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Salivating luvvies

Luvvies of the left are probably pre-emptively foaming at the mouth already about this:

Before the election, Senator Brandis had promised to amend Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act so speech that is found to be offensive and insulting is no longer defined as racial vilification. He said yesterday he would be engaging in consultations about whether the amendment should go further and wind back other potential grounds for liability.

The changes would be in the first bill he presented to parliament, but because of the consultations it might not be introduced until early in the new year. He predicted the changes to the Racial Discrimination Act meant the government would be accused of condoning racist behaviour. He rejected that and said it was one of the initiatives aimed at supporting freedom of speech. “You cannot have a situation in a liberal democracy in which the expression of an opinion is rendered unlawful because somebody else . . . finds it offensive or insulting,” he said.

The decision to examine more extensive changes to Section 18C comes after several commentators, including Brisbane academic James Allan, had argued that the threat to free speech from the Bolt case meant the entire provision should be repealed.
– See more at: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/archive/business/attorney-general-george-brandiss-first-task-repeal-bolt-laws-in-name-of-free-speech/story-e6frg97x-1226755431421#sthash.yARBakmd.dpuf

We Grown-Ups are, on the other hand, quite relaxed and comfortable that our rights to offer even unpopular opinions are going to be protected from vexatious “shut up” litigation. Without the right to offer unpopular opinions our whole society is diminished and I for one will be happy to see the whole of 18C revoked.

Laters Comrades


Nice title, shame about the piece itself though

Ricky Pannowitz

Ricky Pannowitz writes a lefty blog called Political Jelly  and after one of its posts was approvingly cited over at Cafe Whispers  I left a one line comment pointing out that I did not rate the piece very highly the author then gave me a dismissive retort in return, Fair enough I suppose that is to be expected  so I now find myself looking more closely at the piece in question and it really cries out to me for the Fiskorama treatment

The cost of free speech, It ain’t cheap mate!!

