“He said, she said”: How Dutton is attempting to control the narrative

26 Feb

One of the greatest challenges for a political commentator in recent years has been keeping track of the Morrison government’s lies and obfuscations. 

These have escalated considerably in the last couple of weeks, since former media advisor Brittany Higgins revealed she had allegedly been raped in Parliament House by a senior staffer.

Since then, ministers, MPs, Senators, their advisors and staffers have devoted an inordinate amount of their taxpayer-funded time to covering their backsides about who knew what and when. According to estimates by the  ABC’s 7.30 program last night, there appear to be thirty or more people with knowledge of the so-called “serious incident” in 2019, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison conspicuously excluded from the circle of knowledge.

The latest government member to speak up is Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton. Dutton is, among other things, the minister responsible for the Australian Federal Police, as well having once served as a police officer in the Queensland Police sex offenders’ squad. 

You need this background as context for what comes next. 

In keeping with the government line that neither the Prime Minister’s Office nor the Prime Minister knew anything about the alleged rape before February 12 2021 and February 15 2021 respectively, Dutton claims he was only informed of the alleged crime by the AFP on February 11 2021, and only because they had been alerted that the matter was about to be revealed by the media.  

AFP guidelines require that “politically sensitive” matters such as this alleged crime be reported to the Minister as soon as possible. The AFP first became aware of the allegations on April 4 2019, when informed by Defence Minister, Linda Reynolds. The AFP did not inform Minister Dutton at that time.  Indeed, according to Dutton, the AFP did not inform him of this “politically sensitive” incident, despite being required to do so by their guidelines, for another two years. 

One might be forgiven for risking the observation that “politically sensitive” and “politically embarrassing” might be interchangeable concepts in this instance. 

Amazingly, Dutton also failed to inform the Prime Minister that the excrement was about to hit the ceiling fan, not alerting his office until 24 hours later. The PMO didn’t like to disturb Morrison over the weekend, we know weekends are sacred to him, so they didn’t inform their boss until Monday. 

Dutton then went on to describe the rape allegations as a “he said, she said” affair. 

Some reasons why this gratuitous comment from the Minister appears to be an attempt to influence both the AFP and the public:  

  1. The AFP, who is investigating this alleged crime, is answerable to Peter Dutton. Their Minister has just signalled through the media that he considers the alleged crime to be not crime at all, but a “he said, she said” affair. In other words, Dutton is telling the AFP how to frame and deal with this alleged crime. 
  2. “He said, she said” is one of the most invalidating dismissals possible of allegations of rape and sexual assault. It implies, as it is intended to, the unworthiness of a woman’s word and description of her experience. “He said, she said” intentionally minimises the experience of rape and sexual assault, and explicitly favours the narrative of the alleged perpetrator. It is appalling that a former police officer, who worked with victims, would hold and voice this opinion. 
  3. The AFP has not yet questioned the alleged perpetrator. Nobody knows what “he said” because he hasn’t said it yet. Unless of course Minister Dutton has had occasion to speak with the alleged perpetrator and knows his side of the story. 
  4. Dutton is also, despicably, dog whistling to the demographic that is his base & the base of the Liberal Party more generally, that women lie about being raped. It’s a “he said, she said” affair, and nobody should take it anymore seriously than that. You’re only actually raped if you’re killed as well. 
  5. A woman cannot consent to sex if she is falling down drunk, as Ms Higgins claims she was, and as, apparently, both CCTV footage will confirm and the security guards involved will verify. In his “he said, she said” attempt to control the narrative, because that is exactly what he is trying to do by using this phrase, Dutton is attempting to subvert the power of this evidence, prior to the AFP investigation. 

The infamous Steve Bannon, among other things a former advisor to former US President Donald Trump, liked to talk about “flooding the zone with shit.” This is the strategy of saturating the media with disinformation and misinformation, in order to bamboozle both media and the public, to the extent that nobody knows anymore what is real and what is fake.   

Make no mistake the Morrison government has adopted this tactic in the Brittany Higgins situation. They are flooding our zone with shit, attempting to confuse and exhaust and gaslight, with the ultimate goal of controlling a complex narrative about power, women, sexual assault, and cover ups. 

If you’re a woman in Parliament House, nobody hears you scream

24 Feb

Over the last few days, no less than five federal government ministers have publicly stated their support for Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s claims that he knew nothing about the 2019 alleged rape committed just metres from his office and reported by former media staffer Brittany Higgins, until February 2021.

Mr Morrison also claims his staff in the Prime Minister’s Office were unaware of the alleged crime.

