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Sep 14, 2011

The Oz playing the Manne: why it's a barracker and a bully

The Australian is launching a major response to Robert Manne's Quarterly Essay, and the blurbs tell us that there will be more to come on Saturday, with the usual suspects lining up to respond.


Robert Manne’s Quarterly Essay on the impact of The Australian has been out for more than a week now. It was much anticipated, yet has hardly been mentioned in the mainstream media.

This is perhaps partly because the publishers kept it under close wraps until the release date, and reading the densely argued 25,000 words takes time.

But today, with this article by Paul Kelly the inevitable begins: The Australian is launching a major response to Manne, and the blurbs tell us that there will be more to come on Saturday, with the usual suspects lining up to respond on the reporting of climate change (Graham Llloyd), economics (Michael Stutchbury), indigenous Australia (Chris Mitchell), foreign affairs (Greg Sheridan) and media (Chris Kenny).

So what about Manne’s essay, and what about The Australian’s defence so far? It is hard for those of us who follow media closely to judge Manne’s impact on public perceptions, because there is little in his essay that we have not already been watching and thinking about. It contains no news, but instead detailed analysis.

In some ways his essay is, as all publications about media must be,  already out of date. In recent weeks — since editor Paul Whittaker moved from The Australian to The Daily Telegraph — there has been a notable shift. The Australian is less virulent, more balanced, while The Daily Telegraph has gone feral.

In recent times we have seen the publication of a major profile of The Australian’s editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell, and Manne’s essay, all in attempts to explain the weird beast that is The Australian. Perhaps more energy should have been spent on Whittaker.

More likely, more energy should be spent on issues of corporate culture than on the individuals who make their way in that culture.

In the opening fusillade of The Australian’s response, Kelly miscasts most of Manne’s argument about the way the paper has reported climate change. Manne does not argue for shutting down debate so much as accuse the paper, convincingly, I think, of intellectual confusion, while also being unremittingly hostile to those calling for urgent action.

Kelly  claims that the paper’s coverage of Larissa Behrendt’s slur against Bess Price was newsworthy, and that Manne is wrong to suggest it did not deserve coverage.

I come down in the middle on this one. Would I have reported Behrendt’s Tweet? Yes. It was undoubtedly newsworthy, given the political context.

But I also think The Australian’s coverage went way over the top in subsequent days, becoming an unjustified, even frenzied, attack on an individual. Manne is convincing in identifying inaccuracies and unfairness in the way this was done. As is so often the case, The Australian was sharp on the news, but wrecked its credibility by overplaying its hand.

Manne analyses the way in which The Australian elevated Keith Windschuttle’s book The Fabrication of Aboriginal History to a major national debate. Kelly counters that Manne’s attack amounts to an attempt to shut down views with which he disagrees.

But Kelly does not respond to the central charge, which is that the scholarship on which Windschuttle’s book was based was too flimsy to justify the notice that it was paid and the reams of newsprint spent.  The Australian succeeded in elevating Windschuttle, a ratbag if ever there was one, to an undeserved place in the national conversation.

It is worth quoting the blogger and economist John Quiggin on this. He pointed out in this post in 2009 that we are still waiting for the promised further volumes of Windschuttle’s work, which supposedly will undermine the well-documented history of massacres in Queensland and WA.

“When Volume 1 came out back in 2002, Windschuttle promised further volumes on an annual schedule, covering Queensland and WA. Since Queensland in particular was the focus of Henry Reynolds’ main work, and since the evidence of numerous massacres seems incontrovertible, this promised volume was central to Windschuttle’s claims of fabrication. The promise was repeated year after year, but no Volume 2 ever appeared, and the ‘research’ supposedly already undertaken has stayed out of sight … Then in February 2008, Windschuttle published extracts from a Volume 2, promised for publication ‘later this year’, but now on a totally different topic, that of the Stolen Generation … The real hoax victims here have been those on the political right, who’ve repeatedly swallowed Windschuttle’s promises to refute well-established facts about Australian history.”

Since then Windshcuttle has published his book on the Stolen Generations, now listed as Volume 3 in the series, with Volumes 2 and 4 promised “later”. Still waiting.

