Monday, June 03, 2013

How to deplore hate speech, by calling people zombies, insufferable and unspeakable, attack dogs, and so on and so forth ...

(Above: a few xkcd cartoons to set the mood, more here)

So these sins are major crimes?

His contributions on Twitter also reveal an open contempt for the Coalition, a fawning regard for Julia Gillard, an obsessive dislike of News Ltd and Rupert Murdoch, Andrew Bolt and Alan Jones, and a preoccupation with global warming, asylum-seekers and Aboriginal affairs.

Well the pond can't do the fawning over Gillard routine, but the other attributes seem quite fine ...

What a pity it seems he also didn't display fear and loathing for the Monday columns of Paul "generally grumpy" Sheehan,  and their ostentatious display of humbuggery.

Yes, if he'd done that the pond might have quite warmed to Russell Skelton, recently given the task of checking facts at the ABC ...

You've guessed it, it's Sheehan at his worst in ABC fact-checker needs scrutiny, as good as any reason to remind readers that the alternative to Fairfax, the Guardian down under, is just a click away here.

But way worse than Sheehan's assumption that ipso facto a deep dislike of the death star News Ltd, Chairman Rupe, the Bolter and the parrot somehow puts you beyond the pale is the pathetic way he puts together the rest of the column.

You see, it suffers what can only be called the generally grumpy Alan Ramsey syndrome.

In his later days, Ramsey frequently settled for filing a column made up of the thoughts of others, or even worse, a cut and paste of previous works by Ramsey.

Now the pond always had a soft spot for Ramsey (short wiki here) but reading him became a terrible chore.

So it is with Sheehan, because he spends most of his column quoting the thoughts of Eric Abetz, and then has the cheek to say that Mark Scott has an unpleasant odour.

Now one of the canards doing the rounds, especially in the lizard Oz, the Bolter and amongst other reptile hacks in the Murdoch death star world arises from a recent survey of journalists which deemed that the ABC was full of greenies.

You can see this at work in Sheehan, whingeing about Shelton re-tweeting Marcia Langton, without a shred of concern about Sheehan re-quoting Abetz, without a single modifier or additional insight of his own:

Senator Eric Abetz (Liberal): ''Mr Scott, do you have any sense that a recent survey which found that 41 per cent of ABC journalists said they would vote for the Greens, 32 per cent for Labor and 15 per cent for the Coalition generally reflects ABC journalists' political leanings?'' 

Now here's the thing. The survey, self-admittedly, surveyed a mere 34 ABC journalists to arrive at these grand figures.

Now even those with the most cursory knowledge of sampling and margin of error would know that this survey was fatally flawed, and it is a disgrace that this pathetic academic work, allegedly by a senior lecturer in journalism at the University of the Sunshine Coast, entered the conversation by way of self-admiring reports in locations like The Conversation.

Oh it's always reported with blather about higher margins of error and appropriate statistical methods but it has about as much validity and usefulness as spit on a griddle, and the use of the percentages, rather than placing those percentages within the context of the total number surveyed means Abetz was at best being cynically disingenuous and indulging in a smear.

Because he's being lazy and simply offering a transcription service, Sheehan has to immediately go on to report Mark Scott's obvious response - not his own mind you, just what he can parrot:

''No. There are about 1000 journalists who work across the ABC in news, radio, rural divisions and others … we have 1000 journalists and 34 were contacted … Do I believe it is an overwhelming problem? No, I do not … '' 

So why quote the Abetz smear in the first place? Well either (a) Sheehan is lazy or (b) he thinks the data has something useful to say.

Now much the same could be said about the faux statistics led by the survey in relation to Fairfax (Labour) and News Limited journalists (46.5% Labor, 26.7% Coalition) because the samples in those cases involved a sample of 86 from Fairfax and 86 from News Limited, along with this sort of breath-taking gibberish:

If we disregard the 42.8% of journalists who are undecided, refused to answer or would vote for a party or candidate other than the major three, this is a statistically significant result.

Yes, if we go howl at the moon, and disregard its glow, we might well end up with a statistically significant result.

Oh dear, the pond got a little distracted by all the data, so let's cut to the chase.