Well I will give you points for a catchy title Ricky that is always a very good start!
Tony Abbott is warning the creation of a “media watchdog” as being a “political correctness police”. This is indeed interesting rhetoric from a man who calls himself a former journalist.
Tony Abbott just does not “call himself a former journalist” he is a former journalist.
Abbott’s misinformation, character assassination, obstructionist political divide and concur(sic) strategy defines his leadership.
Hmm, this sentence is just should not have passed the second reading as it stands
The opposition is the beneficiary of a tide of lies and propaganda never seen before in Australian politics in what can only be described as unchecked commentary masquerading as journalism.
This is a bold claim Ricky lets see if you are up to substantiating it in the body of your argument
  Everything from the economy to social reform, infrastructure to the NDIS is blatantly misrepresented in an orchestrated assault on anything that differs from neo-conservatism.
Another claim that needs backing up
  Its a non stop political opportunistic football match that forgets the rules and fair play. Its win at any cost playing the man not the game.
That is three balls you have in the air Ricky
This mis-information war, fuelling every conceivable prejudice furthers his political agenda by the consistent use of one word “NO”.
What precisely obliges Abbott to say yes to any government program, idea, or dare I say it “brain fart” ? Absolutely nothing in the Westminster tradition obliges an opposition leader to make life easier for the sitting government.
All the hallmarks of Edward Bernays 1928 book “Propaganda” are at play here. Spruik the lie enough times so as to create doubt and even the smallest amount of traction sets the wheels spinning and mud flying. . Insecurity, doubt fear, hatred and mis-information all followed to the letter, but how much sticks?
I must admit that I have not read this book however it seems pretty clear to me that Ricky is starting out from the assumption that Labor have actaully provided good governance and sound government. When the ongoing disorder of the shambolic administration under Gillard has quite rightly earned the ire of the voting public.
In a progressive multicultural society, social dialogue has plummeted to the lowest ebb in Australian political history.  Fuelled by Abbott’s election promise to repeal legal recourse under section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, which prohibits statements that offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people on grounds of race or ethnicity you have effectively eroded the last line of defence.
That is a big call Ricky so lets look at precisely what Tony says about that in the speech in question:
Additional regulation is one current threat to free speech in Australia. Another is the operation of section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, which prohibits statements that “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” another person or a group of people on grounds of race or ethnicity.
At the time of its introduction, oblivious to its Orwellian overtones, the then-minister, Nick Bolkus, said that it was designed to prohibit “speechcrime” over and above the traditional tort of defamation. Making the likelihood of causing offence to a group the test of acceptable behaviour goes way beyond the time-honoured remedy when a particular victim has been brought into hatred, ridicule or contempt. 
Let’s be clear: insulting, humiliating or intimidating others on any grounds, racial or otherwise, is deplorable. It should be everyone’s goal to elevate the standards of public debate, not lower them, and to demonstrate respect rather than disdain for the various components of our community. Still, a “hurt feelings” test is impossible to comply with while maintaining the fearless pursuit of truth which should be the hallmark of a society such as ours.
As the Bolt case demonstrated the “Hurt feelings” test is substantially easer to pass than the standard of proof required in a defamation case and it is also based on entirely subjective criteria. This is of course why the plaintiffs sued Bolt under the terms of the dodgy racial discrimination act rather than for defamation
Abbott is far from sorry and so obviously out of touch with the people such legislation is designed to protect. This is a dangerously regressive act that is more at home in a totalitarian power rather than in Australia’s multicultural egalitarian society.
 Why should he be sorry for thinking that the cost to free speech by retaining the anti discrimination act is too high? That is an entirely legitimate line of argument. Further I would like to know how long any “feelings” have to be protected.
As we have seen dating back to the 1800’s the media has become a law unto itself, incapable of and uninterested in self-regulation.
Citation needed for this claim
I am not in favour of more regulation of anything, however as with guns there needs to be rules, responsibility and accountability for ones actions.
There is a terrible failure in the internal logic of this sentence, its a bit like the old joke about an anarchist association with very strict rules…
Today’s changing media landscape is at odds with traditional information powerbases(sic).
Yet another empty assertion
The requirement for news outlets to embrace technological change has seen democratisation of media with archaic legislation out of step with the new models of media consumption.
I do sort of get what Ricky is saying here but he says it is a very clumsy manner.
  Currently media is cheap so agenda based political, social and commercial campaigns have blurred the line between opinion and fact, opinion and reporting and my favourite, journalism and entertainment.
Sorry Ricky but this does not make that much sense, nor does it fit with what I understand about the media landscape. I will concede however the blurring of the distinction between news and entertainment with shows like Ten’s  “The Project” as an example.
The standard modus operandi in media outlets is to weigh up commercial gain over litigation.
Ah here we get to the bones of Ricky’s conspiracy theory and here is where it falls down because its based upon the assumption that presenting the news is a money maker.That said its is of course entirely uncontentious that all newsrooms know where the line between courageous reporting and litigation.
That is, how much advertising revenue do they make over how much they may or may not have to pay if they are sued or fined.
What  has Ricky got to back up this claim?
Does he have anything other than his own foetid imaginings of how a large media company operates? Its just a totally unsupported assertion more meat for his conspiracy theory though.
This gamble has proved lucrative and commercially successful for Australian media generally as the current systems of complaint recourse is virtually non-responsive to any concerns “average” people have.
Now he confuses the fact that media companies have been profitable and attributes that to his imagining of the commercial model that they operate under.  That said I do agree that the current regulation body is rather weak.
In short, self-regulation provides a firewall between the media organisation and the regulator as the complaint has to go through the organisation first. “We believe we are compliant with the act” responses are the norm and 90% of frustrated people take the matter no further. So if you get no joy, then you complain to the toothless tiger ACMA who “may” rarely impose an infringement that is a ridiculously disproportionate monetary fine compared to the advertising revenue earned. Subsequently, why wouldn’t media outlets take this gamble? They have a better than 90% chance of getting away with it outright and if they do get fined, the talent is still making a fortune with little or no consequence other than a by-line or retraction.
There are a large number of vexatious complaints that really don’t need  to go any further than an internal process within the media organisation. When a claim of  infringement is both found to be true and worthy of sanction precisely what does Ricky want to happen?
So how does this work you may well ask? Good examples are carefully constructed inflammatory comments to create a “rise” amongst less informed audiences, cash for comment and stating erroneous facts to push an agenda. The term “Shock Jock” defines a very murky area of media debate around the world. Alan Jones, Andrew Bolt, Ray Hadley and Steve Price have all predicated a format based upon their outspoken views on a range of topics designed to fuel outrage in public opinion.
