We can no longer take these ‘journalists’ seriously

October 27, 2013

Any casual reader of Ethical Martini will know that I am a critic of News Limited’s newspapers; not because they are bad newspapers, but because of the hardcore conservative political agenda that they execute with extreme prejudice.

Not only do the bulk of News Limited’s senior journalists and columnists regularly indulge in denial of anthropogenic climate change, they also indulge in denialism when it comes to their own warped sense of self importance and political bias.

As a group, it seems that they just don’t see anything at all amiss in their slavish devotion to conservatives’ pet causes — bushfires are just part of the Australian vernacular, the ABC is a vicious nest of left-wing pustules that needs to be lanced and handed over to a junior mogul, school teachers are only marginally less feral than ABC-types, the carbon tax was killing business and Aborigines get all the privilege and none of the pain of being Australia’s first people.

It even extends to the role that these hacks and fluffers think they play in the larger realm of politics and the public sphere.

According to these enlightened bigots, this year News Limited’s news outlets were not campaigning for the election of an Abbott government to suit the political mood of the omnipotent Murdoch, it was for the good of the country. News Limited journalists and columnists know better than most of us what is in the national interest.

After all, as the old adage goes: “If it’s good for business it’s good for the country and if it’s good for the country, it’s good for business.”

And our new prime minister, Tony Abbott, knows all too well, what’s good for uncle Rupert is good for business and good for the good of the nation.

So, perhaps then, it’s not surprising that Abbott wanted to gather the faithful for a blessing and a booze up to cement the too-cosy relationship between his government and the conservative commentariat.

Only one problem in that little plan: it leaked. The Sydney Morning Herald let us know yesterday that the cream of Australia’s rightwing media meritocracy would be gathering ce soir for an intimate “Merci beau coup” from the Prime Minister, an a-la-carte feast and a couple of coldies.

I can’t help but wonder if Abbott says grace at these gatherings and counts his blessings.

Murdoch-last-supper

The guest list exposes the overly close relationship that senior News Limited apologists (and one or two Fairfax fellow-travellers) will have with Abbott and his inner circle over the next few years.

When entertaining at home Tony Abbott prefers like-minded company, if the guest list to his Saturday soiree is any guide. The Prime Minister’s first gathering of the Australian media is an invitation-only affair of conservative columnists and broadcasters.

Many are disagreeable, but, happily, rarely so with the nation’s 28th leader. Invited to dinner and drinks at Kirribilli House is a rollcall of Mr Abbott’s strongest supporters: among them Andrew Bolt, Piers Akerman, Alan Jones, Janet Albrechtsen, Miranda Devine and Chris Kenny.

Daily Telegraph editor Paul Whittaker, whose paper backed Mr Abbott to the hilt, will be in attendance. News Corp editor Col Allan is believed to have flown back from New York in time for the intimate gathering of friends. The Australian editor Chris Mitchell was invited, but told Fairfax Media he was unable to attend.

That most of Mr Abbott’s guests come from News Corp would surely please Rupert Murdoch, who is back in Australia. Fairfax Media columnists Paul Sheehan and Gerard Henderson were also invited to the knees-up, which was orchestrated by Mr Abbott’s chief of staff Peta Credlin.

Guests were asked to keep details of the evening strictly confidential. ”We do not release details of the Prime Minister’s private functions,” a spokeswoman said. She declined to respond when asked whether the taxpayer would foot the bill for the dinner and drinks.

In my view  being on the guest list for this “private” soiree disqualifies those who attended from ever writing another word about federal politics. The guests at last night’s benediction are fatally compromised and beholden to Abbott.

And it’s not private, what Abbott wanted was secrecy. If the PM is entertaining at his official Sydney residence and the invitations were arranged by his staff, then it is a public matter. The guest list should be public and we should also be told what the guests were talking about. Did Margie and the girls do the catering — fairy bread and communion wine? If Kirribili House was the venue then surely staff were on hand (paid time and a half perhaps?) and it is an official, not a private engagement.

There is an air of secrecy already surrounding the actions of this government and it is a shroud that the PM has pulled tightly over many areas of public policy that we should be privilege to. It is not OK for Abbott to entertain this bunch of flunkies at taxpayer expense.

Most of the guests were already firmly in the PM’s camp politically and the News Limited posse had shamelessly displayed their fevered loyalty to the coalition during the 2013 election campaign.

Whether writing out of personal conviction, romantic attraction to Abbott, or because of Murdoch’s unwritten, but unmistakable, orders, many of the gathered faithful have been loyal foot soldier’s in Abbott’s culture war for some time.

Now they need to be publicly exposed for the sychophantic arse-wipe, lickspittle, jumped up little Hitlers that they are.

Like most sociopaths, they bully down and kiss butt upwards.

Chris Kenny has recently been promoted to “associate editor” at The Australian, no doubt in recognition of his excellent service, which continued this week with another poke at the ABC and Insiders host Barry Cassidy in a fusilade of fury about the so-called “culture wars”. I can’t help but wonder where these stories come from, surely not an insider tip from a minister’s office. Kenny has once again proven his effectiveness as a doer of dirty work on behalf of the Liberal Party.

