Baby herbal soup — A professor of philosophy fooled by the hoax

July 11, 2014

Important update

On 14 July Professor Thomas removed his post citing the Seoul Times, after I wrote to him pointing out that the baby herbal soup meme is a hoax.

I’d like to thank Professor Thomas for acting promptly on this matter.

EM
——————————————————-

I really thought that the whole “baby herbal soup” hoax had been put to death. I haven’t had to come back to this racist Internet meme for sometime, but unfortunately, I have discovered a rather alarming version of the story being repeated and used by a professor of philosophy from a respected American university.

Yes, that’s right, a professor of philosophy is relying on the fake and highly racist story that Chinese people eat aborted fetuses to make an argument about the morality of abortion.

According to his CV, Professor Laurence Thomas has been a tenured professor at Syracuse University since 1989. Indeed he is listed as faculty on the University website.

Professor Laurence Thomas has linked to the discredited Seoul Times article — only one version of the so-called “news” report — in order to attack what he dismissively describes as the “liberal” view of abortion.

Here’s just a small sample from this 2009 blog post:

Professor Laurence Thomas, Syracuse University

Animal flesh is eaten all the time; and since the human fetus is claimed by liberals not to be a person, then why cannot it not be eaten as a form of animal flesh? My raising this question is not an indication of my having become a morally demented individual.

Rather, I have raised the question because precisely what has been reported in the Seoul Times (9 June 2009) is that in China the human fetus is being served as a form of nourishment. The article claims that in China baby herbal soup is held to “increase overall health and stamina and the power of sexual performance in particular”.

Now, the observation that I wish to make is the liberals on abortion are in no position to criticize the practice in China of consuming the human fetus for food. Why? Because liberals on abortion insist that the fetus does not constitute a human being, and so has no moral standing at all as a human being. By this line of reasoning, eating a human fetus can be no more morally objectionable than eating dog or snake or horse or snails.

 

Professor Thomas has included one of the notorious images that often accompany the retelling of the hoax. I have pointed out before that these images are the work of Chinese performance artist Zhu Yu and are not evidence that Chinese people prepare and consume “baby herbal soup”.

I have posted a full list or URLs to previous Ethical Martini posts on this topic, you can read all about it there.

I have written to Professor Thomas asking that he either take down the post, or at least edit it to acknowledge that the Seoul Times story and other so-called “evidence” of the practice of eating babies are false and malicious.

If you visit the Moral Health blog where Professor Thomas writes his argument you will instantly see why it is important that this hoax be exposed at every opportunity. Idiots and racists of low intelligence (two overlapping but separate groups of dribblejaws and willful fools) jump on these expressions of the hoax to spout all kinds of filth about Chinese people.

 

 

Dear Professor Thomas,
I am writing in relation to a post you wrote on a blog called Moral Health

Real Baby Soup in China: Extending the Liberal View on Abortion?

The post uses an article from the Seoul Times as the basis for a long treatise on abortion and the “eating” of a human fetus.
While I have no quibble with you having strong views about abortion — indeed I hold similarly strong views myself on abortion and a number of topics — I do take issue with you using as your main source material a purported news article from an online source that has little or no credibility.

Your article generated a lot of responses and continues to garner hits and views. Indeed I was drawn to your post by a ping back to my own blog.
I believe that you should take down this post, or at least make several large edits to clarify the real situation.
The “baby herbal soup” meme is an internet hoax and as a professor of philosophy, I am sure you would not want to base an argument on a false premise.

I have been chasing down this internet hoax myself for the past six or more years and there is no credible source for the outrageous and frankly racist claim that Chinese people consume aborted fetuses.
You can follow my research and discussion from the following URLs.
https://ethicalmartini.wordpress.com/2008/06/03/baby-herbal-soup/
https://ethicalmartini.wordpress.com/2009/02/04/baby-herbal-soup-update/
https://ethicalmartini.wordpress.com/tag/baby-herbal-soup/
https://ethicalmartini.wordpress.com/2011/04/02/april-fools-continue-to-poison-the-web-baby-herbal-soup-redux/
https://ethicalmartini.wordpress.com/2009/10/21/baby-herbal-soup-the-internet-for-sick-fcks/

It would be helpful if you, as a respected academic, would join me in condemning this cruel hoax and you can start by examining the post you wrote and, as I suggest, take it down or edit it to acknowledge the hoax.

I hope you can find the time to respond to me, unlike the editors of the Seoul Times whose only response when I wrote to them was abuse.

