One sentence was all it took. Just one sentence in an otherwise predictable and formulaic rant against his competition and Piers Akerman seemed to distract the whole internet.
The sentence, in case your connection has been down for the last three days, suggested that the children’s cartoon character Peppa Pig “pushes a weird feminist line.” It’s a stupid thing to say, for sure, but don’t confuse writing stupid things with being stupid.
It’s awfully easy to write a piece about what a ridiculous statement that is; too easy in fact. The internet is awash with them now. Some of them are very clever and entertaining but if you’ve been enjoying watching everyone pile on, just ask yourself if this is the most important thing that happened in Australian politics this week.
At the end of a week where it was revealed that the coalition’s alternative NBN policy would cost $12 billion more than they expected (bringing it up to the same cost as Labor’s costings for its own plan with only half the speed at best), and it was announced that the iconic Holden would be ceasing local production in four years with thousands of jobs lost and tens of thousands threatened, what is everyone talking about?
They’re talking about what a grumpy old man said about a cartoon pig.
Of course, it’s debatable as to whether any government or any policy could have kept Holden in Australia short of guaranteeing them a yearly profit. That is perhaps a debate worth having. But knowing that a reasoned defence of his and his publisher’s preferred government would be a fool’s errand, Akerman instead just said, “Look over there!”
And guess what? Everybody did.
If there’s anything sadder than an “old man yells at cloud” story, it’s perhaps a “serious commentators yell at old man yelling at cloud” story. Who says old media doesn’t understand social media? In changing the story to some silly thing he said about a cartoon, Akerman has played the Twitter outrage machine like a fiddle. He doesn’t care if you think he’s a silly old duffer. That just plays along with his narrative.
Yes, it was a stupid thing to say but it doesn’t matter. Every time we choose to let it matter as much as things that really do matter, like job losses and policy reversals, we are doing News Ltd’s job for them.