Oz meltdown: Quiggin edition

Reading the latest delusionist nonsense at the Oz (from William Kininmonth) I was surprised, to put it mildly, to find myself quoted as an authority for the proposition that

mainstream science is on the verge of being overturned by the efforts of a group of dedicated amateurs

Readers may recall that what I actually wrote in the Fin last week was

While most media outlets give at least some space to these conspiracy theorists, the central role has been played by The Australian. Not only its opinion columnists (with a handful of honorable exceptions) and its editorials, but even its news reporting is dominated by the idea that mainstream science is on the verge of being overturned by the efforts of a group of dedicated amateurs, publishing their findings not in the peer-reviewed literature but through blogs, thinktanks and vanity presses

Interestingly, not even the keenest delusionists in the comments thread managed to construe this as a suggestion that amateur climate ‘science’ was actually a serious threat to the real thing. I’ll be interested to see how they manage to endorse or excuse Kininmonth here, and if any of them are actually willing to admit that one of their seemingly more reputable authorities (unlike the usual run of drama critics, dotty peers, retired mining executives and so on, Kininmonth has held an impressive range of positions and even, though mostly in the distant past, published some real peer-reviewed research ) has either been deliberately doctoring quotes or is incapable of basic comprehension.

In the spirit of sceptical inquiry, I’m not jumping to conclusions about the Oz itself on this one. Opinion editors rarely fact check their columnists, and on one memorable occasion back in the Tom Switzer era, reader Terje Peterson managed to elicit a correction from Janet Albrechtsen after a team effort here demonstrated that one of her columns was based on a misreading of statistics.

In the hope of a double, I’ve written to the Oz, asking for a correction in the following terms:

In “Cold facts dispel theories on warming” William Kininmonth attributed to John Quiggin the claim that “mainstream science is on the verge of being overturned by the efforts of a group of dedicated amateurs” . Quiggin does not hold this view, and the article in question referred to such claims, propagated by Kininmonth and others in the pages of The Australian, as displaying “a large dose of delusion.”

So, we’ll see what they have to say. Either way, anyone who thought Kininmonth deserved to be taken more seriously than, say, Lord Monckton > , will have to think again.

Update Wednesday’s Fin ran a letter from Kininmonth with the same doctored quote. Of course, there is almost no factchecking of letters, so I don’t blame the Fin for this and, if I can make some space, I can always reply in my next column. This is a reminder that the Oz still has time to redeem itself by running a correction. No word yet on this.

84 thoughts on “Oz meltdown: Quiggin edition

  1. The editorial in the Oz today was a piece of work in defence of the Oz. It seems that Media Watch scored some points this week and the editorial was semi hysterical on the topic of “illegal asylum seekers”. I doubt that the editor is capable of admitting to error except under the kind of pressure you discuss.

    Good luck on getting the misrepresentation of your views corrected.

    How many free copies of the Oz are being given away to maintain circulation figures? There is a free rack in the atrium of a central city building. Even then the rack is not emptied any day despite the large numbers of influential people who work there. Whilst editors may not fact check their contributors they should have a knowledge of what is likely to be the case. The lack of attention to detail or accuracy is leading to the downfall of this paper.

    In arguing today that it is quite ok to write about “illegal” asylum seekers the editor was admitting to all that he is not interested in facts but is happy to distort and manipulate.

  2. What was that saying about neo-liberals?
    “If you repeat a lie long enough, often enough and loud enough, the Australian will print it”.

    I agree you should defend yourself from misquoting. Do you know a friendly lawyer? Anyway, whether they admit it or not, the right wingers must know their ship is sinking. At the moment they are just vindictively shooting anyone who has gotten in the life boats.

  3. A similar problem with out-of-context quotes is common among creationists. There is simply a point where you have to stop being charitable – mind you, the charitable assumption is that the person is a borderline moron, in the clinical sense – and attribute it to malignant motives.

  4. Record Australian low for April set yesterday: -13C at Charlotte’s pass.

    Lemmee guess; for the true believers that’s evidence of runaway global warming?

    Funny how we hear all about the record highs but never the record lows. Makes a sane man think there’s just a wee bit of religion associated with this whole global warming schtick.

  5. I am not sure that all “Delusionists” are delusional. Conscious hoaxers and confidence tricksters are very common too. Many who are pushing anti-climate-science delusionism are doing so out of selfish short-term interest. They are aware that excessive CO2 emissions are damaging the atmosphere and environment but they just don’t care.

    Their entire committment is to self-interest. They have no respect for objective truth and no concern for the public good. Ken is right too. In some cases it is clearly more than mere stupidity. It is downright envious destructive malignity. They cannot do complex worthwhile work which gets a serious hearing so they want to tear down the work of those who can.

  6. Thanks for pointing that out, Skepticked: global warming is now officially OVER. I’m going to hook up the ski boat to the Hummer and head to Lake Eucumbene before it freezes over.

  7. They cannot do complex worthwhile work which gets a serious hearing so they want to tear down the work of those who can.

    That could almost be the greenie credo, Ikon.

  8. Skepticked, your reasoning is somewhat akin to looking at a burns patient with a microscope pointed at a patch of healthy skin and saying, “What are they on about? This guy is perfectly OK.”

  9. RE#9: Sorry, I missed the report of record April highs elsewhere in the country. Which bit of Australian skin is burning right now?

  10. Get serious, the stuff Albrechtsen writes has to be satire, nobody can be that stupid. If you stop reading here stuff as a serious attempt to articulate a useful opinion and start reading it as humor her column is seriously entertaining.

