Monday, December 3, 2012

Scraping the Barrel

The more irrelevant newspapers become, the greater their resort to spin, deceit and wilful manipulation in the service of pandering to their readers' deepest fears and prejudices. Come on down The Daily Telegraph.

Splashed across the front page of the Monday edition of the Murdoch Sydney tabloid was a confection of such jaw-dropping dishonesty that one wonders how the hacks employed by that rag can look at themselves in the mirror each morning.

It's "party-time" in Java, proclaims the Tele, as refugees say "thanks Julia" for promising them welfare payments and rent assistance if they make it to Australia on their leaky boats.

"The wannabe citizens are ecstatic the government has conceded detention centres are beyond maximum capacity and that asylum seekers would need to be released into the community while their applications for refugee status were processed," the paper says.
"They would be given financial and housing support - as well as free basic health care - a massive boost from their current financial status in Indonesia where many are struggling to afford food."

And of course, it wouldn't be the Terror if there wasn't a convenient party political message to keep the Penrith home fires burning.

"Mr Abbott is not good for refugees and asylum seekers, he does not like us, he is not really a nice man," the paper quotes as 25-year serial refugee Afghan Zia Haidari as saying. "Ms Gillard seems to understand how we feel and is trying her best."

One can imagine the reporter finely engineering those quotes in anticipation of Alan Jones, in full froth mode, reading them out over the radio in lip pursing disapproval. 

Indeed, this "story", accompanied by a photo of 13 suspiciously-posed male asylum seekers raising their fists, has all the hallmarks of a set-up. And given the involvement of maverick Kiwi-sourced hack Jonathan Marshall you can be certain this was a textbook case of finding "the facts" to fit a preordained stitch-up.

For one thing, ask yourself how a bunch of people escaping a civil war seven thousand miles away have such an intimate knowledge of Australian domestic politics. It is fair to say that a good chunk of the people in marginal electorates in Australia would struggle to identify our political leaders, never mind expecting a Central Asian refugee in an Indonesian refugee camp to do the same.

Second, it is very hard to believe that Marshall, given his own "colourful" reputation and that of his publication, has represented the situation in Australia fairly or accurately to these people. In fact, I would wager he has fed them a line that "Julia" wants to look after them and suggested there has been some fundamental relaxation in Australian policy on asylum seekers.

Third, the photo is a classic case of the photo-journalist stage-managing a shot to frame the story in a certain pre-organised way. This is unethical at best and is outlawed in most reputable news organisations like Reuters or The New York Times.

Fourth, the story deliberately misrepresents the facts for its readers to give the impression that taxpayers' money is being "wasted" on housing or feeding people who have a legal right to seek asylum in Australia and for whom Australia has an international obligation to consider.

What the government announced late last month is that given the number of people who had arrived by boat since August 13, it would not be possible to transfer them all to Nauru or Manus Island in the immediate future. Accordingly, some would be processed in the Australian community.

However, those processed this way would still be subject to the "no advantage test", which means they are admitted under bridging visas denying them work rights and giving them only basic accommodation assistance, and limited financial support.
This policy has been condemned by the Uniting Church as "unspeakably cruel". But it seems even this amounts to pandering by The Daily Telegraph, who clearly would prefer the people overflowing from the dumping stations in Nauru and Manus be tossed into the sea, or perhaps put in the stocks outside the Rooty Hill RSL so the Tele's readers can chuck chiko rolls at them.

And recall that all this "pandering" is because the Gillard government - under pressure from the very same newspaper and the shock jock flying monkeys - has allowed itself to be sucked into a race to the  bottom with the Opposition on who can adopt the most grotesque policies toward refugees.

The result is we are spending billions - yes billions - of taxpayers dollars on an unsustainable, inhumane and impractical "solution" to refugees that denies human rights and flies in the face of this country's self-image as land of the fair go.

If you were wondering about the cost of unethical, dishonest journalism, look no further.


