Refugee relocation? “No deal”: Turnbull is a laughing stock at home and abroad

February 3, 2017

I wrote this piece for Independent Australia three days before we heard that Donald Trump had hung up on Malcolm Turnbull, outraged over the “lousy deal” struck by Obama to take refugees from Nauru and Manus Island in exchange for Latin American asylum-seekers in the US.

[Why we would get involved in human trafficking like this is another horror story, for another day. Suffice to say it seems to me to be a revival of the slave trade. Something that decent human beings should condemn as a matter of principle.]

The Refugee Action Coalition (RAC) has condemned Donald Trump’s ban on Muslims entering the United States — unlike our weak PM and his craven cabinet. Political editor Dr Martin Hirst reports.

Ian Rintoul from the RAC told IA:

Both Labor and Liberal have built their own Mexican wall around Australia; they were guilty of Trump-like policies even before Trump took office.”

Rintoul says the Coalition’s refusal to condemn the ban is even more appalling when you consider the list of global leaders who have voiced their disgust.

Read the rest of this entry »


Confessions of a gay, Muslim Trump supporter

January 27, 2017

I have been curious for some time about Trump supporters. We tend to think of them stereotypically as being white, male redneck types, with a few women along for the ride. So, I was a bit surprised to find an openly gay, gun-loving Turkish migrant from a Muslim background who is a loyal and vocal fan of the newly-installed American president.

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Ahmet Demirici has recently graduated with an MA in International Relations and is now looking for work. He is also considering joining the US Army Reserve and says he is unfazed by Vice President Mike Pence’s public statement that homosexuality is incompatible with military service.

I have been in touch with Ahmet and he agreed to be interviewed for Independent Australia with the stipulation that he use a pseudonym and is not identified in pictures. He is travelling back to Turkey soon and did not want his sexual identity or political activity to come to the attention of Turkish authorities.

Ahmet told me that his main media sources are the very pro-Trump Breitbart News, the Daily Caller, and Fox News. The only non-Trump media he checks out are the Russian network RT, CNN and occasionally Huffington Post.

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Figure 2: Ahmet’s voter ID, he is a registered Republican

IA: Please don’t be offended but I’m really curious. Are you “out” with family & friends? You identify (somewhat) as Muslim, are you religious or observant!

Ahmet: Everyone in my family and friends know, because it’s kind of obvious from my behaviour, but I keep it to myself and remain reserved. So, I’d say I am not publicly out.

I do not engage in most religious demands, like dietary restrictions, prayers, and obviously, sodomy, (kind of out of my control). I just believe in and love God, and hope for salvation through good deeds.

I come from an Islamic background, yes, and my parents and entire family self-identify as Muslim, true. Yet, I’m not one to follow organized religion, especially not one that bans alcohol. So, I’ve been to mosques a few times in my life… but mainly for free food. Turks tend to be pretty secular, that’s one good attribute that sets us apart from the rest.

IA: Lovely, thanks, made me laugh about the sodomy bit.

Ahmet: Yeah, haha. I’d be thrown off a roof in any other Muslim country. Turkey’s a lot more tolerant of sex.

IA: I see from your profile that you were at the Mall for the inauguration and loved Trump’s inaugural speech, can you tell me why?

Ahmet: There were several parts that were met with a roar from the crowd, such as the parts where he said ‘this day is about you’, and ‘this election has transferred power from Washington back to you, the American people’, as well as the part where he promised to ERADICATE Islamic terror from the face of the earth.

These parts sent chills down my spine. You could tell that, having won the national and electoral elections, he meant every word he said. But the part that affected me most was the one that brought tears to my eyes. After quoting the bible, and mentioning that he’d do his best to protect us (he mentioned the military), he stated “we will be protected by God!”. This was just amazing, it was something that had never been said before. It was pure power. The confidence to say such a thing! The audacity! Whether someone believes in a religion or is an atheist, it’s still hard to listen to that phrase without sensing the strength and power of the man who could make such a claim in front of the world. You could tell from his previous speeches that Trump is a dynamic man who is energetic and enthusiastic about making America great, yet now that the elections are far behind us, his words carry much more meaning.

awesome-speech

IA: I can see that you’re still a true believer, I’m curious how you reconcile that with the dissonance in the media over the inaugural numbers and [Trump Advisor] Kellyanne Conway saying that there are ‘alternative facts’.

