While I don’t doubt that he believes in what he’s selling, Conroy has been handed shit sandwich after shit sandwich in his portfolio to try and sell.
In that respect, he is actually very good at his job. The internet filter was a dog of a thing (and something I was opposed to categorically) and the media reform packages (despite public support and being backed by a government review that drew from a lot of recent research into consumer sentiment) are basically an invitation for the commercial media sector to light torches and head up the hill to your house. Y’know…
And he does alright, considering.
The only real exception is the NBN, which despite mouthing off by Turnbull basically sells itself. I guess it’s nice to have one gimme.
This is Australia. Today.
Well, it’s been a bit of a lot time between drinks for a frontpage post, but it’s definitely “interesting times” in the Chinese curse sort of way.
Speaking of drinks, I am currently drinking Pintail Pale Ale by Karl Strauss brewing co. This is by no means a sponsored post, just a recommendation (but if you want to send me free beer, please do). It’s a good APA and worth your time.
Royal Commission and George Pell
Cardinal George Pell said in his press conference today that he is glad to hear that we’re finally getting a Royal Commission into sexual abuse.
Wait, sorry? I’m sure he was saying in the Weekend Australian that he thought there was insufficient evidence evidence to justify one. Oh, that’s right, he’s glad that there’s a royal commission because
We think it’s an opportunity to help the victims, it’s an opportunity to clear the air, to separate fact from fiction [emphasis mine]
Pell’s biggest problem today was not necessarily the facts he had to work with (see here for Broken Rites’ up to date list of charged and alleged abusers) but his manner and attitude with regard to those facts. Pell made offhand apologies to victims under his breath, he took the conference as an opportunity to talk about how he felt the church had been smeared and he said the royal commission was an opportunity to set the facts straight about secular sexual abuse. His handlers were trying to quickly get him away to “another meeting” as he struggled to credibly answer some very good questions from the press pack.
Somewhere Alan Jones is pouring himself a champagne and raising a toast in Pell’s honour for taking the reigns as champion of the horrible press conference.
Despite all this Pell is making lemonade with the lemons that most people would probably like to fling at him and is apparently looking forward to the “facts” that will come from the Commission’s hearings. And he’s not alone – it’s the church’s official response.
Because while he many not be self aware enough to realise that public is not widely in support of the church’s handling of this issue – “I don’t think there is widespread cynicism [on this issue] from the general public” – he does realise upside here: ” this royal commission… doesn’t focus on us”. And there’s the rub.
Here’s my cartoon from yesterday’s Margaret Gee’s on the subject (click to enlarge):
Something light to stop you from killing yourself
Didn’t get enough schadenfreude from the Romney campaign accidentally posting his victory page online after the concession or hearing that Romney’s staff credit cards were cancelled minutes after the concession speech was delivered leaving aides stranded without cabs?
Well now you can watch Romney’s support disappear in REAL TIME! Disappearing Romney charts people the rate of people unliking Romney’s campaign page. He’s still got 12,000,000 likes, so there’s still plenty of time to watch! “Bright eyes, full hearts…”
Speaking of (actually this is not light) the US election, while Obamacare was one of the major issues of the election, with rape also playing an unfortunately large role, it’s worth looking at the costs associated with an emergency room visit after somebody is raped in the US. Sobering.
Thank you universal healthcare.
Well, today was a big day for meta-trolling.
If by some chance you haven’t as yet seen it, this is the front page that the Daily Telegraph ran with. Apart from presenting the best concept for a logo aping t-shirt in years, it also inspired some great commentary on the nature of a tabloid like the Tele accusing others of offensive speech.
Geordie Guy wrote a post that expertly draws everyone’s attention to the fact that it’s rather convenient that the furore over Robbie Farah being bullied over his mother’s death on twitter has been picked up around the same time that Attorney General Nicola Roxon is floating the idea of data retention. He also makes a solid point (and one that I find myself increasingly making to people who don’t spend as much time online as I do) that a threat is already prosecutable under existing laws.
