Truth with partisan on the side, but hold the bias, please: Part 2

The impartially partisan political journalist

Part 1 of ‘Truth with partisan on the side’ ended with the suggestion that we might be in a muddle in political journalism in Australia, a muddle about ‘partisan, but not biased, journalism versus impartial or objective or “neutral” journalism’. If this is so, what kind of a muddle is it?

It may be a muddle about what we the people — the readers, the listeners, the ‘reliers’ on information we can’t easily track ourselves — want and need from political journalism. It may be a moral muddle about what political journalists themselves see as their role in providing what they think we (the people, the reader etc.) might need and be looking for.

It is certainly, for me, the muddle inherent in, and driven by, a long-taught practice in journalism — that the journalist should be a non-partisan presenter of facts.

In The Year My Politics Broke Jonathan Green argued that the public ‘make a pervading assumption of impartiality’ and that political journalists fail this test via ‘misinterpretation’ or ‘abrogation’ or ‘partisan journalistic activism’. One might guess, and only guess, that Green’s faith in the impartiality mantra has been strong all of his professional life.

In May 2013, well before publishing The Year My Politics Broke, Green had written ‘Journalism tainted by conviction is not journalism’. It is a short piece wholly dedicated to the impartiality theme and disdainful of anything that does not measure up to journalism ‘untainted’. And it is salutary to compare some of the words, phrases and examples Green uses to flesh out what untainted and ‘conviction’-tainted journalism are for him:

Journalism untainted Journalism tainted
… a craft, a set of trade skills that can be applied pretty universally to a range of situations a polemic…a cynical exercise in the promotion of any or various propositions
…true calling at the heart of the craft: to simply inform without bias or favour. the sort of polemic that may have limited commercial worth but enormous political purpose
… a cornerstone of smart democratic practice … cynically political purpose while claiming all the protections, rights and respectability of the fourth estate
… created with intellectual curiosity to inform Fox News … an entirely parallel universe that determines its own agenda, facts and logic according to an often bellicose political mission
… practiced with calm objectivity and simple curiosity The Australian, a paper whose political purpose and occasional flights of “truthiness” can routinely obscure its better journalistic angels
… neither of the right or left; it is, for want of something less pompous, of the truth. … the opinion formers of the tabloid blogosphere. Little s-bends of ill-humour like the Daily Telegraph's Tim Blair, or great vaulted Taj Mahals of polished ego like the Herald Sun's Andrew Bolt.
In any … worth its salt the convictions of the reporter are an irrelevance … produced under the influence of personal prejudice is a betrayal of professional practice and the implied trust of all who consume it
Who knows how many journalists have personal political sympathies to the left or right. What is certain is that it should not matter. the paranoid, fact defying columns of the proselytising right … where … any measured objective assessment of reality is dismissed as being 'of the left', the facts are mutable servants of argument
Journalism is a trade in which personal conviction is one of two things: an irrelevance or a death sentence

The ‘heartfeltness’ of Green’s sentiments can’t be denied. And not many of us reading here would contradict, I suspect, his take on the The Australian, Tim Blair and Andrew Bolt.

But what niggles about the piece was captured, for me, in Paula (@dragonista) Matthewson’s response in The Myth of Objectivity, which introduced some needed subtlety:

The reality is that journalists’ philosophical views do permeate their writing, not just in the blatant drum-banging of News Limited writers, but in the choice and subtle framing of political stories by all political writers.

The most obvious examples are the political journalists who specialise in policy ...

While bias is probably too strong a word for these predispositions, they still shape how journalists present stories and therefore our perception of the issue at hand [my emphasis].

Far less subtle than Matthewson’s, of course, was a February 2014 Gerard Henderson response to, well, not just Green and his The Year My Politics Broke but Green, as an exemplar extraordinaire of ‘our ABC’, otherwise known as that appalling collective of left-y, partisan-y groupthink-y bias. Subbed with the give-away title ‘It's easy being Green when you can sneer while on the public purse’ Henderson gives himself licence to sneer away at Green:

Green seriously divides Australians between an “informed public” (that is, people like him) and “a great mass of people” who are “wilfully misinformed” (that is, people not at all like him). Green wants “gatekeepers” like himself to shape “informed decision making” in a green/left kind of way.

Whenever commenting on journalism as practice Green clearly argues for impartiality and objectivity, considers himself impartial and, further, that his personal political stances are, and should be, private. Consequently, he believes they just don’t show.

Matthewson argues from the opposite position and for the inevitable subtle evidence in everything a journalist writes, of belief, conviction even, by virtue of the individual journalist having almost sole power to choose the content of any story and shape its telling so absolutely. In the light of this, look again at Green; at, say, his policy-change suggestions to the Labor Opposition in ‘Where is the alternative to Manus Island cruelty?

And Henderson would never consider anything Green says or writes as impartial, but not for any of the reasons Green puts forward against ‘tainted’ journalism. In the ‘conviction’ piece, Green is trying out a philosophy, if you like, of impartiality. Matthewson teases out some complexity. Henderson just plays the man (or lots of them in this piece) to snipe at the ABC in News Corp’s ever more savage way for its failure to provide ‘balance’ or ‘equal time’ to so-called left and right.

No-one, of course, can rip the balance myth (as antidote to the dreaded evil of bias) a better one than David Horton did in, for example, his open letter to ABC CEO Mark Scott:

I thought the ABC was about presenting good and accurate information. Your view seems to be that if you have someone telling the truth, it must be balanced by a lie; a fact balanced by an opinion; history balanced by rewritten history; science balanced by ignorance or religion; objective data balanced by vested interest; conservative opinion balanced by neoconservative opinion.

Or here again in ‘Steering the ABC Titanic’:

I am suggesting that the obvious sources of bias be removed. That experts once again replace ideologues, that news bulletins contain, well, simply news.

For Horton, the ABC’s over-striving after ‘false’ balance (or false equivalence) to placate its critics from conservative camps leads to presenting non-fact as if it had the same weight as fact; and for Horton, this way the mad obsession with avoiding bias truly lies. For Green, pure bias is the personally prejudiced, politically purposed, paralysingly paranoid, polemical propaganda journalism of a Bolt or a Blair (amongst others). For Henderson, bias is Green’s wicked adherence to, for example, those ‘catastrophic’ issues loved by lefty greenie progressives such as anthropogenic causes for a changing climate.

