the royal what?

I watched The Princess Bride tonight. It was fab.

I love love. It’s really nice. But I made a decision some years ago (and put it on the internets, so it must be true) that I wouldn’t get married if that meant I was going to be a part of a discriminatory institution.

I’m all for other people to go off and have weddings and partake in the Matrimonial Industrial Complex, sure, and I adored being a bridesmaid at one of my best friends’ charming wedding last year, but getting hitched is just not for me.

Given my predilection for not being a fan of it all, the hype around Will & Kate’s nuptials has absolutely made my skin crawl.  The cost, the ostentation, the irrelevant pomp & ceremony — urgh.

I don’t mean to come off as bitter and horrible (while, admittedly, I am a bit of both).  There were a few folks on my twitter stream making comments about ignoring the haters because all weddings are lovely and happy and are beacons of light in a world of suffering.

Guess what? They’re not.

In addition to the fact that same-sex couples can’t proclaim that their love for each other is as valid as a hetero couple, let’s not forget lavender marriages (but we hope these happen less these days…), forced marriages and child brides:

One in seven girls under the age of 15 is married in the developing world. Once a girl becomes trapped in these kinds of marriages, her prospects for educational attainment become severely constrained. That, in turn, has all sorts of negative effects on the health and welfare of her family and the community at large. Breaking that vicious cycle starts with ending child marriage. (UN Foundation)

The other thing that is really vile is the amount of completely unnecessary media coverage over the whole circus.

Congratulations, William and Kate, it is utterly delightful that you found each other, but your lives have absolutely no impact on anything we do and when you get pissed off by the paps chasing you for the rest of your days, you should stop to remember that you had a choice about having a quiet, private ceremony and certainly did not have to let any media organisation broadcast your vows around the world.

And I can’t say anything more about the ridiculous lengths that the media has gone to on this story (did I hear correctly that there were 10,000 people involved in covering this? TEN THOUSAND INTERROBANG) than what Dan Rather said about it:

What bothers me is the hypocrisy. The idea that we can’t afford to throw resources at an important foreign story, but can afford to spend this kind of money on a story like the royal wedding is just plain wrong.

Damn straight.

And now, I shall forever hold my peace. (Or is it ‘piece’? I never know.)

Let’s Talk About Refs

[cross-posted @ groupthink.com.au]

As the flashy pics in our shiny new Multiculturalism Policy shows, we truly live in a Salt’n’Pepa nation. And I’m talking pepper with all the fancy green, pink, etc corns as seen on Masterchef. Look at all the colours! Pretty!

But with the debacles and nasty verbiage surrounding last week’s funerals for the victims of the asylum seeker boat tragedy off Christmas Island, it seems that in addition to celebrating the good things that may be, there are a lot of bad things about our approach to race, cultural differences, and discussion of ‘the other’ that we really need to address.

And one of the really bad things is major newspapers who take it upon themselves to blow the dog vuvuzela whenever they get the slightest sniff of a story about immigrants. And escaped immigrants who were supposed to be detained at the pleasure of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, at that.

The simmering cultural melting pot is truly on the verge of boiling over, and, gosh, rightly so. The outrage that humans who are detained not for committing a crime but because they are about to get shipped off for not having the proper authorization to be in this country get taxpayer-funded trips to bowling alleys and aquariums is clearly a palable tension in our community that must be addressed at THE HIGHEST LEVELS.  And WHAT DOES QUENTIN BRYCE HAVE TO SAY about the all expenses cross-country sight-seeing holiday we gifted that little Iranian kid (who, let’s not forget, arrived here on a pleasure cruise!) who’s parents died or were lost at sea or something.  </sarcasm>

As Teh Hon Scott Morrison MP, Member for Cock and Opposition Spokesperson for Anti-Immigration pointed out last week:

…because these people, who tried to get into the country, and were allegedly asylum seekers – allegedly asylum seekers – we‘ve got to pay for that?

Scott Morrison MP, Squire of Teh Shire, allegedly a wanker (allegedly!), would probably get more ‘Whatta Man’ accolades if he started making sure his buddies at the papers (especially the Daily Tele’s Chief Political Reporter, Simon Benson) start using the word ‘allegedly’ a bit more liberally in their work.

I refer specifically to the yarn over the weekend about how many ‘detainees’ have escaped from detention centres, which was unabashedly splashed with the terms ‘refugees’ and ‘asylum seekers’.

The Tele’s editorial that same day on the need to ‘balance strength with compassion‘ on the refugee issue also made mention that DIAC is:

tracking down dozens of asylum seekers who have been strolling around the country for months. One of them had been on a bowling trip.

