Where’s #FreeSpeech Bill when we need him?

February 13, 2017

The Australian’s highly-phobic cartoonist Bill Leak usually has plenty to say about freedom of speech and freedom of expression. He’s always in the frontline and mounting the Holt Street barricades whenever there’s a call to arms over some egregious complaint against his master’s voice.

You can’t silence Bleak when there’s gay Nazis to be mown down, or when a politically-correct snowflake “victim” demands equal rights, or a Muslim family claims institutional racism.

“Certainly a BLeak view”. Screenshot and artwork by @ethicalmartini

Therefore, I find it strange that he’s been eerily silent recently about the plight of fellow cartoonists who are feeling the sting of an unjust law.

The Cartoonist Rights Network International (@CRNetint on Twitter) is currently featuring three incarcerated cartoonists on its homepage:

Zunar (Image courtesy of CRNI)

(1) Zunar, a Malaysian cartoonist currently challenging state-sponsored censorship on multiple fronts. He is subject to a travel ban, is facing multiple charges of sedition, and suffers continual harassment by police and supporters of the government.

Drawing of Musa Kart from an exhibition in his honour (Used with permission)

(2) Turkish political cartoonist and Courage in Editorial Cartoon Award winner Musa Kart, who has spent over 100 days in custody after he and several colleagues from Cumhuriyet newspaper were arrested and charged with ‘crimes on behalf of the Fethullahist Terror Organisation and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)‘.

(3) The winner of the 2016 Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award Eaten Fish, who is currently held in an Australian refugee rendition camp in Papua New Guinea and who has been on a hunger strike for over 10 days.

Cartoon by Glen Le Lievre in support of Eaten Fish (Used with permission of artist)

Dave Pope is one of many international cartoonists who has drawn a powerful cartoon in support of Musa Kart as part of the CRNI’s campaign to have all three cartoonists released.

(Cartoon used with the permission of artist, David Pope)

Mr Eaten Fish is dying on Manus Island

The dire situation of Eaten Fish is yet another Manus Island horror story.

Eaten is close to death. He has been on a hunger strike because the authorities on Manus Island (which is part of Papua New Guinea) refuse to deal with his serious allegations of sexual and physical assault. He weighs only 48 kilos. The guards have told him he is to be returned to the compound where he is unsafe.

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Is Reuters right: Covering Trump is like covering Third World dictators

February 9, 2017

The Reuters news agency says covering Washington DC is now on a par with reporting from dictatorships. Is this the right thing for journalists? Doc Martin reviews the advice being given to reporters facing Donald Trump’s shock doctrine tactics.

IT DIDN’T take long. About ten days. But now it is very clear that the White House is at war with large sections of the American – and, indeed, the global – news media.

Trump incessantly tweets about the “failing” New York Times, this week suggesting it should be sold and its print edition shut down. The White House is also refusing to send Trump “surrogates” to CNN talk shows as a way of bullying the organisation. This tactic seems to be working, CNN has dropped its initial decision not to broadcast Sean Spicer’s press briefings live.

This is a war the news media knew was coming. It’s not like Trump kept his hatred of the New York Times, The Washington Post and CNN secret. He’s been tweeting his bile and outright lies about the media for months now.

Trump’s cultivated hostility to certain sections of the news media – he is very benevolent towards the pro-Trump media – is causing conniptions among executives and editors. It is prompting deep soul-searching and even causing some outlets to reconsider their whole Washington DC news coverage.

Globally-respected journalism academic, Jay Rosen, has told IA that the White House approach to controlling press briefings is

“… as bad as I thought it would be, with ‘the media’ getting blamed for what the White House or Trump screwed up.”

 

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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.

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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.

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