Eric Beecher’s magazine The Reader last week published Australia’s first Bias-O-Meter and declared that the Herald Sun’s Andrew Bolt was the nation’s most right-wing columnist with a “look at me” Attilla the Hun approach. Read to the bottom for a latest example of Bolt’s inflammatory right-wing writings as alleged by former Greens candidate turned author Iain Lygo and then read Bolt’s strong response at the bottom.

The Reader on bias and the media

The front page of this week’s edition of Eric Beecher’s new magazine The Reader is adorned with a funny looking rainbow with gradations of colour ranging from a deep red on the left through to a bright blue on the right.

It’s the Bias-O-Meter. 

The Reader describes the Meter as, “a highly biased guide to the subjectivity spectrum of the country’s political and social commentators.  From the loony left to the Attila the Hun right, we have nailed several dozen media pundits to their ideological masts.”

To give you a taste of what the Bias-O-Meter has to offer, here are a few examples (in bias order):

True Socialist – Adele Horin (SMH)
True Socialist – Phillip Adams (ABC Radio, The Australian)
Libertarian Left – Mike Carlton (2UE, SMH)
Libertarian Left – Jon Faine (ABC Radio)
Small ‘L’ Liberal – Alan Ramsey (SMH)
Small ‘L’ Liberal – Kerry O’Brien (ABC TV)
Moderate Left – Laurie Oakes (Channel Nine, The Bulletin)
Straight-as-a-die, her only bias is towards truth in political coverage – Michelle Grattan (The Age)
Moderate Right – Ross Gittins (SMH)
Moderate Right – John Laws (2UE)
‘Tory’ Values – Robert Gottliebsen (The Australian)
Arch-Conservative – Alan Jones (2GB)
Red Neck – Steve Price (2UE)
Red Neck – Neil Mitchell (3AW)
Attila the Hun – Andrew Bolt (Herald Sun)

Beecher has appointed himself ‘adjudicator’ for the purpose of this exercise and has given each journo a brief bio describing their leanings as he see it.

Andrew Bolt is “a tick-the-box, hey-look-at-me “commentator” whose rabid outpourings hover between indignation and predictability, usually both”.

Anyone who read Bolt’s Tuesday column on the Redfern riots would surely agree.

A fellow News Ltd journalist has emailed to advise we should ignore Bolt for six months as he seems to get increasingly insane the more people talk about him. Maybe we’ll try a Bolt ban for a few days at least.

Meanwhile, Beecher says Christopher Pearson is “a ponderous largely unreadable right-wing pedant who gives conservatism a bad name.”

And Phillip Adams is, “an unreconstructed leftie of the 1970s mould whose sheer intelligence deflects accusations of ideological brutality”.

Altogether it’s an interesting analysis (which should make Michelle Grattan AO very pleased) in an election year. 

The only major omission which Crikey noticed, (other than Crikey’s all-powerful Hillary Bray) was David Marr.  He may be on leave from the SMH, but as the host of Media Watch he has a lot of clout and is well worth a mention – perhaps somewhere between the Small ‘L’ Liberals and the Libertarian Left?

Iain Lygo on Andrew Bolt

By Iain Lygo
Former Greens candidate and author of News Overboard; The Tabloid Media, Race Politics, and Islam.

The latest column by Andrew Bolt about Keysar Trad and Sheik Hilaly again demonstrates his willingness to grab anything to express his anti-Muslim sentiment.

Sheik Hilaly has been vilified by political leaders and the tabloid press after The Middle East Media
Research Institute released a report about Hilaly’s trip to the region.

This report can be found at MEMRI: The Middle East Media Research Institute

A quick glance at the footnotes in this report clearly indicates that most of Sheik Hilaly’s alleged comments are extremely dated.

Those quotes in Memri’s report about Hilaly’s recent trip to the region offer absolutely no context to the
alleged statements. There are also serious question marks about the independence of MEMRI. 
see: The Guadrian: Selective Memri

Despite amazingly flimsy evidence, the MEMRI report was an excuse for another round of Islam Bashing from Bolt with Sheik Hilaly and Keysar Trad firmly in his sight. 

Bolt tied Keysar Trad to terrorism because he was the “main translator” to the Islamic Youth Movement. Trad translated approximately a dozen articles for the IYM over a 2-3 year period. Not exactly a criminal act.

Do Hilaly and Trad support suicide bombings or a peaceful settlement to the Israeli/Palestine conflict?

From the joint statement below it seems a peaceful resolution is the answer to that question.

Has Sheik Hilaly made offensive comments in the past? Probably yes. Has he made any lately? Well No.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported “It has also emerged that controversial statements on suicide
bombers reported this week were actually made by the sheik (Hilaly) two years ago. The Australian Federal Police said yesterday they would not investigate the remarks.”

At least Bolt managed to blame Labor for the terrible situation we are all in with Hilaly and Trad
threatening the country. Further evidence that he is using Islamaphobia to help the Liberal Party.

Perhaps his next column should be an unconditional apology to Trad and Hilaly.

