26 September 2014

The difference

The difference between the Australian response to the war with a barely organised rabble in Iraq and the response coming from other countries is important, and it reflects badly on us.

US President Obama, UK PM Cameron and other world leaders have made it clear that Daesh are a foreign entity to be degraded and disrupted before their influence spreads.

Tony Abbott has explicitly linked the activities of Daesh to goings-on in Australia, that it represents an internal threat as much as an inexternal one. He has invoked the recruitment of Australians as a reason to go to war with Daesh that does not seem to be present with other multinational operations that cause death and destruction in this country, and the prospect that trained and experienced killers might return and create havoc. No other national leader has done this - not even those from majority-Muslim countries closer to western Asia, which have a far more substantial and pressing problem on both counts.

He even addressed the UN about an incident hours old, involving a messed-up teenager whose links to Daesh were neither strong nor clear. Mental health facilities in this country are full of people who want to kill the Prime Minister, or who think they are Prime Minister, and/or who see persecution everywhere.
Cuts to those services mean that police have to deal with those people, without training or resources. Tony Abbott has misled us on so much for so long, with so little challenge that I would not be surprised if this incident turned out to be bullshit too.

As if Abbott was going to talk about climate at the UN. Are you stupid? Do you think anyone following Australian politics for longer than a week is even sillier than you are?

You would only call for Muslims to denounce Daesh if you haven't been listening to what they have said and done, or if these people have to jump when you bid them to. Daesh are not representative of Muslims, and only Murdoch headline writers think otherwise. Every significant new wave of migrants has faced similar pressures to 'fit in'.

The reason why Brandis canned a revision of Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, despite upsetting part of its base, was to maintain relations with Muslim communities to thwart or monitor Australians joining Daesh. A wise government would take action against those who think they have a licence to harass people they perceive as Muslim. This is a start. Police don't need any more powers/resources than they have already to enforce existing laws. If this really isn't a war against Islam generally but against Daesh-addled ratbags in particular, the first step - the sine qua non - is to stand against harassment of Australian Muslims.

The Fairfax press published the wrong picture of the person concerned, which is important for a number of reasons:
  • Bad journalism used to be limited to simply quoting press releases and speeches, like Latika Bourke does. Now, bad journalism includes sloppy combing of social media. Crap MSM journalism, not internet or Young Warwick Fairfax or whatever, is what's killing traditional media.
  • There is no link between that image and the apology. The guy in that picture will miss out on opportunities because future searches will link him to terrorism. If Fairfax had injected him with asbestos or had him install roof insulation without training, they could hardly have set him up worse for life.
  • Journo culture in Australia is so toxic that the guy in the photo and the impact on him will be belittled relentlessly and ignorantly. If he complains he'll be some unreasonable whinger. Yes, it was an easy mistake to make; but big-mistake-little-apology is just one of those MSM traditions that must die, along with the careers of all those who would defend it.
  • Nobody is calling for the severed head of the Fairfax Media Picture Editor, but (yes I'm going to go there) Peter Greste is not rotting in an Egyptian prison for the sake of some untrammelled right to fuck up to such an extent, and get away with it.
  • If it's easy for Fairfax Media to make a mistake, why is it no less easy for ASIO, the Federal and/or Victorian Police - and even George Brandis or Tony Abbott or Bill Shorten - to also make mistakes? And if you accept that they make mistakes, why treat their words with more gravity than they may warrant?
Any journalist who thinks I simply have some inexplicable hatred of the MSM is free to just piss off, and probably will when the next rounds of sackings come through.

Tony Abbott has never been a champion of freedom. In Battlelines, in other utterances and publications, he has consistently said that freedom and security are opposites and that he supports more of the latter than the former. It is one of the few things he has been consistent about, one of the very few issues on which he can be trusted. Tony Abbott is ambivalent at best, and at worst hostile, to your freedoms. He wants a society where you beg him for indulgences and are pathetically grateful for whatever he might deign to dispense.

The same applies to Brandis, as I've said elsewhere.

Journalists should have been awake to this when helping us, and themselves, decide whether Abbott would make an effective Prime Minister, and by extension Brandis an effective Attorney General.

Instead, we have people like Paul Farrell and Jonathan Green decide that Abbott's moves against freedom are something of a surprise. Green is right to say that Brandis, the buffoon of travel rorts and bigots' rights, has not suddenly become the wise and firm protector of the common weal. Green is wrong, though, to imply this has come about all of a sudden, that it was not foreseeable before last September; close and privileged observers of public affairs have been negligent in failing to point it out.

