On Sunday I went to the annual “zombie walk,” an event that proves that the zombie phenomenon has jumped the shark so high that it’s burned up in the sun’s flaming atmosphere. But at least people had fun and raised some money for charity and got three layers of dermis flash-fried off in the Brisbane heat. But some people don’t seem to fully understand the whole “dress as a zombie” theme, which is literally the only prerequisite for showing up besides having the ability to walk.

 

#5. The Joker

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Look, I know that zombie-themed events are full of geeks, and so the Venn diagram of people who like both zombies and that fucking Batman movie is more or less one circle. Still, there’s nothing sadder than turning up to a zombie walk and seeing about 10 versions of Heath Ledger’s last living performance wandering around the compound. The fact that Ledger died doesn’t make this one “technically accurate” because I don’t actually think he was buried in the full Joker make up.

Look, I get it, that movie was like geek catnip, you’re as happy just rubbing it on your body as you are watching it. But nothing so effectively demonstrates your total lack of creativity as showing up as the Joker to an absolutely not remotely Joker-themed event. You’re basically advertising to the world that you’re so bad at thinking outside the box that if you even saw the outside of the box you’d have a Platonic existential crisis.

 

#4. Just Goths

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For every three people who show up as a an actual zombie, there’s at least one who comes adorned in 16th Century Renaissance garb punctuated with black lace and thorny facial tattoos carefully drawn with mascara. I can see why a celebration of the rotting dead would be a draw for goths, but so is a renfaire and you don’t see many people turning up to those dressed like Dracula.

Vampires are goth. Werewolves are arguably goth. The Underworld movies are the gothest things in existence, and they don’t have any zombies in them because zombies are not goth. Zombies are metal, like demons and skeletons. If you can’t even identify the correct musical genre of your horror monsters, then what hope do you have?

 

#3. Shaun

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Of the full dozen people walking around dressed up like Simon Pegg in Shaun of the Dead, you know that each and every one of them thought they were being incredibly clever. Especially the ones who brought a cricket bat as a prop. Imagine the awkwardness as they turned up to the gate and saw an ocean of people in white shirts and red ties on the other side.

The biggest problem with this one however is that very few of the people who attempted it looked anything like Simon Pegg, so they were more or less just dressed up as regular mall employees. If your costume relies on the fact that the character wears a name tag, then you’re off to a bad start.

 

#2. Cave People

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I’m not going to pretend I understand this one. Evidently, when some people hear the word “zombie” they picture a leopard-skin wearing half-ape from the early days of human evolution, and turn up as an extra from The Flintstones.

Interestingly enough, the few people who turned up in stonepunk chic were among those who put in the most effort, including one woman who shaved mohawks into her children’s hair and built a little wooden cart to drag them around in. I guess there isn’t a festival made specifically for the surprisingly large caveman enthusiast demographic so they have to take what they can get.

 

#1. Recycled Halloween Costumes

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Of course, probably the most useful function of a zombie gathering is simply finding a second use for that Halloween costume that you ill-advisedly bought before it properly registered that you were never going to use it again.

The convenient thing about zombies is that more or less anything that used to be human can be retconned to fit the criteria of a zombie if you splash some blood over your face. So you get zombie Waldo, zombie Native American, zombie Wolverine, zombie Dracula which doesn’t make much sense, and zombie Homer Simpson. As long as it’s not the goddamn Joker, I’ll give you a pass.

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So tomorrow Australia will go to the polls to decide who is going to be the leader of our nation for the next few years. Spoiler alert, it’s Tony Abbott. Probably. The question is how much influence the papers may have had on this result. I’m not going to make the case for voting either way on Saturday – I am not talking about politics. I’m talking about this:

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Rupert Murdoch, the world’s most powerful media baron, owns most of the newspapers in this country. I mean that in terms of circulation, which estimates that almost 60% of all newspaper sales are Murdoch presses. He also has a monopoly on pay TV (does anyone actually have OptusVision?), and one of our free to air networks is run by his son. All in all, if you hear the news in this country, it’s usually Rupert Murdoch who told it to you.

Defenders of the press say that Murdoch can’t force you to do anything. Just like the devil can’t force you to do anything. He’s a tempter. He sits on your shoulder and whispers in your ear. You have free will, you don’t have to believe him and you certainly don’t have to buy his papers. That’s true. But if Murdoch does want you to believe or act in a certain way, he does have a direct line into the skull of the vast majority of media consumers in this country. And tomorrow, he wants you to vote for Tony Abbott.

To that end, he sent one of his chief headkickers, the editor in chief of the New York Post, to Australia with specific instructions to convert the Murdoch presses into a hard-line Tony Abbott propaganda factory. In the weeks leading up to the election, papers like The Courier Mail have contained nothing but anti-Rudd hit pieces disguised as news. That is reprehensible, but not for the reasons that you probably think. Bias is not the problem here.

