16 June 2015

The bomber will always get through

I think it is well also for the man in the street to realise that there is no power on earth that can protect him from being bombed, whatever people may tell him. The bomber will always get through, and it is very easy to understand that ...

- Stanley Baldwin, former UK Prime Minister, addressing the House of Commons on 10 November 1932 - thanks to Brett Holman
Baldwin was talking about the prospect of air warfare, developed initially in what we know now as the First World War and developed to a greater and much more deadly extent in the Second (Holman's blog is very good on the British prewar dread of bombing from the air, as WG Sebald's On the Natural History of Destruction is on the German experience of it). He could have been talking about today's climate of fear that is throwing away important civil liberties with no real increase in safety.

Tony Abbott has staked the survival of his government on a game of chicken with the Labor Party, according to recent articles by Laura Tingle, Lenore Taylor, and others. There are two problems with this.

First, Labor seem up for such a game, which puts them into their traditional position of being Almost the Liberal Party - i.e. a permanent opposition, rather than an alternative government.

Second, the game depends utterly upon there being no actual terrorist incidents - something that no amount of bipartisanship can guarantee.

When Man Haron Monis took hostages in Martin Place last December, Abbott acted the statesman and denied it was a terrorist incident. Since then he has, to his discredit, insinuated it into the ranks of terrorist incidents. He has increased funding to the AFP and other agencies for "national security theatre" activities rather than measures that directly address terrorism and the motivations behind it.

When the US was attacked on 11 September 2001 it punctured the idea that what the US calls its 'defense' forces do not actually defend the country, and some people never got over it. The same would happen here: all that talk about sacrificing civil liberties for safety and losing both, all the talk about submarines and F-35s, all that pales in the face of a terrorist attack against Australia and Australians. A conservative government can't afford to risk such unconcern for public order and safety, and is foolish to place it all on a game of chance with their fellow former political staffers.

The entire premise behind Abbott's fear campaign is that it people are grateful when the government steps up and takes charge. Nobody is assuaged or comforted when Tony Abbott steps up and takes charge.

Evelyn Waugh (who would have agreed with Abbott on many aspects of general outlook) once said of a fellow writer that his treatment of the English language was like watching a Sevres vase in the hands of a chimpanzee. Watching Abbott in charge of the government, having him speak on anniversaries for Anzac or Magna Carta, the economy or anything important really induces similar queasiness.

This goes to policy areas unrelated to "national security theatre", too.

The peer-review systems for managing academic and artistic grants are imperfect, but almost every alternative to it is worse. Christopher Pyne has not made the case that he has greater wisdom on education and research than those with established reputations in those fields. George Brandis has not established himself as much of an aesthete outside Liberal circles in Canberra. They are drawing on an authority that they simply do not have.

Senator Mitch Fifield is the minister responsible for realising what used to be the National Disability Insurance Scheme. People familiar with that work praise Fifield's commitment and industry - but he will not get the credit he deserves because he is a minister in the Abbott government. His achievements are met with relief that he hasn't yet botched or slashed it, as though he were defusing a bomb rather than building something of lasting value. To give Fifield the credit he is due would require a broad acceptance of this government that nowhere exists outside the studios of shock-jocks and party headquarters. Liberals still hope there might be some circumstances so dire that Abbott might be seen as reassuring.

The idea that Abbott can make up for policy failings elsewhere in government with the lights-and-greasepaint of "national security theatre" isn't just 'flawed', as they say in Canberra: it's crap. It doesn't play to a strength. It doesn't compensate for his weaknesses, it emphasises them.

Mike Baird knew that there is no political capital in disasters. John Brumby took charge of the 2009 Victorian fires, so what? Anna Bligh reaped nothing from the Queensland floods of 2011. Baird did what a real leader does: praise the emergency services and get out of their way, then praise the post-recovery volunteer organisations and get out of their way, too. Baird's popularity stemmed directly from that humility in public and support in private.

Abbott and the dopey crew surrounding him think there's value in inserting their guy into genuinely tough situations, like an action hero cavorting in front of a green screen within a film studio. There's no helping him, or them, get over it. There's no way the press gallery will snap out of it either. They can all be shown up, and they probably will; and once again we will all pay the price of a bad government foisted upon us by misleading, disinformative, unchallenging work from the press gallery.

