Monday, March 5, 2012

Silence Gives Consent

A MODEST, QUIET LIFE with lots of golf and time to terrorise the trout, that’s not much to ask is it? And it is not as if it’s a one-way street, because the intent at the Billabong has always been to give a little back. Those hard-pressed professional reporters, they just don’t have the time to be looking into every interesting and curious angle arising from the stories they purport to cover, so little blogs like this one, we do our best to help.

When News Ltd cans a columnist or Fairfax a radio host, each axed for the indiscretion of bringing up our PM’s light-fingered former swain, it seems a public good to make mention every so often of the scandal. When a prime ministerial aide promotes a race riot, same thing.  Like the dead, affairs of that sort live on in memory only if their names are uttered every now and then, even if by small voices barely heard. Those Big Media outfits have their reasons for wishing not to give offence to politicians who might, by way of retribution, institute an inquiry into their industry. Who can blame them? There are shareholders to consider and government advertising contracts to retain, so it is easy to understand why they elevate self-interest to a virtue.

This is the where and why of the Professor’s downbeat mood. According to Finko & Rickety, sites like this one need regulating, as they would benefit from the oversight of bureaucrats equipped to determine which opinions and views are fit for public airing, not to mention which interpretation of available fact represents the authorised truth.

How will they attempt to execute their plan? Well that is a mystery. Fifteen thousand pageviews per year make a website big enough to warrant official scrutiny, according to the Media Review’s authors. It is a threshold that would mark this blog a target before its landlord recovers from New Year Eve's excess.

Will Stephen Conroy and his heirs ban Google from their NBN if its Blogger unit declines to hand over traffic figures or disclose IP addresses? Will it ban proxy servers and the smartypants software that protects a modest blogger’s low profile? How big will the fines and jail terms need to be in order to encourage widespread compliance?

And the imponderables?  What if, just say, an Australian blogger who happens to reside in Washington publishes something deemed objectionable in his homeland and does so via, say, a Polish host? Don’t laugh, Washington-based Tim Dunlop was in almost that position with his Road To Surfdom site, back when blogging was young and he was studying to become, as he would put it, a public intellectual. It is a safe bet that Finko would not have a clue about any of those practicalities. Would he send an Australian gunboat up the Potomac to obtain the information by force of arms? Wreathed in the residual majesty of a retired judge, Finko has perhaps grown so accustomed to deference that he imagines the wider world operates on the same authoritian principles of his former courtroom.

As for Rickety, let us note that he boasts of shuttling between newsrooms and academia throughout his career, so he has no excuse for failing to acknowledge the practical issues involved in monitoring and policing an entire nation’s chatter. Either he doesn’t care that his proposals are unworkable or, more likely, he deems their actual implementation beside the point. The key to control is acquiescence. If his desired re-working of free speech is revealed as impractical in specific and isolated incidences, it would be a minor deficiency. The key will be to nudge and bully the bulk of the publishing industry’s players over the line, position them where the threat of investigation and action is enough in itself to advance docility.

Where does that leave bloggers and small, independent publishers without the wherewithal to pay the lawyers who will be needed to fend off speech regulators? The answer is simple as it is obvious: poised constantly at the brink of silence and financial ruin.

The Media Review is a smug, arrogant manifesto which crystallises all the noxious attitudes that have ruined Fairfax, sullied the ABC and replaced debate with an absurd insistence that the views of the tight, hooked-in, self-referential coterie of worshippers at authority’s altar represent more, much more, than a mere body of opinion. As the Litijus Mordys demonstrated in the action brought against Andrew Bolt, opinions – the wrong opinions, that is – are now subject to adjudication on the basis of nothing more substantial than plaintiffs’ hurt feelings. The courts have already imposed themselves as one wing of a pincer movement that aims to enclose free speech. The public service speech police Finko & Rickety  advocate would snap closed that trap with a loud and inescapable finality.

In the Media section of today’s Australian, various heavyweights weigh in on the inquiry with balanced and nuanced appreciations of its worth, the general view being that the report is worthy of further discussion and refinement. Perhaps they cannot think beyond the report's endorsement of taxpayer subsidies because they are already bending over, assuming the position. They do not object to being stuffed, apparently, just as so long as they retain the feeble right to negotiate how deep that violation will go.

