G�day. As I noted in Webdiary’s ethics, my piece on the evolution of Webdiary, whenever its content tilts strongly to the �left�, whatever that means these days, readers self-balance the forum.
On July 26, Webdiarist Shaun O’Brien emailed me this complaint:
I sign off to Webdiary oblivion since really I have more fun watching my kids videos than I do trawling through Webdiary these days. I always understood that I would be in the conservative minority but now it has come to such a state that no longer does Webdiary stand for hearing alternative views. Fellow conservative and webdiary columnist Noel Hadjimichael hasn’t had an entry since April 23 and I have hardly read a dissenting view over the last couple of months – please point me to one. (Margo: Brian Harradine, man of honour.)
Maybe Webdiary no longer stands for different views as much as for scaring them away.
Margo, by all means press for “regime” change with the Federal Government, but it�s ironic that you have lost all sense of perspective in your pursuit of this goal.
Anyway I will continue to browse Webdiary on occasions to see if the tide has turned, but given the latest lot of articles I will next expecting to see that Howard/Bush were really the ones hiding behind the grassy knoll that fateful day or that Michael Moore is now your latest Webdiarist.
I still offer you my best for the future but you now have lost one dissenting voice in a roar of screaming anti-Howard vitriol.
The very next day, Noel sent me a column. The hiatus was due to a change of jobs, from solicitor to lecturer in constitutional law at the University of Western Sydney. I emailed Shaun with the good news, and got some strong views on current issues in reply. So, first Shaun, then Noel�s column, and a tidying up of the now-closed �Z� debate � a correction from Steve Sher, and what happened to the content of Rubenstein strikes again: Now Howard’s a champion of human rights!
Expecting me to stamp my foot and exclaim out my indignation to the horrible tree hugging leftie propaganda that has populated Webdiary over the last few months? You have certainly copped a pummelling over the Zionist article. I am strangely ambivalent over that topic since the whole Israel-v-the rest of the world is a very circular argument that will not be resolved without some sort of “big bang” event. Terrible thoughts I know, but having a pragmatic view of the world allows me to see what will probably happen versus what should happen. Israel and the Arabs act like the line out of the movie The Untouchables – “They pull a knife you pull a gun. They send one of yours to the hospital you send one of theirs to the morgue”.
Let�s get to some topics:
(1) The US
Its funny seeing everyone viewing the US through their own eyes rather than stepping back and really understanding the US psyche. I am amazed that so many think that the woes of the world have only come about because GWB is in power. How stupid are people?
Most people think that Reagan was a great president, but I see more of today�s events falling on his legacy more than any president after him, especially in the Middle East. Think about his support of the mujihadeen in Afghanistan against the Soviets that led to the installation of the Taliban, cosy relationships with Saddam during the Iran/Iraq war, backroom deals with Iran (Iran-Contra affair), poor strategic and tactical decisions made in the occupation of Lebanon and wasting so much energy on what was happening in Central America when it was never going to have an impact on the US/world anyway.
It would be ironic that in 10 or 20 years time we look back at the whole Iraq invasion and see that it led to an improvement in the Middle East. It my feeling that GWB and his invasion will ultimately be seen in this light, even though I think he is thick as two bricks.
(2) Intelligence Agency Failings
If the intelligence agencies of the world ever worked as well as the media believed they should have then we would not have had any of the two world wars, the Korean and Vietnam wars, the two Iraq wars, Sept 11 or Bali. The Pearl Harbour attack would have been stopped and the West would have not wasted so much energy in seeing the end of the Soviets, since their system of government was never ultimately going to work. The only time we have seen intelligence information working in the world was the Cuban affair, and that�s because the US had supposedly someone on the inside of the Soviets giving them info on the capabilities that allowed the US to stare them down.
But since Saddam had such tight control over his entire country, the chances of getting good intelligence from a source was near impossible, and if intelligence history tell us anything it is that the human element inside is the only way to have reliable intelligence – why do you think the Mossad is so good for Israel? – rather than the guesses we had on Iraq�s WMD.