You see, at the very beginning of his piece, Sheehan berates Russell Skelton for being a fierce partisan and leaving an unedifying trail of puerile smears. Mirror, say hello to Sheehan.

Because right at the end it turns out that Russell Skelton has done the right thing, and included Sheehan alongside the likes of the Bolter and the parrot, and has forced the generally grumpy and lazy Sheehan to actually scribble some copy and reveal he has a hand in the game:

Here I make two personal notes. The first is that Mark Scott is an old comrade of mine at the Herald, and I know him to be a good person and a fine manager. At the committee, he was in damage control. The other note is that when I was scrolling through Skelton's Twitter feed, fact-checking Abetz's remarks, I was gob-smacked to discover a tweet that Skelton had posted on October 10: ''This column by @Paul_Sheehan_ originally said 'he (Tony Abbott) raised 3 daughters, something she (Julia Gillard) was unable to do' #vomit.'' 
It was a retweet of a tweet by Mia Freedman. At least Freedman had the decency to publish a retraction after the Herald's news director pointed out that this was a fabrication. Skelton, the ABC's fact-checker-in-chief, did not check the lie. He just passed it on, and let it stand, unchecked, uncorrected and unpleasant.

Here's what Sheehan said that day, if we may adopt Sheehan and Ramsey techniques, and fill up this piece in their all to easily imitated style:

The dictionary defines misogyny as "hatred of women". It is an ugly word, an ugly accusation and an ugly fact of life. It is now the word that has driven Australian politics to its lowest point in decades. Yesterday, the mask fell away, the curtain dropped, the real driver of the politics of personal abuse was revealed. 

After sending out two attack dogs, Gutter and Sewer, to do the dirty work, after hiding behind two political zombies, Insufferable and Unspeakable, to stay in power, after using the Minister for Innuendo and the Compromise-General to play the gender card, the mask has finally dropped away to reveal the driver of the politics of hate in Australia. 
The mask fell at exactly 2.42pm in the House of Representatives. Looking on were the member for Gutter, Anthony Albanese, the member for Sewer, Wayne Swan, the Minister for Innuendo, Tanya Plibersek, and the Compromise-General, Nicola Roxon, and the independents who will do anything to avoid facing their electorates, Mr Insufferable, Robert Oakeshott, and his fellow regional zombie, Mr Unspeakable, Tony Windsor. (Gillard reveals true nature in playing gender card)

Sewer? Regional zombie? Insufferable and unspeakable? While talking of drivers of hate?


But do go on:

Why tip a bucket of bilgewater into a fierce wind? Why invoke the accusation of misogyny, hatred of women, against an Opposition Leader whose chief of staff, Peta Credlin, is famously one of the most formidable woman in politics, whose mostly female staff is devoted to their boss and who has raised three daughters? 
But then why did she mislead the Australian people before the last election on the carbon tax? Why did she leave her law firm under a cloud? Why did she shaft her own leader? Why did she depose a prime minister who had a mandate from the people? Why has she methodically deployed the politics of personal abuse?

Uh huh. Why raise the matter of three daughters in this context? Why raise unanswered questions designed to smear? Why methodically deploy the politics of personal abuse?

There seems to be only one satisfactory response.


And then at the end of the piece by Sheehan, this curious note:

Editors Note: This story was changed post-publication and, in the 9th paragraph, a reference to the Prime Minister was deleted.


Because in revisiting his pile of hate writing, Sheehan doesn't make any reference to this curious note, or explain it, or give details. It's just there, unexplained, un-noted and unmentioned ...

So what did he say? What was deleted?

Who knows ...

The conclusion at the end of all this?

By golly, The Guardian down under is looking like a good place to go ... because for decades readers of Fairfax have had to put up with Sheehan, his follies and his foolishness, and now there's a viable alternative for a morning read ...


  1. After saying Abbott raised three daughters, he said this was something Gillard "was unable to do". No hate speech there by the big galah.

  2. uncle otto abetz would be very proud of nephew eric and i bet eric is proud of uncle otto.

  3. Does anyone know what Mia Freedman actually retracted? Because I'm pretty sure the crack about the PM was originally in there


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