The circumstances under which Finko & Rickety were set to work, the unquestioned assumption that there is both a right and need to regulate speech, the expectation that genuflections before authority are right and proper – they are the inquiry’s original sins and they pollute the published whole as thoroughly and dangerously as botulism poisons the most lavish banquet.

What Finko & Rickety have produced is an obscenity. Their recommendations need to be scuttled before they can be launched. There will be no sinking them after that.

And then, maybe, there will be a bit more time for golf and fishing.                


  1. This is a really inspired piece of writing, Professor. Brilliantly phrased, using the language elegantly and nuanced as usual. Congratulations.

    I really do wish we on the left had someone with your gift of expression. What a pity you're so totally misguided in your views. We on the left well know that the pen is mightier than the sword, and that is the reason the pen must be brought under the scrutiny of the law, to be controlled as strictly as society controls guns, knives, axes and fists. Opinions are weapons Professor, and the right has some brilliant warriors who must be controlled as if they had physical weapons at their disposal.

    1. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.March 5, 2012 at 10:33 AM

      Do not respond to this person any longer please. Check some of his expressed views, shown on Catallaxy Open Thread late last night. He is a fruitloop, has made what appear to be genuine online suicide threats, and needs therapy. If otherwise, then he is attempting to do an Arlene Composta, but doing it badly. I will no longer engage with him (or her).

      Re your piece above, Bunyip. Please take it to a wider audience, send it to The Australian or The Telegraph as a piece from a dedicated blogger on the real meaning of this confected 'debate' and its possible legislation. Or if a non-toady journo is reading your work today, then please run with it in some useful forum. Your analysis deserves wider attention, Professor.

    2. You are losing your entertainment value, Sammy Hagar. Lift your game.

    3. I agree with every word of your first paragraph.

      I was of the left when I was young because I thought the left had the best intellectual arguments. I'm on the right today for the same reason.

      Free speech should be the default position of all.

      You sound like Lenin or Mao in your second paragraph.

    4. Lizzie: I don't particularly like guns, although I don't mind if other people play with them, but when you come across something so foul as the media review's suggestions, you are reminded that Jefferson et al enshrined the Second Amendment to protect the First.

    5. Good parody, Hammy. You've pretty well captured the tone and content of the sort of earnest tosh we hear from the latte sippers, ACT denizens,inhabitants of the media ghetto and PC nanny staters. You may cop some flak as they hate being poked fun at more than anything. Congratulations.

    6. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.March 5, 2012 at 11:15 AM

      For those who want to view a discussion re Ham Person's mental state, it is not on Catallaxy Files Open Thread but raised as a thread topic on Catallaxy Files using Hammy's own voice under "Why Australia needs more censorship".

      Here's Ham Person speaking for himself:

      "I am of anglo-saxon descent myself (several generations), and cannot seem to help my perpetual feelings of guilt about my existence here in their land. I would really like to migrate away from Australia. I’m ineligible for immigration to any other country because of my age, so I have thoughts that the only just decision on my part would be self-termination on the grounds of social justice."

      Sane? Or a 'hit delete' unamusing troll?

    7. Hammygar - what a fascist you are. You would love to be in control of the re-education camps wouldn't you? Pervert.

    8. I'm now quit satisfied that this is not a fucked up attempt by someone with more than an amoebia's brain to satirise the brain-dead left. This cretin actually represents thousands of intellectually impaired dullards in the pretend government economy who think the abolition of free speech is a good thing - for reasons they can't articulate other than that they dislike people they don't agree with. The fact that you exist in spite of this country's democratic tradition is a frightening wake-up call about the type of people who currently have political power. The more temporary it is, the better. However, in the meantime, people like me, who wouldn't normally be seen dead at a political demonstration, must weigh up the consequences of letting this abomination through the parliament. Since the ALP has sold its soul to the Greens, there is nothing standing in the way of Finklestein's fascist revolution. Who'd have thought Australia's democracy could be subverted by a couple of activist judges?

    9. Hammygar - congratulations. Why don't you blog with this sort of tripe? You have a real talent for it, like the professor and his alter ego Alene?