    Skipticked: Increased variability will result in higher highs and lower lows, it’s the trend that matters. If you want to see what’s happening take a look at photos of the North pole.

  11. Skepticked, let’s try a little hypothetical exercise. After all, we are both in the position of making an hypothesis (or taking on trust the hypotheses of others). And of course an hypothesis must be testable.

    What empirical event or events would convince you that anthropogenic global warming is happening? It needs to be a big general event. Would seeing the Arctic ice-free in summer convince you? If not, name the event that would convince you.

  12. Wht mprcl vnt r vnts wld cnvnc y tht nthrpgnc glbl wrmng s hppnng?

    m lrdy bt 70% crtn t s hppnng. Jst nt t th ctstrphc snstvty th lrmsts clm.

  13. Skepticked:

    That is the south pole, the north pole is at the other end. Down south the winds are circulating a little faster, for now a smaller area is getting colder and the southern ocean is a little rougher.

    The big issue at the moment is the ice on Greenland, as that melts the sea will rise, and it is melting, but it’s only worth a few inches that’s only a few pacific islands and a couple of deltas under water. If we push things hard enough and the south pole joins in the game we get a few feet, things then start getting very interesting.

    What I find very strange is the inability of the average skeptic to understand that a large amount of energy goes into melting ice and that while greenland is melting temperatures don’t actually move that much. It’s not as if none of them have never used their eskies.

  14. I shouldn’t feed the t****, but Skepticked, the number of high temp records are well outnumbering the number of low temps worldwide.

    The reason why we are getting some extreme daily lows in SE Australia is because of very dry air and lack of cloud – not the Charlotte’s Pass temp, but in the recent statistics of extreme lows. This is consistent with getting increased maximum temperatures.

    See, it’s not enough to play with the numbers – you have to know what they mean.

  15. Skepticked, I’m banning you immediately. While you’ve been of some value in further demonstrating the link between tea party nonsense and delusionism, your trolling has ceased to amuse me.

  16. I am not well-versed on climate change but can some of the more informed people help me out here?

    To what extent is climate change caused by man compared to what is natural/cyclical?

  17. And could you end the post with a short note on how to get this horrible non linear system we call an economy going again.

  18. As highly zen blogger with a measured approach to almost everything, I can sense in this post the kind of surging anger that for most of us comes out as %^#&@&^@.

    I trust you will receive your apology from the Orst.

  19. It’s all about the publishers, innit? Is Murdoch dead yet? Obviously not. It’s these corporate moguls who give life to this garbage.

    Consider this recent exchange at FOX News:

    O’Reilly: What did you think when you saw that cartoon in the New York Times yesterday of the Statue of Liberty with a whip? What did you think of that?

    Rove: I thought Pinch Sulzberger was right to worry about why he had to sell his building and his stock is in the toilet, and I’m glad it is.

    O’Reilly: But weren’t you offended as an American? I mean, that is just the lowest!

    Rove: Look look look, I’m from Texas! I’ve met this little Pinch Sulzberger. He is an elitist, effete snob, who thinks he knows better than the rest of America and has views that are distinctly outside the mainstream of what America’s all about.

    Now, considering how many big stories about Bush and Rove the NYT has deliberately squashed, not to mention the propaganda they’ve run for them ove rthe years, that’s pretty funny. If I ever hear Rove slagging off Murdoch like that, I’ll eat my shorts.

  20. Here’s the loc and the cite:

    Economist John Quiggin appears so concerned at the direction of events that he claims “mainstream science is on the verge of being overturned by the efforts of a group of dedicated amateurs” (The Australian Financial Review, April 23).

    With public perceptions changing so dramatically and quickly it is little wonder Ian Plimer’s latest book, Heaven and Earth, Global Warming: The Missing Science, has been received with such enthusiasm and isinto its third print run in as manyweeks.

    Cold facts dispel theories on warming

    Thanks, Marion. I’ve added the link to the post

  21. Sean G:

    Bear in mind this is entirely off the top of my head, but I think that’s more instructive than running to a reference – what a typical accepter of climate science would say to that.

    At the shortest range, catastrophic wildfires can result from various causes – both removing carbon sinks and producing particulates – And there are brown clouds of pollution that have variable effects.

    There are predictable catastrophic events such as big volcanic eruptions – which both cool the Earth with clouds and particulates and also add GHGs to the air, promoting long-term warming provided the CO2 etc. is enough to outlast the effects of particulates. Now we’re moving into the longer short range.

    A lot of short-range effects are man-made and a lot aren’t.

    There are cycles of weather, mostly involved with cyclical changes in ocean currents. Those are on a quite variable range, often around 30 years, say. The largest example is the ENSO.

    There are cycles of solar output, on an 11-year cycle causally and, in the case of some phenomena, a 22-year cycle because some of the differences don’t involve real changes in energy.

    At the other end of the scale, there are the Milankovic cycles, 3 of them, and their interaction (they’re on various schedules, so only when they intersect in certain ways do you get outsized warming or cooling, and the Northern Hemisphere is more important than the Southern for a glaciation.) is itself a cycle of tens of thousands of years.

    At the midrange there are several phenomena also. Solar output variations of the cycle often happen at an intermediate level – which is why they’re a candidate when you’re looking for other reasons besides deforestation, changing albedo, or GHGs for a midrange climate change. But the main one is still GHGs in the industrial era onward.

    In the human world there are particulates – most of which cool the Earth, but the black, large sooty particles of which help warm it due to albedo. Then there are greenhouse gases, mainly C02 and methane, which warm the planet – without greenhouse gases at all, we’d be cold, though not as cold as Mars. With the amount of greenhouse gases on Venus, we’d be a lifeless hot world, but not as hot as Venus.

