Tag Archives: ABC

Abbott: ABC disses Australia by reporting my cock-ups. This must stop.

29 Jan

ABCIt’s unarguable that Prime Minister Tony Abbott has set his sights on the ABC.

Abbott claims the ABC displays what he terms “lack of affection for the home team” in its reporting of events such as the Indonesian spy scandal, allegations by asylum seekers that Australian navy personnel caused them to suffer burns (earlier described as “sledging the navy” by Immigration Minister Scott Morrison) and, perhaps most heinously, “advertising” the work of whistleblower Edward Snowden whose disclosures led to so much trouble in the first place.

The Prime Minister would like it much better if we were all kept mushroom-like in the dark and showered with LNP shit, rather than informed by the national broadcaster of what our government is actually doing.

Somehow, the inanities, incompetencies and illegalities of the Abbott government are not the problem. The problem is the ABC reporting them!! Who would have thought!!

This reminds me of the Catholic church cover-ups of child sexual abuse, in which victims are blamed  for speaking out and in so doing, risking the destruction of the institution. Similarly, many victims of intra-familial sexual abuse report they have kept silent because they have been told by the perpetrator that they would destroy the family if they revealed the crimes.

According to Mr Abbott, the ABC reporting his government’s failures and alleged failures is “working against Australia,” a classic perpetrator argument when silencing knowledge is his or her main goal. The objective is two-fold: self-protection and protection of the institution, in this case Australia (read Abbott, because he IS the country don’t you know) as the institution with the ABC as the instrument of its potential ruin if allowed to broadcast information that casts the government in a negative light.

This is a classic repressive conservative belief, that certain knowledge must be concealed in the interests of the greater good.

Abbott has confused his and his government’s interests with the interests of the country. As in the church and the family, the institution’s interests and the interests of all its members are not necessarily the same thing. If an institution cannot survive the dissemination of knowledge, then perhaps it does not deserve to survive.

Abbott has also lost sight of the fact that his government does not pay for the ABC, taxpayers do, and taxpayers hold a wide range of views, not just those of the LNP.

The government has its tame media voices in partisan shock jocks and the Murdoch press. Those of us who hold other views are, in this democracy, entitled to hear other voices and one of those voices we are entitled to hear is the ABC.

There is no homogenous “home team” in this country when it comes to political opinion and thirst for truthful information. The only “home team” Abbott can possibly be referring to is his government.

I see no reason why the ABC has any obligation to feel “affection” for this, or any other government. Indeed, we should demand quite the opposite.

This is not about Chrissie Swan it is about Lauren Rosewarne’s use of language as a weapon of division

7 Feb

In her piece on ABC’s The Drum this morning, academic Lauren Rosewarne takes to task a group of women who apparently have done their best to metaphorically lynch TV personality Chrissie Swan for smoking while pregnant.

I am not interested in having a smoking while pregnant debate, and Ms Swan’s perceived moral failings. Neither am I a fan of vicious pile-ons. What does interest me is the language Rosewarne uses to describe those criticising Swan, whilst simultaneously calling for us to cease “scrutinising and loathing” other women.

Swan’s critics are, according to Rosewarne, members of the “militant mummy mafia” and “holier than thou über mums.” Rosewarne claims she feels it is “…verboten to question the lactaters, or the baby-carriers, or the gluten-free vegan wholefood earthmothers.”

She continues, in an outstandingly anti feminist and alarmingly patriarchal-like complaint:  “As a feminist, apparently, I should know better than to ever dare take on any woman who has ever Created Life” (note Dr Rosewarne’s use of capitals here).

Well, I’m a woman who has Created Life, lactated and been a baby-carrier and I have no objection at all to being questioned (“taken on?”) about that or anything else. I do, however, wish to note my objection to being cast into the inexplicable abyss of Rosewarne’s only too-evident prejudices against women, all women, who give birth.

I have no idea of Dr Rosewarne’s personal circumstances, and I support the right of any woman to choose to remain child free. Indeed, there have been occasions on which I have cursed myself for refusing that option, and instead, sticking with dogs.

Be that as it may, I do not expect a public feminist to speak of me and women like me with such contempt and disdain, simply because we’ve given birth to future generations. It’s a dark and lonely job, but someone has to do it.

