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Hold your tongue, PM


Hold your tongue, PM

While everyone had something to say about ‘the slap’ the Prime Minister should have kept quiet, writes Jane Stephens.

It is The Slap that continues to reverberate around the world.

It kicked off when actor Will Smith did his ’nana over a harsh joke Oscars host Chris Rock made about Jada Pinkett Smith. Will Smith strode onto the stage and clocked Rock, and then there was rocking all over the world.

The immediate responses were strange. Smith was consoled, Rock disappeared – so the instinct was to comfort the perpetrator, not the victim. The Academy Awards room, the online and TV audiences and the internet went into overdrive.

Some celebs said they wished their man would stand up for them like that. Some said picking on a person’s health condition was not cool. Many were rightly horrified at Smith’s violence. But soon after, when he went up to accept the Best Actor gong, he said he was sorry – sort of.

Then the flames were fanned here, when the Prime Minister made mention of it on Brisbane radio.

Why on earth would he weigh in? Why didn’t he just back away, sensing danger?

With an election looming it would have been prudent, but in an effort to be jolly and friendly, our PM couldn’t help himself.

He was asked if he had ever felt the need to cross the floor to slap someone in Parliament. “I’m also fiercely defensive of anyone who would say anything about Jenny too, so I can understand it,” he chortled. And he added, somewhat lamely: “That’s not how you roll.”

Good grief.

He missed his chance to note that a physical response to a verbal lashing is never okay, even if in defence of a loved one. He also could have said violence should never be conflated as a sign of love. He could have said women as empowered as Jada or Jen are unlikely to need a knight in shining armour. But he didn’t.

And wait, there’s more.

Upset is rippling over the ill-conceived action of the juniors in the PM’s party – the Young Liberals – when they joined in the reaction avalanche on social media.

They posted a mocked-up version of a still of the incident, positioning Rock as hard-working Australians and Smith as Labor’s higher taxes. The meme (now taken down) has led to a political skirmish on both social and legacy media.

And so the rocking around the world continues. These are strange times.


Jane Stephens is a USC journalism lecturer, media commentator and writer.

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