    10. Tom -- I have said something like this before, I know, but again -- one needs to do more than turn up live at a demo. The meeja can too easily ignore or denigrate it; someone has to organise it; and at least for the likes of an aged protester like me, a large part of the point of the demo (finding a sexual partner, and/or a joint) has dissipated. I suggest that one needs to join a pressure group (and more particularly the Liberals or the Nationals) and propagate noisily the points of view expressed by the Prof.

      Thought needs be given to how a Coalition government would deal a Greens/Labor controlled Senate, not least to cope with legislation likely to be pushed through before the next election. Triggering a double dissolution might backfire. As I recall the law, a government can neuter a dud appointment, or a stacked body, etc by simply not making an appropriation for their activities. This might fix the ABC for example. A hostile Senate would have to block the budget to overcome this tactic.

  2. The Old and Unimproved DaveMarch 5, 2012 at 10:02 AM

    All great couples have their names melded, 'Brangelina'.

    I propose that Finko & Rickety become 'Frickety'. It's convenient and has just the right suggestion of an incipient profanity.

  3. ~clap clap whistle !!~ My sentiments entirely Proff!! You smacked the nail fair on it's head.

  4. After watching a documentary the other day on Hitlers hanging judge, Roland Freisler of the "people's court" and his sentences carried out to protect the "public good" you tend to think Australia is immune from such animals. But self preservation of power is a funny thing and this mob in government at the moment will use every instrument available to stifle criticism of it. They'll use a front like Getup! to create complaints about the Media so they can setup an inquiry to shut certain voices down through intimidation. One can learn a lot from looking at history.

  5. It's going to happen in some form or another. Ask yourself this Perfessor: What stands in the way of totalitarianism in our post-modern secular democracies? A few bloggers? A scraping of genuine journalists? The IPA? Democratic process?
    They ain't gonna cut it. Look at how easily other nations have become willing submissives to fascism. There is nothing, apart from the dim memory of tradition, to prevent the same thing happening here.
    We've undercut the one thing that ever stood in the way of the west becoming the rest. Nobody believes in God as the ultimate authority anymore, and if they do it's a god in their own convenient post-modern image.

    1. PhillipGeorge(c)2012March 5, 2012 at 1:26 PM

      That is it Anonymous at 3:32 PM.

      Statistically one of the most dangerous places in Australia for a human life to be is in a woman's womb.

      Satan is good at what he does. He is a brilliant lawyer, historian, rhetoricist, educator, orator. Proud, beautiful, clever. Conceited without comparison.

      He is also a myopic butt naked prophet as wrong as wrong can be; and scientist - well only to the point where it cannot keep up with the truth.

      Charles Darwin continues to f........... more minds than any other dead prophet of these last 200 years.

      If there is one axiom to most people's pathetic existences it is that May Pole. Did a treat in Communist-Fascist nations a generation ago.

      An axeman eye's a tap root or let's Satan do his thing on flesh, as he will and has before. "Hand them over" it says............. - a direct and specific quote.


    2. Hi Phill,

      I just got myself an mp3 of C S Lewis "Screwtape Letters" narrated by John Cleese. It's a screamer! Your spray reminded me of this.

      I truly love your work! You must know that it flickers between translucent and opaque for most readers - me included.

      When you are on a roll, however, and I can keep up, it sets my day up in a pleasingly surreal lava flow. It bouys me as events ebb back into the quantifiable here and now.

      When not, Hey, it just passes me by and I cant apply myself to figgering out what you mean.

      Not sure what your Profession is, but mine is one where any sort of florid expression annoys the Hell out of my colleagues.

      A perfect community would be one where an ecumenism of proffessions exist. Where a bad day, could range in consequence, from one's becoming a 100 foot long streak of protein on a runway to getting the length of Hamurabi's beard wrong. Despite this diversity, the coinage would be a dilligent search for proffessional excellence in absolute (not relative) terms.

      It would also require an easy going enquiring appreciation of what the guy next to you at the bar does for a crust.

      Penny for your thoughts Buddy? Whoah ! Keep it simple ..

    3. PhillipGeorge(c)2012March 6, 2012 at 9:40 AM

      Thanks. There was a time when Isaac Newton knew more about light than any man alive. He was uniquely right. He was solely soulfully right. With two ten dollar prisms [today's figures] he had seen what no-one alive had seen. He understood a detail no living man beside him had apprehended.
      Yet the question remains what is white light.? Does it exist anywhere other than the mind. Light is very much invisible - only perceived when it is doing something on a time line. Then where is a "mind"? Newton's genius pales into a dim.
      Martin Amis' "stupefied by relativism" is the greatest bit of meta-narrative of this last half century.
      An explosion of data facts obscures an ignorance of gigantuan monumental proportions.