Mothers, like any other human category, do good things and not so good things to ourselves, our offspring and other women. We are not always nice to one anther, and neither should anyone expect us to be. However, for a feminist with a public platform to publish a wholesale denigration of women who are mothers is absolutely unacceptable, particularly when it’s done under the guise of appealing for women to stop judging and criticising one another.

This false division between mothers and women who are not mothers, for whatever reason, is sickening to me. I believe it is destructive to us as individuals, and as a species. There is no great kudos in either state: they are, in the best of circumstances, choices and should be respected as such.

If Dr Rosewarne really feels she cannot “take on any woman who has Created Life” she  is seriously restricting her life experience, and that, I respectfully suggest, is a problem for her rather than the rest of us.

Annabel Crabb and Peter Reith

19 Jun

Yesterday I read a tweet from Annabel Crabb to a tweep who’d complained that Peter Reith was on The Drum AGAIN. Anyone on my Twitter feed will know that we are constantly complaining about the regular presence of Mr Reith, both on the televised and the online version of The Drum. Regulars like David Horton of the Watermelon Blog ask several times a week that the ABC reveal Reith’s contract with the public broadcaster, to no avail.

Many tweeps repeatedly point out the role Reith played in the Howard government, particularly in regard to the so-called “Children Overboard” scandal, in which the government made unsubstantiated (and later discredited) claims that seafaring asylum seekers had thrown children overboard in a presumed ploy to secure rescue and passage to Australia.

A Senate Select committee later found that no children were thrown overboard from SIEV 4, and that several Howard government ministers including Peter Reith had deliberately misled the public by “cynically exploiting voters’ fears of a wave of illegal immigrants by demonising asylum seekers.”

It was also found that on no less than fourteen occasions, Reith and/or his office were informed that children had not been thrown overboard, and that photos Reith claimed proved the allegations were in reality images of asylum seekers and children struggling in the water after their boat had sunk.

Add to that charges of the improper use of a phone card, and Reith’s much criticised handling of the waterfront dispute when he was Industrial Relations Minister, and you have a politician with a very fraught history. His close relationship with the ABC is regularly and rightly questioned. The public broadcaster usually makes no comment, but yesterday Ms Crabb broke with tradition and tweeted:

@annabelcrabb: @preciouspress I’m always pleased when Peter Reith’s on. I think he’s a great panel member.”

While I acknowledge that the ABC’s responsibility to attempt a balance of perspectives in its opinion and analysis means there will inevitably be guests with whom somebody disagrees, I do wonder why a politician with a record such as Reith’s is their choice as a regular participant.

Now I wonder why Ms Crabb decided to so wholeheartedly endorse him, and in such a personal fashion. I thought we’d just established through the shaming of Stephen Long, that it is not the job of ABC journalists to express displeasure or favour  towards any public figure.

The ABC presumably offers Peter Reith as a credible, honest commentator on current affairs. Now endorsed by Annabel Crabb, it seems confirmed that as we have long suspected, Mr Reith’s history is irrelevant to the ABC because he’s “a great panel member.”  The ABC legitimises Mr Reith by offering him a regular platform, and now by Ms Crabb’s personal seal of approval as well.

There are many far more credible alternatives to Peter Reith, whom the ABC might invite to express a right-wing point of view. Personally, I am unable to dismiss Mr Reith’s role in the Children Overboard affair, and I am saddened that the ABC and Annabel Crabb apparently find it so easy to erase that shameful chapter of our history, and to redeem and grant legitimacy to someone who was a central participant in that disgrace.

 

 

Scott Morrison. Racism. The facts.

14 Jun

Racism: (just to refresh our memories)

1. the belief that human races have distinctive characteristics which determine their respective cultures, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule or dominate the others.

2. offensive or aggressive behaviour to members of another race stemming from such a belief.