Ahmet: I’m a believer in the promises that Trump made. Even if he fails, I am confident that he will at least try to appoint a conservative SCOTUS nominee, cut taxes, make peace with Russia, protect our borders and bring back industry to save the working class people, etc etc. seeing CNN’s record, I find it hard to believe their claims, and I’m skeptical of Kellyanne Conway as well. The inaugural numbers should be released by the agency that has them.

IA: How was DeploraBall? I’m sure you had a good time inside, tell me a bit about that and what it was like meeting your heroes and also how you coped with the protestors.

Ahmet: The entry to the Deploraball was perhaps the first time I came in contact with the regressive left, and it was very scary. There was also a lot of media photographing people as they approached the door, and so I hid my face to avoid being recognized in the news (I had only realized that morning that the Deploraball had gained national coverage). I remember looking around me at the people waiting to get in, Asians, a few blacks, lots of older women, and even men in military dress uniforms. I thought it was odd to see so many different people there, after the media made it seem like I was going to some NPI conference.

[IA Note: NPI is Richard Spencer’s white nationalist National Policy Institute.]

The party was fun. The friendliness, the sense of accomplishment and achievement, the speeches and such, everything had a message of hope. There were lots of celebrities there. James O’Keefe agreed to take a photo with me, shook my hand and asked me my name and how I was. I was honoured that he’d spend that time with me. I think he’s a man who deserves being seen as a hero by both right and left, after all of his hard work.

[IA Note: James O’Keefe is a notorious Alt-Right figure behind the Project Veritas group which makes misleading pro-Trump propaganda. He was recently accused of paying people to join anti-Trump protests as part of an ongoing sting operation.]

I was really upset later on once I found out that the riots outside had escalated to violence.

Read the rest of this interview at Independent Australia.

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News from #Trumpistan: who can we trust?

January 27, 2017

LAST WEEK, I reviewed the coverage of #WatersportsGate and the supposed dossier on Trump compiled by former MI6 spy Christopher Steele. I ended by suggesting that it will be hard to filter media coverage of Trump’s presidency because of confusion around what we mean by “fake news”, and because Trump and his associates see no moral boundaries that prevent them from flat out lying.

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If the lie is in danger of being exposed, then don’t admit — just double the efforts at covering your tracks and, when necessary and whenever possible, just keep on lying.

It is clear that this will be the modus operandi of the 45th President and his entourage of bankers, wankers and general ne’er-do-good followers, who are now going to infest the “swamp” in Washington DC.

If you’re keen to follow the twists and turns of the Trump presidency and to see the most reliable news about the goings-on in #Trumpistan, then take note of the following guide to news sources.

I’ve listed a number of pro-Trump sources here too, including the most notorious of them because, while their coverage is likely to be wildly inaccurate at times, they provide some useful clues to the thinking and strategy development in the Trumpian hive mind.

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Mainstream sources — compromised from the start

If you’re a regular reader to IA then you probably have a well-developed scepticism when it comes to the mainstream news media (MSM). There are several good reasons why you should maintain this sceptical approach to MSM coverage of Donald Trump in office.

When it comes to the Australian news media, the two major outlets – Fairfax and News Limited – are compromised, but for different reasons.

Fairfax newspapers and websites are so understaffed and under resourced that they cannot afford much, if any, original coverage of the U.S. any more. We still get the occasional piece by veteran foreign correspondent Paul McGeough, but let’s be honest: his best days are behind him and he will struggle to keep up with the intricacy and detail of American political news even if he were to be full-time in DC. McGeough travels the globe for Fairfax and he won’t have the access to Washington insiders that other media have. So what, if anything, is Fairfax planning to do about this?