2 April 2002 – Joint media statement of the religious and lay leadership of the Islamic and Jewish communities in Australia
The Islamic and Jewish communities in Australia are deeply distressed by the recent dramatic escalation of violence in the Middle East and the deaths of dozens of Israelis and Palestinians.
Although our two communities may differ on the basic causes of the conflict between Israel and the
Palestinians and how the conflict might justly be resolved, we do share a commitment to fundamental
moral principles which are common to both our faiths. 

In particular:
1. All people are equal before God. All are entitled to live in freedom and dignity. Jews and Palestinians each have the right to self-determination.  
2. The deliberate killing of innocent civilians for any purpose whatsoever is murder, repugnant to God and to all civilised people.
3. The use of force in self-defence is permissible, provided that civilians are not targeted and the force used is both proportional to the initial attack and necessary to respond to it.
4. The use of violence or threats of violence to achieve political or strategic goals is ultimately doomed to failure.  No lasting peace can be built on such a foundation.  Only direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians can resolve the conflict and such negotiations can only be meaningful in a context where both parties are free of the threat or use of violence and free from coercion, incitement and attempts at dehumanisation.
Islamic and Jewish leaders of New South Wales call upon all world leaders and stress upon all responsible people the necessity of stopping all acts of violence and military actions and to use rational peaceful dialogue to achieve a just peace that will bring safety and security to all the people of the region.  

Islamic and Jewish leaders of New South Wales also call upon all members of their communities and all
other Australians not to allow their personal feelings about events in the Middle East to find _expression in violent behaviour.  This is a time for passions to be cooled, not inflamed.  In a democratic society
everyone is entitled to express their views peacefully and within the law.  But threats or acts of violence
and incitement to hatred and violence are outside the law and must be condemned without qualification. 
Australia is a peaceful society and all its citizens have an obligation to preserve that peace.
This statement has been issued and authorised by:
Rabbi Raymond Apple AM, Chief Minister, The Great Synagogue, Sydney
His Eminence Sh. Taj Aldin Al Hilali, Mufty of Australia
Stephen Rothman Sc, President, NSW Jewish Board of Deputies
Keysar Trad, Vice President, Lebanese Muslims Association

Andrew Bolt hits back at Beecher and Iain Lygo 

By Andrew Bolt
Senior Herald Sun columnist

How appropriate that on the day of another slaughter of Jewish bus passengers by an Islamic terrorist that Iain Lygo should reprimand me for condemning Islamic extremists.


Sadly, his effort this time to paint me as Islamophobic is as error-ridden and baseless as his last, and I wonder why you choose to believe a word this Greens candidate says.


Lygo claims that I have attributed to Sheik Hilaly appalling remarks that he made not last week, but two years ago.


False again. It is true that some newspapers and the MEMRI monitoring group wrongly dated some remarks Hilaly made when they went back into the files, but I was aware of this mistake and restricted my reporting to those remarks which he was reported to have made on his most recent visit.


That Hilaly’s praise of the terrorist group Hezbollah was made only recently should have been obvious to even a Lygo, had he listened to Trad’s rationalisation of it on radio or bothered to read the full Hilaly quote, printed in several newspapers.


“Most of the Australian people do not support the policy of the Australian Government, which has placed Hezbollah on the terror list out of submission to the US, and the Australian Prime Minister will pay the price for this at the next election.” 


How could Hilaly have said that two years ago, when it was only last year that Hezbollah was proscribed?


Lygo also claims there’s no “crime’ in Trad having translated for the Islamic Youth Movement.


I never said there was. But any reader can look up the group’s website for themselves to get a measure of that pack of individuals, who include people linked to terrorists groups overseas. I recommend the several fawning interviews the IYM itself did with some of the world’s worst terrorist leaders and mass murderers, and note the repeated appeals for jihad. If this kind of hate-preaching material is fine by Lygo then he is an even bigger idiot than I thought.


I note also Lygo’s dark warnings about MEMRI and its connections. Go on, Iain, say it out loud: It’s JEWISH. And we know what the Left thinks of Jews now, don’t we?


I might also point out to Lygo what an insult it is to Muslims for him to continually equate the condemnation of terrorists and their apologists with a hatred of Islam.  I discussed this once at a dinner held for me by all Victoria’s main Turkish Muslim groups to formally honour my defence of Turkish Cypriots, and, of course, the Muslim guests there understood this as completely as Lygo completely does not. But then they know that the greatest victims of Islamic terrorism as in fact other Muslims.


As for Eric Beecher’s criticism of me, I must say that his understanding of my politics – humanist, rationalist, pro-freedom and anti-totalitarian, with a due but wary respect for the role of tradition and religion - betrays all the political acumen of his much derided Andrew Olle lecture. Non-Left for him MUST mean Right – a common errror of the pedestrian thinker. After all, Beecher knows that if his shoe isn’t on his left foot, there’s only one other foot it could be on.


True, Beecher has a knack for publishing suburban giveaways, so give him credit and some millions for that, but his own attempts to publish ostensibly “high brow” magazines with the kind of post-Whitlamist political pundtrity he favours have not only been astonishingly banal, but - consequentially – have failed to find much of an audience. I tried to point out these failings once to him in a kind and helpful email, but it seems I’ve succeeded only in enraging the man who actually gave me my start in oped writing, years ago when he was a certain something in real journalism.