The precariousness nature of Mr Morrison’s claims is addressed in this piece written by me for Independent Australia. Former Prime Ministers Malcolm Turnbull and Kevin Rudd have stated their incredulity that such a serious incident could take place in Parliament House without the Prime Minister’s Office being made aware of it immediately. 

The Ministers who have supported Morrison’s claims to ignorance are:

Lynda Reynolds, Minister for Defence.

Marise Payne, Minister for Women.

Anne Ruston, Minister for Families and Social Services

Michaelia Cash, Minister for Employment, Skills Small and Family Business

Peter Dutton, Minister for Home Affairs

President of the Senate, Scott Ryan, has admitted being told of a “serious incident” in 2019, and claims he made no further inquiries as to what that incident was. 

The Speaker of the House, Tony Smith, has admitted to being told of a “serious incident” in 2019, and claims he made no further inquiries as to what that incident was. 

All the above are conspiring to conceal the full circumstances of a serious crime committed in their workplace. 

This week, former Liberal Staffer Chelsea Potter claimed she was sexually assaulted when working in the office of Senator Simon Birmingham, Minister for Finance. Birmingham refused to assist her. 

Also this week, Ruby O’Rourke claimed that in 2016 she was “continually assaulted by a well-know politician.” Ms O’Rourke says she has named Greg Hunt, Minister for Health and Aged Care, because he knows. 

In November 2020, Four Corners aired a program titled Inside the Canberra Bubble. The Morrison government went to great lengths to try to prevent the program going to air, and then threatened the ABC to the extent that the broadcaster’s Chair, Ita Buttrose, publicly defended the program.

Alan Tudge, Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure, who campaigned on family values, was revealed to have had an extra marital affair with staffer, Rachelle Miller, who has now lodged formal complaints of bullying against him, and against Michaelia Cash.

Attorney-General Christian Porter was alleged in the program to have a history of sleazy sexist behaviourtowards women. Porter immediately announced he was taking legal action against Four Corners. However, we have heard nothing further about any such action. 

The number of Morrison’s ministers involved in allegations of sexual harassment and the concealment of sexual violence against women in their workplace is astounding.

The message to women working in Parliament House is clear. No minister will support you. 

At time of writing Linda Reynolds, who was due to appear at the National Press Club today, has been admitted to hospital. Reynolds was expected to come under intense scrutiny at the Press Club today over her management of the Higgins rape allegations. 

The alleged rapist is also in hospital 

It’s time to fix our media laws

22 Feb

By Dr Stewart Hase

You have to admire, at some level, the brass of Paul Fletcher and Josh Frydenberg claiming that the new media code will contribute to more fact-based, rigorous news content. In the background Scomo is nodding his head like one of those little plastic dogs in the back window of a Kingswood. While the ‘code’ is probably the right step forward, let’s not let it gloss over the role of media in shaping public opinion.

The Murdoch empire has over many years provided trillions of dollars of free advertising to the Liberal Party, massaging the editorial stance of every paper Murdoch takes over. It’s impossible not to laugh hysterically at the adverts for Sky News, in which they say that it offers the only truly balanced view, reporting ‘all sides’ as Alan Jones, Peta Credlin, Andrew Bolt, Paul Murray et al stride onto the screen. You wouldn’t buy a used car from any of them.

Mind you, in the interests of balance in this blog, you know what you are going to get when you read the Guardian, the Huffington Post, The Washington Post, the Sydney Morning Herald and the New Daily, for example. Any student of cognitive bias, in which reality is distorted to remain consistent with one’s attitudes, values and beliefs, will tell you that true independence would be a small miracle. As F. Scott Fitzgerald said, ‘The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.’ Not sure many of us do that and is a skill that needs to be taught in school.

The issue of media bias would probably be fine, since it mirrors the predilection of the human brain, were it not for scope. Kevin 07, like a candle in a gale force wind, argued to a Senate inquiry last week that News Ltd has a monopoly in Australia (Murdoch owns 70% of media in Australia and in Queensland, nearly 100%). In exhibit 1, a recent edition of the Daily Telegraph, Kev showed how five pages of text was no more than an opinion piece, rather than news. His view was nicely and ironically reinforced by the Telegraph, which has run a campaign of vilification about Kev not seen since their attacks on Julie Gillard-nothing to do with news and everything to do with suppressing a voice.

And Facebook, as Kev notes, is another demonstration of what can happen when a monolith with too much power can hijack information. One can only marvel at the prescience of George Orwell in ‘Nineteen-Eighty-Four’-a world in which information is manufactured, controlled and meted out at the whim of ‘Big Brother’.