It�s good to see Latham sweat over the FTA, especially since it shows that the ALP is beholden to the unions still, and as such are the ultimate “special interest” lobby group in politics. After all the whinging about Hanson and her impact on the Liberal�s policies, it�s a pity the media don�t treat the ALP in the same vein with the unions (my favourite whipping horse).
I wonder how many of the ALP supporting music bands are complaining about the laws that are supposedly being offered in the FTA with copyright infringements. It�s my understanding that they would get much more protections from the law in stopping piracy from the internet, but not a word from them. Where are Garrett�s comments as a former musician?? I could be horribly wrong about this part of the FTA, but if so it�s the media�s fault, since that�s where I heard it from.
(4) Commonwealth-v- the States
Why is there so little comment in Webdiary over one of the most negative impacts on this country – the constant bickering and bureaucratic wastage with the responsibilities over the same areas between the Federal and States? And to have Latham and the Labor premiers all sit down for a love fest made me laugh. Just wait to the next split of GST revenues and see how long the togetherness lasts, or maybe when the southern states want Queensland to lose more water rights for the Murray. How much money is wasted in doubling up the bureaucracy? How much money for schools, unis and health benefits could be increased?
Shame on you Margo for not highlighting what REALLY is impacting on this country rather than some ideological rant about Iraq.
(5) The Media
Again this is crystal balling, but imagine if the Hawke/Keating government had as much scrutiny from the media, especially from the internet, as the Howard Government has and tell me if their standing would not have fallen just as much. I know you don�t have a good word to say about the Carr Labor government and I know that Beattie here in Queensland is a master manipulator, so it is just a change in politics that has to adapt to the greater and minute coverage offered by the media of everything it does.
The Hawke/ALP government would not have lasted as long as they did, and poor old Joh and the Nats in Queensland would not have had the chance to set up all their corrupt activities.
I see that the poor pollies have greater exposure from the media than ever before and the ridiculous standards (outside of corrupt practices of course) which the media judge them sometimes make me fear what sort of person will choose to be a politician in the years to come. If you journalists keep to a standard of reporting of the politicians that doesn�t allow some of the freedom the rest of us are afforded in our lives then the quality of people taking up the responsibilities of running our country will be bland bunch of Howard�s (see I am not a Howard lover!!!). Heaven help us!!!!!
Sorry if the above is a bit all over the place but I did have plenty on my chest to say. Till next time (maybe!!)
Conviction politics, please!
by Noel Hadjimichael
Give me conviction leadership over convenience pollies any day.
The last three months have seen Latham Labor take a few steps forward and a lot of steps back.
Latham has reinstated Kim Beazley to the ALP front bench to deflect worry about Mark Latham�s line on defence, security and all that scary stuff. Don�t expect the leader to allow Kim to speak to toddlers or even voters in outer suburban marginals in case they like him more than the boss.
We have seen Simon Crean achieve what only obscure backbenchers aim for: total and complete absence from the policy debate and the television screens of the nation. No cheerful visit to the Kerry Anne show or even the SBS news.
This new Labor crowd have done a great job on the hard issues. They have either sent them to committees (the Free Trade Agreement), left things up in the air (funding for private schools) or tried to please everyone (no tax policy until it is too late). But we have enjoyed a vision of things that matter: a return to the tired old Republic, the ambiguous offer of a better deal to East Timor on energy resources and humanitarian aid to Iraq (pity about the security situation).
What we need is to discover who the conviction politicians are – the people who actually believe in something, stand for something or even take unpopular decisions because they think them right, not expedient. Leadership is not a mastery of focus groups, it is more a reflection of strategic vision coupled with the courage to see things through. This is not a time for leadership that is untested or suspect.
This is no time for the crash through or crash politics of the trendy 1970s courtesy of Mr Latham�s apparent return to the good old days of Mr Whitlam.
Whether the progressive left like it or not, both John Howard and Bob Brown have carved out a very powerful status as conviction politicians. It is possible for voters to easily comprehend where these leaders are coming from in terms of values, heritage, policy framework and track record.
