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Media

Aug 18, 2017

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One of the unintended consequences of Pauline Hanson’s burqa stunt is that it has exposed the murky recesses of attitudes to racism at The Australian.

Those of us with a background in daily journalism were startled at the way the newspaper “For The Informed Australian” handled the story. You could almost see the senior editorial staff shifting their weight from foot to foot in embarrassment as they watched the coverage take shape on their computer screens last night.

By any measure this was a front-page screamer. Within minutes of Hanson’s provocation and Brandis’ inspired response, radio, TV and the internet were featuring little else. The scheduling of question time in the Senate allows at least eight hours for a morning newspaper to assemble comprehensive news coverage, analysis and comment. But the primary obligation is always to nail the hard news task, and to present those accounts in an appropriate way.

So what did The Australian feature on their front page? Opinion, not that it was labeled as such.

Where we should have been reading a factual report of the incident we got Chris Kenny instead, favouring us with repeated expressions of personal bias. He opines that Brandis “overreacted,” and goes on to say what the Attorney-General “should have” said. This was followed by a series of rhetorical questions, all based on Kenny’s assertion that the burqa is an “instrument of female oppression”.

This extended anti-Muslim dog-whistle of questions spilled onto page 4, where Kenny — the paper’s associate editor — resorted to the oldest trick of the demagogue: pretending that the masses share his prejudice. “But rest assured,” he writes, “these are questions many Australians will ponder.” That is uncomfortably close to the regular chant of Hanson supporters that “she’s only saying what we’re all thinking”.

Kenny is, of course, entitled to his opinions, but the ethics of his profession demand that they should have been tagged as “Comment” or “Opinion” beside his byline. And to position this sludge prominently on the front page, where any responsible newspaper would have run straight news coverage, was an offence to basic journalistic standards.

Elsewhere, today’s Australian is uncharacteristically silent on the Hanson stunt. Despite plenty of preparation time there is no editorial on the subject. Nothing on the Commentary page. Not one of the 22 letters to the editor deals with the incident. It is as if yesterday’s burqa confrontation had shocked the editors into the realisation that the paper’s latent anti-Muslim position is no longer tenable. Better to say nothing — and wait until the next phone call from Rupert lets them know what to think.

Australia

Jul 26, 2017

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Before the Coalition’s Canavan of Covfefe mucked things up somewhat, the right, and a lot of the centre was having a high old time with the Greens. For years, the party has been trying to reshape its image, getting away from the happy hippie activist thing, donning the grey suit and open-necked white shirt “sent from the future to save you” look, or the black skivvy Newport Jazz Festival ’65 alternative. In one bad week, a lot of that got blown away, with not one but two resignations on the grounds of section 44 dual citizenship, and the possibility that others might follow, including some of those lined up to replace the departing senators Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters.

To cap it all off, the latter appeared at a press conference in a park with — “Who was that guy?” everyone asked, “the one in the relief map scarf and the little glasses, was it her guru?” Was it that De Rucci guy who advertises furniture at the airport? No, it was Jonathan Sri, a Greens councillor (not counselor), fresh from his audition for the George Harrison biopic apparently, and landing the Greens squarely in hippie territory once again. News Corpse had fun, with poor old Lobbecke having to crank out a fairies down the garden pic, and Chris Kenny having a culture wargasm about the imminent demise of the party. Laura Tingle’s focus on the party room relations was simply rendering the issue in the only terms she knows how to talk about. Peter van Onselen wrote a sensible piece in The Australian, which sounded like a surviving sailor tapping out an SOS from inside an upturned hull. It was left to our own William Bowe to make the obvious sensible point — the Greens vote appears to be holding at 9 or 10%, but the changing nature of parliamentary politics makes it unlikely that that will guarantee nine or 10 senators in the future.

For those watching the situation dispassionately, it was clear that the “Greens in disarray” line was the opposite of the truth. They had had a sharp internal conflict arising from the Gonski 2.0 vote, which had been resolved after some confusion, and they had suffered a blow due to hard-to-forgive slackness in procedural matters. Not good in either case, but what was noticeable was that the party apparatus was able to regroup and move forward. Compare and contrast Chris Kenny’s beloved Liberals, who market themselves as the sensible party of government, and who have been beset by an actual party split outside — the energetic Cory Bernardi making a reasonable go of establishing an independent conservative force — a rogue element inside, a split on the right between Abbott supporters and those who describe them as “delcons“, a PM who thinks that not mentioning his nemesis’s name is a good look, procedural rebellion at state conferences, and the distortion of governance to create a super-ministry to satisfy factional demands. And then the Canavan of covfefe, with the possibility of more section 44 chaos on the way, maybe in the Reps. The Libs are not in the crisis that headline writers would like them to be, but they’re in a lot worse shape than the Greens.

[Care about asylum seekers or climate change? Don’t vote Greens]

No, the challenges the Greens face are more long term and structural. The first problem is one of success. Though it might not look it from some of the appalling decisions, the political framework in the West has been greened. Thirty years ago, Western political discourse constructed the polity as an economy-society, with the environment as a separate externality/intangible/free good, to be shown the same regard as a farm dog: look after it and love it when you can, then shoot it if you need to. Now, the idea that the polity is an economic-social system situated within a wider and essential environmental system has become the general rule. The true insanity of the US political system and its wider culture is measured by its failure to full incorporate such an understanding, when even authoritarian and neoliberal states such as China, Russia, and India are doing so, whatever else they do.

This is a tremendous, epochal achievement by the global green movement, and difficult for those who did not live through it to appreciate day by day. The fact that every party has to go through arabesques of bullshit to justify something like the Carmichael mine, rather than just making a joke about saving the ring-tailed potoroo fnarr fnarr, means that the entire debate is being held on green terrain.