The debate over the code, and Facebook’s demonstration of power, has brought into stark relief the issue of media ownership in this country. We need our Federal government to fix what is a threat to democracy and ensure we have the opportunity to have real news, not just opinion, real facts not manufactured reality, and journalists that can report what is really happening, to speak truth to power when necessary: nay, when essential. Most of us are cynical about politics and the news that surrounds it. So, now is the time to act and put pressure on government to fix this travesty, even as Murdoch signs a deal with Google to transmit even more of his bile.

Stewart is a psychologist with a special interest in how people adapt and also learn. He’s written widely in these areas. He continues to consult, and annoy people who misuse power.Twitter: @stewarthase

“Don’t tell me her name…”

21 Feb

On Friday, a second woman alleged she had been raped by the same assailant who allegedly raped media advisor Brittany Higgins in then defence industry minister Linda Reynolds’ office in March 2019, shortly before the May election.

Ms Reynolds was promoted to defence minister in the returned LNP government. 

The second victim/survivor was attacked in 2020 and understandably feels that had the first alleged crime been better handled, the man would not have been free to rape her, and any other women who might not have come forward. 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s reaction to news of this second alleged rape was to declare himself “sickened.” He also said this: 

“I’m very upset about those circumstances and particularly for the young woman who I don’t know who that is, and nor do I need to know who that is, that is a very distressing event.”

Summary:

Journalist: A second woman has been raped. Prime Minister: I don’t need to know who that is.

Imagine for one moment the tremendous privilege Mr Morrison enjoys that allows him to choose not to know.

By any measure this is a bizarre reaction to such news, and one wonders why the Prime Minister felt compelled to let everyone know that he doesn’t know the name of the second victim, and, even more oddly, that he does not need to know.

Our names are a signifier of our humanity. This is why oppressors use numbers, not names, a practice Morrison is more than familiar with after his term as immigration minister. A refusal to know someone’s name is an act of hostility. It says: you are irrelevant to me. It says: you aren’t fully human to me. 

When someone is not seen as fully human, anything can be done to them. 

Anyone who refuses to know our name should be treated with the utmost caution. 

Perhaps Morrison is broadcasting a warning. Don’t tell me, I don’t want to know. Keep it as far away from me as possible. Give me plausible deniability in case I need it. What I don’t know can’t hurt me. 

The Prime Minister wants to efface the second survivor, to make her appear insignificant, the crime against her inconsequential. He wants to delegitimise her suffering. He wants to entrench the power imbalance that gifts him the privilege to decide he doesn’t want to know.

Victims are the problem for Mr Morrison. They’re the ones causing him trouble, in his world-view.

Refusing to use someone’s name is a classic dehumanising tactic. Raping a woman is also dehumanizing her. You can’t dehumanise someone just a little bit. Morrison’s dehumanisation of the second woman is no different from the rapist’s. It is expressed in a different way. Dehumanising is an all or nothing process. There’s no such thing as a sliding scale. 

Refusing to use someone’s name is also an expression of profound contempt, and a signifier of the disgust in which the deliberately un-named is held. It’s also a decision to deny publicity and notoriety. The decision not to name terrorists is an example of this.

There are no good reasons for deciding, “I don’t need to know their name.” 

What has become sickeningly obvious since Ms Higgins went public just a few short days ago is that politics trumps everything, and politics especially trumps rape. It hasn’t been the crime that is the focus, not for politicians and their advisors and with a very few exceptions, not for the media. It’s been the politics. Morrison, in his declaration, did not hesitate to very publicly put his needs before those of the victim. He needs to keep his distance, it’s politics. He’s willing to dehumanise her in order to achieve his goal. 

Rape is a crime. Rape is a serious crime. It isn’t a sex scandal. It isn’t consensual bonking in Parliament House. It isn’t a “serious incident.” It is a crime. 

Scott Morrison doesn’t want to know the name of the latest victim of this crime. Don’t ask, don’t tell. It’s the vibe. 

Survivors are not responsible for changing a toxic culture

18 Feb
Artist: Quint Buchholz

by Jennifer Wilson

On February 15, journalist Samantha Maiden broke the story of the alleged rape of former media advisor Brittany Higgins, by a senior staffer. The assault allegedly took place on the couch in Defence Minister Linda Reynold’s ministerial office in March 2019, and the alleged perpetrator worked for Ms Reynolds, as did Ms Higgins.  

The Guardian subsequently published a piece by Katharine Murphy titled “Achieving permanent culture change in politics requires women to speak up.”

