Tag Archives: ABC

How to “dissolve the fog of lies” Try truth?

4 Dec

 

 

 

Fog

Low-lying fog

 

There’s a piece by ABC journalist Julia Baird in The Age yesterday lamenting the demise of “objective facts” in public discourse.

While politicians, lobbyists and supporters initiate fact-less commentary, the media is largely responsible for propagating a narrative based unquestioningly on emotion and personal belief, rather than fact.

Baird cites the ABC’s managing director Michelle Guthrie as an aficionada of “true diversity.” Diversity in newsrooms is one method of dispersing the fog of lies, Baird argues, on the grounds that most are staffed by middle class white men and a few middle class white women. There is apparently a correlation between middle class white men and women, and fact-less reporting.

It seems to me that one must be middle class in order to score a gig in mainstream media: perhaps it is the class, rather than the colour that is the dominant factor here. Perhaps we need to get rid of the middle class if we want to disperse the fog of lies.

This would be an interesting piece of research.

While I heartily agree with the need for diverse voices, calling up Guthrie as a proponent of objective fact and diversity is astounding, given that one of her first acts was to terminate the ABC’s fact checking unit, closely followed by the axing of the world-renowned Catalyst science program, resulting in the loss of a rare team of scientists talented enough to master the delicate art of conveying complex information in a half hour segment. Science broadcaster Robin Williams described this carnage as “morally and spiritually bankrupt.”

Baird concludes that: There is no simple solution for how to dissolve the fog of lies and fake news that has blurred our political landscape.

Well, actually, it’s not that difficult.  Try telling the truth. Try prefacing reports such as the ludicrous segment on Pauline Hanson’s big day out on the Great Barrier Reef with a caution that “what follows has no factual content.” This simple statement shouldn’t get anyone into trouble. It’s the truth.

The fog of lies and fake news that has blurred our political landscape hasn’t done it all by itself. Note the passive voice. Media hasn’t had a hand in this. The fog has done all the blurring. Damn that low-lying fog. Let’s make people of colour responsible for lifting it.

Baird and the rest of the media can angst about this post fact reality all they like, but it’s a circle jerk. The answer is in their hands, so to speak. In the US, trust in media is at its lowest since 1972, and I’m betting there’s a similar lack of trust in Australia. The longest journey begins with the first step. Try truth. We might eventually get to like you again.

Truth to power. Part One.

29 Sep

 

truth-to-pwoer

The other evening I was musing on the mainstream media reporting and pursuit of Labor Senator Sam Dastyari over  the Senator asking a Chinese benefactor to cover his travel costs, and then making a supportive statement, contrary to both government and opposition positions, on China’s activities in the South China Sea.

I was comparing this to the relative lack of interest in pursuing Steve Irons, the WA Turnbull government MP who stole taxpayer money to pay travel expenses for himself and his new wife to their wedding in Melbourne and back to Perth. I tweeted this:

The first response was from a Fairfax journalist taking me to task for using the blanket term “MSM.” After hooting a little at the notion of a journalist complaining about the use of “blanket terms” I acknowledge that the term, like all blanket terms, is less than perfect, although most of us use it to signify traditional media as opposed to new media.

There are some very good journalists working in mainstream media, without whom we’d be even more in the dark than we already are. Fairfax, the ABC and the Guardian are home to most of them. Yes, the ABC. There are still some exceptional people there and one can only imagine how they survive.

However, I wasn’t about to list in my tweet every media outlet not pursuing Irons to the same extent it pursued Dastyari, and I stand by my initial impression that the two incidents were handled very differently.

I then received this tweet from Mark Di Stefano of Buzzfeed. I’ve never considered Buzzfeed to be mainstream media so I wasn’t referring to them, however…

 

It is true that Irons didn’t reward the taxpayer for footing his wedding travel bill, as Dastyari rewarded the Chinese. It’s also true that both major parties are significant beneficiaries of Chinese money, for which they are presumably expected to provide favours in return. So why single out and hunt down Dastyari when the Turnbull government Foreign Minister, for example, received an iPad, airfares and accommodation, and a bunch of government MPs scored Rolex watches? All of these people are far better placed to further their benefactor’s interests than was Dastyari (who after all said something nobody much bothered to listen to) and to do it far more covertly.

It’s also true that politicians thieving from taxpayers has become normalised, and without the added spice of potentially treasonous remarks, Irons’ theft was of comparatively little consequence.