Coincidentally, Roxon and Senator Stephen Conroy actually did put out a joint press release later in the afternoon supporting the “Stop the Trolls” campaign. Make of that what you will.
After many people pointed out that Robbie Farah had actually suggested last year that the Prime Minister (who has invited him to meet with her and discuss the prospect of tougher laws against online bullying/harassment) should be given a noose for her birthday, he came out this afternoon with a media release to apologise to the PM.
What he didn’t apologise for was actually threatening to rip someone’s face off (illegal over a carriage service).
He also didn’t distance himself from the campaign to “stop the trolls”, when it became clear that he is just as guilty as those he accuses.
After the initial tweet, Farah also called in his supporters, who piled onto the original poster.
Comedy Chat, a blog on the UK comedy scene, has a fantastic post on the disproportionate power celebrities wield on social media despite the appearance of a level playing field and the fact that some (in the case of the post Ricky Gervais, Noel Fielding and Simon Pegg) will happily bring down the weight of their followers on critics.
Let’s not pretend that anyone but a celebrity would have got this response in the first place:
I think the thing that is made most clear by Farah’s apology, is that anyone can be guilty of saying things that are distasteful on twitter, or any social media platform. And if you think you deserve to be forgiven after apologising for an ill-thought out remark, you can’t be a public advocate for punishing others.
Everyone has the ability to block those who say things to them or about them that they find offensive.
Threats of actual physical violence are the line that should not be crossed and the law already provides for this.
Trying something a little different today. Have been doing some thinking about what works. I think maybe cartoons on the day’s issues are a good way to give a different view, and occasionally text updates and stories like Sunday’s rant on Private Health Insurance could be good.
Let me know what you think on twitter or in the comments! And subscribe to get updates via the newsletter every night.
This is Australia. Today.
This conversation actually happened today.
This is Australia. Today.
Legitimate rape culture
Whether it was about US Senatorial Candidate Todd Akin claiming that raped women were unlikely to fall pregnant if they were (“legitimately”) raped or the ongoing Assange extradition circus, this week has been dominated in many ways by gender dynamics.
Both Dan Nolan and Citizen Cam have both written thoughtful pieces on the topic of Akin; the concept that there is somehow a legitimate or illegitimate way to be raped and rape culture overall. I know it may seem odd to link to two young men writing on this subject, but their responses are intelligent, measured and I would like to think indicative of a generational change in attitudes. I know they both echo my thoughts.
If you’re trying to be provocative on this subject… perhaps don’t.
On the Assange circus, Bernard Keane wrote yesterday on the dilemmas of supporting Assange, I think correctly arguing that it’s not a dichotomy of a conspiratorial honey trap or outright dismissing victims of sexual assault. In opposition, David Allen Green argues at The New Statesman that many of the legal concerns for Assange’s wellbeing are myths, and that he would be as safe in Sweden as the UK in terms of extradition (perhaps more). It’s a solid, convincing read, systematically taking down each “myth” with legal precedent and references from Assange’s actual appeals.
‘“Assange has been afforded more opportunities to challenge the warrant for his arrest than almost any other defendant in English legal history. This is hardly “persecution” or a “witch-hunt”.’
The question I have, in fact I think many of us have, is why Assange did not address the allegations at all in his sermon from the mount/balcony. Given he happily fled the legal process, it’s hard to imagine that he was concerned about biasing the eventual case he will have to answer. Especially when the Wikileaks twitter account seems happy to paint the allegations as a complete farce. Addressing it in some way may have at least acknowledged the existence of the case.
Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick today released the second part of a review into the ADF’s treatment of women. In keeping with the rest of the week’s news, it found that the ADF had a long way to go, and would need to look into a range of solutions, including quotas, to increase the amount of women serving, their safety and access to places to report harassment that do not follow the chain of command. It’s worth reading the above Fairfax summary, this article by Jenna Price at Crikey (which as an updated that the ADF will implement the recommended Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response Office by the end of the year), and a community guide to the report is also available here. It is very good to see that the ADF appears to be taking the recommendations seriously pretty much immediately.
A tale of two scandals
It was good to see the RBA scandal on the front page of the Age again today. Nick McKenzie, Richard Baker and Maris Beck all continue to write illuminating coverage of the case as it unfolds in the courtroom, spinning out the facts that came from the original breaking story by McKenzie and Baker back in 2009. This is a hugely important issue, which goes to the heart of the conduct of senior officers in one of the fundamental cogs of Australian finance (and government)… remember that the RBA drives all of those things we like to talk about regularly in the media: “cost of living pressures”, mortgage rates – those things that concern “working families”… So, while this scandal may not be connected to those things directly, misconduct in the RBA, corruption, the abuse of power and the use of funds to bribe foreign officials for businesses related to the RBA are all deeply concerning and if true mean that we should ask some serious questions about the institution as a whole.
This coverage has been great. But the commentary has been rather muted. At least in contrast to that on the Julia Gillard/Slater and Gordon scandal.
Lenore Taylor’s piece today makes the case that there is definitely a question to be asked and answered on Gillard’s conduct, Stephen Mayne is quoted in the Australian scolding the Crikey crew for bias (interesting of course that the Australian would pick this up, don’t you think, given Mayne suggests Hedley Thomas should win a Walkey), Bernard Keane (the article that inspired Mayne’s criticism) suggests that it is a classic smear campaign and Michelle Grattan points out Slater & Gordon has stood up for Gillard yet again. In fact, Grattan seems atypically sick of this story altogether, arguing that there’s no new evidence and that the Coalition is hoping that the media will do the hard work of trying to find some where the well appears to have dried up; it’s a solid piece.
Compare the two. One is in admittedly an incredibly complex story of subsidiaries and trusts and foreign officials, but the other one is… wait, okay, a story of incorporated organisations and legal conduct. Okay, it’s not that much more simple. I bet you most people couldn’t explain what Gillard is alleged to have done wrong. And yet…
An interesting article on the steps to building an exciting infographic… if you’re into that kind of thing.
This hilarious piece at Bloomberg by Michael Kinsley imagines Paul Ryan’s dictatorship of the US Senate.
In keeping with that theme (actually scarily so) watch Miles Fisher’s tribute to American Psycho with his cover of “This Must Be The Place”. The cover and video are fantastic.
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).
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.
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.
This is Australia. Today.
Today was a triumph of faux conscience and political expedience over actual compassion and humanity. The vast majority of mainstream reaction to the Houston panel’s report and the Gillard government response showed that we now see a Pacific Style solution as necessary to save lives, which is quite an amazing act of cognitive dissonance. We are now so disconnected from reality that taking legitimate refugees off shore for an unknown period of detention is seen as a gift to them.
Perhaps, as Jon Kudelka suggested on Twitter, we actually asked the panel the wrong question. It seems they were asked “how can we make this problem go away (politically)?” To which the logical response is, I guess, “give the Opposition everything they want, but do with the backing of an expert panel”. This game of call and answer has no provision for ethics or humanitarian obligation, obviously.
There are really two great pieces I recommend you read on this subject, and in some ways they reflect on the question of what the panel were hoping to achieve and how the government has immediately responded. It’s clear that the government had already saddled the horse and were just waiting for the panel to give it a wee smack.
Here’s Waleed Aly on the nature of “the problem”.
And the always fantastic Bernard Keane at Crikey on life at the arse end of “least worst” policy making. Oh, and please, please listen to this fantastic This American Life episode from back in 2003 on Nauru and the reason it is such an amenable dumping ground for our uncomfortable problems.
And heere’s my effort on today’s proceedings…