Murphy’s argument is that the “only way” to achieve permanent cultural change in a misogynistic Parliament is for women to speak up “when bad things happen,” that is, bad things such as sexual harassment and sexual assault. She writes: 

The only way to achieve permanent cultural change in the self-regulated fiefdom that is the political office – a unique professional environment where everything revolves around the needs and the whims of the principal – is for women to speak up when bad things happen.

To find the self-confidence to value their own stories, even if the system doesn’t, and tell them.

For a start, “bad things” don’t just “happen.”  They require human agency, in this instance a man who allegedly raped Ms Higgins. If ever there is an occasion in which to be cautious about language, this is it. 

Secondly, one of the first things a woman loses when she is sexually assaulted is her “self-confidence” and the ability to value herself and her story. Most information on post-traumatic stress due to sexual assault will note this reaction in many victims. 

The system is also responsible for these losses, given the manner in which it regards and treats female victims of male sexual aggression.

As we know, Ms Higgins did “speak up,” to no less an authority than her boss Linda Reynolds. Subsequent events resulted in Ms Higgins believing that if she pursued the alleged rape complaint with the Australian Federal Police, she would lose her job She did not speak up again until two years later, after realising that her struggle to continue working at the site of her trauma was proving untenable for her. 

Women have, in fact, been speaking up about sexual assault for more than fifty years

It hasn’t done us a lot of good in terms of prevention. There is little reason to believe that speaking up in politics would be any different from speaking up in any other sphere, in terms of changing a hegemonic culture that is fundamentally hostile to women.

Nonetheless women have done our best. We have spoken up in vast numbers. We have written books. We have made documentaries. We have made movies. We have, in all the ways available to us, spoken up about our rapes, and the sexual violences we have endured.

Nothing we’ve said, none of the tears we’ve cried, none of the rage we’ve expressed, none of our grief for our lost lives, our lost opportunities, our lost childhoods, our broken, savaged, bleeding, violated bodies, none of this speaking up has stopped men raping us, or come anywhere near achieving that goal. 

How this monstrous reality escapes the notice of any commentator on the matter is baffling. 

Survivors are not an homogenous group. Speaking up may be beneficial for some of us at some time, and nobody should be prevented from finding her voice and using it. However, prescribing speaking up as a responsibility survivors should shoulder in order to change the culture that has so dismally failed to protect us from male savagery, is a bridge too far. Society clearly cannot or will not protect us. We are injured both within and by its systems. 

We are then called upon to disclose our trauma in order to change the toxic culture. Obediently, we bare our ravaged hearts and souls and we do it over and over and over and over again. We are praised as courageous, admired as brave. Revisiting our trauma is lauded as a signifier of our strength of character and our resilience and our ability to feel concern for the world, despite our suffering. 

And yet, nothing changes. We are still raped. We are still murdered, one of us each week

Speaking up hasn’t stopped any of it, though most of us that do speak up hope with all our hearts we might help save somebody else from suffering as we have, or that our story might let another woman know she is not alone. 

Instead, what has happened over time is that an expectation has developed, as expressed in Murphy’s piece, that we should use our trauma if we are to challenge and change a hostile and dangerous culture.  What is amiss here is the existence of the expectation. 

The implicit and at times explicit demand that women speak up has created a sub genre of tragedy porn, in which those of us who have survived are asked to earn our survival by disclosing our trauma, ostensibly to bring about a cultural change for the greater good. That change does not happen. Regardless of this lack of outcome we are still asked to do the impossible, and we are asked to do it by making our most private and damaged selves available for public consumption. 

As Ms Higgins observed, she shouldn’t have had to go public for her rape to be addressed. 

In reality, the only way to effect cultural change is for men to stop inflicting sexual violence on us. It is that simple and it’s that difficult. How much easier to tell women it’s our job! 

It is not the job of a survivor to work out how men can be persuaded to control their violence against us.

Survivors owe nothing and to nobody, and we especially owe nothing to the culture that did not protect us in the first place. If we do speak up, it must be only because we want to and when we want to, and not because it’s our job to effect change. 

It is an indicator of the spiritual, psychological and emotional brutality visited unremarked upon women in this culture, that after enduring what is unspeakable, we are called upon to find a way to speak it, in order to change men. 

When you can’t trust the leader…

14 Feb

One month ago, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that it is his government’s aim to have four million Australians vaccinated by the end of March, with a target to roll out 80,000 COVID-19 vaccinations per week by mid to late February. 

First, do the maths & see if you think this is honest.

