Thursday 16 August 2012

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This is Australia. Today.

Well, it’s been a busy week for me. Just a cartoon update yesterday, after very little sleep the night before and live tweeting a talk at the University of Melbourne by John Helmer on Russia’s oligarchs and the resonance with Australia’s current political climate (it should be up here soon, it was recorded).

Anyway, I am sitting here with a Stone + Wood Jasper Ale, have cooked and devoured the world’s best Carbonara (seriously, cook it) and this is what happened today.

The War on Truthiness

Mark Latham. Who would have thought that the same man that made an utter fool of himself, and mockery of the very concept of media coverage of the 2010 election would be offering up some of the greatest insights into those very things (politics and the media) every week?

Latham’s piece in the Fin Review today offered up a sterling bit of criticism of the horse race press coverage Abbott has benefited from for way too long. At first I thought he was missing the coverage in The Age of Abbott’s one-eyed and nonsensical reading of the job numbers, but then I realised I read the same Colebatch article he did.

Tim Dunlop covered this same issue well at The Drum last week – from the angle that Abbott is achieving so much with so little because he offers colour and movement to cash and time strapped journalists looking for that next photo opportunity and the 9-second/three word slogan to get through the day. It’s the kind of thing that, as Latham says, lets him get away with fudging (or even making up) statistics to make a point that hits home without having any merit or basis in fact. Truthiness will always prevail.

Latham’s piece seemed to define the day. Hilariously, and as seems to be typical at the moment, Tony Abbott linked to a horribly edited audiovisual rant ad on youtube put together by the team at LiberalPartyTV.

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I don’t know if Tony Windsor is following Tony Abbott on twitter (or is an unexpectedly big fan of LiberalPartyTV), but his rant in parliament today on exactly this subject was exceptional. We’ve all heard the “everything except sell my arse” quote before (hell, I did a cartoon on it and the beginnings of the Craig Thomson debacle last year) but given Tony Abbott was reminding everyone for the umpteenth time about the “lie” of Gillard, Windsor decided to remind him of his own promises, and the nature of a hung parliament and minority government (seriously, watch it, it’s a great rant).

This debate, where the media covers the horserace on the front cover and then criticises its own standard practices 10 pages into the same newspaper, is also being agonised over in the US at the moment, as the election campaign starts to build momentum. This piece at the Atlantic covers much of the same territory that both Latham and Dunlop do with Abbott, but on Romney: the bewitching nature of the truthy faux-factoid and the ongoing battle with how to rebut it when it is repeated ad nauseum by a candidate (and sometimes not even fact-checked by those covering it).

There does appear to be some hope though. This interview between Soledad O’Brien and Romney’s Senior Campaign Advisor John Sununu is an amazing back-and-forth; O’Brien refuses to let Sununu get away with accusations of bias when she presents verified facts, and ends the interview when it becomes clear he won’t accept the facts.

It’s a great example of how to put down someone who doesn’t want to engage with “the reality-based community” in their language.

If only it was par for the course, and lies on things like the BER, the home-insulation program, the mining super profits tax and the carbon price, didn’t become part of the cultural wallpaper through simple repetition and a fear of looking partisan.

Something actually interesting

A billionaire investor is putting money into research to develop a 3D printer that may be able to print an ethical meat protein that we might want to eat… based on medical technology research. Seems kinda’ icky in a “science is fantastic” kind of way.

Also, it’s really clear this guy loves his cat.

And something to make you feel joyful about the world. Watch Grimes’ debut TV performance on Fallon.

Goodnight!

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