Saturday, June 02, 2012

The Australian normalises abuse

Non-paying customers visiting The Australian’s website today may read:

Death threats just par for the course
Chris Merritt, Legal affairs editor
June 02, 2012 12:00AM

Death threats and vile abuse are real. They infect the daily lives of key players in the debate over climate change. But it's not what you think: the main recipients of this torrent of abuse are not climate scientists.

Paying customers may read the full article, which is essentially a pious reformulation of Tim Blair’s throwaway line that the odd murder of scientists in Europe “rather puts local claims into perspective.”

In Merritt’s version, those who out-man wimpy Aussie climate boffins are not the dead nuclear scientists in Europe, but intrepid Aussie journos who “are the inheritors of that great tradition in which Western civilisation has encouraged criticism of the orthodoxy in order to expose its flaws.”

These are mostly people who happen to be Merritt’s fellow employees of News £td such as Andrew Bolt and Tim Blair, not to forget his boss Chris Mitchell.

These and others have all been on the receiving end of abusive and threatening approaches from unhinged critics. In a couple of cases, going back a decade or more, there have been assaults and even gunplay.

The key contention in Merritt’s piece is that climate scientists are in fact “players” in the “public policy debate.”

Thus, “The abuse directed at climate scientists, bad as it was, needs to be kept in perspective.”

Well, this is just appalling. Taken to its logical conclusion, Merritt’s reasoning makes those murdered nuclear scientists in Europe “players” in a “public policy debate,” therefore fair game for abusive treatment at the very least.

Rather than quelling the flames of intolerance, Merritt’s piece tends towards normalising abusive and threatening behaviour in public debate.

But what’s at least as bad is that Merritt has equated the role of climate scientists with that of the journalists he’s lionised.

Climate scientists work at producing and interpreting data that informs what is, after all, an orthodoxy — that is, a widely accepted consensus.

By contrast, journalists such as Bolt and Blair work at pushing the envelope, often railing against perceived orthodoxies and sometimes inflaming their readerships to, for instance, promulgate conspiracy theories that demonise and dehumanise the targets of their ire.

In terms of their status as “players” in public policy debate, such ‘journalists’ are several orders of magnitude above scientific workers.

Noting James Delingpole’s complaint about a “run-in with a prickly ABC talk radio host,” ABC managing director Mark Scott observed:

I am sorry that he did not feel that the robust questioning he got on the ABC was the kind of questioning he wanted. But he does present himself as contrary and running against conventional wisdom, and that is what you get.

To extrapolate from that: News £td and its employees need to be much more careful about what they wish for, and what indeed they help enable.

P.S. Astute readers will note that Merritt in this article has finally conceded for his newspaper that for which it has long been in apparent denial.

Yes folks, there has been “abuse directed at climate scientists,” and it “was bad.”

If only they’d said something like that a couple of weeks ago and maybe even elucidated just a little, it might have saved a lot of tiresome to-and-fro.

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Friday, June 01, 2012

Feeling beleaguered? Besieged? Be buggered...

Oh dear, yet another crit against you-know-who...

External aggression has long been a News Corp trait, but perhaps the attacks on journalism educators on two continents betray a new edge. It is a political axiom that the presence of an external enemy builds internal solidarity. In Britain, News is embroiled in the biggest media scandal in living memory, one that goes to the heart of its governance procedures and throws doubt on the future direction of all its operations. As News Corp’s internal desperation grows, it is likely that the ferocity of its attacks against its critics will escalate.

Another vituperative editorial would seem in order, eh Chris?

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Trouble, trouble...


A reminder that all’s not well after the liberation:

“I not only weaken the opposition, I’m going to make them dead ... and if anyone is strong enough to try to hold a demonstration, I will beat all those dogs and put them in a cage.”

No, this was not Muammar el-Qaddafi in his infamous “cockroach” speech in 2011, when he urged his supporters to go “house to house” to kill the opposition.  The speaker was Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia, responding with typically threatening language to the suggestion by a Cambodian critic that he should be worried about the overthrow of a dictator in Tunisia.

The guy’s been in power for going on a quarter century.

Meanwhile, all's not well in Nigeria’s Zamfara state:

The discovery of gold in Zamfara brought hope to the state’s residents, but the consequences have been deadly... At least 400 children have died from lead poisoning in Zamfara since 2010, and at least another 2,000 children need urgent treatment for lead poisoning.

That’s possibly a generational catastrophe in the making.