    Nor are all these independent. A glaciation can start because first the Milankovic cycles are right, plus you’ve had the coincident equivalent of a giant La Nina, and the Northern Hemisphere starts icing up, turns white, reflects more light, cools the oceans, they start soaking up more C02, the C02 is no longer thick enough to intercept escaping radiation so it goes out into the stratosphere then into space, etc. etc.

    Warming from a positive feedback cycle initiated by man-made causes is warming caused by man. that would include increased water in the air in some cases, the sea absorbing less C02, carbon sinks dying off, plant cover dying. there are any number of positive feedback cycles out there that are just as important as the feeding of excess C02 and methane into the system to begin with.

    As a summary, since there aren’t any outsized changes in solar cycles lately, and other mid-range factors have more or less been balancing out, it’s fair to say that on the scale of centuries since the late 18th, most climate change has been man-made, and most climate change that’s warming has been caused by man.

    Do bear in mind too that weather is not climate and vice versa.

  22. I’m just gobsmacked at the blatant dishonesty The Australian has demonstrated. This is a new low, even for them.

    Is it worth sooling Media Watch onto them?

  23. There was a great photo of Rupert in yesterday’s Fin — he looked like Davros from Dr Who.

    Soes this mean that the Murdoch Press commentariat really are daleks?

  24. The Australian ought to have its name revoked and replaced by The Adulteration. Its always worth sooling media watch on to them. They get away with lies far more often than media watch gets to expose them. Media watch needs a show dedicated entirely to the Australian.

  25. just read it all as humour, ha ha ha

    a killing joke so to speak …

    “Of course certain situations cannot be judged if certain things are not known, and judgements born of ignorance, made about whole nations, work in the most terrible way.
    Today so very much is born out of ignorance.
    This is, as a matter of fact, caused by that black magic — I have described it like this on other occasions too — known today as journalism.
    It is a kind of black magic, and there was a certain truth in the way folk legend felt the inventors of the art of printing — with all the perspectives this opens up — to be black magicians.”
    R. Steiner 1917

  26. who do reckon is making the decisions at the Oz to publish all this denialist stuff. Is it coming from the editor in chief Chris Mitchell or their op-ed editor Rebecca Weissner. I’ve seen Rebecca on Q&A on two occasions and frankly she’s not particularly bright.

  27. Depending on their pet topics, all the papers are as bad as each other. John Howard once gave a speech in which he acknowledged that some people might feel that the monarchy was anachronistic. The Age dropped this attribution to those others and put the quotation in his own mouth, then gave it a headline that went even further in that direction.

    It got worse. Some months later another Age article repeated that faulty “concession” of Howard’s. I pointed out the error in an email, and got a reply from an editor citing their own earlier piece in support. When I pointed out that they had cooked that too, citing the Herald-Sun’s accurate report of the speech, they simply didn’t reply.

  28. William Kininmonth also managed to get a quarter page letter (I kid you not) published in yesterday’s Fin Review with the title “Ideology, not science, drives global change policy.”

    Eminent economist John Quiggin claims that the findings of mainstream science are about to be overturned by the efforts of a group of dedicated amateurs (Opinion, April 23). This elevates the anthropogenic global warming debate to the realms of surrealism. …

    I suppose the Letters Editor at the Fin Review couldn’t resist the opportunity to report the controversy rather than the facts. Or perhaps he’s angling for a job at The Australian.

    I think Prof. Quiggin underestimates the pervasiveness of climate change denialism in the media. The release of Ian Plimer’s book was met in the SMH with a chrous of halleljuahs from: Paul Sheehan, Miranda Devine and Michael Duffy (on his ABC Radio National program Counterpoint).

    Taking a lead from Ian Plimer, we’ve had Piers Ackermann, Tim Blair, and Andrew Bolt.

    The climate change denialists are relentless and repetitive in their advocacy, intimately tied as it is to their ideology.

    If you’re a member of the public, whom do you believe? On the one hand you have columnists across the entire spectrum of the print media, who still refer to themselves as journalists, and appear on the ABC, alternately writing weekly columns, asserting that AGW is at best fraud, or worse a conspiracy. On the other hand you have an occasional news story, reporting scientific findings and quoting using the carefully phrased and caveat-strewn language of the scientists.

  29. PML, you’ve made this point before, and a little Googling suggests you are overstating your case. What Howard said, it seems was the following

    one argument – and I acknowledge a strong one’ in favour of an Australian republic: ‘That the symbolism of Australia sharing its legal head of state with a number of other nations has become an anachronism and is no longer appropriate for an Australian nation about to enter the 21st century.

    That’s stronger than “some people might feel:, and consistent with Howard’s attempts to have the PM and not the GG or Queen fulfil functions associated with the Head of State.

  30. Jon#31

    Re the repeated publishing of denialist rubbish by the Australian. What also cant be disregarded is cost cutting, using journalists as mere lackeys to cobble something together from the barrage of media releases they get sent every day (rather than to allocate resources to journalists to investigate further and make an informed article). The higher the quality, the higher the cost. That hasnt deterred media moguls who have their heart in the business in the past however these days in the Australia major media publications its a rarity (in general its one word – Murdered).

    Behind that we cant ignore the well funded propagandist organisations (like the CIA and IPA) who’s major objective is to gain publication and seek to convert people’s opinions towards an alliance associated with conservative political parties to a) get their business interests served by seeking removal of regulation b) to promote the political careers of those sympathetic to their business objectives.

    ie there is a payoff to business in the bombardment of media organisations with private media releases. Combine that with a lazy or excessively frugal media organisation and anything goes as long as it keeps rolling in by email each day. Its cheap, its fast, and if its sensational or non factual who cares – it sells.

