Talking Points: The Australian’s cosy little club of groupthinkers

If you get to the bottom there is a topical easter egg surprise for loyal readers.

Over recent months many of my colleagues in the Journalism Education Association of Australia (JEAA) have attempted to get responses to The Australian’s attacks on us (over many months) published. We have had very little luck. One open letter that was sent from the association with more than 50 signatures was made available as a PDF from a deep recess of The Australian’s website,but not easily searchable and just last week I received this response from editor of Media Diary Nick Leys.

A right-of-reply @leysie style

Some of the attacks have centred on Dr Matthew Ricketson who was engaged to assist with the Independent Media Inquiry. The Australian‘s coverage of this issue has been appalling and one-sided, but when Matthew tried to defend himself he was not given space, instead Nick Leys cobbled together a piece from second-hand sources. It is what The Australian‘s editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell would call “four or five out of 10” journalism.

Editor in chief of The Australian Chris Mitchell questions the journalistic credentials of those passing judgment on the industry. “Ricketson, Simons and their mate Andrew Dodd (Crikey contributor and Swinburne University of Technology journalism course convener) all worked for The Australian and you would give them barely a pass mark as journalists,” he says.

“Seriously. People who I would score four or five out of 10 are trying to determine the future of media regulation in Australia. Everyone in the business knows it is a self-serving joke and these people are dupes for Conroy.”

Chris Mitchell quoted approvingly and at length in his own newspaper. A cosy club Chris – you’re the patron

As the national association representing journalism educators and academics, you might think that the JEAA would be given some space to respond to criticisms and abuse hurled at us. For some reason, we are not considered worthy of space in the paper’s letters pages, let alone to write a column.

We have been accused of being a “cosy club” prone to  “groupthink” even though there are many disagreements among us. It is a puzzling charge and one that The Australian rejects when it is levelled against them.

It is puzzling because the op-ed pages of The Australian display a remarkable and consistent commitment to groupthink. Its columnists all sing off the same conservative songsheet with the libertarian soloists taking center stage all too often.

However, it might come as a surprise to readers of our national broadsheet that this same groupthink is also displayed in the letters pages.

For example, Mr Brenton Minge, of suburban Bulimba in Brisbane, must be one of the luckiest writers of letters to the editor in Australia. A Google search shows up a Brenton Minge who it seems has a  bent for letter writing, particularly on topics of religion, science and the “Leftist” ABC.  Maybe this is why he so popular with The Australian‘s letters editor.

Mr Minge has had nine letters published in The Australian’s Talking Points column since May 2011, for a total of around 1400 words. He is not the only one.

Welcome to the cosy club of groupthinking correspondents

Mr Brenton Minge of Bulimba Qld is a regular contributor to Talking Points — The Australian‘s letters page.

I came across him just yesterday on the beautifully crafted Loon Pond.

Mr Minge has come to our attention previously

Brenton Minge is the first of our cosy club of letter writers.

On 6 May 2011, Mr Minge was responding to an editorial a couple of days earlier which had castigated the ABC for not interrupting scheduled programming to follow the breaking story of Osama bin Laden’s execution by US special forces.

This outrage was, Mr Minge asserted, evidence that the ABC supports terrorists.

For good measure he added “the feral leftist bile that The Drum pours forth further confirms that the national broadcaster is now a hostage of the Left.”

On July 16 last year Mr Minge wrote condemning the then just-announced Independent Media Inquiry as a Labor-Greens stunt and he suggested the real inquiry should be into the “incorrigible leftist bias” of the ABC and its “relentless anti-Coalition, anti-US and anti-family jihad”.

Only five days later, on 21 July 2011, Mr Minge was again luckily plucked from The Australian’s overflowing mailbag. This time he accused the ABC of supporting terrorists in Syria and Libya as “poster boys” and wrote that the national broadcaster has let “green ideology and leftist obsessions trump objective reporting”.

On 2 November Mr Minge wrote to congratulate The Australian’s Rebecca Weisser on her “outstanding” appearance on Q&A where she was “refreshing and courageous” on an otherwise “predictably stacked” panel. He ended on a more familiar note, hoping that the ABC, “mired to the neck in its Green-Labor partisanship”, would “one day be cleaned out”.

On 29 November, Mr Minge had a letter published in which he lamented “not a day passes where the national broadcaster fails to use its privileged position to promote the Left’s agenda.”