10 June 2015


Tony Abbott will never, ever pass same-sex marriage into law while he is Prime Minister. He will support those who resist it so long as he lives. All the Canberra-insider hints that he might accommodate it are just bullshit, beating up a story that does not exist.

When John Howard became Prime Minister, Australia's political momentum toward a republic was growing. Howard shored up his monarchist base and invoked his authority as leader by pretty much declaring that Liberals who supported this cause were not Liberals at all. Liberals lose office when they're seen to be on the wrong side of history, and nothing is truer to the Liberal tradition than wanting to win elections: Howard divided republicans and saw off any threat a united anti-monarchy movement might have made to the political structure which he had come to master.

Same-sex marriage advocates have done everything you would hope in a democracy to promote their cause. They have written letters to and met with local MPs. They have raised money and organised peacefully. Any demonstrations have been polite affairs: nobody has been arrested, no conflagrational symbolism as with draft cards and brassieres in a bygone era. No same-sex marriage opponent has suffered personally for their views as Stephanie McCarthy has suffered for being who she is. Proponents may even believe that Abbott is giving them some sort of tacit support, and some Liberal MPs may be under a similar misapprehension.

They have been clever in framing the issue as being about equal rights. But Abbott can frame as well as anyone, and the press gallery are helpless as kittens before his framing (even especially the 'experienced' ones).

It is not reasonable to expect that a Prime Minister will sit back and allow legislation to which they're fundamentally opposed to just slip past into law. It has never happened. Again, when Howard was PM the press gallery mused how ironic it would be that lifelong monarchist Howard would usher in a republic: there was no republic, and hence no irony. Now the same people muse how ironic it might be for Christianist homophobe Abbott to usher in same-sex marriage:
  • Have they learned nothing?
  • Are they stupid?
  • Why listen to them?
There are many in the Coalition who feel as Abbott feels about this issue. There are those in the ALP, and on the crossbenches, who oppose same-sex marriage too, and they will cast their votes as they see fit. Like any politician, Abbott shores up his base when his overall position is weak. Any credit Abbott gets from rock-ribbed conservatives on terrorism and the ensuing loss of civil liberties (inside or beyond the Liberal Party) would be wasted were he to let same-sex marriage pass.

Just four months ago, Abbott faced down a leadership challenge. Nobody believes that he might sit back and allow a piece of legislation to pass to which he was fundamentally opposed, and that such passage would not reflect negatively on his leadership. This is where we get to Abbott's framing, and why that framing counters the equal-rights framing by same-sex marriage proponents.

Abbott was being too smart by half when he insisted that the only same-sex marriage bill that would pass was one he would move himself, and that any other bill (initiated by Shorten or Leyonhjelm or anyone else) was just 'posturing'. He will never move such a bill himself. The idea that he might is itself just posturing. So too are the timid announcements from Coalition MPs who say they'll vote for same-sex marriage if there's a free vote: there won't be a free vote, so the promise is hollow.

Let's use a sporting analogy to illustrate Abbott's yeah-nah position. Let's assume that former Carlton coach Mick Malthouse could and would have insisted that his team would only take the field if they played with a ball that he owned. Let's also assume there was no penalty for forfeiting games. Malthouse would refuse to let any of his balls onto the field, Carlton players would declare themselves undefeated, other teams would play to their supporters by expressing a willingness to play (one or two Carlton players might do the same). Assuming AFL journalists are as bad as the press gallery, they'd hail him as a wily genius. Nothing would change - and to leave the analogy, that's what Abbott wants, to change nothing. Happy to have the charade of change, happy to frame any and all change as a charade really - but nothing will change so long as Abbott has his way.

Same-sex marriage is not a 'distraction'. Given that Australia is exposed to the ebbs and swells (and reefs) of the global economy, given that the government can't do much about interest rates or property prices or even tax, pretty much everything the federal government does is symbolic. They don't accept that their opponents can do symbolic politics that resonates with people. This is a government that lives or dies by culture war. They love a bit of symbolism. They just don't like having its most potent weapons turned against them.

Many Liberals are as opposed to same-sex marriage as Abbott is; many, if not most, are not. Surely these are the people who will join with most of the ALP, a few crossbenchers and all* the Greens and pass same-sex marriage into law? No.

