Home > #Ozfail > Literally, Catallaxy on a bad day

Literally, Catallaxy on a bad day

June 19th, 2014

A while back, I commented that the Oz was turning into a dysfunctional group blog, like Catallaxy on a bad day[1]. Now, it appears this piece of mild hyperbole has become literally true. The Oz has turned into a print version of Catallaxy, recycling their posts in support of tobacco industry propaganda. This really is Catallaxy at its predictable worst. The IPA, well represented there, started its career in science denialism with attacks on health scientists and, in particular, denial of the dangers of passive smoking. Like so many other tobacco industry fronts, it diversified into climate denial in the 1990s, using the same tricks and tropes.

I’m not sure if Catallaxy is the only blog source for the new Oz. The papers obsessive coverage of the AWU/Gillard case, which is looking rather quaint given the revelations of much more recent and clear-cut corruption on both sides of politics, seems to be a mixture of in-house stuff and lifts from the various extreme wingnut blogs devoted to the issue. In any case, it’s hard to tell the difference.

fn1. As previously agreed, no personal attacks on Catallaxy members, please.

Categories: #Ozfail Tags:
  1. Collin Street
    June 19th, 2014 at 07:12 | #1

    Most valuable demographic for advertisers and thus for advertising-funded media is “easilly-manipulated rich people”.

    [where's that paper about how your nigerian spam has to be obviously dodgy because if it were plausible they'd set hooks in fish they wouldn't be able to land?]

  2. Paul Norton
    June 19th, 2014 at 09:01 | #2

    While the reportage and op-eds have been outsourced to Catallaxy, today’s Letters page is dominated by the sort of people who were in last night’s mob opposing the construction of a mosque in Bendigo.

    From The Age report:

    Cr Elise Chapman repeated comments around Muslims having more children than Australians do.

    From a letter by Lynda Dowling in this morning’s Australian:

    When the number of Muslims exceed ours, their democratic right to vote could override ours. If Australians become the minority in an electorate, we could be forced to adopt sharia law.

  3. Garry Claridge
    June 19th, 2014 at 09:17 | #3

    @Collin Street
    One reason they are easily manipulated is from “fear” of either reducing their wealth or throttling the process from which their wealth grows.

  4. Jim
    June 19th, 2014 at 09:53 | #4

    I was feeling a little bit bored and sad this morning after the Soccerroos game, so I looked at the Catallaxy blog for the very first time. I instantly felt better as I saw the hilarious posts and responses. Then I realised that these people are actually being serious – not satirists.

    Now I feel even worse.

  5. Newtownian
    June 19th, 2014 at 10:08 | #5

    @Paul Norton

    Thanks for the link to the Bendigo stuff. You couldn’t make this stuff up.

    Collin Street’s comment to the effect ‘follow the money’ seems a good one. Hopefully over time the financial and wealth implications of the narrow mindedness associated with the Catalitic frame of mind will also be this ‘Push’s undoing.

    Looking at that picture from Bendigo makes me wonder if we aren’t seeing here a resurgence in the Lumpen One Nation push, this time backed by some more powerful supporters who see advantages in sowing irrationality and focused instead on a relatively powerless disparate group – escapee’s from the turmoil of the Middle East?

    Last time if memory serves me it was the ‘Asians’ (300 million Malaysians if memory serves me) i.e. anyone who might invade using the old gravitational theory spawned unintentionally by Anglocentric map makers. But interestingly they aren’t on the radar this time. I wonder why? As Collin reminds us – follow the money?

  6. June 19th, 2014 at 11:16 | #6

    @Newtownian

    How does One Nation come to be? What conditions are needed. You certainly need irrationality. Actually no, perhaps just lack of thought?

    Take the death penalty. All good One Nation supporters would want the death penalty re-introduced. But I suspect that is mainly because they haven’t thought it through. When you do, you see a policy that makes mistakes that can’t be fixed, for benefits that are dubious or non-existent.

    But for me the problem is when both major parties defend the indefensible, or just plain ignore it. With neither party seriously trying to fix growing inequality, you risk creating a class of people who are pray to the preaching of demagogues. Or idiots who vote for Palmer as some sort of protest.

  7. sunshine
    June 19th, 2014 at 11:34 | #7

    The Unions Royal Commission has special rules that make cross examination of witnesses very difficult (according to ABC 774 radio John Faine) -this results in a procession of witnesses making unsubstantiated claims which end up as the next days headlines in the Australian .The Coalition are going full steam ahead with the American trend of using the law to disqualify or discredit political opponents .Labor doesnt seem to have replied in kind .