But it also means that centre-left parties are taking on increasingly large amounts of the program, and increasingly grand promises, and fusing it to a social democratic program. Since such parties can form government, implement and deliver, they can draw support back from a party whose chance to be in, on near, government pretty much relies on a hung parliament. The Greens only need to lose a couple of percent in that manner to be in some trouble. If Labor has decided, strategically, that there is now a wedge of suburban, one-time working-class voters who are now sufficiently propertied and culturally conservative that they will never get them back from the Coalition, then raiding the Greens may make sense.

But the response by the Greens to such a threat can’t be conducted simply in a corporate manner, like a company looking for a variant product in new markets. After all, if progressive mainstream parties were genuinely “greened”, there would be an argument for simply dissolving the Greens back into them, to strengthen the left that was already there, and create a genuinely progressive behemoth. That, it should be said, is not a strategy I’m recommending.

The only way in which the Greens can respond to the shift in politics must be to reflect deeply on what the essence of their politics is, and why members of such a party are in it in the first place. That reflection can only come to one conclusion: the Greens cannot be a party that is primarily about same-sex marriage or refugees, or sexist advertising, or a hundred other causes, no matter how compelling the moral claims, or the electoral advantage of such. The Greens have to be a party centred on the single fact that the current global political-economic-cultural system is undermining the possibility of human (and much other) life on this planet, that it has opened up the possibility of human extinction in real time, through creating 8 degrees+ temperature rise, and oceanic system collapse and other processes. There is also opened up the possibility of minimal survival, in which we inhabit a planet of wrecked habitats, invariant polluted environments, one choked with garbage everywhere.

[Why I’ll never vote for the Greens]

This world crisis has to be at the centre of green politics, and the party’s unenviable role is to body this forth into every political discussion, and to disrupt the notion that we can simply sort wildly differing political causes as equivalent, and off-the-rack: regional library services/Israel-Palestine/extinction of major fish species/unisex toilets on interstate rail/etc … The Greens have to propose solutions that are integrated with global equality and social justice, and the prospering of communities. But they, we, can’t hide behind notions that all interconnected causes are of equal weighting or significance, either.

The “unenviability” of this is because the Greens get much of their support from exactly the opposite sort of politics: that of maintenance and representation of base-class values and imperatives, through issues such as same-sex marriage and refugees. But at some point a focus on such issues becomes not merely beside the main point of what a global green movement has to be about, it becomes positively politically regressive, because it obscures the depth and reality of the global crisis.

The advantage of this dilemma is that it makes things simple: the Greens have no choice but to find a way of being a party of dual character — one whose purpose, within a mildly greened, and green-washed, politics is to present the nature of the crisis afresh, at the same time as proposing bold solutions to it, which encompass many of the more particular causes it takes on (and without pretending that some triage must not take place — some prioritisation is long overdue). Put simply, if the Greens aren’t doing that, there’s no point being in politics. One might as well return to social activism — or abandon political concern and turn to selfish hedonism on a time-limited planet. The latter choice is no real one for most. The other way is a hard road, and it turns upwards — but there is no other way forward, and no one else who will take it. 

Environment

Jul 11, 2017

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Last week, Chris Kenny and Andrew Bolt broke a story that Kenny said deserved to be on front pages everywhere. But the story didn’t make a front page anywhere. Because the story didn’t exist.

With knowing nods, winks and half smiles, Kenny told his exclusive band of viewers of his “Heads Up” segment on Sky News to prepare for something momentous. This was, he told us breathlessly, a “very, very dramatic story” about “serious science”.

“There’s been quite a dramatic paper released by some of the world’s leading climate scientists,” Kenny went on, pausing for effect.

Kenny was referring to a new paper published in Nature Geoscience journal — “Causes of differences in model and satellite tropospheric warming rates” — by several eminent climate scholars, including lead author Benjamin Santer, as well as the extensively awarded Michael E. Mann.

The Nature Geoscience paper is about the difference between observed and modeled temperature rises, analysing “global-mean tropospheric temperatures from satellites and climate model simulations to examine whether warming rate differences over the satellite era can be explained by internal climate variability alone”.

But Kenny knew better, cleverly revealing the real story: “a global warming pause”.

Wrong. There is no global warming pause, as has been widely and repeatedly made clear, for example, here, here and here. Even worse, the paper he referred to said nothing of the sort.

About five seconds into Kenny’s TV, ahem, “report”, he decided to stop being even slightly accurate. “What they’re saying here is that the warming they have on their graphs, on their modelling, is much higher than the warming that has actually occurred.”   

The paper didn’t say this either.

Kenny then went on to quote repeatedly and triumphantly from the paper’s abstract, not the paper itself. Which is a bit weird. It’s like quoting from the back cover of a book, not the book itself. (The abstract of academic papers is typically publicly available, whereas the papers themselves are usually restricted to researchers or universities.) For such a huge, serious science story, wouldn’t you cite the actual paper? Unless, of course, you don’t have access to the paper. And if you don’t have access, have you actually read the thing?

Kenny quoted the last line of the paper’s abstract:

“We conclude that model overestimation of tropospheric warming in the early twenty-first century is partly due to systematic deficiencies in some of the post-2000 external forcings used in the model simulations.”

This, he said, meant that scientists were overstating temperatures. Hence the momentousness of his”story”. Problem is, the paper didn’t say this at all.

If he’d read the last line of the paper itself — and it’s questionable as to whether he read the paper at all — he would have read this:  

“Although scientific discussion about the causes of short-term differences between modelled and observed warming rates is likely to continue, this discussion does not cast doubt on the reality of long-term anthropogenic warming.”

Kenny didn’t report this, though. If he had, he wouldn’t have much of a story. However, he did claim that the paper showed that climate scientists’ models were wrong, that temperatures were overstated and therefore climate change wasn’t such a problem.

Kenny is the earthly representative of his spiritual mentor, Andrew Bolt, who misreported the same story, but went one further, saying that the paper’s lead author, “leading alarmist Ben Santer, now admits the world isn’t warming as predicted by global warming models”.

