I mostly try to avoid all exposure to the Murdoch press. Much like I try avoid things of that ilk: petty ignorance, rampant stupidity, the bubonic plague. The kind of things that either kill you or just leave you feeling dead inside. I broke my own rule on Tuesday and I have been paying the price for it ever since. Struck down with an aching head, fluctuating exasperations, extended bouts of screaming at inanimate objects, general malaise. You know, the usual symptoms of exposure to the Murdoch press.
I’d like to say it wasn’t my own fault. But it was. I’ll admit it.
They lured me in with this sentence: “The ocean is our domain and sharks have no place destroying lives and livelihoods; these predators are lurking out there ready to cull humans and we as a community must find a permanent solution.” I thought it to be a brilliant piece of satire. Oh, how wrong I was. The journalist, Laura Banks, had instead written a pathetic diatribe, a call of arms of sorts, for us humans to exact revenge against these murderous sharks for the guerrilla war they are waging against us. As ludicrous as the statement ‘the ocean is our domain’ is, it was written without a tongue in cheek. I nearly bit my tongue clean off.
It seems Ms Banks has covered several cases of surfers being mauled by sharks recently and decided to do some mauling of her own. I have no issue with engaging in a sensible discussion about minimising the risks for both sharks and humans where we share the water. What I do find appalling is her sanctimonious fractured logic, her ridiculous hyperbole, her rampant ignorance. If I were to highlight every example of her idiocy I would have to quote 90% of her article. Instead I will just mention a couple of my favourites:
“Tourism is slowing. The people are not coming. Surfers are not surfing. If this continues into summer, the seaside towns of Lennox Head and Evans Head, even Ballina, will be no more.”
“Would you still be keen to cuddle up to a great white at night?”
I don’t even have to comment on the absurdity of her opinions. She does a far better job of showcasing her own stupidity than I ever could.
So, if we are to believe Ms Banks these monstrous sharks spend their days lurking, 50 metres offshore, just waiting for some innocent surfer to happen past so they can destroy their life. Unless we act now, towns will die. The sharks will win. Do we want to lose to a bunch of mean nasty sharks?
In a followup story today Ms Banks has taken offence at the vitriol that has come her way since the article was published. This seems a bit rich. If you throw a hand grenade out, you should expect a few to come flying back. Now I certainly don’t condone the threats of violence that have come her way. I will leave the threats of embarking on killing sprees to her (though I will confess to finding the irony of the hashtag #KillLauraBanks somewhat amusing). The unfortunate thing is that Ms Banks is now able to use these extreme and ridiculous reactions to switch focus. They give her a convenient exit strategy. Instead of the cruel, stupid woman calling for the mass murder of sharks, she becomes the helpless victim of the unrestrained id of the internet.
Part of me suspects this was her original intention. Her original article was just plain dumb. So dumb I wondered what editor would publish it. Then I remembered she writes for Murdoch. Writing a dumb article is the easiest, laziest way for a journalist to stir up a bit of controversy. Her tweet this morning telling people to have a think about themselves was accompanied by a delightful picture of Ms Banks. It kind of feels like her version of an actor’s headshot.
If Ms Banks ever truly wanted to participate in a reasonable discussion about the dangers sharks pose to humans she went about it in the worst way possible. But that is the Murdoch way. And so I am left to lament that moment of weakness that left me vulnerable and exposed. I knew the risk. And still I entered the water. Next time I wilfully expose myself to such a menace hopefully it will be to something much less dangerous to my health. You know, like the plague.