      Jesus is who He said He is. If that means everyone else is wrong - like Newton with white light - "one" has to get comfortable with it. Christianity doesn't just stand alone in intellectual ascendency - it is right.

  6. Twitter is technically known as a microblogging platform. I wonder whether they want to try & control the Twittersphere via their "15,000 hits [sic]" policy.

    If I tweet a comment about & link to this piece to my nearly 7,000 Twitter followers, and someone with 10,000 followers (or more) retweets it...?

    As someone with dual US/AUS citizenship, I'd like to think the US State Department wouldn't be keen to hand me over to the Aussie Stasi for the crime of lèse-majesté ... although with the current state of play, it's hard to be certain.

  7. Keep it up Prof. The Liberals were pathetic in not clearly denouncing Conroy's filter. Check out the movie Sophie Scholl to see how the Nazi courts worked.

  8. Or the one iron right down the middle!

    While milk-sop Conroy is particularly dangerous in that anyone who thinks the efficiency and throughput of a reticulated system can be increased by widening the pipes while simultaneously throttling the flow to inspect the matter being reticulated is clearly a nutter the problem is compounded by the fact that the rest of this goat rodeo in Canberra don't have the faintest clue as to how anything works. But they do know that dissenting opinion is their most powerful enemy and must be suppressed.

    If you want more evidence as to their intellectual vacuity and the overpowering stench of the politics of division and envy listen/view the National Press Club rant today by the man Clive Palmer has overpraised as an “intellectual pygmy”.

  9. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.March 5, 2012 at 10:51 AM

    I despair for journalism. If journalists cannot right now stand up and be counted, en masse, against this vile infiltration of totalitarian modes into our public life, then we are lost as a democratic nation. As a finale, as the whole media environment degrades, recent 'journalism' graduates may be forced to realise too late they have wasted their time and money on their university indoctrination masquerading as education.

  10. How things have changed since the days when the Howard government was, according to the left (ok, the soft-left) stifling, crushing, strangling dissent wherever it raised its cute, curly, cherubic head.

  11. How will the censor deal with enantiosis?
    I know that, in the Bolt case, the judge had mystic powers to determine what the sinister Mr Bolt craftily implied, but can we always expect similarly expert judges to be available to interpret interlinearly?
    For instance, as you know, I am never ironic but I shall always defend this marvellous Government’s excellent record: the PM always tells the truth; Mr Craig Thomson is a model of temperance and probity; Prof Tim Flannery has a laudable history of making accurate predictions whilst talking entertainingly and knowledgeably about the certain conjecture of climatic doom; The Age is the only newspaper required for anyone who wants to know all the news of importance; free speech is not threatened; people with journalism degrees are well trained to write fluently and without bias; and so on.

  12. Can only dream of the day something like this would appear @ the ABC Drum website.
    Just a little balance, snuggled in between GrogsGammit and Mungo.
    They, amongst many there would struggle to be so eloquent & precise.
    Thanks Prof.

    1. I pinch my self:

  13. "There will be no sinking them after that."

    Bunyip, with respect, people said the same about the Titanic and we all know how well that turned out.

    They'll get theirs.

    1. The Greeks called it hubris. "Overreach" is the essence.

      The progressives have done so well in subverting media, education, and the civil service because they took their time about it, from about the time of GB Shaw. But the accelerated pace of public dialogue on the Web has made them think they must/can rush the next step.

      But the water is being heated too fast, now; the frogs (and the cane toads) are rousing, and may well escape the pot.

  14. Citizens, to the barricades!!

  15. Amen Prof - this needs wider distribution

  16. Hear, hear Prof, well said.
    I read somewhere yesterday that this legislation might be illegal under previous High Court decisions.

    "Federal Court Judge: And what Law are you basing this argument on?
    Darryl Kerrigan: The Law of bloody common sense! "
    (from The Castle)

  17. Perhaps I have missed it, but I could not find anything on Mr Abbott's site about binning the media inquiry's recommendations and associated apparatus.


