In a rambling and almost pointless column in The Australian on 2 November: THE MIND CODDLES, ultra-conservative Murdoch calumnist Janet Albrechtsen lamented the rise of so-called ‘political correctness’ on American university campuses and she cited an increase in administrative attempts to impose ‘trigger warnings’ on the content of some course materials to prove her point.
Janet Albrechtsen writes opinion to order for Rupert and Boris
Albrechtsen tapped into the NewsCorpse hive mind in preparing this article. In the first instance, she borrowed the idea from an October 10th column by the Herald Sun’s Rita Panahi, whose intemperate language and abusive tone goes unchecked by her editors. Albrechtsen also returned to the ‘yoga pants man’ imbroglio that we discussed in last week’s Media Sauce.
Then, a few days after the Albrechtsen column, ‘emeritus’ (simply means unpaid) Professor John Carroll returned to the theme in an opinion piece about the evils of Section 18C of the Human Rights Act: ‘Anguish is exquisite for wielders of 18C’.
I’ve already been down the 18C rabbit hole and will go there again later this week, but for now I want to introduce you to the News Corp methods of groupthink and pushing inconvenient facts down the memory hole.
Groupthink is easy; it is represented clearly in the way that News Corp editorial and political lines are set at a high level and then all news and opinion reproduces the lines day after day. The current and increasingly vicious campaign against the Human Rights Commission and Section 18C of the anti-discrimination legislation is a paradigm example. I have written extensively on this phenomenon over on my blog, Ethical Martini. The simple point about the memory hole is that it permits the perpetrators of groupthink to deny that they do it, through the simple act of forgetting.
So firstly, permit me a short diversion into George Orwell’s magnificent novel of dystopian state capitalism, Nineteen Eighty-four.
You might vaguely recall the Finkelstein inquiry…yes, rings a faint bell?
It’s OK, I wouldn’t be surprised if you’d forgotten most of the details.
What do you remember?
Oh yes. Finkelstein, isn’t he the guy who wants to throw the champions of the fourth estate in jail for telling the truth about the nasty and unloved Ju-Liar government?
That’s right, that’s exactly right. Here’s a free online subscription to the Heart of the Nation.
According to many ‘exclusive’ stories in The Australian newspaper, the sole aim of the Independent Media Inquiry was to impose heavy sanctions on the news media because the Gillard government doesn’t handle criticism very well.
Take this story from media commentator Mark Day on 26 April 2012. It is so important it got top of page 1 treatment;
A new regulatory body, funded by government and with powers to impose fines and sanctions on news outlets is a key proposal of the long-awaited Convergence Review of the emedia sector.
Unfortunately, this story was wrong, wrong wrong.
The Convergence Review rejected any idea that there should be any such government-funded organisation with anything like the powers suggested in this breathless lead par.
However, since this story was published it has become standard operating procedure to continue the lie.
It is only possible to conclude one of four things:
a) the budget is so tight at News Limited that as many words as possible have to be recycled on a daily basis which means that key phrases are used over and over again to save money
b) the koolaid in the LimitedNews bunkers is real tasty and no one’s yet cottoned on that it is the source of the medicine that results in obligatory groupthink
c) there is a deliberate mis-information campaign going on designed to fool Australians into demanding Stephen Conroy’s head on a platter.
d) we are being fed a bowl of chump bait with fear-causing additives so we don’t see what’s really going on.
It’s probably a combination of all four.
If we’re stirred up about bloody attacks on ‘our’ freedom of speech and we can be made to think that only The Australian and the Institute of Public Affairs stands between us and a Stalino-Fascist dictatorship of ‘befuddled’ Greens from the ‘tofu belt’ aided and abetted by the ‘soft-Left media’ then maybe we’ll be goaded into action.
Seriously, you couldn’t make this stuff up even if you called yourself Chris Mitchell and spent your days dreaming of a world in which you could wield the absolute power that corrupts absolutely.
I have started piecing together a forensic tale of misadventure. It seems that there are memory holes – hard to detect and easy to fall into – and the news media has forgotten how dangerous they can be.
In the last couple of weeks the memory hole has appeared in editorials published in The Australian and also in the news and op-ed pages.
What is going down the gurgler is the real story of the Independent Media Inquiry.