Belatedly, Farrell has stirred:
Really, we can only blame ourselves. Could all journalists, collectively, have done more than throw together a handful of submissions? Most major news organisations in Australia raised concerns about the bill and the new offences. But there was no concerted campaign, no unified push to stop these disclosure offences succeeding. We’re now stuck with these laws, probably until someone is made an example of to spur journalists into action.

There is a small comfort in all of this and that is that the laws simply won’t work as a deterrent. They won’t discourage whistleblowers. And they won’t discourage fearless journalists from reporting on our intelligence agencies when it is in the public interest to do so. The disclosures by whistleblowers like Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning – and the reporters who told these stories – have shown us that people are willing to take extraordinary actions, at great personal risk, when they believe it is necessarily to do so.

It will just mean that some of them will go to jail.
Yep: Australian journalists regard Peter Greste, Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning as them, not us. There are no fearless journalists in the press gallery, just sad little dropseekers who occasionally stumble over something big and then pretend it never happened. They gave Tony Abbott the easiest ride to the Prime Ministership since Whitlam; after a few pantomime slaps over the budget emergency/non-emergency, this pattern has continued.

The press gallery is unconcerned about these laws because anything that isn't in a press release, won't be covered by them. Some of them might have their photos taken with tape over their mouths (unless Brandis' press sec ticks them off for doing so), but that's about all.

This post was considerably longer than it was, before I read this by Katharine Murphy. Yes, that Katharine Murphy, the self-confessed press gallery herd animal. It's unusually good. Impressive, even, for the most part. The best traditional-media piece so far on this topic.

She is spot on in her insistence that journalists can and should go into the details of what's going on, rather than just ripping a press release off the telex and zooming out to Endeavour Hills or wherever. You can't present the work of police officers or politicians or other non-journalists in a sensationalist, simplistic way, and then insist that journalists:
  • are hardworking
  • are sensible and sensitive
  • balance moral/ethical dilemmas
  • are under stress
  • do their best to get it right, and
  • when if they don't get it right - well, fuck you.
In an article concerned about framing, Murphy lurches back a decade to frame society as a three-role drama: government, media, and a passive public that cares little for either. She won't or can't even acknowledge social media, let alone credit it with informed critiques as well-made or targeted as hers. However unwittingly, she exposes the fallacy, the sheer emptiness of the traditional media notion that you have to be in journalism to be able to criticise it (and even then you have to pull your punches, as Murphy duly does).

The comments on Murphy's piece are worth reading too. Journos are told never to read the comments: they transmit to an imagined audience but block reception from the real one.

Our country has the wrong government. We have the wrong media reporting on its activities. Both of these things must change.


  1. When I read Murphy's column I shared your surprise at her 'road to Damascus' moment and realisation that the media in this country has, by its passive acceptance of 'narrative' and inability to do their bloody job done a massive disservice to democracy. This is only brought home to her when surprisingly fascist legislation is passed in the name of what she knows is bullshit fear mongering. Too little too late.

  2. Still reading Andrew but your third paragraph has 'internal' where I think you wanted to say 'as much as external one'

  3. Uh Latika Bourke can hardly call herself a journalist. Must be a tough job parroting press releases.

    1. Latika spent a breathless 2 days rabbiting on about what Clive Palmer may or may not have said about Jacqui Lambie in a bar while our country commits itself to another war.
      I weep sometimes.

    2. I asked the silly woman last year if the government had found a policy yet and she thought I was being facetious, has prattled rubbish ever since.

  4. Must change? How?

  5. Just a minor point Andrew - in paragraph 3: "it represents an internal threat as much as an internal one." One of those should be 'external' shouldn't it?

    Other than that, you're spot on as usual.

  6. Thanks Andrew. The authoritarian nature of Abbott, Brandis & co, also exposes the true nature of "libertarians" like the Eye Pea Aye and Tim the freedom Wilson, who are still crying loudly for the rights of racists even as meaningful freedoms are being traded away in Parliament

  7. Jesus. Latika Bourke. As someone else said recently she is a 'useful idiot' for the Libs, popping up at just the right time to either directly parrot their line or breathlessly passing on light weight tittle tattle designed to indirectly push the Libs agenda. 'Leadershit' used to be her thing but now it seems to be stirring trouble between Palmer and Lambie.

