Monday, August 18, 2014

In which the pond foregoes a hundred bucks to help out the reptiles ...

No doubt thousands got the pop-up - there it was in the corner. Help improve The Australian by taking part in a one hour research interview ...

Only an hour?

If you took the bait, you discovered the going rate for helping fix the Titanic was a hundred bucks.

Heck, where's the love? The pond is happy to do it for free.

So here we go.

There's the obvious ones. Like all the EXCLUSIVES that litter the digital edition like confetti. Laughable attempts at click bait.

But that's just the vulgar surface glitter that exudes an air of desperation failure, Donkey jumping up and down and shouting "Read me, read me" (and pay for the pleasure).

Let's dig a little deeper.

Now on the principal that the fish rots from the head (though whether this ancient saw is true or not is open to doubt, as is its source, as you can Greg Hunt here) the first thing would be to change the ownership.

The Murdoch name is now a profoundly damaged brand and each time he offers up yet another eccentric tweet, he confirms that the house of Murdoch is the house of weirdos, crazies and Fox News.

But hey, the pond isn't unreasonable. No point in trying to winkle out Rupert - he'll be dead soon enough and then the fighting over the spoilts will begin - so let's accept that the fish rots from the guts.

Which brings us to editor Chris Mitchell. Sorry, he has to go. He's the source of the rabid ratbaggery and zealotry and ideological clap trap that's the dominant motif and theme of the rag.

This might produce a few changes for the better. For a start, the pond has heard many tales of refugees from Murdoch land heading out into the private and public sectors. Invariably they bring a bullying culture with them, they act like bullies and think that bullying will produce viable solutions.

It says a lot about the corporate culture.

But more to the point, if Mitchell goes, there are so many upsides it's impossible to count them all, from the trivial to the huge. As an example of the trivial, perhaps the rag's editorials won't be the rich pickings for comedians that they currently are - in fact, it's likely enough only comedians in source of comedy material bother to read most of them.

Secondly, perhaps the practice of running Maurice Newman pieces on climate will be found a new home - of the kind of slot that The New Yorker has in Shouts and Murmurs where it houses all its best comedy.

You see, running Newman as a commentator on climate science is a bit like running Chris Kenny as an expert on satire or good humour.

It seriously traduces and trashes the brand, as does Graham Lloyd's tendency to pick up on any denialist story he can find and give it a good run, or the ongoing presence of Bjorn Lomborg.

Then there's all the petty feuds and jealousies and wars and vendettas and crusades the rag routinely embarks on, showing more of a flash of paranoia than petticoats.

Take the media section for example. Sharri Markson is a disaster. The pond is interested in the media, but will immediately revert to mUmBRELLA than read the lizard Oz, because the media section in the Oz is actually the vendetta section. The constant raging at Fairfax and the ABC is irritating, and all the more so given the sizeable glass house that the Oz itself inhabits. You'd think the stones would be kept under lock and key ...

Then there's the political coverage. Frankly Dennis "the boffaunt one" Shanahan and Greg "bromance" Sheridan are a joke. They give your average time server, paper shuffler, knob polisher and hagiographer a bad name.

And then there's hapless Troy Bramston. The poor bugger's been forced to do all the lifting in sundry vendettas and crusades. His tireless work against Clive Palmer has been positively heroic, as has his efforts in matters Gillard.

But what happens thanks to the gutter atmosphere?

Well you get to read Mark Latham, handily positioned outside the AFR paywall, teasing and poking and prodding and smirking in An Oz misfire worthy of Wile E. Coyote (and what's the bet they cleared that artwork with Warners? Oh the pond knows, it's shocking).

You see, there's old Mark sniggering and gesturing:

As coyotes go, I love the Oz. It's the great anvil-dropper of Australian politics, working itself into a lather of activity but rarely hitting its targets.