3. a policy or system of government and society based upon it. (Macquarie Dictionary)

Morrison sees votes in anti-Muslim strategy. The opposition immigration spokesman, Scott Morrison, urged the shadow cabinet to capitalise on the electorate’s growing concerns about “Muslim immigration”, “Muslims in Australia” and the “inability” of Muslim migrants to integrate…But after Mr Morrison’s comments this week on the cost of asylum-seeker funerals and his role in the controversial decision to cut a Howard government program to fund schools in Indonesia, colleagues are privately questioning whether he is trying to pursue an anti-Muslim political strategy unilaterallysources say Mr Ruddock, the shadow cabinet secretary, was particularly “blunt” in his rejection of the suggestion, saying a well-run and non-discriminatory immigration policy was essential for nation building.
Lenore Taylor, Sydney Morning Herald, February 17 2011. [emphasis mine]

Ugly game of race baiting. Morrison decided to see if he could win some political points by inflaming racism and resentment. More specifically, he zeroed in on some of the most vulnerable people in the country for political advantage.

Morrison publicly raised objections to the government’s decision to pay for air fares for some of the survivors of the Christmas Island boat wreck to travel to Sydney for the funerals of their relatives.

Some were Christian funerals, others were Muslim. But all of them were foreigners, all of them were boat people, all of them were dark-skinned, and to Morrison that made them all fair game. Peter Hartcher, SMH, February 19 2011.

From the blog of well-known free speech advocate Andrew Bolt comes this quote from ABC journalist Stephen Long. I am obliged to reference Mr Bolt’s blog because it appears the ABC have removed this episode of The Drum Online from their website. Mr Long was a panellist on The Drum earlier this week. Along with other panellists he was invited to express his opinion on various topical issues. With reference to the Coalition’s recent comments on immigration policy, Mr Long observed:

I think that it is a cynical manipulation of an underlying prejudice in the Australian community and that it has very little policy merit. It is fraught with problems and it is really awful actually and I think Scott Morrison in particular as a spokesman in this area has just pushed way beyond acceptability in a way that he is willing to pander and manipulate that level of prejudice in what is essentially a racist manner. He is my local member in the electorate for Cronulla, the scene of the Cronulla riots …

Mr Long’s opinion was consistent with that of some of Mr Morrison’s political colleagues, and other journalists. However, Mr Morrison demanded an apology from the ABC for Mr Long’s remarks. The ABC aquiesced, and the apology was delivered on air yesterday evening by the show’s host, Steve Cannane.

This leads me to wonder why it is acceptable to describe someone as “pursuing an anti Muslim strategy unilaterally” but unacceptable to describe that activity as “racist” (refer to definition of racism above). Perhaps there is a way of pursuing an anti Muslim strategy unilaterally that is not racist? Perhaps the activity is indeed racist (check definition again) but under no circumstances are we allowed to say so?

Colour me confused.

On his website Mr Morrison, who is a member of the Assemblies of God Pentecostal Church, writes: “My Christian faith remains the driving force for my family, beliefs and values.”

Note to commenters: As Mr Morrison appears to be sensitive at the moment and may even incline towards litigation, please take care not to leave any comments that might be construed as defamatory.


Kitchen Cabinet’s empty.

25 Mar

I’ve only watched one and a half episodes of the ABC TV series Kitchen Cabinet, a program in which the public broadcaster’s chief online political writer Annabel Crabb, “cleverly uses food as a vehicle to humanise her interview subjects.”

I’ve never doubted that politicians are human. No other species so vilely manipulates its fellows in the blind pursuit of power.  Watching them eat, drink, and pretend they’re revealing their real selves does nothing to “humanise” them for me, given that “humanise” means to make more humane, humane being a state characterized by “tenderness, compassion, sympathy for people and animals, especially for the suffering or distressed.” Of course no politician is entirely bereft of all of these qualities, and some have many, and even Hitler loved his dog and Eva Braun.

But the bottom line with all politicians is winning government, and it’s the rare specimen indeed that will put humanity before that goal. In this they remind me of the religious right who put God before humanity, in fact between politicians and fundamentalist religions humanity doesn’t stand much of a chance.

Aside: I refer to Hitler only as an extreme example of how even our most monstrous monsters have tender moments, not to imply there is any resemblance with any of our politicians because clearly there isn’t. I shouldn’t have to say this, but people sue for less.

The idea that a sanitised dinner party with media savvy politicians recorded for public consumption by four cameras is going to humanise anybody, suggests that the ABC thinks we’re brain-dead suckers, unable to tell reality shows from reality.

