“Today Tonight”: Where principles don’t matter and pandering to the idiot masses is order of the day

Most of the time I’m very happy to be Australian, but there are times when I cringe. While I love our sunburnt country, it has to be said that there are many things wrong with it, not least of all an uneasy combination of racism and active anti-intellectualism.

While this means that for the fair majority of Australians, we have to walk an uneasy line between being patriotic and embarrassed, it also means that some institutions are able to use this to their advantage, and there is nothing more appealing to actively-stupid Australian racists than shows like Today Tonight or A Current Affair.

These are shows designed for people who consider following celebrity gossip as “being interested in the news” and for people who just want to complain about things they consider an affront to them. These shows are the bogan and televised equivalent of a person who is given a new car and complains that it doesn’t fly.

These shows prey on the sensationalism that stupid people lap up, with stories of supermarkets conspiring to jack up their prices, of dodgy car parks where your car will be sold into white slavery and which celebrity diet is really the most effective.

The stories run on little more than hyperbole and exaggeration, and always, always, appeal to the lowest common denominators of Australia, and that’s what these shows precisely are: common.

There seems to be some controversy either brewing or erupting, depending on how representative my Facebook news feed is of general opinion, over a report recently run on Today Tonight regarding the treatment of asylum seekers.

In true Today Tonight fashion, the story is overcooked, fraudulent, and attempting little except a call to arms from the great unwashed to reinforce their own racism against asylum seekers.

Thankfully, the shining light in this televisual loss of brain cells comes from ABC’s Media Watch who rightly eviscerated the segment.

Click the image below to see their article (will open in a new window/tab)

Now, in response to this, Today Tonight have posted a “clarification” video. And I definitely say “in response to this” because without Media Watch’s scathing fact-check, nothing would’ve come from Today Tonight at all – why would they disrupt their moronic propaganda if they could get away with it?

The clarification video (also transcribed below if you’d rather not listen to Matt White anymore than is necessary):

Click the image to watch the video (will open in a new window or tab).

A whole load of bullshit

Now recently we aired a story looking at federal government handouts to asylum seekers, and a few things need to be cleared up the story included vision of detainees staying at a 4 star hotel it was shot last year and was current at that time but that situation was suspended in June this year.

Also shown was vision of refugees [that] the report stated were in a community based detention centre we’ve since learned it was government subsidised accommodation and some of the occupants were refugees who have been granted visas.

And it needs to be clarified that asylum seekers in detention get no cash benefits. Once they’re granted a visa they receive Centrelink benefits of $462 a fortnight.

So here’s the thing – this is all a sham. This is a token effort to maintain some ludicrous visage of credibility, responsibility and accountability. It’s not like Today Tonight is well-regarded anyway (well, not by people who matter) but even then, it’s a new step backwards to have all your shoddy ethical practices called out, your manipulations, your misleadings and your plain-and-simple outright lies named for what they are, and to still not actually apologise.

Today Tonight is hoping that you will see this video as an apology. Its regular viewers will probably acknowledge that “Hey, Today Tonight messed up, but isn’t it responsible of them to let us know?” (Except the average viewer of Today Tonight will use a word other than “responsible” because four syllables is probably a bit much) but the rest of us can see it clearly – as 40 seconds of crap.

I’ll state the obvious right away that these are all things Media Watch covered, and covered better. If there’s going to be some half-arsed attempt at a token apology (I daresay Today Tonight didn’t even let a quarter of their arse enter into their efforts) it should be something that hasn’t already been said by a more articulate and trustworthy source.

Then you’ll notice that there is no actual apology. Even given the bare bones of what is covered here, they don’t actually apologise for getting their facts wrong. No, let me rephrase that, they don’t apologise for lying. They can skirt around the issue and pose some jargon, but they aren’t actually taking blame for their misdeeds.

I also have a massive issue with “it was shot last year and was current at that time.” OK, anything that you shoot is “current” at the time you shoot it. Even the bogan masses who make up Today Tonight’s viewership could get their heads around that. But more to the point, they shot footage that was going to be used misleadingly. They got enough to angle their story into a racist call-to-arms against asylum seekers and would never have used it fairly, so what difference does it make if it “was current at that time”? Does it make their lies slightly fresher

Note also how Today Tonight hasn’t even acknowledged that they misrepresented themselves to an interviewee and approached him under false circumstances and used his image without his permission. Even by the bottom-of-the-barrel standards shows like Today Tonight use, this is unforgivable. That alone should prompt an actual outright apology, with no attempt to make admissions for their practice. It is unethical, and bordering on illegal, but it’s not even given a cursory mention in the “clarification” video.

Furthermore – and not that it will ever happen – how about an apology for creating inflammatory propaganda that fosters racism in the Today Tonight audience? I’m going to be bluntly elitist here and make a statement that most people will agree with: the people who watch Today Tonight are idiots and can’t think for themselves. Otherwise, they’d be watching actual news programs. Broadcasting a segment like this is asking said idiots to ostracise the unfortunate many who seek asylum in Australia. This segment is actively encouraging people to mistreat, mistrust and disregard asylum seekers, and to what end? To get a slightly higher spot in the ratings.

All that this video has clarified is that Today Tonight will continue to give Australians nothing worthwhile. They’ll continue to create garbage like this, and let us all know how we’re being screwed over because our government isn’t spoon feeding us $100 bills, and they’ll cap it off with a story about a woman who feels imprisoned by her toaster.

It’s useless to rail against idiotic TV shows that are made for idiots who love TV, but when their standards drop this incredibly low, and have some very real implications aside, something needs to be done. If not an outright admission of guilt, an acknowledgment of dishonest and unethical practises, and something done to address the outrage more than a quick rehash of facts that have been spelled out by better people, then at least an actual apology.

But that won’t happen. It would mean that the viewers would actually have to think when they’re watching today tonight, and that would be unforgivable. And I’m not even sure what good can come from this – for the people who would be surprised by the revelation that Today Tonight is a shoddy programme, they won’t care enough to stop watching, and for those who already know it, they don’t watch it anyway.

But then there’s that shuddering realisation that the people you see interviewed on Today Tonight actually exist, and that the show is still on air, so people actually watch it with interest, and then there’s the unmistakable horror that these people might come into contact with non-Australians someday, and the rest of us will be judged by the standards of the half-witted ectoplasms who think Today Tonight is genuinely newsworthy. And that’s the worst offence of Today Tonight’s crimes.

I don’t know enough about the Asylum seeker debate to give an opinion, except to say that I know it’s divisive and problematic enough that it would be unwise to express a stance without too much information. But that’s certainly more thought given to their plight than Today Tonight showed in their segment. Get them off the air.