Best wishes
Martin

I await Professor Thomas’ response. If you wish to join my call for Professor Thomas to take down or amend this blog post, you can contact him yourself via the following links:

Email: lthomas@maxwell.syr.edu
College of  Arts & Sciences,
Syracuse University
Syracuse, NY 13244
Phone: 315-443-5824
Phone: 315-443-2245


Apology to EM’s colleagues, friends and supporters

July 10, 2014

On April 15 & 16 this year, I engaged in a series of exchanges on Twitter.

It is essential that academics are prepared and willing to engage in robust debate about matters of public or academic importance, without fear of the consequences for them in doing so.

However, I recognise that the tone and content of my tweeted remarks was inappropriate for a scholar engaging in public discussion, and could readily be used by others to attack the reputation of Deakin University.

For this I apologise to my colleagues at the University, anyone offended by any of my tweeted comments, and to those who might expect a higher level of decorum when scholars are involved.


ASIO – still Australia’s “dirty secret”

July 1, 2014

Dirty Secrets: Our ASIO files

Edited by Meredith Burgmann
New South Press, $32.99

Dirty Secrets cover 400x0_q20If you exist with any level of social paranoia at all, you would not want to find yourself in the index of this book, for it’s a “Who’s Who” of former and current radicals, agitators and old Communists.

For those of us who like to read about Australian social history and the colourful characters who made up the student left of the 1960s and 1970s it is a delightful trip down memory lane.

One of the best pieces is the chapter about Communist Party member and author Frank Hardy, written by his son Alan. Reading this left me wanting to know more about this famous communist who broke with Stalinism in the mid 1960s and who was a champion of Aboriginal land rights throughout his life. One funny fact I learned from Hardy’s story is that in 1966 he was writing for Rupert Murdoch’s The Australian. How times have changed; there is no way today that a known communist would get space in that right-wing shitsheet.

The first-person memoirs were, for me, among the most interesting chapters. Some were startling for revealing how detailed the ASIO records appeared to be. The file on retired High Court judge Michael Kirby for example was started when he was 12 years old. Members of his family – in particular his father’s mother and her friends – were members of the CPA in the 1940s and 1950s and young Michael was dragged along to protests and meetings where he was photographed. Another entry mentions the child of one subject as being a seasoned kindergarten militant at the unlikely age of four years old.

There are some obvious and curious exceptions to the first-person style. Some chapters are based on interviews between the ‘subject’ and editor Meredith Burgmann and one, by Rowan Cahill, is written in an odd third-person voice. Perhaps this reflects Rowan’s own discomfort at having to confront a version of himself that was created by ASIO, but does not reflect his self-perceptions of personhood.

Several contributors make the point that reading their own files made them distinctly uncomfortable and it is one reason I have not yet accessed my own extensive ASIO records. The writers also make the point that the files are disjointed, disorganised and riddled with mistakes. They also contain photographs, some taken as part of routine surveillance, but more disturbingly, some obviously taken and submitted to ASIO by informants. The only photos of Verity Burgmann are of her in a bikini during the April 1978 International Socialists’ summer camp at Kempsey in NSW. I am in one of these photos and other friends have sent me surveillance images in which I appear with them.

Photo courtesy of ASIO

Photo courtesy of ASIO

My own ASIO files – at least the ones I am able to know about – are in eight volumes covering the period 1977-1985. One of them is a folio of images, probably including me on the beach with Verity and other holiday snaps. It is horrible to think that there are rats in the ranks, but these files make it clear that the spooks rely on recruiting people to infiltrate protest movements and left-wing organisations with the explicit purpose of gathering information.

In one story, the ‘subject’ of the file finds out 40 years after the event that ASIO broke into her flat, rummaged through her personal items and wrote down for its files the titles of books and magazines she had in her bedroom. In several chapters the subject discovers that ASIO made attempts to interfere with their job by trying to have them sacked, or intervening to make sure they were not employed. It seems that the spooks routinely make inquiries with employers when checking up on surveillance targets.

But it gets even more personal. Penny Lockwood, the daughter of journalist and CPA member Rupert Lockwood, recounts how her heart was broken by a man she loved when he revealed to her that their affair had been part of his job as an ASIO informant. She’s not the only one to receive such a shock; Peter Murphy mentions that he was in a relationship with an informer in the late 1970s while both were in the CPA. In 2011 a British case revealed that a police undercover officer had infiltrated an environmental group, befriended and then married another member, eventually having children with her. Gruesome and horrible as this sounds, we should perhaps not discount that it is still happening.

All this knowledge about ASIO’s techniques is very creepy and should make us angry. A leopard does not easily change its spots. We have no reason to assume that ASIO does not engage in infiltration, break-ins, creepy snooping, false attempts at intimacy, covert photography and video collection, contacting employers, or telephone tapping today.

