Monday, January 09, 2012

Gerard Henderson, Mark Latham, and why the freedom to be silly should be severely curtailed ...

(Above: the good old days of British seaside postcards, and the banning of Donald McGill here and here. Sure it's got nothing to do with what follows, but after what follows, you'll need a distraction).

The pond simply hasn't been able to shake the image of Gerard Henderson lost on a beach on Xmas day, maddened and enraged at the left-leaning ABC as he listened to a repeat of Yarnbombing: when Granny gets punk, then in outrage scribbling ABC's leftish drill still needs to be corrected by its deeds.

I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach
Listening to yarnbombing.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me. (here).

And the unrepentant Craft Cartel so gleeful about his suffering. Oh the inhumanity. Likely the image will haunt the pond until the end of time, or at least the twelfth of never, and that's a long time ...

So what's got up Prufrock's nose this week?

Well, it's entirely predictable, and it takes the shape of Eric Beecher, Crikey and Mark Latham.

Apparently no one at Crikey can be bothered actually reading Henderson's mighty missives and so was unaware he was on a grand poobah tour in November and December, suffering mightily at the hands of unions, and attending important events ("I have just returned from a series of meetings in Britain and the US", he announced on December 13th here, which is much more important and grand than the white rabbit admitting he was late for a very important date).

Instead naughty Crikey placed Henderson elsewhere, enjoying a night of taxpayer funded frivolity, without fact checking or email exchange, and the righteousness wrathfulness of a wronged Henderson is mighty to behold:

... Beecher's Crikey newsletter is not the embodiment of quality journalism. For starters, it does not engage a fact-checker. Indeed, the online publication actually proclaims the fact it publishes undocumented ''tips and rumours''. Crikey also, on occasions, publishes the home addresses of people who are targets of its occasional contributors.

Indeed. And no doubt victims of the press would love to have a column in the Fairfax press to complain about the lack of quality journalism, essential for a civilised society when some dumb bunny reporter sticks foot in door, and gets facts wrong, and proceeds to publish, because after all there aren't that many opportunities for your average punter to deliver payback by way of a grandee column ... or an expensive defamation action ...

And then there's that other irritant mosquito Mark Latham.

Henderson gets indignant that Latham got indignant about the Sunday Terror's reporting of his behaviour at a Camden swimming pool, and the news that Latham has lodged a complaint about the affair with the Press Council.

Uh huh. But who's to say the Terror was right and Latham was wrong, or vice versa for that matter? Was Henderson there? Who knows what happened, apart from the breathless 'he said, she said' accounts?

What's wrong with a private citizen lodging a complaint with the Press Council, the only feeble toothless tiger mechanism available to punters? (unless you count silence, lofty dismissals or unpublished letters to the editor).

That's when Henderson, in his usual inimitable way, jumps the shark:

These days Latham apparently believes he is a victim of media intrusion and that his utterances in public places should not be reported. If the Press Council upholds this complaint, media freedom will be severely curtailed

Oh what a pontificating goose. If Latham's complaint is upheld, media freedom will be severely curtailed?

What, in the way three adjudications in relation to errors reporting on the NBN has severely curtailed the freedom of Murdoch publications to carry on their crusade about the NBN, as they were forced to publish a correction on page 104 on Boxing Day (yes, the pond has already ranted about this, but after all the pond is just a daily rant).

Lost without a daily bout of nattering negativity about the NBN? Here you go:
Oops, it's got The Australian's fickle gold finger bar of doom, so back to Henderson:

Severely in the sense of unsparingly harsh and strict treatment? Because of whatever might be ruled in relation to a barney at a Sydney swimming pool?

Surely Henderson jests, but in reality it's just a bit of payback, allowing Henderson a chance to maintain the rage about Latham:

Latham is a columnist with The Spectator Australia and The Australian Financial Review and appears as a commentator on Sky News (part-owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Ltd). In addition, Latham receives an indexed superannuation benefit of around $75,000 a year, due to his time as a federal parliamentarian. In other words, he is the beneficiary of taxpayer funding.

Yes indeed and every pensioner and politician in the country - right down to the local council - is the beneficiary of taxpayer funding, as is Henderson when he pockets a cheque from the ABC, so Henderson proceeds to mightier matters, pinging Latham for talking about affairs and flings in his private life, and then showing a double standard by turning to the Press Council:

And now Latham is pleading with the Press Council to prevent a newspaper from reporting a public exchange he had with a swimming coach.

Actually it's not a plea, or pleading, it's a complaint. If upheld, the Sunday Terror might have to run something at the bottom of page 104, and if it's dismissed, Latham will have missed out, but is there some sort of school rule that says that what happens on the field must stay on the field when it involves hacks, members of the commentariat, and ex-politicians of a dubious kind? Or that a public exchange is fair dibs? But what if it's been misreported ...

Naturally Latham's wretched behaviour in relation to a Sydney taxi-driver is also given a run for a par by Henderson (even allowing for the pond's fear and loathing of Sydney taxi-drivers, breaking arms is a step too far).

Lurking behind all this? Well Latham knows Henderson only too well, and knows how to tweak the beard of our prattling dull and tedious Prufrock.