Plus, it  sounds rather too much like Auntie has ventured into offering free public relations services  for select pollies, who must have been beside themselves with delight at being offered the opportunity to put on their human masks and spin themselves silly, all for free.

That this carnival was created and facilitated by the chief online political reporter causes my stomach to lurch. I have nothing against Ms Crabb and I want her frocks, but there is something viscerally awry with this combination. I do not want to see my public broadcaster’s chief online political reporter engaged in intimate food and wine consumption with my politicians. I just don’t. I want boundaries. I do not like this blatant fraternising.

I would like to believe that the ABC is on my side, that is, an independent, unbiased as possible link between me and the politicians. When the chips are down, I want an ABC that will ask the hard questions without fear or favour, because its journalists are working in the public interest, not those of the politicians. I want the ABC to intercede for humanity. What else is a public broadcaster good for?

Instead, we have an ABC that aligns itself with the pollies, creating a dyad that excludes the public. Occasionally we are invited in to vicariously experience the lifestyles enjoyed by both, rather like a virtual tour round the palace, afternoon tea with the Queen chucked in to keep us slavering and curious in a Jerry Springer kind of way, about what we can never be part of. It is an us and them situation.

Considering that the public pay for both the broadcaster and the pollies, this is an unsatisfactory state of affairs.

What will humanise politicians in my eyes is when they treat asylum seekers with respect and decency. When they just get on with legalising same-sex marriage. When they turn their attention to the homeless, especially children, most of whom will never get to eat watercress soup and Persian love cake washed down with a nice red. In short, when politicians stop making everything a political power struggle and put humanity first, then I’ll think of them as humanised.

As Immanuel Kant put it ” all politics must bend its knee before human rights, and only in this fashion may politics ever aspire to reach the stage where it will illuminate humanity.”

I’m sorry to say this series has done it for me. Ms Crabb has no credibility as a chief political journalist left, as far as I’m concerned. That is not to say she didn’t succeed as the anchor for the series. I think she did it very well. However, I am left with the image of Ms Crabb in far too cosy culinary congress with the pollies, and this image will, I fear, override all others.

That the ABC should produce a series such as Kitchen Cabinet indicates that the grumblings and protestations about Auntie are firmly based in reality. Just last week a website was set up to accommodate complaints of bias that have been doing the rounds on blogs and Twitter for some time now. Kitchen Cabinet has convinced me like nothing else has thus far, that there is a great need for a coordinated public protest against the increasing alignment of some ABC journalists with politicians, an alignment that excludes the interests of the public who pay both their wages. This time, I think, the ABC has gone too far.

Wilson and Dines: together at the ABC Religion and Ethics website

21 Dec

It seems my review of Big Porn Inc annoyed the world’s foremost anti pornography campaigner, Gail Dines. She’s written this piece in response and Scott Stephens, editor of the ABC’s Religion and Ethics online, has put my review up as well, in the interests of balance.

If you look at the list of relevant articles beside my piece, you’ll see mine is the only one apart from Professor Alan McKee offering an alternative point of view, so they’re probable going to have to publish quite a few more before balance is attained.

ABC promotes private interests: what happened to impartiality?

6 Oct

Between June 15 and October 5 2011, the ABC’s Religion and Ethics Online and the Drum have published eight articles written by anti pornography campaigners and colleagues who share the same perspective on pornography.

Judging from many of the comments on some articles, the views of this collective are regarded as extreme, and pushing right wing Christian conservative values.

Seven of these articles were written by contributors to Big Porn Inc, a collection of anti pornography essays edited by activists Melinda Tankard Reist and Abigail Bray.

In five of the articles reference is made to the soon-to-be-released Big Porn Inc, and three of them are extracts from the book. Clive Hamilton‘s article in Religion and Ethics reads like a book launch speech, and his last two paragraphs enthusiastically promote Big Porn Inc.

Gail Dines, also an author in Big Porn Inc, appears in R&E on September 15 promoting her anti pornography position. Meagan Tyler writes in the Drum on October 5th defending Gail Dines against critics, and promoting the same anti porn position. Tyler has another anti porn piece in the Drum on September 20th.

During this period the ABC has published one, yes that’s one alternative perspective to that put forward by all the above authors. That piece was by academic Alan McKee on September 23rd. McKee addresses many of the criticisms launched at him and his colleagues by some of the above authors.