Any fair-minded observer, looking back at all that has been published and said in this debate, can only wonder that Windschuttle’s work was given so much attention. Certainly, he identified some sloppiness and errors by some historians. But that is about the size of it.

Manne’s most powerful accusation against The Australian is lack of intellectual honesty.

The problem is not that The Australian published views with which Manne disagrees, but rather that it spends so much of its campaigning energy on straw. The newspaper’s self image is of rigorous scrutiny of the powerful. Yet its approach is inconsistent.  There are favoured arguments, and favoured individuals, and there are those who will never gain anything more than attacks and scorn. There are arguments and views that gain uncritical acceptance, and others that are only ridiculed. The paper is not an even-handed scrutineer, but rather a barracker and, sometimes, a bully.

It will be interesting to read Greg Sheridan’s response to Manne’s analysis of his work, which includes that author’s failure to admit error, the almost laughable response to the revelation that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, and the failure of the paper to ever admit error in its predictions and analysis on the Iraq war, even though errors were clearly present.

Then there are the parts of Manne’s essay that Kelly does not respond to this morning.

Kelly says nothing, for example, about Mitchell’s threat to sue journalism academic Julie Posetti over a Tweet, nor about the other virulent and over-the-top attacks on the paper’s perceived enemies.

All this in the context of the still amorphous media inquiry announced by the government, with terms of reference that are still being decided. Although Communications Minister Stephen Conroy apparently insists the inquiry won’t be particularly aimed at News Limited, that hasn’t stopped the Herald Sun and Andrew Bolt today alleging the whole thing is an attack on freedom of speech.

One of the things I think Manne gets right in his essay is his observation that this sense of vulnerability, of being the bullied boy in the sandpit, is not a put on by News Limited people. They really feel that way. Inconceivable, even ridiculous, as it may seem to outsiders, such is the mentality within the mighty company that it imagines itself as a victim of bullying, even as it bullies.

Can companies have personality disorders? If News Limited has one, it is narcissism. The narcissist sees himself as the centre of the world. He cannot enter into the reality of others. And while the ego is enormous and overweening, it is in truth so vulnerable that it can tolerate no insult, and no attack. Every element of negativity is a stab to the heart, and must be countered with virulent attack.

Manne knows this. And so he must also have known what was coming. And that makes him a brave man.

Full disclosure: The Australian has said some pretty nasty things about me, including inaccuracies. By and large, I adopt a heat and kitchens principle on this. Correct the errors. Argue your corner. Wear the rest.

But I also accept that a bully with a vulnerable ego wandering the public debate is a real disincentive to many who might otherwise make a valuable contribution. As one author said to me: “Why would I go there? It is like arguing with a drunk in the pub. They never listen. They never really engage.”

I don’t agree with every part of Manne’s analysis. It is no bad thing that a newspaper publishes views with which I disagree. I have no problem with sharpness, or even campaigning, in a newspaper. Some of the things Manne thinks should not have been published, I have no problem with.

Yet it is also true that The Australian is blind to its own faults, and has been intellectually dishonest. Again and again, it overplays its hand. It undermines its serious contribution to public debate by its bullying demeanour, its unbalanced attacks, its failures of judgment and its failure to admit error. Manne pings this.

I also think that The Australian’s influence can be overplayed. Those who watch it closely, which includes most of the political class, now discount its reporting and its editorialising. As the best reporters on its staff acknowledge, The Australian’s faults undermine its presence far more effectively than its critics.


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56 thoughts on “The Oz playing the Manne: why it’s a barracker and a bully

  1. Stevo the Working Twistie

    When people who have a genuine contribution to make are afraid to speak up because they know how they will be dealt with in the Murdoch press, then we have a problem. Ask Cate Blanchett if she’ll think twice about speaking out on something she believes in. Or better still, ask Dick Smith, who has admitted that concern for how he will be attacked by Limited News has kept him quiet on climate issues. That’s where the Oz’s true influence lies.

  2. wayne robinson

    I have just finished reading Robert Manne’s essay, and I agree with every word he writes.

    I used to subscribe to the ‘Australian’ until I was revolted by one of Henry Ergas’ diatribes earlier this year, I think it was the one on ‘discounting’ the future. I wrote a comment for the Australian’s website disputing Henry Ergas’ claims, that is, it’s better not to spend $1 billion dollars avoiding climate change now, it’s better to put it into government bonds so that in 70 years time you’re have vastly more money to adapt, and the Australian refused of course to publish it.

