Dan Rotman, Manager, Riders’ Division, Motorcycling Australia, writes: Re. “OMCGs: the real, lurking Australian terrorist threat” (29 September, item 1). Your story on Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs contains an unsupportable inference that all motorcyclists are somehow involved with or part of a new terrorist threat. By including the words “the annual participant in the annual Toy Run” and “increasingly your accountant or lawyer” your writer slurs more than 300,000 Australians who choose two wheels as their preferred mode of transport. The idea is as stupid as implying that all Australia Muslims (or knitters, or gardeners) possess the same attitudes to terrorism, or three-ply wool or aphids. Motorcyclists refer to those in gangs as “one percenters”, and they use their bikes as part of an outlaw culture. They are not accepted as part of the motorcycle community generally and are rarely seen at non-outlaw motorcycle events. You will no doubt receive emails from motorcyclists enumerating the amounts donated by Annual Toy Runs, and blood donations, and other charitable works performed by motorcyclists, most of whom are pretty good Australians.

Jennifer Killen writes: Generalising is always dangerous. Not all Muslims are terrorists, in fact most are not. Not all Christians are fundamentalist, evangelical extremists, luckily most are not. And not all motorcyclists are drug dealers – most of us are not. I had trusted Crikey to rise above the dogwhistle of News Limited and avoid cheap pandering to suburban prejudices but it seems I was wrong.

Dylan Rowe writes: Re. Outlaw motorcycle gangs. While I respect the integrity of the anonymous contributor who so rightly condemns these thugs, the suggestion that the appropriate response is the invocation of anti-terror laws is absurd. Politicians pass these laws on the basis that they will be used to combat a supposedly new kind of threat, yet the next instant we have coppers wanting to use their shiny new powers to go after goons on bikes and drug dealers who, if I’m not mistaken, have been around for quite some time. I can see no basis for the conflation of bikies and transnational terrorism other than McCarthy-style fearmongering. What do the two have in common? It’s a concern that we now have a government whose only notion of policy-making is to attack yet another liberty. Are we that bereft of ideas?

Chris Davis writes: Wars on terror, wars on drugs, cold wars – why do modern governments need enemies? To make us scared, to encourage us to pay taxes for armies and police forces we may not need, to make us easier to govern? Occasional sacrificial drug couriers help as well. Why is the solution to problems always force and more laws? What about treating the underlying causes for all these wars? OMCGs are surely bad news but like Al Capone they can only flourish in a black market selling prohibited goods. In all other walks of life we are encouraged to trust market forces. Why not try having some government controlled drug competition – that normally puts bad operators straight out of business. Are there any links in the resurgent Christian-moral-right and any funding from criminal enterprises – the more we ban the more scope for their businesses?

Anthea Parry writes: Vivien Kluger (29 September, comments) points out Andrew Smith and I are also going to benefit from people having had kids. Well, der. But since we’ve also done the hard work of gestating them (me, not Andrew, one assumes), birthing them, and raising them to adulthood, I reckon we deserve that benefit. It’s not a matter of not being able to afford kids without a handout – and if she reckons $3000 takes much of a chunk off the cost of raising a kid, she’s dreaming – it’s acknowledgement from society that we’re doing an important job. I assume Vivien is happy to be turned into Soylent Green once she gets to be a burden – either that, or she’s going to pay for absolutely everything out of her own pocket, and not claim back any medicare benefits or concessions for the oldies?

Freya Purnell writes: Re. Vivien Kluger’s comments about “supporting families who can’t afford kids but strangely insist on having them”. By that logic, should only rich people be “allowed” to have children? If, for whatever reason, couples don’t have a lot of money, should we penalise them further by denying them the right to procreate? Regardless of economic considerations, there is actually a biological drive underlying that “strange insistence” on reproducing. Having children is also, for many people, one of the most meaningful things they will do with their lives. If you choose not to have children, fine; but what an extraordinarily selfish point of view, to want to deny other people that opportunity just so it doesn’t inconvenience you.

Greg Bowyer writes: Richard Farmer draws attention (29 September, item 9) to The Australian‘s regular distortion of its own Newspoll findings to put Kim Beazley and the ALP in the worst possible light. But this sort of thing has been going on since 2002, when Chris Mitchell took over as Editor in Chief and began implementing his riding orders from Rupert in the lead-up to the Iraq War. For example, the Oz‘s anti-ALP coverage of the 2004 election campaign was a transparent disgrace. But there is one way for Crikey readers and others looking for balanced journalism to send a message to Rupert’s lapdogs: stop buying the print edition. The worthwhile aspects of the Oz – such as its international pages and occasional opinion piece- can be accessed online; the shabby Liberal neo-con propaganda which dominates the paper can simply be avoided; and a drop in circulation might register somewhere inside the very News Limited.

Russell Dovey writes: It’s a shame that most people have to rely on scientifically illiterate journalists for their information about climate change. It is only because the media instinctively gives the supporters of both sides of any issue equal coverage that there is still a “global warming debate”. I say to all those interested in the truth of the matter: Look at the number of peer-reviewed papers published in reputable scientific journals that show evidence that global warming is happening, that it is caused largely by humanity, and that it means we are in for a rough time. Peer-reviewed papers are the gold standard for scientific research; they are the beating heart of the scientific body. Anyone can pick out dodgy statistics, think they’re a rebel, and write a book about it; any galah with a keyboard can spin plausible-sounding conspiracy theories about a global cabal of greenie scientists attacking the economy; but getting a paper published in a peer-reviewed journal is only possible if you work very hard to exclude any bias in gathering your data. Your experiments are checked independently by a number of other scientists in your field, so any errors will stop your work from being published. Now, look at the number of peer-reviewed papers in reputable journals that show evidence that climate change is not happening, or that it’s not due to human influence. You’ll be able to count the number of the second kind on a snake’s right hand.

Sue Bradford writes: Re. the comment about John Howard’s closet appreciation of opera (29 September, item 16), I think you might just find that it’s Janette who is the fan. I was on the board of Arts on Tour NSW when the Howard Government was elected and I vividly recall one member exclaiming “Oh no – all the arts money will go to the Opera Australia now – Janette loves the opera.”

Stephen Morris writes: After getting very agitated recently by several of Christian Kerr’s articles, due to extreme language and a lack of balanced analysis, I was very pleasantly surprised by three excellent articles by Christian in Friday’s Crikey – no extreme language or unbalanced analysis in sight. I finished the newletter feeling well informed and with my blood pressure normal.

Send your comments, corrections, clarifications and c*ck-ups to [email protected]. Preference will be given to comments that are short and succinct: maximum length is 200 words (we reserve the right to edit comments for length). Please include your full name – we won’t publish comments anonymously unless there is a very good reason.

Peter Fray

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