We are forgetting — or perhaps more correctly being encouraged to forget — what was actually said and actually recommended by the retired judge Ray Finkelstein and what (f anything) from his Independent Media Inquiry was actually taken forward and actually recommended by Gareth Boreham’s Convergence Review.
It seems that we are being told to forget that the Convergence Review even happened and that it had precedence in terms of suggesting (I can’t put it in a milder form) reform of the media regulation system.
We are being force fed the chump bait on this one.
I’m not sure if you’ve noticed because they’ve been quite subtle, but whoever writes editorials for The Australian doesn’t like the idea that there should be some responsibility and accountability in the news media — particularly when it comes to News Limited papers.
I have collected more than a dozen editorials from The Australian that relate to media regulation, the Finkelstein and Convergence Review recommendations and the war on free speech that is currently crushing the news media. I have a pile of op-ed pieces 20 centimetres high and I’m slowly piecing together the story of the memory hole and the big lie.
It is impossible to include everything in one post because it is necessary to constantly check the facts. Big lies work through repetition and by relying on the assumption that no one will check the history and correct the record.
But I am working on a book about journalism ethics at the moment and a second one on freedom of speech so this is a research exercise. I am happy to share as I go along.
The memory hole is the device used in Orwell’s 1984. Winston Smith is obliged to correct (redact and edit) editions of The Times on behalf of the Inner Party. Whenever he corrects a piece of copy — usually because of some previous lie that now needs to be altered — the old story and all his working notes are sent to a furnace in the vast apparatus of the state. The offending materials are dispatched down the memory hole.
In the walls of the cubicle there were three orifices. To the right of the speakwrite, a small pneumatic tube for written messages, to the left, a larger one for newspapers; and in the side wall, within easy reach of Winston’s arm, a large oblong slit protected by a wire grating. This last was for the disposal of waste paper. Similar slits existed in thousands or tens of thousands throughout the building, not only in every room but at short intervals in every corridor. For some reason they were nicknamed memory holes. When one knew that any document was due for destruction, or even when one saw a scrap of waste paper lying about, it was an automatic action to lift the flap of the nearest memory hole and drop it in, whereupon it would be whirled away on a current of warm air to the enormous furnaces which were hidden somewhere in the recesses of the building.
They’ve certainly put a very significant amount of time and effort into this exercise, including unearthing old video from his June, 1977, visit to Australia, including the June 27, 1977, ABC TV show, Monday Conference, presented by Robert Moore.
I have to confess to never having been a close student of McLuhan, though, as an undergraduate, I read his three major books, and tried to make sense of what he was on about, without too much success.
However, I vividly recall his visit to Brisbane, while on that 1977 tour, as I actually attended and reported upon his public lecture.
Political editor, Dr Martin Hirst, confesses to a slight obsession with “The Donald”, but, he argues, it is not what you think.
I AM MILDLY OBSESSED with following the news of President Donald Trump. There’s part of my brain that still has trouble processing the fact that this low-rent reality TV “star” actually won the 2016 U.S. election. I really don’t think he could have done it without Russian help.
My fascination with Trump is borne out of my long and deep interest in politics and world affairs. It is impossible for me – a child of the Cold War – to ignore the historic role of the U.S. President as so-called “leader of the free world”. I know that this is an ideological trope that hides a century of imperialist aggression and mass slaughter (by the “fine people” on all sides), but it holds a certain truth because it is a boast backed up by the world’s largest arsenal of nuclear (and conventional) weapons of mass destruction.
Trump’s instability and his fat, little fingers hovering over the launch button should be grabbing the attention of most half-woke people. We are literally one Twitter meltdown away from Armageddon. However, I do not believe my dedication of serious thinking time to the Tangerine Fascist in the White House is a case of “Trump Derangement Syndrome” (TDS).
What is TDS?
In mid-July the pro-Trump Fox News personality (I use that term loosely) “Judge” Jeanine Pirro was on Whoopi Goldberg’s TV chat show (Why, Whoopi, why?) and they got into a slanging match. In a widely-reported exchange, Pirro accused Goldberg of having “Trump Derangement Syndrome”.
What Pirro meant by this is that Goldberg’s criticism of Trump – which verges on visceral hatred like it does for many of us – is unwarranted and that inability to cope with the Trump presidency is a sign of mental illness.