Meanwhile, all's not well in the US’s corporate regulatory framework:

In the few days since its IPO, Facebook’s stock price has fallen almost 20 percent amidst news that underwriters led by Morgan Stanley and perhaps Facebook itself shared negative assessments of the company only with big, institutional investors — not with the broader investing public. ...

The most hyped IPO in history has turned into a debacle marred by insider dealing.  It’s no exaggeration to say the whole world was watching — and still the decks were stacked against average investors.

This is remarkable commentary on the untrustworthiness of Wall Street.  If anyone had any doubts, it shows the utter folly in relying on Wall Street to police itself. ...

Congress did just pass and President Obama eagerly signed legislation — the misnamed JOBS Act — to reduce regulatory oversight of Wall Street and the launch of IPOs.  It aims to make it easier for new companies to launch IPOs without providing detailed information about their operations to investors.  Whoops.

At the time the bill was under consideration, critics (including Public Citizen) suggested the JOBS Act was basically pro-fraud legislation.  “The legislation is premised on the dangerous and discredited notion that the way to create jobs is to weaken regulatory protections,” wrote a public interest coalition headed by the Consumer Federation of America and Americans for Financial Reform.  The legislation would “roll back regulations that are essential to protecting investors from fraud and abuse, promoting the transparency on which well-functioning markets depend, and ensuring the fair and efficient allocation of capital.”

The JOBS Act was an assault on common sense at the time it was passed — has the Obama administration and Congress really forgotten that the Wall Street crash that threw us into the Great Recession was caused in significant part by regulatory failures? — but it looks even worse this week than it did at time of passage.

If ever anyone deserved to be defriended...


So, so senstive Tony

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says posters that depict him as racist, homophobic and sexist are "tacky and not funny".

The posters, displayed inside the Sydney electorate office of Health Minister Tanya Plibersek, carry the slogans: "I'm threatened by boats and gays. Gays on boats are my worst nightmare" and also "Note to Ladies: Make me a sandwich".

Mr Abbott told the Nine Network this morning: "It's tacky, it's not funny and Tanya Plibersek should be better than that and the Labor Party should lift its game."

Yes, ok then...short memory.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Energy driven II

Alluding to the climate science death threats controversy here in Australia, Tim Blair reckons that the deadly activities of eco-anarchist groups in Europe “rather puts local claims into perspective.”

Thus, if that mother who was sent threats of violence against her children thought she had problems, she should try being actually shot dead. See how she likes that!

You see, those “local claims” are simply an artefact of energy being driven into the climate debate.

Or, as one of Andrew Bolt’s commenters put it, “real-word [sic] robust public scrutiny and criticism” (Wake up Australia of Pennant Hills, Tue 29 May 2012, 10:38am).

So, Australia’s climate boffins need to just STFU and cop it sweet, because their whining is simply driving more and more energy into the climate debate.

They wouldn’t want things to get yet more real-worldy and robusty now, would they?

Al Capone could have put it somewhat more succinctly, but we are after all civilised people here.

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Tainted vote

The anti-constitutional doctrine of “the tainted vote” saw Parliament descend once again into farce yesterday, as opposition leader Tony Abbott and his little lieutenant Christopher Pyne made a dash for the doors to “cancel out” the vote of pariah MP Craig Thomson.

So, not only are the voters of Thomson’s electorate of Dobell to be denied their right to representation in the people’s House, but now Abbott’s and/or Pyne’s constituents as well?

And all because of Abbott’s insistence that the Australian people should have made him Prime Minister at the last election but got it all so horribly wrong.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Australian’s shame over death threat emails

It just goes on and on — an editorial today in The Australian demands: “Correct your errors, Mr Holmes.”

On May 24, the ABC website finally admitted what was reported on The Australian’s front page on May 3 — that emails at the centre of the original story “were found by the Privacy Commissioner to contain abuse, but not overt threats.”

As correctly pointed out by Holmes over a week ago, the emails in question were not “at the centre of the original story” at all; rather, they were garnered from a period a year or more after the incidents which prompted the relocation of ANU staff.

At any rate, one wonders whether The Australian considers it at all significant that ANU people were still evidently receiving abusive emails a year or more after having to be relocated due to threatening incidents.

The Australian, Mr Holmes claimed, “looks worst of all” among the media organisations involved — for enlightening readers with accurate reports that included the full facts about a significant story.

So then, what’s “accurate” about ascribing centrality to a bunch of emails that isn’t warranted by the plain facts. And then headlining that death threat emails had been “debunked”, when there’s been ample credible material published to warrant real concern.

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