The targets-in-chief: elites, academics, social reformers, media enemies, leftists and pussy feminists

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Academic and journalist Margaret Simons

How does The Australian select targets for its holy wars? It’s not exactly complicated, says journalist and former Media Watch host Jonathan Holmes — the paper attacks “anyone whom it perceives to be a critic”. It’s about “whether you are on the Left or the Right and whether you fit with its commercial objectives or stand in their way,” says journalism professor Mark Pearson. “Like a true narcissist, it lets its own interests, agendas and catfights affect the quality of the journalism in its pages.”

These are The Australian‘s public enemies #1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6:

Media elites: Journalists and other high-profile media types who don’t work for News Corp, or criticise the Murdoch empire, are juicy targets (and the ABC is the juiciest of all). Political scientist and writer Robert Manne, ABC personalities such as Media Watch host Paul Barry and part-time host and writer Yassmin Abdel-Magied have all been targeted in recent years. This category also includes an old bete noir, the Australian Press Council, whose former chair Julian Disney endured a barrage of negative stories before his term ended (“the roots of Professor Disney’s poor stewardship are found in his biases and ideological activism,” The Australian editorialised).

Journalism academic elites: This trifecta of offending characteristics has resulted in some of the longest-running and harshest campaigns. Academic and journalist Margaret Simons was first targeted over her reporting (for Crikey) on The Australian‘s coverage of a scandal involving the Australian Federal Police, and again when she made a submission to the Finkelstein media inquiry. The inquiry also triggered a still-ongoing campaign against Matthew Ricketson, a former journalist, academic and member of the inquiry. And academic and journalist Julie Posetti faced legal action from former editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell, as well as a sustained campaign after tweeting that a former Australian reporter alleged Mitchell had directed her on how to report on climate change, something he denied.

Like a true narcissist, it lets its own interests, agendas and cat fights affect the quality of the journalism in its pages.

Pussy feminists: A group invented by Australian columnist Janet Albrechtsen and described recently in her column as “a cosy little clique that prescribes free speech in differing doses depending on where you’re placed on the merit board of identity politics. If you’re female, Muslim and left-wing you will get access to full-strength free speech fed on a taxpayer-funded IV drip.” She cited Gillian Triggs and Yassmin Abdel-Magied (“feted by the ABC for her gender, her religion and her left-wing views”) as prime suspects.

Greenies or social experimenters: Safe Schools convenor Roz Ward spent most of 2016 caught up in an Australian storm after it established she had called herself a Marxist. Former Australian of the Year and Climate Council Chief Councillor (and former Climate Commissioner) Tim Flannery is such a greenie he was regularly described as a sandal-wearing greenie after he became Australian of the Year in 2007.

Leftists or bleeding hearts: Gillian Triggs became an enemy target soon after her appointment as head of the Human Rights Commission in 2012, when the 18C case of the QUT students was going through the courts. Her status was only confirmed when her report into children in detention — which was damning of the policy under both main political parties — was released after the election in what The Australian thought was an indication she was trying to avoid harm to Labor.

Public critics of The Australian: Political scientist and commentator Robert Manne was the subject of one of the most prolific campaigns, with 283 articles published mentioning him between 2009 and 2015. Manne was an old adversary from Mitchell’s time as editor of the Courier-Mail, and was a regular target of The Australian when Mitchell became editor-in-chief, but after his Quarterly Essay, Bad News, was published in 2011, a single edition (September 17, 2011) contained no fewer than 9000 words criticising Manne and his work.


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