Chris Kenny's Twitter fan club show the love

Chris Kenny’s Twitter fan club show the love

Kenny is probably an obnoxious toad and even his teenaged son has had reason to question his father’s journalistic and political judgment. How’s this for character assassination en famile:

Kenny is a staunchly neo-conservative, anti-progress, anti-worker defender of the status quo. He is an unrelenting apologist for the Liberal Party. He was one of Alexander Downer’s senior advisers at the time of the Iraq War. He’s been known to argue for stubborn, sightless inaction on climate change. He spits at anyone concerned with such trivialities as gender equality, environmental issues or labour rights from his Twitter account on a daily basis. Recently, he characterised criticism of the lack of women in Tony Abbott’s Cabinet as a continuation of the Left’s ‘gender wars’. He is a regular and fervent participant in The Australian’s numerous ongoing bully campaigns against those who question its editorial practices and ideological biases. The profoundly irresponsible, dishonest, hate-filled anti-multiculturalist Andrew Bolt has recently referred to Kenny on his blog as ‘a friend’.

Kenny is a former Liberal staffer and, according to Mark Latham, (and Wikipedia) a failed candidate for Liberal pre-selection in South Australia. He also used to work for the ABC and is proof of its left-wing bias in action. It’s no secret that there’s a revolving door between journalism and politics. Reporters often jump back and forth between the newsroom and the politician’s staffroom and some even make it into Parliament. Kenny is treading a well worn path here.

Legend has it that Tony Abbott was once a journalist, or at least a “leader writer” at The Bulletin and other journalists have been electorally elevated to the position of  PM in the past. I am not complaining about people who make these moves, but it does indicate that there is a certain cross-over and shared sense of privilege between journalists and politicians.

It’s clear that the Abbott regime intends to bring these two groups even closer together and that he wants to keep this gang of trained attack dogs inside the tent pissing out, rather than pissing on his tent.

Perhaps keeping these tame flacks happy not a difficult job when your chief of staff moves effortlessly  in the same rarified and privileged social circles as high-flying politicians like Liberal Party boss Brian Loughnane, Peter Costello, Alexander Downer, Janet Albrechtsen and her partner, former Liberal Party headkicker Michael Kroger. It’s good to see that these folk can keep it all in the family.

Dog-whistler-in-chief, Andrew Bolt is also comfortable in these circles, there’s a few square kilometres in Toorak that is home to quite a few of his close friends and confidants. Abbott has early-on in his reign signaled his fondness for Bolt by granting him an exclusive interview (only the second since taking office a little over six weeks ago).

Writing in The Guardian, Katherine Murphy was keen to be seen to be fair to Abbott in relation to the interview with Bolt and she points out that on privatising the ABC and the recognition of indigenous Australians in the constitution, Abbott did not concede ground to the more gung-ho Bolt.

Bolt and Abbott may not (in public at least) see eye-to-eye. After all, the PM has to at least be seen to be governing for the whole country, not just his favoured few in medialand. If the PM were to concede that Bolt is right on all issues, it would give the game away. Abbott’s credibility demands that he been seen to be disagreeing (even slightly) with Bolt.

However, I am not so sure that this is the Prime Minster’s true face on display here.

There is no doubt in my mind that Abbott would love to privatise or close down the ABC, but he knows it would be a long and expensive political fight and one that might split the conservative coalition down the middle. I also don’t think that Abbott’s heart (while on his sleeve) is really in favour of greater respect, autonomy and funding for the cause of Aboriginal sovereignty.

Changing the constitution is an easy one for Abbott to champion — much like Malcolm Turnbull’s treacherous double game on the republic issue — but he has an easy out; he can simply shrug his shoulders when the referendum fails.

On the essentials there is no gap between Bolt and Abbott, as this exchange on bush fires and climate change shows.

AB: I’ve been struck by the insanity of the reaction in the media and outside, particularly linking the fires to global warming and blaming you for making them worse potentially by scrapping the carbon tax.

PM: I suppose, you might say, that they are desperate to find anything that they think might pass as ammunition for their cause, but this idea that every time we have a fire or a flood it proves that climate change is real is bizarre, ’cause since the earliest days of European settlement in Australia, we’ve had fires and floods, and we’ve had worse fires and worse floods in the past than the ones we are currently experiencing. And the thing is that at some point in the future, every record will be broken, but that doesn’t prove anything about climate change. It just proves that the longer the period of time, the more possibility of extreme events … The one in 500 year flood is always a bigger flood than the one in 100 year flood.

AB: The ABC, though, has run on almost every current affairs show an almost constant barrage of stuff linking climate change to these fires.

PM: That is complete hogwash.

AB: It is time to really question the bias of the ABC?
[Note the redundant question mark here, it was really Bolt telling Abbott that IT IS TIME to move on the ABC, EM]

PM: But people are always questioning the “bias” of the ABC.

AB: Yes, but you’re the bloke that is handing over $1.1 billion a year to the ABC to continue a bias that’s against their charter.

PM: If we were starting from scratch we may not have the media landscape that we do, but we’re not starting from scratch … The ABC is an important part of a pluralistic media landscape, and I’m not going to complain about it, Andrew. I will do what I can to ensure the ABC is well managed, has got a good board, a strong board, and …

AB: But would you agree that the bias of the ABC, as observed even by former ABC chairman Maurice Newman, is in breach of its charter?

PM: I would say that there tends to be an ABC view of the world, and it’s not a view of the world that I find myself in total sympathy with. But, others would say that there’s a News Limited view of the world.

AB: Taxpayers don’t pay News Limited.

PM: But I’m a conservative, I’m a traditionalist. I’m not persuaded that we need radical change here.

The exchange continues and Bolt slips in a question about the ABC stealing an audience from Fairfax, but hypocritically he doesn’t mention the loud complaints from his own boss on the subject.

AB: Does it disturb you that the ABC is venturing into new areas like the internet, in direct competition with Fairfax in particular, offering the same audience the same product for free?

