Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Fairfax media (SMH and "The Age") dumbs down and dodges serious topics such as the Labor party's wasteful broadband project

THERE is a special place where no one cares how much the NBN costs. This is the Twittersphere where people such as the ABC’s technology editor Nick Ross are wide-eyed about “one of the most exciting and important things to happen to Australia ever”.

When The Australian questioned the efficacy of the project this shouty, opinionated and millimetre-deep world objected to the scrutiny. The Labor government played to social media’s twisted conspiracy theories as “citizen journalists” told us “Why Murdoch’s media is gunning for your NBN” even though News Corp clearly stands to benefit commercially from faster broadband. This is where we see how the fun and bluster of Twitter has a pernicious effect.

Social media creates myriad connections that are useful for those in politics and the media who want to share feedback and information. This newspaper embraces these innovations, making our content more accessible and interactive. But nothing in the digital world can replace experience, knowledge and wisdom from mature journalists and commentators. The “digital first” strategy at our Fairfax Media competitors is already leading to a dramatic dumbing down of their content, with a deleterious impact on the national political debate.

Whether their desire for social media adulation leads them to naive acceptance of the NBN, recruitment of inexperienced journalists based on their Twitter followings, or the constant recycling of sex-related stories on their websites to provide click-bait, Fairfax is insulting its traditional readership in a race for digital domination. Yet it will never be able to compete with the free services of Mail Online at the tabloid end, or Guardian Australian and the ABC at the Green-Left end of the market. Frankly, Fairfax deserves to fail because in this pursuit it has eschewed a serious role in national affairs.

We see this in the shallow, ill-informed and abusive behaviour of Sydney Morning Herald columnist Mike Carlton. It is surprising the paper  sat back and allowed Carlton to hurl profane abuse at its own readership. Yet Carlton is given space to simply parade his prejudices, spit his bile and indulge in personal vendettas — in a similar vein to Mark Latham in The Australian Financial Review stablemate. Rather than maintain dignity on social media and engage with readers, Fairfax is uploading the news standards, jejune opinions and crass manners of Twitter into its major mastheads.

Yesterday Network Ten’s political editor Paul Bongiorno told ABC Radio National listeners that the Rudd and Gillard Labor governments could be excused for skipping a cost-benefit analysis of the nation’s largest ever infrastructure project. “Some people know the cost of everything but the value of nothing,” he ventured, with a level of economic irresponsibility that once would have been unthinkable in his position. But hey, Twitter loves it.

When political journalism can be reduced to chasing retweets or building a following it is little wonder some politicians seeking media adulation are led down the same path. Julia Gillard and her team often seemed to convince themselves they were rebounding as social media endorsed their latest lines on misogyny or media bias. But the siren song of the Twitterati only lured them ever further to the treacherous fringes of public concerns. Substance must win out in politics and the public must be able to find it somewhere.



Treasurer Joe Hockey is suing Fairfax Media for defamation because they implied he takes bribes and the matter was in court again on Thursday for a directions hearing. Fairfax have retained the corrupt barrister Sandy Dawson to represent them which gives a strong indication of what Fairfax’s defence strategy will be. That being to lie, lie and more lies. I put some questions directly to Fairfax and Mr Dawson and as you will see below they were not forthcoming with responses.

The court case has a huge public interest given the serious allegations that Fairfax Media have made and if substantiated go to the heart of Joe Hockey’s credibility and suitability not only as treasurer but also as a MP. Therefore the public should expect that the matter will be conducted in a true and just manner. It should not be another political judgment or one that is tainted by dodgy conduct by the lawyers involved.

Yet Fairfax Media do not seem to care less and have flagged that they will be playing the case dirty given their retention of Sandy Dawson. The Australian public deserve better especially from a media company.

Does Joe Hockey have a case?

I wrote previously that it is a bad move for Mr Hockey to sue for numerous reasons.  It is probably worse now given that the hearing is set for March which is the same time as the NSW Stale Election and corrupt political donations will be a big issue especially after the revelations at ICAC this week.

