The trusty algorithm over at job-seeker site SEEK has recommended that I apply for the Social Justice Reporter position with Junkee Media, and I’m wondering if I should dash off a CV. The job advertisement informs me that
Junkee’s funny, smart, ballsy, and interesting take on news, film, politics, TV, and more has seen it develop a strong following. Junkee has a fresh take and unique attitude, and in just a few years has established itself as one of the most interesting new voices in Australian media.
There is sure to be a large pool of eager applicants, but I know how to distinguish myself. I would hasten to note that the use of gendered language like ballsy is very problematic and offensive to the trans community. As an ally, I am committed to dismantling — ah, what do the kids call it? Oh, yes — the cis-heteronormative patriarchy.
As you can see, I am well versed in the vocabulary of social justice nonsense, and I shall bang on like this in my cover letter. If I include “calling people racist” in my list of hobbies, I’ll get an interview, right?
I am, in fact, a longtime Junkee reader. I occasionally stop by to check if they’ve published anything interesting, intelligent, or amusing, and, you never know, perhaps someday they will.
Some years ago, in the pre-social justice era, Junkee’s journalism might have been charitably described as fatuous or “not unreadable”. Most articles consisted of shrieking at the viral gif du jour, bland recaps of reality TV, and the latest news in pop culture. Junkee’s intellectual and moral decline began with the arrival of Osman Faruqi, who became News and Politics editor in 2016. Faruqi, a devotee of every risible and social justice idea you can imagine, brought a Greens-tinged and identity-obsessed focus to the website. A new and fierce partisanship also paid off in clicks and influence. It was at this time that Junkee proudly published Just A Bunch of People Telling Lyle Shelton To Eat Shit, an article which is fairly representative of the standard of Junkee’s more politically-inclined journalism.
Faruqi, son of Greens MP Mehreen Faruqi, also gained notoriety for his chirpy contempt for all people of a particular complexion, and there are no prizes for guessing which one. If you’ve ever dipped into any of his journalistic or social media output, you’ll have noticed his real difficulty in writing a sentence that doesn’t contain a derogatory adjective or two about white people. If anyone wants to describe such antics as racist, well, that’ll be all right with me.
In a normal world Faruqi would be a mere Twitter troll, and one might cheerily push the block button and never hear from him again. That’s not our world, unfortunately, and if Osman Faruqi is the model, aspiring Social Justice Reporters can look forward to lucrative career advancement. Faruqi may be a sneering oaf, yes, but he has gone on to inflict his oafishness on both the ABC and The Saturday Paper, and many other Junkee writers have travelled a similar path.
As I refresh the homepage, however, I notice that Junkee isn’t really Faruqi-free, as his smelly politics still hangs about. Joshua Badge, a queer philosopher and one of the site’s most embarrassing contributors, has a recent piece on the Nazi-like leadership, voting bloc and media collaborators that he wants all readers to resist. Well, that’s the main takeaway that I got, but I grant that it’s a struggle to sift through the hysterical non-sequiturs. Future Social Justice Reporters would be well-advised to read Badge’s screed, as it will give you some idea about Junkee’s style guide: you can always meet your word count by scattering fascism and white supremacy in every paragraph. Joshua scored reasonably well here, as he managed, in a single article, to get four and ten respectively. Well done, old boy.
As I glance back again at Junkee’s self-description in the job post, I would also quarrel slightly with its supposed freshness and uniqueness. I mean, where else can one find a cult-like adherence to left-wing social justice? Well, almost everywhere, I suppose.
You might say that Junkee outdoes its competitors in one area: vigorous application of the tenets of woke piety to the evaluation of art and culture. By this I mean the replacement of aesthetic standards for film and music with exclusively identitarian ones. At Junkee, it is forbidden to ask: is this piece of art any bloody good? The only thing that matters is the identity of the artists, and how much they claim to be oppressed. More oppression equals greater ennoblement, which means something is worthy of your attention. That’s why Junkee’s take on cultural matters runs along the lines of A Queer In Review: Looking Back At The Best Queer Music Of 2020.
This cultural policing isn’t confined to the present. Under the current editorship of Patrick Lenton, Junkee enjoys ransacking the past for your favourite TV show and exposing its problematic nature. I hope you don’t enjoy Friends anymore, right? Haven’t you heard that it’s both homophobic and fatphobic? Should prospective reporters undergo an interview, it would be wise to prepare for such an interrogation.
As I add my preferred pronouns to my résumé and get ready to hit send, I confess to having second thoughts. In the interests of promoting diversity, I should step aside. After all, I am a contemptible straight white male. Someone more deserving can preach the woke gospel according to Junkee.
On a serious note, the job ad does get one thing right, I should say: undoubtedly, Junkee has acquired a “strong following”, especially with young readers. This is lamentable, yes, but I hope it’s also reversible. It’s false to assume that all young Australians are votaries of social justice; it’s quite true that the right-minded among this cohort are underserved by media institutions. It’s possible that they fear articulating conservative views, especially at university; it’s certain that they see Junkee’s journalistic offerings as an insult to their intelligence.
Alternative news sites and magazines, like Quadrant, as well as ones not yet created, will have to step up. A younger readership is waiting. In the meantime, and for the sake of health and wellbeing, I’d advise everyone to cut back on their intake of junk media.
Timothy Cootes has written for Quadrant, Quillette, and The Spectator Australia. He lives in Sydney