Luckily, the Benson’s article made the very decent effort to reassure readers that:

There was no evidence that any of those asylum seekers who had escaped had engaged in any criminal activity subsequent to their escape.

Whew. #thanksGetUp.

Here’s the thing, right: there was also NO EVIDENCE that ANY of those ‘detainees’ who had escaped WERE ACTUALLY ASYLUM SEEKERS.

O_o

And yet, Benson’s article about the Refugees On The Run And Off The Radar (let’s give the subs top marks for alliteration, shall we?) went gung-ho painting the subjects of the story as the very people that everyday Aussies worry have come here to (allegedly) take advantage of us and our respect for humanity and decency.

DIAC’s National Communications Manager Sandi Logan confirmed to me via Teh Twitters that none of the immigration escapees are or were asylum seekers.

The assumptions portrayed by the Tele in choosing to highlight refugees and asylum seekers breaking out of detention and being ‘on the run’ are hateful and vile.  In addition to showing poor journalism in jumping to conclusions without bothering to check the facts, the way they took every opportunity to magnify the beat up of such a sensitive issue (and this week, of all weeks!) is just disgusting.

With deliberate trolling like that in the mainstream media, there is little hope that we can move beyond the ignorance and fear that leads to hate and intolerance.

There are some excellent warm & fuzzy ideas in the the People Of Australia policy document. But in addition to also querying the bureaucratic efficacy (sic) of a National Anti-Racism Partnership and Strategy, there it may be very difficult to get people to understand they actually have the wrong idea about this situation while they being fed shit like this down their throats.

This American Life

I currently have 220 unplayed podcast episodes in my iTunes.  Even though I’ve subscribed to a bunch of them, there’s only one podcast that I listen to every week, without fail: This American Life.

LOVE IT.

There are just so many awesome stories, and they’re all so different.  Listening to each new episode is the highlight of my week.

And I just got spam from the host Ira Glass, on whom I totally have a voice crush, asking for donations because the radio station that produces it is struggling to cope with the GFC.  Actually, I already donated at the start of the year, which is how they got my email, and the asking was actually whether I would pitch in again.

So I will, because I’m a sucker for donating things, and also cause I’m not a cheapskate.

I have an exam to study for, which is why I’m online again, hah hah, but I just wanted to suggest to people to listen to TAL and, if you like it as much as I do, please think about donating 10 bucks or something to them.

The one about a dumb mayor and possibly a dumber journo

There was a story on news.com.au today about how Moonee Valley Mayor Paul Giuliano sent an email “which targeted Muslims and asked readers who agreed with its anti-Islamic sentiment to pass the email on” to 850 people in his entire address book.

What the News Ltd story failed to mention was that the racist/bigoted chain email is a hoax that originated in the US. There’s also a UK version. The line that mentions something along the lines of “our national motto is In God We Trust” kinda totally gives it away to anyone who’s not a completely insular redneck… I do wonder whether the author of the news story got the whole email and/or bothered to google the email.

I sent this through as a “tip” to boss@crikey.com so I hope that generates more what-a-moron reactions than just posting it up here.

The one about newspaper editors [war on journalism]

To comment on news that I was pretty sure broke a month ago (because I totally thought I saw WAN celebrating it on the rooftop of my gym lifestyle club before Christmas… or was that just an [un]fortunately-timed End Of Year Party?): HURRAH!!!

The state of Western Australia is a better place now that Paul Armstrong is no longer at the helm of The West Australian “newspaper”.

But I guess the whole late-scoop thing is fitting to [dis]honour the journalistic “standards” of every sandgroper’s fave fish’n’chip wrapper.

Margaret Simons (have I mentioned my epic blogger-crush on her yet?) mentions the “lack of surprise” and “why-did-Stoksie-wait-a-month” elements of the story in the lead story of today’s Crikey email as well as discussing that old-school ideal of newspaper editors as “the sort of people who kindled fire in the bellies of their staff, and who helped set the agenda of a city or a nation”.

The late Lasantha Wickrematunge of Sri Lanka’s Sunday Leader was in that category.  Paul Armstrong was probably in the “arrogant, inept, biased, douche-bag” category.  But all that is over now.  Thank heavens.

The only disappointing thing about this whole chapter has been ABC News’ failure to properly quote Journalists Union President David Cohen on the only adequate description of the ex-ed: that he was a “F***ing Outrage”.

The one about an assassinated editor from Sri Lanka [war on journalism]

Oh no. Oh no, on no, oh no.

There was an article on New Matilda a little while ago about the forgotten war in Sri Lanka that gets missed by the mainstream media.

And it took a story on boingboing.net for me to find out about the murder of a Sri Lankan journalist last week.