Then consider for a moment what kind of leader makes a vaccination announcement that is so glaringly untruthful it can’t be rationalised as a careless mistake by even the most committed sycophant. 

You might conclude, as I have, that the Prime Minister doesn’t give a toss what he says about the vaccination rollout, as long as he says something. 

Two days ago, Mr Morrison told the media that our vaccination program is “on track”having clearly forgotten his January announcement, or else consigned it to his dustbin of announcements without substance that is, by now, surely filled to overflowing. 

Strangely, nobody at the press conferences where Mr Morrison has insisted we are “on track” has bothered to refer him to his January claims, or indeed, asked him to define what “on track” actually means, given those claims. 

But wait. There’s more. On the ABC Insiders program today it was stated that the vaccination roll out will begin next week. I asked for the source of this claim, because there is no such information on the government health website. 

As yet I’ve received no reply and I don’t really expect that I will, to be honest.

What I would like to know is why Insiders is apparently gifted with this announcement when the information is not available on the government website, and no politician has confirmed that the Pfizer vaccine has even arrived in the country. 

It is mid February. No roll out has been announced. We will not achieve a vaccination rate of 80,000 by the end of this week, and neither will we reach the four million figure pulled out of somebody’s nether regions by the end of March. We are not “on track.” We are very far from “on track.” 

On January 25, the Therapeutic Goods Administration approved the Pfizer vaccine, which is expected to cover around 20% of the population. However, as of writing the Pfizer vaccine has not yet arrived in Australia from Europe and some 80,000 -100,000 doses are reportedly expected next week. These will be batch tested before they are rolled out, adding another week to the estimated wait time. 

Then there is the AstraZeneca vaccine, to be used for the majority of us.  There are 50 million doses in production on shore (or as Mr Morrison likes to call them, “sovereign” doses) while we are importing 3.8 million more.  This vaccine has not yet been approved for use by the TGA.  

So as of writing, there is, in fact, no vaccine at all in Australia that is ready for use. But don’t worry. We are on track! 

On February 4 the PM had the chutzpah to announce that given our “sovereign” production rate, we would begin vaccination before New Zealand, due to start in April. But that isn’t true either, dear readers! New Zealand will start its Pfizer roll out on February 20, 6 days from now, when we may or may not have our vaccine and even if we do, it won’t be ready for use! 

Mr Morrison has repeatedly referred us to the government health website for up to date and reliable information on matters to do with COVID-19. However, as mentioned above, you will find no indication on that site of when the vaccination roll out is due to begin. 

But what you will find on this government site is a statement by infectious diseases expert Dr Nick Coatsworth that COVID-19 “is definitely not an airborne pathogen” : (thanks to @SusanSmithAus for alerting me to this)

COVID-19 is definitely not an airborne pathogen. When you have airborne pathogens, like measles for example, the basic reproductive number that we’ve all come to know so well is much higher than what it is for COVID-19 – so, so definitely not an airborne. It’s got- this is a droplet pathogen which means it settles on surfaces. Once it is coughed up or expectorated it tends to- it drops to the ground very quickly. And that’s why hand hygiene and physical distance are our most important measures, and will be our most important measures particularly when we start opening businesses that they that they enable processes that allow us to keep our distance from each other until we have a vaccine or effective treatment.

Yet on January 16, a group of senior scientists, health and safety experts and doctors claimed that 

Failure at a federal level to acknowledge COVID-19 is transmitted through the air has been putting the community at risk…Leading scientists said the virus could be leaking through our border controls because authorities have not put in place precautions that provide the greatest possible protection from airborne transmission.

On ABC QandA last Thursday evening, Professor Coatsworth was forced to defend his position on aerosol transmission.  On February 4, experts claimed that the neglect of aerosol transmission was clearly a gap in Australia’s quarantine system.

In short, the federal government’s health website tells us nothing about when we can expect vaccines to be rolled out. It does, however, convey misleading information on the airborne nature of the COVID-19 virus, misinformation that is causing considerable consternation as experts work to address ongoing infections associated with quarantine hotels. 

It would seem a futile exercise, to attempt to mislead the community about something like a vaccination roll out. It’s not as if we won’t notice that we aren’t getting the needle. However, this is what Scott Morrison does.  He’s entirely focused on the announcement and entirely disinterested in the substance. Unfortunately, no one in the media seems to have charted his vaccine announcements or confronted him about their lack of substance. 

While the majority of Mr Morrison’s announcements are not concerned with life-threatening matters and are generally misleading, exasperating, hurtful and deeply disappointing, the COVID-19 situation demands from a leader clarity, straightforwardness and trustworthiness. 