    The Australian is extremely selective in the comments it publishes. No comment, no matter how illiterate, devoid of logic or irrelevant to the topic of the article, won’t be published if it fits the paper’s agenda.

    The ‘cut and paste’ column is even worse, with its attacks on people such as Tim Flannery using selective extracts ( he got attacked twice in this manner I’m aware of).

    This year I received a letter asking me if I’ve ‘woken up to the Australian this morning’. I regret that I didn’t return it to the Australian with a note informing them that I had woken up to the Australian months ago, instead of throwing it in the rubbish bin.

  3. Michael James

    Yet its approach is inconsistent. There are favoured arguments, and favoured individuals, and there are those who will never gain anything more than attacks and scorn. There are arguments and views that gain uncritical acceptance, and others that are only ridiculed. The paper is not an even-handed scrutineer, but rather a barracker and, sometimes, a bully.


    Hey Crikey, nice to see you are applying a mirror to yourself. You have described yourself to a T.

    You attack the Australian for a partisan viewpoint, while being at least as guilty. At least the Australian provides space for dissenting views from columnists and opinion writers, something conspicuously lacking from your coverage of pretty much anything.

    Tamas Calderwood comes to mind as the closest thing to a dissenting voice to regularly appear on Crikey, mostly it seems to give your partisan commenter’s an opportunity to attack his views.

  4. TormentedbytheDs

    Typical of the OZ that Kelly’s article does not allow comments. Gutless.

  5. drmick

    Spot on Margaret

    The term Bully perfectly describes what they do and backs up Manne’s considered opinion as well.
    They abuse a hard earned reputation with pettiness and defensiveness and ruin credibility firing off unchecked incorrect rubbish. Then, they don’t have the balls to say they were wrong or sorry.
    Bring on the “attack on freedom of speech”. Maybe we can get integrity, honest and accuracy back and force them to act nice.

  6. rubiginosa

    Saturday should be good. I can save at least two of them the trouble.

    Graham Lloyd: You may agree or disagree, but as Environment Editor, let me talk politics.

    Chris Kenny: You may agree or disagree, but Hicks, Cameron, al-ABC, inner-city leftards, QED.

  7. Troy C

    The Oz is an essential counterbalance to the left-wing agendas run by the ABC and Fairfax. If the Oz writes something “nasty” about you, then sue them. Otherwise, it’s called a free press. Grow a thick skin. Get over it.

  8. jonah Stiffhausen

    Tried reading Manne’s article but fell asleep on page 2. Which was about as far as I got with this article.
    I think for the chattering classes, The Oz’s greatest fault is that it appears sceptical of schemes of political improvement, bless its little heart.

  9. Son of foro

    I like The Australian now, especially the letters page, it stops me from having to buy the Herald Sun.

  10. jonah Stiffhausen

    Not sure if the Herald Sun qualifies as a newspaper. A comic perhaps?

  11. michael r james

    So, my dear namesake (MJ at 1.57 pm) as usual you get everything arse-backwards. You confuse arguing a case based on the facts, versus taking an ideological position then trying to get the facts to fit, strangling the facts to get it to fit (Shanahan et al) or just making them up. I suspect (but do not know) that you might get a sharpish reaction from Bernard Keane if you called him a lefty latte sipper to his face. Witness his reasoned article on the Malaysian asylum seeker policy just this week (true I am biased because I have written similar in comments)–based on the careful rigorous analysis using facts (his tables on UNHCR data) and political interpretation. (And as it happens, Abbott is so far off kilter on this issue, even Paul Kelly, van Onselen and incredibly, Shanahan, have made similar interpretations.)

    Even, or especially, an avowed lefty like Rundle makes his case through careful argument, something one does not see in the most prominent Oz “journos”. Or, if modesty allows, even myself, an avowed progressive and occasional Crikey contributor, who recently argued in favour of continued cattle sales to Indonesia–hardly a reflex response of a blind “leftard”? It’s called evidence-based analysis, something one hardly sees in the Oz (except buried articles by Mega or Steketee). The fact that most people, such as yourself, cannot really tell the difference between ideological diatribes and evidence-based journalism makes it even more important or damaging what the Oz does. People like you (and TroyC, Stiffhausen, Blake et al) are the reason why News Ltd wield such power and why a maximum share of media must be mandated by law–no other democracy has anything remotely close to the 70% newspaper dominance Murdoch has, or laws that would allow it. In Australia (pay attention Troy C) a free press is only free to those who own it.