Hmm I think that Ricky tries to have too many irons in his fire here and by doing so he weakens his argument. Puts simply his argument that each of the commentators cited above are essentially the same does not bare any close scrutiny. Alan Jones is a very different sort of broadcaster to Andrew Bolt or Steve Price (these are the only examples I am personally familiar with) The former is a rather nasty piece of work who comers across as a bully boy but the latter two are both  generally quite laid back when they are on air.  Bolt and Price want to discuss the topics of the day and each have a conservative position but inciting outrage? Well that is just another of Ricky’s conspiracy theories. If there is outrage it rises in the public without any incitement from Steve or Andrew.
This strategy is lucrative in selling advertising as former advertising executive and owner of Radio station 2GB John Singleton can attest. Jones has constantly come under criticism for his defamatory, inflammatory and inaccurate comments on a range of issues and has maintained when the subject of legal action, he is an “entertainer” not a reporter or commentator. “I’m not a journalist” people listen to me for entertainment he proclaims.
Yep I don’t like Jones for precisely this reason, he is a loud mouthed boor but that is no crime.
This illusion of a “Man for the people” providing a “spleen vent” for the less educated and uninformed is a format formulated to maximise income not social discourse. Jones breaking “Stories” that were no more than press releases for advertising clients erased the line between advertising and reporting until it was indistinguishable, forcing ACMA to make disclosure mandatory law.
Well as long as there is full disclosure what is the problem with this?
Jones and Bolt are the Australian poster boys for the marketing arm of the neo-con movement “The Tea Party”.
Here is another plank of Ricky’s conspiracy theory , namely that Jones and Bolt are working together with intent to do political mischief and further a secret political agenda for a US based political organisation. This claim is of course utter nonsense and based entirely on the tendency from the left to characterise all conservatives as members of  an international cabal.Rather than the diverse bunch of individuals that they actually are.
Jones has unsuccessfully tried to get up a Bill ORiley type program till he was unmercifully dumped for bad ratings. Bolt has succeeded with the help of Mining Magnate Gina Reinhardt thanks to her financial interest in network 10. Bolt does not need to rate, just parrot the message and collect the cash.
Bolt actually rates quite well in his Sunday time slot and his program is presented in an affable style and it usually covers pretty much the same ground as his columns and his blog. There is nothing at all to support Ricky’s claims the Bolt report only exists at the behest of Gina Reinhardt apart form leftist speculation and dare I say it conspiracy theory.
Gina is on a media buying mission and has very deep pockets convinced that its her say on the information super highway.
This sentence does not make any sense at all.It needs another phrase at least to be at all cogent.
Interestingly after her foray to own Fairfax without agreeing to sign up for editorial independence,  she has since suggested that Fairfax sell its radio assets and the most likely bidder is Singleton.
Fairfax is struggling to make a quid so why is it wrong to want to change the way the business is structured and run? As for editorial independence well  its a total Furphy why should the journalists decide the content of something that they do not own? If they want to have that then they can either start a blog or pool their resources and buy Fairfax themselves.
Well surprise, surprise what a coincidence.  What a sweet deal, she still gets the net result as Singleton will run the same Shock Jock formula for success and Singleton (that great Aussie bloke so in touch with the common man) makes more money.
This is even more empty supposition from Ricky that is based entirely on his own imagination using his belief in a conspiracy as the template .
Abbott and traditional media vendors have much to lose from reform. The main stakes are money, power and influence. Disproportionate representation of the perception of fact in social debate is a dangerous situation
Last time that I checked Tony Abbott was the leader of the opposition and not a player in the media business. The fact the media landscape has irrevocably changed with the supremacy  of the Internet is far more of an issue than Labor’ and the Greens  dreams of reining in a media that gives their government no quarter when it comes to criticism of their administration and policies.
Lies; masquerading as qualified fact to further political traction and generate revenue is immoral and at odds with Australian ethos of “Fair Dinkum”. When discredited, scientifically unqualified, self-promoting charlatans like Christopher Monkton are paraded on equal footing in the media as Professors of Science; public debate is well and truly broken.
It seems that In Ricky’s world there is an orthodoxy endorsed by the Left and any dissent is based on “lies” a further plank in his conspiracy theory But it amazes me that he makes such a leap from discussing the media  to denouncing those who doubt the AGW orthodoxy. I suspect that he does this because he profoundly misunderstands the nature of the media and that he thinks that it should serve the interests of the government that be broadly endorses rather than being independent  and creating programming that people want to watch.
At what point did people just give up in ambivalent acceptance that an auctioneer turned entertainer like Hadley (He is by far the worst sports commentator in Australia) had any credibility to inform political debate in Australia? When did the “opposing everything to get a rise” opinion of Bolt (a base level educated, company indoctrinated journalist) hold weight over a Professor of physics, climatology or the head of the CSIRO?
Ricky really needs to heed the point of The tale of “The Emperor’s new clothes” where it is not one of his highly educated ministers or any academic who points out his nakedness it is an ordinary uneducated boy. We live in the internet age and that means that everyone can read the data and form an opinion of the issues even if they have no formal qualification.
These people are the good guys who have dedicated there life to furthering scientific advancement of the human race. So when did society stoop so low as to attack them because it’s inconvenient?
There is no doubt that many people go into science for lots of profoundly altruistic reasons however that does not abrogate the fact that they can be profoundly wrong in the theories that they develop and the conclusions that they draw from the available data. Now while its appropriate to respect the learned its not such a good idea to accept their every pronouncement as if it is some sort of divine revelation. The essence of science is that every claim should be subject to questioning and falsification and in the age of the internet its not just those in academia who can question the claims of science.
I’ll tell you when, when despite being presented with factual truth that the Australian economy is one of the best in the world, people believe lying talking heads we are broke.  I’ll tell you when, when money and the egocentric lust for power in a cult of personality within an attention deficit news cycle holds greater currency than the factual truth itself.
More conspiracy stuff here where Ricky shows that he fails to understand the distinction between being concerned about our ballooning debt under a Labor administration which many fear may send us broke and the economy actually being in a state of collapse.
What is offensive and ridiculous is the assertion that when people like Bolt and Jones are subject to account under the due process of law they assert that their “Free Speech” is being stifled. Stifled they proclaim; whilst being syndicated nationally in print, radio and television.
The way that what they do say is syndicated has absolutely nothing to do with the way that they freedom to speak is restricted by the likes of the act under which Bolt was sued.
Their speech is far from free; it’s big business generating millions of advertising dollars. Is that the same “Free speech” a disenfranchised public would enjoy if they ever rang up these authoritarian egomaniacs to debate or question todays “designed topic” and are don’t get past the switchboard? I think not.
Here Ricky confuses the concepts of “free” as in unrestricted with “free” in terms of something that does not incur a stipend or payment. But beyond that I don’t think that Ricky understands that the broadcasters have both a right and a duty to moderate those who seek to engage with them on the public airwaves Just as any blog owner like Ricky himself has when it comes to the comments that are posted to his blog broadcasters have discretion to filter said comments to both protect themselves form litigation and public abuse.