You see? Here's what your feuding gets you. It's the Hatfields and the McCoys:

For News Corp, Research-gate is an exploding cigar. Bramston has outed himself as breathtakingly treacherous: lagging in one of his workmates, but then, 16 months later, trying to damage me. Meanwhile, Kenny has been condemned from within his own organisation as a shyster, an arrogant neo-conservative who avoids the proper ethical requirements of journalism. 
That’s now the biggest issue for me: how does Kenny turn up to work each day. Last year, his son Liam condemned him as “an unrelenting apologist for the Liberal Party”, who participates in “bully campaigns”. Bramston has confirmed this assessment, criticising his colleague as highly unethical. If his own son and a fellow columnist don’t trust Kenny’s articles, why should any of his readers? 
Last month, I raised with Bramston the absurdity of him working on the bucket job, given that the chain of events had started with him. Unbelievably, Troy said he had no memory of our Sky conversation. Fearful of ramifications inside News Corp and the likelihood of losing his job, Bramston has told Kenny that he didn’t tip me off about the conflict of interest. This is a bald-faced lie. When in a hole, poor little Troy would be well advised to stop digging. 
Meep meep.

You see? Mockery and insolence.

Who knows or cares who's right or wrong. This is the stuff of vendettas and completely uninteresting to anyone interested in the real world.

And it raises other questions of balance. You see, people like Janet Albrechtsen - off on her own planet - and Chris Kenny, off in another universe - are front and centre to the brand, given that the news is freely available on other sites - including, oh how how it must irritate,

What to do?

Well if you must keep the forelock tuggers and lick spittlers, who'd feel right at home in Pravda or North Korea (can you see the irony of calling the Fairfaxians Pravda people right at this moment in time?) then you need a decent counter-weight.

Now by counter-weight, we don't mean Graham "Swiss bank accounts Gra Gra" Richardson, who seems to have turned himself into a comedy duo with Alan Jones, which means at last that Abbott and Costello can feel like superior, high class comedians.

Talk about trashing the brand.

And we don't mean the doddery old Phillip Adams, who fancies himself as an alternative read. Frankly the pond hasn't read Adams for decades, it's like jelly wrestling with a rock cake.

The pond can feel the Oz's pain. Right on check in at the airport, you're harassed at the auto ticketing machine with a pleading ad to download the app which will embroil punters in a tithing scheme, and when you get into the lounge, it seems like it's been papered wall to wall by the Weekend Australian.

Yet when it came to actually reading the rag - which still has the size and heft of the old days - the pond found it impenetrable, and started on all the other rags that had papered the lounge.

Now the pond can sense there seems to be a bit of an attempt at a makeover. This very day the digital splash of doom offers some attempt to appeal to a wider demographic:

But here's the problem.

Andrew Leigh's rebuttal of Maurice Newman is completely irrelevant. Why would anyone take Newman seriously or bother with a reply? It's a complete waste of space and time, up there with all the other "print the controversy" routines designed to generate hits. The pond is so over theorists peddling a young earth, creationism, a flat planet or NASA faking the moon landing, so why should it care about Maurice, except as a genuinely interesting oddity and comedy item, up there with fundamentalists dancing with snakes ...

In a curious way, it would be more ethically honest to just go with those "why I stopped sleeping with other men's wives" stories that turn up on the digital front page to garner hits than exploiting Newman to reveal the deep, profound ludditism in the Abbott government. It reflects badly on Abbott, but equally it reflects badly on the house of Murdoch, especially now that young Rupert has outed himself as a Newmanite true believer.

And that piece by John G. Stackhouse is deliberately misleading. It's actually not about all the major world religions, it's about the deviant, devious Islamics, made clear only when you click to get the header Peace under Islam requires submission (inside the paywall as if anyone cares)

The pond could do exactly the same for Christianity - spend par after par explaining how Christians have fucked the world, and then throw in a line about how the Islamics and secularists have also played a role in what's gone wrong in the world.

As for Troy Bramston, having a go at Hockey and Swan, apparently in the guise of balance, see Mark Latham above.

The poor old work horse and hack has been turned into a figure of fun. Who cares what he scribbles about politics?

I mean right from the get go of Time to man up, Joe and Wayne, (inside the paywall as if anyone cares) you get this sort of profound stupidity:

What is it with modern treasurers? Paul Keating and Peter Costello often provided the policy and political strength of the Hawke and Howard governments. Today, Joe Hockey is the weakest link in the Abbott government, just as Wayne Swan was in the Rudd-Gillard governments.

