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.

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Dear Grace, I’m bending over for you

November 1, 2016

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

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.

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The continuing education of a young badger: Speech has consequences

October 24, 2016

In a recent post, I promised an update if I heard again from the young badger who goes by the moniker Lushington Dalrymple Brady.

I had cause recently to correspond with ‘Mr Brady’ about a blog post he wrote and published on A Devil’s Curmudgeon. The post was a critique of my views about free speech, the Andrew Bolt case and my resignation from Deakin earlier in 2016. I responded in an email, which caused the badger to reconsider and publish an update. I accepted that at face value and published my own post, including some of the correspondence.

I challenged ‘Mr Brady’ to come clean and tell me his real name, and to explain why he felt it necessary to hide behind a name so ludicrous, and such a confection, that even my spell-check has trouble not laughing. Well, I got a response, which I’ll get to shortly. But first, I wanted to get to the bottom of the pseudonym itself.

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When a Tassie Devil resembles a badger you have to wonder what it’s hiding

October 23, 2016

Over the last couple of days I’ve had an interesting exchange with someone calling themselves ‘Lushington Dalrymple Brady‘. this person acknowledges that the name is a pseudonym, and the avatar that ‘he’ adopts is supposed to be a Tasmanian Devil; to me it looks like a foppish badger imitating an 18th century dandy. What do you think?

Looks like a badger 'toff' to me

Looks like a badger ‘toff’ to me

‘Mr Brady’ calls himself a ‘liberalist’ and I must confess it is a political label I’ve never heard of. I immediately assumed ‘he’ meant libertarian and perhaps that is what ‘he’ is. But, I’m willing to take ‘Lushington’ at his word, here is a definition of liberalist. It is apparently an adherent of the philosophies of John Locke.

liberalist-2016-10-23-10-15-07OK, so I went to the source — American Thinker — to see what this is all about and yes, ‘libertarian’ is probably a good synonym. It is certainly an anti-left, anti-Marxist position that has everything in common with modern right-wing libertarian thinking that argues ‘Today’s a liberal is in fact a socialist [sic]’. Why are these batshit-crazy folk also grammar-challenged?

The ‘liberalist’/libertarian is anti-state, pro free-market, and adheres to a total buy-in to the myth of individual supremacy over the social totality. In short, as I told ‘Mr Brady’ in an email, a ‘Fascist with manners’.

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Protected: Hirst v Deakin Update 19 June: Corrections & Clarifications

June 19, 2016

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All I can say is thanks Tim

June 15, 2016

This blog is a modest little endeavour. It has been neglected for some time. The reasons for that are many and frankly, none of your business.

However, occasionally it has a spike in popularity.

Take for example the time I posted about Amy Winehouse.

It was because of a link to this pic of Amy

moral parallel

That was back in the day when I had more time and more spirit to deal with the lighter side of this blog, which has always been about the enjoyment of martinis and music.

My best ever was in October 2013 for a post called We can no longer take these ‘journalists’ seriously.

It is interesting to follow the careers of the people now.

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Journalists and conflicts of interest: A difficult fault line

June 20, 2015

Journalists declaring conflicts of interest sounds simple, but …

When it comes to conflicts of interest in journalism – whether real, potential or perceived – the rules are usually simple. They’re framed around the principle that audiences (and management) need to know if a reporter, presenter or editor might be influenced by any commercial or personal relationship with another individual or organisation.

But what happens when the protocols of disclosure are not met? Well, as a couple of recent Canadian cases highlight, non-disclosure can rapidly lead to non-employment.

The recent sacking of two high-profile Canadian journalists highlights the difficulties media employees face in navigating the tricky terrain of conflicts of interest.

Earlier this month, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) dismissed the host of its premiere television political show Power & Politics, Evan Solomon, for allegedly using his journalist’s position to broker sales for an art dealer friend.

Solomon’s sacking followed a Toronto Star newspaper report on the journalist’s contract with art dealer, Bruce Bailey.

Solomon has admitted he received commissions, said to total around CAD$300,000, for his role in the sale of artworks, including to the governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, but added it was “all disclosed to CBC”.