I once met Stan Zemanic. He was a surprisingly gentle, attentive intelligent man. I asked him “do you believe half of that stuff you say because you sound like the world’s greatest stirrer to me”. Stan looked me in the eye with a cheeky grin and said, “it’s all show business”. Unfortunately, show business is affecting the real business of social debate, freedom and equality in Australia.

Here in his conclusion Ricky clearly demonstrates his profound misunderstanding of the Media. while his anecdote contains an essential truth that its all about entertainment being a member of the “chattering classes” he projects upon the entire  country his belief that the media should be focused upon “social debate” which he considers the “real business” he clearly believes that everyone else should be as interested in politics as he is. A realist would accept that most people are simply not engaged to that extent in the business of politics. Certainly most people will have an opinion but mostly its a second order issue behind making a living and raising their families.

As I have pointed out the body of this critique Ricky makes repeated assertions about the  motives and reasons that various media players say and do various things. He provides no convincing reasoning for these assertions, clearly expecting his readers to just accept them because he himself believes these things to be true. But if you put all of his unfounded assertions together and consider them as a whole what you are considering is indistinguishable from your standard or garden variety leftist conspiracy theory about the way that “the evil right” uses the mass media as their propaganda instrument to further their business interests and social agenda.

Personally I don’t buy such an argument at all and I think that much of the angst  felt by minions of the left like Ricky Pannowitz at the nature of the media is all about the fact that our current government is copping a great deal of flack over its poor performance and down right maladministration. Instead of looking to the mistakes of the governemnt  Ricky Pannowitz seeks to blame the messengers who point out its nakedness. Add this this his clear lack of proof reading or editing skills and what you get is a rather sloppy argument that fails utterly to make its case.

Cheers Comrades

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