Historically the entries fall into two categories: for the sake of discussion I will call them the “Cold War” period and the “early New-Left” period.

The “Cold War” files are those concerned with the 1940s, 50s and early 60s when the Communist Part of Australia was a real force on the Australian left. It was in this period that ASIO was tasked with keeping tabs on CPA members and fellow-travellers. It was a time of “reds under the bed”, the “yellow peril” and an irrational fear that the communists were in a position to do real harm to Australia’s interests.

This seems absurd now. The CPA was firmly riding the coat-tails of the Soviet Union, which made it an irritant in Australian foreign relations, but which also hamstrung the party politically. For 40 years the CPA was caught up in the reactionary vortex of Stalinism, despite the good union work of some of its best militants.

The entry by former High Court justice, Michael Kirby inadvertently highlights the sterility of Stalinist politics and the paralysing effect it had on a generation of Australian communists. Writing about his grandmother, Norma and her husband (not his grandfather), Kirby notes a rather depressing description of their living room:

…on the bookshelves in the rather dark lounge room of the Tempe residence were volumes of the collected speeches of VI Lenin and Joseph Stalin. I noted at the time that these books seemed in a pristine state, indeed untouched. No corners were turned down to indicate a well-love phrase or a point of departure where the reader could go no further…Indeed, not to put too fine a point on it, I was not convinced that Jack (or certainly Norma) had ever opened them. But they were on display for all to see. (p.56)

The “early New Left” files begin with the student movement of the mid to late 1960s; the Vietnam Moratorium, early Women’s Liberation, nuclear disarmament and the beginnings of the non-Stalinist left, including Australia’s early post-war Trotskyist parties.

However, there is also a very interesting chapter by historian and activist Gary Foley that provides something of a cross-over between the “Cold War” and “early New Left” interests and activities of ASIO. Gary has been active in left-wing and Indigenous politics for over 40 years and he first came to ASIO’s attention in the early 1970s. Perhaps the first time was 26 January 1972 when the inaugural Aboriginal Tent Embassy was established on the lawns of Parliament House (the old one) on the shore of lake Burley-Griffin. As Gary notes, the nation’s spies wasted little time in directing attention at a new wave of Indigenous radicals:

At eight minutes past six on the morning of 27 January, ASIO headquarters received a telex message from its Canberra office advising that the protest had been set up and seeking urgent information on the four young black men present on the lawns. (p.99)

Gary Foley was one of those young men.

However, by January 1972 ASIO had been interested in radical Aborigines for at least 20 years. The concern was that Aboriginal political networks had been infiltrated by the CPA, which – in ASIO’s fevered hive mind – meant that Indigenous activists were “dupes” and “stooges” for the communists and ripe to be influenced by Soviet agents.

The file on Frank Hardy – some 1500 pages covering the years 1950 to 1972 – is definitive of the Cold War period and Wendy Bacon’s file provides a useful insight into how ASIO dealt with the emerging new left.

Bacon was an anarchist student at the University of NSW when she came to the notice of the secret police in 1968. Her brother Jim (later Labor Premier of Tasmania) was a member of the Maoist CPA-ML (ML stood for “Marxist-Leninist”) and he too came to the attention of ASIO while a student at Monash University.

For students of the modern espionage game the stories told here also interesting because the main picture of ASIO that emerges from the pages of Dirty Secrets is that Australia’s premiere domestic spy agency is a bumbling clutch of Inspector Clouseau’s backed up by a squad of Keystone Cops who couldn’t find their assholes if they were on fire.

An entry from Alan (son of Frank) Hardy shows just how stupid some of ASIO’s informants really were:

  1. Alan Hardy is a blond haired, tattooed truck driver working for Dalgety’s
  2. Alan Hardy is very thin, lives with another boy in Kings Cross and is VERY interested in theatrics. (p.239)

Unfortunately, this bungling of simple details, like personal descriptions of individuals, gives a rather comical impression of what is essentially a well-funded, disciplined and aggressive formation of political police. While ASIO cannot be compared in every detail to the Stasi and we assume there are no dungeons in which political prisoners are held incommunicado and tortured, the job of the spies is to keep tabs on dangerous people; people like us.

Many of the 26 prominent Australians who’ve shared the secrets of their ASIO files in this collection recount how the entries made over a period of 40 years by spies and their informers are riddled with mistakes; misspelled names; dates and times wrongly recorded and physical descriptions that bear no resemblance to any person living or dead, but purport to be of the file’s “subject”.

But herein lies the danger in this book. It is a mistake to see ASIO, various state police Special Branch agencies and other collections of Australian “gooks and spooks” as benign, incompetent, out-of-touch or out-of-date.