This is the definition that you get from a quick check of the Urban Dictionary:
Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS) is a mental condition in which a person has been driven effectively insane due to their dislike of Donald Trump, to the point at which they will abandon all logic and reason.
Symptoms for this condition can be very diverse, ranging from hysterical outbursts to a complete mental break. TDS can also often result in the sufferer exhibiting violent, homicidal, or even genocidal desires.
Sufferers have also been known to wish direct self-harm on themselves (such as increased taxes, a desire for an economic recession and even nuclear war), provided that an action might in some way hurt Donald Trump.
That the entry was written by a Trump fan, most likely dressed head-to-toe in MAGA merch (which is mostly made in China and Bangladesh, BTW), is not surprising — the term did start with the pro-Trump lobby back before the election.
USA! USA! *Made in China (Image via Wikipedia)
A New York-based real estate attorney named Stephen Meister is credited with coining “Trump Derangement Syndrome” in a Washington Examiner op-ed on 1 October 2015.
The column, simply headlined Trump Derangement Syndrome begins:
Bitter hatred is a dangerous emotion: It destroys one’s objectivity and judgment. When journalists become true haters, the results can be cringe-worthy. Presently, there seems to be a hate-induced epidemic sweeping the nation’s journalists — call it “Trump Derangement Syndrome.” Infected pundits have been spewing idiotic, unsupported and intemperate opinions, even vulgar outbursts, about Donald Trump. Ironically, this is only helping The Donald.
You get the point. Meister is sympathetic to “The Donald” and, who knows, maybe they’ve done business or hung out.
Oh, what’s this?
As you know, I like to be thorough, so I checked out Mr Meister.
Here’s a sample of his earlier work for the Washington Examiner:
As an attorney who’s worked for Trump (I have not represented him for the past year and a half) — and many years ago, against him — his success on the campaign trail comes as no surprise: Trump’s a man of exceptional tenacity and guts, insightful intuitions, clear purposes, an intelligence that’s expressed forcefully and directly, always without regard to political correctness and a world class negotiator. Trump intuitively understands what troubles Americans and boldly states their concerns; I guarantee he’ll never be an appeaser of foreign governments; there’ll be no Neville Chamberlains or hapless apprentices for domestic or foreign policy, in his administration — if you’re not doing your job, you’ll be fired.
This piece, from a week before the TDS article, is headlined A personal assessment of Donald Trump, and this how it ends:
‘In a match up against Sanders, Clinton or Biden, the GOP is better off with Trump, whose business experience, successes and star power can overpower an ageing socialist, a corrupt dynastic politician, or the vice president of the most pathetic administration in modern history.’
As you might have guessed, the Washington Examiner is a very conservative and pro-Trump publication.
So, TDS has become a signal catch-cry for the Trumpsters and it allows them to vent and troll those of us who don’t swallow the party line parroted by Trump supporters.
It has also made its way to Australia thanks to the imitative behaviour of certain Newscorpse agitprop recyclers who ran out of original insults several election-cycles ago.
Luckily our good friend @thekennydevine was on hand to document it for those of us who are blocked by the best and brightest of the Murdoch hacks.
TDS has become a meme-worthy go-to deflection tactic for Trump supporters who hate the fact that some of us are willing to call out the President’s erratic behaviour. Behaviour that I have previously argued verges on potential mental illness or brain injury. It’s fair to say I believe that the Donald himself is possibly suffering from undiagnosed Trump Derangement Syndrome.
Reclaiming TDS for the sensible side of this debate
You know it’s time to address an issue when Trump tweets about it.
This tweet kick-started a wave of explainers in the news media that attempted to define and contextualise Trump’s tweet. The Daily Dot piece sets out the history of the “syndrome” in a calm fashion and points out that it has become weaponised by both Trump supporters and critics.
CNN got in on the act and re-upped an interesting piece from 2016 by Trump booster Justin Raimondo, which is still relevant, but not for the reasons Raimondo espoused two years ago.
In the first stage of the disease, victims lose all sense of proportion. The president-elect’s every tweet provokes a firestorm, as if 140 characters were all it took to change the world.
The mid-level stages of TDS have a profound effect on the victim’s vocabulary: Sufferers speak a distinctive language consisting solely of hyperbole.
