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Abbott’s Murdoch moment

Today’s Courier Mail front page

In the talk show it is called “the money shot”. That unscripted moment in the show when something genuinely unexpected happens, breaking out from banality, and into genuine confrontation.

It is this moment that the program exists for. It is why people watch: to connect with something that, because it is not staged, resonates as the truth. But usually this moment is delivered by an audience member, or non-celebrity invited on stage.

Last night, at the Courier Mail-sponsored people’s forum, it was not the audience but Tony Abbott who provided this moment, and predictably, this is the moment that has had the most attention since the debate.

Was this moment genuinely uncontrolled? Some have suggested Abbott has anger issues and an inability to perform under pressure. But actually, Abbott had everything going for him. After all, given that all the resources of the News Corp empire are backing him up in every city, he was in a safe house: a rugby leagues club owned by News Corp, hosting on a TV station owned by News Corp and sponsored by a newspaper owned by News Corp. Last night, access to the political public sphere had become managed by private interests who have already made their support for Abbott transparent.

With the “shock and awe” media power that Abbott has been able to tow along with, undermining the highest office in the land he himself may be holding, with the tag “this guy” is not that courageous. He is kind of closing the loop between the tabloid campaign: “finally, you have the chance to KICK THIS MOB OUT” becomes “does this guy ever shut up?”

In this context the cross-selling of the message between Abbott and News Corp, is looking really staged. It is a shot at the PM and a money shot for Murdoch. It sells television, newspapers, leagues club support, and between these institutions Rudd can easily get caught in the cross-fire.

Being far ahead in the polls, Abbott could not afford to make any whopping mistakes, but could be confident that his attempt to humiliate Rudd would be given favourable coverage. Indeed it was, by the “sponsor” of the debate, the Courier Mail, the following morning.