PM: If the ABC were to come to us, this government, seeking more money to do things that took it into competition with the private sector, we’d say no.

Geez, Andrew, the ABC meddling with “new areas like the internet”; thanks for letting us know about this, it’s been nearly 20 years since we had the Internet and I had no idea the ABC was faffing around there rather than just being on the wireless. Can you spell “troglodyte”?

I don’t share Katherine Murphy’s sanguine analysis of Abbott’s  answers on the ABC. To me it is a signal that the ABC is going to be cut and cut hard the next time there’s a review of its budgets.

Abbott’s party for the faithful was more than just a way for the PM to say “thanks” to his loyal media lieutenants, it is also a way of keeping them close and, I am sure, that over a beer and snag sanga there was more than a little talk of “What next?”

The “conservative” and “traditionalist” Abbott has found a loyal Greek chorus that can stay on the songsheet and that is more than delighted to sing backing vocals while Australia burns. They are all, caps in  oleaginous hands, “glad to be of service”, I’m sure.

Sorry, that last link is to Wikpedia, but I’d rather get my news from there than from this bunch of second-rate apple-polishers.

The final question, which I hope some enterprising journo is pursuing: Who paid for this little gathering?

Was Andrew Bolt flown to Sydney in a VIP jet? Did other guests from out-of-town pay their own way? Were they ensconced in a nice harbourside hotel for the weekend and how much did the party cost?

The coalition has already proven itself to be a very snouts-in-the-trough government that is prepared to live high on the hog.

These well upholstered snouts may well be truffling in taxpayers’ pockets.

Just another example of their sense of privilege and hypocrisy. All of them are free-market warriors who despise (or pretend to) extravagant wastage and frivolous government spending, but not, it might seem, where personal gain and a chance to schmooze with the big boys meets prime ministerial hospitality.

Fuck’em all,  their pencil thin, Evian drinking, calorie counting, caffiene limiting, sodium sparing, nutrasweet sweetening, rear view mirror preening, carrot nibbling bunnies and the Range Rover they rode in on.

Fuck your big ol’ Sunday New York Times
Fuck the Wall Street Journal
And Newsweek
And the lot
Including Nation, Village Voice, Guardian and the rest
Stupid set of priviliged mutha fuckers
Think its fashionable to have an alternative view

And your idea of multiculturalism
Japanese restaurant on Monday,
Indian on Tuesday,
And on Wednesday, Caribbean,
Not too spicy please

And you can’t tell whether or not I’m joking, can you?
Dumb fuck.

Click the link, if you don’t know BFE you are about to be entertained.


Journalists on the wrong side of history when it comes to social media

April 26, 2019

In the last week or so some fairly senior journalists and journalism academics have launched a defence of mainstream reporters and reporting by suggesting that most, if not all, criticism of journalists is coming from a Trumpian perspective. This perspective has appeared in several tweets by senior journalists and it has been given a more ‘respectable’ form in a column by ABC talking head Michael Rowland.

In a piece published on the ABC News website Rowland lamented that he – and other reporters – have been on the receiving end of some insulting and even abusive tweets.

Now, journalism isn’t exactly the profession for shrinking violets.

If you cover the brutal game of politics you have to be particularly robust, but the level of muck being hurled around on Twitter at the moment would test the toughest of souls.

Personally speaking, I have noticed a huge increase in abuse and petty name-calling since the election campaign began.

The free character references I’ve received have often been quite inventive.

He wasn’t the only member of the journalistic elite to give voice to such views. Academic and Nine commentator (she’s published in what we used to know as the Fairfax mastheads) Jenna Price went into bat to defend Patricia Karvelas who also copped some flack over an incident on Insiders the previous weekend.

Social media has become an incubator for hatred of journalists, led by President Donald Trump after learning from the best, the troll armies of President Rodrigo Duterte, says senior research fellow, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford, Julie Posetti.

Chris Uhlmann takes his complaint against the cultural Marxists a step further. He claims we are worse than the far-right. His former ABC colleague Leigh Sales has also publicly attacked what she calls “far left bias” against the ABC in general and her program in particular.

Far Left Fury

This is a misleading claim that attempts to delegitimise progressive critiques of the mainstream news media by lumping all critics of journalism into one ideological pigeon hole.

How would Leigh Sales – or Chris Uhlmann for that matter – identify someone as “far left”. They wouldn’t know from any position of nuanced reading or understanding; all they have to go on are their own prejudiced and stereotyped views from a position of privileged elitism.

However, what really annoyed me was this tweet from Miriam Cosic who has been a journo for a while and who also makes much of her postgraduate qualifications in philosophy.

Miriam got upset with me when I described this thinking as “lazy”, but it is intellectually lazy. There is a world of difference between a progressive left critique of journalism and the news media and Donald Trump’s Fascistic demonization of journalism he doesn’t like.

However, I guess these same ‘very fine’ people might dismiss my views out of hand. After all, I am a fully paid-up card-carrying life-long member of what Chris Uhlmann has derisively labelled the “post-Christian left”.

Chomsky, not Trumpski

I think there are two distinct political positions on media criticism, and it is wrong to conflate them.

One is certainly a neo-Fascist view that has been thoroughly discredited but that is espoused by Trump and his supporters and originated with the Nazi regime’s propaganda trope of the Lügenpresse or “lying media”.

The other is diametrically opposed to this and, as a form of shorthand, I’m going to call this the Chomskyian view.

The Chomskyian view is based on a long history of progressive, left-wing and anti-capitalist critiques of the news media and it is summarised rather well in Chomsky and Herman’s classic phrase about the “manufacture” of consent.