    Lambie is a stupid racist who has found her way into power but who does a schism in the PUP help the most?

    Of course our media loves all of this as this serves for news in this country.

  8. When the cuts to the ABC happen, you can bet Latika will remain.

    1. I thought she was a Fairfax shill these days?

    2. She is now with Farfax!

  9. Credit where credits due. I hope she sees your article and feels the warm glow inside of someone that's just passed a hard test.

    It's no surprise were being marched off to bash Muslims, you can't realise how close the economy is to collapse with your busy hating.
    On every economic indicator signs of imminent collapse are there: stagnate wages and job growth, contracted spending on capital, housing bubbles egged on by all side of the political class and propped up with lubicrisely generous tax breaks for rich investors.

    We won't mention the brewing generational war that the latest budget does nothing but fan. Don't mention the war...

  10. "Any journalist who thinks I simply have some inexplicable hatred of the MSM is free to just piss off, and probably will when the next rounds of sackings come through."

    Unfortunately probably not, judging by previous rounds of sackings the overpaid crap journalists either keep their jobs or bob up elsewhere to spew the same crap.
    The sackings seem to hit hardest at the jobs like subeditors (who don't really cost that much) further depleting what levels exist of fact checking and quality control.

  11. There are no fearless journalists in the press gallery, just sad little drop seekers, ...otherwise known as stenographers, those who take dictation and publish.

  12. I checked the Australian's editorial today to see if there was a pontification on a free, unshackled media but what did I find? A diatribe about the Gillard memoirs.

    Generally though journalists again failed to see what was before their very eyes.

    What next I wonder?

  13. It's now more than 12 years since I started writing for Margo Kingston on Webdiary about exactly this crap media we have.

    Kate McClymont is a stenographer held up as one of our best but she did over Thomson on the word of the biggest union thief of all and had to pulp a book on ICAC because she got it wrong.

    The rest of them I wouldn't piss on if they were on fire, Useless, lazy, racist for the main and just stupid in general.

  14. Even Laurie Oakes in today's TELEGRAPH, is worth reading on this subject.

  15. Even Laurie Oakes in today's Telegraph has written on this subject

  16. VoterBentleigh28/9/14 8:03 am

    The only reason Katharine Murphy is upset is because now the Tinpotter and his nutocracy may affect the operation of the journalists' insatiable appetite for the "grabber" stories. The MSM did not want a Government doing the competent, mundane work of considered governance with due diligence; they were far more enthralled by the stuntman. For years the MSM promulgated the divisions in the ALP and allowed the divisive Tony Abbott free rein. Even now where is Murphy's condemnation of the Government for putting up this legislation? She excuses the Government with her line: "If we are asking the state to be accountable and not abuse its power and position, then best we hold ourselves to the same standard. "

    The MSM are now suddenly concerned about a divisive Australia, which they actively fostered by allowing the Coalition's Boataphobia and Islamophobia free publicity. Did it ever occur to the Press that perhaps the Egyptian Government ignored the Abbott Government's appeals on Peter Greste's behalf, because the Coalition's "convicted Egyptian Jihadist" jibes may have been noted by the Egyptians? With all the hundreds of asylum seekers who arrived under Rudd and Gillard, was there any terror attack? Only under Abbott is there the increased danger of terror attack because he is talking up confrontation.

    When the ALP attempted to rein in the Murdoch media's manic monopoly and attempts to undermine the democratic process, the MSM screamed blue murder, yet now they expect the public to defend them. Murphy has the hide to accuse the public of being passive, when journalists have been completely passive in accepting every utterance from the vacuous and vindictive Tony Abbott.

    As both Opposition Leader and PM Tony Abbott has treated journalists with arrogance, rudeness and disdain by refusing to answer questions and what has the MSM done? Nothing. So having done nothing themeselves, they now blame the public for doing nothing. What would be the point of protest by the public? The government and opposition would ignore it and the MSM would probably not report it.

  17. On the money as usual Andrew, but " ripping a press release off the telex"? You must have been out of mainstream journalism longer than I have!

