ABCwatch

Tim Blair

Ombudsgod

New Criterion

 

 

Wednesday, February 25, 2004
 
GOOD LIES, BAD LIES

I see that Andrew Bolt has been stung by the vituperation of the Aboriginal victim industry.

That's nothing to what would happen to your old Uncle if Auntie ever caught up with my furtive bloggings.

The viciousness of Bolt's attackers shows how right I was in naming the National Defamation Awards after Sir Ronald Wilson, patron saint of the Stolen Generations myth.

Young Bolt should go to Alice Springs, where Uncle was a few weeks ago.

There, if he visits the old telegraph station he might meet, as I did, a man of great dignity called Alec Ross.

Ross, like Charles Perkins, was a Bungalow boy, one of those children taken into institutional care in the late thirties, given a name, a birthday and a basic education to make his way in this uncaring world.

Alec Ross takes a view of his past that would cause Bolt's tormentors to spit on him, if Alec's skin weren't a dark shade of brown. As it is, they just quietly despise and ignore him.

Luckily for us, that really important friend of Auntie's, George Negus, has interviewed Alec.

GEORGE NEGUS: As I mentioned, we're shooting here at the old historic Telegraph Station, just outside Alice Springs, and this building used to be the barracks. During a particularly bleak period in the Station's history, this place was used to house Aboriginal children from the stolen generation. And now I'd like you to meet Alec Ross. We didn't know until we got here that Alec is a member of what many call the stolen generation. He was here in the 'bungalow', as they called it then, for three years, or more, was it?


ALEC ROSS: Well, they told me at three but I don't remember, er, being here at that time.

GEORGE NEGUS: I'm not surprised, at three.

ALEC ROSS: Three.

GEORGE NEGUS: But you were, in fact - so we get the facts right - taken away from your mum?

ALEC ROSS: Yeah, I was taken away. Not because they stole me. It was because I was sick.

GEORGE NEGUS: So you don't...

ALEC ROSS: That's the reason I was taken. I was sick with pneumonia, living in the creek bed with my mother.

GEORGE NEGUS: Did your mum want you taken away?

ALEC ROSS: Well, apparently, she agreed for me to go to the hospital.

GEORGE NEGUS: Right.

ALEC ROSS: That's what the policeman told me - Bill McKinnon.

GEORGE NEGUS: But you didn't see her again...

ALEC ROSS: I never saw her again in 46 years.


You see, Alec did not have any easy life. He was taken, like Perkins, but not stolen. And no-one can make him lie about it.

Alec lost touch with his mother for almost fifty years. He thought a missionary worker was his mother. The other kids at the Bungalow were his brothers and sisters.

George Negus is, as you would expect, having trouble coming to grips with this.

GEORGE NEGUS: Yeah. What was that like?

ALEC ROSS: I loved it.

GEORGE NEGUS: Yeah?

ALEC ROSS: Yeah. It was really good.

GEORGE NEGUS: Were they all happy to be here?

ALEC ROSS: Well, a lot of them say they weren't happy but, to me, it was the best they ever did for me, because then I got a better start in life and I did what I wanted to do once I turned 18.

GEORGE NEGUS: But how do you feel about a lot of people from the Aboriginal community who say they were stolen, who are pretty upset about it?

ALEC ROSS: Yeah, well, the thing is, maybe they had a different life to what I lived and maybe it, you know, affected them in later years. But, to me, it didn't happen. I was actually... Maybe I was a favourite boy or something, but I got it very good. I can tell you.

GEORGE NEGUS: No complaints as such.

ALEC ROSS: No complaints as such.

GEORGE NEGUS: Except that you...

ALEC ROSS: Their intentions, my belief is, they were all good - trying to take care of these children, who had nothing, when you think about it.

GEORGE NEGUS: Right.

ALEC ROSS: We had nothing.


Here's how the interview ends:

GEORGE NEGUS: It's a bit rough to say...

ALEC ROSS: It IS rough, I know that.

GEORGE NEGUS: ..kids should grow up not even knowing that they're Aboriginal.

ALEC ROSS: That is true. And I always knew I was a half-caste Aboriginal, so it didn't, you know, affect me in one way, really.

GEORGE NEGUS: So when you met your mum, at 49, and obviously it wasn't a very emotional...

ALEC ROSS: No, it wasn't.

GEORGE NEGUS: ..she just disappeared again?

ALEC ROSS: Yeah. She went bush again. She actually lived out at Ali Curung and, er, of course, I went to see her many times after that and she was still the same. She still didn't know who I was and...

GEORGE NEGUS: So you maintained contact with her?

ALEC ROSS: Yeah. I always went up to see her, try to get her to understand who I was.

GEORGE NEGUS: Still mum.

ALEC ROSS: Yeah. Oh, yeah. And I did always put my arm around her, trying to get her to understand who I was, you know, and why they did take me away, but she just didn't understand a thing I said, really.