  8. Michael
    June 19th, 2014 at 11:35 | #8

    Seriously who reads The Australian? It’s a joke of a newspaper and it’s time to stop pretending it has any real influence anymore – people on the left like to pretend it does have influence because it avoids dealing with the problems of a lack of coherent ideas and principles and the unrepresentative nature of the ALP.

  9. Newtownian
    June 19th, 2014 at 11:42 | #9

    @John Brookes

    Indeed John – I continually wonder why is it so? I’m not being facetious either. On your point a couple of observations.

    - while I dislike neoclassical economic/neoliberal ideology intensely they have raised a number of interesting observations pertinent to this debate which (nice) liberals/ idealists/ socialists/ greens ignore at their peril.

    My favourite is the problem of discounting – basically we tend to want our cake now even though we do try and plan for the future. Discounting vexes intergenerational equity but it stems not from ideology but from simple fact that we must live in the now first and like it or not the future is optional. I suggest this drives short termism and limited vision which underlies knee jerk xenophobia of today – but its hard to avoid completely.

    A second is this problem of ‘choosing’ to do more ethical things. Anyone IMHO who has looked at the arguments about free will v. determinism even cursorily will see its plausible we aren’t actually free because maybe its a meaningless concept. My mind revolts against this but then it also objected once to a lot of Dawkins’s technical points about natural selection. If free-will is an illusion then maybe what we are really dealing with in One Nation is just people who by happenstance have with a (very) different perspective, who see the world in xenophobic terms and they are actually thinking about this deeply – its just the answers their long held world views deliver are pretty obnoxious and potentially much harder to change than we realize. I have a friend who though a scientist doesn’t believe in climate change because he has an allergy to left/green ideas stemming from his family’s bad experiences from post war communism in eastern Europe.

    The possibility that One Nation are more ‘thoughtful’ than progressives believe is very depressing because it suggests change will be difficult and worse. So on a parting note here is something to cheer you up a little – an example of former wingnut who has admitted to his muddle headedness in the past.

    http://www.salon.com/2014/06/18/glenn_beck_admits_liberals_were_right_about_invading_iraq/

  10. Uncle Milton
    June 19th, 2014 at 11:52 | #10

    Speaking of people of that ilk, Ray Evans has died. We may not see the likes of him again.

  11. Michael
    June 19th, 2014 at 12:22 | #11

    The real problem is not The Australian or other fringe libertarian groups or even the IPA – they will never have widespread support because their ideas fall apart under even mild scrutiny and only a well secure and protected idiot would have the luxury of looking forward to the social breakdown there ideas would precipitate if put into practise.
    The problem is that the left have taken onboard the paradigm of society as a market and people as consumers. Once you start from these fake and inaccurate precepts you are on the wrong path and you will end up with idiotic policies like a market for education.

  12. Garry Claridge
    June 19th, 2014 at 13:13 | #12

    Today’s Catallaxy has an anti-anti-smoking article (The Australian also has one).

    In the Catallaxy article, this paragraph exists:
    The anti-tobacco lobby would like us to believe that they have pursued a campaign against an industry and a product. They expressly use terms such as “stigmatisation” and “denormalisation”. But, of course, you can’t stigmatise or denormalise industries or products you can only stigmatise or denormalise people.

    My point is that you can “stigmatise or denormalise” the owners (humans) of the industries producing and distributing those products. Hence, a weak argument by the author.

  13. Michaelson
    June 19th, 2014 at 13:45 | #13

    The premise on which this post is based seems somewhat misleading to me.

    The article The Oz printed from Catallaxy was about how Media Watch, and others, have hand-picked statistics about smoking trends and misrepresented them to suit their cause. Any objective assessment of the data available would show that the plain packaging laws have, at best, been only vaguely effective at deterring smokers. Clearly this conclusion is a favourable one for the tobacco industry, but it is a valid interpretation of the facts.

    This is an interesting story from a policy perspective, particularly in the context of other failed policy attempts to change behaviours (e.g. the alcopops tax).

  14. Fran Barlow
    June 19th, 2014 at 14:07 | #14

    PrQ (typo)

    This really is Catallaxy at its predictable worse {worst}.