Be that as it may, Mr Hockey is entitled to sue for defamation and unless Fairfax can point to some specific situation or evidence where Mr Hockey has done someone a favour in return for their donation then Fairfax might lose the case.

Mr Hockey claims that the Fairfax articles in May “conveyed a series of defamatory meanings including that he “accepted bribes paid to influence the decisions he made as Treasurer”.

Interestingly Joe Hockey chose to pursue his claim in the Federal Court which rarely hears defamation matters instead of the Supreme Court of NSW which is the main forum for defamation cases in NSW. I think even Mr Hockey knows how dodgy the Supreme Court is.


Failure to condemn them encourages anti-Semites

"In 25 years of documenting anti-Jewish activity in Australia, I have never before witnessed so many overt, unapologetic expressions of anti-Semitic vitriol."

by Jeremy Jones

LAST month in France, a mob surrounded a synagogue, yelling “Hitler was right!” and “Death to the Jews!”

In Berlin, a demonstration ­allegedly concerned with the safety of the population of Gaza included the chant of “Jew, Jew, cowardly swine, come out and fight on your own”.

This week in Sydney, Jewish schoolchildren on a bus were threatened by a group of teenagers whose verbal abuse included “Heil Hitler” and “We’re going to cut your throats”.

A Hamas official, on Lebanese television, claimed Jews killed Christians to use their blood in making the unleavened bread eaten on the festival of Passover.

A Turkish singer was supported by civic and political ­officials when she tweeted: “If God allows, it will be again Muslims who will bring the end to those Jews”, and then “May God bless Hitler”.

A speaker at a rally in Antwerp led the chant “slaughter the Jews” and an imam in Italy called for Jews to be killed “one by one”, claiming Jews’ “hands are soiled with the blood of the prophets”.
A Sydney-based Facebook group provided a platform for contributions such as “we don’t want Jews in Australia — go back to Europe, another Hitler can ­appear and finish you scums off”.

When the rabbi of the Jewish community in Casablanca, Morocco, was badly beaten as he walked to synagogue, passers-by ignored his appeals for help.

The hashtag “Hitler was right” went viral last month.

Tweeted by people claiming to be Arab, African and of other types that Nazi racial theory condemned as lower than human, and permitted on moderated discussion sites hosted by self-declared leftists, it featured in demonstrations through the streets of Sydney. Emails I have received during the past fortnight have included phrases such as “Jews are just shit”; “kill Jew women and kids”; the Jews’ “evil nature” is a global problem; and “what a repulsive race you Jews are”.

In 25 years of documenting anti-Jewish activity in Australia, I have never before witnessed so many overt, unapologetic expressions of anti-Semitic vitriol.

My colleagues in Europe are going through much worse as social media provides a megaphone for malevolence and extreme right-wingers, Islamist fascists, cynical Marxists and Christian ­supercessionists, creating an amorphous, mutually reinforcing subculture of racist bullies. When a Belgian doctor refuses emergency medical care to a Jewish woman, it hardly matters if the motivation is far-Right, extreme Left or Islamic or Christian quasi-theology.

When a Spanish writer calls for the expulsion of the country’s entire Jewish community, when Jewish people, in country after country, on every continent, report abuse and assault, all who think seriously about the state of humanity recognise there is a real problem that needs addressing.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany’s Social Democratic Foreign Minister, put it this way, in a piece published on July 31: “Unfortun­ately, we have been familiar with the phenomenon of latent anti-Sem­itic sentiment, which manifests itself in excessive criticism of Israel, for a long time.”

He concludes: “Yet what we are experiencing now is still shocking: people have shouted slogans expressing a hatred towards Jews which beggars belief. It makes anyone’s blood run cold.”