GEORGE NEGUS: Alec, it's quite a story.

ALEC ROSS: Oh, thank you.

GEORGE NEGUS: Thanks for talking to us.

ALEC ROSS: Thanks, George.


Can you believe the integrity of that man? How much easier it would be for him to play the role George and every communard wants him to play - victim. Instead he stays true to himself.

Alec not only resumed contact with his mother, but with the younger siblings she had later by her Aboriginal husband. And who were'nt "stolen".

"They're all dead now", Alec told me, "I'm the only one left alive. I'm the lucky one."

If you visit Alice any time soon, make sure you go out to the old telegraph station. Alec enjoys showing people around his old home. It's one of God's special places.

If you're lucky you'll meet Alec Ross, a man who has had a hard life, and has survived with more integrity than the entire left commentariat.

Shake his hand. There's not a lot like Alec Ross around.

And don't forget to buy a copy of Shirley Brown's book on Alec's life.


Tuesday, February 24, 2004
 
NEWS LOCKED IN SAFE - HORROR AT ULTIMO

According to our Gastropod:

It's not widely known but a few months before being anointed Opposition Leader, a letter from Latham arrived on the seventh floor at ABC headquarters in Sydney's Ultimo. While the letter is locked in a safe, those who've seen it talk of being surprised, even shocked, by its content.

Apparently it might have been torn from the pages of the conservative Quadrant or the rantings of Melbourne Herald-Sun columnist Andrew Bolt. There are familiar rantings about elitism and complaints about public broadcasting being a sheltered workshop for middle-class wankers. In other words, Latham was picking up where Bob Hawke and Paul Keating left off -- making it clear that he despises the ABC and all that, to him, it represents.

Let's hope this is not just another Gastropodian fabrication.

If it's not, why is Auntie suppressing it?


Monday, February 23, 2004
 
THERE'S NOTHING WRONG WITH VOTING after the ballot has been declared. Especially in one of Uncle's exercises in guided democracy.

I should point out, however, that the inaugural Ronald Wilson Award for National Defamation has already gone to a grateful professor Henry Reynolds. It's not my fault if you missed it.

Since then eager voters have pushed the tally for the egregious Ms Alison Broinowski above Professor Reynolds'.

I don't know what the good woman has done to swing the popular mood in her direction. It may just be that her fans are slower thinkers than the wiser heads who backed Reynolds.

I can't even blame multiple voting. Apart from Uncle the voters have limited themselves to one each. Clearly, none of them is a member of the Labor Party.

But ask yourself this question. Is there any of Alison Broinowski's ideas that you can bring to mind? Right now, not next week.

And do you think any of her ideas will last more than two weeks as part of public discussion in this country?

And now this one: have you heard of Terra Nullius? Did you ever think it was part of Australian colonial policy? Do you still think it is?

I rest my case.

Better luck next year.


 
SPINNING FIT TO SCREW HIS CHAIR into the studio floor, Media Watch presenter David Marr tonight gives off-handed recognition to the vices of his political friends.

First, ex-Senator Alston's continuing attempts to find an independent umpire for his complaints about the political bias of Auntie's AM's treatment of the Iraq war.

If you can follow the logic of Media Watch on this one you deserve a PhD. Or two, if it's from the University of Western Sydney.

The introduction is a simple lie: Richard Alston?s twice-rejected complaints about the ABC?s coverage of the Iraq war.

Alston's complaints have been twice supported, by in-house ABC reviews.

You then deal only with a complaint that's not on the list of those the ABC's internal review found to be "serious" cases of bias. And you talk about nothing else. Life is too short to say any more.

Courtesy of a MEAA member, Alston's submission to the ABA has been published. Or, is about to be published on Media Watch.

And then, mirabile dictu, Media Watch reveals the latest of Philip "Gastropod" Adams's deceptions in his Australian column.

But only with a twist and a double spin. Adams is, so we're told, only following the lead set by Janet Albrechtsen, whose failure to follow the left line has already made her a target of Marr and the whole tribe of Marred minds.

Do you get that? Does that mean that until he read Albrechtsen, Adams was honest, logical and balanced?

Of course not. It means that even a token recognition of leftist chicanery must be relativised according to a leftist travesty of a conservative opinion.

This must be the grossest example of political thuggery so far this year:

The verb "to albrecht" meaning to lift and twist - entered the language a couple of years ago when we reported columnist Janet Albrechtsen lifting and twisting academic sources to suit her purposes according to Media Watch.

Of course, it didn't. But you can't tickle the Gastropod's tail without treading on the reputation of someone far more serious but insufficiently left-wing.

Still, it's worth watching Marr and his mob put to the trouble of spinning so wildly. Just lie back and forget you're paying for it.

And congratulations to the blogging Bunyip for pointing out Adams's chicanery so often that even the gruesome crew has been embarrassed into noticing it.

Don't expect a repeat this side of 2020.


