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Epic Oz Meltdown

December 1st, 2010

The periodic meltdowns at the Oz (see here and here) have been growing ever more bizarre. But it will be hard to top this episode, where editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell threatened to sue academic Julie Posetti for defamation. Posetti’s supposed defamation consisted of two Twitter posts summarising a speech by Asa Wahlquist, for many years the leading environmental reporter at the Oz. As Posetti summarised it Wahlquist found working for the Oz under Mitchell “excruciating” … “torture”, because of the paper’s anti-science stance

I’m a bit behind on this – as usual, Tim Lambert is the go-to guy, and there are more reports at Crikey, LP and the ABC.

What is most amusing here is the way in which a string of Oz journalists spontaneously line up to write articles saying that Chris Mitchell would never tell anyone what to write.

What is most significant, looking at the Murdoch press more generally, is Murdoch’s willingness to trash the credibility of his media assets, built up over a long period, in the pursuit of ideological agendas and (perhaps) short-term profits. The Oz was never a great paper, but it used to be a good one, even if it was pretty reliably conservative. More strikingly, the same process is going on at The Times (of London), once regarded as the world’s ultimate journal of record. The same is true of the Wall Street Journal – before Murdoch took over the general view was that even if the Op-Ed pages were barking mad, the news was always accurate. Now the distinction between news and opinion is disappearing fast.

And the same can be said for the political right as a whole. Their eagerness to see plain issues of fact (WMDs in Iraq, global warming, the existence of a DDT ban) as subjects for political debate hasn’t done them much harm in the short term. But as the “epistemic closure” fuss a while back shows, everyone is increasingly aware that truth and falsehood are no longer meaningful terms for those on the right. This will, I think, entail some big costs for them in the long run.

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  1. Mark
    December 1st, 2010 at 09:25 | #1

    This post has no title.

    Or, possibly, one that is all white space.

  2. Roger
    December 1st, 2010 at 12:52 | #2

    Re: “But as the “epistemic closure” fuss a while back shows, everyone is increasingly aware that truth and falsehood are no longer meaningful terms for those on the right. This will, I think, entail some big costs for them in the long run.”

    That’s if we are permitted a long run by “those on the right”. No long run, no costs specific to them.

  3. December 1st, 2010 at 13:01 | #3

    should there be links on “(see here and here)” ?

  4. charlie
    December 1st, 2010 at 14:54 | #4

    The twitter button on your page has the wrong link to your Twitter page – it should be http://twitter.com/#!/JohnQuiggin

  5. Laurie Gaffney
    December 1st, 2010 at 14:54 | #5

    “This will, I think, entail some big costs for them in the long run”. We can only hope.

  6. gregh
    December 1st, 2010 at 17:02 | #6

    Whilst I agree with the ‘big costs in the long run’ (or at least I hope that it is true and can construct a plausible story where it is true) I consider Labor inside ‘the Right’. Another plausible story, one that I would believe, could be made where Murdoch and his lickboots are a greater threat to civil society than religious fundamentalists.

  7. Fran Barlow
    December 1st, 2010 at 17:30 | #7


    9225 “9225”

  8. paul walter
    December 1st, 2010 at 19:48 | #8

    Fran, why are you giving Mark your phone number.
    Are you sure he’ll respect you afterwards?

  9. Donald Oats
    December 2nd, 2010 at 06:01 | #9

    I left the Oz regular readership long ago, mainly because of the insufferable – almost la-Rouchian angle on climate change in particular – slant on so many news items and even feature articles. When not even the content has to be accurate or true – every damn thing is opinion or “sources close to…said…”, it is a bit of a stretch to trust. Love the irony of suing an academic for tweeting an ex-journo fairly accurately (cf newsprint hurdle of accuracy in reporting, anyway). It resonates.

  10. Alice
    December 2nd, 2010 at 06:56 | #10

    @paul walter
    ROFL – wondering what on earth Fran was doing crossed my mind as well.