None of these requirements are met by Morrison, or any of his ministers. 

Morrison must have known, when he made his announcement one month ago, that there was no possibility of vaccinating 80,000 people in February and 4 million by the end of March. He must have known this, and yet he delivered this message to the country anyway. This is not how we need a leader to behave in these circumstances, or any other.

Being Indifferent to Difference

9 Feb

By Dr Stewart Hase

Humans are not particularly adept at accepting difference. I suspect that we are hard wired to at least be wary of others who are not the same as us. In fact, research studies have shown that there is a genetic influence in racism and in other areas such as political attitudes. There may well be an intolerance gene.

An aspect of wisdom or at least being civilised, you’d think, would be the ability to rise above impulse and to bring cognition into play. Sadly, there has been little of this lately. First, we had the unbelievable decision to upgrade Margaret Court’s gong. She received the original for her tennis achievements. Fair enough, she was able to repeatedly smash a tennis ball where she wanted to and made Australia look good on the world stage. But if you’re an observer from anywhere other than the awards committee, you can only conclude that her upgrade was for the homophobic bile she manages to spit out, using her position to influence the more feeble-minded that agree with her. Her rationale: that god’s word is the TV guide for life.

In the same vein, we then witness the leadership, if you want to call it that, at the St George Rugby League Club make the mind-numbing decision to negotiate with Israel Folau to return to Australia to play. Difficult to imagine what kind of logic that went into that idea. Luckily, the fear of losing sponsors and a backlash from fans slayed that dragon, but the fact they even thought about it was breathtaking.

Then we have the Collingwood scandal that exposed systemic racism at the club over many years, and the ugly reality that this is not an isolated case. This weekend, racism was called out again in football in the UK, albeit on social media by lunatic fans. Back here in Oz, Eddie Maguire managed to put his foot in his mouth again as he declared the release of the report on racism at Collingwood to be an historic and proud day. 

Given his gaffe over Adam Goodes, does Eddie have a problem with language or is he inherently racist? I think the latter, given he was completely blind to what was happening at his club. The buck stops with him. I’m amazed that they are waiting until the end of the year for him to step down as chairman. Why was he not sacked last week? 

We need to be careful to not assume that these high-profile cases are exceptions. They are the tip of the iceberg. I hear racist, homophobic and other slurs around difference at my local golf club and in other places where people mix, on a regular basis. And so do you. We damn the different, no matter what the form. We don’t value diversity, only diversity that makes others more the same as us, in other words, assimilation. We want migrants to be Australians, as long as they cook their authentic national dishes.

Sadly, we are not as civilised as we would like to think ourselves to be. I think we are getting better at calling out prejudice when we see it but we still need much more leadership from politicians and institutions such as those that support the events I’ve described above.

The quip of the week goes to Deborah Devine who talked about her son Dan Levy, the star of Schitt’s Creek, who is gay. She had a message to Dan’s bullies at a school camp when he was a boy: “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!” Dan was hosting the prestigious program, a measure of his enormous success.

Stewart is a psychologist with a special interest in how people adapt and also learn. He’s written widely in these areas. He continues to consult, and annoy people who misuse power. Twitter: @stewarthase

What Australian media doesn’t report and

3 Feb

This article was written by the founder of #ThisIsNotJournalism, a social media account that looks at the reporting of mainstream Australian media, particularly on stories relating to politics at both state and federal levels
They are constantly dismayed at what they see

Follow them on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/StopLyi58491572

I’ve just read a piece by CJ Werleman in the Byline Times.

I am angry.

NO! 

I am absolutely furious!

The main subject matter is the role of media, particularly the likes of Fox News in the January 6 attack on democracy in the US. Yes, that made me angry but I’m pretty sure most of us see platforming lies and partisan spin as a very great danger to many of the institutions we hold dear. What made me absolutely FUCKING FURIOUS was this:

Werelman quotes James Murdoch in a stinging rebuke of his father’s media empire where, in a joint statement he and wife Kathryn say:

“Many media property owners have as much responsibility for this as the elected officials who know the truth but choose instead to propagate lies. We hope the awful scenes we have all been seeing will finally convince those enablers to repudiate the toxic politics they have promoted once and forever”.

This was reported around the world. Well, around the world with the exclusion of Australia.

Murdoch’s news business, which owns a vast number of regional news papers as well as the major mastheads in most capital cities, did not report on this and, as such, it failed to get the coverage from other outlets that it rightly deserved. In many areas, the daily news agenda is set by Murdoch.