This, for mine, is the heart of the problem. “Ordinary” thieving from taxpayers is par for the course in politics, meaning politicians are held to a much lower standard of honesty and punishment than the rest of us. I’d like to know why.

For example, if you are caught thieving items from a supermarket you are very likely to be charged by police, even if you put the items back on the shelf and say you’re sorry. Not so much when politicians rip-off taxpayers. If they are caught, they pay it back and that is the only consequence they face.  They’re still thieves, but they are protected thieves.

No answer to any questions from Buzzfeed, and I’d terminated my conversation with the Fairfax journalist who’d lost his head and started telling me I was “wrong and you can’t face facts because of your bias.”

Interesting, I thought. I’m perceived as biased because I’m questioning the difference in how two matters are handled, and he’s obviously assuming I’m a Labor fanatic because why would anybody who wasn’t politically aligned bother to ask such a question? This is what I mean about the normalisation of crime in politics. You can’t even ask about it without journalists assuming you are only doing so to create trouble for a party other than your own.

At this point several of my Twitter pals joined in to assure the traditional media representatives that I’m equally disagreeable to all politicians.

On Di Stefano’s subsequent points, 1) It’s cheering to see the MSM doing its job by breaking stories, but actually I was querying the subsequent pursuit, and 2) what???

Do you mean MSM don’t pursue unless a political party pursues first? I asked Buzzfeed.

I didn’t say that, came the reply. So what do you mean, I asked. Just trying to clarify because your tweet read as if you were saying that.

Silence.

The notion that matters are not pursued by the media unless first pursued by a political party is unnerving. This is not what one expects from the fourth estate. This is not speaking truth to power, it is waiting until one power gives you the signal to speak a bit of truth to another power, and obediently refraining from pursuit when no permission in the form of guidance is forthcoming. Is this how traditional media decide what issues and personalities to pursue? Taking their lead from politicians?

Well, as you’d expect the conversation by now involved more people than just me and Mark Di Stefano. Many references were made to the “MSM” and I don’t think any of them were particularly favourable, demonstrating the frustration and disillusionment felt by some consumers. Di Stefano maintained his silence until this:

Well.

As you can imagine, there is a great deal to unpack in Di Stefano’s communication. And so I’m dedicating an entire post to its deconstruction, which I hope to publish tomorrow.

Probing the anal

26 Aug

 

In a pig's arse

In a pig’s arse

 

On Monday night’s Qanda, somebody in the ABC’s employ allowed a tweet with the hash tag #abbottlovesanal to appear onscreen with Annabel Crabb, and the Twitterati haven’t stopped cacking ourselves since.

The situation was only exacerbated by Malcolm Turnbull who protested too much, methinks, at the allegedly inappropriate nature of the hash tag.

It was pointed out on Twitter more than once that Abbott can’t expect to have it both ways (lol). After all, he has cut the ABC’s budget to an alarming degree, and it must be very difficult to stretch meagre funding to cover censorship of Qanda tweets. Annabel Crabb then revealed her disappointment that the guilty tweep had misspelled her name, and had surely meant to write #abbottlovesannabel. ABC managing director Mark Scott issued another abject apology to the Prime Minister, thus ensuring the scandal an extended life. A creative type photo shopped an image of Abbott and Christopher Pyne, languid with post-coital bliss and naked under the Australian flag. Relief was widely expressed: at last we know the reason for the PM’s peculiar gait, and questions were raised about butt plugs.

Scott Morrison attempted a diversion, posting an image of an Irish pilot-boat in the Irish Sea, to which was added the caption, Border Force One. He claimed the craft was being used to convey himself and the PM around the Torres Strait. I tweeted my disbelief, and the manager of the Minister’s Twitter account, employed by the taxpayer, promptly blocked me. The attempted distraction, genuinely inappropriate, tasteless and hubristically arrogant, failed dismally, and Morrison himself became the target of social media mirth. They simply do not learn, these people, do they?

But it’s worth unpacking (sorry) the reasons anal sex was at the root (sorry) of all that mirth. The most unpleasant explanation is that it’s (wrongly) associated primarily with homosexual practices therefore the joke has homophobic origins. Anal sex in heterosexual relationships is not uncommonly portrayed as forced and undesirable: an act intended to degrade a woman. To anally penetrate a man is to feminize him, and for a man to welcome anal penetration is an indicator of his lack of masculinity. These are common cultural assumptions about anal sex, and they all contribute to the reasons why the #abbotlovesanal hash tag works as a source of widespread mirth.

The alliteration helps as well.

