Melanie Farris writes: Re. “Rundle: Assange arrest warrant … pundits condemn ‘potential targets’ cable … Swiss bank accounts frozen … Gillard in libel suit?” (yesterday, item 1). Guy’s piece yesterday, in particular the review of the “vital targets list” cable, smacks of the school-boy, thoughtless journalism that we love criticising “News” for.

“It’s obviously some bored diplomat pulling it all together, desperate to find a few targets. The notion that this will increase the risk of terror is nonsensical. Smart terrorists can find a target using publicly available documents; dumb terrorists are opportunistic and try to blow up buses and trains.”

Really? Compare Guy’s thoughtful and incisive analysis with what the cable itself actually says:

“… a comprehensive inventory of CI/KR that are located outside U.S. borders and whose loss could critically impact the public health, economic security, and/or national and homeland security of the United States.”

If it is true that diplomats conjure up a non-sensical lists of infrastructure “vital to the security of the United States” out of boredom, then we really are all in the s–t. Not to mention that both the “smart” and “dumb” terrorists can now both opportunistically blow up what they like using these very “publicly available documents”.

Guy states that “it barely featured in the official coverage from The Guardian and other outlets at all”. Perhaps The Guardian had concerns about the security implications of a major story? Who knows, but regardless it doesn’t mean that it’s not news that should be reported in serious way. Given the criticism of media in general about their coverage of this issue, I find this stance a bit hypocritical. (And it was reported in The Independent, The Mail, The Times, The Telegraph and on the BBC who linked directly to the cables. )

I’m actually a bit worried for Guy’s safety. Are you sure it was him who submitted the piece? It’s so different to the other excellent reportage he has done on this issue.

Ken Lambert writes: It is fun to see Guy Rundle salivating at the latest revelations from Mr Assange. Guy always likes stuff which makes the Western world and the USA look silly, though no doubt he would still prefer to live here.

But the leaks are sounding slightly more preposterous each day. Rattle-snake anti-venom factories in Victoria? Indeed the very place to counter the old rattlesnake — Victoria Australia. Perhaps a place which makes anti-nerve agent would be more plausible — safely far and remote from the USA. But who knows if all these leaks are the real thing or perhaps clever fakes to undermine the credibility of the WikiLeaker?

Surely the best and brightest of our great and powerful ally have worked out a way to discredit and deflower our little Aussie leaker. Setting him up with a rape case seems a bit obvious — but the cool Swedes seem to take it seriously. Maybe the increasingly absurd revelations will do the unintended job of making real and incompetent diplomacy look like clever fakes without our diplomats needing to do anything at all except shut up.

Joe Boswell writes: Concerning WikiLeaks, John Craig (yesterday, comments) wrote “… the information disclosed has the potential to disrupt the diplomatic processes that help humanity to avoid conflicts…”

From this, he concludes that, in the public interest, the truth of what is said between nations must be concealed. (Never mind that all the ‘secret’ cables were available to a huge number of US personnel, and it beggars belief that the content of the cables was not known to every foreign power with the slightest interest.)

If such secrecy is necessary, the public cannot be told enough to make any sensible decision when engaged in what passes for the democratic process; the role of the public is presumably passive acquiescence and blind obedience. One can also wonder where is the evidence of avoided conflicts? Is this not the same diplomatic process that took the Coalition of the Willing into Iraq?

The suggestion it is “humanity” that is engaged in avoiding conflict by this means is particularly rich. A.J.P. Taylor was very good on this point in his Ford lectures, where he pointed out that rather than being the work of humanity, or a country, or some such grand thing, “the foreign policy of a country is made by few experts and a few less expert politicians…”

Either the makers of foreign policy are democratically accountable and we must be told what they are doing, or we may reasonably wonder why it is we are supposed to vote.

Death by Rattlesnake:

Niall Clugston writes: Re. “‘Critical infrastructure’ = hysterical reaction” (yesterday, item 2). As a past member of a “critical infrastructure committee”, can Bernard Keane please clarify one point?

What sort of wacky world do today’s bureaucrats inhabit where a manufacturer of rattlesnake antivenin is included in a list of critical infrastructure as “anodyne report filler” compiled with a “tick-and-flick” attitude?  What makes it top of mind?

Is it just that Mayne Pharmaceuticals sponsors a lot of cocktail evenings at the US Embassy?


Martin C. Jones writes: Re. “Banks’ job a simple one … but they do it poorly” (yesterday, item 22). Adam Schwab’s argument that banks’ (over)eagerness to lend money equates to too much competition conflates breadth and depth of competition: lending money to clients who arguably shouldn’t get it is, perhaps, competition between banks to see who can get the greater profits, but not competition in the classical sense of attempting to attract the same customers via the price or quality of your product. Keane et al.’s welcoming of greater (depth of) competition, which Schwab chides, is thus perfectly compatible with curtailing the breadth of banking activities, which he supports.

However, getting a “fifth pillar” of banking going to the extent that it could compete with the big four on such media-friendly things as ATM and exit fees (depth of competition) would in no way address the more important problem of banks dealing in areas too risky for a Government that’s underwriting them to reasonably conscience (unless that fifth pillar also takes on some of the systemic tasks, which appears far off). I think Schwab and both homophonic Keanes could agree on that.


Kim Lockwood writes: Re. “Beecher: Fairfax is sinking; a new captain alone won’t save it” (yesterday, item 5). Eric Beecher’s instructive piece on Fairfax included an implied question — “quality journalism (whatever that means)” — but as we all know, memories are short.

In 2008 Eric wrote in Crikey: “Fairfax is no longer a quality journalism company, it is a local newspaper/printing/online dating/internet trading ads company.”

From the Andrew Olle lecture in 2000: “I would be exaggerating if I said that this makes quality journalism as dependent for its survival as the Smith Family or the Red Cross, but making that exaggeration only highlights how fragile mainstream journalism is in Australia.”

And so on.

Eric seems to have known what it meant.