In 2012, it seems, Mr Minge has not been so prolific (not yet). His first letter this year was published on 10 April and, in something of a departure, it was not about the ABC. Instead Mr Minge congratulated columnist Brendan O’Neill for exposing the “chilling social engineering dimension” of gay marriage.

So popular is Mr Minge with The Australian that he had another letter published the very next day. What a coup: Mr Minge managed to get his God obsession and his ABC obsession into one piece:

WAS Richard Dawkins’s tetchy performance on the ABC’s Q&A the result of jet-lag, as he claimed, or the paucity of his case?

No Mr Minge, I watched that program (in which Dawkins debated Cardinal Pell) and Dawkins was tetchy because Pell is an idiot.

However, this correspondence must have reminded The Australian’s letters editor just how enlightened and deserving of space Mr Minge is. A few weeks later, on 7 May 2012,  Mr Minge was supporting Rupert Murdoch against his enemies. He fumed against the ” agenda-driven demonisation of a great Australian by his two-faced traducers ” on the British Parliamentary committee that found him “unfit” to run a major newspaper.

And then, just two weeks later on 22 May, Mr Minge wrote again; this time sticking to more familiar themes: the media inquiry and bias at the ABC:

“Full marks to The Australian for exposing the Left-leaning mates’ club which, under the colours of a media inquiry, is effectively angling to clip the wings of free speech.”

There were several letters in a similar vein that day.

Mr Minge managed to squeeze another dig at the national broadcaster into his broadside. He wrote that the ABC’s leftist bias and relentless anti-Coalition negativity in which it seems to be mired,” should also be investigated, but not, presumably, by the media regulating “star chamber” which the coalition would “put out of business” after the next election.

I don’t know if there’s a pattern here, but the letters page of The Australian is beginning to look like a cosy club to me. A club that has a particular ideological dress code and maybe even a secret handshake.

One might even imagine this cosy little club has a name: Groupthink.

Perhaps as a Baptist pastor, Mr Minge has God on his side.

Meet Pastor Minge – always has a nice word

I don’t know how Pastor Minge has time for ministering to his flock. It seems that he is far too preoccupied with the nasty communists and other scum that infests the ABC.  Not only does he willingly share his views with a very receptive letters editor at The Australian; he scatters his seed far and wide and it would seem frequently. Here’s a letter he wrote to that august organ of reason News Weekly, published by the National Civic Council.

As you can see, Pastor Minge has been banging on about the ABC for some time, this letter was published on 7 October, 2000..

ABC as scripted


NSW Premier Bob Carr spoke for many Australians when he described Melbourne’s S11 protesters as “bully-boy fascists”. Yet to the ABC – and particularly ABC radio – they were just good-natured “victims” of police brutality!

Protesters were portrayed as “colourful”, while forum participants were “dark-suited capitalists” (PM, September 11). Twice in the same bulletin S11 organiser David Glanz was given airspace for the identical, and highly suspect, claim of the protest’s “success”, a line which ABC interviewers then picked up and ran with, while a collage of protesters were interviewed to give a sense of “depth” to the outing.

Not once was the identification “Left-wing” or “Leftist” used in any of the ABC bulletins concerning S11 – notwithstanding Glanz’s well-known Trotskyite past, and the coalition of loony Left groupies that S11 is known to represent. And this from a network so obsessive about the Right (always “extreme Right” in ABC parlance) in far-away Austria, and bordering on the hysterical in trying to pin an Indonesian connection to any militia activity in Timor. Here was blatant hooliganism, as the Prime Minister correctly called it, right before our eyes, and the ABC could only treat it as a carnival.

People can only hold their noses for so long. The odour of ABC bias is now so strong that it is surely time for the option of a Royal Commission to be considered. A similar high-level inquiry in Greece more than a decade ago came up with some astonishing revelations of ideology-driven media distortions. The dissemination of news and facts is surely too important to be left as the plaything of a narrow ideological clique.

Brenton Minge,
Balmoral, Qld

…but not in a dark alley if you’re wearing red

I have never met Brenton Minge and I don’t particularly want to; he obviously hates people like me almost as much as God hates faggots.Ya gotta love these Baptist dribblejaws, they really do understand how a little bit of God’s hate goes a long way.

It’s pleasing to know that God did not make communists or gays in his image; but there’s a lot of good creation science out there, and Pastor Minge wants to celebrate it with you.

On the website Creation Research, Mr Minge has congratulated the group for producing an outstanding piece of scientific literature which was inspired by God.