The psychoanalytic theory of anal retention also bears a mention. Freud’s anal retentive personality displays character traits similar to many apparent in our Prime Minister’s demeanour, such as stubbornness, a compulsion for control, repetitive speech, infantile desires for the security of institutionalised hierarchical structures such as the military, the Catholic church, and the police. These traits have their origins in conflicts experienced during toilet training, and in the PM’s case, could account for classic Freudian slips such as his misspeak on the suppository of wisdom.

A little deconstruction of the #abbottlovesanal hash tag reveals its complexity, and perhaps that is the fundamental (sorry) reason it’s turned out to be such a rich source of wit and pants-wetting jollity. The best jokes are the ones with many layers, the deceptively simple, the multiple meanings initially hidden.

Then of course there is the most obvious explanation: our Prime Minister commands no respect, and nothing delights us quite as much as making an arse of him.

Oh, and don’t forget, he did say he’d sell that arse to get the job…

 

 

ABC & SBS: Things move on, says Abbott

1 Dec

tony_abbott_drawattention

Finally conceding that he has broken his pre-election promise not to cut the budgets of the ABC and the SBS, Prime Minister Tony Abbott has given as his reason for breaking that promise: “things move on.”

The Prime Minister needs to explain to the electorate just exactly what has “moved on” since he made that promise a mere fourteen months ago.

While of course some things do move on, we do need to know precisely the changes that have caused the Prime Minister to go back on an undertaking he made quite specifically on the eve of the 2013 election.

“Things move on” is in no way an adequate explanation for the breaking of such a significant promise. This is yet another example of Tony Abbott’s paternalistic refusal to inform the citizens of this country of what he’s doing, and why. It is arrogant, it is ignorant, and it is completely unacceptable that a Prime Minister of this country has the audacity to believe “things move on” is an adequate explanation for the deceit he’s engaged in with the Australian public over the ABC and SBS.

Things do move on, Prime Minister, and Prime Ministers also move on. Leaders who treat citizens like mushrooms can move on pretty damn fast. Tony Abbott urgently needs to explain what has changed so significantly over the last fourteen months that justifies him “moving on” from his pre-election undertakings. If he can’t or won’t, he’s going to continue to look like a liar who lied to win an election.

Pyne. Turnbull. Hubris.

20 Nov

christopher-pyne-1200-vertical

When the goddess of language came up with the word hubris meaning overconfident pride or arrogance that incurs the wrath of the gods who then punish the offender, mightily humiliating him, she had Christopher Pyne in mind. Look:

Hubris often indicates a loss of contact with reality and an overestimation of one’s own competence, accomplishments or capabilities, especially when the person exhibiting it is in a position of power.

Yes, that could apply to most of the government. Sad, isn’t it?

Pyne’s latest caper is setting up an online petition to protest ABC production cuts  leading to the loss of jobs in his own electorate, as a consequence of budget restrictions imposed by his own government. His move has been described as hypocritical, but I think of it more as calculatedly provocative, designed to arouse precisely the reaction it has. Pyne loves above all things to cause outrage. It makes him feel powerful. He needs it like he needs the air he breathes. This is not a good characteristic for a politician in government.

Pyne’s move is also an example of conservatives adopting left-wing methods of protest in a “look, we can do this too” attempt to undermine those methods with ridicule, and it is a co-option that is intended to render them puny and ineffective.  However, as the tactic is blatant, hypocritical and just plain stupid, all it succeeds in achieving is a few laughs for the in-group and in this case, Pyne momentarily in the spotlight where he most loves to be.

Like his leader and many of his colleagues, Pyne has all the substance of a stick of fairy floss, or cotton candy as our friends in the US like to call it. I am struggling to find any sign of vision, or genuine concern for anything other than their own power in the government, no matter at what cost to the country and its citizens. This consuming self-interest  is destroying them, individually and collectively, as consuming self-interest always will eventually. Hubris.

Malcolm Turnbull for example used to have some authority in the world, a short term in the Abbott government has transformed him into the most hollow of hollow men, as if the virus of ambition has worked on him like psychic Ebola, leaching out of him all his vital fluids and leaving him dry as a bone in the Western Desert. The man is pathetic and utterly dismissible. He was not always thus.

A good leader inspires and embiggens her or his followers. Abbott is slowly but surely destroying every decent thing there might once have been in the members of his government. The man is satanic in his talent for destruction. In opposition he was very noisy about it. As Prime Minister he is far more stealthy, and even more lethal.

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.

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