Until recently I was in the habit of attending a writer’s forum every Monday. The group was made up of poets, short story writers, journalists, auto biographers and would be novelists. The conveyer of our group was a wise elderly lady who in terms of the written word, knew her stuff.
Primarily I am a creative writer of short stories and poetry. I have read my work at the national gallery and other places. And I have won a few writing competitions. In December if 2011 I was enticed, because of my interest in politics, into the world of the blogger.
Anyway, one day we had a group discussion on the current standard of journalism. We were asked to take a slip of paper with a journalist’s name on it and the newspaper they wrote for, from a box. Bingo, lo and behold, I had the name Bolt perched between thumb and forefinger.
We had to opine on the person we had taken from the box. So I gave my assessment.
“He is a writer of very little journalistic distinction” I said. “He is apt to write for an audience in a style suitable for the intelligence of 13 year olds. His writing is never challenging (not even his use of words) in a literary sense and his sentences usually carry the weight of invective untruth. He writes with little journalist flamboyance. Instead his words are calculated to offend his target and please his cohort of followers. Because truth and journalistic shrill are incompatible he relegates truth to unconscionable practice. In short, he writes with the venom of a snake but with this snake there seems to be no antidote”. I warmed to the task saying, “If a newspaper article is written in a manner to suggest objectivity but subjective words are scattered throughout it together with carefully phrased unsupported statements then dismiss the article as having no cogency”.
“He also writes for a tabloid newspaper, the Herald Sun. It’s a Murdoch publication One of those where the truth goes to die”.
And that was the end of my little rant.
I might add that it is the same style that Tony Abbott employs orally. You simply tell people what it is you think they want to hear. It’s what Abbott meant when after his “climate change is crap” comment he said, “I was speaking to an audience”.
In a democracy the right to free speech is given by the people through the parliament. Therefore, it should be incumbent on people to display decorum, moderation, truth, fact, balance, reason, tolerance, civility and respect for the other point of view.
Note that the Australian Constitution doesn’t guarantee free speech. It only implies it.
Andrew Bolt – one of the pin-up boys of the Murdoch media – has never thought highly of these ideals. He prefers provocative sensationalism.
After all, why should he? He is probably paid loads of money to do just that. Newspapers all over the world are fighting for survival and the Herald Sun is one of many. The Australian loses huge amounts each year but Murdoch props it up because of its political influence. It is the go to newspaper for conservatives. So how do you prop up circulation? You have writers like Bolt writing inflammatory titillating nonsense to a largely disengaged, uninformed audience with journalism that appeals to societies lowest values.
“It is said of pornography (and I am not expert in this field) that in order to maintain the viewer’s interest it needs to progressively become more outlandish – more tantalising – more seductive-more flirtatious-more provocative – more stunning and more enticing. And in their desire to maintain some dominance, that’s exactly what main stream media is doing. It has chosen to prostitute itself in the forlorn hope of remaining relevant “.
Recall Bolt’s not so long ago brush with the law. For me that judgment had little to do with free speech but more to do with the standard of journalism that the Herald Sun is responsible for. Justice Bromberg, wrote that Bolt’s use of language and structure:
“Is highly suggestive and designed to excite” His style was “not careful, precise or exact” and the language “not moderate or temperate but often strong and emphatic”. “There is a liberal use of sarcasm and mockery”. “Language of that kind has a heightened capacity to convey implications beyond the literal meaning of the words utilised. It is language, which invites the reader to not only read the lines, but to also read between the lines”.
During the London riots a few years back, Bolt in one of his pieces used the word ‘aped’ to describe the copycat behaviour of some people. The use of the word was legitimate in that sense until you appreciate that he was talking about black West Indians, and then the word took on a different connotation. That of a racist intent.
In 2002, Magistrate Jelena Popovic was awarded $246,000 damages for defamation after suing Bolt and the publishers of the Herald Sun over a 13 December 2000 column in which he claimed she had:
“Hugged two drug traffickers she let walk free”.
Popovic asserted she had in fact shaken their hands to congratulate them on having completed a rehabilitation program. The jury found that the article was not true, that it was not a faithful and accurate record of judicial proceedings and that it was not a fair comment on a matter of public import. A Court of Appeal later reversed some punitive damages, though it upheld the defamation finding, describing Bolt’s conduct as “at worst, dishonest and misleading and at best, grossly careless”.
Then there is his spat with Robert Manne about the Stolen Generation. If you have followed this ongoing argument, you cannot but be impressed with the lucidity of Robert Manne’s writing compared with Andrew Bolt’s simple meanderings. It is astonishing. You have to be impressed by Manne’s research. The way he takes you on a factual, believable journey full of insight and truth. Mann also some time ago analysed the poisonous influence of Rupert Murdoch’s News Limited in this country, particularly through the extremist editorial policy of The Australian Newspaper, where the truth is distorted and contrary views vilified. Manne followed up with a brilliantly written and researched “Quarterly Essay” concluding that “The Australian” is more a propaganda sheet than a newspaper.
Australians have had to put up with the rantings and ravings of populist main stream media for far too long, where extremist views are regularly presented on TV, radio, and particularly via the monopolistic media empire of Rupert Murdoch, the person ultimately responsible for the scandalous phone tapping scandal in Britain, which has earned him worldwide opprobrium.
When a conservative government was elected on September 7 in the year of our Lord 2013, a requiem mass for the death of truth in main stream media and government was held at old Parliament House Canberra. The service was conducted by Archbishop Murdoch and assisted by an Abbott. The eulogy was given by Andrew Bolt and prayers read by Piers Akerman and Alan Jones and numerous other right wing journalists.
Prayers were also offered for the death of the following by the leader of the opposition.
The National Disability Scheme.
A plebiscite for a republic.
The loss of school funding. The environment.
The mining tax.
Thousands of jobs.
Equality in education.
Policies unknown but sure to transpire.
Those who believed in the virtue of truth were not welcome. Women were directed toward the kitchen.
Let’s hope the bloggers can pick up the pieces.
For further reading on this subject you should read this.