  11. Fran Barlow
    December 2nd, 2010 at 09:31 | #11


    The file name of the post was “9225”. Presumably this was autogenerated, but it was hyperlinked with this string as the identifier at the RecentPosts table.

  12. sHx
    December 2nd, 2010 at 16:01 | #12

    JQ, a question.

    Would you be so critical of OZ if they paid you for regular columns? I am extremely suspicious as to why you never bag the Fin Review.

  13. Alice
    December 2nd, 2010 at 18:50 | #13

    @Fran Barlow
    ha ha Fran…yr post did look like you were handing out your phone no willy nilly to unknowns!! (eww as Paul said) but I know your were not!
    Anyway – Im not quite sure why the heading 9225 disappeared – but it did.

  14. December 2nd, 2010 at 19:26 | #14

    MItchell has now suggested (via his lawyer) that Posetti apologise, go to mediation with Asa Wahlquist and spend several days with him seeing how The Australian works – in other he won’t sue if she subjects herself to several different sorts of ritual public humiliation. He obviously doesn’t understand that he really, really should just walk away from this before it gets even worse for him.

  15. Alice
    December 2nd, 2010 at 19:57 | #15

    Mitchell sounds like a nasty lying piece of work to me….lets not gve him the benefits of any doubts because it doesnt seem like the doubt anywhere is falling in his favour – just some bumptious aggro newspaper hack…

  16. Robert in UK
    December 2nd, 2010 at 23:35 | #16

    A small question re: “epistemic closure”. I know what it means in this context, but the confusing thing for me is that the phrase is already used to describe the acceptance of knowledge under entailment. It seems to be an awful phrase to choose for these purposes:


    Can’t we call it something else?

  17. paul walter
    December 3rd, 2010 at 06:11 | #17

    No one ever sends their phone number to me, unless it thebailiffs.

  18. paul walter
    December 3rd, 2010 at 06:12 | #18

    No one ever sends their phone number to me, unless its the bailiffs.

  19. jquiggin
    December 3rd, 2010 at 06:24 | #19

    @Robert in UK
    I prefer “agnatology” which I got from, I think, Fran B

  20. paul walter
    December 3rd, 2010 at 06:43 | #20

    Ah, Agnes Day… mercurial vision with the limpid dark eyes, from schoolsdays of future past.
    Including the Bettancourt, why worry about the “structures” taking to the streets, when you can can the very base, itself, or so they think as they dehumanise themselves deeper.
    They don’t get who “dumbing down” dumbs down, meritricious stumblebums that they are.

  21. Robert in UK
    December 3rd, 2010 at 09:05 | #21

    Thanks JQ. Agnatology is a good word for it. I might use it from now on.

  22. Fran Barlow
    December 3rd, 2010 at 11:48 | #22


    I prefer “agnatology” which I got from, I think, Fran B

    And to add to the chain of provenance, I got it from Naomi Oreskes.

  23. Alice
    December 4th, 2010 at 19:20 | #23

    @Fran Barlow
    I dont know what agnatology means…you clever dicks (who only stmbled across this new word yesterday…). I now have to go look it up..

  24. Alice
    December 4th, 2010 at 19:31 | #24

    @Fran Barlow
    Praise be to Naomi – we normal folk are are drowning in agnotology these days
    Its got so bad there is a real feeling of persistent lingering dissonance…”ie can this really be happening? Do people actually believe this nonsense?”

    agnotology = “is the study of culturally-induced ignorance or doubt, particularly the publication of inaccurate or misleading scientific data”.

    Everyday phenomenon – get your “news” ( ranters regular opinions ? Proffeshor Schkepticks ideas ?..) here.

    Cant stop using Dons = its almost as good as agnotology.

  25. Jill Rush
    December 4th, 2010 at 21:45 | #25

    As soon as Government departments stop buying the Oz and they stop giving it away free and start charging for online copy will it have any circulation left?

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