Sauce for the goose

Among those hyperventilating about the ABC decision to publish the information about the spying fiasco, Andrew Bolt has been every bit as vociferous and hyperbolic as you would expect. Of course this is silly: the UK based Guardian was going to publish anyway, and if they had, for some reason, chosen not to do so, Snowden and his team could have given it to the Indonesian press, which would have been an even worse outcome for the Australian government.

In this context, it’s worth recalling that Bolt wasn’t always so highminded about protecting our nation’s secrets. Back in 2003, when Andrew Wilkie resigned from the Office of National Assessments because he could not stand the way Iraq intelligence was being “sexed up”, Bolt was denouncing anyone and everyone who suggested that the Iraq war was anything other than a brilliant success based on overwhelming evidence. Somehow, he received a leaked copy of a report written by Wilkie, which, with his characteristic method of selective quotation, he used to attack Wilkie’s credibility. The Howard government (which could not, of course, quote the original report) used Bolt’s article to attack Wilkie. As Mike Seccombe observed at the time

You have to admire the neat circularity of it: top secret information is leaked to a government-friendly journo, who puts bits of it deemed damaging to Wilkie on the public record. Downer’s office briefs Senator Macdonald using that information.

This is part of a more general information. When secrets embarrass the government, leaking them is a major crime. When the government wants to attack its opponents, leaks are just part of politics. I don’t have a problem with journalists who publish leaked information without fear or favor. But someone like Bolt, willing to be used as a conduit for leaks that make the government look good, and then to pontificate about the immorality of leaks that make the government look bad, isn’t a journalist – he’s a lackey.

And looking back again, it’s worth remembering that Wilkie was right, that every word Bolt wrote about Iraq turned out to be utterly, howlingly wrong, and that he has never apologised or retracted. The credibility of anything he writes now should be assessed in that light.

23 thoughts on “Sauce for the goose

  1. Not to mention climate-gate leaks. I remember Bolt (and his sycophants, like Terje) loving the illegal leaks around that, and carrying on in embarrassing fashion. Terje do you still remember how embarrassing your carry on was at the time? and Terje now blaming the ABC – lolcatz and hypocrisy much?

  2. The glaring hypocrisy of Bolt, Ackerman, Sheridan, Devine, Albrechtsen etc etc make sense only if you realise what they are which is a form of performance art outrage driven click-baiting. The fact that they’re quite quite mad isn’t really the point.

    Can we fight it? Sure; don’t click on Ltd News stories, don’t link to them for others on Facebook or Twitter or blogs; just use fair use provisions to screen grab/copy-paste/quote sections.

  3. @Pete Moran

    Agree 100%. Every click & link gives them undeserved ‘credibility’ which is what they crave and need to survive. A determined boycott might just diminish their influence enough for democracy to stand a chance.

  4. @Megan On democracy, be careful what you wish for. Bolt & Co. are no doubt nasty, but are mild compared to the word on the street. If we had true democracy (in a crude majoritarian sense), most of the good that has been achieved over the past century would be swept aside within a term. The Volk are not peace-loving and liberal. The current crazed Queensland mob and “Stop the boats!” are scary harbingers of a democratic future.

  5. @Hermit

    The Member for Denison was the only other to vote with Adam Bandt to attempt to remove the repeal words. Even gutless Labor voted with the Libs. WTF is that all about?

  6. Somewhat on-topic I’m again struck by the parallels between Greg Hunt and the Soviet era’s TD Lysenko. Both had the ear of the leader but their views were shunned by actual experts. Lysenko’s wacky ideas on agriculture lead to famine. His political patron Stalin shot or imprisoned many critics; see the section in repercussions in
    Now CSIRO a critic of soil carbon is to get the big efficiency dividend by order of Hunt’s patron, Tony Abbott. CSIRO said a drought would erase any benefit from soil carbon which is not Hunt’s prescribed view. Some think 25% of CSIRO staff could walk out the door. Not as bloody as a firing squad but it still sucks.