It seems that the cheap and cheerful fix for Fairfax is going to be buy-ins from The Washington Post and The New York Times (and maybe a few others). That’s OK, as far as it goes, but it means that the problems inherent in these two solid stalwarts of American journalism will be imported, unfiltered, into the Fairfax coverage.

Why is this a problem? Well, there’s generally a problem (or several) with the way that the American establishment media is going to cover the Trump White House and administration.

Read the rest of this story at Independent Australia


Trump and the media – who to believe?

January 17, 2017

Why the Donald should be pissed at Buzzfeed

The disinformation swirling around President-elect Donald J. Trump (savour that phrase for a moment) is so dense and toxic that it is virtually impossible to work out fact from fiction.

Did the PEOTUS indulge in watersports with Russian prostitutes in a honeytrap set by Putin to compromise him? Did Trump openly mock a disabled journalist during the campaign?

Only the video can give us an indication of the veracity of these two statements. Video of Trump mocking the journalist does exist, rendering Trump’s denials this week, redundant.

However, we are yet to see proof of the golden shower incident, even though, according to one source, the Russian security service (FSB) has the ‘tape’.

The document containing this startling and salacious allegation has apparently been circulating in Washington DC political circles since October, but it was published only this week by the news and listicle website, Buzzfeed. As you might expect, this sparked a political storm, with Trump issuing angry denials via Twitter and in a long-awaited media conference (His first in almost six months).

But can we rely on the Buzzfeed report, or more importantly, on the ‘dosssier’ itself. Buzzfeed’s motivation in publishing the report appears to be simple and self-serving: to generate clicks through to its website and boost its SEO rankings. We shouldn’t be surprised, this is a website renowned for dodgy, traffic-boosting tricks.

Even the three by-lined reporters who put together the Buzzfeed story, seemed keen to distance themselves from the leaked document, allegedly compiled by someone who claims to have worked for British intelligence (this is almost as unproveable as the claims made in the document itself).

Never mind the lack of verification, posting the document has done the trick it was intended to perform – within just six hours of the story being posted it had been viewed over two-million times. The rest of the media was also talking about the story, and about Buzzfeed.

As The Guardian reported, redacted versions of the document were known to US officials weeks ago and a summary of their contents had been given to both Trump and President Obama in recent days. But CNN and other media, including The Guardian, decided against publishing the full package because of the problem of verification. In fact, the CNN story would have disappeared if Buzzfeed hadn’t jumped on the bandwagon.

Trump, whatever you might think of him, has every right to be annoyed that this dossier has been published because it contains unsubstantiated claims that are highly-damaging and, in some jurisdictions, including Australia, would be considered defamatory.

How is publication justified?

I cannot stress this enough: there is no independent, reliable corroboration of anything in the dossier. In fact, it is likely that there is a strong political motive for the existence of this document, it could have come from anywhere and anyone with access to a keyboard could have written it. Media claims that the document was written by ‘a former western counter-intelligence official, now working as a private consultant’ (as reported in The Guardian) are also suspect. Who knows for sure where this dossier originated? The author is reported to be in hiding and in fear for his life now that the document has become public. He has been identified as Christopher Steele, a former British agent who now works for a private investigations firm.

Unless there is some form of proof that is reliable – for instance, the author is named and verified – we are right to be sceptical about the whole document, its contents and its conclusions.

Before backing away in subsequent editions, The Guardian, at first, appeared to give some credence to the dossier – and its author – by reporting comments by an un-named US official.

‘An official in the US administration who spoke to the Guardian described the source who wrote the intelligence report as consistently reliable, meticulous and well-informed, with a reputation for having extensive Russian contacts.’

But, this is not good enough for such explosive claims.