But the Henderson view on bias and the never-ending drama about the ABC’s journalistic ‘balance’ are little more than ‘look over there’ or ‘ooh, shiny thing’ tactics from the naysayers and the no see-ers whom both Green and Horton so rightfully excoriate. Such views offer no help to moving us from adversarial charges that conviction is partisan in a ‘bad’ way, is bias, is propaganda, to something else — perhaps something like recognising that owning and stating your position may be offering some first steps in reviving trust in the integrity of political journalism?

In a recent piece, ‘Facts are futile in an era of post-truth politics’, Gay Alcorn lamented:

… we're in the era of post-truth politics, when facts don't matter, when evidence doesn't matter. But without these things, there can be no trust at all, no fragile but essential compact between citizens and their government that respect is mutual.

Andrew Elder responded:

When someone like Gay Alcorn writes something like this, I accept that she has a genuine and general concern for the state of the polity in this country. Pretty much everything Jonathan Green writes is in a similar vein, and there are others, but …When you reach such a state of despair, the question you have to ask is: what can you do? To answer that question in the negative is to invite further despair. [my emphasis]

Despair as media cop-out, really. Elder goes on to suggest that the media, more than the politicians and the political system, needs faith in evidence and correctives in the way it reports politics, or journalists like Alcorn are already out of a job. He adds: ‘If you have more experience in media than I do you could do more to fix it.’

Speaking at the Melbourne Writers Festival in 2011 Jay Rosen drew on, as a springboard for some of his ideas on how to change or rescue ‘political coverage’, a 2008 essay, ‘The power of the pen: A call for journalistic courage’, by Walter Pinkus that set out the Pinkus approach to how to ‘fix’ political coverage. Pinkus, from fifty years of practice in the business, had reminded his profession of their origins in presses begun by families who took partisan positions in their politics, but played the game with integrity nevertheless:

… they all used their presses to influence government, but that is what the founding fathers contemplated when they wrote the First Amendment. Pamphleteers, newspaper editors and writers of all kinds could have their say, and citizens were to weigh all opinions and facts as presented and make up their own minds. [my emphasis]

Pinkus argued that the political media participated in the political process: that the actions and decisions of the media directly affected government, making the media powerful, and thus allowing it to play ‘activist’ roles in governance. A recent development is the media’s rejection of this activist role — which he views as a ‘threat to our democracy’.

For Pinkus, courage in the political media field is ‘a journalist [who] stands up to a government official or a politician who he or she has reason to believe is not telling the truth or living up to his or her responsibilities’. It isn’t eliding, omitting or denying evidence or fact. But it isn’t playing at being ‘neutral, unbiased and objective, presenting both or all sides as if they were on the sidelines refereeing a game in which only the players—the government and its opponents—can participate’. For Pinkus, the ‘neutral’ journalist is an unfortunate evolution away from the origins of the profession (at least in the USA) into becoming PR mouthpieces for governments.

When first picking up the Pinkus essay in 2008, Jay Rosen argued that neutrality (another word for balance) needed to be ‘uncoupled’ from fairness, which should remain a tenet of modern journalism. But more importantly, the political press needed to let its readers know what it was doing with its own power. Nothing quite as simple as letting us know who they vote for, but what evidence they could provide for claiming their position of authority in the first place.

In 2011 in Melbourne, Rosen offered his audience several aspects of political coverage that ‘impoverished it’: what he described as ‘politics as an inside game’, ‘the cult of savviness’ and ‘the production of innocence’. He then suggested a possible model for change based on political coverage reflecting what is real, and letting the public know what is not, after all, real or true. In Rosen’s model a political journalist should assess the information they garner in four ways and ask themselves whether they are seeing:

  • appearances rendered as fact; e.g. the media stunt
  • phony arguments; e.g. manufactured controversies; sideshows
  • today’s new realities: get the facts; e.g. the actual news of politics
  • real arguments; e.g. debates, legitimate controversies, important speeches.
For Rosen, this is what citizens need from the political media.

Andrew Elder’s response to Gay Alcorn’s piece raised the issue of how difficult it might be, when you are on the inside of a profession or institution, to see what is happening and to make change from the inside. Ideally, you are best placed to do so. But it’s also possible to be so long or so far in that it’s hard to see how, when, where, why and what change might be needed.

Jonathan Green argued, in The Year My Politics Broke, for a game changer in Australian politics a, change agency person, preferably a different kind of Prime Minister or leader.

I’d argue, perhaps with Elder, that we need Australian game changers in political journalism far more, right now, than we might need a different kind of political leader or politician generally.

There are those, quite a few, who suggest that the rise of the fifth estate is such a change agent. And I would argue that while exciting in its possibilities, it simply isn’t true. Not yet. Not when online only starts-up like The Global Mail fold so quickly. Not while the Daily Telegraph and the Herald Sun or the Australian or The Age are the probable reading fare of the hundreds of thousands of Australians who don’t yet read the political media online and don’t know how to find it. Neither New Matilda nor The Conversation nor yet Guardian Australia (though it’s growing fast) has yet the extent of readership to influence the voting mind as rapidly as News Corp’s paper-based rags have.

The fourth estate still matters more, because of its power, because of its reach and because of its capacity to influence our governance for the worse or for the better, which is probably why some of us get as angry with it as we do. It’s way past time for the fourth estate to throw up journalists as change agents working from the inside.

One might look just like Jonathan Green … if he’d only seize his impartial partisanship (he doesn’t put a fact wrong) laud it, and teach that, instead of its opposite. (To be wholly in love with Jonathan Green would be quite something.)

One might look like Paul Syvret, working out of the News Corp stable in Brisbane, who produced this astonishingly open piece stating what his own personal positions on many issues were, but equally arguing no reader should simply box him into ‘left’ or ‘right’. Syvret has become one of my other most trusted journalists. It may be that his every article reads like the perfect practice of the Rosen model. I know where he stands. And I trust his evidence.