As TDS progresses, the afflicted lose the ability to distinguish fantasy from reality.
FYI, Justin Raimondo runs a website called AntiWar.com, but it is a gaslighting operation that simply regurgitates pro-Trump and pro-Russia nonsense, such as this recent piece which attempts to equate Trump’s disgraced former campaign manager, Carter Page, with Julian Assange and to argue that they are ‘martyrs to the cause’. The “cause” is taking the plunge into the rabbit hole of “deep state” conspiracy theories.
Just take a second to reflect on Raimondo’s definition of TDS symptoms.
If you look at these three “symptoms” with a cool head, you can’t help but reach the (quite valid) conclusion that they more accurately describe Trump supporters who cling to the President like demented barnacles.
In other words, it is TDS that makes hardcore Trump supporters what they are.
Trump’s “deplorables” are willing to believe Trump’s obvious lies and to be willingly gaslighted and led by the nose and Trump himself is pouring fuel on this already raging dumpster fire.
Just this week, Trump’s ongoing campaign to confuse and corral his base moved to a new level. The President of the United States told his supporters not to believe anything they see or what they read in the news.
In other words, Trump told his supporters that they should only believe him and what he says. That he alone is capable of defining truth. This is a descent into Orwellian doublethink and echoes down through history as the favoured tactic of dictators who want to goad the faithful into mass hysteria and unquestioning loyalty to “the leader”.
This is also the point of Trump’s incessant tweeting about “witch hunts” and conspiracies to undermine his legitimacy.
It is unlikely that Trump himself believes that there is a conspiracy and he almost certainly knows (because he’s implicated) that the Mueller probe is a real threat to his continued occupancy of the White House. However, by casting doubt on the legitimacy of the investigation and constantly muddying the waters with chump bait, Trump hopes to deflect attention away from his own crimes and to mobilise the deplorables to defend him.
Beyond that, the desired effect is to make it so difficult for interested observers to get to the truth that they give up and stop looking. If the allegations of collusion and Russian interference can be reduced to a “he said, she said” back and forth, the truth and import gets lost and people switch off.
The other form of TDS is the one on display at Justin Raimondo’s AntiWar.com website. It is a delusion shared and fostered by some on the “libertarian”, “progressive” side that somehow, Hillary Clinton would have been (and still is) somehow worse than Trump.
I find this form of TDS intriguing because it is combined with a form of politics (Libertarianism) that objectively helps Trump, while subjectively claiming to be independent and challenging the left-right dichotomy.
The founders of Antiwar.com were active in the Libertarian Party during the 1970s; in 1983, we founded the Libertarian Republican Organizing Committee to work as a libertarian caucus within the GOP. Today, we are seeking to challenge the traditional politics of “Left” and “Right”.
The totalitarian liberals and social democrats of the West have unilaterally and arrogantly abolished national sovereignty and openly seek to overthrow all who would oppose their bid for global hegemony. They have made enemies of the patriots of all countries and it is time for those enemies to unite — or perish alone.
These two statements, in consecutive paragraphs on the AntiWar.com ‘About us’ page, are totally incompatible and simply highlight that conservative (anti-Left) nature of the site’s intent.
The ideology behind this politics – and made explicit at AntiWar.com – is disorienting to newcomers and ultimately politically sterile as a form of intervention.
In the end, it is just another form of Trump Derangement Syndrome and, like the hardcore of deplorables, those most infected are in denial about their condition. Perhaps TDS is related to Dunning-Kruger Effect too; certainly, it is one psychological diagnosis of Trump that appears to have some credibility.
In the past week, the mainstream media has made the reasonable link between Trump’s gaslighting operation and George Orwell’s 1984 in which the propaganda of Big Brother could be adjusted to ensure that the Inner Party was always in control of the narrative.
“The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.”
Have you ever tuned in to Andrew Bolt’s televised hate fest on Sky News?
I personally can barely bring myself to watch even a few minutes for research purposes, let alone choose to give up precious blocks of my time to be insulted and rebuked and spat upon by Bolt and his parade of useful idiots. However, a few days ago, I did watch a few minutes of Bolt and his useful idiot du jour, One Nation leader and Senator, Pauline Hanson.
