The answer may be simple
Comments from an insider, a Coles employee, suggest the answer. In normal times, customers buy the cheaper, imported toilet rolls but when overseas supplies are stopped or reduced, many of these customers are forced to buy Australian supplies which have a smaller output.
This leaves some major questions. Did our major media outlets know this and if so, why did they not tell us; why did we keep being advised there was plenty for everyone?
Many media outlets may never have questioned their sources of information. The first stories seemed sensational but not deliberately false. Other outlets however, may well have spread disinformation.
Could the effects of starting a panic (Media Watch ABC 9/3/20) and then blaming the public for irrational behaviour have been calculated from the beginning? What would be the benefit? Why would government ministers go along with such a scheme? Are some media outlets so clever they could have calculated gains in advance?
Some might say that some media outlets are very clever. The dominant media organisation in Australia, (NewCorp/News Ltd), is ranked the 5th most distrusted brand of 200 top brands yet its circulation is huge. Of the top 25 newspapers in Australia, NewsCorp owns 8. These figures are not achieved without skill. To persuade thousands of us to read information from an American organisation we solidly distrust is an achievement of a kind.
As to why- suggesting motivation is tricky. Attributing motivation is often a manipulative part of persuasive text and we try to avoid it. It is difficult enough to work out one person's motivation let alone an organisation's. It is reasonable however to examine or suggest possible effects.
Suggestions for discussion. Possible outcomes
- It sells more newspapers. Even today, the toilet theme is a little bit shocking, a bit-low class for headline material. International media organisations have little loyalty to Australia and perhaps their readers across the world enjoyed hearing about how low-class Australians can be. The story about an argument in an supermarket aisle was roundly exploited. It is a bit like news about a fisticuff in a foreign parliament. We might enjoy thinking 'Others are a bit uncivilised' (unlike us of course.)
- It can distract. It can help readers vent their anxiety by railing against the selfish customers in the supermarket rather than looking deeper.
- It might stop people thinking about our reliance on international goods and the decline of a manufacturing base. It holds off such thinking until such a time when goods are back on the shelves
- Other possibilities? What do you think?