ASIO is the Australian government’s dirty secret and we know little of its current operations – which no doubt continue to have stupid code names like “Operation Whip” – we know little of its political targets beyond the usual suspects.

Today those usual suspects are mostly – but by no means limited to – alleged Islamic radicals, so-called “homegrown” terrorists and the sort of young men who are most likely to venture outside Australia on “jihad” to Syria, Iraq, northern Africa or Pakistan.

We hear almost nothing today about ASIO’s spying on non-Islamic groups; we don’t know whose phones, email and Facebook communications they are monitoring; we don’t know the extent of ASIO’s files on groups like Socialist Alternative or Socialist Alliance or their infiltration of movements like the Leard Forest blockade.

We don’t know if the private security firms who have been caught out infiltrating anti-fracking groups are contracted to ASIO or if they just happily co-exist sharing personnel and “intel” on protestors and agitators.

The problem is the historical nature of this book. Most of the writers, even those who were members of the Communist Part of Australia back in the 1960s, are now 30 years older and 30 years more conservative.

They portray an image of radicals and leftists in the 1960s and 1970s as idealistic youngsters who were playing at being revolutionaries.

Many of them make the point that what they did was mostly harmless fun – like spray painting the walls of the South African Embassy compound in leafy, quite Canberra during the anti-apartheid movement.

They make fun of their arrests on ridiculous charges of disturbing the peace; they joke about discovering through the files that the phone taps that they thought were all part of dressing up as subversives 30 years ago were actually in place and being used to keep tabs on them.

Worst of all, many of them now describe their youthful convictions as folly and they lament the wasted hours they spent in “endless” and “boring” meetings discussing politics, tactics and revolution.

Michael Kirby is one who complains with hindsight that he should have been out partying instead of spending hours in the committees of the Council for Civil Liberties and other causes

Even Verity Burgmann, who was a comrade in the International Socialists in the 1970s and early 1980s says that she now regrets her involvement as a waste of time.

In the end, this is the reactionary message at the heart of this rather thick volume (464 pages). It is a shame that many of the contributors – who were pioneering members of the CPA, inspirational leaders of the women’s movement, foundation members of Gay Liberation, militants in the anti-Vietnam war campaign and the anti-apartheid struggles of the 1970s – now concede that maybe Australia does need a competent and well-managed domestic surveillance agency to help keep “us” “safe” from… Well, “From what exactly?” is the question I am left with.

That is why it is unfortunate – and profoundly apolitical – that so many of the contributions to this book end with the lament that from the 1940s to the 1980s ASIO seemed so unprofessional and incompetent in their espionage efforts. This comment, from the late Joan Bielski is typical and disappointing; coming as it does from the pen of a radical and militant leader of the early women’s movement:

As taxpayers, Australians have a right to expect a more sophisticated, politically astute security service…Recent cases made public suggest that ASIO is not such an organisation. (p.146)

ASIO can never be an organisation that “respects human rights” or “the right to differ and to advocate for a cause or an idea” as Joan Bielski might have wished for. The role of ASIO is to disrupt every radical “cause” and to prevent the spread of any “idea” that threatens the status quo.

The system hasn’t changed all that much in the post-war period. The old Communist Party is no longer a threat, but the ruling class is still the ruling class and ASIO – like the army, the police and the courts – is an institution established, funded, directed and managed in order to ensure that modern day subversives do not get the upper hand.

So while Dirty Secrets is a good read and a fascinating insight into the surveillance of radical Australians – at least up until the year 1983 – it is not a really effective guide to fighting back or resisting the predations of ASIO, or other spy agencies, into the left today. If the spooks were interested in the womens’ movement and the gay rights struggles of the 1970s-80s, we should perhaps assume they are just as interested in today’s activists too

ASIO’s focus may have shifted from radical leftists to the mostly concocted threat of “homegrown” “jihadists”, but we should not be under any illusions that our organisations and our movements are not being monitored, photographed and infiltrated today just as much as they were being 30 years ago.

The most salient comment in this regard comes from renowned jurist Elizabeth Evatt, the daughter of the famous Clive Evatt, the NSW politician and lawyer who successfully fought the Menzies’ government’s attempt to outlaw the CPA in the 1950s.

In this age of fear of terrorism, restrictive security legislation and security services concentrating on the prevention and punishment of politically inspired violence, we would do well to remember that judgments about potential subversion and security risks are not always based on reliable grounds. (p.330)

One obvious difference between 40 years ago and today, though it is about form over substance and it is really an artefact of neo-liberal postmodernism, is the privateers who spy on social movements. Today we know, from recent media reporting, that some of the spying on our activities and protests has been outsourced to private security companies. They are working hand-in-glove with the State because that’s what this rotten system is all about.