I’m sure you’ve probably seen the clip too. It’s the one where Hanson displays her idiot qualities in all of their splendid ignorance. You can watch the clip on the News.com website. But, seriously why would you choose to do that? Instead, just read this transcript, provided by the wonderful folk at Pedestrian TV.
“I’ve raised the issues of equality over the years, whether you’re an Aboriginal or a non-Aboriginal.”
“And I’ll be asked the question: what defines an Aboriginal? Do you know there’s no definition to [sic] an Aboriginal?”
“If you marry an Aboriginal you can be classified [as one], or if the community or the elders accept you into that community you can be defined as an Aboriginal.”
“That’s not good enough because then if you make a comment about it, well what are you? Are you an Aboriginal or not an Aboriginal?”
“I think the whole lot needs to be opened up on this, a big debate on this.”
Thankfully, sensible people responded with their usual civility and good humour and actually provided a history lesson to Hanson via social media using the hashtag #defineaboriginal. For a start, the noun form is Aborigine, but Hanson’s ignorance knows no bounds.
The whole rant from Hanson started with her hare-brained comments on freedom of speech and lasted around two minutes. It was hateful and spiteful and nasty and it reminded me of this.
This is precisely the emotional effect that Bolt is trying to achieve, day in and day out. His program is no more than a collection of such two-minute noodles.
Luckily for Bolt, Pauline Hanson is easily wound-up and she’s guaranteed to voice the darkest fears that hate thrives on. Her appearance in July this year is another classic in the genre. This time Hanson is the foil for a Bolt rant about Muslims and the Human Rights Commissioner, ‘Whatshisname’. Hanson then directs the hate towards “gutless politicians” as well as the bloody Muslims.
In a week when more cuts to the national broadcaster have been announced, Dr Martin Hirst reports that Friends of the ABC is just one group concerned about the direction being taken by the corporation’s new chief, Michelle Guthrie.
A long-serving ABC staffer has told IA that the “clock is ticking” on Michelle Guthrie’s “honeymoon period” as Managing Director of the ABC.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the senior producer says that “rogue managers” have “tasted blood” and “enjoy” the process of making people redundant. Our source also believes that the ratio of production staff to managers has been skewed and that the decision to axe up to nine producers from the science program Catalyst is a “tragedy”.
Under these conditions, our source believes, the ABC will be unable to deliver the promised 17 one-hour science specials under the revamped format.
Many people are concerned about the future of the ABC under a Turnbull-led Coalition government and now that a former Murdoch executive has taken the reins as Managing Director, there is disquiet both inside and outside of Aunty at the direction the national broadcaster is now taking.
It takes a lot to rile the Doc. I’m not easily offended or upset, but the rank hypocrisy of the free speech fundamentalists tends to make me hot under the collar.
Today my blood is at boiling point, thanks to an opinion piece in the Weekend Australian by Grace Collier.
It’s behind a paywall, don’t bother
You might remember Grace from her recent appearance on the ABC’s QandA, which is increasingly no more than a free platform for pontificating NewsCorpse hacks. On the 17th of October, Ms Collier told Australia’s more than 700,000 unemployed that they should use their shrinking benefit payments to start their own business. That’s also really helpful advice for the estimated 2.2 million working Australians living below the poverty line.
Collier’s comments were made on a night when the NewsCorpse bias on QandA just oozed from the screen. Alongside Collier were Professor Judith Sloan and the Institute of Public Affairs’ John Roskam. Both Sloan and Roskam can be found tucked up on the op-ed pages of The Australian and Weekend Australian next to Ms Collier.
Ms Collier’s performance was a remarkable display of arrogance and ignorance, and as I always say, there’s nothing worse than a stupid person with strong opinions. Take a bow Grace; if the shoe fits, wear it.
Collier was rude, and constantly interjected over the top of other guests, in particular Greens senator Richard di Natale and ACTU president, Ged Kearney.
I’ve taken the trouble to watch the clip again and provide a transcript of sorts, it makes interesting, if cringeworthy reading.
The exchange starts with Collier
‘Nobody has an entitlement to a job…Society doesn’t owe you a job.’
This is just classic libertarian ideology. The statement contains as much social science as an icy pole; it goes no further than being a common-sense view, too common to the conservative free market proselytisers. Collier then continues:
‘In reality there’s one person in this world that can guarantee a happy future for you, and that person stares at you in the mirror every morning.
