Did You Vote For This Man?

There are two upcoming power battles in Australia. One pits Kevin Rudd against Tony Abbott. The second positions Rupert Murdoch and his newspapers against our democracy. The outcome of the first battle may depend on the second, yet we only get to vote in one of them.

That Murdoch wants a change of government in Australia is evident. He has said so himself, tweeting that the Australian public are “totally disgusted with the Labor Party wrecking the country with its sordid intrigues. Now for a quick election”. Continue reading

Moving Forward


This is either the most well timed book on politics of recent times or the worst. In her meticulously detailed volume of the caustic three years of Julia Gillard’s prime ministership,  Kerry-Anne Walsh ends the narrative tantalisingly short of the final scene – the long-canvassed ‘Ruddstoration’.

It seems churlish to fail the book on events overtaking it, but this is always the danger with seeking to tell history on the run. Indeed, one wonders, after reading it, whether Walsh’s punchy news diary-style treatment might have worked better as a live blog than as a paperback. Continue reading

That’s the Way It Wasn’t

At a Reuters editorial management course in Singapore around 1997, the attendees were being reminded about the principle of objectivity in journalism. To play his or her stated role in a global news organisation, the journalist had to be a perennial outsider with no affiliation.

At that point, the trainer theatrically looked over his shoulder as if to see that no-one else was listening and leaned in toward the class, sotto voce: “Actually, that’s not really true. We aren’t objective at all. Implicit in everything we write is an acceptance of the Washington Consensus.” Continue reading

Of Human Bondage


An increasingly unhinged Australian mainstream media, with a few honourable exceptions, has been revving up the scary-o-meter in recent days about this country facing a future of debt, deficits and public penury for as far as the eye can see.
 
“A decade of deficits spells a bleak future for Australians,” was the headline on the increasingly tabloid ABC television news, warning of a crisis bigger than the one where Bates went to jail in Downton Abbey.  I spluttered over my warmed up risotto (my lovely wife was out at the movies) and quickly checked my Bloomberg terminal.

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Send in the Clowns

“What we will witness over the next 18 months or more is a Great Unhinging, an orgy of hysterics. The goalposts of what constitutes government legitimacy will be moved from the constitutional to the convenient, from the reality of the parliamentary majority to  concocted nostrums about mandates to govern. It will not just be a campaign against the government, but one rolling, frenzied campaign after another, where each new contrived outrage will assume a greater level of mania than the last.”

Uncanny, isn’t it? That prediction was made just over three years ago by blogger, econometrician and polling analyst Scott Steel (AKA Possum Comitatus). Perhaps, it’s his distance from Canberra. Perhaps, it’s because he doesn’t scribble about politics for a living. And perhaps, it’s because he doesn’t have to try to say something new every day. But Possum’s piece on the Great Unhinging is still the most chillingly accurate portrayal of the media-politics dynamic served up in recent years. Continue reading

Scraping the Barrel

 

The more irrelevant newspapers become, the greater their resort to spin, deceit and wilful manipulation in the service of pandering to their readers’ deepest fears and prejudices. Come on down The Daily Telegraph.

Splashed across the front page of the Monday edition of the Murdoch Sydney tabloid was a confection of such jaw-dropping dishonesty that one wonders how the hacks employed by that rag can look at themselves in the mirror each morning.

It’s “party-time” in Java, proclaims the Tele, as refugees say “thanks Julia” for promising them welfare payments and rent assistance if they make it to Australia on their leaky boats. Continue reading

The Man Behind the Curtain

Being a successful media pundit depends on a couple of core skills – one is a capacity for sounding absolutely confident about your predictions; the other is your ability to seamlessly and plausibly change gear after the fact without denting your public credibility at all.

Traditionally, pundits have gotten away with these 180-degree reversals because of the mainstream media’s monopoly on analysis. Being the sole mediator allowed established outlets to play footsie under the table with the poohbahs who told us what to think about economics, politics and everything else. Each needed the other. Continue reading

News Judgement Fail

Global media:

Local media:

One principle in journalism is that the closer you are to a story, the less likely you are to see it. It’s why wire services rotate people around the world. Journalists who work for Reuters, Bloomberg and AP have a frame of reference wider than the average local reporter.

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A Day in the Life

I read the news today. Oh boy. Apparently, Australia is now a socialist dictatorship run by red rag shop stewards stealing the legitimate rewards of those with enterprise and throwing it away on the undeserving poor.

“Once again, nothing in it for me,” said  ‘Single Dad’ in the comments section of a Sydney Morning Herald analysis from Adele Ferguson describing Wayne Swan’s fifth budget as ‘Class Warfare’. Over at ‘The Heart of the Nation’, meanwhile, the splash was ‘Smash the Rich, Save the Base’, with Swan and Gillard seen leading an angry mob against a hammer and sickle backdrop. Continue reading

‘Freedom’ Versus Truth

 

Judged by the hysterical reaction of the media and its think tank boosters to the modest ideas of the Finkelstein inquiry, journalism’s ultimate arbiter is the market. If the press’ output is no good, the public will not buy it. Or so the story goes.

It’s a neat trick that equates freedom of the press with the notion of an unfettered capitalist free market. Anything that stands between the desire of media companies to make a profit by selling audiences to advertisers must automatically be an attack on freedom. Continue reading