In 1988, Chomsky and Herman described the media in capitalist society as a propaganda machine. They were right then and the same holds true today.

The mass media serve as a system for communicating messages and symbols to the general populace. It is their function to amuse, entertain, and inform, and to inculcate individuals with the values, beliefs, and codes of behavior that will integrate them into the institutional structures of the larger society. In a world of concentrated wealth and major conflicts of class interest, to fulfill this role requires systematic propaganda.

The problem for the ruling class and its media allies is that the machine is breaking down and they’re fresh out of spare parts.

I’ve tried before in IA and in many of my other recent writings, including this book and this journal article, to explain the important differences between a Trumpian view of “fake news” and a more sophisticated analysis of journalism, journalists and the news media that situates the whole “fake news” discussion into an historical and theoretical context which is known as the political economy of communication.

I’ve also written about media issues extensively in IA, including here, here, here, here and here. I also wrote a long review of Katharine Murphy’s pamphlet, On Disruption in which she defends the News Establishment’s approach to the disruption caused by social media.

Here’s one takeaway from that piece:

Murphy raises the important question of the relationship between a media ecology that has begun a descent into what she accurately describes as ‘a febrile, superficial, shouty, shallow, pugnacious cacophony of content, where sensation regularly trumps insight’, and the demagoguery of Trump and his European imitators.

Murphy asks us rhetorically:

‘Did we, the disrupted media, somehow create Donald Trump? Did we enable him?’ 

However, she struggles to provide a coherent answer.

I think the collapse of the old certainties in the news media and the failure of the News Establishment to effectively reflect on its mistakes certainly gave strength to the Trumpian view that the news media is the ‘enemy of the people’.

However, let’s be clear this is a talking point of the Alt Right and its enablers. It is not a view shared by progressive critics of the News Establishment.

A direct attack on democracy and active citizenship

I have no problem with journalists defending themselves on Twitter, but the common tactic from the News Establishment has been to shy away from directly responding to serious critics and, instead, to focus on the minority of idiots who make vile threats.

I want to be clear; I do not support threats of violence, racist, sexist or homophobic abuse against reporters, but I don’t mind a bit of hard-hitting sarcasm.

The world has changed over the past 20 years and as we’re constantly told by the very same Establishment figures when they’re trying to gouge subscriptions from us: engagement is the new normal. There is no going back, social media has changed the journalistic landscape forever.

The problem is the News Establishment wants engagement on its terms. Engagement for them means we take out subscriptions and become unpaid sources for them or allow them to scour material from our social media feeds to pad out otherwise thin reporting.

What the News Establishment definitely doesn’t want is an active Fifth Estate undermining its authority or its cosy relationship with the rich and powerful.

I would go so far as to suggest that the pushback against their serious critics on Twitter reveals the truly anti-democratic nature of their thinking and their true ideological position.

At least that’s how I’ve interpreted this tweet from ABC reporter Matt Bevan.

Maybe he was joking, or at least maybe that’s what he’d say if challenged, but I think it’s telling.

Twitter provides a platform for what we might call ‘monitorial citizenship’, that is the ability for ordinary people to talk directly to the powerful.

This is upsetting for the News Establishment because, for the past 200 years or so, they have been the principal gatekeepers. Journalists were in a privileged position of mediating between the rulers and the ruled.

They were treated to a rare glimpse inside the halls of power – the first Press Gallery was established in the Palace of Westminster in 1803 – in return they were expected to massage the more brutal pronouncements of the powerful and provide for the “manufacture of consent”.

The News Establishment has played a supporting role ever since; agreeing to keep some secrets to protect the State and legitimising the consolidation of the two-party system.

It was his observation of the Westminster gallery that prompted this acerbic jab from Oscar Wilde:

“Journalism has carried its authority to the grossest and most brutal extreme. As a natural consequence it has begun to create a spirit of revolt. People are amused by it, or disgusted by it…But it is no longer the real force it was. It is not seriously treated.”

Until recently, Establishment accounts of political machinations were not open to direct challenge. The public had to pretty much accept as gospel whatever the journalists wrote.

Now that has changed and now amount of whining from the News Establishment is going to put that genie back in its box.

The monitorial citizen is here to stay.

The monitorial citizen in a democracy is described by Columbia Journalism School professor Michael Schudson as a person outside of the dominant political structure who feels a responsibility to monitor what powerful institutions do, and to get involved when they feel power is being abused.

Schudson is no “post-Christian” leftist. He is a respected, bespectacled professor and himself aligned with the most News Establishment New York establishment, Columbia School of Journalism.

Yet he is able to see what many of our own – vastly anti-intellectual in outlook – news media refuse to see or are willfully blind to.

The power of the News Establishment is waning; monitorial citizens are taking to social media to clapback at the mistakes, misjudgements and misleading inferences that mainstream reporters make routinely.

The inestimable Mr Denmore summed it up nicely on his blog, The Failed Estate, in a piece called ‘All media is social’:

The public isn’t stupid. Much of the criticism they are expressing on social media about journalists reflects a sense of frustration that the issues they are their families care deeply about (like climate change or stagnant incomes or our treatment of refugees) are not advancing.

Quite.

 


Gallery journalists star in Abbott’s National Press Club match

February 2, 2015

The Prime Minister began his National Press Club address looking wooden and stiff. But that’s not surprising; as a human being he always comes across on television as wooden and stiff. Perhaps he’s like that in real life too.