  15. Fran Barlow
    June 19th, 2014 at 14:14 | #15

    @Garry Claridge

    But, of course, you can’t stigmatise or denormalise industries or products

    I daresay you can … child pr0n comes straight to mind; certain mood-altering substances, asbestos, nuclear hazmat and nuclear power, GM foods, assault rifles, cluster bombs landmines, white phosphorous, chemical weapons, biological weapons …

  16. Lt. Fred
    June 19th, 2014 at 15:37 | #16

    Unfortunately, @Michaelson , it appears that the tories are misleading us, not the ABC. At least, according to the Lancet and others.

    http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(14)60499-2/fulltext

  17. zoot
    June 19th, 2014 at 16:31 | #17

    The premise on which this post is based seems somewhat misleading to me.

    Seems totally clear and unambiguous to me.

    The Oz has turned into a print version of Catallaxy, recycling their posts in support of tobacco industry propaganda.

    Are you disputing that the Oz reprinted material from Catallaxy?

  18. may
    June 19th, 2014 at 18:00 | #18

    Collin Street :Most valuable demographic for advertisers and thus for advertising-funded media is “easilly-manipulated rich people”.
    [where's that paper about how your nigerian spam has to be obviously dodgy because if it were plausible they'd set hooks in fish they wouldn't be able to land?]

    t’aint just advertising for the “relaxed and gullible”,

    see the non compliant Immigration Dept in regard to info about boat arrivals.

    we were media bashed incessantly about boat arrivals before the current govt gained the power to control the boat arrival info.

    they say they have “stopped the boats”.

    really?

    or is it just they have stopped information about the boats?

  19. paul walter
    June 20th, 2014 at 01:04 | #19

    I think he means, “Cattalaxy on a GOOD day”.

  20. Sancho
    June 20th, 2014 at 10:59 | #20

    Stephen Koukoulas has been hitting the Oz pretty hard on this. The IPA News argument seems to go:

    – Of course tobacco consumption is up, because government regulation always makes things worse.

    – The ABS data on consumption cannot be trusted because it’s rigorous and subject to revision, while the Oz’s secret Nielsen report that isn’t available to the public is accurate and completely reliable, trust us on this.

    – But, just in case the ABS data are right, it’s still wrong because the statisticians aren’t counting freebie cigs and chop-chop, for which there are no reliable numbers, but the Oz is pretty sure it covers any gaps in their claims.

    – Shut up, leftist.

  21. Jason
    June 20th, 2014 at 15:21 | #21

    The backdrop for the surge in the tobacco debate is the case in the WTO, in which Australia will need to demonstrate a health benefit from the plain packaging restrictions. If the tobacco industry can demonstrate an increase in consumption this could be a problem for the Government.

    The tobacco industry (and Ergas) argue that plain packaging will lead to less product differentiation and hence competition on price, leading to lower prices and higher consumption. We are yet to see prices drop as far as I am aware and the Government have a schedule increase in the excise rate (I think 1 Sept). Ergas’ argument strikes me as bogus. It seems unlikely that customers would be switching to lower priced brands just because of plain packaging.

    Interestingly phillip morris has come out and said they have raised prices, which makes more sense to me on the basis that plain packaging actually creates a barrier to entry for new brands, hence prices will go up and demand fall.

    The other claim from the tobacco is that illicit tobacco will explode in Oz as a result of plain packaging. It hasn’t happened yet, and I really struggle to see an Australia with illegal chop chop available on every corner.

  22. rog
    June 20th, 2014 at 18:00 | #22

    As requested above, no attacks on Catallaxy posters, please

  23. Ken Miles
    June 20th, 2014 at 20:23 | #23

    Jason :
    Interestingly phillip morris has come out and said they have raised prices, which makes more sense to me on the basis that plain packaging actually creates a barrier to entry for new brands, hence prices will go up and demand fall.

    Do you have a link to Phillip Morris price rise?

    British American Tobacco have reported increased profits despite falling volumes, due to price rises and cost cutting – the opposite of what the Australian has been suggesting. I would be interested to see if PM is seeing a similar trend.

  24. hc
    June 21st, 2014 at 07:41 | #24

    The essence of the Catallaxy claim is that from 2012-2013 tobacco volumes increased by 0.26%. As the plain pakaging laws came into force in December 2012 they suggest this means the plain packaging laws failed.

    The data comes from a tobacco industry source and is contradicted by other sources.