Given all the known unknowns about this dossier, how does Buzzfeed justify publication of salacious, unproven, highly-defamatory and likely made-up assertions about the man voters (rightly or wrongly) chose to govern the most powerful nation on the planet?

You can read the rest of this post at Independent Australia

 


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.

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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.

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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 »


What’s wrong with journalism today: Part 1 – Fake News

December 21, 2016

The sudden global interest in “fake news” sparked by the US elections and allegations of Russian interference to support Trump’s campaign has led several IA readers to contact me asking why both the mainstream media and the alternative social journalism sphere both seem to lie with impunity, or at least are prepared to promote unverified rumour as actual news.

I’ve attempted to provide some answers in recent weeks in terms of the so-called “post-truth” media landscape, the widespread dissemination of propaganda in the guise of independent reporting and the deliberate misinformation spread by both the Clinton and the Trump camps during the election season.

But it seems that these are only partial explanations that deal with the surface issues and practicalities, without delving deeper into the psychological, philosophical and intellectual roots of the problem. This week I thought I might attempt to answer some of these more puzzling questions.

It must be true, it’s on Facebook

A good example of the confusing feedback loop between journalism and social media is this illustration, which was sent to me by a friend on Facebook. How do we account for this deliberate attempt to tailor perspectives and expectations when it is done by a so-called “respectable” publication, the Wall Street Journal?

The ‘Trump softens his tone’ headline was for the New York market, which is more soft-l liberal and therefore inclined not to like the idea of Trump’s wall. The ‘Trump talks tough on wall’ headline was for the Texas edition of the WSJ. In Texas there is likely to be more support for the idea of a wall on the border with Mexico. This manipulation might be simply about pandering to a particular demographic and, given the headline is always bait to hook the casual reader, in this case it’s straightforward: a “gung-ho” headline for the rednecks and a softer tone for the liberals of New York.

However, it’s not true. The meme circulating on social media with the photograph shown here was itself faked. The WSJ copies in question are from 31 August this year and, according to the myth-busting website Snopes, they represent and early (on the left) and late edition (on the right).

So, who is fooling whom? It is difficult to tell. We trust our friends and when they circulate material into our newsfeed on Facebook, we want to believe them, we assume the information they present to us is true.

But what if they don’t check? The original tweet alleging the WSJ scam was retweeted more than 2000 times.

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”><a href=”https://twitter.com/ScottAdamsSays”>@ScottAdamsSays</a&gt; Same paper, same day, same article. Different areas = different title <a href=”https://t.co/5lD9o4KN3S”>pic.twitter.com/5lD9o4KN3S</a></p>&mdash; John Ryder (@KHyperborea) <a href=”https://twitter.com/KHyperborea/status/771715650033029120″>September 2, 2016</a></blockquote>

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As you can see from the comment thread this tweet generated, plenty of people – and especially Trump supporters – were inclined to believe it. The belief comes because the prejudice of conservatives (Of course, the WSJ is lying, it supports Hillary) are confirmed and they are more than happy to accept it as gospel, without checking. But Hillary supporters also want to believe that the WSJ was secretly aiding the Trump campaign. Both lies can’t be true.

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Figure 1: We believe what we want to, but is it true?

What really happened is that Trump was presenting two different messages on the same day, which was a hallmark of his campaign. The original headline referred to a meeting Trump had with Mexican president, Enrique Peña Nieto in which he took ‘a remarkably subdued and cooperative tone’, according to reports. The WSJ story was updated following a speech by Trump, later the same day, in which he made the yet-to-be-tested promise/threat that he would make Mexico pay for the infamous “wall” he pledged to build on the USA’s southern border. The speech was after, but close on the heels of his visit to Mexico.

In this example, the problem was not the Wall Street Journal, it was (and is) Donald J Trump. In this case the WSJ was legitimately updating its coverage of Trump’s campaign and quite rightly highlighted the shift in his rhetoric – a softer tone for the Mexican president and a belligerent outburst for his domestic supporters. Both Trump and Clinton supporters were prepared to believe that the WSJ had doctored its coverage, and social media helped both sides to spread misinformation to their own supporters and followers. However, there are clear cases where, for whatever reason, journalists get it wrong.