Sunday, February 22, 2004
 
IF HE'S NOT A VICTIM, then his death loses its political power.

If young Thomas Hickey's horrible death was just another bicycle accident then those who attacked police were just thugs.

And Henny Herald writers are denied the opportunity to dwell on the higher moral ground. As do "Aboriginal activists" and left journalists throughout the world.

And they're not going to let that happen without a struggle. Even if it leaves Aboriginal Australians to a desperate future.

Even if it means resorting to racial prejudices and stereotypes.

Henny's Saturday News Review is devoted to the task of placing the Hickey tragedy within its chosen ideological frame.

It starts with the headline:

IT TAKES A RIOT for Australia to care about these kids

over a pic of three of Thomas Hickey's girl cousins.

What does that mean? That Hickey and his cousins were neglected? That the 80 welfare agencies active in Redfern are not enough to demonstrate public care? That one or a few more will? That Hickey was a victim of prejudice?

Here's how the argument goes:

Thomas "TJ" Hickey, the diminutive Redfern 17-year-old who became world famous this week when his death caused a riot, shared the tastes of many Australian youths.

He rode the red bike he got for Christmas "like a jockey", said his aunt, Virginia Hickey, who became a second mother to him. In his small upstairs bedroom in her terrace house, he had a TV and DVD player, an Xbox, a stereo system, a treasured marble collection and a poster featuring a photo of a tiger. He was an animal lover.


In other words, a well-cared-for young man, more prosperous than the kids of many Henny readers.

But.

But TJ's fate three weeks before his 18th birthday was determined by one important factor that made him different from most other youths his age ... he was Aboriginal.

Being Aboriginal means, according to Henny's Debra Jopson, being in possession of special virtue:

His great virtue, according to his family, was that indigenous cultural gift which has helped so many survive poverty: a propensity to share.

He suffered one major disability, however. He'd skipped much of his schooling and was illiterate and unemployable. Could that be related to his gaol-bird father and substance-abusing mother? Could his petty thieving and familiarity with the police be causally related to all that? Might that even be described as part of his cultural gift?

Of course not. Hickey exhibited the symptoms of the dispossessed.

In case you missed the reference to the historical past as cause and excuse, the Henny sub-editor makes it clear for you with this running head:

The past is back

Despite the Prime Minister's views on black armbands, the past has come back to bite in Redfern

It is unsurprising the rioters targeted the railway station because police officers constantly stand there, watching the Block, said [the Reverend Bill] Crews. It is a throwback to the welfare era in which many grew up, when police would watch and then swoop, taking children away.

You'll note the Rev. Bill says it is a return to past practices, not that some Redfern residents choose to see it that way.

You may not believe this, but Jopson thinks the proximate causes of Hickey's death include the failure of ATSIC, whose two leading figures are before the courts for serious offences.

The federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister, Amanda Vanstone, has not solved ATSIC's dilemma

And if there is a problem with parenting it's due to the forced separaton of children and parents:

There is poor parenting, several community activists in the area said this week, much of it by stolen generations' members. Having been taken from their own families as children, they do not know how to parent.

But Hickey had two parents, and an aunt who supported him. Let's try again:

But many parents are otherwise engaged, contributing to the massive over-representation of Aborigines in our jails.

implying, if it means anything, that gaoling Hickey's father for armed robbery was a prejudiced act.

"Stereotyping continues"

according to Jopson, who seems to accept no personal responsibility for it: Much political and media commentary on the Block this week lumped together its residents and blow-ins for the purposes of generalisation. But as Godwell said: "There are Kooris there now who have no idea of the history of the old families on the Block. They are attracted by the black underworld."

For this, the rioters bear no responsibility, in Henny's books.

So where do we go from here? The Noel Pearson route of personal responsibility replacing welfare dependency?

Everyone bows to Pearson, but no-one on the left wants to follow him.

Instead, the responsibility of everyone else is generalised. We now find a conspiracy of all against the victim:

The impact of wedge politics at the national level,

"The minister doesn't share a sense of urgency [about indigenous affairs]" said Godwell [head of the think tank Lumbu Indigenous Community Foundation], who argues it is in Vanstone's political interests to keep ATSIC in limbo.

Godwell also thinks "Government policy and programs [have] very little to show in the way of outcomes. The public sector is not equipped to deal with social issues" . But, it seems, they should do more.

Virginia Hickey ... is convinced there is a plan to kill off her people.

The police are not empathetic enough.

The millions of dollars worth of Redfern land handed over to Aboriginal interests by Whitlam has produced no benefit.

So where do we go from here?

According to Henny, we go on excusing parents who don't send their kids to school, blaming "the community" when the kids go wild, turn to crime and drug dependence, and pretend that assaulting police is a reasonable outcome.

Can there really be people in senior positions in Henny Herald stupid enough to believe that? Or so married to their ideology that they are prepared to excuse the causes of present Aboriginal misery by reference to the past?