Finally I guess we should take some heart from the fact that the secret police cannot, at the end of the day, prevent revolution. We know this from the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc dictatorships, which had extensive networks of spies, and the more recent and inspiring examples of the Arab Spring in nations with a history of repression and brutal secret police agencies.

When we finally get rid of the State, we too will ransack the headquarters of ASIO and the other spy agencies and we too will get our hands on the up to date records, not the heavily redacted and sanitised versions that are released after 30 years by archivists when they can only be of use to historians and curious folk wanting to write memoirs of their long-forgotten radical youth.

Lets not have any illusions that organisations like ASIO are in any way “necessary” for our protection. Their job is to protect the interests of Australian capitalism and the State that serves it. Our job is to continue the struggle without worrying too much about the stooges who infiltrate our meetings and movements; they can’t really hurt us and they certainly can’t stop us.

Well done, as a reward for reading this far…enjoy classic Johnny Rivers.


Delusional free speech fundamentalists all on the same [racist] page

March 30, 2014

There are two certainties about the Weekend Australian that make a weekly reading of it a tiresome duty.

1. The newspaper propaganda sheet is tireless and relentless in pursuit of the shibboleths that occupy the increasingly erratic thoughts of Chairman Murdoch

2. The pervasive groupthink emanating from the  News Limited bunkers like the smell of a slow death, displays a remarkably consistent level of paranoia, delusion and editorial agreement among the chief journalists and writers propagandists.

Nowhere are these certainties more likely to reveal themselves than in the fevered attention the editor and his minions are throwing at the supposed attack on free speech posed by Section 18C and 18D of the Racial Discrimination Act. News Limited’s considerable, yet unprofitable editorial resources are being lavished on support for George “right to be a bigot” Brandis in his campaign to make it OK to be a racist in 21st century Australia.

In The Weekend Australian 29-30 March 2014 there are no less than six pieces supporting the campaign to have the ‘Bolt’ amendment passed in Parliament.

That alone is an indictment of their bleating claims that debate is being shut down and that 18C has a chilling effect on free speech. These dribblejaws are able to prosecute their case freely and at great length with the support of an editorial and acres of newsprint.

The only issue I have is that it is not a debate as such in the pages of the Weekend Australian. It is all one way traffic, it is propaganda without answer. Perhaps it is wishful thinking to argue that a newspaper that claims to take freedom of speech and debate so seriously would allow an oppositional voice. But hey, it is the party news organ of the coalition, so I won’t be so fucking stupid. How about you?

Read the rest of this entry »


When a spade’s a spade, let’s not be afraid to say so

March 19, 2014
This piece was published today on New Matilda.

Andrew Bolt’s ‘hurt’ over Marcia Langton’s comments was confected to force another humiliating backdown from the ABC, at a time when it’s already under threat, writes Martin Hirst

Andrew Bolt’s crocodile tears over being called a racist fool” by Marcia Langton were calculated to stir up more anti-ABC bile among his hardcore fans.

Despite claims to the contrary, Bolt himself would not be too much bothered by Langton’s comments; he is, after all, a champion of verbal abuse, nasty insinuation and downright mistruth. That makes this week’s apology on the the ABC’s Q&A program by host Tony Jones even weirder and more inappropriate.

If there was any offence at all, surely it was delivered by Langton and not by the program itself. That the ABC would apologise on behalf of a guest’s informed personal comment is extraordinary.

Where will it end? Will Mark Colvin have to apologise every time a guest or interviewee on PM criticises News Limited or the Prime Minister? Will Fran Kelly have to apologise to The Australian for daring to continue breathing?

This week, Langton herself apologised to Bolt on-air, on a different network, but in my view it was an apology born of hectoring and badgering, a token “sorry” offered to get Bolt and his trolls off her back as much as an indication of Langton’s real regret.

Langton issued a 19-page clarification, published on the Q&A website after the episode went to air, in which she said that she had only apologised for causing offence and hurt feelings, not “for my beliefs or my intention of trying to explain my beliefs”.

“I conclude that his singling out of ‘fair skinned’ Aboriginal people goes to the issue of ‘race’ and could be construed as racist,” Langton continued.

Anyone who pays even passing attention to Bolt’s disjointed meanderings in the Herald Sun can see for themselves that he is a hardened campaigner and a warrior for all that is good and right. A few pointy words would hurt him as much as a slap with a feather.

