ON LATELINE TONIGHT, tucked in toward the end of the show, a fresh-faced lad reported that the weather had never been worse in 800,000 years and we should be all thankful for people qualified to tell us that. There was a big expanse of sea behind him and, just visible in the distance, the matchstick towers of little white wind generators. The young fellow was on assignment at Tasmania’s Cape Grim, where the CSIRO and BoM had taken him and a busload of other reporters to spruik the latest brochure in catastrophe’s expanding library. How the cub reporter secured the empty space behind him is a marvel because the air-testing station’s surrounds must have been some of the most crowded real estate on the planet just about then, going by the number of subsequent reports about the sterling work being done at the world-class, cutting edge of climate science, which is entirely settled but must still spend lots on further research.
It was a lovely day, according to the Age man on the scene, after which everyone returned to their offices and wrote nice, cookie-cutter stories, as expected. And isn’t that depressing. All those keen minds and not one of them thought to observe how catastrophe is packaged and sold these days. A story on the amount of official money that went into making the day a success – the airfares, buses, party pies and toilet hire – would have been very interesting, as might a few drolleries about the day itself. One guesses those intrepid reporters were marched about like kindergarten kids on an excursion, lined up to meet the nice old man who milks the air machine and encouraged to make little pictures of the happy outing by way of thank-you notes. Surely there was some sharp scribe who could see the humour.
To the viewer at home, this viewer, it has been the absurdism of the mass descent on Cape Grim which so fascinates. All these apparently intelligent people shipped for a few hours to the essence of nowhere, and not one of them appears to have twigged that the day and their reports were as far removed from informing the public as is photo copying from portraiture. Did anyone ask about those distant wind generators and if the coming and going of service trucks and their exhaust fumes might spike the monitored results every now and then by just a tick or two?
All this recent talk about bringing the press into line, you wonder why anyone sees the need.