Latham was in fine form, for example, in Latham's Henderson Watch V in that digital rag Crikey:

Gerard says the new divide in Australian politics is between inner-city-types “who regard themselves as morally superior beings intent on saving the planet” and suburban and regional families. But he has no association with any form of life west of Sussex Street.

The closest he came, I’m told, was driving along George Street one day, listening to morning radio. He was, as ever, mesmerised by 2BL’s Deborah Cameron and before he knew it, he was in Annandale. That really was a Deborah Cameron moment.

Ah well, Cameron is gone now, so Henderson won't have her to kick around anymore - guess he'll just have to keep getting shocked by Radio National - but Latham also delivered more substantial jokes, in relation to the funding of the Sydney Institute:

Hendo loves to lecture his targets about accountability, but the institute itself refuses to make its financial details public. We only know about Philip Morris, James Hardie and the Adlers because controversies surrounding these companies spilt over into the public arena and implicated the institute. Otherwise, when it comes to financial disclosure, the Hendi are a secret society.

And then Latham takes to quoting Henderson:

(Rupert Murdoch’s) contribution to journalism has been a positive one. On the present evidence, the reaction to the News of the World scandal is over the top.

At vast personal expense, the pond has googled that quote, and can assure you - in a fact checking way - that it does exist, and appears in a story headed Murdoch critics bury the lead in premature obituaries, which starts off with Henderson quoting ... 702 presenter Deborah Cameron ...

Isn't that quote a fine one for someone penning a piece about press standards?

On the present evidence? Would that include the latest postings of present evidence, including Murdoch 'angry' over Elton John settlement, and the level of fact-checking at work in Murdoch rags?

Mr MacKenzie, questioned about his views on accuracy, defended his record and said, "there is no certainty in journalism, in the same way there's no certainty in the legal world". He told the same inquiry in October that he checked the source of a story one time in his 13 years as editor of The Sun - for the Elton John story.
"I never did it again," Mr MacKenzie said in October. "Basically my view was that if it sounded right it was probably right and therefore we should lob it in."

Now there's fact-checking for you News Corp style. Now stand by for the wrath of Gerard ...

If a fact checker falls silent in the forest, does anyone hear?

Never mind Mark Latham and Crikey, there you go, it's okay, let's just lob it in, even as the story gets weirder (News Corp lawyer says Murdoch is 'serious', and weirder Sun's switch to Tories was 'group decision', says editor , and you can always rely on The Guardian for coverage of the ultra-weird beyond the valley of decent journalism Leveson inquiry).

Anyhoo, before we go over the top like Deborah Cameron, let's revert to Henderson, who in his penultimate par finds it in his heart to defend Andrew Bolt, and to make the most pathetic excuse yet, which is to imply that the judgement was based on inferences rather than factual matters, when front and centre, one of the key aspects of the Bolt judgement was that he got his facts wrong.

The HUN had the opportunity to appeal the decision, but the only appeals we hear are the appeals of fellow travellers like Henderson ...

As always punters are better served by reading the full judgement and making up their own minds (there's a pdf here), rather than reading a par of special pleading by Henderson ...

So where have we landed?

There is good reason for the media to act responsibly. But there is also good reason to preserve a free media, independent of excessive regulation. And there is no reason to listen to the likes of Beecher and Latham on what constitutes responsible media behaviour. It's just not bearable.

And there's good reason to have an effective, functional Press Council, unlike the current toothless tiger, to whom citizens might turn if they've been given the rough end of a pineapple, or if rogue newspapers of the Murdoch kind confuse crusades with reporting the facts of a matter.

Meanwhile, it has to be said. It's just not bearable to read Gerard Henderson pontificating about the likes of Beecher and Latham and the glories of the likes of Rupert Murdoch and the leftiness of the ABC on which he often appears ... from the shadowy battlements of the inner city elite Sydney Institute ...

Does it, or did it, really take funding from Philip Morris, purveyors of poison, and James Hardie, purveyors of poisonous asbestos to the world?

The conclusion? After reading this piece, it seems there's no current recourse for the average punter, since an appeal to the Press Council is somehow unsporting, and taking the likes of Andrew Bolt to court for getting it wrong is reprehensible, and anyway that action was reliant on a very specialised part of the law, and defamation actions are damned expensive, and don't have anything to do with misreporting of the NBN or other matters, and corrections might turn up on page 104 on Boxing Day, and letters to the editor might or might not get published, and the only solution seems to be getting a column in the Fairfax press, which allows the righteous to smote enemies mightily while making severely silly statements ... or start a blog and start ranting about said silly statements ...

Like this one:

If the Press Council upholds this complaint, media freedom will be severely curtailed.

Only a man who listens to Deb Cameron and ends up in Annandale could scribble that sort of nonsense ...

(Below: dear sweet absent indecent lord, here's to you Gerard.

Now that the AFR's paywall has been punctured, you can read how Tony Walker spent $126-00 at Bibendum, Harrington Grove Country Club listening to the thoughts of Mark Latham, in Lunch with Mark Latham. The pond feels a complaint to the Press Council coming on. Will they handle a complaint for nausea?)

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