At the start of this year and towards the end of last year you couldn’t turn on your computer, pick up a paper or flick on the TV without a chance of seeing the calm and weathered face of Senator Fraser Anning looking back at you.
Media outlets as diverse as the Guardian, the Daily Telegraph, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Courier Mail, the Australian, the ABC, SBS and all the commercial TV networks seemed obsessed with him.
From the moment of his controversial maiden speech to almost exactly a month ago the mainstream press seemed intent on informing us of everything about Anning from laughable allegations about his travel expenses, to denunciations of his bid to launch a new political party to fevered investigations of his past financial dealings, and other lurid accusations of a plethora of evils too numerous to list.
Barely a week went by without some negative story attacking Anning. They shared the video of taxpayer funded alleged comedian Mark Humphries mocking the Queensland senator on the ABC, they published long and passionate diatribes from some of those middle-aged wine-soaked scribblers who inhabit newsrooms and refuse to leave, they demanded (and received) condemnations of Anning from the Prime Minister, the Opposition Leader and even from Tony Abbott.
It seemed as though our fourth estate had found a new bete noir, a new figure to focus their self-righteous hate filled fury upon now that Pauline Hanson is seen as increasingly mainstream and Lyle Shelton increasingly irrelevant.
But then, nothing.
It has now been over a month since a major Australian news outlet has published a story on Fraser Anning. After months of furious coverage, after spittle flecked articles and hostile interviews galore there has not been a mainstream article on Anning since the Guardian wrote a piece on the 18th of January sneering that the Senator still hasn’t repaid creditors for a failed business he was involved in back in 2016.
The media has gone from examining this man’s life with a fine toothed comb to completely ignoring him overnight. It’s downright spooky. It’s even more significant if you’re someone who follows the extreme left like myself since it’s been widely known that certain far left identities with media connections who normally have no trouble shopping stories to sympathetic journalists have been attempting to supply a slime dossier to media outlets interested in attacking Anning to no avail.
Normally when the media turns as sharply as a school of fish sensing a predator there’s a reason. A part of it is no doubt the prospect of the coming federal election. The summer low period for politics is over and the bigger players are now taking up space. But that doesn’t explain the complete cut off in coverage.
Another possible reason for the complete radio silence might be the fact that Anning is rather popular amongst middle class rural and regional types. In fact you are hard pressed to find a Facebook comments section where positive mentions of Anning don’t outweigh the negative ones tenfold, even on the ABC. Whenever Channel 9 or any other major outlet publish a poll relating to Anning the fans of the Senator flood it in their thousands and sometimes their tens of thousands.
Anning has 90,000 followers on his Facebook page and posts deliberately controversial memes and comments there that would make fantastic news stories if the press were interested, so it’s not as if he isn’t newsworthy.
It really is a puzzler.
Perhaps the reason for the media blackout isn’t that the media are afraid that people aren’t interested in Fraser Anning, maybe it’s that they fear the public might be a little too interested. After all without their outraged hate and the publicity that goes with it Anning has only a very slim chance of retaining his Senate seat.
Perhaps the media has decided the best approach with Senator Anning is to hide under the chair, put their fingers in their ears, shut their eyes tight and hope he just goes away.