I’m not sure about that because we were both 35 years younger when I was doing political battle with him at Sydney University in the late 1970s. Thus, we were both more supple, lithe and in our manly prime. Then Abbott was a “rugger bugger” and a “John’s boy”, which meant that we regarded him as wooden and stiff and best avoided in the Quad after dark. Today, I’ve got more hair, but also more padding; so let’s not go there, or at least no further.

Eat, Pray, Love while the PM takes us on a journey to the Abbocolypse

Eat, Pray, Love while the PM takes us on a journey to the Abbocolypse

But, to be fair, Tony Abbott loosened up a little towards the end. Not during the speech, but after when facing questions from the Canberra media pack. I have some experience of this too.

But some viewers thought the journos didn’t do a very good job.

My take it was, as always, a mixed performance. Some bring their A game and some are not fit to be in the team.

Read the rest of this entry »


Philosophers and journalists – unlikely bedfellows? Bourdieu in the house!

November 19, 2009

[Thanks Jess for the link]

An interesting, if a little obtuse piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education this week about the fractious relationship between philosophy and journalism. I was struck most immediately by this paragraph, which IMHO sums up the situation reasonably well:

Still, broadly speaking, we need philosophers who understand how epistemology and the establishment of truth claims function in the real world outside seminars and journals—the role of recognized authorities, of decision, of conscious intersubjective setting of standards. And we need journalists who scrutinize and question not just government officials, PR releases, and leaked documents, but their own preconceptions about every aspect of their business. We need journalists who think about how many examples are required to assert a generalization, what the role of the press ought to be in the state, how the boundaries of words are fixed or indeterminate in Wittgensteinian ways, and how their daily practice does or does not resemble art or science.

Carlin Romano, We need ‘Philosophy of Journalism’

There’s another key statement in Carlin’s piece that I also identify with quite strongly. Here he’s talking about the insoluble and necessary link between journalistic and philosophical modes of thinking:

I’ve always insisted to the philosophy students that journalistic thinking enhances philosophical work by connecting it to a less artificial method of establishing truth claims than exists in philosophical literature. I’ve always stressed to journalism students that a philosophical angle of mind—strictness in relating evidence and argument to claims, respectful skepticism toward tradition and belief, sensitivity to tautology, synoptic judgment—makes one a better reporter.

There is no doubt for me that journalism is — at it’s core — an intellectual pursuit that has a high public interest attached to it. There is a necessary couplet between journalism as a practice and theories of democratic public discourse. It is an imperfect linkage — one that’s distorted by the ideological contortions of logic necessary to justify capitalism as a social formation and the dismal science of economics as some sort of rational explanation for human behaviour and human nature (both of which I utterly reject).

This is a long post, so you might want to print it off and read at your leisure. I am keen to discuss Carlin Romano’s timely essay, but also to further explore my own thinking in relation to what I regard as a core philosophical approach to journalism scholarship — the use of the dialectic as an organising and analytical tool to understand the social relations of news production in the widest sense.

Read the rest of this entry »


Tony Veitch back in the news – he’s a good guy, seriously

August 10, 2008

I mentioned a few weeks ago that the slow, whispering campaign to rehabilitate Tony Veitch appeared to be underway. Well this weekend he was back in the Sunday papers and some interesting comments from former girlfriends and flatmates in both the Sunday Star Times and the Herald on Sunday.

Ex-love stands by Tony Veitch (HoS) Veitch flatmate says there’s more to story (SST)

Both appear to downplay any violent tendencies that the former sports presenter might harbour and both seem to paint Kristin Dunne-Powell in a poor light.

FYI: I am not passing any judgment on Tony here, or suggesting that I agree or disagree with the assessment of the sources quoted in these stories.

Interesting too that on Saturday the NZ Herald seemed to clear up one little lingering mystery: what did Ms Dunne-Powell report to the ACC?     Veitch partner gave details to ACC

Meanwhile it seems the police are going to take an interest in the tape of an interview that Tony Veitch did with columnist Paul Holmes. In his column about the tape, Holmes implied that Veitch gave some details of the night of the alleged assault incident.

But Holmes and the HoS seem reluctant to hand the tape over because some of Tony’s comments were emotional and ‘off-the-record’.

Hang on, both of these men are adults and experienced journalists. They would know that you can’t go ‘off-the-record’ in a taped interview once it’s underway. You can turn the tape off, but if it’s left running then too bad for both of them.

HoS editor Shayne Currie says the paper will comply with legal requirements, but does that mean the police will get the tape, or not? I also don’t think it will give too much away. I personally think that Holmes was just talking himself up. He loves to be a big part of his own stories; a legend in his own lunchbox.

You can backtrack on my coverage here


Scott Morrison is as funny as a dose of the clap

October 17, 2019

Dr Martin Hirst has lost his sense of humour when it comes to the Morrison Government. Instead, he argues, we need to be angry, not silently sniggering up our sleeves.

THE JOKES come thick and fast from ScoMo. This week, we’ve had the undignified crack that he’s going to name the taxpayer-funded RAAF jet that flies him around “Shark One” at great expense.

[First published on Independent Australia on 14 September 2019]

That’s our plane, not Morrison’s, but his complete lack of shame and his forced cornpoke humour are two of his better qualities.

Thankfully, Twitter chastised him over this idiocy.

Despite the PM’s attempt at portraying the blokey-jokey good guy, it’s getting harder to see the funny side of Australian politics. I’m not cracking a smile, I’m seething with rage.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
I have come to the terrible but sober conclusion that we can no longer laugh off the Morrison horror show. The clowns are actually ideological axe murderers in pancake makeup and funny shoes.