    There is only one remedy – dont buy the stupid paper.

  31. Thought it’s not a climate point, the coldest day at one location in April in Australia this year is somewhat offset by record hot days in 28 locations in Australia this year.


    Globally, there have been more record hot days than cold for the last 6 years.


    To stress again, this is about weather, not climate, but some might find the above links handy to reply to the single data-point weather nuts.

  32. Tony, I don’t enter into disputes about management decisions here. If you’re not satisfied with the service, you can get a free refund on the way out. If you have a comment on Kininmonth’s quote mining, feel free to post. Trolling diversions onto other topics will not be published – JQ

  33. JQ, I was paraphrasing as I don’t have the sources to hand. Nevertheless, it is my distinct recollection that the Age’s version omitted John Howard arm’s length description of that view and misrepesented him as holding it himself – then relied on their previous misrepresentation again later.

    If you wish I will try to find the variant transcripts provided by each newspaper on the internet, if they are still around. Googling for what Howard actually said isn’t enough; what matters for this issue is the Age’s selective editing to suit its own agenda.

  34. Tony G#38
    The Australian is a major source of disinformation. This is pretty well acknowledged and in the post so what is your point? To suppport an d perpetuate the lies of the vanity presses and extremist political stink tanks?

  35. Marion,

    Thanks for the response. Do you have any book suggestions that I can get to improve my knowledge of this area?

  36. Thought it’s not a climate point, the coldest day at one location in April in Australia this year is somewhat offset by record hot days in 28 locations in Australia this year.

    One thing worth pointing out about records in southern Australia is that the hot records are determined by air that comes from central Australia while the cold records are determined by air that comes from around the Antarctic circle and East Antarctica.

    Central Australia is warming relatively fast with global warming, so we expect the extreme hot records to keep being broken on a regular basis. However, East Antarctica and the ocean near it have warmed very little with global warming so it still retains the ability to generate record cold air, albeit not as often as the record highs from central Australian air.

    The bottom line is we will keep getting both hot and cold new records with the observed proviso that there will be a lot more hot records than cold records.

  37. John, if I may ask Marion Delgado if she is suggesting that there is no causal relationship between Urban Heat Island (UHI) and the artificial heat and carbon being released into the urban atmosphere by combustive processes from vehicles and industrial activity.

  38. Thanks for your reply, Chris. I’ll check that out.

    Or to put it in broader terms, the globe has warmed over the last hundred years (as have all the continents excepting perhaps Antarctica, I believe). With that in mind, it’s not too hard to see why there would be more record-breaking hot days than cold in recent years at various locations within a large region.

    Again, although it’s a meteorological, not a climatological argument, I like to point out to uncritical critics who focus on the weather, that there were more record breaking hot days than cold around the globe during *relatively* cool 2008. But I think it gets thorny trying to make a climatic argument from such statistics – I’m only replying within the (inadequate) parameters given.

    Still learning after studying the matter amateurishly for a scant 3 years – I’m still limited to broad observations and may always be.

  39. Alice @36

    There is only one remedy – dont buy the stupid paper.

    That’s what I’ve done. I’m not a financial type, but I buy the Australian Financial Review. Despite its narrow focus, I find it a much better paper than the other “quality” dailies in Sydney. Unlike the Wall Street Journal, it’s opinion pages haven’t devolved to wingnut central. Go figure.

    I left The Australian, or rather The Australian left me, years ago. I use to buy the SMH, but with the current batch of columnists, not to mention the most recent set of opinion page editors (no Peak Oil, Climate Change, or pro public transport articles, thanks very much), I decided that the only protest available was to withhold my daily $1.40. I don’t think anyone at Fairfax has noticed. 🙂

  40. Re Alice @ 41,

    Is your post about my post @ 39 the one on about the gianni quote @ 33?

    I can’t tell because JQ is up to his old antics of censoring the AGW dissenters. On my page it shows he has block my post @ 38, one rallying to the support of scepticked who got bumped at post 18, My second post @ 39 is showing “Your comment is awaiting moderation”

    I’m presuming you are on about my post@ 39 which links to the Herald Sun not the Australian (refuting the asserting in this post that only ‘The Australian’ is sceptical, when in fact the bulk of the Australian population is sceptical). It also indicates record cold weather, something most sane people don’t associate with warming, but which AGW proponents do.

  41. # 32 P.M.Lawrence Says: April 30th, 2009 at 12:23 pm

    Deepending on their pet topics, all the papers are as bad as each other.

    When I pointed out that they had cooked that too, citing the Herald-Sun’s accurate report of the speech, they simply didn’t reply.

    Too right.

    Probably Obama will do something significant about climate change in the run-up to the 2012 election. I predict that the Australian will then perform an astonishing back-flip on this issue. With faces no doubt unblushing and no hint of remorse for previous misdeeds.

    Journalists, far from being independent and courageous crusaders after truth, are mostly tragic victims of prevailing fashions in their particular beat, paper or demographic. Each paper has its sacred cows, with stringent tabus enforced against profaners. Evelyn Waugh mercilessly lampooned that trait in Scoop.

    If anything the media-academia complex is even more narrow-minded nowadays. Especially given the fixing of politically correct blinkers, the pressure to flog life-style ornaments in the supplements and the cringe-inducing status-one upsmanship that metro broadsheets exude out of every pore.