Not only is Bolt’s report as untrue as Kenny’s — if not more so — but Santer has been at pains to make clear the opposite is the case. For example, he published a fact sheet to accompany the paper Kenny and Bolt reported on. Wait a moment, I here you say, there was a fact sheet? Indeed. As Santer explained to me:

“The aim of the fact sheet was to reduce the likelihood of misinterpretation of key findings of our paper. But no matter how carefully or cautiously a paper is written, it is impossible to guard against wilful misrepresentation of results. Sadly, such wilful misrepresentation is now an expected outcome after each paper I publish.”

Funnily enough, the fact sheet completely contradicts what Kenny and Bolt reported. For example, it says this:

Do the problems in representing these external cooling influences point to systematic errors in how sensitive the models are to human-caused greenhouse gas (GHG) increases?

Answer: No, not at all. We are talking about known, well-studied problems with some of the external, climate-influencing “forcing factors” that were used in the model simulations. These problems have nothing to do with the issue of how sensitive models are to GHG increases.

The fact sheet also discusses cooling and, also rejects the notion that there’s been a pause that Kenny and Bolt reported, saying this:

In a recent paper in Scientific Reports, you find that satellite measurements do not show any signs of “leveling off” of tropospheric warming over the past two decades. Aren’t those findings at odds with the findings of the Nature Geoscience paper?

Answer: No. The findings of the two papers are entirely consistent. The Scientific Reports paper compares the satellite tropospheric temperature trend over the past 20 years with many samples of 20-year trends obtained from model simulations of natural internal climate variability. Even though the most recent 20-year warming trend is smaller than in earlier parts of the satellite record, it is still significantly larger than the range of 20-year trends caused by internal climate variability alone. From our Scientific Reports study, there is no evidence that satellite data show “levelling off” of tropospheric warming in the last two decades.

Despite a fact sheet accompanying the scientific paper they claim to be reporting on, Kenny, Bolt and a bunch of other climate sceptics have reported the exact opposite — Bolt in particular, who is syndicated internationally, especially on a host of foetid climate-denying blogs. His sloppiness — and perhaps dishonesty — in reporting this paper has already been widely disseminated.

This is but one example of what regularly happens if there’s a difference between complex climate models and reality, a difference regularly exploited to suggest climate change isn’t happening or is in doubt.

But take a step back for a moment and think about modelling anything: how you will brush your teeth compared to how you did brush your teeth; modelling economic outcomes versus actual economic outcomes; or modelling visitor numbers compared to actual visitor numbers. There will always be differences because models and reality aren’t the same thing. This is despite the fact that climate models are actually accurate (for example, see this, this and this).

Climate change should be in the headlines every day, and so should all the other problems that constitute the Anthropocene era we’re living in, but they rarely are. The only front page Kenny’s story should be seen on is that of a Press Council adjudication.

Tips and rumours

Jun 21, 2017

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From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

It’s all listening devices across the ditch. While the government of Kiwi PM Bill English is being rocked by his terrible mishandling of an MP who bugged one of his own staffers, some more evidence has emerged of the priorities of the Five Eyes intelligence agencies. As we know, the electronic intelligence gathering agencies of the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand are only used to fight terrorism and counter the actions of enemies like Russia and China in the name of national security. Well … not so much. In fact, the primary goal of the Five Eyes surveillance systems is commercial espionage, and one of many examples that confirmed this was the case of New Zealand back in 2015, when some Edward Snowden documents revealed NZ’s electronic intelligence-gathering agency, GCSB, had been spying on the World Trade Organisation. A den of Russian spies? A haven for terrorists? Not quite. NZ’s then-trade minister Tim Groser had decided to run for the job of head of the WTO and the Kiwis used Five Eyes intelligence-gathering systems to spy on the other contenders. Groser was unsuccessful, but the revelations prompted an investigation by NZ’s Inspector General of Intelligence and Security.

Now, that investigation has unearthed something very interesting: while the idea of spying on the terrorists lurking among the world’s trade ministers was devised by the head of GCSB Ian Fletcher, who actually approved the operation? Well … Groser himself. Yes — it’s DIY surveillance in Wellington. Better yet, Fletcher didn’t keep any records of the process, and other GCSB managers developed memory problems when she asked them to provide details of how the decision was made. You’d think spies would have pretty good memories, but evidently not. Apparently this way of approving an intelligence operation was “unusual” and “outside the normal method for approving intelligence targets”. You’d hope so.

The Mocker dogged by rumours Ms Tips has previously written about the MockerThe Australian’s masked larrikin who fearlessly punctures the elitist bubble of “sanctimonious attention seekers”. Who is the Mocker? Well, we’ve not been sniffing around on this one much, but one tipster had a theory and dug up something interesting. Our tipster ran a textual comparison between the work of The Mocker and that of The Australian‘s associate editor Chris Kenny. Our tipster ran three Mocker columns and three Kenny columns through the online research consortium’s language-matching application (which “determines the degree to which any two samples of language are similar in their language styles”, according to the website) and found it had a 97% match. And the Mocker’s Twitter account has retweeted Kenny four times since its inception in April — more than any other person. 

 

A glance at the Mocker’s Twitter feed shows a shared distaste for outgoing Human Rights commission president Gillian Triggs and radical Islam. But perhaps they howl with one voice at The Australian. We tried it ourselves with poison penned columnist Janet Albrechtsen and found a 94% match — perhaps our tipster is barking up the wrong tree?

Don’t mention the charges. Rio Tinto issued this statement around  Sydney time on Tuesday, announcing the resignation of senior independent director John Varley. He has resigned as a non-executive director and will step down from the board immediately. Varley joined the Rio Tinto board in September 2011 and was also the chair of the remuneration committee. Rio Tinto chairman Jan du Plessis used the announcement to express gratitude for “John’s outstanding contribution over the five or so years he has been on the board. The board holds him in the highest regard and will miss his valuable insight. Personally, I am not only losing a senior independent director, but a close colleague, whose wisdom and support I am going to miss tremendously. On behalf of the board I wish John the very best for the future.” 