Let’s back up and talk a little about the Murdoch media. I work as an editor and fact checker for a major infotainment website, and part of my job is to sift through sources and ensure that what we’re presenting as fact is accurate, in so far as it’s reported by a reputable source. That said, my colleagues and I are prohibited from using Murdoch-owned media as a source. Not because of any inherent anti-Murdoch discrimination, but because experience has shown us that Murdoch media is just too unreliable, too much of the time. His reporters don’t go to any effort to confirm their own information before they start smashing their hands against the keyboard in a hysterical frenzy, so the news as reported by Newscorp presses often looks like it’s been through three rounds of Chinese whispers. Any given story is between 30-70 per cent bullshit. We use newspapers to confirm facts, but we never use The Sun, The Courier Mail, The Times, The New York Post, and absolutely never, ever, EVER, Fox News.

It’s usually held that the stigma against Newscorp media is its “bias.” And its defenders are quick to jump on the hypocrisy argument – “So Shane, you can guarantee that you’re completely without bias? And that the newspapers you do read are free of bias? Sure.” But this is a misdirection. Bias is not the problem here. It’s not the problem, because everybody has bias. It’s actually impossible to be without bias unless you are omnipotent, because bias is a function of ignorance. I have bias that arises from me being a straight, white, Australian man. I have bias related to my income, to my occupation, to my academic studies, and to my political ideology. I am biased, so are you, and so is Rupert Murdoch and the Courier Mail. So it is and so it always has been. It doesn’t bother me that the journalists at the Courier Mail think that Tony Abbott would be the best leader for this country. What bothers me is that they don’t. They are lying.

See, what matters is not bias. What actually matters is the correct identification of bias. The Courier Mail and its ilk want you to believe that they have a political bias towards the Liberal party, but what they actually have is a corporate bias. The Courier Mail’s preference for Tony Abbott isn’t even about The Courier Mail. It’s about Foxtel.

As it stands, one of Labor’s election promises has to do with the National Broadband Network scheme, a large-scale project to significantly upgrade internet speeds in Australia. Whether or not you think the NBN is a good idea is neither here nor there, the point is that if it’s successful, it threatens the profitability of cable television, which Rupert Murdoch controls. Tony Abbott, if elected, has promised to scrap the NBN, which is very good news indeed for Newscorp.

It doesn’t make a lot of sense for Rupert Murdoch, an American citizen who renounced his Australian citizenship, to take such a passionate interest in the politics of a foreign nation. He doesn’t want Tony Abbott to be elected just because he’s a conservative himself. The ruling party in this country personally affects him to about the same extent that the ruling party in Nicaragua does. In fact, Murdoch’s papers have variously supported the left in this country when it has suited them. Newscorp’s passion for Abbott is not a political opinion. It is purely and exclusively a corporate strategy. It’s good business sense.

That’s why you should be angry about Murdoch’s campaign even if you are a Liberal supporter and you’re planning on marking a big fat “1” next to Abbott’s name tomorrow. Murdoch’s papers are trying to influence you to make a life choice in order to benefit a giant corporation that has entire warehouses packed full of the fucks that it does not give about you or your family.

Of course, it’s a common argument that people like me overstate the influence that media has on our opinions. We’re not idiots! I don’t do what the TV tells me to do! And considering I’ve written a book about conspiracy culture, I sound like a conspiracy theorist myself if I start talking about “sheeple” bleating at the TV and doing what Rupert Murdoch tells us to do. I don’t scream conspiracy and mind control, at least not in the way that the conspiracy theorists do, but I also don’t discount the idea that media has a persuasive influence when it is badly regulated.

I mean, people tell me that Labor dug its own grave in this country long before the election was called and Murdoch started getting all up in our faces with glamour shots of Abbott standing in front of a proud Australian flag. The media had nothing to do with it, they did it to themselves. But that’s a self-defeating argument – if media has no influence on our political opinion, then why does the media bother trying to manipulate it? Why would Murdoch have spent so much time and money on this campaign if it’s completely irrelevant? Sure, we know that Labor has really messed up and deserves to fail… and where did we hear that from?

It’s naïve to think that there are big media companies that report purely out of an interest to inform and with no thought to their own bottom line. I wouldn’t argue that Fairfax, Newscorp’s major rival, doesn’t have an agenda. I’m sure it does. They are companies. The fact that they do this is not even a problem. As informed citizens, it’s our job to consume news from a variety of sources and make up our own minds. But Murdoch is not a fan of healthy competition – he is a voracious businessman who pushes monopoly laws to the limit, who makes deals with politicians to allow him to gain control of more and more of what you read and hear. The fact that Murdoch papers are so unreliable as fact sources is a direct consequence of his power. The more media he owns, the less he has to give a shit. Journalism is applicable to market forces as well. A corporate monopoly can charge whatever they want, and a media monopoly can be as honest as they feel like.

So if you’re thinking of voting Liberal tomorrow, please do it as a fully informed voter. Don’t do it because of something you read in The Courier Mail. If you’re not an employee of Newscorp, you’re under no obligation to serve Newscorp’s interests.

Shane Davis reports.

Couples rushed to the altar today to celebrate the recent Supreme Court decision to recognise same sex marriage. But as mid-life crises start to set in among newlyweds, a new horror has cast a cloud over the perceived victory, with the discovery that gay divorce remains illegal.