    Press bonnet-bees, being essentially ideological hood ornaments, are particularly susceptible to this kind of treatment. Although the Australian has sunk to a new low in their coverage of the Climate Wars. Most business pages took the bosses side in the Class War by endlessly hyping the talents of rock-star CEOs and Master of the Universe fianciers. Whilst never missing a chance to put the boot into unions. How’s that working out now?

    The Age in es[ecially, and Left-liberals in general, have been shamelessly biased in their coverage of the Culture Wars. Just today the Age published a blatant falsehood in order to flog some life into its dying hobby-horse.

    It has long been clear that a majority of Australians want a republic.

    In fact support for the republic peaked about 15 years ago, when Keating was shoving his elitist views down everyones throats. A Morgan poll, published in May 2008 and taken after the stacking of the republic committee in the2020 conference, concluded that the republic was an issue with minority support:

    In early May 45% (down 6% since Feb. 2005) believe Australia should become a Republic with an elected President, while 42% (up 2%) support Australia remaining a Monarchy and 13% (up 4%) are undecided — according to a special Morgan Poll of Australians taken last weekend (May 3/4, 2008).
    Support for a Republic with an elected President is the lowest since (then) Prime Minister Paul Keating raised the issue nearly 15 years ago in December 1993.

    I got particular malicious pleasure out of this mordant aside from the poll-master.

    Gary Morgan says:

    “What would please the Monarchists is 64% of those aged 14-17 say Australia should remain a Monarchy, with 23% supporting a Republic and 13% undecided.”

    Most people, particularly the media-academia complex, are more interested in playing for their team rather than pursuing the truth. And they are quite happy to swap teams when it suits because, lets face it, they “just want to be on the side thats winning”.

  42. Gianni – well you are one and I am another. The Australian only enrages me with the BS and I dont like being enraged at breakfast. As for the nodding dogs like Piers, Miranda, Albrechtson, Henderson (slightly less nodding but nodding less is still nodding)and that silly Peter Saunders from CIS who pops up for uncaring pieces in other news articles – I just dont read them. I see the names and tune out. Their pieces are seriously so boring and so predictable you could read the first line and write the rest yourself – there is never anything new in those pieces so I dont read them and I just get half a “news” paper and not a whole one.
    Wonder what the advertisers think? Do they think they are getting value for money? Amazing – but then I spy another full page 40% sale at DJs and that doesnt do it for me either any more (….ie up to 40% on two percent of the products).

    Its truly woeful – even on weekends.

  43. John, many would agree with Tim Lambert’s conclusion that the science is missing from Ian Plimer’s “Heaven and Earth”.

  44. it simply is not news reporting in any real sense of the term,
    it is pushing an agenda on almost everything

    and to say as an answer, well dont buy it then is stupid and misses the point …

    dont forget – pushers of the free choice bandwagon – that murdoch through organs like the australian has the power to propel nations to war,
    next time you choose to see the Australian in humorous terms consider the iraqi body count

    You have got to admit that Rupert Murdoch is one canny press tycoon because he has an unerring ability to choose editors across the world who think just like him. How else can we explain the extraordinary unity of thought in his newspaper empire about the need to make war on Iraq? After an exhaustive survey of the highest-selling and most influential papers across the world owned by Murdoch’s News Corporation, it is clear that all are singing from the same hymn sheet.

    Murdoch is chairman and chief executive of News Corp which owns more than 175 titles on three continents, publishes 40 million papers a week and dominates the newspaper markets in Britain, Australia and New Zealand. His television reach is greater still, but broadcasting – even when less regulated than in Britain – is not so plainly partisan. It is newspapers which set the agenda.

    …in a pro-American fervour which is echoed in virtually every Murdoch publication, it urged Blair on Friday to “stick with the friend you can trust through and through – America”.

    How lucky can Murdoch get! He hires 175 editors and, by remarkable coincidence, they all seem to love the nation which their boss has chosen as his own. The papers he owns in the country of his birth, Australia, are noticeably more muted than the New York Post and the Sun. But it doesn’t require a semiologist to see that the leader-writers are attempting to break down stubborn public opinion: some 39% of Australians oppose a war, even with UN backing, while 76% oppose a war unless there is full-hearted international support.

    Even so, the insistent message on the editorial pages of the five largest Murdoch papers in the main Australian cities – Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide – is that Bush is pursuing the right path. These papers show their colours by giving unswerving support to the rabidly pro-American prime minister John Howard, who has sent troops to the Middle East, and heaping scorn on the opposition leader, Simon Crean, for what the Melbourne Herald Sun calls “political opportunism” in opposing war.

    Murdoch’s national title, the Australian, is regarded as more sober than the city papers, and it’s true that many of its leading articles are masterpieces of fence-sitting waffle. But that isn’t true of the latest crop and there cannot be any doubt where its editor, Michael Stutchbury, stands. The daily slogan, “Countdown to war”, suggests that the paper is cheerleading the inevitability of an invasion, as did one of its more militant leaders two weeks ago. “Twelve years of defiance by Hussein show that the old policies of containment no longer work”, said the editorial. “Appeasement is not an option when it comes to dealing with Hussein…Failure to disarm Hussein would make the world a much more dangerous place.” On Saturday, the paper called on readers to “accept that the US is not the aggressor on the world stage, and that the real threat to the safety of the Australian people comes from Baghdad and Pyongyang”, and took a sideswipe at anti-war demonstrators.


    now multiply that damage by any silly number you like when you consider what he is trying to do in terms of the future of the biosphere

  45. Oh Smiths #50

    My suggestion not to buy was the last one left… and I agree so much with this comment of yours below (but at times our only ultimate power seems to be in the ability to say no and not to buy – Id like to see a mass movement along those lines but Im not hopeful and Murdoch keeps getting away with his own rampant version of extreme conservatism. Its a joke – unbiased reporting in Australia??? – it doesnt exist and it wont while ever the old B breathes.