Wednesday, February 18, 2004
 
HE ALSO "ALL BUT RULED OUT" the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement.

Federal Opposition leader Mark Latham has all but ruled out introducing accommodation bonds for people entering nursing homes.

The bonds are loans from those who can afford them to help fund desperately needed accommodation for the frail aged.

Perhaps Mark will mail out incontinence pads for all over-70s.

It's easier than having a policy that will fund quality aged-care accommodation.

And then he can have compulsory classes for old folk who won't learn how to use them.

I love Labor's answer to the Third Way. It's called the Weird Way.


 
UNCLE COULD SEE this coming, just like Canberra's Premier Lite, Jon Stanhope could see the fires coming.

His tsar of emergency services, Peter Lucas-Smith told him and his entire "cabinet" about the impending fire-storm two days before it happened.

None of them told the people of Canberra, four of whom lost their lives, and several thousand of them lost their homes.

Meanwhile Stanhope, Lucas-Smith and the rest are still in their jobs.

It must be the Peter Beattie magic wand at work.


 
THIS IS ABSOLUTELY TRUE, according to reader C:

YOU ask why we have employed David Marr to present the ABC's Media Watch program. The answer is because Marr is one of Australia's leading intellectuals, journalists and commentators in books, newspapers, radio and TV, with a proven record of integrity.

Media Watch under Marr has continued to criticise and analyse the media – including both the ABC and The Australian – without fear or favour. That's as it should be. The appropriate response to criticism is reasoned argument.

Sandra Levy
ABC Director of Television


Some of my readers will believe anything.


 
UNCLE LOVES CHUBBY GIRLS and is therefore a fan of Ms Indira Naidoo.

She also has brains enough to extract a few hundred thou out of Auntie for reading someone else's scripts.

Do you think this delightful cherub could be tempted by an over-weight, over-age, under-exercised man married to an under-brained loud-mouth of left-wing prejudices?

Neither do I.

On the other hand she can, so I am told, be tempted into dropping her comic knickers on the Glass House, that refuge of the studiously unfunny, when WMDs come up for a sniggering.

I wish I had heard it. I just love girls being really, really, stupid.

Especially when they're sober. Just imagine what they'd do after one of Uncle's You Thought It Was a Health Drink specials!


 
WHO WOULDN'T BE TIRED of Kezza's vanity?

Reader RA draws attention to this outburst by Auntie's most important journalist, Kerry O'Brien:

On Thursday (19.02) night as part of your intro to your fireside chat with Latham you said: "Mr O'Leary subsequently advised me Mr Howard had declined the interview because he'd been on our program last week and he was too tired to come on tonight".

I heard it too. Because I didn't hear the next day that O'Leary had been sacked I assumed that Kezza was making it up.

As he undoubtedly was when he reported that Howard, by not coming on his programme, was guilty of censorship.

The eyes of the people, the ears of the people and the mind of the people. Our Kezza.

RA, you should be grateful.


 
AUNTIE'S ETHNIC COUSIN, SBS, used to run propaganda for the Stalinists from Hanoi.

Auntie herself is classier. She runs ten year old travelogues, as reader CR gently pointed out to her:

Do you realise that you are running a view of Vietnam from way back in 1994? That country and its tourist industry have advanced dramatically during that period. Hanoi, for example, is less and less “a city of bicycles” but a modern and thriving metropolis, full of restaurants and boutiques. And with rare exceptions, hotels at all levels are clean and functional – not that sad example in the travelogue.

He didn't tell me where to find it, but do you really want to know?

I'm not so sure I'm with CR on this one:

I’ll say one thing about Local ABC radio here, Radio 612. They sure don’t take themselves so bloody seriously as down in Sydney. Why have a blowfly political pundit when you can get an astrologer in to predict the future?

Here's one really good pundit. The best polemic combines passion with argument, and you'll find that here and here.


Tuesday, February 17, 2004
 
FIRM BUT FLEXIBLE, that's Biffer Balding's policy on editorial comment by Auntie's presenters.

Senator SANTORO —In answer to question No. 172 from the November estimates the ABC said that management had spoken in a `frank and robust way' to Ms Linda Mottram, AM presenter, about her adherence to editorial policies and had `reaffirmed its confidence' in her commitment to those policies. Ms Mottram was later reported as saying, `Nobody is telling me to do anything differently on the basis of it.' Was the advice to Ms Mottram to modify her presentation?

Mr Balding —I am informed that Ms Mottram was advised of her obligations in respect of adherence to the ABC's editorial policies and guidelines and that it was a very frank and open discussion with Ms Mottram.


I guess a similarly frank and open discussion with silly season AM presenter Richard Acland led to this situation:

Senator SANTORO — I refer to the manner in which Mr Richard Ackland discharged his responsibilities as presenter of the morning show on Radio National in December and January, and specifically to the occasion on which he said in the context of the Hutton inquiry then under way in Britain that, `In Australia, if you lie, you get re-elected.' That is a direct quote. Do you believe that was an appropriate broadcast comment by one of your journalists?