  1. The only real "news" is that it does not carry a Steve Lewis byline.

    1. Or noted satirist Gemma Jones

  2. It's like A Current Affair went into print.

    I wonder sometimes if the agendas of our Mouldy Mainstream will one day become so obvious most readers will be able to see for themselves what is news and what is propaganda. Fortunately, in the meantime, we have Mr D and Jonathan Holmes.

    You editorialise a little in your last few paragraphs, Mr Denmore, and I fear you have echoed the reductionist outrage of so many others. Clearly you feel the government's policy is counter to our country's values, and presumably, your own values. But like so many others who castigate both sides of politics for their inhumane and rights denying treatment of people seeking the safety of our shores, you haven't offered an alternative.

    When the shrill and the fervid like Sarah Hanson Young and Greg Barns hurl their reductionist invective at the government's asylum seeker policy, it frustrates and annoys me. When you do you it, well, it just makes me sad.

    Next time, can you please imagine what you would do if you were charged with the responsibility of preventing hundreds of people drowning off our coastline. Next time, tell us how you would stop people drowning, how you would discourage that boat journey, without infringing people's rights.

    Our boat people problem needs solutions, it has enough critics.

    1. What about the thousands who don't drown, they are the ones we are now punishing.

      WE don't have a boat people problem, the refugees forced to take the boats have a problem and so it seems do you.

      Marshall is today recycling the tired old cherry of evil people smugglers in Indonesia on the same day the government is again taken to task for punishing the poor Indonesians.

    2. Damien, thanks for the feedback. I disagree with your premise. I don't agree we have a "boat people problem", as you say. Or if we do, it is a minute fraction of the apocalyptic scenarios being dreamed up by the gutter press. "The problem" exists mainly in the minds of tabloid newspaper editors, who use it to strike terror into the hearts of their readers to drag in eyeballs to their dying rags.

      The number of people entering our shores by boat seeking refuge is dwarfed by those coming in on a 747, yet we don't hear about the "air people problem".

      Lastly, if this is the "problem" you allege it it to be, it appears the "solutions" aren't working.

      All we are doing are whipping ourselves up into a frenzy at the spectre of something that doesn't exist and spending billions in the process seeking to "fix" it.

    3. Damien, if the problem is people drowning trying to get here, then the simple solution is not to confiscate their boats. The only reason the boats sink is because the owners know they won't get their boat back, so they usually send the most unseaworthy vessel they have. Alternatively we could fly the asylum seekers in from Jakarta. Please don't use that hollow "hundreds of people drowning off our coastline" argument as if it is not entirely due to our actions that they are at risk in the first place.

    4. The Australian government should provide a free trip to Australia, or perhaps should subsidise improvements in boat safety for the Schindlers helping people escape deadly persecution. That would prevent drowning deaths while allowing people to exercise their rights. It would also be cheaper for the Federal Government, it would stop our horrible abuse of innocent people ect.

    5. As someone who works in the defence department and has actually analysed the "boat problem" for BPC, I can say that the "boat problem" is actually a political problem. If you examine deterrence theory there is very little that you can do to deter people who are fleeing from persecution and possible death. Getting on a leaky boat in many cases is preferable to where they came from. As to cost MrD is correct, Howard spent billions his Pacific solution and virtually all of them ended up in Australia. The same will occur for the current refugees on subject to the current policy and it will cost billions if they are kept there for 5 – 10 years. If you want a solution, fly them to Australia, put them up at Hamilton Island while the checks are done, it would be cheaper.

  3. i hope sen conroy is still thinking media laws

    Mr, Denmore i hope you, your self talk to the senator about the new media laws, when will it happen

  4. Stuff like this is destroying our community and our democracy - the faster press regulation along Leveson lines is in introduced so that our MSM operate to the professional standards they profess to, the better off we will all be.

  5. I wouldn't even describe the Daily Telegraph's effort as "dishonest journalism". It is better described as propoganda or shameless distortion of the truth.

  6. Unfettered freedom of the press is important for an informed democracy, though. Media regulation would generate all sorts of dishonest propaganda, donchaknow.

  7. It's the Torygraph helping out the Liberals cos they know they could never make it on their own.