Those Liberals can take or leave same-sex marriage. Let's face it, nobody who was truly concerned about same-sex marriage voted for the Coalition in 2013. There are no votes to be lost for not voting for same-sex marriage, or engaging in parliamentary shenanigans so that the vote doesn't come up.

Liberals are primarily concerned about looking like a leaderless rabble. They are in government because they framed Labor for acting like that (and the press gallery love a bit of framing). Any same-sex marriage talk makes Abbott look weak. By toeing the party line on same-sex marriage they are protecting their leader, and nobody expects any more or less of any Liberal. If anyone breaks the party line, or if there is no line to toe (i.e. a conscience vote), you put Liberal MPs in a position where their personal moral positions are exposed and have to be justified.

While previous generations of Liberals were more than happy to do develop and justify their own positions on broad social issues, today's line-toeing Liberals regard personal beliefs as an indulgence. Individual-freedom-to-the-max Liberals like Amanda Vanstone get nowhere in today's Liberal Party - just ask John "Third Preference" Roskam. On the rare occasions when the government allows voices from the backbench into the media, it puts up careerist sucks like George Christensen or Andrew Nikolic rather than randoms like Andrew Laming or Dennis Jensen.

Broad philosophical positioning used to be core business for a political party, now it is outsourced to consultants. If you want to know what it means to be a Liberal in 2015, don't ask Tony Abbott or Julie Bishop or Mike Baird: ask Mark Textor.

Don't believe Peter Reith either. Reith opposed four binding referenda in 1988 because they would limit the scope of professional politicians like himself. He spent more than twenty years in politics doing nothing to advance the cause of direct democracy; the nearest he came was to use high office to pollute democracy by lying about asylum seekers.
If the marriage reform is not dealt with this year, political backroom advisers will encourage politicians to focus on bread-and-butter issues, which do not include same-sex marriage.
Rubbish. In his budget reply speech Bill Shorten talked a lot about science and technology, which also lies outside what Reith would consider "bread-and-butter issues". The reason why he did that was to frame Abbott as unprepared for the future, of not being open to or equipped for its challenges. Same-sex marriage fits that narrative perfectly.

Consider the past three Labor victories over Coalition governments (2007, 1983, 1972) - in no case did Labor win on "bread-and-butter issues". In every case Labor won on the perception that it was more flexible and credible than the obstinate incumbents in dealing with an uncertain future.
For supporters of reform, waiting for politicians to give the public the right to have a say is a mistake.
It's begging the question to claim a popular vote is the only way the Marriage Act can be changed.
To ensure reform the best approach is to demand a plebiscite.
A plebiscite is a non-binding vote. Proponents of same-sex marriage want real legislative change, which won't be achieved with a plebiscite. Strangely, those who want a plebiscite on same-sex marriage are dead against the same measure for a republic.
If the reform or its timing is left in the hands of politicians, there is no guarantee.
Yes there is: you replace the politicians. It's called democracy. Then again, Eleanor Robertson has a good point about learned helplessness, and if not this what? Here we start getting all Letter-from-Birmingham-Jail about the very question of effecting political change.
... both sides are struggling with the issue.
Rubbish. Labor's leader and deputy leader made their position clear. Senior Labor figures who might have opposed same-sex marriage, like Tony Burke, declare themselves supporters while none are going the other way.

During the republic debate in the late '90s, people like Reith insisted that Labor was riven over that issue; I am yet to meet a monarchist Labor voter, and I suspect Reith is happy for such a bunyip to stay out of his sight too.
There is no government bill. Tony Abbott has not said if there will be a party room discussion on the issue. The Coalition party room has not yet decided to allow a conscience vote. They may stick to their current position.
This is Scott Morrison's position: the Liberal Party will not be rushed, and if it does not get around to same-sex marriage then it will not happen, and you'll just have to accept that.
Understandably, the Prime Minister wants to keep Bill Shorten at bay and Shorten is desperate to get the kudos of allegedly having championed the issue.
One of those guys is desperate: the one trailing in the polls, the one with more to lose, would be the more desperate.
That would work for Abbott in the same way as when John Howard opposed the 1999 referendum. Howard ensured a fair process which empowered the Australian people to decide whether Australia should become a republic. Howard was widely respected for allowing the vote.
Howard started from a position of opposing a republic and framed it so that it couldn't win. Reith and Abbott saw that up close. Abbott is playing a similar game with same-sex marriage and Reith is happy to play along.

