23 August 2011
Most people only get one shot at being the target of a lynch mob. I've had two in a week.
Last week, Angry Anderson turned a passionate crowd of thousands against me. Today, it was Alan Jones' turn.
First, let me clarify that at no point did I feel physically threatened. Even when I saw a dozen burley truck drivers marching towards me (with purpose and an escort of 10 cameras), once a few words were exchanged, I quickly realised they were all calm and reasonable people. Not the same could be said about everyone there.
The first problem was the hype.
It was built up as being a protest that would shut down Canberra. The AFP closed the road at the front of Parliament, expecting 3,000 vehicles. Police say there were about 300.
The second problem was the MC. With Tony Abbott standing over his left shoulder, Live to air on Sky, Alan Jones told the crowd the reason numbers were down was that the AFP had stopped "hundreds" of trucks at the ACT border and weren't letting them come up to Parliament to exercise their democratic right to protest.
He described it as a "conspiracy" and "...the most disgraceful thing that has ever been done to democracy,"
The blocked convoy claim was nonsense. Police told me they were "stunned" it had been made. The truckies said they were stopped at the border, but only for 3 minutes. The organisers blamed the rumour on "rogue" elements in the crowd.
When I went on air to repeat what police had told me, Jones got wind of my clarification.
He called me over and asked me if I was calling him a liar on air. I explained I was only quoting Federal Police. He said he didn't care what police had said, and why don't I talk to one of the lead truck drivers. I explained I had just spoken to the man he was pointing at and that man had told me he knew nothing about any convoy being stopped at the border.
Instead of accepting and correcting the fact he'd been given a bum steer, Jones got back on stage and went after me, accusing me of misleading my viewers and furiously demanding over the microphone I get up there and explain myself.
Again, I found myself being ridiculed and abused by about a thousand people.
I never got on stage. I was getting used to this angry mob thing and knew it wouldn't end well. So, just like last time, I eventually slinked away without defending myself.
I know it's the job of shock jocks to wind people up but this was extreme, even by Jones' standards. Most journalists do everything they can to avoid being part of the story and I'm no different.
Here I was dragged in, despite my best efforts at being an invisible observer.
For the hundreds who had driven across the country to be there, and ended up losing airtime, it's disappointing.
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