GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG
ISSUE – NO. 655
6 October 2023
* * * *
* * * *
AFR CARTOONIST SEES ADOLF HITLER IN DEMOCRATIC AUSTRALIA
In the current discussion over the forthcoming referendum over whether an Indigenous Voice should be included in the Constitution – there have been extreme comments on both sides of the debate. However, for the most part, prominent Australians have behaved professionally and have been willing to respect both sides of the argument. With a couple of exceptions.
On Friday 6 October, the Australian Financial Review published a cartoon by David Rowe in his “From the Gallery” series (see below). It depicted Opposition leader Peter Dutton plus leaders of the “No” case in front of three coloured and three brown flags depicting the sign “No”. All contained a caricature of Nazi totalitarian dictator Adolf Hitler – identified by the shape of his face, along with his fringe and moustache. Rowe’s caption was “The Standards We Walk Past” – suggesting that the Opposition leader and prominent “No” supporters are accepting of Nazism in general and Hitler’s act of genocide in particular.
David Rowe seems to be unaware that it is a gross insult to the memory of Nazism’s victims to equate their plight with the lifestyle of those who live freely in democratic societies. It would seem that David Rowe is totally ignorant of the fate that befell large parts of Europe during the period 1933 to 1945. The Australian Financial Review should be able to do better than this.
ABC COMMUNICATIONS NOT COMMUNICATING ABOUT FOUR CORNERS’ FORTHCOMING PROGRAM ON CLIMATE ACTIVISTS’ DEMONSTRATIONS
Media Watch Dog has long claimed that the ABC Department of Communications frequently fails to communicate and often goes into “no comment mode” – or simply ignores requests for information.
Certainly, this has been MWD‘s experience following the announcement that, on Monday 9 October, Four Corners will run a program titled “Escalation”. According to ABC publicity, Four Corners reporter Hagar Cohen will take viewers “deep inside the battle between climate activists, the government and energy companies”.
The Australian reported on 6 October that the Four Corners programs will prominently feature recent footage of a protest shot outside the home of Woodside Energy CEO Meg O’Neill. This despite the fact that that incident was widely condemned by both sides of mainstream Australian politics – and a review established by the ABC determined that the public broadcaster’s initial response as to what happened had been false.
On 11 August 2023, ABC managing director David Anderson said that the ABC had commenced an examination of the circumstances surrounding its filming of the protest outside Ms O’Neill’s residence.
Media Watch Dog has approached ABC Communications to determine whether this examination has been concluded and, if so, whether its findings have been released. The ABC did not respond by the time of going to print. The Australian also reported that the ABC declined to respond to a series of questions about this matter which were forwarded on 5 October.
It remains to be seen how Four Corners will approach this issue on Monday. However, it would seem that the intention is to use footage taken at Ms O’Neill’s residence – when she was at home with her partner and daughter – to illustrate its coverage. The Four Corners line seems to be that there is an equivalence between climate activists and those against whom they are demonstrating.
According to ABC publicity, “Escalation” will reveal “how far both sides are willing to go for what they believe in”. This overlooks the fact that an ABC crew was filming a demonstration outside the Woodside chief executive’s home – not her office – as part of what the ABC calls the “battle over the Burrup”. The reference is to the proposed gas project on the Burrup Peninsula in Western Australia.
It would seem that the ABC’s decision to go ahead with this program indicates that ABC management found no fault in the camera crew that filmed the protest on the edge of private property in suburban Perth around dawn. MWD will keep readers posted.
AFR MAGAZINE RUNS FAKE PHOTO PORTRAIT OF PETER DUTTON AS TALL HUMPTY DUMPTY HAVING FALLEN OFF A (BRICK) WALL
Is there anything more pretentious than The Australian Financial Review Magazine’s “The Power Issue” – which has just come out, sub-titled “Most Powerful Australians In 2023” – Editor Matthew Drummond. In his (pretentious) Editor’s Letter, Comrade Drummond writes “We’ve gone down the data path because artificial intelligence is very much the zeitgeist”. Really. But more of that later.
As Media Watch Dog has maintained for eons, those depicted in the AFR’s “Power Issue” do not have power in the accepted sense of the term. Rather, some have legitimate authority while others possess influence.
Dictators have power – democratically elected politicians have legitimate authority. They possess authority – until it is withdrawn by defeat at a ballot box or resignation/retirement. Their influence may continue to a greater or lesser extent.
Remember that, in October 2021, the AFR listed the premiers of Victoria, NSW, Western Australia and Queensland as Australia’s most powerful individuals. However, NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian stepped down before the AFR Magazine “Power” issue hit the newsstands due to an investigation by the NSW ICAC (Independent Commission Against Corruption). In short, Ms Berejiklian felt that her legitimate authority had been withdrawn and she resigned. She is currently appealing against ICAC’s findings to the NSW Court of Appeal.
But MWD digresses – again. What’s peculiar about the October 2023 AFR “Power Issue” is its embrace of Artificial Intelligence (AI).
For example, readers of the publication (if readers there were) would have seen a photo of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on the cover along with the question: “Photo or Deepfake: Power in The Era Of AI & Big Data”. This showed the PM in a yellow tie. Turn over the cover – and there’s another cover with a pic of the PM in an orange tie. It turns out the real pic was on the real cover. Quelle Surprise!
Turn over again there is an advertisement for the all-electric Audi RS e-tron GT (driveaway price a mere $266,000). A power symbol, indeed, in many ways. Trailing through the advertisements for such carbon emitting faves as expensive clothes, expensive overseas travel, expensive furniture, expensive Gulfstream planes along with lotsa expensive watches, MWD came across a pic of the Opposition leader Peter Dutton.
Hang on a minute. The Prime Minister was photographed twice in an expensive business suit and on another occasion in a shirt and a dark tie. But, what’s this? Now here’s a full-page coloured pic of the Liberal Party leader Peter Dutton. He looks like a rather tall Humpty-Dumpty who has just fallen off a brick-wall and landed upright on a wooden seat. He is dressed in a short-sleeved teal/white printed bush shirt with matching shorts and wearing brown loafers. Groan.
The small caption at the bottom right-hand corner of the page reads: “The Battlers: An AI-generated Peter Dutton created with the prompt Josonia Palaitis’ portrait of John Howard.”
It turned out that Ms Palaitis once entered a portrait of the then treasurer Howard in the Archibald Prize. He was depicted sitting on a bench against a red brick wall – wearing a short-sleeved bush shirt and shorts plus, wait for it, leather sandals. Groan. The year was 1979. Mr Howard became prime minister in March 1996 – having discarded bush shirts/shorts and leather sandals over a decade before. Thank God.
The only difference in dress between the real John Howard pic and the fake Dutton pic is that the former wore sandals while the AI-generated Peter Dutton wears brown loafers. Why? – MWD hears avid readers cry. Well, MWD has been advised that AI photograph technology can’t quite do fingers and toes. Hence the Dutton footwear cover-up. [Thanks for that. I note that the AFR Magazine’s AI photo of the actor/producer Margot Robbie has mangled fingers. Now I know it’s the fault of AI. MWD Editor.]
It would seem that Peter Dutton agreed to Matthew Drummond’s request to have the AFR Magazine depict him in Humpty Dumpty mode rather than use the portrait pic which it took in preparation for the “Power” issue (a smaller version of which can be found on page 17 of the AFR Magazine). Why? Perhaps the Opposition leader (i) didn’t care, (ii) didn’t want to offend the editor by refusing his “you-beaut” idea, or (iii) something like that. Can You Bear It?
NINE COLUMNIST SEAN KELLY ACCELERATES HIS REFERENDUM U-TURN
As avid readers well know, Media Watch Dog is quite a fan of Sean Kelly – who identifies as an author and regular columnist for The Age and Sydney Morning Herald and as a one-time adviser to former Labor prime ministers Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd. After all, someone who can move from PM Gillard to PM Rudd – or was it the other way around? – must have special skills, in view of the evident hostility between the two Labor leaders when they were prime ministers.
As MWD has documented in recent times, on 11 September Comrade Kelly wrote in his column in Nine newspapers that if the “Yes” case in the constitutional referendum on the Voice is defeated this “will not count for much”. However, soon after, on 18 September, he wrote that a victory for “Yes” was “desperately needed”. And then, on 2 October, Comrade Kelly upped the ante somewhat more when he wrote:
If Yes does not succeed, then we must hope that it is a failure that haunts our national conscience, the beginning of a proper understanding of the disadvantage in our midst and the need for reimagining in our society.
So, there you have it. On 11 September, Comrade Kelly wrote that if “Yes” is defeated this would not matter much. But on 2 October, he declared that if “Yes” goes down this will haunt Australia’s national conscience. So, that’s pretty clear, then? Can You Bear It?
[No. Not really – now that you ask. Perhaps your man Kelly’s ability to do a quick U-turn explains why he could move so readily from the Gillard to the Rudd camps in recent memory. – MWD Editor.]
GUARDIAN EDITOR LENORE TAYLOR RUNS TOM KENEALLY’S CLAIM THAT AUSTRALIA STILL HAS CAPITAL PUNISHMENT
Sometimes MWD is its own worst enemy. Here’s an example. Until recent times, MWD’s avid readers just loved “The Guardian/ABC Axis” segment. This focused on the tendency of ABC producers to invite journalists working for the avowedly leftist Guardian Australia on to its panels, interview slots and so on.
This was especially evident on the (increasingly boring) ABC TV Insiders program where on occasions around 80 per cent of the talent came from the Axis. And also on the ABC Radio National Breakfast program, presented by Patricia (“Please call me PK”) Karvelas. Indeed, RN Breakfast seemed to hold the Thursday political commentary slot – which airs shortly before 8 am – to one of the comrades from The Guardian soviet. Usually Guardian Australia political editor Katharine Murphy and, if she was not available, MWD fave Amy Remeikis.
Alas, in recent times The Guardian/ABC Axis has gone AWOL in so far as RN Breakfast is concerned. And ABC and Guardian types no longer dominate the six slots on Insiders. This is not good for MWD – which needs all the copy it can get.
And so it came to pass that MWD has to read more of The Guardian Australia online to find out what the comrades are on about. Concerning which, thanks to the avid reader who drew MWD’s attention to writer Tom Keneally’s article in The Guardian Australia on 22 September.
MWD is an opponent of capital punishment – while supporting long-term prison terms for serious crimes of violence. Indeed, Ellie’s (male) co-owner opposed Australia’s last state execution – the hanging at Pentridge Prison Melbourne – of Ronald Ryan (1925-1967). Ryan was convicted of murder for shooting a warden when escaping from prison the previous year. The killing was not a premeditated act.
But MWD digresses. This is what Tom Keneally had to say in The Guardian Australia, about the forthcoming constitutional referendum which will take place on 14 October:
The “No” campaign is telling us lies based on a system of government that has never existed in Australia. They will do damage far beyond the vote. For example, there’s no capital punishment in Australia, is there? Good for us! Yet there has been, since the royal commission into Indigenous deaths in custody in 1992, in excess of 550 First Nations people who have died in forms of custody. There’s your capital punishment. Death for Aboriginals. We’ve done better than Texas.
Some deaths in custody are from natural causes. Some are a result of violence inflicted by fellow prisoners and, on occasions, by prison staff. And then there are suicides. Over the years, various State and Territory governments have attempted to diminish deaths in custody of Indigenous Australians and others – with uneven results.
Tom Keneally is correct to express concern about Indigenous deaths in custody. However, it is completely misleading to assert that there is capital punishment in Australia – and that Australia executes more individuals than the State of Texas.
Sure, Tom Keneally is into hyperbole. But such exaggeration does not help his case. And yet Guardian Australia editor Lenore Taylor runs Keneally’s over-the-topism without clarification. Can You Bear It?
IN WHICH PATRICIA THE BARRACKER GETS EXCITED THAT MELBOURNE IS WINNING AUSTRALIA’S BIGGEST POPULATION MATCH
While (briefly) on the topic of Patricia Karvelas, isn’t it great to see the Melbourne-based comrade getting so much coverage on the taxpayer funded public broadcaster?
For example, on Friday 29 September PK presented ABC RN News Breakfast. Then on Sunday 1 October she was on the ABC TV Insiders couch. Then on Monday 2 October PK presented Q+A. Then on Tuesday 3 October it was back to RN Breakfast.
As is her wont, PK is invariably promoting her own views. This is okay for Insiders – since it is an opinion program in which PK is a panellist. Different rules do apply – or rather, should – to a presenter.
MWD was interested in what Comrade Karvelas, a one-time member of the “I stand with Dan” media fan club, had to say on Insiders on 1 October about the retirement from politics of Daniel Andrews – the former socialist left Labor premier of Victoria. When asked by Insiders presenter David Speers about the Andrews legacy, Comrade Karvelas described it as mixed. She concluded her assessment as follows:
Patricia Karvelas: I think there is a sort of grudging respect for the fact that [Victoria is] a growing state, that will surpass Sydney – and we are proud of that as Melburnians – [and] does need strong infrastructure, lot of migrants, a lot of people coming into Victoria, you need that.
It’s an odd thing to be proud about. For starters, Victoria will not pass NSW in so far as population is concerned. But Melbourne now has a larger population than Sydney – primarily because the Australian Bureau of Statistics has recently increased the boundary of Melbourne (by including Melton) but has not increased the boundary of Sydney (to include the part of the NSW Central Coast which is relatively close to Sydney). Also, Greater Sydney remains more highly populated than Greater Melbourne. All this is explained by Elias Visontay in Guardian Australia on 17 April 2023.