And one indeed might look like Margot Kingston, who practises now in the fifth estate after a long time in the fourth, and who very recently described herself, when challenged on whether she was ‘really a journalist’, in these words:

I think I've always been an activist journalist. As far as whether this has crossed a line, I've certainly never done any form of embedded journalism before,"

"My policy has been, for a long time, to be very open about who I am and what my beliefs are, and I hope that people trust me because of my honesty and transparency. All I want, as a journalist, is for what I say is the truth or report as fact, is believed. I think I have got that, I think my work is trusted journalistically, but yes, this is a very extreme way to report a protest." [my emphasis]

I want real change in my political coverage in Australia.

What do you want?

I see journalists who seem to actively pursue what we might call ‘a partisan impartiality’ in their practice in Australia.

Do you, and if so who?

I think I see some glimmering causes for optimism.

What do you think?

Rate This Post

Current rating: 1.3 / 5 | Rated 4 times

TPS Team

20/04/2014Following on from Part 1 last week, Jan Mahyuddin expands her analysis of the ‘muddle’ of political journalism in Australia, with her definition of ‘tainted’ and ‘untainted’ journalism — that is, objectivity versus pushing a political agenda. But is it as simple as that? Is objectivity attainable, or is it a myth? Can a journalist really divest themselves of their bias like an unwanted layer, or does it subconsciously permeate their work? Jan also wrestles with the issue of balance, that is, making sure that both ‘sides’ of an issue have equal time. Does this add anything to our collective knowledge and understanding, or is it merely an artificial ‘antidote to the dreaded evil of bias’? Jan wonders where to from here, and suggests a courageous way forwards, characterised by the need for journalistic game changers, who are fearless in stating their personal positions, but at the same time challenge us, the public to make up their own minds. How can this change be achieved? And are we ready for it? Looking forward to your views.

Ad astra

20/04/2014Janet (j4gypsy) Once again you have delighted us with your incisive analysis of latter day political journalism. Your writing is quintessentially adorned with clarity and commonsense. You describe how difficult it is for anyone, let alone journalists, to write without their personal values, beliefs, biases and political orientation intruding into their writing, even when they are trying hard to be ‘objective’, evenhanded, balanced and fair. Many who write for [i]The Political Sword[/i] make no secret of their orientation and preferences. Fourth Estate journalists seldom do; Paul Syvret is an exception. You ask what do we want. I want journalists who can offer the facts as objectively as they can. (The temperature in Melbourne was 17 degrees C at 4.37 pm on Easter Sunday is an objective statement). I recognize that it is much more difficult, but not impossible, to make objective statements in the political arena. What is even more difficult is interpreting the ‘facts’. The act of interpretation so often engages the political orientation, the values and the biases of the interpreter, often unconsciously or at least imperceptibly to the writer. So how can that be managed? I am attracted to the idea of writers stating their orientation, values, preferences and known biases as a prelude to their writings. Having done that, they could then interpret any situation against those ‘impediments to objectivity’. I wish writers would more often use “in my opinion” as a preface, going onto state how that opinion has been formed from the ‘facts’ and their processing within the mind of the writer with its inbuilt values, biases, and preferences. It is a reasoned approach that I desire, an approach that makes logical sense, an approach the gives meaning to complex issues, an approach where the writer has the capacity to see and portray the several sides of an issue or argument: “on the one hand…”, “yet on the other…” This would be such a refreshing change from the polemics we read day after day – those woven from distorted, misleading or deliberately falsified ‘facts’, and embroidered with personal bias or worse still, malign political intent. Such an ideal of mine would of course require a level of integrity from writers seldom seen in the Fourth Estate, and missing from some writing in the Fifth Estate. We cannot expect this ideal from writers whose object is to deliberately promote a political viewpoint, or who have been instructed to do so. They are a lost cause. But we might expect it from the likes of Jonathan Green and Paul Syvret. In our own writings, we could set a pattern that we would like others to follow. That is [b]our[/b] challenge. Are we up to it?


20/04/2014Thanks for part 2 Jan! I'll try and digest it all tomorrow before I go back to work :)


20/04/2014Jason has earlier today drawn our attention to the passing of Neville Wran Exciting times, those of his Premiership, but when were NSW politics anything but exciting?


21/04/2014 The unshakeable, undeniable, unavoidable Nemesis stalking Abbott and the LNP....AND, I might add.; the MSM. From Theodor Mommsen ; “History of Rome”. “…But history will not submit to curtail the true leader of their due honour, because her verdict may lead simplicity astray in the presence of bad leaders, and may give to roguery occasion to lying and fraud. History too is a Bible, and if she cannot any more than the Bible hinder the fool from misunderstanding and the devil from quoting her, she too will be able to bear with and to repay, deed for deed, them both.” Such is and will be the judgement and fate awaiting those blackguards.


21/04/2014well written piece, Gypsy Jan...will digest and respond anon!