Editor of the ABC’s Religion and Ethics forum, Scott Stephens, is launching the book the ABC has been blatantly promoting in Brisbane next week.

The ABC Code of Practice states as follows:

4. Impartiality and diversity of perspectives

Principles: The ABC has a statutory duty to ensure that the gathering and presentation of news and information is impartial according to the recognised standards of objective  journalism.

Aiming to equip audiences to make up their own minds is consistent with the public service character of the ABC.  A democratic society depends on diverse sources of reliable information and contending opinions.  A broadcaster operating under statute with public funds is legitimately expected to contribute in ways that may differ from commercial media, which are free to be partial to private interests.

Judgements about whether impartiality was achieved in any given circumstances can vary among individuals according to their personal and subjective view of any given matter of contention.  Acknowledging this fact of life does not change the ABC’s obligation to apply its impartiality standard as objectively as possible.  In doing so, the ABC is guided by these hallmarks of impartiality:

• a balance that follows the weight of evidence;

• fair treatment;

• open-mindedness; and

• opportunities over time for principal relevant perspectives on matters of contention to be expressed.

By neglecting to observe the required balance, the ABC has promoted both a specific position on pornography, and  a book written entirely from this position. This has continued for five months, with only one article that challenges this perspective published during that time period.

At the editor’s website, the launch of Big Porn Inc is headlined thus: “ABC Editor Scott Stephens to launch Big Porn Inc in Brisbane October 14.”

That the ABC should promote a book that is subsequently launched by one of its employees is bizarre. The ABC is not publishing this book. It isn’t written by ABC employees.

There’s a big difference between noting publications in an author’s biography, and the kind of intense promotional activity immediately prior to a book launch we’re seeing here. There’s a big difference between the ABC interviewing an author about his or her book, and the promotional activity seen here. There’s a lot of cosiness between the book’s editors and the ABC Religion and Ethics editor. None of this is good for a public broadcaster whose mission is to convey as many perspectives as reasonably possible on issues that affect the whole of our society.

Comments on all pornography articles on the Drum in 2011 reveal a wide variety of community views, the majority of which dispute those purveyed by the collective currently dominating the issue at the ABC. There are many comments calling for the publication of other perspectives.

Kev’s new best friend; Latham the Loomer, and Dear Prudence

5 Apr
Kevin Rudd on Novembre 2005.

Image via Wikipedia

All the Foreign Minister, former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had to do was sit back and let Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Foreign Minister Julie Bishop do it for him.

Dump Gillard in it, that is.

An aroused and indignant Bishop, glittering eyes made famous by The Chaser boys (remember her staring contest with the garden gnome?) strafing panel and audience alike, passionately retold to an entranced crowd the circumstances that brought about Kev’s disastrous dip in the polls when as PM he backed down from the ETS.

This backdown, Bishop reminded us, was entirely due to Gillard and Wayne Swan persuading Kev to relinquish his greatest moral challenge of all time, probably on purpose so they’d have an excuse for declaring him a total loser as far as the public was concerned, a menace to the ALP‘s chances of re election, and best removed from the highest office.

That move gave the men who now have faces what they needed to chuck out a first term PM, and replace him with Australia’s First Hollow Lady.

Throughout Bishop’s retelling, Kev remained stoic, his features clouded with sorrow and pain, albeit mitigated by reflection.  Earlier, the Foreign Minister had most engagingly accepted full responsibility for what he now admits was a grave error in judgement. He might have been wrongly, even maliciously advised, but when the chips were down, he was the PM and the final decision was his to make.

Bishop’s death stare is scary, and no wonder the garden gnome fell off its table and shattered into a hundred pieces. I felt momentary sympathy for Tony Jones and American Ambassador Bleich seated either side of her  last night, on the occasions she spun round in her seat to burn through their brains with her laser gaze. Does she have a problem with her peripheral vision, I wondered out loud to my household, or is it that her powers only work when her stare is directed in a straight line?

A few in Cabinet Kev revealed, coyly resisting all Tony Jones’s efforts to provoke him into naming names, wanted the ETS killed for once and for all, and this morning on Radio National Breakfast, journalist Lenore Taylor reckoned Gillard was one of them.