Mr Balding —Again I am not aware of that comment. I would like to have a look at it. I will get hold of the transcript and I will go through it.


Go through it? The whole eight words! See you next year, Biff.

Well you can flog me with a feather if Biffer is not just the perfect manager for a class of pre-schoolers.




 
AT LEAST WE KNOW HOW Biffer Balding is going to spend this lot.

The ABC is calling for an extra $8 million in funding from this year's Federal Budget. The corporation's managing director, Russell Balding, has told a Senate estimates committee in Canberra the ABC is facing rising cost pressures.

Here's where it's going:

Labor's Sue Mackay asked the Mr Balding to clarify whether the corporation had spent $7.6 million on travel over two years.

Overseas trips for executives have been heavily scrutinised, with travel bills of more than $100,000 for some department heads.


Here's Biffer's explanation:

Mr Balding told the committee all overseas travel is justified and 80 per cent is directly related to program production.

He means buying stuff from the BBC.

If you thought that salespeople for programming no-one else wants to buy should visit the customer, and not the other way round, think again.




 
IT MUST STILL BE JANUARY because so many people are still in silly-season mode.

Our Henny Herald can't tell the difference between a Molotov cocktail and a Roman candle. I guess Henny thinks if you call it a Molotov cocktail it turns a riot into heroic anti-colonial resistance.

The Australian's own work-experience columnist, Philip "Gastropod" Adams thinks John Howard is likely to die of Syphilis.

Canberra's Premier Lite, Jon Stanhope, who wants to be the first to add the dry rot of a Bill of Rights to an Australian constitution, is going to buy a cartoon-in-bronze of Prime Minister John Howard on behalf of the people of Canberra, using their money of course. He thinks this burlesque of Howard's defence policy is commentary of lasting value to Australian culture.

Mr Stanhope said the statue was a "significant and serious work of art by a very significant Australian artist" and it deserved to be added to Canberra's permanent public artworks.


Meanwhile, his Chief Fire Officer Peter Lucas-Smith has just confessed he did not believe Canberra could be directly threatened when bushfires to the west of the capital ignited. So he told his troops not to bother putting them out when that could have been achieved by ten people with buckets. Canberra's prevailing winds come from the west.

Henny's ideologues, our Gastropod, Stanhope and Lucas-Smith still have their jobs. It must be Christmas.


Sunday, February 15, 2004
 
DEAD RINGER! According to Gnuhunter's post of today's date a Sammy Ringer is getting a regular wage to develop propaganda pieces directed at the Commonwealth Government.

Where is he/she getting it from?

The Queensland Labor Government, apparently. But not as a Government staffer.

She/he's paid with money for the arts.

There's more than one sugar-Auntie in this country.


 
UNCLE WELCOMES COPIES OF COMPLAINTS to Auntie about the bias of her news and current affairs reports. They're more likely to see the light of publicity here on ABCwatch than on one of Auntie's "forums".

Reader PW has asked Auntie for evidence that the Bush administration's case for war in Iraq depended on Saddam's threat being 'imminent'.

If Shovelan has any examples of the use of “imminent” by Administration officials, he might have favoured us with an example, instead of his murky “examination of the rhetoric”

Given the prominence the ABC gives President Bush’s State Of The Union address when, for instance, he makes allegations about Iraq’s pursuit of African Uranium, why didn’t Shovelan quote Bush in the State of the Union address:
“Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option.”


There is something truly childish about the left's stress on imminence.

Or perhaps it's just a case of the media thinking that all policy-making should live in the moment, like tabloid reporting.


 
MY FAVOURITE MURDERER

Reader KR complains about having to listen to Gerry Adams, Margaret Throsby's latest apologist for murdering civilians, on ABC Classic FM on February 12th.

What do you expect, music?


 
"WE AT THE ABC could probably play around with the way we handle our political coverage and get away with it"

according to John Cameron, the national editor of ABC News and Current Affairs, in a recent public statement not yet recorded on Auntie's website.

No comment.


Tuesday, February 10, 2004
 
FURTHER ANTI-COLONIAL INITIATIVES IN IRAQ

Insurgents in Iraq sought the help of senior leaders of the al Qaeda terrorist network for a plan to spark a "civil war" that would pit the country's religious and ethnic groups against each other and prevent a transfer of sovereignty from U.S. occupation authorities to Iraqis, U.S. officials said today, citing a document seized from an al Qaeda courier.


 
AUSTRALIAN SUGAR PRODUCERS NO WORSE OFF!

Who gets the better of the new US-Australia free trade deal? Who knows. If both sides are better off does it matter so much?

Who thinks it's a bum deal for Australia? Henny Herald's economically-illiterate political reporters Tom Allard and Marian Wilkinson.