As anyone with the remotest knowledge of what went on in Canberra knows, the weakest link in the Rudd government was Chairman Rudd.

So why should Troy Bramston, here adopting a "columnist" hat, carry on about Swan?

Well you won't find the explanation anywhere in or below his piece. You have to head off to Troy's publisher here for this insight:

He has worked as a policy and political adviser in government, opposition and the private sector. He is a former principal speechwriter for Kevin Rudd and an adviser to the Rudd government.

Now as a columnist, he should have declared that interest. Or the Oz should have. The trouble these days is that there's no bars to separate the assorted bears and lions going about their business in the circus.

Think about it. Even now we're copping this sort of stuff?

Rudd regretted keeping Swan in the Treasury portfolio and would have preferred Lindsay Tanner in the role. He blames Swan for the botched handling of the Henry tax review. The failed resource super-profits tax was poorly designed, soured relations with business and contributed to Rudd’s undoing.

And no declaration of interest along with it?

And so the pond turns to the editorial in today's rag. Yep, it's more Vendetta, more of the same old, same old, and yet another assault on the hapless Julian Disney, with the paranoid header Press Council must not be Australia's chief censor (outside the paywall but who cares).

As well as hysteria, sniping, and the usual gratuitous slurs about journalism academics, you'd swear that self regulation had led the Murdoch press to a dire state of North Korean censorship.

The truth is that rabid ratbag racists talking about brown v white in a war of civilisations roam freely in the world of Murdoch.

Nobody can touch the real bile, the slanders and the slurs, the humbug and the faux science and the abuse of modern broadband and the Photoshopped outrages that litter the house of Murdoch ... and yet still they whinge and moan, as if being slapped with a warm lettuce leaf or tickled with a feather is some kind of deep personal outrage.

Second thoughts, it's just as well the pond didn't take that hundred bucks, The rag is stuffed, and Chris Mitchell is going to go on stuffing it, and so long as that happens the rag won't be fixed, its circulation will continue to fall, and it will continue to suffer a failed online presence, since its format is incapable of competing with rivals of the Daily Mail or Graudian kind.

Does the pond care one whit or jot?

Hey, what was it Mark Latham said? What was that about the coyote?

Yes, it's a joke, see, and the rag is a joke see, and it's a hard road to move from a joke to the heart of the nation. Unless you think of the heart as a shrivelled, blackened heart of fear and loathing ...

So it's back to a nightly Chuck Jones classic for the pond ...


  1. Gotta laugh at Blot's feeble attempt to defend Abbott's remarks about Scottish independence by dragging in racism.

    "I thought of the governments which would have loved pesky Britain to be weaker:

    Napoleon’s France
    The Kaiser’s Germany
    Hitler’s Germany
    Mussolini’s Italy
    The Soviet Union
    Mao’s China, particularly over Korea
    The junta’s Argentina
    Milosevic’s Serbia
    The Taliban’s Afghanistan
    Saddam’s Iraq

    There there’s Britain’s steadying role on the UN Security Council and its resistance to the creeping European Union bureaucratic autocracy. Add, moreover, the encouragement (of) its dissolution on ethnic grounds would add to the destructive New Racism movement. "

  2. Just in time, DP, the missive from LRonH arrived in the post. Hear this!
    "So for you there is no sitting down and resting upon your laurels, no waiving of policy, no promiscuous 2nd Dynamic activities, no improper assumption of power, control or influence or assuming that you automatically know best in every situation. It is a crime to invalidate the state of Clear – see to it that you don’t do this in your conduct as a Clear, particularly as regards yourself. You still have the rest of the dynamics to go. You have now become more than ever a part of a team. Obsessive individualism and a failure to organize were responsible for our getting into the state we got into. As soon as you have gone the rest of the way this will become abundantly plain."
    Team! And here's Julie, beautifully enunciating "Labor's debt & deficit". A jewel.