Catching up

21/04/2014 Worth a read


21/04/2014Jan.. While one must fully agree with the debate within your articles, the point must be raised that the timing is all wrong...the "horse has bolted"...too late to close the barn door...likewise for Mr. Elder's, Mr. Green's and other worthy writers railings at journalistic ethics.....those who are partisan have no regrets and will not change, those who were "bought off" may have regrets, but will salve their conscience with some entertaining gadget or other..those who were fooled will never admit it and will go on fooling themselves till their stupidity is slap-stick-flung, pie like into their faces! What happened to get us all riled?....There was the Labor Govt', led by a woman Prime Minister ( a fault in itself, evidently!) ticking along steadily with a AAA. credit rating...decent employment figures, damn decent social and infrastructure policies, small treasury debt...and a few , now settled, internal leadership squabbles...I think that covers it..what happened? Accusations..endless, unrelenting accusations against almost everything the govt' had working policy toward resolution. Accusations against any minister that could be found, their sexual orientation, past suspicions, even before they entered office. against the speaker of The House, against the Prime Minister's past relationships, against the Prime Minister's person and her relationship with her partner, her parent, even her dress style, body shape and shoes! endless panoply of accusation and complaint to one end, one objective...: To undermine public confidence in both the Prime Minister and the democratically elected govt' of the day. Murdoch even imported from America, his favoured provocateur to edit and ensure the result of the upcoming election would put in office, the most indolent opposition in Aust' opposition that spent the last three years not just being idle in their duty as an opposition, but deliberately avoiding ANY semblance of policy development, ANY sort of legitimate debate of Govt' policies, ANY appearance of polite procedure that would reflect well on our democratic absolute disgrace! And where were those "Upholders of the free, democratic process"?....The Forth Estate jury that dissects and delivers the "context", the " deconstructed analysis" of policy, of parties, of parliamentary procedures?....where were they?....I'll tell you the pocket of the conservative conspiracy to destabilise and demoralise and destroy both the reputation and the actualisation of Parliament and Democratic Governance of our nation. Of those who were in the Murdoch camp, who, unlike their employer, were Australian citizens, the most abominable moniker of traitors would be barely sufficient to name them....for in following the instructions of a foreign national, hell-bent on profiteering from the bringing down of the govt', they have betrayed their duty toward their accepting payment from a foreign national to assist that person or corporation to undermine the morale and the structure of good governance, even if they disaproved of the political sway of that govt', they colluded with, accepted payment from and delivered to ; a foreign national or corporation a service that diminished the capacity of their fellow citizens a degree of social and financial security of necessity to maintain stable democracy. Of those others in the MSM. who may first have seen opportunity, then kudos and finally reward to slight and slander the govt' of the day , to assist in the weakening and destruction of the national economy, national infrastructure, indigenous equality, gender equality, communications technology, environmental and water systems and finally social cohesion to end up with such a divided community with hate as the main driving force of political policy in their choice of government....and it was all there for even the most obtuse to see and be warned....the title of fool is forever prefixed to their names. I have been mocked before for calling the behavior of our "esteemed MSM." traitorous..for the reason that ; in law, the term in this current situation cannot be legally applied. So sure...let the semantics prevail..let us not un-legally arraign such scum unfairly before the beak and scream obscenities at their pusillanimous perfidy..let us make debate on polite presumption for a future situation...but then again, as I stated in the opening of this is too late..; the "horse has bolted"...Murdoch et all Are profiteering, all the above structures ARE being dismantled...we HAVE been done over.." it is too late!" she let's call the MSM. tune for what it is : We can call it ; foolishness..we can call it stupidity...we can call it blind hate....but even without the protective jargon of legal framework, without the sly sideways glances of the shamed, without the pathetic pleading of lame excuses, the miserable pettiness of personal vindictiveness, the endless worming and sliding-out of professional look at the pitiable personalities of these people and you can damn well only call it one thing...: TREASON !

Ad astra

21/04/2014Heather Welcome to [i]The Political Sword[/i] family, and thank you for your comment. Do come again. Sarah Ferguson is a straight talker- we need more of them.

Pappinbarra Fox

22/04/2014We'll done Jan Now I get the whole picture Well said Jaycee at 6.41


22/04/2014The mainstream political Press are hyenas - sniffing out others up the food chain's maulings and kills, 'conveniently' left out for the hyenas to (impossible not to) "sniff out" and gobble the leavings. Carrion fed, carrion-stinking, they offer nothing but regurgitated muck... then slink off and growl-whimper over their sloped shoulders when called out for their acts.


22/04/2014Just a link to the 'main' Easter event. It includes good potted biographies of the main players in the Easter Rising. Back to comment on Jan's piece soon.


22/04/2014Gypsy Jan A wonderful piece and there are so many things that can be said, I’m not sure where to start. And I will take a slightly different approach to other commments. Perhaps firstly the idea of ‘fact’. When it is said that the media (newspapers and television and now on-line media) should be neutral and present ‘the facts’, it reminds me of something I learned in my history studies. To put it in its extreme form: ‘there is no such thing as a fact’. This applies to written histories because, even if an historian has gone back to original sources, he or she is making editorial decisions about what to include and what to exclude. Newspapers and television make the same decisions. But, as you present, it is done without any indication of the biases they may bring to such editorial decisions (although with the Murdoch papers it is obvious). So, yes, newspapers are not presenting fact but should, as presented in your piece, be fair and truthful, even if partisan. News also has its own agenda. I recall talking to a television journalist in Brisbane (many years ago now – I won’t name him but he was well known at the time) about a story that involved some high level meddling in staff appointments in Aborginal Affairs. He was partly interested but more interested if I could give him stories of Aboriginal communities ‘wasting’ government funding – which I refused to do. (The story I was giving him did break a few months later but by then he had missed out!) I think the issue you are discussing in your piece has become worse with the 24 hour news cycle. Whereas once we waited for the evening television news or until next morning for the latest news, we have now come to expect updates on a much more regular basis. TV news is now more frequent and on-line news changes rapidly. Journalists cannot keep up. A UK article on this found that journalists, in attempting to meet this requirement for constant news, have become more reliant on press releases from the government and political parties. I think investigative journalism is most at risk from this new model: it is unlikely that Woodward and Berstein would be given the time to expose a ‘Watergate’. This 24 hour cycle also affects political journalism - it has become incestuous. A journalist interviewing another journalist is now news or, at the very least, alleged commentary. And then there is another interview about the views of the first interview – ‘experts’ upon ‘experts’ upon ‘experts’ each time getting further removed from ‘the story’. And, as I indicated, no time to investigate ‘the story’. And, of course, with the current government, much less opportunity to interview and quiz the sources – the politicians. I am not excusing the blatant propaganda of the Murdoch empire (and I say empire because it functions in Oz, the UK and the US) but, I think, even good journalists who are embedded in the mainstream media now have much less opportunity to produce good journalism. It will take a brave journalist to stand up against the pressures. That really brings us back to the Fifth Estate because the lead will probably have to come from outside the mainstream media. Some of that is happening, as you point out, with former journalists now blogging. But it also comes back to us as media consumers. If we step back and say we don’t need new 'news’every fifteen minutes but want more detailed investigation of stories, then it can be changed.


22/04/2014 Bill Shorten presenting his speech about Party reform now on ABC24

Ad astra

23/04/2014jaycee, Ken Thank you for your thoughtful commentary on Jan's piece, which adds so much to our understanding of the complexity of journalism, particularly as it takes place within the ever-revolving news cycle that the Fourth Estate has created, to which so much of the populace has become accustomed, even addicted. Isn't it astonishing how the medium has so influenced the message. As far back as as 1964, Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase: [i]"The medium is the message"[/i] that implied that [i]"the form of a medium embeds itself in the message, creating a symbiotic relationship by which the medium influences how the message is perceived."[/i] Wikipedia: As the Wikipedia piece goes on to say, later McLuhan preferred the phrase [i]"The medium is the massage"[/i], which seems more descriptive of what we now see day after day in the Fourth Estate. The idea that journalists should expose their values and orientation as a prelude to their offerings is attractive, but is likely to turn out to be 'the counsel of perfection' for them. But as we in the Fifth Estate are not constrained like writers in the Fourth Estate, [b]we[/b] ought to be able to at least try.