  7. @Crispin Bennett

    I was referring to the essential role in a democracy of an informed citizenry (and by extension, a diverse and ‘free’ press).

    Murdoch’s functional monopoly (and influence over/infiltration of their ABC) of our media denies us a broadly informed citizenry. From memory, there was a US study which showed Fox viewers knew less about the real world than people who didn’t consume any news media at all.

  8. I recommend the piece by Tony Fitzgerald QC in today’s ‘Brisbane Times’. Extracts:

    The media causes another major distortion when it takes sides, which is a significant concern in Australia where media ownership is highly concentrated and some – for whatever reason – is ostentatiously biased.

    Advertising seeks to persuade. Propaganda seeks to deceive and is most effective when the truth is hidden.

    Effective, functioning democracy is unachievable while the public is uninformed or misinformed. Australian democracy is now not merely or even substantially a contest between political parties and their policies but an invisible struggle between the general public and an increasingly professional, deeply cynical, “win at all costs” political class.

    Although the public has the numbers, the political class dominates public discussion and is firmly in control.

    The establishment media today is no longer the Fourth Estate but a part of the “political class”, and the Murdoch machine is far and away the worst.

  9. @Megan: Yes, I had read Fitzgerald’s welcome intervention, and agree with you on our media’s malign role. I’ll resist further thread derailment beyond one brief thought: (IMO) ‘democracy’ now is pretty much as ‘Christianity’ was in the 18th C: a kind of fetish to be flailed about in public, but essentially irrelevant to our most exigent challenges.

  10. The Murdoch Media want a slice of the ABC’s action. The ABC is one of the few local media that is willing to publish things which are ultimately in the public interest, whether that is in the political party of the day’s interest or not. Snowden was the the leaker in the initial instance; the files he leaked are available to all countries, and to think that Indonesia didn’t already have possession of the information relevant to their bilateral relationship with Australia is fanciful. All the ABC did was to allow the Australian public to know as well. Sure, it put Tony Abbott in a tight corner, but not one a diplomat would have had undue trouble with getting out of, and plenty of diplomatic experts were available to him as the PM; they still are available, if they haven’t been subject to swingeing cuts by now…

    Tony Abbott chose to go at it with the diplomatic equivalence of a bull in a china shop, a continuation of his tactic in opposition. He needs to temper it, even if the ultimate message is much the same.

    That Bolt would play this as the ABC being the aggressor against Aussie interests is risible, but par for the course; it is, after all, the very reason he is employed by the Murdoch Media.

  11. I don’t think Bolt is out to defend the government on this one. I think he is bashing the ABC to soften people up for the idea that ABC funding should be reined in. This may well suit Murdoch interests but it also servers the worldview that Bolt has regarding the role of government. And whilst I don’t think the ABC publication of the spying was a serious misjudgement I do support the case for reining in the ABC. So mixed feeling on this one. I’m inclined to go for a long walk whilst the ABC attack dogs do their thing.

  12. Bolt is writing (or broadcasting) for an audience. This may somewhat colour some of his utterings, and cause them to at times be inconsistent. For example; Against the almost united opinion of his audience he vigorously defended the bimbo who on live TV made some most unfair statements about Ben Roberts-Smith V.C. (on the same channel as Bolt broadcasts).

    Shame there is no link to Bolt, preventing us from reading for ourselves, and arriving at our own conclusions. This is not conducive to more exhaustive scholarship on the matter, and is rather small minded. You would expect better of a site that aspires to intellectual content, than such petty small mindedness. You would be wrong.

  13. @Charlene M

    preventing us from reading for ourselves

    “Preventing”? Not at all.

    Somehow, I’m confident you’ll be able to read it without the link being posted here.

    I’m getting the feeling that the boycott idea is something they’re really terrified of. Good.

  14. If you look carefully while reading a Bolt column, you will notice there is rarely (if ever) a link – particularly to something he is criticising, or quoting selectively. I say not linking to him is, as ProfQ suggests, the right sauce for the goose.