  18. Yeah..Thanks mate , you know increasingly people like me who are scared by this government and the media , are looking to people like you as a voice that gives us hope that there are actually people out there who can write that are willing to tell the truth.
    Its interesting because I would have though that some young crazy up and coming journalist could see the opportunity here to make a name for them selves. By going against the grain and sticking out as one of the fearless good guys,I don't know take your pick lets say John Peter Zenger would be a good inspiration.I guess the problem is not with brave journalists but media outlets willing to publish them..Murdoch I swear he is the root cause of most of the evil on this planet - One can only hope we are relieved of him by the cold and vicious hands of the stock market, I doubt it though. Hes likely to make the ton isn't that always the way .
    The whole notion of journalism in this country has been redefined or basically claimed by Murdoch and the other oligarchs. I understood that journalism was supposed to be the line in the sand , like a fairs fair type thought, and the ethical stance for good journalism was the truth in the same way a scientist is always looking for the truth otherwise its not science or journalism its something else it cant be called either , and then what is the point of it, if not the truth .I'm worried , because I never thought I would let the likes of brandis or abbott scare me , but the situation has turned rouge .There seems to be no accountability whatsoever , not a scrap - their locking privacy laws in for 25 years at a stretch .Its bad ,Its corrupt and the media are sticking up for the bad guys....
    Its interesting because I would have though that's some young crazy journalist could see the possible opportunity here to make a name for them selves by going against the grain and sticking out as one of the fearless good guys,I dont take your pick lets say John Peter Zenger.
    I guess the whole notion of journalism in this country has been redefined or basically claimed by Murdoch and the likes , was supposed to be the line in the sand and the ethically stance for good jouranlism was the truth like a scientist who is always loking for the truth otherwise its not science or journalism its something else it cant be called either .I'm worried mate I never thought i d let the likes of brandis or abbott scare me , but the situation has turned rouge there seems to be no accountability their locking privacy laws in for 25 years at a stretch .Its bad .Its corrupt the list and the media are sticking up for the bad guys..

  19. Spot on Andrew, you speak for a large, disaffected lot of us. I took the time to read through the 700+ comments on the Murphy piece and was astounded at the number of people that took the time to express their disgust at the state of the media. A quick check of Twitter found the 'Vapid Response Team' of Devine and Maiden playing the woman, not the ball, as if she didn't even have a point.

  20. Those journo's working for Rupert have to be the dumbest, most gormless dorks that ever put pinky to keyboard....of course he will sell them out!..of course!...look how many were dragged up before the beak at the Old Baily and charged or condemned...he even admitted it on a secret recordine to his own staff...the second most humble...and still they go into battle for him!!??..THIIIICK, THIIIICK !..it's a "Stooges" script.

  21. Always good to have some colour and movement when there is total policy failure to hide: http://www.independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/abbott-and-hockeys-debt-and-deficit-disaster,6943

    And if journalists would rather navel-gaze (even if doing ti quite well), so much the better.

  22. Bullshit. The UK is facing a much bigger threat from returning ISIL veterans than Australia is and it is a big issue over there which you would know if you had just spent a few weeks in UK as I have.

  23. Bolt on the PM's role in the niqab-under-glass disgrace ...
    PM knew nuffink. Was not consulted. He didn't like it.
    Oh yeah!
    If I remember correctly Peta Credlin from his own office raised initial concerns about burkas which are worn in Kabul not Collins St.
    If he 'didn't like it' as Bolt suggests, Abbott could have stopped all discussions on the matter there and then.
    Instead he contributed to the discussion by mumbling his own misgivings.
    Then Bronwyn Beehive came up with the burka-behind-glass solution.
    As if she would act alone!
    As far as I am concerned the only veil which truly concerns me is the shroud of secrecy which conceals the inner workings of government. All we get to see is the puppet show on a rickety stage.

  24. I often learn something when I visit here, Andrew. The story about 18th century British MPs is amusing, and news to me.

    My only close encounter with Bronwyn Bishop was at a lunch for the Sydney International Piano Competition some years ago. Sitting on one side of her, I was pleasantly surprised to find her quite an agreeable and interested interlocutor, although I abhorred her politics, then as now. My wife, sitting on the other side, however, quickly got into an argument with her and exposed her — Bronwyn's — utter and embarrassing ignorance. We were talking about environmental protection and climate change, as the subject of the Murray-Darling was then in the news, and she said something along the lines of, "I don't know why people get so worked up about water. It goes up and it comes down: always has, always will." It was the sort of compact, simplistic ignorance that is smugly impervious to logic or persuasion, so we probably just quaffed another glass of the sponsor's tipple and moved on to some topic more in keeping with a quaint government house setting...