    And then about Calderwood! You seem deluded that his repetitive rants encompass any “facts” as known by any scientist. Crikey are simply being exploitative for his entertainment value.

    It is true that while once Crikey used to run more articles by the paid-for-comment brigade (IPA, CIS et al) but it has tapered off. The reason is arguable but I think it is because in most cases it is the poor quality of the “journalism” which resembles what I first mentioned–making the facts fit their ideology, often very poorly. Or even worse than poorly–witness Brendan O’Neill a far-rightist bully masquerading (poorly) as a lefty. And where does O’Neill publish now? The Oz! Say no more.

  12. heavylambs

    TroyC,The Oz is “essential counterbalance to the left-wing agenda run by the ABC and Fairfax”? Groan…regardless of left/rightness,I’d rather see some CONTENT from all of them.

    The Oz’s failure to cover the climate issue with any depth while promoting shill opinion is not a just matter of partisanship,it’s also a measure of their incompetence.

    They will now dedicate their heavyweight front-row to monstering Manne,as they simply can’t help themselves. Absolutely ‘essential’ work…

  13. geomac

    The HeraldSun is a sports and comic/entertainment publication. Its strength lies in the racing guide and footy articles not editorials or opinion pieces. What its good at it does very well and the rest is just an eye grabbing headline and a short article. Even the cryptic crossword is dumbed down.

  14. Policeman MacCruiskeen

    Margaret, your characterisation of The Australian as a company exhibiting the behaviour of a ‘narcissistic bully’ is excellent. Stevo The Working Twistie also gets it dead right when he states that the silencing effect on informed opinion is the major concern because this is exactly how narcissistic bullies operate – they cause such fear of distortion and misrepresentation that the preferred option becomes silence no matter how rational or well informed other’s views. The primary purpose of the narcissist is to enrol all others in their delusional framework which is designed to reassure the narcissist that they actually exist; anything that reflects poorly on the narcissist, ie, a reality based opinion, initiates infantile rage as a response. Contrary views are intolerable because they are tantamount to annihilation of a carefully constructed image of a self that is mere camouflage for the absence of a human self. I’d say that the Australian’s writers, especially Sheridan, will have real trouble containing their anger over Manne’s critique.

  15. tinman_au

    Actually Michael, I find Crikey to be (most times) much more balanced than The Australian ever is. Even articles where I may not agree with the authors (Crikey) opinion are reported in a way that I can get both sides of the story, thus they give me the information I need to agree or disagree. I cannot say that about The Oz…to bastardise an old saying “In the land of news, the King is one-eyed”. I stopped subscribing to it when the IT section started catching the bug the rest of it has (that of the reporter thinking their opinion IS the news…).

    As to Crikey being a bully, if you flipped it around and Tamas was a “warmist”, do you really think the Oz would allow him to post as he does here? Personally, I doubt it very much. Heck, Crikey even publishes his “letters” when he sends them in…

  16. anthony tan

    Now is the time to remind all those people who, just a year ago, were promoting Murdoch – and Mitchell’s Australian – as “the future of Australian journalism”.

  17. jonah Stiffhausen

    Unfortunately Manne, like so many academics, is always about three lengths off the pace.
    History will indeed reveal their was a stolen generation but it wasn’t the one Manne describes.
    Rather it all began with the implementation – without any public debate – of bureaucratic sham chambers known as “family courts”, where the State suddenly claimed the right to abscond with the children of otherwise legally unimpeachable individuals.
    Stephen Baskerville is well worth a read on this topic.

  18. michaelwholohan1

    The political class is not its target audience, & I think they read it because it is an instrument of influence. The insiders reference the Oz. in reporting & assist the message getting to it’s real target; all those looking for a 10point headline they can latch on to.