The chairwoman of the European Network Against Racism, who declares open “support for the Palestinian cause”, made an unprecedented call for other Palestinian supporters to stop “per­petrating racist calls and denying the rights to security and protection of European Jews”, concluding: “Hatred is hatred, wherever it comes from and whatever its shape.” Her statement came after a Berlin imam claimed Jews “act like sole rulers of the entire world and disseminate corruption” and urged God to “kill every last one of them and not have pity on any of them”, and demonstrators from Antwerp to Australia chanted “Jews, remember Khaybar, the army of Mohammed is returning”, an anti-Jewish battle cry.

Last year, hundreds of men and women from many countries, cultures and creeds came together in the Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism, after which I was appointed to chair the working group on interfaith dialogue as a means of combating anti-Semitism, and am in contact with many Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and others — all of whom report increasing confidence and confrontationalism from bigots within their communities.

Muslim figures in Britain have expressed concern at the behaviour of Muslims involved in anti-Jewish behaviour. The Asian Image newspaper has attributed to Muslims attacks on a Jewish school and a rabbi, calls for the bombing of synagogues, physical violence against a schoolboy and vile social media campaigns.

“Hate crimes,” it editorialised, “only serve to make a bunch of brainwashed and easily influenced individuals feel a sense of superiority and satisfaction that they have ‘done their bit’ to help fellow Muslims.”

The Council of Mosques and the Union of Moroccan Mosques in The Netherlands also issued a call for tolerance recently, specifically to Jewish “brothers of the holy book”. Conversations I have had with Muslim Australians have reflected a genuine unease at the degeneration of serious political conversation to a pretext for racist anti-Jewish propaganda.

Between October 1989 and September last year, on behalf of Jewish community organisations in Australia, I logged reports of 616 incidents of physical assault on individuals and damage to property, 1446 examples of harassment and intimidation not involving physical contact, 959 instances of anti-Jewish graffiti, and more than 2700 telephone calls, faxes, emails, letter campaigns, posters and leaflets targeting Jewish Australians with threats and abuse.

Anti-Jewish commentary in the media, activities by organisations and individuals designed to defame, demean and intimidate Jewish Australians, anti-Jewish religious preaching and other manifestations of anti-Semitism have been documented on an infrequent but regular basis in the same period.

What is unprecedented is the volume of anti-Jewish comments given platforms on social media, the viral spread of anti-Semitic slogans and defamation, and the domination of so much public discussion by racist loudmouths.

An essential element of successful cultural diversity, and an important component of combating anti-Semitism and other ­racism, is unambiguous, auth­oritative condemnation of such behaviour by political, religious and other leaders.

Despite everything I have written being on the public record, there seem to be more Australian politicians willing to excuse the racism at anti-­Israel rallies than to condemn it.

In the past, bodies tasked with promoting community harmony have issued declarations to the effect that foreign conflicts should not be the pretext for racism in Australia, but they have been all but invisible in recent weeks.

Jewish Australians should not, must not, be the loudest voices condemning an ill that affects ­society as a whole.


Dr. Patrick Moore's tour of Australia‏

    The Galileo Movement is proud to announce that Dr. Patrick Moore (Greenpeace Co-founder), has accepted an invitation to visit Australia later this year. Dr. Moore is a Canadian and a respected leader in the genuine environmental movement.
    Patrick has a fascinating background as an environmental activist (initially Greenpeace), Ecologist, Sustainability campaigner and most recently as a sensible, ‘science-based’ environmentalist, and importantly, a sceptic of catastrophic man-made global warming. His personal website is
    Patrick’s lecture at the recent International Climate Change Conference in Las Vegas is on video. It outlines his journey from eco-warrior to defender of science, logic and the environment. He explains his scepticism of recent catastrophic global warming claims here:
    His tour will include personal meetings with journalists, politicians and business leaders. He’ll include public lectures and town hall meetings for the general public across Australia.
    We believe that his visit can have a substantial influence on decision makers in Australia, on both the scientific arguments against man-made global warming and promoting sensible environmental policies.
Via email

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