On the one hand, we have Australian politicians openly supporting Trump and his absurd claims of election rigging while, on the other, we have a media organisation withholding a vital international story in order to promote their own agenda.

I’m sorry, this is simply not good enough. It’s time we, you, me and anyone else who believes we have a right to a decent standard of reporting in this country, started calling this rubbish out and calling out those that work in these organisations. If you agree, stay with me. If you don’t, thanks for coming this far.

I have recently established a Twitter account with the aim of identifying poor journalism. I call it #ThisIsJournalism.  I wanted @StopLying but instead, ended up with @ StopLyi58491572

My intention had been to highlight bias and misinformation in the lead up to what I believe will be a 2021 election. There is no doubt in the minds of many that media bias plays a significant role in misinforming the electorate and as such, distorting our democracy.

Rather than following, “The usual suspects”, the legion of erudite, passionate and often like-minded #auspol Tweeps, I set about following a very large number of people who actually get published on a daily or weekly basis. I noted some interesting things as I looked through their profiles. Are you aware, for example, that a number of outlets, particularly Sky and some News publications have moved away from calling a significant number of the people who write or speak their content “journalists”?

I was also blocked immediately on following by a few of their accounts including, somewhat ironically, by one with #JournalismIsNotACrime in their profile 

O….K.

Journalism is absolutely not a crime. Blatant and misleading propaganda for one side of politics over the other is not journalism and probably should be a crime but at the very least, needs to be called out.

This brought me to a question: What is journalism?

It seems a pretty fundamental question, particularly for those of us who express our dissatisfaction with the standard of journalists and their work so, what better place to start than a peak industry body?

@withMEAA give guidance and provide scrutiny to members. They also only look at published pieces so comments on social media clearly do not classify as journalism. I’m perfectly happy with that.

MEAA Journalist Code of Ethics is as folows:

“Respect for truth and the public’s right to information are fundamental principles of journalism. Journalists search, disclose, record, question, entertain, comment and remember. They inform citizens and animate democracy.”

Interestingly, it goes on… “They scrutinise power, but also exercise it, and should be responsible and accountable.” 

This is pretty much the point James Murdoch made in the evisceration of his father and his minions. Yes, the one we didn’t see. It also happens to be one of the areas in which I believe we find journalists fail most frequently. I believe it’s our duty to scrutinise them.

Historically , as early as 1837, the press was deemed the Fourth Estate. Originally, there was the clergy, the nobility and the commoners as the first three estates. Media was seen as the perfect tool to “keep the bastards honest” to steal from the great Don Chipp. Many of the comments I see on Twitter and even conversations in real life, question if that very admirable objective is being achieved. Personally, I believe there are a few outstanding MSM journalists but it’s obvious that the vast majority are either too stretched to explore topics to the extent they should or influenced by ideology/bias be it their own or the publication’s they work for. 

Journalist should be the protectors of our fragile democracy. James Murdoch has very clearly identified the consequence of poor journalism.  It’s not only their historical role but also what is set out in their Code of Ethics here in Australia. 

We, the people of #auspol Twitter need to rise up and become the Fifth Estate, holding the Fourth Estate to account and calling them out when they fail to fulfill their time-honoured duty. I hope you’ll join me in doing so

Remember, #ThisIsJournalism because #JournalismIsNotACrime but crap journalism should be.

Oh, here’s a link to that great Byline Times piece. Get Furious 

Morrison: Opportunity Lost to Attack Racism or Political Expediency?

25 Jan

by Dr Stewart Hase

Good leaders know that what they say influences people. This is particularly true for political leaders because they have followers that share the same biases. We saw this in spades with Trumpism. But politicians can also influence others, the swinging voter: the person in the middle.

Scott Morrison decided this week to model his contempt for Indigenous Australia by criticising the stand by Cricket Australia to drop the term Australia Day in their promotions for the Big Bash League (https://ab.co/3c8Nif1). Then he managed to demonstrate his complete misunderstanding of history by noting that January 26th wasn’t particularly flash for the first fleeters either (https://bit.ly/39TLq7m). Not only missing the point that these first arrivals marked the beginning of genocidal behaviour that, arguably, continues today, but also demonstrating his complete indifference to Indigenous peoples.

And Morrison has form when it comes to his insensitivity, his inbuilt racism. In 2020 he dismissed the notion that there was no slavery in Australia (https://cnn.it/2Y7sIni). Here he conveniently rewrote history. More recently, Morrison spoke out against racism towards Chinese in Australia, wanting to protect the economy but not a word about racism towards our own people (https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/the-pm-s-black-spot-on-the-question-of-racism-20200612-p55243.html). Are we indeed, one and free? He also took the Trumpian line that criticised the Black Lives Matter protests in the USA as driven by left wing extremists rather than the victims of institutionalised racism (https://bit.ly/3c6bVt0). But at that time, he was still wanting to appease Trump and the right establishment.