    Margaret, I think this is a fine piece.I’ve not read Manne’s essay, I don’t need the analysis to confirm the obvious, you don’t need the weather manto tell you it’s raining……………………Yes intellectual dishonesty is the biggest problem, but one of many

  19. jonah Stiffhausen

    The tag “the future of Aus journalism” is very funny.
    One place we’ll never hear it emanating from unfortunately is the Fairfax rags, who if rumour is correct, are not long for this world.

  20. quinch

    I like the Australian – I can read the half dozen worthwhile articles from the unfortunately short list of worthwhile reporters.

    The rest makes great papier mache – and because of all the hot air is quick drying!

  21. shepherdmarilyn

    Even today the new assistant editor M Gunn is arguing that the editorial line of “illegal boat people” and advocating breaking the law with pushing back refugees is correct even after the High court has ruled it is illegal.

    They are shameless cowards.

  22. Clive Hamilton

    In his response to Robert Manne, Paul Kelly is seething with rage. I think this is because Manne sees through Kelly’s pretence of being above the grubby politicking and character assassination of the Australian, and counts him as one of Mitchell’s more obsequious employees.

  23. Oscar Jones

    Good grief – if Troy C believes the ABC and Fairfax are ‘left wing’ or have an ‘agenda’ it shows how far to the right everything has swung.

    The saddest thing for me with Oz bullying-and that is what it is and as someone above points out, the attacks upon Cate Blanchett is a perfect example, is that the newspaper has served us well in the past. Their efforts in uncovering the Dr Haneef debacle was brave and superb.

    Surprisingly, in my own mini polls of friends and work mates that I am fond of , I am finding that many people-typical Australian readers in the past, have not only given up buying the paper but now avoid the website as well.

    That is bad news for News Corp and the Oz should mend it’s ways asap. We need it.

  24. JamesG

    The worst thing Murdoch has done is to take a number of papers, all great, or at least good, in their own way, and turn them into dross. That’s his true crime.

  25. shepherdmarilyn

    And last week another example of shocking waste was officially opened in Angaston. A state of the art junior primary school with landscaped grounds, massive rain water tank, newly surfaced sports courts and a new shelter shed.

    It has an art room, interactive white board and every advantage possible for years reception to 3.

    Yet the Australian has run the most vicious and empty campaign against these buildings.

    I watched this one being built, in 40 years time it will still be a great set of rooms.

  26. John Newton

    So far nobody – none of the letters, Simons, Kelly (especially Kelly) has mentioned the truly appalling Albrechtsen’s insertion of the words ‘white’ and ‘Muslim’ in a piece by Jean-Jacues Rassial (QE page 28) to render it racist. Surely for this alone, she should have been sacked and hauled before a court. I’m not a lawyer (thank the Lord) but I seem to remember there is a law against inciting racism?

    For those who have not read either the column or the essay, the phrase besmirched (or whatever the opposite of bowdlerised is) by Albrechtsen was ‘gang rape had become an initiation rite for male adolescents in city suburbs.’

  27. Kevin Mulcahy

    I never for a moment thought I would lose faith in Paul Kelly. Despite the agendas going on around him, he played it down the middle. Even in June 2010 when the first 14 stories on the first 4 pages of The Australian were anti-Rudd stories, Kelly cut through the agenda; with a known liberal player in his Chief in Chris Mitchell, he played it as he saw it and got away with it; even when The Australian’s coverage on the big stories blurred the line between reporting and opinion, Kelly did not get distracted by bias, he reported it as he saw it. Until this one article. Shame Paul Kelly. Today’s article in The Australian is not you. Time to retire with your reputation in tact.

  28. Tony Kevin

    ‘An excellent piece by Margaret Simons. Now i really must read Robert Manne ‘s essay.

    Margaret asks ( rhetorically?) – can an instution be a narcissist and a bully who feels bullied by others, in the way that a person can? Absolutely yes. The Oz won’t like the comparison, but the Nazi Government in Germany 1933-1945 was a bullying government that felt bullied by others, and was highly nascissistic. Evern some democratic governments – eg the Bush and Blair governments -shoewed such pathologies at times. Think of their persecution of Iraq War truth tellers. There is no reason why a major newspaper should not grow such pathologies within its culture.

  29. Bellistner

    geomac said:

    The HeraldSun is a sports and comic/entertainment publication.

    Add to that “escort advertising service”.
    I read a Hun a few months back when some random left on in the staffroom. The impression I got, apart from the editorials: sports, prostitution, and a few comics.