After all, in Eatock v Bolt, the Racial Discrimination case Bolt lost in 2011, he was judged to have failed to act “reasonably and in good faith”. His infamous comments about “light-skinned” Aborigines that landed him in court in the first place “contained errors of fact, distortions of the truth and inflammatory and provocative language”, according to Justice Mordecai Bromberg

Let’s not forget he was not keen to apologise for that offence and also claimed to be the victim in that case.

If Bolt was serious about taking offence at Langton’s comments he could have made an official complaint to the ABC, which I understand he did not do. Instead he chose to make a media circus out of the issue in order to maximise the damage to the public broadcaster.

He was successful in that aim. Jones’ apology on behalf of the network was another abject pre-emptive retreat by the ABC in the face of ongoing and concerted bomb-chucking from the News Limited bunkers.

The conservative commentariat is emboldened by such moves and by the tacit support given to their feigned outrage and conveniently hurt feelings by Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his senior ministers.

That the Prime Minister also considers it appropriate to comment on an ongoing legal stoush between the ABC and another News Limited hack, should signal that this government knows no bounds in its desire to nobble any independent and critical reporting of its actions.

His thinly-veiled warning that Cabinet will consider cutting the ABC’s already stretched funds even further in the May budget, because the public broadcaster has dared to defend itself in the Chris Kenny “sex with a dog” defamation suit against The Chaser, should send shivers down the spine of every comedy producer in the country.

If satire can be curtailed so easily through defamation actions, and a flagship current affairs program bullied into an unnecessary and uncalled for apology, then those of us who appreciate the ABCs independent take on the world will need to mobilise.

If we stand back and watch as the political attacks on the ABC gain in strength and frequency, we will only have ourselves to blame when the national broadcaster goes down in flames.


Free speech fetishist Tim Wilson is nasty, racist and wrong: he should resign

March 16, 2014

Australia’s recently-minted ‘Human Rights Commissioner’ says he believes in the rights of individuals, not of groups. In the Fairfax press Wilson is quoted thusly:

“I believe in individual rights, not in group rights,” Wilson says.

I’m not really sorry Tim, but this is utter cant and crap that completely underlines the point that your appointment was politically-motivated and entirely inappropriate.

I have written this open letter to Tim Wilson, urging him to resign.

Read the rest of this entry »


EXCLUSIVE or ‘EXCUSIVE’? The Australian’s war against logic

January 12, 2014

I gave up my subscription to The Australian just over a year ago. It was the one resolution from New Year 2012-13 that I made and kept.

I drafted a post on it at the time, but decided not to bother publishing it, thereby depriving Murdoch of oxygen. This is what I wrote on 30 December 2012:

It’s not about the money. By my back of the envelope calculations every six-day delivery plus digital access subscription is actually losing money for News Limited. At $8.95 a week for the newspaper and the paywalled online content I was actually paying less than the price for home delivery alone and each daily paper was costing me less than the advertised cover price. Besides, I can afford it, so cost was not a factor.

What finally prompted me to stop my sub was the fact that I am increasingly agitated by the tone of The Australian’s coverage of politics and the shrill and incessant screaming directed at anything slightly left of the paper’s far-right conservatism.

For The Australian’s coterie of conservative commentators everything proposed by the Gillard Labor government represents a threat to civilisation and only the gathering forces of the libertarian right can overcome the descent into socialist Hell that the Gillard regime represents.

That this scenario is the product of fevered imaginations in the ranks of The Australian’s editorial leadership does not matter. Even the most debatable and opinion-laden piece of reportorial dross is labelled ‘Exclusive’ on the front page of the national daily and the paper’s columnists are uniformly opposed to anything progressive or ‘liberal’.

I am sick of it and I’m sure that my mental state is also polluted by the junk that is published relentlessly in pursuit of Murdoch’s regime-change agenda.

The Australian is not a newspaper in the sense of reporting items of public interest with a veneer of objectivity, it is nothing more than a cheer squad for Tony Abbott’s Liberal party.

Well, we all know what happened in 2013. The Australian and its stablemates The Herald Sun in Melbourne and The Daily Telegraph in Sydney, waged incessant war on Gillard and Rudd and the Labor Party and slavishly praised the Abbott-led coalition right up until the 7 September election date.

Since then, The Australian has championed all the causes, crusades and bullying, braying arrogance of the Abbott government.

All this hard work has not gone unrewarded. Several things have happened recently that make me think that the hotline between News Limited’s increasingly shrill coterie of senior shills and the government’s spinmeisters is always busy.

The two phenomena I wish to comment on today are evidence of this special relationship between the world’s greatest newspaper and the prime minister we had to have.

It’s simple really; the pay-off for The Australian’s loyalty and aggression has been inside information and news tips to feed the front page beast and a handsome payday for a coterie of eccentric, but suitably rightwing commentators who were being warehoused in the News Limited corridors until they could be dusted off for a suitable public purpose.