    Your comment;

    “dont forget – pushers of the free choice bandwagon – that murdoch through organs like the australian has the power to propel nations to war,
    next time you choose to see the Australian in humorous terms consider the iraqi body count”

    I tried my best to mount a campaign against that filthy misleading war Smiths. You dont know how much I tried. I even went on SBS (with Brockley) and spoke against it and Im not fond of sticking myself out there normally. I was there with the other 400,000 in Hyde Park…and still the Coalition who were in power didnt listen to the people and what they wanted. All they did was increase the police, dogs and helicopters.

    Imagine that? The biggest demonstration in Australia’s history and Howard ups his dog and helicopter squad. It wasnt even a union demonstration. It was ordinary non political people people outraged. It was a strange government we had. Very strange indeed.

  46. I post this for those who want climate change questions answered in layman’s terms.

    The engine will not allow me to post the IPCC Climate Change FAQs’ http address so go to here;


    and select “Frequently asked Questions”.

  47. Jack
    you appear to have coined a new phrase “If anything the media-academia complex is even more narrow-minded nowadays.”

    There is nothing academic about the media Jack – not these days – its only spin “academia” they buy and print = when was the last time a real scientist had his work covered but the IPA are in weekly (you want to talk about the coverage left liberalism gets versus the looney tune right???? Zip, zero, zilch – its all free market, right wing, overzealous, AGW, Anti science, – anyone can be an expert you dont need no degree – upstart garbage).

    Your term Jack, sounds like “military industrial complex” conveniently converted to “media-academia complex.” Aint no such thing Jack and Ill call that one.

    There is no “media academia complex”. The media is at war with academia. Sad but true in this country. Nasty little Newscorp editors with a big chip on their shoulder and a hymn sheet.

  48. It certainly is a major problem.

    These deliberate denialist dissemblers damage democracy daily.

    Obviously a lot of people realise this and find it objectionable, but Murdoch’s Minions care not a jot for your disdain. They have a highly paid job to do, they “own” the debate.

    Pop over to “StopMurdoch” when you get a moment and either take up some of the ideas for action, explain why they won’t work, or provide your own brilliant ideas for what can be done.

    If you do absolutely nothing you lose your right to whinge about how crap their journalistic standards are.

  49. SeanG, a book I would highly recommend is ‘Climate Change: Turning Up the Heat’ by A. Barrie Pittock, from CSIRO publishing. It’s a great overview of the science, policy and politics of climate change, written for the layman by one of Australia’s top climate scientists (Pittock was head of CSIRO’s Climate Impact Group in the 1990s).

  50. Oh and Smiths#50
    Let me tell you about the SBS interview. They came looking in the anti war demonstrations for a north shore housewife who had never demonstrated before. Got to have an angle. They found it in me. It was true. What made me not only demonstrate but get an active group going where I lived?

    Murdochs damn newspapers and his media on the push to war in Iraq. Thats what. It was sickening. I realised with crystal clarity exactly how dangerous news propaganda can be in marshalling wrong headed hate and victimisation and division in a society.

    I later read about Manning Clarks emergence from a German metro station the very night after Cristallnacht where he recalled seeing angel faced young german soldiers still with the guns in their hands and the streets covered in the glass from smashed shop windows at their doing.

    Clark said it was only then he realised that evil existed. I had the same thoughts about the Murdoch press in the lead up to Iraq. His newspapers inflamed and divided the Australian people. Propaganda and misuse of media is an immensely dangerous animal in the wrong hands. Murdoch has the wrong hands. Iraq was all wrong, Murdoch was part of it and a lot of Australian people were drawn to take positions against even their own friends and family. He caused a rift a mile wide in our society and one fuelled by hatred.

  51. Unfortunately Alice it was later proved that Clark was not present during Kristallnacht, the facts were not important to the story

  52. Well no apology and almost last in the letters queue but at least the point was made that your views were misrepresented Prof Q. However the lauding letters published for climate denialists in the lead were a stark contrast. It seems that now if anyone thinks that people are in any way responsible for global warming it is just because of a massive ego problem.

  53. Considering that we cannot generate much power efficiently from green sources compared to, say, nuclear power. Should we be moving towards nuclear to reduce our carbon emissions?

  54. And then I had this dream that my whole family were just cartoon characters and our success had led to some crazy propaganda network called Fox News.

    That’s about the only worthwhile thing I’ve heard from the Murdoch empire in recent years. And it proves that not all of his employees are sycophants.

  55. SeanG,

    Lots of fairly sane people like Tim Flannery, James Lovelock, and Barry Brook are saying the same thing.

    I’m about half way through Tom Blees’s book “Prescription for the Plant” in which he makes the case that nuclear energy can be produced safely with the added advantage of removing hazardous and weapons grade nuclear waste from our stockpiles when using IFR technology. It’s not a technical book yet it highlights some of the bad statistics and shrill arguments put forward by anti-nuclear and pro-alternative energy lobbies.

    For example he points out the common practice by pro-solar lobbyists of quoting areas measured in kilometres squared or miles squared instead of square kilometres or square miles. It appears to be an intentionally deceptive practice to hide the real scale required when substituting solar technology for our current systems.

    Mind you I have a feeling that some politicians who have pushed the idea of converting to nuclear energy in recent times may be a bit disappoint when they learn that there is already enough fissile material above ground to power civilisations needs (using the IFR technology) for the next century.