  30. klewso

    “I like The Oz – it can absorb so much before falling apart, and it’s gentle on the buttocks.”

  31. jonah Stiffhausen

    Thought Kelly’s article was hard to argue with. It is newspaper’s – and journalists’ for that matter – role to oppose governments, whoever they are. Expecting them to become cheerleaders for party is fatuous, and dangerous.
    The Australian is the only media outlet in the country to call into question the great global warming hoax.
    As for Kelly’s credentials, he’s been a ALP hack for years. He was married to a former minister for god’s sake, so if he was alarmed by Rudd and Gillard’s reign, then enough said

  32. wayne robinson

    Damn you, Klewso, you owe me a new iPad. I was drinking a cup of coffee when I read your comment.

    From experience, the ink in the Australian runs too much, although it makes the Russian term for Black Hole even more appropriate.

  33. jonah Stiffhausen

    “In his response to Robert Manne, Paul Kelly is seething with rage. I think this is because Manne sees through Kelly’s pretence of being above the grubby politicking and character assassination of the Australian, and counts him as one of Mitchell’s more obsequious employees.”

    Clive old fella,
    change the words Manne to Mitchell/any Aust hack and Kelly to Hamilton and politicking to global warming and I couldn’t have put it better myself!
    Read a good book the other day by one Brian Sussman called Climategate : a veteran meteorologist exposes the global warming scam.
    They’re on to you I’m afraid.

  34. TheTruthHurts

    If you don’t like the Oz, don’t buy it/read it.

    The lefties stupidity with this that somehow we need to reign in the The Australian because it doesn’t say what you like is the height of hypocrisy.

    I’ve got an idea for the lefties…. make your own newspaper. Oh thats right you already do it’s called the Green Left Weekly and it’s got a readership of about a telephone booths worth.

  35. TheTruthHurts

    [“The Oz’s failure to cover the climate issue with any depth while promoting shill opinion is not a just matter of partisanship,it’s also a measure of their incompetence.”]

    Well if you don’t like it, DON’T BUY IT.

    Welcome to a Capitalist Democracy, where only lefties try and tell you what you can and can’t read.

  36. William Fettes

    That advice would have some meaning if the Oz was run as a profitable newspaper, and was, therefore, accountable through it’s subscriptions, and advertising revenue. But unfortunately for your argument, it isn’t. The Oz is run at a loss because Rupert has a parochial interest in it as the founder, and he operate it because it serves to amplify his political worldviews and provide cover for business interests. Accordingly, that means the paper is not fulfilling a proper market purpose, and any argument based on individual boycotts is incoherent. Nobody here owes Rupert’s personal indulgences a special pass or deference.

  37. TheTruthHurts

    Well if no one read it, he wouldn’t print it at all.

    Lefties just can’t handle views that don’t match their own. When this happens the left do what they normally do and try and shut down debate.

    No one is forced to read the Australian. No one is forced to buy the Australian. No one is forced to believe their views.

    The left have this fascist view of the world that only their views matter. The left think anyone with a differing view is stupid, ignorant or racist and needs to be silenced.

    Thankfully in this country leftists are far and few in between which means most times they are ignored as they should be. We all get exact 1 Vote down at the polling booths and that really sh!ts the left.

  38. westral

    The Australian is my favorite paper, it’s just the right size to line the bottom of my parrot’s cage.

  39. Sancho

    It would be a shame if this comment thread was trolled into an interminable climate change argument, so have a quiet chuckle that Jonah Stiffhausen just recommended an author who believes that Noah’s ark has been found in Turkey and Barack Obama is the antichrist, and move on.

  40. Frank Campbell

    “There are favoured arguments, and favoured individuals, and there are those who will never gain anything more than attacks and scorn.”

    True. But also true of Crikey.

    You never answered the question of heresy, Margaret. You know to which heresy I refer…

    The Australian is indeed often a febrile clique of narky, self-righteous tub-thumpers; but so is Crikey- the difference is that Crikey is so small that punitive propagandists are mostly drop-ins. Think Savonarola Hamilton. Chapman.

  41. Frank Campbell

    Robert Manne has two settings. When in forensic mode, he matters (eg. he was the only “public intellectual” to say anything penetrating about Black Saturday).