Are you asleep, or are you Chris Uhlmann?

Seriously, if you’re not disturbed and angry by the direction the Morrison Government is taking Australia today, you are either asleep or you’re Chris Uhlmann writing in the Nine stable “news” rags.

Uhlmann applauds ‘the sound of silence out of Canberra’ and claims that the ‘silent majority’ of Morrison’s so-called “quiet Australians” would also be quietly getting on with their quiet, boring lives.

‘Normal people would rather get on with the task of, hopefully, making an uneventful path from sunrise to sunset. For many that isn’t easy and their simple wish of the Government is it not make the task any harder.’

The whole idea of a “silent majority” is a discredited Nixonian talking point from the late 1960s and has no basis in sociology, political science or people’s lived experience. For Uhlmann, it is a convenient meme on which to hang his barely-literate gaslighting of the electorate. For Trump and Morrison – and enablers like Uhlmann – the idea of a silent majority supporting their populist rhetoric is a convenient political myth.

Personally, I’d rather engage with outrage on Twitter than spend any money, time or effort arguing with Chris Uhlmann and, it seems, so would plenty of others.

Why I’m not laughing anymore

I have had several swings of mood since the May Election. You may recall that in early July I wrote about the deep grief I was feeling at the time and how I was almost immobilised with depression.

Since then, I’ve cheered up and been amused by the stuff-ups, the malapropisms and goofy, daggy dad schtick that we’ve been enduring from Morrison. The Government’s lack of policies and ham-fisted management of just about everything actually gave me a false sense of hope that things really wouldn’t get any worse.

Two weeks ago, as we approached Morrison’s first full year in the PM’s office, the scales fell from my eyes and it became apparent that these jokers were deadly serious. The lack of clear policy and the absence of a mandate following the close Election result are not an obstacle to achieving the Government’s ideological mission.

It is the mission itself that motivates Morrison, his cabinet colleagues and his power-hungry backbenchers like “Freedom Boy” Tim Wilson. The mission is to remake Australia as a nation without compassion, empathy and opposition to Morrison and Dutton’s authoritarian instincts. It’s a change that started under Abbott, was briefly disrupted by Turnbull’s obsequious vacuity, but is now back in full battle dress.

The mission goal is an impoverished, embittered, divided Australia; a country where “having a go to get a go” means wealthy Liberal and National Party donors standing by the back door waiting for handouts, kickbacks and sinecures paid for by the reduction of everyone else to the status of serfs. It’s as if Morrison and company (that’s how they view the Government) are wanting to return Australia to the status of a penal colony.

The gulags on Manus and Nauru and the locking up of refugees in a PNG gaol are one obvious symbol of this. Sending the Tamil family from Biloela, Priya and Nadesalingam Murugappan and their two Australian-born children to exile on Christmas Island under heavy, expensive and ridiculous armed guard is another potent sign of where we are headed.

Dutton has all but confirmed this with his casual use of the awful Trumpian term “anchor babies” to describe the Murugappan children. It’s a racist lie coming out of Trump’s mouth and it’s racist when Dutton drops it into our language. Unfortunately, most of our political journalists are so shallow and compromised they started normalising it within hours.

However, it is not yet possible for Peter Dutton and Scott Morrison to send Australian citizens into exile so easily. Instead, we are facing imprisonment in our own homes — a permanent lockdown of our rights as citizens and constant surveillance of our lives, both public and private.

I don’t need to give chapter and verse on all of the outrages. If you’re reading Independent Australia, you are very much aware of them.

Let’s just summarise the issues in these headlines:

‘Utter lies: the truth on boat arrivals and border protection’

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
‘Ensuring Integrity bill takes union busting to a whole new level’

‘Peter Dutton: crushing people because he can’

‘Littleproud fiddles while Australia burns’

‘Australia’s financial report card: Worst performance in the developed world’

A fundamental break with our egalitarian history

I don’t want to sound overly melodramatic, but I think we can now see the outline of our future if Scott Morrison wins the current rounds of the culture war against the rest of us.

Our civil society is being hollowed out and replaced with a 24/7 panopticon in which our rights are gradually and forcefully taken from us.

Everyone who works for a living or who is currently on any kind of welfare payment is under threat here. The attacks on workers’ rights don’t begin and end with attempts to clamp down on union action. The Government’s refusal to lift the poverty-level rate for Newstart and other benefits and plans to drug test unemployed people are further ways that Morrison and company want to impose workhouse levels of discipline on working people.

As for action on climate change, we are facing an existential crisis; the planet is dying, the eastern coast of Australia is going up in flames and once-flowing rivers are so dry that the Government has a crazy scheme to relocate fish in the outback. At the same time, the Morrison Government is refusing to take climate change seriously.

The less said about the disgraceful performance of this Government the better. At least a handful of ministers should be resigning over this deliberate lack of action. Start with David Littleproud and Angus Taylor.

I could go on, but I’m out of time, space and words to play with.

Australia was once known for its open and egalitarian ethos — it is being stolen from us. The time for laughing is over. We can no longer “grin and bear it”, it’s time to fight back.

You can start by joining the global climate strike on 20 September. It’s not just for kids — it’s our planet, too.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js


Full Nuremburg: Trump versus the Press

June 24, 2018

This week, after a quick stopover in Singapore, Donald Trump was keen to return to his favourite topic (beside his own greatness): his feud with the American news media. Political editor, Dr Martin Hirst, argues that journalists need to continue pushing back, or risk being swamped by Trump’s aggression.