YOUR LATEST EVIDENCE BROCHURE – “Creation: The Evidence from Polystrate Fossils”, is sensational in the very best sense of the term. It is brilliant, and you deserve 12 out of 10 for the fantastic and so-easy-to-follow presentation.
Perhaps, John, given the success of this one, you might consider similar “focus” type brochures, equally well illustrated, on other single-issue creation matters, eg: dinosaurs, cumulative Australian Flood evidences, etc. Your really have a rare gift of communicating Bible-based scientific truth in an exhilarating way. Brenton Minge Brisbane Australia.

Pastor Minge is a prolific author

Pastor Minge is also the author of several, shall we say, pamphlets on creationism and other topics. But he likes his faith to be straight down the line with no ecumenical sidetracking. Here’s another missive from the God-fearing bunkers of Bulimba, this one aimed at his erstwhile brothers-in-Christ. You will notice that Pastor Minge accepts no backsliding.

Letters to the editor

11:27am Wednesday, 9th December 2009

I acknowledge receipt of your paper Eternity this week. It is a mixed bag. As we are all, presumably, partakers of the same grace of God in Christ Jesus, and hold to the truths of the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds, I shall address you as brothers.
First, on the good side, I appreciated Jim Wallace’s piece against a “Bill of Rights” So too with Naomi Reed’s excellent piece re Nepal, and your own Mr Eternity editorial. On the other side, though, your publication comes across as a superficial. Social-activist Christian rag. It is heavy with a particular view of “justice” (though the rights and tears of the persecuted church are not mentioned), yet almost vacuously light when it comes to any real spritual ‘meat’.
Worst of all was Mark Hadley’s review of the movie Che, about the Marxist guerrilla Che Guevara. Mark almost falls over himself to present this cold-blooded killer in a favourable light. It was enough to ensure that every copy of your paper was junked. I hope your future editions will be a big improvement .
Cordially, Brenton Minge
Bulimba Qld

Pastor Brenton Minge is not the only loony in the bin. There’s plenty more bile in the barrel and The Australian‘s letters editors only have to sink so low to get to the wretched and rancid bottom.

Who else is in The Australian‘s cosy Groupthink club?

It’s a fascinating exercise to search for persistent letter writers. It soon becomes clear that some citizens feel it is their patriotic duty to write often. Perhaps it gives them a sense of achievement to know that they are regularly published. Maybe they clip and save their published letters to bore  impress the neigbhours or grandchildren.

One solid member is Bill James of Bayswater. Bill is a bit of a letters page slut, a keen fisherman and a teapot philosopher. Even though he lives in Victoria, he manages to have letters published in Western Australian media too. Perhaps Bill’s got too much time on his hands.

Mr James has had 11 letters published in The Australian since March 2010 and he too seems a reliable fellow-traveller when it comes to that paper’s most prized obsessions. He has written in support of “our boys” in Iraq and the “mindless anti-US bigotry” of the war’s opponents. He has also penned a line or two about ABC bias.

In September 2011 Bill was one of a handful of outraged Australians who were disgusted that an ABC satire might stoop so low as to wrap a naked actress portraying Julia Gillard in our national flag after (as Sheldon* would say) “coitus”:

The ABC’s disrespectful treatment of the Australian flag in At Home With Julia, however, has nothing to do with principle and everything to do with the ABC’s habitual contempt for the Australian people who pay them.

Bill James, Bayswater, Vic

I therefore find it puzzling that an absolute gem of a letter that would have made The Australian‘s letters editor moist with delight was overlooked. However, we have been spared disappointment because it was published in The Age on 24 July 2011. I republish it here to indicate Bill’s suitability for the cosy club:

Forget Murdoch, what about the ABC?

”YES, there is a local angle to the Murdoch story” (Editorial, 17/7). No, there isn’t. The behaviour of the News of the World was appalling, but there is no evidence that anything comparable was perpetrated here.

Neither is there any evidence of global, homogeneous, hierarchical editorial direction of Murdoch publications.

The issue of Murdoch majority ownership of Australian newspapers is a red herring; there are still alternatives published here in Australia.

No one is forced to buy or read a Murdoch newspaper, but all taxpayers are forced to pay the ABC to indulge its political prejudices, including its anti-Murdoch jihad.

That is Australia’s real media scandal.