Oooeeer – the First Hollow Lady gets even more closely aligned with expediency rather than morality.

I enjoyed seeing Kev’s dial again. I like his grin. He can be very likeable but he’s a complex bloke. During his brief sojourn as PM I found him at times extremely irritating especially when he apparently descended into a sleep deprived mania, just like a very young child who will not give in to the need to rest, and becomes unbearably obnoxious as a consequence.

However, he seems to have learned from that to nap, and take food and water.

Kev will always have charisma as a result of what they did to him, a fact none of the men who now have faces seem to have considered  before they dumped him. He can’t help but look far more interesting than just about anybody else in the ALP. In the morality stakes, he’s a zillion points ahead of our First Hollow Lady. His admission last night that he’d blown it with his great moral challenge only adds to the impression of a politician capable of sincere reflection, a rare beast indeed, except when they’ve aged and long left office.

He’s found a way to deal with the humiliation heaped upon him that is acceptable. The wry shrug, the laughing off, the live and learn attitude hints at an emotional intelligence sadly lacking in just about everybody else, and it seems to be sincere. He doesn’t hide the pain, but he looks as if he’s come to terms with it and is probably all the better for the experience.

But that’s not to overlook the calculated little bomb he did drop on the matter of who wanted to kill the ETS, a little bomb that will give the Opposition plenty of return ammunition for a while as they take every opportunity to point out that these would-be-killers are still there, and what does that mean, and who are they, and how can we trust anyone in that government?

Kev does make Gillard look both bad and boring, and that’s an unacceptable combination. If you’re going to be bad, you have an obligation to be interesting with it.

Speaking of which, I don’t know why anybody bothers listening to that Mark Latham whose ridiculous attack on Gillard’s child free choice renders anything else he might have to say  hardly worth listening to. Latham has no respect for anybody’s personal space, emotional and physical. This was concretely demonstrated when he loomed into the Prime Minister in a public place and asked stupid questions,and prior to that, loomed into John Howard as he attempted to enter a room Latham was leaving. He’s a loomer. He looms. it’s not attractive. He should give it up.

Prue Goward by publik15 via flickr

Then there’s Dear Prudence. Prue Goward, recently appointed NSW Minister for Families, whatever that is, has taken a nasty swipe at radio personality Jackie O for the manner in which she fed her baby.

Apparently Jackie O gave the child a bottle while simultaneously walking across a pedestrian crossing, an action Goward likened to the famous Michael Jackson moment when he dangled his little son over a balcony in Germany and subsequently earned global contempt for his fathering skills.

Why this is a concern for the Minister for Families remains a mystery to me. An over zealous commitment to her new portfolio? Is she going to focus on perceived child abuse by the rich and famous? If the mother had been a working class woman would Goward have even blinked her mascara-ed lashes?

I’m glad she wasn’t in the nursery when once, in a sleep deprived state similar to those experienced by the former PM, I accidentally stuck my fingers in the wrong jar and pasted my baby boy’s bits with Vicks Vapour Rub instead of nappy rash cream.

Soon to become a dad himself for the first time, he looked at me stunned, speechless and quite judgmentally, I thought, when I recently confessed this transgression. Too late I realised my mistake. Now I probably won’t be allowed anywhere near the new baby, but at least we know the Vicks didn’t do its daddy any damage.

And the ABC’s Drum beats: shoot the messenger

28 Dec

by Darryl Yeoh, flickr

On December 6, I wrote an article in On Line Opinion, also published on this blog titled The death threats, the media, and the government’s sycophantic pursuit of Julian Assange.

I was, among other things, critical of the way in which the Wikileaks story was handled by a panel on the ABC’s Drum on December 2.

On December 8 there was another panel hosted by Steve Cannane, with guests Alan Anderson, a former advisor to Peter Costello; Scott Stephens, ABC Online Editor of Religion and Ethics, and actor Rhys Muldoon. I’ll elaborate on this panel later. But first:

The art of silencing a whistleblower

There are three basic methods of discrediting a whistleblower used by those who wish to shut him or her up.

There is demonisation, as exemplified by certain figures in the USA likening Assange to Al Qaeda and the Taliban, and calling for his assassination as a terrorist and a “treasonist.”