Which seems like an odd thing to say, given that about six hours earlier it was announced in London that Varley (who stood down as chief executive in 2011) and others had been charged by Britain’s Serious Fraud Office. He faces up to 22 years in prison, having been charged (along with Barclays itself and other senior executives) with conspiracy to defraud and false representation, over its arrangements with Qatari investors during the global financial crisis. These are the first criminal charges in the UK to be filed against a bank and ‎its former executives or directors emanating from activities in the GFC, but they are big ones. All the very best indeed.

ABCC ya later. You know how it is — you’re deep into a long argument before realising with a jolt of cold sweat that perhaps, just perhaps, you aren’t completely in the right. This appears to be the position the Australian Building and Construction Commission found itself in this week. One of the many, many, many ongoing disagreements the commission has had with the construction industry union is the factual content of some of the fact sheets on the ABCC website. The CFMEU claimed the ABCC was misrepresenting unions’ right to enter a workplace, and it threatened legal action. The CFMEU initiated legal action against the Fair Work Building Commission (the ABCC’s precursor) for the same reason back in August last year, and the commission backed down. In Monday’s Australian, an ABCC spokesman was quoted as saying “the ABCC stands by its education materials”. But this posture did not last — the next day, as industrial relations news website Workplace Express reports, the ABCC quietly amended its fact sheet. We wonder why. 

Greens act on sexual assault allegations. Following the explosive allegations from Sydney journalist Lauren Ingram that she was raped by a NSW Greens member, the NSW Greens swiftly issued a statement, saying that four days after receiving the accusation “the member was formally and indefinitely suspended on 20 February 2017 and all member rights were removed”. But the incident seems to have rattled  the Greens leadership. We hear that Greens leader Richard Di Natale told the party room this week that all state branches have been asked to review their sexual assault policies.

*Heard anything that might interest Crikey? Send your tips to boss@crikey.com.au or use our guaranteed anonymous form

Film & TV

Jun 19, 2017

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Today in Media Files, it’s feuds all around, with journalist Ginger Gorman calling out the Daily Mail for ripping off her work (again), Chris Kenny getting legal advice over a Gillian Triggs interview published by Fairfax, and former Fairfax journalist Michael West hitting back at Australian Financial Review columnist Joe Aston.

Good feud guide. Freelance journalist Ginger Gorman has gone for another round against the Daily Mail after it published a rewrite of her Fairfax piece over the weekend about her relationship with an online troll. Gorman’s piece told of her experience over more than a year dealing with a troll whom she’d interviewed for a story. She tweeted this morning that the Daily Mail had plagiarised her story, calling the website “slow learners”:

The Mail‘s story, published yesterday, had nothing new to add and was published under the headline,”‘I was trolling a girl who got hit by a train’: Shocking admissions of an internet troll who spends 30 HOURS a week on his sickening habit.”

Gorman has previously called out the Mail and Mamamia for ripping off a story she’d written for news.com.au about mothers who sexually abuse their sons.

Chris Kenny’s feelings hurt. In an exit interview with The Age‘s outgoing political editor Michael Gordon, Australian Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs talked about coverage of her and the commission by The Australian during her tenure, and she had this to say about the paper’s associate editor, Chris Kenny:

“He keeps swirling the same facts over and over again and they are not true for a start — and that’s all he’s got. I’ve never met him. He’s never phoned me or made any attempt to understand anything. It’s just been a full-on attack.”

The Australian has responded today in the paper by suggesting Triggs could face legal action over the comments, with Kenny saying:

“I will seek legal advice because this sort of abuse in lieu of facts must be countered. My approaches to her office by phone and email over many months for interviews for The Australian and my television shows have been numerous and always rejected.”

Kenny sued the ABC for defamation over a Chaser sketch broadcast in 2013, where Kenny was photoshopped mounting a dog on The Hamster Decides. The case settled with an apology and cash from the ABC to Kenny.

Michael West v Joe Aston. Also stepping into the ring this morning is former Fairfax business journalist Michael West, who now runs his own business news website. West had written about Australian Financial Review columnist Joe Aston’s pursuit of CPA Australia CEO Alex Malley, and Aston has written this morning in his Rear Window column that West had known Malley for many years, something West has denied:

“Failing to call the subject of your insults before publishing is not just cowardice, it’s a matter of basic journalistic protocol. Journalists are required to make the phone call in order to allow their subjects to respond — and get the facts straight … A detailed rebuttal of Joe’s petty claims would be a waste of time.”

Introducing the newest NT News reporter, No Byline Please. The subs at the NT News must have checked out a bit early when putting Saturday’s sports pages to bed on Friday night. Neglecting to pick up a note from the reporter asking to not have a byline, the request was published where the reporter’s name should have been. Of course, the NT News is never one to shy away from taking the piss, tweeting on Saturday, “our new reporter no byline please is really starting to make his mark at the paper”.

The Parrot calls in from sick bed. There isn’t much that will keep 2GB broadcaster Alan Jones down. Recovering from a health scare last week that took him off air and into intensive care in hospital over the weekend, Jones called into his own show this morning (covered by colleague Chris Smith) to let listeners know that he’s on the mend and should be back on-air next week. He said he’d been “at the exit door” over the weekend, but was now feeling weak, but OK. Jones took an extended break at the end of last year following multiple operations on his back and neck.

Symons apologises for “racist” interview. ABC radio presenter Red Symons has apologised for a controversial interview with colleague Beverley Wang, in which he asked her if she was “yellow”, and asked, “what’s the deal with Asians?”. Symons opened his program on ABC Radio Melbourne this morning with an apology about the interview, which the ABC has since removed from its website:

“The plan was to take on a serious topic, race and culture, and talk with Beverley about a range of related issues. I came across as racist and I was wrong in the way I conducted the interview. This is not who I am, but I acknowledge on this occasion I caused offence and hurt, not only to Beverley but also to our listeners. I offer my sincerest apologies. We need to talk about these issues, but be careful how we consider them.”

The ABC apologised for the interview going to air in a statement on Friday, and said it would review the editorial processes around the content and its use.