Reith is dishonest here, as he was in the Irish example, for conflating binding referenda with non-binding plebiscites.
Australia runs a pretty good democracy. We enjoy telling our politicians what we think of them but we have a lot of quality people in the political elite in Canberra, including the media as well as the MPs.
Reith's idea of democracy is to minimise real public input, to frame it as something flaky, while the politicians make the real decisions. His idea that there might be "quality people" in the press gallery is almost entirely wrong, until you realise he spent most of his parliamentary career in the press gallery leaking against every Liberal leader who wasn't John Howard.

Tony Abbott's breach of faith with the electorate is every bit as great and irrevocable as that of Julia Gillard in the middle of her term as Prime Minister. Reith is right when he says "Abbott could not switch from his long-standing and principled opposition", because that would be like Kevin Rudd abandoning climate change.

Christine Forster is a bonnet ornament on the same-sex marriage cause, not a driver and not part of the engine. Abbott has been happy to use his wife and daughters and props to create the impression of being more awake to women's issues than he is. Opponents can't simply brush his sister off, but nor is she much use in making the case.

Mind you, this is the site that predicted Abbott would never become Prime Minister at all, and Reith has forgotten more about politics than I've learned; there's your grain of salt. Doesn't mean that Abbott will pass same-sex marriage though. The press gallery can't bear to report on Abbott as he is, as they know him to be. They cling to their fantasy that he might change, that Tony 2.0 is real and just around the corner, and this fantasy prevents us realising properly how we are governed.

* I can't think of a single Green politician who's opposed to same-sex marriage, not even from the perspective that marriage is a patriarchal construct. Is it even possible to be a member of the Greens while opposing same-sex marriage?

05 June 2015


Insofar as the Abbott government has a heart or a core at all, it is trying to create a convincing form of non-economic protectionism. It can't succeed at that, it won't succeed, although it already seems to have a convincing re-election scenario in place.


For most of the 20th century the Australian economy was highly protected. Australian manufacturers were protected from import competition by tariffs and other similar measures. In return for this protection they were obliged to pay Australian workers higher wages than workers in other countries would get for similar work.

Murdoch commentator Paul Kelly identified what he called "the Australian Settlement", a system in five parts which began to be unravelled in the 1980s under Hawke and Keating:
  • White Australia
  • Import protection
  • Centralised wage fixation
  • State paternalism; and
  • Imperial benevolence (first under Britain, then the US)
This system of economic protectionism began to falter in the 1960s, and aspects of it were modified during the 1970s and '80s. The wholesale removal of this system and an embrace of a low-tariff exposure to global market forces took place under the Labor government of Bob Hawke and Paul Keating (1983-96). They slashed tariffs and other trade barriers, and floated the exchange rate of the Australian dollar (i.e. rather than have government set the value of the currency, it was set by the market). They also reduced the share of corporate income that went to wages, and wound back long-standing measures that limited labour market flexibility.

The governments that followed Hawke-Keating did relatively little in terms of economic reform. Even now, commentators will urge politicians to engage in more economic reform, without being specific what that should be: roads or public transport, broadband, still more reductions in working conditions, more tax or less (usually less), etc. No politician wants to burn themselves out like Hawke and Keating did, realising too late that all political careers end and that you may as well do something with them whilst you're there.

Abbott's dreaming

Tony Abbott never promised to reintroduce trade protectionism or centralised wage fixation. What he seems to want is a variation on Kelly's five themes, namely:
  • A mainly Caucasian Australia, with vigorous non-Caucasian cultures like Islam or Indigenous communities shunted to the fringes and policed for any sign of dissent;
  • Trade-promotion measures that only really apply to high-volume mineral and agriculture exports
  • Acquiescence to import deals favourable to foreign goods and services (e.g. interstate dispute settlement processes)
  • State paternalism (but only in policing, defence, and intelligence, at the expense of civil liberties); and
  • Imperial benevolence (definitely the US, but one that's less dominant globally and which has made significant missteps in western Asia)
As far as employment is concerned, Abbott regards jobs as private-sector welfare, rather than as roles necessary for the economy to function (more on that later), or occupations that give workers' lives meaning. Abbott believes that a sound economy will make jobs plentiful and stable, and believes his mere presence in government is all that's necessary to give the economy the confidence it needs to keep producing stuff and keep people employed.