  56. Ahh, yes…

    Is the “Uranium Institute” a sub-branch of the “Pond’s Institute”? Or is it the other way around?

    Or are they both separate divisions of the marketing department of the “Institute for Public Affairs”?

    So hard to keep up these days.

  57. I think I know the adfertorial you are all talking about.
    The graceless anonymous response to a mildly pc Media Watch commentary about tendentious tabloid terminology involving asylum seekers was totally our of proportion and dare I suggest, as paranoid as it was ignorant and un self-reflexive.
    Included in this perverse misuse of prime editorial space was my old friend Marilyn Shepherd, pitched right into the eye of the linguistic hurricane, for daring to email them asking them for what she feels to be a fair go for refugees, a group of people she empathises for deeply considering their real-world plight. She is a humble and cheerful, if noisy person with more decency in a toenail all the Murdoch hacks combined. From from the school of hard knocks herself, she understand suffering in a way the pampered Murdoch pussies could never begin to grasp, having copped her fair share of adversity in the past, and more besides.
    But, for people cocooned as much from reality and the consequences of their own egos and common morality as the overpaid, pretentious Murdoch black propagandists, a person down now only signifies as some one to be kicked in the guts whilst there.
    I can assure all Marilyn has, laughing fit to bust, emerged on the other side of this fetid blast of ill-tempered flatus. What a tragi-comic thing, when an elephant is troubled by a mouse!
    Perhaps individuals of sufficient mettle can make a difference, after all!
    Much too tough a hide to bothered by ill-informed bigots like the crank who wrote the editorial.
    But what a capricious vandalism of precious print space, when the real world and its stories are passed up, ignored, for the rubbish filling that space.

  58. William Kininmonth’s quoting of John Quiggin out of context in a manner which exactly reversed the meaning was either;

    (a) deliberate; or
    (b) illustrative of incompetence and carelessness with truth.

    The thinking public are getting completely sick and tired of the outright campaign of falsehoods being run by the anti-science right in their attempt to deny and silence scientific enquiry. Their sole motive is to ignore the signs of long-term damage to the biosphere for the purposes of pursuing short term financial gain.

  59. alice i am glad you did everything you could,

    i too walked as part of the largest most widespread demonstration in earths history,

    despite what the official histories might say, that was the day that really changed everything,

    it was the day that millions of ordinary people around the world who thought they lived in democracies realised they didnt,

    and it is for things like that people like albrechtson, sheridan and murdoch should never be forgiven

  60. I agree Smiths – it was only then when we went to Iraq that I realised that newspapers (what I thought were reasonably innocuous daily newspapers before that) could be an outright instrument of war and lies with no real reason, explanation or logic. That was the time my belief that the general goodwill of Australians was able to be twisted. But it can happen in any country any time.

    I will never (in my life) forget Murdochs diagrams of tanks, planes and the arrows of war strategy diagrams as we were little in the generals tent, as if designed for little boys paying games. Thats how it happened.

  61. Smiths#69 “should never be forgiven” I agree – ugly divisive voices hiding their true intent behind a tatty thin false veil of freedom and the fear they whipped up in others. Warmongers. No less.

  62. Rog @ 50, yeah, yeah, we know Manning Clark wasn’t actually there, it was his missus’ eye-witness account that made him realise evil existed.

    Point well missed.

  63. Yeah yeah Rog

    What you all forget is that long after his detractors names are forgotten, Manning Clark will long be remembered as Australia’s greatest historian. The attempts to discredit Manning Clark (he wore a fake Order of Lenin star badge to a party…….WOW. Big Woop. For that he was a communist? So were lots of others pre 1960 and as if it matters – it WAS a free country.)

    All of his discreditting and the smear campaign that went on before this delightful man died after producing the best series of history books this country had ever known for most of his life was just a filthy dirty little smear campaign whipped up by political fanatics and wetnursed by the professionally jealous who werent in the same league and will never be.

    Jealousy is a curse.

    Professor Clark was a lovely gentle historian, also beloved by his students. There are many reminiscences about that. I wont let you put Manning Clark down. A great Australian and a much greater Australian than his measly small minded detractors.

  64. per Stuart MacIntyre.

    “The controversy Manning Clark attracted in his lifetime has carried over into posthumous attacks on his reputation. In 1993 his former publisher Peter Ryan produced an extraordinary denunciation. In 1996 the Brisbane Courier-Mail published an eight-page feature alleging that Clark had been awarded the Order of Lenin for services as a Soviet agent. In his Australia Day speech of 2006 the prime minister blamed him for propagating the black armband view of Australian history. Contrary to these allegations, Clark was not an apologist for the left: indeed, as he embarked on his life’s work that resulted in the six-volume History of Australia he specifically rejected the radical view of the national history. Hence the response to the first volume from Brian Fitzpatrick, the leading radical historian: ’may all the muses except Clio bless him’.”

    Thats 6 wonderful volumes. Nothing compared. He didnt deserve the petty rubbishy smear campaign.

    Oh and I note the wretched rag The Australian is till trying to run with the story as a revivalist piece in…get this everyone…….December 2008.????


    Give it up.

    Everyone knows who really lies and distorts facts to suit their measly narrow minded one track political view (Yes, its The Australian AGAIN).

  65. I am curious to know what Jack Strocchi thinks of his beloved Paul Sheahan’s flipflop on climate change. He is now, after reading this week’s book, a denier. (The book seems to be not unlike Sheahan’s of about 15 years ago, a kind of right-wing Pilgeresque explanation of the way the world operates. Sheahan’s sold well too.)