Game played in heaven, ignored on earth. Rugby union might still boast it’s the game played in heaven, but in Australia it’s the game now being ignored. It was a case of netball one, AFL and rugby union nil after Saturday’s games, with viewers less interested in what are usually the more mainstream sports.

The Australian Rugby Union might be holding an emergency general meeting in Sydney tomorrow to discuss a lot of issues — the fate of CEO Bill Pulver, the fate of one or two Super Rugby teams and, of course, the loss to Scotland in a one-off test on Saturday. What should be top of the agenda (but won’t be) is the damage that the incompetence, moaning and groaning of the past year is doing to fans’ support.

More people watched the inaugural grand final of the national netball competition on Nine on Saturday night than the Rugby Wallabies v Scotland test on Ten earlier in the day (it was simulcast on Fox Sports, but this comparison is for free to air TV).

Oztam ratings issued yesterday showed 447,000 people watched the netball on Nine on the network’s main and digital channels. Oddly the pre-match figure was 505,000, so nearly 60,000 people tuned out after watching the lead-up — perhaps they were off partying on a winter’s Saturday night?

But the rugby test could only manage 274,000 national viewers on Ten. That was after a pre-match audience of just 113,000. The post-match audience leapt to 450,000 — that’s a real slap at the game and the sport when more than 200,000 supporters can’t be bothered watching the game and tune in afterwards to see the size of the loss.

And the AFL can’t crow because the netball final also had more viewers than the Swans v Richmond game on Seven and 7mate on Saturday afternoon. The Saturday night AFL game had a total of 586,000 viewers, so the netball’s figures stack up nicely. — Glenn Dyer

Glenn Dyer’s TV ratings. It was Nine’s night in the in total people and the main channels and Seven’s in the regions. The Voice has lost more ground for Nine — 1.37 million nationally last night for two hours from 7pm (the final half hour making the difference between winning and second to Seven). House Rules was the second most watched program on the night nationally with 1.84 million. But it ended at 8.30 pm and viewers went to Sunday Night which managed a decent 1.31 million nationally. Ten’s MasterChef finished well behind its rivals with 1.01 million nationally. The Voice should really have done better, being the Top 10 elimination. No one qualifies as a must watch at this stage.

In the regions House Rules topped the night with 742,000 viewers, followed by Seven News with 673,000, Nine News 6.30pm was third with 506,000 viewers, Sunday Night was fourth with 496,000 and Nine News was fifth with 460,000. The Voice could only manage 404,000 and MasterChef 278,000. — Read the rest on the Crikey website

Australia

Mar 29, 2017

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Courtesy of the Ethics Centre

Last night was cheapskate Tuesday. I could have seen a politically correct Hollywood movie for half-price — particularly one starring some pathetic left-wing, anti-Trump, pro-Muslim heart-throb. Instead, I headed to Sydney Town Hall for a mass debate on the topic of whether political correctness (PC) had failed itself.

The debate was hosted by the Ethics Centre. As is often the case with mass debates, few debaters stuck strictly to the topic — but, Chris Kenny did. Kenny was introduced by the chair as the associate editor of “a conservative newspaper” — a strange description for a paper whose editorial writers and columnists often spout ideas on cultural matters more appropriate to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

As the first speaker in the affirmative, Kenny said PC had failed itself. Other speakers focused on how PC had (or hadn’t) failed their community or interests or whatever. But now I’m starting to sound like a high school debating adjudicator, so I’ll stop with this line of interrogation.

Kenny argued PC had become self-defeating, largely because it was no longer based on facts, and therefore led to actions and conclusions that were all out of proportion. The Oz‘s associate editor said that, during the Martin Place siege, the New South Wales police (thanks to PC considerations) gave more priority to shielding Muslims from discrimination, than attacking Man Monis’ “terrorist attack”. Kenny described Man Monis as a “jihadist cleric”.

As I’ve written before, Man Monis was more of a fake sheik than a real one. And while it is true that one expert (presumably a psychiatrist) gave evidence at the inquest on Man Monis’ mental state, describing him as a terrorist — there was hardly consensus on the issue. Under Australian law, it isn’t enough for someone’s actions to terrorise their victims to designate them “terrorist acts”. There has to be political, ideological or religious motive. Were this not the case, thousands of perpetrators of domestic violence would be prosecuted under counter-terror laws. (Kenny also speaks of PC attitudes toward border protection and mentions the existence of a “queue” for refugees. What queue? There is none).

Kenny’s most potent argument — that PC is an invention of the political class, which has divorced them from the “mainstream” — again makes little sense. As first negative speaker, Mikey Robins, noted, Kenny and so many of those going on and on about PC are themselves part of the political class. Indeed, if PC has failed, why do conservatives feel the need to constantly protect us from it?

Kenny noted the irony that PC started out not as a conservative insult of the left, but rather, as a self-mocking phrase between different sections of the left. Kenny and his allies may allege PC to be McCarthyist, but Joe McCarthy wasn’t exactly a card-carrying communist.

Without meaning to sound PC in a sexist sort of way, the ladies were the stand-out debaters of the night — starting with second affirmative Jacinta Nampijinpa Price, the Warlpiri/Celtic Alice Springs councillor, as well as singer and advocate against domestic violence. She resents the fact that PC practitioners keep telling her and her people what they should call themselves. In her neck of the woods, the lack of PC is an indication that people (both black and white) don’t take themselves too seriously. And this is because they have more serious fish to fry.

Price says that PC is like racism — both are based on untruths and stereotypes. PC means that indigenous people, especially women, find it hard to speak about violence from black family members and community folk. In this case, PC can be deadly. As for white racism, Price says she would rather know who the racists are so she can face them head on.

The final speaker was second negative, Tasneem Chopra. (Disclaimer: I’ve known Tasneem since 1985. Also, I’ve always called her Tasneem and that won’t stop here. Of course, that doesn’t mean I agree with Tasneem on everything).