Read the rest of this story at Independent Australia.


#Pizzagate and post-truth journalism

December 16, 2016

I have started writing my next book, a ‘how to’ manual people outside the mainstream keen to work in the news media. I’m hopeful that Navigating Social Journalism will be a ‘best-seller’ and that it will help mobilise a new army of motivated and politically-savvy citizen journalists to fill the information void left by the declining mainstream media.

In my humble opinion, the timing for this tome couldn’t be better, because this year we have seen the news media caught with its collective pants around its ankles as a tide of fake news washes over the planet. As 2016 winds down, it’s a good time to take stock of what has been, to say the least, an interesting year in the field of journalism.

Is it time to say “bye-bye” to the traditional newsroom?

Newsrooms right around the world are shrinking, and this is an opportunity for the social journalists out there to start making (or making up) their own versions of the news. Australia is not immune and this week we heard about the loss of 42 journalists’ positions at News Corp Australia as the company tries to retrieve $40 million in ‘savings’, which is a euphemism for putting more money in Rupert’s pocket at the expense of employees and customers.

Things are no better over at Fairfax Media where jobs are being shed faster than CEO Greg Hywood’s few remaining hairs. In the broadcast media, it’s the same sad story. The ABC is bleeding to death and the commercials are down-sizing in proportion to their shrinking ad revenues.

By my quick count, which I admit is unscientific, there has been in excess of 500 jobs in the Australian news industry disappear in 2016, including 120 at Fairfax, 300 at Australian Regional Media, 20 or more at the ABC and now another 50 or so at News. It’s only going to get worse, with Fairfax reportedly looking at shedding another 1900 jobs over the next three years, and job losses at The Australian will be catastrophic once Rupert dies and his children shut down the rabid vanity publication.

Things are not great on the other side of the ideological media fence. The beacon of progressive journalism (in so far as it goes), The Guardian is losing a reported $AU 89.4 million per year globally and is looking to cut more than 20 per cent of its budget annually to rein in costs. This cut translates to 250 jobs across the paper’s global operations. The Guardian is now asking people to become ‘supporters’ because the Scott Trust, which funds it, is expected to burn its £758m investment in less than a decade. When a once-proud journal puts out the begging bowl to support itself, the end is nigh.

The problem, for all of these media giants is that the rate of profit attached to news is declining as advertisers abandon legacy platforms in favour of digital media – the Internet and mobile Apps. IN a capitalist economy, if there is no return on investment, there is no investment. Unprofitable commodities are no longer produced, and journalism is becoming an unsellable commodity. So where does this leave us, the intelligent citizens desperate for solid, accurate news to inform our world view and animate us to change the world before it’s too late?

If we’re not careful, it could leave us drowning in a giant puddle of media poo. This is such a dire consequence that the Pope has felt compelled to warn us about it.

Does the Pope shit in the woods? Probably, and wipes his arse with copies of Il Globo

Does the Pope shit in the woods? Probably, and wipes his arse with copies of Il Globo

Are we in danger of eating our own shit?

When the Pontiff starts comparing the consumption of ‘fake news’ to coprophagy you know we’re in deep shit (pardon to Papal punning).

Pope Francis told the Belgian Catholic weekly Tertio that spreading disinformation was “probably the greatest damage that the media can do” and using communications for this rather than to educate the public amounted to a sin.

Using precise psychological terms, he said scandal-mongering media risked falling prey to coprophilia, or arousal from excrement, and consumers of these media risked coprophagia, or eating excrement.

The imagery is rather revolting, my lips are pursed just writing about it, let alone having the taste in my mouth. What we really need to do, and the Pope is incapable of thinking beyond the toilet bowl as plate metaphor, is ask ourselves ‘Why has it come to this?’

To find the answer to this question, read the rest of this article at Independent Australia.