There is the technique of criminalizing the whistleblower, as exemplified by Julia Gillard’s ignorant description of Assange’s activities as “illegal,” and the comments to be found everywhere that claim he is guilty of alleged sexual offences before he has been charged and tried.

The third method is to pathologise the whistleblower, as did John Howard when he announced that whistleblower Andrew Wilkie was “emotionally unstable.”

There are sub-headings under these categories, such as minimising and discrediting the messenger in order to minimise and discredit the message. As exemplified by Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales on the previous week’s panel. This is best done by focusing on real or imagined negative characteristics of the messenger’s personality, instead of on the message that’s being delivered.

It is the pathologising method that held sway in the December 8 panel on The Drum. Assange was described (and I’m afraid I cannot recall which panellist made which accusation, other than that Mr Muldoon was not much involved) as a megalomaniac, a narcissist, and an anarchist. This last perhaps fits the category of criminalizing as well as pathologising.

Deconstructing the denigrations

  • Assange is an anarchist.

A quick look in the dictionary will reveal that Assange is anything but an anarchist. He does not envisage a world bereft of all government and cast into unregulated chaos. His interest is in maintaining governments, but making them transparent and honest.

  • Assange is a megalomaniac

Megalomania is psychiatric disorder in which the patient experiences delusions of great power and importance. Mr Assange may well consider himself to be powerful and important, as far as I know nobody has asked him about this. But there is no doubt that “powerful and important” accurately and realistically describes his position in the world at this time. He is not suffering from a psychiatric disorder if he holds this opinion of himself.

It is difficult to imagine anyone who has achieved anything on a global scale, for better or worse, who did not have immense confidence, faith and belief in their ability to bring their vision to fruition. This mind set only becomes a disorder when the assessment is unrealistic, and the visionary delusional about his or her capacities.

  • Assange is a narcissist

Narcissism is a personality disorder characterised by the patient’s overestimation of his or her appearance and abilities. The patient also has an excessive need for admiration, and is extremely self-centred. Never having met Assange (and I suspect the panellists haven’t either) or anyone who knows him, this is not a diagnosis I would care to make, and I am trained to make such diagnoses. No one on the panel has the expertise to do this, as far as I know. If they do, they didn’t reveal it.

All three terms are commonly used abusively, to denigrate, discredit, ridicule and otherwise do harm. People generally resort to the use of such abuse when they are unable, incapable, or too lazy to present an intelligent argument against another’s position. As with most abuse, they reveal far more about the abuser that they do about the abused.

The Twelve Leaks of Christmas

On December 10 there were several serious articles on Wikileaks in The Drum, and one very silly poem by Ms Crabb. This consists of  the Wikileaks events rendered into verse and titled TheTwelve Leaks of Christmas. This would not matter, one could cheerfully ignore it, except for the fact that Ms Crabb is The Drum’s Chief Online Political Reporter. She sets the tone, as it were. Stumbling across her doggerel is rather like watching the ABC television news and suddenly being confronted with Chris Uhlmann lying on the roof of Parliament House in his underpants swigging vodka and belting out a globally significant news event to the tune of Up the Old Red Rooster.

It would be fun at a party, but if you want to know what’s going on in the most intriguing, and quite possibly the most revolutionary story on the planet at the moment, doggerel just doesn’t cut it. Not from the CPR.

If there’d been any serious, insightful in-depth commentary and analysis from the Chief Online Political Reporter on Wikileaks, the silly poem wouldn’t matter so much. But there hasn’t. Why not? What is The Drum up to?

Loewenstein strikes again

In his article published in The Drum on December 10, titled Wikileaks challenges journalism – politics partnership, Antony Loewenstein again challenges the media’s cosiness with politicians and diplomats. This cosiness continues to be most annoyingly evidenced whenever a journalist tells us there’s nothing in the cables that everybody doesn’t already know.

Which “everybody” would that be? Because there’s a very, very large “everybody” who don’t earn their living as politicians, journalists and diplomats, and practically nobody in that cohort knows anything much at all about the cables. Last I looked, it was the media’s job to inform us especially the publicly funded media, and quite frankly, I’ve had it with hearing that because they know all about them that means the cables aren’t interesting.

As Loewenstein observes: The cosiness between these players (media, politicians and diplomats) is exactly what WikiLeaks is aiming to challenge.

