The media is a sucker for stories about plain-talkin', grass-roots folk confronting cynical politicians with homespun morality. Think 'Mr Smith Goes to Washington'.
Brought up on these sentimental tabloid templates and jaded with the daily theatre of covering politics, capital city journalists tend to revel in 'people's protests' as a welcome injection of 'authenticity' in a working environment where no-one ever says what they mean.
Aware of this tendency, Australia's savviest spinners and lobbyists have taken their cues from the world's best practice US media manipulators and their now widely employed strategy of 'astro-turfing' - a form of advocacy to advance a corporate or political agenda masquerading as a 'grass-roots' movement.
And don't some of our media friends in Canberra fall for it every time? Despite priding themselves on their cynicism, political reporters like the ABC's resident Tory Chris Uhlmann earnestly interpret the parade of shockjock-manufactured people's protests against the carbon tax, pokie reforms, gay marriage (and whatever else fires up an 18-wheeler driver in a lumberjack shirt) as some sort of expression of the real folk:
UHLMANN: "It's not as large a gathering as some of the organisers had hoped, but the crowd has certainly found a way to make itself heard. although there was an anti-carbon tax theme, the convoy had picked up many hitchhikers along the way."
PROTESTOR: " That's the international Christian flag. You see the cross up there. And I just brought this down today because God told me to bring it down."Just when did our journalistic elite stop taking their bullshit detection medication? The mere presence of that self-promoting blow-hard carnival barker Alan Jones - a man whose opinions have been found to be correlated to how much he is being paid by corporate interests - should have alerted anyone with any news sense that this was an astro-turfed event. Sure there were a few truly aggrieved souls in the crowd, but the idea that this was some kind of natural expression of widespread community anger was just fanciful.
UHLMANN: "But to dismiss them all as cranks of no consequence meant you didn't bother to talk to any of them or ask why they would travel so far."
Yet there was Uhlmann running News Ltd's line that "the forgotten people" are not being heard in Canberra, despite 90 per cent of the media - including himself - doing little else in their reporting but manufacturing the circumstances of discontent with the government so that they can then run the line that the country is in uproar.
There are exceptions, of course. Getting full marks for real journalistic chutzpah, The Sydney Morning Herald's Jacqueline Maley sparked a characteristic spittle-projecting hissy fit by the vile Jones when she dared to ask him whether he had been paid a fee for venturing out of his $3 million Sydney harbourside mansion to mix it with the bush 'battlers' in chilly Canberra. For her troubles, she nearly found herself on the wrong end of a pitchfork.
But for the most part, it suits a lazy media - hooked on fake conflict and the eternal election campaign - to patronise their readership and viewership by presuming that a few dozen truckies in bush shirts and akubras standing outside parliament and calling for fresh elections somehow is the true 'voice of the people'.
We deserve more from journalists. We deserve a better media.