    I think questions about the future of the recommendations etc should be directed to Mr Abbott.

  18. "he has no excuse for failing to acknowledge the practical issues involved in monitoring and policing an entire nation’s chatter"
    He wasn't asked to. It looks as if you haven't bothered to read the terms of reference -
    "(a) The effectiveness of the current media codes of practice in Australia, particularly in light of technological change that is leading to the migration of print media to digital and online platforms.
    (b) The impact of this technological change on the business model that has supported the investment by traditional media organisations in quality journalism and the production of news, and how such activities can be supported, and diversity enhanced, in the changed media environment.
    (c) Ways of substantially strengthening the independence and effectiveness of the Australian Press Council, including in relation to online publications, and with particular reference to the handling of complaints.
    (d) Any related issues pertaining to the ability of the media to operate according to regulations and codes of practice, and in the public interest."
    "Fifteen thousand pageviews per year make a website big enough to warrant official scrutiny, according to the Media Review’s authors."
    Means my blog would also qualify. I don't find this in the least threatening. Perhaps it's because I don't use it to smear, demean and vilify those with whom I disagree.
    "The Media Review is a smug, arrogant manifesto which crystallises all the noxious attitudes that have ruined Fairfax, sullied the ABC and replaced debate with an absurd insistence that the views of the tight, hooked-in, self-referential coterie of worshippers at authority’s altar represent more, much more, than a mere body of opinion."
    Translation - Because I disagree in large measure with the opinions expressed in the Fairfax press and the ABC, and because I believe firmly that there is a conspiracy to subject extremists on the right to scrutiny, I am having no part of any rational discussion about the issue. (Reminds me of my youngest daughter when she was three and went through a stage of closing her eyes and putting her fingers in her ears when we told her something she didn't wish to hear).
    "In the Media section of today’s Australian, various heavyweights weigh in on the inquiry with balanced and nuanced appreciations of its worth, the general view being that the report is worthy of further discussion and refinement"
    Even the Fart of the Nation is occasionally capable of balance.
    "the unquestioned assumption that there is both a right and need to regulate speech"
    There is a balance to be struck between protection of individual reputation with freedom of expression. Essentially, this is well understood in western democracies. When it breaks down, the end result is totalitarianism.
    "What Finko & Rickety have produced is an obscenity. Their recommendations need to be scuttled before they can be launched. There will be no sinking them after that."
    The hysterical reaction to the Independent Media Inquiry is probably the most reliable indicator of its necessity. Vested interest has much to lose, and they're squealing like stuck pigs.
    It's similar in many ways to Twiggy Forrest's full page media splurge.

    1. You haven't read any of it by the look of your generalised comments. The quality of key parts of the report is of a standard which would go close to failing a first year assignment (unless it was at one of our Claytons University Journalism Schools that is). Less charitable people would call it for something else entirely.
      M Ryutin Sydney

    2. So numbers,

      At what age did you decide to become a fascist?

    3. "... my youngest daughter when she was three ..."
      Ah, the wisdom of infants illustrated; why do you do so at your currently advanced age? Practising for senility?


    4. Why would you bring all this bile and childish class hatred here? This is an address where grown-ups meet. Take your under-developed brain back to the Drum where it will be appreciated by its delinquents’ nursery. Better still, if your parents are still alive, ask them whether you were accidentally damaged by a forcepts delivery at birth, you stupid old fool.

    5. And to think, this numbers moron is teaching our kids!

  19. Where it says "Blogs I Follow", you don't mention the good Bunyip, Bob? That's a bit rough.

    I notice that the 7th Battalion are up and running on their own again, no longer merged with the 5th. Based at the Edinburgh RAAF in Adelaide.

    I can hear the staff at the Grunt Factory nowadays "Lift your game Private, or you'll be getting posted to 7RAR in Adelaide!"

    1. Yep - visited last year. A few things have changed. There are women......
      There are computers wall-to-wall in the orderly room. The m113s look the same, but apparently they're comprehensively re-engineered.
      Still a great unit.

    2. And civvies have your old job in the cookhouse, you old Blackshirt.

    3. Awwwww that was sweet. I do believe that the overly earnest 173599 was chuffed to be addressed directly. High fives 173599!