Cricket Australia has shown leadership and, coming from a position of power, set out to influence its followers, to attack the racism that is, unfortunately, alive and well in Australian culture. Scott Morrison lost an opportunity as he did when the Wallabies sang the first verse of the National Anthem in a local Indigenous language before playing Argentina last year. Instead, he chose the easy option, to cower to the right wing in his own party, to follow his baser instincts. Scotty from marketing!

So, is Morrison’s behaviour a lack of leadership, which seems likely given his stance or lack of it on so many issues, or is it a demonstration of his and the right-wing intolerance, insensitivity and racism towards our own Indigenous peoples? Perhaps he is simply appealing to his base and it is all about votes. Whatever the case, history will not be kind to him when it judges his performance. Or is it all three. I suspect it is the latter.

Stewart is a psychologist with a special interest in how people adapt and also learn. He’s written widely in these areas. He continues to consult, and annoy people who misuse power. Twitter: @stewarthase

ME-ISM: The cult of the Individual

18 Jan

by Dr Stewart Hase

Let me state from the beginning that I am not opposed to human rights. I’m a member of Amnesty. I will never complain or even raise an eyebrow to someone’s right to order a quarter strength, half almond and goat’s milk, three quarter decaf, latte in a compostable cup while half an office block of people are waiting in line. 

Apparently, around a hundred anti-maskers invaded Westfield Shopping Centre in Paramatta at the weekend (https://cutt.ly/PjY76hy). The report, complete with video and photos even shows placards stating that Coronavirus is a scam. Clearly, these people have been over stimulated by Craig Kelly’s Facebook page and need to spend more time in the real world. 

What I most want to ask these demonstrators is what would be the motive of any government, particularly ours that is obsessed with neoliberal principles. Point the finger at anarchists by all means but she’s only running a party of two and has completely lost all influence. If they want to blame someone then they should blame that big guy in the sky with a white beard that apparently has nothing else to do than take an interest in one, tiny species on a very tiny planet, in a minor galaxy among the billions of galaxies in what is an increasingly large universe (apologies to Monty Python). 

But I digress and don’t want to spend too much time and effort pouring cold vaccine on yet another conspiracy theory: cognitive bias almost certainly makes this a waste of time and effort.

Let me also admit to the fact that I hate baseball caps and refuse to wear them. This is not pique but a broader statement about wanting an Australian culture not an American one. My protest includes a dogged resistance to spelling colour correctly and travelled has two &*$#@@! LLs not one, so there. The placard at the demonstration in Parramatta, that read, ‘We will not be muzzled’ is a more important issue. 

The culture of the individual or what I want to call MEISM, is embedded in the US constitution. In simple terms this was an attempt to ensure that the new country would not be subject to the power of governments, as it had been as a colony under the British. Individual rights were given the nod over collectivism. I’m sure that the founding fathers did not foresee how this would eventually play out when America became the most powerful country in the world, neoliberalism would rule and Trump would come to represent an American ideology that places the needs of the individual before the needs of the community, where the common good has become an anachronism. And the powerful are given free reign to do and say what they want.

And we, Australia, are inheriting this philosophy, just like the baseball cap. The anti-maskers, the anti-vaxxers, and those who don’t get tested or isolate when they have cold symptoms or lie when they enter public places make this clear. People who think about themselves rather than the collective good, who don’t care about the 80-year old that is going to die because they don’t want to wear a mask. And it’s not just because the mask is uncomfortable-it’s ideological. As an ex nurse, I’d wear a mask for hours and it is easy to get used to it.

As a psychologist, I’m obviously familiar with the fact that self-interest is a major human motivator. But there is a self-interest in being a good community member too because the community will take care of us-there is a strength in numbers. I suspect that this worked really well when we lived in small tribes and everyone knew everyone else and it was difficult to be a rebel. It is evident in small communities. But I suspect we have lost this with large cities and increasing population.

The effectiveness of communities relies on people being compliant: to put the interests of the common above their own. It relies on co-operation. It relies on leadership from our politicians and for the common to speak up with our expectations.

Or are we to follow the American way?

Stewart is a psychologist with a special interest in how people adapt and also learn. He’s written widely in these areas. He continues to consult, and annoy people who misuse power. Twitter: @stewarthase

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