Tasneem says that for many urban women from “ethnic” backgrounds, PC is all they have to protect them from discrimination. PC exposes privilege and bias. “It allows us to call out bigotry, to stand up to dominant voices”. Tasneem called upon Kenny (or Chris, to be fair) to share his experiences of racism. “If you feel the need to be violent or racist, to threaten rape or other assault, your politics is incorrect.”

With this youngish and largely female crowd, the negative side were always going to win the debate. OK, that wasn’t very PC. ​

Australia

Mar 29, 2017

5 comments

Former leader of the Federal Labor Party, Mark Latham, reveals exactly what he thinks of people on the Disability Pension in these extracts* from his daily journal:

9am: Headed to Hungry Jack’s for breakfast. On the way, passed some elitist wankers eating at a hipster cafe just to rub it in the ordinary Australian’s face. They made me so angry I had to punch the straw dispenser several times to calm down. My Aussie BBQ Brekky Wrap was what I call a REAL MAN’S breakfast.

10am: Went to Bunnings to buy a spade, so that I could take it home and call it a spade. And then plant some tomatoes maybe. Asked a sheila where the spades were. She said she didn’t work there. I see this a lot these days: women who think that the sexual revolution gives them the right to say whatever they want to ordinary hard-working Australians. Told her to stop being such a snowflake and tell me where the spades are. She walked away — incredibly rudely, I thought. I worked out my frustrations by overturning several pot plants. Never found the spade. Registered an official complaint with the store manager due to fact all female staff were wearing trousers: identity politics going too far yet again.

11am: Made myself a sandwich at home. Noticed that the bread bag was telling me to recycle it. Screamed at the bread to stop being so PC. Pointed out that this was why the left has lost its way. Banged my head against the water heater till I felt better.

12pm: Popped out to do a bit of gardening. Found it difficult as I had no spade. Shouted over neighbour’s fence that this was emblematic of the crisis in masculinity that Australia is going through. Neighbour refused to come out and listen. Went over and knocked on the door. No answer. “So much for the tolerant left!” I yelled as I uprooted his mailbox and threw it at a passing cat.

12.30pm: Walked the dog, as millions of decent working-class Australians have done for generations without needing to put their hand out for arts grants. As we walked, I informed the dog of the source of the current problems besetting the ALP, i.e. feminism. Passed a feminist outside Woolworths. She asked if I would like to donate to Amnesty International. Told her that her efforts to deny me my free speech would come to naught. She said she was just trying to collect for a worthy cause. I did not fall for her doublespeak; I told her that it was time she got off the Disability Pension and started earning an honest living like a proper man would. She seemed confused, but the bleeding hearts always are when you hit them with the TRUTH.

1pm: Returned to Woolworths to distribute further honesty to the Amnesty woman, since I’d forgotten to call her ugly earlier. Pointed out to her that if men hadn’t died in wars there wouldn’t even be any women, so she could at least make the effort to put on make-up. She walked away and I calmed down by lying on the ground and rubbing my face with gravel for a few minutes. Stood up to find that dog had run away. Truly, we have abandoned the Anzac spirit.

2pm: Got a call from the wife asking if I could pick up some milk. Told her I resented her questioning the extent of my physical strength and proved her wrong by throwing the phone out the window. Tried to make a cup of tea but couldn’t as we were out of milk. Wife clearly has not been doing her job. Tried to ring her to tell her so but couldn’t find my phone. Realised I was getting a bit worked up so took a bubble bath with scented candles. Didn’t work. Kicked a hole in the wall instead. Much better.

3pm: Kids came home from school. Asked them how their day was. Turned out they’d been brainwashed by elitist bleeding heart SJW teachers with a black-armband view of history. Rang the school principal and demanded he face me in the boxing ring. He refused. “This is why Trump won!” I roared. Asked him to explain why he was teaching my children about global warming. Pointed out that Marx had failed. He said he didn’t understand what I was talking about, thus proving that he is gay. Told him I would be taking legal action against the school for being effeminate, and hung up.

4.30pm: Time to start dinner. As I am a man, I cooked a steak. Kids wanted to know what they would be having for dinner. Rather cleverly told them it must be nice, living off welfare. “Back in my day people had jobs,” I shouted. They had headphones in and didn’t hear me, so I quickly wrote an essay on the feminisation of the armed forces and the high percentage of terrorists who are single mothers, and emailed it to them.

6pm: Tried to go to work at Sky, but couldn’t because the security guard at the studio was a woman. Had to stay at a distance, throwing holy water at her. Didn’t work. Called her a lesbian. She wouldn’t move. Called Chris Kenny to come down and help me. He wasn’t there. He’d had the same problem. Had to go home. Cried myself to sleep. A good day.

*As discovered by satirist Ben Pobjie.

Tips and rumours

Dec 21, 2016

5 comments

As Sky News spruiked its 2017 line-up, including returning shows, one name was curiously absent. “Has Sky completely dropped [Chris] Kenny from the 2017 slate?”, a Crikey tipster asked, referring to rumours not all were thrilled with Kenny’s on-air performances.

Well, we asked, and he’s still going to be gracing our screens.

“Chris Kenny will be part of the Sky News line-up in 2017,” a spokesperson said. “His involvement will be outlined as part of the further programming announcements taking place in January.”

That doesn’t say whether his Sunday night show will return, or whether he’ll be one of Sky News’ regular rotating panelists. Still, now that Sky News is entirely News Corp owned we suppose it would have been odd — and certainly worth remarking on — if the network had dropped him entirely.

Another fun thing in Sky News’ announcement from Monday are the exact specifics of Caroline Marcus’ new role. The ex-A Current Affair reporter and News Corp columnist is joining the network as an anchor and “political reporter for the people”. Which might leave you wondering who all the other political reporters are reporting for. Sky News CEO Angelos Frangopoulos helpfully clarified that “her job will be to cover politics from anywhere but Parliament House in Canberra”.

