Duncan Storrar is a regular guy. Aussies would describe him as a ‘battler,’ local slang for someone who struggles through life, but gives it his best shot. A couple of weeks ago, he appeared on the ABC’s QandA (a local TV talk show) to get some answers. He asked politicians about upcoming tax breaks, and wanted to know why high income earners would be the only ones to benefit.
He then went on to say:
DUNCAN STORRAR: Low-income earners lose more money, because every penny we pay in tax, is, just, that’s money we don’t have to spend at the bottom end. People who make $80,000 a year, don’t know who they are, well, they don’t even notice it, love. We notice that sort of stuff, eh?
— ABC, Q&A, 9 May, 2016
Federal minister Kelly Dwyer responded with a story about slicing a pie so everyone can share. She continued by saying the Government’s tax breaks would allow a small business to buy a $6000 toaster. Seriously.
Next morning, the debacle was a hot topic in the media and was shared on countless Facebook feeds. Duncan became an instant social media icon. He symbolised the struggles of the working class, and sparked debate about the growing divide between rich and poor. One fan even set up a crowd funding campaign. It generated over $60,000 within days.
Big media strikes back
Unfortunately for Duncan, Australia’s in the midst of an election year and corporate tax cuts would benefit Rupert Murdoch, who controls the conservative end of the media. His News Corp empire of newspapers and websites went on the attack. They dug up Duncan’s past, interviewed his relatives and shared every lurid detail they could find. Admittedly, his story is one of mental illness, petty crime and drug use. As a result, he was quickly labelled a thug, a deadbeat dad and welfare parasite.
After the character assassination was complete, Duncan was left to pick up the pieces of his life. It wasn’t over yet though. A public backlash over News Corp’s antics soon followed. The following week, the TV show Mediawatch featured a segment on the sorry saga. They read a letter from Duncan, who wanted to share his experience. He thanked the public for their support and also talked about the media’s impact on his health and family. But the most poignant comment was a warning about the consequences of speaking out:
if a person shows the powers to be out of touch people that they are, they will be dropped, probed and attacked in any way with no thought to the mental wellbeing of their children.
His full statement can be found here.
Duncan Storrar: a cautionary tale
Duncan Storrar’s rise and fall reveals the perils of challenging the rich and powerful. Additionally it reveals how easily mainstream media can turn public opinion against whoever they choose to target. In this case it was a guy who simply went on TV to ask a question. He didn’t set out to achieve internet stardom or to go viral.
Here’s the full segment below. Is Duncan a hero or a villain? The decision is up to you, as it should be.