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 firstname.lastname@example.org @annikasmethurst