US gets upper hand in trade deal

Who else would like to have a bilateral FTA with the USA? Every country that hasn't got one.

Who can not afford a more prosperous Australia with stronger links to the US? The usual suspects.

Will Mark Lithium's Labor, like Lord Bob Brown's Greens, pull the house down to get more sunlight on its face? We'll just have to wait and see.

Furthermore:

Free trader Alan Oxley sees the benefits.

AUSTRALIA'S dreadful trade problems have just become worse. thinks Ross Garnaut.

It offers important benefits to Australia says Greg Sheridan.

The US lobbies aren't celebrating either:

Barbara Spangler, a trade specialist for the National Association of Wheat Growers, said her group was disappointed the pact does nothing to loosen the monopoly control that Australia's AWB has over wheat exports.

The Coalition for Sugar Reform, which represents food processors and other groups opposed to the U.S. sugar program, condemned the agreement as "a political payoff" to sugar farmers ahead of this year's presidential election.




Monday, February 09, 2004
 
IF YOU WERE A FINANCIAL JOURNALIST who failed to declare that you owned shares in a company you were writing about, you would find few to defend you.

Political commentators have no such problem. I'm not just talking about party affiliations or ideological slants, although it would be useful if journalists did declare how they voted at the last few elections.

Now that commentary has replaced reportage as the main business of journalists it is time to lift our standards of disclosure.

I'm talking about the self-interest journalists have in the spin they've already published.

Take Mr Rod Liddle, one of the Spectator's livelier writers, who doesn't give the impression he's about to call Jeeves for his brandy.

As some kind of Tory, Liddle has the obvious partisan bias. The Spectator generally is so desperate for an occasion to put the boot into Prime Minister Blair, perhaps because its own Parliamentary attack dogs are toothless, that on Iraq it has often sounded more like our Labor left or the current Democrat Presidential hopefuls.

On top of that he has commentator's self-interest.

In August last year Liddle thought the Gilligan-BBC story grounds for Blair's resignation. So how do you think he was going to react to the Hutton findings? Support the umpire, like a good Tory?

Rod Liddle says that Lord Hutton gave the government the benefit of the doubt, sometimes to the point of appearing either hopelessly naive or a visitor from a kinder, gentler planet.

He's entitled to his point of view, but he should have told his readers that last August he was a hoplessly partisan optimist from planet Tory, and jumped so far to his conclusion he's now suspended like Wile E Coyote over the abyss of his own error?

Those who make the news, politicians and journalist-commentators, should be accountable.



 
POLITICAL CAMPAIGNING BY THE MEDIA gets two well-aimed serves.

This morning Paul Sheehan gives us

Media World no longer reports the political agenda, it seeks to set the political agenda.

with poll-fuelled speculation about party leadership the clearest example.

His other example, the children who were dumped overboard before the last federal election, is even better because it illustrates a practice that is less obvious and even more frequent.

Here the issue is created by pretending there's a difference of substance where none exists.

Do you prefer as your uninvited guests people who sink the boat carrying their children to those other gatecrashers who leave the boat afloat but sink the children?

Me neither.

Today one of Auntie's and Henny Herald's favourite talents gives us another nice example of the opposite of the vice Sheehan describes. It's not the manufacture of differences where none exist, but the denial of differences as different as black and white.

"It may be unreasonable in someone's opinion to use physical force. It might be right in someone's opinion". Gerry Adams prefers the term "physical force republicans" now.

"'Sensible people' would engage in armed action if they thing there is no alternative, according to Adams. That is, if the civilians of Northern Ireland won't do what you want, you kill and maim them until they see the light.

War just seems easier and more predictable than "physical force" politics, according to Adams.

There is another difference, of course. You fight wars against armies, not civilians, however inevitable civilian casualties.

Adams can see no lesson in the links between the IRA and al Quaida.

And Henny's Debra Jopson can see no difference between Adams and Nelson Mandela, whose reputation is based on preventing a blood-bath.

(You'll have to wait for the link).

Yesterday Miranda Devine did a similar piece of surgery on the confected indignation on Lord Hutton's convicting of Andrew Gilligan and the BBC:

The National Union of Journalists announced a day of protest after BBC director-general Greg Dyke resigned. Reams of newsprint were devoted to defending reporter Andrew Gilligan, with emphasis on the fact his gravest error occurred at 6.07am, as if that excused it. Gilligan's evidence to the Hutton inquiry was curious and deleted files in his personal organiser had to be recovered by a computer expert. The report shows Gilligan took a late-night pub conversation with Kelly, of which he had sloppy notes, and beat it up in the worst Fleet Street tradition.

He invented the claim that the Blair Government "probably knew" that information inserted into a dossier making the case for war against Iraq was false. Gilligan admitted during the inquiry he had no basis to make the claim and yet the BBC stuck by him to the end, and he is still being championed by colleagues, including high-profile dinners with Spectator columnists.