    But all too often Manne is stuck in Suburban Moses mode- the pompous ideologist.

    Suppress your prejudices for a moment and read aloud this Old Testament blast:

    “(‘The Australian’s’ confused campaign) against climate change (has) undermined the hold in public life of the central values of the Enlightenment, Science and Reason”

    Jesus wept….

    For Christ’s sake, Moses, the Oz is a Right-wing, loss-making, low-circ rag in a provincial backwater. Just like the Monthly, bar one adjective.

    And in true 18thC bombastic fashion, Bob couldn’t resist capitalising Science ‘n Reason.


  42. AR

    I have no problem with partisan, campaigning newspapers. It is the tendentious mendacity and outright fraudulent fabrication of Mudorc’s rags that is a blight on the body politic.

  43. smokestack

    I don’t think that The Australian and indeed News Ltd appreciate the damage that is done to them when they have lost their credibility to some those who read the paper.
    When those who aren’t cheering on from one side of centre or the other have to question each time they read the news whether they are being fed bias or opinion rather than news then that source completely looses its impact. Indeed then even when there is proper reporting being done, it too will be questioned with the same treatment as the ‘editorial in news clothing’ that has infiltrated The Australian of late.
    I like to get my news from different sources, to try to achieve some form of balance in my mind. I now am finding that The Australian is drifting from my list of ‘go to’ sources. I assume that I am not the only one.
    Is it possible that The Australian will only end up with a cheer squad rather than a news audience?

  44. Boo

    I guess the tendency to frame this as a left vs right issue allows people to overlook the paucity of quality conservative journalism and commentary. In its place we have partisan reactionary dross. Great for attacking the ‘lefties’. And leaves a nice blank canvas for a bunch of reactionary opportunists to recast themselves as responsible ‘conservatives’. Granted the two may often be hard to separate, but surely there has to be some measure?

  45. fraynel

    Are we just giving an irrelevant & ridiculous daily newspaper air by debating this? Sales of 130k per day surely speaks for itself. Consider actual readership & it becomes a joke that seems to serve the sole purpose of giving its journalists & editors an outlet to hide their own inadequate senses of self & play out their own fantasies of grandeur & having something interesting to say that actually influences.

    I remember an old Melbourne Uni Maths professor, from about 25 years ago, who walked out on the class if he saw that paper in his lecture hall. He only had to do it once & the tirade he delivered to all of us, guilty by association, was something to behold. He said in less than a minute what it took Robert Manne five long essays to say. It took me one quick scan of a subsequent day’s headlines to understand where that nutty professor was coming from. He was a wise & nutty man & more than two decades ahead of his time.

  46. William Fettes

    Well said, AR. The fallacy here, also evident in Paul Kelly’s pathetic response, is that the critics of the Oz are just somehow opposed to reasonable scrutiny, advocacy journalism or robust alternative viewpoints. But that’s obvious nonsense on stilts. Presumably like many other Crikey readers, I’m feed myself on a diet of diverse and ecletic media and policy views, including contrarian, libertarian and conservative viewpoint such as Tyler Cowen @ Calculated Risk, Ross Douthat @ NYT who are not liberals. I also embrace many strong advocacy outlets whose values I don’t support in an unqualified manner, like the Economist. The difference is those viewpoint and outlets are not childish, shrill, overtly partisan, editorial-ladden, glass-jaw-like in response to criticism, and frequently mendacious.

    I perfectly comfortable with reasonable economic or social conservatism that is pursed in good faith, engaged with real debates and real issues. The problem is the Oz is not like this and hasn’t been since Chris Mitchell took over.

  47. Adam

    The reality is The OO despite being a national newspaper has less than half the readership of the Adelaide Advertiser i.e. no one reads it. It loses money and Rupert Murdoch just feeds the editor that Chris Mitchell his lines. You know it’s all over when the editor is given an award for that paper’s coverage of climate change by the Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association! As soon as Rupert goes the paper will too and the cult there will all be unemployed.

    Good riddance.

    btw I too bought Robert Manne’s QE last week and have just finished that chapter about that Keith Windschuttle guy, scary to think people like this actually exist.