23/04/2014Greetings Comrades Jan I can find no better words for your article than has already been expressed by your TPS Team reviewer and by Ad astra himself. Ad said [i]Once again you have delighted us with your incisive analysis of latter day political journalism. Your writing is quintessentially adorned with clarity and commonsense.[/i] Coming from Ad that is particularly poignant, since forever TPS has proclaimed that its mission consists in [i]Putting politicians and commentators to the verbal word.[/i] I suspect that everyone reading this will have been as dismayed as I have with the utter blanket solidarity of the MSM in attacking *J*U*L*I*A*s Government, its squirming-puppy licksucking delight in Abborrrtt's every move, its [i]unquestioning[/i] of him. I mean, I'm used to Australian media being Right-Winged but never, never like this! And now we've got this. Jaycee in your splendid righteous rant you are right, at least for the present it is too late. And I fear as I suspect you do too that because it's too late for the present means it's Too Late Forever, the chance to do anything for our poor planet may be lost. I know we're pretty much on the same wavelength anyway. Well you are doing what you can, you can't do more, but gee I like your style. Only one thing, don't go all hurt about your use of Treason Cobber, I bin use im longtime, of the same sorts of persons you mean too. And I supported your use of it at the time. Your use of it is quite right, we both mean treacherous action to the detriment of the Commonwealth, and deliberate lop-sided reportage of national affairs is all of that. Anyway I said last week, I have no heroes any more in the MSM, these people are ALL in thrall to the Necromancer afa I'm concerned, a few occasionally exposing a bit of themselves to dim light but never, never writing stuff like that of jaycee's above. They're thick as thieves, defending their own and never having to take responsibility for their perfidy. I only say [i]*ALL* in thrall [/i]because, try as I might, I have not seen one columnist who has consistently taken an essentially Labor-supporting stance in the last 4 years. That wouldn't mean supporting every action by Labor, indeed not, but treating them with some give, a bit of understanding of the kind *J*U*L*I*A* was never given - and as Abborrrrtt receives in endless indulgent dollops by this pathetic media. What puzzles and astonishes me is How did it get this way? By what process was this uniformity of opinion, watertight as ducks' feathers, achieved? Presumably the Media hirers-&-firers for many years have been quietly replacing Leftish presenters and writers with Rightish ones, then they cocoon and interbreed, until now they can now present a uniform virtual reality beyond which they themselves are determined to be blind. But I agree with the notion which several here express, that the most respectable position for political commentators is to make clear in every opinion piece one's personal prejudices and interests, acknowledging opposing views but being prepared to argue for one's own informed opinion. (For if not informed, stfu!) If anyone saw Albericie's weaselly effort with Other-thing Campbell the Climate change denier, will know how pathetic is the MSM in puncturing the Tortoise the Far Right has been able to create with their own connivance. Can we fix it? Well if anyone can, it must be Us. As Winston in [i]Nineteen Eighty-Four [/i]wrote in his diary: [i]If there is hope, it lies with the Proles.[/i] One thing though: Having no heroes in the MSM gives me unshakeable respect for the Folks of the Fighting 5th, and the firm belief that my opinions and conclusions are likely to be at least as fair and shrewd as the next person's, provided I know what I'm talking about, and provided Next Person isn't genuinely in a better position to understand. Between a smattering of Common Logic and Civil Manners, it's not really rocket science. I think that, for all the arguments I seem to attract on Twitter, I'm UP on the former. I get a bit nyaahh-nyaahh-nyaahhsssty when some folk annoy me but I'd never say something like eg when Abborrrttt made that remark about *J*U*L*I*A*s dead father and broken promises. Good governance, and good relations, start with the Logic. If that is flawed all else is too. That's why Education. I've said it before in many ways but it stays true, I am [i]never[/i] at deep variance with Ad Astra's position, he remains my guiding star, along with wonderful [i]amateur[/i] (for-love)writers here and elsewhere on the 5th Estate, and my personal influences, Don Dunstan, Gough, Gordon my own Bro, and eg J S Mill. I'm not learned, but I know those stars may be depended upon for navigation. I got the best, don't need all the rest. And to them I am true to the death. Hang in Comrades. Tough times, time to be tough. But our future victory will be one to ring through the ages as long as we realise our power. You know the old Battle Cry! [b][i]VENCEREMOS![/i][/b]

Janet (j4gypsy)