He continues: Why do journalists allow themselves to be romanced without revealing the kinds of agendas they’re pushing? It’s obvious why; being close to top officials and politicians makes them feel connected and important. Being an insider is many reporters’ ideal position. Independence is secondary to receiving sanctioned links and elevated status in a globalised world.

The WikiLeaks documents challenge the entire corrupted relationship between media and political elites. Founder Julian Assange is an outsider and doesn’t attend exclusive and secret meetings where the furthering of US foreign policy goals are on the cards. He aims to disrupt that dynamic. Many in the media resent not being leaked the information themselves and are jealous. Others simply dislike a lone-wolf citizen with remarkable tech-savvy to challenge their viability.

Could any of this explain the denigration of Assange and Wikileaks by some panelists and some journos on The Drum? The abusive descriptions of him? The silly poem? The refusal to take either Assange or the Wikileaks dump seriously enough to consider the complex and manifold implications of his activities? Because the way it’s shaping up, The Drum’s chief online political reporter is going to be one of the last journos on the planet to get her head around what the dump means and might mean for the future, including the future of her own profession.

Mark Scott, please explain

My questions to our public broadcaster are, why are some of the ABC’s employees using these classic methods to shoot the messenger in their reporting on Wikileaks? Because I do not wish to financially support the ABC if its policy is to shoot messengers, even just a little bit, and they are currently doing it quite a lot.

Are some ABC journos doing the government’s bidding in this matter? Are some of the reporters far too close to politicians and diplomats, and therefore unwilling to treat the Wikileaks story with the seriousness that the public deserves, and finances?

Is The Drum’s television panel really about informed commentary and analysis, or are the hosts going to continue to permit these personal attacks on Assange? Because if they do, I hope he instructs that battery of lawyers he’s got on board to go for their jugulars.

It is extremely important that the ABC presents points of view that disagree with and argue against those who support Wikileaks and Assange. Everyone I know is very willing to read other perspectives on this story. But the ABC producers and editors, for the television panel and articles, need to remind their contributors that personal denigration is not intelligent opposition or robust debate.

Salacious speculation as to the nature and circumstances of the alleged sexual offences and the guilt or otherwise of any of the parties involved is extremely unfair, both to Assange and to the complainants. Speculation such as this is neither intelligent opposition nor robust debate.

For example, on December 10, The Drum published a piece by Marion Dalton in which the author implied that Assange might have infected his partners with two different sexually transmitted diseases. (This article was also published on OLO on December 9). Calling upon spin and innuendo to carry her unsavoury message, Dalton weaves what she describes as a “hypothetical” case of sexual assault in with the real accounts of the allegations of sexual assault against Assange.

Does The Drum or OLO really believe its readers are too stupid to notice this deliberate conflation of the “hypothetical” with the actual?

There were an overwhelming number of negative comments on this article on both sites. Will The Drum and OLO get this message?

The ABC spins

“DavidPerth” posted the following on the comments for Loewenstein’s article:  I just heard on ABC news that several hundred FANATICS had gathered to protest in Australian cities.

 Come on, what is going on here with the ABC?

I heard on the ABC news on December 10 that “disciples” of Assange had gathered in Sydney to protest against the treatment of Assange and Wikilekas.

“Disciples” are devoted followers of a spiritual leader. The word is frequently used to describe those entrapped by a charismatic cult. It is often used in a derogatory, belittling manner.

Those protesting are neither fanatics nor disciples. They are citizens in a democracy, exercising their democratic right to express their discontent with their government’s actions, and the treatment of Assange.

Exactly what narrative is the ABC working to produce about Wikileaks, and about those who support the organisation and Assange?

This bias really must stop. Until it does, it’s reasonable to assume that the ABC, at least in parts, is consciously or unconsciously in collusion with the global efforts to shoot this messenger, in an attempt to distract from and discredit his message. Shooting messengers is a tawdry and unintelligent occupation. Many people today are far too sophisticated and engaged to be taken in by a tactic that has long since reached its used by date, even if they aren’t employed as journalists, diplomats or politicians.

But the most interesting question is, what is ABC’s agenda and who is driving it?

This article first appeared in On Line Opinion, December 14  20102

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