Gilligan was biased about the war from the start in reports from Baghdad, as Canadian columnist Margaret Wente pointed out. "He was openly contemptuous of the US military, which he insinuated was dishonest and inept, and he was ridiculing its claim [which was accurate] that it was in the process of securing the Baghdad airport."




 
IT IS TRUE AFTER ALL. They do all look the same.

Frequent flyers could soon be able to bypass customs officers and have their identity checked by face-scanning machines, despite some doubt over their reliability.

The system's ability to detect imposters became an issue in early demonstrations when two Japanese businessmen were let through after swapping passports.


 
LOW-FIDELITY AT AUNTIE'S CLASSIC FM

The network that takes your money to broadcast classical music has decided that music is less interesting than talk. In future the honey-voiced Margaret Throsby will be extending her talk program by a further hour.

This means two things.

First, Ms Throsby's opportunities for serial commentary, a task for which she is about as well qualified as the post-adolescents at JJJ, will be extended by a further hour.

Second, the total time available for decent slabs of music between 6.00 am and midday is now just one hour, from 11.00 to midday.

Here's an idea I think is better. Merge Auntie's FM into the "national conversation" on Radio National. Then use some of the money saved to broadcast classical music twenty four hours a day.

Don't bother with announcers. We can get the play-list off the Web or by fax or phone.

I'll take the change in cash, please.


Friday, February 06, 2004
 
SPENCER ACKERMAN of the New Republic magazine has started a one-subject blog.

It's called Iraq'd and it's an appeal to the Bush administration not to abandon the reconstruction of Iraq, so abandoning that country to civil war and the middle east to more of what it's got.

Which is, in effect, Democrat and Labor Party policy.


Thursday, February 05, 2004
 
NOW, ARE YOU ALL UNDER CONTROL OUT THERE?

Then cop this:

ABC theme park proposed for Melbourne

You have about five minutes to think of appropriate 'attractions' before I do it myself.

Under the plan the sets of popular ABC children's television shows like The Saddle Club would be recreated and the showgrounds train could be turned into a Thomas the Tank Engine ride.

Victoria's Labor government is trying to kill the idea:

"If they want to be involved in one of the tenderers applications we will assess that objectively on its merits."

Link from KM.



Tuesday, February 03, 2004
 
I WISH YOU COULD RE-VISIT TONIGHT'S 7.30 REPORT, but you can't yet, so don't hit this link unless you think your Uncle a liar, or you've fallen behind in your reading.

You would have seen Lexy Downer beat Kerry (world's best coiffure) O'Brien catatonic with nothing more lethal than a limp wrist and a few arguments.

Then again, all Kerry had to attack with was bluster and the usual erroneous claims about the illegal, unjustified, etc, etc removal of the left's latest pal, Saddam Hussein.

O'Brien ended the encounter spluttering, while Lexy signed off with an air of slightly injured reasonableness.

Not many Ministers deserve more than the basic wage, but at his best our Alex is one of them.


Monday, February 02, 2004
 
HERE'S AN EXAMPLE OF WHAT I MEAN by BBC political campaigning. It's also an example of how little influence the Hutton verdict has on it.

Here you see the Beeb's Washington correspondent Adam Brookes writing a piece they call "Analysis". This label (which Henny Herald recently applied to Peter Fray's appalling commentary on Hutton) implies something more than commentary. It's commentary from an expert, the product of knowledge and reflection beyond the average.

In a piece written last Friday, after Hutton, Brookes says:

In the Bush administration's monolithic insistence that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, little chinks of daylight have recently been appearing.

This is the gist of Brookes' "analysis":

Slowly, slowly, the administration is reworking its language, readying for the moment when it must acknowledge that Iraq, in fact, had no weapons of mass destruction, and one of the chief rationales that took the US and Britain to war was flawed.

By deflecting calls for a real examination of America's intelligence failures, the president looks like he has something to hide.

This is much more carefully worded than Gilligan's "ballistic" attack, but the message is clear. Bush's rationale for going to war in Iraq was false and he fears exposure for it. It's the same propagandist line being pushed in the Henny every day of the week, supported by Auntie's commentators.

The trouble with the Brookes-BBC line is that it is demonstrably false.

Firstly stocks of WMDs were not the essence of the Coalition case.

Second everyone's intelligence - US, UK, France, Germany, UN - agreed that Saddam had them.

Third, and most important here, everyone in the US including the Democrats now accepts that the US intelligence assessment about Iraqi WMDs preceded Bush and was in no way the result of pressure from Bush. As this report in the Washington Post makes clear:

Congressional and CIA investigations into the prewar intelligence on Iraq's weapons and links to terrorism have found no evidence that CIA analysts colored their judgment because of perceived or actual political pressure from White House officials, according to intelligence officials and congressional officials from both parties.

Richard J. Kerr, a former deputy CIA director who is leading the CIA's review of its prewar Iraq assessment, said an examination of the secret analytical work done by CIA analysts showed that it remained consistent over many years.