Carney had previously been a guest on Power and Politics, which Solomon hosted until his dismissal.

On the face of it, this might seem a reasonable decision by the CBC.

Solomon, who was said to be a rising star at the government-owned network, was contractually bound by the station’s editorial policies.

In a statement defending its decision on Solomon, the CBC said the anchor had acted in a way “inconsistent with the organisation’s conflict of interest and ethics policy, as well as journalistic standards and practices”.

While Mark Carney and another of Solomon’s journalistic contacts, Blackberry founder Jim Balsillie, were also clients in Solomon’s art brokerage business, there has been no evidence that any of his editorial decisions were influenced by his sideline in art dealing.

 

The swift action by the CBC has been criticised as hasty and perhaps out of proportion to Solomon’s alleged “crime”.

Solomon’s union, the Canadian Media Guild, also called CBC’s actions “excessively harsh”.

Solomon is the second high-profile presenter sacked by a Canadian broadcaster after allegations of conflict of interest surfaced.

In January this year a Global TV news presenter, Leslie Roberts, resigned from the Toronto-based network after it was disclosed that he was also involved with a PR agency whose clients appeared regularly on Roberts’s program.

Ironically, it was another Toronto Star investigation that revealed Roberts’s undisclosed affiliation with Buzz PR.

Roberts said he did not receive a salary from Buzz PR, but he had not alerted his bosses to the connection.

Perhaps in Roberts’s case the alleged conflict of interest is more clear cut. Most journalists would be horrified at any suggestion that a senior colleague was also working for “dark side”.

It’s also clear that the potential for a very lucrative “revolving door” between the PR agency and Roberts’s news studio is ethically dubious, to say the least.

Is the perception of a conflict evidence enough?

Neither Solomon nor Roberts appear to have broken any Canadian laws. There is no allegation against them of criminal or corrupt behaviour.

So, is it enough then for there to be a perception of conflict for a media employer to take action?

It seems the answer is “yes” in the Canadian context, and the argument about reputational damage is a strong one.

We seem to hold media personalities to a higher standard than mere mortals, and within the realm of public broadcasting – funded by taxpayers – accountability must be observed and be seen to be observed.

To my knowledge there have been no similar recent cases in the Australian media, but that does not mean that allegations of conflict of interest don’t surface from time to time.

Most often the allegations are raised against ABC employees, and usually by journalists or commentators working for rival networks or publishers.

Lateline host, Tony Jones, is regularly in the firing line.

In March this year, Herald Sun columnist and Channel 10 presenter, Andrew Bolt, accused Jones of a conflict of interest when he was MC of Carbon Expo in 2012.

Carbon Expo is an annual conference focused on sustainability issues and the generation of a market for carbon credits.

According to Bolt, Jones has a conflict because of his role at the ABC, which requires him to be impartial in the presentation of news and opinion.

Bolt believes Jones is too close to what he calls the “warmist” view of climate change and cites his hosting of Carbon Expo as proof. But the ABC has never taken any action against Jones and his participation in forums such as Carbon Expo occurs with the explicit approval of ABC management.

Jones is represented by two speakers’ agencies, and charges – according to the Ovations website – a minimum of A$5,000 per engagement.

Is that a conflict of interest? The argument in Jones’ case seems to rest on political rather than ethical grounds. Bolt is a well-known critic of both the ABC and the science of climate change. Jones’ monetary value as facilitator and MC is predicated on his ABC profile, rather than the other way around and his relationship with speakers’ bureaux is known to ABC management and to any curious member of the public who cares to Google his name.

Perhaps it is the declaration that clears Tony Jones. In the Solomon and Roberts’ cases it seems that it was secrecy – and sudden exposure – that sunk them. Though one could argue the cases are different.

Being connected to a PR agency that solicits airtime on your network for its clients seems a greater offence than pocketing a kick-back from making introductions to an art dealer. Hosting corporate events and conferences also seems, on the face of it, to be fairly innocuous.

Any conflict of interest in the newsroom is a potential problem if it impacts on the veracity and honesty of reporting and editorial decision-making, but the standards of proof need to be very high.

The Conversation

Martin Hirst is Associate Professor Journalism & Media at Deakin University.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.