Yesterday’s announcement that the Supreme Court has overturned the Defense of Marriage Act means that the United States Federal Government has effectively legalised gay marriage to the discretion of individual states. And while gay rights activists have fought long and hard for the change, this also means that same sex couples are free to pay the institution of marriage the same level of respect that straight couples award it. That is to say, none at all.

“I figured I’d give the married life a few years until my husband started getting a few gray hairs, and then I’d trade him in for a younger model,” lamented Brad Jones from San Francisco, “But no, I’m actually stuck with him. Forever, I mean.”

“It really gives new meaning to the phrase ‘until death do we part’,” he continued. “I mean, it gives it an actual meaning. I didn’t think of that at the time, I was just repeating words.”

Harry Tailor is another victim of the court’s oversight. He and his boyfriend of three days tied the knot in a Vegas novelty wedding after 23 tequila shots, and neither remember anything about it but for the embarrassing photographs. When they sought to have the marriage annulled, however, they were informed that it was forbidden by law.

“They told us we would be arrested if we even tried to gay divorce each other,” Tailor told our reporters.

While most assume this is merely an oversight, some conspiracy theorists have proposed that this is a deliberate act of malice by the courts. This comes after several witnesses reported seeing a man shot by a sniper after he fled from a registry office screaming “It’s a trap!”

In related news, there has been some confusion about the ruling as many couples wed under the common misconception that gay marriage is now compulsory.

“We’re not even gay!” laughed Robert Smith as he spoke to us, joined by his new husband Jeff. “We just assumed we had to get gay married now. I mean, why else would we have protested against this so hard. I figured that if the gestapo was going to make me marry a dude, it might as well be my best poker buddy. Now we’re stuck like this forever, so we may as well make the best of it.”

Shane Davis reports.

Up to 10,000 Hollywood visual effects artists are homeless this week after a Facebook campaign to fight for their better treatment by the film industry was abandoned en masse in favour of a campaign for marriage equality.

Facebook users took up the fight for the struggling VFX industry after it was revealed that the Oscar award winning effects house responsible for Life of Pi filed for bankruptcy last month. Outraged by the industry’s lack of recognition, users replaced their profile images with featureless green squares, which remained as such until this week, when George Takei changed his own profile into a red equals sign.

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“We don’t know why they abandoned us,” sobbed one out of work artist, standing before a scrawled sign that read ‘WILL ROTOSCOPE FOR FOOD.’

He tells this reporter of the day when he learned the horrible news, as he was pulled into head office, his manager shaking his bald head sadly. “I’m sorry, Mike. Things were going real well, people were starting to finally take notice, but… someone’s gone and reminded the internet that gay marriage still isn’t legal. So we’re going to have to let you go.”

It is still too early to say what impact the red equals sign campaign has had toward the legality of same sex marriage, with some witnesses complaining that it’s difficult to discern the meaning of a red equals sign floating in a contextual void. Others argue that the issue is further confused by the multitude of internet smartasses changing their profiles into blue percent signs and green ampersands.

Still, penniless animators are feeling betrayed and looking for someone to blame. For many, the blame lies squarely on serial bandwagon starter George Takei.

“Look, as a gay man working in the film industry, I’m obviously really conflicted about this,” Mr Takei revealed, “Unfortunately, on Facebook you can only support one issue at a time.” He then grinned and exclaimed “Oh myyyyyy!” probably.

Suggestions that Facebook replace its profile image feature with an exhaustive list of every issue that the user cares about have gone largely unanswered by the social network. Although, when asked if it were possible, Mark Zuckerberg replied, “Oh yes. I mean, we already know literally everything about all of you.”

Shane Davis reports.

It was pandemonium in the Australian parliament today when, after an ever increasing frequency of leadership challenges within the Labor party, the ruling government was finally destroyed by at least 17 separate, simultaneous leadership spills.

Reports reveal that several Labor frontbenchers attempted to overthrow the Prime Minister, with many of them planning to then overthrow whoever managed to overthrow Ms Gillard. In addition, several others attempted to overthrow ministers who were not in positions of power, with at least one planning unsuccessfully to overthrow a member of the Greens.

The caucus to decide the leadership of the Labor party quickly descended into what one minister described as “something out of the Book of Revelation” when another leadership spill occurred within the ranks of the body tasked with overseeing leadership spills within the parliament. A meeting was called in an attempt to hold a vote to decide who would lead the management of the leadership spill, but this was put on hold when the Speaker of the House was “violently attacked” by a backbencher in an apparent attempt to overthrow her.

Events reached a bloody climax when Simon Crean appeared on an overhead balcony and began to spray bullets randomly into the crowded parliament, in the hope of overthrowing anybody and everybody. It’s reported that he screamed “SIC SEMPER TYRANNIS, MOTHERFUCKERS!” before tripping and falling to his death.

According to one witness, in a final act of desperation, Finance Minister Penny Wong “literally ripped the face off” Julia Gillard and wore it as a mask. “Just ripped it right the hell off.”

Another witness reports, “Isn’t it funny that, when you say the word ‘spill’ enough times, it begins to lose all meaning?”