‘Work out what you’re good at and try and make a career out of it.’
Again, we’ve heard it all before, if you’re unemployed and unhappy, it’s your fault, etc etc. The last bit of advice here is what a 15-year-old might get from the school careers counsellor – if the school can bloody afford one! It is not a prescription for solving the unemployment crisis.
Then, when Richard di Natale points out that there are more unemployed than there are vacant jobs, Collier interjects:
‘People can start businesses.’
Yep, the solution to unemployment is for all the dole bludgers to steal a second-hand lawn mower, stick a sign on a telegraph pole near their house and start a landscaping business. I told you stupid people and strong opinions were a dangerous mix.
Di Natale tries very hard to make his point and keep the discussion at a level above Collier’s kindergarten commentary, but she continues interjecting, as if repetition can make her wishes come true.
‘People can start their own businesses.’
At this point, there’s an audible groan from the QandA audience, as you might expect, seeing as it is deliberately stacked with Green Left Weekly readers and Labor Party plants (according to Mr C Kenny).
Instead of taking her cue from the obviously bored audience, Collier doubles down on the stupid.
‘Oh it’s terrible isn’t it,’ Ms Collier says sarcastically and she continues in this vein:
‘Wouldn’t it be awful to have to start your own business.’
When Senator di Natale tries to give Ms Collier a simple lesson in real world economics, she’s not having a bar of it and taunts him with this brilliant comeback:
‘Why don’t you start a business and hire some people?’
When Ged Kearney tries to jump in here and make a point, Collier continues her schoolyard taunting:
‘Go on, go on, I dare you.’
This is from a woman who claims to have some expertise in life and enough ego to think that offering advice to senators and leading trade unionists is somehow clever, smart and appropriate for a QandA panel.
Nah, it’s not clever. Let me tell you Grace it comes across as arrogant, rude and stupid.
At least Ms Collier had the decency to start her ranting and taunting with perhaps the only honest and accurate statement she made all night.
‘Oh look, I’m going to offend everyone in the room.’
Yes, you probably were, but then again Grace, you think that’s the role of a free-thinker and iconoclast. Trouble is you are neither a thinker nor an iconoclast, you are just a more simplified clone version of every other well-upholstered armchair philosopher who is given far too much space and freedom to write shite for the Murdoch press.
And that, dear reader, is how you do a segue.
Fast-forward two weeks to the Weekend Australian of 29 October 2016.
Ms Collier is leaving our shores for a little while. It seems she is off to the United States to perhaps offer some advice to presidential candidate Donald J Trump. Maybe she will get to go on one of those God-awful Fox programs and tell 92 million unemployed Americans that they should live the dream and start their own businesses. But I don’t think there are 92 million second-hand lawnmowers lying around along Route 66.
However, to the point.
Before Grace left Australia she wrote one last column for the Weekend Australian under the headline BENDING OVER BACKWARDS TO TAKE OFFENCE AT EVERY TURN (as I wrote last week, Boris uses a crayon to scribble out the headlines before the typographers compose the pages).
I was so disturbed by this column that I woke up in the middle of the night (between Saturday and Sunday) and I wrote Ms Collier a little letter. I was going to hold it over till my next Media Sauce column, but as we say here in Detox Mansion, ‘Better out than in.’ So here goes.
There have been two important speeches at the National Press Club in the past week or so. One of them got bucket loads of media coverage and has turned into a national story of gargantuan significance. EM covered it here.
The second NPC speech received some coverage, but there have been few ripples across the pond and the story has died. However, EM can’t let it go because it is a subject dear to our heart — Freedom of the Press.
Just two days after Two Punch delivered his wooden and self-wounding speech on Monday, perhaps fatally injuring his own prime ministership and his political party in the process, the chair of the Australian Press Council, Professor Julian Disney, gave an address to the gathered scribes and interested onlookers.
Disney’s speech won’t kill off the Press Council, but he is leaving soon anyway and his replacement has been announced, Professor David Weisbrot; so, in some ways, the address was a valedictory.
Julian Disney – out the door
David Weisbrot, into the hot seat
Disney also used the speech to make some thinly-veiled comments about the role of destabilisation and undermining of the Council’s authority by Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorpse.