GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG – ISSUE NO. 97

3 JUNE 2011

“Media Watch Dog on Fridays…is a sort of popular read in the Crikey office”

Crikey’s Andrew Crook on ABC 2 News Breakfast, 24 September 2010.

“Gerard Henderson is big enough to take care of himself, but that doesn’t stop us worrying about him from time to time.  Lately it’s Hendo’s tendency to self-harm that has us losing sleep.

For example, peruse the correspondence he’s published in his latest Media Watch Dog blog…..There’s a part of us that just wants to ask: “Hendo, are you OK?”

– James Jeffrey’s “Strewth!” column, The Australian, 8 November 2010.

“I realise this makes me practically retarded, but until five minutes ago I thought Nancy was Gerard Henderson’s wife, not his dog.”

– Byronbache via Twitter, Monday 7 February 2011

“Before going further can you write to confirm that these emails are private correspondence and not for publication”

– ABC News Radio’s Marius Benson, 11 March 2011. He did go further – see MWD Issue 86.

Media Watch Dog – “disgraceful”, “sick” – Professor Robert Manne, April Fool’s Day 2011.

Stop Press : When Noam Chomsky Didn’t Listen to Refugees

● Nancy’s Pick-of-the-Week: The Age Green-Washes Carbon Cate

● A Deborah Cameron Moment :  Wrong on Labor and Coalition

● Yet Another Error in Malcolm Fraser’s Memoirs

● Can You Bear It? : Tim (Factless) Soutphommasane Channels Cicero; Simon Sheikh – No Get Up On STC Solar Roof

● Maurice Newman Segment : On The Drum; Fiona Ellis-Jones

and Encounter

● Howler of the Week: Well Done Melissa Clarke

● Correspondence: Yes – Robert Manne Writes to MWD (Again)

STOP PRESS – NOAM CHOMSKY’S KILLING-FIELDS SCEPTICISM REMEMBERED

The Sydney Writers’ Festival may be over for 2011.  However, the tradition continues whereby a group of leftists obtain a load of taxpayers’ money and hand it over to one of their leftist mates.  Yesterday The Sydney Peace Foundation announced that American leftist Noam Chomsky had won the 2011 Sydney Peace Prize. The Sydney Peace Foundation was created eight years ago within the taxpayer subsidised University of Sydney – and the recipient of its annual gong delivers the City of Sydney Peace Prize Lecture.  The City of Sydney is funded by taxes paid by companies and individuals who are based in the Sydney CBD.

Noam Chomsky is a first-rate linguist.  However, as a polemicist he is one of the fashionable leftists who blame the West – in particular, the United States and Israel – for the world’s ills.

In yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald and today’s Australian, Stuart Rees (director of The Sydney Peace Prize Foundation) was reported as praising the Hugo Chavez-admiring Noam Chomsky.

The announcement of the Gong-for-Chom motivated Nancy to travel through her vast library this morning to dig up anything that Noam Chomsky might have said about, say, the Khmer Rouge. It proved to be a most rewarding exercise – especially since Stuart Rees praised the high standards set by Noam Chomsky with respect to “refugees and asylum seekers”.

In 1979 Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman produced their book After the Cataclysm : Postwar Indochina and the Reconstruction of Imperial Ideology.  In Chapter 6, titled “Cambodia”, the authors had this to say:

Predictably, the vast outcry against alleged genocide in Cambodia led to calls for military intervention in the US Congress… (Page 137).

So in 1979, when the Cambodia killings fields were drenched in blood, Noam Chomsky wrote about the “alleged genocide in Cambodia”.

Later on, the co-authors wrote:

It is a truism, obvious to anyone who has ever dealt with refugees or considers the historical record or simply uses common sense, that the accounts of refugees are indeed to be used with great care.  It is a truism commonly ignored. (Page 141).

So in 1979, Noam Chomsky doubted the accounts of those Cambodian refugees who had fled the Khmer Rouge terror and made it to Thailand. Rather he claimed that the stories told by refugees had to be considered with “great care”.

In After the Cataclysm, Chomsky got stuck into the likes of Francois Ponchaud, John Barron and Anthony Paul – who were the first Westerners to warn about the killing spree of the Khmer Rouge, led by Pol Pot. Fr Ponchaud, who spoke Khmer, was the first Westerner to reveal the KR killing fields – he did so in his 1977 book Cambodia: Year Zero.

Noam Chomsky has never apologised for refusing to believe Cambodian refugees circa 1979 or for having criticised – quite unfairly – the work of Ponchaud, Barron and Paul.  Nor has he ever regretted supporting the victory of communist forces in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos in 1975 – which led to a flood of refugees and asylum seekers.

NANCY’S PICK-OF-THE-WEEK  

GUARDIAN-ON-THE-YARRA OMITS CARBON CATE CRITICISM

According to MWD’s sources, appearing in “The Conversation Hour” with Jon Faine on ABC Radio 774 on Wednesday, former Labor minister Lindsay Tanner described The Age as the voice of the Greens.  Needless to say, Mr Tanner’s insight was not reported in The-Guardian-on-the-Yarra the following morning. [We must follow this up – Ed].

However, The Age’s Greens credentials were evident in its reporting of the Give-Carbon-Tax-A-Chance advertisement which features actors Cate Blanchett and Michael Caton.

The story so far. On last Sunday, News Limited tabloids ran the story that actor Cate Blanchett was to appear in a television advertisement titled “Say Yes To A Carbon Price” which was to run on TV that evening – along with fellow thespian Michael Caton. This quickly became an international story when the Daily Telegraph headed its story (by Brendan Hills and Samantha Maiden): “ Carbon Cate: $53m Hollywood superstar tells Aussie families to pay up”.  The print version of the advertisement appeared in The Australian on Monday.

The Age barely covered the story on Monday – running a brief report by Peter Martin on Page 4.  Martin quoted Michael Caton as saying : “Cate appears in an ad and gets her head kicked in for being a rich bitch.” That was all.  For the record, no one used any canine word with reference to the thespian.

On Tuesday  31 May The Age ran a favourable piece on Ms Blanchett by Sydney Morning Herald journalist Phillip Coorey which it titled: “Blanchett has her critics over latest role but insists the carbon price show must go on.” There was a follow-up story on Page 4 by Karl Quinn, which supported Blanchett and quoted the views of only one commentator – an academic named Mehdi Taghian – who also supported Blanchett.

The Sydney Morning Herald ran an opinion piece by Nancy’s co-owner on Tuesday 31 May which criticised the Academy Award winner’s double standards – in urging Australians to reduce carbon emissions while having a heavy personal carbon footprint herself.  This raised considerable interest – and a fair bit of criticism – as the Letters Page on Wednesday and Thursday reveals.

But the SMH encouraged a debate. Not The Age.  There was no discussion at all on the issue on The Age’s Opinion Page.  Then, on Wednesday 1 June The Age ran an editorial titled “Bashing Blanchett is easier than facing facts”. It was a real rave which bagged the Tony Abbott-led Coalition and “large sections of the Australian media” (read News Limited) and used such words as “tawdry”, “vilification” and “appalling”. The editorial contained the following gem:

Blanchett’s fault, it seems, is being wealthy, a condition that allegedly makes her support for a new tax – which is effectively what a carbon price would be – unconscionable….Would her critics attack Olivia Newton-John or Kylie Minogue for urging support for breast-cancer research, because they presumably can afford the best medical care?

The Age missed the point. The argument was not about Ms Blanchett’s wealth but, rather, her double standards.  So the reference to Olivia Newton John and Kylie Minogue was just bizarre.

On Tuesday 31 May The Age had quoted Cate Blanchett as saying:

Everyone will benefit if we protect the environment. There is a societal cost of increased pollution and that’s what I’m passionate about as a mother, that’s where it gets me in the gut.  I can’t look my children in the face if I’m not trying to do something in my small way and to urge other people….

This comment would be unexceptionable, even from a millionaire – if, say, Ms Blanchett lived in a modest home, flew economy and limited her travel.  But she lives in a mansion at Hunters Hill and travels the world in luxury – while urging “other people” about the need to reduce carbon emissions.

That’s the problem – which The Age just cannot see.  Olivia Newton John and Kylie Minogue warn all Australian women about breast cancer and then practise what they preach with respect to monitoring and treatment.  Cate Blanchett warns all Australians of what she believes is human induced dangerous climate change – but then travels the world up the front of emissions-producing aircraft.

It’s much the same with Michael Caton.  In his report in The Age, Peter Martin quoted Mr Caton as saying “I have a gas heater and two fans – that’s me”.  That was on Monday.  Later that day the NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell reminded parliament that Michael Caton had played an active part in the successful campaign to stop the Bondi Junction to Bondi Beach train line.  This would have reduced carbon emissions by reducing the need for motor transport. But, of course, it would also make it possible for western suburb types and tourists to more easily to visit Bondi Beach and share Mr Caton’s gas heater and two fans – so to speak – plus a wave or two.

Sure, saving emissions is important. But not so much as to fly economy or to have to share Bondi Beach with the modern day equivalent of the peasantry.

MWD suggests that The-Guardian-on-the-Yarra is so caught up with its inner-city Greens agenda that it fails to understand that those who live in the suburbs and regional centres don’t like being told how to live their lives by inner-city sandal-wearers who seldom practise what they preach.

A DEBORAH CAMERON MOMENT

While on the topic of the Greens-agenda, Mornings with Deborah Cameron was on-the-money this week with lotsa advocacy for various green causes.  [We should look at this next week – Ed].  However, the Green-Left-Daily presenter really starred when – with a sense of exasperation – she bagged out both Labor and the Coalition.  Let’s go to the transcript of Ms Cameron on ABC Radio 702 last Monday:

Deborah Cameron :  We live for the day when we drown in, you know, really interesting policies – we all do.  But we didn’t last time.  We sank. And you got the, you know, you got the result that you got.  No one could decide.  Fifty/fifty.  Couldn’t stand either of them.

What tripe.  Ms Cameron was referring to the 2010 Federal election where the primary votes were as follows:

Total Labor: 37.99 per cent

Liberal Party : 30.46 per cent

LNP (Qld): 9.12 per cent

The Nationals:  3.73 per cent

Total Coalition: 43.31 per cent

In other words a total of over 81 per cent of Australian electors wanted either Julia Gillard and Labor – or Tony Abbott and the  Coalition – to win.  Yet Ms Cameron told her listeners Australians “couldn’t stand” either Labor or the Coalition.

Verily, A Deborah Cameron Moment.

MALCOLM FRASER’S MEMOIRS:  AN UPDATE (WITH SPECIAL THANKS TO SHELLEY GARE)

Due to popular demand, MWD continues its oh-so-popular series covering errors in Malcolm Fraser: The Political Memoirs – which was co-authored by former Liberal Party prime minister Malcolm Fraser and journalist Margaret Simons. But first, a question. Who is responsible for errors in the Fraser/Simons book?

In the Acknowledgements section, Mr Fraser and Ms Simons write that “Professor Brian Costar read the entire manuscript”. Since Professor Costar teaches politics and history at Swinburne University, the implication is that the authors relied on his political and historical expertise. [A poor decision don’t you think? – Ed].  Then in an “Additional Note by Malcolm Fraser”, Mr Fraser refers to Ms Simons’ “unfailing care to make sure the facts are right”. So it seems that fact-checking was the responsibility of Malcolm Fraser’s co-author.

Previously MWD has drawn attention to the comment at Page 629 of Malcolm Fraser: The Political Memoirs that by 1990 Bob “Hawke had now won four elections – the same number as Fraser”. Clearly this is not a typographical error – since by 1990 Bob Hawke had led Labor to its fourth victory. Malcolm Fraser, on the other hand, won three elections – in 1975, 1977 and 1980.  Yet at Page 629 of his political memoirs Malcolm Fraser claimed that he was as electorally successful as Bob Hawke.  John Howard also won four elections.

Now Shelley Gare has advised MWD of (yet) another error in Malcolm Fraser: The Political Memoirs. On Page 265, the following comment appears:

By the time he [Fraser] became Leader of the Opposition, in March 1974, he had perfected his method of digesting documents.

Malcolm Fraser became Leader of the Opposition in March 1975.  This may be a typo.  However, the error may be due to what Mr Fraser concedes is his “notoriously fallible” memory.

In any event, who is to take responsibility for such errors? According to Mr Fraser, Margaret Simons was the fact-checker. According to Ms Simons, Professor Costar read the entire manuscript. We’ll keep you posted.

CAN YOU BEAR IT? (CONTINUED)

– Tim Soutphommasane Compares Dennis Glover To, Wait For It, Cicero

MWD is not inclined to read Tim Soutphommasane’s “Ask the Philosopher” column in The Weekend Australian. After all, life is short and getting shorter by the day and the hour. However, since Dr S (for a doctor, he is) declines to respond to MWD’s queries (see MWD Issue 96), it has been decided to monitor his column on a continuing basis.

In last weekend’s “Ask the Philosopher”, Dr S  quoted two experts on speech-making. Namely “the Roman statesman Cicero” and – wait for it – Dr S’s “friend Dennis Glover (one of our leading speechwriters)”.  Which raises the question – what are the “leading” speeches which Dr Glover has penned? The only one he has owned up to was a (then) Labor Opposition leader Simon Crean’s speech to the Australian Defence Force contingent departing for Iraq. (See MWD Issue 77).  The address backfired – and Mr Crean was replaced as Labor leader by Mark Latham not long after.

In his latest “Ask the Philosopher” piece, Dr S bemoaned the quality of contemporary Australian politics.  But what about the quality of contemporary Australian academics?  Tim Soutphommasane and Nick Dyrenfurth still refuse to provide any evidence of any kind to support the (alleged) references to Gerard Henderson in their book All That’s Left (See MWD Issue 96).

MWD tried asking the philosopher.  But the philosopher does not reply to correspondence.  Dr S is a taxpayer funded academic.  Can you bear it?

– Simon Sheikh Remembers Cate Blanchett – But Forgets The Taxpayers

On Sky News’ The Nation With David Speers last night, Get Up! activist Simon Sheikh declared that all Australians should be grateful to Cate Blanchett since – as co-artistic director of the Sydney Theatre Company –  she oversaw the construction of solar panels on the STC’s premises at The Wharf.

In fact – as Suzanne Wangmann reported in the Sunday Telegraph Magazine on 25 April 2010 – the scheme received funding from the Commonwealth Government and the University of New South Wales.  And Mr Sheikh reckons that we should be personally grateful to Cate Blanchett for installing what were, in fact, taxpayer- funded solar panels.  Can you bear it?

MAURICE NEWMAN SEGMENT RETURNS

This (popular) segment is devoted to ABC Chairman Maurice Newman’s suggestion that a certain “group think” might be prevalent at the ABC – and to ABC 1 Media Watch presenter Jonathan Holmes’ certainty that no such phenomenon is extant within the public broadcaster. See MWD passim.

The Drum Promo Bags Tony Abbott – All Together Now

Not only does the ABC continue to run programs where everyone agrees with everyone else and a fine ideological time is had by all, it now advertises such segments in order to encourage viewers.  Take, for example, the following promotion advertisement for The Drum which aired on ABC TV on Tuesday 31 May.  It consisted of one presenter (Peter Lloyd) and two panellists (Peter Lewis and Cara Greiner) criticising Tony Abbott in an earlier edition of The Drum while the remaining  panelist Scott Stephens joined the other three in laughing at the Opposition leader.  The promo went like this.

ABC Announcer :  Two storms are brewing for Tony Abbott. One about the planet:

Peter Lewis :  On this issue Abbott’s running both sides of the fence. You know, yesterday he was coming out saying “Oh, yes, I believe climate change is real”.  He’s still doing the nudge-wink-wink to the deniers.

ABC Announcer :  And one about a packet:

Cara Greiner : To me it’s like saying, “Well, you know, intellectual property rights are more important than stopping children from smoking”. I don’t think he can win that argument.

Peter Lloyd :  What’ the fastest way out of this for Tony Abbott?

Cara Greiner :  On his bike. [whereupon Peter Lloyd, Peter Lewis, Cara Greiner and Scott Stephens all laughed loudly at Mr Abbott].

ABC Announcer :  There’s no escape from The Drum – weeknights at 6.

No, there certainly isn’t an escape from The Drum. Not for Tony Abbott, at least.  Why, The Drum actually celebrates that it runs segments where all three panellists and the presenter laugh at the Opposition leader.

– Everyone’s Anti-War, Particularly Fiona Ellis-Jones

Then there is the real thing – as distinct from program promotions.  On The Drum last Wednesday, all three panellists agreed with each other on the need for Australia to get out of Afghanistan. Fiona Ellis-Jones (ABC News Radio) essentially agreed with Michael Gleeson (Hawker Britton) who essentially agreed with Paul Senior (who was described as a “political author”). The highlight of the discussion occurred when Ms Ellis-Jones declared:

I think that this recent incident has definitely highlighted the futility of war and, in particular, the futility of this war among a large percentage of Australians.  It seems to be unwinnable and, it seems that the whole war on terror now – it’s been going on, like you said, for over a decade – it’s becoming, it’s starting to be, a bit of a wash, I think.

How very ABC, in a fashionable leftist kind of way.  According to Fiona Ellis-Jones all wars are futile.  Even, it seems, the war against Nazi Germany between 1939 and 1945.  Neither Peter Lloyd nor any panel member disagreed with the analysis.

– Forget the Resurrection – We Believe In Tim the Almighty

Then there was the Encounter program on ABC Radio National last Sunday.  The topic: “Consuming Creation: a theology for climate change”. All the guests sang from the same (pardon the cliché) hymn-sheet.  Professor Michael Northcott essentially agreed with Mick Pope who essentially agreed with Steve Bradbury who essentially agreed with Deborah Storie who essentially agreed with Ian Barns who essentially agreed with Harry Kerr who essentially agreed with Denise Cooper-Clarke who essentially agreed with Michael Northcott.  In the process presenter Chris Mulherin essentially agreed with all of the above.

And what do they agree with?  Well, Professor Northcott’s view that God is a bit like an older version of Tim Flannery. And that “our refusal to listen to the signs of change in the atmosphere and in the oceans and in the weather and in the earth’s system is more generally a reflection of a spiritual problem of what the prophets would call idolatry and not just materialism”. [Go on – Ed].

There was no room on the program for a Christian who was not a true-believer in human induced climate change.  It was very much a case of “yes we have no Cardinal George Pell”.

Maurice Newman: 3

Jonathan Holmes: Zip

HOWLER OF THE WEEK – MELISSA CLARKE STEPS UP

MWD is a big fan of Melissa Clarke. So it’s appropriate that the ABC News Breakfast reporter helped out this week by filling the Howler of the Week segment.

Yesterday, in comparing the 2011 Mineral Council Dinner in Canberra with last year’s event, Ms Clarke made the following claim:

Melissa Clarke: You might remember a bit of the fuss last time when the then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made some rather poorly-timed jokes about the Government having long memories because, of course, this was at the heart of the stoush between the Government and the mining industry about the mining tax.

Now, 12 months on, Julia Gillard is at the helm. And while certainly neither the issue of the Mining Tax nor the Carbon Tax are settled, and you wouldn’t say things are hunky-dory between the Government and the mining industry, there was a lot of talk and back-slapping last night about mutual respect between the Government and the industry…

The only problem with this analysis is that Kevin Rudd did not attend the 2010 Minerals Council Dinner.  He effectively boycotted it.  Mr Rudd’s reference to his long memory with respect to miners was made at the 2010 Mid-Winter Ball at Parliament House.  Nancy remembers it well – she danced all night.

CORRESPONDENCE

ROBERT MANNE – FROM THE GROVES OF THE ACADEMY – WRITES TO MWD (AGAIN)

The “Correspondence” pages are a popular part of MWD. So Nancy’s co-owner welcomes emails/faxes/letters – even of the obsessive kind. Professor Robert Manne (for a professor he is) did not receive a mention in last week’s MWD.  How sad.  However, an “old friend” of his did.  Which was reason enough for Professor Manne to write to MWD on a “for publication” basis. For the record, Robert Manne’s “old friend” – a certain Howard Jacobson – did not write to MWD.  Not being a tenured academic, and having to earn his way in the market-place, Mr Jacobson obviously had better things to do with his time.  Here is Robert Manne’s query – and MWD’s response:

Robert Manne to Gerard Henderson – 29 May 2011

For publication

Dear Gerard,

Could you please explain why Howard Jacobson–an old friend of mine–is not sufficiently pro-Israel for you?

Best wishes, Robert Manne

Robert Manne to Gerard Henderson – 31 May 2011

Dear Gerard,

Perhaps you failed to get this. I am looking forward with keen anticipation to your reply.

Best wishes,

Robert Manne

Gerard Henderson to Robert Manne – 3 June 2011

Dear Robert

I refer to your emails of 29 May 2011 and 31 May 2011 concerning last Friday’s Media Watch Dog. I also refer to your earlier email of April Fool’s Day 2011.

I am pleased – oh, so pleased – that you continue to read MWD, in spite of the fact that as recently as 1 April 2011 you described MWD as “disgraceful” and “sick” and referred to me as “unhinged”.  At the time you called for MWD to be terminated.  But you still keep writing to it.  Which suggests that MWD fulfils some positive role, for you at least – even if it is of the cathartic kind.

I am conscious that I did not respond to last Sunday’s email immediately and that you saw fit to enquire on Tuesday whether I had received it.  It’s just that I am busy. I run a small business.  Unlike you, I do not enjoy the luxury of tenured employment at a university where a salary is paid into your bank account each month – per courtesy of the Australian taxpayer.

I respond to my extensive correspondence as quickly as possible.  However, I do not give priority to tenured academics whom I regard – perhaps unfairly – as having more free time than I do. However, I do publish the views of my critics.  As you will recall, The Monthly (of which you are executive chairman) refused to publish my letters in its print edition.

I also tend to put pompous types towards the end of my “to do” list.  I should point out that I am under no obligation to respond to you in MWD about a comment in which you were not mentioned – but which involved an “old friend” of yours. To demand such is rather, well, pompous.  But I’m an accommodating kind of guy – so, here we go.

In your email of 29 May 2011 you wrote: “Could you please explain why Howard Jacobson….is not sufficiently pro-Israel?”  Then on 31 May 2011 you wrote about your “keen anticipation” for my reply.

If you bothered to read MWD Issue 96 carefully, you would know that I did not say that Mr Jacobson “is not sufficiently pro-Israel” for me – or, indeed, anyone else.  The segment in MWD on 27 May 2011 was headed “Q&A: Not a Netanyahu Supporter in Sight”. The point was made that not one member of the Q&A panel on Monday 23 May supported the Netanyahu government.  That was an accurate comment – as is evident by reading the transcript of the views expressed by panellists Leslie Cannold, Brendan Cowell, Michael Cunningham, Gail Dines and Howard Jacobson as well as the comments of Q&A presenter Tony Jones.

I thought that Howard Jacobson was the star of the show – being both incisive and witty. But he did not support Mr Netanyahu – which is all that I wrote in MWD.  The fact is that Mr Jacobson (i) described Mr Netanyahu’s reaction to President Obama’s speech on the Middle East as “not a good response”, (ii) depicted the Israeli settlements as “vile” and (iii) was in the process of attacking the Israeli government when he was interrupted by Gail Dines (who was even more critical of the Israeli government).

All these comments are correct. In MWD I described Mr Jacobson as “moderate social democrat”. This is also correct.

Of course, Howard Jacobson is entitled to his view on Benjamin Netanyahu and the government which he leads.  All I wrote last week was that Q&A tends to only ask left-of-centre (meaning socially democratic) or leftist Jews on to the program.   And I argued that some conservative Jews (like Colin Rubenstein or Labor MP Michael Danby) – and perhaps, some Netanyahu supporters – should also get a guernsey sometimes.

This seems reasonable –  unless you want the style of debate much beloved by some ABC programs where everyone agrees with everyone else in a fashionably left-wing way.

If – and when – I get time, I may respond to your request (of 1 April 2011) to assess in Media Watch Dog your role as a teacher of politics and history at La Trobe University over the past four decades.

Best wishes – and keep reading MWD. It’s just so cathartic – even for the unhinged.

Gerard Henderson

* * * * *

Until next time.