Media Watch Dog has gotten used to PK’s evident excitement when the team she is barracking for wins in various sporting events. But what’s the point in getting excited about Melbourne becoming bigger than Sydney? Does it really matter? Moreover, Can You Bear It?
A SNAIL-PACED NEWS DAY AT THE ABC ONLINE
Ellie is quite a busy blue heeler – which is why it was a relief to find ABC News Online’s article titled “Goodbye ‘girl boss’, hello ‘snail girl’: Why a concept prioritising slowing down is resonating with professionals”. It was posted on 1 October.
The article – which appeared on ABC News, rather than the lightweight lifestyle section ABC Everyday – detailed a new online trend called being a “snail girl”. Being a Snail Girl, according to the ABC, involves deciding not to be busy all the time. This could be changing work hours, or taking a walk from time to time. Fascinating stuff.
Ellie, who takes frequent walks around the block with her co-owners, does not understand why such behaviour warrants a label, but more importantly why it is being reported on by ABC News.
Perhaps ABC News staff have decided to embrace the Snail trend and take some time off reporting news, and resharing online trend clickbait instead?
Can You Bear It?
ABC PRESENTER JOSH SZEPS EXPRESSES CONCERN ABOUT A PERVADING CANCEL CULTURE AT THE ABC
The MWD Exclusive segment makes a welcome return this week after what journalists are wont to call a Well Earned Break. This week’s segment is so exclusive that explanation is necessary.
The Fifth Column is an American politics and media podcast hosted by Michael Moynihan, Matt Welch (not to be confused with conservative political activist Matt Walsh) and Kmele Foster. The podcast has a libertarian inclination and Australia’s very own Josh Szeps is a semi-regular guest on the program.
The episode mentioned below was released both as an episode of The Fifth Column and as an episode of Josh Szeps’ podcast Uncomfortable Conversations (which is not an ABC podcast, it is crowdfunded through the website Substack).
Early on, discussion turned on a current free speech controversy involving a speech given by the American writer Coleman Hughes at a TED Talks conference. There followed a more generalised discussion of free speech. Then Josh Szeps, who presents the “NSW Afternoons” ABC Radio 702 in Sydney along with occasional programs on ABC Radio National – spoke about his own experience in this area.
During the discussion, your man Szeps talks about a now-deleted episode of his podcast Uncomfortable Conversations – in which he interviewed an unnamed black woman, who reports on popular culture for the ABC. Let’s go to the transcript:
Josh Szeps: I’ve just had to take down a podcast episode under threat of cancellation.
Matt Welch: What?
Josh Szeps: By a guest, the first time I’ve ever done that. I couldn’t be bothered getting embroiled in it.
Michael Moynihan: Was it the one that there was a very uncomfortable conversation?
Josh Szeps: It was a very uncomfortable conversation…. I was arguing with a black lady about the N word…. This came as a result of not me seeking her out but the fact that she had been – she had sent me an email saying: “F–k you, it’s our word”…. I mean, I’ve never said the word. I’ve never used the word.
Matt Welch: Except when rapping.
Josh Szeps: Except when I’m rapping….
Michael Moynihan: And this is something she does?
Josh Szeps: I don’t want to make an accusation, a specific accusation. Because I don’t want to get fired.
Michael Moynihan: She’s really, really put the fear of God into you.
Matt Welch: Sounds like a yes.
Josh Szeps: …All I was trying to get her to concede was that her position – which is that it’s fine for black people to use that word, but not for white people to – is a position. That, that is a position. It’s not the truth carved in stone handed down from Yahweh in a tablet to Moses. It’s a position that some reasonable people disagree with. And the idea that your truth, your personally felt truth, is not the last word, that it is a position that is contingent on who you are and what culture you come from, and what time you live in. That reasonable people can disagree about that….
Matt Welch: Right.
Josh Szeps: And there’s one moment in the podcast…where I say: “Will you just concede that this is a debate? That intelligent people who are both black and white can disagree about whether or not we should abolish the word altogether and nobody should say it, whether black people should say it, whether it’s infantilising to use the phrase ‘the N word’ and so on and so forth”. She said: “Yes, I understand that it’s a debate, but it’s not debate that YOU can have.” And I said, “Why not?” And she said, “Because you’re a white man.”
Discussion continued. In time, Michael Moynihan asked: “Why did you take it down?” After five seconds of silence, Szeps responded: “Because it’s not worth it.” He continued:
Josh Szeps: Well, I’ll tell you the – I’m being, I’m equivocating here. The actual reality is she sent me an email, she works for the same organisation that I work for. And she said that she just had a meeting with the managing director, who, with the Australian public broadcaster, which is a properly funded public broadcaster – not like NPR.
Michael Moynihan: Yeah, it’s a BBC kind of thing.
Josh Szeps: Yeah, so the managing director looms in the Australian consciousness, something like the head of General Electric, or Disney.
Michael Moynihan: People know who this person is.
Josh Szeps: Everyone knows that person’s name, you know, he appears before the Senate and stuff like that. She just had a meeting with him. And he’s, and I quote [her saying] “committed to getting problematic people out of the organisation”.
Michael Moynihan: So, it was a threat basically.
Josh Szeps: Take it down. Yeah.
Michael Moynihan: Okay.
Matt Welch: Wow.
Josh Szeps: Now, it’s not a threat that she can actually act on, because I know the managing director and he likes me. But of course, I can’t be certain of what a public – also, cancel culture works in funny ways. Like, he’s not going to fire me because I hadn’t done anything wrong. However, the next time there’s a big show that’s being cast, or it comes time to negotiate contracts or something like that.
Michael Moynihan: It’s very, very future-oriented.
Josh Szeps: Is it like, you know, is there just this kind of smell around the place? How many people do you need in the building to think: “Oh you know Josh, he’s all about his f- – – -ing uncomfortable conversations, he causes trouble, he’s not a team player. He’s, you know, he creates.”
Matt Welch: They literally called it uncomfortable conversations.
Josh Szeps: I literally named the show that [Uncomfortable Conversations] and now I’m complaining about that label being associated with me….
Now it’s a bit of a stretch for Comrade Szeps to claim that David Anderson, the managing director of ABC in Australia, is a bit like the head of Disney in the US. But it’s clear that Mr Szeps, who appears to have a contract with the ABC, is obviously conscious that certain fashions prevail at the taxpayer-funded public broadcaster and that those who attempt to take a position against the prevailing culture are not only likely to be cancelled but face the risk of not having their contracts extended.
Media Watch Dog is conscious of prevailing ideological fashions at the ABC. But it’s rare that an ABC presenter would discuss this truth in public – even on an American podcast or on his Uncomfortable Conversations podcast.
7.30 CHANNELS PRIVATE EYE IN MISPLACING SUPERS – OR DID IT COMMIT A HOWLER?
Avid Media Watch Dog readers have asked for an assessment as to how the ABC news and current affairs team is going now that the ABC’s ex-political editor Andrew Probyn has left the (taxpayer funded public sector) building and is not around to do any fact-checking.
Very well indeed – in the judgment of Ellie’s (male) co-owner. Certainly with respect to Media Watch Dog. Look at it this way. Could it be that the ABC is channelling Private Eye and deliberately misplacing supers?
Take Wednesday’s ABC 7.30, for example – which reported on Western Australia’s energy future. Rhiannon Shine did the story. Her first live-to-tape interview was with Richard Harris (of Domus Alliance). He said it would be “touch and go” as to whether WA “would get through summer without blackouts”.
Ms Shine interviewed Bill Johnson, the Energy Minister in the Western Australian Labor government. But the super depicted him as a “WA Liberal MP”. Earlier, she had spoken to Steve Thomas, the deputy leader of the WA Liberal Party and the Shadow Minister for Energy – but he was depicted as the “WA Energy Minister”.
It seems that someone in the ABC didn’t much like the Private Eye style joke – and the supers have been corrected on the ABC Iview and in the transcript. However, MWD believes that avid readers would like to have a look at 7.30’s initial “joke” – and has retained it for history’s sake. Here it is:
WAS IT AN INTERVIEW OR COULD IT BE AN ARGUMENT? PATRICIA KARVELAS IN TOP FORM IN INTERRUPTING TONY ABBOTT
Thanks to the avid reader who checked out RN Breakfast presenter Patricia Karvelas for interjections on Thursday. She started out slowly – interrupting Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil only once (in a 12-minute interview) and later on interrupting Liberal Party MP Julian Leeser only twice (in an 11-minute interview). However, former prime minister Tony Abbott copped nine interruptions in an 11-minute interview.
The interviews with Minister O’Neil and Mr Leeser turned on immigration and the Voice respectively – and Mr Abbott also spoke about the Voice.
Tony Abbott, who managed to state his case between PK’s interruptions and scoffing, recognised the reality with this comment:
Tony Abbott: Patricia, with respect, you didn’t interrupt Clare O’Neil. You’re arguing over the top of me. This is not an interview; this is an argument. Now, the point is…
Well done Patricia Karvelas – MWD’s Interrupter of the Week.
* * * * *
Until next time.
* * * *