This makes me so sad.

Firstly, gah; I am so embarrassed that I had not subscribed to a Sri Lankan news service, after all my pontificating.  This has now been resolved.

Secondly. Oh my gods.

The murder is the worst of what I wrote about in my banned Quasi editorial about the importance of freedom of the press.

Creepily (sadly, really), Lasantha Wickrematunge (who was a lawyer before he became a journalist and editor at the Sunday Leader) wrote an editorial entitled ‘They Came for Me’, which was published on Sunday after his death.  It seems that he knew he would be killed and I assume he’d written it long before it happened.

In the editorial, he outlines the problems facing journalists and media services in Sri Lanka, emphasises the importance of a free media, and presents warnings about the dangers of staying silent:

No other profession calls on its practitioners to lay down their lives for their art save the armed forces and, in Sri Lanka, journalism. In the course of the past few years, the independent media have increasingly come under attack. Electronic and print-media institutions have been burnt, bombed, sealed and coerced. Countless journalists have been harassed, threatened and killed. It has been my honour to belong to all those categories and now especially the last. …

The free media serve as a mirror in which the public can see itself sans mascara and styling gel. From us you learn the state of your nation, and especially its management by the people you elected to give your children a better future. Sometimes the image you see in that mirror is not a pleasant one. But while you may grumble in the privacy of your armchair, the journalists who hold the mirror up to you do so publicly and at great risk to themselves. That is our calling, and we do not shirk it. …

People often ask me why I take such risks and tell me it is a matter of time before I am bumped off. Of course I know that: it is inevitable. But if we do not speak out now, there will be no one left to speak for those who cannot, whether they be ethnic minorities, the disadvantaged or the persecuted. An example that has inspired me throughout my career in journalism has been that of the German theologian, Martin Niem”ller. In his youth he was an anti-Semite and an admirer of Hitler. As Nazism took hold in Germany, however, he saw Nazism for what it was: it was not just the Jews Hitler sought to extirpate, it was just about anyone with an alternate point of view. Niem”ller spoke out, and for his trouble was incarcerated in the Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps from 1937 to 1945, and very nearly executed. While incarcerated, Niem”ller wrote a poem that, from the first time I read it in my teenage years, stuck hauntingly in my mind:

First they came for the Jews

and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the Communists

and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists

and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for me

and there was no one left to speak out for me.

If people want to know why it’s hard for me to keep my mouth shut some times; why I have issues with accepting authority that shows no good cause for being obeyed; why I question everything and don’t stop hounding until I get a decent answer; and why I don’t care if that gets me in to a bit of trouble — then I would really encourage them to read Wickrematunge’s final editorial.

Update: New Matilda has published another great story on the background to the whole mess.

The one about kids bypassing censorship [kudos!]

Again from Crikey‘s Margaret Simons, but this time from her awesome blog, The Content Makers:

An amusing and inspirational story, about how a High School student newspaper in Minnesota avoided censorship by the educational bureaucracy by going online. The local superintendent had refused to allow the paper to be printed after students refused to show him an article about an investigation into a middle-school teacher.

Huh. I wish I’d thought of (or had the time/energy for) putting our little old Quasimodo online back in the day.

But we were too proud to do that — mainly because I’d spent hours and hours slaving in InDesign putting the thing together, even though all the budget threats where mean and horrible, but, also, no one would have read it online back then.  The wi-fi on campus at the time was so shit that a paper magazine was the only useful form of in-lecture procrastination material.

Crikey! [required reading]

No, this post has nothing to do with Steve Irwin (RIP).

Since I am on my grown-up-responsibilities kick, I decided that I should subscribe to Crikey, the über-awesome online media service that exists to keep the bastards honest.  Look at me go with all these premium services!

Choosing to sign up for Crikey was a pretty easy decision–its raison d’être is incredibly in sync with my own:

Crikey irritates the powerful by revealing how they operate behind the scenes, and it tackles the stories insiders are talking about but other media can’t or won’t cover.

Ok, sure, I’ve never done it to the extent of Crikey, but, in my own small way, I’ve irritated a couple of small-time power-players by refusing to keep my mouth shut on the basis that talking about <issue> is  in the interest of my teeny-tiny sphere of influence.

It’s just what I do.

Over the years I’ve really enjoyed reading bits of it here and there when various scandals asploded in the blogosphere/Op-Ed community (see, for example: Pandagate) and now that I quit news.com.au (which went out even before Facebook) I needed some fun stuff to read at lunch time anyway.

But wow, what I great time to join up and get all the action!

