst

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