The elusive, EXCLUSIVE excusive

An “exclusive” in the newspaper world was always something that a reporter could be proud of and that an editor would get juicy over because it had the potential to increase sales and generate ‘buzz’ about the paper and the story. For a journalist, an exclusive meant free drinks at the bar, a pat on the back and a chance of promotion.

But, today at The Australian the EXCLUSIVE has become devalued to the point of worthlessness and over-used to the point of terminal boredom and cynicism on the part of the reader. More disturbingly it has morphed into what I am calling the EXCUSIVE, a story that provides political cover and excuses for the actions of the Abbott government. The Australian is now a mouthpiece and a megaphone for pro-Abbott propaganda.

Let me tender a few exhibits as evidence:

THE AUSTRALIAN, Thursday January 9, 2014

The front page of the 9 January paper had seven separate stories; six of them were badged EXCLUSIVE.

The lead “Labor, Greens end the affair” was written by Tasmania correspondent, Matthew Denholm. The exclusive was based on several “understands”:

The Australian understands the Tasmanian ALP is preparing to sever its four-year power-sharing alliance with the Greens…

While final decisions on the details of the Tasmanian split are yet to be made, The Australian understands a consensus has emerged in Labor ranks…

There is ongoing debate about whether, how and when to dump the two Greens minister — Australia’s first — from state cabinet, but The Australian understands this is the most likely outcome in the next few weeks.

There is not one source quoted in the eleven pars of this story on page one. It continues on page four for another nine pars before there is a quote from a living, breathing human being, if you can call a paraphrase with one word in “quotation” marks a quote quote unquote:

She [Lara Giddings, not the cat's mother] became a staunch defender of it and her Greens ministers, and in March last year said she would “absolutely” have Greens back in cabinet after the next election.

That’s 20 pars into the story before a source is supplied and then it’s a source negative to the intent of the story. But it is also at least 10 months old.

The first recent quote comes in par 22, and it’s another long paraphrase with only two pretty inconsequential words in quote marks:

Yesterday, Ms Giddings refused to say whether Labor would rule out future power-sharing with the Greens, instead confirming a decision would be made in “coming weeks”.

The full Giddings quote is then repeated two pars further down:

“You can wait and see what we have got to say over the coming weeks and months as we head to the election and where we are heading as the Labor Party,” she said.

You might think that by now, the plucky Mr Denholm would give up, but no for that is not the way at the nation’s finest broadsheet. When you don’t have a story and the on-the-record statement from the key source hoses down your speculation. Don’t give up, make it up.

Matthew ploughs ahead with the main theme of the story, despite the fact that he has got no on the record response from sources that back up his understandings.

A complete reversal by Giddings-led Labor follows similar stances against deals with the Greens taken by the party’s leadership in other states and territories.

Hang on. What “complete reversal”. All the paper has is a coy wait and see from Lara Giddings.

This EXCLUSIVE is a beat-up and it wouldn’t pass muster in my first year journalism tutorials. We insist on two real live interviews in most news stories our students write for us and normally we expect to see a strong supporting quote in the first four pars, not buried in the spill-over to page four. The headline might more honestly have been “Giddings says ‘wait and see’ on possible split with Greens”

If Matthew were in my class I would suggest he rewrite this as a story about Lara Giddings saying any decision on a split with the Greens is still weeks or months away. In other words, it is a non-story.

Why then is it on the front page as the lead in The Australian?

You’d have to ask Chris Mitchell for the real answer, but here’s one I made up earlier.

The story fits the ongoing narrative running through News Limited newspapers that the Greens are really communists in disguise, are bad for the country, are crackpots and fuckwits and part of the reason that Labor is so unpopular. Any EXCUSIVE that promotes the party line and has a bash at both Labor and the Greens has a deserved place on the front page.

The front page of The Australian is the front line in Murdoch’s war on logic.

My favourite front page EXCUSIVE in this particular edition of The Australian was a story about the tow-back of asylum-seeker boats to Indonesia. You might recall (by way of background) that Immigration Minister Scott Morrison and other senior Liberals, including Abbott, are maintaining a horrible secrecy on this issue and most of our information is courtesy of reporters in Jakarta, not Canberra.

Navy now ‘towing’ back the boats

EXCLUSIVE

Brendan Nicholson, Defence editor

The lead par on this story is a statement of the bleeding obvious:

The Abbott government is implementing a radical policy of towing asylum boats back to Indonesian waters.

Yeah, we know that Brendan, it was on the news last night and all over the web all day yesterday. An exclusive is supposed to be new and a story that nobody else has got hold of yet.

