According to senior Press Gallery journalists, Bill Shorten is guilty of class war for exposing Malcolm Turnbull’s unearned wealth. Political editor Dr Martin Hirst disagrees and argues public figures are legitimate targets when they duck for cover.
First published on Independent Australia.
HOW SEPARATE are the public and private actions of politicians and their high-profile staffers? Is it “class war” when the Left exposes the hypocrisy of the conservatives, but not when the Right wants to attack workers and welfare recipients?
We have cause to consider these questions this week, because several examples are presented to us from the White House and from our own domestic politics.
Let’s take the American cases first. They involve high profile staff in the Trump White House — staff who are controversial and who were in the spotlight this week for having aspects of their private lives exposed.
First, consider Stephen Miller, a speech writer and confidant of the President, who was profiled recently in The Atlantic as “Trump’s Right-Hand Troll”. The kindest thing one might say about Miller is that he’s a very well-dressed White Nationalist. He’s widely known as the architect of Trump’s infamous “Muslim ban” and the policy of separating families at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Miller was apparently trying to keep a low profile this week, but to no avail. First he was heckled in a Washington DC restaurant – a Mexican restaurant, would you believe – and then protestors started texting him after his mobile phone number was published on news website Splinter.
Following the publication of Miller’s phone number in a number of places a reporter for The Nation, David Klion posted it to Twitter. Twitter’s response was to suspend the journalist for a violation of the rule prohibiting the posting of private information.
Klion defended his actions in an interview with The Wrap; it’s worth considering his justification.
“This is war,” said Klion. “I think that what is happening right now at the border is child abuse. It is systematic child abuse. It is racist child abuse. It is being carried out for cynical political purposes.”
Klion also said that Miller’s status as a high public official made him fair game in a way which was different from the many right-wing doxxing campaigns against journalists.“Power differentials matter here and Stephen Miller is one of the most powerful people in the country. He is the architect of these inhumane policies. There is a power imbalance,” said Klion. “Anything that allows us to speak directly to the most powerful people behind this is something I would support. Doxxing a random person or a journalist is not something I would support.”
I must admit I have some sympathy for this position. Miller’s role in the White House must mean that his actions should be open to public scrutiny, but they are too often shrouded in secrecy. Pulling back that veil is sometimes necessary in order to make a point.