For those who probably had no idea that this occurred, let me put together a teeny summary…

On Tuesday, Margaret Simons (a journo I’ve been following on Twitter for a little while) revealed quite the fun story.

Keith Windshuttle, the editor of the right-wing journal Quadrant who believes that indigenous Australians have forever-and-always been loved and never-ever hurt in any way by Europeans (I paraphrase), let a hoax article about climate change, get published in the most recent issue:

Keith Windschuttle, the editor of the conservative magazine Quadrant, has been taken in by a hoax intended to show that he will print outrageous propositions.

This month’s edition of Quadrant contains a hoax article purporting to be by “Sharon Gould”, a Brisbane based New York biotechnologist.

But in the tradition of Ern Malley – the famous literary hoax perpetrated by Quadrant’s first editor, James McAuley – the Sharon Gould persona is entirely fictitious and the article is studded with false science, logical leaps, outrageous claims and a mixture of genuine and bogus footnotes. [link]

The hoaxer (who’s since been identified as a lefty-freelancer who goes by the name Katherine Wilson) put together a quite the elaborate ruse in order to expose Windshuttle as, essentially, a pompous hypocrite who’s happy to push any line of argument as long as it fits in with their particular paradigm or ideology.  Simons puts it like this:

The sting of this hoax as I understand it is to establish that despite its attacks on post-modern slackness, and despite Windschuttle’s nitpicking of other people’s research, despite the fulminating against academic slackness from the right, it is possible for Quadrant and Windschuttle to publish pseudo-scientific nonsense, so long as it appears to fit in with their ideological view. In other words, that zealotry of all kinds has the potential to make people blind to evidence that doesn’t fit in with their preconceptions, and more liable to accept and privilege evidence that pleases them.

As Rob points out:

The man who built a huge media profile by scouring the footnotes of his political opponents and accusing them of academic dishonesty and fraud has decided that when it comes to his own magazine, there’s no need to bother.

My favourite bit is the first paragraph of the bogus article, as it appears on news stands around the country this week, which reads:

Quadrant readers will remember America’s “science wars”, spearheaded by the masterful Sokal hoax, a “hodgepodge of unsupported arguments, outright mistakes, and impenetrable jargon” designed to challenge standards of logic, truth and intellectual enquiry in scientific debate. [link]

Crikey’s put up the blog called “Diary of a hoax” where Sharon/Katherine outlines her little plot as it was happening and it’s hilarious:

Dear Quadrant,

I think I’ll attempt a pseudoscience article: kind of the Sokal hoax in reverse. Don’t get me wrong: I liked the Sokal prank as much as Windschuttle did. Showing up hogwash from any ideological stand is a valuable exercise. But I think Australia needs the opposite experiment.

I don’t think I can be arsed being as masterful as Professor Sokal, but still, I’ll devise an experiment to see if you will publish (to quote Sokal himself)

“an article liberally salted with nonsense if (a) it sounded good and (b) it flattered the editors’ ideological preconceptions.”

Just to be a bit pomo about it, I think I’ll put the word ‘hoax’ in the opening sentence: one of many clues, including bogus references. I think I’ll employ some of Quadrant’s sleight-of-hand reasoning devices to argue something ludicrous — something like the importance of putting human genes into food crops to save civilisation from its own ills, and how this sort of science shouldn’t be scrutinised by the media, because, you know, it’s empirical.

The trick would be to argue something both ludicrous and perfectly plausible (at least to the uninquiring mind); using dodgy logic, unsupported arguments and untruthful assertions.

And it worked! It worked like an awesome, sweet row of dominoes falling down. Katherine Wilson, you are a bloody legend and I salute you!

because this fairy tale still needs a happy ending

Dear Editor

I proudly subscribed to your publication last month. I looked forward to reading insightful pieces written by prominent Australians about our nation’s “Politics, Society & Culture”, as your tag line explains.

My excitement when I pulled my first issue out of the letterbox yesterday fell, almost with a thud to the driveway, when I saw the sparkling smiles of The Obamas dressed in their fairytale finery on the cover of this supposedly Australian publication.

However, as I do adore the Obamas and cheered the US election result with some vigour myself, I figured they probably deserved their place on yet another cover (The Monthly is among such friends as Rolling Stone and Men’s Health in picking the same cover star). Obama’s election matters to all of us and I do hope he’ll come visit us soon.

But when I read Galarrwuy Yunupingu’s utterly amazing piece about his life, his hopes, his disappointment, his frustrations and his visions for our country, my own disappointment and frustration led me to writing this letter.

Why was his story not given the pride of place on your cover? Obama is the World’s Black Man, yes, and we are all incredibly proud of him. But Galarrwuy Yunupingu is Our Very Own Black Man.