The cat is out of the bag on the exclusivity of this story in the long second par:

The Jakarta Post reported yesterday that…

After noting (without comment) that Morrison is refusing to speak, we are exclusively told in The Australian that “last night” an asylum-seeker spoke to “the Seven Network” about the tow-back. I didn’t see that interview, but I did see it on the ABC and the SBS.

There goes the EXCLUSIVE and the story tips over into being an EXCUSIVE again.

In this case the excusing is inserted by republishing a quote from Tony Abbott from his visit to Jakarta in October last year when he flatly denied that towing back boats would be Coalition policy.

During his first visit to Indonesia as Prime Minister, in October [2013], Tony Abbott told a media conference in Jakarta: “Can I just scotch this idea that the Coalition’s policy is or ever has been tow-backs.”

The faithful stenographic chimp who occupies the chair reserved for the ‘Defence Editor’, dutifully repeats the lies as a way of hosing down the seriousness of this story:

During the election campaign, Mr Morrison said the Coalition never had a policy of towing boats back to Indonesia. He said that position had been misrepresented in the media over a long period.

You see, weasel words and dissembling are enough to convince The Australian that it is right. The coalition policy is “turnaround, not strictly tow-backs” according to Abbott, so that is how it is reported in the Murdoch press.

This is not an exclusive in any sense of the word. All the information contained in the story was already on the public record. What is EXCLUSIVE to this story is the EXCUSIVE pro-government spin imparted by the paper itself.

Four more EXCLUSIVEs appeared between pages two and five of The Australian on 9 January, some of them might be legitimate — ie stories that are first reported in the paper and not elsewhere, but at least one of them is exclusive because no one else would touch it. It is another EXCUSIVE based on the prejudices of The Australian, rather than any merit.

In this context EXCUSIVE is about campaigning in the dog whistle political style of The Australian — attacking targets in the sights of the Abbott government as a way of currying favour and displaying fealty to the Liberal conservative social agenda.

Uni defends audience with Assad

EXCLUSIVE

Christian Kerr

This is a follow-up story to other coverage of the visit to Syria and audience with Bashar al-Assad in Damascus by a group claiming some connection with the Australian Wikileaks party.

For the record, I think the visit was a stupid and disgusting mistake on behalf of those who went. It lends legitimacy to the Assad regime and also to claims that the Syrian opposition is mostly made up of al Qaida-style extremists.

I have publicly disagreed with Tim Anderson before about this and a year ago defriended him on Facebook after he continually posted pro-Assad comments and images to his timeline. I am a strong supporter of the Syrian opposition, but do not countenance jihadist sentiment. I support the secular revolutionaries and those who wish to bring down the Assad regime, rather than those who wish to establish a caliphate in the region.

Anyway, back to the story. The Australian had been pestering the University of Sydney (Anderson’s employer) to dissociate itself from his visit to Damascus and to condemn or even sanction him for his actions.

Despite this pressure, the university stood by Anderson on the grounds of academic freedom and it was right to do so. This is reported in the first par of Christian Kerr’s story, but it is just not good enough, as he goes on to explain (at great length)

The University of Sydney has defended as an exercise in academic freedom the visit of senior lecturer Tim Anderson to Syria as part of a delegation that met dictator Bashar al-Assad.

But the comments have not satisfied Education Minister Christopher Pyne or a group of federal MPs who wrote to the university earlier this week expressing concerns…

Then we move back into the murky territory of who understands what — can you hear the whistle boys and girls? This is Kerr’s stock-in-trade and a tried and true modus operandi at The Australian. Ethical Martini understands that this method is used because the stenographic chimps can learn it by rote and apply the formula to any story and any situation.

The Australian understands there is concern among the university’s top governing body, the senate, that Dr Anderson’s visit will compound concerns caused by the boycott of Israeli institutions and academics by its Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies.

This is the real nub. The Australian has been campaigning for months against the BDS campaign boycott being implemented by the CPCS because the paper is pro-Israel and pro-Zionist thanks to Murdoch’s business interests in the country, including possible covert hacking and spying on competitors in the pay-TV industry. [See Neil Chenoweth's exposure for the full story]

This brings us nicely to the appointment of Donelly and Wiltshire to head up a review of the national school curriculum. Both of these neanderthal hacks are favourites of Murdoch and Mitchell. They frequently opine in The Australian on education and other issues and they are both reliably rightwing to the point that they walk with a limp.

I have plenty more to say on that, but it is Sunday afternoon and I’m going off for a massage.

Tomorrow I am having surgery on my hand and I won’t be typing for a while, so this is the last post, so to speak, for at least two weeks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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