News

Dec 21, 2016

5 comments

From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Guess who’s back? As Sky News spruiked its 2017 line-up, including returning shows, one name was curiously absent. “Has Sky completely dropped [Chris] Kenny from the 2017 slate?”, a Crikey tipster asked, referring to rumours not all were thrilled with Kenny’s on-air performances.

Well, we asked, and he’s still going to be gracing our screens.

“Chris Kenny will be part of the Sky News line-up in 2017,” a spokesperson said. “His involvement will be outlined as part of the further programming announcements taking place in January.”

That doesn’t say whether his Sunday night show will return, or whether he’ll be one of Sky News’ regular rotating panelists. Still, now that Sky News is entirely News Corp owned we suppose it would have been odd — and certainly worth remarking on — if the network had dropped him entirely.

Another fun thing in Sky News’ announcement from Monday are the exact specifics of Caroline Marcus’ new role. The ex-A Current Affair reporter and News Corp columnist is joining the network as an anchor and “political reporter for the people”. Which might leave you wondering who all the other political reporters are reporting for. Sky News CEO Angelos Frangopoulos helpfully clarified that “her job will be to cover politics from anywhere but Parliament House in Canberra”.

Free Eddie. Eddie Obeid is getting used to his new cell, but he still has some supporters.

A petition addresssed to Justice Robert Beech-Jones, who sentenced Obeid to five years in prison last week, had amassed 244 signatures as Crikey neared deadline.

“Eddie has changed the course of many peoples lives including my own and the majority of people will think i am bias however i always believe there are two sides to the story,” it reads. The biggest problem, it continues, is “the media”.

“They showcase the bad extremely well — but what about the good? This media witch hunt has been going on for far too long and the personal vendetta that Kate McClymont has against Eddie has fuelled an unnecessary fire.

“The imprisonment of Eddie Obeid is a disgrace, it’s a disgrace to the NSW justice system and it’s a disgrace to the Lebanese community. A successful Lebanese politician was just to much for some and i’m calling discrimination.”

The petition goes on to list a number of scandals involving politicians where no one has been sent to jail, including Barry O’Farrell’s “wine debacle”. “Could it be that Barry was born in Australia and not Lebanon? Had he been Lebanese, Greek, Syrian or Italian, could that $3,000 bottle of wine landed him in Jail?” Of course, O’Farrell isn’t in jail because he didn’t do anything criminal in accepting a bottle of wine, though perhaps the unnamed petition creator would just see that as semantic.

Attacking the media is a common theme in responses from those signing, along with alleged racism against him and claims he should be with his family.

Brandis’ data retention Christmas gift: it’s just the wrapping. Just five days out from Christmas, the Attorney-General’s Department has dropped off its present. Or rather, not the present, just the wrapping: metadata for everyone. One of the big concerns about mandatory data retention was that the data collected for the purposes of law enforcement could, in fact, be obtained during civil court proceedings, like say trying to catch people pirating TV shows and movies. The government agreed to amend it so data retained under the law could not be accessed in civil litigation, but certain exclusions to this ban could be made via government regulation. The government has now launched a review into this with a tight deadline of January 13 asking people what data and in which circumstances the data should be available in civil proceedings. It will be interesting to see if any film studios lobby for the data to be made available to them to chase down pirates.

Incidentally, Telstra has been quick off the mark to implement a block on The Pirate Bay — one of the websites it was ordered to block last week by the Federal Court. The block appears to only be on Telstra mobile at this stage; iiNet/TPG has yet to implement the block, but they have 15 business days from the ruling. Also, the block is easy to bypass with a VPN.

BuzzFeed journalist Alice Workman also tweeted that the site isn’t blocked on the free Parliament wi-fi. Which is curious, considering legitimate websites such as gaming site Kotaku have been blocked in the past.

pirate-bay-alice-tweet

Labor Herald goes quiet. Remember the Labor Herald? Around this time last year, we reported that Labor’s own Crikey hadn’t quite met its own lofty ambitions, losing its founding editor and getting only slight support from Labor parliamentarians mere months after creation. While the Labor Herald could and was intended to work as a place for MPs to place their op-eds, more mainstream media sources are also after the same content, and often able to guarantee a wider readership of it.

The Labor Herald was even quieter in 2016 — it barely came up when we talked to Labor operatives about their digital campaigning during the election. Now it appears the Herald has gone on “hiatus”. The ABC’s Frank Keany noticed and tweeted about it this morning, and the Herald’s own Twitter account suggests it’s been offline since December 3 (how’s that for well-earned breaks). None of the articles are viewable — all previous links redirect to the page saying its offline. It’s supposedly not permanent — the page says it’s just a “short break so that we can rest up, recharge, and get ready for 2017”.

But no one would be very surprised if it didn’t come back in 2017 at all. After all, the Labor Herald was the passion project of former Labor national secretary George Wright. He jumped to BHP in late August.

*Heard anything that might interest Crikey? Send your tips to boss@crikey.com.au or use our guaranteed anonymous form

Media

Jun 21, 2016

5 comments

Kohler’s new venture. Veteran business journalist Alan Kohler is starting a new subscription business and investment title, to launch sometime in July.

The Constant Investor will operate with a four-person staff from a tiny office in Hawthorn.

Kohler has started, and sold, several investment titles in the past. The most well-known were Business Spectator (since absorbed into The Australian‘s general business section) and the subscription investment title Eureka Report — Kohler his co-founders sold both to News Corp for a combined $30 million almost exactly four years ago.

Much of the value of the Business Spectator stable rested in its marquee writers and founders. As part of the sale, Kohler — whose profile extends well beyond finance readers due to his nightly appearances on ABC News — along with his cofounders Robert Gottliebsen and Stephen Bartholomeusz had to remain with News Corp for several years. Kohler’s commitment was for four years and ends at the end of this month.

Kohler has now resigned as an employee of News Corp employee, though he’ll still be around. He told Crikey this morning he’d signed a contract to deliver two columns a week for The Australian. Australian business editor Eric Johnston told Crikey this morning he was “delighted” Kohler would continue to write. “His columns provide powerful insight, credibility and depth,” he said. “Alan is very popular among our readers across our print and digital platforms.” The Australian has big ambitions to take on the Australian Financial Review for Australia’s business readers.