Labor must be very frightened about their prospects in seats like Banks and Greenway in Sydney�s suburbs. The appeal of generation X gimmicks will win precious few voters in the trendy cafes of Haberfield or Paddington. However, the priorities of sound economic management, security with the US alliance intact and a growing sense of mature nationalism will sway more voters in the key seats that Labor will have to keep.
A rushed spending spree from Labor funded from the black hole of waste reductions will rock interest rates. A union leadership endorsed industrial relations policy will defeat the very aspirational small business voters that Mr Latham was chosen to appeal to.
Reading books to kids will win applause from parents, jeopardising their access to affordable private schools will create distrust and a backlash.
Standing in front of an American flag will calm fears of diplomatic disasters; a lack of clarity on the war on terror will rob Labor of its right to a return to government.
Giving working families a helping hand with tax cuts would be welcome step, attacking relief for employees on about $55,000 a year is just old style class envy.
If I want a real left party with its commitment to big picture social justice, I can punt for the Greens any time soon. If I want a government that will offer a package to promote and prosper middle Australia I just can�t go past the Coalition.
Sadly, Labor has seen its star peak and must now be thinking about an exit strategy from the politics of young blood, Generation X stunts and keeping the frontbench away from the media.
With regard to the recent debate about alleged Zionist “Media Control” a link was posted supplied by Ronald H Tolkien in The post-apology debate . It was to media monitors.net and contained a report quoting the Israeli PM, Ariel Sharon allegedly saying to then Foreign Minister Peres in 2001: “Don’t worry about American pressure; we the Jewish people control America.”
Media Monitors’ website listed the source of this quote to “I.A.P. News”. Upon previously hearing that this quote had been fabricated, I endeavoured to contact “I.A.P. News” and get and answer. After all, surely this organisation could put the matter to rest once and for all. Alas, has anyone here actually done a search for an I.A.P. News Service?
I did, with interesting results. It appears there is no international media organisation by this name, as the web link implies.
Upon undertaking an internet search following the alleged quote by Ariel Sharon, all reported mentions of his words alluded to it being reported by “I.A.P. News”. I.A.P. claimed the words were broadcast on Israel Radio (Kol Yisrael), in Hebrew. Israel radio denies this was ever broadcast. Interestingly, no other source has picked it up. I could not find reference to it being reported in any other media outlet. All trails appeared to lead back to I.A.P.
And I.A.P. itself is an interesting outfit. It would appear this “News Service” has been the subject of federal US investigations for possible links to terrorist groups, such as Hamas. Note the details of the FBI raid on their services as reported in The Guardian.
Margo, the alleged comments were reproduced by prominent American Universal Press Columnist Georgie Anne Geyer, in the May 10th edition of the Chicago Tribune.
Following complaints that the quote was false, Universal Press’s own research into the source of the comments led it to release a statement that the alleged words by Sharon were “widely reported in the Palestinian press but cannot be confirmed in independent sources. Geyer and Universal Press Syndicate regret not having attributed the quote more specifically”.
In fact, there was no quote by Ariel Sharon claiming “control” of America as alleged. I challenge any Webdiarist here to present its transcript, in full, as reported by any reputable news organisation.
It is a worrying sign of the times that such a blatant falsehood like this could even get a run. When false statements like this are fabricated and then propagated, they lead to further cementing of a mindset that promotes racial division.
How does it make Jews look? How did it impact upon people’s thoughts after opening the offending falsehood on Tuesday? And now, to discover that it is not true? Richard Tolkien has done himself a disservice by not investigating the links fully contained in Media Monitors.Net.
The quote contained a myth designed to sustain an even longer and more hate-filled canard, that being supposed Jewish/Israeli “control”. It would appear to me, by the amount of readers who readily swallowed this tripe, that the Palestinian PR campaign probably has the better oiled machine.
Thanks again for the opportunity to write in.