23/04/2014Ad, and all who’ve commented so far. My apologies for not getting some replies to your kind responses up earlier. And my thanks to you all for taking the time to think about and comment on these issues. I was aware that some of my thinking might prove a tad controversial, and so it has seemed to go :-). Heather, welcome indeed, as Ad Astra has said. And thank you for naming a journo you are feeling ‘encouraging’ about at the moment. I too think Sarah Ferguson is doing a fab job on 7.30. And I see lots of comments on Twitter along those lines. Ad, I liked your comment (April 20. 2014 05:54 PM) that it is interpretation that needs managing and that ‘in my opinion’ with a dash of ‘on the one hand’ and ‘on the other hand’ would go a long way to letting us know more clearly where a writer stands. But I especially liked your thought that the fifth, in pursuing its own integrity of approach, could reset some standards for the fourth estate. I certainly find this in the ‘crossover online media’, the almost but perhaps not quite ‘mainstream’, like [i]The Kings Tribune[/i], [i]New Matilda[/i], [i]The Guardian[/i] and some individual political blogs. And I certainly hear stories of journos who not only pick up ideas from the fifth, but also consult, request to re-use material, and acknowledge it to. Jaycee, thank you for your long comment at April 21. 2014 06:31 PM (and I note that Michael and Pippinbarra Fox approved :-)). I’m not disagreeing that what has occurred, and you re-tell the story – again – of the growing anger in all of us, is treacherous, traitorous, treasonous. And I’m certainly not ‘mocking’ you. I AM saying that I want to move past this now and that I don’t see how this serves us anymore. If we had a real revolution with tumbrils, well, different story :-). I agree with your picking off of those in the media that are unlikely to change. But I don’t agree that it’s too late to do anything. Or change the way the political media works. And I continue to believe that doing the ‘ALL political journalists are bad’ thing, i.e. generalising, is not helping either. We wouldn’t accept it about other groupings (‘all men are rapists’; ‘all women are nags’ etc.), so why see it as ok here? So, you and I might have to agree to disagree on quite a bit :-). Change is occurring within the major media systems. Individuals who were perhaps never caught up in the ‘an Abbott Govt will equal all things better’ narrative are starting to speak out. For whatever reason – perhaps not seeing danger when they should have, perhaps being weary of all things politics, who knows, some are seeing now. This is the last section of a piece again from Jenna Price in the Fairfax media titled ‘Coalition shows holiday horrors aren't limited to roads’. I find it extraordinary, and while it might come under the heading of ‘opinion’, am amazed the editors let it through. She is arguing outright for a change of government and urging activism: [i]Anyhow, that's just three days. Three days when we weren't paying attention. God knows what else they've done or plan to do but I urge you to concentrate on every little thing this government does. Tell everyone you know, loudly. Write letters to the editor or comment on websites. If you aren't online in some way, start today. You are never, ever, too old to tell people what you think. Be loud, proud and persistent. And don't relax. Not until you've voted them out.[/i] This next is what Jenna Price wrote about the advent of #MarchinMarch a bit before the marches were held (she was the first ‘mainstream’ journo to follow up from the MiM activity she saw on Twitter): [quote]“Me? I'll probably end up going to see what turns up. I'm all for grassroots. But I love them to sprout up through the ballot box.”[/quote] Even in just these few months, I see some change in her approach, and admire her courage in being open about it. I am also saying, again, the fourth estate, for now, is bigger than all of us, and the fifth – and we are going to be obliged to deal with it for quite a while. If the occasional or even more than occasional voice in the fourth speaks up and out, then a first thing we can do is ‘encourage’ those voices because they are in effect subverting aspects of the institutions that they work within and of which we might wish to hasten the end. Will start a new post to pick up on other comments.

Janet (j4gypsy)

23/04/2014Ken thank you for the kind and insightful thoughts. Particularly enjoy your moments of anecdote and/or wanders into ‘how history works’. I want to start at your end, so to speak, rather than your beginning, because your comment echoes several made by Ad: i.e. that change for the fourth will probably have to come from outside, from the fifth to some extent, and that the fifth can, and does, lead by example. The fifth can be as it is because not constrained by exactly those 24-7 cycles of press release driven cycles you mention. (And I’ve just added in a comment that we can, and need to, note when a renegade ‘fourth-er’ breaks ranks, beats their editors and gets something fair and honest up, and give them a cheer.) I wrote a year or so ago about what I see as the ferment in the crossover of fourth to fifth and fifth to fourth. Playing in Twitter seems to provide a keyhole into seeing the journeys going both ways. But these journeys are rarely into and out of the Press Gallery, which seems fairly fixed. While nothing gives me hope for the Press Gallery as such, and we’re better off without out, watching the movements out there in the non-PG fourth and some of the fifth continues to prove inspiring for me. (Hopelessly glass half-full am I.) And I very much like your concept of directly letting ‘the media’ know that we WANT investigative reporting and far less so-called ‘news’ as a further strategy. By the way, have we all caught up with Alain de Botton's The Philosopher's Mail at The 'how to be positive' version of the 'news' we're very tired of having.


23/04/2014Saw that Newman stupidity on lateline….one has to ask..: If Newman can be sooo confident about his conclusion on Co2…sooo confident in stating his opinion on scientific organisations and THEIR mistakes… sooo confident in his own assessment of climate change…….why is he so weak in his vanity that he needs a “comb-over”?…in THAT little pissy vanity is the core of HIS failing!


23/04/2014It's remarkable what a comb-over gives away... and comprehensively fails to hide. Anyone seen those Shimano bicycle gears yet? On Abbott's bike? In the storeroom for political gifts? In the ether? for some people who won't miss sighting the things if they turn up on Abbott's bike.

Ad astra

24/04/2014Janet (j4gypsy) Thank you for pointing us to The Philosopher's Mail. The YouTube discussion between Alain de Botton and Russell Brand is well worth the time it takes to view it, highlighting as it does the way the news so often, yet so unnecessarily, instills fear into the reader. We see an example this morning where the media faithfully echoes Joe Hockey's fear-ridden mantra of a desperate budget situation that needs the painful response he proposes. Instead of questioning Hockey's rationale, instead of challenging his assumptions and his remedy, commentators simply regurgitate Hockey's words, adding only a few innocuous queries. The process of instilling fear continues unabated. A pearl from de Botton: "Philosophy is a devotion to an analysed life".


24/04/2014Hockey lies to the electorate. They fearfully believe it. Abbott lies to the electorate. They fearfully believe it. (Insert cabinet minister of choice) lies to the electorate... What's wrong with Australians??!!


24/04/2014I know none of you were wondering, but here Joe Hockey explains exactly how he views wage earners. This quote "We should also not see someone's life ending when they turn 65 or 70. They should work as long as they can." sums it all up... 'work till you drop'. A Treasurer who equates 'them' working with life 'their' not ending. Joe, get a life! But of course, Joe doesn't need to worry about nuffin. In his case it's not "get a life", he's 'got a wife' worth millions of dollars. Now that's a retirement plan, leave alone the entitlement (luvverly word, isn't it?) coming his way as a parliamentary pension once he's tossed out of politics.