Kohler finishes his commitment with Eureka Report at the end of the month. In March News Corp sold Eureka Report to Australasian Wealth Investments, which also publishes Intelligent Investor along with several other financial titles.

“I’m leaving on good terms,” he said this morning. “It’s still a good product, I’m just moving on. I like starting stuff.”

The Constant Investor will be a weekly title, with macro analysis of economics and business aimed at investors, plus a weekly half-hour podcast. Kohler hasn’t decided on a price for the subscription yet, but he says it won’t be much and will represent “fabulous value”.

It sounds a bit like Eureka Report, but Kohler says it’ll be a leaner operation. Unlike Eureka Report, the new title will not present stock-picking material, and it won’t employ stock analysts.

Kohler is funding the startup himself — asked if he had investors, he said it was “just me”. Kohler’s nightly gig at the ABC is unaffected. — Myriam Robin

Kenny vindicated by Press Council. Australian associate editor Chris Kenny’s reporting on Nauru didn’t breach any Press Council guidelines, the body says in an adjudication published today.

In October last year, Kenny was the first journalist granted access to Nauru in some time, after numerous media organisations had their requests for visas denied. His reporting drew fierce criticism, especially after one of his subjects, the refugee known as “Abyan”, was reportedly upset and went to hospital after his visit.

The complaints raised to the Press Council revolved around the headline on one of the articles (which referred to Abyan as a “rape refugee”) and around the appropriateness and fairness of interviewing her.

According to the adjudication:

“The publication said it was sensitive to Abyan’s situation and accordingly did not divulge her real name, reveal her face or provide her residential address on Nauru. It said in gathering the material for the report, the journalist had visited Abyan’s home and identified himself by name and as a journalist, and explained how the information would be used. The publication said Abyan had clearly consented to the interview and invited the journalist into her home to have the discussion. The publication noted that Abyan has a reasonable command of English, but asked to be accompanied by her roommate to assist in translation and ensure her answers were understood. The publication said Abyan consented to be photographed at that time, provided her face was not shown.”

As to the headline, the Oz itself acknowledged it was “inelegant” and “too blunt” but said it didn’t mean to cause offence and was merely trying to quickly summarise the story.

The council notes in its adjudication that it did not have Abyan’s participation in its process, and so it had “less information” than it would like. Nonetheless, it accepted The Australian‘s claims regarding the article. The reporting was on a matter of “significant public interest”, and material put to the council suggested Kenny did have Abyan’s consent to do the interview, “although determining consent in the context of a person held in offshore detention is difficult”. It noted the Oz didn’t identify Abyan.

On issues of care and sensitivity, the headline was a bit much, but “does not amount to causing substantial offence, distress or prejudice in breach of General Principle 6”.

On Twitter, Australian CEO Nicholas Gray said Kenny was vindicated by the ruling.

gray

–Myriam Robin

APN quits print. APN has quit its last involvement with print media by agreeing to sell its Australian regional daily and other newspapers to its largest shareholder and partner, News Corp, for what appears to be a knockdown price of $36 million. Journalists fear for their jobs in the merger, which will increase News’ print dominance and give it a print monopoly in some areas.

According to media reports, APN agreed to the fire-sale’ price offered by News Corp of $36 million — 30% less than the price APN had been talking about of $50 million. But as usual News Corp, which owns 14.9% of APN and always had the inside running on the purchase, is sending contradictory messages. It is closing seven community papers in the Leader group in Melbourne at the end of the month. But it is going deeper into print in Queensland by buying APN’s 16 regional dailies (which are based in northern NSW and Queensland) and a host of weekly free and paid papers.

News Corp CEO Robert Thomson had in the past ruled out any further expansion in print (such as buying the Tribune Publishing group in the US), but he has obviously been overruled in this case by the Murdoch clan. The purchase will lift News Corp’s dominance of daily journalism close to 70% and leave Fairfax Media and Seven West Media as the only two independent publishers of note. It’s worth noting, however, that News is considering selling its ailing Sunday Times in Perth to Seven West, which would bring about a monopoly of another kind — Kerry Stokes’ Seven West would own all major print media assets in WA.

The APN titles News will be buying include Mackays Daily Mercury (Mackay), Rockhamptons The Morning Bulletin and The Chronicle in Toowoomba, which are all are housed in APN”s Australian Regional Media unit. Their purchase and will give News Corp a near monopoly of print journalism in Queensland. It already owns The Courier-Mail and Sunday Mail in Brisbane, The Townsville Bulletin, The Gold Coast Bulletin and The Cairns Post— Glenn Dyer

Photoshop of horrors.Today in photoshop atrocities, the Daily Telegraph has done up three of Australia’s independent politicians as famous serial killers from fiction …

terrorindependents

Those who don’t understand history … Last week, the Newspaper Association of America revealed that not even it is immune from the pressures consuming its members. News emerged that the association is shutting the Newspaper National Network at the end of this month. The network was founded in 1994 to sell advertising on behalf of members and is estimated to have sold around US$3 billion in the past 22 years.

At the time of its demise, NNN was owned by 20 newspaper publishers, as well as the association. The reason it failed was that the costs involved were too much for the revenues generated. And there are suggestions that some publishers saw the cost of running NNN as a saving, not an investment, while others wanted to try and grab as much ad revenue as possible for all sources.

And over the weekend, news emerged in London that some of Britain’s biggest newspaper owners were looking at banding together to jointly sell ads. The Financial Times reported:

“The options being explored in conversations between senior Fleet Street executives include creating a single advertising sales operation as the industry faces the biggest crisis since the economic crash of 2008.Talks have so far involved the Telegraph Media Group, Trinity Mirror and Rupert Murdoch’s News UK — owner of The Times, the Sunday Times and The Sun, according to senior newspaper executives.”

Don’t they ever learn, or read? — Glenn Dyer