I normally hate being parochial, but I truly believe his piece should be read and appreciated and acted upon by every Australian, and it feels to me that by adding yet another smiling Obama to newsstands you may have missed a great opportunity to bring our country’s own healing back to the front page.

Yours sincerely
Sunili …

crime and publicity

Following the inquiry into the death of prisoner Simon Rochford, Deputy State Coroner Evelyn Vicker recommend legislation to allow police to suppress information that might “compromise an investigation into a serious offence.”

Western Australia’s new new Attorney-General Christian Porter (the guy who told The Australian that addressing the state’s indigenous prison rate was not high on his agenda) apparently thinks this recommendation is “sensible and deserves consideration”.

Erm… giving the police MORE powers to keep stuff OUT of the press when on most occasions they seem to love PUTTING IT THERE THEMSELVES seems a little strange.

Rochford’s death was yet another chapter in the legal saga surrounding the 1994 murder of Pamela Lawrence. Andrew Mallard’s conviction for the murder was quashed by the High Court in 2005 after he had spent over a decade in jail. The Corruption and Crime Commish made findings of misconduct against police and prosecutors involved in the case. A cold case review discovered a previously unidentified palm print from the crime scene which was traced back to  Rochford … who happened to be serving time for the murder of his girlfriend.

Deputy Coroner Vicker found that the ABC television news report naming Rochford as the new suspect in the high-profile murder case “precipitated” his decision to commit suicide just hours after he saw the news.

Oops.

Last week, The Australian‘s Debbie Guest pointed out that:

The calls for new police powers follow a year of scrutiny of Perth media, including a raid on the Sunday Times newspaper by armed police in an attempt to find the source of a story that embarrassed the previous Carpenter government. [link]

Yeah, News Ltd is still pissed about that one. But I don’t think this is about the media.

Last year I wrote on my own blog about how the cops effed up in naming Supreme Court Registrar Corryn Rayney’s “estranged” husband the “prime suspect” in her murder yet never charged him. Mr Rayney, who’s a FRICKING BARRISTER, recently sued the coppers and the government for defamation.

An article on PerthNow reporting that police revealed info about an item found at the site in King’s Park where Registrar Rayney’s body was found, noted:

Since the defamation writ was issued last month, police have been reluctant to comment on any aspect of the Rayney case.

But wait… now the government wants to give the cops the powers to “suppress information”?

You’ve gotta be kidding me, Christian Porter — the boys in blue can’t keep their OWN mouths shut, dontcha think you need to work on that before fannying about with “suppression” laws?

And, um, didn’t they keep quiet about the tape of Jane or Sarah talking to some random at The Claremont on the night they went missing for twelve years and then got bitch-slapped about that?

This is not about the media going over the line. This is about the cops making value judgments about things when it suits them, and then blaming the mean, nasty media when the shit hits the fan.

Now, Labor’s shadow Attorney-General McGinty says nasty suppression legislation could stifle information which should be made public (well spotted, Captain Duh):

“I have reservations about the wisdom of yet further suppression orders of information [that] should be in the public arena,” he said.

“I think on balance that the public interest is best served by not having so many prohibitions on the public being given the information upon which they can make their judgements.” [link]

Ok, look, I love the dude (especially for everything he did for ending discrimination against Teh Gays in WAys, and stuff) and he’s right, there’s no point putting more powers in the cop’s hands, but in my humble opinion, Jimmy doesn’t actually get the point either.

I just wonder… Will laws ban giving info to the jurors who are supposed to make the judgments? Because until they are unable to lie their way out of jury duty, no member of the public should be making judgements about anyone’s criminal liability.

They should get back to washing their cars on the lawns and shopping at Bunnings and doing those other things all good Sandgropers do. Ok?

While the police are investigating stuff, the public should have no right to information unless aforementioned public can help. The public ‘making judgements’ about on-going investigations, where no charges have been laid and no case against a person has been made in a court of law, has got squat to do with it.

Everyone got that? Good.

But Jimmy’s right on the essential bit: banning the media from talking about criminal investigations like that isn’t the solution.

Sue Short, the ABC reporter who broke the story, said she wouldn’t have named Rochford if she’d “been given a good reason” and call me naïve but I would like to think journos still have the ethics and/or values that would have them hold off on a story if it would do more harm than good to an on-going investigation.

Legislators don’t need to create powers that let the police keep the media quiet, they need to get the police to do their job, and give them proper media training while they’re at it.

The pollies should get back to something they can actually fix instead of wasting time ranting on about unnecessary and draconian “suppression” laws.

I mean, honestly. What do they think they’re running? Notre Dame Uni? Psh.