This government has given no thought at all to the idea of economic development leaving employment behind, and what that means for the nation. That isn't quite the stuff of treason but it does mean we are being misgoverned.

This government has been keen on some form of state paternalism in a straitened age. It wanted to extend this to welfare recipients, but this only focused on inequality and made gainfully employed people fear for what might happen if their personal circumstances deteriorated through no fault of their own. No government is safe in those rare but potent occasions when middle-income people start identifying with lower-income people.

The government's lust for state paternalism has shifted from social security (which presupposes social division without social disintegration) to national security (which regards division as disintegration). The first step has been to define "national security" to include people who aren't threats to the nation in any meaningful sense: lonely randoms who stumble into militant Islam (which does not quite include that attention-seeking loser from Sydney's Martin Place siege, but Murdoch journos and other simpletons lump him in), asylum seekers, artists - and anyone using that thing Abbott can't quite fathom, in terms of its form or its appeal: the internet.

The press gallery has been content to report this as some sort of Canberra parlour game - which it is, sort of, if you overlook actual threats to civil liberties, and believe all that policing activity precludes any real threat to Australian lives and property.

Which brings us to ...

Laura Tingle and business confidence

Laura Tingle is political editor for The Australian Financial Review. She is one of the few press gallery journalists who, when a politician makes an announcement, validates and verifies it with other sources of information*.

The target market for The Australian Financial Review is corporate Australia. These people who seemed so enthusiastic about the prospect of an Abbott government while Labor were in office, yet who are according to Tingle quite surprised and dismayed by the reality of the Abbott government.
No one can think of a funny retort to Tony Abbott, possibly because they are having enough trouble coming to terms with the unhinged nature of the rhetoric in which our Prime Minister now engages.
Firstly, Abbott was always big on the apocalyptic rhetoric. It was part of his 'junkyard dog' thing when he was first elected to Parliament in 1994, in the dying days of the Keating government. He did it all the time when Howard was in government; the press gallery regarded it as part of his charm. He kept at it when Labor were in government, and since he became Liberal leader in 2009 he has pretty much done it daily.

That word "now" does Tingle a disservice. In the lead-up to the last election, when the press gallery seemed convinced that the sunlit uplands of good government were within reach, Tingle was at least dubious, occasionally putting Cassandra-like warnings on the record. Nobody in the press gallery has any right to be surprised at Abbott; the more experience you have, the less right you have to act all surprised at what he and his government are like.

Secondly, Bill Shorten comes up with funny retorts to Abbott all the time. As an authoritarian, Abbott regards others as either allies or enemies. Being ridiculed blurs that clear line, and Abbott hates ambiguity. Mockery is the very thing authoritarianism elevates you above.

The press gallery thinks it's their job to stand around whispering and giggling about powerful figures. They resent Shorten's funny retorts, which they call "zingers", which they have to report to outsiders undeserving of insider wit.
Abbott is taking a wild punt on a message that would be coming out of the Coalition's focus groups. That is, whatever voters think of him, the thing they crave more than anything else is stability and certainty, not just after the Rudd/Gillard years but at a time of deep economic uncertainty, and even amid the shock they have had in the past 12 months when the return of "adult government" only gave them more uncertainty in the form of the 2014 budget and February's almost leadership coup. In what could be a tight election contest, Tony Abbott will be relying on this yearning for stability to save his increasingly undeserving neck.
The lack of scrutiny of Abbott, the fact that the press gallery gave him a free pass for being the antidote to both Rudd and Gillard, meant that he could create a sense of certainty without any ability to deliver it. All Opposition Leaders promise a sense of certainty: even those who never made it sought to cultivate an unthreatening image. It's why he was so ready to be portrayed as a "daggy dad", and why he implied (largely unchallenged) that he contained economic confidence within his person awaiting release by vice-regal imprimatur.

Abbott never had the ability to restore economic confidence, nor confidence in the security of the nation (however defined). Nor was there any basis for confidence in his administrative ability, nor in the regard for which his Coalition colleagues held him. Again, the more time you've spent in the press gallery and the fancier your official title, the less excuse you have to be surprised by Abbott.