Ad astra

24/04/2014Folks This is what we ought to expect from the Fourth Estate: Bernard Keane's thoughtful and thorough analysis of Joe Hockey's budget 'morality' in [i]Crikey[/i] today: [i][b]Who shares the burden in Hockey's morality play?[/b] "Do as I say, not as I do," was the key message from last night's speech by Treasurer Joe Hockey on his budget challenge. The speech, given at an event hosted by a media outlet whose name I couldn't quite see properly on the backdrop, laid out the basis for "hard savings", "difficult decisions" in the "national priority" of "an ongoing and relentless focus on fiscal discipline and economic reform". All fair enough. But Hockey went beyond the usual cliches of the fiscal hair shirts and declared that fixing the budget had a "moral dimension" -- indeed, it was a "moral imperative" because we don't want to "squander our children's future" like Spain and Greece did. Implicit in such rhetoric, obviously, is that your opponents are immoral for their fiscal strategy in government. But the problem with a politician invoking morality is that it puts them on a playing field that is not, by and large, their natural turf. That's not meant in some populist, all-politicians-are-crooks way -- in my view most people in federal politics, barring some exceptions, are there to serve what they believe is the national interest. Rather, invoking morality as a policy justification is problematic because so much of the political contest is fought with compromise, hypocrisy, inconsistency and deception. Politics, being about the pursuit of power, is amoral. Once you start throwing morality around, well, you can be terribly exposed. For one thing, it's hard to see the intergenerational morality in repealing a working, successful carbon pricing scheme and replacing it with a piece of climate change "policy" widely acknowledged as garbage designed to cover up the Coalition's climate denialism. What will you tell your grandchildren when they ask you if you did anything to stop climate change, Joe? Will you tell them you actively worked to undermine genuine action to stop it? Because the longer you help delay action on climate change, the more future generations will have to pay, in higher prices, higher insurance premiums, higher taxes and lower economic growth in a world damaged by rising temperatures and more extreme weather. And, one wonders, where was the "moral dimension" and "relentless focus on fiscal discipline" when Hockey was in opposition and Labor was trying to cut middle-class welfare spending? Hockey either opposed many of Labor's savings measures outright or said nothing and let Labor cop the heat. The Coalition fought cutting back the private healthcare rebate to high-income earners tooth and nail and still vaguely "aspires" to restore the rebate to its former, exorbitantly expensive glory. Hockey was reported as called Labor's freezing of the indexation of family tax benefit thresholds "the politics of envy", while Tony Abbott described it as "class warfare" -- like many other things Labor did in government. Still -- "moral imperative"/"class warfare" -- you say to-may-to, I see to-mah-to, yeah? If Hockey had entered government and immediately begun acting according to his "moral imperative", we could have put all that down to ordinary hypocrisy and the needs of opposition. But in November, Hockey abandoned Labor's plan to reduce extravagant tax concessions enjoyed by superannuants earning over $100,000 a year, costing himself billions of dollars. He restored a fringe benefits tax rort -- an actual tax rort -- for novated leases, that Labor had moved to close, again costing the budget billions. He's committed to dumping the mining tax as well as the carbon price. Hockey is talking to us about the "moral imperative" of fiscal discipline while handing billions to large companies, wealthy retirees and tax rorters. Then there's yesterday's F-35 announcement -- over $12 billion for planes that may or may not be delivered at some point, and may or may not have working software, assuming they've fixed the cracks in the turbine blades that grounded them all. At least the $5-odd billion Tony Abbott wants to spend on paid parental leave to show off his feminine side will stay here in Australia; the $12.4 billion that enabled him to play Tom Cruise with a fake jet yesterday will be dispatched to Fort Worth, Texas, although most of the other $12 billion that it will cost to run them will stay here. But then the PPL scheme, and its quite remarkable generosity to women on high incomes, isn't subject to the moral imperative either. Nor, apparently, is the $8.8 billion gifted to the Reserve Bank for no reason beyond faking up a budget black hole narrative. The F-35 announcement was a little confusing. Now, try to follow me on this: Defence Minister David Johnston claimed that really the F-35s wouldn't cost anything because the money was already "in the budget" in the years beyond forward estimates and been "building up". Johnston appears to seriously think there's a sort of "JSF account" somewhere in Defence with $12.4 billion in it that's been earning interest. Instead, it's a notional allocation in the government's defence spending guidance over the next decade that doesn't even have the status of forward estimates. Except, anyone with a memory longer than five minutes should recall that just three weeks ago, Hockey was complaining there was a "massive increase" in defence spending beyond forward estimates and that it was a budget boobytrap, a fiscal "tsunami coming across the water" created by Labor. Still, you say "tsunami", your colleague says "it’s been building up and it’s in the budget." To-may-to, to-mah-to. Hockey says that everyone is going to have to share the burden repairing the budget. But the government's decisions show how the burden will actually be distributed: big companies, the military-industrial complex, no matter how bad their products are, rich superannuants, high-income earners, tax rorters -- they're exempted from the whole "moral imperative" thing. I still think Hockey genuinely wants to wind back unnecessary spending, which is laudable in a politician, and his long-term aim of budget sustainability is unarguable. You can forgive the rank hypocrisy of demanding now what he opposed in opposition, just as Labor has now reversed itself on some cuts it backed in government but now, from the convenience of opposition, doesn't support. But you can't forgive decisions that are dramatically cutting revenue, by up to $15 billion, while Hockey complains about the budget mess he has to fix. You can't forgive claiming all will share the burden while the government's favourites get a handout. And you can't forgive a politician dressing all that up in morality.[/i] Contrast that with Michelle Grattan's uncritical account of Joe Hockey's intention:


24/04/2014“Revenge is profitable, gratitude is expensive.” ― Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire


24/04/2014Speaking of morality, where does Greg Hunt stand in setting the baseline for companies' pollution at the HIGHEST levels of the past 5 years? That is, you're not on the bad books with this cynical and nation-destructive gumnint until you pollute right up there with the big boys. Who am I kidding? "Bad books"? This gumnint doesn't give a rosy red rat's arse about the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food grown in our soil and grazing on it. There's a war going on all right. A war on the citizens of the nation of Australia instigated and being prosecuted by the gumnint of Australia.


24/04/2014AA. I see what you mean by "Grattan's uncritical account"...but then, she does write for "The Conversation", a fifth estate site that, in my opinion, strives for mainstream anointment!..I am very wary of such me, rather than exhibiting the youthful vigour of the "unfurling of the rebel flag" that ought to be exampled with the fifth estate logo, I see more of a slinking toward forth estate mediocrity.


24/04/2014This bloke has Abborrrtt cornered on a street - Check it out!