  20. The more you look at this report the worse it gets. Obscene in its recommendations it might be, but ‘incompetent’ is a charitable description, and to say ‘fraud’ might be a bridge too far at this stage when incompetence and internalised bias are seen in abundance.

    What first year student would get away with this in a rigorously marked paper:-
    On page 281 this is stated (and it is a great indictment of ability of former APC Chairs), “Professor McKinnon, a former APC Chair, has pointed out several examples of transgressions of the fundamental principles of fairness, accuracy and balance”. And what are they?

    In the report:-
    a bias in the reporting of government affairs. Evidence from McKinnon? Nil.The bald statement only.

    b. obsessive attempts to influence government policy by day-after-day repetition of issues with little or no new information of news value
    Evidence from McKinnon? ‘the correctness of the 2008 national stimulus program; NBN, the Education Revolution, the Wivenhoe Dam inquiry’

    Yes that was the Wivenhoe dam scandal, which has caused the reopening of the whole enquiry up there – obviously criticised because the first rate journalist concerned (former Gold Walkely winner) was the enemy due to their (Ricketson and Margaret Simons) fixation with poor old Simon Overland.

    c opposition to government policy which is commercially-driven.
    Evidence from McKinnon? ‘establishment of the NBN program’.

    d. the unfair pursuit of individuals based on information that is inaccurate.
    Evidence from McKinnon? ‘pursuit of Victorian Police Commissioner Overland, using information that OPI found unfair and inaccurate’. Note the “that OPI found unfair and inaccurate”.

    No mention of the Victorian Ombudsman’s report excoriating OPI for total unaccountability and that this could lead to “an opportunity for the improper use or overuse of interception powers could go undetected”. No, that would go against the ‘Poor Overland’ narrative of Margaret Simons and….yes….Mathew Ricketson!,

    Now these all make up nothing but subjective assertion, (probable) personal bias and, above all, incompetence by the report writers. To actually have these flimsy examples (none of which are objectively valid - as if even the NBN criticism by other commercial players who saw the taxpayer funding a scheme to attack their businesses doesn’t scream out for a public response to a public competitor, is nonsense).

    As I said, everywhere you look this is rubbish.
    M Ryutin Sydney

  21. Ah, but do you have the requisite "Fish Fear Me" T-shirt?

  22. There is only one issue large enough to drive the panic and the frothing rage behind this astounding bit of overtly fascistic regulatory over-reach you folks are threatened with: The collapse of the carefully constructed, heavily funded and promoted Global Warming hoax which puttered along very nicely for two decades until the blogosphere ripped it apart from end to end.

    I mean, just look at the hilarity of it all. So many involved, so much invested, so many on the take. National governments, the UN, thousands of big and small NGOs, local authorities, academia, the arts and of course crony capital and the media, all lined up behind this tax-the-air scheme, then along comes the Internet and a handful of self-funded bloggers and...kaboom! Climategate, FakeGate and whatnot. A cringe-material slow-mo act of a trillion slithering down the drain, along with millions in glossy PR, reputations, careers, industries, schemes, policies, “green” subsidies and such. What would have been the first successful step in global taxation, regulation and governance got scuttled by barely a hundred characters with some spare time between jobs or fishing trips!

    Wonderful stuff, Prof and keep up the battle, people, you are not and won’t be alone.

    Avi Barzel
    Toronto, Canada and
    Zikhron Ya’akov, Israel

    1. Things may well look different from your viewpoint in Canada and Israel, Avi, but on the ground here in Australia this scam is full-steam-ahead. I get the feeling that Australia is being used as a 'guinea-pig' for a 'globalist totalitarian state' test run.

  23. Spot on Avi. The battle is still in progress, but there's no returning to looney-land now. The academics are beginning to distance themselves from this lunacy in an attempt to salvage what they can of their reputations, the rest will follow once the illusion of "settled science" fades into the distance like a really bad dream.

    The AGW campaign however is only one battlefront in a much larger war, and was used as a reason to push Agenda 21, so the war against international totalitarianism will continue.

    Nevertheless, medals should be issued now to the local heroes of this campaign such as Jo Nova, Andrew Bolt, our esteemed Professor Bunyip and numerous others.

    How do you pin a medal on a bunyip?

    1. Carefully and not until I'm dressed, for preference.