  66. “In fact support for the republic peaked about 15 years ago, when Keating was shoving his elitist views down everyones throats.”

    in fact, republican support has been articially suppressed by John Howard shoving his elitist views down people’s throats . . .

  67. Alice, you don’t remember Media Watch, going back maybe five year to a decade, when Chris Mitchell was shown up as one those runing an orchestrated culture wars smear campaign with historian Manning Clark the target?
    A salvo in the black armband campaigns invoked to justify everything from the overiding of Wik and Mabo; everything from appropriation of Aboriginal property rights, to the death of Civil Society particularly Keynesian welfare; to the gelding of public broadcasting and “broadsheet” education( for want of a better term ).
    So, in this era when big busines wants unfettered access to fossil fuels for cheap power and for export and allied problems like Murray-Darling over allocations and destruction of incresingly rare old growth native forests, likewise a campaign is started invoking stuff from hired hands like William Bogong-moth and Plimer.
    It’s nothing to do with the science; everything to do with vested interests intent on shifting public opinion, regardless of whether inquiry and science raises questions or not.
    But I can understand why Quiggin is feeling aggreived. To call bloke an “economist”, well, that’s as pretty much below the belt as you can get…

  68. Ha ha Paul! Poor JQ. An economist! But a good one (lord help us. Look what else is out there parading as economists!)
    I know about the culture wars. The culture of smear and harassment of innocent people by some pretty dark, sneaky and dubious types I might add.
    We live in Australia – if I hadnt read about the history of it (widely) I would never have believed it. Some people are desperate arent they?

    Freedom of speech and freedom of thought and freedom of political belief or religious belief and independence of academia so that a country can gather the best of its intelligence without interference of commercial interests?

    Nope, not here in Australia. All our high ideals got thrown in a garbage bin somewhere. Its a backwoods of narrow minded vindictiveness.

  69. ProfQ,

    Do you support nuclear power in Australia? If we take a reality-based approach to our energy needs, what is the best and most efficient and green way of delivering energy to Australian households and businesses?

  70. Speaking of economics, wonder if JQ will do a thread starter on the Defence White Paper.
    They’ve just cracked down on the unemployed again, yet we are set to go bust in readiness for the next round with the Yellow Peril?

  71. # 75 Lord Sir Alexander “Dolly” Downer Says: May 1st, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    I am curious to know what Jack Strocchi thinks of his beloved Paul Sheahan’s flipflop on climate change. He is now, after reading this week’s book, a denier. (The book seems to be not unlike Sheahan’s of about 15 years ago, a kind of right-wing Pilgeresque explanation of the way the world operates. Sheahan’s sold well too.)

    Well, u-humm [clears throat noisily, stalling desperately for time]…I am flattered that Lord “Dolly” condescends to consider my opinion on these weighty matters of state. But I had rather hoped he had better things to do with his time.

    Its no secret that I have been a big fan of Sheehan’s work over the years. On “anthropological” matters he is utterly sound and can be relied on to expound his brand of populist unconventional wisdom at the drop of a hat. Good red-meat, all grist to the mill of we foaming-at-the-mouth Cultural Right-wingers.

    And until recently he has also been a reliable source of conventional wisdom on ecological matters. But just the other day he blotted his copybook. To be fair he did not go the whole way and actually endorse Pilmer’s conclusion. What he did endorse was Pilmer’s attacks on climate change “conformity and orthodoxy”:

    Heaven And Earth is an evidence-based attack on conformity and orthodoxy, including my own, and a reminder to respect informed dissent and beware of ideology subverting evidence.

    This is not a hanging offence. But its “not a good look” either.

    But thats not a good enough reason to consign the rest of Sheehan’s work to the trash can of ideological history. The Left still needs to be called to account for opening up a front in the war on science.

    In fact there is a quite good symmetry between Right- and Left-wing denialism and delusionism in matters of science here. The “Old Right” are undoubtedly delusional about ecological matters. But the “New Left” (+ “no enemies to the Left” camp followers – no names no pack drill), are almost as bad in anthropological matters.

    How else do you explain the fact that James Watson, the founder of modern genetics, was forced to recant and resign after violating a politically correct taboo on a contentious matter in the genetics of race. Ditto Larry Summers for over-stepping the same sort of line in the genetics of gender.

    And just last month Steve Rose, a notorious Marxist biologist, was suggesting that the scientific establishment should shut-down research into the biological basis for racial disparities. Instead of being hooted off stage he was, to the shame of Science Magazine, given a forum for airing this disgraceful view.

    Way to go to promote the open-ended pursuit of truth.

    Chris Mooney, a vehement critic of the Right, acknowledged that many Left-wingers could be as biased in the social sciences as Right-wingers were biased in the natural sciences:

    Harvard celebrated cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker…explained to me how this political reality tends to wall of certain areas of inquiry that might be seen as supporting conservative viewpoints: When its academics who wield the power, the political bias will be on the Left.

    Obviously the New Left et al have to do some pretty serious soul searching about their commitment to science in areas where Paul Sheehan has courageously covered over the years. (And been vindicated too: hows ATSIC going these days, eh?)

  72. 80# Hmmmmm Paul Walter – I worried about that too. A fiscal stimulus set to flow straight out and stimulate the US military industry and the US (hardware imports to us).? Now is not exactly a good time.

  73. 80# Paul. At least I read today that some will be built in Adelaide but it is still a worry to know that it was opposed by the Treasurer.

  74. Re Alice, #83. You can bet if the little shagger had been a croweater he wouldn’t have opposed it.
    Or if it had meant more damage done to the Murray Darling.

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