The business community worked closely with Abbott before the last election. They gave him millions of dollars. They helped develop such policies as this government has. They accepted his assurances that he had the relationship with the public necessary for those policies to not only pass through parliament but be accepted and supported by the wider public.

Now they admit, feebly and privately, that this wasn't what they meant. Their creation, like that of Dr Frankenstein, careens across the landscape on a mission to crush, kill, destroy. Laura Tingle is too polite to confront them with this.

Abbott was always undeserving of the job of Prime Minister. This isn't a recent development.
The Prime Minister is desperate to shut down any possible area of Labor attack.
Oppositions gotta oppose.
Yet all he is currently achieving is open warfare within his own ranks on a range of contentious issues from national security to gay marriage, and policy chaos in the pronouncements of his ministers. He is actually fomenting division between his cabinet and the party room on national security.
And you expected - what, exactly? Was it really only social media denizens who knew an Abbott government would tie itself up in its own contradictions?
On Wednesday, Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenburg [sic] tried to give the government wriggle room on retirement incomes policy, telling a Canberra conference "the government will, of course, consider good ideas put forward as part of the tax white paper process and any changes recommended by that process will be taken to the Australian people at the next election".

It should not have been that controversial a statement.

Yet it was smacked down within hours, first by Treasurer Joe Hockey, then by Abbott.

Hockey had second thoughts on Thursday and he too tried to keep some room for change in a second term.
Two things come from that.

First, the government's tax reform process is as dead as Greg Jericho said it was. Next time Abbott, Hockey, Frydenberg or anyone else confuses it with a live prospect, journalists should laugh and  let their audience in on the joke. They should not do what they usually do - simply broadcast the quote, considering they have chewed up media space and thereby done their jobs.

Second, what the government is trying to do is not only shut down their own options, but those for the alternative government. It's possible that Abbott, Hockey et al won't even be in government after the next election. The government claims Labor will jack up taxes, while Labor denies it: this is to deny Labor the scope an alternative government needs to address the country's economic issues (real or perceived). Therefore, Abbott will claim that Labor would balance the budget through retirement incomes, because all other options will be ruled out; the press gallery will not think outside that narrative, so there's the next election for ya.
Ironically, retirement income is an area where everyone agrees that, because of its long-term nature, there needs to be bipartisanship. Both sides of politics pay lip service to this idea yet cannot resist the temptation to play politics, whether on pensions or super.
If bipartisanship isn't possible (let alone whether it results in the best possible policy), stop wishing for it. Where better to stop wishing for something so unnecessary and counterproductive than the hard-bitten no-nonsense pages of The Australian Financial Review?
Years ago it became fashionable to outsource service delivery from government to the private sector. But in the current, fetid atmosphere, people outside government are taking an "oh for goodness sake, let me do that" approach to policy too.
This idea that policy and politics is too important for politicians - I'm sure I've heard it before, and not just "in the current, fetid atmosphere". It's called democracy, Laura. As the major parties' lack of touch with people increases, as they seek cosy bipartisanship over the tumult of consultation, expect "the current, fetid atmosphere" to become the new normal. Political climate change, if you will.
A point of underlying agreement was that things can't stay as they are. As shadow treasurer Chris Bowen told the conference, the irony of the government's approach of doing nothing is to create more uncertainty. That's because few people believe the system is working, equitable or affordable.
Bipartisanship led us to this position. Bipartisanship keeps us in stasis. Therefore, to move on from this position, we need something other than bipartisanship.
Sinodinos reflected on how important external pressure and community consensus had proved in forcing the hand of governments on numerous occasions, notably on Howard's signature tax reforms and on climate change.
How much did he charge to say that? (Zing!)
Dawkins observed that the risks of vacating a policy debate are leaving it open for others, and making it harder to do an inevitable U-turn without looking ridiculous.
Likewise! (Zing! Balance!)
Unfortunately, Tony Abbott seems to have perfected the art of looking ridiculous whether or not he is doing U-turns.
Zing. Bipartisanship is the last refuge of political and journalistic scoundrels. If you want to get important things done, bipartisanship must die; if you want to tell the big stories, kill your yearning for bipartisanship.

* "Other sources of information" does not include other politicians, anonymous sources, or other journalists. This verification and validation is, in theory, what journalists do. In practice, press gallery journalists do this rarely if at all, which is why disdain for press gallery journalists does not mean a disdain for the very practice of journalism per se.