[First published on Independent Australia]

ANYONE WHO’S HALF-AWAKE would know that Donald J. Trump has a very conflicted relationship with the American news media.

He loves Fox & Friends and is more than willing to sit down to be interviewed by his good friends on the Murdoch-owned network.

On his way back from the “tremendous” tete-a-tete with mass murderer Kim Jong-un, Trump did a one-on-one with Fox News. He hasn’t done a sit down interview with any other media outlet for over a year.

Despite the very controlled access, many U.S. (and Australian) news outlets were initially quite excited by the Trump-Kim PDA in Singapore. Thankfully, it didn’t take long for the lipstick to wear off and the true piggishness of Trump to re-emerge.

Within 24 hours of touching down in the ever-deepening Washington swamp, Trump was up to his old trick of lambasting serious and critical journalism as “fake news”. Luckily, we have former journalist and current conscience-pricker Dan Gillmor to remind the shell-shocked American news media of their true purpose.

In fact, I was so drawn to this Trump tweet, I actually also retweeted it myself, with the appropriate commentary.

Yes, we’re all used to the Tangerine Fascist’s unhinged tweeting but, as I argued in July last year, we need to take Trump’s tweets seriously.

Here’s what I wrote at the time:

Supporters of the “ignore the tweeting” camp say that Trump is deliberately pumping out the outrage and confected offence in order to keep the media occupied and away from the more serious and nefarious plans he has to turn the United States of America into the Principality of Trumpistan.

On the other hand, there’s an argument that Trump’s tweets represent the “thoughts” of the United States President and should be taken seriously. His own staff are now also running with this line, arguing that President Trump is taking his message straight to the American people and needs to do this because the news media distorts his words and does not report the great things he’s doing to “Make America Great Again”.

As Trump himself wrote, nearly a year ago, his tweeting is “modern day presidential”.

Convinced yet?

Just take a look again at the last sentence in this week’s “fake news” broadside:

‘Our Country’s biggest enemy is the Fake News so easily promulgated by fools!’

Does this remind you of anything?

It is a not-so-subtle reference to a rallying call of his neo-Nazi supporters, who have adopted Trump as their Great White Hope.

This is very inflammatory language from the President, but it is also very deliberate. Trump is on record as saying he uses Twitter to make an end-run around a hostile media and to speak directly to his base in language that they will easily understand.

This is also clearly the reasoning behind his almost-daily tweeting about the Russia investigation being a “witch hunt”.

Nobody outside of his inner circle and his welded-on supporters actually believe any of this. Unfortunately, we can’t afford to just ignore Trumpers — they are heavily-armed, overwhelming angry white, and disenfranchised, and still capable of electing more Trump-like politicians to Congress and the Senate.

Trump’s base is increasingly limited to the hardcore – and quite ignorant – racist and conservative rump of the Republican Party, and a few Republican members of Congress, who are rightfully scared of decimation in the upcoming “mid-term” elections.

Trump needs the woke Nazis and the small but tight coterie of ordinary Americans who think that Mexicans are stealing their jobs, and that the European Union is most likely a George Soros-funded conspiracy to weaken America before it can become “great again”.

The Nazis are just cynical thugs with vague hopes that Trump would deliver them a racially pure homeland.

Trump has a history of appeasing them. Remember his disgusting support for the white supremacist cause following the Charlottesville murder of civil rights activist Heather Heyer by a neo-Nazi fringe-dweller, who weaponised his American-made car in August last year.

Fake News is the new “Lügenpresse”

Trump supporters began calling the critical mainstream news media “lügenpresse” during the 2016 election campaign. It became a feature of his campaign rallies to direct the anger of his supporters towards journalists in the venue, leading to exchanges like this from October 2016.

Rosie Gray is a White House correspondent for The Atlantic magazine, which will certainly be a target of the Trumper’s hatred — it carries some good journalism and has taken a consistently anti-Trump line editorially.

Gray interviewed Trump supporter and avowed white supremacist Richard Spencer following the incident she tweeted out from the Cleveland rally and he gleefully told her that lügenpresse had become a buzz word among the so-called “Alt-Right”.

The term has a long history in Germany, where it emerged in a government propaganda booklet during the dying days of World War One. The Nazis appropriated it after their ascension to power in the mid-1930s. It was a powerful weapon used to mobilise the Nazi party supporters behind anti-Jewish pogroms.

It is regarded as a taboo word in Germany today, but it is still used there by the hard-right nationalist parties. Trump has cleverly adapted it by using the term “fake news”.

He thinks this gives him plausible separation from the neo-Nazis, while dog-whistling them and gaslighting the more gullible members of his base.

He’s fooling nobody. The links between Trump’s use of “fake news” and the neo-Nazi chants of lügenpresse are blindingly obvious. Or at least they should be.

However, it seems that, to some extent, Trump’s constant attacks on the news media are working for him.

The strategy is designed to raise doubts in the public mind about the credibility of the news media. Trump knows that most of the critical reporting about him is based on extensive research and – often – interviews with some of his closest advisors. He is also a proven leaker in his own right, often creating the narrative thread that he then denounces as fake.

But Trump doesn’t have to disprove the facts; by simply throwing chump bait into the water, the feeding frenzy takes over, amplified by Trump-friendly outlets like Fox and the other conservative outlets, who either support him or see value in exploiting his presidency for their own white nationalist ends — think Breitbart and so forth.

These are indeed difficult times for the news media trying to cover Trump. However, there are lessons to be learned and past mistakes not to be repeated.