BILL JAMES, Bayswater

Bill, congratulations, “anti-Murdoch jihad” is inspired. Have you been talking to Brenton? I only ask because I see that you too write letters to the NCC’s News Weekly. Your grasp of Cold War histrionics history is also remarkable as this letter to the Herald Sun clearly shows:

THE crimes committed by Ratko Mladic were appalling, but they were not “Europe’s worst atrocity since World War II”. From 1945 until his death in 1953, Stalin was responsible for the deaths of more than 300,000 innocent victims in the Soviet gulag system.

Bill James, Bayswater

Your efforts across the board entitle you to life time membership in the Groupthink cosy club, bring your slippers and sit by the warming pyre hearth. Your staunch anti-communism was never in doubt, you have now proved yourself against the vile Leftists at the ABC.

We’re not done yet, is this the record?

What, do you think, would be a reasonable number of letters to have published in one newspaper in near enough to two years (20 May 2010 to 25 May 2012)? Bill and Brenton got to double figures near enough, but what if that number was close to 50?

Let me introduce the remarkable Art Raiche of Killara NSW. I have no doubt he will reach his half-century of published letters by the end of this year. As of a few days ago Art Raiche had at least 44 letters published in The Australian. He is a founding-member of the cosy club.

Art Raiche writes regularly against the “Green zealots” holding Australia to ransom, he supports the fight against terrorism on our doorstep, opposes the carbon pricing scheme and mining wealth super-tax (aka “carbon tax”) and agrees with the Opposition’s pursuit of Craig Thomson.

In fact, Doctor Raiche, a former chief scientist with the CSIRO, is bound to be a favourite with The Australian because he is a “sceptic” on climate change. He spoke at the Canberra rally against the carbon tax in August last year. In his speech he managed to enthrall the captive (at least they should have been) audience and cemented a place in the cosy club with his description of the ABC (and his former employers the CSIRO) as “global warming cult members”.

Dr Raiche on the no carbon tax platform

From time to time Dr Raiche is able to combine his twin passions (anti-Green and anti-ABC) into one succinct Talking Point that is eagerly snapped up by The Australian:

CHRIS Kenny’s assertion that ABC news, current affairs and science programs exist to underpin Labor Party policy may once have been true but no longer (“ABC’s refugee, climate crutches getting wobbly”, 28/11).

They are now the publicly funded media outlet for the Greens. One unpleasant symptom of this is the disproportionate time spent soliciting views from Greens parliamentarians. Although ABC presenters may feel smug in their righteousness, they undermine the case for continued public funding of their employer.

Art Raiche, Killara, NSW (29 November 2011)

Finally Dr Raiche, the undying affection of The Australian and its News Limited siblings is assured by your sterling defence of the terribly misanthropic misunderstood Andrew Bolt. The twisting of the racial knife to skewer Greek Australians and deflect attention from what Mr Bolt actually did is a lesson to all of us.

IN defence of Andrew Bolt, if a great-grandparent of a person is Aboriginal and all the others are of European descent, isn’t it racist to deny the heritage of the other ancestors?

Is it equitable to diminish the financial benefits available to full-blooded Aboriginal people because the amount of money available for such benefits must be shared with those who merely identify as Aboriginal on the basis of part of their genetic heritage? One wonders, for example, how many people would identify as Greek if the government decided to give special benefits to Greek migrants in recognition of all that ancient Greece had contributed to Western culture.

Art Raiche, Killara, NSW

You might think that the prolific and reliable Dr Raiche would be the winner in this little competition, but not quite. There is someone to whom even Dr Raiche must play second-fiddle in The Australian‘s orchestrated correspondence. He is a man who needs no introduction, but here goes.

He is a former deputy secretary of the Treasury and a connected Canberra insider; he is a director of the Institute for Private Enterprise and he is a member of the HR Nicholls Society.

All the way from South Yarra meet today’s champion and cosy club host du-jour Des Moore

Des Moore, on the far right of this page

I am gobsmacked; since April 2010 Des Moore has had at least 60 letters and 10 op-ed pieces published in The Australian. I don’t know how he’s managed it but this week Des Moore has had a letter published in The Australian two days in a row. That takes some doing.

That’s right today (25 May) and yesterday ( 24 May). And, by now, you will have guessed where Des Moore sits in relation to The Australian‘s own ideological bias. Yep, he’s right on the money.

Today’s letter follows the by now well-established pattern of climate-change denial and ABC-bashing. Des, you are truly a wonder of consistency and insight:

THE incorrect reporting by the ABC on supposed death threats to climate scientists at the Australian National University reflects the one-sidedness of that organisation, notwithstanding its national responsibilities (“The science is in: we were right on death threat emails”, 24/5).