Janet (j4gypsy)

25/04/2014Three a.m. SA time and can't sleep. Ad, I agree. Bernard Keane has always been fair with what Michael calls 'the gummint', whomever is in power. If Bernard is putting the boot in, this solidly, he's really really worried. Thank you for putting his piece up. Bernard's on my list (there is a shortish list :-)) of 'first stop' or 'go-to' journos, but I only pick him up through Twitter links as am not a [i]Crikey[/i] subscriber. Yes, if this 'tailings' of the political fourth could only emulate Bernard ... I find it interesting that Bernard, like Grogs Gamut/Greg Jericho, was a Canberra public servant before becoming a journo. There's not much wool any federal pollie can pull over their eyes. It's been good to have Grogs crop up so often in [i]Guardian Australia[/i]. jaycee; I agree: [i]The Conversation[/i] is a mixed bag that became instantly suss with the taking over of 'political' editing by Grattan. I suspect the 'striving to be fourth' has been exacerbated by the recent 'striving to be 'international'! Confess I do still read the pieces from academics on science topics, 'tho.


25/04/2014Greg Hunt's on record post the release of the White Paper on 'Direct Action' that should companies breach pollution limits, then government "discussion or activity" may be required. Something along the lines of "stop getting caught, it's embarrassing", perhaps? Quote: Mr Hunt said a "safeguard" would be implemented for companies that exceed 100,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year - but that hadn't been designed yet and wouldn't be introduced until July 2015. "If they breach that, then that may then be the cause for discussion or activity," Mr Hunt said, without going into more detail. The Abbott Error IS defined by 'no more detail'.


25/04/2014The "white paper" on "direct action"....Greg's excited...


25/04/2014Jaycee, and 'white paper' on 'direct action' has to tell us all how it's going to work for a start. The ironic thing here is that the LNP (traditionally the party of 'letting the market determine the price') is handing out the welfare, while the ALP (traditionally the Party that 'handed out the welfare') was letting the market determine the price. From a budget point of view, letting the market determining a price will have less of an effect than paying out 'welfare' to firms that have already demonstrated that they will spend their own money to achieve energy and waste processing savings - so the market (in this case) was working. Is there a higher agenda here when a government is 'free market' on things like labour participation, medical expenses and aged care but will pay for emissions reduction practices and technology for companies that have a demonstrated ability and practice of paying for the same practices and technology themselves?


26/04/2014Here you will read about how Australia really is. How the rich are laughing in and out of the banks and the superannuation funds. And how they must be laughing at and with Joe Hockey (his wife's high up in the finance industry) about how ordinary wage earners and pensioners of all types will be whacked because "nothing is free". Everything the junketeers written about in the Fairfax article enjoyed was free... except that it was paid for by other Australians' incomes. The Abbott Error is ripping this country apart, class warfare at its most insidious and cynical. The voters who were co-opted by lies and exaggeration to elect Abbott and co are now being put back in their 'proper place' - grist in the rip-off merchants' gilded mills. And all the time sold their servitude as 'responsibility' and 'shared loads'. Donkey work for the donkeys. Or are they, more accurately, making us all mules?


26/04/2014Greetings Comrades Yesterday to my door came knocking a youngish (30ish) woman, shortish, quite comely, pleasant-open-faced, and obviously Pacific Islander. Maori in fact as I determined later. I asked her her business, she told me she would like to talk to me of *God*. I told her, (not unkindly though), that I have been atheist all my life and that's the way it was likely to stay. She was OK with that; I asked her what religious org she was with, Jehovah's Witnesses she said (as I had expected). I asked her if she was Kiwi, Yes she said, smiling; I told her New Zealanders were my favourite people because of their relatively honourable behaviour in the past as compared to Australia's, including our citizen's attitudes to the Vietnam War, to apartheid, and to bowling grubbers in cricket. She knew about that grubber! I told her I've always barracked against Australia in cricket ever since, and especially [i]for[/i] NZ, (and for the All Blacks too, not that I really care about sport but I do about decency.) And I mentioned that NZ was more decent with Asylum Seekers. The term was completely foreign to her! I said wtte Haven't you heard of the Australian Government turning boats around with people fleeing their own countries where they were being persecuted? She looked vague, no she hadn't..! Then she said Do you mean like Refugees? I said Yes exactly, she said Oh in NZ we take more of them than Australia, (per capita she meant) I said Yes I know. But she had no idea where they might be coming from, she thought they might be from untrustworthy countries. And she knew next to nothing about much at all obviously, (except I bet she knew Revelations!) She was nothing if not polite, pleasant, and genuinely altruistic in her way (though religions always have their own agenda); she was not pushy and was pleased to talk of NZ. Well I said I know that JW's don't concern themselves much with worldly matters, Yes she said, that's right, we leave it all up to *God*. We parted very cordially ... but Ohhh. (more correctly I use nontheist,


26/04/2014Asylums seekers can be loosely defined as creating a domestic political storm to 'appear tough' from the misery of other human beings. Both of the major parties are as bad as each other - both have had the opportunity to tell the red-neck minority fringe (of which a fair proportion proclaim their member ship of 'happy clappy' churches) that treating anyone the way this country does in not acceptable morally or ethically I'm glad you had a nice chat with the lady TT, it is a great demonstration of yet another stain on Australia's history.


26/04/2014Michael Thank you for the link to the article about the AMP salespeople and their annual international splash. Yes, it is all about promoting 'sales', bugger genuine financial advice. I know that some years ago banks operated in the same way - sales, or in their case loans, above all else. My youngest son was a teller for a short time and was given a quota for the number of customers he needed to refer to the loans staff each week. We live with all the 'blessings' the market provides but, of course, 'the market' is blind to the real needs of people. And this government supports 'the market' at all costs.


26/04/2014From Malcolm Fraser! And from Tony Windsor!


26/04/2014TT thank you. Two very good articles.


27/04/2014Here Joe Hockey not only impugns the people who voted for him, he lies while he's doing it. The Treasurer of Australia can't even get his figures right talking about his own 'backyard' when trying to push his fabricated tough times agenda. "Sloppy Joe"? Always was, always will be. But when will all Australians finally get it? When Hockey talks numbers, especially 'doom and gloom' numbers, he's lying. And we're paying.
How many Rabbits do I have if I have 3 Oranges?