  15. If people want to rein in the ABC, they could start by ditching Landline, as obviously the private sector will provide farmers and the rural community with an equivalent. Oh—maybe not.

    Quite frankly, so much of the outrage at “leftist bias” in the ABC is confected, to use a choice term of Howard’s. With the IPA and other right wing establishment players having so much free rein (paid for by us, the members of the public) in what they say on the good ol’ ABC, and a board and general management with plenty of Liberal favourites in place, the ABC is not a hotbed of Communists. Having just made the mistake of browsing this weekend’s edition of the Liberal Party newspaper, it is painfully apparent that a severely depleted ABC would simply give more space to the perpetual supporters of the conservative arm of the Liberals, whilst depriving Australians of an outlet for news and analysis that is largely free from propaganda.

    Personally, I don’t mind if there are some publications/media which are leftwing or rightwing, but I do mind if there is no space for media which strives for neutral ground in its news and news analysis; that neutral space is pretty much only available through the ABC and SBS.

    If Bolt was fair-minded in his opinions, he would have asked the most basic question first: why did the DSD/ASD feel it essential to tap the Indonesian’s personal communications, including his family, during that period in 2009? I would argue that the ABC’s news story is in the public interest, precisely because it should have provoked a number of journalists and opinion writers to think about this question, but sadly, only bloggers have even mentioned it. The MSM’s focus has been largely on how to assign the most blame for Abbott’s self-inflicted diplomatic debacle onto the Labor party and/or the ABC; on deflection of Abbott’s appalling handling of the issue and onto other secondary concerns.

  16. @Donald Oats

    but I do mind if there is no space for media which strives for neutral ground in its news and news analysis; that neutral space is pretty much only available through the ABC and SBS.

    There’s no such thing as “neutral” ground. All reportage brings a perspective, albeit some is less obvious than others. ATM ABC N&CA is little better than a launderer of RW memes from Murdoch and we’d be better off with it being suspended until it can do intellectual rigour consistently.

    #TheirABC does have some quality documentary, including on social policy and other issues — The Science Show and Background Briefing come to mind — but their 24/7 news is just a slightly less tainted extra loudspeaker for Murdoch.

  17. @Donald Oats
    I thought ABC Landline took a political position by lambasting the proposed takeover of GrainCorp by Archer Daniels Midland. They interviewed one US farmer who expected no problems and half a dozen US and Australian agri people who thought it was a bad idea. If that’s not bias I don’t know what is. Joe Hockey has til Dec 17 to decide on the takeover. Maybe it will be approve the GrainCorp sale and while he’s at it privatise the ABC.

    However I also blame the ABC for beating up Gillard’s relatively minor woes in government, as if taking their cues from The Australian newspaper.

  18. The Landline article may have been biased against ADM, but if so it was merely redressing the MSM bias towards the ‘free market’ a little. The sale of GNC to ADM will remove not just value-adding along the supply chain but decision making, training, R&D, control of transport, control of ports, all for a price that recognises long term value, something Australian businesses are bad at. Why haven’t the super funds seen this lnog term value and invested?
    We clearly relish being the stupid country. I’m surprised PrQ hasn’t commented at length at the loss of control and value-adding in Australian primary production. We see it in beef (why does NZ have no live livestock export trade and yet prosper as a meat exporter?), grain, wine, sugar and horticulture.

  19. To take a pragmatic Real Politik view. Any physical fixed assets sold to O/S interests can be nationalised with or without compensation at a later date, especially in emergency circumstances, albeit with a view to possible retaliatory actions.

    For example, if China bought a lot of beef interests in Australia, and at some later date found itself at war with Australia and its allies in some sense (not necessarily a hot or nuclear war) , then all China’s beef interests in Australia could easily be compulsorily acquired by the Aust. Federal Govt; possession being 10/10ths of the law in such cases.

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