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It is incredible to me that Australia is facing worst economic crisis ever, and yet there seems to be zero commentary or concern in media that the Liberals have no stimulus plan, no agenda to create employment, no competency to respond to economic disaster. A thread👇🏻
Narratives impact how we make sense of the world. We fit new information into ready made templates. As Lakoff says, these frames are the furniture of our brains. We can’t think without overlaying ideological and value laden frameworks. They are our lens on reality.
I’ve found one of the most powerful frames in Australian politics - in both society and reflected in news media - is that Liberals are better economic managers than Labor. This frame has existed since the parties formed. They are tied to the historical roots of the parties.
Labor grew out of the labour movement - the party of workers. The story of this party is that they exist to better the circumstances of workers. Important to this story is that workers apparently should not be in charge of money because they are subordinate to the business owner.
The business owner represents the capital class. There is an assumption that the economic class is economically competent - they are in charge of the till, payroll, the bottom line. They are investors, they are entrepreneurs, they know how to make money out of money. Apparently.
This ‘capital class are better with money’ frame underpins the assumption that Liberal Party - who represent interests of the capital class - are also inherently good with money. It’s a heuristic, a rule of thumb which leads people to assume Liberals are better economic managers.
These frames or narratives - that Labor are bad economic managers and Liberals are good economics managers - are so culturally powerful that facts which don’t fit these narratives tend to be moulded to fit or excluded if they don’t.
I often see left wingers complain Labor got no credit from media narratives for guiding economy through GFC. World leading stimulus plan applauded by IMF and Labor got no political mileage out of it. That’s because it didn’t fit the narrative that Labor/workers are bad with money
The Liberals of course opportunistically play to these narratives in their rabid campaigning telling voters Labor can’t manage money. These campaigns work because they evoke narratives which already exist in people’s minds. They’ve been told it over and over again.
That’s why the Abbott ‘GFC stimulus was waste’ and ‘debt and deficit disaster’ story was potent in helping him win election. That’s why instead of Labor getting credit for post GFC economy, the dominant narrative is that they went into unnecessary debt.
That’s also why Morrison’s ‘miracle’ election win was enabled by a scare campaign against the accusation that Labor govt represents a ‘Bill Australia can’t afford’. The Liberals know what they’re doing with these frames. Works like a charm.
Fast forward to 2020 and the Liberals have gone into far far more debt than Labor did during GFC. It’s good that Liberals didn’t do what their narrative usually dictates - prioritising surplus ahead of all else. Spending was needed. In fact more spending is needed.
But, because of Liberal narrative that they’re better economic managers, there seems to be little scrutiny of whether they are indeed responding to covid economic crisis effectively. Mistakes like $60 billion JobSeeker underspend is barely a blip on their political record.
If Labor had made this mistake - heck if Labor had spent that much in first place - can you imagine the hysteria in the media? Labor people notice this hypocrisy and find it incredibly frustrating. That’s why you’ve seen Labor people pointing to the Liberal record debt this week.
But the thing we all need to remember is that because of these deeply imbedded narratives, Labor and Liberal leaders are judged by different rules. Labor starts off from the assumption they’re illegitimate managers of economy, and Liberals are taken for granted as legitimate.
Journos hate having their narrative biases pointed out because it contests their professional identity which claims they can report politics with a view from nowhere - as passive, objective conduits. There is no such thing. We all suffer from narrative bias - it’s human nature.
I’ve become fascinated by the differential narratives used to report left and right wing politics. I will eventually get my book written - about ‘media inequality’ and then you can read all about how I came to understand the biases which drive us on here to constant frustration.
So, looping back to where I started, it seems Liberals will get away Scott-Morrison-Free with failing to stimulate economy during crisis, will get away with record levels of debt, will not be held to account for unemployment and failure to create jobs. Because narrative. End.
I realise I could add to this thread forever but felt this was noteworthy. 👆🏻👇🏻
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