Other recent examples include the failure of ABC radio to refer on the day to either the complaint by BHP chairman Jac Nasser about the Fair Work Australia system or the failure by FWA itself to take legal action against former Health Services Union secretary Craig Thomson while taking action against other officials.

More generally, when the federal government is experiencing political difficulties or unions are undermining the economy, it runs first with reports of car accidents, overseas fighting or Liberal Party problems. Which union controls the ABC?

Des Moore, South Yarra, Vic

but, this letter goes beyond the twin obsessions, it shows a breadth of knowledge that puts Mr Minge into deep, deep shadow. As befits a bourgeois class warrior this letter manages to praise big business and demonise the unions.

You are a fucking star Des, no doubt about it. And this is confirmed with the first home-run of this double-header. Yesterday Des managed to skewer Fair Work Australia, Craig Thomson and Julia Gillard.

It begs the question: Does someone from Talking Points ring these people to line them up or do Des and his fellow cosy clubbers just instinctively know what the editor wants?

Jim Parsons probably has “coitus” with men

*Not quite a kindy surprise, but success is its own reward

I would like to congratulate Jim Parsons for coming out today. He is another famous fag that God no doubt hates. I love him and The Big Bang Theory is one of my favourite TV shows. Parson’s plays Sheldon Cooper a physicist with probable Asperger’s who’s born-again on-screen mother would be horrified at the news he is gay.

And the FEEMTOON is by Bare Naked Ladies. Your bonus for getting to the end of EM’s longest post so far.

2 Responses to Talking Points: The Australian’s cosy little club of groupthinkers

  1. dude are you fucking broken?! What the hell.

    [EM: on the principle of “please explain” you get a second chance.]

    [EMagain No wait, you don’t get a second chance, on the principle that you are this Dan Nolan aka #dribblejaws.
    it’s very likely you are NOT this Dan Nolan.
    just in case you might be Dan Nolan
    or because you probably are this Dan Nolan.

    Dan Nolan is a software engineering student from UNSW, a technology evangelist and an avid supporter of free speech on and offline. You can follow him on Twitter at @dannolan.

    What kinds of free speech exactly?
    Now go away]

  2. I conducted a small thought experiment over the weekend. I found a Tim Blair blog post at the Daily Terrorgraph about Matthew Ricketson.
    I left a response under the screen name “concerned bystander”. I wasn’t sure if it would be published, but it was. So that’s a tick in the favour of whoever is curating comments.
    Here’s my comment

    Ricketson has a point that Tim Blair won’t acknowledge because of the groupthink that permeates the Hun bunkers.

    The point he’s making is that when anyone attempts to disagree with the news limited orthodoxy they are vilified and shut down.

    I know from my own experience of trying to have a right of reply published that such efforts are met with scorn and ignored.

    Attempting to talk back in a critical way to a powerful news organisation like news limited is not tolerated.
    concerned bystander of Melbourne Sun 27 May 12 (02:09pm)

    Here’s a couple of replies as of 10am Monday

    sdog replied to concerned bystander
    Sun 27 May 12 (03:16pm)

    “I like your shoes.”

    jupes replied to concerned bystander
    Sun 27 May 12 (04:00pm)

    Ricketson has a point that Tim Blair won’t acknowledge because of the groupthink that permeates the Hun bunkers.

    Whenever those on the left get called out for something, one of their tactics is to use the same phrase against the evil right. In this weekend’s edition of the Weekend Australian, the ABC was given evidence of their “groupthink” and so we waited for some lefty projection…

    First out of the blocks. Well done cb.

    The point he’s making is that when anyone attempts to disagree with the news limited orthodoxy they are vilified and shut down.

    By what mechanism can the evil Murdoch shut down anything other than his own newspapers? You are confusing Murdoch with Ricketson. He and Conroy are trying to shut News Limited down.

    I know from my own experience of trying to have a right of reply published that such efforts are met with scorn and ignored.

    So you didn’t get your letter published. Oh dear. Of course that’s never happened to anyone else before ever at any other paper. Non Murdoch papers publish every letter received.

    Attempting to talk back in a critical way to a powerful news organisation like news limited is not tolerated.

    What has the big bad News Limited done to you cb? Have they been picking on you again? Never mind, you will always have the ABC (not so sure about Fairfax though.)

    Yep, the dog whistling and groupthink are in full force over there at news limited.

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