  3. Australia's Chief Scientist has some advice for Chris Mitchell's head journalist on climate conditions. The Grauniad asked him what he made of Mozza Newman's ice crisis:

    Chubb said he was “not an economist so I would be unwise to make a comment on the economy. I try to speak where I have knowledge. Almost everyone with knowledge would say Mr Newman’s comments are at odds with what they know, but people with no scientific knowledge persist in the view that they can find three or four papers from the hundreds and hundreds of papers on the subject and then dismiss the overwhelming bulk of evidence … it is a silly response to a very important issue.”

    Again "a silly response to a very important issue."

    Could marketing at The Australian turn that into a mast-head line for the paper?

  4. All the beta-Thetans lined up in their Wiggleroom-Portfolios to add colour and movement to the Budget-Smuggler Chorus is, indeed, an exquisite and rapturous joy to behold. Well done, Team!

  5. To my thinking, Wayne Swan got about doing what he was there to do: run the economy. The fact that he was awarded "treasurer of the year" or some such is not really relevant. He simply did the job he was there to do. He didn't seek accolades (some say that was his problem; I say good on him) and was thus laughed at by the reptiles, who have no capacity to judge the work politicians do anyway.

    Bramston roping him in with Hockey and calling them 'each as bad as the other' is entirely disingenuous; as you say 'as anyone with the remotest knowledge of what went on in Canberra knows, the weakest link in the Rudd government was Chairman Rudd.'

    Bramston is seeking validity for Hockey's turd of a budget by comparing him with Swan, who at least knew what he was doing.

  6. ... although some would see it as an apologia for England's performance at the last World Cup.

  7. I once read that Wile E Coyote would have had a very strong legal case against Acme for the consistent failure of its explosives and other devices purchased by him in good faith. I wondered what became of Acme after Wile E faded from being their primary customer.

    The answer seems to be that probably Acme merged with a military hardware supplier, who complete the circle by flogging dodgy warplanes and armaments to Australia's Defence Department. The current attitude seems to be that anything American is fine by this government, as long as the Pentagon offers us at least token protection.

    As far as I'm concerned, the best The Australian can do is to hire that useful subbie at the AFR, and run the subtle headline that this paper is Fukt. It is helping both you and Big Mark to fill out an entertaining column, but beyond that it is hard to find a redeeming value. It's a pity that, like the good old Frank Packer days, it is not allowed to bag a stablemate. Otherwise Sharri Markson could have an entertaining Bolt Watch section in her media stuff. It was fun yesterday when Emerson skewered Bolt with his own words and example.

    Young Troy is still regarded quite well by the Ruddites who still post at Poll Bludger blog, presumably out of respect for the Old Master. I've never seen it that way myself. Given what the Reptiles did to Labor, I can't see how a true Labor person could work for them. Let's not get into Richo.

    As you mentioned, it's passing strange that Troy should make no mention of his relationship with Rudd, especially when he sinks the boot into Swan. Now Swan was never a media charmer, but his record deserves better than to be equated with Hockey. Six years of record low unemployment, low interest rates, low inflation and low ration of taxation to GDP stands up pretty well against any Treasurer. And he got that gong as best OECD finance minister and Triple A credit ratings from all 3 agencies. All that achieved when the GFC had stuffed Europe and North America. So I'd take his (and Rudd's) assessments with a pretty large helping of salt.

    Kev could do pretty well as he liked after the 07 victory. So I'd doubt that opinion that he'd rather have had Tanner. I think it was retrospective. And it would seem that Kevin is rewriting history a little in shifting the blame for the Henry reforms mining taxes to Swan.

    Although June 2013 was a great blow for the nation when Gillard was toppled and her best ministers retired. True there might have been a rout the way polling (and her name) was. On the other hand they did have programs, policies and values to defend, while Abbott was offering nothing of substance. It would've been a lot closer than people appeared.

    The one good thing about the change and the subsequent campaign was that it showed what an empty vessel Rudd was, that he has unable to defend or even articulate the achievements of the previous three years. Fancy coming up with shifting Garden Island defences to Queensland and low tax in NW Australia. Brainfarts were an Abbott specialty.


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