    Note too that 0.26% is less than 1/6th the increase in population over that period which was 1.8%. Per capita consumption of smokes continued to fall. This isn’t consistent with failure of the pacaging laws even if the data is correct.

    But how could trained economists like Sloan, Ergas, Davidon, Creighton make such strong claims on the basis of such flimsy evidence? I’d like to know the reasons for this sustained campaign and of any possible involvement of the tobacco industry. The British are deciding on plain pacaging now and are paying close attention to events in Australia.

    http://www.harryrclarke.com/2014/06/21/plain-smoking-policies-and-poor-journalism/

  25. hc
    June 21st, 2014 at 07:44 | #25

    Ken, The BAT annual report is available online. It states prices have risen but that volumes have fallen. This is very interesting. It suggests the claims of the Catallaxy crew are wrong and that plain packaging is reducing smoking.

  26. June 21st, 2014 at 12:29 | #26

    The drug pushers surely can’t win this argument.

    If plain packaging has increased consumption, this surely is a windfall for the pushers? Advertising costs down, sales up. So why on earth would they oppose it?

    The can only be opposing it because it does hurt consumption. Its an argument that has climate change denialism written all over it.

  27. Vegetarian
    June 21st, 2014 at 18:08 | #27

    @Michaelson
    The whole aim of the plain packaging law is to make smoking less attractive to new smokers, i.e. kids. Surely it will take more than a year or two for this sort of change to become apparent.

  28. ChrisH
    June 21st, 2014 at 19:43 | #28

    And see Ergas in the Australian, and Catallaxy, quoting claims that plain packaging would reduce smoking overall by 6%. But he does acknowledge the main strategic importance of plain packaging: to cut the recruitment of children as smokers. You can read proof that plain packaging is encouraging children to smoke, if you regard one teacher’s anecdote of the number of child smokers they encountered last week as proof. If not, you might prefer statistics: and you might acknowledge that, at this stage, we have nothing on the effect of plain packaging on recruitment of smokers, while what we have on decline in smoking (quantity per capita) would require a huge drop before our sample sizes would let us reach statistical significance.

    But the pro-tobacco lobby doesn’t seem to have heard of statistical significance in its trumpeting of figures no other analyst is allowed to see…

  29. Ivor
    June 21st, 2014 at 22:22 | #29

    fn1. As previously agreed, no personal attacks on Catallaxy members, please.

    What? No sport?

    Catallaxy is a synonym for personal attacks on everyone.

  30. rog
    June 22nd, 2014 at 03:24 | #30

    This article reprinted in BMJ is disturbing from many angles, it shows the tobacco industry to knowingly be a drug company and from evidence provided during the discovery process they appear to be at ease with tobacco’s proven links to cancer and cardio/vascular disease.

    We are searching explicitly for a socially acceptable addictive product involving: a pattern of repeated consumption; a product which is likely to involve repeated handling; the essential constituent is most likely to be nicotine or a ‘direct’ substitute for it.”

    The tobacco industry really are indefensible.

  31. rog
    June 22nd, 2014 at 03:52 | #31

    Michael Pascoe writes about the link between tobacco companies and media, esp Rupert Murdoch. Much of the evidence against tobacco arose during a legal process and I imagine a lot more files being deleted before they provide further evidence.

  32. Fran Barlow
    June 22nd, 2014 at 07:39 | #32

    Hmmm ..

    http://thekouk.com/blog/the-australian-sinks-to-a-new-low-on-tobacco.html

    The Oz decides the battle for tobacco now requires Henry Ergas to respect the nonsense uttered by the other members of the post-truth movement.

  33. Ken Miles
    June 23rd, 2014 at 10:02 | #33

    Peter Martin is reporting that Treasury has released raw volume data (not chain volumes) that shows that the quantity of cigarettes sold in Australia is dropping.

  34. Ken Miles
    June 23rd, 2014 at 10:12 | #34

    hc :
    Ken, The BAT annual report is available online. It states prices have risen but that volumes have fallen. This is very interesting. It suggests the claims of the Catallaxy crew are wrong and that plain packaging is reducing smoking.

    Thanks – I’ve actually read the BAT report and fully agree that it is in direct contradiction to IPA/Australian/Catallaxy, but I was wondering if Philip Morris was saying the same.

    According to the Peter Martin article that I cited in my last comment, Imperial Tobacco (the third big player in the Australian market) is also reporting a drop in volumes.

Comments are closed.