It’s worth reminding ourselves that the news media needs to be aggressive in its coverage of the Trump White House and the many Trump surrogates – such as Rudy Giuliani – who do the rounds of the talk shows blowing smoke and covering for their master’s gaffes.

If journalists try to treat the Trump presidency as anything but abnormal, they risk giving him the control he craves. We saw the normalising of Trump begin to take hold during and just after the Singapore summit.

Headline-hungry reporters were offering their praise and hot-takes about peace on the Korean Peninsula; I was one of the few who held out against this by carefully parsing his media conference and pointing out the obvious anomalies.

The 60 per cent of Americans who instinctively know that Trump is a monster and underserving of his elevated position need to know they can rely on journalists to continue to pursue the stories of corruption, nepotism, cronyism and sheer idiocy that emanate from the Washington swamp under Trump’s watch.

The Mandarin Maniac is yet to go “full Nuremberg” (though we have seen the tiki torch rallies), but we might see something of it when he makes the inevitable rhetoric-heavy speech during the planned $30 million military parade that is being prepared for him on Veterans’ Day in November.

If “chaos is the new normal” then the news media has to cut through, stand tough, take Trump’s hits and keep asking the difficult questions.

Fortunately, there are a handful of brave journalists and correspondents who are willing to stand up for what’s right and show no fear.

You can follow political editor Dr Martin Hirst on Twitter @ethicalmartini.


Turnbull’s horoscope indicates a horror year ahead for #Fizza

January 9, 2017

Malcolm Turnbull is a Scorpio. 2017 could be a year of failure and disappointment for the invisible Prime Minister.

turnbull-horoscope-screenshot-www-sunsigns-org-2017-01-04-16-18-53

Can #Fizza Turnbull make it to the end of the year?

The signs are not good for PM Malcolm Turnbull as 2017 slowly recovers from its Christmas hang-over and bingeing.

Already the advance guard for the Trump faction of the Coalition is out and about wining and dining and whining with the ready-made racists of the notorious anti-Muslim Q Society.

Cory Bernardi and George Christensen accepted invitations to speak at a Q Society fundraiser months ago, but over the slow-news holiday period a couple of lazy journalists thought they’d revive the story, you know just for the lulz.

Like most such stories, it first got a run in The Australian over a month ago, where it was treated as good news about mates helping a friend who happens to be an anti-Islam bigot.

According to The Oz’ Chip le Grand, Bernardi and Christensen are stepping up to help the Q Society and three office-bearers to fund a defamation defence.

[S]elf-styled conservative warriors Cory Bernardi and George Christensen will ­appear at a fundraising dinner to help an anti-Islam organisation and three members of a rival ­political party defend themselves in defamation ­proceedings.

halal-choices-q-society-screenshot-www-qsociety-org-au-2017-01-04-14-49-43

Why The Guardian decided that the first day of the new year was a perfect time to publish their own take on this story is a mystery to me. Perhaps it really is the silly season and the editor hoped that we’d forget that we’d actually seen this story somewhere else some time ago.

However, in a textbook case of cascading media coverage, once The Guardian story appeared on 1 January it was repeated (with only minor amendments) for the next 48 hours across Fairfax papers (3 January), on Sky news (3 January) and on the News.com.au website (3 January).

The simple summary of the story is that three leading members of ‘Australia’s premier Muslim-critical organisation’ are being sued by Mohammed El-Mouelhy, the head of the Halal Certification Authority. El Mouelhy claims he was defamed in two videos produced by the Q Society. The case is being heard in the NSW Supreme Court and has been running now for nearly 12 months. It is estimated that the Q Society will run up over one million dollars in legal costs to defend itself and its members.

But this is not a piece about these idiot bigots, it is about Turnbull being wedged on the Islamophobia issue for the benefit of the right wing nut jobs who want to take over the party.

So far the bigots and nutjobs are hiding in plain sight, under the umbrella of Bernardi’s Conservative Leadership Foundation which is the vehicle for his right-wing, Christian, small government and free enterprise values. His natural allies are the likes of the Q Society, which (coincidentally) has its own political ‘party brand’, the Australian Liberty Alliance.

You can read the original version of this piece at Independent Australia.

Read the rest of this entry »


Hate Media Redux: Always was, always will be #NewsCorpse

December 4, 2016

herald-sun-boycott-meme

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.

Read the rest of this entry »


Fake news: did it help Trump get to Washington, and The Oz bash the ABC?

November 19, 2016

Did fake news help the deplorable Mr Trump get to Washington?

[First published on Independent Australia 17 November]

Much has been made of the argument that fake pro-Donald news sourced from Ukraine overwhelmed American voters leading them to put a billionaire reality TV ‘star’ in the White House.

But is it actually true? And what is ‘fake news’ anyhow?

There are two, maybe even three, main types of so-called ‘fake news’.

The first, but not necessarily the easiest to spot, is the sort of fake news supplied by The Onion, or The Chaser. This is spoof news and it is usually only the really dumb and gullible who get taken in by it.

The second is the ‘fake news’ produced during the 2016 US presidential race, allegedly on Ukranian websites and allegedly to help Donald Trump. This is a hard story to crack, but the gist of it is that Ukraine and Russia are at loggerheads and there is an undeclared shooting war going on between Kiev (the capital of Ukraine) and Moscow. The US election has been collateral damage in the media war between these Ukraine and Russia.

Trump is seen to be pro-Russian and has praised Vladimir Putin several times for his strong nationalist rhetoric. It seems that pro-Russian websites hosted in the eastern (Russian-dominated) part of Ukraine have been helping the Trump campaign. But just how successful they have been is hard to gauge.

Read the rest of this entry »