The Thin Blue Silence: Speaking Up When Leadership Fails

The Thin Blue Silence: Speaking Up When Leadership Fails
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I desperately wanted someone to give the police a voice during the pandemic, because the voices of my Command did not align to what the coal face were feeling.

I desperately wanted anyone to come out and say ‘What we are doing to our community is wrong, and it will have significant consequences for years to come – we are losing faith, and our fundamental ability to police in a democratic way, is through the consent of the people’. I wanted Command to be clear: Government may make the laws, but police decide how to enforce them. But this was not the case during COVID. Specific directions were coming out of the Premiers Office, and our Chief of Police obeyed. Of course, behind closed doors he objected, he pushed back where he thought he could, but in the end when your job is in the hands of the very person in charge of those directions, you quickly fall in line.  But no one from the thin blue line was saying any of this.  In the end, when no one else would, I did. (And the short lesson behind that is; You don’t have to be a ‘someone’ to speak out, you just have to speak).

Now, just like my faith in politicians’ ability to lead through a crisis had fallen into the abyss, so to had my trust for media companies to honour their own ethical code of ‘Seek truth and report it’ (or to break it down more specifically); Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error.  I could have reached a much larger audience in legacy media, but my message would have been bastardised and turned into whatever message they wanted (and in turn whichever political agenda they were currently agitating). So, I found an alternative media source that I felt would at least give me ‘a fair go’, which is the Aussie way. 

When my interview went to air, some legacy media picked up the story, but true to my concerns of their journalistic integrity (or lack there-of), they focused on one single clip from the interview (that was spoken about the least) and ran with that. They failed to leverage the interview with other sources and material in their possession that also highlighted concerns about the state of our democracy, the Peelian principles of policing, the unprecedented tactics we were using against citizens, and the politicisation of Victoria’s Police Force. I gave them a great opportunity to do so, but no, they cherry picked a narrative that suited their divisive tactics that had been on display throughout their coverage of COVID-19.

After the interview was aired on the alternative media channel Discernable, I was courted by several legacy media outlets, all vying for the ‘exclusive’’.  I spoke with several, and others I simply refused to entertain, like A Current Affair. I ended up on Mornings with Neil Mitchell on 3AW, and Sky News with Rowan Dean on ‘The Outsiders’.  Now I certainly don’t agree with many things that Neil and Rowan say, or content that 3AW and Sky News present, but I agreed to these interviews and not others because I felt that I could see some balance in their content and programs where I saw none at all in others. We don’t have to agree with everything media presenters say, and nor should we! But we should demand balance and unbiased reporting that is not saturated in tacky fear tactics.

Having spent the best part of 18 months watching legacy media 7, 9 and 10 and my own tax-funded ABC, and seeing how these news channels had reported on the pandemic; the lack of demand of accountability on state and federal leaders, the incessant and unrelenting fear tactics about the COVID virus and the marginalization, segregation, discrimination, and outright hate spewed against those who chose bodily autonomy over state-forced experimental drugs, on what planet did these legacy media companies think I would come and talk to them?  

This is one thing that legacy media and political leaders of today have in common; They both want us to live in a perpetual state of fear. Fear is a very powerful motivator, and so is love, but to motivate people with love takes a lot more effort than fear, so fear is what they go with. Fearful citizens are compliant citizens, fearful news watchers will stay glued to their TVs and heads stuck in their newspapers.  Fearful people tend to stick with what they know (just look at Australian politics and elections through the pandemic!).

I have a feeling we are living through ‘the Dershowitz doctrine’, but for media companies as well as politicians. Alan Dershowitz is a respected Harvard professor (and youngest law professor to be granted tenure in Harvard’s history), (and is registered Democrat!), who argued on Trump’s behalf in the 2020 impeachment attempt. His argument is now known as the Dershowitz doctrine; ‘If a president did something that he believes will help him get elected, in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of qui pro quo that results in impeachment’. This essentially gives a free pass to every politician who believes his or her re-election would serve the public interest, and is prepared to lie or cheat to win.  I read the latter passage in ‘What is to be done’ by a fascinating intellectual – Barry Jones (former Labor State and Federal Parliament representative, and Australia’s longest-serving minister for Science 1983 to 1990), and I wondered if he considered legacy media adopting this same doctrine for themselves, but instead of being re-elected, their focus is on ratings and return seasons.  Jones does highlight the need for independent press, however he describes CNN as ‘astute commentary’, so I am not sure I agree with him there. I do agree with his statement that ‘When a free press is diminished or circumscribed, power is seized by interest groups, lobbies, faith healers, and shamans’.  In 2023 we see free press is but all diminished, and they appear to be only serving one master, and it is not the master of truth. So as Barry asks, What is to be done?

One answer lies in demanding more of independent AND legacy media. You have to absorb both to know what you are truly getting, and to make the assessment yourself as to whether what you are reading and hearing is seeking truth and reporting on it.  This is why I will continue to read and watch bias media, but for free; I do not pay subscriptions to any legacy media or purchase newspapers. I will read books and other content by people on all sides of politics, but I invest in independent media. I follow them, subscribe, watch, listen, support financially, attend events, send messages of thanks and appreciation, and I make up my own mind with each piece of content (not a blanket love or hate approach). Then I take action. I speak out, I wear political and independent media messages and logos, I volunteer with political candidates and parties that I believe are better than ‘the current thing’, I support local businesses that also want change, I plant seeds everywhere I go and encourage people to explore outside of their First at Five news and Sunday newspaper.

As my osteo says ‘Let’s all stop filling this earth with hot air and fruitless wind and actually take positive action to do something relevant, on purpose and meaningful’. The Aussie Wire is the newest creation of independent media. I hope to see it as a new balanced, unbiased (or admit where the bias exists) and factual news alternative that people can appreciate and take action from.  Less fear, more discussion.

Look out for next week’s blog where I provide a summary snap shot of the last 3 years of legacy media reporting from around the world that shows why you won’t get all the relevant news from your mainstay channels.

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Krystle Mitchell is a veteran Victorian Police Officer, who gave up her 16 year career to speak out about the police response to COVID, and the politicisation of the police force. She has two degrees, one in Intel Analytics and the other in Police Leadership and Management. She possesses a love of learning and like most analysts, has an irritating need to understand 'why'.