The Australian�s diary column yesterday included this item:
AT Fairfax, after commenting in her online “Webdiary” last Thursday that “the fundamentalist Zionist lobby controls politics and the media in the US and Australia”, online journalist Margo Kingston went into damage control on Monday, apologising to those she’d offended. However, Diary understands Kingston posted the following even more incendiary remark on her website on Friday night: “Far from protecting Jewish people against future atrocities, the Fundamentalist Zionist lobby is actually promoting anti-Semitism by its actions and tactics. Neither major party in either country is game to protest, because the power of the lobby is such that careers can be ruined. It is becoming increasingly obvious that John Howard is the lobby’s strong choice to win the election, and that means big money and big power will be behind him.”
Mysteriously, as Kingston confronted claims of anti-Semitism over her earlier remark, the later comment disappeared from her website. We’re waiting to see how this squares with Webdiary’s own code of ethics, which states: “I will let you know when archives have been changed except when changes do not alter their substance, for example corrections to spelling or grammar.” Pretty rich from someone who frequently attacks the ethical standards of other media outlets.
Soon after publishing the item concerned on Friday night, I read an email from a work colleague who had found my comment in the previous day�s entry On the road again offensive. I then looked at the Rubenstein piece and cut out everything which I thought could conceivably offend anyone. I have no wish to personally offend people on Webdiary.
As often happens with ethics codes, a conflict can sometimes arise and a judgment must be made. Do I keep the lines I�d taken out in and cross them out? Or do I delete them and note that I�ve deleted unspecified material? Since the piece had not been published for long, and was published at night, when few if any people would have read it, I chose to leave it at that. So I breached one ethic to protect another. I explained this to The Australian when it called before publication of the item. I received no complaint about the Rubenstein piece in the subsequent deluge of emails about �On the road again�. It�s a bit strange, I reckon, that The Australianthen publishes a phrase it clearly finds offensive, but that�s the way it goes, I guess. In retrospect, I should have told you in my next Webdiary that I had deleted certain unspecified comments from the Rubenstein piece. My apologies for not doing so.
PS: I was about to press the ‘publish’ button on this entry when I read this email from Imre Salusinszky, the bloke from The Australian who rang me before publication of the diary entry I’ve been discusing. Here it is.
As you know, an item in The Australian on Thursday, July 29 claims that you wrote, and later silently removed, the following comment from your July 23 posting, “Rubenstein strikes again”:
“Far from protecting Jewish people against future atrocities, the Fundamentalist Zionist lobby is actually promoting anti-Semitism by its actions and tactics. Neither major party in either country is game to protest, because the power of the lobby is such that careers can be ruined. It is becoming increasingly obvious that John Howard is the lobby’s strong choice to win the election, and that means big money and big power will be behind him.”
Allow me to quote from your own code of ethics:
6. I will let you know when archives have been changed except when changes do not alter their substance, for example corrections to spelling or grammar. I will amend archived Webdiary entries to include corrections of fact and advise you accordingly.”
Surely you who have been so unrelentingly critical of the ethical standards of “big party” politicians and “big media” journalists are not going to try and ignore the “posting overboard” allegation?
So are you prepared now to check the electronic record and tell readers exactly when the comment was deleted? On what other occasions has the archive been silently altered? What made this case different to “On the road again?” where you eventually did insert a comment that material had been removed? And how does the secretly removed material affect your postings on Monday and Tuesday, in particular the claim that your earlier remark on the “fundamentalist Zionist lobby” was merely a “throwaway line”? To quote again from your own code of ethics:
“I want you to trust Webdiary. Trust is the ideal at the core of all professional ethics codes, which are guidelines for conduct which aim to achieve that ideal.”
Not happy, Margo!
Margo: I don’t know how to check the electronic record but I’ll ask someone who does on Monday. I amend the archive on occasions for spelling and grammar mistakes, often picked up by the army, it sometimes seems, of people scrutinising Webdiary. This situation has never before occurred. The difference with ‘On the road’ is that people had read it, and reacted, whereas the other comments were removed before – on the evidence of my email traffic – anyone who was offended had read it. The removed material, in my view, is not relevant to the debate over the comment which has generated the debate. I did not say the “fundamentalist Zionist lobby” part of the comment was throwaway, and have not retracted those words. I’ve retracted the word “controls” and explained what I meant in ‘The post apology debate’. I hope I’ve proved that Webdiary is trustworthy through my postings since this furore began.