  48. jonah Stiffhausen

    Yeah, shocking isn’t it. Why don’t we put him and his ilk in Concentration camps? and the rest of us will be safe to think our own uniformed boring thoughts.

  49. rubiginosa

    The recurring theme that you can’t criticise The Australian unless you understand it is doing nothing to dispel the accusations of it being a cult.

  50. jonah Stiffhausen

    Great weekend edition of everyone’s favourite paper. Thought they were scrupulously even handed and fair to Bob Manne, the nation’s self-appointed conscience.
    Was interested to see a reference to our very own Clive Hamilton, referred to as a “Marxist professor” of something or other.
    Say it ain’t so Clive. How on earth do ostensibly intelligent people fall for such stuff and nonsense?
    According to historian Robert Conquest, “Marxism” chalked up about 100 million dead souls during Century 21. Good going undoubtedly but not really what the rank and file are looking for, I wouldn’t have thought.
    Let’s hope they and Clive have better luck with this climate change bill of goods!

  51. jonah Stiffhausen

    Is quite obvious from reading the strand on a low circulation newspaper how those of a leftish disposition seem also to brandish a brutish totalitarian mindset, frothing at the mouth at the indignity of having to read opinions which don’t fit easily with their own.
    Their solutions are to hold “govt” enquiries, call for its banning, etc etc.
    Whereas those on the other side of the boring divide, are quite happy to simply stop reading whatever it is they find insufferable.
    Would it be therefore safe to assume that the left are anti individual liberty?
    Or to put it more simply, are the left a danger to your and my freedoms?
    I think we should be told.

  52. Furry Jesus

    I hate to stray from the sensible example being given by everyone else in this discussion and comment on something that Stiffhausen has said, but, Stiffy, really, ‘frothing at the mouth at the indignity of having to read opinions which dont fit easily with their own.’. I don’t know if it’s just me, but the words ‘physician, heal thyself’ come to mind, along with something about people living in glass houses, doing as I say, not as I do, letting he who is without sin cast the first stone…

    For the record, I cancelled my subscription to the Australian this morning after having been a regular Weekend reader since the 70’s. When the guy asked me why, I blurted out “I just couldn’t stand it any more.”

    Reading this discussion makes me feel like I’m not alone.

  53. jonah Stiffhausen

    I rest my point you furry creature. Why make such a song and dance about it?
    Ok, I’ll ask; why couldn’t you stand it anymore?

    ps. is “sensible” just another way of saying “something I agree with?”

  54. anthony tan

    As the Poms discovered, Murdoch’s bullies occupy the world that we ignore or don’t see where the over sources of power (police, politicians etc) are engaged in nasty co-operative schemes that enrich the little community they foster. Mitchell is in that circle, as were his various News counterparts such as Col Allen etc. You have to imagine that in Australia there is another class of shell backs who’ve done deals in trade practices law, etc for News while News propped them up.

  55. archibald

    Johan Stiffwhatsit – you really crack me up.

    “It is newspaper’s – and journalists’ for that matter – role to oppose governments, whoever they are. ”

    Now where did you get that fatuous idea?

    Let me guess. You took Tony Abbot’s monumentally stupid “We are the Opposition and it is our job to oppose everything the government does” and you substituted “Newspaper” for Opposition.

    Abbot’s logic is on a par with abattoir worker saying “I am a slaughterman so it is my job to slaughter everything.” It might cut it in the sandbox at infant school but for grown ups it is laughably simplistic. To the literal minded it has the virtue of some semblance of logic.

    When you shift the subject from Oppositions to newspapers there is no logic at all. The newspapers are there to inform and entertain their readers. There field is news – stuff you didn’t already know. They are businesses intended to make a profit but with a failing business model. Opposing elected governments has nothing to do with newspapers. See above.

  56. jonah Stiffhausen

    Archibald my man,
    if newspapers don’t treat governments with suspicion, we are doomed to live in a totalitarian gulag. It is a quaint notion you have of our journalists all being out ferrying out “news”. In actual fact, (see Nick Davies) at least 80% of the rubbish that appears in the press, comes directly from a media unit, public relations firm, or some such, and is merely regurgitated by some desk-bound hack.
    If they’re not opposing or closely scrutinizing “govt”, then they are little better than propaganda mouthpieces.
    Go on, admit it, you know that I’m right.

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