Monthly Archives: December 2012

Astroturfing hypocrisy

It is apparent to many readers that The Australian bolsters its own ideological narratives by selecting letters for publication almost entirely supporting its editorial line, even resorting to putting some letter-writers on high rotation. This creates a false impression of grass-roots support, and is an example of what is known as astroturfing.

Given that recent spampaigns included alleged bias at the ABC, academic freedom issues at Sydney University and free speech concerns around anti-discrimination law, this shows jaw-dropping hypocrisy.

“Lord” Monckton had his fifteen minutes, now move on

John Redding (The Australian, Last Post, 14/12) calls the ABC’s coverage of global warming “shamelessly one-sided”. Agreed; and that would be because the science is one-sided. Does he expect the tiny rump of scientists who reject it to be given equal time with the vast bulk who accept it? Would he also put the views of flat-earthers on an equal footing with those who know it as round? Just because there are several views on a topic does not mean they are all equally valid, or warrant equal airtime.

Offensive defence 

While I share the concerns raised in The Australian’s editorial (“Freedom of speech must include freedom to offend”, 12/12) regarding the reversed onus of proof in proposed anti-discrimination law changes, its defence of convicted racist Andrew Bolt would not stand up in court; in fact, it did not.

Bolt was found guilty not simply because his rants “might offend ‘fair-skinned Aboriginal people'” as it claims, but because he used race as the means to hurt and intimidate named individuals, and did so without making fair or even accurate comment. Although clearly spelt out in Justice Bromberg’s ruling, this crucial distinction consistently escapes Bolt’s apologists.

Further, it is a melodramatic furphy that his columns were “banned”; they are still available online, albeit bearing a disclaimer.

The Australian may regard the proposed widening of such legal provisions as “overreach”, but the same could be said of its claim that “[o]ur national character and strength of our democracy” require the “freedom” to sell newspapers using race as an offensive weapon.

Positive discrimination for right-wingers?

I wonder if Janet Albrechtsen (The Australian, “Leftie insiders keep Aunty locked into groupthink”, 12/12) is aware of the irony of citing letters published by The Australian as evidence of genuine widespread concern about bias at her employer’s competitor, the ABC?

Her own evidence for this supposed bias is a three-to-two left-right ratio on some ABC opinion programs. Albrechtsen may be accustomed to positive discrimination for right-wingers at The Oz, but out in the real world of journalism – unfiltered by hand-picking of conservative commentators – that proportion is about right. Look it up.

Pholi off-beam on Bolt

Kerryn Pholi’s argument (The Australian, “Feelings no motive for respect”, 8/12) is founded on the fallacy that Andrew Bolt was convicted simply because the people he offended were Aboriginal. This is a cross-eyed misrepresentation of Justice Bromberg’s ruling: Bolt used race as the means to cause offence, and thus breached the Racial Discrimination Act.

It is one thing to raise sincere questions about racial identity. It is quite another to defame specific individuals, using their race as a tool to manufacture controversy, as Bolt did. He may well have suffered a heavier penalty had the plaintiffs chosen to prosecute him under ordinary defamation law, but their concerns were broader.

Pholi repeats the Right’s melodramatic conceit that the Bolt case somehow “shut down dissenting voices”, as if regurgitating the clichés of street bigots were a form of insurrection or intellectual boldness. In fact, Bolt’s nasty piece is still freely available on the Herald-Sun website. There is a big difference between real censorship and merely being held accountable for one’s actions.

A stern letter

The Australian’s editorial (“Sydney’s university of conflict”, 8/12) states that “Israel is not blameless and it must be accountable for its actions”. Yet it accuses those who seek to do exactly that – through the peaceful, legal and democratic means of private sanctions – of “destructive partisanship”, an “intolerance [which] has no place in Australia”, and “foolish, partisan posturing”. What, then, do they have in mind for calling Israel to account – a stern letter, perhaps?