"There was pressure and a lot of debate, and people should have a lot of debate, that's quite legitimate," Kerr said. "But the bottom line is, over a period of several years," the analysts' assessments "were very consistent. They didn't change their views."

So why should Bush be nervous about exposing the failures of global intelligence about WMD stocks?

Well, it appears he isn't:


President Bush will announce early this week the establishment of a bipartisan, independent commission to investigate intelligence that was used to justify the Iraq war, senior Bush administration officials said on Sunday.

It has political risks, but Bush rightly sees there are fewer risks in openness than reticence. There is always the outside chance we'll get better intelligence as a result.

If he doesn't make a show out of the issue, campaigners like the BBC and the ABC will go on insinuating.

They will ignore the consequence of their pathetic argument, that there was never the case to support sanctions against Saddam either.

Nothing new about campaigning publishers, but should we forced to pay for them?

The answer is yes, according to the Beeb's leader in exile, Greg Dyke.





 
IT'S ONE TACTICAL BLUNDER AFTER ANOTHER for Mr Greg Dyke, the former boss of the Beeb.

First he makes the mistake of defending Gilligan's slander of Blair without looking at the evidence.

Mr Dyke said with hindsight he wished he had launched an inquiry into Andrew Gilligan's Radio 4 Today programme report when Mr Campbell first "went ballistic", rather than rushing to respond.

That left the charge open for some independent body to examine. Not a mistake our Biffer Balding would make.

Then he made the mistake of walking out the door of his Board's post-Hutton meeting, leaving them free to decide they didn't want him back:

Mr Dyke said he had told the board: "'If I haven't got your confidence, I can't stay'. ... "At that stage I left the room. An hour or so later I discovered they had decided to suggest I leave. I'd offered it - that was it."

You can see why this man was popular with his staff.

Now he wants to lead the staff conspiracy theorists from outside the gate:

The moment the BBC starts kowtowing to government, you might as well close it down - it's as simple as that .

But what do you do when the BBC becomes a political campaigner, unable or unwilling to behave professionally?

So far the only answer from the Beeb is denial.

Thousands of BBC staff have paid for an advert in a national newspaper supporting their former director general, Greg Dyke. ... The advert said: "Greg Dyke stood for brave independent and rigorous BBC journalism that was fearless in its search for the truth".

If Greg Dyke had shown the same qualities he'd still have a job.


Sunday, February 01, 2004
 
IT'S BEEN A DISMAL SUNDAY MORNING in the commune, and it has something to do with economics.

In the Pre-Schoolers' Background Briefing sandbox the bucolic socialists of the weekday rural program have been lamenting the lessons of their Grow Your Own Cotton soap opera.

I won't burden you with the details, but imagine you try to run a cotton-growing business the way the Greens and the Democrats would like to run the entire economy. That is, you adopt any old greener alternative going, dang the cost. Then you're priced out of the market, even the Gowings trendy market.

But they don't conclude their on-air whinge with any self-criticism, or a resolution to reform policy or think straighter. Instead the problem is "human nature", according to the straw-chewing Alicia Brown.

And every communard knows what it is that corrupts human nature.

It starts with Ca... and ends with ...ism.

No sooner have the radio rustics departed than we find ourselves assaulted by the whining of another bunch of special pleaders, as Julie Copland waves the banner of Art and helps Ms Robin Nevin promote her Australia Day demand for more money for the Arts.

She means more money should be taken from taxpayers on low to middle incomes so those - mostly higher-income earners - who want to see her plays can get cheaper tickets. And so that actors, playwrights, theatrical tea-ladies etc can have steady employment, without ever having to chase a vulgar audience again.

Ms Nevin is convinced the obscene dole schemes for our artists need enhancing because she has seen talent going overseas. As you would, and they will continue to do if they're good enough.

She has heard Oz actors learning foreign accents to enhance their prospects. I thought that was what actors did.

Like some agricultural misery-guts, Nevin sees a collapse in the artistic enterprise ahead of us, but offers no evidence apart from anecdote.

How can the communards of Radio National be critical of these self-seeking raiders of the cashbox, when they claim the same privilege for their own occupation of Radio National's pulpit?

One of the artistic products Ms Nevin is using tax-payer's money on is Katherine Thompson's new play, "Harbour". It's about the confrontation between the Maritime Union of Australia and Patrick Stevedores.

Ms Thompson has researched her historical topic thoroughly be interviewing union officials and members.

I haven't seen "Harbour", but given the nature of Auntie's politics, Ms Nevin's politics and what Ms Thompson says I make one confident prediction:

The boss of Patrick, who broke the MUA's throttling grip on our waterfront, who made wharfies even richer than they were before while making the rest of us and himself richer too, that is Mr Chris Corrigan, will play no positive role in Ms Thompson's play whatsoever.

That's the trouble with our politicised artists. Their dramatic truths are as partial as the communards' commentary.